Author’s Note: Okay, here’s our first bonus chapter of the set. Hope you all enjoy it. Last time, I provided a link to a different story I wrote as a guest on Revfitz’s site, and I’m going to continue that by this time linking to the next story in the sequence. This one’s called scourge, and it’s written by Re’sheet Schultz.
Ray rubbed his eyes wearily, trying to force out the ache that had been building up behind them for hours now. It didn’t help that the park around him was so dimly lit, forcing him to strain his eyes as he searched, following the thin trail of light thrown out by his torch. He shook his head, and told himself to focus. He didn’t have time to be tired right now. It barely helped.
He hadn’t slept the night before. Nor had Linda. It would have been odd if they had, after receiving those two soul destroying messages from their son.
‘I think I hate you.’
Ray pushed the memory from his mind. He’d lost count of how many times those words had floated up in his brain in the last twenty four hours. The first few dozen had engendered pain. By now, though, they were familiar enough to him that they only managed to induce a dull ache, like a bruise where his lungs should be.
They had, of course, done what they could to find him, calling the school, calling his phone, driving endlessly up and down along each of the routes they knew he walked well into the early hours of the morning. The search had netted them nothing. Casper hadn’t even read the texts they’d sent.
They had barely spoken a word to one another while they worked. Ray wasn’t sure how his wife felt, but for him, it hurt to even look at her right now.
Then, they’d received the alert from work. Elves were loose in the city. People with magic in their blood were being hunted in the streets, and their son was nowhere to be found. Ray’s knuckles still ached from the force with which he’d punched the wall in the aftermath of that news. He’d only stopped when he felt Linda’s hand on his shoulder, and turned to see the look in her eyes.
“Do that later,” she’d said, her tone cold. “For now, we focus on the problem.”
It had taken him a few minutes to force himself to focus; then they had gone to work. Ray called in, liasing with the other department heads about the present approaches to the issue. No one had made mention of his absence for the earlier parts of the morning. There were bigger concerns to deal with for now.
The goblins had been called in, and were reinforcing the government teams in tracking and retrieving the civilians, before escorting them to a secured facility. Ray had assigned himself to guard the safe house, quietly hoping that Casper might be among those escorted there. Linda, for her part, had been placed in the rapid response team, one of the few dozen people in new york with powerful enough magic to make a difference against the elves. Neither had had any luck. The day had wore on, and there had been no word of their son.
When word had come of the death of the Female, Ray been far from reassured. The news had been sent in by Father, after all, and the knowledge of New York now playing host to a nigh unstoppable pedophile was far from reassuring. Linda had abandoned the response team when the male went to ground, presumably searching the city in whatever manner her all too rational mind could conjure. He, on the other hand, had joined the search party in the dim hope that Casper might still be among those kidnapped by the elves. It was the strangest thing, he thought, to find himself actually hoping that his son had been captured, because at least then he could be saved.
He shifted his torch once more across the path and saw nothing, his tired eyes barely even managing to follow the beam through the dark. In the distance, however, he caught sight of another light coming towards him. He turned his light on the figure holding it, and had to strain his eyes for a moment before he recognized them. His search partner was his opposite number: Peter Toranaga, head of interspecies relations. They’d split up some time ago in the attempt to cover more ground, unconcerned by the weaker agents’ need for safety in numbers.
“Anything?” Peter asked as the two of them passed within earshot of one another.
“Nothing,” Ray replied, too tired to really be frustrated. “Can’t see a thing in this light.”
Toranaga grunted at that, then shifted his torch slightly, throwing the beam over Ray’s face, no doubt catching sight of the bags underneath his eyes. He opened his mouth to say something, before the radio at his hip buzzed to life, an older man’s voice speaking through it.
“This is the specialist. I’ve found him. Looks like he’s trying to nab some civilian that got caught in the cordon. Going in now. Directors, close on the south-west block. Other units, hang clear.”
Without a word, the two men set off towards the south at a sprint, Peter giving his radio two short clicks in acknowledgement.
They weren’t far off from it, in the end, a three minute sprint at most, but it was still long since over by the time either one of them arrived. Ray focused on keeping the hope buried inside his chest. If he focused too much on the chance of finding his son, it could get in the way. He crushed it.
Eventually, they came upon a small clearing, catching sight as they approached of the three figures it held. A short, elderly man in a trenchcoat that was perhaps half a size too large for him, standing watch over another, younger looking man who lay prone, a bruised looking young woman sitting on the grass some way away, rummaging through a bag she held clenched between her knees.
The man waved as they approached, the girl simply eyeing them distrustfully.
“Directors,” The specialist called amicably. “Target subdued. Ready for interrogation if you are, Peter.”
Peter nodded, casting his eye momentarily towards the girl.
“The civilian okay?” He asked. “She looks a little beaten up.”
The specialist shrugged.
“A few aches and pains,” he murmured, allowing himself a chuckle. “Her own fault. She refused to stay out of the fight after I got there. Wound up doing most of the work herself.”
That earned the girl another glance from the two directors. She glared back stonily, fishing in the bag with her less damaged arm, pulling out what looked like a chunk of salami and pushing it awkwardly into her mouth with a palm.
“The girl did it?” Ray asked, surprised. “She’s a kid.”
“Yes,” the older man allowed, his tone amused. “A feisty kid, though. Super strength, at a guess. Broke her hand taking down his barriers, but just kept on punching him.”
“Dad,” Peter grumbled. “You’ve already got an apprentice. Stop being so pleased with this.”
That caught Ray’s attention, turning his gaze back towards the specialist for a moment. So this was Hideyoshi Toranaga, then. Huh. Shorter than expected. He pushed the thought from his mind, and turned his attention to the elf, only half aware of the other men as they began to bicker.
The elf wasn’t paying any attention either, gazing up at the clouds high above, his eyes glassy, tears occasionally trickling down his cheeks, lost. Ray looked away. Sympathy wasn’t what he needed to feel right now.
“Shall we get on with this?” He asked abruptly, breaking up whatever argument the other two were having. “The sooner we get the information we need, the sooner we can pull those people out of wherever they’re being kept and start putting all of this bullshit to rest.”
The two Toranagas glanced at him, and the younger one gave him a nod.
“Fair point,” he admitted. “Let’s get this over with. Ray, can you call in the capture? This shouldn’t take too long.”
Ray nodded, stepping away from the other two, and briefly pulling out his radio and conveying what he needed to, before clicking it back off with a sigh. He glanced back towards the girl, still glaring darkly towards his erstwhile companions as she chewed. She looked pretty bloodied. Probably best to make sure she was okay. He made a few tentative steps towards her, trying to work through what he was supposed to say after something like this. He opened his mouth as he approached, but she beat him to it.
“Fuck off, dude,” she grumbled. “Whatever you’re gonna say, I don’t wanna hear it. I’ve had a hell of a day.”
Ray chuckled at that. There was nothing else he could think to do.
“Yeah,” he replied. “Me too. Me too.”
With that, he turned away from her, and sat down, watching the interrogation for lack of anything else to do. After a few seconds, he found his eyes glazing it over, not really seeing it. God, he was tired.
He was brought out of his reverie briefly when something hit him in the shoulder with a thunk. He looked down. It was an apple. He glanced up at the girl, and saw that she had another just like it held in her good hand. She met his gaze, and gave him a shrug, before taking a bite.
He let out a breath, gave her a nod, and picked up the apple, biting down. It was something to do, at least.
He ate slowly, trying to ration what little distraction he had while he waited for the others to extract the information, but it didn’t work. He’d long since run out of bites when Peter turned around and gave him a nod.
“Got it,” he called. “You coming? I’ve already called for a retrieval crew. We can take it from here.”
“No.” Ray replied, pulling himself to his feet. “I’m accompanying. I want to assess the damage in person here.”
Peter nodded, waiting for Ray to reach him before setting turning back towards the trees and setting off at a walk. Behind them, he was dimly aware of Hideyoshi pulling the elf up over his shoulder and calling the girl to follow, saying something about teaching her to make a splint for her hand before leading her off towards the cordon.
It was a long walk, and they did it in silence, Ray trying with every step to keep himself detached. He couldn’t risk putting all his hopes on this, not if he wanted to keep on moving afterwards.
After a few minutes, Peter spoke into the quiet.
“So, what’s wrong, Ray? You look exhausted. Something wrong?”
Ray shook his head automatically.
“It’s fine. Just tired. Nothing you need to worry about.”
“… Huh,” the other director replied. “… Let me rephrase, then. You came on an elf hunt while barely even conscious, and you look like you’ve been told you have a week to live. Tell me what’s wrong.”
“… Family troubles.” Ray admitted, giving his head a little shake. He was too tired for this. “Don’t worry about it.”
Peter thought about that for a moment, then shrugged.
“Fine. I won’t pry.”
Ray grunted at that, and went back to staring at the path ahead of them, his mind settling back into its malaise. Then, for a moment, those words floated once more in front of his eyes.
‘I think I hate you.’
He chuckled angrily at himself, then, on impulse, said out loud the words he’d been thinking all day. For years, really.
“I’m a terrible father.”
He said it plainly, without emphasis. It was surprising how little the words stung, in the end.
“Huh,” Peter muttered after a moment. “… So it’s something about your kid, then? You’re Casper’s dad, right? He’s friends with my son.”
“Your son?” Ray asked without inflection. “I didn’t know.”
“They met at school a week or two ago,” Peter supplied. “He’s come over a few times.”
“Oh,” Ray murmured. “So that’s where he’s been going. He didn’t tell me. I figured he just didn’t want to talk to me.”
“… What’s wrong?” Peter asked, his tone changing now to what seemed like genuine concern. “Has something happened?”
Ray laughed at that, a single burst of humorless sound. “Something” was such an understatement.
“I tried to help him manifest,” he muttered, hating himself. “First few times, I thought I’d been soft; that I just hadn’t made him scared enough to make it happen. So I kept trying.” He paused there for a moment, the park ground in front of him momentarily giving way to the image of his son huddled against the wall, tears streaming down his face as he cradled his arm, the mark of pain steadily flowing into place across his cheek. He didn’t push this one away, instead forcing himself to look at it long and hard. Peter was silent beside him; either judging or waiting, he couldn’t tell. He forced himself to continue. “… He ran away from home last night.”
There was a long silence after that, before Peter swore quietly to himself.
“Christ, Ray. I thought you were better than that.”
Ray let out a huff, feeling a sudden touch of anger towards the other man.
“Don’t give me that,” he muttered. “I know it’s shit, but you know as well as I do that powers need stress to manifest. They’re always going to be traumatic. Surely it’s better to do it yourself, and give the kid as much help as they need in the aftermath. Yeah, I’m a crap dad, but I wasn’t wrong for trying to make it easier.” For a moment, he remembered his own father doing much the same. Afterwards, he’d been given ice cream.
“You say that,” the other man replied angrily. “But the way I see it, you just drove your kid out of his home. Powers aren’t worth that, Ray.”
“Wouldn’t have expected that, coming from you. You’re a Toranaga, after all. Are you really telling me Japan’s foremost wizarding line doesn’t help their children manifest? I waited until Casper was nine. How old were you, huh?”
The strike caught him in the cheek, sent him stumbling. There was less force to it than he might have thought. He righted himself, and met the other man’s glare.
“… That was the wrong road to take with me, Ray,” said Peter, his voice cold. “But fine. You want your answer? I was seven.” They stared at one another for a long moment. “Do you know what a faun is, Ray?”
Ray brought a finger to his lip, felt a trace of blood, and nodded.
“Yeah,” he replied evenly. “I know what a f-”
“Not the modern faun,” Peter cut him off. “Not C.S. Lewis. I’m talking about the old myths. The tricksters and the monsters. Pan and the Satyrs. Those myths come from somewhere, Ray; and one day, my parents went out and caught one.”
Ray cocked an eyebrow at that, confused, but Peter didn’t seem to notice.
“Turns out, they have a defense mechanism,” he continued bitterly. “And it’s a good one. They generate fear. That’s all. Just fear. So my parents caught one, chained it to a wall, and locked me in a room with it.”
It took a moment for the implications of Peter’s words to sink in.
“… Ah.” He said, for lack of anything better.
“They knew it had worked after three hours, when I started begging them to let me out. In turkish. Powers aren’t worth it, Ray. It’s just child abuse.”
“… I disagree,” Ray grumbled after a long quiet. “We need them. They keep us safe.”
Peter sighed, his shoulders sagging slightly.
“Well, you’re not wrong,” he murmured. “But that doesn’t make it better.” He took a deep breath, then shook his head. “We’ll find your son, Ray, but I think we both know you’ll need to spend your whole life making this up to him.”
“Yeah. I know.”