Holy Murder

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Part 1: Rescue​

Another day dawns over the walls of Mexico City as a guard turns to watch the golden orb assent into the heavens. Clasped in his hands, a rusty microphone as the speakers relay nothing but static. The latch on the door rattles open and the weary face of Fredric Hernandez, the captain's aid and commander in his stead moved into the room. The young guard saluted before shaking his head at the question he knew was going to be asked. Still no contact with Zaragoza.

Zaragoza, a research outpost set in the ruins of the city of Heroica Puebla de Zaragoza is one of the biggest research stations outside Mexico city. Paladin scientists work with the tribal shaman to uncover the demons' weaknesses and protected by the same wards that the shaman use to hide their nomadic villages from the demons there as only a small garrison, and it has now been out of communication with the site for five days. It was time for a team to be sent.
Deep within the safety of the church compound in what remained of Mexico City, one the most populous city in the world, Mercy knelt down in silent prayer. Prayer for those that had gone on before her, for those still here on earth and lastly for herself. Once finished she crossed herself, stood and placed her rosary back in her pocket.

As she walked she couldn't help but notice the heavy sound over her boots echo over the mute prayers of those still in the sanctuary. Outside the sun was bright, and it took a moment for the woman to have her eyes adjust, but once she did she couldn't help but smile.

Not far away a group of church orphans were playing some sort of game with a ball. Mercy recalled many happy days doing just that as a youth. A few of them waved to her as she walked by and with a smile she waved back to them. They were the future, and Mercy was going to ensure that they got a chance to have their future.

Today was suppose to be her one day of rest, but when she saw a youth with a sword on his hip, she knew that God had other plans for her this day. "Pace yourself. You can't give me your message if you're out of breath now can you?"

The young man nodded and once he caught his breath relayed his message. It was what she expected, she was now on duty and that meant she was to report herself to her current commander.

It was a sunny day in Mexico City, but Mercy felt that it would be more telling if dark clouds were on the horizon.
No fear. It was easier said than done.

Gabrielle's footsteps were light and hesitant as she walked down the hall towards the office where she would be paired with others for a mission. Her first mission. Weeks of preparation, lessons, and training all leading up to this one moment where she may come face to face with the very demons that have been haunting her dreams for years.

It all seemed so heroic before. Making a promise to her dying Padre and seeking out the Paladins to dedicate her life to serving God's will and sending those monsters back where they belonged. But here as she reached the Office door where she was summoned, her hand hovering over the knob, Gabrielle wasn't sure if she was ready. Could she leave the safety of the Sanctuary? Stop running away and start running towards?

Gabrielle took a deep breath and opened the door. She offered a small smile to those that were waiting already before moving to the side and clasping her hands behind her back. This was the path she chose and she would do her best.

"I'm here."

A soft, rhymthic clinking sounded as a tiny object bounced through the doorway, rolling across the flagstones before striking Gabrielle's shoe and falling on its side. In the torchlight, a wedding ring shone, silver scratched and dulled by time.

It was preceded by the barest whispered curse and followed by a shadow. Aaron slipped into the room and stooped down quickly, getting hold of the ring. His fingers brushed the side of Gabrielle's shoe and he looked up at her, hesitating for a moment. His face, veiled by strands of lawless hair, hid the greater part of his features and the twitch of a half-smile lost to desolation.

He got up as quickly as he had stooped. Looking away, he forced the ring back over the red mark on his finger.

Then his hands returned to the pockets of his battered coat and he moved to the opposite wall from Gabrielle, head lowered as, silently, he waited.
"You may close the door," the tall man standing at the window said. The Teniente, Lieutenant, was a man close to his forties. He had a long scar on his face from his younger years when he first joined the ranks of the Paladins, which caused his smile to be a odd vision and his scowl hideous. At least the was the opinion of Mercy.

She looked around the room. There was one of their newest recruits, a Señorita Alvares was it? Next to her was the gringo, Señor Northgate, an impressive Paladin and a new father too. Mercy looked at the other people in the room. This was no small party to deal with the distress of a nearby farm, even if you ignored the fact that something that simple wouldn't have gotten her called up here on her day off.

Mercy brought her attention back the the Teniente as he turned to look at them. "I'll be brief. With the Capitàn still in seclusion we were momentarily ceasing all non-defense activities, as you well know. However the research station in Zaragoza has gone silent. This will be a rescue mission."

Surprise caused her to speak. "Teniente Moreno, rescue mission? Not retrieval?"

The Teniente smirked, at least she thought it was a smirk. "They have some of those shamans there. They'll be protecting the place like they do their tribes. Whatever their secret is, they'll keep the research station in tact if they can. This is assuming that the communication problems are nothing more then the radio burning out. So yes, this is a rescue mission. I want everyone in the stables in one hour. If no further questions..."

Meanwhile in the ruins of Zaragoza​

Hawk slowly opened an eye. He had been sitting for the last several hours in the quietest corner he could find, meditating. He stretched out his legs carefully and did not stand until he was ready to do so. There were quicker ways to come out of meditation, but Hawk would not do so unless it was an emergency. The emergency for now had passed.

They however were now trapped in their safety.

He walked down the hall and paused in the doorway of a dimly lit room. "You should not lurk," a raspy voice said from within. The owner of the voice once was marveled as a singer, but her singing days were now numbered, as were her days.

The shaman walked in, and knelt down next to the dying woman, a second mother to him really, for she was the wife of his mentor, and a shaman in her own right. "Where is your guardian?"

"I sent him to fetch me some water, since I knew you'd wish to speak to me alone."

Hawk did not question how she knew. She was a shaman and while others might be awed by all those here, she was the only one that held any power over him still. "The demons," Hawk paused, he was sure he already knew the answer, but still he wanted to voice his question. "They've never attacked a place like this before. If there had been fewer of us, fewer of the Church's guard their attack might have succeeded. They know, don't they?"

The weak woman was not the only one injured in the attack. There were now three dead shaman, and five times as many Church personnel. Hawk wished he had not had to see the aftermath of the battle, worse then the battle itself in many ways. They had a lot of medical supplies and there were previsions in the fortification for long use.

"They know, and they wait us out. Yes."

"So time is the key, who can wait longer."

"It is," then she began to cough. Hawk moved to sit on his heels. He would not bother the woman with his latest vision. Not when there was too many things that needed to happen before it could manifest. If she was to live, and Hawk did not think she was, she needed to concentrate on her own strength.
All around had been the bodies of those slain by the Demons during their unprecedented attack on the research camp. Soldiers who had fought valiantly to protect those who might provide new means with which to fight the malicious menace. Quite a few devils had fallen to their swords and other weapons with holy grit. It provided the camp with a handful of survivors from varied areas of study. Brilliant minds with brave enough souls to venture out beyond the safety of the city walls. More of a placebic safety in truth since if the Demons truly wanted to wipe out all of humanity they just need to attack en masse. No doubt many people believed Hell had a limitless amount of them to toss out onto the Earthen plain to spread sin.

Pacing back and forth with both hands clasped behind his back and in a dirtied set of blue robes was Isaac.

Somehow he had survived the ordeal by the grace of god. Of course God would want him to survive in the face of such terrifying attacks. It was to motivate him to hasten completion on his most recent findings. Yes, to find a way to weaponize it in some fashion against the hordes of horror. Putting his research to work would benefit not only the City but anyone who learned of it. Given they had enough intellect to put it to use in the first place and not sit around on their rears praying for some valiant Paladin to do the dirty work. Oh how those glorious men would fight in vain if they did not have the current understanding of Demon weaknesses.

Just another day of being ordering around by my superior in that dingy room they called our laboratory. I know what a real lab is, the kind in those pictures from before demonkind appeared. Why could they not build me one as advanced as that? Nothing is great enough of an excuse when all it would take is a few brilliant men to get the job done. Although over and over I've been told that it was impossible not only due to technology and materials, but the fact we are but a single outpost. If I had a job in the capital it might be just a little different.

But that job had been but a dream until the attack.

For until then Isaac's superior in rank as a researcher had been feeding off the young man's discoveries and compiling a journal with the intention of taking all the credit for himself. Blessing in disguise, was likely how the blond saw this tragic event though he mentioned it to no one else. After all they had likely lost someone who they actually cared about. From the conflict all Isaac had to show was dirtied clothes and maybe a few bruises. For the rest of surviving had been accomplished through precise on-the-fly actions.

Wandering into a different room, Isaac looked over at his cross-mallet resting up against the wall. Dried blood stained the pristine silver and filled hazel eyes with a serious look of disgust. A look down at his white gloves offered no solace. Would he live to see them cleaned properly? Thinking about such trivial objectives kept fear from addling his logical yet devout mind. Searching a for a couple of minutes the Ex-Paladin finally came across some cloth and kneeled down by the heirloom before starting to try polishing it clean.

How long before the next attack?

After it was cleaned he propped the weapon up over his shoulder and went in search of a surviving Paladin. Just about any of them would do for the plan he had in mind. But it had to be someone with enough wits about them to not drown in sorrow over what had passed. In that respect Isaac probably appeared rather cold-hearted. For the first few hours after the attack was over he had criticized the protocol with which defense of the outpost was carried out. Obviously he felt like he could have guided them to an outcome with fewer casualties. But his opinions had left him unpopular with most of the survivors and thus he had isolated himself for the past few hours.

Eventually he came upon Hawk.

"You there! Has there been any progress on restoring communications?"

The answer given would affect the plan formulating in his mind.
"s'too soon."

The Teniente was already moving for the door when he heard the mutter. Stopping, he looked over at Aaron, whose head was still lowered, a stillness that made him wonder if the Paladin had even spoken at all.

"Say again, Northgate?"

Aaron glanced up through the silver veil of his hair and cleared his throat a little. "It's too soon for Gabrielle. She's not ready, we should morhl..."

He swallowed, glanced at Gabrielle, then tried again. "Me 'n Mercy can lead the othersandwe'llbe...erm... we'll be fine. Just..."

He gave up and scratched at the back of his hand. Then he muttered. "No'ing."
Gabrielle looked surprised, baffled even. Thinking that her inner thoughts might have somehow been broadcasting around the room, if at the very least been too obvious across her young face. Hearing someone else voice those words should have been an affirmation or a comfort. Yet, instead it filled her with a need to prove otherwise. She was ready. Gabrielle would accept nothing less of herself.

"When are we ever really ready to face evil, Teniente. You never know if it's too soon until you try." she responded quickly.

Teniente Moreno's gaze drifted between them with a look that felt to Gabrielle as if he were staring right through them. Examining their souls and deciphering their secrets simply by watching. Finally, he nodded. "So be it. I expect no more time to be wasted."

Once the Teniente was gone, Gabrielle let out a breath. She hadn't realized how long she had been holding it. The look she gave Aaron was a questioning stare, but she didn't hold it longer than a moment before she headed towards the door.