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Episode Three: Chapter Twenty

The Black Fang

Alright, this was better.  Or was it?  Nope, still not great.  It looked like he’d really worked Gabriel over before he came to; his associate was still picking instruments out of his abdomen, dropping them on the floor where they jumped and came to rest.  In Gabriel’s face, Tycho could see the question there, full, bouncing on the bough like a fat fall pear.  It wasn’t time, yet.  He had to let it hang.

“Omnibus,” whispers the heir of Brahe, with the necessary inflections of respect and command.  He’d learned over time that simply speaking with respect just made the weapon hungry for more and greater assertions of its prowess, something he rarely had time for in the sort of situation where one must summon a firearm.  Likewise, modulating exclusively for command was a non-starter.  No gruesome shotgun-wand was ever forthcoming in this scenario.  Instead, two hot shells would drop out of mid-air at his feet, as though to say, “Here, fucker.  Why not try shooting a few of these yourself.”

He knew its ways, though; knew to coddle the preening thing.  It snapped snug into his open palm, which closed around it.

“I stand by my original assertion,” says Tycho.  “Dumbest cult ever.”

He is firing even as he stands, bracing himself against the blasts, clouds of shredding amethyst shards sailing according to an impossible mathematics.  The lion’s share of this swarm converts a cultist into an indistinct haze, the perfect mask spinning away like a bottlecap.  The remainder of these lozenges came to rest in one of the many, many columns, columns of worked stone which held up a worked ceiling, one that bloomed geometrically above them making the room’s higher altitudes seem like the canopy of some unimaginable forest.  It rose progressively, deeper in, until it might reach a hundred feet high.  There are no columns in the great room that is its culmination, only frescoes of man’s ultimate dominion over the Gods and indeed the very notion of the real.

Gabriel snaps a neck in an effort to remove a mask, feels slightly embarrassed.  He’s not above snapping a neck or two, has no particular affinity for necks, but it wasn’t what he was trying to do in this particular case.  In fact, it was quite the opposite: he’d begin the altercation with the idea that if he could remove the mask, its host (this would be the Tycho word for it) might be able to leave, maybe even catch a late movie.  Maybe he would see someone at the movie, someone substantially more interesting than the screen.  Maybe what seemed like a one-off thing wouldn’t be, because that happens sometimes, and maybe fifty years from now they would be arguing over which bell pepper looked the freshest.  Stupid, Goddamn, sticky, stupid masks.

He helps the body crumple as gracefully as is possible, under the circumstances.  He looks over to see if anybody was paying attention, and notices that Tycho has his shotgun trained on what appear to be the five remaining masks whose attached flesh was capable of standing upright.

“Are we done?” says Tycho, who is not a patient man in the best of times.  “This isn’t fuck around times, Elzabet, or whoever you are.  This is get your shit together times.”

A mask gets into a circular wobble, dancing like a lost hubcap, leaping from the floor toward his face.  It gets the back of the gun, skids away into a corner.

At this point, Tycho is seriously like what.

“Now we are done, yes,” says a voice, or more than one.  “Now we are totally done.”

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