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The Order of the Clock Tower

Chapter Text

If there was one lesson George Orwell believed was worth all the time and experience it took to properly brand it into his mind, it was the one his mother had first ever taught him as he perched on her knee while she sat in her office chair like it was a throne.
You only get one chance at a first impression.
It would take him a few more years to really get an appreciation of the importance of how others saw him, especially in his business. But he looked back on that memory and the memories of all his other lessons fondly, they had made him the man he was today.
Some would say that wasn’t necessarily a good thing. Most would wholeheartedly argue that it was definitely not a good thing. “Who taught you these lessons? I want to find them and ring their necks!”
But regardless of their opinions, here he was, looking impeccable and strolling down the streets of London with a certain joie de vivre, that in no way hinted to the people around him that his life was currently falling apart and that he was probably going to get shot once he arrived at his destination. Admittedly, this hadn’t been his best week.
Once he arrived at the doors of the publishing house, he took a moment to appreciate the buildings architecture and straighten his tie. Appearances were a very important factor in forming a first impression.


George Orwell
Ability: Animal Farm


The letter that had summoned him to this address had mentioned that there would be someone waiting for him upon his arrival, but all the people in the last lobby buzzed about their own business like he wasn’t even there. After about half an hour of waiting he eventually bit the bullet and with a sigh, approached the receptionist, whose face contorted with a flash of fear that didn’t surprise George at all, as he showed her the letter and signaled him to take the stairs to get to “the room they use for… guests.”
Five flights of stairs later, he found himself in front of an industrial metal door built into the face of a concrete wall at the dead end of a hallway. Before approaching it, George adjusted his jacket one more time to make sure the shape of his gun wasn’t visible through the fabric. He knocked on the door and awaited his fate, trying to ignore the increasingly tighter knot in his stomach. After a few heartbeats he heard a faint whirring sound and when he looked up, he saw a security camera tucked into the corner of the ceiling, the lenses extending and retracting to show that he was being watched.
Not a minute later the door swung open and two well-dressed arguing men came out of it.
“It just doesn’t make sense!” Yelled the one with darker hair.
Both looked to be in their 40’s but this one was infinitely better dressed, an ascot, a matching deep blue to the color of his suit, hugged his neck.


J.R.R. Tolkien
Knight of the Order of the Clock Tower.
Ability: An Unexpected Journey


“It doesn’t need to make sense! For the last time, it’s not a true physical space, hence the trees don’t need to match the ecosystem!” The second had a few more threads of grey in his hair, he was dressed more for the outdoors, almost like a woodsman, a checkered shirt beneath a body warmer, practical trousers and well-worn hiking boots, which… were dragging leaves across the floor.


C.S. Lewis
Knight of the Order of the Clock Tower
Ability: Narnia


George leaned to the side to look past the still arguing pair to the inside of the room they had just come from. The space was apparently a picturesque woodland area, with clear blue sunny skies. He would have probably spent the rest of the day in that position, indignantly staring at the physical impossibility in front of him, but he was spared from that when the two gentlemen eventually paused their argument and fixed their eyes on him, finally noticing his presence.
“Oi.” Called the woodsman, “Care to explain what you’re doing up here?”
George snapped out of his minor daze, straightened up his posture and slipped back into his usual persona. “I was invited here, actually. Well, I was invited to the lobby, but since my promised tour guide never showed up, I figured there was no harm in showing myself around.”
The one in the suit muttered something under his breath, but then stepped in front of George to address him, “Ah yes you’re the amateur gang leader.” He said dismissively.
George bristled at his tone, this was far from the first time he’d heard something like that, some puffed up shirt with grey hair thinking that he could talk down to George just because he’d been alive long enough to develop back pain.
“Of course, the fact that you’ve been able to achieve as much as you have at your age is admittedly impressive.” He conceded.
“I’m a legal adult.” George fired back in a measured tone, he’d be 20 in a few months.
“For god’s sake John, stop aggravating the boy.” Sighed the assumed nature lover, rubbing the space between his eyebrows with the knuckle of his thumb. He looked over at George with friendly eyes “Mr. Orwell, I presume?”
“Depends on who’s asking.” George replied.
The older man’s eyes suddenly became tired, and his friend sneered at the disrespect. “This is sir Lewis, and you may refer to me as sir Tolkien.” Said the one in blue.
George quirked an eyebrow at them, “Funny, I don’t remember seeing you on the New Year’s honors list.”
“Regardless of what you have seen we are knights, I dismantled a lot of enemy organizations to get this title and I deserve to be referred to as such.” Tolkien lectured him without the slightest hint of embellishment.
“Dismantled enemy organizations?”
“Sort of like what we did to those little thug groups you were squeezing money out of.” Lewis clarified.
“Excuse me?!” George shrieked.
“Oh, surely you realized those two things were connected?” Tolkien leaned down, so they were at eye level.
George took a moment to analyses how the two seemed to be flawlessly teaming up to haze him, in direct contrast to how they’d been arguing earlier. This really wasn’t his best month.
“There’s somewhere we should be going, yes?” George asked, trying to change the topic.
Thankfully, it worked.
“Ah, quite right. Tolkien, send the boy on his way, we’re cutting it a little close.” Lewis said as he turned back towards the door.
“Again with the age thing”, George thought, and was about to vocalize it when Tolkien slapped him harshly on the back, causing him to stumble, and before he could right himself he felt a finger poke him right between the shoulder blades. Then, a wild wind was howling through his ears and his vision went blurry and the ground shifted like sand under his feet. And, suddenly, he was somewhere else entirely, it looked like one of the parlor rooms he’d seen on costume dramas. Sunlight was streaming in through the huge windows. There was a marble fire place, two arm chairs and a matching sofa in front of it, and rows of book cases against the opposite wall, but George was a little too focused on clutching the back of the sofa and dry heaving to take in the decor.
“Unless you are, in fact, planning on throwing up, could you do that a little more quietly.” Came a hoarse voice.
George looked up to see a figure sprawled out in one of the arm chairs, it was another man, closer in age to him than those two in the hallway, but he looked like a complete mess. His hair was shaggy and there was scruff covering his neck and chin, and both his arms were thrown across his face. His waistcoat was open, and his shirt was undone by a good couple of buttons.


Arthur Conan Doyle
Knight of the Order of the Clock Tower
Ability: Elementary


“Wha-where?” George stumbled over his tongue. Inarticulation was not a feeling he enjoyed.
The man in the arm chair raised one of his arms up just enough for him to peek a single eye out at George, he immediately scowled and covered his eyes again. Then he began speaking;
“You are George Orwell, I am Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, this is the headquarters for the Order of the Clock Tower. You run a small off the books betting shop in the South of London, however you’ve recently been making waves in the gang community by trying to ‘make your way up the ladder’ as you like to call it, when in actuality you’ve been using your ability to hold several groups hostage, in exchange for money and protection. However, when the order took over that territory, those groups were dismantled and you would have been swept along into the rubbish heaps with them were it not for your ability, which made you interesting enough for the higher-ups to decide to summon you here, to possibly be deemed worthy of being an asset to our great organization.”
He delivered his lines like a college professor giving a lecture — a college professor who really hated the subject he was teaching and was counting down the days until he could retire.
George stiffened his lip and endeavored to remain as British as possible, “I see, so you have some sort of file on me? Field agents running reconnaissance?”
“Yes to the second one, but all they told me was your name and that you’re an ability user.” The more this man talked, the more he looked like he was willing his chair to swallow him whole.
“But how could you possibly-” George found himself cut off.
“Look lad, it is simply far too early for you to be asking those kind of questions.” Arthur grumbled,
George looked down at his watch and the hands showed him it was 12:55, “It’s almost one.” He said aloud, not really expecting the man to care.
“Speaking of which, didn’t your ‘invitation’ tell you to be here early?”
The stresses of the day were really starting to get to George at this point, and he was struggling to keep himself in check. “Well my ‘invitation’ also told me to wait for someone to bring me here, and all that happened was I ended up standing in that bloody lobby like a fool!”
George swore that Arthur bunched his eyebrows together under his arms before muttering something under his breath that sounded suspiciously like what Tolkien had muttered earlier, before turning his head to the side slightly, “Mary!” He bellowed.
“Hmm?” Came the response, and it made George flinch because not only had he not realized there was another person in the room, but he hadn’t realized they were so close to him either. Sitting cross-legged on the table in between two of the bookcases, with her head buried in a book was a girl who looked to be the same age, if not younger, than George. Most of her dark brown hair was tied up at the back of her head but two bunches framed her face in bouquets of ringlets, that swayed when she lifted her head and turned bright eyes onto Arthur.
“You were supposed to meet the new boy at the publishing house.” Arthur informed her.
Her eyes widened. “Was that now?” She asked looking at the clock on top of the fireplace, before flicking to George then back down to her book.
“Sorry, I lost track of time with this book,” she explained as she began the process of marking where she had read up to. “It’s a very informative read actually, I’m learning quite a bit.” She added cheerfully. George spied the title on the cover— Is it in their blood? The anatomy of psychopaths— before she snapped it shut and set it down beside her.
“Sorry for not meeting you, but you’re here now, so no harm done.” She said in a breezy tone as she hoped off the table and ran a smoothing hand down her high waisted skirt, before holding out her hand for him to shake. He hesitated for a second, but then he realized that absentmindedness and alarming choices in literature aside her apology was the closest thing to sincerity he’d heard all day, so he shook her hand in a business like fashion.
“George Orwell, pleasure to meet you.” He considered for a moment kissing her hand, the flirtatious approach had worked on a number of people in the past, but he’d also been taught to never send signals to someone who might be crazy, and everything about today had been insane.
“I know.” She chirped, then something flashed through her eyes and she focused on his face like a bird of prey focusing on a mouse. Tightening her grip on his hand she yanked him forward until their faces were very close, and he began to feel very much like a bug in a bell jar.
“May I ask what you’re doing miss…?”
The predatory glint vanished from her eyes like a candle going out, “Mary.” She told him with a smile, then her other hand came up and covered the left side of his face, he felt a sharp pinch in his left eye, then Mary stepped away from him and went over to the window.
There was something wrong with his vision, though he couldn’t quite put his finger on what. He looked over to Mary to ask her what she’d done to him when he noticed her holding something small up against the light coming in through the window.
His eyeball.
“The color of your eyes changes a little depending on the lighting, you’re very lucky.” She said nonchalantly, as if she weren’t holding a piece of human anatomy in her hands.

Mary Shelley
Knight of the Order of the Clock Tower
Ability: The Modern Prometheus


At that moment, the door swung open again and Lewis and Tolkien entered the room, arguing about some entirely new topic, until Lewis noticed George clutching the side of his face and Mary holding his eye by the window.
“Really, Mary, we’ve talked about this.” He sighed like a disappointed grandfather, before taking a seat in the second armchair.
Mary just blinked like she wasn’t sure why he was upset. Tolkien let out a sigh of his own before steering Mary by the shoulders back to where George was frozen in shock. “But I thought he was new?” She asked in confusion.
“He is here on invitation, but until Dame Christie says otherwise, he is a guest, and you remember the talking to you got after they found you plucking the muscles out of Flemings hands in the drawing room?”
Mary hummed as if to say “I see your point”, but when she leaned forward to put his eyeball back in its socket he heard her quietly hiss “I still say he had it coming.” Though George didn’t know if she had meant for him to hear that.
George’s knees finally gave out and he collapsed to the floor, while he sat there and prayed for his head to stop spinning, Tolkien kicked a groaning Arthur out of his armchair so he could sit next to Lewis and continue their argument, Arthur slouched over to the sofa where he spread out across the whole thing, Mary picked her book up off the table and sat down to begin reading it again on the arm of the sofa, offering amiable smiles to her compatriots before refocusing on the written word.
All of them continued on as if this were all perfectly normal. As if George wasn’t lying on the floor having a quarter life crisis.
“Why am I here?!” He shouted out to the whole room.
Tolkien, Lewis, and Mary all looked down at him like they were shocked to hear him raising his voice indoors.
But Arthur groaned, sat up, and looked at George like he was something unpleasant to look at. “You are here because you have the chance to become a member of the Order of the Clock Tower, the reigning ability users organization in the UK and most of Western Europe. Fairly sure I said that earlier.”
“But why me?”
“Seriously?” Mary asked from her perch, “with an ability like yours, you’re a card we definitely want up our sleeves.”
There’s a lot George could have taken issue with in that statement, but the one he chose to ask about was, “Your sleeve?”
“In the event that Dame Christie deigns to invite you into the fold you will be situated on our team.” Tolkien explained.
“Team. You lot?”
Mary gave his shoulder a little kick, and suddenly her nice smiles seemed like something out of gothic horror, “And I’m sure you won’t have any trouble fitting in~”
George retreated deep within himself at that moment, and asked himself some very serious questions.
“What did I do to deserve this?”

Oh, right.

 

 

Chapter Text

It was a beautiful day.

Which, given the standards for British weather, probably wasn't saying much.

Nevertheless, George Orwell was leaning against the wall of the outside of one of the airport hangers, watching the mobile planes spread out along the airplane tarmac. He was doing his best to keep his eyes peeled for his contact, a task that was made considerably harder by the fact that he had no idea what this person looked like. Normally, meeting people that wanted to get in contact with the Clock Tower, possibly collecting information or picking up a package, was something he would delegate to one of his subordinates. However, given the apparent severity of the situation George felt that just this once leadership shouldn't breed delegation.

In the two years since that first… confusing day he'd been initiated into the Order of the Clock Tower, he'd been appointed to director of field agents, despite the ever-present feeling of out-of-his-depthness that his job gave him. "Well it's because of your superlative people skills of course." Mary had said to him the day he'd been promoted. He was never quite sure if she was mocking him or not.

 

**Previously**

 

The message had come through yesterday, received by Tolkien of all people —much as he and Lewis had grown on him George couldn't help but wonder why the two of them were still there. He and Lewis had called and emergency meeting of their group, the apparent importance of which hadn't been in doubt when the Knight Commander herself had shown up. Tolkien explained that a message had come through to him on covert channels that had allegedly been obsolete since the fifties.

"From France?" Agatha Christie had asked them.

Tolkien simply nodded and he, Dame Christie and Sir Lewis shared a loaded look.

George leaned closer to Mary who had been standing beside him, "What's the big deal with France?" He'd whispered,

Despite being the youngest member of their group at 18 years old, Mary had been a knight of the Order of the Clock Tower longer than him, so he often found himself differing to her. This time however she just looked back at him with a small frown and shrugged.

"The big deal with France," Arthur responded (because nothing got past him) from where he was leaning against the wall on the other side of the room. "Is that this is the first time we've had contact with anyone inside France for over eighty years."

"What?" George had gaped, normally this wouldn't have been so strange to hear from someone, but the thing that had made the Order of the Clock Tower so unique compared to organizations like the Guild in north America was that their influence stretched beyond the British Isles and over most of Western Europe. A necessary precaution he felt when their neighbors called themselves 'The Rats in the House of the Dead'.

"But we have branches in Spain and we even recovered some standing in Germany, why would France be such blind spot for us?" Mary asked her seniors with small hint of distress in her voice, not knowing things was not a feeling she was familiar with or fond of, something she and George related on.

"We used to have people on the ground there. Before the war." Lewis spoke up. He and Tolkien had been partners for the Clock Tower longer than any of them and often spoke from personal experience. "Tolkien and I were on the advance team to reestablish the French headquarters, but activity dwindled down for two years until eventually it wasn't worth the expense or the man power. We withdrew from the country and nothing brought it back onto our radar since."

"No ability related activity? At all? But that would mean…" Mary trailed off, her uncertainty pulling her into her own head.

"That there are no ability users in France? But that's—" George found himself cut off.

"Impossible." Arthur stated with his usual certainty. "Even if France is a relatively small country the usual radius of ability users amongst the standard populous equals out to around one in every forty or fifty, if we don't know what's going on in France it's for the same reason we don't know what's going on in Russia, or America or even Japan."

"Another organization." Dame Christie said calmly, lacing her hands together on top of her desk.

"But if there was another organization, especially one so close, we'd know about it." George protested.

Dame Christie looked down at her hands contemplatively before sliding her eyes over to meet Arthur's. The relationship between those two was yet another on the extending list of things George wasn't sure he wanted to know about.

"Sir Orwell." Dame Christie's voice snapped his attention back to her, "It seems you have a meeting to arrange."

 

**Presently**

 

Which was how he found himself standing here. He might have found himself falling back into another memory if he hadn't heard the sound of footsteps running towards him. George looked across the tarmac to see a lone figure sprinting desperately to the hangar. He couldn't quite make out the details of the person, they were dressed like a refugee though, and clutching a back pack to their chest which struck George as odd immediately. He pushed himself off the wall just in time to see who his contact was running from: a group of three dressed in dark blue were dashing athletically in pursuit. One of the pursuers stopped running suddenly. On instinct George pressed himself against the wall and out of sight, and once again his instincts served him well, as not a minute later the sound of gunfire ripped into the air. George ducked his head out just enough to see the backpack-clutcher hit the ground face first, his blood splatter already making an impressionist painting around his body.

"Dammit!" He bit out before running into the open, "Vanguard cover me! Rearguard cut off their visuals!"

As he said that giant billows of thick fog started rolling out of the open hanger door. Luckily, the contact had been close enough before he was shot down. The fog was thick enough to be a curtain, so George put all his focus into his ears and listening to his surroundings as he slung the back pack over his shoulder, then looped his arms under the other man's armpits and began dragging him towards the hanger. He wasn't three feet from where he'd started dragging the body when two silhouettes came into his line of sight, they wore matching dark blue commando suits and balaclavas. As they trained their guns on him and barked what he assumed were commands in French, George simply shifted the bleeding body into a better position in his arms —blood made things very slippery.

"You do know I can't understand what you're saying?" He asked rhetorically, not entirely sure if they understood him either, but it succeeded in drawing their attention towards him so that they didn't see the incoming attack coming from above.

George leaned back, shifting the weight of the bloody man in his arms and trying to calm down the wild thump of his heart inside his rib cage. The girl landed between the two groups, creating a crater in the ground where her feet struck the tarmac. George didn't so much as flinch, he also didn't need to see her face to recognize her as one third of the Clock Towers most elite group of agents.

 

Anne Brontë

Advance Guard of The Bells

Ability: Windfell Hall

 

The red hair that wasn't pulled back into her usual ponytail was in spiky strands that framed her face. Her eyes were wide and wild, he was sure, with the thrill of the action, her mouth split open in an almost feral grin. She was dressed almost like she was setting out for a day of riding, with her pressed trousers and knee high boots, a little extra care had been taken into her jacket though, with bits of lace sewn into the edges and sleeves. Thanks to her ability Anne recovered from the impact instantly, shifting all her weight onto one leg and then launching herself at the Frenchmen. Their skill wasn't something to be scoffed at, apparently, as the one on the left immediately fired off two bullets.

Anne pulled her legs close to her chest at the last second, and the bullets thudded dully as they imbedded themselves into her boots.

All her fighting styles centered around kicks and jumps, the monster strength in her legs meant she could do more damage with one kick than a crew of builders with a battering ram.

"We need to pull out!" George called to the redhead, "Quickly!" He emphasized.

Anne may have made a comment about that, but it was lost in a pained "Ooff!" as she sent the attacker on the left flying backwards, immediately backflipping to the other side and giving a similar treatment to the other gentleman, but not before he put a bullet in her hip. She then skipped in front of George, the frills on her jacket flouncing with every step of her knee-high boots, which were made out of Kevlar.

"Care for a hand?" She asked in reference to the body in George's arms which, yes, was now definitely dead.

"If you would be so kind." He responded, shifting the body into Anne's waiting arms, making a displeased noise deep in her throat when she felt the blood dampening the front of her shirt.

"This guy's feeling a little too necrotic to be useful to us." Anne grunted as she maneuvered the body into a piggyback, wincing at the required movement of her hip.

"He's still the one that contacted us, and since those three men with the guns were chasing him, we might as well see what clues the doctors can get from his corpse. Once you're back in the hangar get the car ready and tell Emily to call in the cavalry." George rattled off the instructions while securing the backpack onto Anne's front.

"All right, all right I'm going." She whined while she bent her legs into a launch off position, but she suddenly jerked her head up.

"Wait." She said

"What do you mean "wait"?"

"I only hit two of those guys."

And by the laws of dramatic irony the fog behind Anne billowed just right to reveal the third pursuer standing directly behind Anne, a few feet away, with his gun pointed at her head. George sucked in a breath, his head spinning with options he discarded almost before they had completely formed inside his brain. Think, think, think.

But the Bells weren't regarded as some of the Clock Tower's best for nothing. So, almost as suddenly as the gunman appeared, a large blast of fire came at him from the side. The stench of burnt meat filled his nostrils and George held back the urge to retch, not just because the smell really was that horrible— to be honest, it reminded him of that time he'd tried to cook roast chicken for dinner and it had burst into flames inside the oven—but also because he could picture in his head the skin of the gunman melting like a candle wax.

Striding out of the smoke came a second woman, a few years older than Anne but with the same red hair and grey eyes. Her red hair was cut into a sleek bob, the heavier side of her parting pulled off her face with a cross shaped clip, she was dressed conservatively, well designer leggings and a long sweater, though she was probably the last person who needed protection from the cold. Once she stopped in front of them she placed a hand on her hip and arched an eyebrow at her younger sister.

"You really need to get a handle on your impulse control." She chided.

Charlotte Brontë

Vanguard of The Bells

Ability: Thornfield Hall

"Anne, you get back to the hangar, Charlotte you'll cover us on our way back."

"You got it, boss." Anne winked after Charlotte silently redirected her in the direction of the hangar.

Anne bent her legs and got into a position similar to a runner getting set for a race, the ground splintered beneath her forward set foot and in a blink Anne was shooting through the air like a bullet. The shift in the air she created made the fog shape like a tunnel and George could see the hangar on the other side, and he felt his eyes water as the blast of cold air and dust got into his eyes.

Angry shouts in French came from the other side of the fog behind him. It would seem the other two had recovered from Anne's earlier assault.

"Charlotte!" George shouted as he began to run.

"I got it." She responded calmly, forming a fireball in her hand, puffing up her cheeks and blowing into it, irrupting a huge blast of flames from her palm.

Once he was inside the hangar George hunched over the hood of the car they'd arrived in, Anne was around the back, stuffing the body into the trunk while she talked on the phone wedged between her ear and shoulder.

"Where's Charlotte?" Asked refined Yorkshire accent. The eldest of the Bells was the only one to wear her hair down, though she still pulled it out of her face with a thick black bow. She took advantage of her support role to wear a short-skirted dress. She had her arms raised but it almost looked as if she had no hands, the thick grey fog pouring out of the sleeves of her coat.

 

Emily Brontë

Rear Guard of The Bells

Ability: Wuthering Heights

 

"She's taking care of the inconveniences," he huffed out — he really needed to exercise more— "shouldn't be a tick."

"Sir Doyle is sending in a team to lock down the area, do we know if there's any more of them?" Anne asked, now holding the phone in her hand.

"I don't think so."

"Well if there are they don't seem at all concerned with their squad mates getting brûléed." Charlotte said as she arrived in the hangar, clutching her right forearm, blood staining her sleeve and the skin between her fingers.

"Charlotte, men are dead, don't be vulgar." Emily sighed.

"You know sometimes I don't know whether to worry about you becoming a pyro or worry about you becoming a psycho~" Anne giggled as she danced around her sisters attempt to take a swipe at her.

While this was exchange was happening the color of the fog changed from grey to mauve, a sign that Emily was changing it from simple fog to knock out gas, "Well if there are any more of them out there that ought to keep them in place until the others get here." She announced.

George let out a deep sigh and slid down to the floor, banging the back of his head lightly against the car. "Good work, ladies."

 

* * *

 

"Well, this is shaping up to be a damn productive evening." George commented as he sat in the recovery ward with the Brontë sisters. Anne sat up in one of the beds, changed into hospital scrubs; Charlotte sat next to her, the bandages wrapped around her right bicep visible now that she wasn't wearing her jacket; Emily sat on the foot of the bed, talking to Dr. Holmes.

"All three of you in the infirmary, I might not have to do the field report all by myself for once." He said as Charlotte passed him another hand-written sheet.

"Your sense of empathy for your subordinates is eye watering, Mr. Orwell." The doctor rolled his eyes as he scratched his pen against the chart.

 

Dr. Oliver Wendel Holmes Sr.

Clock Tower Physician

 

"Are you ever going to stop calling me that?" George asked him tiredly.

"I will refer to you as Sir the day I consider you my superior, and as long as you keep coming to me with your bumps and bruises… well, as far as I'm concerned that makes me your superior." Dr. Holmes informed him.

"Hey these are a little more substantial than bumps and bruises!" Anne whined, grabbing Charlotte's bandaged arm and waving in protest.

That actually made George think. Since he'd become a member of the Clock Tower he'd been in more than a few dangerous situations, even a couple of close calls, but when he'd been face to face with those guys in blue, he really thought there was a chance he was going to die, and not in his usual 'I need to get out of this situation, how am I going to do that' way, more of a unsettling foreboding.

"Good news everyone! The wonderful folks down in PR have successfully managed to keep your airport adventure of the 10 o'clock news." Said the voice of Mary Shelley as she threw the doors open and made her way over to the bed next to Anne's, where George was sitting.

"The news?" Emily asked,

"No one saw the actual fight," Mary assured with a wave of her hand, "but 'mysterious cloud of fog leaves behind craters and scorch marks at airport' was shaping up to be an interesting tabloid piece."

"M'lady," The doctor said in greeting, George rolled his eyes, as head of the research division Mary was technically Dr. Holmes' boss… technically. "I thought you'd be in the labs."

"They're setting it up now, I'll run what tests I can on John Doe and see what we can find. I say "what tests I can" because I swear I've seen Swiss cheese with less holes in it," She wrinkled her nose in thought, "then again his torso was only hanging onto his legs by a couple of ligaments… maybe string cheese would be a more apt analogy?"

The thoughts he'd been dwelling on before she walked into the infirmary were still lingering his mind, so out of the blue George asked her, "Would you miss me if I died?"

The reaction on her face was small and quick, the curve of her lips flattened out and her eyes widened an inch, green irises slid over to look at him before she recovered herself and smirked, pinching him on the cheek, "It's cute that you think death could get you out of this partnership."

George knew for a fact that death could be less terrifying than Mary grinning through dried blood and shattered bones, but he felt a wave of primal relief to be standing next to her right then and there.

 

* * *

 

The smell of chemicals was so strong in the room that it dimmed all his other senses. Arthur Doyle worked methodically. The clothes he'd been wearing had traces of dirt and sweat, which suggested he had been wearing the same outfit for an extended period of time without cleaning them or himself— the clothes themselves still had the small plastic tags attached to them so they were most likely shoplifted— similar materials and the same amount of wear in the neckline of the shirt and waistband of the trousers, suggested they were from the same store or at the very least the same supplier.

He combed through the airport's CCTV footage. There were no traces of him getting off any of the planes, but he'd been caught running just enough camera feeds to safely pinpoint his starting point within a certain radius of incoming flights, and the only one coming from France in that area in the corresponding time frame had been an airliner form Marseille. A man in shoplifted clothes who most likely hadn't showered in at least a week would hopefully call the attention of the airline staff, and if he had to shoplift already cheap looking clothes he wasn't likely to be able to afford a plane ticket. That made his best chance at getting to London stowing away in the belly of the plane.

The backpack he'd apparently spent his last moments clutching onto had been stuffed with papers. Only a few had managed to avoid being shredded by bullets, but all of them were dyed red with blood. He'd created a chemical bath of carefully balanced potions and concoctions to soak as much blood out of the paper as possible, at least enough that the wording became visible. He hung the last salvageable sheet on a line strung from wall to wall over the chemical bath and leaned back against the table to stare at the evidence in front of him.

The door opened and closed behind him without any warning, which meant it could only be one person. "Dame Christie." He greeted without looking away.

The knight commander came to a stand beside him and crossed her arms. "What have you found?" She asked.

He scoffed dryly, "Not 'have you found anything?'"

"Now isn't the time for attempts at humor, Sir Doyle. Assuming that's what that was." She stepped towards the string of drying papers and looked at them critically. "These people came at us from out of nowhere, Sir Doyle, they killed what might be our only lead, injured two of our agents and we know nothing about who they are. Needless to say, I want this situation remedied immediately."

"Needless to say, ma'am." Arthur responded, his eyes still fixed on the papers in front of him.

Dame Christie looked back at him, "If I didn't know better I'd say you seemed a little distracted."

"Do you remember when we first met? What you promised me?" He asked her. Had anyone been listening to them they might have been shocked at the informality and even more so at the familiarity in his tone.

Christie arched an eyebrow, "You think this might be it?"

"... Maybe." he hummed before pushing himself off the table and immediately strode out of the room without another word. Again had anyone been watching them, they might have worried for Doyle's place in the Order but they would have immediately forgotten their concerns and dropped their jaws at the sight of Dame Agatha Christie huffing out a laugh and shaking her head fondly.

 

* * *

 

Mary Shelly stood in the middle of the sterile environment of her forensics lab, one arm sitting across her chest while the hand of her other arm tapped a finger against her chin. She looked at the four bodies lying on gurneys in front of her, trying to decide who she would open up and pull apart first. The John Doe had his DNA samples taken and his picture was being run through facial recognition, which just left an autopsy. As for the other three, they were so burnt from head to toe that their clothes were welded onto there now sticky and flaky skin.

"Well, I guess you're up first." She said to the John Doe as she waved for her assistants to take the other three bodies back to the morgue. She'd deal with them when she had the time to deal with corpses on the crispy side.

The lab was supplied with the best tools and equipment money could buy, but she preferred to use her ability. First came a look over of the skin, the body was bruised and battered, signs of long term physical abuse. Mary pursed her lips. There was a prominent scar running vertically down the forearm —not only was this wound relatively new but it also looked self-inflicted. There didn't seem to be anything else to see on the surface level, now was the time to dig deeper. Mary Shelley looked down at the body beneath her hands and superimposed an anatomy model on top of it in her mind, she saw the lines and divided up sections and pictured each piece being sown together by string like a doll.

She pulled the strings apart and the body opened up to her. Bones and muscles, veins and nerves, piece by piece, any and all secrets were laid bare.

Deep tissue scarring at the back of its neck... Had he been stabbed? No. The way the scarring was spread out… It wasn't a clean wound, it reminded her more of hasty jobs done by back alley surgeons. Had he tried to remove something?

The scarring seemed to be a fairly recent addition to the body, but when she looked closer Mary could see traces of what looked like electrical burns. What could have caused something like this?

Mary's eyes widened in shock as an idea came to her mind.

The people who had been going about their business in the hallway outside jumped in shock as the door to the forensics lab slammed open and Mary Shelley burst into the hallway shouting for someone or something. She was dashing down the hallway before anyone could understand her, followed as always by the faint smell of flesh and blood clinging to her fingertips.

The assistants she'd waved off earlier were already in the morgue, getting ready to put the bodies back into storage. Mary didn't pay much attention to the shocked or slightly scared expressions on their faces when she crashed into the room and screamed at them to stop what they were doing. She reached out with her ability and the three heads fell from the shoulders they were attached to and onto the floor with wet smacks, she unraveled their necks down to the shoulders. And right there where she'd expected them to be, three metal boxes, no bigger than computer chips, with metal spikes along the sides that she imagined had been embedded into their flesh.

She scooped all three of them into one hand and looked down at the foreign devices, they didn't hum or beep or give off any signs that they were emitting any kind of signal but there was only one reason someone would put themselves through the pain of burying a knife into their own neck. She threw the tracking devices to the ground and slammed her foot down on top of them with as much force as she could.

 

* * *

 

At that moment, far away, in a castle by the sea, three tracking monitors went blank