Scene 9: Thomas Residence, Tuen Mun

[i]Huang starts stepping out of the room behind the boiler to head outside when something causes him to turn around. There were two major basement doors and Ming had already picked one of them, and knowing Ming, it was by pure chance, either flipping a coin or something similar.

Huang was not in the habit of leaving stones unturned.

Heading back into the room the others are in, he makes this announcement:[/i]

Huang: That other door could also use some checking out. I don't like leaving stones unturned. I'm going to have a look. The rest of you can follow me. Be ready for anything.

And with that, he heads out the door and makes his way to the door leading further down.

Ming throws a jaunty salute at Huang's back ...

Yes SIR! Coming SIR! Right away SIR!

She moves to follow him.

[i]Huang rolls his eyes as he opens the other door. There are times when Ni Ming Shi can annoy the living hell out of him -- this is one of them. As he starts heading down, his ears are open for any sign of trouble, and his grip tightens around the pistol grip of the Mossberg.

The Mossberg has been with Huang for a good number of years. Apart from the barrel mount which held his light, the shotgun also has the heat shield usually present on 590s, and an SPAS-12 style top folding stock with a pistol grip and six-shell side-saddle shell carrier that Huang had added custom onto the gun. It's a grimly impressive piece of tactical deadliness, one of Huang's very favorite weapons, and is called the "Persuader" with good reason.[/i]

[i]Nic pores over the scratches, and finds a small stone discarded on the floor with a scratched end, a sure sign it had been used to make the marks on the wall. There's a draught from the holes in the wall, and it really does look like the flue runs up through the house, past the lounge and the master bedroom. Perfect for carrying sound, when everything else if quiet. Setting his jaw grimly, he follows the others.

Huang cautiously proceeds down a short flight of steps, which ends in another door. Holding his shotgun one-handed, he pushes the door open. It creaks loudly, a series of cracking noises that echo in the void beyond. The room is dark, and windowless. As Huang shines his torch around it's clear that its nearly half the size of the ground-plan of the house. A quick sweep establishes that no-one's in there at head height, but Huang knows better than to consider that definitive. Unlike the other room, which was packed with boxes, this one is mostly cleared. There are soggy boxes of bric-a-brac against the walls, but nowhere near as many.

Huang's torch picks up a series of old and rusted tools hung on the far wall- once they must have been neat and clean but now they are useless. In the middle of the floor he sees a large workbench, suggesting that once this was someone's workroom. On the floor around the legs of the workbench are a series of daubed symbols, in reds and purples.

Ming notices a flicker from an energy-saving light bulb hanging from the ceiling. They generally do that for a few minutes after being turned off.

Huang torch illuminates more of the bench as he swings it up, and as it reaches the top he is suddenly looking straight at Mingxia Thomas' face. Lying on the workbench, she blinks at the light and mumbles something incoherent. Her clothes are dirty and torn. She's awake, but seems woozy.[/i]

At the sight of Mingxia, Huang's reaction is immediate. We see a smile light up his face for the first time since the case began. He turns to the others.

Huang: We've found her. Ming, sweep the area, make sure nobody else is here. Nic, see if you can make any sense of those symbols on the bench.

And with that Huang strides over by the workbench, moving the shotgun light out of Mingxia's face and making sure that she gets a good look at his face. He speaks softly but clearly.

Huang: My name is Inspector Huang, HKPD. We're here to get you out. Are you all right?

Nic walks up beside Huang and puts a hand on his arm. He whispers his next words, so as not to scare the girl.

Nic: Whoa, partner. I'm glad we found her too, but don't get too close until I check the sybols out. Nasty things often happen when crossing the ley lines between symbols. Once, in Bulgaria, a medic I was working with wandered across some transmogrification runes buried under the snow, and... uh, well, it was bad. Nic makes a face like he just smelled raw sewage. Oh, man, was it baaaaad.

Nic sidles over the the symbols, trying to get a good look at them with his magnifying glass

Nic: Hello, Mingxia. Do me a favor and stay right there. Don't move too much. Inspector Huang will come get you in a moment. You're safe now.

[i]Nic struggles to make much out in the dark, even with his torch. The sigils are drawn with a dry powder, probably some sort of crushed root. They don't appear to be sorcerously active at the moment. Nic recognises some of the forms as being related to Summoning and Fertility magic, although he doesn't remember encountering these exact symbols before.

Huang, now he's closer to the workbench, sees heavy chrome chains glinting in the light from his torch. Mingxia is quite comprehensively shackled to the table. The links clink dully against each other as she struggles to look up at the officers.[/i]

Mingxia: Help me, please. Can you hear me? Please help me...

Huang's eyes narrow as they take in the heavy chains around Mingxia.

Huang: (muttering to himself so as not to scare Mingxia) Tad bit excessive if you're looking to sacrifice someone.

He turns to Nic and Ming.

Huang: Ming, see if you can find a light switch for this room. Nic, what can you make of those symbols on the floor? Are we going to need to do an exorcism on her, or is something else going on here?

Nic keeps peering at the symbols, frowning, as he answers Huang, also quietly so as not to freak out the girl chained very nearby.

Nic: Weird. No, the symbols aren't intended to stop us, so it's ok to cross them. But they're from the realm of summoning, so my guess is that Yunru, or whomever she has helping her, intended to possess or dominate Mingxia. She doesn't seem affected yet, so I don't believe an exorcism is in order. I think we got here in time. But fertility signs? Good lord, this crazy sorceress wanna-be may be trying to demonically impregnate her own daughter! It's hard to tell just what was going on here. Guys, this could not have been good news.

Nick slides his utility knife from his pocket, and begins gently scraping some of the powered runes off the floor and into a small plastic evidence bag. Once he's scraped two of them away from between him and the bench, he motions for Huang to try to release the girl.

Ming takes a quick look around the room, searching for another door, the lightswitch, or anybody hiding out among all these boxes. She knows someone must have just left for that lightbulb to be still flickering, and figures that the exit closest to the switch is probably the one that person used. Ming has pursuit on her mind.

[i]{Perception: 8+6=14 BOXCARS!} Ming shoulders her shotgun and searches near the door for the light switch. Finding it on the crumbling brick walls, she flicks it.

There's a fat spark from the old wiring and Ming jumps back in shock. In the process, her shotgun discharges into the ceiling accidentally. As the light flickers on, Ming looks up to see what the damage is.

Immediately above the door, Yunru Thomas is floating spread-eagled just underneath the ceiling. Her eyes are filled with murderous rage, and her clothes are covered with faintly glowing pink glitter from Ming's anti-invisibility shell.

Ming backs away in surprise as Yunru drifts gently to the floor between the officers and the door.[/i]

Ming: Holy crap!

Ming aims her shotgun at Yunru, giving it a loud "Ka-CHINK!" for good measure.

Huang sees Yunru Thomas floating down between them and the door and swings the Persuader around to cover her, racking the slide of the shotgun with a dramatic KA-CHINK and letting the spare shell fly out of the chamber.

Huang: Nic, untie her now. The witch is mine.

He stares down the matriarch of the Thomas family with eyes of steel.

Huang: You know, we never did get a statement from you the first time we were here, considering you all but shut yourself in your room. So I am going to ask you this one time, and one time only: what in the living hell are you doing to your daughter?!

Nic jumps in between the girl and the sorceress Yunru, and begins to work the chains loose from Mingxia. As he does, he looks back over his shoulder at the woman Yunru, and calls to his teammates.

Nic: Guys, be very careful! If she starts speaking words in any language other than Cantonese or English, just blast her! Levitation and invisibility magic isn't beginner stuff, so only the gods know what kind of offensive mojo she's got.

Yunru Thomas: I was most put out that you didn't pay me a visit earlier. I had practised my crying and everything.

She begins to pace slowly back and forth in front of the doorway, as if she was lecturing unruly children.

Yunru Thomas: I wouldn't expect you to understand my purpose. It's a lamentably common failing to lack ambition, even if it is a failing I can take advantage of. I was careless last time. Sloppy. I had to make do with whatever waif was to hand. That was not an enjoyable time. It took me quite a while to re-establish myself, and I vowed never to fall in that position again. When Aaron, dear Aaron, fell in love with me I saw an opportunity. The first child was a boy- useless to me- but Mingxia was just what I needed.

She holds up an arm. Her long sleeve falls away from it, revealing blackened and crusted flesh on her fore-arm. After holding up it to the light for a moment, she lets her arm drop and the sleeve cover it.

Yunru Thomas: Immortality has its cost, but it's a cost I make others pay. And I'm afraid I've been planning this for far too long to let some barely competent flatfoots interfere now. When I am finished, it will look like quite the little massacre happened here.

She appears to think for a moment, then a cruel smile crosses her face.

Yunru Thomas: In fact, you three may prove useful after all. Gung-ho policing, the family found dead and the officers discovered having committed suicide out of remorse. It could work. No sign of little Mingxia, naturally, until I'm ready to begin again somewhere else. England maybe.

She stops pacing and stands facing the officers, between them and the door and looking down. From each sleeve a long, broad silk ribbon unrolls until it touches the floor. She looks up, dark fires dancing in her eyes.

Yunru Thomas: Death is but a door. After you...

[i](Guns 15) Huang lets the Persuader do the talking. Yunru circles her arms anticlockwise, and the ribbons from her sleeves form a circle in front of her. The shotgun pellets bounce off an invisible wall of force inside the circle. One pellet hits the light fitting, sending the bulb swinging crazily.

Nic fiddles with the chain around Mingxia's ankles. She groans at the sudden noise, still not quite aware of what's going on. He finds a carabiner holding two links together under the bench and snaps them free.

(Sorcery 12) Yunru snaps one of her ribbons towards a stack of boxes next to the wall. The stack trembles a little, but nothing else happens.

(Martial Arts 19) Nic leaps off the bench, and swings the free end of the chain towards the sorceress. At the last minute she raises an arm, but it's too late to block the blow. The heavy links slam against her cheek, sending her reeling into the door frame. She shakes her head, an ugly red pattern marring her porcelain complexion. A look of pure venom flicks from her to Nic.

(G 13) Huang stays in front of Mingxia, shielding her while he fires again. Yunru is caught off-guard, but the leaping shadows make Huang misjudge where he's firing and the blast tears a hole in some crumbling brickwork.

(G 10) Ming fires her shotgun and leaps for the safety of a second workbench. The shot goes wide, but she's safely tucked behind something heavy and wooden.

(G 20) Seeing Yunru steel herself for some sort of counter attack, Huang rolls across the top of the bench Ming Shi is hiding behind. Offcuts of wood and old hacksaw blades rain on to the floor. Halfway through the roll, he blasts at Yunru. He drops to the floor the other side and sees Yunru putting an arm against the wall to steady herself. Blood is a spreading stain on her clothes.

(S 18) Nic drops the chain and reaches into his pockets. He flicks some purple powder into the air in front of him and draws a pattern in the cloud with the tip of his finger. The sigil hangs in the air for a moment, then Nic blows it gently towards Yunru. The cloud envelopes her head, but she disperses it with an irritated flick of her hand. Her eyelids close, but snap open almost immediately.[/i]

Yunru: This dress was new!

[i](S 24) Yunru crosses her hands in front of her face, then jerks them outwards towards Huang. The ribbons from her sleeves slide through the air towards him. Still crouched from his roll, Huang starts to leap aside but the ribbons catch him in the stomach like an iron bar and throw him into the back wall. He lands sprawled across a desk, showered by rusty tools. He tries to get to his feet but he is surprised by a scraping in his chest from broken ribs. Not the first time he's had them, but they never get any less painful.

(G 13) Ming leans round her cover and fires another deafening blast. Sadly, Yunru had moved slightly from her last position and is only showered with chips from the walls beside her.

Seeing that Mingxia is still woozy, Nic puts an arms round her and pulls her onto her feet. With one of her arms across his shoulder he takes her weight and makes sure she's behind him.[/i]

Nic: Hang on, Mingxia, we're getting you out of here!

Mingxia: Mmmm?

[i](S 6) Yunru swirls her ribbons around her head and steps closer to Huang and Ming. Her ribbons fly into the bench Ming is using as cover. The bench rocks on its feet but stays upright. Yunru has moved a few feet from the doorway and has her back to it.

(G 16) Ming pops up from behind the bench to keep Yunru's attention away from the door or Mingxia. She fires another shell, and allows herself a little smile of satisfaction when Yunru clutches at her arm and shrieks in pain.

Still lying on the desk, Huang grimaces and gives the Persuader a hearty pump.[/i]

Sequence summary
Yunru is quite badly wounded, but still fighting.

Huang is lying on a desk at the far end of the room. He has 5 shells left in his shotgun, and 13 Wound Points.

Ming Shi is hiding behind a heavy workbench. She has 3 shells left in her shotgun and 9 Wound Points from the last fight.

Nic is supporting Mingxia's weight. He has 18 Wound Points from the last fight.

[i]Huang rolls off the desk onto a trolley used for moving heavy items. He uses one foot to propel himself towards Yunru, while taking cover behind the thin handles. (Driving 14) Yunru windmills her arms and then thrust one in front of her. She drifts across the room, avoiding the cart just before it slams into the wall. Huang gasps as the impact jars his ribs, but at least he's got her further away from he door.

At that moment, the boxes against one wall explode into shred of cardboard. Yunru snapped her ribbon at these boxes earlier. As the pieces drift to the floor, a clicking mass of metal blades lurches upright. It appears to be made of old garden tools- including a lawnmower, lawn edgers and some secateurs. There's a horrible screeching noise as the rusted pivots move.[/i]

Huang: Lao-tyen, boo...

[i](Sorcery 17) Yunru snarls and whips one ribbon high into the air. She brings it down onto the workbench Ming is hiding behind. The workbench is shorn in two, wood chips spinning through the air. Ming scrambles backwards on her hands and feet, holding her shotgun protectively in front of her face.

(Guns 23 BOXCARS!) Huang rounds on the blade creature and gives it what-for. He catches the creature mid-leap towards him, and the blast knocks it back into the wall. The whole rooms shudders, and a baulk of wood drops into Yunru's head and sends her sprawling.

(Martial Arts 17) The shears beast shakes itself free of the brickwork, and leaps again for Huang. Huang doesn't quite get his gun up in time and the beast catches him full into the belly. The blow flings Huang to the ground, with the beast crouched over him, bloodied saw blades flashing.

Yunru shakes her head and slowly climbs back onto her feet.

Nic practically drags Mingxia out of the room, his eyes nervously watching the beast to make sure it hasn't noticed them. The adrenaline seems to have kicked in for the girl, because she manages to start climbing the stairs under her own power.

(Sabotage 4) Ming looks around at the injured Huang and the escaping Mingxia. Then she looks up at the swinging light. One blast from her shotgun shatters the bulb, plunging the room back into darkness. Yunru glows in the gloom, pink sparkles stuck to her skin and clothes making her position obvious.

(G 10) Huang rolls away from the beast and fires back towards it, but his aim is high. For a brief instant the monster is lit up.[/i]

Huang: Ming, what have I told you about making things difficult?

Ming: Nyer nyer!

[i](MA 11) The beast leaps at towards the sound of Huang's voice, but the veteran officer knows enough to keep moving and the only result is to scatter some fragments of the workbench.

(G 15) Ming feels safe in taking the time to line up a shot at Yunru, and is gratified to hear the woman cry out.

(MA 9) Hoping he's remembered the layout of the room properly Nic charges towards Yunru, hoping to overturn the bench Mingxia was on and slam it into the sorceress. He misjudges the distance in the dark and pushes at empty air which robs him of his momentum.

(S 15) Yunru's ribbons were never covered with the special glowing powder, so Ming has no idea she's threatened until she feels herself picked up bocily and slammed into the ceiling. Ming drops back onto the floor, spitting cobwebs.[/i]

Ming: You broke my goggles!

[i]Huang fumbles with his ammo belt and find the shell he's looking for. He kisses it for luck, then slides it into his shotgun and takes careful aim at the creaking noises that betray the position of the beast.

(MA 12) Ming nearly swallows her tongue as she hears the beast leap right past her, apparently with her death on what passes for its mind.

(MA 9) Nic gropes in the dark until he finds the bench, then heaves it over onto its side and charges towards Yunru. The woman snaps her arms about her then performs a graceful somersault over Nic and the bench to land on the other side.

(G 10) Ming fires at her while she's in the air, but there's the sound of rippling ribbons and Yunru appears unharmed.

(G 15) Huang sights down his shotgun at where he believes the blade beast to be.[/i]

Huang: Fire in the hole!

The white phosphorous shell spews incandescent light towards the creature, which is swiftly engulfed in clinging fire. The whine of its agony it almost as unpleasant as the smell that quickly fills the room. The phosphorous sticks to the creature, making it easy to see in the dark.

Sequence summary

Ming has one shell left in her weapon, and has the cover of darkness. The has 16 wound points.

Huang has three shells left in his shotgun, and is more-or-less in the middle of the room, near the blade beast. He has 23 wound points.

Nic is near the bench he pushed, on the far side of the room from the door. He still has 18 wound points.

Yunru seems to be quite badly injured, and is lit up all pretty like near the middle of the room.

The blade beast is also badly injured, as far as it's possible to tell, and is lit up by the burning phosphorous

[i]Huang pumps the Persuader, gritting his teeth against the warm sensation across his stomach.

(Sorcery 17) Yunru raises her arms above her head, and there's a rattling noise from the wall behind her. She thrusts her arms forwards, and there's a series of metallic noises. Ming cries out in pain and a cloud of sharp tools stick her like a pin cushion. The officer drops onto one knee, and start pulling the rusty pieces out of herself.

(Martial Arts 12) Nic jumps into the air and grabs the dangling wire for the light. He tries to drag it over to the bladed horror but the cable brings him up short a few inches away.

(Guns 11 BOXCARS) Huang notices just too late that Nic is in his line of fire, but manages to yank his aim away enough to leave the wizard unhurt. However, the electricity cable is cut in two by the blast.

(G 14) Struggling back to her feet, Ming fires her last shell at the sorceress, forcing Yunru to duck back and away with a breathy sound of rippling fabric.[/i]

Yunru: Does it hurt? I hope so.

[i](MA 11) The shears beast rear on its hind blades, and thrashes its limbs at Nic. He backs away into the darkness, avoiding the blows easily.

Huang crosses to put Ming behind him, and pumps his shotgun again.

(S 12) There's a crash from the corner of the room and a cloud of brick dust drifts across the room. Whatever Yunru did, it missed.

(G 14) The rearing beast makes an excellent target, and Huang doesn't waste the opportunity. There's a metallic clang as one of the legs falls off the creature.

(MA 15) Nic crawls along the floor towards Yunru and makes a wild grab at where he believes one of the ribbons to be. He stands and pulls with all his weight, and Yunru is pulled off her feet and onto the floor.

Ming gasps for breath, her back to one half of the broken workbench, and she doggedly starts reloading her shotgun. Her broken goggles slip over her eyes. and she giggles hysterically as she takes them off altogether.

(MA 5) The bladed monster tries to advance towards Huang, but stumbles and lands on the floor with a piteous squeal.

Mrs. Thomas hauls herself back onto her feet, with a bench for support.

Huang pumps one last time, offering up a prayer to whatever god might be listening.

(MA 15) Nic loops the ribbon he's holding around Yunru, pinning one of her arms to her side. he hauls her closer, and he can see her enraged expression in the light from the burning monster.

(G 16) Huang approaches the slithering monster and blasts it at close range. Shattered metals shoots off into the darkness, but somehow the beast is still twitching.

(MA 13) Hedge trimming shears emerge from the twisted mess and cut Huang on his shin, eliciting a curse from him.

As the last of the phosphorous burns away, the metal beast finally collapses into its constituent parts. Gone forever, hopefully.[/i]

Sequence Summary

Ming has loaded 4 shells into her shotgun- she can put the other 3 in for a cost of 2 shots at the start of the next sequence, or run with what she's got. She's currently taking cover behind half a workbench, nicely out of sight. She has 25 wound points and 1 point of impairment.

Huang has expended the Persuader. He is stood near the remains on the beast. He has 29 wound points and 1 point of impairment.

Nic has partially incapacitated Yunru with one of her own ribbons. He has 16 wound points, still.

Yunru hasn't taken any more punishment, but she's tangled up by Nic and angry about it.

Her beast is dead. Killed, after all man's devices had failed, by the burning damage at the end of the sequence.

[i](Guns 12) Ming brings pokes her head and shoulders over the top of the workbench and fires at Yunru, but the woman ducks quickly and there's the sound of bricks disintegrating behind her.

(Sorcery 17) Yunru grabs Nic's arms, and as her fingernails score his flesh there's an unpleasant sensation. Green boils and ripe pustules erupt down his arm, spreading as far as his elbow. His vein turns dark and green and there's an involuntary gasp as the pain hits him.

Huang steps sideways away from the burning remains of the monster and into the deeper shadows. He starts feverishly reloading the Persuader.

(Martial Arts 14) Nic hauls on the ribbon, pulling Yunru further out into the middle of the room. One last tug with his painful arm and she is sent toppling onto the floor in disarray.

(Guns 12) Ming takes another shot, tongue pointing out of the corner of her mouth. Yunru jerks reflexively as the blast hits her in the shoulder.

(Death Check -6) Yunru collapses horizontally with a sigh.

There's a moment of uncertainty. Huang looks up from his shotgun, Nic waits in case it's a bluff and Ming keeps her weapon trained on the witch. After a moment, it's clear there's no fight left in her.

In the flickering light from the fire, she coughs up a little blood and stares up at the ceiling with unfocussed eyes.[/i]

Yunru Thomas: All these years, was this all I was afraid of?

She slips out of consciousness.

Sequence Summary

Ming has two shells remaining, and 25 Wound Points.

Huang has 3 shells currently loaded, and 29 Wound Points.

Nic has 18 Wound Points, but also a disease with a rating of 9 (and hence one point of Impairment).

Yunru Thomas is bleeding out on the floor.

The fight is over.

Remembering the first aid course from her police training, Ming bends down and rips some long swaths of cloth from Yunru's clothing, binding the worst of the witch's wounds. Then Ming ties Yunru's hands and feet together with zip ties from her own much-abused satchel, and gags and blindfolds the other woman for good measure.

Ming: Is that the ambulance siren I hear outside? Maybe somebody could go out and point them this way? She's not gonna last long, and I'd like to see her do some jail time for what she did to Mingxia!