Amy froze. Then she all but spit as she talked. “Fuck! They didn’t tell me. It does that kind of thing all the time. In my world, we’ve had a lot of creatures come through interdimensional portals. They’re mostly magical creatures, but every now and then we’ll see some strange mixture of magic and science, and sometimes… Sometimes we’ll see something purely scientific.”
Her face twisted, and then she sighed. “I’ve told you that we’ve fought The Thing That Eats for years, but what I didn’t tell you, because I didn’t know, was that it collected them. We’ve got humanoids called the Elder. Think of them as a cross between vampires and elves. The Thing collected them—along with anything else it could get. Cyborgs? Sure. Centaurs? Definitely. It took anything it could get.
“So yes. It would definitely go after people with powers. I don’t know what it plans to do with them, but it gets stronger when it eats. It gets weaker when it splits though. Other Bloodmaidens have seen it split, eat as much as they can, abandon its hosts and devour them.”
Rod turned to her. “No shit? That thing is messed up.”
Cassie glanced between Amy, Rod, and Samita. “I know Amy’s wards are the only thing standing between us and being hosts, but you guys are all alone in there. There’s got to be some way I could ditch it, slip through and help.”
Amy and Samita turned to stare at her, simultaneously saying, “No!”
Cassie frowned for a second before saying, “Look, I get it, but we’re not helping much out here. We need to get in there, and I’m the only one of us who can.”
Shaking her head, Amy said “It will go after you. It knows the League took it down. It also knows that you guys don’t have any protection from it but my wards. I don’t want to sound like the Council, but you’re the weak link. The Council has its own wards, but if mine break, you’ve got power and no protection.”
Cassie held up her hands. “Ok. I won’t, but we need to get inside soon.”
Haley bit her lip. “I just thought of something. Camille’s the only former Justice Fist member who got a ward. That means Sean, Jody, Dayton, Shannon, and Julie are all vulnerable. They’ve all got powers, but no secret identity. It wouldn’t take much for The Thing to find out about them, and then they’ll know all about us and HQ and everything.”
That’s when everyone got quiet.
I broke the silence with, “You’re right, and that includes Lucas too. Plus, Marcus and Sydney weren’t part of the raid, so they don’t have wards.”
Amy leaned in toward the phone. “You need to get them into HQ or out of the city immediately.”
Samita glanced at Amy but faced us. “HQ would be better. I set up wards in case we needed to quarantine all of you when you came back. I’ll send you an email that tells you how to operate them. You should be able to keep all of them safe long enough for us to figure out a way to get in.”
Rod raised an eyebrow. “Are you sure? The way I see it, the only way we’re going to get in is to break the Council’s barrier.”
Samita pursed her lips. “Now you’re thinking like a troll.”
Rod shook his head. “No. We haven’t found any weak spots so far. If the Council has a way in, they’ve hidden it pretty well. I’m not sure we have time to find it before things get bad in there.”
Sighing, Amy turned toward Rod. “I know you don’t think we’re going to find one, but you can’t ward a city this size without leaving a few holes even if they’re unintentional. Warding an entire city is hard. Past Bloodmaidens have done it, but there’s always been a hole. I wonder how the Council did it?”
Samita leaned back, “I don’t know, but they couldn’t use Rudolph the Fat’s basic wards for fortifications because it requires more specific knowledge of this place than they’re likely to have.”
“I don’t know,” Amy said. “Reliquary told me that the Council has teams assigned to the larger cities. If they constructed the wards one at a time over the course of years, they could use Fennic’s fifth principle to stabilize…”
It only got more obscure from there. Haley caught my eye and shook her head. I’d have interrupted, but I had a bad feeling that many people felt the same when listening to me.
I let their words wash over me, wondering how we could get them in, and where any holes in the wards might be. Maybe I could come up with a better way to search. Too bad the next Stapledon weekend wasn’t coming soon enough. Maybe I could email Dr. Nation.
Thinking about Stapledon, I felt suddenly very stupid. I knew how we were going to get them into the city.
Speaking without thinking, I told them, “I know how to bring you in. I’ve actually got two ways. First, the Starplate would be an option if I didn’t care if you arrived. I have no idea how to use it. The second idea, though, is really obvious. Chancy has been teleporting us to Stapledon, and he teleports straight into HQ. I’m betting Lee knows how to get a hold of him. If I ask him about it, I can also find out what he says about the fact that I can hurt The Thing.”