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Ch. 10.1 – Molly

I have to give her credit, Molly decided reluctantly, she’s thought this out well. Threading her Weaving talent into the team will give us every break possible while denying Travis the same opportunity. West can’t do her real harm without endangering the very power he’s trying to claim. Her ritual to connect her to this Rift Prime was inspired, and even if West takes her to a separate location, she should be able to trace the other Prime through sympathy.

Dunn looked down at her fist. It was dripping with ale. She’d crushed a full, unopened glass bottle without realizing it. Well, that’s going into my barrel, she thought wryly, then looked up.

The others were all staring at her. “Still worried?” Sara asked, smiling weakly. Alex’s hand was locked in the Weaver’s. For all that he gave in to Sara’s plan first, he doesn’t like it any more than I do, she decided.

“There are still a thousand things we don’t know,” Molly insisted. “You’ve accounted for the obvious concerns, but we still don’t know what Travesty has up his arsenal.” Maxine chuckled while Alex held out his free hand. Ale and glass alike hovered off his floor, the ale going down the drain while the glass floated into his wastebasket.

“I still think I should go with you,” Powerstar insisted. Rose smiled gently and patted him on the shoulder.

The Ghost Dragon shook her head. “No, that part I agree with. It’s why Eve rejoined her team. You, Nicole and Meyer are our backup in case things go to Hell.”

“Ben’s a good guy,” Alex added. “He’s a living Majestic wiki, his powers are impressive, and he’s got a ton of connections. If this goes sideways, you won’t be bailing us out alone.”

Powerstar shrugged. “You folks know what you’re doing.”

“I hope so,” Max whispered, looking over at Sara. The Reanimate clenched a fist, then slowly let it go. “Sara, even if everything goes right — which it can’t, even with your powers — this whole thing still centers around you being the helpless prisoner of the Avatar of Self-Entitlement.”

“We’ve been over this, Max,” Sara grumbled. “I’m a big girl. I’ll only have to manage for a few hours, maybe a day, and God only know how long our Rift Prime’s been West’s slave. It’s worth the risk.”

“She’s just worried about you,” Alex cut in gently. “We all are.”

Molly sighed, forcing the last few shards of glass out of her palm and into the wastebasket. Then she walked to the middle of the room and crossed her arms. Alex stood up straighter, and the Ghost Dragon suppressed a smile. “Okay. I doubt anyone here is less happy about this plan than I am, but no one’s come up with a better one, so let’s make it work. Gods know we’ve run into enough troubles lately that we’ll be occupied with something else soon enough. The real trick will be losing to the ensuing Mandate ambush without letting anyone besides Sara get captured, or worse.”

“Not more Vortex, I hope,” Powerstar noted grimly. “Is your ‘Travesty’ that reckless?”

Molly considered that for a moment, then shook her head. “If he were, then he would have attacked while we were busy with that Vortex Beast. There are enough threats less existential than the Heralds to suit our needs.”

* * *

Two weeks. It took long enough, Molly fussed to herself. She moved silently and invisibly through the tunnels Rose had discovered the day before, scouting ahead to ensure there weren’t any hazards other than the one they were expecting. At least it’s not another bloody sewer.

Something about the harsh fluorescent lighting set Molly’s teeth clenching. They’re not Havoc Absolute, not with this “evil office” vibe we’re getting. She checked on the others with a brief flicker of Vision. Rose and Maxwell were doing a well-coordinated sweep, Sara was checking the Weave, and Alex walked rearguard, sword and gauntlet at the ready. This feels familiar, somehow. I wish I could place it…

Only her Ghost Dragon training kept her from gasping. 1974. Washington DC. That’s not fluorescent. Oh gods. She twisted a subtle Rift through the tunnel, appearing next to Max. The Reanimate jumped in place. “Dammit, Molly!” he blurted.

“Quadrum,” Molly explained.

Rose’s eyes bulged beneath her mask as she stared up at the lights. “So this is Vision static. These Quadrum are worse than I thought.”

Alex held his free hand up. “Um, new guy’s lost again. Quadrum?”

“Akira mentioned them. Do you remember?” Rose asked. “Aliens, our nearest interstellar neighbors, and the ones who come here are really nasty customers.”

Sara backed up, stopping as close to Alex as she dared. “They steal the unused Majestic power of the Broken. We think they send it back home in batteries or something.”

“Or something,” Molly half-agreed. They don’t need to know the rest right now, she decided reluctantly. “What Rose calls ‘Vision static’ exacerbates the Breaking, clouds Majestic senses, makes the world dull and gray and empty.”

“Like the Skeptic,” Alex snarled, the sword flaring.

Molly shook her head, scanning fiercely for the inevitable enemy contact. “It’s temporary and far less powerful, but more subtle and pervasive. The Quadrum don’t want to destroy our talents. It’s better to shear the sheep for as long as you can.”

“Well,” a flat, blunt voice called out over unseen speakers, “as long as you know what you are.” Four humanoid figures appeared out of a Rift at the far end of the corridor, gray and thick and angular, clad in armor a shade darker than the creatures themselves. “I don’t suppose you’d be sensible enough to surrender.”

“Funny,” Sara retorted, Weaving ribbons of all five Majestic elements together, “we were about to ask you the same thing.”

The voice sighed mockingly. “Ah yes, what humans think is ‘wit.’ You will make an excellent Weave server.” The quartet drew rectangular weapons from holsters on their backs and leveled them at the humans. “As you noted, we would rather shear you. When necessary, however, humans eat mutton.”

“Eat this,” Max snarled, then dove into a shadow. The four aliens opened fire.

Alex threw up a shield. Molly leaped onto the wall and began running along it, expecting even a Blaze Prime to waver against that assault. Instead, she wavered when his shield flared bright blue, then held. “Protect Sara!” she called down, then leaped at the alien unit.

Behind them, she felt the Mandate squad moving into position…

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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