There was fuss outside. The Masked Guardians were gearing up and steeling themselves. Apparently a scavenger trip had been followed back by something and he requested all available manpower to come aid to be sure they didn't find our hideout.
I am fortunate enough to have my personal troop of fire cultists with me. I brought them in to chase down Picasso and Moth if things soured in their confrontation with Duckie. And since things did sour, they were out trying to track them before Black Lake was purged. I was lucky they weren't too far out, I was able to call them back in to aid us but they didn't arrive until the riots were over and by then there was little they could do but help us secure ourselves while the sea of shit flooded in.
I was in the process of gathering my fire troop to aid the Guardians when we got the all clear.
The message read:
'Threat Neutralized. Potential Ally Found.'
Oh goody... a stranger, Stranger Danger.
I had them escort our new arrival in under heavy watch, relieved my troop of duty for now, and called Maggot aside for a special mission. I had Maggot hide away in my office ready to strike if things went south.
Then I took a deep breath and set out to meet our guest.
"Is this place safe?" I heard through the door.
"Well well. I heard we have a guest," I announced walking into the room, "So... just who the hell are you?"
"LeCroix, and you?"
"Name's Frank. Folks have been calling me Fracture though."
Click. Subtle. She just flicked the safety off on her gun with a gesture. While the gun was still holstered, I knew she was just waiting for an opportunity now.
"The dubbed leader of operations."
"Leader of operations?"
"You have plenty of others that do your bidding for you, or so I've been informed."
"Well. I'm trying to get them in to help us here but I didn't have anyone nearby. These brave souls were men and women from this town that bravely took up the mask to protect it. Come. We should talk in private."
She set her trap, time to lead her to mine. So I led her to my office where we could talk in 'private'.
"What is it you are doing here?"
"At the moment, trying to get these people out alive."
"Because if I don't they're going to be devoured by the fear presence that's been swarming into this place."
"And that matters to you? Last I checked, you and yours make a habit of destroying lives."
"No. We make a habit of hunting, for Father. I will not stand idly by and let people die at the hands of those Monsters we call his Siblings."
"Tell me about the civilians, are they regular civilians that just happened to be in the way or are they like you, worshipers?"
"That's complicated. Both? I was trying to turn this place into a cult town. Or rather, back into a cult town."
"So every one of them is a worshiper?"
"They've never seen Father. Or any of the other fears. Even the mask bearers don't fully understand the weight of what they wear. But everyone here has been exposed to their influence through the fear cult's attack. Even if they get out of this fine and dandy, they're all going to fear touched. Trapped in this game, forever chased by monsters."
"You sure you aren't the monsters here?"
"I might be the monster but these people are innocent. They're still ignorant to the true depths of the situation they're in."
"You're taking advantage of their ignorance. You're good at that."
"No. I'm waiting until they're safe to inform them that they're fucked and there's no hope..."
It was quite for a moment after that. She studied me with cold eyes and then rolled a shoulder as she shifted the subject elsewhere.
"Do you have a plan of action?"
"I have my men on their way here but none of them are close and none of them are equipped for extended combat on a wholly hostile battleground. This situation is so far beyond anything contingencies I had prepared. If things get any worse, we're gonna have to try to make a break for it, but that didn't turn out well for the last group of survivors that tried to do it."
"Why aren't your oncoming people equipped properly?"
"They are equipped for hitting squads and elements hidden among cities. The scale of this... its just... to much. It could take weeks to get the kind of numbers we would need to deal with this rallied together and longer to get them armed for the incredibly diverse arraignment of shit encroaching on the town."
"Anything else I need to know off the top of your head?"
"I wouldn't know where to start."
"Anywhere. I'd prefer to resolve this sooner rather than later considering we have yet to know how bad it will get."
"Eventually one of the cults or monsters will scare off the others and claim the ground. We'll have no hope of escape if that happens."
"I'd rather not be caught in that. I have places to be. Who are you betting on to be the winner?"
"Right now, the Ferallings. But the Timberwolves are actually putting up a decent fight. We've been trying to figure out where they are basing their operations out of. They're sure to have brought in a wealth of supplies with them."
"Not yet. I can't imagine its in the woods though. Has to be somewhere in town. Somewhere defensible. We've checked the obvious potential locations: churches, bars, dives, auto-shops. But so far, no dice."
"What kind of supplies would the Timberwolves require? Aside from the basics. Every group specializes a bit differently."
"They'ed need somewhere secure but with a wide enough space to congregate for their religious rituals but with a healthy supply of shop equipment..."
"Quite the puzzle you have on your hands," she said taking her hands off her gun for the first time since she's flicked the safety off. "What would be good is if we captured one of them for an interrogation."
I wasn't sure how to read that. She might have been doing it to try to lull me into a false sense of security. Or it might have been a more sincere moment of her letting her guard down, just a little. I mentally braced for a quick draw scenario. Cynicism saves lives.
"Hard to do. They keep in groups of six. The only time you see them is numbers smaller than that is if they're limping back from a bad fight."
"Here I thought you and yours knew about the art of stalking."
"The only hunting proxies we've got on us are Maggot, Snips, General, and Firecracker. Two of which, can't operate effectively because their techniques draw a lot of attention. The rest of the masked men you've seen around are civilians and are severely under trained for such an operation."
"The latter I'm aware of as of now. You only said two of the four were useless for this type of thing, what of the other two?"
"Medical Specialist General and... well, Maggot, come out."
"Are you saying it's useless because it's a child?"
"No. The medical specialist and Maggot here are the two whose training is most effective here. Of course General isn't much more than support in a fight."
"So you're saying I'm solo on abducting a cripple Timberwolf."
"Maggot can keep up with you and help as needed. Moth trained the little bastard. So as you can imagine, Maggot is very capable."
"Very well." The mention of Moth seemed to catch her attention.
"Maggot child, please go get ready for the mission. Remember, you're going soundless on this one."
"So, how many of your boys in masks died?"
"You mean proper proxies in this particular situation or the masked civilians?"
"Both are yours."
"We lost all our masked veterans and most of their supporting police force."
"Does it bother you?"
"... Its easier with the masked ones. They chose to fight... they kind of knew it was coming..."
"That's not a direct answer."
"Yes, it bothers me."
"I'm just classy like that."
"If that's what you like to think."
"Well, at least you're honest about one thing."
"At least you're not a complete bitch about everything."
She looked up from the map of the town laid out before her and smirked.
"Glad we see eye to eye."
"All set Kiddo?" she asked as Maggot came arrived back in the room. Maggot nodded.
"Oh. Maggot doesn't talk by the way."
"I'm used to the silent type."
"Just figured I should make sure I plainly stated it at least once"
"Aren't you sweet, lead the way kiddo."
And then they went.
Maggot's out there alone with a psychotic violent runner, as so many seem to be these days. A runner that likely doesn't even see Maggot as a human being. She probably sees Maggot more like an expendable tool. Something to throw away to get the job done...
... Nothing but evil in an endless sea...