Written to Clare’s commission for “More Doug.”
Nineteen-sixty-nine (or so, as canon suggests)
“This is the place.” Luke twitched his shoulders in the way that meant, somewhere under his Mask, his wings were flapping. “There’s the village, over here. We’re still building the houses. Regine calls them cottages…”
“I thought there was going to be a school.” From where they were standing, what Doug could see was a barn and a wheat field. The gesture his father had made indicated, as far as Doug could tell, more wheat field.
“There will be. Here.” Luke started towards the barn. Doug sighed, because what else did you do when your centuries-old father decided to be laconic, and followed, because he’d come this far; he might as well hear the old man out.
The barn, inside, looked like other barns Doug had been in. The sunlight poured in through the cracks. The smell of old hay permeated the air. And, hidden behind a half-wall of cracked, grey wood and under a hidden trap door, a long stairway led downwards.
The trap door, Doug noted, was only wood on the top; the underside was steel, and heavy steel at that.
“Regine bought this place from the U.S. Government. It’s a mess, still, but we’re working on it. The nice thing is – it’s built to withstand bombs. It’s also built to withstand fae.”
The grey concrete stairs suddenly seemed far more ominous. “The U.S. Government is fighting fae?” He paused. “We’re fighting fae?”
It might as well be we, since if his dad was fighting things, Doug would end up fighting them, too. His mother & grandmother would never forgive him if he didn’t.
“I don’t think they were fighting fae.” Luke turned on the stairs to look at Doug. “We’re not, either. But it’s always good to have a fortified location.”
Yes, Dad. Doug was old enough not to roll his eyes at his father. It didn’t mean he didn’t want to. “So you have a government bunker designed to withstand fae, under a wheat field. I thought this was going to be a school.”
“Said that already.”
“Still waiting for an answer.” The trap door closed on slow hydraulic lifts, and, as it did, lights came up. They were walking into a warehouse, metal shelves lining the walls, crates filling the shelves.
“We want it fortified, because building a school for fae kids is like putting a target on your building and asking the Nedetakaei to show up.” Luke walked into the warehouse. “We want it hidden for the same reason. And… there’s the other problem.”
“Other problem?” Doug knew, or, at least, he was pretty sure he knew. He was hoping he was wrong. He’d been hoping his father had gotten over that particular bit of stupidity.
“The Return.” Luke’s wings were Masked, but Doug could tell from the sudden breeze that he was flapping them. “It’s going to happen sometime in the next century.”
The same stupidity. “Dad, precognition is unreliable. You taught me that.”
“I did. I also taught you to be prepared for the worst….”
“…and ready to enjoy the best. What sort of enjoyment is there going to be in here?” He gestured at the crates lining the walls. “I’m depressed just walking in here.”
“We’re still working on it.” Luke was smiling. Doug mistrusted that smile. “Regine’s been spending money like it grows on trees.”
“She’s a Grigori; don’t they do that in their gardens?” The question came out sour; Doug wasn’t the least bit sorry. Regine had dragged his father away from home for most of Doug’s life.
His father barked out a humorless laugh. “They might. Come on.”
Doug followed. The hallways were concrete, the walls cement block, the closely-spaced doors steel with wire-reinforced glass. “Look…” He meant it as a joke, but it came out sounding nervous. “I know we don’t get along, but you don’t need to institutionalize me.”
“That’s what they were doing.” Luke swung open a door. The room on the other side was small and dark, shadows lingering in every corner. Doug noticed immediately that there was no handle on the interior of the door, and nearly as quickly saw the chains hanging from the far wall. “We don’t know yet what they kept here. There’s a lot of paperwork to go through, and Regine and Mike have only just started.” He closed the door. “They’re all like that. There’s a whole bunch of ripping out of walls to be done, first, and I called in some favors to get the place re-wired.”
“You know electricians?” Under his Mask, Doug’s broken winglets shifted uncomfortably. This place was too tight and too open. “Can we rip out some walls now?”
“Let me give you the full tour, first. There will be plenty of time to rip out walls, but you have to know what you’re looking at first.”
It was fair. Doug didn’t want fair. “Why are the halls so big?” Luke could spread his wings comfortably in here.
“Gurneys.” The word was clipped, almost spat out. Doug didn’t pursue it further, and Luke took the opportunity to change the subject. “We’ve already ripped out a few walls. Down here, we made a gathering room. We need someplace to… heh. Gather.” He shifted, rolling his shoulders. “Right down here.”
It seemed like they were hurrying, but Doug didn’t mind at all. The floors echoed. The doors seemed to stare at him. Out of the corner of his eye, he thought he saw something moving. It made him want to bolt, or to hit something. Neither reaction was very useful right now.
When Luke opened the doors to the “gathering place,” Doug could tell immediately that other people felt the same way about the concrete halls. They’d started the renovations here. Wood paneling lined every wall to chair height; the walls above the paneling were painted very pale blue. The dangling fluorescent fixtures had been replaced with indirect, hidden lighting. A few tables were scattered about – wooden tables, with stout legs and comfortable chairs. The floor itself had been carpeted in soft, plush stuff that felt like early-summer grass underfoot.
“A break from the institutional?” He could smell food cooking, and surprised himself by having an appetite.
“The whole place will be like this – eventually.” Luke scuffed at the carpet with one booted toe. “Carpet’s easier on hooves, they tell me. And it softens noises. Workings for that, too. So it won’t echo like a cave.”
Cave was a nice word for it. Doug took in the gathering room. “It’s like a different place.”
Here, he could imagine kids being happy. Bouncing around, throwing things, getting the carpet dirty, laughing. They’d get a chance to act human. He coughed. “A school?”
“Something between a high school and a college, the way they figure things now. And being Mentored. If the Council doesn’t shut us down-” Luke shifted his weight. “If they don’t shut us down, it’s going to be -” Doug watched his father choose and discard words. “It’ll be interesting.”
Doug looked around one more time. “Yeah,” he answered dryly. “‘Interesting’ is gonna be a word for it.”
After Year 9
To say the sub-sub-basement was a mess was not remotely covering it. They had – Doug was fairly certain – gotten all the students out. Now it was him and his father, looking around the wreck.
Doug’s shoulders twitched. “This is…”
Luke snarled. “How did they hide this? Unless…”
They both knew how he was going to finish that sentence. Unless Regine knew. Unless Regine had willingly built her school on cages full of… something.
Doug shook his head slowly. “No.” It nothing else, it had disrupted learning far too much – and, more than learning, breeding. Regine did not like disruptions.
Something whimpered far away.
Doug checked his weapons and rolled his weight forward onto the balls of his feet. “Still something left down there.”
“It’s disturbing.” Luke strode forward. “The set-up to keep those… things alive. It stinks of Workings. Not just the Workings we put on the place. Old Workings, and technology that didn’t exist in the fifties.” The breeze in the hall was sudden and ended just as quickly.
That’s what you think is disturbing? Doug raised his eyebrows at his father.
Hunting-Hawk twitched his shoulders. “Yeah, yeah. The whole thing is a mess. And there’s shit we haven’t found yet.” He gestured in the direction of the whimpers, which were growing louder.
Dough checked just his machete and his pistol and nodded sharply. “Let’s clean.”
The cracked tiles were uneven under their feet. The walls, once painted an institutional off-green, were scorched, the paint bubbling, the cement block underneath chipped. The foundation pillars were still strong – reinforced by Working after Working, these would hold up to an apocalypse. But everything else was in ruins.
They had cleared the fourth floor already. Now, they were in the labyrinthine mess beneath that. The halls were wide, too wide. “Gurneys,” Doug muttered. Under his Mask, the stumps of his wings twitched.
the below cut for author snidieness.
Continued in Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/creation?hid=2846820&rf=200475
If we’re being honest, this story was in part to thumb my nose at a “volunteer critic” who tried to take me to task for this line: “‘This place used to be some sort of government facility,'” here.
“You can’t just put this sort of line in here without thinking about it,” to paraphrase.
I have always resented the implications: 1) that I didn’t think about that line when I wrote it.
2)That I couldn’t backfill backstory whenever I wanted.
So, to that person, I say nyah, nyah, nyah.
And I thank my readers for letting me nyah a little. 😉
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