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Sandman XI

Lead Us Not Into Temptation (IC)

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Gabriel's expression morphed from disappointment, to shock, to anger, and finally to sadness. He uncrossed his arms and held them, palm forward, in front of himself in a sort of warding gesture.

"Jermaine, come on. It's me, Gabriel. We talked just last week. Remember? You and some other guys were playing basketball at the Youth Center a few blocks away, and I swung by to say "hello" and check in on everyone? I chatted with the other guys for a bit, but we ended up talking for over an hour. You asked me all sorts of questions. I answered them. Remember that? How is your sister doing? I know she had a mild case of the flu when we chatted; is she doing any better?"

He paused, weighing the situation carefully.

"Jermaine. You know you don't really want to do this. You're not the sort of person who shoots people. Especially people who aren't trying to hurt you. That's not what your mother taught you. Not what your teachers taught you. And it's not what I taught you. You're better than this, Jermaine. You're a smart kid. You have a bright future ahead of you. Don't make this sort of mistake. You're supposed to make normal teenager mistakes. You know, pick the wrong answer on a test; mess up the words when you're signing a song with your buddies; stutter when you ask a pretty girl out; mismatch your socks. All the things that make you feel mortified now, but that you'll look back and laugh about in 5 years. Please, Jermaine. Don't make this mistake."

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Jermaine looked confused. His instincts told him to fill this guy full of lead, but his heart would not let him do such. The inner turmoil was eating him up. Everything Gabriel said was true. He couldn't do this... he WOULDN'T do this! The gun dropped to the the floor as he slowly stepped back. Unknowingly he bumped into the leader.

The leader was not amused. It had set this little mortal exercise. It had recruited footpads from all over. It did not need this... this... INTERRUPTION! As Jermaine backed into her, she grabbed him by the neck and flung him over the counter. In a sickening play of power the being underneath the mortal disguise ripped the facade off of it's body. What stood before Gabriel was a large androgynous... being. It was both beautiful and terrible to behold at the same time. The being stepped towards Gabriel. It's voice resonating in the ears of all who heard it. Something that would make the listener both love and fear at the same time. "[bg=#000000]Mortal, I have had enough of your games. You have two options.[/bg]" It reached over Gabriel and grabbed Muse by the neck. picking her straight off the ground with not effort.The cell phone dropped out of her hands as she struggled to breathe. It smiled, there was both malice and sensuality in that smile, "[bg=#000000]You can go home and never mention this to anyone. No one will know this ever happened. Or,[/bg]" It looked to Muse peeling off her mask to look at her. Muse was fearful in her struggle, gasping for air trying to pull the being's hand off her neck Kicking... flailing her legs, trying to reach the ground she had been denied. The being seemingly ate this fear. It looked back Gabriel, "[bg=#000000]Or I can show you there are things in the heavens and earth than dreamt of in your nightmares.[/bg]"

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For a brief moment, Gabriel felt relief. He'd gotten through to the real Jermaine!

"Jermaine, I'm glad you came to your-"

And then the boy is thrown over the counter, the creature reveals its true self, and Muse is attacked.

For several seemingly infinite moments, Gabriel feels fear. But then, this fear morphs into resolve. And anger.

The air begins to waver around the young sound controller. His jacket lifts on invisible waves of sound, the ground underneath him cracking slightly in the sheer force of it. A few cracks spider across the windows of the store, and a couple items shake out of their place on the shelves.

And Gabriel rises a few inches into the air, clenched fists held at his side, near-visible waves of sound beneath his feet and wavering around his hands. His face was like stone, the resolve in his eyes almost palpable.

"You shall not cause me fear, demon. For I fear neither you, nor your master!

Begone, now! Begone, seducer! Your place is in solitude; your abode is in the nest of serpents; get down and crawl with them. This matter brooks no delay; for see, the Lord, the ruler comes quickly, kindling fire before Him, and it will run on ahead of Him and encompass His enemies in flames. You might delude man, but God you cannot mock. It is He who casts you out, from whose sight nothing is hidden. It is He who repels you, to whose might all things are subject. It is He who expels you, He who has prepared everlasting hellfire for you and your angels, from whose mouth shall come a sharp sword, who is coming to judge both the living and the dead and the world by fire! "

The man in white pauses to take a deep breath. When he speaks again, his voice shakes the store. And the building. And echoes into the street. Loose dust trickles down from the ceiling.

"BEGONE!"

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Breschau could hear everything that was happening inside the store via the device Kurt handed to Gaian Knight. He heard the discussion between the gangs leader and Gabriel. He heard how Gabriel was able to convince the children to go home. He heard how Gabriel calmed the youth named Jermaine down. Everything was going smoothly...until the leader revealed itself.

Breschau heard the crash as the teen was thrown by the leader. Breschau was not amused. In fact, he was enraged!

"Witch! Demon!" Breschau roared.

Swiftly, he leapt facing Gaian's wall stepping on the hole he used to see through. With his right foot planted on the hole, he jumped towards the adjacent alley wall, kicking it with his left allowing him to vault over the earthen facade. Breschau then landed on the other side of the wall, bending down, rolling and getting up in one fluid motion as he hit the ground.

He entered the shop as fast as he could, making every step count. Inside, he saw Gabriel's eyes fixed on a creature Breschau could not comprehend. On it's hand, it held Muse by the neck. The scene caused Breschau to hesitate for a fraction of a second.

"This creature had the audacity to harm a helpless child! I cannot allow it to harm anyone more!" he said in his mind.

Breschau clenched his fists and raised both his arms

"Abomination! I shall drive you down into the abyss!" he yelled as he slammed his massive arms down to the creature.

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It all happened so quickly. Muse was staring in awe of the creature and then it grabbed her like she was a rag doll. She struggled to get air as the thing was choking her. As it held her, she could feel the immense evil coursing through this abomination. Holding her breath for what she could, the fight wasn't helping and then it pulled her mask off. She was out in the open. Everyone could see her face. The feeling of failure mingled with fear and other thoughts. She couldn't see the one who saved her, but she was grateful. She felt the vibrations of the bone crunching blow. The being let go of her and she dropped to the floor. It looked out of it. She looked around for her mask only to see crushed under the foot of the being's massive foot. Muse was not amused. That project took weeks. It was not going to be easily replaced. She couldn't help the bit of emotion welling up inside her The being began to glow with a golden corona of pure power. It was not a good thing for it though. Everything Muse felt was attacking the being in one divine smite.

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Oh how foolish these mortals be. The being could not stand this holy man's chatter. It was almost like nails on a chalkboard to it. It waited patiently looking with disdain. It's wiles were wasted with this one. Though it had a new toy to play with, one that would be more than cooperative with it's demands. At least it though it did. While it was focusing on two things at once a third mortal entered the scene. One... magical mortal. Oh he looked delicious. Loud words and the a crash. It couldn't feel anything. And even though it didn't need to breathe, it stopped breathing. It hurt that much. It dropped the girl, barely even feeling the divine smite licking at it due to the massive amount of pain. The being would not let this go unpunished. Oh no, it had plans for this little situation. The pain was very enlightening. It shook off the shock and smiled at the magical mortal. That smiled conveyed very mixed emotion that Breshau could not read. "[bg=#000000]The pain you have pain upon me will be paid a thousandfold. You will enjoy it, magical mortal. So will your friends too. You will thank me later.[/bg]" In an instant the three heroes could feel everything they had ever felt in their life. Old wounds they had forgotten. The caress of a loved one. A warm bath. An ice cold winter's day. All of this and so much more.

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Gabriel briefly succombed to the demon's attack on his senses, but gritted his teeth and beat back the mental attack through a combination of determination and faith. When he next spoke, his voice had a deep, otherworldly aspect to it; it was a voice that would frighten many criminals

"I say thee nay, demon! We shall not thank thee for thy evil deeds! But you shall not have the chance! This day we shall strike you down! I say thee again, begone! Begone! In the name of the Lord, I cast you away! I claim victory even now, through He that is greater than us all! Tremble, demon! Feel the barest taste of the Wrath of the Lord! Once more, I say:"

His hands pulled back for a moment...before thrusting forwarding, the air rippling violently as a concentrated blast of intense sound ripped from Gabriel's clenched fists and screaming right for the center of the demon's torso.

"BEGONE!"

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Gaian Knight centered himself as soon as the fight broke out, reaching deep into the earth at his feet and feeling out the battle. Breschau's blow was like a ripple through the ground; Gabriel's was a lighter thrum as his sound vibrated through the pavement. He couldn't see or feel whatever the 'demon' had done after that, but he could hear its aftermath over the phone. Timing. I may be relatively new at this, but everything comes down to timing. Too early and I fall flat on my face, too late and I can't do any good. You have to make sure to move when it's just about...right.

Setting his face he walked forward, straight into the wall...which exploded around him into swirling bricks and falling debris. Some of it hung in the air, orbiting behind him and around his shoulders, but but the lion's share of the bricks spun around and streamed towards the forsaken leader across the way as he calmly entered the street. And, well. It never hurts to make a good entrance.

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Breschau felt the ground shake when he hit the being with his mighty blow. He stepped back expecting to see the abomination crumpled up on the ground...but no! If the being was hurt it did not show. Nothing could still be standing after such attack, let alone survive. This puzzled Breschau. While he stood there preparing his next move, a blast that seem to have come from Muse struck the being. Still it did not falter.

Then the beast smiled!

"It it just toying with us?"

Then the beast spoke!

For a tiny moment, Breschau felt immense pain. Pain he could not understand.

"Raaaaaargh!" he screamed and broke free of the illusion. Were it not for the rage in his heart he would have not been able to snap out of it.

In that same moment, an invisible but powerful force came from Gabriel. It seemed to have fazed the creature. Breschau could not tell. Next storm of rock and debris showered on the abomination.

"My companions seem to be hurting this creature," Breschau thought, "Perhaps it is not in my destiny to crush this abomination."

With that,he swiftly moved behind the being and grabbed both it's arms, holding them behind it's back.

"Give this monster all your wrath!" Breschau yelled.

Suddenly he felt a rush of pleasure. It is as if holding on to the creature was the best decision he has ever made. He was about to give up his tight grip for a tender one.. but then he realized it was another illusion!

"You wont have me, deceiver!"

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The whole 'rush of everything' was interesting to Muse. Pain and pleasure at the same time was a bit overwhelming, but at the same time it was enlightening. She focused on the non-hurtful sensations and it reminded her of past projects. The one what really stuck out in her mind was her trip to Hawaii a few years back. That sand castle was rough. That sun was hot. But in the end there was a feeling of satisfaction, that and she had tanned very nicely. Gabriel's effects were flashy, the sonic vibration preacher bit was very showy. She wondered what he did in his off time. More reinforcements came. Gaian Knight tore into the being with rocks and Breshau threw it to the ground. What was she to do? She focused inwards looking into her infinite possibilities of her creativeness and what came out was most... interesting. Her body began to glow with silver sigils that looked like ancient Greek writing. The being began to shake beneath Breschau. She focused all of her energy into robbing the being of it's sight and hearing. It would never again be able to see or hear the beauty of this world's creations.

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Sparksmith sat with his back against the wall of the building, taking cover. His "floor plan" had disappeared, his phone was gone (in his pocket), and he seemed nervous.

Magic... She's using magic to manipulate everyone... once she knows I'm here, I'm gonna be a target too...

Sparky was nervous. He wasn't a fan of mind manipulation. He looked at his hands, glowing with one spark each.

The beast spoke again. He heard the grunts of his allies and of the beast. His dim energy aura grew brighter.

Can't wait any longer... They need me.

He stood. His aura shifted to something out of a video game as he spun around, facing the beast.

He strolled inside shrugging (as in the picture), speaking very casually: "Hey, Freak, I don't know what your deal is, but messing with my friends' heads?..." He instantly glowed brighter, with a much more serious face. "That's not cool."

At that moment, he flew in, a sword forming in his right hand. The sword collides with the monster's stomach, phasing clean through the beast as he flew past it to behind the counter. In its wake, instead of a gaping cut, tiny blue-green sparks floated near the point of attack. The orbs collide with the beast, each one bursting as it makes contact.

Behind the counter, Sparky kneels down next to Jermaine, checking to make sure he's all right... or at least alive.

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The being shrieked the most beautiful and horrifying sound the group had ever heard as Gabriel's lance of sound it it. Covering it's ears did not help. In the confusion of it all, it was blasted again (this time by the earth itself) and wrestled to the ground. Breschau did not know that touching the being was certain danger, but he managed to fight it off... for now. While it was down on the ground it felt the sizzle of energy... pure energy. It's brain lurched at the lovely pain. Something it must share. Looking to Breschau again, it smiled temptingly. Breschau felt his mind being tugged and massaged at the same time. Oh it felt nice, too nice, like he could fall asleep at any moment. And for all he knew, he did. Though what the others saw was pure horror. Breschau did doze off for a split second, but they noticed the being disappear also. When 'Breshau' regained his senses he felt much less like himself and more like a powerful demon. He felt like he could take on the world and these fools were standing in his way. He picked himself up and moved over to Gabriel and grinned maliciously, "[bg=#000000]Preach to me, preacher man. Prepare your eulogy, as you are about to meet your God.[/bg]"

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Gabriel grit his teeth. This demon knew no end to trickery! A shift in tactics was in order. Suddenly, his right hand lashed forward, intending to land upon the possessed Breshau's chest, right on the sternum, giving a slight push...and a subtle pulse of his sonic powers. He hoped to leave his ally paralyzed, so that he could not harm himself or others in this state. Painless, effective. His voice rolled out, now having an almost musical quality to it, rising into a crashing crescendo as he finished his rebuke of the creature.

"Therefore, I adjure you, profligate dragon, in the name of the spotless Lamb, who has trodden down the asp and the basilisk, and overcome the lion and the dragon, to depart from this man. Tremble and flee, as we call on the name of the Lord, before whom the denizens of hell cower, to whom the heavenly Virtues and Powers and Dominations are subject, whom the Cherubim and Seraphim praise with unending cries. The Word made flesh commands you; the Virgin's Son commands you; Jesus of Nazareth commands you. And now as I adjure you in His name, begone from this man who is His creature. It is futile to resist His will. It is hard for you to kick against the goad. The longer you delay, the heavier your punishment shall be; for it is not men you are condemning, but rather Him who rules the living and the dead, who is coming to judge both the living and the dead and the world by fire."

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Oh, now come on. Seriously? Seriously. Agh. Gaian Knight put a hand on the hilt of his sword, watching the...the thing disappear. He held out hope, he really did, but then he heard 'Breschau' address Gabriel. Aw, come on.

He held out his hands, each glowing with a quiet earthy gold as little cracks formed under not-Breschau's feet. "If you're in there, man, we'll get you back. ....hopefully...."

From the ground multiple tendrils of rock and dirt grew upwards, trying to wrap around Breschau's form like hungry vines made of stone.

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Breschau found it odd that the being did not resist when it was pinned down. Was it not afraid of the heroes' wrath?

Soon enough, he found the reason why.

The creature disappeared from his sight and his grasp, and with it Breschau's control over his own body. His arms pushed himself off the ground and his legs carried him towards his companions. His mouth opened and from it spoke his voice mixed with the being's. It was threatening Gabriel.

This feeling was terribly familiar. It was as if this was not the first time his body was taken over. Memories of hate and violence flashed through his mind. Was this another illusion from the creature?

He knew the creature's intent was to use him to harm his friends. He did not wish to do so, but there was nothing he could do about it. Her magic was stronger than him. He couldn't break free. The only way out of this was for him to be taken out.

"Come on... Come on! Do it! Do it! Come on. Come on! Kill me! I'm here! Kill me! I'm here! Kill me! Come on! Kill me! I'm here! Come on! Do it now! Kill me!" Breschau screamed in his thoughts, delirious from the struggle in his mind.

As if hearing him, Breschau's companions acted. Breschau saw Gabriel and Gaian attempts to subdue him. Breschau could not tell what Gabriel did, as nothing seemed to happen. Suddenly the ground under Breschau rose, as if trying to grab him. This must be Gaian using his powers. Sadly, Breschau's body quickly moved out of the way. The Being had full control.

Breschau could only guess what the creature was thinking. He could see that he was looking straight at Gabriel. He used all of his will to prevent what he thought the being would do next. It was hopeless. His fist had struck Gabriel.

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Muse watched in horror as the being merged into Breschau. It was like a bad nightmare. Like a horror movie left on. But no, it was real. As it spoke through him she began to feel something. A light wooziness. She was surrounded in a light golden corona and her eyes shined like silver fleshlights. Something was in her heart also, though it was not an invading force, but helpful. Her hand instinctively reached out to touch Breschau's heart. He felt a soft and warm feeling in the pit of his stomach that eventually spread through his whole body. The being inside of him felt ... weird. It was not painful, like all other types of exorcisms, but it definitely felt like an exorcism. It was confused. Though while it sought to quantify this feeling, it did not notice it was being pulled out of Breschau. Muse stopped glowing and slumped a bit, the foreign thing in her heart was gone. She was a bit fatigued after the event. But the being was out. Unfortunately it was standing in front of her again.

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"Hey, kid... KID!" Sparky checked Jermaine's pulse: barely noticeable, but there. He put the screen of his MP3 player up to his mouth. It fogged up. He was breathing, but very slowly. He was alive, but knocked out. Some blood ran down his head. He wasn't in good condition.

Sparky looked up over the counter to see how the others were doing when the possessed Breschau spoke. A chill went down his spine. Not good... not good...

Then he noticed Muse. Her glow was inspiring. He happily watched as Breschau returned to his former self, but looked in horror as the demon appeared in the physical realm.

He readied his sword. He whispered, looking over to Jermaine. "Don't worry, I'll be right back." Then, Muse fell limp.

Sparksmith didn't hesitate a second more. He leaped and flew over the counter to the demon, giving it a clean slash with his energy sword. "GET AWAY FROM HER!" The sword had the same effect on the demon as it did with the beast: the sword cut clean through; harming it without leaving a scratch, followed by the tiny sparks colliding and causing more pain.

His sword then formed into something akin to a large butterfly net. He flew past the demon, made a sharp turn, scooped up the fatigued Muse, and flew her back behind the counter where he had started from. He set her down on the floor against the wall. He breathed a sigh of relief, then looked over the counter again, hoping his allies will keep the demons busy while Muse recovered. Please don't come back here...Please don't come back here...Please don't come back here...

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The being was not amused. It was it's nice little magical cocoon with Breshau, and now it was back in cold reality. It shivered a bit before it saw the perpetrator. She was right there before it ready for her painful reward. The being's creepy but haunting smile returned. The things it could do to her were unimaginable by mortal minds. It began to reach down for her, "[bg=#000000]Come here, mortal. I have so many[/bg]" It was cut short by Sparksmith's heroics! Damn him. It was about to retaliate when it felt the lovely pain again. It could almost feel nirvana. As much as it wanted to stay there, it had to come back to finish it's work. It carried most of the feeling with it. It felt very weak at the moment. "[bg=#000000]I like you,[/bg]" it said pointing to Sparksmith with a wicked wink, "[bg=#000000]I love each and every one of you mortals.[/bg]" It began to glow a sickly dark orange. There was also a hint of brimstone in the air, "[bg=#000000]I love you all so much, that I am going share with you this most exquisite pain I am feeling.[/bg]" It shrieked and the store was instantly ablaze. "[bg=#000000]Tell me, mortals. How does it feel?[/bg]" There was an unearthly... giggle that escape from it's throat. "[bg=#000000]Now, you can sit here and beat on me all night long - not that I would mind - or you can practice that little thing you call instinct before this building burns and collapses to the ground.[/bg]" It began to glow the same orange again as the flames rose, engulfing the store, "[bg=#000000]The choice is yours.[/bg]"

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Gabriel spend several seconds glaring at the demon in front of him. Then he turned and raced over to Jermaine.

"Help get them out of here, guys! No time!"

With that, he hefted the youth into his arms and raced outside, flying as fast as he could, getting well clear of the flames.

Some things were more important than this one fight.

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"For the love of-"

Gaian Knight watched the building burst into flame, smoke escaping out of any available door or window. That can't be good. "Everywhere I go, someone's trying to bring something down around somebody's ears. At least it's not another bridge...." Complain though he might, he'd already spread his feet, anchoring himself and holding softly-glowing hands out to his sides.

All around the building the ground started to move; in some places it cracked apart, while in others it just flowed upwards like a thing alive, bricks and loose debris flying in to join the cement, asphalt, and pure raw dirt and rocks wrapping up around the building. Even inside the building rocks and slabs of unknown stone assembled themselves into makeshift supports, reinforcing the burning construction; in a few short seconds the building was covered and reinforced, protected from setting its neighbors aflame and (at least, in the short term) collapsing. The only openings left were at the door to the street and a few windows to let the smoke pour out into the sky.

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"LET'S GET OUT OF HERE!" Sparksmith yells as he reshapes his butterfly net to something more akin to a large bowl. He uses it to scoop up Muse once again, flying out towards the center of the room. There, he scoops up Breschau for a bit of a faster escape, taking both heroes out the window along with him.

Outside, he sets both heroes down. He lightly slaps Muse on the face to wake her up.

"Hey, wake up. We're outside. Wake up!"

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The blast of hellish fire did not harm Muse, but it did suck all the air out of her. She passed out when that happened. The next thing she knew she was outside, being woke up by Sparksmith. Everyone was out of the building, but the building was still on fire. Just like in her vision. She pulled herself up by Sparksmith's shoulder, staring in awe and a bit of sadness at the burning building. Something she saw in her dreams had came to life. Had she the gift of prophecy? What did this all mean? Where did all this power come from? She wanted to know the unknowable.

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The building began to burn out of control when everyone got outside. Explosions where heard on the inside as all of the glass reacted to the raging inferno. Off in the distance fire engines were heard as they were on their way. But before they got there, the being appeared atop the building looking down at his tormentors. It spoke in each of their minds. "[bg=#000000]Heroes. You have made powerful enemies. You cannot be together forever. One by one I will hunt each and everyone of you down. It may be weeks. It maybe months. It may be even years. I am patient. Very patient. You five can consider yourselves my new play things.[/bg]" A horribly evil but captivingly sensual laugh was the last thing they heard before the being disappeared.

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Gabriel's expression was grim as he gently laid Jermaine on the ground, ready for the paramedics to take him away. He looked over to Muse's wounded form.

"Should we stay here and have the paramedics take her? Or does one of you know someone who could heal her?"

He seemed to be ignoring the implication of the demon's speech for the moment.

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Gaian blinked, watching the...demon?...say its last and then vanish off to...somewhere. "Well," he observed, "that's pretty ominous."

"Should we stay here and have the paramedics take her? Or does one of you know someone who could heal her?"

"Ah, right." There are more important things happening, Tarrant. Do try to pay attention... "I don't think I know any healers...we might just have to wait for paramedics to arrive, unless someone else has a better idea."

Unconsciously resting a hand on the hilt of his sword, he split his attention between the two unconscious folk and the burning building, his expression unreadable behind his goggles and mask...but concerned, underneath.

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