Huzzah! I’ve come to one of your faithful rereader’s favorite episodes. I’m a weird fan and Brian Francis Slattery brings it here.
Episode six opens up to an ominous scene: Sal sits before Cardinal Varano (the head honcho of the whole Society) apparently being grilled amidst an Inquest – i.e. a tribunal. A smattering of other Society members are there, including Asanti (Rereader waves and blushes) and representatives from the other Teams.
The Cardinal begins to speak and it becomes clear pretty quickly (as if the scary court room wasn’t already a tip off) that some recent mission has gone very, very wrong. The Inquest is to assign blame and figure out how to avoid repeating whatever horrible thing has happened.
So what happened?? Well… <scene change>
Team Three is States-side, driving across the wide open planes of Oklahoma. As Liam seems prone to observing – it’s a pretty empty landscape.
They pull into a small town that has apparently been utterly devastated by a tornado. Given what they know about the death toll, they aren’t too surprised by the complete and utter level of destruction…but they are kind of surprised that they don’t see a soul in sight.
Sal knocking on doors of the few still-standing business, when suddenly a man sticks his head out of a door…to shush them.
He yells something about being wary of the Tornado Eaters, but before they can fully process how odd the whole situation is, they hear something…
The first thing they saw was a foot. It was like a hoof, but with three skinny toes protruding from it. The leg it was attached to was spindly and hairy, bent at a strange angle—part horse, part spider.
(Can I just say – you should just stop reading this reread right now and go read this whole passage from Big Sky. Slattery knocks it out of the park with these weird, horrible, terrifying, and HUGE monsters. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I’m a little scared of what goes on in Brian Francis Slattery’s head…but I like it.)
Anyway, two terrifying weird-as-all-hell monsters lurch into town and the fight is on. Grace shows no fear and launches directly at one of them. Sal (very happy to be back in the land of Eagles, Freedom, and Personal-Carry laws) unloads her Glock.
They manage to stop the two monsters and take a breath to consider their win…but that shushing townsperson pops back up to to be like thing you least want to hear after vanquishing a huge scary enemy: “Those are just the little ones.” Suddenly, there is a rumbling….
An even BIGGER monster appears!
Menchu tells Liam to get back in the car, drive far away, and call Team One in for backup. Grace leaps to meat the colossus head on (BECAUSE SHE IS A GODDAMN BEAST), Sal goes to take care of the survivors, and Menchu remains in the street, watching.
There are explosions that seem to go on forever. The building Sal is in with the townsperson (who we learn is named Ray) shakes…and finally, when the dust settles…Grace and Menchu are nowhere to be seen.
Sal cuts off Ray’s initial offer of sympathy – she won’t face a reality of her teammate’s deaths just yet. First: there’s work to do.
Mainly – what the hell are Tornado Eaters?
Ray: How about I just take you to the person who brought them here.
Sal: someone intentionally brought those monsters here?
Ray: Yea…to protect the town…
<scene change> And we’re back at the Inquest. The presiding Cardinal interrupts Sal’s story to ask if that was, in fact, the last she saw of Grace and Menchu in Oklahoma. Sal says, “Yes”. …and your rereader covers her ears and yells “NO NO NO NO NO” because they cannot be dead.
<scene change> Once night falls, Sal and Rey quietly sneak off to over to another house where 19 survivors have holed up. Sal, rightly so, is seriously curious how these freaking MASSIVE monsters are destroying an entire town in current-day America and thus far no one seems to have noticed. Where is the National Guard? Where are the helicopters and news crews?
Valid questions, Sal. Valid questions….
Anyway, in the house with the survivors, Sal is sussing out the back story: A hundred years ago a man with real magical ability created the Tornado Eaters to gobble up any tornados that threatened the town. One would appear, he’d let his magical monsters out of their box, they’d do their job, and at his command, back in they’d go. That guy’s great-grandson (a fifteen your old kid named Jacob) inherited his magical gift, but not quite his way with words (apparently). After a recent tornado, Jacob remembered the old story and found the box containing the Tornado Eaters. He let them out with the instructions: “Protect this place.”
Only problem is that the Tornado Eaters consider “this place” to literally be just the patch of ground the town rests on – screw the buildings and people. In fact – as far as they are concerned, the people are a threat to the place!
After learning a few more details – mainly that the kid let five Tornado Eaters out of the box and the biggest one is underground – Sal decides that she can’t help them from there and she’ll have to get out of town to do any good. Slowly, quietly, carefully, she creeps past the monsters until she hits the town limits, and then keeps walking.
<scene change> In the Inquest, Cardinal Varano (who I’m getting the distinct impression is a bit of a prick) thanks Sal for “exposing” a magician to the society. Remembering how Balloon and Stretch of Team Two (we met them in Episode 2, they were hella creepy) dealt with those touched by magic (see Episode 3 when they murdered Katie), Sal is understandably concerned about what happened to Jacob. Varano gives some non-answer and Sal is not reassured.
<scene change> Sal gets reception and calls Asanti who tells her that Liam is ok and got in touch. They’ve called in Team One, with Team Two to follow. No word from Grace or Menchu. She calls Liam and they reunite.
Team One rolls up in Humvees and Sexy Spec Ops Man (Christophe Bouchard, who we met in episode 3) gets out to talk to Liam and Sal.
They tell him everything they know and he tells his team to suit up. Out comes a pretty remarkable (and clearly magical) array of weapons, gadgets and gear.
They head in to town – with some of Team One even able to fly using metal wings – and Liam and Sal follow in the Humvees.
The Tornado Eaters are waiting. Team One engages, clearly very well trained and not taken aback by even crazy magical colossi. Meanwhile Sal and Liam go and collect the survivors, load them up in the cars, and drive them out of range. Through some pretty remarkable battle strategy (again – props to Slattery for this sequence), two more of the Tornado Eaters are vanquished.
But just as Team One starts to think they’ve won the day, a massive tooth comes up from the ground and impales Bouchard. The biggest Tornado Eater has arrived. Team One springs back into motion and there is a tragic moment of self sacrifice where one of them grabs some grenades and jumps straight into the yawning maw of the beast with nothing more than a quick salute to mark his suicide mission.
In a matter of moments the Tornado Eater is slain…and one of the remaining members radios in: “Two men down.”
<scene change to some time later> Apparently the National Guard finally shows up – and finds Menchu and Grace alive (though very injured, with broken arms and legs) in the rubble of the town. They’d been pinned under debris, barely conscious. They are whisked off to the hospital before Sal and Liam can even breath a sigh of relief.
Meanwhile Team Two’s Hilary Sansone has taken over the “crowd control and explanation phase” of the magical clean up. They tell the news crews that there was a tornado, an explanation that went over easily enough given the level of destruction.
As for the survivors, Sansone tells Sal that it’s easier than she might think to pay people to be silent. Sal asks if everyone agreed to the deal…and Sansone’s pause before replying in the affirmative is all Sal needs to know the other woman is lying.
<scene change> Cardinal Varano thanks Sal for her testimony and turns the floor over to Hilary Sansone. The Team Two representative confirms Sal’s version and reports on how the cover story is holding up – in short, pretty well. She goes on to explain that the relocation and payment of the townspeople is going well and she doesn’t expect any issues there.
Sal tries to ask what happened to Jacob but everyone avoids her question and the Cardinal declares the case closed.
Sal, never one to let something important lie without a fight, chases after Balloon and Stretch (who we learn are named Desmet and De Vos). She asks them what they did to Jacob and his mother Sharon. The two creepers give menacing smiles and, with no shame (in fact, seemingly with pleasure) relate how they used threats and scare tactics to silence the young magician and his mom.
The whole interaction is skeevy, slimy, and scary. They clearly enjoy frightening people – Sal included.
Later, the team is reassembling for the first time since the incident. Grace is on the mend (in shockingly fast fashion) and Menchu is on crutches. Prompted to share her feelings, Sal opens up about her encounter with Balloon and Stretch, and her horror at learning that the Society would use such despicable tactics to achieve their means.
…Her expectation that the rest of her team would share her horror turns out to be misplaced….
Every is basically like “Well what did you expect? And they aren’t that bad all the time…”
Sal leaves in anger and disgust.
That night Liam comes over to try to smooth things over. It starts out ok…but quickly escalates.
Sal: What Balloon and Stretch do is evil!
Liam: Sometimes evil is necessary!
Sal: Whatever, the really messed up part is that you and the rest of the team condone this evil!
Liam: Oh yeah? And what did you think you were doing when you told the truth about Jacob? You knew what would happen. Don’t act innocent.
Sal: FUCK YOU.
Liam: FUCK YOU RIGHT BACK.
Sal: I’m done. I’m leaving as soon as Perry wakes up.
Sal: And I’m going to tell the world about the society!
Liam: EVEN BETTER.
They breathe…and for a moment Liam tries to salvage the moment…but they’ve gone too far. He tells her to call him if she needs him. She says she doesn’t. He leaves. Sal looks out over Rome.
….aaaaand that’s the end of Episode 7! OMG. Guys. GUYS. GUYS. That was nuts. I can’t even.
See you next week!