Chapter 1 - Lily of the Valley Edit
Felix tossed the Frisbee, the flying toy making a sharp "whish" as it cut through the air towards his target, a fox with bright orange fur and strangely blue eyes. The fox stuck its rear end up, swishing its tail around before jumping up at the last second and catching the Frisbee in its mouth.
"Nice catch Garr!" Felix congratulated with a short but genuine clap. "Now back to me!"
Garrett nodded and turned around a few times, winding himself up, before jumping with a spin and releasing the Frisbee from his mouth with a quick turn of his neck, sending the toy flying again, though not exactly in the direction he had intended.
Smirking, Felix extended his claws and ran swiftly on all fours, his sharp nails sending sparks on the concrete floor of the Warehouse they were in. The fox looked worriedly after the Frisbee, afraid he'd just sent it on a collision course with a shelf and would knock a few artifacts flying; but just as it was about to hit a pair of small porcelain figures Felix leapt up and caught it in his hands, then landed on his side and slid across the floor a short ways before stopping.
Garrett yipped and ran over to Felix to sniff and lick him excitedly to make sure he was alright. Felix giggled and pat the fox on the head. "I'm alright Garrett. Takes a lot more than that to hurt me." Felix grunted and got up off the ground. "That was a hard throw, especially for someone without hands. Impressive."
Garrett smiled - if foxes could smile - and jumped up on his hind legs to place his front paws on the man's chest and licked his face again.
"So," Felix began, looking at the toy in his hand, "you wanna go again? Think we can clear across three aisles this time?"
Before Garrett could reply, a buzzing sound came from Felix's back pocket, signaling a call from the Farnsworth. With a resigned sigh, the New Zealander set the Frisbee on the nearby shelf and retrieved the vaudio device to answer the call. The black-and-white visage of Artie's bespectacled face appeared on the fisheye screen.
"Hey," Felix said, reaching a hand down to stroke and fluff Garrett's tail, which the fox held up high for him. "What's up Artie?"
"We've got a ping in..." Artie turned away from the screen momentarily to ponder over a large map he had drawn over with dry-erase marker and covered in strings with pins that connected various locations to notes, notes, and more notes, "Stockton, California. Something about people freezing from the inside out. Think you and that little Foxenstein's Monster can check it out?"
The aforementioned fox made a noise in both annoyance and amusement. Felix looked down at his vulpine partner, who nodded with a roll of his eyes. "Sure thing. Just get us a plane and we'll take care of the rest.
With that, Artie closed his own Farnsworth and Felix followed suit. "We're too far from my office to get you some clothes, little guy." He sighed and gave Garrett a worried look, "What do we do?"
Almost immediately, Garrett used his teeth to tug on Felix's pant leg and ran off, intending the human to follow. He ran down several aisles, Felix just managing to keep up with the fox, until they soon reached the Magician's Intersection.
"Is there something here we can use?" Felix panted, leaning on a nearby shelf column to catch his breath. Garrett replied with an excited yip before running over to a specific shelf with a few artifacts strewn about, some with Claudia's digital display cards, some with typewriter-printed paper cards. Walking over, Felix saw that Garrett was focused on a large heap of black velvet fabric.
"'Sos & Victoria Petrosyan's Quick-Change Curtain'? Oh, I remember this," Felix said, pointing at the screen that listed the artifact's effects, "Claudia used that to change into her showgirl costume during the 42nd Street fiasco." He flinched and shifted on his feet, as if just thinking about that incident made his feet ache. "We can use this on you, right?"
Garrett nodded. Felix reached into his pocket and pulled out an analog wristwatch, Jane Goodall's, and held out his hand. Obediently, Garrett placed his front left paw in his hand. Felix then secured the leather strap around Garrett's wrist, and fastened it. In a flash of light, the fox had transformed into a redheaded teenager, completely nude except for the watch.
"Th-thanks," Garret blushed, finally able to speak in his human form. He quickly covered himself to the best of his ability, and looked down. "Just hold the curtain up around me, it'll stay up until I'm completely clothed."
Felix smirked and grabbed the curtain off the shelf and placed it on the ground. His hands still between his legs, Garrett stepped into the curtain's round center. Felix grabbed the metal ring on top and pulled up and true to Garrett's word it stayed up when he let go. After a few moments it fell back to the floor with a soft thump as the metal ring landed in the softening heap of velvet.
"Wow." Garrett took off his new pair of glasses and looked at them, blinking in surprise. "I didn't know the curtain could do glasses. I have been needing a new pair, the old ones are scratched and my prescription keeps changing." He put the blue half-framed glasses back on and smiled at his partner.
Felix stepped forward and gave Garrett a peck on the cheek, surprising him a little even after all the time they'd been together already. "You look good in that outfit," he complimented, "like some twink I'd see in Tween Magazine."
Garrett smiled and blushed, shoving Felix playfully before reciprocating a short kiss on the lips. "Alright, let's go get that artifact! If we leave now we should be back in time for dinner!"
Chapter 2 - Lotus Edit
The two agents stepped off the bus at the street corner in the Californian town, thankful that their chosen mode of transportation was equipped with air conditioning on this surprisingly hot day.
"Remind me," Felix said tiredly, tugging at the collar of his shirt, "how do people survive this heat?"
Garrett shook his head and wiped his brow to avoid getting sweat on his new glasses. "I have no idea. I stayed inside all the time when I used to live in this state. How do you think I managed to stay this pale?"
The two shrugged and made their way down the road to their destination. The report they had been given by Artie in the classic manila envelopes had explained that two people had been found frozen to death in their backyard, but Artie had gotten word so quickly that the autopsies had not yet been conducted.
Garrett proposed that they visit whatever locations the two had been at in the last 48 hours. Luckily, they had managed to track down their vehicle's appearance and their credit card purchases to a local Goodwill store.
"Goodwill. It had to be a Goodwill." Garrett sighed when they reached the parking lot of the charity store. "Basically a more modern version of an antique shop, just brimming with potential artifacts."
"Good thing we're not totally blind then, we just have to ask what all they purchased. Maybe an old ice cream churn?"
The agents were greeted with a much appreciated strong blast of cold air when they pushed open the double doors, a bell chiming above them, and they sighed in great relief. Looking around, they saw that the store was full of old knick knacks and bric-a-brac from one corner to the next. Old and quite likely unwashed clothes hung on tightly packed racks, too full to allow just a single article of clothing to be removed from the rack without a few of its friends tagging along; shelves that were alternatively stacked with old figurines, toys, and china, or were relatively bare save for the occasional out-of-state tacky tourist mug.
On the other side was a section for books and movies, and Garrett noticed that most of the discarded articles for reading that had been abandoned to die, lest they be found by lazy family members trying to find gifts for celebrations, were romantic novels of the supernatural variety, no doubt featuring a handsome-yet-sensitive-vampire/werewolf/incubus/zombie-male-lead that must leave to protect the strong-and-independent-and-unbelievably-beautiful-female-lead from the threat of his evil coven/pack/hoard that wishes to use her as a vessel to bring about the end of the world. In other words: his mother would have been utterly obsessed with them. The thought of his mother buying up ever book she could made him chuckle, but he quickly tried and mostly succeeded in pushing that thought down further into the back of his mind until it was out of sight, almost out of mind.
"Good afternoon!" a man said cheerfully from behind the front counter next to the front doors. "How can I help you two to find anything?"
Felix showed his badge to the employee, as did Garrett. "We're just here to investigate the recent deaths of two locals, Natalie Brock and Daniel Winston. We heard they had recently been here yesterday." He showed a picture of the two to the man, who solemnly nodded his head.
"I heard about it on this news this morning on my drive to work, it's awful. What do you need?"
"We'd like to know what they purchased here, please." Garrett requested politely.
The man shrugged and began typing on the computer behind the counter. "Not much, really. A few Coleman mugs, a lamp, camping chairs, and one of those telescope kits you can get at Toys-R-Us."
"Sounds like they were planning for a night of camping." Garrett surmised.
"But they were found in their own backyard, they never left." Felix said, confused.
"When I was little," Garrett began, "my father, my sisters, and I sometimes took out old tent and had campouts in our backyard to save money. It was a lot more comfortable since we had ready access to a bathroom too. It wouldn't be too farfetched to assume those two had the same idea. It's the telescope that confuses me."
"Oh," the cashier spoke up, "we were having a meteor shower last night, they must have wanted to watch it. Is that all you two needed?"
Felix and Garrett nodded and thanked the man before leaving. As they rounded the corner of the parking lot, Felix looked at his partner with furrowed eyebrows.
"What?" Garrett asked.
Felix shook his head, "Nothing, t's just... you sounded like you and your father had a better relationship when you were a little kid. It's weird."
Garrett shrugged. "Can't explain why, really. Maybe I wasn't such a big problem to him back then.. I wasn't that old when, y'know, it started happening. Things change, not always for the better."
Before Felix could say anything more, they had arrived at the same bus stop in the nick of time for another bus to pull up with a sharp and drawn-out hiss before coming to a complete stop and opening its doors to welcome two new passengers on their destination to the scene of the crime.
Chapter 3 - Quaking Grass Edit
When the two agents had arrived a the house the victims had been found at, they were lucky enough to find that it was mostly vacated save for two security officers guarding the front door to prevent trespassers.
Walking up to the front, they greeted the officers and showed them their credentials, and they were allowed entrance to investigate the backyard. Crouching underneath the yellow-and-black police tape, they saw that the yard was occupied by a large tent, a fire pit, two camping chairs, and several other classic camping amenities, littered with vibrantly colored marker flags placed there by the investigation team.
"Careful," Felix said warningly, putting on his purple gloves and extending an arm to halt Garrett's walking. Garrett nodded and followed suit, then they began to investigate.
Garrett shook up a spray can of Neutralizer and started methodically spraying down any object he came across, from a discarded mug to the chairs. Felix, meanwhile, scanned for anything that may have been out of place.
"So," Felix began after a few minutes of searching to break the silence. He sifted through the ashes of the extinguished fire pit and retrieved a blackened skewer with a half-eaten sausage on the end. "You think these two knew they had an artifact? Maybe they were trying to use it to cool down?" He noticed that the end of the sausage that had been bitten off seemed to be suffering from the effects of freezer burn. "Huh..."
"Doubt it," Garrett answered, "It's possible, but I have a feeling it was accidental. I mean, I can feel it. Like my empathy is working without touching someone." He sprayed the inside of a mug, enough purple goo to pool on the inside. He sloshed it around for good measure before emptying it on the grass. "Did... did you read how they were found? Natalie and Daniel?"
Felix shrugged and shook his head. "Didn't bother. Why?"
His partner shook his head and sprayed the side of the tent, which didn't produce even the slightest spark. "They were... everything was flash frozen on the inside. Their organs, their mouths. Even their eyes were frozen solid. It was like all of their bodily fluids had frozen."
"Eugh." Felix responded, and he shuddered picturing what the scene must have looked like. Then he shook his head and tried to push the thought out of his mind. He didn't want to bring back those memories ever again.
Garrett continued. "They were right next to each other. The report suggested they may have been hugging. Maybe it happened instantly, or..." Or it happened slowly, and they grabbed each other in a panic as they felt it happening.he finished his sentence mentally, not wanting to disturb Felix with his thoughts.
"Garr." Felix said, trying not to sound angry, but still getting across the point that he didn't want to hear anymore.
"Sorry, sorry...: Garrett muttered. He took a few steps and went behind the tent to avoid upsetting his boyfriend any further.
Again, Felix might have said something to comfort him, maybe crack a joke to break the ice and lighten the mood. See, there was one, and he hadn't even said it allowed. But before he could speak, his Farnsworth rang. He put down the mug he had been observing, with a frozen lip-print on the rim, and took out the device.
"Artie," Felix said when the older man's face appeared on the screen. "Whatcha got?"
Artie pushed up his glasses, "The autopsies finally came out." He turned his head away from Felix and began to read his computer screen, "According to the medical examiner, they found that all of their bodily fluids had frozen. Even their sweat, which explained the frost and frostbite found over their bodies as well."
"As was in the report you gave us," Felix replied, glancing at the tent to see if Garrett had emerged, but he hadn't.
Artie nodded. "Yes, but now we know why. All the fluids in their bodies, from saliva to mucus to blood, had all slowly transmuted entirely into liquid... nitrogen..." He gave a concerned glance to Felix, as if wondering if he were alright after the reveal.
Felix's face paled a little when he learned of the cause behind the two victims' demise. He knew exactly what they must have felt like. So cold... like he was being drowned in the arctic, stuck inside of a glacier, magnified by ten. Their whole bodies practically turning to ice from the inside out, certain parts becoming so super frozen, they could have shattered into pieces if knocked just a little too hard. Maybe he did, after he had actually died, before his frozen body had burst into flames from within the liquid nitrogen pool he had fallen in. He still felt the burns on his hands and the freezing feeling inside his lungs if he thought about it too long.
"Felix?" Garrett poked his head out from around the tent, worried when he hadn't heard him reply for a bit. "What's wrong?"
Felix blinked and chuckled. It was a nervous chuckle, but he was good at hiding his emotions by now. "No, what? Nothing. I'm, I'm fine, seriously. Uh..."
"I think I found the artifact." Garrett pointed with his thumb behind himself. Felix stood up and ventured behind the tent to where he was pointing and saw a plain kerosene lamp resting on top of a closed cooler.
"Let me see." Artie spoke up. Felix obediently turned the Farnsworth around to face the object. "Ah, I see. That's quite likely the lamp that led to the demise of Zygmunt Florenty Wróblewski, one half of the duo that first liquefied nitrogen. It must have activated when those two lit it."
Garrett took out a silver static bag from his pocket and flicked it open, reaching for the lamp.
"Stop!" Felix said, probably too quickly and too loudly. "I-I mean, it could still be active. The gloves don't always work, remember?"
Nodding, Garrett turned the bag upside down, and slowly put it over the lamp like a shade, a few sparks dropping out when the artifact came into contact with the sides of the bags. Then, he grabbed the lamp on the sides with the sides of the bag and quickly turned it right side up. The lamp fell, now upside down, into the bag, which sent up a flurry of multicolored sparks into the air. Both agents turned their heads.
"Thanks." Garrett said with a triumphant smirk, zipping the static bag closed. He turned to smile at his boyfriend, but saw that his jaw was clenched as he stared at the now occupied bag.
"Snagged. Back in two hours." He said curtly to Artie, not even looking at the screen before shutting it firmly and stuffing it into his back pocket. Garrett knew Felix didn't talk like that unless he were very tired. Or very upset.
"Felix?" he asked, now quite concerned, but his partner shrugged him off.
"I'm fine... Garebear, okay? Let's just...go home. We don't want to miss dinner."
The ginger looked worriedly after his boyfriend as he walked briskly away, jumping high over the police tape and landing into a walk a if he hadn't even moved. He knew Felix wasn't really one to talk unless he wanted to, even about something that was bothering him, and forcing him to discuss something would only make it much worse. So, reluctantly, he relented and followed Felix back to the nearest bus stop to take them to the airport back home.
Chapter 4 - Tea Rose Edit
Once the two had boarded the plane home Garrett did his best to make Felix smile, talking about things he enjoyed. “How hyped are you for Fantastic Beasts?” “See any new cat videos lately?” “Any new shows you’re watching? How’s Once?”
Unfortunately, all of Felix’s answers were only half enthusiastic. Usually things like that would get him excited and he would talk about it for a while, but now he mostly just fidgeted and looked nervous. Garrett figured it was his fear of flying, but it seemed worse than usual. When Felix asked for a drink, he waited until it was well and warm before even taking a sip.
Nevertheless, when they touched down in South Dakota and finally made it back to Univille, they chose to stop by the B&B before bringing the lamp to the Warehouse for storage.
“We’re home!” Garrett called cheerfully as the two walked in and he closed the door behind himself. He heard hurried steps travel down the nearby flight of stairs, the source of which was revealed to be the redheaded young adult genius herself.
“Hello boys,” Claudia greeted with a smirk, “We were just about to head out, Claire and I have a performance tonight at the café, drinks on us.”
“I certainly hope you intend on getting me apple juice. I've gotten woozy just from having a little too much Nyquil." Garrett chuckled. “Felix, think we can go?”
“Huh? Oh, yeah, yeah, sure we can go.” Felix said absentmindedly. He was looking around this way and that, confused. “Uh, have you seen Abi anywhere?”
Claudia pointed out to the back patio with her thumb. “Yeah, she’s watering the plants and listening to some music. Why?”
“No reason really. Just wanted to have a chat.” He waved his hand dismissively and walked off in the direction Claudia had pointed in, leaving the two redheads alone together.
“Does he seem off to you today? He didn’t make a single joke, and he sounds less like he’s having a good trip than usual. He didn’t get whammied, did he?”
Garrett shook his head. “No, but… something’s messed up his mojo. I hope it wasn’t me, I was talking about how the two people who found our artifact died… It must have been me. Ugh, I always do this!” He stomped his foot on the ground in frustration and walked briskly to the living room with Claudia in tow.
“No, no, Garr, I’m sure it wasn’t that. I mean, he’s not easily upset, at least not when it comes to death. He’s gone through tons of lethal cases without a problem.”
Garrett turned on his heel to face Claudia. “Then what? If it wasn’t me, what could have upset him so much? He’s barely speaking to me.”
“Calm down,” Claudia raised and lowered her hands slowly, “and tell me what happened.”
In the back patio, Abi was carrying a metal watering can and giving each plant a well deserved drink to quench their thirst from the dry day. When Felix walked in he found that she was wearing headphones, the music loud enough that he could hear them himself.
“Abi?” Felix called out to her, to which she did not answer. Instead, she kept on watering and humming the same tune as the song blaring from her headphones. “Abi?” he called again, louder this time. Still no answer. “Abi!” He shouted, finally getting her attention.
“Huh?!” she said loudly, turning around. Seeing Felix, she removed her headphones and struggled to turn off the song she had been listening to about turning cities and burning roofs. “Oh, Felix, sorry. I was trying to listen to some new music, and Claudia and Claire’s practicing upstairs was getting a little distracting. They’re great, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not something you can relax to.”
Felix raised his eyebrow as the song continued to play, this time talking about living and dying in Los Angeles.
“Uh, what do you need?” Abi asked, tucking the headphones behind a potted plant in the corner, hoping it wasn’t too noticeable.
Felix clasped his hands together nervously and lowered his eyes to the floor. “You remember… what happened to me in Seattle, right?”
Abigail’s face immediately filled with concern. “Yes, I do. What happened?” She pulled out one of the chairs from the table for Felix to sit down, and he took the offer.
“So now, I don’t know what to do to cheer him up. Whenever he's upset about something, I never feel like I can do much to help him, and he hauls himself up alone to simmer and obsess over it all by himself.” Garrett finished his explanation of the day’s events, and rubbed his tired eyes.
“Just give him some time, like you always do.” Claudia said, rubbing Garrett’s back supportively. “I’m sure he’s not upset with you. Just don’t push it for now and you’ll be fine.”
Garrett sighed and leaned back, nodding. "Alright. In the meantime, I'll try to cut back on the talking, and do some stuff for him. Breakfast in bed, maybe give him that artifact from Tashirojima and let him have a day all to himself and the cat-splosion."
Claudia grinned and pat him on his shoulder. "Atta boy, that oughta help him put the fun back in funk."
A few moments later, Abigail and Felix emerged from the patio, the latter rubbing the corner of his eye, his face slightly red. "Thanks, Abi," he whispered, "that was somewhat helpful. Think we can meet over lunch sometime for another chat?"
"I'd appreciate that, and my schedule is pretty free." She nodded.
"Felix." Garrett stood up from the couch, a wary look on his face. "Are you-?"
Felix held up his hand and smiled. "I'm alright, Garr, I just needed a little talk, and some personal space. Don't worry about me." He clapped his hands and looked to Claudia. "Now, didn't you say you and your sis had a concert tonight? You don't want to be late for your own performance, do you?"
Claudia jumped over the side of the couch and landed easily on her feet. "Right! Be down in a minute, gotta get my stuff. I just got a sweet new whammy bar that I'm dying to try out!" With that, she hurried up the stairs two steps at a time.
"She certainly gets excited over her guitars, huh?" Abi said with her arms crossed. "Y'know, she once told me that she nearly took Jimi Hendrix's Psychedelic Flying V off the shelf to practice with, before you came along and found her." She nodded to Felix. "Remind me to ask how that went next time we see each other."
Garrett looked down at his watch and frowned. "Hey, Felix, we should probably deliver the artifact right about now, it's getting late, and I don't want to miss Claudia's performance. We better hurry."
"Oh, I can drop you off," Abi said, already starting towards the door and grabbing her keys. "Artie's supposed to be giving me another debriefing about some new sections that have been popping up lately, so I'll miss the show. Be sure to tell me all about it when you get back."
Felix nodded to her, then to Garrett. "Alright, let's go." As they walked to the door, Felix paused in the doorway with his partner behind him. "Uh, Garr, do you think you could do me a favor and handle the bag yourself? I'd rather not risk shelving it myself."
Garrett raised an eyebrow. "Why not, is something the matter?"
"Oh, no, it's just that... you know, LSD high, it gives you hand tremors sometimes. Or something. I'd drop it by accident, and you know how much Artie hates when we break stuff."
Garrett could sense that Felix was hiding something that made him uneasy, but like he said, he would give Felix his privacy, and decided to let it drop. "Alright, no worries. I wonder if Artie finally installed those heaters neat the entrance to the Artic Section, I forgot my jacket in your office too. Now let's go!"
“Thanks for the ride, Abi.” Garrett said cheerfully as he got out of her car with Felix. They both waved her goodbye, she reciprocated, and then drove off. “Is it just me, or does everyone have a Prius around here?”
Felix shrugged, “I don’t really pay attention, but come to think of it, those seats did remind me a lot of Claudia’s car. And Steve’s. And Pete’s.”
Behind them, the front door of the café opened, and Steve emerged. “Hey you two, Claudia’s starting in a few minutes. We already got you drinks, c’mon.” He beckoned them in with a waves of his hand and a nod of his head. The couple followed him inside, and found it pleasantly warm, with the lights dimmed just the right amount. Across the table-packed café, near the stage, was the gang, who had taken up several adjacent tables and were waving the two over.
“Hey guys,” Felix greeted, taking a seat with Blaine, Drake, Bri and Tyler. Not having enough room, Garrett sat at a table beside them with Carl, Samara, Mordin and Ariana. “Claudia’s coming up soon?”
Bri nodded and smiled, “Yup! She hasn’t told us what song she’s playing tonight, but I’m sure it’ll be good. How was that snag you and your little fox went on earlier?”
“I’ll tell you this,” Felix rested his elbows on the table and smirked, “it was hot as hell.”
Drake muttered, “TMI cat-boy, TMI,” and took a sip of his drink. Tyler snorted.
Felix shot him a look and squinted his eyes. “You know what I mean.”
“Yeah I do. How much was the motel room?”
“Drake!” Carl and Felix both exclaimed, the former giving his partner an amused but incredulous look, and the latter covering his red face with his hands.
“You know I was just teasing,” Drake pointed at Carl with the hand that was holding his cup, “Don’t get your boxers in a bunch. Anyway, did the snag go well Felix?”
He shrugged and nodded. “As well as it could go considering the way we found out about the artifact. We didn’t get whammied in any case. There’s nothing really to talk about.”
Meanwhile, at the other table, Garrett spoke happily with his own group of Warehouse associates, bonding over their shared experiences.
“You know Mordin, if you ever have trouble summoning your wings, I’m happy to help.” He said with a smug grin, fondly remembering the time he could fly.
Mordin scoffed and waved his hand. “You don’t think I’m capable after all this time?” He mocked offense, holding his hand to his chest and leaning back. “Who’s the de facto leader and an alicorn, hm?”
Carl laughed and set down his glass. “You still can’t manage a teleportation spell without leaving an eyebrow behind dude, and that’s on your good days!”
Mordin stabbed the air with his fork in Carl’s direction with a look of annoyance. “Hey, at least I can teleport. The most I’ve seen you do is levitation and acting as a living metal detector for precious materials.”
“Boys!” Ariana interrupted, who had leaned forward and put her hands in between the men’s faces as they had leaned over the table themselves, and pushed them apart, “You can continue your horn measuring competition later tonight.”
Garrett chuckled and picked up his glass to take a sip, discovering that Claudia must have told someone about his earlier apple juice comment. “Have you guys been able to manage any major Element magic?”
Mordin instantly began beaming and leaned towards Garrett eagerly. “Well, last week, we did manage to send Aden to the moon without him using his powers. He was a willing guinea pig. Good thing he did have powers though, we couldn’t figure out how to bring him back, and he waited for a good twenty minutes before figuring out and teleporting himself back. Guess we still need practice for that summoning spell.”
“You’ll be turning people to stone and back in no time, I’m sure.” Garrett clapped happily. “I hope you’ll let me watch next time you try, I never had anyone to complete the Element set with when I was still Kindness.”
The lights suddenly dimmer darker just as he finished his sentence. The audience clapped and cheered, the group up front being the most enthusiastic, when Claudia and Claire walked up on stage.
“Hey you guys, glad to see we’ve still got a full house after all this time!” Claudia said into the microphone with a confident smile. “My big sis and I have got a little bit of a surprise for you. Claire?”
Claire took her microphone off of her stand and held it closer to her face. “We’ve written a little mashup of some of our favorite songs! There’ll be some Beatles and Garbage in there, of course, and maybe some original stuff we decided to throw on the pile. It took us a while, but, we hope you enjoy.”
With that, the two sat down on their wooden stools and put their microphones back in place. They sat their guitars on their laps, fiddled with the strings for a little, and began to play.
As the group of agents and consultants listened intently to the pair play, Garrett could feel the emotions of the room. Pride, joy, nostalgia, typical emotional responses to hearing the “oldies but goodies”, as Claudia sometimes put them. He wasn’t really one for older music, especially rock, but he had to admit that the two sisters were great. But, in the midst of all the positive emotions he felt and sensed, he felt a twinge of unease from nearby that puzzled him. Turning around discreetly, Garrett saw Felix, still looking appreciatively at the performers on stage, but he could still tell something bothered him even after whatever talk he had with Abigail. Felix was always good at hiding his emotions, even from Garrett himself, but there was no denying something was wrong, even if it were barely noticeable.
He turned back around to try and enjoy the music, but it was rather difficult when his chest was beginning to fill with anxiety as he worried more and more if there were something more serious going on with Felix than he let on. Maybe he had gotten bad news. Was his family alright? Is he still healthy? He didn’t catch something, or find something disturbing during a recent medical exam, did he? Hundreds of potential scenarios, all bad, filled his head, and he kept obsessing over them. Before he knew it, the song was over and the lights were back on.
The gang gave Claire and Claudia a standing ovation, and Garrett was a couple of seconds late, but nobody seemed to notice. The sisters gave a little bow and hugged each other, then walked offstage to join their friends at the tables.
“You two were amazing!” Samara said cheerfully, clapping for them again. “You two should totally release a cover album sometime!”
They laughed and drank and joked for the rest of the night until they all decided to head home. The groups parted ways, the agents headed to the B&B, and the three couples of Samara and Ariana, Drake and Carl, and Garrett and Felix, all piled into one car (Carl was the more environmentally friendly of the group and insisted on carpooling often to save gas). Carl, the driver, had agreed to drop the other male couple off at the Warehouse. They reached the Warehouse almost an hour later, and the fox and cat waved goodbye to their drivers.
Clutching the bagged lamp behind his back, Garrett bounded through the Umblicus, opening the door for Felix to be polite. From there, after carefully putting the artifact in the Arctic Section, Felix having stayed a good distance from the entrance, they went back to Felix's office to relax before heading to bed.
Chapter 5 - Pimpernel Edit
Felix and Garrett agreed to forego their usual routine of staying up late to watch TV in favor of sleeping early. They were both so surprisingly exhausted from the day's events that they weren't sure they'd last through eve half of one episode of Supernatural without passing out.
While Garrett was getting cleaned up and dressed down for bed, Felix lay under the covers trying to clear his head before he slept. Today was just a fluke, he was okay. What problem, Felix? No problem, no problem at all, why do you ask? Sure, they were no closer to finding Oto, and he nearly had a breakdown, but it's not like the maniac was gonna pop up in the Warehouse and slaughter everyone in their sleep, right?
He kicked himself, literally, jostling the mattress, for thinking about something like that. He just needed some sleep is all. Catch some forty winks tonight, and tomorrow he'd wake up bright eyed and bushy tailed, make himself some raspberry tea, and do some more "inventory" in the pet toy section. Maybe he'd check out that new Viking Sector he found the other day.
Felix turned over on the bed and face the wall. He turned the lamp on the bedside table off and hitched his legs up to hook the end of the blankets beneath his feet. Just right. He closed his eyes and, mostly thanks to his complete and utter exhaustion, fell asleep rather quickly.
Garrett emerged from the bathroom shortly after, combing his hair as he toweled it dry. Dressed in blue gym shorts, he paused in the doorway and leaned on it, seeing Felix fast asleep. He was happy he was finally able to relax enough to get some shuteye. Smiling, he tiptoed his way over to the bed, grabbed his iPod and headphones from the bedside table, and eased his way slowly under the covers. He kept the volume of his MP3 down just to make sure he wouldn't wake his partner up by accident, and turned on one of his numerous playlists, grateful that he had asked Artie and Myka for some classical music recommendations.
It wasn't until about an hour or two later, while Garrett was rereading a book on his Kindle for the umpteenth time when he felt Felix store in bed. Thinking his music was somehow still too loud and was disturbing him, he turned the volume on his device down even more until it was barely audible. Felix didn't move again, so he figured he had solved the problem.
Then, a short time later, Felix shifted in bed again, and let out a whine. And not the good kind.
"Felix?" Garrett whispered, lifting the headphone off his head and turning his iPod off. He turned over on his elbow and saw Felix, his face scrunched up, squirming in bed and making noises like he was in pain. He seemed to be having a rather bad nightmare.
"Felix?" Garrett said again, louder this time. He sat up on his knees and grabbed Felix's arm, hoping to either wake him from his nightmare or comfort him in his sleep.
As soon as his hand made contact with Felix his mind and vision were filled with a flash flood of sensations. Dark red and blinding white strobed rapidly in his eyes. His body was submerged in pain, like he was simultaneously freezing and burning alive. He looked down at his hands and saw that they were raw, bloody, blistered and peeling, the muscle in some places nearly exposed. The lower half of his body was blackened with severe frostbite, and his upper body was covered in intense burn scars. He felt a screaming pain suddenly between his eyes, like he had been stabbed. Looking up, he noticed something like the shaft of an arrow poking through his forehead, making him look like a twisted unicorn. His ears rang with the echoing laughter of someone deranged and cruel. All of this felt like it happened both in the span of a second and an eternity.
Garrett screamed in pain and fell off the bed, landing on his side and waking Felix up immediately.
"Huh?" He muttered groggily, but he woke up completely when he heard Garrett's sounds of agony. He hurried out of bed and to his partner's side, where the ginger was rolling on the floor and clutching at his head, his body, his eyes and ears, everywhere in pain.
"IT HURTS! Felix, it hurts, make it stop! Please make it stop!"
Felix reached down instinctively to try and help, but Garrett backed away in fear. "No, don't touch me! J-just call A-Artie!"
Feeling hurt, but pushing it down for later, Felix ran over to a nearby table and picked up his Farnsworth. He found it hard to dial the proper frequency when his hands were shaking so much, but by some miracle he managed.
Artie's haggard face, lacking glasses, appeared in the Farnsworth's screen with a greatly annoyed look. "This better be good if you called at two in the-"
"Artie, call Vanessa. Now. Garrett's hurt."
Artie snapped up quickly, and could hear the teen's anguished crying and sobbing through his device. "Take Edison's Coach, she'll be here in an hour."
An hour and a half later, Garrett sat in Artie's computer chair in his office, swaddled in a soft blanket and clutching one of his stuffed animals, a rainbow-shelled turtle that rattled when shaken. He was completely silent, and stared off into nothing while staying almost completely still save for minor shivers that ran through his body.
Vanessa, Artie, and Felix all huddled up outside on the balcony, quietly discussing what had happened.
"Tell us exactly what happened." Artie demanded, pushing up his glasses and fluffing his jacket nervously. "What happened after you got home from the café?"
Felix furrowed his brow in thought. "We headed to the Arctic Sector first to store that lamp. I stayed outside and let Garr shelve it himself. Then we went straight to my office to head to bed since we were so tired."
"And then?" the doctor asked, brushing some of her blond hair from her face.
"Then I fell asleep, and woke up to Garrett screaming. On our way here he told me I was having a nightmare, and he had tried to wake me up, then... that happened." he gazed over to the near-catatonic teen in the office, still staring away, unfocused.
"Could it have been an artifact?" Vanessa suggested, holding her arms at the elbows.
Artie shook his head in disagreement. "I don't think this was an artifact's doing. This was Garrett's empathy."
"I thought he could just feel emotions, not actual pain?"
"Well," Felix said, sighing, "it's starting to look like his powers are growing more powerful. When we were snagging that lamp, he said he could sense how those victims felt when they died, and he wasn't even touching an object, let alone a person." He paused, and his face paled. "Artie, you aren't suggesting this happened because of me?"
"That depends," Artie said. "Were you really having a nightmare?"
"I.... yes, I did."
"About Oto, I presume?"
Vanessa's eyes widened, "That maniac who kidnapped you and Soul?"
Felix nodded. "The lamp brought back some... bad memories of what happened. I thought I had it relatively under control, but I had a little flashback earlier and nearly broke down in front of him."
Vanessa and Artie gave Felix looks of surprise. "A flashback? Breakdown?"
The New Zealander held up his hands defensively, "I didn't have a breakdown! I had it under control, I'm fine."
"Well shouldn't we tell Garrett then?" Vanessa asked, spreading her arms. "He's your boyfriend, an agent, and Oto was responsible for that awful cupcake incident. He deserves to-"
"No." Felix said sharply, making the other two close their mouths instantly. "We are not telling him. I'm not putting him through that. He'd overreact, he'd have his own breakdown."
"Judging by how much pain your nightmare caused him, and how much pain you were in, I'd say his reactions would be perfectly justified." Artie said.
Felix shook his head vehemently and crossed his arms. "We are not telling Garrett about Oto and that is final. Maybe once we have that bastard Bronzed I will. But until then, we keep this under wraps from him, got it?"
Artie and Vanessa exchanged a worried look before sighing and conceding.
"Alright," Vanessa said finally, "I gave him William Morton's Inhaler, that should numb the pain and help him fall asleep quickly. He should feel better tomorrow morning."
The three walked back into the office, sporting false smiles as they walked over to the sitting teenager.
"Hey buddy," Artie said, patting Garrett's shoulder. "Vanessa says you should feel better by tomorrow. Just go to sleep and rest well kiddo."
Felix knelt down and removed Jane Goodall's Watch from Garrett's wrist, transforming him into a red fox clutching the turtle in his paws. "I'll take him back to the office and give him some pets, he enjoys that."
"Thank you for coming on such short notice Vanessa." Artie waved her goodbye as he headed back up to his own bed.
Felix exited the office, Garrett wrapped in his arms. Unbeknownst to him, Garrett had heard everything from the balcony.
Chapter 6 - Parsley Edit
The next morning, Felix woke up early, which surprised even himself. He headed for his small kitchen quietly and started cooking some breakfast. He cracked some eggs, mixed some Ovaltine, buttered some toast, and grilled some bacon. Cliché, he admitted, but it's not like he could snap his fingers and produce a 5-yard long breakfast buffet. Well, technically he could, but he couldn't figure out a way to properly move Herbert Cobb McDonald's Buffet Line to his room.
He flipped open a TV tray table and set it in front of a comfy recliner positioned a few short feet away from his television, set the plate and glass on top of it, and turned the television on to a channel he knew Garrett enjoyed watching.
Going back to the bedroom, he walked over to the bed where Garrett, still in fox form, lay sleeping. Felix carefully scooped him up gently into his arms and carried him to the living room, giving his fur many comforting kisses.
Garrett woke up just as he was being lowered into the chair. Blinking the sleep from his eyes, he lifted his snout to look at the man above him, who grinned.
"Good morning sleeping cutie," he said, gently rubbing the fluff on Garrett's cheeks. "You feeling any better?"
The fox nodded, still a little sleepy, and brushed his eye with a paw.
"Sorry about what happened last night, uh... I made you breakfast in bed!" He gestured grandiosely to the meal laid out in front of him. Garrett looked at the food, then down at his recliner. "Okay, breakfast in La-Z-Boy."
Garrett reached his head forward and snatched a bit of scrambled egg with the tips of his teeth. He pulled it back and began chomping and smacking the food, which usually he wasn't a huge fan of, but for some reason when Felix fixed it it was fine by him. He ate noisily, and got egg all over his face, which made Felix chuckle, especially when he tried to lick the left behind substance with his tongue.
Felix's Farnsworth rang from the bedroom, making both men look behind them, then at each other. Felix gave Garrett a gentle pet down the back of his head. "Back in a sec little guy." With that, Garrett turned back to the cartoon on TV.
Once in his room, Felix answered his call and saw Artie's face. "Felix, are you alright? How's Garrett?"
"Doing much better from the looks of it. He didn't back away from me when I touched him, and nothing happened when I did, so that's a good sign."
Artie nodded, "That is good. That's good. Ah, and is he eating? Sometimes when people go into shock they forget to eat."
Felix nodded himself this time. "Yup, made him breakfast in bed, sans the bed."
"You know he's going to want to talk about this at some point, Felix."
"And I'll cross that bridge when I reach it, Artie."
Artie rolled around in his chair until his computer screen was behind him in the Farnsworth's view. "He might have already figured out it was his empathy and not an artifact."
"I'll tell him it was the nightmare."
The older man raised his large caterpillar-like eyebrows. "You're going to lie to him?"
"It's not lying." Felix exclaimed, though he doubted the truth of his own words. "It's... selective truth telling, Technically it was because of a nightmare. I don't have to tell him it had a basis in truth."
Artie lowered one eyebrow.
"I wouldn't outright lie to him Artie. Ever. You know that. I don't want him to think we can't trust each other, I care too much about him. That's why I'm doing this." Felix looked behind him to the open doorway and heard Garrett's laugh-like yipping emanating from the living room.
Artie sighed in resignation. "He deserves the truth at some point. But fine, I'll drop it." He flipped his Farnsworth around to face the computer screen. "The Psychology Section is in need of an inventory update, Pete and Steve picked up a few new additions recently and I need to verify they're in their proper locations. Think you can manage?"
Felix nodded, "I think I can. I'll let Garrett have the morning to himself and check how he feels in a couple of hours. See you later." He closed his Farnsworth with a blip and headed back to the living room, where he saw Garrett was nearly done with his plate, and was sitting and watching the program intently, his fluffy tail in his mouth.
"Hungry little bugger this morning aren't you?" Felix asked playfully, scratching underneath Garrett's chin and picking up a piece of bacon, which was just a little floppy, just the way Garrett liked it. He fed it to the fox, who accepted the offering eagerly. After he had scarfed it down, he licked the man's fingers happily. "Love you too Garebear."
Later, after Felix had asked Garrett if he felt well enough to do some inventory, and Garrett had nodded in affirmation, the pair was in the Psychology Section, nearly finished with their work.
"All items in the Jung Collection?" Garrett asked, a pen poised over a clipboard and paper peppered with check marks.
"Check." Felix replied. "One Cuckoo Clock, and one Sofa Cushion. All items in the... Freud Collection?" he asked somewhat warily, Garrett's pension for getting muddled with the notable psychologist's belongings.
"Check. Three cigars, one mirror, one couch with two carpets and three pillows, one pair of glasses, one mantle clock, and one lighter." He listed each item off with surprising nonchalance, and made a noise like a cross between amusement and wariness. "It's funny how often I get mixed up in his stuff."
"You have a kink for hypnotism and one of his cigars makes you see dicks everywhere, I'd say it makes a little sense." Felix joked, checking off the list of artifacts on his own clipboard.
"And boobs," Garrett said with a shudder. "No offense, but I guess that's how a straight guy must feel looking at another man's junk. Mostly indifference, maybe some aversion, mostly minus the envy."
"Hoeksema's Glasses?" "Check. Luscher's Cards?" "Check. Skinner's Bird?" "Check, and still bobbing as always."
Finally, after checking off the rest of the section's inventory, Felix was about to head over to Artie's Office to drop off his report and head out for the day, but Garrett stopped him.
"Hey, uh, what if we take inventory in the Crime and Punishment Vault?" He asked, pointing his thumb to the West.
Felix raised an eyebrow and turned around to face him. "How come? Is there something in particular there?"
Garrett shook his head and smirked, "Oh, no, no reason really. You know me, I just can't get enough antiques! I mean, where else can I see a Barber Shop Chair, a Phonograph, and a Vaccuum Bag all in one place? Besides, it shouldn't take too long, right?"
The other man shrugged and started walking in the other section's location, Garrett walking alongside him. "You know, maybe a quick look into the Babbage Sector wouldn't hurt either."
"Why's that?" Felix asked, tucking the clipboard under his arm.
Garrett shrugged again, "Claudia's been meaning to look through some of the stuff there for spare parts in case she needs to build something new on the fly, but she's been busy lately. I thought I'd do her a favor and take a look around for her."
"Really? What do you owe her a favor for?"
"She got me apple juice. I love apple juice." He answered plainly. "And she was... nice, recently. C'mon," Garrett quickened his pace and turned around, jogging backwards in front of Felix. "Shake the lead out of your shoes, the more time we talk about getting there, the slower it'll be to actually get there!"
Chapter 7 - White Rose Edit
Later that night, Garrett sat awake in bed as Felix slept soundly. He had made sure to drink some coffee, as bitter and gross as it was, to stay alert and awake long enough until he was sure Felix wouldn't be awoken easily.
He slid easily out of bed, careful to walk on the tips of his toes, and quietly dressed himself. Without looking behind, he walked out of Felix's office armed only with a Farnsworth, gloves, several static bags, a backpack, and a clipboard.
Making his way down the numerous aisles, he headed straight for the Crime and Punishment Vault. He held the inventory clipboard up and flipped through its various pages until he found the one for the appropriate section. Running a finger down the list of artifacts, he walked down the aisles slowly and scanned for artifacts he thought might come in handy.
'He's not going to like you sneaking out and taking toys that aren't yours to play with.' Scott's deeper voice appeared in his head. Garrett shifted his eyes to his right and saw a specter of Scott had manifested next to him, identical to him in every way except slightly shaggier hair, glowing green eyes, and a translucent complexion.
"Artie just got the inventory reports today, he'll be content for another two days before his anxiety makes him make us check again." Garrett said monotonously while he stopped at one shelf and tapped an artifact display screen next to a black hoodie, bringing up a keypad on the display and typing in a security code. "Besides, as long as I check them out and don't outright steal them, the database won't register them as missing." The display screen flashed Garrett's ID image, along with stating that "THE ZODIAC KILLER'S HOOD" had been checked out.
'I mean Felix,' Scott said, crossing his semitransparent arms and looking around the shelves curiously.
"What he doesn't know won't hurt him. This is for him, you know that. So what, are you going to try and stop me?" The corporeal ginger rolled the hoodie up and stuffed it into his backpack, zipping the largest compartment up afterwards.
Scott shook his head and laughed as if Garrett had made the best joke in the world. 'Are you kidding me? No freaking way, this'll be fun! The one and a half of us, taking matters into our own hands and single-handedly stopping a maniac and saving the Warehouse. It's all so very movie-esque.'
Garrett rolled his eyes and continued searching, but he had to admit, as foolish as his plan did sound it did have a dramatic appeal to it. But that's not what mattered. What mattered was helping Felix and stopping this Oto person, whoever the hell he was.
"I want to know where he got that tin," Garrett wondered aloud, dropping a badge into a small compartment in his pack. "And it's pretty coincidental that he sent me of all people an MLP artifact, don't you think?"
'Well, we'll ask him ourselves. Right before we gut him like a fish!' Scott grinned at the prospect of giving Oto his just desserts, but Garrett shook his head and walked on past him out of the Crime and Punishment Vault and toward the Babbage Sector.
"No, Scott. We aren't killing him or torturing him or anything. This isn't about revenge, it's stopping the bad guy."
Scott floated in the air on his back beside Garrett, unfazed and with a smug grin on his face. 'Oh come on, I know you. I am you. You want revenge almost as much as I do!'
"The only difference being that I'm not willing to stoop to his level to get it." Garrett countered with a sharper tone, checking his watch and quickening his pace to a light jog. Scott floated next to him, constantly at the same speed.
'Sooner or later you'll have to let me out, you know.' the specter said with a teasing tone. He swished around in the air and vanished. Garrett halted and looked around for a few moments, confused. Seeing nothing, he restarted his jogging pace, but was met with Scott's intangible face right against his own when he turned back around. Garret startled and stepped back in surprise, and was met with Scott's roaring laughter. 'And when you do,' he held his stomach while he curled his legs up in the air, 'you'll see things my way, I'm sure.'
Garrett sighed and walked right through Scott, making his form shimmer in instability. The latter remained where he was for a moment with an expression of deadpan annoyance. "I'm just shaking with anticipation of the fateful day. Now, you can either give me peace, or give me company. It's freaking creepy in the aisles at night."
'Ughhhh, fine!' The spectral ginger groaned loudly and followed his mental host, floating after him begrudgingly slow. 'While we're out here checking the sections for useful artifacts, do you think we could chec-"
Garrett held up his hand to stop his doppelganger midsentence when they reached the Babbage Sector. "Don't suggest we take Mapplethorpe's Whip, Scott. Please. I didn't say yes the first time. Or the subsequent 40 times after that that you've asked."
Scott harrumphed, crossed his arms, and started to turn over in midair until he was standing completely upside down, his short hair flopping down with his glasses and shirt. 'You're no fun, you know that, right?'
"You're definition of 'fun' involves things I wouldn't even dare to think about in the same room as Mrs. Frederic."
'Says the guy who used Freud's Cigar to see dicks everywhere!'
"That was to get you to shut up." Garrett countered matter-of-factly. "Plus, seeing boobs makes you uncomfortable."
Scott stuck his tongue out at his clone and turned away with a sneer.
He plucked Aaron Swartz's Computer Mouse from its shelf and put it into his pocket, making sure not to let the connection cord get tangled. "Now c'mon, we've got more artifacts to collect and files to access, and I need someone to talk to or else we'll both get creeped out."
Chapter 8 - Datura Edit
Over the next few days, Garrett snuck out each night to collect more artifacts for his personal arsenal to aid in his search for, and eventual capture of, Oto. He checked numerous sections, including several return trips to the Crime and Punishment Vault and the Schoningen Armory, until he was satisfied that he had enough artifacts to combat anything Oto had to throw at him. From bullet proof to fire retardant to bondage resistant, he had it all. Sure, the backpack killed him when he carried it, but it was much better to be over prepared than lethally underprepared.
After about a week of taking his own personal inventory a hundred times, and going over every possible strategy, contingency plan, and last second decisions a hundred more, he decided it was finally time to take action. He snuck out of Felix's bed with great ease, a skill of which he was growing proud, and made a quick trip to Artie's Office. Once there, he plugged in Swartz's Mouse and in a few quick clicks was able to read normally encrypted Warehouse files.
Oto was certainly no Claudia, but the guy knew his way around enough to have gained access to minor and poorly protected files like inventory reports, agent lists and logs, and more.
"Well," Garrett muttered as he read, "that explains how he knew my connection to MLP. Clever and ironic asshole for using a show about technicolor ponies against me."
'Better make it snappy Garr, I can sense the mouse starting to affect us.' Scott advised, shifting on his feet and rubbing his arms nervously.
"Just a little while longer Scott. I need to know if this guy has any weaknesses, anymore artifacts, or-" he paused when he came across a new folder of a video playlist. There weren't many, but according to the file data, all of them had come from Abigail.
'Abigail?' Scott asked, leaning on the desk even though he didn't need to. 'Why on earth is she in the Oto files?'
Garrett shrugged, "Let's find out." He clicked the first video in the playlist. After a few seconds of buffering, Felix's face illuminated the screen in the dark of the office.
"Alright Felix," Abigail's voice came from the computer speakers. Garrett hurriedly paused the video and looked up and behind him to where Artie slept. He stirred for a moment, but did not wake. The two intruders sighed in relief and turned the volume down until they could just hear it before pressing play. "I'm gonna need you to tell me what happened with Oto. I know you don't want to, but talking is a good way to help with PTSD."
"PTSD?" Garrett asked, jerking his head back in shock with a hurt expression. "He... he has PTSD?"
'Play it.' Scott said quickly, pointing at the screen.
"This is just for Warehouse records," Abigail continued as Felix ran a hand down his face in a gesture of exhaustion. "We can stop anytime you need to, just try your best."
Felix nodded slowly and sighed. "Alright, yeah, sure. Where should I start?" Abigail told him at the beginning. "Okay... Artie had sent me to Seattle to bag Billy the Puppet's Tricycle. A few victims had been found killed in the same ways as in the SAW movies. Exsanguinated, crushed, stabbed, you name it. I got kidnapped and put into Billy's games."
Scott and Garrett exchanged a terrified look.
"At first I was covered in a highly flammable substance and made to hold a candle to search for a code, restricted with a time limit by a poison in my blood stream. I managed to wipe the gel off and get the code for the antidote syringe. Then I headed to the next room. After getting knocked out a window, I was in a...." he took a deep sigh and covered his eyes with his hands. "I was in a silo... the bars were, they were covered in an acid that made my skin burn."
Garrett looked down at his own hands and remembered the raw, blistered and burned look they had gained when he touched Felix. So the nightmare had a basis in truth.... but how much was fantasy, if any?
"The room, it, it was filling with liquid nitrogen, I had no choice but to climb," Felix said, faster now. "The room was filling faster and faster and I had to keep climbing, but he bar, the b-b-b-bar, I-it j-ust-" he was crying now, rocking back and forth in his chair, "the bar fell and I fell into the ni-ni-nitrogen and it burned and froze and it hurt all over. I tried to s-s-scream, but it g-got into my mouth and it was freezing from the in-ins-s-side. I tried to grab something, anything, b-b-but, but-" Then he burst into tears, huddled into the fetal position on the chair and burying his eyes in his knees.
Abigail rushed into frame and knelt down next to Felix, gently rubbing his arm and whispering to him that it was alright, that he wasn't there anymore, that he was safe. Felix continued to bawl until the tape ended.
In Artie's Office, the teen in the computer chair was deathly silent. His fist clenched, and the mouse in his hand broke, sending sparks flying and an aquamarine aura to flash from the broken artifact. Slowly, he stood up, the specter next to him having vanished, and walked out to the balcony of the office.
Punching a set of coordinates into the keypad on the brick wall, he summoned the zipline, dressed up, and was soon off. He clenched his jaw when he reached his destination and unclipped himself, falling into a roll as he had been taught several times. Without bothering to brush himself off, he headed straight for the sections he had been aiming for with intent in his walk and murder in his heart.
Horseshoes, a plank of wood, several knives, a stole, a chain, and more were all taken quickly off their shelves and replaced the artifacts that had been put in the backpack prior for protection, now with the sole intent to harm.
He was just about to walk out when he saw two artifacts that he did not remember seeing the last time he was in this place nearly a year ago. A whip with nails strapped to the end of its tassels, and a wooden brazier torch that smelled vaguely of metal and smoke, and very strongly of blood. Reading their display tags, he recognized them from his skim of the Oto files. Without hesitation, he grabbed them both off the shelves and stuffed them into his backpack.
On his way out of the Warehouse's back entrance, he passed a mirror. Pausing just for a moment, he turned his head slightly and looked his reflection in the eyes. He smirked when he saw them take on a violent green glow, and continued on his way.
Once outside, Scott pulled out two artifacts: Gil Perez's Helmet and Bob Burton's Shotgun. Holding up the shotgun to the sky, he fired it into the air and watched the twin shotgun shells circle around until they were out of sight. After a few minutes, they flew back and fell to the ground. He waited for them to cool down before picking them up and reading the engraved print on the metal sides of the shells, reading the address of the person he thought of hunting. 'Perfect.'
He gave one last glance at the Warehouse before setting the shotgun down on the ground along with the shells and, putting on the conquistador helmet, he closed his eyes and repeated the address in his head. In a flash, he was gone.
Chapter 9 - Lemon Geranium Edit
Scott reappeared in another flash almost instantly, this time near the east edge of Montana. Taking a quick look around, he noticed that thankfully, nobody else was on the streets at this hour to have noticed him, and all the other houses in this new neighborhood were dark with drawn curtains, illuminated only by streetlamps and lawn lights.
He tucked the metal helmet back into his backpack, no longer usable, and turned to look at the house in front of him. It seemed fairly similar to the rest of the houses alongside and opposite it on the lane with a cream colored façade, steps leading up to the front door made of bright orange wood, and dark black-blue gabled roof. Reaching into his pocket, he took out Harriet Tubman's Thimble. It had proven useful to him several times, and he felt a tinge of regret for having to trick Old Bone into getting it, but it was quickly pushed down when he reminded himself why he did it.
He slid the thimble into his middle finger and concentrated on his new appearance, a child he saw on occasion around Univille when Felix took him on walks through the town park. Small blue lights floated around his body, and his appearance morphed into a younger boy, around twelve or thirteen, with shaggy brown hair, dark green eyes, and aa wrinkled Spider-Man t-shirt. Once he was finished, he gave himself a once-over to make sure none of his true self showed through. Not seeing anything that would blow his cover, he slung his heavy backpack over his shoulder, bent dow and grabbed dirt to rub over himself, and trudged up the steps to the front door. He rang the bell, and readied his best sad and tired face (perfected mostly thanks to firsthand experience).
After ringing the bell a few more times, he heard footsteps stomp through the house towards the door. Several latches were undone and locks turned, and the door opened partway. A man around his mid-to-late fifties appeared, with dark circles around his eyes, an old sleeveless shirt, and hair that had more salt than pepper covered his head and face. Seeing the little boy in his doorway, he paused and furrowed his brow. "What d'ya want this damn late at night?"
"P-please, sir," Scott said in a high pitched kid voice, "m-my parents kicked me out of my house and I've been walking for two days. None of the other houses would let me in, and I'm really hungry. C-can I please come in, sir?"
The man grumbled and shifted on his feet for several moments, as if deciding whether to let the child in or leave him out to dry. Eventually he conceded and opened the door all the way, walking away without looking behind him. Scott followed behind him eagerly, closing and discreetly locking the door behind him while his host made his way to the kitchen, dragging his feet along the floor.
"What's yer name, kid?" He asked, turning on the kitchen light and opening up a few cabinets to pull out a plate, a cup, and some silverware.
"Wayne," Scott lied, looking around curiously at the house's living room, adorned with mostly plain furniture that would never arouse the suspicion of an unknowing guest, except for several horror movie posters and memorabilia that occasionally covered the walls or shelves. Posters, action figures, and prop replicas from the likes of SAW, Halloween, A Nightmare on Elm Street, and Texas Chainsaw Massacre were just a few of the celebrated flicks. Knowing what connection at least one of those films had to Felix made his skin crawl in discomfort and reignited hatred, which he just barely managed to keep under wraps. "And thank you so so much for letting me in sir, I mean it. I don't know why mom and dad kicked me out..."
The man grunted and shrugged, putting bred into a toaster and setting a paper plate next to it while he waited. "Don' you worry 'bout in none, s'the Christian thing t'do. I'm Oto, by the way. Oto Barry." He went to his fridge and pulled out a jug of orange juice and poured the citrus into the cup. "Mind tellin' me what happened before yer folks kicked ya out? Oh, an' you can sit over there." He pointed to the nearby dining room table, a few feet to the left of the kitchen counter. 'Wayne' nodded and pulled up a seat.
Scott fidgeted in his seat and twiddled his fingers in fake nervousness. "I... I told them I had a crush on a boy at school. Dad got really angry and my mom started crying. They told me to just pack a backpack and leave and never come back. And I don't have a phone to call my grandma." He started crying, another thing he had learned to do on command with much experience. "Everybody either turns me away when I tell them what happened, or they think I'm some thief trying to take their money."
Oto paused for a moment. "And yer parents don't ever wanna see you again? They couldn't care less if ya never came back?" 'Wayne' nodded morosely and covered his face with his hands. "Interestin'..." He knelt down and opened the cabinet beneath his sink to pull out a bottle, Liqua-Tox. Looking behind him to check if his guest was watching him, he discreetly opened the bottle and poured much of the liquid into the Styrofoam cup of orange juice. He took a plastic spoon from a nearby drawer and stirred the toxic concoction until it was completely mixed in. As soon as he was done, the toast popped out of the toaster, and he put it on the paper plate.
"I ain't much of a cook," Oto said apologetically, "but I hope ya like toast n' orange juice, 'cause it's all I got. Lemme know if yer still hungry." He set the plate and cup on the table, Scott thanked him, and walked away to feign washing his hands, waiting for his unsuspecting victim to drink and quickly perish. He wasn't planning on murdering anytime soon, not after that last run in with the Warehouse pests in Univille, but when an opportunity this perfect quite literally knocked on his door... he just couldn't help himself. It was too good, too irresistible. It thrilled him, sent a wonderful chill down his spine. He waited for the child to complain about the taste, to start coughing and choking, to collapse to the floor... but nothing happened. He was about to turn around when he heard someone else's voice in his ear, a deeper voice.
"Really Oto, rat poison? I thought you were more of a chloroform kind of guy." Oto turned around in surprise, but was quickly kneed in the groin. Scott grabbed his head and slammed it against the counter, then threw him to the ground before stepping on the old man's chest. The teen tsked and shook his head. "Too simple Oto. Here I was expecting you to drug me and take me back to your impressive lair, but all you were gonna do is kill me on the spot? Where's the fun in that?!" He pushed his foot down hard, crushing Oto's chest and forcing the air out of him, rendering him unable to speak. "But don't you worry, I'll make this enjoyable. I'm putting the fun back in you're funeral. Now," he knelt down close to Oto's face. "You're gonna tell me where that special little secret lair of yours is, or I'm gonna have to get creative and force it out of you. What's it gonna be?"
Oto scowled despite his surprise and spit in Scott's face. The teen reared his head back and wiped the saliva from his cheek, chuckling darkly. "Alright then. Let's play." He reared his hand back and hit Oto's head hard with the back of his hand, knocking him out cold.
Chapter 10 - Chickweed Edit
---June 3rd, 1978---
"Mike, I ain't sure I wanna go on this case." Oto said, looking over the casefile Artie had handed him warily.
"What's the matter Otter, scared of an office ghost story?" Mike asked, closing his own manila envelope with a grin to try and lessen the tension in the room that had been building between them for a month now.
"Ghosts an' I haven't really gotten along well since I saw The Exorcist." Oto admitted, looking away at the ground in a mix of embarrassment and a lack of desire to be near Mike.
"C'mon, those kinds of ghosts aren't real... At least I don't think. But you can hold my hand if you see a shadow person, ya scared cat." Mike teased and put his hand on his partner's shoulder.
"Never mind," Oto grumbled quickly, shrugging his hand away. "I'll take my chances with Linda Blaire. Let's just get this over with and not spend more time than we need."
Oto awoke with a start, blinking and squinting when his eyes were immediately met with light as soon as he opened them. His head still ached, as did his chest. He shook his head to try and clear it and reflexively tried to move his limbs, but found they were bound tightly to the arms and legs of an old wooden chair in the middle of a quite familiar location: an abandoned storage warehouse on the outskirts of his town, far from wandering citizens and well guarded from nosy urban explorers.
Blinking the blindness away, he could finally see his surroundings clearly. Yup, it was definitely the same warehouse. The rafters were slightly bent but still sturdy; the windows boarded up in the same secure pattern he had chosen to keep black cloth over the glass; and, the biggest giveaway, he was sitting next to a rather large dried bloodstain on the floor. One of his personal favorites, actually, as it was from one of his first attempts at draining blood from a living victim. That, and he thought it had a particular similarity to the silhouette of Abraham Lincoln.
He struggled in his binds, though he knew the attempt was futile. He had modified this chair himself using very sturdy wood and strong leather straps and metal buckles to make sure nobody could escape or even lash a single limb out. He was trapped. He grunted in frustration, but stopped when he heard slow and steady footsteps approaching from the dark a few feet away.
"Glad to see you're finally awake," Scott said as he emerged from the shadows. "I was starting to fear I had hit you too hard."
"Who the hell are you?" Oto asked with a scowl. His eyes followed his victim-turned-kidnapper as he pulled a table behind him covered with a lumpy, dirty bedsheet.
Scott chuckled. "Oh, where are my manners." He walked over to Oto and extended his hand, as if he expected the man to shake it. "The name's Scott. Garrett Scott, technically, but let's not split hairs. I really must thank you, Oto. If it weren't for you and that muffin tin you sent me, I wouldn't be here today."
"Garrett? Ya mean that kid agent? I thought you died." Oto said, confused. "That tin was s'posed t' get ya killed!"
The teenager pat his cheek and smiled. "For a time, I was. Long story short, and to put it bluntly, I killed myself. Don't ask. But now I'm back and better than ever! And it's all thanks, in part, to you, 'Daddy'."
Oto made a gagging sound and Scott laughed. "Ugh, sorry. I think I just threw up a little in my mouth."
"Think of me as a separate personality of sorts. Garrett's the nice, meek, doormat of us two. Me? I'm basically the Id, the much more impulsive, vindictive side of the coin." He walked back over to the table and flipped off the bedsheet, revealing a collection of various artifacts, many of which Oto recognized as parts of his own collection of instruments and tools. Knives, chains, hammers and nails, a set of jacks and a ball, and more covered the table on wheels. "In layman's terms, though, Oto... I'm your worst nightmare."
Oto struggled more violently in his bonds in an effort to escape, making Scott laugh again. "Oh, how original," Oto said sarcastically. "What's next, are ya gon' lay me on a table an' split me with a laser beam while strokin' a cat?"
Scott leaned forward and glowered at the bound man angrily. "You made a game out of torturing my Felix, killing him in the most painful ways possible. Over, and over, and over again until he was broken. But he got out, he's alive. I'm not sorry to say, Oto Barry, that you won't be so lucky." He stood back up and turned on his heel, walking back to the table.
The teen picked up a small utility knife with a stylized standing lion engraved on the handle from the table and flipped it open, an unnaturally dark blue shine reflecting off the blade. "I'm not sure if you've seen this artifact before, Oto," Scott said, "but this was collected in the 60s from a Scottish gang. Wanna guess what it does?"
The older man, recognizing the artifact from when he used to be in the Warehouse, widened his eyes in fear and tried to back the chair away, shaking his head. Scott tsked and grabbed the top of the chair and punched the man in the stomach a few times, knocking the air and energy out of it.
"I'll take that as a yes. Now," Scott grabbed him by the chin and stuck his thumb in his mouth, pulling his jaw down and forcing open his mouth. "Smile for me, dearie." He slowly dragged the knife a few inches in front of Oto's face in a tall upward curve, mimicking the shape of a smile. Lowering his hands, for a few moments, nothing happened. But after several silent moments only filled with Oto's heavy breathing, the corners of his mouth slowly began to split open and spread across his face, up through his cheeks and towards his ears.
Oto clenched his eyes shut and screamed as he was forcefully given a Glasgow smile, blood running down his chin and being flung everywhere as he shook his head. He shook and jerked as hard as he could in the chair, trying desperately to escape, to hold his jaw shut and keep the smile from spreading. It finally stopped before it could split his whole face in half, but just barely. When it finished, he screamed for a few more minutes before his head fell to his chest in exhaustion, and he had screamed himself hoarse.
"Aw, what's the matter big guy? Can't take what you dish out? What a shame." Scott put down the knife and grabbed a strip of very old, worn leather. He grinned and pulled it taught a few times, making a snapping sound, before walking around behind Oto and wrapping it around his chest and the back of the chair. "And this," he explained as he began to loop the leather through a rusted buckle, "is from the first spike chair ever used. Now, normally, these spikes would keep the blood in." He emphasized the last word as he closed the buckle and poked the metal pin through a hole. As soon as it was closed, a myriad of small spikes appeared throughout the chair, instantly piercing into Oto's body.
Oto gasped in shock, unable to make any noise as his legs, back, and arms were pierced, and his body froze in shock. The pain racked his body as muscle and skin were torn and bones pushed out of position or even broken by the sudden intrusions.
"But I'm getting impatient, and we have a lot more work to do." Scott unfastened the buckle and the spikes retracted, leaving Oto's body riddled with bleeding holes. The man began to feel himself fade from the blood loss, his vision blurring and blacking out. After a few more seconds, he as unconscious, and after a minute, he was dead. In an instant, Oto's body burst into flames that did not harm the wooden chair, and soon all that was left was a pile of ashes and the scent of burning flesh and blood.
"After all, you wanted to play games with Felix. It's my turn to play now. And game over for you." Scott walked off with the table in tow, the knife and strap left behind on the floor.
Chapter 11 - Mock-Orange Edit
Felix rolled around in bed, on the verge of waking up, his arm spread out next to him to try and grab onto Garrett and pull him closer, hoping to use his body as a combination heat blanket and pillow. Feeling around for a few seconds and finding nothing there, he opened his eyes. Rubbing the sleeping and burning away, he blinked a few times and looked around.
"Garrie?" Felix called out, his voice still slightly croaky from sleep. "Garebear?"
He thought about waiting in bed for a little while longer. Maybe Garrett just got up early to watch TV? Or he's trying to make breakfast? Then again, he didn't smell anything burning, nor did he see any smoke, so he ruled that out.
"Garrett? You there?" He called out again, a little louder this time. Still no answer. He sighed and got out of bed, instantly missing the warmth of the covers and the comfort of the mattress. He pulled on some shorts and walked out of the room to see the television still off, along with all the lights.
He checked all the rooms and found no sign of his boyfriend. Going back to the bedroom, he noticed that Garrett's backpack was missing, and tried to calm down by telling himself that he likely went out to take inventory again or something. This early though? And without him? Felix sighed again and pulled out his Farnsworth to dial Artie.
"Yes Felix? What do you want?" Artie's visage appeared on the monochromatic lens. "I'm uh, a little busy at the moment." He seemed to be looking intently at something.
"Where did you send Garrett to take inventory this morning?" Felix asked. "And why so early? And without calling me?"
Artie paused and looked at the screen, confused. "What? Inventory? Garrett? I haven't seen him this morning, I assumed he was still with you in your office. I've been busy with this." He turned the Farnsworth around to show Felix a slowly growing mass of what appeared to be undulating, pulsing tendrils and fungi. "I don't know how, but somehow Zdzisław Beksiński's Painting got activated and it's been building structures for what I imagine to be several hours now."
Felix furrowed his brow. "Beksiński's Painting? Are you alright Artie?"
Artie nodded, "Don't worry, I've taken precautions." He flipped the Farnsworth back around and moved it down his body to show he was wearing a heavy duty hazmat suit. "As long as I don't come into contact with anything I should be fine. I need to find whatever's been playing music and shut it down. I don't understand, we had that thing kept in a soundproof box." He shook his head in bewilderment.
Felix shrugged. "I'll call in some help for you, I'm gonna look around for Garr and make sure he's okay." The two nodded and hung up. Then Felix grabbed his phone from the nightstand and worked on calling anyone who might be available. Sorting through his contacts, he found Drake's number and called him. They hardly talked much at all, but Garrett convinced them both to at least have each other's numbers so they'd have another kiwi to talk to.
Drake agreed to get to the Warehouse quickly, bringing Mordin with him, to try and help with what he called "the Tentacle Terror". Felix thanked him, hung up, and got dressed to out and find Garrett. He couldn't shake the feeling that something else was wrong.
Chapter 12 - Reeds Edit
Felix checked aisle after aisle, section after section for Garrett, calling out his name, calling him on the phone and the Farnsworth repeatedly and still getting no answer, which was definitely not like him. He was usually pretty eager to answer as soon as he got a message.
Getting desperate, he jumped onto a shelf and climbed carefully up to the top, angling his limbs away from a music box, a roll of tape, and a bouquet of plastic flowers, to get a better view. Holding his hand above his eyes, he scanned the expansive horizon and saw no sign of the redhead, but saw something else that quickly got his attention; several castle spires reaching up to the roof in the near distance. He hopped down to the ground, landing on all fours, and ran to the Art Gallery, hoping that Garrett hasn't been hurt.
Once there, he was greeted by the sight of Artie, Myka, Mordin , and Drake all dressed in identical and somewhat oversized Neutralizer-purple hazmat suits, complete with helmets with plastic face windows in the front.
"No sign of Garrett?" Artie asked, his voice slightly muffled by the helmet.
Felix shook his head. "You?" The others replied in kind, and he huffed in worry and frustration.
"Don't worry, as long as he wasn't snatched up by a bunch of tentacles he should be safe, right?" Mordin asked. Drake covered his mouth to avoid making a joke.
"And as long as he doesn't breath in too much of the fungal spores before we stop the painting." Artie added. He reached his hand up to adjust his glasses, but hit his helmet instead. He paused, momentarily confused, before continuing. "Or else it'd be..." he waved his hands around in a cryptic gesture, "bad."
"How are we gonna get in this thing?" Felix asked, peering up at the macabre semi-organic architecture in various earth tones awash with a pervasive red fog that filled the surrounding air. "It's pretty freaking big and potentially fortified inside."
Mordin raised his hand. "Uh, yeah, telekinesis here. I can lift one of us inside through a window, but once they're in they'll be on their own. So," he clapped and rubbed his hands together before pointing them both around at the group, "any volunteers?"
Myka immediately backed away, holding her hands up defensively. "Tentacles, no go, sorry."
Artie put a hand on his stomach and shook his head. "I may have had a few, uh, extra cookies this morning."
Mordin rolled his eyes and moved on to Drake, who nodded and walked over underneath on of the high up, thin windows. He pointed his hand towards Drake and bathed him in a violet-pink aura. Lifting his hand, Drake followed suit, and he rose into the air and through the window.
"Back in a flash!" He saluted before he was completely inside.
The group waited for about half a minute before the entire organic structure made a sudden loud cracking sound and faded away into particles that floated into the air or fell to the ground in heaps before soon shrinking away into nonexistence.
Drake jogged bacl to the group holding a small violin of reddish-orange stripy wood and a bow in his hands, blue wings receding into his back through holes that had been poked into the hazmat suit.
"Oh, that's going to cost so much to replace." Artie said morosely.
"That took you longer than I expected," Mordin said with a smile, patting Drake on the back. "What took you so long?"
Drake shrugged, "Sorry, got lost in the west wing. There were organs everywhere."
"Organs like intestines, or like instruments?" Myka asked, unzipping and peeling off her hazmat suit with a thankful sigh.
"Yes." Drake answered plainly. "Also, these were what was playing the music." He held the violin and bow over to Artie, who grabbed them eagerly and examined them.
"Ferdinand David's Violin? And Jascha Heifetz's Bow?" Artie said in a confused tone. "How on earth did these two get together? And all the way here from the Music Aisle?" He looked the artifacts over to make certain they hadn't been in any way damaged by the painting's infection. When he turned the violin over, he found a folded up piece of paper taped to the bottom.
"What's that?" Felix reached out and plucked the paper off the instrument, unfolded it, and began to read. He gripped the paper tighter and tighter as he read, his hands shaking, and he ripped the paper halfway through the message.
"Felix, what's wrong?" Myka asked, taking a concerned step forward. "What's it say?"
"It's Garrett..." he answered slowly, his voice strained and shaky. "He's gone after Oto. Alone."
"That boy is too reckless!" Artie yelled as he and Felix stormed through the Warehouse aisles. Upon learning Garrett had left, Artie immediately checked a nearby computer terminal installed in a red support beam for artifacts that had recently been reported missing from inventory, finding many were from the Torture Room and the Schoningen Armory.
"Reminds me of Claudia, really," Felix said, clenching and unclenching his fists. With his nails having automatically extended, each clench pained his palm, once or twice having drawn a small amount of blood. "This likely isn't his fault Artie, it's Scott."
"Great," Artie huffed, peering into the Torture Room and immediately noticing which artifacts were missing, listing them in alphabetical order for later. "Just what we needed, a rerun of The Killer Nymphomaniac."
"How did he even fnd out about him?" The neko asked, trying to tap down his ever increasing anxiety to avoid having a panic attack. Be scared later, he told himself. "We never told him. Did you?"
Artie shook his head vehemently as they passed the Music Corner, "Of course not! He must have overheard us talk about him that night you had the nightmare. But that doesn't matter. What matters is that we stop him before he kills Oto. Or worse, gets himself killed."
Artie's Farnsworth buzzed in his coat pocket as they entered the section. He quickly put the violin and the bow on the shelves, then fished the vaudio device out and opened it up. "Yes Myka?"
The female agent on the other side of the screen lifted her hand into view to show off two shotgun shells held in a crumpled purple glove. "Garrett, Scott, Whoever, he used Bob Burton's Shotgun to find out where Oto's living. Why the hell we didn't think to use it ourselves I'll never know. He's in Montana, Artie."
"At least it'll be a short flight then." Artie said quickly. "We've got to collect a few things. You and the others, meet us at the airport in two hours. Move!" He closed with Farnsworth with a quick snap and shoved it back into his coat pocket. "You," he snapped, turning sharply on his heel to face Felix, "need to keep your fox on a shorter leash!" He turned again and walked briskly down the shelves, opening up his bag and fiddling around inside of it. Felix quickly followed.
"This is a dangerous maniac who has killed his partner in cold blood and tortured innumerable people including yourself for his own twisted entertainment. Garrett is just a child-"
"A smart teenager-"
"Who is way in over his head, again!" Artie sighed in frustration and rubbed his temples. "He's lucky this is Scott's doing and not his own. If it were, the Regents would-"
"Artie," Felix interrupted, putting his hand on Artie's shoulder. "you can complain later, right now we need to get going." He quickly turned Artie around and pushed him ahead. He felt both annoyed yet sympathetic with the senior's griping. Artie grumbled, but complied and picked up his pace.
Chapter 13 - Orange Lily Edit
---June 3rd, 1978---
"Y'know Otter," Mike said as he and Oto drove to their destination, an abandoned office building that was the subject of many ghostly rumors, "After this case, once we get home, you wanna go get dinner at the diner, maybe?"
Oto jerked a little in his seat. "Why's that?"
Mike shrugged, turning the wheel to change roads as he stared ahead. "It's been a while since we've spoken, and last Friday when I went there, I found out they have a new Pancake Mountain option. You can get these ten huge pancakes for free if you finish them in an hour or less!"
"I'm... busy, actually." Oto muttered his answer. He slumped backwards into the passenger seat, resting his hand on his chin and his elbow on the window.
"Really?" Mike asked. "What do you gotta do, organize your Bible collection in order of publication?"
Oto's face turned slightly red. "No. I'm just busy, okay, Michael?"
Mike stayed silent this time when Oto used his full name rather than the friendly nickname he had been so accustomed to hearing these past few years. It was jarring. He gripped the steering wheel a little tighter, his knuckles whitening, and pushed down harder on the gas pedal, challenging the speed limit with a rev of the car's engine.
Scott walked out of the old office room full of cubicles removing a pair of thick safety gloves from his hands with a calm smile as behind him, a fire blazed in one of the cubicles. The door automatically swung closed behind him as he walked out just as the fire burned out, leaving a familiar dark scent in its wake.
"Huh," Scott said, tucking the gloves in one of his pants pockets, "not every day you get to practice knife throwing with a living target. Remind me to take that spinning wheel thingy back when we're done, Jeeves." He chuckled, talking to a specter of Garrett that had appeared next to him floating a few feet in the air.
'You really enjoyed yourself back there...' Garrett said warily, holding his arms close to his chest defensively.
"Of course! Did you see my aim?" Scott asked proudly, holding a triumphant first in the air. "Bulls-eye every time!"
"First, we were blindfolded," Garrett deadpanned. 'Second, there was no way you got bulls-eye every time, he was still screaming his head off.'
Scott waggled his finger at his counterpart and grinned as they walked to the next location Oto's next clone was set up. "At least until my fourth knife changed his screaming to gurgling. And that was after I made him a soprano with the second. And when I'm hitting Oto, everywhere is bulls-eye."
Garrett just floated silently for some time, the only noise being Scott's footsteps echoing throughout the empty warehouse before the specter spoke again. 'Scott, should we really be doing this?'
The corporeal redhead paused in his walk and turned to face Garrett, a shocked expression on his face. "Of course! How could you possibly ask that? This is Oto we're talking about, hello?" He waved his hand through Garrett's head as if to wake him up from a daze. "He's worse than MacPherson or Sykes, maybe even Paracelcus!"
'They attacked the Warehouse and killed tons of people though.'
"And he attacked our family." Scott said angrily, his eyes flashing a dangerously bright shade of green. "He deserves this."
'But he's... he's still a person, isn't he?' Garrett asked, trying to appeal to whatever better nature Scott might just have. He just ignored him and waved his hand through Garrett's chest dismissively and continued walking again, but paused when he heard the sound of footsteps that weren't his own.
'What was that?'
Scott hurried behind a nearby support pillar barely large enough to hide him, trying to keep his own footsteps as quiet as possible, just as the large, looming shadow of a person covered the floor in front of a doorway across the vast empty room. A few moments later Oto staggered through the door, clutching various parts of his body in pain.
'Shit, we didn't tie the ropes tight enough,' Scott whispered. 'I knew we should have used that Devil's Tongue Knot thing Felx taught us.'
The two hiding gingers peered slowly out from behind the pillar and watched Oto stumble around intently towards a room on the other end of the hall, as if searching for something while he regained his strength.
Scott nearly ran at the man from behind, but Garrett stopped him. 'Wait! We don't have any artifacts on us and you and I both know we suck at fighting. We need to be careful, find something to protect ourselves before he finds an exit. Or worse, the whip.'
Scott grumbled a stream of swears angrily under his breath, but gave in. They waited until Oto was well out of the room before sneaking back to where he had originally been stowed to find anything useful.
---June 3rd, 1978---
"Did you hear that?" Mike paused and held up his hand, keeping his Tesla arm in front of him. Behind him, Oto, who carried a handgun, paused immediately, his left leg momentarily raised in the air before he slowly brought it down to the floor. The old office building remained quiet for a moment, but the silence was broken by the sound of an old phone ringing somewhere.
"This place has been abandoned for decades, how's there a working phone ringin'?" Oto asked in a nervous and rushed whisper.
"I'm guessing that's what's behind all these haunting stories." Mike fished a silver bag from his pocket along with a pair of purple gloves. "This'll be a snap, right Otter? Just a harmless phone, I'm betting you."
Oto grunted with each step, various parts of his body still feeling the quite literally sharp, stabbing pain of the knives that had been lodged all over his body. Thankfully, the pain seemed to be fading. He was tired and jumpy whenever the old expansive building creaked, a sound that used to be familiar, comforting even, but now made him afraid that that devil child had found him and would use yet another artifact to torment him. To make him scream until his throat gave out, and even then he would continue to scream in silence, begging for the pain to stop. For him to end it one way or another.
'How dare he?' He thought, 'How dare he invade my home, my sanctity, and twist it against me?' He had to admit though, the kid had style. He had never thought to use The Gibsons Couple's Wheel of Death in his sessions. And he was certainly willing to use them to their full extent, if the pain in the middle of his stomach told him anything.
He walked through the warehouse with more ease now, the layout burned into his memory after all these years using it for his entertainment. Unlike the brat, he knew to actually hide his artifacts safely away while he was gone so they wouldn't risk loss or theft on the off chance an intruder ignored the trespassing warnings and wandered in. He kept a small cache of them, in fact, at the end of an old hallway used for conveyor belts that had long since halted and rusted in place.
Reaching the end of said hall, Oto got on his hands and knees and began brushing his hands over the bottom of the wall, searching for a slightly raised panel on the otherwise flat surface. After a few moments, he located a bolt screwed into the wall on a top corner of such a raised metal slab. He hooked his fingers beneath it and pulled up. With a click he removed it from the wall to reveal a small boxy compartment behind it that held several different objects ranging from headphones to a coffee cup to a somewhat modern fog machine. As well as an old weapon that he was quite, quite fond of.
"Otooooooo!" Scott's voice echoed through the warehouse in a disturbingly playful, sing-songy tone. "Come out, come out wherever you are!"
Oto grabbed the weapon wrapped so lovingly in red silk, cradling it almost like his own child. He checked it over quickly to make sure it was still in working order, though it wasn't necessary - he cleaned nad polished it almost weekly. But one could never be too careful.
"I promise I won't bite... much."
He ran over to the corner at the end of his own hallway entrance and heard Scott's footsteps behind it. Pressing himself against the wall, he held his breath and waited.
"You know you're right, Oto. There really is more to this torture thing."
"You've shown me a whole new world of possibilities!"
"Allow me to tha-"
Just as Scott turned the corner, Oto jumped out and aimed his handgun - the very same one he had used to kill Michael Korss - straight at Scott's stomach and fired two rounds into it in rapid succession. Sott jerked at each shot from the force of the impacts and staggered back. He dropped four horseshoes he had been holding in gloved hands and clutched his bleeding stomach as blood dripped down his shirt and pooled on the floor.
"I know. You're welcome."
Fear flashed in Scott's face, and he glanced over to a nearby door quickly before looking back to Oto, but the man had already noticed his shift in attention. He collapsed to the ground.
The assailant chuckled and walked over to the door, but before he could open it, he felt a sudden surge of heat cover him from behind. Oto turned around quickly and watched as Scott's body burst into flames.
Chapter 14 - Wormwood Edit
Myka kicked open the door to Oto's house, the crashing sound of the breaking doorframe and the door itself slamming the opposite wall echoing through the house. She aimed her gun ahead of herself intently, her face stony and aggressive. Artie followed behind her with a fully charged Tesla that buzzed loudly with built up energy.
"Secret Service, show yourself!" Myka shouted as she walked into the dark and silent house, her weapon still at the ready. She turned her head as Felix, Mordin, and Drake each filed in themselves. She gestured for the five of them to split up to search the house faster.
Each agent nodded and made their own ways throughout the house, with Myka taking the kitchen, Felix the bedroom, Artie the garage, Mordin the backyard, and Drake the living room.
In the kitchen, Myka grazed her hand over the wall until she found a light switch; turning it on, the lightbulbs in an overhead lamp flickered on after a second or two of weak stroking. They were obviously in need of replacement soon. She quickly surveyed the area, taking mental stock and imaging every scenario she could of what might have happened here. One chair was pushed away from the dining table, meaning someone had sat there and gotten up. In front of the chair on the table were paper and plastic plates and cups and utensils, which implied that Oto seemed to live rather cheaply.
She went to the table, taking a quick look underneath it and finding nothing, and inspected the uneaten food and drink that had been laid out. As she looked over the toast, she caught whiff of an unfortunately familiar scent. Myka picked up the paper cup of orange juice and held it at arms length between her fingers like a piece of smelly trash, and quickly dumped it down the sink.
"Looks like Oto might have tried to poison Scott, if he was here." Myka said, turning on the faucet to wash the toxic concoction thoroughly down the drain. "I recognize chemicals in food ever since my sister tried to kill me."
"Sounds like you had fun at the family reunion," Drake said, surveying a shelf of movie memorabilia. "You don't think he drank it, do you?"
"Let's hope... not." She paused when she peered down at the kitchen counter when the last of the drink was gone and noticed a red stain on the faux-marble. "There was some kind of struggle though, there's blood on the counter. And more on the ground, and some of it trails on the carpet."
Drake nodded as he inspected the floor himself. "Noticed while I was checking his posters. Guy's got a serious boner for slasher gorefest flicks, I haven't seen so many SAW posters in one place before."
"Guuuuuys!" Felix called from the bedroom down a side hallway, "I think I found something!" He emerged from the hall holding a journal with a tiny lock on the side, and a large key.
"What didja find?" Drake asked as he and Myka walked over to meet him.
Felix shrugged, "Not sure. There aren't any chests, boxes, or safes in his room, the bathroom, the guest room, or any of the closets. But the only other think that has a lock is this big journal, which already has a key." He held out the book with corners of various photographs poking out on all sides, and handed it to Drake.
"I think I found what that other key goes to," Artie said, walking in wit Mordin into the living room to meet with the others. "The garage is empty, Scott must've somehow found a place to take Oto and drove their himself."
"Garrett can't drive," Felix objected, confused, "he's way too scared of crashing to learn."
"He's almost seventeen years old and he doesn't know how to drive?" Mordin asked.
"I'm around twenty-one and I don't drive either." Felix countered.
"Anyway!" Artie interjected with a wave of before they two could argue any further. After he got their attention, he pushed his glasses back up the ridge of his nose as if punctuating himself. "Beneath where the car used to be is an old hatch door with a padlock keeping it secured to the floor. I was about to pick it myself when Mordin came in and told me that he had found something strange in the yard."
Mordin nodded, "Yeah, there were a bunch of wires and cords that that covered the ground and eventually led into the dirt, but I couldn't pull them out. There's something underneath the house, and by how many wired there were, I'm gonna guess something big."
Felix held up the key in his hand and started quickly for the garage. "Come, don't let's all be Dawdling Dorises." Myka rolled her eyes and the gang followed.
In the garage, Felix went over to the square, hinged hatch on the floor and grabbed the shiny silver padlock connecting the door to the ground by two thick metal hoops. He inserted the key and with a click, the padlock opened up. He pulled it off and tossed it aside, grabbed the handle, and yanked it open. With the door came a small cloud of dust that made the five cough and sputter, and when it had settled, the hole in the ground opened up to reveal a tunnel.
Mordin stomped the ground and whined. "Aw man! Great, a deep, dark, damp claustrophobic tunnel. Because that worked out so well for Masha."
"Seriously, how cliché of a villain can this guy get before he's wearing an eyepatch and petting a cat with a metal arm?" Drake asked.
Felix was the first to jump down, ignoring the ladder entirely in his haste, and laded safely on his feet. He was silent for a few moments before a faint click was heard, after which he called the others down. "C'mon down, you can see now!" The other four made their own way down, being sure to use the ladder this time, and sure enough the tunnel was now illuminated by a long, long string of lightbulbs on the top of the tunnel.
"What the hell took you guys so long?" Felix asked impatiently, stomping his foot rapidly on he ground.
"Sorry," Mordin answered, "I was being careful. I have a very severe allergy to broken legs. But, this does explain all the wires."
"How can Oto have a secret passageway?" Myka asked, "They aren't exactly common in real estate these days."
Artie shrugged and rubbed his jaw, squinting his eyes to try and look farther into the distance of the tunnel. "Well, he's been 'dead' for several decades, he very well could have dug this all himself, especially with the help of an artifact or two." He pointed a finger along the grooves of the way and spoke in a tone that suggested the beginning of a tangent, "Y'know, this looks like he might have used Marc Isambul Brunel's Qu-"
"We can discuss that later!" Felix said n mounting frustration, the volume of his voice amplified by the close quarters of the tunnel. "The longer we wait, the longer Garrett is in danger!" He turned around and lowered himself to the ground on all fours, extended his claws, shook his rear end in the air, and ran ahead of the group. The rest shortly followed.
Chapter 15 - Red Carnation Edit
---July 3, 1978---
Ring ring. Ring ring. Ring ring.
Oto and Mike reached the next floor quickly, and for some reason the phone was still ringing. It had been at least a full minute by now since it started, according to their watches. Abandoned cubicles, overturned desks riddled with holes, and broken printers were suffocating under thick layers of dust decades in the making that floated in the air and made the agents cough.
Ring ring. Ring ring.
"That phone's getting really creepy now." Mike said as he shone his flashlight, a necessity in the darkness of the office building, on the old rotary phone that had browned and crusted with age, but refused to break down after all this time, as if it still had a purpose that had yet to be fulfilled and it wouldn't go down without a fight.
"And annoyin' as hell," Oto added, "c'mon, let's bag it."
Mike handed his partner the bag and gloves and stowed away his Tesla. Oto walked over to the phone slowly and carefully in case the phone was proximity activated, gloved hand outstretched to grab the phone and stuff it into the large silver bag.
Ring ring. Ring ring. Ring ring. Ring ring.
Oto admitted to himself that he honestly wondered what effects the phone had, if any, beyond simply ringing without power. Maybe he'd test it once they were at the Warehouse with more Neutralizer at the ready, just to be on the safe side. Then again, his curiosity was burning now as he crept closer to the artifact, and it wasn't like he could be hit with the downside anyway.
He grabbed the old black phone by the base in one hand, the body vibrating slightly as it rang, and held it up above the bag momentarily, before he set the bag down and picked up the receiver and held it up to his ear.
"Hey, honey, I'm gonna be a little late home tonight."
"Oh, you've got to be kidding me!" Drake moaned in disgust as he covered his eyes from looking at more from the scrapbook-journal he had opened. "I didn't need to see that, oh God."
Mordin took the book from Drake's hands and turned the page, reading it with a grimace and some morbid curiosity. "Consider it make-up for skipping dissection in Biology class." He flipped through more pages, each covered in glued or taped on pictures that Oto had taken himself with cameras that, unfortunately, improved in quality over the years. "I didn't think bodies could bend that way... at least not outside of comic books.
Drake momentarily parted the fingers that covered his eyes and peered back over Mordin's shoulder at the book, only to groan again and look away, holding himself back from outright retching.
The group had been walking behind Felix for some time now, the neko growing more and more frantic and angry and nervous as time went on, beginning to fear that he might be too late. His claws dug deep holes in the ground as he walked, nearly causing the others to trip and fall to the ground several times.
"Felix!" Artie shouted angrily after he had tripped and dropped his precious bag, nearly toppling over himself if it weren't for Myka catching and helping him back up. "Maybe you should try a turn on the bipedal side for a while?"
Felix shook his head, "It helps me think." He said it roughly, still obviously agitated, and hunched his shoulders higher, and quickened his pace once more.
They continued on like this until Felix made a noise of surprise and bounded forward calling the others to hurry their sorry behinds up. When they reached him, he was climbing another ladder two rungs at a time, practically punching open the hatch above him. Sunlight flooded the tunnel and blinded the agents who had gotten adjusted to the dimness of the cave. The others soon followed him up.
When they emerged, the found themselves outside the front of an old abandoned warehouse surrounded by a chain-link fence and a car parked outside.
"Garr!" Felix ran with surprising speed for the car, skidding to a halt in front of the driver side door. He yanked it open, the door slamming the edge of its hinges' reach and bounce back. He looked frantically inside, but found no redhead, nor a monster in human disguise. He slammed his fist against the side of the car, leaving a rather impressive dent surrounded by long, deep scratches caused by his claws. "Dammit!"
"Felix, look," Mordin ran up behind him and pointed at the gate around the empty building. As he saw, the doors on the gate had been left wide open. "They must be inside now. But we can't just go in there guns blazing, alright? We need to be careful."
Felix nodded, frustrated, but understanding. "I'm sooo gonna enjoy shoving that bastard in the Bronzer when this is all over. Maybe I'll let him oxidize in the Aquarium Section."
Artie and Myka drew their respective firearms, Felix extended his claws and took out a throwing knife, and Mordin and Drake summoned their horn and wings. With Mordin leading the way, they entered the looming building that seemed to give off a foreboding aura of its own.
Chapter 16 - Peach Blossom Edit
---June 3, 1978---
"Well," Mike said proudly as he placed the old rotary phone on a shelf in the Samhain Sector, "That was... weird." he peeled the purple gloves off of his hands and stuffed them into his back pocket, clapping his hands together to get the pesky texture off his palms. He turned to his partner beside him. "How you couldn't let go of the phone no matter what, I mean."
Oto shrugged and took off his own gloves before walking away. "Effect of the phone, obviously." He said grumpily.
Mike followed behind him, "You sure you're okay Otter? I mean, you have immu-"
"Don't call me that anymore." Oto interrupted Mike abruptly, still walking.
Mike stopped, caught by surprise by the aggressive comment. He furrowed his brow in confusion. "W-what? Why, what's wrong?" He jogged back up to meet the other man, who only quickened his pace in response.
"I'm not your friend, you don't get to call me stupid pet names anymore." Oto responded in a cold and angry tone, shooting Mike a glare that froze him in his tracks once more and left him feeling somewhat numb and hurt. He moved over to the other side of the aisle and continued on his way, leaving Mike behind.
Mike watched, his hair having fallen over his face from the suddenness of his halt, and watched with a hard expression as his best friend walked away.
Scott groaned and clenched his eyes shut when he was awoken by the sound of various objects being fiddled with. Being picked up and set back down on a tabletop of some kind; the sharp, grazing sound of metal being dragged across metal; the ticking of a clock, the shifting of fabric, or, the most alarming sound, that of shifting feet.
He opened his eyes and looked around, not too surprised to find that he had been taken to yet another room. Also not all that surprising was the fact that he was tied up and suspended above the floor, his arms bound together above his head by a red rope connected to the ceiling, and his legs bent on two stools with matching red rope. Ahead of him was Oto, his back turned on Scott as he focused on various artifacts.
"Oh Oto," Scott said finally, struggling with his bonds, "if I had known you were this kinky we would have been friends from the start."
Oto turned his head around and glared at Scott. "I was wonderin' when you'd wake up. Dumb idea, hidin' yer body in a closet, buddy."
"I'll be sure to remember to come out of the closet again next time, thanks for the critique." Scott looked around the room, noticing that it was small and dark, like the rest of the warehouse. Also, for a reason he couldn't quite place, aluminum cans of varying sizes were stung across the wall by thin, nearly invisible strings.
"You had yer fun," Oto said, turning around and brandishing an artifact from Garrett's backpack: an old stone with jagged edges on one side and a flat, almost purposefully constructed surface on the other, as if it were rubble from an old brick structure. "Now it's my turn. You've given me loads of new ideas!"
"Is bondage one of tem?" Scott chuckled.
Oto closed the distance between them in a few long, deliberate strides, a scowl on his face. "What is wrong with you?"
"I could ask you the same question," Scott replied, sputtering and scrunching his face up. "Lack of a breath mint for one."
"Blame a certain phone call." Oto chuckled in an amused, almost nostalgic tone. "I got a call that changed Ot- I mean, my life."
Scott raised an eyebrow, but didn't comment on the obvious slip-up. "The last time I got a call that important I had to pay $50 for an extra ten minu-"
Oto grabbed Garrett's face in his hand, pinching his cheeks with his forefingers uncomfortably hard, and pointed it at his own. His face was set with seething anger that seemed to radiate off of him. "You. Disgust me." He said in a low, shaky breath.
"Ah," Scott struggled to say through his squished cheeks, "love you too sweety."
Oto let go of his face with a menacing growl and walked back to the wheeled table to focus on a much more pressing matter than the teen's annoying lewd jokes. Should he go in order of least painful to most? Smallest to largest? It was always so difficult to decide when it came to these long, very special sessions that he usually only reserved for his birthday. He always tried to outdo his 35th, but he doubted it was ever possible, he'd never had someone scream so loud that his eardrums popped. Deciding that he would start off slowly, he picked up a plastic chair and turned around, intending to forcefully set Scott in it and watch the results. But instead of being tied up, he saw Scott standing in front of the stools calmly examining his wrists.
Scott looked up after a moment, finally noticing that Oto was staring back at him. He blinked a few times before replying. "Oh, was I supposed to keep the ropes on?" He pointed to the pile of red rope between the stools, then turned back around. "Sorry," he said in a apologetic tone, "I know my way out of a lot of knots. If I had a nickel every time I got tied up by a guy older than me."
Oto growled in anger, setting the chair down and grabbing a long branding rod from the table. Holding it up, the end grew red hot with head, and the initialed circle morphed its shape into a large club-like bulb.
"I mean," Scott continued, purposefully joking to mess with Oto's head, "I did get a lot done in the... forty-eight or so hours I was in New Zealand."
Oto lunged at Scott with the rod which steamed in the comparably cooler air of the room, aiming straight for his head. Scott dodged by crouching low and shifting to the right just underneath his swinging arm, then ran behind Oto for the table. "Will you just shut up already?!"
"Correction," the redhead said, unfazed. He turned the table around until it was between him and Oto. "I got done a lot in the forty-eight or so hours I was in New Zealand." He pushed the table forward at the other man as hard as he could with a determined grunt, making him back away and trip onto his back when he could not dodge the table on wheels. Scott turned around and took off as fast as he could out of the room, leaving before Oto could even get up.
Oto shouted and pounded the ground in anger. He was about to get up when the cans strung up on the walls around him began shaking noisily; someone had just set off his tripwire alarm. He reached over to an artifact that had been knocked off the table and onto the floor in the collision, a fog machine, and clicked the button on the back. Immediately, a heavy white-gray shimmering fog rolled out from the nozzle and covered ground surprisingly quickly even for a fog machine. Soon, the steady hissing was covered up by snarls, growls, clicks, and groans as various creatures, monsters, and people appeared in the cloud.
"You," Oto said, pointing to the monsters, "yer purpose is to scare people, right?" He pointed over to the cans, "There are people in here in good need of a scare, understand? Do whatever ya want to scare 'em, an' I'll make it worth yer while. But bring them back alive. I have plans fer them. But leave the kid alone," Oto said louder to make his point perfectly clear to the creatures. "I'm goin' after him myself..."
Zombies, banshees, ghosts, clowns and more seemed almost to converse with one another as if deciding whether to listen to Oto's plight, and seemed to reach an agreement. Two bloody circus clowns with faces that looked like exaggerated Halloween masks, but were their true faces and dressed in bloody and tattered striped and polka-dotted costumes, hoisted the man up, jumping at him afterwards to get a good jerk out of him before cackling madly. They then separated, taking their own bundle of artifacts with them across the warehouse to scare the life - or very nearly - out of anyone they came across.
Chapter 17 - Oleander Edit
In the dark of the warehouse, Mordin summoned a light at the end of his horn to illuminate their way. The group had just found the first room Scott had kept Oto in, and Artie had of course fussed over each artifact he came across. The Iron chair Strap and the Glasgow Knife had been stuffed quickly into his static bags and promptly dropped into his own bag, along with several other artifacts.
"We're going to need more bags," Artie said sullenly, "I had no clue how many he had taken."
The five walked through the silent complex until they came across a room with what appeared to be streamers of varying size and length that hung from the ceiling in rows ad hanging a few feet above the ground, about as high as a person was tall. They were hung in a random but compact pattern that made seeing even a few feet ahead was difficult through the streamers.
"What's with the decorations?" Drake asked, "Is there a party up in here?"
"Don't know," Felix said, "but be careful, Oto could be anywhere around here. Stay frosty."
They walked ahead slowly, brushing the paper and fabric strips away in growing annoyance. Whatever their purpose was, whether it was to disorientate them or something else, was unclear, but effective.
Artie, at the back of the group, was struggling since the paper kept getting caught in his glasses, and he kept having to constantly pause to take them out slowly without ripping the strips and getting the small pieces stuck in the nosepiece.
"Stupid things," he muttered under his breath as he pulled a small purple cloth from his coat pocket to wipe the smears off his lenses. Out of the corner of his eye he thought he saw movement, but with his normal eyesight as bad as it was and the ambient swaying of the streamers, he ignored it and continued to clean. When he finally put his glasses back on, he blinked and looked around to regain his bearings and remember where he had been heading. Turning around, he came face to face with a woman with glowing yellow eyes wearing an over exaggerated voodoo witch costumed adorned with leaves and bone. Before he could even make a sound, she lifted her palm and blew a sparkling gray dust into his face that made him cough and sputter for a few moments before he collapsed into her arms, unconscious.
Ahead of him, Myka and Drake walked side by side and got caught in a rather dense cluster of streamers. Barely able to see three feet in front of themselves, they stumbled around with their heads ducked behind their raised arms, wandering until they bumped into something. Thinking they had finally found each other again, they calmed down until Myka looked up and discovered that what she had run into wasn't Drake. For one, Drake wasn't particularly known for his rotting flesh or missing right hand. The zombie she had found groaned and raised its arms to lunge at her.
Myka screamed and slammed the undead menace in the temple with the butt of her handgun, then kicked it in the chest to push it away. Her screaming had gotten the others' attention, and suddenly they were surrounded by monsters.
Drake summoned and flared his wings, using his speed to his advantage as he zoomed around the approaching hoard of zombies and clowns. Gunshots rang through the room before the rattling of a gun hitting the floor ceased it. Two undead men in biker jackets had picked Myka up by the arms and legs, preventing her from fighting back, and shambled away.
"Myka!" Drake jumped into the air after her, intending to kick both of the zombies in the head over and over, but something large and strong grabbed onto his leg midflight and slammed him hard into the ground. He looked up to see a snarling werewolf with black fur and a dripping maw loom over him, its sharp claws pointed at him, before it grabbed both his legs with one powerful and oversized paw and dragged him away.
The struggle had since alerted Felix and Mordin. Felix pulled a throwing knife from his belt and threw it at the werewolf's back, but the creature merely batted it away with the back of its wrist without even looking back. Curse their enhanced sense of hearing.
"Drake, hold on!" Mordin shouted, summoning a ball of energy in his hand. He was about to launch it at the creature, but Drake stopped him.
"No time, find Scott and O-" His order was cut short by the werewolf putting its other paw over his mouth and picking him up to stop any further struggle.
Reluctantly, the two remaining agents turned around and ran as fast as they could for the other side of the room where two doors were. They brush past more of the nearly blinding streamers on the way, Felix having to frantically bush a red-and-yellow fabric one with a slightly bell-like shape at the end as he ran.
Mordin ran forward straight through the door on the right with Felix in tow directly behind him, but Felix stopped in his tracks when he heard someone scream to his left. A younger, higher scream, a familiar scream. It was Garrett.
"GARRETT!" Felix ran like a bat out of hell through the door on his left toward the scream that got louder as he got nearer. He came into a dark office room of some kind, like one a business meeting would take place in. One wall was almost completely taken over by a large pane of glass, which he walked over and put his hands on. His reflection looked a little strange though, and when he looked down at his hands he noticed that there was no gap between his real hands and the reflection; a one-way mirror.
A light flickered on behind the glass, illuminating the room on the other side. At first, Felix was thankful for a little light, but soon wished that he was left back in the dark. In the other room, heavily strapped to a chair, was Garrett, his head bent down. Felix could hear his heavy breathing and sobbing through the window.
"Garr?" Felix asked in a whisper, terrified of the state he had finally found his boyfriend in. "Garr!" He pounded on the glass rapidly to get his attention, but he didn't seem to notice. But Felix could hear what was said on the other side of the glass.
"Now," Oto's southern accent drawled with false sweetness and a hint of enjoyment, "let's try this again. What is your name?"
Garrett was silent for a few moments before answering. "N-nobody... I'm nobody."
"And who do you love?"
"Fe-AAAAAAAAAAHHHHHH!" His answer was interrupted by a strong electric shock from the chair that made Garrett thrash wildly in his seat and scream, his head lifted up to the ceiling. Felix stepped back in surprise before the shock ended, covering his mouth.
"Who do you love?" Oto asked again as if nothing had happened.
"No...no one... I don't love anyone."
"And why is that, Garrett?"
He waited before answering again. "Because... he was too late... I thought he would save me... but he was too lazy and slow to come in time... he doesn't love me."
Felix backed away in fear, unable to look away from the scene that played out in front of him. "Garr, I'm here!" He shouted when he regained his voice, pounding on the door with renewed vigor, "I'm here! I love you, please, I'm here!" He punched the glass over ad over again until he was sure either it or his hand would break, and this time Garrett lifted his head, almost as if looking at him. If he could see through the swollen and bloody bruises on his face.
"Good, good..." Oto walked into view finally and slowly circled Garrett like a dog around a sleeping spot, or a shark around food. He looked down on him as he walked, then stopped behind him and bent over the teen. "I'm gonna ask you a question, and I want ya to be as honest as ya can be, got that?"
Garrett slowly nodded.
"Do you want the pain to stop?"
Oto slowly raised a handgun to Garrett's temple and looked at Felix in the eyes through the glass with a wide, wide smile. "Are you sure?"
Felix covered his eyes and looked away before the gun went off, the sound of the shot ringing in his ears as if it would never stop. He screamed and kicked and hyperventilated, the stress and fear becoming too much for him to handle. Through his tears as he clutched his chest and scratched himself with his claws, he didn't notice a large man in a clown outfit walk slowly into the room behind him. Felix shortly passed out, the stress shutting him down. The clown picked him up by the arms and dragged him away from the empty window that looked outside at the back of the warehouse.
Chapter 18 - Yellow Carnation Edit
Scott ran through the warehouse, paying attention to every single shadow, door, or corner he passed on the lookout for Oto. Several times he had jumped underneath or behind random desks or machines when he saw a shadow flicker or heard the echo of a footstep behind him, only to discover they were his own. He cursed himself and swore like a sailor for not gabbing an artifact for self defense again when he had the chance at the table, but there was nothing he could do about it now unless he found another one of his setups again.
'What do we do, what do we do, what do we do?' Garrett asked in a frantic and frightened voice, biting his incorporeal nails. 'No artifacts, no Tesla, no phone or Farnsworth. This is a nightmare!'
"Relax," Scott told him despite his own growing anxiety, "We'll find something. And if we don't, we'll just take the car and either run him over or leave."
'Wed run out of gas halfway back to town,' Garrett pointed out, 'I know you're, well, you, but not every guy in a pickup truck is looking for a hitchhiker.'
Scott kept walking, feeling the atmosphere of the warehouse slowly squeeze the hope out of him like a sponge. And, also like a sponge, the lost hope was immediately replaced by more and more dread. He had to find something, anything, soon, or he would never even tell the others a proper goodbye; and that thought was enough to make his eyes water. The whip suddenly flashed in his mind, however, and he felt a renewed surge of hope. If he could just get to Albert Fish's Whip before Oto, he would have control over practically every artifact in the building, and he'd be untouchable. Of course, like an idiot, he had kept it in the room at the very center of the warehouse, the most spacious in the entire building. He had planned on using it for a fun grand finale, but by now the amusement had long since flung itself out a window and crashed to the ground.
He finally found a room with a set of artifacts not yet used or stolen, and he sighed deeply in relief. Jogging over to the cart on wheels, he counted each artifact. Not many, unfortunately, this was meant to be one of the first rooms, but he had chosen to skip it to go straight for the knife throwing game. Curse his own impatience. But they'd have to be enough to keep himself alive. He hoped.
Suddenly, he heard footsteps from the room to his left, running at top speed. Scott looked around quickly for someplace to hide, but found no such cover. Steeling himself, he grabbed an old algebra book that Artie had collected from some school back in the early 2000s and lifted it high above his head, ready to drop it and send a deafening concussive shockwave at him as soon as Oto entered the room.
Instead, Mordin emerged, his breathing rapid and scared. He turned around and pointed brightly glowing hands, almost as if he had summoned magic flames around them, ahead of himself defensively as if ready for a tough fight.
"Mordin?" Scott asked in surprise, lowering the textbook to his side. "What the hell? What are you doing here?"
Mordin whipped his head around and the lights in his hands faded. "Scott? Oh thank God you're okay!" He ran over to Scott and grabbed his arms as if to make sure he were really there. "We came to save you, but the others, Myka and Drake and Felix, we got separated."
Scott's eyes flashed a bright pink. He blinked and shook his head a little, and when he spoke again his voice was softer, but very alarmed. "Felix? Oh no no no, he's gonna hate me for doing this. Where is he?"
Mordin shook his head, "I don't know. I thought he was following me. There were monsters that attacked us, zombies and clowns and stuff. They grabbed the others and took them somewhere, we have to find them."
"The center room. Scott put Albert Fish's Whip there. If we get it we'll have control over every artifact Oto-"
They were interrupted by slow, deliberate footsteps that came from the other side of the room. With every step the sound grew louder, punctuating the relative quietness with slight echoes. The agents had been so distracted by their discovery of each other that they had failed to notice. They turned their attention to this invader of their privacy and watched as Oto came forth, wearing a gauntlet on his left hand.
"Finally," Oto said with a smirk, "I thought I'd never catch up to you."
"You've been following us?" Garrett asked, grabbing onto Mordin's shoulder and crouching in fear. Mordin put his other hand on Garrett's supportively.
"I've been following you." Oto took a few steps toward the duo. Garrett stepped back and Mordin stood in front of him, forming a magenta shield of energy over his arm.
"Stay back!" Mordin ordered, pushing his chest out and glaring intently at Oto. The man paused and let out a loud, somewhat chilling laugh.
"This dulled down version of Michael Korss works for you now?" Oto asked incredulously, then laughed again. "You're pointing that shield the wrong way," he pointed at Mordin with a look of amusement. "he's the one you should be afraid of."
"That's not true." Garrett argued, still behind Mordin, afraid.
Oto glowered at the redhead. "You can't lie to me, I've seen what you're capable of. I thought I was a brute, but you..." he nodded at Garrett, "You're a monster."
"I..." Garrett, disheartened by his words and feeling more and more like what he said was the truth, looked away from Mordin in shame and fear.
"Garrett doesn't want anything to do with you!" Mordin shouted, pushing his shield forward and making it shimmer with more energy for emphasis.
"This is between us!" Oto raised his armored fist, the gauntlet glowing with a yellow aura, and he struck Mordin with the back of his hand. Mordin was thrown behind him across the room, bouncing against the ground a few times and rolling several feet way. His shield, wings, and horn all disappeared as he raised a hand to his stomach in pain and groaned.
"Mordin!" Garrett tried to run past Oto to help his friend, but Oto reached back and grabbed him firmly by the wrist, pulling him back in front of him with a grunt. Oto clasped his other handover Garrett's own and fell to his knees with a loud thump and looked up at him with a sort of hungry desperation, like he craved something, needed something from him.
"Be my student!"
The room seemed to fall instantly silent as soon as he spoke. Even the ambient creaking of the building acted as if someone had hit the MUTE button.
Garrett looked down at Oto with confusion and absolute shock. "W-what? Why would you possibly want that?"
"I thought you were just some brat with an artifact..." Oto chuckled, holding one of his wounds, "But you've proved me wrong. Face it Scott, I'm not getting any younger and I need someone to carry on my legacy. Imagine what you could do with my knowledge. I could teach you everything I know..."
Mordin, still hurt from the hit, got to his elbows and winced in pain. "Garrett, don't listen to him!"
Oto rose to his feet and turned to Mordin. He raised his fist, which glowed and even brighter shade of yellow, and made the other man flinch. "Stay out of this!"
"I was terrible to you..." Garrett said finally as Oto turned back to face him, as if he were just finally comprehending the extent of what he had done. "I liked taking everything out on you. I needed to, I-I hated you. It was bad!"
Oto reached his hands out pleadingly, smiling. "It'll be better this time, I promise! I'm the only one who can handle you, the only one who will appreciate you Scott!" He stepped forward, that desperate plea still in his eyes, wild and starving. He backed Garrett up against the table, making the teen gasp when he couldn't get away from him. "Together, we'll be unstoppable!"
Garrett looked uncertainly to Mordin, who slowly got to his feet, but himself looked afraid of what Garrett might choose. Garrett turned back to Oto and his wide, hopeful smile. It seemed to take forever before he answered resoundingly.
"What?!" Oto asked, confused and hurt as to how and why Scott could have possibly turned down his proposition. As if anyone else but him would understand his situation!
"What I did to you was horrible. I never want to feel as angry as I did with you, never again! So just, go!" Garrett stomped his foot for emphasis and looked Oto directly in the eyes defiantly, no longer afraid of him.
"He said no!" Mordin stood up and flared his wings again, hunching over and raising his fists for a fight. "Leave him alone!"
Oto glared at Mordin with even more rage than before and clenched his jaw. "This is your fault!" He raised the gauntlet and clenched it tightly, the yellow glow becoming so bright it was almost blinding to look at. "I'll kill you!"
He charged at Mordin, who backed away in fear, caught off guard by the speed and aggression of Oto's assault, the light in his hands again flickering. Thinking on his feet, Garrett turned around to the table and grabbed the first artifact he saw, a plank of old wood with four holes set in a square shape on either end of it.
"Mordin, move!" He shouted before throwing the plank. It spun around several times in the air before it clattered to the ground and settled at Oto's feet. Instantly, a giant cluster of limestone stalactite-like spikes erupted from the ground, piercing the concrete floors like they were nothing. Mordin jumped back far enough just in time, but Oto wasn't so lucky. Despite his split-second decision, Garrett still gasped and covered his mouth in shock when he saw Oto impaled, facedown, on a spike. Already, blood dripped down from his stomach and down his hanging arms and pooled at the edge of the cluster.
Mordin shook the surprise off his own face and ran over to Garrett, grabbing his hand. "C'mon, we have to find the others."
Garrett nodded and followed Mordin past the spikes. On his way, he felt something grab his hand again, and he screamed. Turning quickly around, he saw Oto, still clinging to life even as the rock ran him straight through and blood dripped down his chin.
"W-we..." he sputtered weakly, pleading intently with his eyes at Garrett, "we c-could be beautiful...." Oto's upper body fell back down and he let go of Garrett's hand. In a moment, his body burst into flames.
Mordin put a hand on Garrett's shoulder supportively as they both looked on at the fire as it faded, leaving scorch marks on the limestone. Soon they began running again for the central room.
Chapter 19 - Monkshood Edit
---June 6, 1978---
"Otter, please, please don't do this. Whatever I did to you to make you do this, I'm sorry, but please, you don't have to do this."
"Otter, put the gun down, please. I'm begging you, just put it down."
"The others are gonna be so mad at me," Garrett said worriedly, "I'm gonna be fired, or erased, or Bronzed, or-"
"Relax," Mordin told Garrett, raising his hand to stop him. "Artie and Felix talked to Mrs. F. before we left and she understood. She's gonna talk it over with the Regents, but she's fairly certain you can each an appeal."
Garrett sighed in relief. He was still worried, as was Scott, but if anyone could convince the Regents not to trap him in eternal mental isolation for hundreds of years until he was a mental or mindless husk, it was Mrs. F. She could probably convince an entire battalion to drop their guns with a single stare. "If you say so..."
"So," Mordin said as they walked, trying to strike up a calming conversation. "Beksisnki's Painting."
Garrett grimaced. "Sorry about that, it was all Scott and I could think of to distract you guys on such short notice."
"Felix told me it wasn't all that unexpected that you chose an artifact that shoots out tentacles." Mordin continued.
Garrett covered his face and groaned. "I just like his work! It's all dystopian and creepy and stuff. Tentacles had almost nothing to do with it. Oh, Scott and I decided we should change our private quarters to match his style, the plain horror motif was getting old, and Billy the Skeleton keeps... looking at us at night."
Mordin chuckled, "If you say so. Maybe you can-"
"Hold up." Garrett shot out his arm to stop Mordin and pointed to the room ahead of them. "That's the central room, the whip is inside."
Mordin nodded and they went to the door. Finding it locked, Mordin summoned a light in his hand and pressed it against the door. The light grew brighter for a few moments before t shot out like a beam and knocked the door clean off its hinges and onto the ground. The two walked inside, but stopped in their tracks when they discovered what was inside.
On one side of the room lay a long row of tables, carts, and racks, all full with various artifacts and normal tools. Blades and chains were among the most common, but several less common objects like a clock, a chair, a chalkboard, and more were also scattered about. On the other side of the room were Felix, Drake, Myka, and Artie stuck in place by glowing chains that creeped up their legs and almost seemed to move around and pulsate, creeping up their legs to their waist, keeping their arms down. The chains also seemed to attach the agents to each other. The agents, all except for Felix, struggled and tried to break free, at least until the chains flared brighter and one of them yelped in pain. Felix, on the other hand, stood hunched over and his head hanging down, despondent.
And in the middle of the room was Oto, holding Fish's Whip, his eyes giving off a red glow. He held up his hands and lifted objects slowly through the air as if stretching an old muscle that hadn't been used for some time. He himself was levitating in the air, surrounded by the same red glow as the objects. Across him on the far end of the room were all the monsters fathered together that seemed to give off their own fog. They hissed and growled to each other, antsy and eager to take a bite out of their captured quarry. Hearing the door fall to the floor, all eyes turned to the intruders.
"Well, if it ain't the birthday boy himself." Oto said, "and he brought a guest with him too. As y'all can see we're runnin' a bit short on space, but, I'm sure we can fit him in."
"Drake!" Mordin ran over to the bound agents to try and help them.
"Nononono wait, Mordin!" Drake tried to stop him before he got too close, but it was too late. As soon as he got close enough, a prison shank at their feet glowed and shot out chains to ensnare Mordin's legs and connect him to the row of agents at the ankles. They slowly crawled up his legs, pulling his wrists down to his hips and pinning them there. In seconds, the chains had almost completely immobilized him.
"Argh, what is this thing?" Mordin asked as he fought the chains. He tried to use his magic, but the chains just glowed brighter and the lights in his hands fizzled out.
"It's a shank from the Louisiana State Penitentiary," Artie explained. "From one of the Heel String Gang's members. It traps you and stops any attempt to escape, even artifacts and magic. And, if you keep trying too hard, well... say goodbye to your Achilles' tendon."
"I obtained it from a private collector with a fondness fer prison history." Oto said with a smile. "You'd recognize him, if he were here. He was the one who took yer little kitten friend out for a playdate in Seattle. Shame I had to brainwash him."
"Let them go, Oto!" Garrett shouted, approaching the middle of the room.
Oto and laughed, "And why would I ever do that? I haven't even started to play with 'em yet. Hey!" He shouted at a zombie that slowly shambled over to the trapped agents, no longer willing to wait for its next cerebral snack. Artie, the one closest to the undead menace, struggled harder to get away from the thing before he winced and hissed in pain and was forced to stop. "Hey! Leave 'em alone, ya idiot, they an't fer you!" Still, the rotting creature staggered toward Artie, its arms raised and its teeth gnashing. Oto groaned and lifted a spear from the table behind him before flinging it forward. Just before the zombie reached Artie the spear impaled it through the head, knocking it back a few steps. It swayed on its feet for a few moments longer before it sank to its knees and fell forward, the end of the spear striking the ground and keeping his body lifted for a second before its head slowly slid down the rest of the shaft and smearing blood on it.
"You'll get their bodies after we're done!" Oto roared at the monsters, making them all flinch. "What's left of them anyway."
Garrett took a few more cautious steps forward. "I was the one who attacked you, not them. Just kill me and let them leave."
"You really care about 'em, dontcha kid?" Oto asked, lowering himself to the ground. "You'd do anything t' keep 'em safe, huh?"
"Take my offer, Scott," Oto said, "be my little protégé. I could teach you so many things!" He spoke in that same eager tone again, but this time with a menacing touch to it. "I'm the only one who really understands you, in so many ways."
"You don't," Garrett said sharply, "don't say you do, nobody does!"
"Oh really?" Oto said in a tone similar to that of a therapist trying to feign sympathy. "Tell me, did ya grow up with two sisters in a family with a mother who barely cared, and a father who hurt ya? Targeted you, hated you even?"
Garrett paused again.
"An' even after ya found the one place you considered home ya still felt like nobody really liked you? That they never would?"
"...How do you know?" Garrett asked.
"'Cause that's exactly how it was fer me," Oto answered calmly. "Yer angry. You wanna lash out, make everyone understand that you matter. Scott, listen to me, those people," he pointed his hand and waved toward the agents, "they can't understand ya like I do. If you work as my student, you can do whatever you want, get revenge on yer father, be yerself without bein' vilified by who ya call friends."
'He has a point,' Scott said, appearing next to Garrett with his arms crossed and a scowl on his face.
'How can you say that?' Garrett thought incredulously, 'He's trying to manipulate us.'
'How long, Garrett?' Scott asked, shouting mentally. 'How long while we were in the Warehouse did we both feel like at any point we'd just be discarded, shoved into a home or worse... back to him? How long have I had to stay inside because Aden and everyone else in that damn Warehouse hates me?!' He pointed at the agents and shouted angrily, starting to tear up.
'He'll kill us. Or them. Or both.' Garrett argued. 'We can't guarantee his plan. And what would Felix think?'
He knew he had struck a nerve when Scott didn't answer immediately. After a few moments, he replied with a dangerously shaky voice. 'We should be able to make decisions without him.'
'You love him don't you?' Garrett asked. Not aggressively or condescendingly, but genuinely.
'... Here's the plan.'
"Garrett, you can't let him get to you!" Drake shouted, "He's lying! He's not the re-" He was rendered silent when a women in an opened straightjacket ran over and clamped a hand over his mouth, giggling madly.
"Mistah Ottoman don't like no tattletales!" She cackled, "We cut tattletale tongues off!"
"I'll join you." Garrett said finally. "If you let the others go."
"Garrett no!" Myka shouted and struggled against her chains again before Artie convinced her to stop for the sake of her feet. "Don't do it, it's not worth it!"
Oto took slow steps toward Garrett, smiling and raising his eyebrows as if he were pleasantly surprised. "Bein' my protégé is a big responsibility. Ya sure you can handle it? Ya can't take this back, or else..." He dragged the whip across his throat.
The room fell silent. Oto, the agents, even the monsters all held their breath as they awaited the teen's answer.
"... I'm sure."
Oto's grin grew almost impossibly wider as he quickly closed the gap between himself and his new student. "Glad t' have ya aboard, Scotty. Think 'bout it, you could be the next big name in torture, right up there with Torquemada or Kramer. After myself, a'course. With me, you can do whatever ya want." He grabbed Garrett's wrist tightly and held his hand up, then placed his whip hand in Garrett's.
"NO!" The agents shouted in unison.
Oto began breathing heavily as that wild look once again entered his eyes. He held onto the whip for a little while longer, barely able to part with such a beautiful artifact. The handle, with its leather straps that crisscrossed around it felt so warm and comfortable in his grip. The way the nails on the end straps fell and left numerous shallow cuts in his arm that had long since become familiar, even pleasant, addictively so... it was wonderful. It was practically an extension of his own arm after keeping it so long. But after a few more seconds, he finally relinquished control of the whip and gave it completely over to the redhead. "Yer gonna do so much after I'm gone."
Garrett closed his fist and eyes, and when he opened them they glowed a bright and dangerous green. "I know." He yanked his wrist out of Oto's hand and telekinetically lifted a nearby blade off a table with a red aura, pressing it against Oto's throat.
Oto merely chuckled as he lifted his head from the blade. "I suspected as much. I'm no idiot. But don't count yer chickens until they hatch."
Scott raised his eyebrow in confusion. The hand that held the whip began to tremor and he pulled it down in surprise, dropping the knife to the ground in the process. As he watched, horrified, the whip's aura slowly traversed up his arm, which now shook violently as well. He stepped back and flailed his arm around, but his grip would not lessen. He winced and put a hand to his temple as his head was hit with a severe headache that made him stagger further backwards towards the agents, the aura now slowly covering his body. Scott clenched his eyes shut and grabbed his head with both hands as migraine increased in intensity.
"What's happening to him what did you do?!" Artie yelled at Oto, who merely watched eagerly as if he were the audience to an enrapturing show.
By now the aura had almost covered Scott's entire body. He staggered and groaned in pain one more time before he collapsed to his knees ad fell facedown onto is hands. He breathed haggardly, the whip still tight in his grasp. He was still for several maddeningly silent moments before he finally lifted his head to face the agents, his eyes glowing a deep red from pupil to sclera, emanating a haze of the same hue.
Scott raised his whip hand and the chains around the agents changed positions to cover their arms and chests. Thrusting his hand forward, the chains pulled and pressed them hard against the wall behind them.
"Y'all didn't think I was just gonna let ya go, didja?" Oto laughed. "What d'ya think I am, crazy?"
Scott lifted all the artifacts and instruments within the room behind himself and lifted them through the air. Turning to each agent individually, he inched an artifact closer and closer to them; an extra large eraser towards Myka, a branding rod towards Drake, and a knife towards Felix, which he used to tilt his chin up.
Felix, who up until that point was completely despondent and nearly comatose with grief, lifted his eyes to look lazily at his surroundings. He was still chained, though in a different way, and he was now against the wall. That was new. And there was a knife at his throat, that part was new too. He looked directly ahead of himself to see... Garrett. Glowing red, yes, but still definitely Garrett.
Oto's laughter continued, as did those of the monsters, as they watched Scott about to destroy the very thing he was so foolishly desperate to protect.
"G-Garrett?" Felix stammered, unsure if he could or should trust his own eyes. Had watching his boyfriend die to horribly finally driven him past the edge of insanity and plunged him straight into the depths of madness? Was he dreaming, seeing only what he wished he still had... or was it true? "Garebear?!" He asked again, louder. He had to be sure.
Scott turned to face Felix, the neko's face both fearful yet hopeful, and his own blank. He froze, as did the objects floating in the air. Oto was so caught up in his own laughter that he didn't notice what was going on until he was lifted into the air several feet, his arms spread out. He and the hoard behind him stopped laughing instantly, and all looked at Scott intently.
"W-what are you doing?" Oto asked, struggling in the air to no avail.
Scott slowly turned away from the agents who looked on in surprise and faced Oto with a face that, on the outside, seemed cold and expressionless, but just barely managed to hold back a veritable tempest of rage. With him came the objects which all now spun and hovered through the air idly.
"S-Scott," Oto stammered in fear as Scott approached him, "think about this now. I told ya I'm the o-only one who understands you. What have they ever done for you, huh?"
He still did not answer, but stared at Oto and those behind him silently.
"Please don't do th-" He was cut short when three knives ceased their spinning midair and pointed themselves at Oto. Scott raised his hand and thrust it forward, sending the knives flying at him. The blades pushed him against the wall far behind him, piercing his hands and feet in a kind of reproduction of the crucifixion. Although, the primary difference between Oto and one you might find in church is that the ones in church don't scream.
Oto screamed and shook his head with pain as he was pinned to the wall and rendered immobile. The agents ad monsters alike gasped, with the latter split in their decision to either run away or charge at the teen. With the same calm expression, however, Scott sent the rest of the artifacts after them.
The room was filled with a cacophony of wails, gurgles and screams; cracking, breaking, and stomping. Each discarded creature disappeared in a puff of fog, and soon all that was left were the humans., and the silence nly broken by Oto's continual screams.
Felix stared at his boyfriend as he slowly approached Oto with a long, thin knife that hovered above him, aimed directly between Oto's eyes. He struggled to find his voice for a few seconds but finally managed to speak again.
"Garrett!" Felix shouted, "Gargar, don't do it, please! Don't be like him!"
Scott stopped and stood in place for a bit before slowly turning his head to Felix, then down at the whip in his hand that heft a few shallow scratches in his wrist.
Scott saw Artie's bag lying on its side on a nearby table with a convenient silver bag pokng out. He jerked his head a little before moving his hand sharply, as if out of a bind, and snatched the bag. When he thrust the whip inside, it gave off a giant pyrotechnic display, stronger than any artifact they had seen, with sparks flying up over his head in an arch. He yelled, and a violent shockwave shot out from the bag, the sparks ceasing at the same time. All the artifacts in the room fell to the ground at once with varying crashes and clanks, as did the agents when the chains around them vanished.
Felix landed on his feet and bolted for his boyfriend who had been thrown across the room and knocked unconscious. He slid on his knees and grabbed him, shaking him by the sjoulders. His eyes fluttered open, now hs normal shade of gray-blue.
The two embraced each other tightly and began to sob loudly in relief, clutching onto each other as if thye were holding on for dear life.
The rest of the agents walked behind them over to Oto, who was now sobbing himself, but out of pain. Without the whip keeping the knives up, Oto was hanging with his own weight onto the blades, making them press against and cut into his flesh.
"What do we do with him now?" Mordin asked, nodding to Oto.
Chapter 20 - Eglantine Edit
Back at the Warehouse, several agents gathered in the Bronze Sector to watch Oto face his punishment. Artie and Myka, of course, as well as Drake; Mordin; Felix and Garrett, who had refused to leave each other's side since Montana; Aden, who had to be forcibly kept from smashing a small meteor through the roof of the Warehouse and squashing Oto flat ("It's just the size of a football field, it's really not that large when you think about it."), and all the HARP consultants. Blaine, it seemed, was the most disturbed at how a fellow HARP-er, at least a former one, could become to twisted and cruel.
"Finally," Myka groaned, rubbing her arms as she looked at Oto and felt creeped out, "we can close this chapter. We've never waited a year to catch a bad guy before, have we?"
"No, and hopefully we'll never have to again." Artie said, walking up onto the platform to the digital podium. Oto was shackled up inside, his hands and feet now bandaged but still bleeding. He had been silent up until that point, but when Artie went to Bronze him, he became lively again.
"Wait, wait! Mordin, Mordy Mordy Mordy!" Oto called out frantically, "I know what happened to yer father, dontcha wanna know?"
"You don't get to say anything." Artie told him coldly, about to type in the Bronzing command before Mordin stopped him.
"Wait," Mordin stepped up to the front of the gathering of agents and looked questioningly at Oto. "I want to know." The group exchanged worried glances.
Oto sighed happily as if thinking of a fond memory. "Michael, my first kill. Well, half of my first kill really, it wasn't entirely my doin'. They say ya never forget yer first. It was my favorite kill of all, and I didn't even torture him."
"What happened?" Mordin asked. "What did you do to my father?"
"You wanna know whyyyy it was my favorite kill?" Oto asked playfully, swaying on his feet in the Bronzer and smiling brightly. "Better than that giant tub of lard or that slut of a cat?"
Aden took an angry step forward, as did Garrett, though the redhead swayed on his feet and fell back to lean on his partner. Felix wrapped his arms around him protectively.
"You don't have to hear this Mordin," Artie said, his finger poised over the Bronzer screen. "He's making it sound worse just to mess with you."
Mordin took another step forward and insisted again. "What. Happened. To. My father?" He heard he had been shot, and that Oto was the one responsible. But it was different this time, hearing it from Oto himself instead of from the other Warehouse staff. He must have known his father almost as much as his dad did. He wanted to know. He had to know about him.
"I loved takin' a back seat, lettin' the real Oto hold ol' Mikey in his arms. He bawled his eyes out prayin' and prayin' that it was all just another nightmare, that he'd be okay. That man was dead before he hit the floor." Oto said with relish, enjoying the nostalgia he got and the discomfort the others felt. If he was going out, why not make a lasting impression in his final moments?
Mordin clenched his fists and grit his teeth. Garrett squeezed Felix's arm, and he put his hand over the teen's own supportively. The other agents looked at each other nervously as Oto's laughter reached a fever pitch, growing louder and more maniacal.
"I felt him lose all hope. He just closed his eyes, gave up, and... POP, he was gone. And I was all that was left. I still have the gun y'know. I like t' look at it, hold it, polish the muzzle and remember the good ol' days."
Garrett pressed a hand to his stomach in remembrance.
"That's it, Artie, Bronze him." Aden growled.
"And why was it my most favorite kill of all?!" Oto asked again with a shout, his voice echoing through the Bronze Sector off the metal walls and statues. "Why? BECAUSE OTO WAS IN LOVE WITH HIM!" He kept laughing, throwing his head back in revelry until he was cut off by the Bronzer doors closing. He was surrounded by a fog and in a few short moments, he was reduced to nothing but a metal figurine forever frozen in laughter. Mordin's hand shook above the podium screen.
"Mordin..." Artie started, reaching out to try and comfort the Magic bearer.
"I need to see my dad." Mordin said shakily, stepping down from the platform and running off before summoning his wings and flying away. The group's eyes followed him with concern.
"Can we..." Blaine began, finally breaking the silence, "can we put a blanket over him? He's creeping me out already."
The next morning Felix woke up to the smell of food, crispy, toasty, and sweet. He was reminded of tea and smiled in his semi-dreamy state. Did he fall asleep in the B&B last night? No, he was too exhausted, he knew he wouldn't have been awake long enough to get off the bus. He slowly opened his eyes and confirmed that, yes, he was indeed in his own bed in his own office. Alone again. He immediately bolted upright and looked around. If he lost him again...
"Garrett?" Felix called out, worried and about to get out of bed. "Garrett?" Please, please, please...
"I'm here!" Garrett's voice answered quickly from the kitchen. Footsteps stomped across the floor quickly and the teen popped his head in through the doorway, slowly moving a tray of food into view. "I'm here Neko."
Felix sighed in relief and sank back into bed with an exhale, covering his eyes with his arm. "I thought you had gone again."
Garrett walked over to the bed and bent over to move his shirtless partner's arm and kiss him on the forehead. "Don't worry, I'm not leaving for a long time, I promise." He placed the tray of food gently onto Felix's lap.
"What's this?" Felix asked, sitting up and propping his back against the wall with his pillows. "Garrett, you need your rest after all that happened. You shouldn't be getting up early to make me breakfast in bed."
Garrett simply smiled and pointed to each item. "Toast with extra butter on one slice, peanut butter on the second, bacon cooked just the way you like it, an apple and some strawberries for sweetness - and because I'm cliché," he added, putting the back of his hand next to his mouth, "and a cup of chamomile vanilla tea to wash it all down." He then pointed excitedly to a rectangle in nondescript brown wrapping paper. "And an extra special surprise just for you. After you eat though."
Felix raised an eyebrow but just couldn't object to a meal when offered. He found himself pretty hungry, which was typical after such emotional excursions, and scarfed the entire platter down rather quickly before letting out a small burp that made Garrett giggle.
"Make sure to inhale some air between bites, Kitty." Garrett said with a chuckle, patting Felix's leg.
Felix took a sip of the tea and made a noise like a cross between a sigh and a groan at the familiar and favorite taste. It felt like it had been forever since his last sip of the stuff, he'd have to get more next time he went out to the market. He leaned back and closed his eyes with a smile. "Thank you Garr, I'm feeling better. But you didn't answer my question."
"And what's that?" Garrett asked.
"Why aren't you resting?" Felix asked, setting the tray aside on the nightstand. Garrett plucked the present from it and held it gingerly in his hands. "Artie and Vanessa and Mrs. F and I all told you you need to take a break. A long one."
Garrett shrugged and smiled, "Honestly I'm fine Felix. It takes a lot more than that to get to me, please. Here," he quickly shoved the present at Felix, "don't forget your gift."
The neko looked at it hesitantly, but took it nevertheless. Picking up a flap of the wrapping paper, he lifted it and slowly opened the gift up, revealing the top of a book. "A book? What is it?"
"You'll see," Garrett said eagerly, "open it up."
Felix undid the rest of the top half of the wrapping, the front cover revealing to him that the book was a complete works of Homer, including the Odyssey and Iliad. An edition he had become recently familiar with thanks to a trip to the Psychology Section for inventory duty.
"You're alays so interested in mythology, so I thought I'd-"
"This is Jonathan Shay's book."
The teen waved his hand dismissively. "What? No no, i-it's not, I just happened to pick up the same edition at the local bookstore, that's all." He psshed the notion away, but began to look nervous.
Felix didn't unwrap the book any further, knowing full well just what the book was capable of doing. The transference of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder from one holder to the other, leaving one perfectly fine and functioning, and the other much, much worse off than the person they took the PTSD from. He looked at Garrett as if awaiting an explanation.
"Here," Garrett leaned over onto the bed and reached for the book, "I'll open it for you. Wouldn't want you to get a paper cut would we?"
"No." Felix said bluntly, pulling the book back. "You can't keep doing this to yourself."
Garrett's smile wavered. "I told you I'm fine, you don't have to worry about me-" He grabbed for the exposed end of the book and pulled at it again, but Felix held fast to the covered end. The two struggled for the book for a few moments before Felix finally yanked it back and threw it against the wall across the room where it fell to the ground in a heap. The redhead gazed at the book, disheartened. Tars began welling up in his eyes and he crumpled onto the bed. "I... I saw the v-videos... I just wanted to help you Felix..."
Felix pulled Garrett up by the shoulders, tilted his chin up, and wiped the tears off of his cheek. "Garrett," he said in a firm but gently voice as he looked him in the eye. "You try so hard to make sure everyone is happy and fine and not angry or down. You must be more burned out than you admit. Why can you not let yourself step back? Sometimes things are not improvable, it could be made worse, or not changed at all. But it will always take from you. For your own good, just let some things be. You do not owe anyone anything, least of all your mental and emotional wellbeing. This is my problem. We can deal with it together, but it is not your cross to bear. Do you understand?"
Garrett sobbed again, his right eye flashing bright pink and his left eye bright green simultaneously. He jumped forward and wrapped his arms around Felix's neck and began sobbing heavily into his shoulder, finally letting the dam that had kept his emotions back break away. Felix hugged him back, tearing up as well.
"Do you think there's any of the original Oto left in there?" Artie asked as he stood by the door to the Room Library.
Mrs. Frederic shook her head solemnly. "Whatever evil consciousness that artifact posessed was only interested in death and pain. I suspect once it got what it wanted from Oto it purged him out. I'm afraid Mr. Barry has been dead for decades." She tapped a button on the screen, causing a large red "DESCEASED" to appear next to file photo of Agent Oto Barry.
"I never met him," Artie said to no-one in particular. "People said good things about him and Micheal. The files I've read remind me a lot of Pete and Myka, really."
Mrs. Frederic smiled slightly, as they both turned to walk back to the office, a rare event for the woman who tended to vanish as soon as she wasn't observed. "The resemblance is uncanny, now that you mention it." she replied.
"So what are we doing with Ot...the thing?" Artie asked, catching himself before he sullied the name of the agent with the thing that had killed him.
"He is an artifact, at the end of the day. And artifacts must be stored safely. I've arranged for Lattimer and Sordens to have him moved to the Escher Vault. There's no risk of him escaping that, or someone accidently freeing him."
Artie nodded. "Good idea. We're lucky the last human artifact just wanted to be a rock star. I did call Vincent a few days ago. Trying to arrange something for Claudia's birthday. Got to top Cherie somehow."
Matt and Pete lugged the Bronzed monster across the floor and stopped to catch their breath. "Any cameras here?" Pete asked.
Matt shook his head. "I made sure they were disabled right at this intersection. We're good to go here." They'd stopped on a shelf that contained a few knick-knacks. One of which was an old rotary phone. Matt removed the thimble on his finger and morphed back into the shape of Felix. There was a flash to his side and Mary stood where Pete was seconds ago.
"You sure you can do this properly?" Felix asked her, as his conspiritor rapped the butt of her spear on the ground began to bend the space around them. Moments later the trio found themselves in a void, swirling with colors that didn't exist. Infinity stretched around them.
"Of course," Mary responded. "Just big enough for what we need." She picked up the phone and placed it in the empty space hovering just in front of Oto's face. "Look familiar?" He asked coldly.
"I don't know if you can see in there, but I know you can hear us. We know what you are, or used to be. And we've agreed amongst outselves that what the higher ups had planned for you just wasn't good enough. So I pulled some strings. Mary here can play around with dimensions, sort of like where we are now. And where you'll be forever."
"Kind of funny really, being imprisioned with your prison." Mary commented, nanchalantly.
Felix snorted softly in amusement. "Yes. Anyway. Since you like torture so much, we've decided you can get your fill of it for the rest of eternity." He turned to Aden, who materialized a wooden cuckoo clock with a flash of his hand. "This belonged to Ken Kesey. Might be a bit after your time. But he was very in tune with the mind. Namely mental illness. And his little birdy likes to share. So every time he pops out to say hello you can enjoy a new take on thinking about the world. Alone. Forever."
Felix roughly patted the bronze sculpture's cheek in mock affection, it's face stuck in a permanent laugh. With a glance at Mary, the duo were sucked out of the tiny bubble of space, located just outside of reality. The artifact that had taken and killed Oto Barry was left alone with his old plastic shell. It hadn't made a sound since he'd left it. He doubted anyone had even noticed. And the clock. It started to glow faintly as the hand moved to twelve. And the bird popped out to chime.
Artifacts Mentioned or Seen Edit
- Albert Fish's Whip of Nails
- 1940s Damaged Rotary Phone
- Tomas de Torquemada's Torch
- Horseshoes from the Execution of François Ravaillac
- Pinkamena's Cupcake Tin
- Rathwire Hilfort Stone
- Bob Burton's Shotgun
- "Fright Nights" Fog Machine
- Utility Knife of the Chelsea Headhunters
- Leather Strap from the First Iron Spike Chair
- Bridge Plank from Tsingy de Bemaraha
- Henry Fuseli's Stole
- Gil Perez's Helmet
- Zdzisław Beksiński's Lost Painting
- Jascha Heifetz's Violin Bow
- Ferdinand David's Violin
- Susan Nolen-Hoeksema's Glasses
- Carl Jung's Cuckoo Clock
- Carl Jung's Sofa Cushion
- Sigmund Freud's Cigar
- Sigmund Freud's Lighter
- Sigmund Freud's Glasses
- Max Lüscher’s Color Cards
- B. F. Skinner's Dippy Bird
- Albert Anastasia's Barber Shop Chair
- Axeman of New Orleans' Phonograph
- Kriangkrai Techamong’s Vacuum Cleaner Bag
- The Zodiac Killer's Hood
- Aaron Swartz's Computer Mouse
- Harriet Tubman's Thimble
- Jonathan Shay's Copy of liad/Odyssey
- Elements of Harmony
- Chair from Orfield Laboratories Anechoic Chamber
- Heel String Gang Prison Shank
- Herbert Cobb McDonald's Buffet Line
- Ken Kesey's Cuckoo Clock
- Sigmund Freud's Couch, Carpet, and Cushions
- Sos & Victoria Petrosyan's Quick-Change Curtain
- The Gibsons' Wheel of Death
- Marc Isambard Brunel's Quadrant