The Price

Dangerous Gambits

Miroslav, still shaky from his close encounter with Michigan Slugger, stays in Charlie’s Hollow. He spends his time magically studying the blueprints that the McQueen brothers were working on. The papers themselves are not magical but to the ideas within them are. Those designs are complex and powerful. This will take some time.

Rocco steals one of the papers, one that holds plans for how to upload a person’s mind to the Hedge-Net. He isn’t sure he will use it but is tempted. Marco by contrast, throws himself into his work, trying to ignore his obsession to invent.

Maeve Sheely calls Nikki with bad news. The Crossroads gang’s payment has been switch from diamonds to something called blue amber. Nikki is unfazed by this turn of events and tells her friend that they will go ahead with the plan. She reassures her friend that this won’t be a problem.

After the call, Nikki talks to some contacts, tracking down a buyer for the new merchandise. Her cut will be smaller but it will still be enough to buy her mother’s freedom from the Mob.

Completing her preparations, she plants her Hedge painting in a safe deposit box under an assumed identity at the bank where the gems will be stored. She then delivers her payment to the Syzygy sisters in exchange for their help glamouring her stash of fake diamonds to appear as blue amber. The thief is bothered that she can’t come up with a reason that the gang would want this new gemstone.

As the motley gathers that evening, Miroslav reveals what he has learned. The blueprints are part of a True Fae, the memories and thoughts of the Emperor Machine. Destroyed over 50 years ago, the Emperor Machine built the Streetsharks with Changeling slave labor. The plans can rebuild him. They discuss where these blueprints could have come from. Marco tells them what he knows but the trail ends at Aspen Imports and a mistaken weapons shipment.

That night, Nikki breaks into the bank through her Hedge gateway painting. With Rocco disabling external security, she uses Maeve’s key to open the safe deposit box where the amber is held. She quickly switches out the jewels and leaves.

Nikki meets Maeve at a Denny at 4 AM to split the haul. Maeve gets the lion’s share. Nikki advises her to leave soon.

Rocco dreams during the day. He finds himself in Mo-Hedge amid the rusted hulks and junk piles. Messages have been written in spray paint on the sides of vehicles: “Deal: my help for your help”, “Complete the plans and you can have your guild and entry into the Net”, and “I will spare you and your friends.”

Walking along , he discovers a working a typewriter upon a heap of garbage. It types out, “What say you?”

Rocco tells it, “see you tomorrow night.”

“Looking forward to it,” the machine writes.

Rocco awakens. He grabs his phone and texts Miroslav._ I think there is a True Fae in my dreams._

That sounds terrible, the reply comes back.

Can we get coffee please, Rocco asks.

Sure.

The pair meet at Starbucks. Miroslav is late, taking a convoluted path to avoid mortal eyes. The two friends discuss their options. Rocco mentions that he could “pull a Queen of Shadows.” In other words he could sacrifice his memories to escape the dreams.

The conversation turns to witches, including the Witch-House and Grandmother Stone. Mir has a flash of insight and realizes both are probably True Fae. He advises Rocco that they avoid them at all costs. Grandmother Stone’s hut is almost certainly at the former gate to Arcadia.

Rocco however points out that he can’t forget the Emperor Machine, the True Fae is inside his head. Mir tells him to avoid sleeping until they can get it removed at the Goblin Market. He advises Rocco not to make things, just watch TV or something.

Marco meanwhile struggled to keep up appearances at work and home. With everyone else hiding at the Hollow, he continues to stay in the real world. The afternoon, he notices his father is particularly distracted. The two talk. Marco teases out him that his friends Eric and Jennifer came by. The two tried to convince his father that Marco was in league with demons. During the conversation, his father admits to knowing that Marco has mob connections but assumes he has his reasons. Marco manages to assure his father that he does and bluff that he doesn’t know what his friends Eric and Jennifer are up to.

Nikki meanwhile drives off to sell her cut of the gems. She doesn’t expect to be back until late that night. Rocco tries to get his mind off things by going to the gym. Miroslav continues his researches while Marco works at the shop.

Eventually the gym closes and Rocco ventures out into the night. A half of a block down the street, he notices some people following him. He ducks down an alley and quickly climbs up a fire escape. By the time his pursuers begin their ascent, he’s already reached the roof. Rather than flee across the flat barren roof top, he turns and pulls a bolt of lightning from a nearby neon light and electrifies the steel fire escape.

He sees two women collapsed in pain on the metal structure below. One looks up and points a gun at him. He recognizes Jennifer a moment before her shot burns into his shoulder.

The other woman, dressed in a nun’s habit, leaps to her feet and races up to the top of building. As she reaches the roof, she breathlessly whispers a prayer and a soft glow of divine power envelops her.

Rocco reeling in pain, burns his Glamour to increase his speed. He races for the door downstairs. He bounces off of the locked portal and spins toward the building’s edge. Attempting to leap across the gap, he runs off the edge of the building.

He doesn’t make it.

He bounces off the far wall, using the brick face to slow his fall before landing in a crouch in the alley. He stands up and runs for the safety of the Hedge.

Across town, Marco is hard at work at the shop. Everyone else has left for the night and work is going quickly. He is so focused he barely notices two men enter the room, only realizing at the last moment that one of them has walked up behind him.

As he gets up from tightening up a wheel, he sees Eric take a swing at him.

Marco is clipped by the punch, bringing up his wrench as he spins around. He spots his old friend Ryan also in the room wielding a bloodstained baseball bat.

As Marco sputters out some questions, Ryan swings at him. Marco steps out the way as the bat dents the car behind him. Eric punches him again, loosening some teeth.

Marco swings at the armed assailant, connecting with Ryan’s torso with a satisfying grunt. As Eric swings wildly at him, Ryan brings the bat down hard on his friend. Marco’s side erupts in pain as he feels ribs crack.

His vision narrowing, Marco stumbles out of the shop, opening a gate into the Hedge. He shuts the door behind him before wandering into the greenery.

Marco wanders through the Hedge, his vision dimming and his mind clouded by the pain. Somehow he eventually makes it to the Hollow. As he passes out he sees Charlie running towards him.

The rest of the motley soon makes their way to the Hollow, guiding by phone calls from Rocco. Marco soon regains consciousness and they discuss the attacks. Miroslav and Nikki are surprised that Rocco was willing to kill his pursuers. Nikki is curious about their motives and is surprised that they just want to kill them. Rocco points out that Nikki is partially to blame and that her lack of empathy doesn’t allow her to realize how she hurt people.

Talk moves to how to deal with these monster hunters. They decide to implicate Ryan as the Michigan Slugger, which he almost certainly is. Charlie will take her boyfriend Marco to the police and file a report. Rocco will check into the hospital for his bullet wound. They will get the police to hunt down their enemies.

Once the others have left, Nikki and Miroslav plan how to deal with their mother. They decide to do this together. Nikki promises to find a way through the Hedge to Vadomma’s apartment so Miroslav can avoid the hunters. She leaves to do that.

A short while later the Queen of Shadows stops by the Hollow. She is looking for her sons. Miroslav bluntly tells her what happened. Distraught she asks where they are. He tells her, advising his leader to meet with Marco first.

After Marco gives the police his report, he is taken to the hospital. He spots his mother as he is wheeled out but between the police and her ex-husband, she dares not get closer.

Nikki returns and the Callaghan siblings visit their mother. Between the two of them they explain that they intend to bail her out and convince her to move to Austin where their father is. Vadomma is reluctant to take Nikki’s money but in the end relents.

The Queen beats Marco to the hospital and visits Rocco in his room. The Elemental is recovering from surgery. The Queen, his mother, expresses her concern and the two talk about what happened. Rocco comes to realize she has the same sort of perfect memory he does and it helps him understand her decisions better.

Word soon arrives that the police found evidence at Ryan’s home implicating him as the Michigan Slugger. An APB is placed on him and his accomplices.

That evening while the Mob’s blue amber exchange is going on across town, Nikki pays off Joe Zerilli with the Zerilli’s own money. The Mob soldier warms up to the idea of letting Vadomma go once he gets the shop itself in addition to the money he owed.

Marco also get a visit from the Queen. She makes sure he is alright and asks if there is anything she can do for him. He says there isn’t but she peers into his heart and finds something.

Uncle Angelo also visits Marco, letting him know that he doesn’t have to worry about the cops watching his shop. He hints that they are on the take and won’t jeopardize their (i.e. the Mob’s) operation.

Once he and his brother are released, Rocco calls Ruzena. He fills the water fae in on the recent events, tempting her with details on how his being shot hurt the Queen. He continues to work on convincing her to trade away her murderous impulses.

With the hunters dealt with the motley plans how to remove Rocco’s memories of the blueprints. They need something to trade at the market. Rocco figures the cold iron bullets his brother made would be worth what they want. Miroslav thinks they need them so Marco goes to work on making a third clip.

That night they visit the market. they find an old stooped over man who can help them. His beard wraps around the ground about him. He will extract the memory for a clip of cold iron bullets and Rocco’s worst nightmare. Marco haggles with him and brings the price down to a clip and a bad dream.

The old man extracts Rocco’s memory of the blueprints which appears in Miroslav’s hands in the form of crisp new blueprints.

Later Nikki steals the originals from the police evidence locker. Miroslav locks them all away until they can decide what to do with them.

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