Thicker Than Blood
A very elegant woman named Susan Taylor comes to the private areas of the Gironde School and tells Jean-Claude Gironde -- whom she had dated about 15 years ago -- that her missing son Jase Taylor was his child. She has been careful not to do anything that might seem like making demands on their old association ... but he has money. He has resource. Susan has exhausted the options available to her; Jean-Claude needs to have someone find her missing son.
Something about Susan Taylor strikes Wyldfire agents as a stone-cold liar. Ms. Taylor is going to get quite a bit more of an investigation than she planned for!
Everyone on staff at the school, everyone present in the vicinity of the adults' dining room for the building, spent the entire meeting wide-eyed and silent. Susan was not loud, but she did not speak softly, either: overhearing her words was not really a choice.
And there, right there on the nearby loveseat, was Dr. Tafey, whose growing romance with taciturn headmaster Jean-Claude had made life better for everyone around.
Near the conclusion of the conversation, as a rattled Professor Gironde assured his ex-lover that he would absolutely rise to the occasion with all the resources he could bring to bear, Jarissa
retreated to the kitchen so that she could think things through. Thomas
followed her to find out what was up with their supposed Field Leader.
Rissa said what bothered her was that this stranger was so smugly satisfied when she got the Professor to believe he had missed out on his child's life.
"Do you want her back here?" Thomas asked as he glanced out the window at the departing car. "Because I can get her back." His tone of voice was factual. Barely underneath that calm facade, not particularly hidden, he was mad.
"Go," Feral said.
And then the woman's car was wrecked, because she was not in it to drive it any more; she was in the kitchen, facing 3 hostile metas -- one of whom had glowing eyes, while another of whom had claws extended and some pointed questions.
Jase Taylor was a student at the Bartholomew School. Susan Taylor, a lying liar, was never actually pregnant; she had Margret Restin serve as a surrogate mother, and then paid her off and banned her from Jase's life. This would have worked out fine for all concerned if Ms. Taylor had ever cared about her son as a person rather than a status symbol. Even the cutest infant is not a decorative object. Jase got shuttled from au pair to private tutor to maid until he was old enough for enrollment in the "military academy"-style boarding school -- a front for the Midnight Syndicate.
The Bartholomew School specialized in metahuman students, turning them into well-programmed supersoldiers. The leaders of the Midnight Syndicate wanted to raise perfect little bodyguards that could compete with similar projects such as the UniSols
or Infinity Inc's Hybrid Minion
The night duty security expert on the Bartholomew campus is a man named Jack Monroe, who sometimes fights injustice under the name Nomad
. He has not been working at this location for more than a couple of months. He hoped to find a stable environment for his adopted daughter, Gypsum Monroe
. Sure, she is too young for current enrollment, but a boarding school comes with a nutritionist and steady laundry services and a refreshing lack of scofflaw neighbors.
So he has no problem with noticing the metahuman
intruder, or with stopping her outside the administration records closet.
He's a little surprised when she holds up one paw with claws fully extended, crosses it with the other paw to form a T for "time out", and hisses impatiently that if he fires his guns at her in this hallway, his bullets will probably pass through the cheap plaster interior walls and might endanger the children -- so let's err on the side of quasi-decent people, and take this fight outside. Or to the dungeons. Whatever.
Bad guys don't normally negotiate terms for a combat that would reduce risk to bystanders. That is off-script so far that all hostilities are set aside in favor of an honest exchange of facts. Within ten minutes, Jack helps Feral
acquire what intel they can jointly access. He packs up his daughter and their possessions, scribbles out his resignation, and flees with the team to the Wyldfire
Later, Rissa would admit her fault. She should have noticed the yellow powder. She should have been suspicious that one of the traps in the administration office probably left a residue. She should have taken the precautions which Simon Phoenix had taught the prototype team about breaking all sorts of trails between a hostile site and a resting point.
Heavy weapons mercenaries in the employ of the Midnight Syndicate surrounded the Gironde School
at one thirty in the morning. By the time they moved close enough to the grounds that an alarm could be tripped, their perimeter was perfect and contracting too fast for any finesse on the defenders' parts. Every adult on the Gironde School grounds, from visitor Nomad to current "Special Projects" Wyldfire
Agents to civilian-only teachers, ran outside to fight off the assault.
Nomad found a spot to play sniper. His first several targets were enemy snipers, which made him move several times. Then he made it up onto the long roof of the main school wing, which gave him the widest arc of possible targets. He set to work on clearing out routes of travel for those defenders who were trying to back others up.
took a messy pin-down-anything-that-moves approach to securing the garage, private residences, and greenhouse in the eastern quadrant of the property.
On the south side of the main building, near the wide front entrance, ShadowStar
had been running from the northwest side to get at the attackers aiming in the computer hacker's direction. Even when she stopped dodging incoming fire, Feral did not manage to get to the threat before he pulled his trigger. The leopard roar of pain and rage echoed off the trampled snow like a call to retreat -- which was hastily ordered as Midnight Syndicate operatives who might have been knocked unconscious suddenly got slaughtered.
Dr. Tafey sent Silverwing
for Dr. Henry McCoy
, a retired Wyldfire agent from its earliest days, while she and Dr. Gironde stabilized the patient. Blackjack
set to work checking all the students and providing comforting reassurances. Nomad joined Mime and Sleet in checking every inch of the grounds for hidden operatives, any traps or devices left behind, and miscellaneous breaches of the site's security.
Feral searched and disposed of the bodies. And then turned to the sole wounded prisoner, whom she stripped completely and prepared for future interrogation by the world's most powerful psionicist.
With all the information they gathered about the Midnight Syndicate and the Bartholomew School in the next twenty-four hours, much of which they were able to funnel over to the Lackawanna County District Attorney's office, Wyldfire still had no idea where Jase Taylor had gone. They had to accept that the Midnight Syndicate had been trying to find him as well, in fact probably believed that Wyldfire had been the ones to kidnap the boy. So who could have gotten past the school's security, at least twice, and that second time with one of the monitored students?
It had to have been an employee of the school.
When all other personnel had been positively eliminated, one of the menial employees was notable for her recent absense. Wyldfire agents tracked her down to an apartment in the Hob's Bay
neighborhood. There they found Jase ... with Margret Restin
, his birth mother, who had been alerted to Jase's miserable childhood by a frustrated bodyguard. Margret and Jase were packing up her apartment. They already had new identities set up in far-off Triplet City
. They only needed a little bit of time, a little bit of protective cover, and then neither the Midnight Syndicate nor Susan Taylor would have any way to find them.
Wyldfire only checked with each other as a formality. They already knew what their choice would be.
The conversation between Jean-Claude Gironde
and Susan Taylor
, the former associate who tried to make him her tool, may well have been epic