The truck finally stopped in the army camp set up outside of Neverdale. Cain shut off the engine but didn't climb out of the driver's seat. So DG didn't move either, until her door opened and Jeb touched her arm. "Come on, you can't do debriefings in a truck."
She meekly followed Jeb to one of the larger tents and felt another wave of disapproval from Wyatt Cain. That irked her more aware. It wasn't like he was offering any suggestions himself. She sat down at a table and Jeb, his father, and Glitch stood in front of it like students before the principal. She shook that image from her mind.
"What else have we missed?" Jeb asked.
Before anyone answered him, Stephen Connor stormed into the tent with Frank on his heels. "What the hell was that ambush?"
Cain's gun was pointed at the two men before he blinked and glared at DG. "You made him look like me!"
"Forget last Halloween's accident with the face paint, Cowboy Stephen is the most bizarre sight I have ever seen." Frank bit his bottom lip to keep his mirth contained.
DG took a deep breath. Her mother would calm everyone down, take charge, find out what had changed, and give people orders based on the new information. She could do that. "I didn't do any magic on him, Cain. Put your gun away." Cain did so with a scowl. "This is Dr. Stephen Connor and Frank Powell both from N.I.H. to help us with the illness. Quickdraw is Wyatt Cain, Jeb's father. And that's Glitch." Glitch waved at the new Slippers.
"He has a zipper in his head," Frank said.
Glitch sighed. "They're alchemists, all right. Always focused on the zipper."
Connor slapped the table. "Where are Jack and Natalie?"
"We're trying to find out," DG said in an even voice. He had just lost his son after all. "Was it a random attack or do they know?"
"More than random," Glitch answered. "They had to know something was up the way the Council ran here like headless jackdaws. But no one knows about the succession except the Council and they're all sitting tight at Baron Colfer's manor where we moved the sick."
"Moved the sick? You said it was isolated to one town that you had quarantined!" Connor's blue eyes narrowed.
"You have Baron Colfer to thank for that." Cain still had his hand wrapped around the butt of his holstered gun. "He had to see the Queen's body after we told him not to go in Neverdale and he ran home when he started feeling bad."
"And you didn't shoot him?" Jeb asked.
"He waited until the rest of the Council was hounding me over the location of the heir to the throne."
"Azkadellia and your nurture units said the manor would be easier to care for the sick," Glitch said. "And it's near Tenniken on the Brick Route so supplies would get there easier."
"Or the outbreak can become an epidemic!" Connor snapped.
"Either way, the Longcoats couldn't miss all that activity." Jeb shook his head.
"And you put a travel storm down right in the middle of them." Cain glared at DG again.
"You know that wasn't part of the plan," she retorted.
"I'm going after my son and Natalie! Where are these Longcoats?"
"A fighting alchemist?" Glitch smirked.
Connor didn't find it amusing. "I was a Captain in the United States Army. Your rebels don't scare me."
"Those Longcoats are why you are not safe here, DG. You need to go back to Central City." Cain was back to harping on that again.
DG covered her face with her hand. Connor just wanted his son and coworker back, and it was her fault Jack was in danger. Cain's paranoia was getting the better of him and he would shoot somebody eventually. And she moved too slowly to save her mother.
"They are the side who lost in our civil war." Jeb was trying to keep things reasonable. She should probably promote him for the effort. "But they are a trained military force."
"Who want DG's head on a pike!" Cain growled.
"So you want to sacrifice my son and my… coworker while you hide your leader, who didn't tell us she is the government?"
"Would you have believed her if she had?" Jeb's voice got sharper.
"I wasn't given the chance! Instead I believed her—"
DG's hand slammed on the table and the chair fell over with how fast she shot out of it. "Everybody with blue eyes stop yelling at me!" Two icy stares for the price of one, so she pointed to Connor first. "Did you miss the part where I told you we have no doctors? I don't care if you were Ranger, Marine, or Green Beret trained, you are not going Longcoat hunting!"
Connor's glare gained a scowl, but he remained silent. Frank's stare was wide-eyed.
"Captain Cain, Dr. Durant and Jack Connor have both met you, so you're the best choice to lead the rescue."
"Yes, your Majesty." At least Jeb didn't hurl it like an insult. "Prisoners?"
So many were dead already and now the fate of more was in her hands. "Use your best judgment. The most important thing is getting the hostages back safely." Jeb nodded, so she turned to the growing thundercloud of anger disguised as his father. "We are going to Tenniken. Work with your son to best divide the men."
"You need to leave some here to keep the town quarantined until we find the source." Connor sounded like he was under control again.
Wyatt Cain still stared at her stonily, but she was not going to quail before it. "And if you mention Central City one more time, I will shoot you with your gun." His expression didn't change as he turned on his heel and marched out of the tent. DG swallowed hard.
"He'll thaw out," Jeb predicated. "Once things have settled down a bit."
DG didn't know if she believed that, so she blurted out what truth she was positive of. "For God's sake, come back in one piece, Jeb, or he'll never forgive me!"
"Of course, he will. He always forgives you." Jeb shifted aside the canvas door and stepped outside.
Frank pulled Connor out, so it was only her and Glitch. "Now that's all settled, the Council—"
"No Council! I can't deal with those idiots right now. I'll deal with them first thing after first sunrise tomorrow if I can just be left alone until we leave. Please, Glitch?"
He smiled softly. "Of course doll. I'll keep ‘em out." He ducked out of the tent and she was finally alone.
She picked the chair up and sat in it. So much for following her mother's example; she couldn't even have a meeting without shouting at everyone. She covered her face with both hands, but the sobs still leaked out.