Boomer surveyed the area as he tried to figure out his next move. "Ollie Ollie Oxen Free," he sub vocalized.
"Boomer?" he heard the call over his comm-unit. Kenny had heard him.
"Hey there Brah," Boomer answered.
"I could really use your help here," Kenny stated.
"If you have any brilliant ideas, I'd like to hear them," he answered quietly as he moved down the hall.
"Well, if you and Rabbit could cook up some kind of diversion, I'd appreciate it."
"Sorry Brah, all you got is me. Rabbit had some errands to run."
'What about Reiger?" Kenny asked after a pause.
"I uh, convinced him that it would be best that his sit this one out," Boomer replied. "I've already had to deal with one security detail, and things seem to be tightening up."
"I've noticed." Again, there was a pause. "Boom, guy named Finagle, works with Reiger is with me. Wants to know just how you convinced Reiger to stay out of this."
"Left Hook," Boomer answered as he mulled over what Kenny had told him. "Okay, what do you know about the situation?"
"I've been briefed," Kenny told him. "The folks we're dealing with call themselves "Briar". At one point they were part of a corporate project. The Corp wants them back, and they're willing to do just about anything to get 'em. Oh," Kenny added. "And in case you cared: The Corp in question is Aerocom."
Boomer grinned. "Yeah I heard that, figure Duck'd love that one. What's the security doorknob's name anyway?"
Again there was a pause. "Maximilian Von Hicks?"
Boomer looked down at the id he'd pilfered and chuckled. "Well, I don't think he'll be bothering us for at least an hour or so."
"Boomer, what did you do?" Kenny asked worriedly.
"The Security detail I told you about, they wanted to talk to me, I declined. Cocky little bugger told me he knew I'd show up."
"Boomer, tell me you didn't do what I think you did," Kenny asked in a concerned tone.
"I showed restraint," Boomer answered innocently. "Just a flash-bang and a stun baton, and the baton wasn't even mine."
He could hear Kenny's exasperated sigh before it came over the line. "Meet us on the third floor. East staircase."
Kenny shook his head as he looked at Finagle. "My brother," he explained as Finagle gave him a worried look. "Seem's Von Hicks was with the security team he ran into. According to Boomer we should have a little bit more leeway. Figure we see what we can do about the guy in O.R."
"You think that's wise?" he asked.
"From what I've seen, we're going to need a lot more help than we've got," Kenny answered truthefully. "…a lot more. And if they want him, it's a good bet he'd be able to help us. Besides, there's no way I'm leaving anybody to the fate you showed me. We help him here, he might help us later."
Finagle nodded. "So you're saying take care of the details and the rest will fall into place?"
"I'm not that optimistic," Kenny answered. "You just do what you can, when you can and don't sweat what you can't do. Sooner or later you pray that there are enough pieces that something falls into place."
"Well, from everything I've seen, the pieces are out there, but more and more of them are turning out to be Briar's. We've been able to hold our own, but the more that fall... we've got the skill and the imagination, but he's got numbers. And lately, numbers seem to be more important than innovation."
Kenny nodded then commented, "You've seen his power, but you've never seen him."
Finagle nodded. "Usually we've been a step behind. I'm sorry to say it, but it's a good thing you all got pulled into this, when you did."
"It's not just us. Two of our friends, Duck and Tracker, the two who were attacked outside the Playful Dragon..." Kenny stated "We have to figure out the reason they were targeted. Hell, I'd like to know why they targeted me."
Finagle nodded. "All I can tell you is we aren't going to find it here," he told Kenny. "What have you and your brother cooked up?"
"Boomer's waiting for us on three," Kenny answered. "We should be able to take the back hallway to the stairs. They usually aren't crowded this time of the evening."
Finagle looked at him suspiciously for a minute.
"I've worked here," Kenny informed him with a wink. "Like I said, I'm a Doc, not a tactician." With that Kenny eased himself out of the wheel chair.
Finagle half supported him as they slipped down the back hallway and into the stairwell.
Boomer scanned the area as he waited for Kenny and Finagle. He'd found what few security cameras there were, but what puzzled him was the guards in front of the surgery suite. He thought about what Reiger had told him and shook his head. They'd really stepped in it this time.
He tensed as he heard footsteps coming down the stairs. He kept his gun level, but ready. He relaxed when he recognized his brother.
"What kept you two," he asked softly as they joined him near the door.
"Kenny decided to be sick again," Finagle answered as he let out his breath.
Boomer turned and caught the smell of vomit. "Awg!," he groaned. "Will you please stand down wind?"
"Very funny Boomer," Kenny muttered.
"Sorry Brah," Boomer replied, as he waved his hand in front of his face. "You have to admit, you're pretty rank." He paused then flashed his brother a smile. "You ready to blow this popcorn stand?"
Kenny glowered at Boomer for a minute then turned his attention towards the door. "We've got some work to do first."
"Kenny, I hate it when you get that look. So just tell me how much trouble you're going to make and how much work I'm going to have to do to get you out of it."
Kenny looked at his brother and shrugged. "Finagle did a scan of the area. He found a Mage signature matching Briar's. They've probably got somebody in O.R. We have to get him out of there."
Boomer closed his eyes and shook his head. "And y'all think I'm impulsive." He paused, "from the placement of Corp security, I'd say your man is in O.R. alright."
"How many guards?" Finagle asked.
"Two, must figure he won't be able to fight that much," Boomer answered. "Problem is getting them out of the way without..."
Finagle and Kenny watched Boomer intently as the sentence drifted off. Boomer's eyes sparkled as he grinned at them.
"Care to let us in on it?" Kenny asked when Boomer just sat there grinning.
"Well, I was trying to think about how to get them away from the door without resorting to violence, and you provided the answer," he answered.
"Boom," Kenny growled. "Sometimes, I swear you're worse than Rabbit... Care to let us in on your little joke?"
Boomer grinned again then waved his hand in front of his face again. "Think about it, man. They ain't gonna sit around with that stench. It'll be enough that we should be able to catch them off guard..."
Kenny looked at Boomer in disgust. "No," he countered then shook his head in disbelief. "There is no way."
Boomer smiled. "Look Ken, it's the kindest gentlest way of getting in. Once we're in, it's going to be up to you and Finagle. The question is are you going to be up to helping the guy inside?
Kenny looked at Finagle. "If you can take care of the mage, I can take care of the target."
"Let's do it," Boomer agreed as Finagle shrugged, then took up position next to the door. "Oh and Kenny, try not to get any on you."
"I will get you for this," Kenny swore as he headed through the door.
Boomer grinned back at him.
Mercury, the messenger… he had chosen the name carefully, only to have it shorted to Merc everywhere he went. He prided himself on his skills as a shooter: living up to his self proclaimed position as messenger to the gods. It was part of why he'd been tapped for advance training, that and his affinity for magic. He'd always known when magic was on hand.
He could feel it now as every fiber of his being was screaming at him.
Not only was there magic surrounding him, it was trying to control him. He could tell that the bullet wounds had been healed, but someone was working on keeping him unconscious. The drugs mixed with the spell left him disoriented, out of touch with his body.
It was as if it was trying to seep into his being, and he was helpless to fight it. If he resisted, the mask would come back down, administering another dose of gas. There was no way he could fight it and the drugs. If that weren't bad enough, he was also reasonably sure that the room was warded, effectively locking him inside.
He tried to push away the mask, but they had tied his hands down. Then the gas took effect, and again, he drifted into oblivion.
Kenny leaned against the doors as Boomer and Finagle dragged the guards into the scrub room. He hated to admit it, but Boomer's idea had worked.
As they joined him, Boomer put a hand on his shoulder. "You okay?" Boomer asked worriedly.
"Dehydrated, disoriented and nauseous," Kenny answered. "Lets get this over with, the sooner we're out of here the better."
"Let's do it then," Boomer answered as he gave his shoulder an encouraging squeeze.
Kenny was about to agree, when he felt the power in the next room. It loomed over everything in the area, and now it was reaching for him. His head swum as the power called to him, telling him the miracles he would be able to work, if only he opened himself up. It told him that he had blinded himself to the true power. It was as if he was watching himself from a distance.
Then Serpent's power flowed through him. This was the wrongness, the empty promises. Yes, it could grant him power, but only if he turned his back on everything that ever mattered to him. Serpent showed him the power's plan. He saw himself in chains as every member of his family was converted or slain. He shuddered as he realized what Briar was doing.
When he resisted the offer, the power turned on him. He tried to push it away, but the power would not be resisted. Serpent tried to shield him, but the power was strong here.
"Shit! Boomer, room seven, take him out!" he gasped as he felt it start to overpower him. "GO!"
Boomer forced himself to react. Whatever it was that waited for them down the hall was after Kenny. Magically he was incapable of helping his brother, but he also knew that a well placed bullet could stop even the most powerful of mages. Provided of course he wasn't expecting it.
As he moved towards the room, Finagle took up position behind him. He realized his mistake a minute later, when Boomer reached for the door and was hit by the full brunt of the mage's defenses.
Boomer found himself slammed against the far wall as the doors of the room were blasted off their hinges. Pain radiated down his left side and he could feel the trickle of blood run down his forehead. He tried to move only to find himself pinned to the ground by one of the doors. His vision blurred as the doctor towered over him.
"He said you would come," the doctor told him as he closed in. "Your brothers will make fine additions to the team."
Boomer growled as he tried to defend himself. The only way they'd get Kenny and Derrick were over his dead body. Then he realized that somehow the doctor already knew that.
"I will offer you this only once," he told Boomer as he shifted some his weight onto the door. Boomer let out a sharp hiss as he glared up at the man. "Join us."
Boomer forced himself to stare at the doctor. He had caught Finagle's movement out of the corner of his eye, and he knew that it was up to him to keep the man's full attention. He shook his head as he tried to push himself up.
The doctor rewarded him by delivering another magical blow. Boomer screamed as the pain in his side increased till he could think of nothing else. He tried to lift his gun but his arm wouldn't respond.
"It was a noble effort," the doctor chided as he took Boomer's gun from him, then hit Boomer with a third and final blast.
Boomer stared at the man as he felt consciousness slipping away. He tried to fight it, but the pain was overwhelming.
"I hope your brothers prove more of a challenge," he smiled as he leaned over Boomer's unconscious form. "But they will loose in the end, just as you have."
As the doctor stood up, Finagle administered the only sleep spell he ever learned. There was a resounding 'clang' as the fire extinguisher connected with the man's skull; they both hit the floor at the same time.
"Boomer?" Finagle called worriedly as fought to pull the door off his chest. "Kenny, get in here!"
Kenny's mind swum as he fought the power which only seemed to increase. Then, as quickly as it had started it ended. His relief was short lived as Finagle called to him. He realized that Finagle had called, not Boomer. That meant something was very wrong
His heart raced as he barreled through the double doors that led to the hallway that linked the scrub room to the operating rooms. He swore as he saw the wreckage in the hallway.
"Gods no," he pleaded as he saw Boomer lying underneath the heavy steel door. Finagle was trying to lift it off of him, but the most he could do was relieve some of the pressure it placed on Boomer's chest.
"Get him," Finagle growled as he lifted the door as high as he could.
Kenny steeled himself as he grabbed his brother's arm and pulled him out from under the door. "Clear," he yelled once he'd gotten Boomer to a safer position. "What the hell happened?"
Finagle let the door drop and then looked at him. "Doc here knew we were coming. Hit your brother with some kind of spell."
"Some kind of spell?" Kenny asked in disbelief. "That's all you can tell me?"
"Look my area of expertise is mind oriented magic. I couldn't tell you what he did even if I had a book in front of me."
Kenny nodded. "Try scanning him. We're going to need as much info as we can, then we have to book. This debacle's going to bring a lot of attention."
Finagle nodded. He wasn't entirely comfortable running a scan in an un-warded area, but real world applications didn't always allow for all the safeties he preferred.
He could feel the retreating presence. The darker force he'd felt when Kenny had sent them ahead. He could tell that the doc's mind was practically flat-lining as he linked in. He was chasing the man's fleeting thoughts as he struggled to find the key to what he'd done to Boomer.
He saw the last few minutes from the doctor's view: power almost within his grasp. Once he'd dedicated his patient to Briar, he would be free of his commitment. Then he heard the voice: Briar.
"Dr. Mitchell, you have done well, but I have a greater need for your services. There are three who will try to stop you. Two mages and a mundane. I want the mages, do what you want with the mundane, but bring me the two I seek."
It was then that he knew, he'd never truly be free. Part of him cringed, but another part rejoiced. It meant that even greater power would be his.
"As you wish," he answered.
"They are here"
He looked down at his patient one last time and then reached out to the stronger of the two mages. Kenny. He was concentrating on Kenny when Boomer activated the outer defenses.
Finagle felt the thought, as if it was his own. He could taste the hatred as the man stood over Boomer and gloated. He had forgotten about the second mage. His power stretched between Kenny and the spells he launched at Boomer. Too late he found the second mage.
Then everything that had been the doc was gone.
Finagle shook his head and looked at Kenny. "He was channeling Briar: force blast on the doors, mana on your brother."
Kenny nodded. "Check on the target. I'll do what I can here."
Finagle took a deep breath and entered the operating room.
Finagle gasped as he saw the articles around the room. The entire floor of the operating room was engraved with intricate carvings. He stretched out his senses, verifying that there were no other surprises in the room. Once he was sure it was safe, he cast a spell to protect himself, and only then began crossing the circles and patterns that stood between him and the man in the middle of the room.
He could feel the power as it flickered malevolently. This was the closest he had been to Briar and it was far stronger than he had imagined possible. He memorized the patterns as he moved into the room. Finally he reached his objective: the man called Mercury. He moved the mask away from his face as he extended his protection spell around the injured man.
Once he was sure the man was within his protection, Finagle started checking out his injuries. As he went to check the man's pulse, his eyes opened.
"Stop staring and get me out of here," the man gasped.
Finagle looked at him and nodded. "We'll have you out in a minute." he stated as he started on the restraints. "How are you feeling?"
"Man's been dicking with my mind and you want to know how I feel?" Merc answered softly. "Let me up and I'll show you."
Finagle for his part simply nodded and finished unhooking the restraints. He offered a steadying hand as Merc pushed himself up to a sitting position.
Merc nodded appreciatively then looked around the room. "It was here," he growled.
"I know, the doc was one of his."
Finagle looked at the man in surprise then nodded. "We need to get you out of here. Security's not going to be long in coming."
Merc nodded as he pushed off the table and landed on his feet. "Got some cloths?" he asked as Finagle guided him away from the rings. He could feel the pressure as Finagle's spell pushed through the barriers. As they passed through the last one, Mercury could feel the last wall seal behind them.
"Wait here," Finagle stated as he headed back towards the scrub room. He paused when he reached Kenny and Boomer.
"How is he?" Finagle asked.
"Not good," Kenny answered tersely. "Not good at all."
Merc slowly stretched his neck and leg muscles. He could still feel the slight tightness in his muscles where they'd been ripped apart by Daff's remote. He wasn't sure how much he could trust his rescuers, but anything beat being totally at Its mercy.
He heard his rescuer talk to someone outside, a chill went down his spine when he heard the answer.
"Not good. Not good at all." He recognized the voice. Fen.
Had the doctor lied to him when he said that Fen was now one of the Briar? He held his breath as he tried to force himself to think. Perhaps Briar wasn't quite done messing with him. This was probably another attempt to break through his will and take him.
He would die first, but he was going to take as many of them with him as he could. He promised himself that he would make them pay before he'd let them have him. He edged closer to the door. He wasn't going to let them surprise him.
Kenny tried to draw the power he needed, but he could feel something interfering with his efforts. As he stretched out his senses, he realized that the doc had cast more than just a standard mana-bolt spell. Somehow the spell was still active, draining Boomer and anybody around him. "Dammit Boomer, hang on." He swore in frustration as he felt the spell continue to drain his brother's strength. "BOOMER!" he yelled in frustration.
"Kenny?" Finagle called.
Kenny turned to him, rage and pain clear on his face. "The doc's spell, it's draining him of his strength, and the weaker he gets, the stronger it gets. Boomer's dying and I can't do anything about it."
Finagle nodded. "We'll get him out of this," he assured Kenny then looked back towards the O.R.. Considering the stuff he had around though, I'm not surprised. Man seemed to have been a lexicon of obscure rituals."
"I'm going to need to see his setup," Kenny stated.
"Let me get our friend some scrubs, then I'll see what I can do about keeping Boomer going while you have a look-see."
Kenny nodded as he forced himself to breathe.
Finagle offered Kenny a hand. "We'll get him out of this," he assured him.
Kenny looked back down at Boomer and clenched his fist. "I hope so."