Dark Renaissance – Chapter 6

Yellowjakket moved south and west, away from Charing Cross. She hunted press-gangs, and when she found one, didn’t hesitate. She tore into the first one she spotted. The gang had two kids in anti-magic shackles, neck and waist, holding them powerless to resist. The mind control in the collars held them while the belt disrupted any connection to the source.

She fired a electric pulse, striking the lead member. Her bolt caught the man in the chest hurtling him four meters back and to the ground where he spasmed uncontrollably. The other six spread out in a rough defensive circle. One girl ran to the downed man, and started to drag him back to the circle. Yellowjakket fired again, and a cage of electricity locked the two in place, their bodies rigid in the vicious, sparking sphere.

The mages fired back, a large sphere of pinkish red light covered the area around the mages, and Yellowjakket. “No place to run, Chippy”, one of the wizards laughed. “You’re nicked.” She didn’t try to escape, charging into the remaining circle of five. The first man took a high-speed elbow that shattered his jaw, spinning him to the ground. Her electrical blast lifted another mage off her feet, violently contracting muscles propelling her into the sphere. She screamed like a damned soul as her body melted on impact.

She pressed down and reversed field, heading back towards the center of the circle. Only three remained. A cage of electricity paralyzed the one maintaining the spell, and the curtain of death faded. The other two drew themselves up, moving their hands and chanting. The woman pointed at Yellowjakket, the man faced the children. She charged the man, barely dodging the firey blast aimed at her. She fired as she ran by, the electric cage trapping him, the spell, interrupted, fed back into the caster. He screamed in agony as his body and limbs twisted. The woman spat curses and cast another blast of firey death at Yellowjakket.

She dodged once more, lungs beginning to burn. Yellowjakket returned a quick electrical burst at the woman. The hit slowed but didn’t stop her. Her ribs ached as she pulled deep inside and put on a last burst of speed, and arrowed at the woman. The mage saw her coming but had no time to create a defensive barrier. The impact knocked the mage, and Yellowjakket to the ground. Yellowjakket looked over towards the children, and saw the man on the ground, his limbs twisted like tree roots. The acrid, metallic scent of blood was in the air as a dark pool spread under him.

She looked back at the other mage, who rocked on the pavement moaning in pain. A misshapen lump showed the dislocated shoulder. The children were still huddled where they had been dragged when the fight started. “Do you have a family to go home to?”, she asked in an exhausted voice. The pain made her smile more a grimace. She lay on her side, and waited for the pain to lessen. The kids looked lost. Slowly the taller of the two shook her head. Yellowjakket guessed she might be ten. “Come on”, she gasped. “You can talk, can’t you?” The shorter girl piped up. Yellowjakket guessed her age was maybe five or six. “We’re not supposed to talk to strangers.”

Yellowjakket smiled wider. The sharp pain had dulled to a low ache. “I’m not a stranger now, am I? I’ll help get you home if you want me to.” The shorter girl shook her head yes as the older one shook hers in a no. The action made her think of her own sisters. Her heart ached for her identical siblings. She forced herself to smile. She pushed up off the ground, then walked slowly to the remaining mage, the others had fallen unconscious from the electrical shocks. She looked down at the woman, then to the children. “Turn around, I’m going to help this lady, but it’s going to hurt.”, she explained. The mage continued to moan in pain, raking back and forth as she tried to cradle the arm. Yellowjakket saw her left knee had been flexed sideways. It stuck out at a ninety-degree angle. She grabbed the leg, then pushed hard and fast.

The woman screamed, then passed out from the searing pain. Yellowjakket tried to stomp the shoulder socket back in place. Two tries had no effect, so she laid off any more attempts. Instead she went to the children. She slowly kneeled, wincing at the pain shooting up the outside of her knee. She stood up flexing it. Satisfied nothing felt torn or broken, she kneeled again, watch the lower lip of the younger girl stick out in a pout. “I wanna go home”, she said and looked at the other girl. She shook her head and told the girl, “Hush Caroline, we need to be quiet.” The lower lip stuck out further, quivering slightly. “It’s all right sweetie, it’s all right. Why don’t you two run on home. I’ll make sure these bad people don’t follow you.”

The little girl looked up at the black-clad guardian. “You won’t leave? You promised.” The older one pouted like the younger. Her own lip sticking out as she gave Yellowjakket a suspicious look, then moved Caroline behind her. “We’ll make it home, it’s just a few streets over.” Yellowjakket nodded then turned. “Tell your parents what happened. If they want help, have them leave a note with their address at that corner. I’ll come help.” Yellowjakket pointed over to the corner where a small Jewler’s shop resided. “Put the note on the post box. I’ll check every day for you.” She smiled at the two girls, then stood up, the stitch in her side finally gone.

“You two must be special, when those people are trying to take you away from your mum and da.” The little girl nodded as her older sister frowned and Yellowjakket. She smiled at the older girl then turned to look to the north as a faint siren drifted in the air. “Go now, hurry, they’ll be here soon.” Wen they hesitated, she glared at the girls and snarled “MOVE!” The word propelled them into action, and the two ran down the street and turned right between the Jewler shop and the Shoe hop just south of it. Once the girls were out o sight, Yellowjakket sped south, drawing the hunters after her.

For the next hour, Yellowjakket drew the hunters south. Ambushing another group of mages just before she disappeared into the tunnels on the shore of the Thames. Once into the tunnels, she turned north, racing through the storm sewers, the moving water disrupting tracking spells. The mages had planned for that trick, using humans twisted into caricatures of werewolves to follow her scent in the humid air. That too, she’d prepared for. After moving at high speed through the tunnels, she moved back to the surface. A quick run to a nearby cache netted her a 15-liter petrol can. She poured the contents down into the sewer, then waited a minute for the fumes to spread.

Leaving the lid off, she flicked a match and tossed it carefully into the hole. Speeding off as it arced down. The heavy thump of the exploding gasoline would guarantee any scent would burned away. If any of the trackers were close enough, the concussion might daze them for a while, giving her more time to lose herself in the sewer tunnels. Her speed was an advantage. The animals could track her, but at her speed she’d be tens of kilometers and hours ahead of anyone following. That is, if they didn’t have the speed she did. So far, no one had. It wasn’t something to rely on though. Mages could mimic anything she did, given time, and she was certain that speed would be something that the mages would have worked on.

I just hope it’s more trouble than it’s worth to them to make it work. She dashed forward, and emerged at Charing Cross once more from the Tube. It was a quick sprint to the orphanage building. She tapped the door, and waited for one of the guardians of the place to open it. The thing that opened the door looked human in outline. Up close and in the light, she could see the greenish skin and the overlarge eyes of the troll. The creature had been found wounded after a magus patrol had been through the area. She’d survived by diving into the sewers and somehow managing to elude her pursuers to the Charing Cross station. She’d emerged above ground, and in a gamble, found a small park and allowed herself to be turned to stone by the sun’s rays.

The pursuers never seemed to have realized at the time that the stone statue was what they had been hunting. Locals had hidden her, and when Yellowjakket and the resistance had set up the ‘underground railroad’ to Scotland for children and families, she’d volunteered to take watch, in return for the kindness she’d been shown. Yellowjakket always felt there was much more to the story, but never asked. She wasn’t certain how the troll would take the question.

“Hi Gewrly”, she smiled at the troll. “How are the children?” “Ae, they bae rright fine. Yer moving?”, the troll rumbled questioningly. “Yes, the oldest this trip. With all the activity around here, we need to be able to move fast. The younger ones will be following soon up the rail. We’ll be going tomorrow night.” She looked down the unlit hall towards the double doors that served as the entrance to the beds. The Troll turned her head to gaze the same direction. “Ae, I’ll mes’um.” Her voice hardened for a moment. “Not all off’em.”

Gewrly continued as Yellowjakket raised eyebrows in surprise. She’d never heard the troll say one bad thing about any of the children, no matter how they seemed to treat her. Yet now, she was talking about being happy to see a child leave. “What’s gone on, Gewrly?” Her concern caught the troll by surprise, and she turned to look at Yellowjakket with wide eyes. “He’s em’tae. Y’ken? I cannae explain what I see. He’s, wrong tae me sense”, she finished quietly. “He’s not a bad lad, I cannae stand tae be around him.” Yellojakket nodded. “Point him out to me and I’ll take him north with this group”, she replied evenly. “Maybe a change of scenery will help whatever’s troubling him.”

Gewrly looked at Yellowjakket with a long-suffering expression, then just rolled her eyes and turned to settle back into the shadows by the door. She would sit there all night, occasionally going to check on the children if she heard them move. Yellowjakket padded to the doorway, and quietly pushed the door open. The children were all lying down in the crowded room. The beds were pushed together headboard to footboard in a long line that reached from one end of the former cafeteria, to the other. Fourteen long lines of beds were set this way. Each line was broken in thirds, with room for one person to walk between the rows. The packing left the other half of the cafeteria open for the children to play and move about. It wasn’t a cheerful place, but it was a start to a better one than they would be going to if the mages had their way. No, the further they were away from Londinium, the better.

She closed the door and walked quickly back to the troll. “I’ll be back tomorrow night, this same time, have the twelve oldest up and ready to travel. Include that one you talked about in the group. I’ll get them out of town, and to the next contact.” Gewrly nodded, her large white teeth near gleaming in the dark. “Ae will. Ye take cair, dolly. Themselves bae hatin’ you verra much.” Yellojakket noddded, and smiled. “I’m doing all right then.” The troll chuckled, sounding like a baritone chicken. “Tha’ ya are”, she replied.

The trip back she detoured east, going kilometers into Kent, before moving north, and finally returning to the Sewers under Brianburgh. She stopped at her bolt-hole to change clothes. She’d been gone times like this before. It was always easy to cover with talk about scavenging, if anyone became curious about her absence. Not that anyone really did. No one knew her Yellowjakket persona. Most here would cover for her if they did, which is why she took pains to keep her secret a real one instead of a shared one. The fewer that knew, the less danger for them. It was a lonely way to work, but now, more than ever, she had to think that way. She was alone.

She walked to the guards, and gave them the proper response. She could feel their gazes following her. They knew something had happened, but were too polite to ask. She knew the whole community would know in a few hours that ‘something bad must have happened to Sapphire’. I will not let this control me. I won’t let them know Selene’s gone. She clamped down on her sadness, and forced a smile to her lips, and a jaunty spring to her step. The more normal she acted, the less people would question her.

She managed to get to her curtain. The place still felt like Selene was going to appear out of her room, rubbing sleep from her eyes. The mental image made her knees buckle. The backpack fell from her shoulders and she bit down on a sob that forced its way through her teeth. This wasn’t how it was supposed to be. They were all supposed to be alive, and running the mages in circles. Selene was supposed to be there to tell her and Serinda how to get the resistance really going. That was going to be Serinda’s job. She could sense power in people. She was a mage, but she was a meta too. Serinda was supposed to help recruit metas and mages that hadn’t been killed or captured by Control.

Being able to sense a person by their power was something that always bothered Sapphire about her sister. It was a big deal though. Up until Serinda died, they’d been finding people before the mages, and that had hurt them. Serinda had speculated, and one of the rescuees had confirmed, that the mages could pull power from an unresisting captive and use it to power their spells faster and more powerfully than simply pulling and manipulating the environment.

Life essence seemed, according to the partly trained mage, to be a fount of concentrated energy. The more aware, and alive a being was, the more ‘dense’ the energy they gave off when killed. And the mages found that this was a very fast shortcut to a lot of power. So when a major working needed doing, a number of the ‘lesser’ metas were tapped for the purpose. The description horrified her, and she could see, in the young man’s eyes, how much viewing such a ritual had wounded him. “I couldn’t do that, and in Control, if you can’t do what’s asked, then you’re next to be part of the ritual. It’s how they keep the underlings in line and focused”, he’d explained, shuddering at the memories.

“It din’t matter a whit that it was a kid, or a geezer they used. It’s like they got addicted to it all, and couldn’t wait for the next fix. I couldn’t get out of there fast enough after that. I just ran.” It had given them all a lot to process. For Selene, it crystallized what needed to be done. “We get ourselves our own army, and we make it people and metas and mages. We don’t go at them head-on. We isolate them, make them more desperate to find more ‘recruits’. We find where they’re keeping them, and we break them out, and get them somewhere away from Control. Starve a junkie and they turn on each other to get that fix.”

That led to Serinda’s death, and now, Selene’s. Sapphire felt overwhelmed. It wasn’t like she ever believed they’d die. Reality caught up with her fantasies, and bit her hard. She dropped to her knees just inside the curtain. As she started to cry, there was a quiet thump from behind. A moment later there, were hands on her shoulders as a body painfully kneeled next to her.

“Sapph? Hey, Sapph. It’s Simon. I’m right here. I’ll keep an eye on things.” His earnest, caring voice cut through the fog of pain, and she slowly pulled herself back from the despair that had started to overwhelm her. Unconsciously, she leaned into Simon, drawing comfort from his presence. Simon caught the movement, and moved to a sitting position. He held her as she cried once more for the sisters she’d never see. Later, Simon got back to his feet, and carried her to her bed, then drew the thin blanket over her, and quietly left.

Morning brought activity, and the noise brought Sapphire back from a nightmare of watching her sisters melt away in one of the sacrifices the rogue mage had described. She shook her head to clear it, and gave herself a quick sponge bath, filling the basin with the cold water that had been left on the stovetop. She dressed, then gathered up more portable food, packing it in a pillowcase. She added more utensils and the portable stove to the backpack, then stuffed in clothing. Last of all went in Serinda’s and Selene’s costumes. She pulled up the loose floorboards in front of the stove to get them, and stuffed them deep in the backpack.

Simon was right at the curtain when she pulled it open. He took an awkward step back to avoid spilling the breakfast tray on her. “Sapph! Er, ah, I thought you might like a little something this morning besides kibble. The scent of cooked egg and cheese wafted up to her. Her stomach growled with appreciation as she dropped the pillowcase with a clatter. She grabbed the slice of rough bread, and shoveled the egg and cheese as fast as she could. “Hey hey girlie! Inhale! Take. A. Breath.” he laughed. “Whrm dud you gut dis?”, she choked out between bites. She hadn’t had an egg in months.

“There’s another group south o’ London. I traded some work for a dozen. Seemed a shame not to share ’em with someone.” He shrugged then looked at Sapphire. Her won gaze had wandered up to his face and met his as he finished speaking. The warm feeling came over her again as she watched his eyes. The feeling felt good, and she caught herself leaning towards Simon. She caught herself before she overbalanced, covering her blush with another spurt of shoveling food as fast as possible.

“Look, Sapph, I don’t know what’s got you down, and I won’t question. If you need an ear to listen some time, look me up”, he finished. An awkward silence built up between them. Awkward, yet comforting. She wanted to break the silence, and wanted it to just hang around a bit longer so she could enjoy Simon and the quiet presence around them both. Simon gazed at her and his face flushed. He coughed, breaking the silence. “Umm, I’ll see you later, Sapph. Gotta few chores to take care of and all that.” Sapphire nodded, not trusting her voice. Simon turned and gave her a small wave. “Right, I’m off. Talk with you later.”

She looked down at the tray, and finished the last piece of bread, slathering it in the runny remains of the yolk. Once she’d done that, the tray went on top of the stove, and she picked up the pillowcase. The trip out to the bolt-hole was quiet. Everyone seemed to be about their own business as she passed the checkpoint.

The voices and noise of the small camp faded behind her as she trudged down the tunnel. Replacing it were the dripping of water and the scurrying of rats and other animals that used the sewers as home. She got to the hidden entrance, then ducked inside to find that her hideout had been discovered. The backpack of food was gone. Empty food tins were strewn about. The small portable stove had been nicked. Her clothes were strewn about, with some of them cut.

She dropped to her knees, staring at the wreckage done. As she glanced about the remains, she saw the neck from a bottle. A second glance showed a second bottle further down the sewer. She picked up the neck, mindful of the jagged end and took a sniff. It smelled of Gin. Someone had stmbled across the place apparently drunk and by chance, then eaten their fill, and took anything of value. Sapphire stopped, and listened. If they were drunk, thy might be still ‘sleeping it off’ here.

She lowered the pillowcase full of cans to the floor as quietly as possible, then did the same with the backpack. She held still for a minute, ears straining to hear the slightest sound. Once she convinced herself no one was there, she hurried to pick up what clothes could still be worn, then moved the rocks to get her costume. Placing it in the backpack, she scrambled out of the Hideaway, and shouldered her backpack and pillowcase of food. She wouldn’t have time to look for a place to stay. She had to be back at Charing Cross to lead the kids out of Londinium tonight. With her destination fixed, she started a quick trot Southward.

Dark Renaissance – Chapter 4- Appearance & Chapter 5 – Interlude 2

Chapter 4

Sapphire walked back out of Diagon-tubely, heading for the Checkpoint. With luck she’d have a note at the dead-drop. The note would also give her a location to lead the children to. Those hiding the kids had regular jobs. Moving the children themselves would jeopardize their cover, and their lives. Once at her hidden tube, she changed to the black-clad huntress, and sped off to the small drain that emptied the subway during storms. Crawling on hands and knees to exit, she accelerated towards downtown London. She emerged from the Tube at an abandoned spur near Charing Cross. A quick sprint away from the small crowd at the Tube and she was in the open.

Cars dotted the streets, with a few pedestrians hurrying home just before curfew. The cars were easy to avoid, and she darted forward, outrunning them easily. A quick turn brought her to the edge of the Park. Here she ran past the entrance, and to the first bench seat. She knelt quickly and felt underneath the seat, finding a small taped plastic package. She pulled it loose and tore the plastic away. Opening the letter she got the location for the next dead drop and the one for the children – Charing Cross Orphanage.

The children had been hidden in the closed orphanage as it had adequate beds for them. Her job was to get them north to the border. The first step would be to get to the orphanage without being detected. Her speed would make it hard to track visually. The trouble was that any report would give Control a place to start looking. If they started looking, the kids would be found. The first order of business was to be seen elsewhere. She bit back a sob. The decoy would have been her job, and Selene would have been leading the kids to another stop northward. Now, she had to do both jobs. She offered a silent prayer to her sisters, and hoped they could hear it. Then she ran towards downtown once more.

Chapter 5

Hamish Montrose fidgeted at his desk. He liked the desk, and hated the work. The desk represented power. It was his. The work was the captain’s. He glanced at the paperwork, then opened the bottom drawer, and swept the papers into it. He kicked the drawer shut with savage satisfaction, and stood up. Grabbing his coat, he stalked towards the Seeker room. It was here that spells to find were cast. Not that they worked, but it did catch those that couldn’t hide themselves, or were too poor to have a obscurement spell cast for them. The Seeker on duty glanced up as Montrose entered. “We’ve got a sighting, sir. “Two blocks east of Charing Cross Station. Yellojakket. Report says she’s moving south at a high rate of speed. Casting’s confirmed she’s out and about. Whatever’s protecting her is still working, we can’t narrow the search down.”

Montrose nodded, then turned back around. “Keep me updated. I’ll grab a mic, set it to channel K. I’ll be listening in.” “Of course sir. Anything else sir?” Montrose shook his large square features. “No, yes, yes there is. Can you track Captain Sheffield for me? I’d like to talk with him soonest. There’s an irregularity that must needs cleaning up.” Very good sir, I’ll pass the captain’s location on when we have it.” Montrose nodded, then continued out of the room. Yellowjakket was waiting, and he intended to finish the job he’d started.

Dark Renaissance – Ch 3 – Interlude

Hamish Montrose stared stoically out the open window behind his commanding officer. He heard the voice and would recall the exact conversation later. For now, he was content to let the man yell himself hoarse about the botched assignment. The clouds outside were an iron-grey. Low in the air, they carried the scent of water and decay from the nearby docks. He wrinkled his nose, envisioning the captain’s body floating in the brown water. It brought a ghost of a smile to his lips. He sensed, rather than heard the captain slowing in his tirade. It was time to pay attention once more.

“I want that bitch caught, Montrose. Breaking her in public will break the back of the resistance, and secure us power and privilege. You understand this, do you not?” The captain sat behind his huge oaken desk, and glared balefully at Hamish with his remaining eye. The other had been lost when he nearly burned to death. He was a moderately powerful mage, but the burns rendered him a cripple, and only suited for organizational work, which the man detested with a passion. He passed his anger and self-loathing down upon his subordinates berating and belittling their efforts every chance he was given. Hamish loathed him completely. Killing him would guarantee advancement. Hamish glanced at the captain, going through his memory to find what the captain wanted.

He glanced at the sour, burned man, and said with quiet intensity, “Of course, I will make it my sole priority to track and capture her.” He seethed inside while giving the captain an obsequious smile. “Get out of my sight. Report back on progress daily. If you can’t then I’m sure someone else would fill your incompetent shoes just as inadequately as you.” Hamish bit down on his tongue, offering the same bland smile as before. The captain waved him out then turned to looking at the papers on his desk. Montrose walked out, mentally watching the captain’s gutted body float down into the brown water as fish bit small pieces off. He enjoyed the thought of the man being eaten alive. The thought kept him comfortable in the cold, wet wind.

Dark Renaissance – Chapter 2

Both Sapphire and Selene bought in immediately, and Yellowjakket suddenly became enemy number one to the new government. The recorded power effects and her own movements convinced Control that one person was responsible. Her powers became the enigma, as any locator spell never worked properly, frustrating the casters to no end. That was the true power of triplets. Three different signals confusing the search. Each identical to the others, creating a feedback that destroyed the intent of the spell. The last trick was the most morbid. A small bomb, designed to hide any trace of their identity from discovery. It was something they all understood. If one of them was captured, the others were as good as caught was well.

Serinda was the first to die. She stepped into direct fire to help protect citizens from Control’s press-gangs. Her actions saved fourteen children from Zahrenholt, and cost hers. The detonation had an unexpected secondary effect, the first convincing those in Control that this was a new power. It made them more cautious in their efforts to capture Yellowjakket. The second was to further destroy the ability to track the surviving girls, as the ‘essence’ of Serinda had been thoroughly scattered within the town by the blast, that tracking spells were useless.

The two sisters stopped operating for weeks, then returned with a vengeance. Selene was driven to make her sister’s death mean something, and she threw herself into disrupting press-gangs at every opportunity. The effect was to bring the whole of the Magocracy after Yellowjakket, and propel her into the papers. Other heroes emerged, and for some months, the Magocracy started to lose control in Londinium. Riots followed the press-gangs, as did combat with the newly emerged meta-humans. The newer metas engaged the mages in open combat in the streets. Both sides used power and technology. In this the mages had superiority. Their power, being external, was slower to build, but stronger, and more encompassing in effect. Meta-humans, their power coming from within, were able to fire quickly, but in limited manner. They too could create large changes, but the effort to do so cost them personal energy, so it was seldom done.

The mages, could more freely do so, and did. Creating snowstorms, fire, ice, whipping winds, that affected the metas not in close combat. Sheer numbers overpowered individuals. The press-gangs returned, only now to find any children with the affinity to power, not just potential mages. These were turned into the next batch of loyalists to the Magocracy. Tools to fill the depleted ranks of the press-gangs and other arms of the government.

Not that it was easy. People remembered the old, true past, and fought the new history. They fought with words, memories, guns, and their own abilities, when they had them. But for all the resistance, the Magocracy had taken the first step by organizing. The organization allowed them to defend themselves, and repel individual attacks. That was still the way things were. The mages united to hold onto the reins of power. Until a second power could organize, the mages would remain atop the political food chain.

Yellowjakket had threatened to build that organization. When a villain gets into the papers, and then the local papers start showing what the state-controlled papers won’t, people begin to notice, and question. That’s what happened. Questions became rallies, rallies became demonstrations, Demonstrations became riots. The riots started eating at the base of the Magocracy’s power. It had reached a head last night when Yellowjakket had detonated the south wall of Zahrenholt prison, releasing over one hundred children from the re-education wing. Half had been recaptured in the ensuing hours, but over half got away, disappearing into the alleys and sewers under Londinium, and Brianburgh to the north.

Selene had paid for that audacity with her life, and now Sapphire was the last to hold the mantle of Yellowjakket. She huddled in the wet muck, remembering, holding onto every memory she could recall. Replaying them again and again, trying to shut out the truth that they were gone. Holding onto every thought so that she’d never forget them. Hours passed until her feet and bum went numb from the cold water, and her legs ached as the cold crept into them. She stood slowly, her internal clock telling her it was early evening. She shook out her hair, dragging fingers through the tangled wet mess, then jogged slowly back to the west checkpoint. She had to go find a new place. First though she had to cover for her sister, and herself.

The jog back took another half hour. When she was challenged, she swallowed her despair and told the two on duty in a pompous voice, “Ask the password, wizard, I’m not afraid.” The two smirked and waved her through. That was the secret. There was no password. Odd numbered days you challenged the guards, even numbered days you teased them. Anyone who tried to answer the challenge with a password, those were the spies. That little shift in style had kept the small community safe from infiltrators.

She walked back to the small home in ‘Diagon-tubely’, and changed her hair, and borrowed some of her sister’s clothes. She packed a change of her own clothes in her backpack. She got a couple slices of bread from the oven-pantry, and spread some butter and apple slices on it, Slapping the other bread on top, she bit into it and sauntered out the front door. The first person she spotted was Simon, with his distinct limp. She gave him a wave and continued out towards the checkpoint. Once she reached it, just made another jaunty wave to the guards and jogged off, turning down the tunnel heading north up to Brianburgh.

When she was out of sight, she kicked in her power and sped to the next intersection. She found the small emergency tunnel she and Selene had found on their early forays. She moved past the rubble-camouflaged entrance, and put down the backpack, emptying it. She changed clothes, cached the food and Selene’s clothing, then sped down the tunnel to the other camouflaged end that linked with a side tunnel. The side tunnel linked back to the unblocked Brianburgh storm sewers, which she followed back to the main tunnel. She hopped over the three foot retaining wall, jogged back to the checkpoint, and back to her home.

Once home she flung herself on the mattress, and cried silently for a long time. Later, she made two more trips to her hideout. Laying in more canned food and items for an extended stay. She was going to need locations like these if Control got aggressive in coming after the escapees. She needed to find where the others at the ZaP had directed the children. They had to be moved away from Londinium for their safety.

Dark Renaissance – Chapter 1

The black-clad girl slid under the legs of the first trooper as he tried to shoot. A flick of the hand smacked him hard between the legs. She heard the strangled squall of pain, and the heavy thud of the man falling to the ground. She popped back to her feet and accelerated as bullets pockmarked the ground just behind her.

A quick turn, and a leap caught the bottom rung of a fire ladder. She pulled herself up to the first landing, then moved to the outside of the rail and jumped up, pulling herself to the next. By the time the pursuers had turned the corner, she was halfway up the twelve-story building, well out of reach of accurate fire. “Damn git. You two! Work north and call for backup, block the roads out of the district. You two, the same to the south. The rest with me, we’ll push her east. Start on the first floor. Carror\t and stick. Shoot one, offer a bribe to the others. Someone will crack. She’s a s good as ours.”

The grey armored men followed the golden armored leader to the base of the maze of towers that was called “The Rookeries”, due to most of those that lived here were desperately poor. The buildings stood up like rotted teeth. The brick facade curmbling and fallen from the concrete understructure. Ragged curtains fluttering from broken windows. Some boarded up with plywood to keep out the humid cold. The search went for hours, but the woman had disappeared like smoke. It was an angry group of officers that reported empty-handed to their equally angry captain.

Yellowjakket had pulled a set of jeans and a shirt over her costume, then joined the ranks in the halls as she worked down from the roof. She scooped some grit from the ground, and rubbed it in her hair and on her face and hands. Now properly grubby, she descended the stairs rapidly then moved onto the eighth floor, joining the throng in the market. The number of people made it impossible for the police to search every person as nine out of ten had no radio tag to identify them. Once out in the street again, she ducked back to the crumbling remains of a glassblower’s shop. Down in the basement was an entry into the sewers, and she sped through them back south into the maze of tunnels.

Yellowjakket slowed to a stop when two voices challenged her at a T-intersection of the sewers. “Holdit! Give us the word, mate”, laughed the young man in front of her. He had a pair of old green pants held up by a piece of rope around his waist, and a worn-faded green T-shirt that Proclaimed ‘Sex Pistols – London Calling’ on the front. His thumb on the trigger of a deadman switch was openly shown, as was the girl behind him with an AK-74. She held it loosely aimed at Yellowjakket. Her maroon goose down jacket a contrast to the silver-and-black of the assault rifle. Her Black capris pants covered her legs halfway down her calves, with long mismatched athletic socks peeking out of unlaced hiking boots.

“What’s the word you want?”, she asked the two with a smile. “Oho! She’s a right tricksy one”, the man said. “G’wan, yer good.” The two raised their weapons, the girl giving Yellowjakket a qucik wave and smile, then went to their posts once more. Yellowjakket sped through the maze of tunnels that were home to her and others who defied the authority. At a corner in the sewers whimsically called ‘diagon-tubely’, she angled left and slowed to a walk. Here the press of people was gone, only curtains along the sewer walls, showing where small caves called ‘homes’ had been dug out. She walked down four, and pushed the curtain open to reveal a small three room cave.

Stepping into the cramped first room/kitchen/den, She pulled the curtain shut behind her. Tapping a small light on the stove on, she dropped her backpack and continued to the left, into a small bedroom. The room had been hewed out of the loose earth, having pilings and a thick wood roof to keep the earth from sprinkling down. The bed was a mattress set on crates. The crates were open facing into the room, with each holding some clothing. The mattress, worn and collapsed, had a thick green-striped comforter for warmth.

Yellowjakket stripped out of her costume, and went back into the main room, and poured a pan of water. She grabbed a cloth and did her best to wash the sweat and smell off her body, before dressing in worn jeans and a baggy brown sweatshirt. She crawled onto the bed, and pulled the comforter over her head, losing herself to sleep.

* *************

Morning brought her awake with an uneasy start. She heard vague noises of people wandering around out in the sewer tunnel, but none inside the room. She uncovered, pulled on some work boots, then stepped out into the tunnel. The bright lights made her squint a moment, then she started back towards the entrance. The bustle of people moving to a new day filled the tunnel with sounds and smells. The scent of fried eggs had her mouth watering as she passed an open doorway. She just turned off of Diagon-tubely to the main tunnel when a voice called out, “G’day Sapphy, how have you been?” She slowed, and turned to the young man. “Hey Simon.”

Simon was older than her by a few years, with brown hair and eyes. He limped slowly to Sapphire, his left knee fused and half his foot having been blown off by the invaders four long years ago. His eyes lit up with mischief as he approached and gave her a warm hug. She returned it then stepped back. “I’m going to the front gate, my sister must have gotten up early for her shift today. She forgot to leave me breakfast.” “Musta been early, I din’t see her go by me place.” Sapphire smiled at Simon, then hugged him again. “She probably did. I’ll see you later, Simon.” He smiled and gave a wave, then turned to slowly limp back to the small grill he had set up.

She walked past other small homes with people cleaning their steps or readying for the day. Here in the tunnels, keeping things clean was a constant battle against the environment. Many of the sewers had been diverted so the rain water wouldn’t flood the living areas, but even the best walls leaked. So there was always a humid, faintly moldy smell in the air. Sapphire reached the T intersection and waved to the two girls on duty. “Binny, Susan, Have you seen Selene? I thought she’d come here early for shift.”

The smaller girl, Susan, shook her pale blonde hair. She looked up at Sapphire with one green eye and one blue. “Sorry Saph, not seen ‘er today. She’s prolly out with the others trying to nick a few things.” The other girl, Binny, shook her dreadlocks and stretched a coffee-colored arms our front palms out, fingers interlocked. “I’ve not seen her either, Sapphire. I’m about to end shift and didn’t see her go out with the …”, she stopped as a small child scrambled past screaming as a girl near the same age chased after him, a doll clutched in her arms. The two laughing children disappeared into the crowd.

“Hey, girls! You hear the latest? Control’s saying they nicked Yellowjakket last night!” Rodney Greyson came trotting towards the three girls. He stopped, placing his hands on his knees, out of breath. He looked up at Sapphire, and his face flushed a deeper red. “Oh bollocks. Saph, I’m sorry, I wanted…bloody hell I wanted to tell the girls…”, he just stopped, and watched the three. Susan and Binny looked at Sapphire, who had gone pale. “You’re sure? Control said that? You’re sure?”, Sapphire said, her hands clutching together at her waist. She twisted her hands, trying to deny his words. “You know Control. They announce all sorts of lies to keep folks under their thumb”, Rodney said. He looked away as he did, the transparent lie floating away like the fog of his breath in the tunnels.

“Saph, come her girl”, Binny said, and hugged her. Sapphire wailed, and broke away, running away from the group down the tunels and towards the surface. “Rodney, you git. You should have waited.” Rodney looked down the tunnel as Susan slapped him on the shoulder. “I know, I know. Lost her twin she has.” “Triplet you git. She’s a triplet. An’ she’s now a only”, Binny told Rodney. She looked down the tunnel where Sapphire had disappeared. “Damn girl, don’t go up today. Stay down”, she said to the echoing footsteps.

Sapphire ran until her lungs burned. She turned and ran, turned and ran, following the tunnels deeper southward, towards Londinium, or London, to those that remembered the changes. London had been part of a bustling Great Britain, when the changes knocked things askew. The government morphed from Parliment, to one controlled by monsters in human form. Control, the not so ‘secret’ arm of the Government, was tasked with capturing political dissidents. The ‘other’ part of their mandate, was to locate children with an affinity for magic, that ability to influence the world via means external to a person.

Those children were taken to Zaherenholt, where they were tested. Children who passed, were then broken via brainwashing techniques, and turned into dedicated students of the ‘Arts’. The others. The ‘lost’, who were too strong-willed, or too impotent to be full mages, were drained of their abilities, and used as fodder for experiments in necromancy and physiomancy, the molding of flesh and bone. Other ‘powered’ children, called ‘metas’ because their abilities were internal to themselves, were culled from the populace, and used as the ‘lost’ were.

These young children were initiated into the ranks of Control when they passed their final tests. As each person reached this point according to their personal ability, the ages in the ranks varied widely from around fourteen to twenty. In every case, they were cold, dedicated, and convinced of their own superiority over the masses. A true, yet twisted meritocracy.

She collapsed against the tunnel wall, sliding to a sitting position with a wet splash. Sapphire curled her legs up, wrapping her arms around them and buried her cries of pain on her knees. She sat and wept for what seemed hours. It had all been so simple growing up. Her mom, Saffron Christian, had been the first Yellowjakket.

Safron/Yellowjakket had been one of the first to take up the fight against the magocracy that grew up in London. She was an American who’d married an Englishman, and emigrated with her husband. Yellowjakket had been in the London papers for years after that. Fighting crime, uncovering conspiracies. It had read like a comic book. Then she became pregnant, and retired. She had triplets, Selene, Serinda, and Sapphire. Saffron, seeing the potential they had, started training them as soon as they could stand, to become heroes. Their father objected, and a nasty, prolonged divorce happened. Their father died two years afterwards, having drank himself to death after losing his children.

Control appeared for the first time the year they were born. It started as the magocracy worked to solidify its hold on the United Kingdom. Control was tasked to hunt down political dissidents, and ‘educate’ them to the new system. Eventually Control’s power spread to finding children to add to the mages as apprentices. The mages were still trying to solidify their hold on Great Britain, as the people, and the meta-humans, fought the system.

Metahumans, or metas, operated internally, rather than influencing the environment like mages. Their abilities came from themselves, rather from their ability to influence the environment around them. This made their powers faster to trigger, while mages took time. The problem mages had was the source of the power is the same for each. Quantum physics. If the mages cut the meta ability to reach to the quantum level, they were effectively cutting off their own link as well. So each meta had to be handled individually rather than all collectively.

Sapphire slowly pulled herself back together, but the empty ache remained. She was alone now. In the most literal sense of the word. He mom had died stopping a bombing attempt by Jihadists in downtown Londinium four years after her husband died. Selene, being the oldest triplet by a few minutes, took over as Yellowjakket. Sisters being sisters, they decided to ‘suit up’ with her and for a short while the fought side-by-side as Yellowjakket, Dove, and Shock.

Their first forays as meta heroes made them realize that all the training in the world doesn’t mean a thing in real combat. You have to get into it, and survive it. Then the training makes sense. As their efforts began to actually make a difference, the found the news reports online and in paper slowly slanting their stories against the metas. Instead of allies against corruption and crime, they became the sinister force behind it. Control began a systematic campaign to kill costumed heroes. Serinda was the one to come up with the idea of all three of them becoming Yellowjakket.

“It’s perfect! We split up, stop trouble, and confuse the hell out of Control. So long as we’re not caught on camera at the same time, we can make it look like one person. It’ll drive them barmy.”

Dark Renaissance – Prolog

Here it is.  The prolog for the story.  It’s short and I hope you enjoy the buildup .  Please comment and critique to your heart’s content.  I only get better when I learn where my weaknesses and strengths are.


Thirty years ago, humanity opened its full potential. Quantum physics had delved deep into the why and where of things, finding in truth that all things are connected in one way or another at the sub-atomic level. Spooky action at a distance indeed, as man found that fiction and science, myth and magic, all had a similar origin in the lowest levels of creation. When it was discovered that with practice, or proper manipulation of genetics, abilities and powers stepped from fantasy to reality. Future, past, all of time, became another tool to manipulate. This kind of ability and power was first jealously guarded by those in power, hoping to hoard it for themselves.

For the first years of advancement, this was true, and a shadow war of sorts developed between those who had the power, and those who discovered that power, and wanted it for themselves. This war created a new world by destroying the base of the old. History looped and twisted, changing with every experiment in time, until all realized that the loops simply fed into one another and created the amalgam that had loosed the power on the world entire. What no one had thought to realize was, that each time someone with power shifted time, they also shifted potential by exposing others in the past to the theories and abilities of the future. This exposure created that opportunity for the power, and abilities to grow outside the controls those in power had hoped to strengthen. In essence, they chased the horse out of the barn before they closed it.

This created the new world. One that constantly shifted with each trip back in time, until time itself provided the final answer by a feedback loop that stopped any rearward development. The world shifted back beyond humanity to find it’s balance, only to find man had been there already. The genie was truly out of the bottle, and what had been a world of man, became a world of powers, aspects, and man.

The heroic age had been born anew. Heroes in capes wielding mysterious and terrible powers. Puissant mages, vile demons, gods, aliens, and men who stepped beyond humanity. In this new world, evil still resided, in more grandiose, and more subtle forms. Tyrannies grew from the ashes. The world had been changed, continents shifted, countries destroyed and rebuilt anew.

North America was split by a body of water where the Great Plains previously existed. The south was drowned. Central America ceased to exist excepting numerous small islands dotting the space between North and South America. The United States was reduced to a shadow of itself. What remained of it was situated east of the Ohio-Mississippi river basin. Canada was split in thrice. The West the South, and the Northeast. Europe was split by the growth of the Mediterranean Sea, cutting Africa by drowning the Arabian peninsula. Despite every change, man still remembered what had been, and wanted to return.

The Deep End – Part 12

Carny, what the heck is that thing?”

Carny looked down at the small rectangles, then back at dean with a guiless, innocent look that Dean knew well.

He threw up his hands. “Sorry Carny, no. No speakers in here, what do you want to do, tell someone they’re being watched?”

Carny grinned, and Dean smiled to himself. Give Carny attention, fall for his lead, and he’ll tell you anything and everything.

More than that, brother. These are microwave emitters. The kind the military uses to safeguard sensitive places like, oh say, an armory.”

Dean straightened in surprise. “Microwave emitters?”

Carny nodded. “That’s right. These little beauts emit microwaves that make the skin feel like it’s burning. Works on magickal critters too. A quick zap and they’re beelining for the hills, eh.” Carny gave an evil-sounding chuckle. “Nothin’s sticking around in here when you trigger ‘em.” Carny frowned. “Well, not unless they got a reflective suit. Special ceramic fiber stuff. Hard to get.”

Please tell me these things aren’t illegal, Adair.”

Dean gazed pleadingly at Adair, who’d been listening to Carny and Dean’s talk.

I don’t know that they’re illegal, and I don’t know they’re not,” Adair replied with a vague shrug.

You’re not filling me with the warm fuzzies, Adair. If those things are illegal, I can lose my license” Dean announced worriedly.

Brother, you’re telling me you forgot how we operated? We weren’t illegal, just para-legal.”

Dean nodded reluctantly. He remembered that sometimes to catch the bail jumper, they had to resort to a few ‘gray area’ dodges, and that had left him feeling uncomfortable. It got the job done, and he could rationalize it with the guy being in jail rather than out on the streets, but some of the ‘bad guys’ weren’t bad. They’d been desperate, but not bad.

Dean looked at the cousins. “How about instead of here, we use this on their place. If we can, we do their car too.”

The cousins turned to stare at each other, and identical wolfish grins spread across their faces.

I like that idea, we should have thought of that first.”

Comes from thinking too much about defense rather than offense, Carny.”

Damn straight.”

Adair turned to Dean. “Know where these hosers live?”

Dean smiled. “I certainly do.”

* * *

The beat-up looking ivory and red pickup truck pulled into the ‘Peak Arms’ parking lot, then rolled to a stop next to an old, red Ford Marten. Three men dressed in identical work clothes exited the truck, and moved to the bed, where they gathered up a large case, a ladder, and some electrical tools.

This looks like a real rat hole, bro. These guys don’t believe in living the high life do they?”

Staying under the radar is better for them. Having it known you’re an active criminal makes things dangerous. After all, we’re here because we’re just thinking they’re involved. Just think of the crowd if they were public.”

True that.” Carny lifted out a tool belt, and settled it around his waist while Adair hauled out a large toolbox that contained the gear they expected to use in setting the bugs. The three men then walked through to the front door.

Adair sat down on the backless bench on the main floor while Dean and Carny went up the stairs to room 3A. Carny pulled out a leather case from his pocket and kneeled in front of the door. Ten seconds later the lock clicked open. Carny held his hand out in front of Dean.

Magick, bro. We gotta check for Magick alarms.”

How are you going to do that, Carney? I’m not a user, and I don’t know anyone who is available on short notice like this.”

No problem bro, Adair’ll be up in a hot minute with a cure-all for what’s holdin’ us up.”

Carney had just finished speaking when his cellphone beeped at him, if the opening chords of Bachman-Turner Overdrive’s old song ‘Takin’ care of business’ could be called a beep. Carney grabbed the phone and muted it before flipping it open.

Yeah bro, what up? Unlocked and ready for a cursory sweep, soon as we get the door tested for spells or curses.” He listened intently, a frown forming on his lips and brow furrowing.

You do it! Last time I did a casting like that I had a migraine for three days.” Dean listened and remained quiet. Carney had some small Magick he could do, but it always cost him, and that was the reason he went aircraft maintenance rather than casting corps. He sighed quietly then set about making a quick circle in chalk from the small kit he carried. A quick lopsided circle with four ordinal sigils for eyes, ears, the mind, and the spirit.

The chanting he did very quietly, no telling who might poke their head out if he did it too loudly. Ten seconds after starting a pair of shimmering walls faded into visibility. The outside of the pair had a streaked rigidity to it. The near audible ‘hum’ from it which raised goosebumps on the backs of his hands made it clear to Dean this was the alarm. The hum meant power was being fed into the wall, which meant the caster was plugged in and would feel the spell come down if it was triggered.

The inner wall was even more direct. Fire. Enough fire to likely incinerate the contents of the room and the intruder that tripped the trap. Dean looked over his shoulder at Carny, who was staring at the two walls.

Why does everything with you always find a way to be ‘worst case’, bro?” He opened his mouth to say something, then shut it abruptly. “This has to be anchored to the door, right? Someone like the super comes up and knocks, she has to avoid tripping it somehow, otherwise it’d have been set off first day in place.”

Dean nodded. “I think you’re right, Carny. Something has to allow for the spell to avoid being set off by accident. Otherwise the dead bodies would bring all sorts of unhappy mounties down on their heads.”

So what is it, bro? What safety you think it is?” The burly man continued to stare at the door. “I’m guessing hinges.”

You got a reason for hinges, Carny?”

Bro! It’s obvious!” Carny started winding up his enthusiasm and his voice.

Dean hurriedly made shushing motions as Carny’s voice started to rise. Both men looked around quickly to see if they’d drawn any attention. When neither man saw any movement in the doorways, they turned back to the warded door.

It could be the lock, Carny. You have to unlock the door to get in. A spell on the key would be just as good as sounding out a dispell, better even because no one would hear it.”

Carny’s face fell in disappointment as Dean explained. “Dammit, I was sure it’d be the hinges.”

It still could be. The hinges could be the trigger if the lock is opened without the key.”

Carny nodded curtly and pulled a coil of silver wire from a pouch on his toolbelt. Dean turned his attention back to the door and returned to chanting quietly. The door faded to a semi-transparency that allowed both Dean and Carny to observe where the two spells were anchored. Both went to the lock and the alarm went to both lock and hinges. Carny’s smile grew back when he saw the second anchor.

Knew it’d be the hinges.”

Dean shook his head slowly as he kept up the whispered chant. Carny measured by eye the distance from the middle hinge to the lock, then cut a length of wire. The two ends had each a six centimeter section bent ninety degrees, with Carny carefully peeling two thin pieces of duct tape and sticking them on the back of his hand.

He pushed the left prong slowly and carefully into the lock then taped it in place making certain not to cover the cylinder of the lock. He glanced over at Dean, then nodded.

Okay, ready for the tricky part?”lol

Dean took a few deep breaths and let the transparency spell drop. He started doing a yoga exercise to focus his concentration and got a slap from Carny.

Get yore ass in gear, bro. We don’t have time to wait for you to be centered up. We got to be in, now like.”

Dean got out his pick kit and went to work on the lock. Five seconds later he was rewarded with a soft ‘clunk’ as the cylinder rotated open. The hum from the door escalated as Dean turned the knob. Carny turned the wire so the extension pointed up and slid it in the crack along the jamb as Dean opened the door a centimeter. He let the wire rotate back to horizontal and the hum dropped away to almost quiet.

I hate that part.”

You and me both, bro. Let’s get in now like.”

The two men picked up their duffles and toolkit, then enter and closed the door behind them quietly. In the next few moments Dean quickly scanned the room, and found no wards in the room and no alarms. A quick nod to Carny and the big man opened his kit and began setting up the bugs. One micro-cam up in the corner of the room closest to the door with a microphone, another microphone under the table near the small, dingy-yellow kitchen, and a third on the ceiling above the old hanging light in the small hall that held a bathroom between the two bedrooms.

It took Carny all of five minutes to finish the setup. He looked around the small living room. The main door opened into it from the middle of the north wall, and west was the bathroom through the square archway where the light hung. The kitchen archway was just north of the bedroom and was barely wide enough for one person to enter and cook.

How long we been here?”

Four minutes. Get a move on, bro.” Adair’s whisper crackled sharply in the quiet. Carny cursed and hurriedly lowered the volume.

Give us a heads up, bro, not a heart attack” Carny mumbled as he finished packing, then he and Dean exited through the door. Dean pulled it shut and then pulled Carney’s bypass. The ward shivered, then settled back to quiescence. As the two men got to the front door, a beat up looking old utility vehicle painted with grey primer pulled into the small parking lot, and settled in the empty spot next to Adair’s pickup.

The Carre brothers stepped out of the SUV then spoke quietly in French as they walked together towards Dean and Carny. Dean ducked his head and hefted the bag he was carrying. Carny just shrugged and turned his head towards Dean.

Hey Joe, how about we got get a burger? I’m hungry.”

Dean stumbled mentally, then caught on. “Sounds good to me, but after the next job, we’re running late already.”

Hurry it up, bro.”

Yeah, I’m on it.”

The Carres walked by them, still muttering quietly in French. Dean caught a few swear words that he’d heard in the RCAF. Something’s got them a little riled up. Maybe we can find out. He walked with Carny over to Adair.

Adair, can you turn on the bugs? They’re upset about something, and maybe we can get useful information if they’re talking about it.”

Adair gave Dean a wolfish smile.

You got it my man. One fly on the wall coming right up.”

Adair opened his kit and drew out a box with dials and switches. He tapped ‘A’ then ran the dial back and forth until a voice crackled over the speaker.

It’s funking Quebecois, not even real French” Adair grumbled. “I might be able to figure out what they’re saying if they didn’t speak so funking fast.”

He focused on the conversation, which was angry and rapid fire. No way I can follow it, I hope Adair can get something. The brothers argued vehemently for another few minutes, then a loud bang echoed over the comm and the brothers went silent.

Door. They’re coming out. Get in now! We gotta be gone or they’ll know we’re after them.”

Dean jumped in the pickup bed and lay flat while Carny hurriedly entered the cab. Adair backed the truck up out of the lot onto Tilton Street, then backed up behind a fence that bordered the edge of the lot. He killed the engine as Carny hopped back out of the pickup and went to the corner and took a quick peek back towards the apartments. Adair opened the small rear window, then turned to watch Carney.

I got a name, Dandelion. Sounds like a restaurant to me. Probably downtown.”

Could be a building, Adair. We got a few with named ones around. Up in Dayning especially.”

Carny interrupted them as he put a meaty hand on the door, and yanked it open.

Let’s follow them. Upset as they sounded, what you want to bet it’s about the missing girls?”

Adair didn’t hesitate. He shifted the transmission to ‘Drive’ and rolled recklessly around the corner back into the parking lot just as the brothers vehicle exited onto Grover.

Adair paused a moment to let a few vehicles past, then pulled in to traffic, three cars back of the Carre brothers.

See ‘em up there, Carny? I’m gonna watch us and you watch them.”

I got ‘em, piece o’ crap flat black junker, right?”

That’s the one, bro.”

Good, junker sticks out like a cat in a dog pound. Gonna be easy.”

Dean lay in the back and listened to the brothers. Both of them, but Adair especially, were long-time pros at this kind of surveillance. Here’s hoping they’re stupid and lead us to the girls.

* * * * * * *

Dean lay back and closed his eyes. I can sleep now, I know I’ll feel the truck slow down when we get to wherever we’re going. It seemed like mere moments that he shut his eyes, and the truck started slowing down. He didn’t sit up right, that might draw attention. He angled his head back to look up at the open window on the back of the cab. He smelled salt and dead fish. Horns and seagulls mixed together as the truck slowed further.

Halifax dock, whatta ya bet ‘Dandelion’ is a ship name, bro?”

No bet since we’re at the West Dock, bro. That’s cheatin’.”

They spot us, Adair?”

There was a soft crash of metal, then a rattling sound of chain. Motors provided a pulsing background to the sounds of the docks.

No, but this ain’t over yet. Traffic’s thinner here and if they pull off, we’ll have to follow them, there’s not another turn for about three klicks…ah hell, there they go…wanna hope they’re real stupid Carny, otherwise this gets confrontational and none of us is a combat caster.”

Bullets do for them just as well.”

I sure as hell don’t want to find out that you’re wrong, Carny” Dean added.

What bro said” Adair replied. “He could step out of that car fully juiced and then what do we do?”

Carny mumbled something under his breath, then leaned back, bumping the glass with his head.

Get ready bro. This surveil’s hosed.”

Dean’s stomach clenched in a knot. He recognized the change in Carny’s voice. Instead of a hint of amusement, he’d gone flat. A sure sign that he was ready to go. He’d seen Carny get flat a few times in the RCAF, and once when he’d worked with Adair. Both times were when their plans got hosed and it became a potential firefight.

Carny…” Dean didn’t finish what he was going to say as the pickup suddenly accelerated and lurched hard left. The tires broke free of the crumbly asphalt and squealed as they left patches on hard surface. Adair was swearing loudly as Carny cut loose with an angry roar and popped the passenger door open.

He’s juiced! Keep the truck going! I’m getting out here!”

Carny pushed out of the cab and didn’t try to land on his feet. He hit feet first, and dropped like a paratrooper, tucking arms and legs in and rolled with the impact. He did two hard flips and landed in some soft sand. Dean lost track of him as his attention was grabbed by a blast of heat that singed his hair. He yelled in surprise and pain, dropping flat in the truck bed as Adair reversed the skid and dodged another blast of heat.

Throwing fire. Combat basic. Everyone’s scared of being burned alive.

This be your stop, Dean-o! Last shot got the radiator! I’m gonna feed him the grill! Jump for it!”

Adair screamed and straightened the truck out. Dean leapt right, and tried to imitate Carny, landing feet down then letting momentum carry him onto his hip, arms against his body and roll. Fighting the momentum is how to break bones during a drop. He hit a loose patch and fell backwards as he overcompensated.

The pavement tore his clothes and gouged his skin as he tumbled. After a few seconds he rolled off the pavement onto soft sand. That was awful. Hunh, nothing broken. I got off lucky. Back sure hurts, probably road rash.

Dean glanced up just in time to see the pickup take a fire burst in front of the passenger side door, which burst and melted the front tire. The pickup slewed then rolled once, twice, thrice before coming to a twisted metal heap just off the road. It smoked momentarily then the vaporized gasoline exploded.

Oh gods, Adair!

The Deep End – Chapter 3

Dean tidied up the last bit of his writeup for the job he’d finished. The runaway was in the hands of social services, while her dad was in divorce proceedings with her mom. Neither parent seemed inclined to put her welfare above theirs. Both were in fact, so dysfunctional that Dean had actually contacted social services for the girl after meeting her parents.

I never thought helping would be something like that. What are those people thinking? Whatever it is, it sure doesn’t include their daughter.

He finished the writing, then transcribed it to an official report on the computer. He sent one to social services, and one to each parent. He knew he was going to get stiffed for his fee, but that the courts were for. Dean didn’t feel one twinge of remorse for piling another problem on the two.

I’m glad that one’s over. I can do with a nice, quiet break.

It’s said that the time you feel the most need for a break is the time when you get the most trouble. In this case, trouble found Dean right as he was closing up the office for the night. He’d just finished turning the key in the dead bolt when a woman came through the front door and walked nervously towards him.

“Mr. Youngwood?”

Dean turned to face her as she appraoched. She was his equal in height, with deep coppery skin, black hair and deep brown eyes set in a soft, round face. She wore a pair of faded blue jeans, a red thermal shirt under a black winter coat.

“I’m Dean Youngwood. What can I do for you, Ma’am?”

She stepped closer and Dean could see worry lines creasing her face as she opened her brown purse, and pulled out a folded picture. She handed it to Dean.

“That’s my daughter. She’s missing. Her friends went out clubbing last night, and she didn’t come home. When I found out she wasn’t sleeping over at any of her friends places, I came here. I think something’s happened to her. The knot in my stomach won’t go away.

Dean examined the picture for a moment, then unlocked his office door. “Come in Mrs…ahh…?”

“Payamy. Henra Payamy. My daughter’s name is Maren.”

Dean held the door open for Mrs Payamy, then closed it quietly once they were inside. His office was a spare place, containing a desk with a chair and two guest chairs. Two file cabinets adorned the wall to the right, and a small coffee pot set on the desktop. Dean indicated the coffee maker.

“Would you like a cup? I can start it up. I usually want one right in the morning.”

She shook her head no, and sat in the closest chair to her.

Dean sat down and focused his attention on the woman, who was visibly trying to avoid breaking down in front of him. He didn’t have any tissues, so he got up, rummaged under the small counter to the left. he returned to his desk, unwrapping paper cloths. She took on and held it, twisting it in her hands constantly as she waited for Dean to say something.

“Mrs Payamy. If you want me to look for your daughter, I will be happy to do so. What I will need is the names of her friends, and places where she likes to hang out when she’s not at home.” He looked at the desk, then back into her eyes. “If I can find out where she was, then I can start following upon where she went and find out what’s really going on.”

Dean made a conscious effort to harden his voice. He knew that sometimes young girls ran away because they had fallen in love, couldn’t stand the home life, or gotten pregnant by their boyfriend and couldn’t face the family.

“Understand please, that if you hire me, I’ll find the truth, regardless of what it is. I don’t push anything under the rug.”

Mrs Payamy nodded. “I don’t care about that. I just want my baby home again.”

Dean stood up and moved around the desk to pat her arm sympathetically.

“I understand, Mrs Payamy. I’ll do my best to get her home to you.”

She didn’t nod, but left an envelop on the desk, then walked back out of the office, head up, back straight, forcing herself to remain calm. Dean watched her go, then sat down at his desk. He stared at the envelope, then opened the middle drawer. He pulled out a letter opener and carefully slit the top. Out came a class ring, two pictures, and five hundred dollars various denominations. A second letter was inside.

‘Dear Mr Youngwood: Please accept this as your retainer. I know you can’t do this for free, so I hope what’s here is adequate.

Lorna Payamy’

He put the letter aside, along with the class ring. Why she had sent that along with the money bothered Dean. A ring is a memento. It’s something you don’t part with unless a dire situation comes up. It underscored the concern the woman had for her daughter, and made Dean more determined to find the truth of the matter.

He moved everything to the middle drawer then locked it closed, and went home to sleep and tackle the problem rested and refreshed. The next morning a letter was on the floor inside his office. Mrs Payamy had dropped by and left the list of six friends, like Dean had asked for. Three had asterisks next to them, and a note at the bottom saying these three were the ones that were with her daughter the night she disappeared. A second sheet of paper had a list of four locations that she thought her daughter liked to visit. Time to go to work.

Dean went to the girls with the asterisks first. The first girl was Alys Hardisty. She was the youngest, being fifteen. She had been the first that Maren Payamy had dropped off that evening.

Alys mentioned that they’d gone to an all night diner to talk about school.

“Maren was excited, I remember. She had met some new guy, and she was crushing in a major way. She even showed us a picture of him that she’d taken when he wasn’t looking.”

“Did you get a copy of the picture from her? That would help a lot with finding them.” Dean crossed his fingers.

“Sorry. She didn’t pass it out.”

“Well, damn.” Dean thought for a moment. “Was there anything in the picture that you remember?”

The girl shrugged. “Nah, it was just a picture.”

“Okay, thanks for your time.”

Alys nodded, then closed the door. Dean went to the next two on the list and got the same answer, She showed them a picture of a handsome looking guy, but didn’t share it. None of the three girls remembered anything about the picture other than the man, who had shaggy brown hair hauled back in a ponytail, square features, and looked like he worked out. He went to the last girl’s address, hoping that he might get lucky, and he did.

“The picture? Yeah, I recognize the place because it’s where we stopped a couple of times to get beer. The guy worked behind the counter at the Kwik-Way on Docket. It’s a couple blocks from the high school.”

It was a real break. He drove down to the store, then wandered inside. Behind the counter was a grey-haired man who looked in his fifties. Dean walked up to the counter. The man looked at him.

“What brand you want?”

“Brand? Oh, no. Sorry. I’m here asking about someone who works here. Tall guy, square features, ponytail. I was in here the other day and asked about,” Dean hesitated for a moment, scanning the store, “Moosehead? I wanted to know when you guys restocked it so I could get a case.”

The Deep End – Chapter 1

“Hey Dean, how did the test go?” Carny Weston walked over to Dean Youngwood, giving him a fist bump as a greeting, and falling in next to him as Dean walked to his car. The sidewalk was full of pedestrians in a hurry to get lunch. The noon whistle had blown only a minute before Dean had exited Precinct Four after taking his test. He’d come dressed for the weather, and Dean was thankful for his bit of preparation. The snow was coming down thick and slushy, sticking to anything it landed on. The weather station had promised wet snow and the station had got it right. Dean smiled at Carny a little wistfully, then stuck his hands in his jacket pockets.

“You know, I think I did pretty good. But…,” he paused and Carny’s face fell. His blonde beard was already festooned with fat flakes that were threatening to turn his whiskers into an ice sculpture. Carny’s blue and black checked hunting jacket was doing much better, the snow giving Carny the look of a man with a completely out of control dandruff problem. His shoulder length blonde hair combined with his beard made him look like a modern viking.

Dean by contrast to Carny’s appearance, had short black hair irregularly cut, a testament to ‘don’t do this at home in a mirror’, and dark brown eyes that almost looked black. He’d put on weight since his days in the Canadian Air Force, and had a slight gut. His swarthy skin made him look piratical, but in fact Dean was a full-blooded Cree. He wore a pair of thick blue denim work pants, and a matching blue coat to protect him from the cold. His last name, Youngwood, was his adopted parents name. He chose it for his own despite some protests by fellow Cree.

“Aw man that s…,” Carny started to say, but Dean pulled a piece of yellow paper out of his jean pocket and held it in front of Carny’s nose.

“I think they believed so too, because they gave me this little piece of paper.” Dean smiled as Carny whooped and enveloped him in a bear hug.

“Way to go, man! Way. To. Go!”

He ceased hollering as people around them stopped and stared at the exuberant spectacle. Carny put Dean back on the ground and the two continued their walk back towards Carny’s pickup. When they reached the battered green truck, Dean glanced at Carny as he opend the passenger door, “How about lunch on me? I passed the exam, I think we should celebrate at ‘The Shake Shack’. I haven’t had a artery-clogging hamburger and fries for a couple weeks.”

Carny laughed, and opened the driver’s door.

“Sounds great! how ’bout we stop by Tim Horton’s afterwards to get a coffee and donut as dessert?”

Dean grimaced. “I’d love to, but I think I’ll pass on that. I can only handle so much decadence.”


“Guilty as charged.”

“Dammit, it’s no fun if you don’t insult back. Where do you get off being agreeable?”

“The same place you get off by trying to start something.”

Carny laughed again and pressed the start button on the dashboard. The vehicle rumbled as the engine refused to start, then caught with a roar. Dean settled back in his seat as Carny wheeled the vehicle out of the parking lot, and into lunch-hour traffic.

While they slowly worked their way towards their destination, Carny asked Dean, “So where are you going to hang your shingle?”

Dean stared forward out the windshield, watching the fat flakes of snow descend on the barely moving vehicles.

“I was thinking up around Shannon Park. The area is old and poor, but a lot of decent sorts there. I could probably get by.”

Carny looked over at Dean as though Dean had sprouted a second head.

“You’re nuts, you know that? I understand wanting to help people, but first you gotta get on your own feet. Helping people is good, but if you can’t keep a roof over your head, how you gonna help someone else?”

Dean shrugged, then looked over at Carny.

“You blew big holes in that idea. Yeah, I’d like to help out that way. Lots of folks could use a little help to solve problems. Hell, maybe solving the problems would fix something.” He sighed and turned back to watch the traffic in front of them. “But you’re right. If I can’t keep a place open, I don’t do anyone any good.” He turned his head towards Carny again. “So what would be your plan?”

Carny shrugged, then replied, “What about joining a detective agency for a bit. Get a name, take care of a few cases. Hunt down a few bail jumpers. Whatever. An agency would get your feet wet for a regular paycheck, and getcha experience without worrying about rent.”

Dean listened quietly. The traffic began moving once more and the two lapsed into silence for the three minute drive over to ‘The Shake Shack’.

After thy sat down with their food, Dean took a bite out of his burger.

“You’re angling for me to work with your cousin, aren’t you?”

Carny smiled and took a hefty swig from the straw in his drink.

“See? That’s why you’re the detective. You can figure things out.”

Dean shook his head. “I know you think your cousin’s a good guy, Carny, but I’m not sure he’d be the best one to work for starting out. I mean, he’s a skip-tracer, not a private investigator.”

“That’s why he’s perfect to work with. He’s been there, done that, and can give you pointers into how to use your newfound legal license the best way possible. It’s a steady paycheck, and you help by getting bad people off the streets.”

“And I have to track down people who’s only crime was that they can’t pay on their car, and I have to take it away, and they lost their job because they can’t get to work to pay bills and help their families.”

Carny’s face drooped. Dean figured he’d tried to be helpful. Carny was always trying to look out for friends. He and Dean had spent a hitch in the Canadian Air Force for four years as mechanics working on the old F-22 Raptors that had survived The Change. They’d gotten along and worked well together. Then became in-laws when Carny had married Dean’s adopted sister Carol. In the three years they’d been married, Carol had two pairs of twins. The first pair were girls, and the second were boys.

Dean shook his head. then took another bite from the burger.

“Say I join your cousin, do you get anything for referring me?”

“No, I just thought he’d be a good place to start.”

Dean nodded. “Okay. I’ll go see him. No promises. I’m still not certain that I want to do this, but you’re right, I have to start somewhere.”

“Cool! I’ll drive you…”

“Ease up Carny, I’ll drive over this afternoon. You need to get back to work, Carol’s probably going crazy with four crazed munchkins running around.”

Carny set his drink down and grabbed at his potato wedges, stuffing two in his mouth. he chewed, then swallowed.

“She probably is, eh? Carol’s a great mom. Though she’s got a temper.”

Dean shrugged. “Well, you would too with four kids in diapers and needing constant supervision. I bet she’s exhausted by the time you get home.”

“Yeah, she is.” He turned to look at Dean. “Speaking of that, wanna come by and spend time with your nieces and nephews? I could take Carol out on the town, maybe a movie, eh?”

Dean chuckled. “Okay, okay. I get it. When do you want me by?”

“How about five-thirty? I’ll be home by then and you can show up. the kids’ll love seeing you.”

“Yeah, I bet. My back’s still sore from the last time they loved seeing me.”

Carny chuckled and finished off the last potato wedge.

“You adore them as much as they adore you. Admit it for once.”

Dean shrugged, smiling. “What, and ruin a streak?”

National Novel Writing Month – Brandished Destiny – Part 7

Back on proper numbering and hopefully back on track with posting pieces.  Things get a little shaky here.  Fern’s talk with Rynun did not go well and the hint of a war that her niece might be central to has her very much out of sorts.


Once we arrived and parked, Sinera quickly hurried up to her desk and began sorting through mail and messages. I went to sulk in my office. I hadn’t worked off my mad completely, so it was a good idea to waste some time in a snit, then pull myself back together. The old windup clock on the window shelf ticked away as I pulled the bottle from the torn inner coat pocket and dropped it with a touch of malice into the bottom drawer and kicked it shut. I took off the trench coat and hung it on the coat tree behind my desk and between the windows. As I turned toward my desk I was already trying to fit pieces together. Fifteen minutes later I wasn’t pulling my hair out in frustration just yet, I was just in a real bitchy mood.

I wanted answers now, and lord knows they weren’t going to come to me in the mood I was in. So, since today seemed to be all about reminiscing, I walked back out to the PT cruiser, got in and started it up, then went up into Dayning to visit Zhirk.

His family was all gone excepting his mom, who had been transformed into a fairy when the Change had reached Halifax. His sister died in the riots, and his dad a while after that. Fawn and I had chipped in money to have his remains buried next to his dad and sister in the back yard of their old house. It had been cared for while Zhirk was alive, but after three years of neglect it had started looking worse for wear. The grey-green color had faded to a flat sort of grey-brown, and the weeds had conquered the formerly manicured lawn around the house. The windows were still intact, but someone had kicked in the back door. I hoped they didn’t do too much damage to the place.

Fawn and I had gotten a small token from the place to remember him by after the remains had been interred. The Fairy that was his mom flitted in the back yard. Maybe at some level she did know, and mourned. The day was becoming way to melancholy. I wanted something to divert me out of this bad mood, only Fawn was still at work, and my relationship with Larry had changed after Fawn had gone with me while pregnant with Zhira. We still talked when I came over, but usually it was Fawn that invited me, not Larry. He held a grudge, and I understood it. He and Fawn managed to save their marriage through a buttload of hard work, but that work didn’t include forgiving me.

I was mostly okay with that. I had a lot of guilt over everything that happened, and Larry’s anger with me felt like I deserved it. I probably should have gone and talked to someone about it, but I chose to bury myself in work to avoid thinking about it. It worked for the most part, and I managed to finally make peace with all that happened. The big change was Zhira. Believe me, a child’s innocence can really lift weight off your shoulders. There’s just something about watching a child grow and explore, especially the really early years. They’re a bundle of innocent curiosity.

I pushed open the remains of the back door and stepped inside. The basement was poured concrete walls and floor with a couple windows set just above ground to let light in. A pair of child-sized bicycles lay next to the door, their spokes stomped out and bent. A larger adult pair were no longer here. Toward the far left wall was the gas heater, and a dust-caked white washer and dryer. A couple steel posts held up the floor. I walked ahead to the stairs up to the kitchen. Four steps up, a left turn on the landing and six steps more place me next to the refrigerator in the kitchen. The living room was just beyond, and to my left was another set of stairs that went up to the bedrooms and the single bathroom. Yeah, I’d been here before.

Once to help Zhirk pick up some clothes and things for obscuring ritual, and then here to talk with him on occasion and try to keep the place looking lived in. Right now there was a pile of towels from the bathroom in the living room, along with a sleeping bag and a couple of opened cans. Normally I’d be looking for the squatter, but I just didn’t have the urge to do anything other than take a short tour of the rooms, and walk back down the basement and go out to where the graves were.

The headstones were still there. A bit of painted graffiti was on each one. The fluorescent yellow on the dark basalt made my stomach turn over. I took a deep breath and let it go. Zhirk wasn’t here any more, nor were his family. All that was here were bits of carved rock for others to remember them. Zhirk would have told me to leave be and concentrate on what really was bothering me, which was the war. There had to be some way to figure out what Rynun had meant and maybe stop it before it starts. Yeah, I bought in. I believed Rynun that something bad was going to happen soon. I just couldn’t not brood about it because he’d intimated that Fawn was in the middle of it too, which meant Larry and Zhira would be affected. Which would then affect me on a deeply personal level.

Yeah, we’re all selfish motivations. And selfish or not, war doesn’t just affect one family. It could very well affect all of Nova Scotia, or all of Canada. I didn’t know the scope, what it was about, or really anything, and I had no place to start, and that frustration got me out here, visiting ghosts that couldn’t do anything but listen to a short ginger girl complain about all the crap she doesn’t know. Sometimes it’d be nice to have something other than a one way conversation, but I’m not a spirit medium, I can’t talk to ghosts, and vice-versa. Even with all this Magick in me, that is one of many things I can’t do.

As much as I wish Magick was a cure-all, it’s not. Magick is good for brute-forcing solutions, and rituals can do detail but they take effort and a lot of control to do right. Magick at times has its own agenda, and when you’re part of it, life gets interesting. The worst part is not knowing if you’re falling into someone’s agenda even if you’re already hip deep. I stuck around and did pull some weeds, wiped the dust and mud off, and bade them fare well until the next time. The trip home was about the same as the trip out; melancholy with a bit of simmering resentment at the absolute lack of information.

I got back just around sundown, Sinera had already left for the evening as did most of the other businesses on the floor. That gave me the quiet I wanted. Was I obsessing over what Rynun said? You bet I was. It may be hubris, but the hint that Fawn and I were in the middle of something like a war made me wonder at what I could do before fertilizer hit rotating air mover.I think I worried it to the bone and gnawed all the way through trying to understand why. And no, I normally don’t get obsessive like this. At some level I think I understood that I was placing way to much into one cryptic statement, but I couldn’t let it go. TO get back to the situation at hand, as I was about to fall asleep at my desk, I realized that I did have one person I knew that might find answers. The question was, would Larry actually be willing to help?

The only way to find out was get up the next morning and drive over to Fawn and Larry’s and ask. It took some self-coaxing to get me moving that direction, but move I did, and twenty minutes later I was in front of Fawn and Larry’s. Their house had a sense of stoic cheer, which fit both of them. Making a marriage work takes a willingness to keep at it during bad times. It’s too easy to go elsewhere and look for new and exciting partners. Neither of them ever did. I envied them that steadfast commitment. But it wasn’t commitment I wanted. Answers were more important. Answers, and telling Fawn. She needed to know, and so did Larry.

The first person to greet me was, naturally enough, Zhira. “Antie Fernie!” She squealed in delight and tottered towards me on unsteady but excitedly animated legs. I swept her up in a big hug as she reached me and we shared happy giggles. Fawn walked out of the front door. She was in blue jeans with a plain formerly white sweat shirt that had seen enough use to turn a faded ivory. Larry was right behind Fawn and dressed like her in blue jeans, but he had a light blue denim shirt. I put Zhira down and gave my sister a hug. Larry stayed a few steps back and have our moment together.

Finishing our hug, we all walked back into the house. I went over and sat at the circular table near the kitchen while Fawn got Zhira a glass of water, and she and Larry grabbed beer. I took a water myself. Both Fawn and Larry sat down opposite me. They knew something was up. I always called when I was coming over. I didn’t so this time.

So Fern” Fawn said as she looked over her shoulder at Zhira who had set her glass down and was on her hands and knees in front of their St. Bernard, Karl. The dog was down in front of Zhira, front feet splayed out, butt in the air. He took off like a puppy and banged through the screen door into the back yard. Zhira was toddling right after him, laughing all the way. She turned back to me after the circus had gone outside. “What has got you so wound up? You usually call when you come over.”

I looked over to Larry. “I need some help in figuring out what Rynun said when I met him at the cabin yesterday.” I told them of his cryptic statement about me and Fawn and the war. Larry’s face darkened as I finished the short talk while Fawn split her attention between Larry and I. I know Larry was about to explode all over me because of this, but he couldn’t blame me for it. Getting the word from Rynun made it a trusted source which meant arguing wasn’t going to change the truth. I gave them everything, including my trip to see Zhirk’s place.

So, you’ve been obsessing about what Rynun said, and driving yourself crazy looking for an answer before you have any information to figure an answer out from. Did I miss anything?”

No Larry, that’s about it. Though hearing you say that way stings a little.”

You should think about what you have and are trying to do, Fern. You’d have less problems.”

It was a not so subtle dig that I didn’t take care of business. We’d been at each other off and on depending on how much Fawn was a part of whatever was being discussed. This was obviously way too much for Larry to stay calm and rational. Fawn and Zhira were his life. Anything that might cause trouble was going to be met head-on and conquered either by wit or Magick. I felt for him. I did. After having to watch my sister nearly die twice from Preeclampsia during her pregnancy, I finally understood the helplessness of knowing that I had no ability to help, nothing but to watch, and pray, and stay by her side.