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The Desert Calls Its Own (IC)

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A demon walk into a bar... What you’ve heard that one?

How about a demon looking like Linda Hamilton walk into a bar...

El espinazo del diablo, US Route 491 (formerly 666), New Mexico (The Navajo Nation)

Whilst the Route had been renamed for over a decade, and road improvement had reduced the number of accidents, the route had never lost its sheen as the Devil’s Highway. And after a hard day on the road they tended to congregate at the the roadside bar called El Espinazo del Diablo, the Devil’s Backbone. During the day it was a quite roadside bar with the occasional visit from tourists out to visit many of the breathtaking scenery of this part of New Mexico, during the night it was a much more rowdy place and fight were quite common.

Whilst Axel “Grease†Robinson, and old friend of Carmen’s father, had retired from the biker gang’s he did still like hanging out in these sort of places. His Auto Shop was doing well to the point he’d had to take on an assistant, bemoaning why modern Car’s had so much electronics, a young Navajo woman by the name of Rachael Ironhorse. Ironhorse wasn’t her real name but she insisted that everyone called her that. She wasn’t into biker culture, though she did own her own hog, and was currently nurse an orange juice whilst doing something fiddly on her cell.

“Well that’s ain’t something you see everyday.†Axel spoke in his gruff voice, causing the two women to look up.

Walking into the bar was a woman and not a biker of any stripe, she looked more like a tourists.

“Look exactly like that chick from those movie’s, you know the one with the robot from the future.â€

It was true but Carmen’s accursed stick was also telling her that this woman was more than a look alike, she was an infernal creature of some sort.

The “woman†bought herself a beer and sat in one of the booths laying out a large map of the area, only to be accosted by two bikers in Gas Chugger color trying to work out if she was prey or a good night’s fun.

The Gas Chugger’s might not be the friendliest of gangs, they’d often classed with her father’s old gang, but even they didn’t deserve the fate the demon might have for them.

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Carmen downed her whisky, frowning. 


"Well who in hell is that?" she spat, her fingers playing on the goat's head of her stick. Her words rang with unpalatable truth. 


I wouldn't know...would  I? came the whispering burning voice from her belly, as Carmen slid off her stool. 


Silence Tazel. Enough of your whispering today...she mentally shouted back at the demon insider her. A brief muttering was her reply, and then silence. The wretched creature had no choice but to obey. 


"Axel, that is a woman from hell, and I mean that literally, so peel your eyes of her. You know the kind of trouble her sort have caused..." she said to the mechanic biker, elbowing his ribs. 


She knew Axel fairly well, and the old man knew that such wretched creatures did indeed walk the earth. Hell, you didn't hang around her father for long without having those eyes open. Whether his fresh young assistant Ironhorse did or not - she didn't know. She took no relish in the fact her eyes might be opened tonight, but then, you didn't hand around Carmen Cantos long without your eyes being opened either...


Carmen took her cane firmly in her hand and walked over to the demon and the Chuggers. Her walk was off beat, with a clicking of her right foot, thanks to the limp she had inherited from her damn father. 


"Back of guys" she scowled at the Chuggers. 


"I need a word with Miss Hamilton here..." she said, steel in her voice. 

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Axel was use to this kind of thing and calmly downed his whiskey and took the time to take a long draught of his stogie before stubbing it out.

“I’ll go get me shotgun from the hog. Got this guy out of Sante Fe who makes this custom ammo just right for this situation.†standing up he looked down at Ironhorse “You know what to do kid?â€

“Yeah if she goes all Grrr Argh I’m to call you straight away.†her tone suggested she was just humoring her boss.

“Well we don’t get vampire out her in the desert, she a much more deadly creature. You take care Missy I’ve buried enough Canto’s already.†he put a reassuring hand on her shoulder before making his way out.

Ironhorse rolled her eyes, she obviously didn’t believe all this yet, but she put her phone on the table and followed Carmen as she made her way over to “Miss Hamiltonâ€.

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Being still early in the night there were only the two Chugger’s in the Bar, so they decided not to push the issue. But Carmen knew that later when there were more of them and they had a few drinks in them they would try again.

The woman for her part look up and gave a broad friendly smile.

“Thanks for that, but they were just messing around. But I’m not the actual Miss Hamilton it’s O’Connell, Nikki O’Connell.†she offer out a hand “Let me buy you a drink, as a thank you.â€

As she called over a waitress she looked a little strangely at Carmen before asking.

“There’s something about you that look familiar, have we met before?â€

Pitch felt a strange sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach, but it’s wasn’t from her it was from Tazel.

It can’t be, it’s her! Kill the abomination now before it doom us all!

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Much as I despise your wicked Tounge, Tazel, you may consider it free. Spill your guts - not that you have any - what's her story?


"Nikki O'Connel?" replied Carmen, giving a curl of her lip that was only half jocular. 


"I think you might have another name" she explained, hoisting herself onto a barstool and gripping the Cantos cane firmly. There was no doubt to her eyes, Nikki appeared as an infernal one. 


"I'll have that drink. Perhaps you should have one too, might take the sting out of what happens next..." she said, menacingly, showing hert the Stick. 


"I've got you, lady. What I don't get is why you march into this bar, with the Chugger's, and into my sights...."

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Tazel was quiet for a few second, and felt a little as if he was sulking a little, before he spoke.

I dare not speak of the foul crimes she has committed, but be assured she has made powerful enemies among our kind.

“We’ll yeah I’ve got this middle name, Rosa, some say that it describes me best. Honestly I’m just travelling to a spot near here and I’d thought I’d stop for a drink and check the map. Drink in the local color of a lovely spot like this.â€

She waved to a rather military looking map with something marked on it, which to be honest was rather near here.

“So these Chugger’s are they really Hell’s Angel’s? I’ve never met any before.†there was a hint of amusement in her voice.

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Carmen could not help but snigger at Nikki's comment. It was true - Hell's Angels didn't know..well...what the Hell it was all about. At least most of them. Her father did. 


"Very amusing" she replied. 


"But I think you have a more interesting story to tell, Nikki" she replied. Her voice practically conjuring up parenthesis. 


"Or Rosa, or whatever your name is. Perhaps its not one you would want to share, but I really want to hear it even so. What would it take to loosen that tongue of yours?" she asked, fingering the Cantos stick with its brass Goat's head. 


Carmen punched a finger at the map. 


"Something to do with that?" she inquired. "I can't see any good of someone of your kind going near a military base. Big guns, big explosives..." she let the conjuencture tail off. 

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“If I wanted a military base I would have turned left for Albuquerque.†she gave a cheeky grin, and it was obvious that if not for her true nature she would have been quite charming.

“I’m visiting an insignificant piece of land that has little value to most. You could visit but I'm afraid it's private land.â€

She pointed to piece of land that couldn’t be more than a half hour from the bar.

And whilst she did seem to exude bundle’s of confidence she did react to Devil Stick, even if it was just a raised eyebrow.

“That’s a dangerous stick to wave around...†she sighed and sat back heavily in her seat.

“Okay I can see you get me to tell you what you want, can we at least go somewhere more private? I give you my word you shall come to no harm.â€

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Carmen drummed her fingers on the Cantos devil stick, studying Nikki quietly. 


Tazel, damn you, what kind of strange beast is she?


"Your word is a slippery thing, I am sure. I wonder if I shouldn't make you swear on some infernal sign or foul God. But as you say, this is not a place for such language"


She threw a backwards glance at Ironhorse. She couldn't see Axel - perhaps he was checking out those Gaschuggers. Perhaps he was tooling up. At least she could trust him - although she didn't want either of her drinking partners of the evening getting caught in the crossfire. 


Damn, she had gotten to many people wrapped up in the Cantos way. 


"Perhaps outside then" she concluded. "The desert sunset is a site to behold" she finished, smashing her drink down her gullet and, with the click of her stick, slowly walking outside, a frown on her face and a smile on her lips. 

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Soon after Nikki followed her out her body language still suggesting she was relaxed. After a few paces Axel stepped out from the shadows and pointed his shotgun at the back of her head.

"I've got your back Missy." He beamed at Carmen "And don't you try anything Miss or you'll get a head full of special buckshot."

Nikki for her part just raised her arms and kept her tone neutral.

"I'm going to change now, like you wanted, I'd prefer it you didn't shoot me for that please."

With that her featured changed to that of another woman. Her face was a subtle mixed of women from around the world, which not only made her attractive, it also meant no matter where it went she would always look exotic.

"My name is Nikki Hawthorn and I'm the owner of Roseus Corporation. We're running the Uranium cleanup from some of mines. And it's complicated, involving Morphic Resonances and Ideal Forms, but this the real me. But I'm guessing this isn't the form you want to see."

Her features didn't change substantially except for the impressive set of curved horns that grew from the side of her head. Her skin changed from it tanned complexion, but instead of the more tradition deep reds its was more of a bright pink color. When she spoke she showed a set of prominent canines, though it didn't seem to effect her speech.

"I guess you could call this Roseus as well, though I'm not mentioned in many texts. I'd do the whole cloven hoofs as well but I really like these boots, same with the tail. This is sort of a compressed version I'm naturally a lot taller than this..."

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Carmen hardly blinked as Nikki turned into a horned beast. It was, after all, what she expected. 


"The real you is just what I want to see" she replied, deadpan. She felt her years worth of distrust for such creatures begin to crumble at the edges. 


I can't trust them...not ever...can I?


The question was to herself but unconsciously she seeped in to Tazel too. 


"Put down that shotgun, Axel, for now. I think Roseus is something a little more exotic than the usual beast..." she explained, gently reaching up and pressing the barrel down. 


Not sure buckshot would do the job anyway...


"Uranium doesn't sound much more reassuring than military bases" she explained. "Exactly what is this piece of land? and what, exactly, are you up to?"

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Roseus turned her head and watched Axel until he lowered his shotgun with a dissatisfied grunt.

"Thanks, and please call me Nikki. I don't think I've had the pleasure of your name, a pseudonym fine I understand the importance of keeping your true name private in this business."

Still a little cautious she lowered her hands and seem to come to decision.

"The Uranium has everything and nothing to do with this. Samuel Hawthorne wasn't a bad man, he was just willing to do anything to gain power including dealing with my lot. And he hired people who thought the same, and along the way they'd cut corners and well we all know how that all ended..."

She stuck her taloned hands in her pockets and shuffled her feet a little.

"I suppose I tend to see the best in people, it's a character flaw, but I found three others like him who had contracts with us. Then just before there time was due to run out I cut me connection to Hell and hid them away before there souls could be collected."

As she spoke her features began to subtly shift until she was back to her original Nikki form.

"I then amalgamated the four together into one company and I'm trying to use it to do good. Like clean up the pollution from our Uranium mines out here. And hopefully with each good deed done in there name they get a chance for redemption."

Demons were wel know for there powers of deceptio but from her face she seemed to believe every word she was saying.

"Problem is that I had a break-in, well more a smash and grab, and some document were taken. One of them held the location of were I stashed one of the bodies. That'd why I'm here to see if anyone comes looking."

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"That's a dirty business" replied Carmen, fingering her stick. 


Fire me up Tazel...


As she spoke, her eyes flared with black smoke and red fire, her clothes seemed to burn, peel, char. Smoke and sulfur wafted like oil in the air. 


"You can call me Pitch" she said, her mouth fuming with smoke and fire. Her clothes were now leather, with bracers and mask and a silk backless top, revealing the full length of the Cantos tattoo. 


"And I am very interested in sorting out this mess. You could call me a cleaner" she smiled, through the wisps of tarry smoke coming from her mouth. 


Fall all her impressive transformation, the Cantos tattoo still burned, and she still limped. She walked to her Impressive motorcycle and straddled it. 


"So, for now, consider me...well, maybe not your friend....I don't trust your kind easy. But your comrade!" she said, shaking the Cantos stick to the sky. 


"Fancy a ride?"

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Nikki gave an excited little clap, her talons were back to normal but het nails were the same pink as before. Axel was his normal non plused, just taking long puffs on his cigar.

"Nothin special bout me I'm just an old grease monkey. Talking of which what you want me an Ironhorse to do? Personally I'd like to bring her along, I don't she buys into the whole Supernatural thing. She'll believe in a guy flying around with a tin breastplate, but not vampires and demons..."

“Oh you get that a lot in Freedom City, it tends to be quite handy for people like me. Could you ask her to grab the map for me? I’ll just grab my bag from my car.â€

Many demon’s had there own tells habits or behaviours that if you knew could help detect their presence, from the Jeep that Nikki owned her own tell was quite obvious. It was the strange bright pink color as she was and really looked out of place among the score of bikes parked outside the bar.

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Carmen shrugged as Nikki went to get her "bag". 


"That's one of the strangest...hell, probably the strangest..." she said as she clambered aboard her own bike, wafts of smoke and flickers of flame from her body. 


The bike was, apart from being a little more sooty than average, a pretty standard biker monstrosity - built more fhe show than effect. 


"I guess it's the our of us then, Axel. You know how much I hate tying you - or anybody - into the business. Especially that new girl. But I guess that's how the cards have fallen, thanks to dear old Dad..."


"Take your car!" she yelled at Nikki. 


"We could do with something pink!" she concluded, as she revved her engine and prepared to hit the road. 

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Axel made a quick call and it didn’t take long until Rachael Ironhorse appeared clutching the map, upon seeing Pitch in her current form she couldn’t help but smile.

“You didn’t tell me that...â€


“... Pitch was a bona fide superhero!â€

Axel just rolled his eye’s and gave Pitch a what you going to do look.

“Here take my bike I’m going to ride shotgun with Miss Hawthorn, she’s going to show use something special.†he took the map and gave her the key’s to the bike.

He rolled his hand across the bonnet of the Jeep and 80’s original, whilst watching  Ironhorse’s reaction to the sudden change in circumstances.

“Damn! You went for the whole thing hard, this is an original. None of these fancy computer gadget’s to get in the way.â€

Ironhorse for her part didn’t seem particularly phased, probably part of the reason Axel had brought her along.“So she’s got a different face and we’re friend’s now? And why can’t I bring my bike along?â€

“Cause I need what I got on the bike, it’s up to the Lady to tell us where.†though he shook the map to show it wouldn’t be hard to figure out.

Nikki for her part wasn’t phased.

“Oh that’s easy has anyone heard of the story of the El milagro de la niebla rosada?â€

Edited by TiffanyKorta
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Carmen gave a warm loving smile to Axel. She had a conflicted relationships with bikers, falling in and out with them. But she really liked Axel. 


"Rachael seems good, Axel" she said, he mouth breathing smoke and wisps of flame as Tazel rumbled inside her. "Too good, maybe. But whilst she is foolish enough to hang around with you an me, give her the love, eh?"


She turned her attention back to Nikki. 


"I have heard it. Not for a long while, though. Back when I was a kid" said Pitch to Nikki, revving the engine, and releasing a psychologically generated synchronous plume of smoke from her mouth as the engine exhaust belched. 


"Bunch of Mexicans found a miracle. A pink mist, leading them to a water in the dried up south. Built a whole town around it, praise the lord, halleluljah and all that jazz. Should have known better than that, if you ask me. Town ended up drying up and ghosting anyway, if I remember..."


"Let me guess, you got a new angle on that tale?"

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The engine of the Jeep roared into life first time whilst it was a little dusty from the road it had obviously been well maintained.

“Well I could get use to four wheel with something like this, though the paint job would have to go...†Axel seemed relaxed in the Jeep’s passenger seat shotgun over his lap. “Kid alright but she’s got to get over the whole Superheroes angles, lot’s of older and darker thing’s in the world.â€

Rachael for her part just rolled her eye’s “You know I can hear you both right, I can walk and chew gum at the same time.†she straddled the hog and fired it into life.

Nikki just listened to them all, suppressing a smile.

“The Pink Mist is real, it’s the Interface to a small pocket dimension, the glow’s faded but the pocket still there. The fact they built a church on top of the thing give it a added protection to the valuables I stashed there.â€

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"You can chew gum just fine, hunny" laughed Pitch, roaring a laugh and flashing a smile. Rachael was growing on her. 


"And with a tongue like that, I'm sure you can hold your own against uncle Axel". 


A church...great....Tazel will love that one...


Carmen revved the Engine of her bike in a somewhat useless gesture. She could easily keep pace with the Jeep, even talk as they drove. 


"Well, I guess the old stories often have a truth to them. Even if it is twisted and concealed like a serpent in the grass" she commented. 


"So I guess you think someone is after your valuables? And, knowing how well you protected them, I guess that they are valuable in the sense that they are some nasty pieces of work..."


Pink mist as a gate to another dimension, well - I'll say one thing for this 'Nikki' she sure got some unconventional style...

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“Well that’s the trick it’s totally undefended. Who would expect a demon to hide something in a abandoned church off the most infamous road?â€


“Like the Purloined Letter, hidden in plain sight?†Axel chipped in.


Rachael raised an eyebrow and gave Axel a look.


“Yeah I read a book it was my love of all those old horror book that hooked me up with your dad Missy.â€


As they carried on talking the vehicle’s pulled out of the bar and made their way through the breathtaking scenery of this part of New Mexico.


“As far as I know the church is still sanctified, despite its state (someone might have been keeping it that way). So whoever has the location might be using human agents. I’ve never fought my own before, I tend to try and keep out of there way.â€

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"Who indeed?" answered Carmen, faint wisps of flame in the back of her mouth as Tazel rumbled inside her. 


I expect demons to be cunning and devious, and I guess you are no exception to that rule, even if you might be some kind of aberration...


"Now, about that whole consecrated Church thing" she said, astride her bike. "That might be...a problem. Thing is, I have a little devil bound to my family for service. A silver tongued slave. This smoke and flame, well, it's him firing me up. Which is handy. But when it comes to churches and holy ground, he isn't a fan. I can go in, sure, but he gets torn out of me..."


She shrugged. 


"And I would rather Tazel is kept inside if I can help it..."

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Nikki eye’s went wide “Tazel really that old devil still kicking around? If you pardon the expression.†She gave a grin “We sorta dated not long after spawning, you’re probably better off not knowing how it all works. But I had to break things off when I got a promotion.â€


She lies! I left her.


Ironhorse looked at Nikki trying to work out what they were all talking about.


“I’m sure I’m missing something, but are you trying to say that you’re some kind of demonic hellspawn?â€


Axel gave a contented look “Finally she gets it, welcome to the real world kid.â€


In the distance there were several flaming clouds of dust making their way rapidly towards the vehicle’s.

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Tazel, you little toad. You kept that one silent. No wonder I can't force your tongue loose. 


Pitch was almost laughing, now that Tazel for once had the tortures of human emotions ripped open for viewing. 


"He has been kicking around for years, Nikki. My father bound him good and tight to my bloodline, although over twenty years he was locked up in a dusty chest near the border, courtesy of Axel here"


"And he isn't best pleased with me. It just the rat has to obey me, and he comes in handy..."


Pitch put her hand to her eyes, to keep out the sun rather than the smoke. 


"Hellfire....possibly the real stuff" she groaned, spying the flames from afar. 


"Buckle up kids, this is going to get hot..." she said, gripping the Cantos stick and revving her engine. 

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Within minutes the clouds of flaming smoke begun to resolve themselves into shape’s. They looked like wolves, but these were a similar size to the jeep and travelling at much higher speeds.

To all except the unexperience Rachael they looked like one of the many breed’s of Hellhounds.

The creature’s flashed past doing over a hundred, they obviously weren’t looking for them just patrolling an area. But the creature’s would quickly turn around and be back upon there little group. They wouldn’t have more than a few second before the creature’s attacked.

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"Heads up Axel...." shouted PItch, the flames of Tazel flicking through her mouth. 


"These fiends are going to touch me, but they can rip you to shreds...Keep that firecracker stick of yours ready" she said, as the tattoo running down her spine tingled. As she gripped the Cantos stick, she could see the infernal flames and horrible nature of the beasts as they sped around. 


Smoke and smouldering fire dripped off her body as her eyes blazed and she felt the anger that fuelled the infernal forge melt and flow inside her. 


"Nikki, I hope you can handle yourself..." she muttered.


"It's hunting time!!!" she roared in defiance...

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