“Any luck?” Clinton asked, floating over to Art. They were all searching different area of the forest, but since each was above the trees it made keeping track of one another a simple process.
“Nothin’ so far.” Art glanced over to Irwin and gave a small wave. Irwin returned gesture, then emphatically shook his head. “Looks like Irwin’s come up dry too.”
“We need to hustle, I just saw Velt get out of the car.”
“Don’t worry, we’ll find him. For now just point her toward the last spot you saw him at,” Art said. “Irwin and I will keep hunting.” The two split apart, Art continuing his search and Clinton zipping across the trees to be a guide for Velt.
Across the sprawling treetops, Irwin had finished shaking his head and was staring down into the forest. He wasn’t quite sure, but he felt as though something had snagged his attention. It was almost more instinct than visual stimulation. He wasn’t sure why, but Irwin followed it, drifting below the highest branches, following the strange pull that was calling to him.
* * *
“How are you feeling?” Auggie asked.
“Been worse. Remember when I fell off that crypt in Louisiana trying to get a shot of the whole graveyard?”
Auggie set his head in his hands and pressed on his temples. “A fractured shoulder and two broken ribs. How could I forget? That was also the day we implemented the policy that I would approve all location before you and Kay went to them.”
“I thought you were being a bit overbearing at the time, but damned if my injury count didn’t drop.” Topher leaned forward and slightly adjusted one of the monitors. So far there was nothing of interest to report, all of the monitors were showing a mundane, if creepy, summer camp at night. Well, all save for the one connected to the camera overlooking the island. That was taking in a scene that might have been at home in a high-budget cinema blockbuster, the army of spirits huddled around the throbbing red portal. Topher tried his best not to look at that monitor.
“Yes, during our first year we could barely go an episode without you getting hurt.” Auggie looked at his friend, staring fervently at television screens, and wondering how Topher would fare if things didn’t go well tonight. “Listen, if tonight turns out badly, make sure you hire someone to fill my safety scout role. We’ve gotten into far more dangerous places over the last few years and I wouldn’t want you joining me sooner than necessary.”
Topher looked up from the monitors with wide eyes and a creased brow. “Auggie, what the fuck? Why would you even talk about that?”
“Because I’m pragmatic. I always have been. I’m the planning ying to your impulsive yang, and I would like to shuffle off this mortal coil with some assurances that you’ll be taken care of.”
“Okay, for one, I’m an adult and can handle myself; and for two, this is an all-or-nothing situation. If Velt doesn’t stop him then the whole world goes under.”
“Possibly,” Auggie said. “But there is also the chance that she’ll be able to stop him, just not while keeping my body safe. My physical form could be killed, broken, or outright destroyed in the process of saving the world. That is a real possibility we have to come to terms with.”
“Screw that, I’ve got faith in Velt. She said she would get your body back.”
“And I have every reason to believe she’ll try, but Topher let’s be realistic. We’ve known this woman for only a few hours, and in that time the situation has steadily gotten worse. She’s trying to stop the apocalypse so she gets the benefits of the doubt, but that doesn’t mean she can just magically set everything right. There are things at risk right now. Our lives collectively, yes, and also just my own.”
“Auggie, enough.” Topher rose from the hub of monitors and walked over to his incorporeal friend. “We’re going to be okay. You’re going to be okay. Velt will stop this undead asshole and we’ll go back to trying to figure out if we have to debunk a shadow on the lens or if it’s genuine paranormal activity. Which, now that I consider our situation, sounds just a little bit insane.”
“I really hope you’re right,” Auggie replied. “However, I reason to suspect that the second ritual has already begun.”
“What?” Topher jerked his head back toward the monitors, expecting to see some supernatural display. All that greeted him was more of the same camp he’d been staring at. “How can you tell? Nothing looks different to me.”
“It’s nothing I see, it’s what I feel.” Auggie pressed his spectral hand to his stomach, charting the progress of the strange shivering feeling that had already begun sweeping over him. “And it feels like there’s another change coming on soon.”
-Jump to Kay setting up cameras, then to The Emissary and Irwin, then to Velt. Let’s get this second ritual started!
-Short count today because I was already ahead and wanted to go see Captain America: Winter Soldier. Hot fucking damn was that a good use of time.
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