One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics, is that you end up being governor by your inferiors.
Go vote on Tuesday.
One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics, is that you end up being governor by your inferiors.
Go vote on Tuesday.
Anne’s hand darted to the butt of her Glock as she stared up into the smiling face of Arem. Anne couldn’t understand how the dark elf was here. She was sure that when she unraveled the spell Arem cast to drag her back to Avalon had killed him. Of course, Erik thought he had killed Arem before, and he showed back up.
“Please relax, Detective,” Arem said, with a soothing tone in his melodious voice, “I am not here to try and take you back across the gate. Unless, of course, you want to return with me?”
“Not a chance in hell,” Anne growled.
“I thought not, but it never hurts to ask,” Arem said, shrugging his shoulders, “By the way, it’s your turn to order.” Anne studied his face for a long moment before turning around to place her order with the annoyed counterperson. Of course, she didn’t see Arem as a twisted dark elf bent on abducting Anne back to the Dark Towers. Anne hit the panic button on her phone as she paid for her food. She grabbed the bag and walked outside. If something was going down, it would be better for Anne to have a bit more room to work.
“Well, since you’ve summoned Jaegar and his team, we’ll have to make this quick. Meliandre sent me here to warn you about the outsiders working in your city. I think you’ve already come across their handiwork. Be careful dealing with them.” Arem actually looked put out. Anne focused on the wild magic around her. Maybe she could put Arem down on her own.
“I see you’ve become much stronger since the last time we talked,” Arem said, approvingly. “Unfortunately, you’re going to have to be faster if you’re going to try and take me down. Especially with magic.” In an instant, there were bands of magic surrounding Anne. The bindings were more intricate than anything she could do, but Anne could see their deadly purpose. If she even grazed one of the bands, the magic would dump into her and burn her from the inside out.
“I thought your boss wanted me alive,” Anne observed.
“She does, but honestly, if you can’t figure your way out of that little trap, you would be of no use to her,” Arem said. “Besides, you need to learn this little trick if you’re going to deal with the outsiders. They don’t interact with this world properly.”
“Who are these outsiders?” Anne asked.
“Entities that live beyond our universe,” Arem explained. He seemed pleased that Anne wasn’t trying to fight him. “They come from a universe that works very different from ours.”
“So why are they here?” Anne asked. Arem shrugged.
“We don’t know,” Arem answered, “There’s something in our universe that they want. More to the point, something on this world that they want. The outsiders invaded our world ten thousand years ago. They nearly destroyed every sentient being on the planet before they were pushed back out. That’s about all we know.”
“How is that all you know?” Anne asked, “There’s got to be more than that.”
“All of the writings from that are impossible to make sense from. It was like the entire planet when insane. Even the most coherent of the writings read like they were the ramblings of a madman,” Arem said. He looked up and frowned. “We will have to discuss this later.” He walked back into the cafe. Anne found out the reason for his abrupt departure a moment later. Anne felt Samantha connect her to their telepathic link. Anne could feel Samantha, Veronica, and Kurt, and assumed that Erik was with them as well.
Was that Arem? Samantha asked over the telepathic link.
Yeah, and he put in some kind of magic trap. Veronica, can you give me a hand? Anne asked as she focused on the bands of magic.
Damn, but that elf can do good work, Veronica said, examining the bands of magic, I can’t see anything from the outside. Samantha, can you help me see what she’s seeing from her side? Anne felt the odd sensation of Samantha probing further into her mind. It was like having cold water poured into her mind and out through her eyes.
“Kurt, stay with them,” Erik said as he joined them. “I’m going after Arem.”
“Erik,” Samantha said, the caution clear in her tone.
“No, if he’s back, I’m going to deal with him sooner than later,” Erik said. He pushed his way into the cafe.
Erik ignored the angry glares from the other cafe patrons as he shouldered his way in. He suspected Arem had survived being sucked back to the Dark Towers. Part of him was glad, because Erik wanted to be the one to finally put paid to that elf’s life. Erik scanned the cafe, but couldn’t find the elf among the crowd. Well, Erik had more tools in his toolbox.
Erik reached out with his senses and found Arem’s psi-scent. Erik pushed through the crowd to a side entrance. He followed Arem’s psi-trail down the street and around a corner. It seemed to stop cold in front of a three-story brick office building. Erik looked around the crowded street. No, Arem wouldn’t have gated in the middle of the street, in the middle of the day. Erik looked up. Arem stood on the roof of the building, that infuriating smile on his face. Erik walked back to the alley behind the office building.
A quick thrust of power shot him up to the roof. Erik rolled as his feet his the concrete. He came up with his suppressed pistol in his hands. Arem hadn’t moved. Erik fired two quick shots. As expected, the bullets were knocked aside by a shimmering shield. Erik stood and holstered his pistol. There were ways of dealing with a shield.
“As much as I would love to continue our running fight, Jaegar, Meliandre specifically told me not to on this trip,” Arem said. Erik read Arem’s emotions. The elf was telling the truth.
“Why?” Erik asked.
“The things Anne and you are dealing with are dangerous to everyone, including Meliandre and her kin,” Arem answered. “Far better for you to defeat them here, then let them come across the gate.” Erik felt the well-hidden streak of fear in Arem.
“What are we dealing with, Arem?” Erik asked.
“The outsiders,” Arem answered. Erik so wanted to call Arem a liar to his face, but Arem wasn’t lying.
“How does Meliandre know the outsiders are here?” Erik asked. “Maybe she’s mistaken.”
“She wouldn’t have known if they hadn’t come to this city,” Arem said, “Their activities here gave her enough to figure out their presence on this world. So, she sent me back here to protect Anne.”
“Why does Meliandre think the outsiders are after Anne?” Erik asked, “They could be after something else entirely.”
“Honestly, Jaegar, does that thought make you feel any better?” Arem shot back.
“No,” Erik answered flatly. “Do your cousins know?”
“Honestly, I don’t know and I don’t give a damn,” Arem said, “You can tell them if you want. It’s not like they are going to do anything without spending a month trying to read the stars. We don’t have that kind of time.” Erik chuckled at the dig.
“So, we put aside our fight to deal with the outsiders?” Erik asked, “Is that why you let me catch up with you?”
“A very limited truce,” Arem said, “We will share information on the outsiders’ activities here and make sure that they do not get their hands on Anne.”
“You stop trying to steal her across the gate until the outsiders’ activities are stopped in the city,” Erik said. Arem frowned.
“I won’t stop asking her if she wants to come with me, but I won’t resort to manipulating her,” Arem said.
“Hell, no, Arem,” Erik replied. “I’m willing to work with the Dark Towers, but I’m not about to violate my primary mission. You even think about asking her, and one of my team will end you.” Arem looked like he was pondering Erik’s words. It might have worked better if Erik couldn’t read his emotions.
“Fine. Bring all of your information and we’ll meet in Conrad Park at midnight,” Arem said. Then, he gated away. Erik waited a minute to make sure it wasn’t a trick of glamour so Arem could ambush him. Satisfied that the elf was gone, Erik spent the next ten minutes stomping around the roof cursing.
Opportunities are often disguised as hard work, so most people don’t recognize them.
Ann Landers, advice columnist
To get the job I have currently, I had to give up my days off from my previous employment (where I was working 50-55 hours) to volunteer for full shifts, and study to complete my degree on top of that. All of that hell paid off in a good job that I enjoy.
Sometimes I post some material over there that I don’t here. These are a couple of items:
Fun: Taking my nephew shooting.
More fun: Getting my nephew to tell his mother “There has been a good killing.”
Coworker comes into my office to discuss a joint assignment. Before he leaves, he turns and asks me if I can smell the faint odor. The question isn’t as rude as it sounds, because we’ve had issues with the building.
Me: Yes, it’s leather dye.
CW: From what?
Me: My new belt.
CW: I don’t remember that smell from any of my belts.
Me: That’s because you buy your belts where you get your clothes from. I buy my belts where I get my holsters from.
Lightbulb goes off and my coworker wanders off.
Reputation defended for the day.
“MacMurtry, Hearst, bring your case files and notes on the Browne suicide to my office,” Captain Smith asked from his office doorway. Anne gave Jason a questioning look, but he pretended not to notice. He’d been cagey since they’d walked into the squad room. Anne’s instincts were telling her something was wrong. She grabbed the folder with all of her material on the case and followed Jason into the captain’s office. The captain wasn’t alone.
The man and the woman waiting in the captain’s office were both dressed in dark suits that screamed fibbie. The man was older, his brown hair sprinkled liberally with gray and lines etched into his face. His brown eyes were flat and complemented his stern lantern-jawed visage. The woman reminded Anne of Veronica. She had that same dark olive skin and long, straight black hair. She was Anne’s own height with a lean, runner’s build. She tried to match her partner’s stern, no-nonsense look, but it just didn’t work as well.
“Thank you, Captain Smith,” the man said as the two detectives walked into the now-crowded office. There was a trace of a northeastern accent. Boston, maybe? “We appreciate your cooperation in this matter. I hate to impose, but do you mind if we talked with the two detectives privately for a moment.” The captain’s face went neutral, which Anne knew meant he was well and truly pissed. Getting thrown out of your own office would do that to most people.
“I’m going to talk with Welks and Rodriguez about their case,” the captain said to Anne and Jason, pointedly ignoring the two feds. “Let me know when you’re done, and then get back to your open cases.” The stocky man bulled out into the squad room, barely missing the two feds. The woman closed the door and made sure the blinds were closed.
“Was all that drama necessary, sir?” Jason asked, “We could have delivered the files by mail and met you at a restaurant downtown. Now, the interest in this case is going to skyrocket.” The woman agent looked shocked, but her partner smiled. It looked somehow wrong on his face.
“You’re probably right, MacMurtry, but this one is time critical. We think we may actually be ahead of them this time,” the man said. He then seemed to finally notice Anne. “Apologies, Detective Hearst. I’m Special Agent Belushi, and this is Agent Privas. We’re from the task force.” Anne shook their proffered hands.
“So, how do we go about this?” Anne asked, “What do you want us to do?” The two agents gave her peculiar looks.
“You don’t do anything, Detective,” Agent Privas answered, “It’s in the task force’s hands. You walk away.” Her soprano voice was cold and firm. Anne guessed she’d tried for commanding, but failed miserably.
“So you want Jason, me, and the Avalonians to stay out of this?” Anne asked, incredulously.
“Your Avalonians are here for the sole purpose of making sure that you do not fall into the hands of the Dark Towers,” Agent Privas snapped. Her partner laid a restraining hand on her shoulder.
“The task force doesn’t think that the Avalonian team would be able to contribute much to this investigation,” Special Agent Belushi said. “We appreciate your wanting to help stop these nocturnes, but it would be best for all involved if you focused on your mundane cases.” His face hardened. “And your magic.”
Anne grit her teeth. The lines of wild magic glowed to her eyes as she felt her anger rise. It would be so easy to wipe that look off of his face. A little cold, a little air – the binding would be so easy. She forced herself to take a step back. Wild magic was seductive. It wanted to be used. It was one of those traps Anne had discovered over the past few months working with Veronica. The lines faded into the background.
“Fine, we’ll play it your way,” Anne said.
“As if you had a choice in the matter,” Agent Privas snapped. Anne tossed the woman a cold stare before turning back to Special Agent Belushi.
“I think you’re making a mistake,” Anne said, “The Avalonians could be damned helpful.”
“Thank you for your concern, Detective, but we have plenty of our own resources,” Special Agent Belushi replied. “We will let you know if the nocturnes have been captured, but until then, I must remind you to stay out of the task force’s way.” The two agents walked out of the captain’s office.
“Thanks for all the back-up there, Jason,” Anne said, whirling on her partner.
“Don’t get mad at me,” Jason answered, evenly, “In case you forgot, I work for Belushi. And FYI, Belushi is not just another agent of the task force. He’s the special agent in charge of the task force. So, if he says the task force doesn’t want Erik and the gang’s help, that is the final word. Also for your information, Privas is his chief spell slinger. If you’d lost control of your magic in there with them, she’d have turned you into a cinder. So, let’s do what we’re supposed to be doing and forget that case ever came across our desks.” His face had that muley expression, so Anne knew she wasn’t going to get anywhere. The pair let the captain know they were done with his office and walked back to their desks.
Anne sipped her coffee as Jason studied some paper on his desk. She was still angry. Partners should back each other, even if one of them did work for a secret government unit responsible for protecting the nation from supernatural forces. They’d been working together for eight months. That should have bought her a little support. She replayed the conversation with Belushi and Privas in her head.
“Jason, what kind of creature is a nocturne?” Anne asked, “I don’t think I’ve ever heard of it before.” Jason looked up from his desk with a confused look on his face.
“Oh, yeah,” he said, figuring out what Anne was talking about, “No, nocturnes aren’t creatures. They’re kind of slang for the various things that the task force deals with. Kind of like the special forces teams call terrorists ‘tangoes.'” He looked down at his watch and grimaced. “I’ve got a conference call with Denver in a half-hour on the Allero extradition. Are you going to be good with getting lunch on your own?” Anne just nodded. Jason threw a bunch of files into his messenger bag and dashed out the door.
Anne worked on a couple of her cases for an hour, then decided she’d do better with something other than lukewarm coffee in her. She was still angry and frustrated with Jason and his fibbie friends. She looked down at the flyer at her elbow. The cafe across from the station was serving spice cake today. She deserved some spice cake. Anne grabbed her jacket and purse before walking out of the squad room.
The line at the cafe was long, and Anne wondered if there’d be any cake left by the time she got to place her order. The man behind stepped a little too close to her. A soft, woodsy cologne wafted around them. It was nice, but not enough to lessen her annoyance at someone who didn’t understand the concept of personal space.
“Excuse me detective, but could I buy you some lunch?” the man behind her said. Anne whirled and looked up into Arem’s smiling face.
It is also in the interests of a tyrant to keep his people poor, so that they may not be able to afford the cost of protecting themselves by arms and be so occupied with their daily tasks that they have no time for rebellion.
Registration and licensing fees, anyone?