In Which our Heroes Heroically Snooze
The sky was lighting up in the east. The cobblestones were cracked. Pieces of them dug into her arms. There was a metallic taste in her mouth. Evelyn Taylor breathed out slowly, wincing at the flash of pain in her side. She sat up, head pounding, and spat. The unconscious forms of the seller’s people were piled up against the wall. Staggering to her feet, she limped to the gate, cursing the pink lady with every step. She scanned the deserted street, and closed the gate. She made her way to the stairs, muttering a few detection spells as she did so, in between bouts of painful coughing. They’re gone. She sat on the steps,wincing as the her side felt like it was being pierced by several hot needles. She surveyed the destroyed courtyard. The ancient walls had taken a beating, spellfire leaving numerous scorch marks. Most of the cobblestones were cracked and large mounds of earth were piled up in places. Stupid dirt man. Never seen him before. Must be new to the scene. She winced as her side flared up again. The rudimentary healing spell on her burst lung wasn't very effective. She would have to get a proper doctor to look at it. Stupid lady. And pink. Honestly, of all the colors. Freaking hot pink. Wait till I get my hands on her. She noticed the unconscious bodies of both her men and the others. Idiots. Not a single brain cell between them. Let them wake up. Someone better have answers.
Harry appeared in a swirl of blue light in the emergency section of the med bay. He paid no attention to the plain white walls as he made his way towards the beds. The doctor on call, Jenna, rushed towards them gesturing at the nearest bed. Harry gently laid Rose down on it while Jenna shouted at someone to bring a blood replenisher and some cleaning fluid.
Jenna waved her hands over Rose in an intricate pattern and a bright golden light passed through her body, flaring red in several places, as the diagnostic spell detected several minor scrapes and bruises. It, much to their relief, did not show any internal damage. She'd only been hit with a simple slashing spell.
Harry stood at the foot of the bed. He barely noticed the briefcase clutched in his arms. He'd managed to grab the one that Rose was standing next to. Dirt king had gotten the other one. Please be okay. Why am I so terrified even after all these years?
"I suppose it would be futile to tell you to go ahead and report in?" asked Jenna as she waited for the nurse to bring the medical supplies.
"The boss can wait. I'm not leaving till I know she's okay."
Harry sat down heavily on the adjacent bed as a nurse brought in a red vial containing the blood replenisher and the orange bottle of cleaner. The nurse turned to Harry but guessing that she wanted to run a diagnostic,he waved her away. I know I’m injured. Fell down twice. Jellyfish and that maneuver. Not important. She’s the important one. I’m not going to distract the nurse from her.
He looked to the still unconscious form of Rose. Must be the severe blood loss. Jenna spelled the potion straight into her bloodstream and the blood replenisher began its work. She checked her vitals and once she was sure they were stable, she set about cleaning the wound and sealing it leaving only a small gash.
"Mr. Danvers, that's one heck of a slashing spell. From someone with serious power. She's quite lucky her ribs survived," commented Jenna,“ but if my readings are correct your partner should be fine in a couple of hours. She’ll need to have it bandaged for a couple of days and she might have a bit of a scar but I see no lasting problems.” Harry nodded. She's going to be fine. Just a couple of hours.
He gripped the handle of the briefcase tighter. He glanced at the case. It looked so innocent. You had better be worth all this. Damn treasure hunt. He absently fiddled with his communicator. Should I call Johnson? Naa, he'd understand. Wouldn't be the first time this happened.
The doctor finished her work as she poured more of the dark orange cleaner into the gash. It started to steam as it disinfected the wound. She wrapped Rose’s chest in a bandage before gesturing for Harry to move away. She conjured a privacy screen so that she could change Rose out of her bloodied jeans and blouse and into a pair of navy blue hospital overalls. She soon dispelled the privacy screen and turned towards Harry after running another diagnostic.
“She’ll be fine Mr. Danvers. Give her an hour and a half or at most two and she’ll be awake. You’ve seen her get through far worse. So cheer up. Go give your report.”
“I’m not going to leave till she’s awake,” said Harry in a quiet but firm voice," Not till she's awake."
Jenna nodded knowing from experience that he wasn’t going to be persuaded to leave.
"Honestly the two of you. Ever since Acktobrys. Now can I at least fix you up?" she asked," You don't look like you're unscathed."
Harry grunted out a yes and she muttered another general diagnostic. Several healing spells followed and soon all the little scrapes he'd acquired were dealt with. She left the two of them and headed back to her station.
Harry got up from the bed and grabbed a nearby chair before sitting next to Rose’s bed. He studied her sleeping form. Her red hair that stood out from a mile away was in a halo around her face. Her electric blue eyes identical to his own were closed. She seemed at peace. He let out a long sigh. Going to have to wait it out. Oh this is torture. Seven years of seeing the same thing happen and you'd think you get used to it. The perils of having a partner be your best friend. He smiled as several images ran through his head. Making himself as comfortable as he could on the hard plastic chair, he settled down to wait.
Terry Clarke appeared in his house, startling his cat who proceeded to hiss angrily at him for disturbing her nap. He walked up to her, giving the cat a scratch behind the ear to placate her. She nudged his leg and moved into the small kitchenette.
Plenty of time to do a bug sweep later. Dropping the briefcase he'd snatched earlier on the table, he went to the kitchen and, predictably, found the cat scratching the cupboard.
"You want food now, come on Bunny. I just got home," complained Terry as he set about giving her some food. Leaving her to it he walked back into his living room.
Throwing his black hoodie into a corner, Terry collapsed onto the couch. Staring at the ceiling, he stretched, yawning. Bug sweep. Plenty of time. Just a few minutes. With that in mind, he dozed off.
Rose slowly drifted into consciousness. She could smell the strong odor of disinfectant. Opening her eyes slowly, she saw a white ceiling. The med bay. She was momentarily confused, as she tried to divine why she was there. Then it all came flooding back. Stakeout. The Prince of Dirt. Dropping the Green Lady. Pain. Her hand instinctively moved to her chest. The pain was a dull throb now. Her hand touched something rough. Bandage. Oh Crap. I guess I got back. So Harry must be.. She turned.
Harry was sleeping on a chair he’d pulled up next to her bed. His dark black hair was messy, like he’d just run through a tornado. Probably because he did run through one. He hadn’t changed out of his outfit since the mission and was still clad in his faded blue jeans and sleeveless blue hoodie. The only person I know that prefers to be sleeveless in a fight. She traveled a few blocks down memory lane remembering the times she'd woken up like this during the past few years. Way too many times. And that's not counting the countless times our positions had been reversed. As she watched he woke up having heard her stir.
“Hey, Sleepyhead, you stink. Didn’t bother to take a shower?” she asked.
“Morning, Rose. Uhh… kinda forgot that. I wanted to make sure you were okay first. That was a pretty serious looking cut," he said rubbing the sleep out of his eyes.
“It definitely felt serious but it’s fine now. Just a minor inconvenience. How are you?”
“Fine, just a few cuts and bruises, all healed up.”
“Hmm... surprising considering you fell twenty feet that one time.”
“Well, it was a controlled descent, not a fall.”
Rose rolled her eyes. “Keep telling yourself that everytime you pull that move.”
"It's true," he said pouting slightly.
"Jeez, don't pout."
"I'll have you know that I do not pout."
“Didn’t report that to Johnson yet?” asked Rose noticing the briefcase.
“No, I wasn’t going anywhere till you woke up.”
“You dolt. Now he’s going to be mad at us for being late to report to him.”
“Nah. He’d have guessed by now that one of us got injured.”
“Well, you are incorrigible.”
“Hey, you do the same thing every time I get hurt,” he said. She just smiled in response. She sat up slowly with Harry's help and shakily swung her legs to the side of the bed so that she was now sitting facing him.
She took a deep breath and assessed herself. Legs, not shaky. Hands, fine. Chest, minor pain but fine. Dizziness. Absent. Nausea. Nope.
“Are you okay?” asked Harry. “Not feeling dizzy or anything right?”
“Yeah, I’m okay. Now let’s go give our report before the boss man gets impatient," said Rose getting up slowly.
Harry puffed out his chest. “He cannot possibly get mad at his best agents,” he said in a pompous voice.
"I hate that voice. You sound far too much like a ponce," she said once they'd stopped laughing.
"Very funny, Now can you walk on your own."
"I'll be fine. Come on."
They both set off to find their boss.
Evelyn was severely pissed off. She had her men holding the four others against the wall while the man who'd brought the briefcase was currently levitated in the air gasping for breath.
"I'll ask you one more time. Who is tracking you? And what do you know about who attacked us?"
"I told you. I...I kn...know nothing. Let us g...go. We're only supp...pp...posed to deliver the goods. We don't even know what's in the damn c...ca...case," replied the man.
Damn right you don't know. As if idiots like you should be informed of those things. Evelyn made a fist squeezing him with the air.
"Looks like you're not going to spill. Too bad for you." She raised her hand and a crackling whip of green electricity formed in her hands. Time for the old fashioned way.
Harry and Rose knocked on the nondescript steel door. The metal plaque on the door read ‘Commander Johnson’
“Come in,” said a deep voice and they opened the door and walked in. Harry plonked the briefcase on the desk that Commander Johnson was sitting behind and stood in front of the desk. Johnson gestured towards the two seats in front of the desk and the two of them sat down.
“Well, I see why the report is late,” began Johnson as he noticed the bandage wrapping around Rose.
“Yeah, Sorry about that,sir,” replied Harry.
“Nothing to worry about. It's understandable. So let’s move onto the report then. Start from the beginning.”
“Well, we went to the location two hours ahead of the scheduled time as planned. Checked the area. No wards were up whatsoever. Only things we found were some inactive lighting runes. So we just found decent spots in the courtyard and waited for them to arrive...,” began Harry.
“...and with about an hour to go a car pulled up. Three goons climbed out. One had a briefcase. They went into the stairs and waited in the dark. I didn’t recognize all of them but if we go over the database I can probably identify them. Then there was a slight surge of magic and the runes all lit up. I think it was one of the goons. So anyway we were waiting for something to happen…” continued Rose.
“...And the drop time came and went making us wonder if they were ever going to show…”
“...Finally after about ten minutes past a van swerved in and like five of them got out with another pretty similar looking briefcase. I think I recognized that Flandonson, Flander....”
“Flanderson, I think, Ron something.”
“Ronald Flanderson,” suggested Johnson.
“Yeah, that guy and possibly the Walters guy, Alvin Walters, If I remember correctly. That Pranfork fellow was nowhere to be seen though. He might have been the driver but we never got a good look at that driver. Aaand... I thin one of them was definitely Weaslton, but the rest I’m not sure. They walked to the middle of the courtyard and the deal was just about to start when all hell broke loose," continued Rose.
“Yeah, this dude teleported down while at the same time the lighting runes went out. From what I could see he was about five ten, give or take. All black. Black hair, bit of a bird's nest. He blasted everyone and then started looking for the briefcase. Around then is when we contacted you."
"So I order you to get the cases, then what happenened? And why do you have only one?" asked Johnson.
"Well after the order I charged in, she stayed behind to sneak up on the cases and tag them with that combo," explained Harry,"I punched the dude and stole the case from him. Tried to fly to the top of the building but got turned into a jellyfish and then I landed on the ground. He took the case and started flying away."
“I was slowly sneaking up on them and spelling trackers into anyone in sight. I think Harry tagged the dude too," added Rose.
“Oh, yeah, I put one on the guy," remembered Harry.
“Okay. pause. Let’s activate those trackers,” said Johnson, “tell me the codes.” Johnson tapped his monitor and brought up a window. He typed in the codes as Harry and Rose rattled them off. Sending them off to the reconnaissance department to process, he turned back to the two agents and gestured for them to continue their report.
“So then I flew after the dude with the briefcase and that’s when this woman ran in…didn't get a good look to be honest...” continued Harry.
“...she was like five six, fair, wearing a dark tracksuit,” supplied Rose.
"Right, so the other guy, dived down into a dirt pit..." continued Harry.
“Ok, you lost me there. Dirt pit. That’s new.” asked Johnson.
“Err.. it was like a… uh… I dunno… the earth sorta melted and shifted and he slid in. I don’t know. Reminded me of a book I read once," explained Harry
“You mean The Princess of Potty Sludge?” asked Rose.
“Yeah, that was a dirt queen, this is a dirt king," replied Harry.
“Okaay... I think I get the picture. Continue,” said Johnson.
“And then these two were battling it out. She had a green signature. That was the dominant color. I was waiting for the dirt king to show up. I decided to up the ante a bit, but then the dirt king arrived faster than expected and the lightning woman tried to attack him but ended up being maneuvered into one of Rose’s spell chains. She went down immediately. And then the dirt king sent a slashing spell at her which left that gash," rattled off Harry without pausing.
“Okay, slow down there,” said Johnson holding up a hand, ”So Rose v green woman, arrival of dirt guy.”
“Yes, then I called for a storm…” said Harry slowly.
“You did what?”
“Storm... uhh… well… it seemed a good idea.”
“Only you, Danvers, only you.”
“Anyway, the green woman was hit by a spell chain from Rose."
“The entrail-fire-organ one,” supplied Rose.
“Ah… that one’s a particularly nasty one," said Johnson grimacing.
“Yeah, anyway then she got hit by the spell," continued Harry.
“Yeah, I lost consciousness sometime around that…” added Rose
“...and we got back here.”
“That’s quite a lot to dissect there. Your ‘dirt king’ sounds like somebody new. Not new to the game, but new to the situation. Your lightning lady though, I’ll have to look through a few files. She sounds familiar. green signature, tracksuit…. That’s a lot to think on. Leave the briefcase here. I’ll get back to you with what the people at Recon dig up. We have to try and acquire the other case too. Or else the we won't get the complete picture. Before we open this I’ll have it checked for any bugs and traps. Get a general read. You two get cleaned up and ready to roll. We’ll probably have a location for your guy before long. Good job.”
“Yes sir,” they chorused before walking out.
Terry woke up. The sunlight was streaming in through the windows. After a reasonable amount of yawning he got up. He opened the small double doors and walked out onto the small balcony. He could see some people on the lower floors out on their balconies. One or two people were reeling in the clothes lines that ran across the alley.
“Hey Mr.Clarke! Can you throw that down?" said a voice.
Terry turned, and spotted a Frisbee in the corner. He picked it and peered over the railing at the kids in the alley below. One of the kids waved at him.
“Catch!” he yelled.
Terry threw the Frisbee. It sailed off towards the other end of the alley. Aw come on. Terry, smiling ruefully, pointed and slowly guided it back. Once it got close, the kid leapt into the air, rose unsteadily, and grabbed it. He floated down a fair distance and then plummeted. The other kids clumped together and just managed to catch him, collapsing in a pile of grunts and giggles.
“Work on those landings Jimmy!” called out Terry.
“Will do, Mr.Clarke!” came the reply with a cheeky salute.
He gazed into the distance. The river Zarate, dotted with barely visible forms of the various factories and houses that were perched on its banks, moved along lazily. A couple of boats were floating along. The smell of breakfast being cooked was prevalent in the air. He let out a sigh. A peaceful little community. Totally oblivious.
Maybe I could jut throw the damn thing in the river. Save me the trouble of keeping the damn thing safe. What a colossal oversight. Of course there must be others looking for it. The way this went it would have been easier to just let them swap it. Then I could have avoided having to injure her. She was in the way. Doesn’t make me evil does it? Just a slasher. She's probably fine by now. Wonder who they were? Probably just following orders. Who are they working for? It can’t have been just another gang. No one with that much power works as a lackey. So someone else is after it. What could they want with it? The...
Terry was pulled out of his reverie by Bunny’s miaowing. The cat paused a moment to stare at him. “My bowl had better be full again by the time I get back,” the stare seemed to say. Then the cat walked through the little rectangle of tape that Terry had pasted on the railing. Moments later, she appeared down in the alley. And ten points to me for mastering the permanent portal spell. The days where I had to levitate her down. Shuddering at the memories that dredged up, he walked back inside, had a quick but hearty breakfast, and pulled a chair to the table. The briefcase sat waiting where he had left it. Time to get this open. He took a long look at the briefcase analyzing its design before raising his hands. You had better not explode...