February 10, 2013
Walsh Estate Winery
“You know what I really miss?” Robert said after closing Katie’s black Moleskine notebook, filled with sticky notes and tags on every written page.
“The days we actually have visitors?” Katie answered, looking over the empty storefront.
“Nah. It’s the kind of days I love talking about wine to complete strangers. God I hate this boredom.” He let out a sigh to make an emphasis on the place. He didn’t care to take his feet off the pay counter. “By the way, good stuff here.” He paused. “Katie, you listening?”
Katie blinked. “Uh, what?”
“I said good stuff. The notebook. You’re actually going through enchanted items?”
“Why not? It’s in the spellbook. And it might come in handy one day.”
“Like that last attempt?” Robert reminded Katie of the incident in her room. “Admit it. This break is good for you. You need to do something else than studying that spellbook page by page every day.”
Katie rolled her eyes. “I prefer to stay in there. I’m not in the mood to do tastings.”
“Either that or we keep loosing money. Dad and me think that putting terrans out to work, showing them they can still do something, that fear from the news becomes meaningless.”
“The last visitor didn’t think so,” Katie said.
Robert shrugged. “Sure he gave you the cold shoulder, but it’s a start. Made twenty-two bucks. A lot better since Jaruka stopped coming here a lot. Well, almost.”
Katie rolled her eyes again.
The Walsh Estate Winery storefront is the second oldest building on the property, next to the family house, and the ever expanding warehouse and cellar. Every detail in the store was that of an old cottage style interior. Nothing on the walls were painted in modern colors, just wood and light brown stains to brighten the interior, along with black iron fixtures with incandescent light bulbs. It was Katie’s grandmother’s original idea: care for the product, not for the décor. The floorboards creaked anytime a customer or employee stepped on them. Tables and upright used wine barrels bared items from local artisans and abroad, from china, eating utensils, history books on Temecula and its wine including Walsh Estate Winery History by Emily Claire, and of course, the fifteen foot wine rack of all the estate’s year round and seasonal wines. The most popular wine is Cliffhanger Port.
Katie grew up with the wines; it’s in her blood. She’s a natural fit for the tasting bar, and she loved it in between school. Robert too, but rather give Katie the job because she’s a social person and Robert focuses on the wine and haunted houses.
But her depressed mood was still with her.
“Still upset about the other night?” Robert asked.
Katie bit her lip, and nodded. “Can’t bring myself to call Andrea or go to the house, not to mention the news crews still roaming the area.” She took a breath and exhaled. “I don’t know what to do.”
It was five days ago, but it still felt like it was yesterday to Katie. Once the neighbors started waking up from the zombie enthrall—screaming over the coagulated blood on their faces and not remembering what happened—Morgan and Beth were still asleep with their new tattoos. But it wasn’t like they had to leave the parents on the front lawn before the police arrived. With help from Jaruka and neighbor Joe (friendly to terrans surprisingly) helped the unconscious parents inside and on the couch before they woke up. Scott wished to do something about the dead fat guy but they had to get out, and fast.
But there was an issue: Andrea stayed behind. She kept on yelling that it was her home, there problem, and she had to fix it, even she said her totem thought it was a good choice. Katie felt dumbstruck and abandoned, unable to help any further as time ticked. Worst was not leaving with Andrea’s rescue spell Katie kept calling it. The past few days, Katie poured over her spellbook to find that spell, but sadly she found no hint.
Not even Jaruka contributed. He became a hermit ever since, not at all answering the cell phone they gave him. Great for the family, not so for Katie and Scott. Jaruka being quiet makes them jittery.
“You remember what I told you about the spell?” Katie asked.
“Yep,” Robert said, nodding.
“It’s a game changer. I can, if I figure it out, save you guys. It’s hard enough what she said because she said it a million miles per hour.”
“Robert, listen. If you black out, or Mom, or Dad, or heck little Jacob, and you guys start going all zombie, me and Scott will save you, regardless of any reason. I don’t care what Mom and Dad fear, it will happen.”
“Alright, I get it,” Robert said. “I go zombie, you make me a terran. Case settled.” Even though Robert was the one that got Katie into the supernatural years ago, he still wasn’t comfortable about being a terran. Responsibilities of magic probably, or that the tail could exclude him from dates.
“She does have a point,” a third unknown voice said.
It scared the two and they looked all over the store. The huge oak door was open but not enough for anybody to get through. Katie saw a car out front but couldn’t remember when they pulled in. Katie kept looking then looked down at a creature partially hiding behind the wine rack, standing on its hind legs. The large quills behind it could very well puncture through weak flesh if anybody didn’t see it.
It stared back at Katie, and Katie stared right back. It was no mistake it was a totem, a Celtic tribal tattoo was etched along the left side of its face and the glowing blue bleady eyes.
Robert put his feet down and leaned over the pay counter. “There’s a porcupine in the store,” he said.
“I can see that,” Katie said. “I’ll handle this.” She walked around the bar and approached the totem, then crouching. “Hello there.”
“H-Hello,” he said.
“What’s your name?”
The porcupine gulped. “Dallas. My name’s Dallas, Andrea’s totem.”
Katie gasped as her heart filled with joy instantly. “Oh my god. Is she here. Please tell me she’s here.”
The porcupine nodded. “She’s behind the door. She made me come out to meet you, and I still hate the real world.”
Katie quickly turned at the door. Andrea stood there, hands behind her back, and wearing clothes of her own with a pant mod for her tail. She looked pretty and nothing like she was a week ago. Her black hair was clean, straight, and exposing her elf ears.
Katie screamed and went for her for a hug. “I was so worried about you. I thought about calling but…” Sadness and gladness welled inside Katie.
“I’m fine, Katie. Really,” Andrea said. “I thought about calling too but Mom and Dad refused for being embarrased.”
“But what are you doing here?” Katie asked. She noticed the porcupine walking up and hand to move from the sharp quills. “How are your parents?”
“Yeah, about them,” Robert said. “I may be late in the game, but did they transform?”
Andrea nodded. “They did. It wasn’t easy. But I wanted them to come and explain.”
And again with the porcupine totem, Katie didn’t notice Morgan and Beth approaching the old wood doors and pulling them open. Katie and Robert looked up in shock.
Scott walked from the house to the patio after hearing the news. Keeji walked beside him. “Still wondering why they are here?” the husky said.
“I’m still wondering why they haven’t started a fight,” Scott said. “You’re my totem, you’re supposed to know what I think. Remember?”
Jonathan and Brenda didn’t want to go with him, for obvious reasons, and kept Jacob from going too, even though Jacob wasn’t the most hurt from the outbusts from the Livingstons. Scott looked at the closest window to the patio if they were looking, but sadly weren’t.
The patio is the landmark location the same for Cliffhangar Port. Unique. Katie’s great grandmother was a dedicated gardener and had an affection for recycling junk. The iconic lights—plain lightbulbs inside clear Mason jars strung up on power cables screwed to the wood trellis—made up over half the winery’s advertisements. The tables and chairs were all steel, handmade years ago. The floor was mosaic stone, hand laid by Grandmother Walsh. Used wine barrels doubled as flower, herb and vegetable garden pots, stools and short tables for the lounge seats along the low railroad tie barrier.
The patio was the one and only party hotspot and visitor destination to enjoy a glass of wine or two. But seeing the Livingstons on the patio with Katie and Arana, it became a hotbed for an impending fight.
Except, the parents appeared ashamed.
“Holy crap,” Keeji said.
“I see,” Scott said.
The parents sat at one table. Both were terrans. Their tails stuck through the chair’s back, unmoving. The same under-skin armor plating on their arms and legs and the elongated elf ears all terrans share. No doubt they have their mana hearts.
The stark change was their body fat. Morgan and Beth looked able to run the LA Marathon without a drink of water. Their hair had no signs of grey, replaced with life from when they were young. They both looked strong, and hopefully felt strong. Their shirts and pants looked loose and big telling Scott they haven’t shopped since. They looked from Katie to Scott, and as Scott got closer, both parents haven’t had a haircut yet.
Neither of them looked pleased with the results.
On the table before them were their totems. A bald eagle with a Celtic tattoo, different from Arana’s and similarly placed on its chest, and an orange and white bobcat, the Celtic tattoo splayed on the right side of its face.
“Morning,” the eagle said first, sitting on an empty chair’s back. “I was looking forward to meet you as well. Andrea told much about you and Katie.”
“As do I, sir,” the bobcat said, laying on the table with both paws under her.
“Well this is a surprise,” Scott said with a attentive tone in his voice. “What’s going on?”
“I told them to come,” Andrea said. “I wanted and it took me a long time to convince them.”
Scott blinked. “Guess so.”
Arana arrived and landed on the trellis, looking down at Morgan and Beth.
Beth shook her head while pulling back her hair with both hands. “This is insane, Andrea. I don’t want to be here. I—“
The bobcat turned. “This is for your sake and Morgan’s. I can’t stand staying in that house without a clear conscious. Let’s get this done, and then we can go home.”
Beth shook from the totem’s outburst. Must be her totem.
“Okay,” Katie started. “Scott. They want to apologize for what they did.”
“Oh I bet,” Scott said. “You do know Jonathan and Brenda can’t come out because of what you said.”
Morgan gulped. “I know. We heard. But here me out,” he said. “I was conflicted to come here. But Andrea wanted too. As far as the transformation, we look like hypocrites without telling the truth.”
Arana’s head tilted. “The truth?” Everybody looked up. “You insulted my host—your daughter’s best friend—and her family. You kicked your own daughter out of your home, forced to survive on her own without using magic. And on top of that, you were enthralled and nearly killed us with your bare hands.”
Morgan was about to talk, then paused as the bird mentioned the zombie bit. Beth looked away. Scott seen it before: people being told they were enthralled were scared, confused, even vulnerable. Nobody ever forgets that night, when Scott had to nearly die to save Katie, Jaruka, and most of Nova Company, but not sure of the hundred thousand quickly dying from nearly killing Griffon the Reaper-in-disguise.
Scott shook his head. “Can you just tell us what happened? You guys were never this predudice before the Wave.”
“And we never were,” Morgan said, “but ever since that event… we had blackouts. A lot of them. I don’t suppose Andrea told you she had them too?”
Katie’s mouth opened and her and Scott shook their heads. Andrea looked down.
Blackouts were common in the news, the free-from-corruption web blogs mostly, associating with Reaper enthrallment from overseas during the Area 51 incident. Once General Griffon was nearly killed by Scott’s mana and all enthralled zombies controlled by Griffon in the United States died, other countries had zombies too, except they turned back to normal. Nobody had any memory of being a zombie, and certainly none of them had memories that the Wave ever occurred.
But blackouts were something to note.
“When did they happen?” Scott asked.
Beth took a breath. “Two weeks before the Wave. I thought it was stress from the news. They certainly didn’t bite us if that helps. But they became more frequent that we noticed hours, even days, we passed. We kept track, and more it more time was lost to us. We wanted to call you guys, go to the hospital, anything to stop it, but every time we had a thought, we black out and it never happened. It became like… like we were prisoners. We shopped and do business with others, but couldn’t tell the truth. Believe us, if we didn’t come here to apologize, we would have a very good reason not to.”
“God,” Katie said.
“Sometimes we wondered why our friends started hating us. Then when Andrea disappeared, we did not know what happened until we saw her transformation circle. Then it got worse,” Morgan said, pausing. “The day you guys came, we didn’t know about that. The fight, the attack; nothing was our doing. Not even remembering what that alien said to us. Everything for the last few days up to our transformation was black. And once we woke up and saw the tattoos and Andrea, God we hugged her so tight she screamed of being crushed.”
“True,” Andrea said.
“Wait a minute,” Scott said. “Are you saying that you had no memory of meeting us? Not even what you did to Andrea?”
The parents nodded.
“The anti-terran threats. The reasons why magic is dangerous. The reasons why you can’t have Andrea in the house.”
“Yes, all of it,” Morgan said. “We were for terran rights from the beginning because, well, it’s a new world. The things were saying were not us. You might say… we were puppets.”
Scott felt chills realizing the full extent of the Reaper’s power. If they had that power to use humans as puppets, could it be the same for the media?
“What about the totems? They see everything what you guys did,” Katie mentioned.
“Yes and no, Ms. Walsh,” the eagle said. “We saw bits and pieces of the enthrallment, but everything else was blackness, and worse. We were beaten and tortured by telepathic violence day in and day out.”
“Wow,” Katie said.
“When these two arrived in their Inner Sanctums, we were so tortured we barely moved off the ground. My body looked fine, but I felt like I was mauled by an alligator. Feeling our hosts hold us made us recover quickly. Horrible I tell you.” The eagle sniffed.
“Never again I want those feeling come back,” the bobcat added.
“Well good thing,” Katie said. “It’s known that terrans can’t be zombies anymore.”
“And now that we are terrans we won’t be hurting any people,” Morgan said, “and we can finally move on.”
“Well, there is the magic, and I don’t suppose you two tried out.”
“Not quite but eventually,” Beth said.
“This does impact our economy, right? Me and Morgan have to understand this one way or another, plust get back on good terms with your parent’s, Katie. I’m sure that they are hurting financially?”
“You’ll see,” Katie answered. “But here’s what I still don’t get.” Katie looked at Andrea. “What did you do to save them?”
Without any more questions and hoping to get any closer, Andrea told them everything without any hesitation, yet her doubt of using it were the blame. It made Katie so excited yet stupid to not notice it sooner, and thus Scott knowing what to look for in his spellbook. Speaking of spellbook…
“I want to talk to the alien,” Andrea said. “ I want to thank him.”
The Alien Campsite, near Lake Skinner
Fifteen minutes later…
Half a mile from Doffo Winery, and one thousand feet east of the Lake Skinner entrance was the site. A five-hundred feet wide circle indent in the ground marked Jaruka’s territory, but it served for the invisible repulsion shield he was grateful to acquire from Nova Company engineering, for safety. The middle was the loner Nova Company dropship, a Marin’zal gunnery dropship, with it’s weapons removed by orders from Councilman Denverbay and Captain Brill Secambre.
But it’s not Jaruka’s “true home.” He hated the thing. Within two months, it became un-flyable from smashed portholes, scorched holes through the hull, and chopped up not by intense battles, but by Jaruka’s random spurts of rage for hating his predicament. And every week he asks Nova Company, “Where’s my new ship?” and they said, “We’re working on it.” Yet the stress and frustration of waiting, on top of information gathering for Xi’Tra on the Wave and the terran tranformations, keeps piling on.
He tries balancing it with his rage, and glassblowing.
Jaruka was near the active furnace attempting to make two more glass liquor steins when he heard two knocks at the hatch. It was peaceful; he was focused. The sound made him jump and the red hot glass warped.
“Oh you have got to be kidding me,” he yelled, dropping the mass of glass into the scrap bucket and getting up, shutting the furnace down. “One time, just one time to get things right. I swar if it’s Mathews again that boy better have a cup in pla… Oh.”
On the wall screen, the security camera showed Scott and Katie standing before the hatch, with Keeji on the ground and Arana on Katie’s left shoulder. The repulsion shield can keep everybody out, but it can be selective. Only Jaruka, the terrans and their totems are allowed to enter, also Scott’s godfather and certain annoying government officials.
“Jaruka, you awake?” Scott yelled through the mic. “ We came to talk about the other night.”
Jaruka closed his eyes, and pondered. He did not want to talk to anybody that day, out of spite. But it’s his friends and he has to answer. He opened the hatch and peered outside. People’s voices outside the shield, familiar ones mostly, grew from his presence.
“He’s outside, our prophet has come forth,” one religious nut chanted.”
At least the newspeople left, Jaruka thought.
“Hey there,” Katie said. “You look a little frazzled. And smelly.”
“Water tanks are low. Haven’t left to get some more,” Jaruka said in clear English, pulling a few oily skindreads away. “What do you want? I’m busy right now.”
“Liar,” Scott said Keeji said.
Jaruka grumbled. “Hey, it’s not easy combing through your spellbook with a near broken translator.”
“Anyway,” Katie said to prevent the impending fight. “We came because the Livingstons want to thank you.”
“Oh. Them. Wait. Thank me? After what they did to me?” He popped his head out and looked at the crowd, spotting the Livingstons a foot from the shield, staying close together. The other campers—hippies, lowlifes, religious folk, evolution haters, and college students—cheered at his presence. They been there from the start and it seemed that the surrounding area got more campers. The government can keep them away, but the Titan spires have them scared of even touching Jaruka’s green skin.
Andrea waved at him, but Jaruka didn’t return the favor on accounting the other people surrounding the shield. They might think differently. So much for having no dropship weapons to scar them off.
“I barely did anything to be thanked,” Jaruka said. “And… Oh, I get it. They transformed.”
“Andrea really wants to talk to you, not as much for Morgan and Beth,” Scott said.
“Oh come on, I told them what I had to say.”
“Told them what?
Jaruka paused. “Eh… nevermind. Grab a piece of hair from her.” What he talked about with the parents, Jaruka’s family, was best not to be shared to them, especially the ones he’s close to.
Katie went back and forth with a hair sample from Andrea and Jaruka added it to the shield generator’s computer, where it was added in the “Allow” database. Katie said it was okay and Andrea walked through. The campers became furious.
“She has the right to come here you greedy bastards!” Jaruka yelled at them. No doubt he will see this in the upcoming tabloids and websites humans loved to foam over.
“Hello, Jaruka,” Andrea said walking up.
“Yeah, yeah. Hello. What do you want?”
“I just came over to talk and thank you,” she said. “And see where you live. Looks awesome.”
“I get that a lot around here.”
“Oh and I brought you something.” Andrea held up with her hands a basket of red fruit. “It’s apples.”
Jaruka did nothing.
“Just take it,” Scott whispered.
Rolling his eyes, Jaruka took the basket and said, “Thank you.” It would take him time if these were poisoned or naturally grown. He set them inside on an empty chair.
“See that wasn’t so bad,” Scott said.
“Don’t. Just don’t.”
Katie leaned down to Andrea’s height. “Tell him what else you have to say.”
“Oh, yes. Nearly forgot,” Andrea said. “I want to talk about what I did to save my parents.”
Jaruka looked back at the crowd. “Come inside, I don’t want these hopeful people to know about it.”
Arana told Keeji they have to stay outside, just so that Keeji doesn’t get his nose in Jaruka’s things again. He led them inside the dropship, which caused a stir from the crowd and the Livingstons.
“Hang on, we have to be there too you know,” Morgan yelled.
“This is just a small talk, your child is safe.”
“I highly doubt that.”
Jaruka gave the stink eye, then said everybody to cool themselves down. It failed as usual. Scorning the crowd he went back inside and closed the hatch.
Inside the Marin’zal gunnery dropship, it was originally built to house four rows of seats for troops, a weapon rack above the seats, two side turrets (now removed), and very minimal storage. Before Jaruka was sent to earth, it was heavily modified within a couple hours to suit his needs. The two middle rows of seats were gutted out. The third seat row on the port side was gutted and replaced with a basic kitchen and shower, which had its fill of Jaruka’s random rage attacks. Most of what he could recover from the Lunar Spear was strewn all over the place like clothes, gadgets, and stuff the terrans failed to associate with. The middle was Jaruka’s recovered glassblowing furnace and tools; the furnace still cooling down.
Scott, Katie and the totems no better to not mess with anything on the ship, but Andrea didn’t. She was looking at Jaruka’s Custom T31ZK Plasma Rifle sitting on its pedestal, next to his katana. She was about to touch it when Jaruka moved his hand between Andrea’s and the plasma rifle’s battery.
“No touching. That’s my rule,” he said.
“Oh, sorry,” Andrea said. “It looks so cool.”
Jaruka sniffed. “Alright, kid. Tell us. What did you do?”
Andrea sat down at the fourth remaining seat row. Her porcupine totem exited her and sat two seats to her right because of the quills. The totem reminded Jaruka one of those metal spike covered wallowbads from his homeworld, or a certain jackass.
“What I did was charge my mana, speak words Dallas told me, touched the crystal on the front yard, and this… energy escaped me,” Andrea said. “He kept screaming in my head since you crashed through the window, but I was scared what would happen. I couldn’t trust him.”
“What is the spell?” Jaruka pressed. “I had a hard time remembering what you said to trigger it and my patience is waning thin.”
“It wasn’t a spell, I think. It was a limerick.”
Jaruka blinked and his arms fell to his sides. “What the crog is a limerick?”
“It’s a poem,” Scott said. “Or a type of human poem. And watch your language.”
“Okay… That’s it?”
“No. There’s more to it,” Katie said. “You still have Scott’s spellbook?”
Jaruka pointed to a makeshift desk covered in papers. Scott’s dark green spellbook sat open. Katie went to it, but paused. “You were ripping pages out of it?”
“Oh you saw that? I can explain.”
“Jaruka,” Katie said with an elevated tone. “This is a priceless tome of knowledge. You can’t just rip delicate pa…”
Jaruka took a page on terran anatomy and deliberately tore it off the binding. Katie was about to curse up a storm, but she saw light coming from the book. The duplicate page grew from the rip, making an exact copy of the original page.
“How in the…”
“You never tried doing it to your own?” Jaruka said. “Found that out when I blasted it with a plasma round and it regenerated itself.”
“What?” Scott said.
“At least I can take the pages and digitize them. Be grateful you can still learn magic when that heart comes back. Now, as you were saying?”
Katie shook her head and lifted the spellbook. She brought it so all five could see it.
“We know it’s a spell, and a poem,” Katie started, “but what Andrea and Dallas said to me and Scott, it’s hidden. Not entirely in plain sight but it’s there nonetheless. Follow me.” She turned several pages to a section of basic terran magic mechanics and placed her finger on one bold Celtic word in purple. “I’ve seen these colored words and thought they were a glossary type of format when looking up a definition.”
“I’ve seen those too,” Jaruka said.
“Turns out there are more words of that color, spread out through the whole book. And that tiny number on the top right of the word. That’s the word placement in a sentence. The purple words makes up one poem. It reads:”
The Darkness consumes an innocent soul,
thwart freedom and the abundant bowl.
A keystone will spark
to give souls a mark.
And the Darkness will take a toll.
“I was so tired to realize it that it stared right in my face,” Katie said. “Not only the basics are visible, but advanced spells and rituals are spread out. Isn’t this awesome?”
“Sounds awesome to me,” Scott said.
Andrea and Dallas agreed too.
But not Jaruka.
He appeared agitated by the discovery. In times he reviewed the mysterious spellbook in a rage. The rage coming from his situation. He did not put the pieces together and had to find a way to calm down and do the job.
“Of course, I found it,” Dallas said. “She never let me out, and I did not fight her for freedom. Plus I’m small, and I can hurt anybody I hug. So I talked to her, yelled at her, to use magic. I found that spell the day she transformed, and I pleaded her to use it on her parents.”
Andrea nodded. “I couldn’t trust him. I thought he was from space. I thought that spell could kill Mom and Dad. I was afraid. So, so afraid.” Her head lowered. “I hate being responsible.”
Scott sat beside her. “Sometimes we have to do what we are afraid of doing. You know, I was afraid too. I was afraid of magic and unsure what would happen if I loose myself to it. Become corrupt. And it nearly cost my life when I needed it the most.”
“What do you mean?” Andrea asked wiping her nose with her arm.
“This.” Scott lifted his shirt showing the little girl his scar. It was healed but pale colored, just like the rest of his scars from years past. Andrea gasped. “I nearly died by a Reaper at Area 51. This slowly healing mana heart saved me. And Katie. And Jaruka. And others. Now I wish I never regret ignoring my gift because I’m useless without it.”
Andrea touched the scar. Surly Jaruka, not saying it out loud, wanted to thank that mana heart for saving him and maiming General Griffon.
“Scary,” Andrea said. “But what if…”
“Forget the what ifs,” Katie interjected. “You did what was right. You saved your parents. We are all terrans now.” Excluding Jaruka. “Magic is part of us now.”
Andrea took a breath and covered her face.
“Don’t worry. When you want to talk, I’ll teach you,” Katie told her and closed the spellbook.
“I’ll keep that in mind.”
And before the tender moment could go any further, Jaruka coughed. “So I think I understand where the slepp came from so I think it’s time to go,” he said. “You might not know this but I’m not comfortable with humans or terrans in my space.”
“But I just got here,” Andrea complained.
“Well it’s my place, my rules.”
“That is cold you know,” Katie said.
Jaruka didn’t catch Andrea as she plowed into him, hugging his right leg. “You could at least warn me.” Being taller than the rest, Andrea was no taller than Jaruka’s thigh.
“Again, thank you for that bit of courage,” she said.
“Eh… no problem,” Jaruka said, but scared to touch her.
After she left to join her family along with Dallas inside her, Scott and Katie stayed behind. “We could stay here for a while,” Katie said. “Comb through the spellbook and find more poems.”
“Nah, I’ll manage,” Jaruka said.
“Oh come on,” Scott started. “We can tell you don’t know what our poetry is or where to start.”
“I said I’ll manage, not be schooled. Also this is troubling me.”
“Why is that?”
Jaruka breathed and said, “I don’t know. I’ll have to think on it.”
He promised to share what he found, if any, before the couple and totems left. And what he would find even more was what scared him the most.
Late at night, when all the campers were fast asleep outside the shield, Jaruka was still wide awake. He uncorked his first bottle of brew for the night, made by the kitchen workers onboard the Endeavour. He managed to get several cases from them before he was sent to the planet, but had to ration it until he gets a new shipment, whenever that is.
Filling his glass and taking a long drink, he stared back at the desk, relishing in his work.
His head felt like fire. Jaruka never done this sort of research since his university days. It was enough to discover not only the “rescue” poem/spell, but also five more. He stood from his chair, took a step back, sat on the glassblowing bench, and stared again, taking another drink.
“What is going on here?” he mumbled.
Several rings came from the briefcase. The Slipspace device has been on and transmitting a call signal for the past hour. He was trying to reach a particular person, even though there are only three people he was permitted to communicate. The person answering the call, he did not want to speak to in the first place, but it was a sure fire way of getting the point across.
The screen cleared and an alien head formed. This was a Creosian, a three-eyed half humaniod, half tripodic being with an insidious amount of quills on his head not remotely close to Dallas the porcupine’s quills. The alien licked his mouth and yawned. At public events, the quills were combed back professionally. Jaruka smirked; he caught him in the morning without his Galactic Council robes.
“Waking me up before dawn,” Councilman Denverbay said. “If I did not know better, I swear it was a Council matter.”
“At least the transmission header mask works,” Jaruka said. “I got something you need to hear before I told Xi’Tra.”
“Can this wait until I’m awake and fed? And this better not be about your new ship.”
“Oh please, I’m not in the mood to talk about the ship,” Jaruka badgered. “You and Brill always say ‘when it’s done, it’s done.’ I get the point. I’m talking about the terrans.”
Denverbay was in his personal office at his family home, in Salajon Valley on Creos. The morning light was nearly peeking past the mountains behind the councilman.
“I suppose you increased your intelligence gathering,” Denverbay mentioned. “You’re recent reports failed the Archive’s interests, not to mention the way station’s manager above you.”
“He’s an ass.”
“And so are you, whether or not you’re sober. Are you?”
“Just had a few sips.” Jaruka held up the glass.
“Spare me. What did you find?”
Jaruka sat back down at the desk’s chair. “For starters, it was Scott and Katie that found it, and a little girl that recently transformed.”
He began telling Denverbay the events leading up to that night, then finished with a long drink, emptying his glass.
“Impressive, huh?” Jaruka asked as he filled his glass again.
“That is impressive. Any chance what this spell is?”
“It’s a couple spells in one,” Jaruka started. “It’s an endowment spell from the Castelazan monks, when a magical creature gives temporary magical energy to both magical and non-magical. Heavy enchanted item users. But this works as a triggering spell, a forced keystone, thus forcing the transformation prematurely.”
Denverbay slowly blinked. “You do know that my species is not magical, and this is a long time I heard any magical explanation out of you.”
“Told you I got something. There is a way to not only break them of the enthrallment, but turn humans with or without their word.”
Denverbay’s head tipped back as agreeing without a word.
“And also, what’s your opinion on the hidden spells in the book?” Jaruka asked.
Denverbay brought his hands together, six fingers total, each with a claw enough to cut the skindreads right off Jaruka’s head. “That it may be a coincidence,” he answered.
Jaruka became furious that he threw his glass across the ship, shattering against the wall. “This is not coincidence. Can’t you see?”
“Mr. Teal. You are talking to someone without a slightest hint of what magic feels or does. This sort of thing has to be explained slowly, patiently.”
“Well this is not patients you idiot. Look at this.” Jaruka grabbed the camera on top of the briefcase, tethered to the lid, and aimed it at the desk. “There are four more hidden spells and rituals in the spellbook. One of them involves the crystals but the poem is too cryptic to understand. And don’t get me started on the poem forms humans have. I will say this and I will say it again: this is an artificial GMT event. Somebody is behind all this and they know the humans inside and out down to their literary arts.” He slammed the camera back on the lid. “You take this in consideration because if they accelerate their transformations, I might be begging you to take me to court.”
Over the years, the Galactic Council is a win/loose streak for speakers. You might not know what answer you get unless your argument is valid and solid. Others succeeded, and others failed. All part of heavy checks and balances between the members. But convincing one outside the Council, like Denverbay, is hard to accomplish. Denverbay’s nickname is the Hammer, after slamming and breaking gavels after high-profile cases and passing on harsh sentences.
“What do you want me to do about it?” Denverbay asked.
“Now were getting somewhere,” Jaruka said after drinking. “How’s ‘bout that team you’re forming?”
“I’m still working on it.” No sign of lie in that voice.
“Make it faster, but I want to people in the team, people that I know that can do the job.”
“Who?” Denverbay asked.
“There is this guy I know. Domoja Balcusten, a Faldeg sorcerer. He used to be my professor at the Academy on magical theory. This guy is also a high honcho expert on GMTs. You look for him and bring him in, also tell him I said hi.”
“And you’re sure he’s an expert?”
“Me and Domoja fought in the Goomash Raid,” Jaruka said with a level voice.
“Oh, that political mess.” Denverbay lowered his hands and typed away, hopefully the notes Jaruka explained.
“Also I don’t know any person in the galaxy, but find the smartest expert on crystals. I need to know if there is anything else in these ‘dormant’ Wave crystals.”
“I already have a couple hundred candidates for it, Jaruka.”
“Oh, good.” Jaruka smirked. “At least you’re doing something at least.”
“Anything else?” Denverbay asked.
“One last thing,” Jaruka said with a smile. “Make sure the paint job is what I asked for.”
The connection was cut before Denverbay cared to answer. Jaruka didn’t take that personally, but loved the ploy of annoying the one person that put him in this situation.
Then he made another call to Xi’Tra. The screen flickered to a Zimmi female, an anthro-lizard. She apparently was wide-awake, noon-ish compared to the light coming from the window, and still wore bedclothes.
“I had a hunch you would be calling sometime,” Xi’Tra said. “I’ve been waiting for new reports from you for a while. You need to step it up or else.”
“Yeah, yeah, I get it. It’s hard enough people recognize my DNA mask now. But I got something here, and it’s something you have got to hear.”
What Do We Know - Titan Spires
The last part. Geeze this chapter was an ass kicker. And that Domoja character? He will show up in The Ghost Factor.
As always, comments are appreciated.
Mana Pool and all characters and events belong to L.J. McLean
I have also purchases your book on amazon and found it to be quite enjoyable. On account of that I would like to see the second book in the series to be out as well.