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Mage Book 1 - High Hope

Discussion in 'Creative Writing' started by ellf, Jan 2, 2021.

  1. Threadmarks: Chapter One

    ellf Know what you're doing yet?

    Aug 26, 2014
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    Chapter One

    Winters in Brockton Bay were rarely all that cold. Something about that sea breeze just really seemed to bring in mild air year-round. Tonight was different. The winds from the northwest had picked up and blown down Lord’s Street, roiling over the spurious territories marked by the Azn Bad Boyz, the Empire 88, and God knew what other gangs that existed here. The wind blew with it the telltale signs of incoming snow, reminding me a bit of the first winter I experienced in America. Cold, long, and requiring much bundling up and snuggling with my dog.

    So, I walked down the street, wrapped up in all sorts of winter clothes. I had two layers of pants and leggings on underneath a skirt, snow boots, a thick sweater on over my blue blouse and a long black leather snow coat to top it all off. My black knit-cap and scarf really tied the outfit together, or so Dad said when he was trying to be funny.

    My dog, on the other hand, just went out in his long, shaggy fur. It covered his body like one of those shag rugs that I’d only seen in one movie once, but for some reason it never got tangled. He stuck close to me, giving some significant slack on his lead as we walked. I knew that if he wanted, he could probably just bolt right off, but Mouse wouldn’t do that. I knew that, and he knew that. We trusted each other.

    The wind really had started to pick up about halfway through our walk. Dad was out doing Dad things, which usually meant he was helping people, and it doubly meant that the walk could take as long as it needed. Of course, given the weather, I definitely wanted to get back to the house soon. Even with the snow and buildings around us, there was still just a bit too much sky. Still, I needed the exercise and so did my dog.

    “Come on Mouse, just a bit further, and then we’ll go back.” I smiled at him and gave him a slight shooing motion.

    Mouse chuffed in response, looking me over. He was worried about me. Or maybe he was worried that we were getting close to gang territory. I really wasn’t fully sure about what he meant these days. Mouse was a smart dog, though. We’d been together since I first came to America. Later, I found out that he was Dad’s first, and the big reason he watched over me was because Dad asked him to.

    “We’ll be careful, Mouse,” I said, ruffling his fur. “Just a bit further. I want to beat last week’s record.”

    Mouse gave me a doggy grin, and the two of us started to walk. About half a block further down, Mouse stopped, and I did too. I expected him to do whatever he needed to, but instead, he stared down the street, not quite baring his teeth.

    Mouse was tense, and I looked around through the falling snow, trying to get a bead on whatever it was my dog had spotted. Brockton Bay might not have looked it, but it had more monsters than just capes. I wasn’t too sure that the gang capes even knew that some of their gang members were monsters, but then again, most parahumans were blind to that sort of thing.

    “Well, what do we have here?” A sneering voice said. The man it belonged to was definitely Empire. He wore the colors, a red jacket with a black hood. It didn’t quite have all the usual Nazi imagery, but the hatred I saw in his face verified it for me. “A mutt and her… damn. Hookwolf’ll love you, big guy.”

    “You can’t have my dog,” I said, softly. I wasn’t so sure that he heard me. The wind was picking up, and the snow came with it.

    “Little spic, you’re in Empire territory. Everything in it belongs to the Empire,” said the man, and he flicked out a gun. “Even your life. Give up the dog.”

    Maybe he did hear me, after all. Too bad. I was my father’s daughter, after all, and Mouse was my dog. “I wouldn’t do that if I were you.”

    “You shut up, mutt and give me the leash. I’m taking the dog.” The man’s face turned a bit red and he brandished his gun. I didn’t exactly want to have to explain to Dad why there were bullet marks on my jacket, so I considered his offer.

    “Just give you the leash, and you won’t hurt me?” I asked.

    The man sneered. “Yeah. Something like that. Little spics like you are why there’s no good work here. I ought to just do you now.”

    “Please don’t. I’ll give you the leash,” I said, rubbing Mouse’s head. He knew there was no way in Hell that I’d give him up. I mean, stars and stones, this guy was a Nazi that wanted to put Mouse in a dogfighting ring. Mouse knew the plan as well as I did. It was a good enough plan.

    “Yeah, you better. Give it to me,” said the Empire guy.

    Mouse and I looked to each other. We wouldn’t get a better line than that, and I knew my dad would be proud.

    “Catch,” I said, tossing Mouse’s leash into the air. As it fell, I looked at Mouse and snapped my fingers. “Get him!”

    Mouse let out a snarl that had been known to stop monsters in their tracks, and he tackled the Nazi. The gun barked once as it hit the ground, but I’d moved out of the line of fire. I ran up and kicked the gun away. Dad had taught me a little about them, but he’d said he had a friend who knew a lot more.

    “Aah… you bitch!”

    “Mouse, he said a bad word!” Not that I hadn’t heard worse, but still. I looked a lot younger than I was.

    Mouse bit down on the man’s shoulder, digging his teeth into the Nazi. He didn’t shake his head or shake the guy, but I could smell the blood drawn.

    “Now, mister, I want you to go and leave us alone,” I said. “Mouse and I are going to go home.”

    “Little mutt,” growled the man. He was maybe in his mid-twenties and burly, but Mouse was a very special dog. He was my dog. “When Hookwolf finds out about—”

    “Shut up.” I cut the man off and looked around. A fell feeling settled over the area as a group of three junkies approached. Well, they wore the clothing of junkies, anyway. Junkies usually smell of a combination of urine, feces, and whatever they were on, but these junkies didn’t smell of any of those scents. Death, decay, and rage wafted off of them, and I tensed up.

    In a city like Brockton Bay, people die or disappear all the time. Casualties of the gangs, the Endbringers, whatever. People like Lung, like Kaiser, or like the Merchants made people disappear, sure, but despite that fact, the capes weren’t the true problem plaguing this city.

    The apparent junkies spotted the downed Nazi, Mouse, and I, and as they approached, their bodies changed. Their mouths extended into fanged muzzles that dripped with drool and half-eaten flesh, their outstretched hands into claws caked in dried blood and skin. They’d eaten tonight, but they would want more. They needed more. Ghouls. God, I hated ghouls.

    Monsters. Beings of the supernatural got brushed off as capes often enough. School mentioned the Adepts and Myrddin in Chicago as those who thought they were magic. Maybe they actually were.

    “Mister Nazi guy,” I said. “When Mouse gets off of you, you need to run.”

    “I’m not listening to anything a Spic like you says.”

    I reached into my coat, and I pulled out a carved wooden rod. Dad’s old blasting rod. I wasn’t my father, but I could do something. “This Spic is going to save your life. Mouse, heel.”

    Mouse got to my side, and I placed my left hand on him as I held out the rod with my right. As I focused, the tip began to glow.

    My name is Margaret Angelica Mendoza Dresden, and together with my dog, I hunt monsters.

    The ghouls charged at about the speed of a city bus.

    Incindare!” I snarled, and with a swish of the rod, a gout of flame erupted between us and the ghouls.

    Call me Maggie.
  2. HypoSoc

    HypoSoc Time, once consumed, has no meaning

    May 4, 2014
    Likes Received:
    Good luck with the crosspost.

    Any chance book two will be publish simultaneously with SB instead of after completion?
    Prince Charon likes this.
  3. ellf

    ellf Know what you're doing yet?

    Aug 26, 2014
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    Decent chance. Right now, this is the edited version that's getting posted here.
    Prince Charon likes this.
  4. Threadmarks: Chapter Two

    ellf Know what you're doing yet?

    Aug 26, 2014
    Likes Received:
    Chapter Two

    If there’s one thing I know ghouls are scared of, it’s fire. It’s kind of a cure-all for most supernatural problems, or at least, that’s what Dad said a lot. So, the line of fire I’d laid down with a sweep of my blasting rod at least made them wary enough to back off some.

    “Oh, God, what are those things?” the Nazi asked as he stood. “Some kind of cape?”

    “Shut up and run, Mister Nazi guy,” I said, staring at the ghouls, trying to remember what I knew and how I could fight them. My Dad and little sister had drilled into me some basics about monsters. Ghouls were especially nasty. They came from the Nevernever, the world of fairies, and they ate flesh. Supposedly they could eat forty to fifty pounds of meat a day, and as I’d just seen, they could disguise themselves as human. Fire usually worked to kill them. Brute force too. Guns could work. Wait. Guns.

    I looked to Mister Nazi as he was still scrambling to his feet. The gun he’d had laid on the sidewalk between us, and the ghouls looked like they were getting their courage up. I had maybe the strength for two more good gouts of flame, but if I’d had the gun, I could maybe get them gone. Three ghouls was a lot of ghouls.

    There was also the superhero option. Not that I was a superhero. Other than that guy in Chicago who definitely wasn’t Dad, wizards didn’t really make good capes. Plus… I wasn’t really a wizard just yet.

    No, the superhero option was hoping that one of the local fliers ended up seeing the flames and hearing the sounds of fighting ghouls.

    The Nazi shrieked and actually ran off, leaving his gun. Good. I only had to worry about protecting myself and Mouse. Two good gouts of flame, three ghouls. I hoped that Mister Nazi kept his gun loaded as I ran forward.

    “Mouse, cover me!” I called to my dog, and immediately he moved into action, running alongside me as I ran up to the gun.

    The ghouls were still wary of the fire, but it wasn’t still burning as bright. One of them, wearing the torn remains of the hobo clothes snarled at me.

    Mouse growled back. It was a low rumbling growl that echoed off the buildings, the kind you could feel in your chest. I felt a sense of ease at the growl. He was growling for me, but the ghouls seemed to look panicked. If I could get them to run, that would be the best case scenario.

    Even knowing what they did, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to kill them.

    I picked up the gun, and immediately I had to heft with both hands. Guns are heavy. I’d only handled them a couple times before, but at least I knew more or less how to be safe with one. Dad had his own gun, and he’d shown me how to aim with one before.

    One of the ghouls flicked its tongue out at me and slobbered all over its teeth.

    Urgh, that was gross. Ghouls were dangerous, scary monsters. I knew that. But being scary and being gross were usually mutually exclusive things. Not with them, obviously.

    I leveled the gun, the way Dad showed me, and I checked to make sure the safety was off. It’d look really bad if I pulled the trigger with it on. Then I made sure the gun was lined up with what I wanted to hit, and I fired.

    The gun barked twice at my trigger pulls, and I got a direct hit and a graze. The first ghoul staggered back from the bullet in the shoulder, and the second bullet grazed past the second ghoul’s ear. They snarled at each other, and I kept firing.

    Bullet after bullet slammed into and around the first ghoul. I lost count of how many there were that I fired, but eventually the gun ran dry… and the fire died down. The first ghoul was bleeding some sort of ichor-like substance from its wounds, and it looked like it was weakening.

    The other two looked at me and Mouse.

    I dropped the gun and channeled some power down the blasting rod to make it glow. Mouse didn’t need to do much other than bare his teeth.

    Both ghouls looked to their…companion, and they pounced. The first ghoul’s squeal of pain rang out through the night sky, and the second and third ghouls lowered their heads.

    Oh. Oh God. Ergh, they were eating it! They were eating the other ghoul, and its screams grew louder and louder. The stench coming off of the ghoul they fed on was atrocious. Combined with it screams, the crunching noises as bone snapped and flesh tore… it just was horrific.

    I hunched over to the side and my lunch came up. I couldn’t help it. Every single thing I had in me came up, and it still wasn’t as gross as what was happening not a hundred feet from me. I couldn’t focus. The smell was too bad. I could only imagine what Mouse must have been going through. A dog had a much stronger nose than a person.

    “Get away from that!” called a female voice from above, and a blonde blur flew across the street, slamming into the pair of ghouls. The blur stopped, but the ghouls flew into, and through, a glass pane window.

    I got a good look at her. She was a stunning young woman with platinum blonde hair that fluttered behind her, held in place by a spiked golden tiara. She wore a white dress that stopped mid-thigh, hopefully with something underneath since she flew, an over the shoulder cape, and a pair of matching high boots. I’d lived here in Brockton Bay long enough to know who she was. Glory Girl of New Wave.

    She was an Alexandria package, and she was wonderful. I couldn’t wait to try and get to know her, and given that she had come literally to he—

    Mouse came closer to me and let out a small chuff. He nudged me, and whatever it was, fell away. It really wasn’t all that strong, but it was… strange. Probably came from her, even. Whatever it was, Mouse was able to block it out.

    Still, Glory Girl. She was looking between the glass window the ghouls had gone into and the ghoul that…

    The remains of whatever was in my stomach threatened to come up again.

    “They ate him?” Glory Girl asked, making a face. “That’s just… it’s just wrong.”

    I shook my head and dropped the gun. It clattered to the ground, loud and empty. I wrapped my hand around the blasting rod once more, as I was almost certain that the ghouls would get up and come back, Glory Girl or no.

    “Was that your gun?” Glory Girl asked, floating toward me. Yes. Floating. Completely and utterly unfair. Still, as she got close she stilled, looking at Mouse. “That’s one big dog.”

    “Mouse,” I said, still looking at the broken window. “Sit down.”

    He did, and he lolled out a doggy grin. We both kept an eye on that window, as Glory Girl got closer.

    “You didn’t answer the question.”

    “No, it was the Nazi’s,” I said. “He tried to dognap Mouse at gunpoint. It didn’t work out… and then the g—they showed up.”

    Glory Girl frowned, glancing back as shards of glass crunched under moving feet. Mouse climbed to his feet and stepped forward.

    They? The weird looking Monster Capes?” Glory Girl asked.

    “Not capes,” I said, my blasting rod in my hand. “They’re actual monsters. Ghouls. They ate the third one, and they will want to eat more.”

    Glory Girl looked at me, but I didn’t meet her eyes. Dad drilled that into me hard. If I was going to be using magic, a soulgaze was something I definitely wanted to avoid, especially with a superhero. Even if it meant that she thought I was a little crazy.

    Honestly, I might have been. Without Mouse, the sky really would just swallow me up.

    I didn’t have much more time to do anything as the ghouls bounded out of the store front, claws gleaming.

    Glory Girl met them mid-air, slamming her fist into one and kicking the other. Her skirt fluttered in the wind as she whooshed between them. The ghouls fell straight down into the pavement and bounced with a sickening crack.

    I didn’t bother waiting for a follow-up, I just aimed. “Incindare!”

    Fire lanced from my blasting rod to the grounded ghouls, engulfing them in flames. They screamed inhumanly. I pushed more of my disgust and what fear still remained into the spell, and the fire burned brighter. After a few seconds, I lowered my blasting rod, just in time for Glory Girl to kick them into the building again.

    “Okay. What did you mean?” she asked, touching down near me. “Ghouls. They aren’t real.”

    I gestured at the half-eaten one and the building. “What do you call those?”

    “Monster capes that needed to be arrested,” Glory Girl said, looking at me. “Honestly, I should probably arrest you too for murdering them.”

    “They aren’t dead,” I said. Not the two I hit with fire, anyway. I could still sense them, but they were leaving, heading off into what looked like ABB territory. Oddly, that was a satisfying place. From what my sister said, ABB territory had no ghouls because of Oni Lee and Lung. She’d know.

    “You lit them on fire.”

    “Not hot enough,” I said. “It wouldn’t have killed them. Maybe your hits did.” I shook my head, and Mouse chuffed at me. “I want to get home.”

    Glory Girl just gave me a look. “You’re not even wearing a mask.”

    “You aren’t either,” I said. “I’m not a cape.”

    The blonde cape just gave me a look. “So, what’s your name?”

    “Maggie,” I said. “And you’re Glory Girl. You’re actually really cool.”

    “Thanks,” she said with a smile, glancing back at the store front. “Hold that thought. I’m going to check on them.”

    She whooshed off into the store front, and the moment she went in, she quickly came out, a trail of black smoke following her.

    “I think that means it’s time to go, Mouse. Let’s get home,” I said, turning and walking away from the newly burning building. He chuffed. “I know, it’d be polite to wait for her, but I’m hungry…”

    He chuffed again, looking at the building.

    “That’s not my fault,” I said, pouting. It really wasn’t.

    The building was on fire, and it was definitely Glory Girl’s fault.
  5. Threadmarks: Chapter Three

    ellf Know what you're doing yet?

    Aug 26, 2014
    Likes Received:
    Chapter Three

    Our house in Brockton Bay wasn’t in the best part of town. The houses in this area were a bit run-down, the wiring was old and busted, and the pipes were made of copper, not that new plastic stuff that newer houses had. Dad had a filter on the water to the house, just in case, and he had other things in mind when it came to safety. Our house was a two story, two-bedroom, one-bathroom bungalow that sat two houses down from the corner of our street. It was painted some ghastly color that Dad swears was once some flavor of green, but now it looked more like the bark of an old tree.

    Yeah, our house was pretty ugly from the outside. Which was a good thing, I supposed. It deterred robbers from trying to break in and running into Dad’s magical security system. The wards Dad had put on the place were strong, and I hadn’t quite mastered the way to unlock them on my own just yet. So, Dad gave me an amulet that I kept in my jacket, and Mouse had a second one tied around his collar in case I forgot mine.

    I rubbed Mouse’s ears as we climbed the steps to our house. The wood in them might have been older, but they still supported our combined weights. I fished out my amulet and unlocked the wards so I could enter. After opening the door, I started to step inside. By the time I got the door mostly open, I felt an impact on my shin.

    Mister, my Dad’s cat, liked to drive his shoulder into people’s shins. He was a big cat, maybe close to thirty pounds, but he only had a nub where his tail would be. His fur was long and grey, and his yellow eyes stared up at me while Mouse and I walked inside. I left the door open for him, but it seemed that he didn’t quite want to go out.

    Mouse shut the door a few seconds later, leaving us mostly in the dark. There aren’t any light switches in our house, as we barely have any electricity running in the house at all. The electricity regulates our furnace in the winter and air conditioner in the summer, but when it came to typical lighting, we were a bit more traditional.

    “Don’t worry, Mouse, I got it,” I said, and I raised my right hand. Dad’s spell was a simple one to remember, but I had my own words to do it. “Velalux!

    A tiny spark spread into multiples that struck the wicks of candles we had placed on shelves, lighting up the living room that our front door let into. Several shelves full of books line our living room’s walls. They ranged from fantasy to science fiction, to even a couple of teen romance novels from Aleph that I managed to convince Dad to buy when I saw them on the shelves at the local bookstore. We have a few mismatched old couches set up in front of the fireplace, which currently was unlit, and several blankets were draped over each of them.

    Between the couches was an older coffee table, on which sat a collection of magazines which ranged in subjects from science and engineering to lifestyles and cooking. In the middle of a circle of open magazines sat a carved wooden skull, lacquered with a number of intricate details. When I first saw it, it almost reminded me of one of those Día de Los Muertos skulls that I helped carve with the Mendozas each year.

    As I approached the skull, its eye sockets lit up a greenish color, and it turned to view me.

    “Maggie! You’re back!” The skull’s jaw opened and flapped when it spoke, or rather when the spirit within it spoke. The voice was that of a young girl’s, maybe a few years younger than me, and I knew it automatically. This was my younger half-sister, who admittedly wasn’t human. “That walk was seven point five eight three nine four percent longer than your last one. How far did you make it?”

    I smiled at her. “I made it almost out to Lord Street, Bonnie. Why was it so dark when I got in?”

    “Um, well,” Bonnie stammered. I wasn’t sure how she managed to make a skull look sheepish, but she did. “I don’t really need light to read, and I didn’t want the wicks on the candles to burn too low before father got here. The flames dance, Maggie. I didn’t want them to try and dance over to me.”

    Bonnie, short for Bonea, meaning beautiful, is a Spirit of Intellect. She lives in the skull because Dad hasn’t quite found her a better shell to hide in yet. If she were out and about during the daylight hours, she’d have to stay inside somewhere or else the sun would probably kill her. The skull kept her safe, and the fact that it’s made of wood meant her fear of fire was perfectly rational. Well, partially.

    “It’s okay,” I said, and I looked around. Bonnie had been more or less in the same spot she was in when I left for the walk with Mouse. This meant that Dad wasn’t home because he liked to spend time with both of us when he could, and Bonnie would be wherever he was. Of course, Bonnie wasn’t usually active when my stepmother was around, but still. “Dad’s not home yet?”

    “Father did call,” Bonnie said. “He said that he would be home later this evening. This latest case for the Queen of Winter is apparently pretty rough.”

    “Do you know what it’s about?” I asked.

    “Yes,” Bonnie said. “But I promised him that I would not say to you.”

    Bonnie knew a lot, but being what she was, she had some restrictions on her. My sister couldn’t lie, and she couldn’t break a promise. Her mother was a copy of an angel, and Bonnie inherited pretty much all the angel knew, along with everything Dad knew. She just lacked context for most of it. A big part of reading the magazines was to help her get the context.

    Dad told Bonnie about his case, but he didn’t want me to know. I knew that he just wanted to protect me, but it stung sometimes when he didn’t tell me about things. Maybe he’d let me know when he finished, but that he went to my sister at all meant that it was something serious.

    “I think….” I shook my head and glanced to Mouse. “I might have to lend you to Dad, boy.”

    Mouse chuffed and nuzzled his way closer to me. Mister came up next to my leg and batted at Mouse’s leg. My dog looked at the cat and then walked back a few steps while Mister made his home walking around my legs.

    “She’ll feed you in a little bit, Mister, be patient,” Bonnie said before looking at me. “He was batting at one of Father’s underlings earlier.”

    “Silly cat,” I said, reaching down to scratch Mister behind his ears. “Bonnie, want to help me make dinner?”

    Bonnie lit up. “Yes, of course I do!”

    “Then come on out!” I said. “Let’s make something that Dad can reheat if he gets home too late.”

    The skull’s eyes lit up brighter, and then out of both sides, a single coalesced ball of green light flew out. The ball circled around my head before alighting on my shoulder. In theory, I could let Bonnie ride along inside me, but right now, we were going to be cooking. Plus, we hadn’t really tried it that much.

    The two of us went into the house’s kitchen. This was one area we’d had to change when we moved in. Dad had installed a new gas stove when he couldn’t find a wood-burning one. Electric ones wouldn’t work with Dad around, and more increasingly with me. Electronics didn’t agree with magic. Something about the energy of magic interfered with the electric fields or something and it broke it. There was probably some technical term that I didn’t fully understand, but that was the basics that Dad taught me.

    I got the oven preheating and Bonnie floated over to the cabinet to get a bowl and some ingredients. She paused mid-air. “What should we make?”

    “Let’s go with some Mexican-style lasagna,” I said. I knew Dad would like that, and it was a recipe I’d made with the Mendozas back when I was living with them. My mother probably would have loved it were she alive. “We have all the ingredients?”

    Bonnie opened the ice box in the kitchen’s corner and floated some ingredients to the kitchen counter. It’s one of the strangest and coolest things in the world to see my sister help me cook. She was a walking, well, floating, recipe book, and she could make sure that we didn’t mess the recipe up at all. Which is why when she said we did have all the ingredients, I believed her, and she’d make some sort of suggestions for it too.

    When we started preparing the meal, Bonnie lightly sat on my shoulder again. “You and Mouse were gone a bit longer than it would take to get to Lord Street and back again.”

    I nodded. “Some Empire 88 guy wanted to take Mouse from me.”

    “Empire 88 guy? Those are the Neonazis, right?” Bonnie asked. I knew she knew, but she did a good job of pretending she didn’t.

    “Yeah,” I said. “He was just a Mister Nazi that wanted Mouse for something…”

    “Dogfighting,” Bonnie said, her light fluttering over to Mouse. “There’s rumors on some message boards that Hookwolf runs an illegal dogfighting ring.”

    I nodded. “He pulled a gun on me.”

    “Oh no!”

    “Don’t tell Dad!” I said quickly.

    “But…” She flew around me. It tickled as she shone her light on me, studying me. “Maggie, you could have been hurt.”

    “He wasn’t expecting Mouse to not want to go with him,” I said. “So, when he pounced, the Empire guy never got off a single bullet.”

    “Oh!” Bonnie glowed a bit brighter. It was her sort of smile. She didn’t exactly have a proper face most of the time, so this was how she did it. “That’s definitely good. Good boy, Mouse.”

    Mouse chuffed and padded over, warily avoiding Mister. He laid down on the floor in the kitchen, near where I might drop scraps as I cooked. My dog was very smart.

    I put a pan on the stovetop and ignited the burner. I needed to brown the meat before I did anything else.

    “There’s more, isn’t there?” Bonnie asked.

    “Ghouls,” I said. “They showed up after Mouse had taken down Mister Nazi. Three of them.”

    Bonnie again did a flyover around me. “You’re not too low on energy, and you’re not hurt at all. Did you just run away?”

    I shook my head. “Glory Girl came and helped. You should have seen her, Bonnie. She can actually fly.”

    “I’ve seen some videos,” Bonnie admitted. “She’s pretty cool, I guess. Legend is cooler.”

    “You just like him because he turns into a ball of light.” I smiled at my sister.

    “Of course!” Bonnie glowed brighter. “How could I not? He’s such a pretty ball of light too!”

    Bonnie and I kept cooking. She started to lay the noodles down and the sauce while I tended to the meat. Once it was fully browned, I put it in the pan to help with the layers and cheese. Together, my sister and I managed to finish up the pan and stick it in the oven, while teasing each other about capes. It wasn’t like we were all that likely to meet most of them anyway, even living here in Brockton Bay. Most people went their whole lives without running into one.

    Of course, most people went through their lives without ever thinking they ran into a monster too, but that was a different story.

    When Bonnie and I finished, all there was to do now was wait, and… I guess, do homework. Doing homework by candlelight was something I was used to by now. Plus, my sister acted simultaneously as a work checker and her own source of light.

    “You got number forty-three wrong,” Bonnie said. “Double-check your signs on your third row of calculation.”

    Of course, Dad put a stop to her giving me the answers outright rather than making me figure them out myself. It annoyed me, but I understood why he did it.

    “How much longer on the lasagna?” I asked.

    Bonnie paused her latest perusal of my work and floated over to me. “Another ten minutes. I am unsure if Father will be home in time to enjoy it with you.”

    “Yeah, I hope he can be,” I said with a sigh. “If he’s home too late I—”

    The front door started to unlock, interrupting me, and Mister darted out of the kitchen into the living room. There was only one person it likely would be, and Mister liked to greet him in a specific way. The door opened fully, and Mister shoulder-checked the legs of my father as he stepped into the house. Mister then ran out the front door after Dad leaned down to rub his ears.

    Dad chuckled a bit before stepping further into the house. “Wow, that smells good, girls. Is it almost ready?”

    “It will be ready in seven minutes, thirty-two seconds, Father,” Bonnie said, floating over to him.

    There are a few things that need to be known about my father. The first is that he is a very tall man. He’s certainly tall enough that he wouldn’t be out of place on a basketball team. He’s got relatively pale skin, dark curly hair that he had cut short currently, and a handsome face with dark brown eyes, like my own. The second thing that needs to be known is about Dad’s duster. It’s made of dark black leather, and it’s layered with a number of enchantments, much like my own jacket. As far as I know, it’s bulletproof. Dad never goes anywhere without it.

    Finally, since coming to Brockton Bay, whenever Dad went out to do something for his Queen, he did so while wearing a glamor and a mask. I didn’t know what the Queen of Air and Darkness had him doing, and I really didn’t want to know as long as I kept getting fun gifts from her for Christmas. Last year, she’d gotten me a pair of ice skates that worked everywhere for twenty-four hours. Miss Molly had gotten me some books and a brown robe.

    Dad smiled at me as he came over to the dining room table. “What’re you working on, kiddo?”

    “Math,” I said. “I’m just about done. Bonnie checked. Are you home for the night?”

    “Yeah,” Dad said. “I’ve done pretty much all I can for tonight. I’ll even be able to take you to school in the morning.”

    I got up and went to hug my dad. He had to bend down to do so, but at his height, he’d always have to bend down to hug pretty much anyone.

    “I’m glad.” My hand brushed his, and I got that little tingling shock that always happened when I touched my father. It was the interaction of the energies within us. Apparently, it normally was supposed to go away after you’d felt it once, but Dad said it was something to do with my developing powers. “Does that mean I can get lessons tonight?”

    “Are you sure you’re not tired out?” Dad asked.

    “I’m fine!” I said. “And I’ll be more fine after dinner…”

    Dad laughed. “Maggie, the word you’re probably looking for is ‘better.’”

    “Bueno,” I said, shaking my head. English was not an easy language. “Bonnie, is it almost ready?”

    “Two minutes,” Bonnie said. “I’ll take it out of the oven for you.”

    “Can you do that without straining yourself?” Dad asked.

    “Of course! I just wish I could smell it or enjoy it with you,” Bonnie said. That was another issue. Bonnie was a spirit of intellect, not one that could actually eat or drink. She had only sight and sound for her main senses, but touch, taste, smell were all lost to her. There might have been another way to let her enjoy it, but I didn’t know how.

    Dad nodded. “If you’re good to take it out, I’ll set the table. Maggie, could you clear off your homework?”

    I nodded and put it away into my backpack, and I smiled at my father as he put plates down on the table along with one on the floor. He intended on feeding Mouse some too.

    “I made it to Lord Street today, Dad.”

    “Nice one, Maggie. Was the walk okay? Nobody bothered you?” Dad voiced his normal amount of concern.

    “The sky got a bit too much,” I said. “But Mouse and I made it. Maybe next time we’ll make it further.”

    Dad nodded as Bonnie floated the lasagna from the oven to the table. It was pretty neat seeing the cooked pan encased in purple light.

    “That looks better than what I was planning,” Dad said.

    “What was that?” I asked.

    “If there wasn’t any dinner, I was going to grab Fugly Bob’s.” Dad shook his head. “I still can’t believe there’s not a single local Burger King. As good as it is, I’m not going to drive thirty-five miles each way to get Burger King.”

    “It’s been two and a half years, Dad,” I said.

    “And it gets worse every time I think about it,” he said with an exaggerated frown. “But at least things are fairly straightforward here. People don’t tend to yell at you too much about burning buildings.” Dad smiled at me.

    “Burning buildings?” I asked.

    “Saw the fire department leaving a few blocks away,” Dad said. “Looked like some capes got in a fight and the building got caught in the crossfire, but I knew you were safe.”

    “Collateral damage,” I said.

    “Add Barbie and you have a nasty nickname,” Bonnie said as she served Dad and I each a piece the size we’d be able to handle.

    “Maybe she did it…” I suggested.

    “Maybe,” Dad said. “It’s not exactly a burning question though.”

    I winced.

    “Oh, come on, kiddo, enjoy the lasagna. You made it, after all. No need to be ghoulish.”

    He knew? Was he hiding it in his jokes?

    “Sure,” I said, taking a bite. It did turn out pretty good, but I needed some parmesan. I got up to put some on, and when I turned around, Dad was standing right beside me.

    “You need to be careful out there, Maggie,” Dad said. “Mouse can protect you, but there’s some dangerous things out there, both supernatural and parahuman.”

    “I know,” I said. “Mouse and I are careful.”

    “I know,” Dad said, looking at Mouse. “He’s good like that.”

    We walked back to the table and took our seats. Dad served a piece of lasagna on the spare plate and placed it on the ground for Mouse.

    “Now, Maggie,” Dad said. “Before we begin tonight, I want to ask one thing.”

    I took a couple more bites of my cheesed-up lasagna. Delicious and perfectly spiced. “Hmm?”

    “Why didn’t you just run away from the ghouls?”

    “How did you know?” I asked.

    “It’s like I’m a wizard or something,” Dad said. “You’re not getting out of this, kiddo. Why didn’t you run?”

    “Because I didn’t want to leave someone in danger,” I said. “Not when I could do something about it.”

    Dad smiled. “Good choice. We can start the lessons right after dinner.”

    I met his smile with one of my own. I couldn’t wait.
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  6. Threadmarks: Chapter Four

    ellf Know what you're doing yet?

    Aug 26, 2014
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    Chapter Four

    Dad got me up for school early the following morning so we could have breakfast together. He looked like he hadn’t gotten much sleep the past night, but he had scrambled eggs and bacon waiting for me at the table. If Dad looked like that, I couldn’t imagine how my sister must have felt if she were helping him. We didn’t actually talk much at the table, focused on eating as we were, but when we finished, Dad scooped up his duster and gestured for me to follow him.

    “We don’t have a whole lot of time, kiddo,” Dad said as he led me down the stairs into the basement. “But I have something for you.”

    “What sort of something?” I asked.

    “Something that should help should you run into something like last night again,” Dad said. I still wasn’t sure how he’d found out, but he wasn’t trying to wrap me up in foam. “Ghouls are nasty business.”

    We made it into the basement, where Dad muttered a spell and a host of candles lit up. Our basement also doubled as what Dad called his “Lab.” The walls were lined with wire shelves, the kind that you’d pick up at Wal-Mart or a similar store. Each shelf was full of notebooks, small bags and solid objects of varying sizes to be used as components for thaumaturgical spells or potions. Several plastic picnic tables were set up at various points in the room, a couple with chairs by them. Inset into the concrete floor of the basement, in an open area, was a ring made of corded metal. Dad said it was a mix of silver, gold and copper, but I wasn’t fully sure. Regardless, it was a summoning circle.

    “I really didn’t mean to run into them,” I said. “Mouse and I were just out for a walk.”

    “I know,” Dad said as he walked over to one of the tables. “And from what I heard, they weren’t targeting you. But this should help regardless, if you run into more ghouls.”

    Dad picked up a ring from the table. It looked like it was about my size, but I didn’t recognize it from any of the jewelry that I owned. “A ring?”

    Dad grinned. “Yes, Maggie, a ring, but not just any ring. Here, try it on. Right hand.”

    He handed me the ring and I placed it on my right hand’s ring finger. When it settled there, I could feel the energy pulsing through it. “Okay, what is this?”

    “Normally, I’d have you make one yourself, kiddo, but this is a good start for you. I call it a force ring,” Dad said. “It stores kinetic energy from when you move, and you can unleash the energy using your will. It comes out like a big punch, but that should be enough to get you the space you need without using your own reserves.”

    I nodded. “How do I use it?”

    “Think on it for a second, Maggie,” Dad said, and he walked over to another table, where he set up three aluminum cans. He stepped aside and smiled at me. “Remember Christmas two years ago, your gift from the Queen of Air and Darkness.”

    That had been a fun Christmas before we came here. Hank and Hope had been so jealous, but I’d had to be careful. I didn’t want to accidentally freeze their hearts such that only true love could free them. Still, to use that gift, I did need to focus some.

    I aimed my hand at the cans and felt out the power in the ring. The ring was like a battery for kinetic energy. Releasing that energy shouldn’t be too hard. I flicked my hand out, and I said, “Kiensho!

    No, I didn’t know what it meant, if it meant anything, but that was the point. It was a trigger word, and that trigger word sent a small wave of force from the ring that slammed into the cans, knocking them over.

    “Good job, kiddo!” Dad said. “Now, remember, when the ring’s full, it does a lot more, but I made it so that you could release less at a time. Think of it like charges. You have three charges in the ring, Maggie. You can release one at a time or more if you need to.”

    “Plus, Mouse will be there.”

    “Of course, he will,” Dad said. “Speaking of, we should get going so you’re on time.”

    Dad and I rushed upstairs, and, after grabbing Mouse’s leash, I met Dad at the front door. The moment he opened it, Mister ran inside and bumped his shoulder into Dad’s shin. The cat must have been returning from whatever nightly activities he was performing. We didn’t have time to give more than a cursory pet. I clipped Mouse’s leash to his collar, and I followed Dad outside. I walked to the car while Dad locked up.

    Outside, Dad’s car sat in our driveway. Dad drives a beat-up old VW van that looks like it got in a fight with a tie-dye factory and lost. Its primary color is blue, but there’s green in there and some reds, along with what looked like they might have once been flowers. It still had all of its original doors, but Dad had replaced the spare tire the day he got it, and it had been re-upholstered four times in the past year alone. Dad’s named the van the “Mystery Machine,” based on a very obvious thing for Mouse.

    Mouse and I walked to the back of the Mystery Machine and waited for Dad to finish locking up the house. I looked out at the street, and a tall older girl with dark curly hair started jogging by in the street. She wore a pair of glasses, some black sweatpants, and a black hoodie as she jogged by. I waved to her, and she waved back with a small smile touching some thin, wide lips.

    Jogging girl kept going though, and Dad made it to the back. He opened the trunk, and he gestured for Mouse and I to get in. After making sure I was buckled in, he climbed into the driver’s seat.

    “All right, gang,” he said with a smirk. “Time to get to school.”

    “Okay, Dad,” I said, placing a hand on Mouse for comfort. Traveling by car still bothered me a lot, even in Dad’s big van. It reminded me of… things I’d rather not be reminded of, really. I was doing better! My therapist even said so. Still, Mouse helped, just by being there with me. He was my support dog.

    The ride to school was a quiet one, with me having my hand on Mouse and Dad clearly thinking over whatever he was thinking over with his case. He’d either tell me or he wouldn’t when he finished, and honestly, sometimes I really didn’t want to know. Instead, my thoughts went to last night. There were things I could have done better with and others I could have done worse. Ultimately, if the ghouls were still alive, I didn’t want to know. I was curious about the building though. Maybe it didn’t burn down.

    Of course, now I needed to worry about school.

    I went to Arcadia Junior High, located roughly in downtown Brockton Bay. It was a nice school, and the teachers there, for the most part, tolerated the fact that Mouse was there with me. It helped that Mouse was good about when he needed his walks and that, as big as he was, he was a quiet dog. Most teachers really wouldn’t even give him a second glance now.

    The trip to the school was about forty-five minutes on the school bus, and I had to factor in another four or five for Mouse and I to find an appropriate seat. In the Mystery Machine, the trip was a lot shorter. Dad pulled up to AJH about ten minutes after we left home, and he stepped out of the front to come around back. I was already getting out of my seat, and Mouse had stood.

    “Have a good day in class, Maggie,” Dad said. “Bonnie said for you to enjoy yourself too.”

    “She would,” I said with a grin as Mouse and I hopped out the back of the van. “She was resting this morning?”

    “Yeah,” Dad said. “She and I spoke pretty late last night, and then she went out for a little. She did make it back in time, but she needs her rest.”

    “Will you be home after school?” I asked.

    Dad shrugged. “Sorry, I don’t know, kiddo. I’ll leave a note if I’m not able to be.” He looked toward campus. “You should get on in.”

    “Love you, Dad,” I said, giving him a hug.

    “Love you too,” Dad said, returning it.

    “Come on, Mouse,” I said, and the two of us started heading inside.

    My first class in the morning was Geometry, a math course I found myself enjoying more and more. Something about shapes and angles was appealing. The teacher I had for the class was pretty good, very knowledgeable about things, but something always seemed a little off about him. Still, Mouse liked him, which was good enough for me.

    Mouse and I made it to the classroom, and we were immediately greeted by a call. “Maggie! Come over here, I saved you a seat.”

    I looked and smiled. Missy had chosen a pair of desks near the back of the classroom, where Mouse wouldn’t take up too much of the classroom area when he laid down. Mouse and I walked over to her and I swung my backpack down under the desk and took my seat.

    “You’re here early,” I said. “I don’t think Mr. Jackson is even here yet.”

    Missy shrugged. “Dad had to drop me off for some work thing, and Mom’s supposed to pick me up late from my group tutoring session tonight.”

    “Ugh, too much school, Missy,” I said.

    Missy shook her head. “It’s fun, most of the time. Sometimes I have to do boring busywork, but I have some friends there.”

    Missy Biron’s one of the first friends I made when I moved to Brockton Bay. She’s a couple months older than me and a couple inches taller than me. It’s funny because she looks like the Aryan ideal, blonde hair and blue eyes, but she hangs out with me who is anything but. She keeps her hair short, and she has a cute face that dimples when she smiles. Today she was wearing a pair of blue jeans and a green blouse with Alexandria’s logo small and over her chest.

    “You should introduce me,” I said. “I could always use some new friends.”

    Missy smiled. “I’d like to, but you don’t go to my tutoring session, Maggie.”

    Mouse padded over between our desks and laid himself down. Missy reached down to pat him on the head.

    “Yeah, but I don’t want more school,” I said.

    Missy placed a hand on mine. There wasn’t quite the buzz that I got when I touched Dad, but Missy had something to her. It wasn’t new though. She’d had it more or less since I met her, and since she didn’t react to my own power, I wasn’t going to press it. “Honestly, I don’t want you to need it, Maggie.”

    “Thanks, I think,” I said, and I reached down to pet my dog. “Anything interesting happen there last night?”

    Missy shook her head. “Dad said you could spend the night next Saturday though, assuming I don’t have to go to tutoring.”

    “Rough tutoring,” I said, shaking my head. “You get your homework done?”

    Missy flushed. For someone with a good tutor, she tended to forget her homework a decent amount.

    “Do you need to take a look at mine?” I asked.

    “Yeah, please,” Missy said. “I just know that Jackson’s going to roast me if I don’t have it done.”

    I reached into my bag and pulled out my math homework. I gave it to Missy, and she started to compare it to what little she had, fixing her own as she went along. The two of us made some small talk as the rest of the class filed in, taking their seats one by one. The redhead twins, Morgan and Faith, sat two desks away from me, Jason sat in front of them, and a few other students filled the classroom.

    Mister Jackson still hadn’t arrived, and the first bell rang.

    I looked to Missy, and she looked back at me. I made sure to avoid eye contact, but we did exchange glances.

    “Is he coming?” I asked.

    “I don’t—”

    The door to the classroom slammed open merely seconds before the second bell, revealing Mister Jackson. He looked highly disheveled, like he had slept in the denim jacket and pants that he wore. His shirt, clearly supposed to be white, was stained with sweat and some other fluids that I really didn’t want to guess at.

    “Sorry I’m late, class,” said Mister Jackson as he walked to the front of the classroom. His movements seemed slightly lethargic but also jerked every so often. He smiled at all of us, and there clearly was something going on behind his eyes.

    “Is he high?” Missy whispered to me.

    I shrugged, looking closer at the man. I really couldn’t tell what was going on, but he definitely seemed to be acting off.

    Mr. Jackson blinked as he looked at his hand in confusion. Then he looked over the classroom, stopping at Missy and me.

    “What… that’s not right!” He called. “A parasite gripping and pulling and driving and stretching!”

    “What?” I asked, and his gaze turned to me.

    “Death follows you girl, its tender fingers wrapping around you like a velvet glove, but it spreads from without. No parasites. No death.”

    Mouse stood up between us and took two steps forward.

    Mister Jackson pulled out a knife from his jeans pocket. “I’ll cut it out of you both!”

    That definitely wasn’t right.
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  7. Threadmarks: Chapter Five

    ellf Know what you're doing yet?

    Aug 26, 2014
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    Chapter Five

    This didn’t make any sense. Yeah, Mister Jackson was usually on the off side, but up until now, he’d been a pretty good teacher. He didn’t seem the kind of person who would threaten people with a knife, but clearly, something was different. He acted erratic, crazy, and he had laser-focused on Missy and me. Whatever he saw, he was a big man with a knife threatening two little girls. The hallucinations that he had must have been strong, because he took a step closer to us. The rest of class had managed to get themselves out of there, luckily.

    “Got to cut it out of you. You’ll be good then, yes,” said Mister Jackson.

    “Maggie, get out of here,” Missy said in an authoritative tone.

    “Not without you,” I said.

    “I need to cut it out of you,” said Mister Jackson. “You’re just two little girls, you don’t deserve those things.”

    “He’s got a knife,” Missy insisted. I wasn’t sure what she planned on doing. “Go!”

    “We have a Mouse,” I said, nodding at my dog.

    Mouse took that as his cue, and he pounced. Mister Jackson fell to the ground under Mouse’s weight, and the knife clattered free of his hands. Mouse placed his paws on our teacher’s chest, and he looked over to Missy and me.

    “Good boy,” I said, walking closer to him. I placed a hand on my dog’s side and stroked his fur.

    “Need to cut it out,” Mister Jackson said, babbling a little.

    Mouse chuffed and lowered his head toward Mister Jackson’s face. He pulled back his upper lip a little and let out a low growl.

    “The knife’s secure,” Missy said. “Maggie, you shouldn’t be here.”

    “Mouse needs to hold him down,” I said, and I stepped closer to my teacher. “There’s something seriously wrong with him.”

    Missy gave me a look that just showed her annoyance. “Yeah. He tried to attack us with a knife while claiming some crazy things. Maggie, he’s high as a kite.”

    I looked around. It really was just the two of us in the classroom at the moment with Mouse and Mister Jackson. Hopefully someone contacted the cops or something. Still… this didn’t seem right for most drugs I knew about. “Missy, could you stand back there for a second? I want to check something.”

    “Check what?” she asked.

    “Cut… cut… I can see everything,” said Mister Jackson. “I can see you, Maggie Dresden, see the stain upon you. The steps are calling, girl…”

    I stiffened. He knew about Chichen Itza. I barely knew about Chichen Itza. I’d been taken there by the monsters for a reason, but my mother and father put a stop to that. Unfortunately, my mother died, but then so did every pendejo that even bothered to think about kidnapping me. It was bad, but I’d finally gotten to meet my father.

    And Dad was… mostly great. Situations like these are things that he thrives in. If I was my father’s daughter, I needed to be brave enough to face down the truth. Same for my mother. Dad always tells me how brave she was and how good a journalist she was. She sought out the truth, the real truth. I almost wondered what she’d think of where we lived now.

    It didn’t matter. I turned to Mister Jackson and took in a deep breath. This was not going to be pleasant. I opened my third eye.

    Wizards, and Wizards-in-Training like myself, have something that is known as “Wizard’s Sight” or just “The Sight.” In reality, it’s so much more than that. It’s a supernatural method of perceiving the world that comes in far more than just visual input. I’ve gotten sounds, smells, and even tastes when using the Sight before. It ultimately lets you see the world for how it metaphorically truly is, and it strips away the illusion of reality. A person who is righteous and always tries to help might be seen as an angel, protecting and strong, but what you saw wasn’t always pleasant. Of course, with the inability to forget what you See, it became something of a source of nightmare fuel at times. The first thing my father taught me was how to turn it off.

    Which I almost did immediately after looking at Mister Jackson. Under the Sight, he looked even more beaten down and disheveled than he usually did. He obviously was tired and working too hard. My eyes traced ever downward, and then I spotted them. Black lines covered his body, wrapping around him, spiraling out in dep black threads, starting from his legs. They traced up his body, leashing his aura in, and I was I was able to trace them up what I could see, all the way to his forehead. In the middle of his forehead was a glowing oval, surrounded by the black threads. The threads seemed to simultaneously feed into the oval and pull out.

    “Well?” Missy asked. “What are you doing?”

    Stupidly, I looked over to Missy and Saw my friend. My friend was an avenging angel in an armored green dress. She had green thigh-high boots on and white tights. Reality around her warped, but I could tell that she’d use that for the right reasons. She would fight to protect and she would fight to do what was necessary for this city. Then I saw it. Tendrils reached down into my friend’s head, pulling back toward something much larger. A peek through the hole the tendril made showed its sheer size, making up practically an entire planet, and it was linked to my friend. Whatever it was. This was the parasite that Mister Jackson had spoke of… except… it wasn’t a parasite. It was almost symbiotic in how it worked with my friend’s aura.

    I slammed my Sight shut, and Missy looked normal again. Her costumed persona was nowhere visible.

    “Maggie, are you okay?” Missy asked.

    “I’ll be fine,” I said. I’d suspected Missy was a Ward before, but I hadn’t been certain. “Check on Mister Jackson.”

    Missy snorted. “Mouse is still holding him.”

    I shook my head and knelt down next to my dog. “He’s not usually high like this.”

    “Then maybe the cops or PRT or whoever will check for drugs,” Missy said.

    “You can’t see what I see! Parasites! Death follows you, girl! It walks behind your family!” Mister Jackson yelled. “The only way to save you is to cut it out! Cut the rot!”

    He thrashed a bit under Mouse, but he couldn’t move. What did move was a small packet of something. I quickly spotted the logo, a stylized roman numeral 3. It looked like some sort of powder, but I couldn’t really tell that well without picking it up.

    As I went to do so, the classroom door opened. “PRT! Everybody freeze!”

    “PRT?” I glanced to Missy before freezing my movement.

    She shrugged. “Maybe they had faster response?”

    The PRT uniform resembles that of a SWAT team. It’s heavily armored, has each member wear a helmet, and the color scheme is black and gray. It makes sense, considering the types of people they tend to have to face without powers. Supposedly they have grenades that make things easier, but I wasn’t so sure about that.

    One of the troopers came in and raised his face shield as he walked over. He was a younger guy, maybe about Miss Molly’s age. He had dark, curly hair and a strong jawline. “Everyone okay in here?”

    “He attacked us!” Missy said.

    One of the troopers paused. “That’s one big dog.”

    “He’s Mouse,” I said. “My emotional support animal. I’m Maggie Dresden, and this is Missy Biron, by the way.”

    “We’re going to need him off your teacher,” said the trooper. Mouse simply gave him a look before stepping slowly off of Mister Jackson.

    Our teacher got up immediately and started scrambling for the knife, but the troopers near him held him still. One trooper knelt down and picked up the bag. “Just as suspected. Three-Eye.”

    I mentally noted that down. It sounded familiar, but I couldn’t recall from where.

    The classroom door opened again, and Missy, Mouse and I all looked. The woman there was maybe a foot shorter than my dad, had dark hair and olive skin. She wore a scarf that covered half her face, an American flag sash around her waist, and stylized fitted army fatigues that hugged her curves. She seemed vaguely familiar, and the recognition in her eyes when she saw Mouse, Missy and I was obvious. In her right hand, she had a black pistol that shifted to a knife which she put into her sash.

    This was Miss Militia of the Protectorate, and… I was pretty sure I had met her before, but not as Miss Militia.

    The cape came over to Missy and I, and she knelt down so her face was at our level. “Are the two of you okay?”

    “He never had a chance to do anything,” Missy said, automatically, like she was reporting to a superior. I guess, in a way, she was. “Mouse did pretty much everything.”

    Miss Militia’s eyes flicked to my dog, and she nodded.

    Mouse padded over to her and gave a chuff. He recognized her too, I could tell. You could disguise your face, but you couldn’t hide your smell from a dog.

    “He was talking a bit crazy,” I said. “Something about Missy having a big parasite and death following me. He wanted to kill us.”

    “I see,” Miss Militia said.

    “It was Three-Eye, ma’am,” said the trooper.

    Miss Militia’s eyes narrowed. “Another, then. Thank you, Johnson. Miss Biron and Miss Dresden, I’m sorry that this happened to you while you were here in school.”

    Missy and I glanced to each other, and we shrugged. It wasn’t like it was the Protectorate’s fault that it had happened. Speaking of.

    “I just… have one question,” I said, looking from Miss Militia to the PRT troopers.

    “Hmm?” Miss Militia’s eyes seemed to say go on.

    So, I did. “Why is the Protectorate here? And the PRT? Our teacher’s not a cape, as far as I know. He had a knife, sure, but surely the BBPD would have been better.”

    If it was because Missy was here, Miss Militia wouldn’t give it away, but even then, she was here as Missy, not her cape persona. Without cape involvement, the PRT wouldn’t come at all.

    “The Three-Eye investigation is being handled by a joint taskforce between the PRT and the BBPD,” said Miss Militia. “I was involved in case there was… more that needed to be done to take down your teacher.”

    “Mouse is good at protecting,” I said, and Miss Militia’s body gave a nigh imperceptible shudder. Did she not like dogs?

    Mouse nudged himself closer to Miss Militia, and she reached down to scratch his ears. “So he is. You managed to keep the two of them safe, didn’t you boy?”

    Mouse let his tongue loll out in a doggy grin. He knew what he was doing.

    “Can we go home?” Missy asked. “Or to our next class?”

    Miss Militia glanced at her. “Next class, yes, Miss Biron. I was told that classes were still continuing.”

    “Come on, Maggie. Let’s let them do their jobs,” Missy said.

    “Okay,” I said, and I followed my friend out the door.

    As we stepped outside, I could see Miss Militia pull out a cell phone, and I strained slightly to hear her. “Yes, Director. Another Three-Eye incident. No mutations this time though. He just seemed to have the psychosis.” She paused. “Yes, it was in V—”

    The door shut behind us and I pondered. Mutations. Three-Eye, and the black tendrils going over our teacher’s body. I wanted the day to end quickly.

    I needed to talk to my sister.
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  8. Simonbob

    Simonbob Really? You don't say.

    Jan 3, 2014
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    I'm not sure I like that capes don't seem capable of noticing that Maggie is one. Ok, not a standard one, but still.
  9. ellf

    ellf Know what you're doing yet?

    Aug 26, 2014
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    There's a good reason for that. Most capes can't notice that other capes are capes without them displaying powers.
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  10. Threadmarks: Chapter Six

    ellf Know what you're doing yet?

    Aug 26, 2014
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    Chapter Six

    As Missy and I walked to our next class, I couldn’t help but wonder about my friend. I’d suspected things like what I Saw before, but I hadn’t had hard proof in front of me. It was obvious that the so-called cram school that she attended after school was actually a job, the Wards. Missy was a cape, and she wasn’t just any cape. She was Vista, spatial manipulator extraordinaire. Normally this would be the kind of thing one told a best friend, but I could understand. She’d been Vista since before Dad, Mouse, Bonnie and I moved to Brockton Bay, and I was pretty sure that the higher-ups there would encourage her to keep that part of her life quiet.

    Then there was Mister Jackson… The drugs we’d found on him… The PRT had called it “Three-Eye,” but when I’d looked at him with my Sight… there were nasty bits of black magic all over him. I’d show Bonnie when I got home, let her do a bit of ride-along so she could see. Plus, I wanted to know if she knew anything about such a drug. I’d ask Dad, but he was busy on a case for the Queen of Winter. I really didn’t want to interfere with anything on that. Most Winter Fairies were scary, and while Mab wasn’t always, she could be when she tried. She also was one of the best gift-givers though. I always had something nice from her on Christmas and my birthday. Miss Molly too.

    Of course, that was neither here nor there. I looked to my friend, who walked on the other side of my dog. “So, Three-Eye, huh? That’s what had Mister Jackson acting so weird?”

    Mouse chuffed in agreement. He was probably as curious about this as I was.

    “Guess so,” Missy said and blew out a breath. “Not that they let us know anything intentionally.”

    “Well, they’re the authorities, and we’re just two middle school girls,” I said with a shrug. “It’s kind of like how Dad tries to keep his work out of the house when he can.”

    Missy nodded. She’d met Dad a few times in the years we’d been friends, and I’d even had her over one weekend for a sleepover. My stepmother hadn’t been there that weekend. It was before I’d started seriously studying magic, so we were able to play some handheld games for a bit in my room. Unfortunately, she’d gotten a call about mid-morning the next day and couldn’t stay longer… oh, crap, that was a Vista moment.

    “It’s not fair though,” Missy said. “We were the ones attacked, and Mouse is the one who brought him down. Your dog is just awesome, Maggie.”

    “He is. Dad calls him an amazing dogasaurus rex,” I said with pride, rubbing Mouse’s ears. “Mister Jackson should have seen it coming. He wasn’t stupid... But maybe the drug was making him that way.”

    “Whatever it was, it really wasn’t normal,” Missy agreed. “How do you think he got it?”

    Sometimes, I couldn’t help it when a straight line was set up like that. “With money.”

    Missy gave me a look, and I could see she was resisting the urge to do something.

    “Some dealer, probably with one of the gangs, sold it to him. Though Three-Eye doesn’t seem like it’s Empire or ABB style,” I said. “I mean, yeah, Mister Jackson was white, so it’s not like the Empire wouldn’t sell to him, but I couldn’t see him buying from a Nazi.”

    Missy nodded. “And being white, the ABB wouldn’t be likely to sell to him either. So, it had to be another group.”,

    “What other groups are there?” I asked as we turned down the hall. “Do you know?”

    “A bit,” Missy admitted. Obviously, she wasn’t quite wanting to go into full detail. “I know Faultline’s Crew exists, but they’re a mercenary group that doesn’t do the drug thing. There’s another guy, Coil…”

    “He’s the one with the mercs that fight Nazis?” I asked. “I thought he might have been a myth. Something made up by the merc group.”

    Missy shrugged. “I don’t know. Maybe there’s another group around that he could have bought from.”

    There were those junkie-dressed ghouls from last night. Of course, they’d been ghouls, and in a city the size of Brockton Bay, people disappeared all the time. Maybe they’d gotten the clothes off of actual junkies. That they’d eaten. Ghouls.

    When we approached the door to our next class, a familiar face stood outside. She was tall for a woman, standing maybe only a foot shorter than Dad, but she was also definitely younger by at least a decade. Her blonde hair was tied back into a long braid, and it framed her beautifully pale face. She wore long jeans and a light, brown winter coat despite how cold it was outside along with a pair of brown snow boots. Her eyes were a crystalline blue, and her red-painted lips quirked into a smile when she spotted Missy, Mouse, and I.

    Molly Carpenter, Lady of Winter, spoke up when we were close. “There you are, Maggie. Since your father didn’t pick up when the school called, they called me. They let me sign you out for the day, given what happened in homeroom.”

    “So, you’re going to be taking me home, Miss Molly?” I asked.

    “Mouse too, of course,” Miss Molly said as she walked over to him. She rubbed his head with a smile. “How you doing, boy?”

    Mouse chuffed and cocked his head.

    “Oh, don’t be like that. Of course, I have your treat,” she said. “It’s in the car.”

    Missy nudged me lightly, reaching across Mouse.

    “Missy, this is my dad’s friend, Molly Carpenter,” I said. “I call her Miss Molly. Miss Molly, this is my best friend—”

    “Missy Biron,” Miss Molly said. “I know. For some reason, your parents authorized me to take you home too, Missy, rather than come and pick you up themselves. Curious, that.”

    Missy blinked. “We were told we’d have to go to our next class.”

    “By whom?” Miss Molly asked.

    “Miss Militia,” I said. “The PRT and she showed up.”

    Miss Molly’s face scrunched up like her mother’s. Mrs. Carpenter looked just like that when she was annoyed with something. Of course, Mrs. Carpenter couldn’t freeze someone that she annoyed the way Miss Molly could. Not that she needed to. “Right. Obviously, she was wrong, there. I’ve already cleared it with your parents, teacher, and the principal. We can leave whenever you three are ready.”

    “Where are you going to drop me?”

    “Well, your mother wanted it to be her house, and your father wanted it to be his house,” Miss Molly said, tapping her chin. “But given I’m giving you a ride with this jawa here, I was wondering if you’d just like to go to her house and keep her company for a bit.”

    I couldn’t exactly say that I didn’t want Missy with me, but I had questions to ask Bonnie. Missy didn’t know about magic. Then again, I did know about her, and she didn’t know I knew. I probably should tell her, and maybe I should show her she’s not completely alone in her own age group. Yeah, my magic wasn’t anything close to the level of a parahuman power, but it could be one day. Dad thinks I have the potential to be even better than him.

    “If you want to be dropped at home, I understand,” I said. “Maybe you can prepare for your cram school.”

    Missy looked from Miss Molly to me. “I guess I could hang out for a bit. It’s been a while since I’ve been over.”

    “Oh, good,” Miss Molly said. “You can call your parents from my car to let them know. Or anyone else you need to call.”

    Missy looked to Miss Molly, who just waved a hand.

    “Come on, you three. Mouse needs his treat,” Miss Molly said, and she led us out of the school into the parking lot.

    Miss Molly drove a silver pickup truck with a full-sized cab that had a back seat. It was a big one with four-wheel drive, from a brand that still made good cars here on Earth Bet despite having several factories destroyed by Endbringers, or cape fights, or other things. The truck’s bed was covered by a tarp that had ice and snow lingering on the top of it, and the license plate was from Illinois. The number didn’t matter because it wasn’t a vanity plate.

    “Didn’t take the Porsche?” I asked.

    “Mouse sheds,” Miss Molly said, simply, and she opened the bed, pulling out a large bone. It had to be the length of my arm. “For you, Mouse. In repayment for… well, you know.”

    Mouse chuffed and puffed himself up as he took the offered bone. He then went to the back of the truck and sat, waiting for the door to be opened.

    “Missy, you can sit up front,” I said. “I’ll sit in back with Mouse.”

    “If you say so,” Missy said. “You are shorter than me, Maggie.”

    “I won’t be forever,” I said. “You’ve seen Dad.”

    “Your mother was a reasonable height too,” Miss Molly said. “But from what your dad told me, he was pretty short through the bulk of school, and then he hit one heck of a growth spurt.”

    Missy shook her head and went to the passenger side.

    Miss Molly pulled out one of those key fob things and unlocked the doors. It was weird because she was standing right next to me when she did it. She leaned in and whispered to me, “Don’t worry about it, Maggie. There’s a circle built into the right passenger seat in the car. If you sit in it and energize it during the trip, Missy will be able to use her phone without trouble.”

    I nodded. “Okay. Not a problem.”

    I followed Missy and climbed in the back seat, buckling up. Mouse joined me on the other side, bone in mouth. Miss Molly shut the door behind him, and she made sure we all were buckled in before turning on the car. I made sure to energize the circle, and I nodded to Miss Molly.

    She turned to Missy. “Go on and call who you need to call. I’ve got Maggie’s address written for you if you need to give it to them.”

    “Thanks,” Missy said, and she pulled out her phone. She sent a couple texts first, but then she made a call to her mother as Miss Molly pulled out of the school parking lot. Her mother didn’t seem like she wanted to talk to Missy, but Missy did manage to secure the ability to hang out with me until the normal time she’d leave for her “cram school.”

    This was a very good thing.

    She made another couple texts as we turned down onto the highway.

    “So, are the two of you okay?” Miss Molly asked. “It’s not every day that your teacher tries to attack you.”

    “He was high,” Missy said. “On something called Three-Eye.”

    “That’s… interesting…” Miss Molly said, and I watched her. She knew something, maybe not everything about it, but she knew something.

    “You’ve heard of the drug,” I said. It wasn’t a question. If it was, she’d probably be able to evade it.

    “Perhaps,” Miss Molly said. “So, he attacked the two of you…”

    She was changing the subject back on us. “Yes, and Mouse stopped him from doing anything. What do you know about Three-Eye?”

    Miss Molly let out a small sigh. “More than you, I’d wager, but less than others.”

    Missy blinked. “What is it?”

    “Sorry, Miss Biron,” Miss Molly said. “But I’m not the right one for the two of you to ask. Maggie, you know why.”

    “Privileged information,” I said. “How much?”

    “I’d rather not say,” Miss Molly said. “Let’s just get the two of you home, and maybe you can puzzle things out there, if you choose.”

    So, Bonnie knew about Three-Eye. That’s what Miss Molly was trying to hint without outright saying. Miss Molly was a faerie queen, and as such, she was bound by the laws that governed all of them. If she were to outright help us, it would cost us something in return. Of course, Miss Molly actually liked Dad, my sister and me. So, she’d try to get around that when she could. This was her way of doing it.

    “Where’s Dad?” I asked, changing the subject.

    “Well, his boss has him working on some personnel retrieval. It seems like someone got somewhere they shouldn’t, and Harry needs to deal with the situation. If he isn’t able to return tonight, I’ll be coming by later to check on you.” Miss Molly smiled at me in the rear-view mirror. “Still, it has to be better than finding wedding rings.”

    “He did sixteen of those last month,” I admitted as Miss Molly pulled onto my street. “Along with rejecting seven birthday party requests.”

    “What does your dad do, Maggie?” Missy asked. “I mean, I think you might have told me before.”

    “He’s a Professional Wizard,” I said with a small grin. “That’s how he’s listed in the phone book.”

    “Yeah, like that explains things,” Missy said.

    “He acts much like a private investigator,” Miss Molly said. “Investigates missing people, looks for lost objects, that sort of thing. He’s on retainer for the woman I referred to as his boss, and she keeps him busy on various tasks about twice a year.”

    “Ah,” Missy said. “Then why the wizard in the phonebook ad?”

    Miss Molly grinned. “Why not? None of his competition would dare do the same thing.”

    We pulled into our driveway, that is, mine, my dad’s, my sister’s and my dog’s driveway, and Miss Molly parked the truck.

    “Miss Biron, if you don’t mind giving Maggie and I a couple minutes of privacy, would you please wait right outside the truck?” asked Miss Molly.

    “Uh… sure,” Missy said. “You good with that, Maggie?”

    “Yeah,” I said with a smile. “I’ll get the door for the house when I get out.”

    “Okay,” Missy said, and she got out of the truck, closing the door behind her.

    After Missy was a few feet away from the car, I looked to Miss Molly and frowned. “Okay, Miss Molly. ¿Qué pasa?”

    “She seems like a good person, your friend,” Miss Molly said. “Even with her passenger’s influence.”

    “She’s a hero,” I said.

    “Thought so,” Miss Molly said. “I can probably guess which one. I want to tell you to be careful, Maggie. I can’t tell you everything you need to know about the Three-Eye, not without some proper exchange, but I can tell you this: It’s dangerous to look into.”

    “So, should I wait for Dad, then?” I asked.

    “I can’t tell you to do that, either,” Miss Molly said. “You’re a lot like I was as your dad’s apprentice, and if someone told me I shouldn’t do something, I would do it. All I’m telling you is to be careful. It’s dangerous.”

    “I will be,” I promised.

    “Good, Maggie,” Miss Molly said. “Also, I have a freebie for you. Sometimes your friends can handle it. Missy seems like the type of person who could.”

    “What do you mean?” I asked.

    “What I said,” Miss Molly said as she opened the door so Mouse could get out. “I’ll see the two of you later.”

    Mouse chuffed, and I followed him out on his side, closing the door behind us.

    Miss Molly drove off, leaving Missy, Mouse and I in our driveway.

    I walked up to the door and disarmed the wards while playing with my key ring. I unlocked the door and opened it. Immediately, once the door was open, Mister ran out of the bushes and slammed into my thigh before heading inside.

    “That’s a big cat,” Missy said. “Mister, right? I forgot how big he was.”

    “We like them big at the Dresden house, right Mouse?” I asked, patting him on the haunch.

    He lolled his tongue out around his bone. Yeah, Miss Molly had made him pretty happy. Missy came over to scratch at his other side too.

    “Let’s head on in,” I said, and the three of us did, Missy only dragging slightly behind at the door. It was warmer inside, and when we were in, I took off my snow boots and gestured for Missy to do the same.

    “Okay, so Miss Molly was a pretty nice person,” Missy said. “If weird.”

    “Describes a bunch of Dad’s friends,” I said. “But you should see the people my uncle hangs out with. They are weird.”

    “At least she got us out of school after what happened,” Missy said, following me into the living room. “Could you imagine having to stay there the whole day?”

    “No, I don’t really think that would have been a good idea,” I said. “Especially if we want to figure anything out about what happened. That stuff was nasty.”

    “What stuff was nasty?” Bonnie’s voice rang out from the living room table, her skull’s eyes lit up with a pinkish-purple flame. The skull’s mouth flapped as she spoke. “Why did you come home early, Maggie?”

    Missy turned her attention to the skull. She froze in place. “The skull… talks. It talks.”

    She talks,” Bonnie said, turning toward Missy. “Not it. I’m Bonnie. What’s your name?”

    “She’s Missy, my friend,” I said quickly. “And… I think we need to talk, Missy…”

    My friend turned toward me. “You think?

    I hoped she stayed my friend after this.
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  11. Threadmarks: Chapter Seven

    ellf Know what you're doing yet?

    Aug 26, 2014
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    Chapter Seven

    I was really young when I first found out about the supernatural. My adoptive parents, the Mendozas, were murdered by monsters, by vampires, all because those same monsters wanted me for the major magic spell that they were going to cast. I’ve got to say; it was one Hellish introduction to the fact that humans were not the top of the world’s food chain. Supernatural predators may not outnumber humanity, but they’re certainly more dangerous than most of it.

    Of course, that was before I found out about parahumans. Capes. The strongest parahuman could probably go toe to toe with the strongest supernatural being, and they were entirely mortal, even if they didn’t look it some of the time. Earth Bet had far more capes than where Dad, my stepmother, Bonnie, Mouse and I came from, and its supernatural community had far less organization. The paranormal hid as parahuman. It was the perfect cover.

    My sister’s thoughtless talking managed to blow part of a secret to my best friend, and I wasn’t too sure how Missy would take the full truth. Yeah, I knew she was Vista, which was a whole other can of worms that I wasn’t sure I wanted to open just yet, but it might be best to just rip off the band-aid and explain things whole cloth.

    Missy looked at me, looking toward my eyes, but I kept my focus on her nose or her lips. I hadn’t yet actually had a soulgaze, but Dad said as I got stronger it was more likely to happen. I didn’t want to throw Missy in the deep end with that.

    Bonnie was going to be a hard enough explanation.

    “So…” I said, glancing to Mouse and my sister. Mouse laid himself down between Missy and me, and my sister was staring at us with her pink flame eyes.

    Missy crossed her arms. “So? Maggie, the skull talked. You said her name was Bonnie.”

    “Yep, that’s my name,” said Bonnie.

    “Is she a manifestation of a parahuman power?” asked Missy. “I mean, that looks like a wooden skull, but Tinkers exist and that could easily be something a Tinker made.”

    “No, Father carved my skull all by himself, with the directions of his friend,” Bonnie said.

    “You’re not really helping your case, Bonnie,” I said, and I looked again to my friend. “The skull is actually Bonnie’s home. She isn’t the skull itself. The pink lights you see are all her.”

    “Pink lights,” Missy said, nodding. “Right. So, there’s LEDs inside there, or something…”

    “LEDs wouldn’t look like fire,” Bonnie said.

    “Tinkers make weird stuff,” Missy said. “So, your dad, Mister Dresden, he made her?”

    I snorted and almost gagged. “Please, I really don’t want to think about Dad and his method of making children.”

    Missy blinked and blushed, likely when she realized what I was talking about. “She’s not human.”

    “No, I’m not,” said Bonnie. “But I am aware of that fact. Father and Lady Molly really did the best they could on the limited resources they had available at the time of my birth.”

    “Bonnie’s what is known as a spirit of intellect,” I said. “She formed, for lack of a better term, when her mother made a sacrifice to save Dad. The merging of the two intellects created new life, her.”

    “This is probably one of the weirdest powers I’ve seen,” said Missy. “Next you’re going to tell me that you’re parahuman.”

    “No,” I said, shaking my head. “I’m not parahuman.”

    “Actually…” Bonnie said. “That’s not strictly true, Maggie. See, the definition of a parahuman is simply a person that has powers. With what Father has trained you in, and your other abilities, you certainly qualify.”

    “What?” Missy and I asked at the same time, probably for different reasons. Bonnie really was trying to be helpful in the explanations here, but she was jumping around and it made it hard to explain things to Missy.

    Missy looked at me. “You have powers?”

    “Sort of?” I said, raising my voice there at the end. “They’re okay, not especially strong yet, but I’m not going to be a cape.”

    Missy frowned, and I could tell she was thinking about something. If she weren’t a cape herself, she’d probably be wanting me to show her the powers, but that wasn’t what she was doing.

    “You’re not going to be a cape.” Her voice was level. “So, the Wards are out of the question for you, then?”

    “I’d learn a lot more from my dad than any government guys,” I said. “My powers… are learned. I mean, yeah, the fact that I have them at all is something else, but to use them, I need to learn.”

    “Well, everyone needs to learn their powers,” said Missy. “Kr…. K… Screw it. If they don’t like it, they can kiss my butt. I’m Vista, Maggie.”

    “Nice to meet you, Vista,” said Bonnie. “Have you ever met Legend? He makes a really cool ball of light, and I always thought that was the best power anyone could have.”

    I smiled slightly and leaned toward my best friend. I lowered my voice some. “When she’s not in her skull, she’s a ball of light.”

    “She does know that he’s gay, right?” Missy asked.

    I shrugged. I honestly wasn’t sure how any sort of sexual relations would work with my sister, and I really wasn’t comfortable bringing up something like that with Dad. The one talk with Miss Molly was enough and entirely too detailed. Mrs. Carpenter did a better job, though.

    “Wait… why aren’t you surprised?” Missy asked. She looked at Mouse and me.

    “Well… Missy, you’re my best friend,” I said. “I knew there was a part of your life that you hid, and I didn’t really ask about it. The classroom today confirmed it.”


    “She could See it,” Bonnie said. “I’m right, aren’t I Maggie?”

    I waggled my hand. “I looked at Mister Jackson while Mouse had him pinned. I didn’t quite manage to close my Sight when you came over.”

    “Wait, Sight? Just what are your powers, exactly, Maggie?” Missy looked me over. “Sight sounds like some sort of Thinker power. You probably aren’t a Brute. I’ve seen you hurt yourself. Honestly, between the two of you, Mouse would be the Brute.”

    “Mouse is the world’s only paradog,” I said with a smile. “He’s definitely super.”

    Mouse chuffed and looked to Missy.

    “My powers…” I shook my head and glanced to one of the candles on the fireplace mantel. It might not have needed to be lit, but it made a good demonstration bit. “Velalux.”

    A single candle, rather than all of them, was an important bit of control. This spell worked a lot like Dad’s candle lighting spell, but I never really got the significance to him of Flickum Bicus. It just didn’t make a whole lot of sense, so I kinda just wrote that off as a Dad thing that wasn’t meant to be figured out.

    A spark traveled from the tip of my right index finger to the candle’s wick, and it ignited on impact.

    “So, you can manipulate fire,” Missy said, and then the space between us and the candle collapsed, for lack of a better word. It was like it was an accordion that was squished, bringing the fireplace mantel within arm’s reach. Missy reached across and grabbed the candle, and then the room was its normal size again. “That’s a pretty cool power. You… aren’t limited to candles, are you? It also doesn’t explain the Sight thing…”

    She totally did that as a power demonstration. I won’t lie. There’s something amazingly cool about seeing a superhero, even in civilian guise, using their power near you. I’d seen videos of Vista using her power before, but nothing compared to just how wonky that space compression made my senses.

    I could see Bonnie staring. The compressed space had gone around her for some reason, but I knew she could see in more complex ways than I could.

    “Did you know that you physically fold spacetime into a fifth dimension when you do that?” Bonnie asked. “That must be something that your power lets you do. I would love to observe your power in action some more, Missy. The way your power works is just a treat.”

    “Thanks… I think,” Missy said. “But that’s… not really what I wanted to know. You obviously know my power. I’d like to know Maggie’s.”

    “Oh, right. No, she’s not limited to candles,” Bonnie said. “She can make some really big fires. Not quite as big as Father’s fire, but she’s still young. She’s also quickly becoming a whiz at thaumaturgy. Father truly had a lot of compliments for your last tracking spell, Maggie.”

    “Spell…” Missy frowned. “Thaumaturgy… wait. You think your powers are magic? Like Myrddin does over in Chicago? Or the Adepts?”

    “It is magic, Missy,” I said. “Your powers aren’t… exactly magic, but what I’m learning from Dad definitely is. Worse yet… I think so is that drug that Mister Jackson was on.”

    “What, the Three-Eye?” Missy asked. “You heard the PRT guys. A lot of people are taking it recently. It’s not quite an epidemic, but well...”

    I shook my head. “That doesn’t make it not magical.”

    “Three-Eye?” Bonnie asked. “That was a thing back in our Chicago, Maggie. One of Father’s earlier cases involved dealing with the person who produced it. It was a substance that opened the third eye, basically giving the Sight to those who took it. Father ran into one of the addicts while he was under the influence, and the addict spotted something about Father that he hadn’t told many people at all about at the time, not even Ms. Murphy.”

    I winced. That was another explanation that probably needed to come, but I couldn’t tell Missy all of it as it wasn’t only my secret to tell. The magic thing was well out of the bag, and it wasn’t like Dad tried to hide magic at all. The not being from Earth Bet thing was another thing entirely. Miss Molly kinda told me that I shouldn’t mention the exact reason for us coming here ever, and… well, I couldn’t really talk about it. At all. I could give an excuse, but I was pretty sure it’d sound lame.

    “Back in your Chicago?” Missy asked, narrowing her eyes. “I knew you guys moved to Brockton Bay from Chicago. It’s in your dad’s accent, but admittedly, not yours, Maggie.”

    I shrugged. “I can’t really talk about that much, Missy. It’s not only my story to tell.”

    “I’ll leave it for now,” Missy said, even though I could tell she really did want to ask me about it. She was a very good friend for that. Instead, she turned to Bonnie. “So, who was the person who made this Three-Eye that Mister Dresden encountered.”

    “A warlock named Victor Sells,” Bonnie said.

    “Warlock?” Missy asked.

    “User of black magic,” I said. “He violated people’s minds and he used magic to kill people. Both of which violate the Laws of Magic.”

    “Okay, so there’s laws now,” Missy said. “Magic has its own laws?”

    “Just seven,” I said. “In order: don’t kill someone with magic, don’t transform someone else with magic, don’t go rooting through someone’s mind, don’t control someone else’s mind, don’t do necromancy, don’t time travel, and then the Seventh Law is one that I’m going to be quiet on, but it could lead to nastiness if broken too.”

    I really didn’t want to try and explain the Outer Gates when I barely understood them myself, and I still wasn’t entirely sure how travel between worlds wasn’t violating the Law. Dad said something about the Nevernever being a very big place, but I still didn’t fully get that.

    “Right, so this Sells guy was violating the first and the fourth?” Missy asked. “And he was from your Chicago…”

    “What are you thinking, Missy?” I asked.

    “I need to make a phone call,” Missy said. She smiled at me. “Mags, you guys might have given an actionable lead.”

    “Okay…” I stepped further back from Missy as she pulled out her cell phone. “I’ll just be over here while you make the call.”

    “Why so far back?” Missy asked.

    “I don’t want to hurt your phone,” I said. I hadn’t quite given her the magic and electronics explanation yet, and I didn’t want to demonstrate it firsthand.

    Missy nodded and pulled out a different cell than I’d seen her use earlier when she called her parents. This must have been the one provided by the Wards so they could contact her with official business. She flipped it open and pressed two buttons before putting the phone to her ear.

    I know that this probably wasn’t the best use of this ability, but I wanted to hear the other side of the line. So, I did something my father taught me even before my magic started to manifest. I Listened. Listening isn’t exactly a magical ability, it’s more a method of focusing on a single thing and blocking out everything else. In this case, I wanted to hear the full conversation that came between Missy and whoever she was calling.

    “Go for Console, where it isn’t our job to council you on your counsel or to console you on the Console,” said a chipper young boy’s voice.

    “Clock, if I was there, I’d smack you,” Mis—No, Vista said. She might not have been wearing the costume, but this was very clearly the hero’s persona rather than the more relaxed Missy that I knew. “Why are you even on Console? I thought your school didn’t get out for another few hours.”

    “You’re one to talk, Vista,” said the person on the other end. He had to be Clockblocker, given what Vista’d used. “I heard a bit about what happened through the grapevine. Teacher attacking you and a civvie?”

    “Yeah, something like that,” Vista said. “Look, Clock, I could probably tell you more later when I come in, but I need you to do something for me.”

    “Oh? Now the shoe is on the other foot. What do you need, Vista?” Clockblocker asked, his tone a bit playful at the beginning, but then it turned serious.

    “Whatever information you can dig up on a guy named Sells. First name might be Victor or something beginning with a V.” Vista smiled at me and Bonnie, tapping on the phone.

    “Vista, you know I’m going to have to submit a request for that,” Clockblocker said. “Which means I’m going to need a reason.”

    “It’s a hunch,” Vista said. “If you could do whatever you could to not need the request…”

    “You’ll owe me one,” said Clockblocker.

    “Have the information ready when I come in later, and I will,” Vista said. “See you later, Clock.”

    “Right. Console out,” said Clockblocker, and the phone disconnected.

    Missy emerged from Vista a half-second later, her posture shifting to a more relaxed stance as she put her phone away. I really wasn’t sure how cell phones worked exactly, but I guess you didn’t have to hang them up the way you did landlines.

    “Well, that should be something,” Missy said.

    “Victor Sells is dead,” Bonnie said. “Why did you ask that person to get information on Victor Sells?”

    “Victor Sells of your Chicago is dead,” Missy said. “This is Earth Bet. It’s a long shot, but your Warlock was the one who produced the drug before.”

    “… And if there’s a Victor Sells here that’s a counterpart of that one,” I said, seeing where Missy’s logic was going.

    “He might be involved,” Missy agreed. “But… I’m pretty sure that the Protectorate and PRT won’t listen to me about it without evidence. They think I’m too young to think of this stuff. I’ve been in the Wards a long time, Maggie.”

    “You were a Ward when we met, weren’t you?” I asked.

    “Yeah,” Missy said. “They still treat me like a kid. I’ve got one of the strongest powers on the team, and they still treat me like I’m ten years old. Triumph, Aegis and Gallant are the only ones in Brockton Bay that have been Wards longer than me. Everyone else joined after. Yet they treat Shadow Stalker with more respect than me, and she’s one of the most belligerent capes I know.”

    “Missy, we’re thirteen,” I said. “We’re barely teenagers. You may have a lot of experience, but it’s going to be hard for them to look past the fact that they can look over you.”

    “Hey, you’re shorter than me, Mags,” said Missy. “Though, given your dad… maybe you’ll be much taller.”

    I shrugged.

    “Anyway… without any real evidence beyond this hunch, the PRT isn’t going to be able to look further into him here,” Missy said. “Not on my word.”

    “But… I could,” I said. “Dad was a private investigator that worked with the police. Maybe I can do something similar.”

    Missy shook her head. “It could be dangerous, Maggie. I don’t want you to get hurt.”

    “I have a Mouse,” I said, patting my dog’s side. He rolled over slightly so I could pet his belly. Greedy not-so-little dog. “He’ll protect me where my magic can’t.”

    “I’d feel more comfortable if I were there too,” Missy said. “But I shouldn’t show up in costume, and if my parents found out I was doing something like that on my own time… they’d let people like Miss Piggy know.”

    “Get me the information,” I said. “I’ll look into it and get you your evidence.”

    “Father may be able to help,” Bonnie said.

    “If he can,” I said. Honestly, I did kind of want Dad to solve it, but at the same time, I was curious. Whoever was making the Three-Eye was doing it in Brockton Bay, and it was a magic problem. I might not be a wizard yet, but Dad’s teachings stuck with me. “Missy, we’ll look into it.”

    Missy frowned and shook her head. “We should do it together. If we’re not going to the Protectorate with this, I want to be there to back you up.”

    Mouse chuffed in agreement.

    “Okay,” I said. “I don’t have a costume.”

    Missy smiled. “We’ll go without. It’ll be fun.”

    I nodded. “Yeah, it will.”
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  12. Threadmarks: Chapter Eight

    ellf Know what you're doing yet?

    Aug 26, 2014
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    Chapter Eight

    I didn’t demonstrate too much more magic to Missy while she was there. Instead, we started planning a few things while she told me about the Wards. Not any of their names, of course, but she described what it was like to hang out with them. It seemed for the most part, they were pretty good people. Missy clearly had a crush on Gallant, judging from how she spoke about him, and I made sure to file that away as a future teasing point. The only other girl Ward, Shadow Stalker, wasn’t one that Missy really got along with. Something about her attitude being kind of nasty.

    “Well, I ran into Glory Girl last night,” I said, finally. “While I was out walking with Mouse.”

    “Oh?” Missy asked, looking a bit interested. “What happened?”

    “Well, it started with an Empire guy wanting to take Mouse for some dog fight or something.” I shook my head. “Mister Nazi wasn’t very smart. The problem were the ghouls that attacked afterward.”

    Missy shook her head. “Ghouls.”

    “They’re pretty nasty creatures,” Bonnie said. “Humanoid monsters that eat five times their bodyweight in meat every day. The meat is usually freshly killed and often human.”

    “Glory Girl punted the ones I lit on fire into a building,” I said. “And then she threatened to arrest me.”

    “Yet here you are,” Missy said.

    “She went after the ones in the building first,” I said. “I kinda left after that. She’s supposed to be invulnerable, and ghouls are nasty and not so easily killed.”

    Missy shook her head. I could tell she wasn’t so sure that she actually believed me, but she could at least tell that I was telling the truth. I wouldn’t lie to my friend about this. Honestly, I wouldn’t lie if I could avoid it anyway. Lying was bad.

    “Well, I’m sure I’ll hear about it at some point,” Missy said. “Especially if Glory Girl’s out looking for you. I’ll give you a heads up. You said you lit these ghouls on fire. Are you sure they were ghouls?”

    “They dropped out of human form and grew large claws, long teeth, and they smelled of death.”

    Mouse chuffed. Of course, he knew what ghouls were. So, it made sense my dog would agree with me.

    “Because there are parahumans that change like that too,” said Missy.

    “Do they start eating each other when one is hurt?” I asked. “Because they did that to one of the ghouls.”

    Missy turned a little green. “Okay. You were right to fight back.”

    I nodded. I was about to say something else when the phone rang. It actually rang. I suppose with Dad out of the house, his magic wasn’t interfering with it, and it could ring without issue. My magic wasn’t strong enough yet to have that problem, but it still made it impossible to use a computer. The screens just kept turning blue whenever I sat down.

    Even if it wasn’t a Microsoft computer.

    “I’ll get it,” I said, and I walked over to the wall rotary phone. I gave it a look as it rang again, and I turned to go get my stool. Luckily, I hadn’t had to do much as Mouse brought it to me and set it down next to the phone. “Thanks, boy.”

    Mouse chuffed and I ruffled his ears. He was more than just a support dog. He was a good friend.

    “I could have just lowered it for you,” Missy said with a small grin, but her cell phone started ringing.

    I shook my head and picked up the phone. For a second, I forgot the English word to use when answering the phone. “¿Bueno? ¿Quién esmce-anchor?”

    “Maggie, it’s your dad,” said someone that sounded a lot like him. But a lot of things could disguise their voices, which is why we had a couple pass phrases.

    “Who shot first?” I asked, just to get the verification.

    “Depends on the version, but I prefer to think it was Han,” said Dad. “The remakes and Bet versions are just weird. I don’t need your phrase, kiddo. The Spanish was good enough for me.”

    “Okay,” I said. “But you said we should do it every time.”

    “Yeah, we should,” said Dad. “Okay. Why do you want a red bike?”

    “It goes faster, duh,” I said with a small grin. “I mean, Velocity wears red. If that’s not indication of truth, nothing is.”

    Dad laughed. “Sometime I really should go talk with the guy. See if the red was his choice. Anyway, that’s not why I’m calling, Maggie.”

    “I guessed,” I said. “Miss Molly picked me up from school today. Are you not coming home?”

    “Not until the job’s done,” Dad said. “So, it’s going to be you, Mouse and your sister for a few days. I should be back by the weekend or next Monday at the latest. Though I did hear something about you and your friend Missy leaving school early due to an incident in homeroom?”

    I could have told Dad everything. According to Bonnie, the Three Eye was something he’d dealt with before. Victor Sells was someone he’d beaten before. Dad could come back and solve the issue himself, and he would if I asked him to. But then he’d be taking time away from his current case, and what Dad did was pretty important. Still, I needed to tell him something.

    “Yeah, the teacher went a little crazy,” I said. “Mouse stopped him from doing anything. The PRT said he was on drugs.”

    “PRT, not police?” Dad asked.

    “Yeah. I got to meet Miss Militia when she came in with them,” I said. “She was nice, and Mouse seemed to know her already.”

    Dad laughed. “Well, I can’t tell you the reason for that,” Dad said, and then his voice turned serious. “But if she’s involved with the investigation, then it’s probably some sort of supervillain supplying the drugs that got your teacher. At least you and Missy are okay.”

    “Yeah,” I said. “Bonnie kind of spoke up around her though, and now Missy knows about magic.”

    “Kiddo, I have my name in the yellow pages under ‘Wizard,’” Dad said. “Your friend finding out about magic, finally, isn’t a big deal. It’ll be good for the two of you.”

    “Yeah,” I said. “No more secrets.”

    “Ah, no. You’re a wizard in training, Maggie,” Dad said. “Secrets are currency to wizards. Just make sure you keep the right ones.”

    I nodded. “Okay, Dad.”

    “I’ll talk with Bonnie later about speaking up too much,” Dad said. “But when Missy leaves, I have a bit of training for you to do with your sister.’

    “Oh?” I asked. I did like training, and Bonnie knew a lot. “What sort?”

    “Potions,” Dad said. “With me not there, I want you to make a couple potions. Make a durability potion and an escape potion. Both would be pretty useful, no matter the situation you’re in.”

    “Got it, durability and escape,” I said, glancing to Bonnie. We did have a four-burner hot plate down in the lab. I could probably make a couple more potions if necessary. “Anything else?”

    “Not for training-wise,” Dad said. “I’m having Melanie come by later to bring you and Mouse some dinner. She’ll be checking up on you while I’m busy with this case. She can’t stay to babysit you, but she’ll be able to give you a ride if you need one.”

    Oh. I liked Miss Melanie. She was one of Dad’s friends that he made since moving to Brockton Bay. She never talked down to me, and I never quite figured out what she did for a job. She traveled almost as much as Dad did, but she was pretty cool. She did talk about owning a bar, but I was a little too young to be worrying about that.

    “That’s great,” I said, trying to put a bit of enthusiasm into my words. While I did like Miss Melanie, it still wasn’t the same as having Dad home and safe. My voice softened. “Come home soon, please.”

    “I’ll be back as soon as I can,” Dad said. “I promise, Maggie. I love you.”

    “I love you too, Dad,” I said.

    “See you when I get back.”

    “Bye,” I said, and hung up the phone. I climbed down my stepladder and saw that Missy was hanging up her cell phone as well.

    “Good call?” Missy asked with a small smile.

    “Dad. He’s not coming back until his case is done,” I said. “He’d be back sooner if I told him about the Three Eye.”

    “Why didn’t you?” Missy asked. “Bonnie said he dealt with the stuff before.”

    “He’s busy with his case,” I said. “I didn’t want to distract him.”

    Missy frowned a bit, but then she smiled. “Well, guess that means we get to solve it. Oh, my ride is coming to pick me up soon. That was the call I got.”

    “Your parents, or…”

    “Wards,” Missy said. “I’ve got a shift today, and I’m going to fight like Hell to be on patrol tonight. If Clock found anything, I’ll give you a call before we go patrol.”

    I nodded. I wasn’t sure just how I’d deal with that information, but my father was a PI and my mother was an investigative reporter that specialized in this sort of thing. I’m sure I’d figure it out. “They’d be okay with it?”

    Missy shook her head. “Probably not. Piggy’d yell at me for giving this information out, but I don’t care. They treat me like a kid, and I’ve been a Ward longer than half the team. Only Aegis and Gallant have been with the team longer.”

    Mouse and I walked over to my friend. The big dog pushed up against her, and I clasper her shoulder. “Well, you’re still awesome.”

    Missy snorted. “Really, I should probably tell Piggy or someone that we might have a clue as to the producer of Three Eye, but then I’d have to tell how I got it. Unless you want to come in to the PRT building, it’s probably best we don’t let them know we’re looking into it.”

    I nodded. “We’ll get backup if we need it. We have Mouse and your powers, after all.”

    Missy rubbed Mouse’s ears and looked like she was going to say something when someone knocked on the front door. Mouse looked at the door for a second before letting out a chuff and settling into place.

    “Must be your ride,” I said as I walked over to the door. I brushed my hands on my pants before opening the door partway.

    On the other side stood an olive-skinned woman with dark hair. Her mouth was quirked into a smile and I could see perfect teeth inside. Huh. I recognized her. Dad had met with her one time at Fugly Bob’s. What was her name again? It began with an H, I’m pretty sure. Harley… Hailey… Harmony… Hannah! That was it. Miss Hannah.

    “Miss Hannah?” I asked, needing to confirm. “What are you doing here?”

    She smiled at me, and her eyes crinkled a bit. “I’m here to pick up Missy for her cram school.”

    “Ah,” I said and stepped aside, opening the door. If she was able to enter without issue, at the least she was probably human and if she wasn’t, she wasn’t likely to harm me. “She’s just in the living room here.”

    “Talking to a—”

    “Cat,” Missy said as she stood up. “Hey, Miss… Hannah. I’m surprised it’s you.”

    “Well, given what I heard happened to you this morning, I couldn’t let someone else get you to cram school,” Miss Hannah said as she stepped inside. Mouse lazily walked over to her, and I walked over to where Bonnie sat.

    “Bonnie…please shush,” I whispered to my sister. She needed to be the part of a wooden skull.

    “Yeah, it was pretty bad,” Missy said. “Maggie and I just couldn’t wrap our minds around it.”

    Miss Hannah looked around. “Maggie, are you going to be here by yourself once Missy’s gone?”

    “It’s not a big deal,” I said quickly. “Dad works late some nights. I have Mouse!”

    Miss Hannah looked at Mouse who gave a little doggy shrug. He lolled out his tongue.

    “If you’re sure,” Miss Hannah said. “I can ask a friend to stop by later to check up on you, if you want.”

    I shook my head. “Dad’s friend is already coming over with dinner later.”

    “We should probably get going,” Missy said, glancing significantly at Miss Hannah. Missy clearly wanted to get on with her Wards stuff so we could better figure things out.

    The PRT lady must have picked up on it because she glanced at her watch. “You’re right, Missy. It was good seeing you again, Maggie.”

    She offered out her hand, and I shook it. The jolt of power I felt from her clearly wasn’t echoed on her end. It would have shown on her face.

    Huh. Parahuman. I revised my mental image of Miss Hannah. She clearly was Protectorate, not PRT, and given her general body shape, hair and skin colors, it was obvious just who she was. All that was missing was a bandanna and a gun.

    “See you later,” I said, releasing the hand. “Call me when you get home, Missy, if your parents let you.”

    “Don’t worry, Maggie,” Missy said as she and Miss Hannah headed out the front. “I will.”

    I closed the door behind them and locked it. When I was done, I turned to my sister’s skull with a small grin. It was time to do what Dad had asked me to do. “All right, Bonnie, we’re heading to the lab.”

    “Oh, what did Father suggest for a task today?” Bonnie asked.

    “Potions,” I said. “And he even suggested two kinds.”

    Bonnie’s eyes brightened. Literally. They glowed even brighter. “Ooh, potions. I know five hundred sixty-one thousand seven hundred eighty-five different potion recipes, Maggie. Do you know which ones you want to work on?”

    “Oh, yes,” I said as I picked up her skull. Dad had made his training suggestions for what to make, and I had an idea of at least one additional one that I wanted. “Let’s have some fun together, Bonnie.”

    Her pink eyes glowed steadily as the mouth of the skull flapped. “Yes, let’s.”
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  13. Threadmarks: Chapter Nine

    ellf Know what you're doing yet?

    Aug 26, 2014
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    Chapter Nine

    Making potions was honestly a lot of fun, and that Dad trusted me enough to make some without his supervision said a lot. Sure, I had Bonnie with me to doublecheck and to help with the potion recipes, but I’d be doing he metaphysical lifting myself. I’d taken my sister’s skull into the basement with me, and I placed her down on the table in the far corner, the one that had a hot plate on it. Then I went around, lighting the various candles around the basement and turning on the one oil lantern that we had hanging down there.

    I needed to see if I was going to make potions correctly, after all.

    Then I pulled out the glassware that Dad had and carefully laid four half-liter beakers on the hot plate. I needed to be careful with this. They really would get hot as the potions were made. Stirring rods were important too.

    “You’re more methodical about this than Father,” Bonnie said.

    “He’s been doing it longer,” I said. “A lot longer.”

    Mouse chuffed and laid down about halfway across the basement. He clearly didn’t want to be too far in case something were to happen, but he also didn’t want to be too close for the same reason. Not that anything was going to happen, but Mouse was careful.

    “What potions did Father want you to make?” Bonnie asked.

    “An escape potion and a durability one,” I said.

    “You put down four beakers,” said my sister.

    “We have enough room for it,” I said. “And two potions isn’t too hard… I was thinking that maybe we could try a couple more.”

    “How many did Father ask you for?” Bonnie asked, turning her skull toward me.

    “Just the two,” I said. “Durability and Escape.”

    “I know I didn’t hear you tell him about the Three-Eye,” Bonnie said. “I wonder why he chose those potions specifically.”

    I shrugged. “Maybe they’re at my level of challenge.”

    Bonnie turned to look me over and made a humming noise. “Well… You are still young, Maggie. Father’s magical talent didn’t come into being until he was sixteen. Justin DuMorne likely only adopted him because he knew who Grandmother was and suspected that Father would develop the talent.”

    “Dad told the story… long jump at the park, right?”

    “Yes. Whereas your power came in…” Bonnie hummed again. “I believe I witnessed your first spell against those Fomor creatures. A redirection of their kinetic energy.”

    “What’s your point?”

    “The point is that Father took a while to grow to the level he is at now,” Bonnie said. “And took on quite a bit of risk. You may be training, looking to follow in Father’s footsteps somewhat, but we need to do what we can to mitigate the risk of that. Thus the potions. I do not believe that Father needs them for himself. It’s enough that you brew them.”

    I closed my eyes and took a breath. Bonnie might have been right. I hadn’t had magic for long, but according to Dad, I’d developed mine far sooner than the average person. I’d only barely begun puberty, after all. It was weird, because by all rights I probably shouldn’t have magic. Yeah, Dad was Dad, but the Mendozas, who took care of me, they weren’t magical at all.

    I shook my head. “Okay. Potion time.”

    “Right,” Bonnie said. “You remember how they are made, correct?”

    “Yeah,” I said. “It’s more than just throwing a bunch of ingredients in and hoping for the best.”

    “Correct. There are eight parts to a properly brewed potion,” Bonnie said, shifting into lecture mode, something she’d inherited from our father. “A liquid base, five ingredients to engage the five physical senses, one to engage the mind and another to engage the spirit.”

    “And then you mix it up with a bunch of magic and they end up done, right?” I said, more than asked.

    “Correct. Now, the potions Father asked you to make are ones he’s made before,” Bonnie said. “That said, you do know why we can’t use the same recipe?”

    “Potion recipes are individualized to the alchemist,” I said. “Since I’m the one making it, not Dad, the ingredients will match me.”

    “Exactly. And I think I know the right ingredients for each of your potions. The training’s not on picking ingredients, I’m sure,” Bonnie said. “Which do you want to start with?”

    “Let’s go with the Escape,” I said. “So, liquid… Escapes are supposed to be fast, and often can be heart-pounding, right?”

    “Yes. Father used a can of Jolt cola,” Bonnie said. “I would recommend something similar.”

    I walked over to the ice chest that Dad kept down in the basement. Sometimes our father kept some late nights, so he had to have something high in caffeine down here. Ah, there. Red Bull. It gave you wings. I brought it over and placed it on the table where Bonnie could see. “Think this will work?”

    “I don’t see why it wouldn’t,” Bonnie said. “Go on and add it in.”

    I opened the can of Red Bull and poured it into the first beaker. “So, that’s the base. We still have the five senses. Sight and sound?”

    “Father used a flickering shadow for the sight component,” Bonnie said, and she looked over me. “Perhaps that’s one that you should share.”

    I nodded, and I brought a lit candlestick over, using it to cast a shadow over the beaker. A light breath over the flame caused the shadow to flicker, and the Red Bull base rippled slightly. “That works. And the sound?”

    “Father used the sounds of scampering mice,” Bonnie said.

    “Bonnie, do you remember those Speedy Gonzalez cartoons?” I asked.

    “Of course,” Bonnie said, and then her eyes brightened. “Of course! Yes, of course I can do that, Maggie.”

    After a few seconds, Bonnie’s mouth opened again, but instead of my sister’s voice coming out, it was a direct quote from one of the Speedy Gonzalez cartoons. “¡Arriba, arriba! ¡Ándale, ándale!”

    That worked. The base rippled again. “So, we need scent, touch and taste next, right?”

    “Of course. Father used a drop of motor oil for his smell,” Bonnie said. “For you, I would suggest a hint of ozone. Do a small bit of electricity overtop the beaker, and that should work.”

    I nodded. “Of course.” I held my hands over the beaker, and I muttered a nonsense word in fake French or Latin. Regardless of the language, it wasn’t the language. A spark leapt from my right hand to my left, causing the scent of ozone to waft up through the room, and into my potion.

    “Father left some bird’s feather shavings to the side for you,” Bonnie said. “I can see them on the third shelf of the second shelf from my right.”

    I retrieved them, and I noticed the bit of espresso beans and grabbed them too. “Touch and taste.”

    “Very nice,” Bonnie said. “Throw them in. We’ll need to find you some sort of mental link to transportation or escape for you to throw in.”

    “I have my bus pass,” I said.

    Bonnie let out a hum. “Sounds close enough to me. Tear it up and put it in after you put in the other two ingredients.”

    I smiled and quickly tossed in the feathers, and I crumbled the espresso beans and chocolate before dropping it into the bubbling mixture on the hot plate. Then I pulled my bus pass out of my pocket and tore it into pieces before dropping it in. “What for the spirit component?”

    “Father used a broken chain, to signify escape,” Bonnie said.

    “I can’t really think of anything better…” I said, and I walked over to Dad’s components shelf. I browsed through it, pulling away from various things that Dad had collected over the years here. Some were really weird. I had no clue why he had a glass eye among the components. Ah, there was the broken chains, next to the powdered silicon chips and the vegemite.

    Like I said, my father can be weird.

    I grabbed the chain and walked over to the beaker. I dropped the chain in the mixture, and then I glanced to Bonnie. “Next, I have to add my will, right?”

    “Yes, but we’ll hold off on that until you have the second potion ready,” Bonnie said. “Durability potion. I’ll be giving you the recipe in its entirety. Father hasn’t brewed one of these himself before, but he’s heard of them. My mother knew the best recipe for this period.”

    I smiled. From what Dad told me about Bonnie’s mother, she’d been a good person there at the end. “Okay, sis. So, what for the base?”

    “Since this is a durability potion, milk,” Bonnie said. “It has calcium in it and promotes strong bones. Father keeps a small amount of whole milk in the cooler down here.”

    “Right,” I said and went to grab it. It was oddly full and fresh compared to what I expected. Maybe our cleaning help also occasionally restocked our ice box. It made sense to me. I pulled out the jar of milk and I walked it to the second beaker. I poured it in to prep the second potion.

    “Sight, Father has a sheet of steel on that shelf there; use the candle to reflect it and then dip it into the jar. Steel is strong.”

    I followed my sister’s orders, and when I finished, I asked, “What about sound?

    “Punch your hand over the beaker,” Bonnie said. “Fist striking flesh.”

    I did so, and then she started telling me the rest of the ingredients. For the smell, a drop of acetone was needed, but no more. Any more and it would take over the potion. Dad kept his acetone in a flammables cabinet that Miss Molly had acquired for him. She wanted him to have the best possible lab here. I put a single drop in and gagged at the smell. For the touch component, it was more steel, but this time it was shavings that Dad had on a different shelf.

    “For taste, a drop of your blood should work,” Bonnie said. “Just a small poke to get it.”

    I nodded and took a knife I knew was clean from a nearby table. I lightly poked my ring finger on my left hand and a drop of blood beaded at the stab site. I made sure it dripped into the beaker, and I smiled through the bit of pain that I self-inflicted. “So, what about the mind?”

    “Page fifty-two of the November 2010 issue of Flex. The copy is on the fifth shelf. Tear it up and drop it in,” Bonnie said. I followed her orders, and I could see the smile in her eyes. I hadn’t even really looked at all the huge men with big muscles on the picture of the page. I wasn’t so sure that was what I liked or not.

    “Okay, and now the spirit component?” I asked, definitely not blushing.

    “The cover of a pocketwatch,” Bonnie said. “Father has three on the shelf there. I’ll let you be the judge of which is best.”

    I went over to examine the watches, and not a single one of them were in great shape. One of the watches even apparently had a bullet indent in its… oh. That was perfect! I popped the bullet-indented cover off and walked over to drop it into the potion.

    Now you can add will,” Bonnie said. “But we haven’t started the third and fourth jars. Father only asked for two potions, correct?”

    “Yeah,” I said. “We can do the other two potions when we’re done with these.”

    “Well, you know what to do now,” Bonnie said. “Have at it!”

    I nodded and stepped up to the potions I had made. I gathered my will and began to pour it into each potion. I knew I could do it, to make these potions without Bonnie needing to step in and supplement my power. She would if she needed to, I knew, but I still would prefer doing what I could on my own. The best way to learn this was by doing, and with my sister guiding me, I knew I couldn’t fail. Well, I could, but it wouldn’t be due to lack of instruction. Bonnie was kind of the smartest person I knew.

    I infused my will into the potions, stirring them simultaneously, and the potions began to bubble. They needed to simmer for a bit while the magic settled. I let out a breath that I didn’t even know I was holding as I leaned forward onto the table. A wave of tiredness settled down my entire body. I felt as if I stood in water.

    “Nicely done,” Bonnie said. “Though that looked like it took quite a bit out of you. Are you sure you’re up for more potions?”

    I shrugged. “Two more… maybe after dinner.”

    Bonnie looked like she was about to start speaking more, but then the phone started to ring. Dad had a phone set up in the basement because he often spent a lot of time down here. I did too, for that matter, but I didn’t have as much to maintain as Dad did. I had the blasting rod and my coat. That was it.

    So, of course I needed to answer the phone. No matter the excuses I could think of, I was the only one able to pick up the phone here. And the phone would just keep ringing and ringing until it drove Mouse, Bonnie and I crazy. Mister was a cat. He really could probably care less. Also, I think Miss Hannah may have let him out when she took Missy.

    Okay, enough stalling. I walked up to the phone, picked it up, and said, “Alo?”

    “Maggie?” Missy’s voice came out the other side. “Sorry, I don’t really have a code phrase for you.”

    I paused for a second. Why would anyone pretend to be Missy on the phone for me? “Yes, it’s me.”

    “Your accent gets stronger on the phone,” Missy said. “Anyway, I didn’t just call to say hi.”


    “My friend came through. Victor Sells works at an office building just off the Boardwalk and Lord Street,” Missy said. “I’m going to try and see if the patrol can go by there, maybe around eight o’clock tonight.”

    “I’d like to meet Mister Sells myself,” I said. “I’ll see if I can get there by that time with Mouse.”

    “Good,” Missy said. “You don’t really have to do this, Maggie.”

    “Yeah I do,” I said. “I can help. I want to help. What kind of person would I be if I didn’t even try?”

    “A normal one,” Missy said. “You might want to dress up for this sort of thing. I will be and so will the guy with me.”

    I didn’t have any sort of mask, and I definitely didn’t have any sort of costume. My coat would have to do for this, and it’d be kind of hard to disguise Mouse.

    “I’ll dress warmly but that’s it,” I said. “It’s cold outside.”

    “Yeah,” Missy said. “Anyway. You got something to write with?”

    I held the phone away from my face. “Mouse, could you please grab me a pen and a notebook?”

    Mouse chuffed and stood from his spot so he could retrieve the things I asked for. He grabbed one of the notebooks off a nearby table and a pen out of a mug from the same table. The mug was one of those novelty ones, and it said “My other car is a Nimbus 2000” on it. Dad liked the story about the other wizard named Harry.

    I took the pen and slightly-slobbered-on notebook from Mouse, and I said, “Go ahead.”

    Missy told me the address, and I smiled. “I’ll do my best. Have a safe night.”

    “Hope not,” Missy said. “I could blow off a little steam. See you, Maggie.”

    “Bye, Missy.”

    I turned back to the potions. They were pretty close to being finished. I grabbed two sports bottles that Dad had for just such an occasion, and I filled each one with the potions I made. Once filled, I replaced the caps and labeled the bottles.

    “You should bring those with you tonight,” Bonnie said. “Father only said you had to make them, not that he needed them.”

    “Right,” I said.

    Mouse’s ears perked up, and he came over to me. He nudged me toward the stairs.

    “What?” I asked.

    “Someone appears to be at the door,” Bonnie said. “We may not have time for the next two potions.”

    “Right,” I said. “Guess I’ll go check who it is. Bonnie, you’re okay if I leave you down here, right?”

    “Of course, Maggie. I’ll rest and pretend I’m Bob the Wooden Skull.”

    “I’ll come get you later. I promise,” I said before heading out toward the stairs.

    Mouse bounded up the stairs ahead of me, and I followed at a much more leisurely pace. The person at the door could wait a few minutes so that I wouldn’t be out of breath when I reached the top of the stairs. The potions still took a lot out of me.

    When I made it to the landing, I heard the knocking, along with some muttering. It wasn’t our fault we didn’t have a doorbell. The house came that way, and Dad didn’t want to trust whether a doorbell would die on him. So, we never had one installed.

    The peephole of the door remained far too tall for me, so I opened the door part of the way. Standing outside was a reasonably tall woman wearing a white dress shirt with the sleeves rolled up and black slacks tucked into riding boots with steel toes. She had dark hair, almost black, and it hung in a ponytail down her back. Her facial features were sharp, and though she didn’t wear any makeup, she had a serene beauty that didn’t seem to need it. In her right hand, she held ten pizza boxes. That was a lot of pizza. I knew why we needed it, but I still didn’t know how Dad managed to get that done and ready here on Earth Bet.

    I knew this woman. Miss Melanie Fitts stood outside the door to our house with what looked like about twelve pizza boxes in hand. There were a lot of pizza joints here in Brockton Bay. Maybe not quite as many as a city like New York or Boston, but Miss Melanie looked like she went to Luigi’s. I liked Luigi’s. She was leaning it against the wall while she had another hand free to knock.

    “Miss Melanie?” I asked.

    “Mags!” Miss Melanie said. “Mind opening this door up so I can get all this inside?”

    “Oh, right,” I said with a quick look at her pizzas. I opened the door and stepped to the side. Mouse carefully moved out of the way behind me. We needed to make sure the path was clear so Miss Melanie could get in. “Need me to take any?”

    “I’ve got it.” Miss Melanie adjusted the boxes and brought her second hand around. She lowered her grip so that she could get the pizza inside. She walked through the door, but the pizza boxes were blocking her view a bit. “Okay, you’re going to have to direct me to where you want these.”

    I walked up and took her arm. Immediately I felt a jolt of power from her, something sharp and cutting. It was there, and it wanted to make its presence known, but Miss Melanie didn’t seem to react from me. That was interesting. Miss Hannah had been similar, and technically, so had Missy. Miss Melanie was a cape. That power was what I felt.

    I guided Miss Melanie to the table, and I helped her set down the boxes. She spread them on the table so that they were only three high rather than twelve, and I grinned. “Thank you, Miss Melanie.”

    “It’s not really a problem. Your dad asked me to pick these up,” Miss Melanie said, and she looked at me for a second. I avoided looking in her eyes. I didn’t want to accidentally see anything that she didn’t want me to. “What, are you planning a party or something, Mags?”

    I shivered involuntarily. Parties were… I didn’t do too well with crowds in general. Even with Mouse with me, I didn’t fit in with them, and they reminded me way too much of… things I didn’t want to remember.

    Papi and Mama just laying there, blood draining from their torn throats as the monster started reaching for Leonel…

    Mouse came up to my side and thumped his big body against mine. I laid my arm on him for a second before looking up at Miss Melanie. Mouse chuffed at me and gave what looked like a warning glance to her.

    “Forget I asked, Mags,” she said softly. Her own eyes seemed a little glazed over. “Still, you can’t eat all this pizza yourself.”

    “Do you want some too?” I asked. I didn’t really want to let her know what would happen to the rest of the pizza. They weren’t exactly my secret; they were Dad’s. Still, I’d have to call them later to give it to them, assuming they didn’t come get it on their own. “Mouse can’t really have any. It gives him gas.”

    Miss Melanie snorted. “Sure. I could eat.”

    Miss Melanie didn’t know where the plates were, but it was pizza so it really didn’t matter. We each grabbed a slice or two from the boxes. I nabbed pepperoni and mushroom; she took what looked like some unholy combination of veggies. Weird. We ate mostly in silence, but Miss Melanie looked at me some more.

    “So, I heard something went down at your school today,” Miss Melanie said. “Something about a teacher going crazy?”

    “He was on drugs,” I said. “And he tried to attack me and my friend Missy. Talking about seeing things.”

    Miss Melanie nodded. I could see her thinking about something, but I wasn’t too sure what went through her head. I really wasn’t sure what she did for a living anyway, but she was Dad’s friend. “Clifford stopped him?”

    “Mouse tackled him,” I said. “He knocked him to the ground.”

    Miss Melanie smiled at Mouse. “Good boy. Protecting your friend that way.”

    Mouse lolled out his tongue.

    “You’re not getting pizza, Mouse. You know it’s not good for you,” I said.

    Mouse pouted piteously. I took a piece of pepperoni off my slice and passed it to him. He didn’t need the bread, but the meat should have been fine.

    “Do you know what kind of drug?” Miss Melanie asked.

    “The PRT called it Three Eye,” I said, and Miss Melanie stiffened for only half a second. “Have you heard of it?”

    “Yeah,” Miss Melanie said. “Nasty stuff. Your dog being there was a very good thing.”

    “Know anything more about it?” I asked.

    “Not personally, no,” she said, somewhat carefully. “I’ve heard some rumors, but they’re nothing I really would feel comfortable telling a kid.”

    “I’m almost thirteen,” I said. “Plus, I heard Miss Militia mention something about mutation…”

    Miss Melanie narrowed her eyes. “Wait, really? That’s… If anyone asks, you didn’t hear this from me. That includes your dad.”

    “Okay,” I said.

    “Three-Eye popped up in the slums around the docks about a month and a half ago,” she said. “Half the people selling it don’t know exactly where it comes from, and those that do… don’t talk about it.”

    “Who’s selling it?” I asked. “Empire, ABB? Coil’s whatever?”

    Miss Melanie shook her head. “None of those. All of those. I haven’t seen many specifics with it, but there’s another gang out there selling as well. They’re not as big as the Empire or ABB, and they’re mostly made up of druggies. The Merchants are just kind of there in the background. Maybe you might have heard of Skidmark.”

    “Not really,” I said and then gagged. “That’s a horrible cape name.”

    “He’s kind of a horrible person,” Miss Melanie said. “Mostly he just gets high and holds the dregs. If you ever see a tall skinny black guy in a blue half mask, that’s him. He also wears a blue cape. Do yourself a favor and keep away from him.”

    “Got it,” I said, and then I glanced at the analog clock we had on the wall. It was getting close to six, and with the distance, it’d take Mouse and I a while to walk that way. I didn’t really want to use the bus, but I didn’t really have any other options… or did I? “Miss Melanie, can I ask you a favor?”

    “You can ask, Mags, but I’m not sure I can do it until I find out what it is.”

    “I’m supposed to meet up with a couple friends tonight,” I said. It was even true. “Could you take Mouse and me to the place we’re supposed to meet?”

    “Depends on where it is,” Miss Melanie said.

    “It’s close to a building on Lord Street,” I said. “I have the address written down in the basement.”

    Miss Melanie looked me over, and then she let out a sigh. “Sure, kid. I’ll get you there, but I hope your friends can get you a ride home. I do have to get back to work.”

    “I’m sure they can,” I said. “Where do you work, anyway?”

    “I bartend at the Palanquin,” she said easily. “It’s a good gig, and I get a lot of customers. I’d have brought you some of our food but Harry insisted on pizza for some reason.”

    “It’s that day of the week,” I said. “I’ll go get my stuff and the address. Thank you for doing this.”

    “Hey, it’s no problem,” Miss Melanie said. “Harry’s a friend, and I like helping him out.”

    I smiled and dashed off to the basement. I felt a little bad taking advantage of her like this, but I really did need to meet up with Missy and whoever was going to be with her. I grabbed a duffel bag and stuffed the two potions into it along with my blasting rod. I didn’t think I’d need it, but it never hurt to be prepared.

    I also grabbed my shield bracelet that Dad and I had worked on together. It was a pretty pink and gold one that I wrapped around my left wrist and clipped shut. My shields weren’t as strong as my father’s, but I could do them for a bit.

    “Bonnie, I’m going out for a bit. There’s eleven and a half pizzas upstairs. Ten of them are for the Guard,” I said.

    “Understood,” Bonnie said. “If they show up on their own, I’ll let them know. If not, you should summon the general when you get back.”

    “I will. Love you, sis.”

    “I love you too, Maggie,” Bonnie said. “Stay safe.”

    I smiled as I walked toward the stairs. “I won’t do anything Dad wouldn’t do.”

    Bonnie paused for a second. “I mean it, stay safe!”

    I giggled as I went up the basement stairs. I was going investigating like Dad or Mom would, and this was going to be interesting and fun.

    Or at least, so I thought.
    Prince Charon likes this.
  14. Threadmarks: Chapter Ten

    ellf Know what you're doing yet?

    Aug 26, 2014
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    Chapter Ten

    Miss Melanie took Mouse and me to the address Missy had given me over the phone. If she’d heard Bonnie downstairs, she gave no indication of it, and that might have been a good thing. Explaining my sister to my best friend was one thing, but explaining her to a friend of Dad’s that might not have known already was something else entirely.

    Mouse sat in the back seat of Miss Melanie’s SUV while I sat in the passenger seat, buckled in. Mouse wasn’t buckled in because they didn’t make car seats big enough for a dog his size. He did, however, make sure he was secure and within reach of me. Thankfully.

    “Okay. What breed is he?” Miss Melanie asked as she turned the corner. “There’s not many that get that big.”

    “Mrs. Carpenter said he looks a lot like a Caucasian,” I said, truthfully. “Dad just calls him a Dogasaurus Rex.”

    Miss Melanie snorted. “He would. Dresden does like to come up with names for things.”

    Mouse chuffed. He wasn’t insulted. He just wanted in on the conversation.

    “You’re my Dogasaurus Rex,” I said with a grin. “Maybe that could be a cape name for you.”

    Mouse just gave me a look, as if to say “You can’t be serious.”

    Miss Melanie laughed. “No, that’s a bad cape name for a dog. Dogs can’t really be capes anyway. Affected by them, sure, but not being capes themselves.”

    “Affected?” I asked as Miss Melanie turned the corner onto Lord Street.

    “Bi—Hellhound,” Miss Melanie said. “She’s supposedly some sort of Master that affects dogs.”

    “Ah,” I said as we pulled up to a building with a sign out front. It had an interesting logo of two parapets and a wall between them. The word Fortress was spelled out in big black block letters above the wall and Construction was spelled out in white cursive ones on the bottom.

    “Fortress Construction, huh?” Miss Melanie asked. “This is where your friend wanted to meet?”

    I nodded, and looked outside the car. The building itself stood maybe thirty stories tall. I wondered if it was entirely occupied by this Fortress Construction or if the company just did the work that ended with the building built. This was about a block and a half away from the boardwalk, and down the street, I could see a few restaurants and bars with people coming and going. My hand lightly gripped the door’s handle.

    I could do this. Just because there was a lot of sky out there didn’t mean that I couldn’t do it. Mouse was going to be with me, and if it turned out that this Sells guy was a monster, Mouse would know what to do. We’d been fighting monsters together ever since we got together. I couldn’t even remember everything we’d fought together, but I did remember that there was at least one closet or bed monster.

    Yeah. Those things are real, and they’re scary up until the point where you have a dog like Mouse to back you up against them.

    “Mags, I can take you home if you don’t want to meet up with your friends,” said Miss Melanie. “I’m sure they’d understand.”

    “No!” I said instantly, shaking my head. “I just need to go inside.”

    “Are they even open?” Miss Melanie asked. “Most businesses close around five. You’re sure your friends said here, not the Boardwalk?”

    I swallowed. The Boardwalk wasn’t where I needed to be, but the idea of being around so many people creeped me out a little. I didn’t need to go there though. Just needed to get out here. Into the open sky.

    “It was here,” I said, and I pulled the door handle. Partway there. “Thank you for the ride, Miss Melanie.”

    “Don’t mention it,” she said. “Clifford, why don’t you help her get out?”

    Mouse chuffed and padded to his feet. He came up into the front seat and started nudging me. I slid out the front, and I climbed down the side of Miss Melanie’s SUV. Mouse bounded over me and landed in front of me, next to the car. I closed the door behind me, giving Miss Melanie a careful wave.

    She smiled and drove off down the street. I glanced at the Olaf watch that Dad gave me before we moved here to Brockton Bay to check the time. It was a bit after seven, and the sun had sunk beneath the western horizon almost two hours ago.

    I had an hour before Missy said she’d be here. I wondered what the odds were that Victor Sells was working late.

    “Guess there’s only one thing to do,” I said to Mouse. “Come on, let’s go see if we can find Mister Sells. I wonder what he sells.”

    Mouse lolled out his tongue after a chuff.

    “Okay, so I’m not as practiced as Dad.” I smiled at him and rubbed his fur. Mouse’s warmth was definitely a comfort before the unknown. “We should probably put your sign on, Mouse. Since we’re in public.”

    Mouse chuffed an acknowledgement, and I reached into my jacket pocket. Inside I had a fabric sign that I placed over Mouse’s back. It declared him as a service animal, something that Dad made sure he was registered as here the way Mister Carpenter had in Chicago.

    Mouse and I looked around. The street wasn’t super crowded, thankfully, and there were people entering and leaving the building before us. We hadn’t been standing there long, and there had to be at least fifteen people that came and went. More going than coming, but something bugged me about the ones leaving. They didn’t leave alone, but it was weird. They left in pairs, with one half of the pair seeming to be a perfectly normal person, albeit one that looked like they were a little off. The other, without fail, was a gorgeous person with impeccable skin and white teeth. It didn’t matter if they were male or female, they looked wonderful.

    A couple passed us as we walked up to the door. The man’s face had a little bit of stubble, and he wore a dark, fitted suit. He was a bit plain to look at, but he clearly was some sort of successful. His date, on the other hand, was just… beautiful, though with curly blonde hair, blood-red lips, and a tight dress. I noted his hand cupped her butt, and she pressed up against him as they walked. He probably supported her on those tall pointy heels. The way he looked at her… well, Dad told me to stay away from any man who would look at me like that. She, on the other hand, stared at him more like he was a piece of meat. She didn’t have any of the affection or longing in her gaze that he did, just a flirtatious smile and a pretty laugh as her eyes sized him up and judged him.

    Mouse looked warily at the couple as they passed us, and when the woman looked at him, he bared his teeth slightly.

    The woman blinked, and it must have been a trick of the light because for a second, I could have sworn her eyes looked wrong. They didn’t seem entirely human there; they were far too dark, almost black, and I involuntarily shuddered. She blinked them closed, and they weren’t nearly that dark when she opened them again and continued walking. It had to have been a trick of the light. I only knew of one kind of monster that had eyes like those, and Dad had killed them all.

    “Yeah, it’s a little weird,” I said softly. “Let’s go inside.”

    Mouse chuffed, still warily watching that couple, and the two of us entered the Fortress Construction building. Inside the doors was what looked like some sort of security or reception desk. Judging from how the person behind the desk looked, I was going to say Reception. Sitting behind the desk was a pretty Asian woman with dark black hair tied back into a braid. Her skin was completely without blemishes, and her dark eyes had a bit of a luster to them that I hadn’t seen before. Of course, I quickly looked away, to see her women’s business suit.

    She clearly noticed Mouse and me as we approached. Her eyes were locked on Mouse even as we stepped up to her desk.

    “Can I help you?” she asked, and her voice had a tinge of soprano that dipped a bit into the mezzo range. She looked a little worried at Mouse’s size.

    “I’m looking for a Mister Sells… Victor Sells,” I said, clarifying. “I know he’s supposed to be an employee here.”

    “Ah, Vic, yeah, I know him,” she said, and she lifted up a phone. She still eyed Mouse before looking to me. “Could you tell me your name so I can page him?’

    “Just let him know that Miss Dresden needs to ask him questions,” I said. I don’t know why, but I didn’t really want to give even my nickname to this receptionist.

    Dresden,” the receptionist said with a bit of surprise. She didn’t quite pronounce my family Name, but she was close. She shook it off. “Why don’t you wait over there, sweetie, with your dog? I’ll make sure that the help you need will join you there.”

    I studied the woman’s lips for a second there, and her tongue came out to lick it. Something really bugged me about her; she reminded me of something. Still, if she was going to get the help, that was probably a good thing. If Mister Sells was here at all, perhaps he’d have the information needed.

    I nodded after a few more seconds and Mouse and I went to sit down in the waiting area. The receptionist started dialing the phone, and for lack of anything better to do, I reached out with my senses and Listened.

    Away went the noise of the lobby, even past seven PM that it was, and I focused specifically on the woman.

    The woman and the phone.

    “Sir, there’s someone in the lobby looking for Sells,” said the receptionist.

    “Asuka, if there’s someone looking for Sells, you could have just called him,” said a man with a thick Argentinian accent on the other side. “Victor’s work is not so important that he cannot be interrupted.”

    “You misunderstand sir,” said Asuka the receptionist. “Mister Perez, the girl’s name is Dresden.”

    I blinked. Why would my name be important to her? I mean, it wasn’t like I was my… oh. How the heck did she know of Dad?

    “Ah, Asuka,” said the man on the other side of the line. “You said she. The Dresden on the list is definitely male.”

    “She is accompanied by the Foo Dog,” said the receptionist. “What should I do?”

    The man said nothing for two minutes. I heard the clacking of keys and the shuffling of papers picked up by his phone’s microphone. The fact that they called Mouse a foo dog or the Foo Dog said quite a bit. They knew of Dad, and they knew that he sometimes had Mouse with him. Dad had quite a bit of enemies, given his position, but these were… supposedly… civilians. Something definitely wasn’t sitting right.

    “Call Sells,” said the man on the other line. “I’ll arrange an escort and private room for them to talk in. Shelter conference room five.”

    “Yes, sir,” said the receptionist and hung up the phone. She dialed it again.

    It rang once. Twice.

    It was picked up on the third ring by a man. “This is Victor Sells.”

    “Hi Victor, it’s Asuka down at reception,” said the receptionist. “You have a visitor here that wishes to talk with you. I’m going to be sending her up to shelter conference room 5, escorted by Stephen and Stacy.”

    “Yes, I’ll meet them there,” said the man on the other line. “Who is it?”

    “She says her name is Miss Dresden and she wants to ask you some questions. She looks to be a bit of a teenager, and she has the largest service animal I’ve ever seen,” said Asuka. “You know the rules.”

    “Of course,” said Sells. “I’ll meet with her.”


    I felt a prickling at the edge of my senses, and I had to focus back on close to me now as a way too perfect man and way too perfect woman, both of Hispanic descent, approached Mouse and me in the lobby. They both wore jeans and a black button-down shirt, cut tight enough that every single curve, chiseled or otherwise, was visible, even covered.

    “I’m sorry Miss, but your dog will have to wa—” Mouse cut the man off as he started a low growl.

    I slipped my hand in my coat’s pocket and wrapped my hand around my blasting rod. “He’s a service animal. You aren’t allowed to refuse him inside.”

    The woman nodded. “Forgive Steve, he’s a little bit overzealous. I’m Stacy, and we’re here to escort you to where you’ll be meeting Victor.”

    “That poor man,” said Steve. “His name is unfortunate, considering the city, but he does good work. Please, follow us, Miss Dresden.”

    Stacy nodded and led the way. Mouse and I followed her, with Steve bringing up the rear. This made me supremely uncomfortable, but there wasn’t really a lot I could do without doing something possibly very stupid. I still didn’t know what went on here, but that could change.

    “So, what does Fortress Construction do?”

    “There’s a lot. Obviously, we’re in construction. Endbringer shelters are the most common sorts of contracts we bid,” said Stacy. “There’s another company here in town that tends to compete with us on most of the Northeast, but we rule the Midwest.”

    “That… doesn’t really explain the night hours,” I said.

    “We’re a 24-hour a day shop. Third Shift has a number of salaried employees that work it, and many of our staff actually prefer it. The bids happen in the daytime, but there’s a bunch of paperwork and other things that can only be accomplished at night,” said Steve as we walked down another hall. “You don’t need to deal with some of the crazy people that we end up dealing with at night.”

    Stacy smiled. “Can I ask what you’re here to ask Mister Sells about?”

    I couldn’t help it. It’s something Dad would have done. “You can ask.”

    Steve snorted. “We aren’t allowed to give out certain proprietary information. You understand professionalism, don’t you, Miss Dresden?”

    “Yes,” I said. “Don’t worry, unless it’s your company making certain drugs, I doubt they’ll be an issue.”

    “Drugs?” asked the voice that I knew belonged to Victor Sells. The man was blond and tall. Not quite Dad tall, but he stood at maybe six feet. His eyes were blue, and he had a bit of a rugged look around his face. He wore a pair of black slacks and a collared shirt. “What sort of drugs are you wanting to ask me about?”

    “Perhaps it would be best if you spoke in here,” said Steve, gesturing to the door to my right. “Miss Dresden, Victor, please go on in.”

    “After you,” Mister Sells said, gesturing to me.

    Mouse went in first, and I followed. It was a stereotypical conference room. There was a table with a lot of chairs around it, some sort of overhead projector, and a computer in the corner. I specifically did not sit close to the computer.

    Mouse stood next to me, and Mister Sells sat across the table. Steve and Stacy stood at the door, just inside.

    “Three-Eye,” I said. “I was told that you might know something about it.”

    Three-Eye,” Mister Sells said with a snort. “What do you mean, know something about it? I mean, other than the obvious. More and more people are getting hooked on that shi—stuff. They keep using it, they’ll end up dying or something worse, probably.”

    I pursed my lips. Sells was the one making it back in our Chicago, but like the man in this Chicago wasn’t Dad, this Victor Sells wasn’t the same person that Dad had dealt with. It didn’t completely exonerate him, but the fact that he was surprised about my mention of Three-Eye said a lot. It even looked like genuine surprise there. This wasn’t the kind of man who would happily get people hooked on drugs.

    “Thank you, Mister Sells,” I said. “Sorry, I’m just doing a story for the school paper, and my source directed me to you.”

    “I’m not sure why,” said Mister Sells. “I’m not exactly a chemist, nor am I a Tinker. I’m just a sales guy, making overseas calls on the second shift.”

    “Sorry for wasting your time,” I said, and I stood. I reached into my pocket and pulled out a spiral notebook. I jotted down our home phone number. “Please call me if you think of anything else, anything at all.”

    “I probably won’t, but sure,” said Mister Sells as he took the paper. “I’m going to go head back to work now. I’ve got a shelter sale to close in Hawaii before COB for them today.”

    I smiled as best I could at him, and he left. Back to square one. I started for the door.

    “Oh, where do you think you’re going, Miss Dresden?” asked Steven.

    “Surely you can’t be leaving us so soon,” said Stacy as both moved to block the doorway.

    I looked at Mouse, and he started growling. My hand wrapped around my blasting rod.

    Both Steven and Stacy flinched back at Mouse’s growl. When Mouse let out a short bark, it pushed them back into the wall. Their eyes changed, growing darker, and their teeth… their teeth grew.

    Dresden,” said Stacy, the visible fangs in her mouth growing. So much hatred was poured into her pronunciation of the name. “You are related to Harry Dresden, yes? That means he will hurt if we hurt you.”

    Oh God. I knew what they were. It should have been impossible. Dad… that spell… Mom…

    Mouse continued to growl, and the pair flinched again. As he stepped forward, their skin started to crack and peel away, revealing a brown… leathery undergrowth of skin, almost as if the skin on their bodies was simply a mask.

    Because it was. These were Red Court vampires.

    God help me.
    Prince Charon likes this.
  15. Prince Charon

    Prince Charon Just zis guy, you know?

    Feb 20, 2014
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    Oh, dear. This is going to be messy.
  16. Threadmarks: Chapter Eleven

    ellf Know what you're doing yet?

    Aug 26, 2014
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    Chapter Eleven

    Oh God… Red Court vampires. Red. Court. Vampires. How? They were supposed to be gone. They should have been gone! Dad made sure they were gone. He killed them all on the pyramid. He did. I saw it. What he did.

    I knew it.

    Still, there were two in front of me. More still in the building. This was a nightmare, one that I couldn’t wake up from. The monsters had haunted me every night since it had happened five years ago. Since I had been taken. It had been late, and there was a knock on the door. Papi and Mama spoke to a couple on the other side, and I should have told them not to let them in. Every night I try. Every night the words fail to come out, and they come inside. They were pretty. Too pretty, and then they weren’t. Gross, flabby bat things replaced them, and they attacked. Nobody could have stopped them. Nobody did. From the slaughter, my foster brothers, my foster parents… nor from taking me.

    God help me. I didn’t want to be taken again.

    Mouse growled lowly. The rumbling timbre roiled through me, and I was able to focus. Mouse stood between me and the vampires, teeth bared.

    The vampires were almost fully exposed, their fake skins hanging loose off their limbs like drying pasta. Stacy’s vampiric visage stared down at me, and I could practically count each of her teeth.

    Dresden,” she said. “When we’re done with you, your father will barely recognize you.”

    I grabbed my blasting rod, my hand trembling. I couldn’t… These were vampires, and…

    Mouse growled some more. His tail brushed up against my arm, and I took a breath.

    Vampires or no. Fear or no. I was my father’s daughter. I took another breath as I pulled out my blasting rod. “Y-you k-know w-wha—”

    “Such a pretty little stick,” said Steven, his tongue slithering out of his mouth. It almost could reach Mouse from where he stood. “What’s a little slip of a girl like you going to do with it?”

    Stacy looked to the other vampire. She didn’t say anything, but the look on her bat face was almost human.


    “Are you stupid, Steven?” Stacy asked, snarling. “Attack her!”

    The vampires tried to charge past Mouse. He shoulder-checked Stacy and bit down on Steven’s arm. His fur shone a brilliant silver as his growling turned into a snarl.

    Stacy turned and drove her clawed hands into the glowing silver fur. Steam hissed off her claws, and the bits of flesh mask there burned off some more, but she kept trying, as Steven tried beating Mouse with his free hand.

    God. Mouse was protecting me, buying me time.

    My trembling hands stilled as I focused. I knew this spell, and I was actually good with it. The vampires were preventing Mouse and me from leaving, and while I knew Mouse was strong, they could get lucky. I needed to help my dog.

    “Mouse, down!” I ordered with far more confidence in my voice than I felt. The tip of my blasting rod started to glow as I channeled my fear, anxiety, and my absolute hatred for these creatures into this spell, using my blasting rod as a conduit.

    Mouse dropped back to the ground and looked back at me.

    I unleashed the energy I’d built. “INCINDARE!

    A spreading beam of flame erupted from the tip of my blasting rod, spreading across the conference room and over Mouse’s ducked head. It slammed into the vampires, pushing them back even as their flesh sizzled. Leathery wet flesh seared black. The walls caught ablaze beside them, and the flames started to spread.

    The vampires screamed a banshee’s wail, multitoned and with some dips into ultrasonic. Mouse’s ears perked up and after a few seconds I could hear it as well. Scrambling outside the conference room were more of them. We needed to get out of the building and fast.

    Luckily, Stacy and Steven didn’t look like they were going to do anything just yet. The fire was doing its job, maybe a little too well.

    “Mouse, come here and open your mouth,” I said, reaching into my bag. I knew which potion was which. I’d labeled them both and knew the feel of the bottles. I grabbed the escape potion and pulled it out.

    The fire continued burning, and it spread along the walls and I could see it going into the hall. The overhead sprinkler systems started to kick on.

    Mouse opened his mouth near me, and I opened the top on the potion’s sport bottle. I squeezed half its volume into my dog’s mouth, and he swallowed. Then I did the rest of it into my own. It really didn’t taste half-bad, given what its constituent components were. Mostly like Red Bull.

    Mouse chuffed, nudging at me.

    “I don’t know how long this will take, boy,” I said. I hadn’t ever made an escape potion before. I just knew the two of us wanted to be outside. Outside the building before the fire spread further, before the vampires could get to us. We just needed to move.

    Then a pulling sensation developed in my stomach, and the walls faded into translucency. For a moment, Mouse and I were one with the air, a rushing wind that passed through the lobby of the building and out the glass doors, chased by smoke and people.

    Almost exactly five seconds later, we were on solid ground outside the building, our bodies fully reformed. God, that had been very fun. I felt like I’d spent two hours on the fastest, most gut-defying ride at the Brockton Bay Boardwalk Fair, and I had a headache like I had eaten too much sugar.

    I staggered a bit, only to have a strong arm, encased in segmented red leather, reach under my own and pull me to my feet.

    “Are you okay, miss?” asked the guy supporting me. I took a good look at him.

    “Holy crap,” I said. The guy was wearing a rust-colored costume with matching helmet. It had silver-white trim and a shield emblem, and how tight was it that I could see clearly defined abs on his torso along with his pectorals. I’d say that he was built like a Greek god, but I was afraid that would be an insult to him in the comparison. His eyes and some of the skin around them were visible, but I made sure to look at anything else before looking into them.

    This was Aegis, a Ward.

    Space warped around me and a girl dressed in a green armored chest piece, a green visor, blonde hair, and a wavy line pattern on her skirt stepped up to the other side of me. I easily recognized her. Vista. Missy.

    “I thought we were going to meet here at eight,” Vista said quietly, and she started to look me over. “What happened to you?”

    Mouse seemed to be handling this a lot better than me. I felt almost like I was going to lose my dinner. Potions side effects sucked.

    “Potion,” I said softly. “Vampires…”

    The part of Vista’s face that I could see paled a little. “Vampires?” Her voice was maybe louder than it needed to be. I could hear the crackling static of some sort of two way radio, but I couldn’t make out the voice on the other end.

    “Vista, what do you mean?” Aegis asked. Then he looked down to me. “You said vampires, miss?”

    I glanced back at the building, and through the windows, I could see the fire battling it out with whatever fire suppression they had. Flickers of brown passed by windows, shapes that had nothing to do with the flames.

    “Vampires, in the building,” I said, trying to catch my breath. “Mouse and I barely made it out.”

    “What were you even doing in there in the first place?” Aegis asked.

    I looked to Vista. She looked back at me. “Does it matter? She’s clearly scared. Vampires… I’d be scared too.”

    “Vampires aren’t real,” Aegis said. “They’re probably just some ca—”

    Mouse snarled as the street door to Fortress Construction burst open. Sure, people were rapidly leaving through the fire exits to the side, but that wasn’t what drew my attention. Two people that weren’t people stood in the doorway, a mix of steam and smoke escaping behind them, leaving them seemingly untouched. One was the receptionist I’d seen before, the pretty Asian woman. Only her eyes were completely dark now, pitch black pools that seemed to swallow all light that went into them. Her mouth bulged slightly, and even from this distance, I could see the fangs. Standing next to her was a Hispanic man with his hair slicked back. His skin looked perfect, like it had never seen a blemish, and he wore a perfectly cut three-piece black suit. I couldn’t see exactly what he held in his left hand, but in his right, he had an intricately carved cane that touched the ground.

    As the pair walked toward us, I saw dark shapes flitting out of the broken windows on the upper floors of Fortress Construction. They landed on nearby buildings, some going further out into the city, but a few stayed nearby. Vampires. More vampires.

    Aegis and Vista placed themselves between me and the approaching pair.

    The man smiled, showing perfectly white teeth where the receptionist’s fangs were exposed. He held out a hand, stopping the receptionist from approaching closer when they were about twenty feet away. He held his cane between Mouse and him.

    Mouse’s teeth were bared as he too glanced to the rooftops nearby. He knew as well as I did what probably lurked in the shadows.

    “Wards, Aegis and Vista, yes?” the man asked, but his eyes were locked onto me.

    “Who’s asking?” Vista spat out.

    “Pardon, Vista,” said the man with an elaborate bow. “I am Leonel Ortega. You seem to have caught an arsonist.”

    “Her?” Aegis asked.

    “They’re both vampires,” I hissed to Vista. “And they had vampires trap me.”

    Vista gave a nearly imperceptible nod. “So, we’ll just take her in then.”

    “Oh, no, our fire suppression systems are top notch, but we did have to evacuate,” said Ortega. “And it is her fault that I am losing money. I would simply like to take her in so that we may call her parents to get this sorted out.”

    Mouse stepped toward Ortega, staring him down. Daring him to make a move. The receptionist’s black orbs stared down at my dog, and she snapped her teeth at him.

    Aegis looked at the receptionist and then back at me. “Her parents can be called from either the police station or the PRT building. I wouldn’t feel right letting her go with you.”

    “I don’t want to go with him anyway,” I said out loud. “He’s a vampire and a liar!”

    Ortega smiled. “Oh, we would call your father, young Dresden. He should know what his brat of a daughter is doing.”

    “She’s not going with you,” Vista said. “She’ll be coming with us.”

    “I would suggest that you allow her to come with me,” said Ortega. “I can only hold Asuka back for so long.”

    The receptionist glared. “They’re protecting her, Leo. We should just…”

    “Does that ever work?” Vista asked. “Asking heroes to let someone go with someone else that’s clearly dangerous?”

    “Very well,” said Ortega, and he snapped his fingers with his left hand. There was definitely a bit of magic in the snap because it resounded through the area. “I had hoped to get through this without resorting to violence against children, but you leave me no choice.”

    Drooling, bat-like forms climbed down the sides of the nearby buildings. Five of them made their way down and toward us.

    “Vampires,” Aegis said, looking at them. “Those are vampires?”

    “Red Court,” I said. “Living Red Court.”

    Vista pulled up her hands, and suddenly the space between all of the vampires and us stretched to triple their distance.

    Aegis looked at me. “Console, we have a brewing fight with hostile forces identified as vampires.”

    He looked confused for a second.

    “Console, did you hear me?” Aegis turned to Vista. “Nothing.”

    “Damn,” Vista said.

    “Language, Vista,” Aegis chided.

    “Those are literal vampires surrounding us and you’re worried about my language?”

    “I know that I am not, fair Vista,” said Ortega. “The two of you will make lovely additions to the family.”

    “You’re not getting to us!” Vista yelled, and the space separating us tripled and then tripled again.

    “I wonder how long you can keep that up,” said Ortega. “I suspect it will not be long. In fact, I suspect that it will end… right… now… Ceciero!

    He slammed his cane into the ground and a wave of energy erupted from it. Magic, most definitely. It felt oily, slimy, like something from the deepest muck brought to the surface. And it passed swiftly through Vista’s stretched space.

    The space snapped back to normal, and Vista… Missy let out a scream of pain. She collapsed to a knee, holding her head.

    “Take them all!” Ortega ordered, and the vampires leaped at us, airborne.

    Aegis met one in the air and grabbed its shoulders. He spun around and chucked it at another vampire, knocking it down.

    Mouse waited until the vampires were closer, and then he pounced, biting hard into one’s flabby belly. It ripped open messily, spurting blood like a fountain. Mouse landed, growling, a silver glow around him.

    Two vampires were still in the air, and I raised my right hand. Dad said this force ring built up charges based on my movement, and I’d done quite a bit of movement today. From how it felt, it had to have at least two charges.

    I used one of them. “Kiensho!

    A wave of concussive force slammed into one of the incoming vampires at an angle and kept going. It glanced off the other, and both deflected onto the ground.

    I pulled out my blasting rod and readied it.

    Suddenly, the receptionist was by me, her black eyes gleaming in the lamplight of the street. She slapped my hand, and my blasting rod went flying. “Can’t have that, little girl.”

    “Maggie!” Vista cried, and she pushed with her hand. The less than three feet between the receptionist and I stretched to thirty.

    For about two seconds.

    Ortega slammed his cane on the ground again, and the space snapped back. He smiled at Vista’s cry of pain. “Your power is impressive, little girl, but you just don’t seem to have the… how do you say? Staying power of mine.”

    “Mouse!” I called, backing away from the receptionist. I needed my rod if I was going to do anything major. “His cane! Fetch!”

    Mouse chuffed and ran at Ortega. The vampire lifted his cane and gave it a fencer’s twirl.

    “Come and get it, perro,” said Ortega. “Perre!”

    He slammed his cane down, and a green energy shook the ground between him and Mouse. A crack appeared in the sidewalk between them, spreading somewhat into the asphalt of the road. My dog simply jumped, his silver glow getting even brighter.

    I couldn’t watch more as the receptionist suddenly was in front of me again. “Not so fast, little Dresden.”

    This time, she grabbed my arm, and she physically lifted me by it, wrapping me into a hold such that my arms were behind my back and my neck was exposed.

    “Let me go!” I cried. My heart pounded in my chest. The monsters had me again. Oh, God, they had me again. This time they would do worse to me. To get at Dad, to get at me. They’d kill my friends with a song in their unbeating hearts, and there was nothing I could do about it. I wasn’t a hero. I didn’t have powers. “Please! Let me go!”

    “Watch as we deal with your friends,” said the receptionist as one of the vampires Aegis knocked into each other ran toward Missy.

    Aegis swooped down, interposing himself between Missy and the vampire as it clawed out at her. Instead, it hit his costume, claws digging into whatever the fabric was, tearing it open to reveal taut mocha skin. A second slash drew blood, lighting up the vampire’s dark eyes as its tongue went out to lick at the wound. Aegis shuddered slightly, but he flew at the vampire, letting it rain blows on him.

    He didn’t even wince as he wrapped it into a hug and took off, straight up. God, how could I even help them? They didn’t know anything about vampires, and Missy… Vista... she was hurting really bad. I could tell. Whatever Ortega had done, it was hurting her head.

    “Ortega will let us kill them, and your dog too,” said the receptionist, her voice right in my ear as she dug her nails into my arm. “Though, we might just make them like us and let them kill you. Then we can send your corpse to your father, to draw him in.”

    I narrowed my eyes, focusing my breathing. This was definitely not the best situation, but I couldn’t… I couldn’t just sit here and watch as the vampires hurt my friends and Aegis. I was a wizard (apprentice), damn it, and by the Stars and Stones, I was not going to let anything happen to any of them. And I definitely wasn’t going to let them do anything to hurt Dad. I’d stood by before.

    “You talk too much,” I said simply. “Maybe you’ve been hanging around too many Nazis or reading too many comic books because you’re monologuing, and you aren’t even the main bad guy.”

    “What?” asked the receptionist.

    This wasn’t going to be pleasant. I slammed my head into her chin as hard as I reasonably could, and I kicked back with my right foot, targeting her knee. Chins are hard, but the part of my skull I used to hit was harder.

    The receptionist’s grip got painfully tighter as I pushed, and I heard a cracking sound. Pain radiated through me, coming from my left arm. I slammed my head again and kicked harder with my right foot. I could do this. Her grip tightened, but then with one more slam, it loosened enough that she dropped me.

    “Vista, now!” a somewhat familiar female voice called, and the space between Missy and me shrank while the space behind me grew.

    I fell forward through that compressed space and landed next to my costumed best friend. She stood up beside me, looking heroic as the compressed space expanded again, effectively doubling the space between us and the receptionist.

    An electric crack followed by the creaking of metal are all that preceded the lamppost that fell on the receptionist, pinning her to the ground. The bottom of the fallen lamppost appeared to be perfectly severed from some sort of lamppost stump.

    Standing near said stump was a female cape with long black hair. She wore something that looked like a mix between a dress, martial arts gear, and riot gear. She pulled out a pistol and shot the vampires I’d hit with my force ring. The bullets sizzled as they went into their blood bellies, and the interiors started to drain out.

    “Looks like you could use some help,” said the woman. “Except maybe the dog.”

    I looked to Mouse; whose bared teeth were wrapped around Ortega’s cane. He hadn’t quite gotten it loose from the vampire yet, but he held tight.

    “What will that cost us, Faultline?” Vista asked. “The Protectorate doesn’t pay villains.”

    Mercenaries, Vista, pardon me.” Faultline’s pistol barked twice more as she shot the other vampire Aegis had engaged in the air at the start. Once went to the blood belly, and the second sizzled its way into the vampire’s skull. “This one’s on the house, anyway. Bloodsuckers don’t get to attack little girls in my city.”

    “How?” I asked. Everything I knew about vampires said that the bullets shouldn’t have worked. Now, I didn’t know much about Red Court, other than they should be dead.

    “Blessed bullets,” said Faultline. “Always carry them around in case I run into a bloodsucker. Never run into any like these though. Only the walking corpses.”

    “Black Court,” I said. Everyone here had done more than me. I couldn’t just sit around and do nothing for these heroes. I might not have my blasting rod, but I could do something more than just be a cheerleader here.

    I gathered my energy. Dad always said that the implements were tools. They were there to make the spell easier. But it wasn’t impossible to cast spells without them. That’s what I needed to do here. “Mouse, get away!”

    Mouse did a sharp pull on the cane, forcing it away from Ortega, and he ran behind me, carrying the cane with him.

    I spread my hands, working through the pain, and did my best to keep focused. No blasting rod meant that I’d only get to do this once and not very efficiently. The pain would help some, as I poured it too into the spell.

    I unleashed my spell. “Infernia!

    A wave of red-hot flames erupted from my hands, heading straight toward the receptionist and Ortega.

    Ortega slithered up to the receptionist, and he raised his hand. My wave of fire spread out over them, engulfing them yet a half-dome seemed to have the fire press and move around it. The wave of fire didn’t stop until it struck the building behind them. Luckily, nothing more caught fire. The fire around Ortega grew brighter and brighter, and the smoke severely obscured the area. The smoke even spread to where Vista was.

    A vampire fell from the air, blood in its mouth. It landed right on top of its exposed neck, cracking it. I looked up, and I saw Aegis lazily floating up there in the air. Blood dripped from his neck, and his hovering seemed to wobble. “Backup’s on its way… They’re sending the B&A.”

    Aegis laughed after a second. “Vampires… they didn’t believe until… things are…”

    I narrowed my eyes. Dad had mentioned stories about Red Court… something about their saliva… I couldn’t remember. I looked to Ortega. “It’s over! The Protectorate are coming!”

    Ortega growled, looking at the vampires around us. He looked right at me. “You will not always have capes around to protect you, Little Dresden.”

    “Maybe not, but I’ll still kick your ass then!” I called out with bravado that I didn’t feel. “Just like Mouse and I will kick it now!”

    “No need,” Ortega said and waved his hand. The smoke from my fire descended and thickened, becoming a blackness that surrounded us. It spread over the entire sidewalk and even leaked into the street some. I couldn’t see the hand in front of my face.

    I kept my eyes peeled, but the smoke took about a minute before it cleared up. The vampires didn’t attack within the smoke, but instead, as the smoke disappeared, so had the Reds. There weren’t even any bodies of the ones that Faultline killed. No, instead, all that remained of the vampires was the blood they’d spilled.

    I fell to my knees, breathing heavily and grabbing my left arm, and instantly both Mouse and Missy were at my side.

    “You’re okay, Maggie. It’s over. You might have a broken arm, but it’s over,” Missy said. “You did great. You too, Mouse.”

    Mouse chuffed and nuzzled near me. He was careful to avoid my broken arm.

    “I’m just—” I evacuated the contents of my stomach. There went the pizza from dinner and a few other things that just looked gross together. “Blegh. Overworked. That tasted nasty.”

    “You okay, Maggie?” Faultline called in the voice of a concerned… older sibling. Lord knew the Carpenters pretty much were my older siblings.

    “Not exactly,” I said. I didn’t want to let them all know why I was scared of Reds, but I needed to tell them something. “I really don’t like vampires.”

    Faultline nodded. “Aegis…”

    The Ward laughed again as blood flowed down the side of his costume. “I feel amazing.”

    “You’re bleeding,” Faultline said. “Profusely.”

    “He does that sometimes,” Vista said.

    Aegis did a flip in the air and laughed.

    “That… not so much,” Vista said. “Aegis, are you okay?”

    “I’m fine!”

    “He isn’t,” I said, my heart still pounding hard. God, I didn’t think there was anything I hated more than vampires. “Their spit is like a drug… and he got bit.”

    “Fuck.” Vista shook her head, and then she looked at my arm. She tapped the side of her helmet. “Fucking Hell. Console, do you read me?”

    I tried to hold in as much of my magic as I could. Not very hard, given how much I’d used this evening, but still, I didn’t want her thing to not work.

    Faultline came over to Mouse and me. “Maggie, I’m going to get out of here before the Protectorate or PRT arrive. If you find yourself in trouble, come by the Pallanquin. I’ll make sure they know to let you in.”

    “Okay,” I said quietly, holding my left arm with my right.

    “Oh, and I believe this belongs to you,” Faultline said, offering me my… my blasting rod.

    I reached out to take it with my right hand and immediately winced at the pain from my other arm. God, this really hurt. I’d cry if I weren’t almost a teenager. I was supposed to be better about it now. I put the rod into my pocket, and shuddered. Hell’s bells, I was tired. I immediately grabbed my bad arm again with my good one. I needed to keep things steady until I could get to a doctor.

    “Aegis got drugged, a civilian got hurt, get a bus over here as quickly as you can,” Vista said as Faultline started jogging off.

    I wobbled a bit on my knees and Mouse snuggled closer to me. I ended up leaning on his fur as I saw a blur of red and some glowing blue approaching while hearing the roar of a motorcycle. Oh, good. They were here now. I could close my eyes.

    I did.
    Prince Charon likes this.
  17. Threadmarks: Chapter Twelve

    ellf Know what you're doing yet?

    Aug 26, 2014
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    Chapter Twelve

    My eyes fluttered open, and I definitely wasn’t in the street where I’d fought the vampires with Aegis, Vista and Faultline. I was in some sort of bed, and I felt some sort of something sticking out of my arm. Ah. It was an IV that led to a pouch. I started to look around the room to get an idea of where I was when something caught my attention.

    “Oh, you're awake. That's good, I guess,” said a girl dressed in a white hooded costume. She wore a red scarf that covered the lower half of her face, and I could see the red cross on her chest. Her lips pursed as she looked me over from where she stood at the entrance to... wherever this was. It looked almost like a hospital.

    Shoot, I knew this. I'd seen her before... on TV at Missy's house. What was her name? Was it...? “Laserdream, right? No wait, that's stupid. You've got a red cross on you, so you must be a doctor. You're pretty young for a doctor though.”

    The cape just gave me a look, but her eyes glanced down at... oh, was Mouse next to my bed? That was a good thing. He could keep me calm. “That's a big dog... Wait, you're that girl... the one Vicky complained about.”

    Vicky... I didn’t know any Vicky. Wait. Glory Girl? Her civilian name was Vicky, right? "I didn't do anything! She's the one who kicked the ghoul into the building."

    "Ghoul. Right,” said the cape friend of Glory Girl. I could see it on her face. She definitely didn’t believe me. “And what broke your arm? Did another 'ghoul' do that?"

    "Vampire," I said with a shudder. I still couldn’t believe that they were around here. Monsters. I couldn’t let them scare me now. "Red Court. Wait, is Aegis okay? He got bit, and the Reds have something pretty nasty in their spit."

    "He's fine... now," said the cape. Well, that was good. I didn’t know what Aegis’s power was beyond being buff and flying, but if the bite didn’t do much to him… That was great.

    Mouse chuffed and stood up, looking at the cape.

    She returned his look and then glowered. Did she not "Dogs aren't even supposed to be in here. Mind getting him to move?"

    Mouse chuffed and sat down near the bed, well out of the way of the cape. Good boy. I had the smartest dog in the world.

    "Mouse is my dog," I said. "Supports me. Legally even."

    The cape rolled her eyes and stepped closer to me. “You don't know who I am, do you?”

    “A doctor?” I asked. "Doctor Scarfy?" So, I wasn't really good at coming up with cape names off the top of my head. It's hard to be a cape geek when you can't really use the internet or watch TV that long.

    "God, someone who doesn't know who I am already," said the cape as she stepped up to me and took my hand. I felt a slight jolt of power, something shifting and protean. Her lack of reaction meant that she probably was just a cape. Or she was a practiced something else. "I'm Panacea, of New Wave. A healer."

    "And, where am I?" I asked. I wasn’t going to chastise her for taking the Lord’s name in vain, even if Mrs. Carpenter would. I needed some more information. "Because I remember passing out in the street."

    "You're in the PRT infirmary," said Panacea. "With a broken arm, cracked rib, slight concussion and a severe case of exhaustion. I can fix the arm and rib and help with the exhaustion, but I can't do anything about the concussion."

    "Wait, why not?"

    "Can't touch brains. I can see them, but not touch them." Panacea rolled her eyes at me. "You really have no clue, do you? Never mind. Do I have your permission?"

    "For what?" I asked. Maybe I was being a bit slow on the uptake, but the girl just seemed like she was annoyed to even be here. “I mean, this is a hospital, and I’m only twelve for a few more days.”

    Panacea gave me a look like she wanted to do something unseemly to me. “To heal you, kid. God, what kind of person do you think I am?”

    “Someone who wants to be Doctor House?” I offered. I’m still not sure if Missy and I were supposed to watch that show, but it was good and funny in parts. Mostly good though. It was a bit different than the one I watched back in Aleph with the Carpenters, but the premise was basically the same. “You just need a cane and some sort of addiction.”

    “Do I have your permission to heal you?” asked Panacea, clearly through gritted teeth though I couldn’t see her mouth. “Yes, or no?”

    “Will this really heal me?” I asked, looking Panacea over. She didn’t seem like she was in disguise.

    “Would they have asked me here if it wouldn’t? Do I have your permission?”

    “So, if I say yes, you’ll heal me,” I said.

    “I won’t without your permission,” Panacea said.

    Well, if she was a fairy of some kind, this last one was going to prove it. “I’m sorry, this is the last time I’ll ask. When I give you permission, you will definitely heal me?”

    “I might not if you keep this up,” Panacea said. “What’s wrong with you?”

    “I was attacked by vampires tonight,” I said. “And then I woke up here. I’m just supposed to trust that you’ll heal me?”

    “It’s what I do,” Panacea said, a bit of frustration clearly creeping into her voice. “Now, are you going to let me do it for you or not? There are plenty of other people who could use my healing tonight.”

    “Fine,” I said, giving my foot a wave since she had my good hand in hers. “Heal me, physician.”

    “Good,” she said and then I felt it. The tingling began in my elbow and spread all over my arm as broken pieces started to knit themselves together. It started up in my chest and then it spread further all over my body. I wasn’t tired anymore, and nothing seemed to hurt other than a throbbing sensation behind my eyes. The concussion. She couldn’t fix that. She let out a sigh. “Okay, you’re done. You’re going to be hungry. Listen to that. Eat. Your body needs to gain some more energy. I’m going to let them know you’re ready on my way out.”

    “Ready for what?” I asked, glancing at Mouse.

    Mouse let his tongue loll out in a doggy grin. Big help, dog of mine.

    “Well, you’re at the PRT building,” said Panacea. “What do you think?”

    She let go of my hand and started for the door.

    “Wait,” I said. “That didn’t answer my question.”

    Panacea shook her head. “I was asked to heal you, not answer your questions. Ask them of the guy who’s seeing you.”

    She opened the door and walked through, pushing a cart into the room as she left. Sitting on top of the cart was what looked like a better version of the domino masks sold at costume shops.

    I carefully got out of bed, with Mouse’s help, and I walked over to the cart. I lifted my formerly broken arm and grabbed the mask.

    “Huh. Only one, boy. Wonder why they have it there,” I said. I walked over to the room door, noting that they had, thankfully, kept me in my clothes minus my jacket. The shirt was a lost cause as they’d had to cut open the arm. I peeked my head out the door and spotted someone dressed in a chain mesh outfit augmented with Kevlar. He wore a faceless helmet. I could see a badge number of 4874 on his vest in bold white numbers. “Excuse me?”

    The Storm Trooper dressed in blue turned to me. He didn’t quite look directly at me. “Yes?”

    “What’s with the mask?”

    “It’s to give you the anonymity that you need as a cape,” said the trooper. “As you did not come in with your own.”

    That… made some sense, I guess. Still, there had only been one mask there. I glanced to Mouse who sat patiently near the cart.

    “Could I have one more?” I asked. “My dog has a secret identity too.”

    I barely made out the muttered “Of course, he does,” that the trooper said, but it made me smile as the Storm Trooper went to a lockbox and pulled out another domino mask. He offered it to me through the door, the whole time without looking directly at me.

    I snatched it out of his hand and walked over to Mouse. “Okay, boy. We’re going to wear masks. After all, they think we’re capes and we have secret identities to protect.”

    Mouse chuffed and smiled. He lowered his head some so I could fit the mask over his eyes. It looked a little silly, the domino mask sitting there on his snout, but I couldn’t say he wasn’t a super dog.

    I put on my own mask and called out, “We’re ready!”

    Trooper 4874 opened the door and looked at us. “Good. If the two of you will follow me, that would be appreciated.”

    “Okay, but where’s my bag and jacket?” I asked.

    “In the briefing room we’re headed to,” said the trooper. “Just follow me, Miss.”

    I looked to Masked-Mouse… okay, he needed a fake cape name. Good Dog? No, that sounded too on the nose. I couldn’t really think of one off the top of my head. Dad mentioned something about him having… that’s it! “Come on, Foo Dog. Let’s see where we’re going.”

    Mouse chuffed in understanding; he knew why I was using that name. My dog really was the best, and he had superpowers anyway. He and I together followed Mister 4874 down the halls of the PRT.

    “So, this was the infirmary, right?” I asked.

    “Yes, Miss,” said the trooper.

    “So, where are you taking me?”

    “Interview Room 3, where your things are,” said the trooper as we turned down a hall. “We’d appreciate it if you stayed to answer a few questions.”

    I shrugged noncommittally. It wasn’t like I really had done anything wrong. The vampires were going to try and kill me… or worse. Then they even attacked Aegis and Vista too. I couldn’t believe they wanted me that badly. “Depends on the question.”

    Mouse probably knew how I felt because he leaned his body into mine as we walked. I briefly considered climbing on his back; I knew he could support me, but I didn’t want to overburden my dog.

    “Above my pay grade, miss,” said the trooper. “We’re almost there.”

    We came to a stop at a nondescript door with a plaque emblazoned with the number three on it. Honestly, if not for that number, I wouldn’t be able to tell what was what. There was a lighted exit sign at the end of the hall, and I was pretty sure that if I were to follow that, I’d eventually find my way out. However, the door looked more like it was an office entrance than some sort of interview room or interrogation room.


    “Yes,” said the trooper. “I’ve been asked to tell you to leave your dog outside.”

    I gave Mouse, who still wore his mask, a look and then the trooper. I wasn’t going to leave Mouse outside. He was my dog, and what if I needed him? “I don’t see a dog here, do you?”

    I could feel the trooper’s eyes on me through his helmet. “He’s standing right next to you.”

    “Oh, so because his cape name is Foo Dog, you automatically assume he’s a dog?” I asked. “Maybe he only looks like a dog, and he can actually speak and write.”

    Mouse chuffed and looked at the trooper, practically daring him to correct me.

    “Fine, he can go in with you, but…” He pulled out a cell phone. To his credit, the screen stayed on for a few seconds. Then it sparked and he dropped the cell phone. “What the heck?”

    I shrugged. I wasn’t going to explain the issues that wizards had with technology to someone who was treating me like a cape. “Can we go inside?”

    “Go ahead,” said the trooper as he opened the door. “I’ll be outside for you when you’re done, assuming you need me.”

    “Thank you, Mister.” I smiled at him as I led Mouse into the room.

    It was laid out a bit like a mixture between a conference room and one of those interrogation rooms you’d see on TV. There was only one table, but it was made out of some sort of nice wood rather than the steel or whatever that table was made of on those police shows. I could tell that one of the walls was fake, probably one of those one-way view things so people could watch the talks. The chairs were wood too, like maybe they didn’t expect much.

    Up in the corner of the room, I could see two cameras and what looked like nozzles. I wasn’t sure I wanted to know what would come out of those, and the cameras didn’t appear to be on at the moment. No red lights. I wasn’t sure if that was because of me or because they just forgot.

    Sitting at the table was a very thin, almost skeletal, dark-skinned man who I could tell was pretty tall, even sitting down. His hair was close cropped, black and coarse. His eyebrows were trimmed and his thin lips were pursed above his cleft chin. He wore the body portion of a PRT uniform, but I could see that he had an insignia stitched on instead of a number.

    “Ah, you’re here,” said the man, a smile gracing his thin lips. “I’m glad Panacea was able to help you, miss.”

    “Yeah, I suppose she was,” I said, lightly placing my hand on Mouse. It was the one that had been broken.

    “Please sit down,” he said, gesturing at the chair. “Your… dog, can sit beside you.”

    Mouse chuffed and walked up to the chair. He pulled it out for me, and I took the seat. As I sat down, I noted three stacks of papers in front of the man.

    “Where are my things?” I asked. “They were supposed to be in here.”

    “Oh, were they?” asked the man. “I believe they are with Vista, actually. She volunteered to hold onto them while you were in recovery.”

    I narrowed my eyes. “Who are you?”

    “My apologies,” he said smoothly. “My name is Commander Thomas Calvert, and I’m an associate agent here at the PRT. Normally, you would be getting interviewed by an active agent under the Director, but I happened to be here this evening and got volunteered for the job.”

    “You didn’t want to interview me?” I asked.

    “I didn’t say that,” he said. His eyes flicked up to me. I averted my gaze from his. The smile the man wore didn’t reach his eyes. They were cold, calculating depths. “Just that I was available. Personally, I’d love to find out what happened. Now, first, let me apologize to you. The person who comes up with initial code names is out on vacation. Your current code name is Girl Wizard.”

    I grimaced. “That’s terrible. I’m not even a cape and that’s terrible. Foo Dog is super though.”

    “Foo Dog… is that why he’s wearing a mask?” asked Commander Calvert.

    Mouse chuffed.

    “Of course,” said Calvert. “Unfortunately for your own name, until you choose a different one publicly, this is the one that’s going to stick.”

    I shook my head. “Like I said, I’m not a cape. I am a wizard in training, but I’m not a cape.”

    Calvert took some notes. “So, what were you doing at Fortress Construction?”

    “Following up on a lead,” I said. “Investigating’s in my blood. My mother was a journalist and my father is an investigatory wizard.”

    Calvert nodded. “What were you investigating?”

    “A private case,” I said. “I was looking into it for my reasons.”

    “You were looking into Three-Eye, weren’t you?” asked Calvert. How did he guess? I mean, if he knew who I was, maybe he knew about the attack this morning. Of course, the PRT and Protectorate both knew about the attack this morning too. Calvert shook his head. “That’s a dangerous thing to be looking into for anyone, even those who do have powers.”

    “What, are you psychic or something?” I asked. Calvert’s eyes again met mine but I looked away.

    Mouse chuffed to me, and gave me a nudge. Good boy. I started to scratch behind his ears.

    “No, not psychic, just a good guess, given what we know about you,” said Calvert. “So, you went to look into Three-Eye. What sort of lead did you have that led you there?”

    “A source said that someone there might have information on it,” I said. “They were wrong… and to my surprise, vampires were there.”

    Calvert paused in his writing. “Vampires?”

    Vampires,” I said. “They attacked me inside, and then I got out.”

    “How did you get out?”

    Magic,” I said, waving my hands. “Foo Dog and I drank a potion I made earlier, and we got outside quickly.”

    “And the vampires followed you,” said Calvert. “Leading to the confrontation on Lord street.”

    “Yes,” I said. “We fought them, they ran away when they heard the Protectorate were coming, and then I passed out.”

    Calvert nodded. “That lines up with the debrief from Vista.” He looked me in the eye again, and this time, I held his gaze, trying to figure out what he was going for. However, as I felt something starting to stir, Calvert looked away. Weird.

    “Then I don’t know why you need me here,” I said. “Just give me my things so I can leave.”

    He tapped the paperwork in front of him. “Like it or not, Miss Dresden, you are a cape. Even if you don’t intend on going out and doing something with your powers.”

    “I don’t,” I said.

    “I’m supposed to say that the best place for you to learn about your powers would be to join the Wards. There are plenty of benefits to that, and you’d get to be among other heroes. However, we would have to contact your parents to let them know, and I don’t really think that’s the best place for you, not at the moment, anyway.” Calvert smiled, glancing to me again, after gesturing to the cameras that were clearly off. If he were really interviewing me, why wouldn’t he have at least tried the cameras? That creeped me out a little bit. Sure, I might have ended up breaking them, but it’s the principle of the thing. “No, I think you might be able to help find the source of Three-Eye.”

    “How? My lead only led to bloodsucking fiends,” I said.

    “Well, I promise this one won’t lead to lawyers,” said Calvert as he pulled out two business cards. One clearly wasn’t his own, and he handed them both to me. “You didn’t hear it from me, but one of my own informants told me that supply shop likely supplies to the person making Three-Eye.”

    “And you want me to check it out,” I said.

    “Yes, if you could,” said Calvert. Something was really off about this man. He’d managed to look away before the soulgaze even began. “My number’s on the second card, and I’ll answer any time.”

    “What do you get out of this?” I asked.

    “One step closer to the maker of Three-Eye,” Calvert said. “Which means one step closer to stopping them, whoever they may be.”

    I nodded. “Thank you. Can I go now?”

    “One last thing,” Calvert said, looking at me again. He gave a look over my body and then looked at Mouse. He pulled out another business card, but this one was emblazoned with a holographic shield. “If you run into any trouble more like the vampires, call that number or call mine. I’ll ensure that appropriate response is given.”

    “Thank you again. Where’s Vista?”

    “Trooper 4874 will escort you to the Wards common area, and then you will be able to retrieve your things,” said Calvert.

    “Okay then,” I said, standing up. “Thank you for not treating me like a suspect.”

    “It wasn’t a problem,” Calvert said.

    Mouse and I walked over to the door and opened it. At least I could see my friend before heading home, and now I had another possible lead. I just wish I knew why I had that weird feeling about Calvert. Something told me I’d find out eventually.
    Prince Charon likes this.
  18. Threadmarks: Chapter Thirteen

    ellf Know what you're doing yet?

    Aug 26, 2014
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    Chapter Thirteen

    I don’t like elevators. They’re tiny boxes attached to pulleys with cables that are connected to a motor of some sort. Sure, the one that we were about to enter was all fancy, with its interlocking sections of metal that unfolded and slid apart. Supposedly, this was Tinker-designed. Wizards and technology really don’t mix all that well, and while I wasn’t as bad about it as my father, I still had magic.

    My stomach sank slightly as Mouse and I followed Trooper 4874 onto the elevator and the door shut behind us, interlocking metal sliding together and flaps closing. The elevator shook slightly and the light flickered overhead.

    “Odd,” said the trooper, but he pushed a button. “Usually the ride’s a lot smoother. Maybe it’s close to time for maintenance.”

    The elevator jerked into motion and started its descent. The floor rumbled the entire time and I pushed myself closer to Mouse. This was my fault. I knew it. The elevator’s cable was going to snap and the three of us were going to hit the ground hard.

    Mouse chuffed and leaned into me. He didn’t want me to worry, even with the shaking. He really was the best dog. I scratched behind his ears. It soothed me probably more than it did him, but I knew he liked it.

    “Good boy,” I said softly as the elevator came to a stop with another jerk.

    “Definitely going to have to get someone to look at this,” said Trooper 4874. “The ride is usually far smoother.”

    “I’m… okay,” I said, holding tightly onto Mouse. “Are we here?”

    In answer, the door in front of me opened the way it had upstairs, revealing a hallway and a set of steel doors. A security terminal was set up at the corner near the doors, and I idly hoped that I wouldn’t break it by breathing wrong.

    “Come on, kid,” said the trooper. “You’ll get to see a place most civilians don’t.”

    “Am I even supposed to be down here?” I asked.

    “You’ve got authorization from the Deputy Director,” said the trooper. “For the common area only, though. Someone will bring down some paperwork for you to sign in there.”

    I nodded and stepped off the infernal box. I’d heard too many stories from Dad about elevators to be willing to trust them too much.

    Mouse followed me. Excuse me, Foo Dog followed me. Like me, he still wore the domino mask that we’d been given. It made sense to just keep the masks on until we were out of the PRT building and had all of our stuff.

    Trooper 4874 followed us off the elevator. He walked ahead of the two of us toward the security terminal, and he gestured for us to wait about ten feet off. The trooper pulled out a security badge and laid it on the terminal, and immediately a yellow spinning light came on over the steel doors. Klaxons buzzed, making a repeated sound as the doors remained closed.

    “Is it supposed to do that?” I asked.

    “Yes, it is,” said the trooper. “The Wards might be lounging around casually in there; the alarm is to alert them to mask up. It’s for their protection as well as ours.”

    “And that’s why Foo Dog and I are wearing masks too?”

    “It’s why you are,” said the trooper.

    The door clicked a couple times, and then it started to slide open. I don’t know what I was expecting as the Wards’ home base, but I’m pretty sure what was behind the door wasn’t it. It almost looked normal. Well, up until I got a closer look. The room was dome shaped with sections of the wall that had been rearranged for whatever reason. There were various doorways that probably led to other rooms, and on one side of the room, a series of computers and large monitors sat. There were about a half-dozen chairs in front of them. One monitor displayed some sort of countdown, while the others showed what looked like camera images of different parts of the city. I recognized the Central Bank in one of them.

    A couch was in the center of the room, and across from it was a TV. On the TV was a yellow siren light, and sitting on the couch was a familiar green-suited cape. Vista looked at the door, but she wasn’t the only one. Next to her was a silver-suited cape with several clocks on his uniform. The head-covering part of his helmet was on, but the facemask was missing. Instead, I could see a domino mask over smiling eyes, and a wide impish grin on his face. This had to be Clockblocker, the guy Missy was talking to on the phone earlier. He’d been manning the console. I knew that his mask was probably usually something opaque or clock-themed, but the pizza on the table probably had to do with why that was off.

    Aegis was sitting in a chair near the computers, only wearing the pants and mask of his costume. His muscles were a bit distracting with how rippling they were, but he wasn’t the only one there. Sitting next to him was a female cape dressed in a black hood and wearing a metal mask in the shape of a stern woman’s expression. That must have been Shadow Stalker. Missy had mentioned her as the only other girl on the team. Nearby, actually working on one of the computers, was a cape with a lion gladiator motif. His helmet looked like a lion, and the pauldrons on his armor did the same. He even had clawed gloves. I really didn’t know who this cape was.

    I didn’t see any other capes in there, and I made a move to step inside. Trooper 4874 stopped me.

    “Oh, before you go in, here,” said Trooper 4874. He pulled out a lanyard with a badge attached to it. On the badge was the word GUEST in large block lettering and where an image would go, there was a large G. “We didn’t have time to get you a more official one, sorry.”

    I shrugged and slipped it on over my head. “What about Foo Dog?”

    “He’s your dog,” said the trooper. “As such, you’re expected to have control over him.”

    Mouse whuffled a doggie laugh. Sure, he listened to me, but Mouse was smart enough to do what he needed to do rather than just what I wanted him to.

    Trooper 4874 walked in ahead of me, and Mouse and I followed. He stepped into the center of the room. “Sorry for the interruption, Wards. This isn’t your normal tour.”

    “We can see that,” said Clockblocker. “Normal tours don’t involve giant dogs in domino masks.”

    “She’s better?” Aegis asked.

    “Panacea saw to that,” said Trooper 4874. “Allow me to introduce Foo Dog and Girl Wizard.”

    “Oh man, that name’s bad,” I murmured. “Not Girl Wizard. Please.”

    “Well maybe you’d like Wanda,” said Clockblocker. “Get it? Wand-a? Foo Dog’s pretty good though.”

    Clock,” Vista said, and almost too fast to see, she hit him in the shoulder. She smiled at me. “I’m glad to see you back on your feet.”

    “Yeah, the Doctor House wannabe saw to that,” I said, and Clockblocker snorted.

    “That’s great,” said the clock-themed hero. “I’ll have to remember that one.”

    “Quit being an idiot, Clock,” said Shadow Stalker as she stood up. She walked over to us and looked to the trooper. “You can go. With a dog that size, she doesn’t need your supervision.”

    4874 nodded. “You can contact me on Channel 5 when she’s ready to leave.”

    “Okay,” I said. “I’ll remember.”

    The trooper left and the door closed behind him. Shadow Stalker made sure of it.

    Then she turned to me. “Girl Wizard’s a shit name, but I heard what the two of you did from Aegis and the short stack. Nice job.”

    “Thank you?” I hazarded. I honestly didn’t know much about Shadow Stalker, but something told me that this sort of compliment was rare.

    “Blood suckers are nothing to sneeze at,” she said. “But if they don’t like fire, I’ll have to remember that.”

    “You already know Vista and me,” Aegis said as he stood up. “Shadow Stalker, Clockblocker, and Triumph are the only Wards here that you haven’t met yet.”

    Shadow Stalker nodded. “Well, now she’s met me, and so has her dog.” She reached carefully over to Mouse, and scratched his ears.

    He chuffed in response, and Stalker actually barked out a laugh before backing off a bit.

    “He likes that,” I said. “Most dogs do, I’ve found.”

    “Most dogs aren’t that big!” Clockblocker said as he approached. “What is he, a dogasaurus rex?”

    I blinked. That was the exact joke my dad would have told about Mouse. “That’s pretty close to accurate. So, I take it you’re the joker of the group.”

    “Oh yeah,” said Clockblocker. “Helped me get my name the way I want it. Now, you, Miss Wand-a, have officially met me, Clockblocker.”

    He offered his gloved hand to me, and I took it. Unsurprisingly, through a glove, there was no power feedback, though I was sure there would be, as there had been with other capes. He smiled at me and started to shake my hand.

    As we shook hands our eyes met for a second, and I noticed his were a lovely shade of blue. They were the kind of blue pools that just pulled you in. The kind that you just wanted to dive into and damn the consequences. The kind that just took up your entire field of view. Wait. That wasn’t his eyes. That was the sky. A brilliant blue summer sky was behind us, and floating in it was an intricately embroidered giant kite, like the kind we would fly on Dia de Los Muertos back in Guatemala. At the center of the kite was a clock face, with ticking hands that partially went forward before stopping in place and reverting back to where they were.

    The hour hand pointed to a scene. A redheaded child played with friends, joking. Whimsical flute music started up as my eyes passed over the embroidered image. The child had friends, family, and clearly loved both. I continued clockwise to the next image. The music shifted, gaining a bit of a deeper cello, not quite as whimsical. The child’s friends left, but the father was still there. He did much with the child. I saw fish hooks, boats, baseballs, and even a bit of clothing. Then… the music shifted sadder with a violin adding to it. A hospital. The father. Something had happened. And then a striking chord as my eyes passed over a blurred image. Something had happened, and the music turned somber yet triumphant. The child had gained powers. The girl had gained powers, but the powers weren’t enough to help the father. They could stop plenty of things, but they couldn’t stop what was wrong. To go through so much and come out as she had… Clockblocker was trustworthy.

    I followed the kite’s string down to its source. Clockblocker, the child. She held the string, and she smiled at me, red hair flowing in the wind. The wind blew some dust in my eye, and I blinked to get it out.

    When I re-opened my eyes, Clockblocker still held my hand, but the cape was looking at me oddly. “Okay. What the Hell was that?”

    “Oh. It happened to you too?” I asked. I had some idea of what it might have been if that was the case, but I hadn’t ever done it before. Dad had mentioned them before.

    “I wouldn’t be asking if it hadn’t, Wanda,” said Clockblocker. “Those things… they were like what Aegis and Vista described.”

    “You saw them,” I said and let out a nervous giggle. “Of course, you’d see them. The monsters couldn’t just stay gone.”

    “Wanda,” Clockblocker said, and she looked me in the eye again. “What exactly was that? Do you know?”

    “I think I do,” I said, after a few seconds of looking the cape in the eyes. They really were a pretty blue. That the thing didn’t start up again let me know for certain what it was. “Soulgaze. We just shared a soulgaze. You were my first.”

    Shadow Stalker scoffed. “Soulgaze… Is that what you call it?” She circled around Clockblocker and me. “What kind of power is that, anyway?”

    Magic,” I said. “They weren’t wrong to call me a wizard…”

    Well, wizard apprentice. I’m not exactly at Dad’s level or White Council material yet, but Dad was pretty sure I would be. They didn’t exactly know that.

    “Magic,” Triumph said as he spun around on his seat. “What are you, another Myrddin?”

    No,” I said instantly. “He’s all the way in Chicago, and I’m here.”

    “I’m still a little lost on the soulgaze thing,” Clockblocker said as we finally let go of each other’s hand.

    I gave her a smile. “Well, ever hear the saying ‘the eyes are windows to the soul’? Well, with wizards, it’s a bit more literal. If we look anyone in the eyes too long, that happens. Thing is, it’s a two-way window.”

    Clockblocker led the way over to the couch. Mouse and I followed, Shadow Stalker not far behind.

    “So, you looked at him, and he looked at you,” Vista said. “That seems like it was something that… ah, that’s why you don’t look people in the eyes.”

    “Yeah,” I said. “I knew it could happen eventually, but I didn’t want to chance it.”

    Mouse chuffed.

    Clockblocker laughed. “So, my eyes were just that captivating, huh, Wanda?”

    “They are a very pretty shade of blue,” I said, definitely not blushing.

    She laughed again, and Shadow Stalker did too. “That’s why he hides them normally.”

    “I thought it was so we didn’t have to see his face,” Vista said, smiling at Clockblocker.

    “Ouch, that hurts,” Clockblocker said, grabbing at her chest. “I’m in pain, Vista. So much pain.”

    I giggled a bit.

    “Can’t you be serious for a moment?” Triumph asked.

    “No, that’s not my name,” Clockblocker said. “It’s not even a part of it. Besides, Wanda likes it, don’t you?”

    I smiled at her. “Yeah.”

    “See? I do have ‘very pretty’ captivating eyes, after all,” Clockblocker said with a smirk and a feminine cock of her hip.

    Triumph sighed. “Okay, assuming that’s true, Clockblocker, why don’t you let Girl Wizard—God, that’s a horrible name—know what PR wanted to call you before you broke protocol on your debut?”

    Clockblocker frowned for a second, glancing to Triumph. At the lion-themed cape’s nod, Clockblocker let out a sigh. “They wanted to call me Chronolad. The name was just so… stupid.”

    “Yeah,” I said. “Now you make sense.”

    “I always make sense,” she said with a grin.

    “In your mind,” Vista commented. She looked at me. “Are you good with Wanda as a codename?”

    “For now,” I said. “It’s a lot better than Girl Wizard.”

    Mouse lolled out his tongue and gave a doggie grin. I knew he’d agree.

    Triumph looked at me and then Clockblocker. “Well, I agree. Wanda’s a much better temporary codename until you come up with one of your own.”

    “So, where’s my things?” I asked as we made it to the couch.

    “In my quarters,” Vista said. “So, what took you so long to get here?”

    “I had a talk with a PRT guy,” I said. “He said his name was Calvert.”

    “Skinny guy?” Shadow Stalker asked. “Tall?”


    “Yeah, he’s around every so often,” Shadow Stalker said. “He’s good people.”

    I nodded. “Does he do interviews without the cameras on often?”

    “How do you know the cameras weren’t on?” Vista asked. “Please don’t say the red light thing.”

    I blinked.

    Clockblocker shook her head. “Vista’s right. The cameras in the interview rooms and interrogation rooms here only have red lights on when they want people to know they’re being recorded. Maybe he didn’t.”


    “Because of the bloodsuckers,” Shadow Stalker said.

    Mouse breathed out his nose heavily.

    “… Because vampires aren’t public knowledge,” I said. “Even here.”

    “Which is bullshit,” said Vista. “Those things….”

    I pulled my friend into a hug. “I don’t like them either.”

    She murmured in my ear. “Did you at least find anything?”

    “Not there,” I said softly. “Might have something new though. I’ll need my bag.”

    “Give me two seconds.” Vista pulled away from our hug and flexed her hand.

    The space between the couch and one of the rooms contracted in an odd way. It actually hurt my eyes a bit to look at the folded space, but Vista simply reached her hand through it and grabbed my duffel bag. When she pulled it back to her, the space reverted to what it was.

    “Okay, that was cool,” I said.

    “Yeah, Vista’s got some neat shit,” Shadow Stalker said. “Now, thanks to the bloodsuckers, she’s probably not going on patrol to use it for a while.”

    “Yes, thank you for that,” Vista said, and I could tell my friend was rolling her eyes. “So, Wanda, here you go. I think this is everything.”

    I opened the bag to verify. Yes, my water bottles were still there, one still full of durability potion, but the thing I was most excited about was my blasting rod. I pulled the intricately carved wooden rod out and looked it over.

    “Hah! I was right!” Clockblocker crowed. “And I called you Wanda before we even saw it.”

    “This is a blasting rod,” I said.

    “Looks like a wand,” Clockblocker said. “And if it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck…”

    Shadow Stalker came close and looked it over. Or at least, that’s what I think she did behind that mask. It was hard to tell what she was looking at.

    “Well, it doesn’t look like tinkertech, but I’m no tinker,” said Shadow Stalker. “It’s too short to be a wand, Clockblocker. Wands also have tips. That’s a rod.”

    “She’s right,” Triumph said. “Might have to double-check the Arcanos rules for it, Stalker.”

    “Pft. Like I play that,” Shadow Stalker said. “Still, it looks made of wood. Well-carved wood, but still wood.”

    “She also made fire without it,” Aegis said. “I don’t know if we’d be here if she hadn’t.”

    I smiled. “Thanks, Aegis, but I didn’t do it alone.” I looked at my bag and glanced back at one of the monitors that Triumph had been looking at. Well, they still seemed to be working for now, but the one focused on the clock in Lordstown drew my attention. It was getting late.

    “I should probably get going.” I glanced at Vista. She made a calling motion with her hands. I nodded in response. “It really was nice meeting all of you.”

    “I’ll get someone down here for you,” Triumph said. “Will you need a ride?”

    “Yeah,” I said. “I don’t even know where my house is from here.”

    “I’m sure they’ll get you home safe,” Clockblocker said. “No need to worry, Wanda. Everyone who can drive here is a good driver.”

    “That says a lot about those that can’t,” Vista said. “But he’s right. You’ll be fine.”

    Klaxons went off and the monitors all turned yellow. It sounded like the same alarm as earlier, but everyone here was still wearing a mask. I adjusted the one on my face and the one on my dog’s so that we could be dressed appropriately.

    The vault door opened, revealing two adult capes. One was a woman dressed in a skintight white and dark grey costume with circuit-like blue lines on it. The other was a man dressed in an all red costume made up of body armor and a visor that covered the top half of his face.

    The man immediately made a beeline for Mouse. “Oh wow, aren’t you a big guy? And even wearing a mask, that’s awesome.”

    He reached out to pet my dog, and Mouse let him. My dog even let his tongue loll out. These capes were trustworthy, then. I stepped up next to him.

    “Assault, Battery,” Triumph said. “I hadn’t even called to give her a ride yet.”

    “Well, this idiot,” Battery said, jabbing her thumb at Assault. “He heard about the big dog and he wanted to see.”

    “Come on, Puppy,” Assault said. “He’s a big puppy too. Girl Wizard… Please tell me we have a better codename for her.”

    “I came up with Wanda,” Clockblocker said.

    “My man,” Assault said with a grin. “Okay, Wanda… what we actually came down for was to talk with you, follow up on your talk with Calvert.”

    “Something we can do more of as we ride to your place,” Battery said. “As you’re a minor, without a parent present, we can’t have you signing anything, like NDAs. So, I hope nobody revealed their identities.”

    “Nope,” I said. Well, nobody did it here anyway. “Not even me.”

    Even if really, I didn’t have a cape identity. I was a wizard, or at least an apprentice. I wasn’t sure I actually wanted a cape identity to begin with.

    “Good, good,” said Assault. “When we get to your place, we can talk about the Wards with your parents, if you’re good with that.”

    “Actually…” I said. “I don’t really want to be in the Wards.”

    “Well, we can talk more about that in the car,” said Battery. “The rest of you… Piggot will want a full report sometime tomorrow. Don’t let her know I let you know.”

    Aegis gave a thumbs-up. Clockblocker looked resigned while Vista nodded. I couldn’t really tell anything about Shadow Stalker. Triumph just saluted.

    “Come on, Wanda,” said Assault. “Let’s get you home.”

    I waved to the Wards as we walked out. Tomorrow. Tomorrow I’d check that lead Calvert gave me out.
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  19. Threadmarks: Interlude: Wards

    ellf Know what you're doing yet?

    Aug 26, 2014
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    Interlude: Wards

    Clockblocker watched Assault and Battery escort “Wanda” out with a small smile on his face. It was too bad that the girl probably wouldn’t be joining the Wards any time soon, but he knew some of the reasons why. Assuming what he saw was correct, her trigger had been horrific, but she’d bounced back. Wanda was a very trustworthy girl. He knew that. She would do the right thing.

    The door shut and Clockblocker pulled off his hood and mask. Dennis shook his head. “Well, that was fun. Pity she couldn’t stay longer.”

    “Grow up, Clock,” Shadow Stalker said. “She’s got to be the short stack’s age.”

    “She is,” Vista said, removing her visor. Missy smiled. “I actually know her pretty well.”

    “The file we were given has her name redacted,” Triumph said. “The dog was just identified as ‘dog.’ I’m happy Panacea was able to heal her, but there’s a few things we still need to handle. Assuming you and Aegis are up for it.”

    Missy rolled her eyes. “Yeah. I know. Don’t treat me like a kid, Triumph.”

    “You are one, short stack,” Shadow Stalker said. She pulled off her mask. “Still, what the three of you faced tonight… Even with backup. I don’t think we’re supposed to engage. You did without reaching out to the Console.”

    “Hard not to. We couldn’t even reach Console when we tried,” Aegis said, pulling himself to his feet. He walked over to the supply closet in the corner. Dennis noted that he seemed to be walking a bit better. Good. Panacea did her job well for him too. “I’ve got the board.”

    “Do we have to do this tonight?” Missy asked.

    “Wow, couldn’t last thirty seconds, could you?” Sophia asked, looking at Missy.

    “You didn’t fight the vampires,” Missy said.

    “Tonight.” Sophia shook her head. She looked like she was trying to control herself. “I didn’t fight them tonight.”

    “When did you?” Dennis asked.

    “Back before I joined the Wards,” Sophia said. “There’s all kinds of shit in this city. Bloodsuckers, Nazis, cannibals, ABB, rapists, slavers, all sorts of shit making shit worse.”

    “Okay…” Missy said. “So, how did your fight go?”

    “Don’t want to talk about it. I’ll just comment if things are useful,” Sophia said, and she looked at the board. “So, board shit. I’ve only done this a couple times, what’re we doing again?”

    Dennis frowned. “Sophia, why don’t you want to talk about it?”

    “It’s not a big deal. I fought them before. What of it?”

    “It is a big deal because this is the first we’re hearing of it,” Aegis said. “What happened?”

    Sophia frowned, and Dennis could see the slightest evidence of a shudder.

    “It’s okay, Sophia,” Dennis said. “You’re among friends here… well, teammates, anyway. We won’t judge.”

    Sophia shook her head. “No, it’s not important. It’s not.”

    “If it can help us understand them, it is,” Missy said. “What, the great Shadow Stalker doesn’t want to talk about her hunts?”

    “I…” Sophia mumbled.

    “What?” Dennis asked. “If you’re going to tell us, you’ll have to do it louder.”

    “I ran, okay?” Sophia shouted. “I fucking ran. The bloodsuckers fucking chased me and I fucking ran. Crossbow bolts didn’t put them down. It barely slowed the fuckers down. You know what did? Wood. Fucking wooden bolts through the heart. But it didn’t slow down all the vampires. Not the ones with the bellies.”

    “The ones we fought,” Missy said.

    Sophia nodded. “Excuse me for not fucking wanting to talk about when I fucking ran from fucking vampires.”

    “Language, Sophia. It’s okay to be upset. I understand the feeling immensely.” Triumph looked at her, and she very politely raised two fingers. Dennis tried not to laugh at the sheer absurdity of it. “Right. Let’s change the subject a bit then. Sophia, we’ll talk more about that later, but for now, we’re debriefing. The so-called vampires and Wanda.”

    “Smart name there,” Aegis said.

    “And it’s a hell of a lot better than ‘Girl Wizard,’” Sophia said, seemingly under control now. “Who the Hell came up with that one?”

    “It’s nighttime on Monday,” Triumph said. “We finish this up, and we can all go to bed. I’ll get the report in to Armsmaster and Piggot.”

    “Why aren’t either of them here?” Dennis asked. “I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’m happy Piggy isn’t, but shouldn’t Armsmaster be?”

    “My call as team lead,” Triumph said. “They’re both busy and the only Protectorate capes in the building just left with Wanda to take her home. So, let’s get the debrief done.”

    “Yeah,” Aegis said. “Let’s start with Wanda first.”

    “And Foo Dog?” Dennis asked. That dog definitely left an impression on him.

    “I suppose,” said Triumph. “Dennis, I’ll start off with you. When you shook hands with her, and you locked eyes, something happened.”

    “She called it a soulgaze,” Missy said. Missy looked Dennis in the eyes. “Something to do with her magic.”

    “I saw… well, I’m not sure exactly,” Dennis said. “A vision, of sorts. I mean, I can still remember everything I saw. She’s a good person who’s been through a lot… I think… I think I saw her trigger.”

    “What?” Missy asked. The color had drained from her face. “You saw her… how?”

    “Yeah. It was bad. Very bad,” Dennis said. “And it involved those things that you and Aegis fought tonight, Missy.”

    “… She triggered because of bloodsuckers?” Sophia shook her head. “And she still faced them? Kid’s got spunk.”

    “It’s probably not a Master effect,” Triumph said. He frowned though, looking at Dennis. “Clockblocker passed the initial screen. I’m still going to have you under observation, Dennis. What else could she do?”

    Observation, huh? It made some sense. If it were a Master effect, it’d probably make itself known eventually. At least Wanda seemed relatively benign.

    “She and the dog appeared out of thin air, a bit before the vampires attacked,” said Aegis. Triumph gave him a look, and Aegis raised his hands in surrender. “Look, they sucked my blood and had fangs. They’re close enough.”

    “She can make fire,” said Missy. “With or without the stick she had. Definite Blaster rating. I’m not sure how high though.”

    “I didn’t get a good enough look at it to figure out,” Aegis said. “I’d probably put it at least a three though. That fire is not something that should hit a civilian.”

    “What about the soulgaze?” Dennis asked. “Thinker ability, but mutual? So, probably Trump?”

    “Low-ish Trump,” said Sophia. “Annoying but you dealt with that shit. You shared it.”

    “Language,” Triumph said as he wrote the numbers on the pad. “Anything else for her?”

    “She’s got a bit of Tinker in her too,” Missy said. “The sport bottle in her bag had a label. ‘Invulnerability potion.’ Assuming that’s real…”

    “Might bump up her Trump rating too,” Dennis said. “Especially if they work for others. Good thing she’s a good person.”

    Triumph nodded. “Do you think that she saw anything classified, Dennis?’

    “Maybe?” Dennis said. “Honestly, I’m not sure what she saw. I’m pretty sure she won’t tell anyone even if she did see something.”

    “She won’t,” Missy said. “I know her well enough.”

    “How well do you know her?” Triumph asked.

    “She’s my best friend,” Missy said. “She knows about me, and I know about her.”

    Triumph frowned. “Still, we may need to report a security breach. Missy, when you next see her, you need to talk with her about it. See if you can’t get some information, see how deep that breach is.”

    Missy frowned. “And if it’s bad?”

    “We’ll get her in to sign some NDAs,” said Triumph. “Though, legally, that might require her parents present.”

    “Parent,” Missy said. “Just her dad. She has a stepmother, but I don’t know how involved she is.”

    “How come?” Aegis asked.

    Missy shrugged. “Never met her. She always seems to be away when I visit.”

    “And her mother?” Triumph asked. “Where does she fit?”

    “Her mom died,” Dennis said. “At her trigger.”

    Everyone in the room winced.

    “Okay. We’ll table that for now. What about her dog?” Triumph asked, stepping over to the computer. He typed something quickly and pressed enter, but Dennis couldn’t make out what. “I mean, Foo Dog is big, and that mask… I can’t believe we had a domino mask that fit a dog.”

    “He’s strong,” Missy said. “And very protective of her. Definite Brute rating.”

    “Probably low though,” Sophia said. “He isn’t like Hellhound’s dogs. That bitch’s pets are huge.”

    Dennis snorted. “Kind pup too. Seemed to like everyone here. Even Sophia.”

    “What’s that supposed to mean?”

    “Tonight’s the nicest you’ve been since you’ve gotten here,” Dennis said.

    “Fuck you, Clock-boy,” Sophia said. “Short stack, Aegis and the kid fought vampires tonight. Vampires. Yeah, they got away, but the fact that they aren’t dead is good.”

    Dennis raised his hands. “Easy. It’s a good thing, Sophia. You’re part of the team.”

    “Yeah, yeah,” Sophia said. “Foo Dog… He’s smart. It was like he was following along with what we were saying.”

    “He didn’t bark at all,” Aegis said. “Even in the fight. He growled… and he glowed. Maybe a shaker effect?”

    Triumph nodded and jotted that down on the board. “Hopefully we won’t have to fight them at all. They seem heroic, but it’s still good to know what your allies can do.”

    Dennis snorted. “I’m pretty sure we won’t have reason to fight her. She’s a good person.”

    “Okay, Dennis, what did you see?” Triumph asked. “Beyond the trigger event.”

    “I think it’s private,” Dennis said. “But I saw enough to know she’s trustworthy. We could have revealed our identities to her and she wouldn’t have told anyone.”

    “I won’t write that one down,” Triumph said. “That’s not something that should be brought up unless she joins the Wards. Maybe we should move on to the… vampires… is there any better term for them? They were enemy capes. They’re probably not Case 53s.”

    “No Case 53 I’ve seen is identical,” Aegis said. “Plus, I was up close and personal with them and didn’t spot any tattoos.”

    “If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, quacks like a duck…” Missy started.

    “And sucks blood like a vamp, it’s still a vampire,” Sophia said. “And they tried to kill all of you. They sucked Aegis’s blood, damnit.”

    Missy shuddered. “They were after… Wanda. I don’t know why.”

    “Something to do with her trigger,” Dennis said. “I don’t know what specifically, but that feels right, based on what I saw.”

    Wanda called them Red Court vampires,” Aegis said. “Like it was something specific. She knew about them.”

    “She did,” Dennis said. He didn’t elaborate. He didn’t need to.

    “So, Red Court vampires then,” said Triumph, jotting down on the board.

    “And Leonel Ortega,” Missy said. She stood up and squished the couch down so she could step over it before returning it to its normal size. She stepped over to a chair near the board and sat down. She was shaking a little, but she kept focused. “But maybe the vampires first… they were ugly. Like bats with rubber skin and thick bloated bellies.”

    “That were full of blood, and they got bigger when they drank,” Aegis added. “… Their spit is drugged. It’s like that Case 53 in Faultline’s crew. It feels very good, and when they bite you, it mixes with your blood as they suck it out. It’s just euphoric.”

    “You okay, Aegis?” Dennis asked.

    Aegis held his hand to his neck. “Just… remembering. Panacea cleared up what was left in my system, but…”

    “They’re predators,” Sophia said. “They lure in their prey with the drugged spit.”

    “They’re strong too,” Missy said. “With sharp claws. They might be more durable than humans.”

    “Not by much,” said Aegis.

    Sophia frowned and shuddered. “They aren’t always bat-like things. They can make themselves look human, wearing flesh like a suit.” She shook her head. “Maybe Stranger, maybe Changer, I’m not sure, but they will kill you regardless.”

    Dennis nodded. “Sounds probably more Changer than Stranger.”

    “Minor Master effect too,” Missy said. “From the spit and from how good they look as humans.”

    “You’re talking Ortega,” Aegis said. “What happened there, Missy?”

    Missy shrugged helplessly. She didn’t look happy to remember it. “He no-sold my power. I didn’t even think that was possible once I had it active…”

    “Was he a vampire too?” Triumph asked.

    “Maybe. The vampires listened to him,” Aegis said. “He had a stick that he did some sort of light show with. So maybe he was a grab bag the way Wanda is.”

    “A wizard like her,” Missy said softly. If magic were really real, Dennis was sure that Wanda wasn’t the only one to have it. Maybe this vampire did too.

    He smiled at Missy. “I’m sure you did what you could.”

    “Yeah, bloodsuckers are terrible, short stack.” Sophia shook her head. “You survived. Be proud of that. Don’t break down into the whiny crybaby now.”

    “Fuck you, Sophia!” Missy yelled.

    “There you go!” Sophia laughed, a bit of bravado returning to her voice. “You survived! Be that survivor. And maybe with the help of Wanda, next time we all can get rid of the bloodsuckers.”

    “Language, both of you,” Triumph said.

    “Oh, blow it out your ass, Triumph,” Sophia said. “We’re not in public. You don’t have to be a nanny.”

    “I can have you on console duty for a month,” Triumph said. “Control your language.”

    Sophia crossed her arms. “Fine…”

    “Good,” Triumph said. “Missy?”

    “Okay, sorry,” Missy said with a bit of a sigh. The little fight that had come into her left. She looked at the board for a second. “So, some sort of Trump ability for Ortega. Shutting down my powers… It hurt.”

    “Okay. Anything else?” Triumph asked. “Do we give a codename?”

    Aegis shook his head. “He wasn’t in a costume, unless that skin was a costume. It was like he didn’t care.”

    “I don’t want to face him again,” Missy said. “Not if he can just shut me down like last time… I’m not afraid of him, but…”

    “Yeah,” Aegis said. “I know.”

    Triumph finished up his notes on the board. “I’ll file this away. It’s a school night, but it’s late. Probably best if you guys sleep here tonight.”

    “You’re the boss,” Dennis said, heading off toward his quarters. He paused at the door. “Good night, everyone.”

    “Yeah, whatever,” Sophia said as she went inside her own.

    Missy looked at Aegis. “You’re good, right?”

    “Panacea healed me up,” he said. “Go on, get some rest. You probably have a full day of school tomorrow.”

    “Blegh,” Missy said as she walked off to her room. Dennis knew that the young Shaker was probably happy to not have to be home tonight. He hadn’t looked into it in detail, but the divorce was hard.

    “Good night, Boss, and number two Boss,” Dennis said with a wave. “Try not to have nightmares about killer hickies.”

    Aegis snorted. Yes. “Get some sleep, Dennis.”

    Dennis laughed as he went into his own room and laid down on his PRT-provided bed. It wasn’t quite as firm as the one he had at home, and his room had just a bit of memorabilia. Was it gauche to collect your own action figure? He had four in the room and was looking to get a fifth. Still, looking at them, something about them wasn’t quite right. He just wasn’t sure what.

    He closed his eyes. What he saw… Maggie Dresden. He saw her. Somehow, he knew that what he saw was the truth. Maybe she was actually magic. The question then became, what did little magic Maggie see? What did Wanda find out about him? Was it something classified, like Triumph worried? Or was it something else, something personal? What he’d seen was pretty personal. Still, there was a lot to unpack. There was a lot she could have seen.

    Did he really want to know what she did?
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