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SMOKE WITH MIRRORS: PART ONE
Her client peered at her. “Trixie… have you never fought a superhero before?”
Trixie Virga – it was not her real name, but rather a name the young witch had decided to adopt professionally, to the point where she now answered to it – turned and shot the man a look.
“Look, BIFF,” she began, trying to keep a level tone. “First, this is your sister pumped full of mystical energy. Not a superhero. Second, she’s committed crimes, so even if she were ‘super’, she’d be more super villain than a super hero, yeah? And third?” Trixie paused. “Well, third, that plan should have worked.”
“Right. I’m starting to regret paying you in advance.”
Trixie let out a sigh of exasperation. “Let me think.”
She crouched closer to the door of the trash room, listening for noises. She couldn’t hear Biff’s sister Eleanor on the other side, meaning their mad dash out of the woman’s hotel room had apparently bought them a bit of time.
Or Eleanor had more than a few points in Stealth and Dexterity.
Setting that thought aside, Trixie figured the first major question was why pinching the mystical artifact from Eleanor hadn’t de-powered the woman. Trixie held the necklace up to her face, squinting at it in the dim light. Was this not the source of the mystic energy after all?
She fished her personal device out of her blouse pocket. She kept it there partly because of her preference for skirts which had no decent pockets, but mostly because when she went for it, people tended to be distracted by her ample chest. Thus less likely to speak, or notice whatever it was that she was actually intent on doing.
“Are you phoning for backup on that?” Biff asked.
Unfortunately, Biff was either oblivious, or gay.
Trixie made a noise that she hoped conveyed her irritation at the remark, and otherwise ignored him. The glowing red crystal in the too-small-to-be-a-smartphone device came to life at her touch. “Rixi, fast scan, okay?”
“All right,” her device intoned back, a parroting of her own voice.
Trixie placed the necklace onto Rixi’s tiny screen. “Mystical?”
“Affirmative,” Rixi acknowledged.
“Granting ice powers?”
“Accessible at a distance?”
Trixie grimaced. “What the hell am I missing?”
“Unknown,” her device supplied.
“How much field work have you actually done solo?” Biff broke in again.
“I’ve done enough,” Trixie muttered. True, she hadn’t been the founder of the private magick agency Biff had approached, and she was better at research and development. But she had been running the place without much outside help for over two years now. She’d seen enough field work in that time.
“It’s just, I mean, wasn’t there that other guy back at the office? Maybe you should call him?”
“Oh, do NOT start with me,” Trixie snapped, turning her best glare back at Biff. Client or not, he was becoming a pain. “First, he’s not a coworker, he’s my boyfriend. Kinda. Not exclusive. Not relevant, never mind. Second, even given that he does help me on cases, he had to go out of town on business yesterday. And third?” Trixie paused. “Well, third, damn it, that plan should have worked.”
“Yet it didn’t,” Biff remarked, though off Trixie’s look, he had backed off a step to press himself against the back wall.
Trixie pocketed both Rixi and the necklace before raking her fingers back through her twin-tails, wracking her brain for the answer.
This was like the classic Star Trek episode “Squire of Gothos”. Captain Kirk had destroyed the mirror that was supposedly the source of Trelane’s power… only to discover it was some kind of amplifier, and the guy still had powers. Was that actually useful information? Was it merely random trivia?
Well, Kirk had needed to be bailed out of his death sentence by superior beings, so that didn’t bode well for her situation.
“You know, my sister could be taking hostages out there,” Biff remarked, seemingly determined to break her concentration.
“That’s more on you than me,” Trixie growled.
“Look, I hired you to handle the situation,” Biff said, raising his hands with his palms out towards her.
“So let. Me. Handle. It,” Trixie spat. She smacked her forehead twice, as if that would help to knock the proper thoughts together.
It worked. Or at least, it made her realize she’d overlooked something.
In the Star Trek episode, Gothos had been artificially constructed. Right? How had this hotel been constructed? Was there anything about this location that might be interfering?
Trixie fumbled for her device again. “Rixi, cross reference GPS of our current location with known magick events, starting with the present and working backwards.”
“Working,” came Trixie’s own voice again, followed seconds later with, “an explosion two months ago in room 1408 created a temporary fissure to another realm. No damage otherwise. Documented by–”
Promising. “Abort explanation, correlate aftereffects with previous artifact and accessibility question,” Trixie said, trying to speak as fast as she could without sounding garbled.
“Working. Revised probability of distanced access, 97%.”
There it was. She simply had to get the necklace off this property to sever the connection. Hopefully. Pity she hadn’t thought to cross-reference earlier, as getting Eleanor out of the area would likely have shut her down as soon as the artifact had been removed from her person.
Though that might have made the necklace harder to grab.
“Okay then,” Trixie concluded, shoving Rixi back into her breast pocket. She yanked the door to the trash room open.
Eleanor stood on the other side, staring back. She was a head taller than Trixie, her hair a snow white thanks to the effects of the necklace, her outfit an ice blue dress. Trixie couldn’t shake the image of a very ticked off Elsa, from the “Frozen” trilogy of movies.
“I was wondering if you’d try to jump down the chute,” Eleanor remarked. “Glad you’re giving up instead.” She held out her hand. “Last chance. Return my necklace.”
Trixie knew she had no chance of being imposing here. Heck, she tended to dress more for seduction… albeit she knew now to give a pass on tight skirts when out in the field. So more running wouldn’t be a problem. If only there was a way past.
“Hard no,” Trixie said, wondering idly if reason could win through the day. “You’ve broken into how many places now by freezing the locks?”
“Lost count,” Eleanor said. “You’ll be the first witch I freeze though.”
Eleanor extended her arm, and Trixie knew the touch was liable to be deadly. Of course, in theory no magick user could ever affect someone who was unwilling, but there were rather a lot of loopholes. Including Trixie’s prior use of a spell in Eleanor’s presence, opening her up to passive acceptance of retaliation.
And as that prior spell had been a low-grade teleport, to get the necklace away, Trixie couldn’t use that spell now. Casting any spell multiple times in a row would always result in diminishing returns.
She had one option in reserve though.
“Velocitas,” Trixie breathed.
The spell to speed up her own frame of reference proved to be enough for the redhead to not only dodge Eleanor’s outstretched hand, but drop to the ground and jump through her adversary’s legs before the other woman could react.
Trixie began to run as fast as she could down the hotel corridor. Only to have her feet slide out from under her, as her boots failed to find traction on the newly icy floor.
“Nice try,” Eleanor remarked, as Trixie slid into a wall, ass first.
This was bad. Now that she was in the corridor though, and right by the elevators, Trixie realized there was a new option in reserve. She righted herself without bothering to completely get up, and fumbled again in her pocket.
“Rixi, materialize delivery gun.”
“All right,” her device intoned. “Accessing.” It took a few seconds… during which Trixie worried that she’d removed the item from her personal magick hammerspace at some point in the last two months. But eventually the familiar small globe of light appeared, hovering over the screen.
Trixie grabbed within the light. With that, the light was dispelled, leaving her holding what had – once upon a time – been a nerf gun.
She dropped Rixi back into her pocket while pulling out the necklace again.
“A gun?” Eleanor said, pausing in her advance. She was only five, maybe six metres away, but seemed to be in no hurry. It was almost like she knew she had the upper hand. “You realize I can freeze the bullets in the air before they reach me.”
“Suspected,” Trixie admitted. She held up the necklace. “Gun’s for this though.”
Eleanor frowned. “What do you hope to accomplish by shooting it? You cannot destroy my necklace, you should have realized that by now.”
“Yeah,” Trixie agreed, cranking the gun power to full. “But I think my gun can pierce that window there, the one looking out on the parking lot?”
Eleanor turned to look where Trixie was gesturing. Even then she didn’t seem to quite catch on what was about to happen. It was only as Trixie dropped the necklace into the chamber where one would normally put bullets that Eleanor’s eyes widened. And as Trixie exhaled, she could see her breath in the now bitterly cold air.
“Protrudo,” Trixie gasped, as she pulled the trigger.
It hadn’t been a sure thing. Hell, Trixie doubted she’d have wanted to know the odds, even had there been time to ask Rixi about them. But with the additional propulsion of the spell, the necklace did indeed pierce the nearby window with a ‘crack’, the arc such that the artifact ended up flying out and well beyond the hotel parking lot.
The newly formed icicle, with its point less than a metre away from Trixie’s chest, remained frozen in place for a few seconds. Then it fell off Eleanor’s index finger. Then Eleanor crumpled to the ground.
Trixie decided it was safe to draw another breath.
Once Eleanor had been unconscious for ten seconds, Trixie let her head fall back against the wall and closed her eyes.
“Um, so, is my sister going to be okay?” came Biff’s voice, after a short time.
Trixie reopened her eyes. Her client seemed to be checking for Eleanor’s pulse.
“Oh, I’m FINE, thank you,” she growled, pushing herself back to her feet. The ice on the floor had melted, and her skirt was wet. But she was still alive. In fact, she suspected the anger she felt was more trying to dispel the sense of fear.
Trixie fumbled back in her pocket for Rixi, and stowed the delivery gun back into her hammerspace.
Biff watched her, looking unimpressed. “Isn’t this all in a day’s work for you, or something?”
“Because as you pointed out, I fight super villains ALL the TIME,” Trixie snarked. She walked closer. “But yes, we’re BOTH fine, and outside of the withdrawal symptoms your sister will experience, she should be herself by morning. And one more thing, if I may?”
Biff seemed to consider whether he wanted to hear it. “Yes?”
“Next time you want to give your sister a gift, don’t buy it from a demon. Capiche?”
Biff flinched. “You think that I’M the one who gave–”
“Stop,” Trixie interrupted. “Don’t even. I’ll assume it was unintentional. But I saw the little inscription on that necklace. Hence me saying hostages would be more on you than me. Suspected it initially too, hence the paying me in advance.”
Biff simply stared now, a frown tugging at the corner of his mouth.
“Oooh, yes, I’m more than just a pretty face. I’m a techno-witch. So, do you have anything else to say? Or can I close this case?”
“I… would prefer not to see you again,” Biff concluded.
“Fine. Eyes on you though,” Trixie said, making the universal motion as she pointed two fingers as her own eyes before turning them to jab at Biff. “Keep your nose clean.”
With that, Trixie marched out of the hotel to go and find the necklace. She made a mental note to ask Rixi to do the occasional web search on Biff’s name for the immediate future too, just in case the guy was truly up to something.
That evening found Trixie staring at the note. She’d put off dealing with it in favour of handling the case with Biff and Eleanor, but had no such excuse any more.
Her querying messages had come back by now too, and none of the other techno-witches she had made contact with had any awareness of what it meant.
Trixie gave the words a scan again.
‘We need help with an airborne virus. It’s jumping dimensions. Not deadly yet, but is a mystery. As you can handle both magic and technology, call this number if you accept the case.’
“Surely they mean realms, not dimensions?” Trixie muttered aloud. “And I’m better with computer viruses, not airborne ones, so whaaaaat?”
She shook her head. The note had been shoved underneath her office door last weekend. Scans by Rixi told her nothing. Which in and of itself was kind of fascinating.
Trixie stood up from her desk. “Well, fine. I can at least call to get more information,” she decided.
VOTING CLOSES ON SUNDAY MAY 24th
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PATHS NOT TAKEN:
Had votes been for more of a fantasy, it would have pre-defined “virus world” as magic, and we likely would have started there. More of a romance would have leaned towards Alijda and Kat working together (and they didn’t get character votes, so perhaps it’s good we didn’t get that plot). With the mystery decision, we hire Trixie. There were a few false starts in writing this, but ultimately I elected for a full Trixie case, to help those who haven’t read my ‘Balancing Act’ story. The rest of Epsilon’s cast will be here momentarily.
Yes, this was supposed to go up last weekend. But full time math teaching from home, while simultaneously parenting my almost 2-year-old daughter? Means I get VERY little free time. Add to that the fact that “midterm” grades had to be sent out May 8th, and May 10th was Mother’s Day, and WOW it’s amazing when I even get sleep any more. So many emails. So we’re a week late. Thanks for your patience.
Great start! I loved this magic battle, in particular.
Thanks so much for taking the time to let me know! The battle gradually came to mind over the span of about a day as I thought about introducing Trixie.
Oh, Trixie, don’t you know some villains have become heroes? Some who made the change even have been in the movies!
I’m looking forward to seeing where this goes. 🙂
Aha, but have they been good movies? I mean, since the villain usually needs to have viewer backing, Trixie might be safe here. Thanks for taking the time to comment and let me know!