Before Midnight: Part 4

Rachel gave a quick grin, “I hope you’re not blaming it on me, but that’s about right. I still can’t navigate hyperspace on my own. The Cosmic Ghosts dropped me off over Earth and disappeared. I floated down from orbit on my own and as I floated down, I felt something. It wasn’t a hum. It felt more like gathering energy. Then I felt a pulse. That’s when the hum started.”

I looked at her, “I missed the pulse—actually, I missed everything but the hum.”

“It’s because I’m better than you,” she said, glancing over at me.

The team laughed, but she continued, “You’re here getting lessons over Zoom. I’ve been out there using everything they taught me to survive. That, and I don’t know if it’s true, but I’ve been getting the impression that even if the Artificers and the Cosmic Ghosts are different versions of the same species, they’re more different than humans and Neanderthals.”

She frowned, “From what Lee’s said, it sounds like the Artificers live practically forever while the Ghosts live for a long time, but not as long. I think the Ghosts specialize in what they can do, but Lee’s people seem to be able to command more power to do more things. That’s what I overheard while living with the Ghosts, but we never talked about it directly.”

Marcus leaned back in his chair and gave her a wave. Dark-skinned and wearing a hoodie showing a movie version of the X-Men, he said, “What’s living with them like? Is it anything like being in a Lantern Corps?”

Rachel tilted her head, not saying anything at first, “We spent a lot of time flying between the stars and then dropping into interstellar conflicts to convince them to stop.”

Nodding, Marcus said, “A lot like a Lantern Corps then.”

From across the table, Jaclyn said, “Let’s get back to the hum. Can you triangulate it?”

Tall and dark-skinned, Jaclyn wore a simple green shirt and black slacks. I remembered programming in those clothes, so she was wearing a stealth suit camouflaged as clothes. After today’s fight, she probably hadn’t had clothes to change into.

Rachel and I both said, “No.” As I tried to figure out how to say it was too close to feel a direction, Rachel said, “I feel it from all sides. It’s like we’re inside it.”

I added, “I tried to use my implant to track it down, but it can’t give me a direction either. I have to get farther away for it to sense a change in difference—maybe orbit, but I don’t know. The only thing I get is that the implant tells me that there are energies associated with Artificer relics.”

I looked around the group, “The best guess I have is that Magnus found Lee’s device and now he’s turned it on.”

Sitting next to Vaughn, across the table from me, Cassie shook her head. Her blond hair in a ponytail, she said, “Damn, that’s bad. It’s not a surprise, but it’s still bad.”

Vaughn nodded, “We’ve been looking for that thing for months. Knowing that it’s the Artificers’ ultimate weapon, shouldn’t we have lost by now?”

He looked around the group, “I mean seriously, you told us that Lee escaped with it and all of the Destroy faction has been searching for him ever since.”

In some ways, it was hard to believe he was the same guy who’d broken in and used the power impregnator on himself. Between the shorter hair, loss of fat, and more obvious muscles, he looked the part of a superhero these days—even if he wasn’t the tallest of us.

On the right side of the table, Haley crinkled her nose, “Maybe he doesn’t control it yet? That means that we’ve got a chance.”

She looked over at me. I wanted to grab her hand. Her brother hadn’t been dead for a day yet and we weren’t going to get a break.

“That’s what I’m hoping,” Amy replied, leaning over the table, red hair falling over her shoulders. “The North American Wizards’ Council is hosting a meeting between us and ex-Cabal leaders. They were saying a week from now, but it might be as soon as two days or ten minutes from now. They want to meet us, but they don’t want to draw Magnus’ attention. We need to be ready to go.”

Jaclyn raised an eyebrow, “Are we supposed to stay here and wait until then?”

Amy shook her head, “They’re supposed to give me a warning. If anybody, you could get away with going wherever you want and get back on time.”

“Exactly,” Vaughn said, “knock yourself out.”

Raising her hand, Jaclyn said, “I’m not talking about going shopping. I don’t want to miss a week of classes. I’m sure everyone else has things they have to do too, but if no one else leaves, I’m not going to.”

“It’s not like that,” Amy said. “Some of the most powerful wizards in the world are on the Council. If they want any of us, they can teleport us to where they are—”

As she spoke the last word, glowing tears appeared in front of each of us, pulling me forward even though I never felt my body leave my chair.

Not for the first time, I wondered if wizards might have worse social skills than engineers.

10 thoughts on “Before Midnight: Part 4”

          1. So…the table is in front of them, and the tears pulled them forward. None of their legs were under the table?

          2. I think the tears opening underneath them might solve my very persnickety problem, but that creates a host of other issues, like their chairs coming with them and them falling into the destination.

            Above them maybe? Have them float up through the tears?

            It is definitely not worth the amount of energy I’m expending on it.

          3. It’s magic.

            My assumption was always that it appeared between the person and the table. It’s a spell that summons people. It’s not a spell that summons chairs, tables, or anything the person isn’t wearing.

            Nick perceived it as a tear. What it precisely was in terms of rules, he doesn’t know.

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