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Prologue

We're Leaving

3.3.2162 - East of the Angel's Boneyard, beneath the Cathedral

Lucy paced back and forth in the small chamber, gesticulating wildly. Every time she came upon Wiggum who was rocking himself nervously in the fetal position she would make a neat half-circle around him and continue. The intruder was talking to Gideon; he was wearing a robe like the other Children she had seen, but she had noticed the blue-and-yellow sleeve of a Vault jumpsuit poking out underneath the robe's sleeve. Eventually the intruder slinked out of the room. Gideon approached Lucy and put a hand on her shoulder, stopping her mid-step. She glared in his direction and tried to zero in on his features, cutting through the fog in her mind until he came into focus. The first thing Lucy noticed was that Gideon was no longer wearing his crown, unlike Wiggum who was still rocking on the floor, unlike Moore who was screaming obscenities at the wall, and unlike herself; who was no longer pacing.

"That man is here for the Master," Gideon said slowly, looking into Lucy's eyes for any sign of comprehension. "I gave him my crown so he could pass through the corridor, and keep our siblings out of his head. In that moment after I lifted the crown off my brow and before he put it on his, his thoughts poured into me. He knows something the Master does not, and when the Master knows what that man knows; I think it will all be over."

"I agree. Completely and utterly. You're right," she nodded enthusiastically. "What did you say? Oh, never you mind."

"Lucy, I need you to concentrate. It's all going to be over today, and if you don't leave, you'll die. I don't want you to die. We're leaving now," Gideon said before turning his head so as to include Moore and Wiggum "We're all leaving now. We're going topside and we're going to make new lives without the Master."

Gideon paused for a moment to collect himself, and then he lifted the crown from Lucy's head. She stopped fidgeting at once, savoring the bizarre sensation that was not unlike ice-cold water being poured on her brain before turning into a blazing fire. While she remained in place, Gideon rushed to remove Moore and Wiggum's crowns. Wiggum hopped to his feet and began pawing his temple like a cat grooming their own face. Moore stopped shrieking and began quietly cackling to himself. "Follow me," Gideon said with a lilt that betrayed the fear gnawing in his heart. He stepped out of their chamber and the others followed, abdicating their choices to Gideon for reasons none of them could quite place.

The Vault beneath the Cathedral was poorly lit, but Gideon seemed to know the way to the elevator. Without his crown, the routine of the Supermutants became his routine; and he followed their routes as if he had walked them before. "That man's path will take him below, and we want to be up and gone before he's finished down there. Keep moving everyone, one foot in front of the other."

The group of addled science experiments did their best to keep single file behind Gideon, but the rush of unfamiliar stimuli was putting a noticeable waddle in their step. They passed one of the dimmer Supermutant guards who looked at them quizzically but said nothing. The elevator was in sight when Gideon's face contorted in an anger not his own and he mouthed "Stop them," silently. A half second later, the voice of a human rang down the corridor. "Stop them!"

Gideon looked over his shoulder, past his companions and saw one of the Master's bespectacled scientists pointing at them, several Supermutants rushing past him to reach the wanderers. "No," Gideon croaked "We can't let them take us. Make them stop!"

Gideon grit his teeth and looked at the Supermutants as if he could will them away with a harsh glare. The mutated glands in his brain fired up and as if from nowhere came a bright flash of light that momentarily dazed their pursuers. The four escapees hustled towards the elevator but the mutants were quick to recover and renew the chase. Gideon desperately pressed the button to call the elevator, while his friends became increasingly erratic. Wiggum began sobbing uncontrollably which amused Lucy and Moore. "Gideon wants us to make them stop," a smirking Lucy said aloud.

Moore cackled until the mirth bubbled out of control and turned into a series of snorts and wheezes. He faced the oncoming mutants with arms outreached and called forth his gift: the skin of his palms turned a rosy-red and flames erupted out and engulfed the mutants. Moore kept up the heat, even as his palms began to blister, burn, and bubble. The mutants screamed in pain, but they were nothing if not sturdy. The one in the lead continued to march headlong into the flames until he was overcome by the heat, shielding his brothers and sisters from the blast. Just as that first mutant fell, the elevator arrived and Gideon ushered Lucy and Wiggum within. "Moore, let's go," he cried out in vain. Moore had surrendered to the ecstasy of immolation, his flames had blackened and cracked his hands and were now licking up his arms as he incinerated a second mutant. "Heeeh heeeeenh heeeenh! The asphalt shall run red! I will crush!"

Moore's fingertips were exposed bone when he started burning the third, flash-frying the flesh of the mutant's beefy arm as it darted forth and grabbed Moore by the neck; cracking it with a quick jerk. The mutant looked at his ruined arm and the madman welded to the inside of his closed fist in despair as the scientist caught up with them. "Damn it! Bring the others back alive!"

Holy Fire

Gideon was able to take advantage of the confusion and lead his surviving companions out of the depths of the unnumbered Vault and into the Cathedral above. Visions of his own imminent demise flashed into his mind's eye, someone else's dream. Gideon looked around furtively but saw nothing, but then Lucy pointed ahead and coldly intoned "Wiggum. Nightkin."

Wiggum shrieked and pulled his thumb out of his mouth so he could rapidly tap the side of his head. Overhead light bulbs shattered and their fixtures sparked, then the air in front of the trio shimmered and a giant, blue-skinned mutant appeared; grasping his wrist, screaming and writhing.

Hearing mutants coming from below and above, the trio rushed through a heavy wooden door and into the main hall of the Cathedral. They were briefly awed by the sight of so many men and women exalting the Unity, bowing before electric screens or spinning in ecstatic circles with flowers in their hands; but the thud of giant boots on stone spurred them on. "Wiggum," Lucy said with an air of command "Keep them away from me."

Gideon has each of his companions by the hand at this point, trying to urge them on when he felt Wiggum resisting. He turned back and saw that Wiggum has planted his feet and was staring intently at the doorway behind them without as much as a nervous twitch of his eyebrow. "Wiggum please." Gideon hissed quietly; for though he feared the mutants the most, he didn't discount the ability of the Children of the Cathedral to put an end to their escape. In fact, a well built man in a hooded robe with a cattle prod in hand seemed to be watching them while the others were yet lost in their worship. Wiggum smiled at his companions "Darkness comes. Get ready."

The door swung open and lumbering, nearly imperceptible silhouettes rushed out. The man with the prod looked from the door to the three fugitives and began walking towards them with a brisk pace that was about to turn into a full run. Wiggum shut his eyes tightly and puckered his lips until they turned thin and white. The propaganda monitors blazed with pure white light, then turned to static before electricity arced out and and the wavering, near invisible forms coalesced into view as blue-skinned mutants. The cattle prod whined before practically exploding out of the priest's hand. The Children and mutants fell down in spasms, as Wiggum nodded with satisfaction "Darkness."

Meanwhile Lucy had taken to dragging Gideon towards the main doors. As she pulled one of them open she was assailed by the hot wasteland wind and sun. Undeterred, she continued on, and Gideon followed with bitter resignation. Within moments, they were lost in the crowd of Children and punks that thronged around the entrance to the Cathedral. One of the now visible Nightkin had recovered, and grabbed Wiggum by the waist. Neither mutant nor Wiggum noticed the lone human not convulsing on the floor, slinking out from the same door the mutants had come through and out the main entrance.

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