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In which the mystery of the vigilante is solved.



February 17, 1987

At least I'm not the only one with problems.
    After some more pointless brooding I headed back to base eventually. Darkness fell quickly; none of us was feeling too happy, except possibly Talon, looking forward to the prospect of mayhem. Lucky put in a call to Chandler, who is feeling better but didn't have much advice at this juncture. Assuming we were right about it being Xyrgoth, he thought that contact with Lucky's staff might drive the possessing god out of the host body without harming the latter, at least on a temporary basis.
    At nightfall we headed for the Combat Zone and waited for the vigilante to strike. My teammates patrolled about a block apart from one another; I zigzagged overhead, keeping an eye on things. It was a moonless night, slightly cloudy, and the city seemed inordinately quiet.
    I was zagging off toward Lucky when I heard the scream, from my right. By the time we got to the alley it was over. Two civilians stampeded away, the intended victims of the men on the ground, bloody and barely alive. Nothing moved, there was no sign of our fleeing foe. Phoenix, too, was covered in blood, his bokken on the ground nearby. He thought he might have hit the creature, but now it seemed to be invisible. Lucky sniffed around, but the trail petered out a little way away. Nightmare visions of noncorporeal, invisible wolf-killers romped through my mind until Lucky looked at us and said, "I'm going to mug somebody."
    It was a plan. We waited nearby while she scared the living daylights out of a few night-walkers. She caught the scent once, but he did not show himself. We resumed our patrolling pattern; I swung in a wider circle than before, viscerally certain that he was still nearby.
    I didn't find him, but I did find a dozen guys around a dark warehouse, busy loading boxes onto a truck while others kept watch, weapons poorly hidden beneath long coats. The night wouldn't be a complete loss. I called the others, waited a moment for them to get into position, and then swooped down to distract the thieves.
    "Hi. Got a work permit?"
    The shotgun blast momentarily deafened but did not otherwise harm me, and then the others were there. Punks screamed and scattered, blood seared the snow, and this time we saw it, there could be no mistake.
    Phoenix was the wolf. And he was obviously not in his right mind, snarling, hissing, and carving people into giblets right and left. One of the punks shot him; the wound closed almost instantly, and then my teammates' claws opened his stomach. When I locked onto Talon I got the same double impression I had with Traveler, the animal overlay competing with the human. He went to his knees for a moment, long enough for Lucky to fling her stick at him.
    The contact seemed to clear his head a bit, as Chandler had guessed, but he was desperately confused. Lucky called our mystical friend, who admitted that this was outside his area of expertise.
    "Don't move," I growled at Phoenix, "or I'll assume it has you again." He nodded, dazed. I called Dawn, who has had some rather intimate experience with daemons, even if she didn't quite know about it. She didn't seem confident that she could do anything, but all in all it seemed best to get him out of the city. Lucky knocked him out and then followed on her bike while I carried him back to base, high enough up, or so I hoped, that if he woke up and had any funny ideas his survival instinct might kick in and keep him from struggling. Dawn looked him over uncertainly.
    "Just see what you can think up," I encouraged. "You helped him once before, before you woke up."
    "I did?"
    "Well, I assume that was you behind his inexplicable teleportation during Fimbulwinter's little soiree. You're the only inexplicable force I know."
    She got him awake and got the blood off. He seemed tense, trying very hard to stay controlled, to fight off Xyrgoth's advances, and then announced that he was going to meditate. That sounded like a good idea.
    Lucky called to tell me where she keeps her holy water. Another good idea. I found it and tapped on Phoenix's half-open door. The window was open; he was gone.
    "Oh, shit." I flew out after him, clutching the bottle, and met Lucky halfway across the ice. Her bike had cracked the thinning ice and was on its way to the bottom of the bay. "Where is he?"
    "I don't know!"
    I headed for shore, saw silver glint against the snow, and then he started running. If he made it to the cover of the buildings, we'd probably never find him.
    Again, it took both of us to bring him down. And then what to my wondering eyes should appear but an astral vampire. Lucky dumped half the holy water over our teammate; Yasmina nodded approvingly.

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© 1999 Rebecca J. Stevenson