Scottish Highlands 7 PM local time
Beth sat down on the camp stool, checking her email one last time before handing off everything to Paula. She was still worried about Cindy, it was way past time for her to have reached her, sleeping in or not.
Wes sat a few feet away, concentrating on a crystal ball, Sarah sitting with him and watching closely. The other girls were doing various things. April, Cheryl and Michelle were having their backpacks checked by Grim, while Paula was on the phone to Emily. Jennifer was cooking a meal for them all, as it would be few more hours until midnight, when they could travel through the gate. Brandi was flirting with one of Grim’s men, and had already managed to get the rather star-struck man, otherwise a hard-bitten professional mercenary, to pack not only her backpack, but Vanessa’s as well. Vanessa sat quietly by Jennifer, keeping her company.
It was dark on the hilltop, and the full moon illuminated the cool mist dripping from the granite stones of the megalith. Only the hum of a diesel generator and the low buzz of conversation disturbed the night air.
The other three mercenaries looked out from the camp, watching for visitors.
“Emily says she hasn’t heard anything from Cindy, and she called twice herself. She is going to have her housekeeper stop by to check on her, and she should be hearing back in a couple of minutes.” Paula announced to the group.
“Hey, I have a strange email here,” Beth said, puzzlement in her voice, “it’s titled “from Gavin’s loving wife.”
Wes felt an icy chill run down his back, and he looked over at Sarah, who looked back at him gravely. They had tried for several minutes, and not a sign of Cindy. Her amulet should have allowed her to be found, but he was beginning to be convinced that like Vivian, she had somehow been taken.
“What does it say Beth?” Michelle asked, voicing the question they were all thinking.
Beth read through it quickly, and then began opening attachments. While they were opening, she read aloud the letter.
“My dearest husband, I have two of your playtoys now,” Beth inhaled sharply and felt fear, “your lovely little techno wizard has joined my collection, she looks enchanting with the little fashion queen I picked up the other day.”
Sarah cursed and stepped away from the group, angry tears in her eyes, while the other girls voiced their grief or shock. Grim looked over at his friend, and saw behind the impassive mask, the anger and grief within. Paula met Grim’s eyes, and nodded, unsurprised but her eyes full of regret.
“Would you like to see? Well, just look at the pretty pictures of them. By the way, Cindy was kind enough to tell me where all of your money is hidden; I do appreciate the gift, my love. I can’t wait to see you again, and show you just how much I have missed you. You bastard. Love, Andrea.”
Wes walked over, and looked at the jpeg images of his two girls. He saw Vivian, a beautiful mannequin, a beautiful blank smile matching the emptiness of her eyes, while Cindy was posed kneeling, the wind up key clearly visible in her chrome colored and nude back. Other pictures showed them moving about, Vivian in human form, with the same blank look and Cindy as a robot, a golem as they were known in his world.
Filled with rage, he stepped back. He cursed for several minutes, and only then did he allow himself to calm down. The girls were hugging each other, fighting anger and grief themselves.
“We need to stick to the plan, girls. She won’t be satisfied yet, and you are not ready to face her. I need help to get her, and I will need help to bring them back to us. We go to Shiron as planned.” He finished, and the girls heard the emotion choking him. Leaving them in his wife's hands was clearly hurting beyond what he could allow himself to show. All of the girls looked at one another, then at Sarah.
“You’re right, you are doing the right thing darling,” Sarah said firmly, wiping away her own tears. She walked over and hugged him, and the other girls soon joined them.
After a few minutes, he gently pushed them away, and he and Grim walked out into the darkness to talk, leaving the girls to finish getting ready to leave.
Beth sat down, and began shifting the remaining funds, things she had kept from Cindy just in case, to new accounts. Paula would need money to operate while they were away, and they would need money when they got back. Sarah made another quick phone call to the publicist, and the lawyer he had hired. Cover stories and delaying tactics were needed to deal with the fire in Morro Bay, at least until they got back.
Vanessa sat thinking, wondering about her friends, now captured and turned into toys, and blessed silently to herself Cheryl and Wes. “Oh please let them be restored,” she thought to herself silently, the guilt she was feeling over her survival sweeping through her.
Los Angeles 1 PM local time
Cindy, or at least, the chrome colored mechanical windup-doll that was Cindy and now held her imprisoned soul, stood in the corner of the room, the blank featureless orbs that were her eyes showing nothing, a frozen look of serenity on her face. The key had wound down, and with it her animation. Nearby, Vivian walked around the room, a feather duster in her hand, dressed in a extremely flimsy French maid outfit as she dusted and shined the frozen life-sized dolls of Holly, Misti and several other girls. Her face showed empty contentment and serenity, while her eyes shone with adoration whenever she happened to look at the door leading to the bedroom beyond where her goddess slept.
Andrea slept in her bed, her angelic face occasionally twisting into a snarl, or showing deep terror as she dreamed.
Scottish Highlands Midnight local time
Gavin reached over and kissed Paula one last time, and then stood aside as one by one the other girls came to her and gave her a good bye hug. Grim shook his friend’s hand, and then they embraced each other.
“Paula and I will find her for you, don’t worry,” Grim said, his gruff voice showing a hint of fierceness. “We will have things ready when you get back.”
“I know you will friend, just don’t let her get Paula or yourself. I don’t want to lose you two as well.”
A few more minutes and it would be time, when the moon lined up just right and the spell to open the gate was completed.
Sarah stood, silently waiting and digesting what she had been told. Her love, the Wes she knew, had finally told the other girls what he had told her long ago. He was Baron Gavin O’Conner, Knight of Shiron, Colonel in the Shironin Scouts, and husband to Baroness Andrea O’Conner, also formerly a knight of Shiron and Commander in the Shironin Scouts. They were headed for his home, a land on another world, where magic took the place of the high technology of Earth, and was the product of a ten thousand year old culture and history. Where more importantly, his powers, and the powers he had given her and the others, would be much stronger. She looked forward to the training ahead, and even more, looked forward to coming back and dealing with that insane bitch, who was forcing her to leave her children and who had hurt her friends, her adopted sisters, and most of all, her love.
A final set of goodbyes, and Gavin completed the spell. A large gateway of blue and gold shimmered in the night air, illuminating the circular megalith in a strange glow. April exclaimed with joy, she was actually going to fairyland, well, close enough anyway. Gavin looked at the girls, and saw the look of delight on April’s face. It charmed him, and he smiled, and the other girls saw him smile and relaxed. It would be all right. Then he motioned, and they stepped forward.
Grim and Paula stood outside the circle, watching as they disappeared one by one. Paula cried silently as the family she had come to love stepped into another world, and left her behind. Grim gripped her shoulder and pulled her to him, comforting as best as he could.
After a few moments, the light arch died away, and they were gone. His men settled down for the night in their tents while he and Paula sat down on camp stools, talking together quietly. After a while, she kissed him and they went to his tent. It would be hours until dawn, and she needed comfort.