The rest of the week the officers assigned the Southside beat the bushes and asked a lot of supernaturals a lot of questions. It wasn’t entirely useless. They arrested eleven supernaturals with mundane warrants pending and finally caught that alchemist who was selling temporary gold. However, nobody turned up the ogre girl.
Meanwhile, on the Northside I found out the hard way that if a coven of witches tries to cast a love spell on me it will boomerang on the entire coven - not just the hot seventeen year old they intended to use to control me. Thankfully, the spell wore off sometime Friday afternoon and I stopped having to dodge highly aggressive seventy and eighty year old women.
When Saturday morning rolled around the entire CIS team gathered in our basement office and geared up. By the time we were done everyone was wearing kevlar and helmets as well as carrying glass shields. Various members of the squad carried all sorts of other weapons, mostly consisting of different types of rifles and grenades. Sanchez even had a LAW rocket strapped on her back.
The Captain started his briefing at seven.
“Okay. Listen up. Everyone here, except Corporal Dixon, has been to the Market before. We’re going to hit it before many customers have arrived in order to minimize potential collateral casualties and damage. Standard square formation. Sergeant Sanchez and I will be in the front, four people on the right, four people on the left, and two in back. We’ll keep Corporal Dixon in the center since he’s the target. Keep shields facing outward, communicate any threat you see, and follow orders given by me or Sergeant Sanchez.”
“We don’t know exactly what we’ll be facing, but we also don’t expect anything terribly subtle. I expect we’ll know within seconds of arrival. Keep it together and keep it tight.”
With that, he motioned to Sanchez. As she stood she pushed a button on her cell phone. The phones of several officers in the squad beeped or buzzed - including mine - and she glared at us.
“First of all, why the fuck does anybody have sound or vibration turned on? Fix it.” She waited while we all fumbled with our phones and then pressed a button on hers again. This time there was no sound.
“Better. Now look at the picture I just texted you.”
It was a grainy, out of focus picture of a green-brown lizard with two wings and two legs. All-in-all, I could have made something that looked more realistic with the software on my computer.
“That,” Sanchez continued, “is the only known picture of Taug the Runt, Excommunicant of the Halls of Fire. He’s our target.”
"Taug's a dragon, but he's their version of a crippled midget. His power level is far below that of a normal dragon and he's only survived through the years by sheer cussedness. Still, we should be able to handle him."
"Right now we want him for abduction. I'm sure that when we turn him over to the Michaels they'll punish him for more than that. We just have to get him there."
"You all know the person we're trying to save. Maggie Terrel." She tapped her phone again and the next text opened to show a young woman in a sun dress. "Maggie's also an ogre, but there are no pictures of her in that form. So, be careful because we know she was taken in ogre form and she probably still is.”
She finished and the Captain walked back to the front. "Any questions before we begin the operation?"
"Yeah," Meiers voice came out of the crowd of officers, "Why are we doing this? Wasn't this a purely monster on monster thing? We're supposed to protect our own, not them."
There was a second of stunned silence and then the Captain spoke. "We are here to protect everyone in Lexington and that question is clearly outside regulations."
"No it's not. I read the regs Cap and they say we are here to protect people and property. And even the Lexington PD, in all its PC cow towing, hasn't defined monsters as things I'm supposed to be sensitive about." He waved his hand. "Or 'supernaturals' or whatever fancy name you want to put on them. So, I can ask things that need to be asked like, Why are we going in to risk our lives to save Sanchez's pet monster, Dixon's girlfriend?"
The Captain looked stunned. Then anger started to darken his face and he took a couple steps toward Meiers, but Sanchez calmly stepped between them, facing Meiers. She gave him a cold look.
"Twenty thousand dollars worth of damage done to a business owned by a mundane. The 'person' at the front cash register got a broken arm. These both fall under your damn narrow definition of our duties. So you're going to do this. Now shut the fuck up!"
At exactly five minutes after eight, every member of CIS piled out of two white vans at the side of a closed off road behind the old courthouse. There was a steel pavilion and under it were a bunch of hippies and farmers setting up to sell fruits and vegetables. A sign attached to the pavilion proclaimed it to be "The Lexington Farmer's Market."
We walked past that market and went to a small tent set up on the other side. It wasn’t even fancy. It was just an old Army single pole tent with the flap closed. There was an old lady sitting on a fold up chair in front of it. She took one look at us, sighed, and folded the flap open.
We packed the square tight with overlapping shields on all sides and me holding mine overhead. We barely fit through the opening and as we walked through there was a gut wrenching feeling and I found myself standing outside the open flap of the tent by myself.
The old lady was sitting on her chair again. She grinned at me sheepishly. "Sorry about that. My job is to make sure only those who are allowed can get through. Right now entry is invitation only. Welcome to the Market."
She pointed behind me and I turned. The metal pavilion was still there, but now it was filled with fairies, dwarves, and even a couple trolls. All of them stood behind tables filled with objects ranging from necklaces to shrunken heads and every single being under the pavilion was staring at me.
I realized that I was still holding the shield over my head like an idiot and I pulled it down as I turned back around. The woman was gone. The tent was gone.
My heart started beating so hard that I felt like my chest might explode. I was trapped . . . somewhere, without support and with a dragon hunting me. I didn’t even know if the whole “survivor” thing worked here. After all, why would the dragon choose this place if it didn’t give him some sort of advantage?
But, then nothing happened for the next thirty seconds. And for the next thirty. I got control of myself and looked around a little more. The same buildings stood in the same places as they did in Lexington, except the areas between the buildings were filled with multi-colored tents. Most of them had open flaps and I could see tables set up in several. I looked more closely inside the nearest open tent and saw tables stacked with cages holding honest-to-goodness jackelopes. The goblin inside did his best imitation of a smile and pointed to an oversize price tag which read "$400 or 2 Minor Favors."
"They're not worth that." I turned with my shield raised to see a man on my right with short black hair; he was dressed in jeans and a red soccer jersey with "MAGYAR" across the front in green letters. "People only buy them to mess with mundanes. They're dumb as rocks, make terrible pets, and tend to draw chupacabras."
I stood there with the shield between us and he looked me up and down. "Yeah, you're not going to need all that right now."
With a wave of his hand all my tactical gear was gone and I was in my regular uniform. "There. That's got to be more comfortable."
I pulled my sidearm and pointed it at his chest as I moved back far enough to be out of arm's reach. "Identify yourself."
"Officer, do you really think I can't make that gun disappear?"
"I think the ammo in this thing is something you can't touch."
"You're absolutely correct." He nodded agreement. And my pistol vanished from my hand, leaving fifteen bullets to fall to the ground and scatter in front of my feet.
I stood there for half a second before I reached for the old fashioned night stick the CIS had issued me. It was an oaken stick with an iron core and had silver inlays. I stopped half way there when I noticed the man was chuckling.
“No. No. Don’t stop on my behalf. If you feel more comfortable waving a stick at me, go ahead.”
I just rested my hand on the night stick. “Who are you?”
“I’m Svarog and we better get off the street before that idiot Taug shows up.”