30 November 2010

New Twists in the Path

I woke up at my desk again... wait, not my desk... How did I end up... in Dr Beck's office?

Right... Father and the others suited for underwater operations went after Qli, I headed the Becks surgery to prep it for triage...

Red Fire.

I turned to see the rest of the surgery, and the pool of blood... but no body? Think, girl - what happened here?

Near as I can remember, I had an episode in the Madness. I searched the desk for notes. No receipts for the morgue, the sheriff or even the cold storage units at the Consulate... but the formulas here....

Oh, no.

After all the nagging I did about the reanimation serum, Father is going to be really upset to find out I made an alternate batch.

Now I have to find a wandering ex-corpse.

05 November 2010

The Boxcar

I have the memories of five warriors, but this would be my first battle on home territory under my own power. Preparing for it had been by spinal reactions, but inside, there was a small corner of my brain looking for a place to hide. Waiting for the go signal, that small piece of me wanted to run, but I knew this was something that needed to be done.

Suddenly there was too much going on, keeping track of the patrol made up of Jaegers who had learned to swim and Qli taking Beck out of harm’s way - that which was called Steel Head by the urchins was cornered, even if it did not know. As soon as it realized it was cut off, we would need to banish it quickly.

Zaide’s notes said the key to the thing would be something small, easily carried by the primary life form of the plane. Finding it visually in this morass of flotsam was difficult, especially while dodging the large bodies in battle. The boxcar was huge if you were searching for something that fit in the hand, but far too small for a patrol of Jaegers to duke it out with something making a bid for demigod. At Father’s shout, I risked flying by wireframe in Sight.

THERE! It glowed feebly with Beck’s soul trapped in the web, and I was horrified to find the web was made up of the wisps of the souls caught before him! The thing was making the prison stronger with each soul it caught to anchor! Smashing it would do no good, Beck would die, and the others would not go on to the planes of their beliefs.

Papa picked up on my distress, and growled, “Do vat hyu must, Hy will coffer.” With his bulk between me and that thing that did not belong here, I had to move fast. Unmaking something made by a mind this twisted was hard, like trying to explain land physics to a fish, but I had a little help from Beck, as he roiled about in the center, and oddly enough, from Chi Yun. He had been tapped as a herald, but had been killed before the call had pulled him in completely. He writhed in impatience as we unwove the prison holding them.

Beck’s sluggish reactions meant he would need help finding his way, but we had that already. As Chi Yun joyfully folded into the space between planes for his reincarnation, and what was left of Polish Bob was gathered to Purgatory for reformation, I gathered Beck up and pitched him to the catcher on the pier, mentally shouting **Lady Fairycat! Heads up!** Even as she winced at the horrid (and really unintentional, honest!) pun, Softpaw pulled his soul and body back together.

Then Ya Yiwama got angry.

Thrashing about, it reached for the tooth, throwing the patrol around as if they were children's toys. The last bit of the tooth was still holding him here, and I frantically incinerated it, the last of the ash disintegrating to nothing just before the thing reached Papa. When it was gone, so was Steal Head, then something shifted under the boxcar, and it began to slide into the harbor. Papa shouted, “Shift out, Hy get out onder!” and he dove for the opening on the underside of the boxcar, following Decebalus and Radu.

Qli was wedged up against the wall, not moving. I was able to reach her as the water reached half-way up the tilting boxcar floor. At my touch, she initiated a galvanic transmission, [SELF-DIAGNOSIS: TESSERACTOR DESTROYED. SPINAL COLUMN DESTROYED. LIMBS DESTROYED. SAVE YOURSELVES. COLLECT ME AFTER. POWERING DOWN.] I kissed her forehead and promised, “I will be back for you after I get the diving gear.” Then I slipped between planes to the place Father had designated as the medical triage area.

13 October 2010

It just keeps getting worse....

Fine, I get Mama to rest a few days, and she sets up a containment circle for neophyte epmaths in the Folly garden. At least this time she did it with the notes I left, and it isn't draining her to leave it up.

Beck's been missing for too long, and not in any of the usual spots he goes to pollute himself as part of his self-medication. I didn't get a link on him, my fault - I didn't think he'd go that far on walkabout. I'll tag him when we find him again, with or without his permission. Need to get with that jeweler and find out what we can trace, if we can manage a shield that will let her sense him without getting out of control.

Control - I haven't been keeping my shape well, if the reactions from Mama's assistant are any gauge. I thought I had managed to stay unnoticeable, but either I have cracks in the glamorie, or she's seen too many of what she calls "uncanny" acts. I don't know, maybe it's just because she knows me now. I'm tired enough it could be I am just forgetting to check it.

Father has his hands full of zombies again. I swear, they ought to just have inoculations every equinox, considering how often that comes up again. Except for that librarian, and the ones Father is able to treat, zombies are a bloody nuisance, literally. There's a weird thought... the librarian zombie seems to have the best social skills, I ought to see if it is the knowledge, instead of brains, that they need.

Back to Steelhead, flying on too little sleep, I go to ground before Xavael starts to patrol. Even with the bloodline trace, it's hard to believe the link to the Founder. Still gives me the shakes remembering the emergence.

Wolfgang is usually on watch when I get in. He wrinkles his nose at me when I collapse on the davenport without taking off my armor. Sorry to be such a slob, but I don't think anybody's going to sleep without some sort of weapon in hand. Papa was half-dozing in the armchair, last time I was there, and he had switched back to his old patrol leathers. The 'kin haven't had any leave time lately, but the hunt has caught their attentions.

Still, this can't go on much longer. I need sleep.

09 September 2010

Hell Week All Over

Between interviewing the staff that were having sleep problems, tracking down trace evidence for the Quester, and trying to keep the staff from forming an angry mob, I’ve been distracted from a situation I can feel but can’t help. Not that I could leave my duties here, but there is something going on... later.

What with the Gallifreyans occasionally dropping by for a cryptic bit of interrogation over tea now and again, I figure I eventually figure out how to time-shift between planes, or they have me confused with my sister. You don’t know her yet, so don’t worry. The one that dropped by this week was mercifully brief, and I dropped a bug in her ear about checking on my brother in a few decades. I can’t get more specific than that from this angle.

I got a quick visit from Great Uncle Ibiz, after I sent him a note with questions about shielding others from psychic attacks. His lessons came just in time, what with Hâjdău fretting over her beau, and others on staff worrying about their families. Aunt Kitla has been setting wards along many of the residential streets, focusing on protecting the Managers and Council first, as they are going to have to take the lead against... whatever is coming.

That was an interesting interview, going to Manager Lunar and asking his permission for the equations to be formed. His main worry was that it would make us seem unfriendly to all. Aunt Kitla reassured him that the wards would only work on those with intent to harm. I quietly had a word with one of the owls later, asking if they could keep an eye out for us. I got a cryptic, sort of feeling, sort of “If we have time” from them. I may fly, but I still don’t understand birds.

Another cryptic one is the watcher for Antfarm. I managed to snag a salmon over the falls before dropping in yesterday morning, and the tomcat was waiting on the front porch. [he sleeps now, and not so many nightmares from the other place] he said before tearing into the salmon I had field-dressed. While he ate, I checked the wards I had put on the house. Still there, and this one was a bit hinky, since I set them up without Mr Antfarm’s permission. Not that he could see them. I think. But they were to protect him, and unlike the personal protections I did for the staff, I was able to link these wards to the ley lines on the property. The tomcat spoke up suddenly, [watch your head - the one coming is old - very old - likes sneaking up on the sleeping ones]. I nodded, [Thank you, cousin, I will].

Normally, my next stop would be Dr Beck’s office, but I was too tired for another argument-that-was-only-a-discussion-about-his-health, and headed for the Consulate office. The clerk’s den was buzzing, much like any industrious hive, but there was an undertone to the murmurs, one that did not bode well for the perpetrator of the dreams. There is fear, but a lot of the staff are transmuting that into anger. The ones from the Old Country don't take well to being manipulated like that. Aunt Kitla’s report has already made the rounds of the desks here, and they seem to understand her conjecture that there is a pawn being used, one that is not well educated enough to be a sorcerer calling up an Elder God. This is the benefit of having an educated populace, at least they have a proper discussion before voting to take up pitchforks and torches.

Hâjdău greeted me with a cup of tea and a pastry from the galley, and generally fussed over me until Mama was done with the courier in her office. Mama has one rule about going into her office - if the door is closed, you don’t go in unless the building is on fire. The kid looked much more rested than the last time I saw her, and miles better than when I first saw her for her nightmares. While I ate, she gathered the reports on the Quester’s needs for me, and typed up my rough notes on my last patrol for Vater. We finished up about the time the courier left Mama’s office, and as I was putting my plates at the galley, I heard someone sneeze. Hâjdău muttered, “sănătate,” as a few others absently said “bless you,” and Mama responded, “mersi”.

When a few heads popped up at that exchange, I grabbed my bag out of the aether and went to her office. Considering the last time Mama was ill, it was from that expedition into the Mines, and that was almost two years ago. “What have you been doing, other than too much?” I asked as I began the examination. She waved at me irritably, “I am fine, just tired.” Her shields were fairly thin, though. “How many are you shielding, now?” I asked, knowing her technique was to spin out additional shields from her personal ones.

She shrugged, “Family, students and some of the staff... maybe fifteen, all told. No, I added Miss Blackheart to the network after the meeting, sixteen.” Then she sneezed again.

“Hâjdău, could you go get the captain, and Messenger, please let the Baron know Mama is on sick leave.” Mama’s assistant dashed off and Messenger nodded, asking “How long do you estimate she will be unavailable?”

“Normally, I’d say two weeks, but it will be a fight to keep her in bed more than a few days.” He nodded and began drafting a note for Vater. Mama was not at all happy about it, “Why are you bringing Captain Veles in on this?” I was still checking her over, and not liking what I saw. “Because the only way to get you to rest properly is to set your bodyguard on the detail, and Aunt Birdie is still at Bunică’s house.” She started winding up for a debate, but as soon as Papa showed up with Hâjdău trailing behind, she probably saw it was not an argument she would win.

“Fine, but I am still expecting reports...” she muttered, until Papa shook his head, and led her from the office to the house. Hâjdău asked as they left, “Is she really cut off from the daily reports? We really should have something for her, or she’ll worry.”

“And worrying will not help her get better, true. Send a copy of the morning reports, and I’ll make sure she sleeps through the afternoon dispatch.” I nodded, “Good thing you’re here - you’d be wasted in the schloss.” With that, I closed the door to Mama’s office and left on foot, following my own advice to get some rest.

20 August 2010

When Others Are Losing Theirs

I've only been cleared for flight for a week, now. Seems I had some residual damage from the divine revelation, even with the instinctive actions from my eyes. Luckily, Wolfgang was able to let me link to his eyes well enough to get me off the pagoda. Mama says he's designing winged apparatus, now. Good thing I don't have to see to planes shift, she was pretty upset.

Great Uncle Ibiz grounded me until my vision came back to 20/1, but I was able to see well enough to walk in a few days, so I took some time to work on his project, interviewing the old aunties in the villages on the Dyne watershed. They were delighted to have someone to talk to them about the begets of the village. Not a lot of new information, but it all gets recorded, in case it is needed for another project.

I filed copies with the local census department, and headed back with copies for Vater. He's a lot better about sharing information if it is reciprocal. It took little time to drop them off with Vater's assistant. Typing them up took the most time, because Mama's assistant was out. Then I noticed about half the support staff was not in the office.

"Ah, do you have any duties for the rest of the day? Could you run some errands in town for me?" Mama's tone was hopeful, with a slight edge of stress to it. When she starts down that road, it's better to pitch in than skive off. Besides, anything else I had on my plate would have been in Europa or the family holdings. Her relief was a cool breeze as she handed me a list of the staff that were out, and their addresses. "Please check on these people, we might have something not-physical happening." Another sheet of paper, "...and the reports we have so far, if any of them are embarrassed about having issues."

"So, you aren't suspecting a sick-out or goldbricking," I checked the first sheet of paper, and saw Hâjdău headed the list, "...erm, I see - not with her in on it."

"Her first missed day of work - yes, I am worried, but cannot spare the time to check on her right now." I glanced over and saw three clerks waiting to talk to her.

"I got it Mama, and I can have this for you by lunch, if there's nothing serious." Rather than shove out through the crowd, I left by the open window. Hâjdău lives at the hotel, less than a block from the office, so I glided over. Shifting back to my cipher-in-the-background form when I landed on the hotel's front steps, none of the staff likely saw anything but the Wulfenbach courier's uniform as I crossed the lobby.

When she responded to the knock on her door, Hâjdău did not sound sick, she sounded scared out of her wits. Still, I reached into the margins *pulled* my medic pack out of the Infirmary as I answered, "It's Ama, from the office - I came by to check on you."

Hâjdău opened the door, quickly, asking "Do I still have my head?"

Ooookay, so this was going to be one of those illnesses. "I see you as I last saw you, but why don't I come in and make sure there's nothing wrong, hm?" Since she was still in her nightgown and dressing robe, I figured it better to get her calm with some routine medical evaluation. She nervously let me in, and I checked her over. There weren't any physical problems that I could find in my quick once-over, save that she was worn out. She probably had not been sleeping well, poor kid. By the time I got to testing her pupil reactions, they were no longer pinpoints, and responded to light appropriately. "Everything checks out, can you tell me what feels wrong?" She was a little upset, but it was directed inward, scolding herself for being so skittish. Nodding, I said, "Why don't I start off, " and I made a show of reading from the sheaf of papers I brought with me, "Things have been relatively normal during the day, but at night you dream of Steelhead being shrouded in fog..."

She started in shock, and the words just tumbled from her like a mountain stream at snow-melt, mostly in Romanian. "It is so eerie, the streets are blocked by fog so thick it is difficult to breathe, and it does not get better when I am indoors! I wake, and was getting ready for work, when I could not find my head! Her panic was increasing in waves, and I had to throw a shield around her to keep myself calm.

"It's all right! It is a dream, but it is one that many are having! We can fix this, at least enough so you will know it is a dream, and be able to rest." Taking a moment to adjust the shields to keep things from reaching in to her, I asked, "Do you have a favorite stone, or piece of jewelry?" I knew she was going to show me that promissory ring, but it helped deflect her mind away from the panic. When she held up her hand, I told her to focus on it. She did so, quizzically, and I let a little of the power of anchoring the shields in the metal bleed through to the visible light spectrum.

I dropped back into English, "There... it won't keep them out completely, but it will be enough to keep them from scaring you half to death. If you are not wearing that ring, keep it within arm's reach of you, at least until we find out who is behind the dreams."

She looked at the ring with wide eyes as the slight glow faded. "You... you did not change the ring from what it was, did you?"

"No, it's just a convenient anchor. Your young man's gift is still there with it." Her head snapped up, and I smiled, "The feelings attached to that are still a promise. Though none of us have even met him yet."

Hâjdău blushed, then yawned, "Oh! My apologies, I shouldn't have yaw-" and then she did it again.

I chuckled, "You need to catch up on your sleep. I will check back on you later, after I get through the rest of the list." I let myself out of her room without waiting for her to stand.

Once out of the hotel, I shifted to wings and headed to Auntie Kitla's workshop in Harborside. That little parlour trick with the ring took more out of me than I dared let on in front of Hâjdău. She had to believe in it for it to work at full power, but whatever it was behind the dreams was old. Ancient and powerful enemies are not taken on lightly, and we were going to need the big guns for this.

06 July 2010

Does it mean you have to throw your body off a building?

Father was fine, of course. Once I got him to the clinic, he was struck by inspiration. It seems odd, but I don’t share his passion for engineering. I left him to it and transitioned back to Steelhead. I had been awake for going on thirty hours, and needed to rest. One last patrol before sleeping, since I was still too wound up to sleep properly.

Everything was fine until I got to Shanghai. Finding a shopkeeper on the roof was not normal, but it did not look like he was preparing to jump. Still, I circled his building, letting him know I was there, and landed near him, careful of loose tiles.

“I should be doing something,” he said by way of greeting. Speaking in Russian, it took me a little bit to find the right language centers in my head. Bits of half-memories of folk-tales told by a woman’s voice helped me make the connection.

“Do you get any feelings other than that?” My pronunciation was not quite right, mostly because I had to be careful not to filter in the Romanian with it. “Anything I can do to help?”

Mr Danielovich shook his head, “Nothing specific... not even a place I should go walking... only that it is nearing the time...”

Going carefully, I tried to read his emotional aura. You have to be careful with empathic work, because someone who was borderline sensitive might be startled by the brush of something not physical. You might not even know they were sensitive until they began to have hysterics. Sitting on the edge of a roof, that would be bad. “You generally get told to go out wandering with this feeling?” I asked under the cover of a calm reassurance projection.

He shrugged, staring off into some middle distance. “You get to know when you need to be somewhere, right? Take a turn into an alley maybe one block sooner than you usually do, or go see the sights across the bay.” His focus sharpened, briefly, staring at the spot where Father's lab had been. He shivered in the warm breeze, and I remembered that he had gotten Mr Antfarm out of the wreckage. I could not remember if anyone mentioned Mr Danielovich being injured at all. Now, when I tried to pin down recollections of that time, my mind slithered away to Mr Antfarm’s treatment, Rengerin’s investigation, and anything else that was happening at the time.

“Huh, neat trick, that - being able to be there, just in time.” He had some good shields, so he was not radiating his emotional state like most humans do. It’s not that odd, finding someone shielded. Some people just grow them out of need in times of extreme adversity, and that seems to be something a lot of immigrants to our city have in their past. The ones that don’t shield tend to go mad, or drug themselves into a stupor. That reminded me I needed to check up on Dr Beck. AFTER I talked Mr Danielovich off the roof. “Does coming up here make the feeling stronger?”

He seemed to struggle with words, even though we were still talking in Russian. “It is... up, but not here, and not... now, only.... there is still the urgency....”

More soothing projections, “Would you like to try a higher altitude? I can give you a lift up higher...”

“Yes, please - this itching in my spine is becoming stronger.” He stood up, and I pulled on my grip gloves, while he got into position.

I had not noticed he was in the exact correct position for a wrist-grip pickup, and said, “Right - let’s get you into the air, Xavael.” A simple slip of the tongue, with monumental consequences. I do not know why I decided to test my theory at that moment... and at the time, I had not realized I had said the other’s name.

He stopped, becoming very still, and whispered something I did not catch. While I was hovering, waiting for him to get back on his mark, he turned to me, and said quietly, “I Remember.”

There was a light kindled in his eyes, and it swiftly grew to encompass him, and he repeated, as the wings unfolded from his back, “I Remember!” in a clear voice, no louder than we had been speaking, but it seemed to echo back from the rest of the city. The radiance grew bright enough my irises closed completely to save my retinas, and then suddenly, he was gone.

I hadn’t expected him to transform in front of me. I shakily landed on the roof, wondering what had been loosed in the world, and where the angel had gone. I wasn’t going to be able to sleep for a while.

11 June 2010

Father Knows Best?

I folded through the sunset in Steelhead to the pre-dawn darkness in the bayou outside New Toulouse. Combat protocols indicate high altitude transfer with minimal disturbance of the flow, to assess the area. Even at a klick up, the Founder glowed brightly. I guess the family never has gone in for subtle, even from the first. No unfriendlies in the area, and He Who Is Speaker was gone. I landed quickly, and made the proper obiescence to the Founder.

Zaide's heartsong shone through as he knelt beside me and hugged me, an action that my parents would not believe he was capable of doing. As we rose, he said, "There is no time for formalities. Darien will awaken soon. He is once again mortal. Under no circumstances is he to inject himself with the formula again." He stepped back for takeoff. I saluted as he faded out, and turned to Father.

Still groggy, he was uninjured, and to my surprise, his eyes were again the brilliant blue of a New England autumn sky. I muttered under my breath, "I'm not sure how I'm supposed to keep him from doing something he knows is a bad idea, but he keeps doing it...."

Father growled, "...'m not deaf, Amarantis." He carefully levered himself up. "We should..."

"We should get you to the clinic, just to make sure you are all right," I interrupted him. When he staggered on standing, I was a little worried. A quick reading of his aura as I supported him showed it was mostly fatigue. Still, taking him to the infirmary was a good idea, it might keep him out of trouble for a few hours.