Mors Funebris Ch. 3 P-5.

Mors Funebris Chapter 3 Part 5

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“What do I do?” Mara cried shrilly as she began shaking with frustration. A frustration created by Cue’s recent offer to let her know the location of Arawn’s foe; Grendel.

 Folding her arms, she clutched tightly at herself until her fingers sunk into the alabasterine skin of her upper arms. Then she paused and stared off into the distance.

“Should I take Cue’s offer? Or do I behave honestly?” She murmured to herself, as the war between her desires and her needs began to rage in earnest.

“I don’t like this place!” she complained in a voice just shy of a wail. “I’m so tired of the other monsters not liking me!” Mara’s voice warbled as her control began to falter, her head bowing forward until her chin came to her chest.

 “Why does everyone here treat me like I’m a danger to them?!” she whispered rhetorically, her eyes clenched shut.

‘Because you are a danger. Remember, that you nearly killed Juanita.’ A part of her answered. ‘You are a Lilim. The original, dangerous- succubus.’

 “It’s not my fault that I was born a Succubus!” Mara shouted aloud her voice echoing, as she fell to her knees in frustration. Slumping over, she extended a hand and slapped it upon the cold and unyielding concrete floor.

 “I’m so damned tired of this,…this,… world!” She wailed as she bunched up her fist and started pounding it onto the floor. ”I’m so….so,… tired of that idiot-Arawn!” she huffed, “And,…and,…his perpetual frowns! Why won’t he cut me any slack!” she sobbed as her fist pounding continued.

“I’m tired of being nice to people who won’t reciprocate!”  she smacked her fist again, softer.

This time her fist remained on the floor, as she gently toppled over and curled up herself up into a fetal position. She pulled her wings close to her body, wrapping her arms and tail around her legs.

All of the stress that she’d repressed over the last month, surged and overwhelmed her control. Finally, her long denied tears began welling up in her eyes, and then they overflowed in a torrent. They then began to flow out from her black eyes; dripped from across her face till a tear-puddle formed next to one cheek.

In her abject loneliness, Mara then did something that she’d not done since she was an imp: She placed the tip of her spade-ended tail to her mouth. When she felt it touch,, a long forgotten memory of her mother the Great Maou, rose unbidden from the depths of her mind.

‘Big Succubi don’t suck their tails, Mara!’ Her mother stated while shaking her head disapprovingly at her. ‘It’s long overdue for you to stop acting like a child!’ she admonished.

“Mama PLEASE!” she begged aloud like a lost waif, hoping against hope that her so-distant mother might hear her and come to her rescue once more.
“Please Mama, I…I…I…” she cried out, trying to stay coherent and failing. Finally she gave up, and instead continued crying and calling out for her mother. Thus, Mara might’ve continued for who knows how long? Then the unexpected happened.

Suddenly, Mara felt a small hand begin stroking her on the surface of a wing. When she felt it, her eyes sprung open in shock and surprise by the unexpected touch.

Holding her breath, she turned her black-sclera eyes to the source of that gentle stroking. Mara’s eyes widened when she realized that that hand was child sized and adorned with gold-flecked skin! Despite the circumstances, Mara felt herself comforted by the gentle stroking of the stranger’s hand. It was so akin to her mother’s touch!

Swallowing her tears, and biting her lower lip. Mara dared to shift her head ever so slightly to get a better look at the welcome newcomer. She gasped in shock when she saw who it was.

It was a Vadhagh maiden-child.

She was a dirty and dusty one, wrapped in filthy clothes that hung from her like a shower of shredded rags. Mara saw a pair of long tapered ears extending out from the unruly mat of fair hair atop her head.
In between the twisted and snarled locks that hung in front of her face, were a pair of yellow irises surrounded by purple that stared back at Mara with a hesitant wariness.

 For a timeless moment, Mara stared back at the one who sought to comfort her. Until finally she tried to speak, but all she could manage was a question in her mind.

 ‘Boto?’ Mara thought. The child before her blinked in surprise, stopped her stroking, then grasped at her wing tightly.

‘Mama?’ Mara heard the child’s voice replying in her mind. It was a simple lone telepathic word. Yet it also came with a welter of emotions that threatened to overwhelm Mara’s senses.

Struggling her best against the onslaught of those foreign feelings, she became aware that Boto’s inquiry held a vast sense of desperation and longing, but also it held a measure of hope.

‘She also wants her mother.’ She realized. ‘That’s why she came to me, to comfort me because she understood my pain. She is like me, alone and lost in a strange world without the comfort of family.’

Acting without thinking, Mara immediately reached out and gently covered Boto’s hand with her own.

Boto gasped audibly when she did. Yet, she didn’t pull away or resist. Mara then slowly, but firmly drew Boto within her arms and wings, and then held her there for what seemed the longest time. After a while, Boto relaxed and melted into her arms, laying her head across Mara’s bosom.

‘Mama?’ Boto asked once more in her unusual thought speech, looking up at Mara from the safety within Mara’s lap. This time Mara felt a different flavor of question/emotion.

‘Will I leave you?’ Mara realized then. As soon as the thought came to her, her reaction was instantaneous.

 ‘Never!’ Mara thought and spoke aloud fiercely while her sharply exhaled breath ruffled the child’s matted hair.

Boto and Mara both matched each other in tears. At first, they were tears of solace, then tears of mutual welcome, then tears of comfort as a bond formed between them.

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With a sharp gasp that whistled through his clenched teeth, Annwyfn Arawn, AKA ‘Doctor Iron’, leaned jerkily back from his long held hunched-over position. A position that he’d held in his office desk chair for far too long.

Ending his computer and paperwork vigil, Arawn blearily looked all around himself. Surrounding him and his computer atop his desk were several massive mounds of papers that still required reviewing, signing, and delivery. He groaned in frustration at the sight.

‘Bills…, invoices,… contracts,… memos,… and email correspondence. All of them needing checking and/or annotation.’ Arawn sighed.
‘It was never this complicated when I was a spaceship captain.’ He misremembered.

Arawn’s eyes crinkled when he espied that the distasteful pile of papers stacked atop his ‘IN’ box was still significantly higher than the “OUT”.

A small growl of resentment welled up within his chest, as he stared balefully at the Labors that yet lay before him. He then covered his face with one palm as an old saying rose unbidden from the depths of his memories.

“Empires arise and Empires crumble, but their paperwork remains constant.” He spoke audibly to no one present, not even his ‘Not-brothers’.

Starting with the occasional grimace that occurred in tandem with a barely audible ‘pop’ from his back. Arawn raised his arms and then stretched himself backwards in an effort to work out the numerous muscle cramps and kinks that had accumulated over the last several hours.

After several moments of tension, Arawn relaxed and then winced when noticed the severe headache.

‘This has not been a good evening.’ He deemed as he rubbed at one temple with a hand. Then his face froze, when noticed the dazzling light show that had begun to illuminate his office window a few minutes prior.

‘Correction.’ He decided. ‘Not a good…. morning.’ He sighed as he stared at the eastern Sun that had begun to peek itself out over the rim of the Chino Hills. Staring at it until his eyes began to water, Arawn finally closed his eyes firmly shut in response.

‘Another all-nighter, Primus?’ Quintus interrupted then with a telepathic yawn, making Arawn wince.
‘You know you should not be doing that, Tertius and Quartus can ill afford the strain your lack of restful sleep affords them. (5)’ Quintus chided.

Arawn’s only response was to project back a sense of irritation. Which Quintus dutifully ignored as he continued in his upbraiding. ‘You hired people to delegate your authority to. Why not have some of them do the bulk of your paperwork? (5)’

“Someone like you?” Arawn asked aloud gruffly, his eyes shifting as he painfully got up and began to pace around his office. Occasionally he stopped and stomped his feet on the carpeted floor to try return some feeling back into them.

‘Definitely not I!’ Quintus shot back finally after several moments.
‘You are the one designated as Primus for a reason. Remember that with command also comes responsibility! (5)’ he observed dryly.
Arawn stopped his pacing and started looking downward, and off to his right in the direction of the Intensive Care unit of the Iron Foundation’s Medical building. Quintus’ current location. Arawn then growled audibly, baring his teeth.

Do not take your grumpiness out on me Primus! You are the one who chose to stay up all night working on fripperies! Why did you choose this night of all others? (5)’ Quintus demanded archly.

“These ‘fripperies’ as you refer to them, are what keeps the Iron Foundation running! Without which it would fall apart!” Arawn shouted aloud testily, his eyes flaring white with mystic energies as he felt his pent up fatigue and anger start to overwhelm him.

‘There is no need for such drama, Primus!’ Quintus snapped peevishly, ‘I suppose that your battle-axe of a secretary, Ms. Augustine, had nothing to do with your decision to work all night, AGAIN? (5)’

Arawn’s mouth shut with a ‘snap’ as he choked on his intended rejoinder. Blinking in consternation, Arawn found that he couldn’t reply.

After several more seconds of not receiving an answer, Quintus began again.

‘We have faced Gods in battle Primus. Yet here you are, seemingly afraid of your own Secretary? What is it about her that cows you so? (5)’ Quintus demanded. Arawn eyes shifted down and to the left as he thought about it.

‘I do not know for sure Quintus.’ Arawn replied sheepishly, as he shrugged his aching shoulders. ‘There is just this ‘je ne sai quious’ about her,… frowns…. (1)’ he tried.

‘Can you recall any instance in which Ms. Augustine has not been frowning, Primus? (5)’ Quintus asked. Arawn thought about it for a second, and then another, and another.

Personally, I would say that ’frown-mode’ is a natural resting state for her face.(2)’ Secundus interrupted cheekily. Arawn’s eyes half lidded themselves as he turned to a different direction to reply.

‘I cannot refute that, Secundus.’ Arawn/Primus replied, “Yet it is the way she frowns that I find unnerving. I suppose that I find her method of frowning to be well,….too familiar. (1)’

‘Familiar? How? (5)’

‘I am forced to conclude that she reminds me too much of,….’ Arawn hesitated, ‘of,..Takana….(1)’ Arawn finished as he stopped talking as a pained look crossed his face. The pain of remembrance of his long lost Shoggoth lover.

Pressing his lips together tightly, Arawn closed his eyes and swallowed the tears that threatened to overload his control. His body began to shake with the frustration of several centuries of loneliness welling up. His nostrils flared forcefully as he began to breath heavily in an effort to calm himself. Both Secundus and Quintus wisely chose to remain silent

Finally, Arawn got ahold of himself, “I do not have time to indulge in this!”  He hissed loudly, “Both of you! Give me your status reports in person! This blasted headache is making telepathy unbearable!”

‘By your command! (5)’ Quintus stated nervously then. Arawn’s eyes flared angrily for a moment and then his face blanched in when he realized the implications of the last time Quintus had used such a phrase.

Fidgeting with the ominousness of Quintus’s words, Arawn began meditating in an effort to calm himself down. Just as he began to relax, the peace he sought came to a crashing halt with the arrival of his personal guard and Security Manager Alonzo Belushi, along with Arawn’s not-quite-adopted-daughter and Chief Paramedic Juanita Banderos.

“There you are Doc!” Alonso announced jovially, his face alive with a wide grin as he slammed Arawn’s office door with a resounding crash. Arawn grimaced and turned his head over to take in the pair.

Alonzo Belushi was snappily dressed in a three-piece business suit. Even with that suit’s fine tailoring. The shirt still showed the bulge of the Kevlar vest over his muscular chest. Arawn noted that Alonzo had chosen to carry his personal firearm in its holster on the outside of his jacket, while keeping the Extremus Gun underneath.

Arawn’s frown deepened as his eyes shifted to take in Juanita Banderos. She sauntered in with the black tresses of her hair tied casually into a ponytail. It swung back and forth over in front of her EMT- outfit in rhythm with her hips. She wore a dark blue short-sleeve shirt festooned with a patch on each shoulder and a stethoscope hanging around her neck; along with a pair of black pants and boots.

“Doctor Iron!” Alonzo exclaimed cheerfully, “We’ve been looking all over for you! We’ve got some….er…” he began and then stopped when he noticed that Arawn was glaring fiercely back at him with bloodshot eyes.

He also noticed the crumpled appearance of Arawn’s suit, which was so unlike his naturally snappy self. Juanita on the other hand, seemed nonplussed at Arawn’s presentation. It was almost as if she’d seen him that way before. Which she had.

“Is now, not a good time?” Alonzo stammered as he stopped abruptly, a blush crawling over his face. Arawn didn’t answer vocally as he raised a hand up and began ‘shooing’ Alonzo and Juanita away. Alonzo shuffled a bit, while Juanita remained where she was, unmoving. Arawn grimaced and spoke.

“No. It is not! If you would be so kind?” Arawn stated testily through his teeth, while shaking his head.
 “I am about to meet a pair of someone’s I would prefer that you two not…” he began as Alonzo began backing away while smiling in a placating manner. He then spun on one heel to make a quick exit. Much to Arawn’s surprise and relief, Juanita matched him.

Before either could take a single step, both Secundus and Quintus chose that moment to make their appearance.

They both burst through Arawn’s office entrance doors, both glaring fiercely at the other with an elbow-battle in an attempt to enter first. Secundus won after a particularly cruel jab into Quintus’ sternum.

Secundus was dressed in a plain one-piece technician’s jumpsuit littered with deep pockets, out of which poked various technological and magical items and gizmos.
Quintus was dressed in blue medical scrubs that hugged him securely. Underneath one arm, he carried a pair of medical file folders.

“Primus!” Secundus shouted upon entering, and then stopped short when he noticed Alonzo and Juanita standing before him. Quintus bumped into him with a jerk, and then he froze when he also saw who were before them. Both of their faces fell when they realized the implication of the situation.

Alonzo’s eyes widened something fierce when he saw another Arawn/Secundus standing directly in front of him, and Juanita’s eyes just about fell out of their sockets when she beheld both of Arawn’s not-brothers.

“FREEZE!” Alonzo shouted commandingly, as he swiftly pulled out the Extremus gun and trained it at the two supposed imposters before him.

“Doctor Iron!” he shouted over his shoulder, “Get to safety! We have Doppelgangers!” he continued, recalling an encounter not too long previous.

Juanita’s reaction was just as abrupt. Her eyes glowed red at Alonzo’s warning, and then she hunched herself over and concentrated hard for a second.

After that second-her clothing ripped itself apart when her pliable skin rapidly hardened and expanded into a shiny armor-like greenish exoskeleton.
Long thin spikes sprouted from the back of her head, all the way down her spine to just above her rump. The fingers of her hands transformed into a set of wicked looking nine-inch claws, as her head hair morphed into a set of corrugated tendrils akin to an insect’s ovipositor.  Juanita hissed sharply, loudly enough to catch Alonzo’s attention.

‘Holy Shit!’ he thought, ‘She looks like something out of a Giger painting.’ Nervously he observed that all of her teeth had become a set of sharp looking fangs.

For a second he thought about training the Extremus gun on her instead, but noticed that all of her attention was on the two intruders.

Both Secundus and Quintus chose to remain where they were. Nervously, they chose to raise their arms in surrender. Dividing their attention between the Extremus gun pointed at them, and the claws of Juanita’s Chupacabra form, both decided that no sudden moves were in order. Arawn covered his face with one hand and sighed.

“Faex!” he cursed. “Please Stand Down! My two look-a-likes are not doppelgangers, nor are they a threat.” Arawn stated quietly as he dropped his hand from his face.

“What?!” Alonzo shouted, as Juanita looked at Arawn and rasped something that sounded like confusion. They then continued to look back over at Arawn and the two who resembled him – several times.

“But they look exactly like you! Even down to the worry lines and that facial scar on your left cheek!” Alonso demanded, his gun not wavering. Arawn raised a finger and rubbed it along the scar in question. One side of his mouth rose up in an ironic half-smile for a second as he came to a decision.

“That is because,….” he paused. ‘”they are me.” Arawn stated in just above a whisper. Both Alonzo and Juanita slowly turned their respective heads and looked back at him full on, bewildered.

“What?” Juanita rasped, her prominent fangs making her voice sibilant.

“Please. Both of you stand down, and take a seat. I will explain.” Arawn directed.

Alonzo reluctantly put the Extremus gun away. Then he sat down at one of the seats that lay in front of Arawn’s desk- the one that put him between Arawn and the newcomers.

After a second or two of concentration, Juanita reluctantly transformed herself back into her lithe human form. Unfortunately, her now tattered clothing remained in a state that did nothing to hide her shapely curves. Alonzo eyes never settled on her for longer than necessary.

Quintus became annoyed when he observed Secundus leering at her. Which earned him a swift kick on his shins

 “Doc!” she yelped, clutching at the remains of her clothes while she gave Secundus an evil look. “Would you mind?” she asked.

In response, Arawn waved a hand, spoke a WORD and Juanita’s clothing deftly repaired itself. She then smiled her thanks at him as she took a seat.

 “Secundus, Quintus, please sit down as well.” Arawn stated as he motioned them to the two remaining seats. They did as he bade while keeping a wary eye on Alonzo, who in turn kept a suspicious eye on them. His hand still touching the handle of the Extremus gun.

Once all of them had settled down and were looking at each other, Alonzo cleared his throat significantly. Arawn got the hint.

“Alonzo? You are aware, that I am not human? It should not come as any surprise that I have many abilities that humans do not have.” Arawn paused. Alonzo nodded as did Juanita. Arawn continued. “Then consider the possibility that I have the ability to be in multiple places at the same time.”

“They’re not doppelgangers? Then what is this? Some kind of bilocation? I can get behind that, but it doesn’t quite add up.” Alonzo stated.

“How so?’ Juanita asked, curious.

“Those two,” Alonzo replied, pointing to Secundus and Quintus, “They’re actually physically here, as opposed to being Astral projections. For instance, I can hear them breathing. They’re not doing so in unison. Besides, they both look far more refreshed than Arawn does.”

“That is because I and my not-brother,” Quintus began, gesturing to Secundus, “took the time to break our fast this morning.” He spoke in a voice that sounded just like Arawn’s to Alonzo’s ears.

“Unlike Primus,” Secundus interrupted while pointing to Arawn, “Who is in the habit of skipping meals when he works all night.”

“Primus?” Alonzo asked, blinking his confusion. Juanita’s brow creased, but she kept quiet.

“A number designation,…” Secundus explained.

“to make it easier for all of me,…”Quintus continued.

“to keep track of which one of me is talking at any given moment.” Arawn finished. Alonzo tried to keep up and reply as he turned his head to face each one who spoke. Finally, he raised his hands in surrender, while Juanita’s eyes crossed.

“Please!” Alonzo exclaimed, “Only one of you finish a sentence!” he pleaded. “This is getting confusing.” Both Secundus and Quintus turned and looked at Arawn.

“I,” Arawn began, raising his hand, “am Primus. The first and original Arawn.” He paused, Alonzo looked at him for several seconds and then nodded his head once to indicate he was following, so far. Arawn then nodded his head towards Secundus. Juanita kept silent, choosing to take in all this unexpected information.

“He is Secundus, the second not-quite-me, one of those I call my ‘not-brothers’.” Arawn continued as Secundus smiled tightly. “The other one is Quintus.”

“Quintus?” Juantia piped up, shifting herself upright and frowning in thought. “That’s Latin, which means that he’s fifth.” She stated, pointing at Quintus who nodded silently back.

“Which means there’s a third and fourth of you?” she asked, comprehending.

“Indeed.” Arawn replied, setting back in his chair wearily.

“Where are they?” she demanded archly, looking around Arawn’s office.

“They are currently in the Intensive Care unit in the Hospital wing.”

“Are they taking care of whoever it is, that is behind the lockdown there?” She growled, her eyes flaring indignantly.

“Negative.” Arawn replied, shaking his head. “They are the reason for the lockdown, Juanita. For they are the ones being taken care of.”

“I still don’t get it!” Alonzo stated, his voice trembling with frustration.

“How can you be here!” he growled while pointing down at the floor in front of Arawn. “And there and there!” he continued, pointing at Secundus and Quintus in turn.

“Yet still two MORE of you are down in the ICU?” Alonzo asked, incredulous. Arawn sighed. After a moment, he raised his hand.

“I do not wish to get into the particulars. But consider this.” He stated as he raised up his right hand, palm out. “I have one hand, with four fingers and a thumb. Consider me talking right now, to be the thumb.” Arawn stated, wiggling his thumb.

“Whereas all of your…’not-brothers’, are the other fingers?” Alonzo stated, as he began to comprehend. Juanita cocked her head to one side.

“Affirmative.” Arawn replied, nodding. “Each…’finger’ is capable of action independent of the others. Yet we are all tied together at the palm- which is the source me.”

“Ok, I think I can handle that.” Alonzo paused, looking thoughtful. “But why didn’t you tell me or Juanita about this before?” He asked crossly. Juanita huffed angrily in agreement.

“There are many other things concerning me, I have not told either of you about. This is but one, and it is one that I would prefer to not have divulged. As it is something that is both a benefit, and a hindrance.”

“How do you figure that?” Juanita asked, her eyes narrowing.

“It is a benefit in that I can operate in five different places at the same time, assuming I were at peak capacity.” Arawn continued, “Yet it is also a hindrance, since a captured me could be used as a hostage or be interrogated.”

“But over-all I feel it is a benefit. Mostly because if one of us learns something, the rest of me can also know that something instantly. Communicating, if I so desire….through telepathy.” Arawn stated quickly when he saw that he was starting to confuse Alonzo again.

Alonzo stopped for a moment and chewed on the thought. Slowly a smile began to creep across a face. Arawn noticed it.

“What?” he asked.

“I suppose that that your ‘working together’, also includes ‘sexy fun time’ with a woman?” Alonzo asked, grinning. Juanita crossed her arms and gave him an annoyed look.

Arawn didn’t reply, instead he sighed heavily while rolling his eyes. Alonzo got his answer when he noticed Secundus was matching his grin.

“Humans.” Arawn muttered under his breath, shaking his head in exasperation. Alonzo laughed. Then he stopped short as a thought occurred to him.

“If you can communicate telepathically, then why are you all here together?” he pointed out.

“Because even telepathy at any distance taxes me. Particularly when I’m fatigued, or I have a headache.” Arawn replied, rubbing at his forehead. “Also, discussion in person makes it easier to pick up on body language that even telepathy cannot convey.”

“I don’t get it.” Juanita huffed.

“What he means,” Quintus injected, “Is that even with telepathy it is possible for one to convey falsehoods.”

“What!? You mean that telepaths can lie and get away with it? But how?” she exclaimed.

“Telepathy is merely one person hearing the thoughts of another, and as you are aware- people are phenomenal about being able to deceive themselves.” Arawn replied and held up a hand for silence. He turned to his not-brothers and spoke.

“Your status reports please?” he asked. Secundus’ eyes lit up with anticipation.

“I am happy to announce that I have made a breakthrough with the Artifact.”

“How so!?” Arawn replied, sitting up in his chair while his eyes flared with interest. Quintus mirrored Arawn’s action. Seeing both of their reactions, Alonzo opened his mouth and then closed it to await the information. Juanita rolled her eyes.
 Secundus continued unaware.

“I have cracked the access code to the Artifact’s central command matrix. With that, I have begun exploring the various levels of command options that activate its stealth transport abilities.”

“That is phenomenal Secundus! How did you manage that feat?” Quintus asked admiringly.

“Details later.” Arawn stated firmly, cutting off Secundus before he could begin. “My main question for now is: Do you think that you can make it interface with a Tracking spell?” he demanded, staring directly into Secundus’ eyes.

“I do believe so.” Secundus replied after a thoughtful pause and a profound sigh. “But I will need time and Mana-energy to invest before I can say so with surety.”

“Understood.” Arawn replied somberly. “If you feel that is necessary, then I will find a way to fund it. Now then,..” he continued, but was interrupted.

“Wait! Whatever it is that all, err…’ahem’ three of you.” Alonzo stated hesitantly, checking to see that he had Arawn’s attention. Once he was sure that he had, he then continued with resolve.

“What is it you are talking about? What Transport options? It sounds like it could be a potential breach in station security. Which is my purview, need I remind you.” He paused when he noticed Arawn’s lips pursing, yet he continued.

“Artifact? A Tracking Spell? What are we talking about here?” he stated while crossing his arms, an edge creeping into his voice. Arawn raised his hand again for silence and patience from Alonzo. As he settled down, Arawn began to explain.

“The Artifact,” he began after a glance at both of his not-brothers. “Is a piece of technology that I gained over a hundred years ago, during the American Civil war.”

“What were you doing in the Civil, …ummm,…yeah.” Juanita interrupted deeply interested, but she settled when she saw Arawn’s glower. Arawn waited a second, licked his lips and continued.

“I was drafted into service, due to my recently completed medical training.” He sighed. “Said training was not particularly advanced then, being as Western Medicine did not even hold antisepsis methods in high regard…” Arawn stopped, sighed and then continued, “but I digress.” Juanita smirked knowingly.

“The long story short is- in the battlefield, I overheard rumors of entire regiments of soldiers disappearing. Not because of desertion. But because they were being ‘abducted’ by a large greenish box.”

“Yes, I know it does sound ludicrous.” He stated. Juanita’s face screwed up as a thought came to her. She raised a finger to get Arawn’s attention, but then changed her mind. She lowered her hand and waited.

“Were they being abducted?” Alonzo asked.

“Yes.” Arawn nodded. “I was able to locate the item in question and, ….eventually,… I was able to disable it. But not before I was able to discover that it was capable of transporting large number of personnel across space, and time.” He finished. Juanita’s eyes went wide when he did.

“A time-machine?” Alonzo asked.

“More or less, yes.” Arawn replied. Juanita’s mouth gaped in shock, she turned and paused to look at each one of Arawn’s not-brothers in turn.

 “Where did it come from? Earth in the future?”

“Not precisely no.” Arawn replied, ignoring Juanita’s penetrating stare.

“So, what was it then? Alien technology?” Alonzo asked, incredulous. Arawn nodded.

“All right. But how does magic figure into all this, and more importantly, why?”

“I quote Arthur Cl Clarke’s third law: ‘Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic’.” Arawn explained. Alonzo noticed that both Secundus and Quintus shared a glance and a knowing smile. “Which is true in this regard. At least for the most part.”

“So let me get this straight. You’re going to be using magic on a piece of unknown alien technology?” Alonzo asked Secundus with skepticism in his voice.

“To be fair, I have encountered this particular alien technology before. So, yes I do have some experience working with it. But that is a tale for another time!” Arawn explained hurriedly.

“So why take such a risk? It sounds like what you’re attempting to do will take up a large number of resources.”

“It will and I do so because I must.”

“Must? Why?”

“You are aware of the Accords of the Conclave? The treaty between the Supernatural Nations of Earth?”

“Yes, I believe so. One of them are the Hunters, along with our co-group, the Men of Letters. Both of which make up the Council.”

“Correct, but are you also aware of the other signatories of the Accords?”

“I believe so. There is the Seelie and Unseelie courts/the good and bad Fey.” Alonzo stated, his mouth in a thoughtful frown Arawn nodded, “Though I’ve not heard of much more than that.” Alonzo admitted.

“The Council is a subset of the organization known as the Venandi,” Arawn continued, “They are the ones devoted to protecting humanity from the more powerful entities.  More than that, you do not need to know.” Alonzo frowned at that last comment, but he let it pass.

“The Venandi and I have a sort of,…” he raised his hands and ‘air quoted’ with his fingers, ‘working relationship’.” Arawn smacked his lips thoughtfully before continuing.

”Additionally, there is also the Order of Saint Anthony, who have called upon the Venandi for help in their fight against the Wamphyri,..

“Wamphyri?” Alonzo interrupted.

“Uh,…think of them as a sort of Vampire. Though they are not the kind that you have encountered before.”

“What?! How?”

“First, they are not undead. They are quite alive, yet Sunlight still affects them negatively. Nor are they hindered by religious symbols or holy water.” Alonzo jerked in surprise at that knowledge. Arawn smiled when he saw his reaction.

“Thankfully they are fewer in number,… now.” Arawn continued. Alonzo sat back in his chair, stunned.

“There are also the Knights Templar, the Courts Vampiric, and most importantly for me and mine- the Consilio Album.”

“Who are they?”

“Think of them as a ‘Wizards Union’. They tend to think of themselves as the ruling authority for humans who practice Magic in this world.” Arawn sneered. Alonzo smirked at the sight of him doing that.

“Oh really?” Alonzo asked sardonically. “What do they think of you?” he smiled. Arawn glared back.

“As one of the more powerful Majin in my own right, I feel that they tend to be,…What is the phrase?  Ah yes! A bunch of ‘Stuffed shirts’.” He said dryly.

“I take it they hold you in the same lack of regard?”

“Affirmative. Ever since I first came to this world, they and I have come to loggerheads. They assumed that I was a Warlock of all things! All too soon after my arrival, it became necessary to disabuse them of that foolishness.”

“But for all of our differences over the years, we did eventually find a way to get along.” Arawn paused, his eyes half-lidded in reminiscence. His nostrils flaring in indignation.

“For the most part. We do share a number of common enemies after all.”

“So, what happens when your mutual enemies crop up?” Juanita asked. Arawn looked over at her and replied.

“I tend to assist them if and when they ask for my help. Which is not often. While they, return the favor for me and mine when I request it. I guess you could say that they and I have a ‘mutual non-aggression pact’.”

“What does that mean?” Juanita asked, perplexed.

“It means that if they do not try to cut my head off anymore, I will refrain from attempting to exterminate them out of existence.” Arawn shot back heatedly.  “Which brings me to the Accords.”

“The avoidance of unnecessary destruction is the core motivator of the creation the Accords.” He sighed. “It would do the world no good if humanity is annihilated from a conflict between Conclave members.”

“I and by extension the Iron Foundation, am devoted to protecting Monsters from Humans and vis a vis. Provided of course those same Monsters choose to live in something akin to a civilized manner.”

“Such as the Nightbreed living underneath your complex right now?” Juanita smiled.

“Correct.” Arawn smiled back.

“So what does all that have to do with this Artifact?” Alonzo asked.

“Grendel.” Arawn sighed.

“I don’t understand.” Alonzo replied.

“Nor do I.” Juanita added.

“Grendel has murdered innocent humans, monsters, and fey. Since I have declared myself a Freeholding ‘Lord of Monsters’ and since Grendel is a monster in every sense of the word; the Conclave expects me to do something about him. They especially want it done NOW.” Arawn huffed, his face reddening with frustration and rage.

“Grendel’s ability to elude my capture, borders on the uncanny. I surmise that combining the Artifact along with my knowledge, as well as my own Magic, I should be able to run him down. Then I will deal with him appropriately.” Arawn smiled a feral grin, while he held up a fist that glowed slightly.

“But that is not my only concern. As the equivalent of a Baron in the Accords, I declared my intention to enforce my will against all those who cross me. Grendel’s attack upon me and mine hurts more than just my reputation.”

“How?”

“I am hurting financially. My lack of progress with him has resulted in many of those I have previously bargained with, choosing to ‘forget’ to uphold their side of our contracts. Why should they? After all, it is not like I am capable of enforcing them. Right?” Arawn complained.

 “So far, only some of my revenue streams have dried up, but that number will increase as time goes on. This current lack has resulted in many sleepless nights for me. All to find a way to effectively cover my losses.” Arawn stated unhappily, while gesturing at the paper piles on his desk.

“Until I demonstrate that I can deal with Grendel; I run the danger of losing something more important than my finances though: Respect.”

“Because in a fight, even wolves will turn on an injured comrade. So it is with the Conclave. If they sense that I am weak eventually they will turn on me.”

“Now do you understand my motivation?” Arawn asked, looking at Alonzo steadily. After a short moment, Alonzo nodded.

<><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><>< 

Arawn turned his head to Quintus and spoke. “Now your report.” He ordered. Quintus sat back in his chair and began to fidget.

“Quintus?” Arawn stated firmly, holding his gaze steady at him. Quintus stopped fidgeting and drew in a deep breath before beginning.

“Alas Primus, my news is nowhere near as cheerful as Secundus’.” He stated somberly.

“Go ahead.” Arawn replied, frowning slightly, looking down in front of himself and clutching tight the arms of his chair

“Despite the best efforts of me and our support staff to the contrary, both Tertius and Quartus are dying.” Quintus reported as steadily as he could manage. Arawn closed his eyes and pressed his lips together tightly.

“What is your prognosis?” he asked finally.

“I can save one of them, but only at the cost of letting the other die. You know why.”

“Thus you will have to make the Choice, Primus. You will have to choose which one of them will live.”

“Choose? CHOOSE?!” Arawn shouted, his eyes flaring angrily as he jumped to his feet, and then he swayed dizzily at the apex. Both Alonzo and Secundus reached out simultaneously to steady him, but Arawn waved them off. Juanita let out a yelp, but she stayed in her seat.

“What little life force we have will not be enough to save them both.” Quintus stated resentfully. “You must sacrifice one, so that the other might live. There can only be…” he continued

“NO!” Arawn shouted as he raised his hands above his head. “I will not countenance this foolishness!” he stated as he waved his left hand dismissively. “You must be overlooking something vital! Keep trying!” Arawn yelled.

Quintus’ eyes flared white with his outrage as he too jumped to his feet, to stand nose to nose with Arawn.

“I have done everything within my purview Primus!” he shouted back. “Hades, I have even invented a couple of new techniques while I was at it!” Quintus continued, shaking with the effort.

“But I keep coming to the same sad conclusion: one must die so that the other can live!” Quintus nearly screamed back, spittle flying.

Both he and Arawn stopped and glared at each other for several seconds, both breathing hard. Finally, Quintus blinked first and stepped back. Wiping a hand over his mouth, he then got his breathing under control. Arawn turned away and looked over Juanita’s head, his eyes not focused on anything in particular.

“Even if,…” Quintus began quietly while gesturing at the still seated Secundus. “You did manage to somehow dreg up enough Mana to modify the Artifact.” He breathed,
“And IF you managed to locate Grendel. You will still need to be in an optimum condition to take him on in something approaching a fair fight.” He paused.

“A condition, you most certainly are NOT in right now this instant!” he pointed out sharply. He then gave Arawn a significant once over with his eyes. Arawn’s chin dropped an inch as Quintus’ words started to have an effect on him.

“I,….”Arawn began while closing his eyes. “I do not want to lose another one of my…” he stated and then he couldn’t continue.

“Neither do I Primus.” Quintus stated sadly.

“Nor I.” Secundus piped up softly. Alonzo turned to look at him for a second. Juanita looked as well, her eyes starting to soften, her lips pursed.

“But we are weak Primus, overextended. Almost in the same condition as we were when Grendel attacked us that one time.” Quintus paused as he remembered.

“At this time, we are at Three. Which is bad, yes. Yet we could be at Four within a few days of rest and recovery. But such is still better than the alternative.” He finished, Arawn didn’t answer for several long moments.

“Which is?” Juanita asked, her head shifting between each version of Arawn in turn. Quintus turned and looked at her.

“If Primus does not make a decision within the next seventy-two hours, then both Tertius and Quartus will die.” Quintus stated flatly.

“Okay, I can understand the grieving for the loss of your comrades, but how would that affect the rest of you so terribly?” Alonzo asked. Arawn coughed and got Alonzo’s attention.

“When one of me dies, for ANY reason,…” Arawn explained with gravity. “It is more than just a shock to me. It is a psychic trauma.”

“A trauma that takes a long time to recover from emotionally. For it is more than say,…using the hand analogy, you chopping off one of your fingers.” Arawn stopped and looked away, wincing as he clenched his hand into a fist.

Quintus then continued for him. “It is an extreme shock and agony of losing someone who is more than just a brother to you. They are part of your personality, to be lost and gone forever-deliberately.” Quintus stopped, licked his lips and then bowed his head. Secundus took over.

“We have dealt with the extremity of losing one of us before. It was not easy, but we managed.” He stated. “But, two of us dying at the same time? That would be catastrophic.” Secundus stated quietly, while glancing at Arawn.

“Which is why you need to come to a decision and soon Primus.” Quintus spoke forcefully.

“I think I begin to understand why Arawn would delay making the choice.” Alonzo stated. All three of Arawn turned to look at him.
“It’s like asking a mother to choose which of her two children gets to live.” Alonzo concluded. Juanita grimaced and looked away.

“Affirmative.” Arawn whispered quietly as he nodded. Then he looked at Alonzo with a measure of gratitude in his eyes.
 He sighed, and then he stood up and lifted his head. “I will make the decision.” He looked at Quintus and locked eyes with him. Quintus stared back coldly at him for several seconds.

“Just not right now.” He sighed, “However, you will have it within the next twenty-four hours.” Arawn stated firmly. Quintus then nodded once. Arawn broke his gaze with him and turned his attention to Alonzo and Juanita.

“As I recall you two entered my office with no small measure of enthusiasm. I assume you both have some good news for me?” Arawn asked, Alonzo smiled brokenly, while Juanita nodded hesitantly with her eyes shimmering.

“As a matter of fact we do. It concerns your pet Succubus, the Lady Mara.” He replied. Alonzo’s smile turned into a grin when he saw Arawn frowning at his ‘pet’ comment. “It appears that she has successfully retrieved Boto.”

“What!” Arawn exclaimed, his mouth agape. “She managed to,…?” he gasped, his eyes alight. “Where are they?”

“Apparently, Mara managed to coax Boto to join her in her dormitory room. Though, she informed me that no one is to enter her apartment without her go-ahead.”

“I must see this miracle for myself, immediately!” Arawn exclaimed, eager to be off, as he got up to leave. But he was prevented by Juanita grabbing him by his arm.

“Wait!” Juanita barked. “Mara also informed me that you in particular, were NOT to barge into her rooms AT ALL!” She shouted forcefully, while maintaining an iron grip.

“Every time Mara mentioned you, Boto got upset. I think it would be best if you avoided seeing her for the time being.” She finished. Arawn froze himself into position and started blinking furiously in consternation.

“But,…but…but…!” Arawn started spluttering. “The surviving Vadhagh want my assurance that she is all right.”

“You’re a wizard, don’t you have some sort of scrying pool? Or a magic mirror? See for yourself! Just not in a way that will shock Boto back down to the Catacombs! Mara would be devastated if that happened.” Juanita shot back. Arawn gave her a cool stare.

“I am not in the habit of voyeurism with those under my command, Juanita. Besides, why are you so concerned with Mara’s well-being all of a sudden?”

“Mara has asked me to be her apartment gate-guardian.” Juanita smiled. “I guess I have a soft spot for anyone who is willing to adopt a strange little girl for some reason. So, if you wish to enter, you’ll have to get past me first. Good luck with that.”

Her message ended with Arawn getting seriously flustered. It took Arawn several minutes, but eventually he calmed himself down.

“Very well then,” he decided as he looked down at himself and started brushing at his rumpled suit with his hands. “Since I have so much time available, perhaps I should ‘freshen up’ before going down to catch a glimpse.”

“That! Would be a grand idea.” Secundus stated while he dramatically pinched his nose. Alonzo grinned, and Juanita let off a bark of laughter when they saw it.

Arawn frowned fiercely as he lifted his wrist to his nose and took a quick whiff. He winced and jerked his hand away from his face.

“You are correct. I will return to my apartments and indulge in some suitable ablutions and refreshments.” He grimaced.

“Uh Doctor iron?” Alonzo prompted.

“Yes Alonzo?” Arawn sighed.

“Until Mara is ready, I’d like to have an inspection tour of your ‘Artifact’.” He prompted.

“Ah yes,” Arawn replied tiredly, bowing his head and tapping himself on his forehead, “if you would. Meet me in The Square, in say,….two hours?”

“I wanna see this Artifact too!” Juanita chirped. Arawn cast her an oblique look and rolled his eyes.

“Very well.” He said, too tired to argue.

<><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><>< 

“He’s late.” Juanita growled, as she paced in front of a massive shiny steel disc/door set vertically along one wall of ‘The Square’. The large disc would’ve looked appropriate in such mundane spots like Fort Knox or (Colorado mountain) This spot was the entrance to the area where all of the most valuable, or highly dangerous items. Annwyfn Arawn had chosen to store them there, less than to keep people out than to keep the items within from escaping.

The entrance to ‘The Square’ being the secure room that was located deep underneath the Iron Foundation’s main building. Looking about, Alonzo noted that festooning the walls were the latest technological security devices and no few magical ones as well.

Alonzo Belushi smiled in reply, as he stood still on the opposite side of the room far away from Juanita and her tetchiness. He wasn’t upset with waiting, as he was used to the old ‘hurry-up-and-wait’ routine from his years in the Marine Corps.

He felt that if he could stand guard for three days straight without taking a sleep break, he knew that he could put up with the occasional tardiness of an employer.

 However, Alonzo decided that the sound of Juanita’s boots stomping on the tiled floor as she marched endlessly up and down the Square, was getting on his nerves.

But before he could bark out a demand for her to calm down, the outer access doors split open and Arawn entered. He looked much better now. His suit was clean and freshly pressed and his hair combed neatly back. He also carried the aroma of a fresh showering and breakfast.

“My apologies for my tardiness. I am afraid that I fell asleep during my bath.”

“Whatever Doc!” Juanita grimaced, “Just get on with it. I’m more than a little curious about this,…Artifact.”

“Certainly,” Arawn smiled, “but first, if you would be so kind?” he asked politely as he looked significantly at her, pointed one finger down and twirled it in a circle. Juanita got the hint and turned herself to stand away from the vault door, and the access panel set into its face.

Arawn looked relieved, and he took a quick glance towards Alonzo. Happily, he saw that his security guard had already chosen to face away. Arawn then opened the security access panel with a key that he produced from one pocket. After a quick second glance at his two companions, he then tapped out a complicated code onto the keypad.

Juanita being who she was, naturally counted the number of audible tappings. She was surprised when she counted twenty-one.

She chose to turn around at the sound of the massive steel door unlocking with a subsonic metallic clank. After the access door had finished opening, Arawn entered the vault’s entrance and swiftly began walking down a hallway without looking back, and passed several intersections.

 Both Alonzo and Juanita followed him in silence. When they entered, the steel door closed automatically and shut itself behind them. Juanita tried not to flinch when she heard the locking mechanisms engage.

‘You can do this!’ she assured herself, trying not to think about her claustrophobia.

Shortly, after several twists and turns in the corridors within The Square, Arawn came to a standing stop in one vestibule and then pointed towards something in front of him.

“This,” he began cryptically, “Is the Artifact.” Juanita and Alonzo looked and were somewhat disappointed by what they saw. The Artifact appeared to be nothing more than a large drab looking rectangular greenish box.  With Arawn standing in front of it, Juanita noticed that it barely reached about a foot above his head in height, and it was as wide as his arms at full extension.

“It looks like a trash dumpster.” Juanita sneered. Looking at it, Alonzo had to agree.

Huffing slightly, Arawn took a step forward and tapped it once lightly on the Artifact’s surface with a fingertip. When he did, the middle third of the vertical surface facing him, projected out with a slight screeching sound. That entrance resembled a pulled-out desk drawer.

 Arawn then looked silently back at his companions for a second and waved them to follow. He then stepped smartly into the darkened interior of the box.

Juanita’s sharp ears could hear Arawn’s steps retreating into a distance that was at odds with the exterior. Looking down, she could see that the floor of the Artifact’s entrance was of a medium red color, similar in shade to freshly spilled blood. Biting her lip, she entered.

As she did, she felt a momentary disorientation that soon passed. It was odd in that she felt as if she had stepped over a cliff.

She stumbled forward, and her confusion grew the further in she went as her eyes adjusted to the gloom of the interior.

‘What the hell?’ she thought, ‘I should’ve made it to the other side by now! What’s going on?’ she wondered nervously.

Suddenly an overhead light turned on, and Juanita was shocked to her core by what was awaiting her. Arawn stood next to a hexagon shaped console that rose up from the metallic red floor.  Looking around strangely empty room she realized something.

‘Why?’ she exclaimed. ‘Am I getting a sense of Deja-Vu….?’ She thought in confusion. Juanita hesitantly approached the console and looked closely at it.

Along each sloping panel of the hexagon, were a number of switches, control knobs, and indicators of many varieties. Interspersed in between all them were a number of lights. Some of them were blinking dully, the rest constantly lit. She reached out a hand to touch one.

“Careful!” Arawn barked, raising a blocking hand. “You have no idea what you are about.” She drew her hand away guiltily.

‘I recognize this.’ she realized, ‘But from where?’. She thought as her eyes continued to rove over the strangely familiar console.

Where all six sides met, was a squat transparent cylinder that contained something that Juanita felt should be on display in an art museum. As she stood there in awe, she could feel and hear a constant low-key humming sound.

‘Yes I have seen this before.’ she decided. ‘It eludes me.’

“Doctor Iron?” she cried, her voice echoing in the vast darkness that surrounded them. “What is this?” she asked.

She flinched when Alonzo bumped into her, and she nearly sniped at him, but she noticed his shocked and gaping expression and chose not to. Arawn remained where he was, clearly amused at the befuddlement of his two companions.

“Why is it bigger on the insi…?” Juanita’s voice trailed off. Then she was thunderstruck when she realized where she recognized that console from.

 “Doctor?” Juanita began breathlessly, “Iron?” Juanita asked. Arawn turned to her and raised an eyebrow. But before he could reply, Juanita continued speaking.

“Doc,….tor?” she exclaimed again, slowly raising a  hand and pointing at Arawn with a smile spreading across her face.

“You’re the Doctor,” she stated breathlessly. “Aren’t you?” she smiled. Arawn looked back at her with an arched eyebrow.

“Yes Juanita, I am a Doctor.” Arawn replied, puzzled.

“Oh Madre de Dios! I never made the connection before now! You’re, THE Doctor!!!” she said excitedly, bouncing up and down in excitement, her raven-black tresses in sync.

“Juanita?” Arawn asked, unsure of what was going on with her. “Are you all right? You are aware that I have been a medical Doc,…” He began, but he was interrupted.

“No! No! No!” she squealed with a crazed grin, shaking her hands in negation while she stared at him unblinkingly. Then she pointed at him with both hands and shouted.

“YOU’RE!,” she breathed, “THE! DOCTOR!!!” she shouted, her arm shaking with her enthusiasm. All Arawn could do was look at her in befuddlement. He then turned to Alonzo, but was surprised to see that he too seemed was affected by the same madness that had taken ahold of Juanita.

“Doctor?” Alonzo gaped in astonishment. “There’s no need to pretend anymore. Your secret is safe with us!” he smiled.

“I do not understand what you are getting at, Alonzo.” Arawn began, slowly backing away. “I am a Doctor, yes.” He tried to continue speaking. Once more, his companions interrupted him.

This must be your Tardis, right?” Alonzo asked..

“Yes, his Tardis!” Juanita shouted, pointing at the console before her. “You know! Time-And-Relative-Dimensions-In-Space?”

“And since you’re not a human, therefore you must be a Timelord, am I right….DOCTOR?” Alonzo asked him with a smile and a wink. Arawn’s eyes widened in shock and surprise

“Tardis?” he breathed, astonished beyond measure, His head shooting to look at them in turn. “Timelord?!!”

“What?” he shouted. “NO!” Arawn yelped his head shooting between looking at the two before him. “I am NOT a Timelord! Yes, I am not human! But I am most definitely NOT the Doc….” he stopped and blinked at the two before him in utter bewilderment.

‘HOW IS IT THAT YOU ARE EVEN AWARE OF HIM!??” Arawn shouted thunderously, his teeth flashing.

“You’re not the Doctor?” Juanita asked in a small voice, her face forlorn.

“No! I most certainly am not,…that….that person!” Arawn spluttered.

“Then how did you get a Tardis? Are you another renegade Timelord? Surely not the Master. Are you?” Alonzo demanded crossly, reaching for his gun.

“STOP! Just please! Stop!” Arawn said forcefully, holding out a hand palm out in negation. Juanita and Alonzo both forced themselves to quiet, though it took quite an effort on both their part. Alonzo kept his hand on his gun’s rest.

Arawn breathed in deeply and exhaled forcefully in an effort to calm down. When he did, he opened his mouth to speak, paused and then closed it. He seemed to be at a loss for words.

Finally, “How is it that you two are even aware that Timelords exist?” he asked in exasperation.

“Because of a TV show, on Pee-Bee-Ess!” Alonzo stated, his eyes narrowing..

“A TV show?” Arawn echoed shrilly, looking at Alonzo with his eyes wide.

“Yes! It’s on the Public Broadcasting System network.” He replied with a smile, and took his hand off of his gun.

“Please.” Arawn begged, “Give me a synopsis of what you know about this…’tee-vee’ show.” He asked. Then for the next few minutes, he stood in mounting shock and awe as Juanita gave him a rundown of one of her favorite entertainments.

Alonzo, for the most part just nodded enthusiastically at Juanita’s speech. However, he did inject one or two comments for clarification. Finally, she ended.

“…on the run from his people, in a rickety old Tardis.” She finished, while looking admiringly all around herself.

“So?!” she breathed, “Is this a Tardis?’ she asked hopefully. Arawn took a while to answer, but after licking his lips he did.

“No.” he began slowly. “It is not.” He replied. Juanita’s face fell. “Well not precisely a Tardis. Though it is related to one.” Juanita opened her mouth, and Arawn interrupted her.

“WAIT.” He commanded her. She closed her mouth.

“Yes,” he began again. “Timelords do exist. As does the one you know as ‘The Doctor’.”

“Did you ever meet him?” Juanita asked, interrupting Arawn in a hurry. Arawn sighed and rolled his eyes.

“Yes, in fact I traveled with him for a long while.” Arawn answered, trying to force down a smile, and failing. “Quite some time ago.”

“You were one of his Companions?” Juanita smiled.

“Affirmative. Which is why I gained so much knowledge concerning repair work on a Time-Capsule,”, he cleared his throat, “excuse me….’Tardis’.” he emphasized. “He and I had many adventures together.”

“Now Juanita to answer your primary question.” Arawn continued. “No this is not a Tardis. It is instead a related craft otherwise referred to as a Sidrat.”

“Sigh-drat?” Alonzo echoed, Arawn nodded at his pronunciation.

“A Spacial Inter-Dimensional Robotic All-purpose Transporter. Unlike a Tardis, it is capable of only short trips in space and time and only for a limited duration.” Arawn explained.

“Once I acquired this craft, I stabilized it with my prior knowledge and experience of working with the Doctor’s craft. But even with my knowledge, it will operate for only a few more short hops to predetermined locations.”

“Well that sheds a new light on things, Doctor Iron. My biggest concern as both a Hunter and your Chief of Security. Is that this not be used to violate the First Law of Time.” Alonzo stated gruffly as he crossed his arms.

“First Law of Time?” Arawn gaped, taking a long blink.

“Yes, that a Timelord not cross…” Alonzo began, but Arawn cut him off.

“I am fully cognizant of that Law.” Arawn said, “And I can assure you that I have NO INTENTION of violating it.”

“Or make an attempt on Grendel before he becomes a threat?” Alonzo growled.

“I do flaunt many laws, Alonzo Belushi. But I am not such a fool to attempt to violate causality.” Arawn sighed.
“Besides, if I attempted to do that it would probably cause the Sidrat to explode. Such being well beyond the confines of its parameters. Satisfied?”

“I am satisfied, for now.” Alonzo nodded. “But I will need you to answer many more questions before you get this ‘Artifact’ operational. Yes?” He demanded.

“Agreed.” Arawn replied firmly. “Until such time, I do have a request for you two.”

“Yes?” Both Alonzo and Juanita answered.

“Do you know of any way that I can watch this human TV program that mentions the Doctor? I am quite curious to see what it gets correct.”

“I’ve got the complete set on VHS tape.” Juanita replied.

“I will of course, watch them with you! I want to hear everything you know about him!” Juanita demanded. Arawn peered back at her with a long-suffering look, and then he sighed heavily.

<><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><>< 

(The next morning)

“Well how was it watching ‘Doctor Who with Doctor Iron?” Alonzo asked as he joined Juanita on their way to the Foundation’s intensive care unit.

“He was a major pain in the ass!” she grumbled, “We barely got through three episodes.”

“Oh? Why is that?” Alonzo grinned knowingly.

“When he wasn’t laughing his ass off, he was shouting about the ‘technical inconsistencies’. You’d think I would’ve learned about watching anything with the Doc by now!” she grumped, her boots slamming onto the shiny tiled floors.

“He’s always does this every time I try to watch a sci-fi or fantasy movie with him.” She growled. Alonzo seemed surprised by the revelation. Juanita glanced out of the corner of her eye and noticed his reaction.

“Take my advice.” She began, “NEVER join him in watching Galaxy Quest. He’ll constantly berate everyone on screen for ‘violating protocol’ or failing physics! Just once I’d like to just simply enjoy a show with him being quiet.” She huffed.

“I take it that you’ve spent many hours doing that with him?” Alonzo asked innocently. Juanita gave him a glare, and kept silent for several more steps.

Finally she stopped as did Alonzo. Juanita looked up and down the passageway and made sure there wasn’t anyone else there with them. There weren’t.

“Don’t tell anyone!” she hissed. Alonzo nodded and crossed his heart. She looked away for several seconds, then licked her lips and began.

“Ever since he picked me up from the orphanage, he’s the closest I have to a padre. He’s patiently taught me many things, especially how to appreciate myself as a Chupacabra. And most importantly,…” she paused and looked Alonzo straight in the eyes. “He accepts me.” Juanita stopped talking for second and bit her lower lip, looking all the world like an forlorn little girl.

“Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy spending time watching movies with him and all. But he can be such a pain in the ass. I remember him taking me to see one of the first showings of Star Wars at Carnegie Hall in New York.” She remembered, smiling fondly.

“I was just a ninita then. The movie would’ve been much more fun if he hadn’t kept complaining about “. She lifted up her fingers for air quotes, and began speaking in a deeper voice “’no air in space, therefore no sound’, she resumed her normal voice, “and stuff like that. We came close to getting thrown out by the management.” Juanita stopped talking for several seconds and then looked back at Alonzo.

“I would jump into the pits of Hell if he asked me to.” She spoke quietly and then spun on a heel and resumed stomping down the hallway. Alonzo kept silent as he caught up and matched steps with her.

Finally, the pair came to the entrance of the ICU and entered without a delay. The security folks simply motioning them inside. At the further most point, they came across Quintus and Secundus overseeing Tertius and Quartus. Both of whom were lying in bed unconscious. Attached to them both were a variety of medical devices and breathing apparatuses.
A toning bell interrupted the silence when it quietly dinged in a pair of rhythmic heartbeat patterns for each of Arawn’s stricken not-brothers.

Juanita found herself drawn to the more damaged looking version of Arawn the one Secundus was fussing over. Alonzo noticed that the sight of the other injured Arawn troubled her. She seemed on the verge of tears, judging by the way she kept biting her lip and clutching tightly at the beds railing.

Alonzo noted that Quintus was still in his surgical scrubs and was reading Quartus’ medical chart, all the while frowning something fierce. Secundus was busying himself by waving what appeared to be a magic wand over Quartus, who looked like himself.

“I’ll be damned.” Alonzo muttered. Secundus and Quintus both looked up from their work and turned to him.

“Sorry. It just got me, seeing all four of you together like that. You all do look exactly like Arawn.” He apologized.

Quintus and Secundus shared a glance, and turned back to Alonzo and nodded once silently. Juanita moved closer to Secundus and pointed to his wand.

“Is that a Sonic Screwdriver?” she asked him innocently. Secundus’ hand froze and he turned his head to glare at her.

“No. It is not.” He replied chillingly, and was about to say something more.

“Hmm, that is not a half bad idea.” Quintus interrupted, smiling. “Considering the current technological level of Earth as it is, I could just about craft one. Or at least a rudimentary version.” He continued, thinking about it.

“Oh! Why did you have to go and do that for?” Secundus moaned to Juanita. “Now he will be nothing but a pain until he actually succeeds at crafting one!” he gruffed.

“Oh hush!” Quintus shot back. “This; coming from the forger of a functional Krull-Glaive’?” he complained. “Do not forget that you nearly missed decapitating someone with that thing.”

“That was an accident caused by a fool being in the wrong place!” Secundus shot back, outraged.

“Which is why you should leave the tool-crafting to me!” Quintus hissed.

“Excuse me, Mister Light-Saber! How many resources did you waste after you saw Star Wars?!” Secundus testily replied. “You are lucky we were able to reattach your hand!”

Quintus’ eyes flared indignantly as he opened his mouth to reply…

“GENTLEMAN!” Arawn announced as he entered the room. “Enough!” he barked. Both of his vertical not-brothers stopped and stood quietly in response. Juanita noticed that they were looking sullenly at each other.

“Now is not the time for this. I have made my decision.” Arawn stated with gravity. Everyone present looked surprised for a moment. Arawn sighed unhappily.

“You are correct Quintus, one has to die if we are all to live.” He nodded at Quintus, who nodded back somberly.

“Doctor Iron!” Juanita spoke up, “Is this really necessary?” she cried. Arawn looked puzzled at her question.

“You have heard everything spoken of yesterday, did you not? There has not been any new developments that I am aware of, is there?”

Juanita shook her head while keeping her eyes locked with his. Arawn then nodded and stepped towards one of the beds.

“But what about the Doctor and his ability to Regenerate?” Juanita asked, and then swallowed.

“What about that?” Arawn shot back, annoyed.

“Surely it could help, if all that you said about the process was true?”

“I am sure that it would.” Arawn began patiently. “Just being in the presence of nascent regeneration energies would do wonders for anyone injured, as he informed me. But I was never near the Doctor when he did.”

“Then why don’t you try contacting him?”

“Because I do not have a means of getting in touch.” Arawn answered. “And even if I could, I highly doubt that the Doctor would be willing to sacrifice one of his regenerations just for me. Besides, I would not allow it. He has paid too high a price as is.”

“But what about some other nice Timelord?” Juanita cried desperately.

“Juanita, even if I could find one. There is no way for me to know when that Timelord is going to regenerate. As such, I doubt that even the most forgiving of Timelords would appreciate my attempting to start one prematurely.” Arawn replied sadly.

“But!” she cried, Arawn raised a hand to cut off any more questions from her.

“There is no other option Juanita, one of me must die so that the rest may live. It is simple Triage. You should know that.” Arawn stated as he looked at Juanita’s Paramedic uniform meaningfully, as she shook with anger and resentment.

Frustrated, Juanita whirled herself away from him and ran out of the room, her eyes blinking furiously. All who were able to do so, watched her retreat without saying a word.

Arawn shook his sadly at her departure, and then he stepped softly to the foot of one of the occupied beds, and without any adieu, he reached out a hand to the controls of the life support machine attached to his stricken not-brother.

“Goodbye Quar….” He began and then he stopped, leaving his mouth open slightly.

Quintus waited for a few seconds and then glanced over at Arawn. He noticed that he was standing there, looking at…nothing.

“Primus?” he asked, as he leaned over to give Arawn a nudge. Arawn began muttering something. Quintus leaned over and listened.

“I cannot,…know when a Timelord,… will regenerate….” Arawn whispered hoarsely to himself.

“Primus?” Secundus asked.

“But I am,… aware of when a Timelord,….HAS regenerated….” Arawn continued, as he began probing the inside of his mouth with a tongue for a moment. Then he snapped his mouth shut and looked up.

“SECUNDUS!” Arawn barked suddenly.

“Yes Primus!” Secundus yelped. Arawn turned to him.

“The Sidrat?” he began, “What is its current operational range?”

“Uhmmmm….” Secundus began, as he thought about it. “Not much, I am afraid. If you wanted to travel through time, then that would limit its range in space.”

 “What about say….to San Francisco?” Arawn smiled. Both Quintus and Secundus paused, and then they were thunderstruck by the idea.

“Of course!” they shouted excitedly in unison.

“Yes Primus, I do believe that I can compensate for that!” Secundus cried delightedly.

“Quintus, prepare Quartus and Tertius for a journey.”

“Understood!” Quintus replied, a look of desperate excitement playing across his face.

“I don’t understand, why do you want to go to San Francisco?” Alonzo asked, puzzled.

“That is the place that the Doctor I knew regenerated at, just prior to my meeting him. He was alone then!” Arawn smiled triumphantly.

“Thus, there will be less chance of violating the First Law of Time! Assuming we are careful.” He spoke, mostly to himself.

“Alonzo?” he spoke firmly. “Would you be so kind as to retrieve Juanita for me?”

“Certainly, why?”

“Because where we are about to go, I will need the services of a Paramedic. Ostensibly to help me gain access to the Walker General Hospital in San Francisco, on the date of November 30, 1999.” He stated happily, as he began to walk away. He then turned and looked back at his Chief of Security.

“Alonzo, would you care to go on a temporal joyride?” Arawn asked, grinning from ear to ear.

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