Ep 06 – Threshhold

            Alice’s face was calm, though still infused with violet light. I couldn’t believe the serenity there, if she really meant what she’d just said.

          “You know where they are?” I asked her.

          “I think,” she said. “My tracking spell returned, and it brought back a result.

          “And …” Derek prodded her. “Where are they?”

          “At The Well,” she replied. “They’re at The Well.”

          The Well was the Light Brigade’s – for lack of a better word – secret headquarters, an underground bunker built in the 50’s as a supply depot for a series of defensive tunnels running through the mountain, sort of Nova City’s answer to the Maginot line. Those tunnels, however, had never been built, and the well had been decommissioned. Derek had helped to engineer its “loss” to the military and subsequent gift to the Light Brigade.

          “That’s impossible,” Derek said. “I checked The Well, no one was there.”

          “Did you actually go inside and look with your eyes?” She said. I was beginning to understand what she was getting at.

          “You think … what? Someone is there, sending a false feed through the monitors?” Derek challenged her.

          “No … yes. I don’t know. I only know what my working has told me. Jenn is at The Well. Or, at least she was there a few minutes ago when this was bounced back.

          “What did you do, like, ping her or something?” The look on her face told me that was exactly what she’d done, or the magical equivilant thereof. Also, I was an idiot.

          “That means I need to get over there,” Derek said.

          “We’re coming too,” said Mchael. He had one hand on Alice’s shoulder, which was making me uncomfortable for some reason I didn’t understand. I mean, I knew what “partner” meant.

          “No, you three are going back to your homes. Wes, go take care of Laura and the baby. I’ll be in touch with all of you when I know something.”

          I had to admit, the thought of a hot shower and a change of clothes, and sleep, was really appealing. Even if I would be sleeping on Dan and Laura’s couch. But I was still in agreement with Alice when she said, “There’s no way we’re going to sit around and wait for a phone call. We’re going with you. Michael and I will ride Pegasus if you won’t take us.”

          “And you’ll get in, how? You have the access code?”

          “Of course I have the access code. I’m also allowed in by ret-scan.”

          “You … that’s a major breach of the security protocol.”

          “I’m Mysteria’s apprentice.”

          It actually kind of hurt my feelings. I didn’t have anything like that kind of access. Maybe I wasn’t the mascot I thought I was.

          Alice turned to Michael and gave him a curt little victory nod, which he returned with a worried grimace that was probably an attempt at a congratulatory smile.

          “You people are officially up my ass, you know that?”

          “I had a feeling,” Alice said.

          Derek spoke into his lapel again, and told us to step to the curb. The gateway-monster’s legs were almost through dissolving into a pulpy black much that smelled like smoldering, fleshy, rot.

          I felt the wind pushing down on me from above and then four lights descended from the sky, blinding me for a second or two.

          Derek ushered us into the helicopter when it landed. Michael hung back and said he’d follow us on Peg. Alice offered to go with him, but he said it would be easier on the horse to carry fewer people. I didn’t care what happened as long as I didn’t have to get on it.

          Derek faced Alice and me, who were strapped into the back next to a rifle-wielding XDF agent. Derek didn’t look at either of us, but leaned back to talk to the pilot of our craft.

          I felt a little thrilling lurch in my stomach and all around us, through the open door and windows, darkness slid back to reveal thousands of scattered blobs of light below.

          The city smoldered and smoked, and was cut with wide swaths of darkness. Some of this was along a zigzag path cut by the monster, who’d caused power outages wherever he’d knocked over buildings and smashed down power lines. The center of town still glowed orange and red and black in the place where the hospital had been. I wondered how many zombie thralls has risen and been brainsplattered this evening. God, what a night.

          I wanted to talk about it with Dan. Where was he? What condition would he have had to be in to let this happen? He had to be alive, he just had to. I could deal with all of this as long as he was alive. That’s all I needed. Not even well, just alive. I’d help take care of Laura and Chloe. I didn’t care if he couldn’t walk, or go hiking with me, or hero around, or help me move when I got kicked out of my apartment. I just needed him to be around for me to talk to. Or at least to communicate through some eyelid-pop code that like diving butterfly guy.

          He had to be alive. Unhurt would be great, but all I was asking for was alive.   

          Beside me, Alice wasn’t looking outside. She was sitting with her head bowed, chanting something softly to herself. At first I though she was praying, afraid of flying or something, but it was too rhythmic for that.

          A bright white spot filled the space outside. Michael waved to us from his place atop Pegasus. Stupid horse. I rubbed at my hand when I looked at him. It’s possible I am a big baby when it comes to pain. Maybe. I wished I had some aspirin.

          Soon, the lights outside faded and the dark mountains rose around us. We could have used the secret tunnel that ran from the end of East End park, but I guess this was a more direct route.

          The copter landed on top of a flat space I would not have been able to see if I had not been looking for it. We set down with a gentle thud.

          Derek nodded at me, and then leapt down, onto the packed earth. I unstrapped my harness and followed him. There was no obvious indication in the space around us that we were near an entrance to any kind of structure, let alone a super-hero HQ. I myself had only been through this way once, when I was flown here by Dan, and that time I’d been too out-of-it to pay much attention to where I was going.

          Derek used a little flashlight to find the black steel panel set into a recessed groove cut into one of the boulders. The helicopter powered down as Michael soothed Pegasus.

          The panel had a series of black-light glowing squares, five of them, that Derek placed his fingers upon. The stone in front of us gave way and another black panel, this one stamped with the TrenTech Security logo, emerged in front of us.

          TrenTech. That’s a connection I hadn’t thought about in a while. I wondered how long it had been since Derek had spoken to his own brother.

          Without any other work on our part, the door opened. It was, remarkably, large enough to allow Pegasus entry, which thrilled me, of course, and the five of us, plus the XDF rifleman, entered the elevator.

          And we all fit, remarkably. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised. The entire Light Brigade, plus Pegasus, with all their gear, had to take up more space than we did.

          We all fell to silence in the elevator. What was there to say, really? I’m not even sure what we were expecting to find. If the Light Brigade were just hanging out at the Well – well, why had they let the city burn? Were some of them – maybe even just Mysteria, since she could have teleported herself anywhere – lying here, wounded? What were we going to do for them?

          The elevator doors opened on the main lobby. It wasn’t empty.

          Two women sat on the concrete floor outside the blue steel doors that led to the main chamber. One of them was older, Hispanic, with bushy steel-grey hair and a blowsy, white-flowered shirt. The other was, well, I could only describe her as the most beautiful woman I’d ever seen.

          She had long dark hair, with a little curl to it, dusky skin and eyes that glowed like polished onyx. She wore a little black dress beneath a man’s open white oxford that was several sizes too big for her and hung on her like an overcoat. It did nothing to hide her figure.

          “Juanita? Mari?” Derek said. “When I couldn’t get a hold of you, I had no idea …”

          “Our building was trashed,” the older one said. “My son said to come here if something like that ever happened … so we did.”

          “He said to come here?” Derek’s hand wiped sweat from his brow, then fell to his side. “I suppose he gave you the code too.”

          “He gave us both of them,” the younger woman said. “But this one isn’t working.”

          “It’s not working. Maybe you have the wrong one.”

          I had never met these two before, and from the looks on their faces, neither had Alice or Michael. But from the way Derek was talking to them, they had to be Scorpyon’s family.

          Which meant this girl must be his sister. We’d have a lot to talk about, including, apparently, the fact that I was already completely in love with her.

          “Alice, Wes, Michael,” Derek said, an acquiescent tone in his voice. “Meet Juanita Cisneros and Marisol Reyes. Juanita is Scorpyon’s mother. Mari is his fiancée.”

          Crap. Why hadn’t I checked the ring finger before getting all excited? “Nice to meet you,” I said out loud, though the phrase seemed weirdly formal, under the circumstances.

          Derek went to a small doorside panel and punched in an eleven digit code.

          That’s when the alarms went off.

          Red lights flashed all around us in the concrete antechamber, throwing crimson glare-spots on the walls and staining everyone’s skin a weird orange color. Pegasus reared, and Michael pushed Alice up against the wall to keep her from being trampled. But no one thought about me, and I got knocked off my feet to land on my face against the hard floor. I looked back up at the horse, who did not seem the least apologetic.

          Derek frantically coded numbers into the keypad, but nothing had an effect. If anything, the alarm noises were getting louder, the lights more severe.

          “Derek, what are you doing?!” Alice shouted at him.

          “Here, you enter the code, then. Maybe you have a different one.” Derek said, and stepped to the side to make way for her.

          Alice approached him, shrugged, and admitted, “I don’t actually know the code. I just said that so you’d bring us with you.”

          “That’s what I thought.” He returned his attention to the keypad again.

          I got to my feet with the help of Marisol, who was the only one who seemed to care that I was still on the floor. “Will someone shut off the noise?!” I shouted at Derek. It was all I could do not to scream as the sound grew louder until it was all I could hear; the volume caused physical pain.

          Derek pulled the ret-scanner to his eyes –the alarm shut off. But before I could even start to enjoy the new silence, there was a whirring sound. I looked up to see that in the ceiling a panel had opened, and now descended some weird machine, a bulbous rod with five tendrilous arms, each with four-fingered grips flexing out from the ends.

          The hell? I knew TrenTech had developed the security system for this place, but this? Was ridiculous.

          One arm shot out to grab Derek from behind. He reached for his sidearm before it yanked him backward and up at the wall near the ceiling, and actually got off a shot at the central control, but all the bullet did was ricochet around the chamber, chipping concrete and sending the rest of us to the ground. It stopped after hitting Pegasus in the wing.

          The horse whinnied angrily, and Michael yelled as the hands gripped him and pinned him to the wall opposite Derek. Alice was the next to be taken, then Juanita. Then the arms came for me. I’d seen enough to know to get up and run away from the last remaining arm, and it hit the concrete wall with a  brutal clank before attacking me again. I kept moving in a zig-zag pattern, hoping the same rule that applied to outrunning a crocodile would work here. Amazingly enough, it seemed to. But I knew I couldn’t keep outrunning it for long. For one, it was probably smarter than I was. And for another, it wouldn’t get tired. I could, I hoped, keep it away from Marisol long enough for one of us to do something. She was running for the elevator.

          Why couldn’t it have gone after stupid Pegasus?

          Finally, as I knew I had to eventually, I tripped. The thing grabbed me by the leg and yanked me up, so that my foot was pressed against the ceiling. As it did, I instinctively reached for my watch and banged the heel of my palm against its surface, feeling the familiar click that before had done my no good.  I don’t know what I was thinking. In fact, I’m pretty sure I wasn’t thinking anything at all.

          The arm stopped suddenly, leaving me suspended there. Something whirred again in the mechanical base in the center of the ceiling, and the defensive arm lowered me gently to the ground. I landed on my face again, but still.

          I rolled onto my side to see that everyone else was being lowered down too. They all looked just as confused as I was.

          “What did you do?” Derek asked me.

          “I … I don’t … all I did was push on the watch. But it’s dead. It shouldn’t have done anything.”

          “It obviously sent out some sort of signal,” Derek said. “The system must be programmed to respond to your brother’s tech.”

          “Whatever works,” Michael said, and he clapped me on the back. “I’d like to get a look at that watch later.”

          “O … K,” I replied. This was the first time that evening that Michael had really given me any sort of acknowledgement.

          Derek was already at the door, which had begun to slide open for us. The speed of its movement accelerated as I approached. This was weird. I wasn’t used to my presence actually being helpful. I was the official screw-up, remember? Hadn’t this system gotten the memo?

          “My question for you, Miss Nakamura,” Derek grumbled. “Is if Mysteria is actually here, like you said she was, why didn’t she turn off the system? Why was it on in the first place?”

          “I only know what my working told me,” Alice repeated.

          We entered through the now-open door. Most of us were still breathing heavily, and I think all of us were waiting for some new defensive measure to grab us, so we were happy to let Derek be the first one through. He waved his hand as he entered, and the lights came on.

          As did the wall monitors. They popped to life, one of them an aerial view of the city which took up an entire immense wall. It showed a newsfeed on the bottom, aggregated from different sources, and the city itself was a live view, showing the fires and dark patches. If they were here, you couldn’t say they’d ignored us for lack of knowledge.  If they weren’t, I guess our next step was to helicopter up to the rock, no matter how dangerous it turned out to be.

          But there was someone here. On the table in the center of the room, Bellerophon lay sprawled. Michael saw him and let out a little groan as he looked at his blood-splattered face, pushing past Derek to get to him.

          “Peter!” he cried out.  He was on top of the table, next to his partner, before any of us noticed that Bellerophon cradled a spherical object in one arm as if it were a football. Or a baby.

          The horror hit me as I realized that the spherical object had a face. Open eyes. A bleeding mouth. And it was the source of much of the blood that coated Bellerophon.

          Alice saw it too. “Oh … oh, God,” she choked.

          I put a hand on her shoulder as Derek got between Alice and the head of her mentor.

          But the eyes … they were, somehow alive, and glowing with the same purple Alice had been imbued with for so much of the night. Alice knocked Derek to the side, reached out, and picked up the head.

          Mysteria’s eyes locked on her apprentice. She spit out blood as she gasped her last words…

          “Be .. betray … betrayed us…”

          Her eyes closed, the violet light faded, and blood drained from her mouth and neck.

          Alice brought the face to her chest and sobbed.

          I thought about Dan, and I cried too.

         

Ep 05 : A Wound in the World

          My hand throbbed. The stupid horse’s teeth had broken the skin. This wasn’t just some nibble, wasn’t some “hey-watch it!” little snap to let me know he was annoyed. No, this was a full-on bite from a seriously pissed-off legendary winged battle-horse who probably could have taken off my fingers if she’d really wanted to.

          I’d forgotten that Pegasus was a carnivore.

          “Well, what did you expect?” Alice asked me as I sat next to the barricade, clutching my bloody hand to my chest. She pulled it away from me and looked at it. “Tear off a strip from your shirt and bandage it,” she said, dropping it back in my lap.

          “Can’t you, like, do a spell and heal it up a little for me?” I asked her.

          “Like I did for Lady Peace? I don’t think either of us wants me to try that.”

          “Well, we’re right next to a hospital—Tearing my shirt apart is our solution?”

          “Do what you want. I’m not your nurse. I’m going to talk to Michael.”

          Yes, Michael. The guy who’d rode in on Pegasus, circled the monster, and landed in front of us. The guy who was not Bellerophon. I’d never seen him before, but Alice seemed to know who he was which meant that Pegasus had not, apparently, been hijacked.

          Alice joined the huddle formed by Derek and Michael. They’d all seemed to have forgotten the monster, who seemed stuck, somehow, between buildings. Its tendrils were still swatting lazily at helicopters, but it made no moves toward us. Ripping a couple of strips of fabric from my shirt (so not getting my deposit back), I stood up and went to stand with the other three, acting like I belonged there while I bandaged my hand.

          A half-dozen armed, body-armored XDF agents surrounded us. It felt weird to be flanked like that. I couldn’t decide if they were protecting us or protecting the world from us. Had to be the first, I knew, still … the way they looked at us.

          Michael made no apology to me for his horse’s behavior as we locked eyes for the first time and he gave me a little nod of acknowledgment.

          “Michael, Wes … Wes, Michael,” Derek said, as if he were already bored.

          I returned Michael’s nod as Derek continued. There wasn’t much remarkable about him. He was just a tall, dark-haired guy in his thirties. Dressed like any other shlub in khakis and an untucked white shirt. “Michael works with Jennifer Becket at NCU, and he lives with…” he stopped himself from giving me Bellerophon’s real name. Nice time to find his sense of discretion. “He lives with Bellerophon.”

          Michael stuck out his hand, saw how I was clutching mine, and then pulled back.

          “Peg showed up at our house about an hour ago. Peter … well, I haven’t seen Peter since this afternoon when I left to go teach my classes. When Peg returned alone, I knew something had happened. What’s going on, Derek?”

          “Peg brought you here to this thing?” Alice asked.

          Michael nodded.

          “We can’t find any of them,” Derek replied. “Well, not true, actually …”

          “Gail?” Michael asked. “Is she…?”

          Derek gave a sad shrug. “Her condition is in flux right now. Alice may have saved her life, but we don’t know.”

          Derek filled Michael in on the rest of it: the battle we’d witnessed, and the Spectros-thralls that had risen at the site of the hospital blast.

          Pegasus whinnied and his face was suddenly at Derek’s shoulder. Michael reached up to stroke the horse’s mane, and said, “Whatever’s happened, Peg survived it. So that has to mean something.”

          “I don’t suppose this horse talks, does it?” I said. “Because otherwise, I don’t know how this is exactly helpful.”

          The XDF agents shouted something to Derek and the monster took a long sudden lurch toward us.

          Pegasus danced on his graceful white feet, forming a wall in front of us. Michael did the same, stepping to the side to help shelter Alice and me, until Derek forced his way through to do that job himself. I looked up at the beast, framing the shot even though I didn’t have the cheap little camera in my hand. It hung around my neck, but it would have hurt too much to use it.

          Yes,  I am that much of a wimp.

          The creature leaned in toward us and I thought that I was about to live that old horror movie cliché of inhaling the monster’s hot, rotten breath and looking up into its teeth just before it devoured me. But this thing … it had two huge, stomping legs, like those of a giant elephant, but no real mouth to speak of, and within the locus of those tentacles erupting from its midsection—some tentacles spreading and branching out into their own network of tentacles—was threaded a necklace of gently spinning purple and white lights.

          Alice saw what I was seeing. “Oh my God,” she said. “Someone incarnated a lower rhealms nexus?”

          “What?” I asked.

          “I think you’re right,” Michael replied.

          The side of the spire rippled as the monster moved past it, and the building directly across the street from us flowed out of existence and then back in as if it was being dissolved in and the reassembled from rainwater.

          “Assume we need an explanation,” Derek said. “And use small words so kid Callahan here can understand.”

          I wanted the the same thing, so I didn’t even protest Derek’s gross, slanderous, mischaracterization of my intelligence.

          Alice had dropped to her knees and had the texts spread out on the asphalt behind us. And instant later, Michael was on the ground at her side, helping her. He looked up at Derek and me. “You know there are al sorts of portals, gateways, etc. into this world, through it, and connecting us to the higher and lower rhealms…”

          He’d lost me already, but Derek was nodding in apparent understanding, so I nodded too.

          “Someone called one of them and put legs on it – and something’s coming through… lots of somethings at the same time, the way it looks. Right, Alice?”

          “I think so,” she said. “If Jenn were here, she could work up a binding, maybe even close it off.”

          “But she’s not,” Derek said. “So do what you can, ok?”

          She nodded, but she was focused on the books. “I may need to go back to the shop. I didn’t bring the Worke of Boundary.”

          She looked up at Michael, as if to apologize for something. “I only brought the things I’d been using to work on healing spells. That’s what she had me working on. I didn’t think to—“

          “Alice, it’s ok,” Michael said. He stood up. “Don’t apologize for not anticipating this.”

          As it passed directly over us, I could see what it was that Alice meant. It wasn’t one massively tentacled creature, it was a collection of massively tentacled creatures spilling through a gateway and getting stuck there in one of the thousands of little light-formed holes in the worl. Creatures from the lower rhealms.

          Whatever that meant.

          Someone put legs on a gateway. It would have been funny if it didn’t also look like it could end the world.

          “So, what do we do about it now?” Derek asked.

          “I’m not sure there’s much we can do,” Alice said. “Unless Michael has anything …”

          “Fresh out of portal keys,” he said.

          “So, it’s just randomly stomping around the city?” I asked. “It’s not, like, looking for its kids or its mate or anything?”

          Alice looked up at me sharply, and for a second I was sure I was about to hear one more time about how stupid I was. Imagine my surprise when she said, “That … that may be something, actually. That may even be brilliant.”

          “What?”

          “It’s mate. Well, it’s not like it’s intelligent, or even a singular entity with a consciousness, even. But if we make another portal of the opposite polarity we might be able to suck this one through. Or at least, maybe, get them to cancel each other out.”

          “And you know how to do this?” Derek asked.

          “Um. Not exactly. But I may be able to figure it out. “ She dropped to pore over the books again. “Ijust … I just did something a little bit like this.” She pulled out the book she’d been working with back in Lady Peace’s room.

          “Is this going to get us rained upon by those bony little monkey-demons again?” Derek asked.

          Alice met his panicked gaze. “Let’s hope not. But it’s the same spell I already have ready, which means …”

          “What are you thinking?” Michael asked her. They worked together like people who’d had a long relationship, which made sense, I guess, if he was her mentor’s colleague.

          “I can just reverse it – send the energy out instead of in. If I can do it in the right spot I might be able to fuse the two portals together. Maybe.”

          The building across the street fell, pushed over by the scrambling creatures. Even more alarming, a few of them looked like they’d almost worked themselves through. I didn’t know much –or anything, really—about these things, but I was pretty sure we didn’t want that to happen.

          “Alice! What do you need to make this work?” Derek shouted at her.

          “I don’t … I don’t know.” The ferocity with which she tore through the ancient text threatened to break apart its binding. “Time!” She said.

          “That’s what I was afraid you were going to say.”

          “Just … just shut up!” She stood, staring down at the book spread at her feet. “Stand back!” Michael stood at her side, Pegasus shifting behind him as if he understood what was happening better than I did (which was probably true).  Derek grabbed me by the shoulder and signaled his men to move off as the giant legs lurched toward us again.

          I really hoped they’d gotten everyone out of county hospital.

          I couldn’t hear what Alice was shouting, but that sliver appeared in the world again, the cracked space effect I recognized from when Alice had performed the spell for Lady Peace.

          There is no way I could have gotten a shot of what happened next with the disposable camera  I had with me. I would have needed my special filter to capture the light that poured out of the crack in space appearing in the air above us, splitting what passed for reality. For a moment everything white glowed purple again, as if lit by black light, and then Alice said something or did something, or made some gesture I did not catch because I wasn’t looking that way, and the light –if this is even possible, I dropped out of the beginning level physics class I took my second and final year at NCU—seemed for a second to hang there, unmoving, then be sucked into the new gateway Alice had created.

          Of course, the light vanished, becoming a sudden void of negative space, a sucking wound in the world. This spot-not-spot drifted away from us, toward the gateway beast. The thing made no noise, neither of the gateways did, since the void seemed to be sucking in sound waves as well as light. Alice was just standing there with her eyes closed, not waving her arms around the way magicians did in those cheesy sci-fi channel fantasy movies.

 I have to admit, that was a bit of a disappointment.

The creature went all smeary, there’s no other way to describe it. It leaned into the void Alice had summoned, then its image broke up as if it had been wiped upon by the saliva-coated finger of God’s two-year-old. Some weird pulse went through me and every part of me (yes, my hand too, thanks for asking) throbbed painfully. Alice cursed something as the tentacled part of the creature vanished, sucked into the void.

The legs fell, severed from the mass above them, shattering the windows and crushing the police cruisers making up the barricade.  Grey skin rippled and then collapsed, the tops of them oozing a stinking black goo.

Alice dropped to her knees and rubbed at her temples. Michael was still standing behind her, a shocked grin on his face. Derek and I exchanged WTF looks before Derek went to Alice and said, “Good work. I guess. Would be appropriate here?”

“You think?” She said.  “I can’t believe that worked.”

“What exactly happened?” Derek asked. “Let’s just pretend that I really want to know.”

“I was right … my gateway sucked the monster through and then their energies canceled each other out. I was lucky that I already had the spell prepared, otherwise there’s no way I could have done that on my own.”

“Thank you,” Derek said.

“If Jenn were here…”

“She’d be proud of you,” Michael said, and Alice gave him a rueful grin.

“She’d be more proud if I could actually find her.”

I looked up at the sky, at the place where the rock, I assumed, still hung among the clouds. It was no longer visible against the sky, no longer exposed by battle-flashes, so I couldn’t tell if it was really there at all anymore. What had happened up there? And how did it relate to what was happening down here?

Alice tried to stand up, but halfway through the motion exhaustion took her and she started to fall. Michael caught her, and for the first time I noticed how her face was slicked with sweat. The moisture caught the red and blue cast by the police lights all around us (a few less now that so many of them had been crushed by the portal’s legs).

Derek left us to confer with his men. I wondered if the night would calm down now, and allow us to concentrate fully on the search. Suddenly feeling my own exhaustion, I went to Alice’s side and sat down. She looked over at me, wiped the wet hair out of her eyes, and said, “Thanks for giving me the idea.”

“I’d say you’re welcome because I’d love the credit, but I was really just trying to channel everything I’d seen in all of those Japanese monster movies. You know: its babies. Mate. Mortal Enemy. Nuclear power plant.”

“Whatever,” she said. But she smiled.

Michael was standing above us, soothing Pegasus, who obviously wanted to move on to the next thing now that the monster was defeated.

“What about him?” I asked, pointing warily to the horse. “He was probably there at whatever happened. You have a spell or something that will let us communicate with  him so he can tell us?”

“There are books I can look at, but right now that’s way beyond me.”

From out of the chaos around us, a perfect sphere or light drifted. It came toward us, rose, and then spiraled above Alice’s head. She reached up to take hold of it, and the energy flowed into her hand and then was gone.

Her eyes widened and flashed purple. Using my shoulder as a support, she pushed herself up to her feet.

“Derek!” She called out. “My tracking spell came back! I think I know where they are …”