“Two hours to go and the city could blow up.” Goodstone spoke in Rory’s ear.
“Okay. Will give you that. But there is going to be something happening downtown.”
“Who tol’ ye tha’?” Rory slipped into a shadow, feeling his way through, emerging a block away. The smell of grease and old Chinese food filled the alleyway.
“I’ve got a hunch.”
Rory hesitated again. “A hunch? You?”
“Pattern recognition, subconscious instinct, or a hunch. Take your pick. How is the search going?”
Rory slipped into the shadows again, he felt the coolness lick across his sunburned skin and shifted between the spaces. “Poorly. I’m goin’ on a half rumor. From someone who has way too many information streams. Across an impossible city. Lookin’ fer people tha’ are actin’ funny.”
“Point taken. Anything beyond the usual patterns?”
“Nay lad, these folk know when ta run fer cover. Practically e’eryone on tha streets has tha’ look. They know whut ta do when the flyin’ saucers start ta fly down their street.” Rory noted, yawned. He incanted again, feeling the sigils and power centers tattooed on his body tingle a little.
That was something. Somewhere between here and way over there.
“Got a bite.” Rory tapped on the seashell twice. “Slinger! Time fer a quick lesson!”
“Oh my god Rory, you could not- pick- a- worse-time!” The young womans voice carried over the aetherial current.
“Oh ah kin. Part o’ downtown is ’bout ta blow up. Quit foolin’ round wit tha’ bamboo and get yer arse down here.” Rory heard some swearing in Korean. “An’ tell yer Master tha’ ‘e still owes me a chess game.”
More swearing in Korean.
“Like, I’m totally on my way. BEE -ARR-TEE!”
Rory sighed, then tried another direction along the shadow paths. He gently probed out in several directions, the emerald energy flowing off the spell warped and was pulled back into the leylines.
“Hartlan!” Another voice on the line.
“An’ people wonder why ah dinna ha’e a cell phone. Whut ye want Goodstone?”
“Where is it?”
“In the off quoted words o’ Pacino. Ah’m workin’ ‘ere!” Rory tried further to the north. Nothing. Small tingles in another direction. “Gettin’ close. Right then, all points! Hospital downtown, research center north wing, or there ’bout. An’ ‘ere’s the really important part when yer start ta look fer the bomb.
“Look fer somethin’ extremely normal. Somethin’ ye’d nay look at twice. Tha’ perspective change twill help ye find it. Feels hot on the aether, power magnet o’ some sort.” Rory waited for confirmation along the aetherial communication strands. Then after a half-dozen confirmations, he snapped off the aetherial link, then pushed through the shadow paths.
He pushed through several layers getting faster as he pushed through the cloudy fog. The outer world paled. There were smaller entities here. Lost souls trapped beneath the layers. Rory made a mental note, would be good for Slinger to see these. Potential fates for those who tread places who are not trained.
Getting closer, he was pulled now. Closer to the source of the disturbance. The place was active with energy. Something he couldn’t identify. It was if he stepped into another persons home, made by the same architect. Hauntingly familiar.
“Master Hartlan.” The cool timbred voice rolled through the shadow path as he emerged. Looking over, he looked to the sharp lines of the white armani suit. The impossibly young face, and the dark shine of the demons exoskeleton, the dark thin spines where hair should be were neatly pointed back. The thick rimmed sunglasses were the same darkness of it’s hide.
“Master Boggart, ‘grats again on yer promotion. Full Magi, way ta go fer breakin’ stereotypes.” Rory patted the demon on the shoulder.
“Indeed Sir. The disturbance seems to be coming from the north. In the courtyard. It is… disturbing on a personal level.” The demon stroked a hand over the spines on his head in a surprisingly human manner.
“Dinna be ‘shamed Boggy. Ah got the same feelin’ as well.” Rory looked to the courtyard. “Evacuation Engine?”
“Already engaged, and testing is clear. No foreign bodies. No traps and no risk for moving the population.” The slightly crisp british tones crawled into the practiced tongue of the dark demon. “Shall we mass evacuate?”
“Nay, somethin’ new. Somethin’ the bomber could na’ ever predict. Which is most likely why they brought me in.” Rory smiled then tapped the shell in his ear. “All units, prepare for floor by floor evacuation. Give tha City Emergency Care Team somethin’ ta worry about. Critical care an’ birthin’ ward first. Then down tha’ list. Highest priority ta’ lowest.”
“Hartlan! There’s a group coming-”
Rory took a step forward approaching the hospital. His canvas shoe felt the curb and suddenly-
Roar of the waves. Tall yellowed grass, sunbleached growing out from between the craggy rocks, sky sunshine yellow, the air is cool with fall.
There is nothing but fun and light and his new friends. They have strange long names, lilting like his Nana’s singing. She was born in their lands. But they know to protect him. Even though their feet don’t quite touch the ground. He feels safe there, and there is nothing but play.
He looks down and sees the orange logo on the rubber boots. Rory loves the way they sound when his feet squish down, and that funny sound, sometimes it’s like farting. Which is sooo funny! The leaves are crunchy underneath too.
Then he steps again towards the edge of the coast, something is wrong with the angle. He should be able to see the shore from here, if it weren’t for the-
“Blister!” Rory shouted, stepping onto the sidewalk. Sirens surrounded him, emergency vehicles were running left and right. He looked to the other magii in the street. They seemed as puzzled and as he was. “Wait, where- I was just-”
“I’m not a boy!” The blonde haired young woman grabbed the lapels of his leather jacket, shouting in his face. “Rory?”
“What in all of Retail was that?” She whipped around, looking for the source. “That was- What? I was a little boy!”
Rory closed his eyes for a moment and threw a protective spell around the two of them. Feeling the warm air blow around, the faint smell of green hills. He focused then began to study the area.
The Emergency Team was moving in slow motion, small wakes of deliberate movement echoed off their angles. There, that one was sprinting towards the stretcher. This one was waving down the helicopter. A third completing a mass teleportation.
Pedestrians caught up in the wake, tumbled and spun towards the street. Vehicles moved further away from the hospital. Light beacon spun around from atop the ambulance.
Hartlan smiled, then he began looking to the wakes and eddies that people were leaving behind. That was want the bomber wanted, and the bomber wanted it concentrated right over….
“There!” Rory yelled over the din. “Source located! Mass Evac! Priority Override Hartlan Seven!”
The tall towers downtown began to hum, and the masses of civillians and vehicles were teleported out of the area. The remaining half-dozen magii blinked and began their chanting, concentrating on the area that Rory had pointed to.
“I’ve got nothing.” A grey-scaled man reported, his transistor radio voice crackled. He patted down his pockets, then pulled out a small grey box with a couple of brass dials. “It was there. I know it was. For a moment, perspective wasn’t here or from me-”
“Anyone else feel like they were going nuts?”
“I’m not a little boy.” Slinger muttered as she swirled her hands, light trailed from them. She watched the pull of the energy towards where Rory was walking.
“Tis feeds off o’ chaos.” Rory patted his breast pocket and then pulled out a set of dice. Grinning he pointed to the most ordinary rock that anyone could have overlooked.
The other Magii stepped back and began their own transportation.
“Hartlan, if you set it off-” A woman, clad only in furs and leaves, barked at him, pointing a mossy club.
“Whut? If it doesn’t explode, is it a bomb? Whut is it then?”
The other Magii were silent.
“Slinger. Find the next one. Feed me cat tomorrow. Be careful, she’s a right furious pussy.” Rory began shaking the dice in his hand. “Get out all o’ ye.”
“Rory. Master said-”
“Ah got this. C’mon now. Papa needs a new pair o-” The dice flew through the air towards the concentration, his own spell wrapping around the random spinning.
The other Magii fled. Some through the air, others into cloud, one saluted him as he strolled away.
‘Heh, cool guys dinna look ba
The burst of light slid under every door frame. It reflected off of every surface for a nano second. The satellites, once thought to be dormant, found the pattern of a nuclear blast but did not move, as it was only half the profile. Every person and entity stopped for a moment and wondered what it was. Others began moving towards the source of the light. Shadows once malevolent paused, and sighed at the small respite.
The fog blew down the streets, pushing down and out, a twenty-foot tall wall of evaporation.
They said months afterwards that the place still had the smell of a coastline.
Slinger rushed back to the site. There was one small form there, horribly crumpled. She whipped back her head, hair sticking only to wet cheeks.
“Rory you stupid…” She said then landed softly next to the red-haired lump.
She held her breath looking to the man. The black leather jacket was in tatters, charms and trinkets spilling onto the pavement. The green t-shirt somehow still intact. Those stupid jeans that he got in Japan, black with the long eldritch swirls in neon green.
She reached down and choking back a cry, felt his neck. Then confused, trying another spot.
“No, no, no..”
The mass beneath her finger jumped, and coughed.
“Oh tha’ suck royal teat.” Rory coughed again hoarsely. He thought the words were coming out of his mouth, but the coughing interrupted him. Rolling over to his hands and knees he looked down. The dice were there. Snake eyes.
“Hartlan. Look at me.” Slinger stood back. Her defensive spells automatically coming to her fists. The Pendragon Mask wrapped around her face. She shifted back, ready to attack.
‘Smart girl.’ Rory thought as he looked up.
Solid white beams of light emerged from beneath his eyelids.
That light, that energy was coming from-
“Call me therapist-” Rory said quickly then fell to the pavement.