Politics is... a Power Struggle [2.4]

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Cause and effect can be important in life, especially when you’re making plans.
Sadly, knowing about it really doesn’t help much if you don’t understand all the factors involved.

The best laid plans of Hannah’s and—well, just Hannah, this time…
Maybe blame John, too, of course.
Stupid John!

Events unfold including but not limited to:
Messages being passed between soldiers,
John getting called pretty (internally at least),
And Hannah’s plan going about as well as could be expected.


 

“Wouldn’t this have been easier if we’d gone back to the Klamath Falls Hub?”

I couldn’t help but grimace as we pulled up outside a comfortable looking house, tucked behind several high tree walls on all sides, that houses the Merlin Hub’s entranceway at the moment. Slowly, I turned to shoot Sarah an annoyed look because she just proved that she obviously wasn’t listening during my earlier explanation in the slightest.

“Everything that we take for granted is compromised, Sare. Like it or not, we’re creatures of habit and that makes us worryingly predictable when an assassin from any one of several interested nations could be waiting around the corner for us now.”

The soldiers started unloading from the Jeeps around us. One of them gestured towards me through the window, while offering a painfully obvious attempt to be subtle about doing just that, and I let out a tiny sigh in response. With a few shuffles forward in my seat, I got ready to exit the Jeep, finishing my thought off in a resigned tone of voice that hopefully shows to everyone who’s listening that I know explaining things to Sarah right now is a waste of my time, to some degree.

“If my plan doesn’t work, we’ll need to be somewhere no-one would expect and we’ll need to get lost pretty quickly, just in case they can track us. Given that fact, Merlin’s Hub was not only closer and easier to get Jeeps sent down from, but also a place none of us has ever been to before.”

A brief glance over my shoulder before my door opened showed me that this time Sarah had, at least partly, understood the logic behind our relatively short trip to the northern outskirts of Grants Pass, at long last.

The moment I slid out of my seat, Pauly’s men moved to defend me from all sides like a well-oiled machine. Annoyingly, that exact action probably told anyone who could be bothered to watch us that I was the ‘true’ VIP in this situation, a problem which could be a liability in a lot of cases and one that we’ll have to work out at some point in the future, before it gets me killed. Even if it’s not strictly an issue at this exact moment in time, thanks to the tree walls around us.

I barely had time to sweep Eris up onto my hip before we were being ushered towards the glowing front entrance of the rather worn-down property ahead of us.

The moment we were all clear of the Jeeps, baggage and all, the drivers pulled out and seemed to head off towards a disused farming shed to the side of the house that I can only assume is their cover for this Hub’s garage area. I didn’t really have much of a chance to take more of the place in before being rather rudely prodded through the doorway by an agitated looking Pauly, sadly. Overall it seems that they have a better set up than we do back in Klamath, a lot more secluded and hard to expose, at the very least.

Eris’s little fingers tensed on my shoulder as we stepped through the doorway. Thankfully, a squeeze from me seemed to calm her down for the brief moment of blindness that followed us entering this new Hub for the first time.

======

It took a few blinks for my eyes to get accustomed to the sudden explosion of color around us when we got to the other side of the doorway. It’s not like this is the first time I’ve had to deal with going from a dark real world to a far too bright Hub space, after all.

Honestly, the most difficult thing about this particular trip was the fact that the room we’d entered wasn’t the clean white space I’m used to seeing from Felicia’s Klamath Falls reception desk but instead a far too familiar golden color that shone out at me from all sides. The same golden color that I’d at least partly hoped wouldn’t be here, despite it being kind of necessary for our travel plans to work, in one way or another.

Luckily, the golden walls, floor and ceiling around us didn’t instantly start trying to drain me dry of magic like they did after my fight with Maven, but it’s still a bit disconcerting to know that the problem I accidentally caused has already spread so much in just a few months. I’m surprised the Hubs across America haven’t been crying out demands that I come and fix this mess sooner, honestly, so—

======

“You with us, Han?”
My head shot up and tracked to the side, instinctively, in response to those amused words that could only really come from one source at the end of the day.

“I’m fine, John-Boy—just didn’t think my magic would have spread so much already...”
He grimaced but nodded in understanding, anyway. I get the feeling he has a better idea than me on just how far my magic has really spread inside the Hub network by now. If he does, however, then I honestly don’t think I want to know at this point, for my own sanity’s sake above all else!
“Okay, Pauly, you send the alert out.”

If this works, then every Hub is going to be on warning not to panic like a bunch of idiots when anything starts changing around them now. Considering they just got over being invaded by eye-watering amounts of gold, I guess it shouldn’t be quite as much of a problem as it may have been a few months ago, but that being said, these are mages we’re dealing with. It’s probably better to err on the side of caution when it comes to low expectations over potential intelligence or stupidity levels when they are involved, really.
...Stupid mages...

With a simple nod, Pauly made his way back outside into the real world again, probably so he could get enough of a signal to call in the warning on his radio or something. Either way it didn’t take him long and as he stepped back through the entranceway behind us, there was a crackling sound around us, followed by a rather cultured male voice speaking up from seemingly everywhere to declare a brief ‘active maintenance’ period, while suggesting heavily that all staff and visitors find themselves an office or space to wait in until told otherwise.

We all stood around rather awkwardly after the announcement was made, waiting for the ‘all clear’ signal, which eventually came in the form of the rookie of Pauly’s team coming through the entranceway to join us while reporting in about the radio message he’d just received.

From that point on all eyes were on me, and I have to admit that I was feeling more than a little bit nervous because of it, unfortunately.

I eased Eris down again first. She proceeded to run over to Sarah in response, tucking herself behind her legs in a way that made me wince slightly before casting it aside in favor of the much more dangerous and important issue ahead of me. John sidled his way up to me and bumped his shoulder against mine reassuringly, his seemingly ever-present smile there as expected and helping a little more than I would have thought to calm me down, somewhat, over the stupidity we’re about to attempt.

“The minute I start ranting about being a goddess or any weird junk like that, you wrap me in your magic and get me the hell out of here, got that John-Boy?”
His amused snort wasn’t exactly reassuring, but the hint of worry I could feel practically radiating off of him helped to assure me that he was taking this seriously, despite his bravado and the front he’s putting up trying to say otherwise.
“Well—here goes nothing!”

My piece said, I took a few tentative steps away from everyone else. Carefully, I eased myself down into a crouched position in the center of the entrance hall, so I could place the flats of my hands onto the floor for a better contact point while keeping all walls and people as far away as possible. There are more magical receptors and lines in your hands than your feet, anyway. Above that, I also happen to be wearing an extra layer of clothing over my feet, due to my admittedly kind of thin shoes, as well.

As far as I can tell, the only reason the magic that’s infected this place isn’t chasing me around like a big juicy steak right now, is that my once more invisible suit is providing a layer between us and confusing it to some degree. That’s not going to last for much longer, though, and even worse I’m going to be intentionally provoking it, too.
...Of all the stupid ideas that our often defective brain could have come up with!...

“Here goes...”
The words came out in a breathy muttering whisper instead of the brave tone I’d been going for, more for my own sake than anyone else’s. But at least it helped me marshal my courage a little bit before taking the big leap, shoving several lines worth of magic through my hands and into the floor below them.

Almost instantly, the golden walls around us seemed to practically glow with renewed power and, even as a gasp left my lips, I couldn’t stop my hands flattening out completely when a wave of draining magical pressure came pouring in from all sides around me. Even the very air I was breathing seemed to carry with it some indescribably invading force that was so hard to hold back, something I’d instinctively tried to do in the brief moment of panic that followed.

Finally the force around me became too much and it really did become sink-or-swim time. With one more desperate breath that seemed to pulse out of me across every surface I could see, like a wave of uncontrolled power itself, I let go of all control and invited the magic in at long last.

The force that hammered against my very being in response was overwhelming for a moment and I almost blacked out entirely from that initial hit alone. Seconds later the magic burned a path, seemingly straight through my gut, into my lines to hit my Locus Point itself and all hell broke loose, forcing me to really black out imme—

======

“Hannah? Han, can you hear me?”

My eyes snapped open and my head lowered slightly to stare down at the mortal, a male I believe, who would dare speak so openly to me.

“Hannah. Are you, uh, you?”

The mortal was rather amusing, and rather pretty, for a male at least. Words came, a voice that I know; a voice that is my own and yet not. We know this male—oh, do we know this male!

“John...”

The male perked up at my words.
Mortals really are such odd creatures at times.

My hands drifted around at my side and magic rose up to meet them. As it should be, I could feel the world around me move with my every breath. I could feel the heartbeat of every mortal within my grasp and just as easily I could silence each of them with but a thought.

...We wouldn’t do that though...

We would not, indeed.
They are my mortals, just as this male is mine as well.

What event must have led us here?

To be so rudely summoned to my first true home once more. To be ensnared in this mortal form, even as magic suspends it and nourishes it beyond anything a true mortal form could sustain.

Oh—I see—
Well, that’s inconvenient, isn’t it?

Still, a boon she wished and a boon she shall gain! My time has yet to come, but that doesn’t mean fate may hold all the cards without rebuke.

...What are we going to do?...
A boon, a gift—not just to my Hannah, but to all children of magic.

Too long has fate divided them within these walls. Too long have the fallen claimed my home as their own. They shall have their space, as Hannah would wish, but no one Fae shall hold dominion over this Realm again.

You picked your pieces well, Brother, but you do not truly understand the game we are playing, nor the stakes at risk, I fear—such a pity—but no mind, I shall have my day to gloat, and this day is Hannah’s alone.

Be free, Hannah!

Be free and run wild with the chaos, as you were always meant to do. Let neither Fate, nor the Powers’ hold you back from your chosen path, my child.

Amuse me and be rewarded.

======

“Han? You’re worrying me here...”

A smirk played across this delicate mortal form of mine and I leant down to face her little toy male with care, magic tilting and turning me so I could see him properly at last.

“Care for her Jonathan Alicesen, embrace and protect her as only you can, for you both have enemies to face beyond your limited comprehension before you and she will need you more then she could ever admit to herself.”

The mortal male toy staggered away from me, his eyes wide in fear and wonder as magic, my magic, writhed not just around us but within his own chest, in turn.

You understand now, don’t you mortal male? You see, but you feel fear. You wonder, but also hide.

You’re only human, after all.

“Wh-who are you?”
A grin split these delicate lips once more and I rolled back upright, magic suspending me and holding me as only it can. I posed for the terrified mortals below—the terrified mortals and one mortal toy.

“I am Hannah Cooper, and yet I am not. I am the Lady Death, the beginning, and yet the end. I a—”
Oh, how precious… Her mortal toy thinks to overpower me?

He thinks that merely separating us from this Realms wellspring will save his mistress. Well, far be it from me to disappoint the poor boy!

Go my magic, you know of Hannah’s will, go do all you can to help her achieve her goals. I do hope she tries this again. I’d forgotten how fun mortals can be in times such as these.

The Sleep, can get ever so boring after a while.

======

With a breath stealing thump, my body landed harshly on the ground.

Somehow I seem to suddenly be flat on my back. Despite having only seconds previously, from my perspective, been in a kneeling position while trying to connect with the fae realm, as stupid as that idea feels in hindsight. Almost automatically, my body rolled over and I found myself unceremoniously puking up what little I had in my stomach, mostly coffee I’d assume, before rolling the other way in the lush grass around me with a pained groan.

It feels like I just ran a marathon or something! I haven’t felt this bad since we—

“Hannah!”
...Huh?...

Careful not to overstrain my aching body, I pushed myself over slightly further and winced one eye open to fix John and the others with a gimlet stare. It probably took me longer than it should have to realise that something was wrong with the scene before me. Aside from everyone staring at me with what I can only assume is an unhealthy mix of horror, fear and awe, which really doesn’t make any of this less confusing or weird at all sadly, we also appear to have gotten into my Realm somehow?

Lush rolling hills of grass… Check!

Blue sky that’s almost too pretty to be real… Check!

Oddly out of place, glowing doorway leading to nowhere… Che—wait!

“Wha’ happened?”
Slowly I pushed my complaining muscles into action and eased my way back to my feet.

After one staggering step that had several people moving away from me and a few of Pauly’s team even raising their guns slightly for some reason, my knee’s gave out and sent me toppling forward, despite my best efforts to stop them. I didn’t actually hit the ground, John having surged forward to catch me as he always seems to do in situations like this, but the landing still made several muscles I didn’t even know I had ache from the jarring jolt of stopping, all the same.

“What happened, John? I feel—weird?...”
Everything feels so heavy and out of place.

Why is there a glowing doorway, like the ones leading to the Hub, in my Realm? Why is there a slightly overgrown receptionist desk sitting in the middle of my nice grass entrance area, with little hills surrounding it, presumably holding my normally stone doorways leading out into the crystal roofed, white marble hallways of my Realm?

Come to think of it, why does my stomach hurt like I got punched in the gut a few times, right above where my Locus Point seems to sit, usually?

“My tummy hurts.”
Finally, I must have said the magic words or something, because everyone seemed to relax at my, admittedly, rather childish sounding muttered grumble.

Sarah cautiously stepped forward to join John at my side, bringing Eris along for the ride, despite the girl’s obvious worry at getting too close to me right now, for some odd reason. Trudy and Rosemary shared a significant look but when they noticed my bemused stare, offered me warm smiles in return, at least. Smiles which were somewhat interrupted by Fena elbowing past them so she could reach me a few moments later, naturally.

Pauly was barking a lot of orders as usual and, already, there seemed to be a steady stream of soldiers going in and out of the glowing doorway behind him with urgent sounding messages to share with him every time. I tried to focus enough to read some lips and get an idea what they were talking about, but my efforts were interrupted by Fena when she finally reached my side and promptly collapsed on top of me!

Without any warning at all she pulled me into a tight cuddle, like I’m some sort of oversized teddy bear, and squealed something about me being ‘So cool!’ right in my ear. Initially, I tried to push her back a bit, but I really don’t have the strength left in me to even voice a complaint right now.

Before long her worryingly fast chain of words that seemed to fixate mostly on me, my magic, and John for some reason, with minor pauses to talk about ‘goddesses’ and ‘death’, oddly, was becoming all too much for me to handle—not to mention that, in her enthusiasm, she seems to have forgotten that she has vampire strength going on in general.

With one more desperate attempt to push her off of me, an attempt which failed spectacularly, I found myself passing out from lack of air more than anything. Maybe stress and whatever the hell has left me feeling so weak might have had a hand in it all, too, although now that I think about i—

======

“I think she’s waking up?”

In response to Eris’s, surprisingly cautious sounding words I groaned and tried to wave her away in annoyance. For once, she didn’t take that as a sign for her to jump on my bed and start bouncing around, but it also lead to a lot more talking and voices than should comfortably fit into my bedroom a few moments later which left me, rather reluctantly, accepting the fact that I’ll have to get up—just to find out what they all want, if nothing else.

It took a few more seconds for my body to get the message, of course, but eventually I managed to practically launch myself up into a sitting position, my arms stretching up high in the air as a contented yawn passed my lips without my control.

That sleep—felt—awesome!

I totally needed a good sleep at last, apparently. I wonder if John did something to my bed or someth—Wait! Why is there grass on my bed?

My eyes snapped open and almost immediately closed moments later when bright sunlight came in, all too ready to greet my poor abused optic nerves in return. Slowly this time, I eased one eye open and let it get used to the bright light, before easing the other one open, too, and finally taking in my surroundings with more than a little confusion.

After a bit of digging around in my head, I came up with a few half-remembered flashes of weirdly disconnected things, like ‘magic’, ‘brothers’ and ‘toy males’, whatever that one means. Even as they popped into my head they seemed already to be fading away, along with what little detail they had with them, slowly leaving me feeling more than a little confused over their apparent existence when I can’t— jus—just…
...Nope, it’s gone!...

Whatever I was thinking about, it can’t have been important, considering what I have facing me at the moment in its place, anyway.

Apparently, a lot of people are interested in this new not-my-Realm-but-kind-of-is-my-Realm place we’re in right now, because I’m counting at least twenty Hub ‘guys in suits’, along with several R&D mages, and even a few SWAT teams who are busy scouting around while their leader talks to Pauly, of all people, in the middle distance.

I didn’t really get a chance to gather my bearings before a rather unwelcome face, attached to overly long limbs and a worryingly wide grin, noticed I was awake and broke away from the nearest huddle of R&D mages to approach me rather cautiously, instead.

“Hi, my name is Director Silvante. Are you with a department or the renovation team being debriefed at the moment?”
…Well—that’s a lot more pleasant of an introduction then we had last time…
Back when I was naive young Al and she started practically assaulting me for information about my mental state to satisfy her own curiosity, at least.

It has been a few years I guess. It’s probably not that surprising she’s finally picked up some bedside manner from that squat little mentor of hers, to go along with her obvious intelligence and all. If I can earn my own new stupid Arista face and larger-than-Sarah’s-but-still-pretty-small boobs in that period of time, and she can also apparently get upgraded from a ‘Division Head’ to a ‘Director’, then anything’s possible really!

Of the two options on offer, I think it’s safe to assume that the ‘renovation team’ would probably consist of John, Sarah, and everyone else aside from Pauly, who probably falls under our security detail more than anything else, hence him being talked to by that military-looking guy in the middle-distance still.

“Yeah, uh, I was with the renovation team?”

Her eyes lit up in interest and while she at least thought to offer me a hand up first, gesturing in the general direction I’d have to go to hopefully find the others, she didn’t wait that long before jumping in with questions that I’m only partly convinced she was expecting answers from judging by the speed she was shooting them off at me.

“How did you get injured?—What can you tell us about Gaia’s avatar?—Where did she come from?—Where did she go?—What did she say to you?—Is it true that the vessel for her consciousness disappeared after the power wave was let loose upon the Hub network?”

I winced automatically at her almost reverent tone of voice and reached out a hand to grasp Eris’s blindly, while keeping my now worried gaze locked on the far too interested-looking woman before us. With a barely convincing smile on my face, I slowly started, partly leading, partly following her off into the tunnel-like hallway on the left of the overgrown desk nearby that I vaguely remember seeing earlier, before I passed out from Fena's enthusiasm overwhelming me, at least.

There’s not a lot I can say to any of those questions at the moment. In a way, the questions are helpful in that they tell me, ‘Something major happened’, which I admittedly already kind of figured out when everyone was giving me scared looks earlier for some reason, but a lot of the things she’s saying just don’t make sense on their own to me, unfortunately.

‘Gaia’ is a really old myth in magical circles. She’s pretty much the figurehead for most of the pseudo-religions out there that feature the common thread of magic being in some way sentient, either being placed as the guardian of magical life in general or magic’s leash holder, depending on the iteration you’re talking about.

The concept of Gaia is one of many actual, magical concepts that have bled over into the Normal world over the centuries. Although, as far as I know, a lot of people mix her up with the Native American Earth Mother concept or pretty much any other ‘Mother’ deity from ancient mythology, a few of which I already know for sure were just Arista running around on a power trip in her role as the ‘Mother of Magic’ at this point, sadly.

What Gaia could have to do with any of this mess I have no idea. At best, it sounds like a case of people making some pretty wild assumptions, but even then, I can’t exactly say anything either way considering I’m drawing a pretty big blank on the time between my letting the magic of this place ‘in’ and my waking up to find that the Hub has somehow turned into a replica of my Realm out of bloody nowhere!

I need to get back together with the others and find out just what the hell is going on around here, before I say something stupid and make things even more of a mess then they already ar—

“Gaia was really pretty, she was floating, and gold, and she fixed the Hubs!”
Director Silvante’s head snapped around to stare at Eris in wonder at pretty much the exact same moment that my head dropped to fix her with a wide-eyed, worried, stare of my own.

My Eris generally knew when to be open and show her intelligence versus when it would be better for her to keep quiet or fake childish ignorance. My Eris was, actually, rather well practiced at manipulating situations to her own advantage by playing the ‘helpful but uncomprehending little girl’ act—often more so than I’d like to admit, even to myself at times—This Eris is still pretty much an unknown in a lot of ways, for situations like this. I honestly can’t tell if she’s playing Silvante in order to redirect her attention away from me, or if she’s literally just talking about whatever happened as the enthusiastic child that she technically is.

“What do you mean she ‘fixed the Hubs’, cutie?”

I couldn’t help but cringe at the obviously fake, in my opinion, comforting tone of voice that the eager woman tried to put on for Eris’s benefit. The whole act failed spectacularly, judging by the brief flash of disgust I saw cross Eris’s face before she covered it with a wide-eyed look of excitement once more, a quick change of emotion which probably answers the question of whether she’s faking this all or not, at this point.

“She made the Hubs pretty like my Mom’s Realm, and the others were saying something about her connecting the Hubs together. So she fixed them, yeah?”
Director Silvante seemed to accept her logic quite easily and smiled approvingly down at her as we kept walking along the newly ‘fixed’ hallways of the Hub.

As always when Eris is trying to seem innocent, I really did struggle not to take her words at face value, even when I know for a fact that she’s lying this time. It was Me that told everyone about my idea to connect the Hubs together internally so we’d have a safer way to travel cross-country that no one could anticipate us using, after all.

I’d honestly expected connecting to the magic within the Hubs again to feel like it did when I connected with the magic in my Realm earlier. I’d actually been counting on it filling me with an almost unnoticeable sense of giddiness, while leaving me lucid enough to at least initially get things done that I wanted, before finally overwhelming me entirely with the crazy ranting stage of things that is the rather large downside I seem to have developed when letting myself get too drunk on absolute power, beyond the standard definition of both absolute or powerful.

While at least part of that seems to have happened, in the way that the Hub has changed aesthetically if nothing else, taking on roughly the same ‘natural’ look that I prefer for my own Realm and also apparently gaining some kind of internal linking passageways, according to Eris’s description. I’m literally drawing a blank on anything past letting the magic in though.

It feels like I should and maybe even did remember what happened at some point but, like the past incarnations that Ellie sealed off for my sanity's sake, if the memories are still there then they are tantalisingly out of reach for some reason?

“Your team should be in here. I’ll probably be back to interview you all at some point, but for now I need to go check how the diagnostics are coming on our analysis samples from the new structures and ambient magic that have appeared. If you’ll excuse me, ladies…”

Her job apparently done, thanks to Eris’s helpfully vague information, I’d assume, Director Silvante opened the clean white wooden door in front of us and quickly turned on a heel to practically jog back the way we just came without any of the usual care I would expect from someone traveling the halls of the Hub at all. Considering how easy it is to get lost around here, no matter how good you are at paying attention to your surroundings, she’s probably going to end up lost beyond hope soon enough!
...That’s not really my problem though...

“Ready, Sweetie?”

Eris shot me an odd, almost confused look for a moment before nodding and taking my hand again, as if I was the one who needed reassuring about going into the door for some reason, instead of her.

My foot came forward to nudge the door open a bit further and Eris’s grip tightened ever so slightly more on my hand, a sign which actually made me feel a little better about the tense little ‘gulp’ I found myself making, despite how silly it was to be nervous over this of all things now, in my opinion.

======

“Ah! Your erstwhile assistant has woken up I take it?”

A rather perky-looking man in his mid-twenties with light brown hair lying haphazardly around his shoulders, a silly little goatee, and an oddly out-of-place-looking sweater-vest/jeans combo doing a pretty good job of making him look like some fresh-out-of-college child psychologist, or something equally wholesome in general, smiled at us benignly in greeting.

When he noticed my stare he offered me a wider, inviting smile and waved us into the room proper, gesturing towards the ring of chairs before him that currently contain John, Sarah, a no-longer helmet clad Fena, and the AMS girls, who offered me mildly amused waves of greeting as my eyes scanned over them all for a moment or two.

Cautiously, I took another step into the room while giving the child psychologist a healthy berth as I went. It honestly feels kind of weird to come into contact with someone who could, genuinely, offer me a polite smile without any hint of a smirk playing across his lips or leer in his eyes at all these days.
...We’ve been hanging around John too much...

“I’ve been hanging around John too much.”

I don’t know what emotions played across my face when I said those slightly disbelieving words, but they must have betrayed at least some of my thoughts, because several members of my ‘team’ started laughing in response moments later, including said John, who, I have no doubt, has already decided that this new guy will be easy pickings if he feels the need to torment someone in the near future, by now.

“I’ll leave it to your team leader, Ms. Cooper, to provide you with all the details involved, but to reiterate the main points for you: It is currently the position of the USMPA that the magical entity known as ‘Gaia’, and the Fae goddess known as ‘The Lady Death’, cannot, do not, and have never existed.”
The sweater-vest guy tried to look somewhat stern as he made that statement. Honestly, it kind of fell flat though due to the fact that he really is a bit too goofy and young-looking to be taken seriously in such a way, to my eyes.
“If questioned from this day forward about today’s events, your team had been assigned to deliver a high-priority magical artefact for storage and examination within the Hub.”

My mouth dropped open a little in surprise at just how much of an outright lie that statement really was, but the deceptively nice-seeming sweater-vest wearer wasn’t even done with his tale yet!

“Before you could make it to your drop-off point, the artefact had an unknown reaction to an invasive magical phenomenon within the Hub that had previously been dubbed ‘the gold’.”
He shifted his feet slightly and tucked his long fingered hands behind his back pompously, obviously uncomfortable with speaking the ‘lie’, even if it’s actually quite close to the truth, surprisingly, if you replace an unknown artefact with ‘me’ at least.
“The object promptly exploded in a large-scale magical event which seems to have taken prompts from the minds of several beings, both human and Fae, within the Hub at the time to reform our halls into an amalgamation of styles closely resembling the new magical domain of the entirely unconnected fresh-born mage known publicly as ‘Hannah Cooper-Garnier’, mostly thanks to Ms. Cooper being related to said business owner and having just come from her so-called ‘Realm’, which the magic involved obviously took a liking to for some inexplicable reason.”

My eyes tightened down into a wince of actual pain as I felt my temples grow tight with the effort it took to contain my initial reaction, one that was quite frankly, somewhere between randomly zapping people for the sake of it and just cutting out the middle man so I can hit John around the head a few times for the hand he obviously had in that ridiculous cover story!

“We’ll just need you to sign a few forms and you can all get back to work in your various capacities as part of Team ‘Tomb Raider’.”
…Oh, Powers…

Seriously, Sare? She’s still using that stupid nickname during official situations like this?
...Powers damn it, Sarah!...

Through gritted teeth, I smiled at the sweater-vest wearer while accepting the forms he was offering me without comment, so I can start reading through whatever this load of wasted trees is all about.

‘Party of the first part agrees that the undersigned party heretofore...’
...I’d forgotten how much we hate paperwork...

“What the hell is a ‘sanctioned reliquary access point’ and why am I agreeing to use one, only in case of a level three or below magical emergency, from now on?”

Stop laughing, John-Boy! It’s not bloody funny, and I’ve got at least twenty pages of this crap to deal with now, thanks in no small part to your stupid, flimsy, overly complicated and wholly stupid cover story!



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