Ch. 1.2 – Sara

Sara gave her rescuer a quick appraising scan. He’ll manage, she decided. “The short version goes like this: you’ve got the Gift,” she explained, trying to hide a grin as Alex’s jaw dropped. “You’re a wizard, Majestic, a superman, an Adept. You’re also on the ‘whoa’ side of mighty. Get it?” Sweet, smart, hot and powerful? Even I’m not this lucky, she thought with happy amusement. Her eyes kept coming back to his, a compelling, stormy hazel that hinted at his gift.

Alex scowled a bit. “That lightning just burst out. I didn’t summon it, and it sure wasn’t a spell. I know I did it, but I have no idea how.”

“Will and need,” Sara explained simply. “That lightning was you, telling the world ‘I don’t think so.’ It’s not something you did, exactly, more like something you are.” Alex’s scowl didn’t disappear, but changed into something more…inward. “Look, I probably owe you an apology as well as a thank you. You’ve probably figured out that I’m also an Adept — we have lots of names, but let’s stick with that one for the moment. Me, I’m a Weaver. I bend fate, and I’m really, really good at it.”

The scowl gave way to more general outrage. “Is that what vampire boy wanted with you?” Alex asked grimly.

“Not for himself, but yeah,” Sara explained. “I don’t really blame him, though. The Reanimate are vulnerable to certain…threats.”

“Wait,” Alex said, not quite gasping, “he really is a vampire?”

Sara chuckled in spite of herself. “Not exactly. Look, I honestly don’t mind being Exposition Girl, but we should probably stick to the highlights for now. You set Max free when you thumped him; he won’t bother us again. Hell, he might want to help.” Fond memories of Max’s Reanimate stamina trickled to just below the surface. Sara stomped them back down with big steel-toed boots.

For a moment, her rescuer’s jaw tightened, twitching. Then he took a deep breath, let it go, and nodded. “The short, short version, then?”

“You got it, handsome,” she agreed. He coughed quietly. “The bunch that got Max by ‘the short hairs’ is called the Global Complex. Complex for short. You know, like Eisenhower’s — “

“‘Military-industrial complex,'” they finished in unison. “That doesn’t sound good,” Alex said hoarsely. He waved for another drink.

“Make it a light one, hon. As soon as Molly gets here, we’re gone.” She straightened her blouse and leaned forward. “By Adepts, I mean people who are Empowered in a very literal sense. Majestic. Magic, ESP, miracles, wire-fu, super-tech, you name it, it’s all the same basic stuff.”

Alex stared, about as stunned as she’d expected. “So the Complex is…what, the Illuminati?”

“Pff,” Sara exhaled with a laugh. “The ‘Illuminati’ are one branch of the Complex’s fixers.” She sat up when Alex paled. “Whoa, not the way I meant that. The term ‘Illuminati’ comes from another bunch, and it was a con from the get-go. Anyway, the Complex doesn’t run everything, not by a long shot. The rich old white guys are pretty much who you’d expect, running what you’d expect. They’re bad enough, but not any worse than the politically savvy already figure them to be. It’s the Grayboys — ‘Gray Company’ — you’ve got to watch out for. They were the agents of the Complex, taught to believe that people need to be protected from the truth. The thing was, their former bosses, the so-called Sovereign Mandate, are just rich old guys who want the rest of us kept in line. So they took over.”

Alex’s jaw sagged. “Just like that?”

Sara nodded, then drained her glass. “Just like that. I mean, it was rich old guys against ten times their number, all among the most highly trained and dangerous Majestics on Earth. It wasn’t even a fight. They don’t roust you if you keep your Talents quiet, but, well, Gray Company Is Watching You, y’know?”

For a moment, the new Adept was silent. A pretty waitress came by with his drink. Alex drained it in one gulp. After a brief fit of coughing, he nodded. “I guess that makes sense. The Secret Masters convince their enforcers that secrecy is paramount, so when it turns out that said Masters don’t really care, the enforcers take over.” Sara nodded back. “I take it that their own Adepts — Majestics, whatever — couldn’t shut Gray Company down?”

“Maybe once upon a time,” Sara replied, “but today, the Mandate is just tired old men with a flicker of Talent and millennia of old glories.”

Again, Alex went quiet, looking into his empty glass. Heavy, I know, she thought sympathetically. He glanced up suddenly. “Is anyone fighting these guys?”

“Just Havoc Absolute,” Sara responded sourly, “and they’re as bad as the disease. They want to tear down civilization and replace it with a society entirely based on majestas.

For a moment, Alex paused at the new word, clearly trying to decide how to react. He settled on a grimace. “Wizard terrorists. Great. There have to be good guys out there somewhere.”

“Sorry, hon,” Sara replied, “but there’s just okay guys, bad guys, and worse guys. I know some of the okay guys, but…” A flicker of the Weave whispered go. Sara didn’t literally hear the word, but she didn’t have to. She shook her head. “I’m sorry, but we need to move. Either Molly’s going to show up in a few seconds, or she’s still mixed up with the Grayboys, and they’ll track us down themselves. I’ll get the tab.”

Alex pulled out his wallet and threw some bills on the table. “Forget it. Which way?”

“Men,” she said with a fond sigh. “Out the back. I have some friends who can make us an exit in the alley.”

Before Alex could ask what she meant, Molly burst in the front door, thin wisps of smoke trailing from her maroon duster. “Skeptic!” she shouted.

Sara gasped. “Go! Now!”

Written by Peter Flanagan

Peter Flanagan was born in the Bronx, New York, giving him the right to root for the Yankees while making less than six figures. After a long, largely pleasant interregnum in suburban Connecticut, he moved to the Inland Empire, California to be with his wonderful wife and muse, a stepson, and a crazed feline. An occasionally too-avid player of and writer for tabletop roleplaying games, his other passion is metaphysics, which informs most of his fiction.

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