Category: Nano 2010


Miles set their bags on the parson’s bench beneath their topcoats. Then he spun around as a crash sounded from the kitchen. He hurried back into the room and found Emery standing, stock still, staring up at the cabinet. Around him lay the ruins of their dishes.

“Brother?” Miles managed after a few moments. He couldn’t seem to figure out if he wanted to ask what had happened or if Emery was alright. Instead he just spread his hands and shook his head.

“Miles, get the broom,” Emery said in an almost toneless voice. Then he turned around and grinned. “I swear it was a trap. I opened the cabinet to put something away and everything fell out.”

“Our dishes,” Miles finally said, as he handed his brother the broom. “What are we going to eat on?”

Emery shrugged and began to sweep up the broken porcelain. “I guess we can use the ones in the dining room cabinet. Every time I get up in time to actually eat breakfast, something like this happens and I end up having to rush out the door anyway.”

“Can we fix them?” Miles asked. “Mama loved those dishes.” He sniffled softly and looked away.

“Miles, don’t cry,” Emery said softly. He sighed and looked down at the shattered dishes. “I’ll make the call,” he said. “The town magister might be able to come out and repair them. It’s not something we can do. It’s outside our field of expertise.”

Emery headed toward the phone and paused. “Be careful, Mi. Don’t cut yourself,” he admonished before settling onto a stool that was near their phone on the wall of the kitchen. He picked up the handset and said, “Morning Marcia. Can you direct me to the town magister. Yeah, I kind of broke Mama’s dishes.” After a pause he said, “Nearly all of them. They fell out of the cabinet onto me. What could I do.” There was another pause and he nodded, though she couldn’t see him. “Thanks. Hello, sir. This is Emery Ballard. Do you think that you could come out and fix a set of dishes? They fell out of the cabinet and broke on the floor. I understand. I appreciate it. Thank you. Goodbye.”

Miles looked up from organizing the pile of broken dishes. His chest hurt from holding back his tears and his head was beginning to ache also. “Can he fix them?” he asked.

Emery knelt down beside him and began helping sort the dish fragments. “We have to make sure that we match the pieces together and if any pieces are missing, the dish won’t be the same. We’ll know when we get home tonight. I’m sorry, Mi.”

“It’s alright, Em. It’s not your fault. It was an accident.” He sighed and looked up at the wall clock. “We have a half an hour until Warden Hassett gets here. We should be able to do this before he gets here. Everything else is ready. Thanks, Em, for calling him.”

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A Challenge

Within twenty minutes the team, including Armand, was on the site. Morrissey looked around, ran his hands through his dark hair and started assigning people to their tasks. “Serenity, Armand, see if you can determine where he got the cadavers from. If he stole the bodies, there’ll be more charges filed.”

“Of course he stole them,” Emery put in as he looked around the room. “People don’t donate their bodies to madmen for research.”

“They might not have realized who they were donating their bodies to,” Serenity pointed out. She knelt beside one of the constructs and began to take detailed pictures and samples from various locations.

“Miles, get to work classifying the dark magic,” Morrissey continued, ignoring the conversation. “Emery, see if you can determine if the bodies are fresh.”

Emery paused and looked around the room. “Morrissey, let me see if I have this correct. In a room where a battle just took place, between ravenous constructs and warden magicians, you want me to see if there are traces of trauma from constructs – made up of parts from various cadavers, so they obviously got cut up – from murders that might or might not have taken place?”

“Think of it as a challenge,” Morrissey said, pushing him further into the room. “You’re always telling me I don’t challenge you enough.”

“I’ll think of it as well nigh impossible,” Emery said. Even so, he drew out his trauma wand and began to slowly draw his wand down the body of one of the constructs. For once he was careful while performing the spell not to allow his other gifts to augment his magic. The amount of trauma in the room would most definitely cause a spell, if not an attack.

Relying only on magic made the process slow going and frustrating. Unconsciously, he’d look up periodically and note that Serenity or Armand had moved on to a different construct, while he was still working on the same one. By nature, Emery was competitive and being slower than his teammates rankled him.

He looked up after he’d finished the last construct to find that only Hassett remained in the room and it was night outside. “Sorry,” he murmured, easing himself to his feet. “Lord, I’m hungry. Where’d everyone else go?”

“Back to the station,” Hassett replied. “I’ll get you something to eat on our way there. Find anything interesting?”

“Further analysis will have to be done at the lab, but the injuries were all post mortem. So he used dead bodies. He didn’t kill people.” Emery brushed off his pant legs and slipped his wand back into his bag. Then he bounded over to the door.

Mundane vs. Magic

Hassett followed the magicians into the storage unit. They had only just arrived when the call had come in from Miles to specifically check the back of the unit. Either the suspect or his tools would be found there; perhaps even both.

They’d just cross the threshold when a soft thumping sound reached his ears. He peered into the inky darkness of the unit and gasped softly as a pair of glowing eyes met his. Not three feet from him stood another construct. As it lumbered toward the team, Hassett backed away quickly. Apparently, the mage had merely gotten a headache from the earlier encounter with Miles.

He heard one of the mages curse and glanced over to see another pair of glowing eyes. “There’s more,” another of the mages said, tension flowing through his voice. “Someone make a light, they – ” his voice broke off in a grunt as one of the constructs hit him. A solid thud followed and the mage sank to the ground as several lights flickered into view.

“Not good,” Hassett murmured as he saw that the team was surrounded by about half a dozen of the constructs. Then they were fighting for their lives as the monsters attacked. Spells flared and mages cried out – either with effort or pain and fear as the battle continued.

Hassett gasped in horror as one of the constructs caught the mage in front of him and bore the man to the ground, biting deep into his shoulder. “Get it off,” the man cried. Hassett growled and kicked the thing in the same location that Miles had earlier in the day. He was rewarded by a pained grunt and the monster doubling over, releasing the mage.

“Are you alright?” he asked.

“We have to find whoever it is that’s controlling them,” the mage said as he pulled himself to his feet.

“Back of the unit,” Hassett replied, gesturing ahead of them. Then he led the way through the fighting crowd. They reached the back of the unit at nearly the same time. The mage pushed open a small door and Hassett could see a man that fit the description that Emery had given from his vision.

The man sat in a plush chair in the middle of what appeared to be a lab, much like the one back at the station. He was watching the fight on view screens laid out before him. He spun around as Hassett entered. “Get him!” he yelled.

“Stop him,” the mage behind Hassett said, spinning back to face the constructs that were now bearing down on them. “If you can stop him, the constructs won’t have anyone to command them. They’ll stop attacking.”

Hassett nodded and dashed forward. In his experience, most mages didn’t defend themselves well against more mundane attacks. He found that his assumption was right as his fist connected with the man’s nose, knocking him to the ground.

Interesting, huh?

All heads turned toward the door as one of the couriers entered. “Whoa,” the boy said. “Afternoon, Investigator Morrissey. I was called to come for a pick up.”

“Good afternoon,” Morrissey replied. He pulled out his files and handed them over to younger man. “These need to get to Commander Hartley. This needs to get to the Chief.”

“Will do,” the courier said. “Be back later with replies.” His eyes danced as he took the folders and he winked before scampering out the door.

“I take it you know him?” Emery said wryly.

“Stevie,” Morrissey said, pointing at the door. “He’s been a courier since before you joined the team. He’s not a magician but he’s… interesting.”

“Interesting?” Emery repeated.

Morrissey looked the team over and then turned to Warden Fowler. “Keep the crime scene sealed for the next seventy-two hours,” he ordered. Without waiting for a response he began issuing orders to the others. “Serenity, can you go with Warden Roderick and see if the witness is ready to be questioned? Check her for any magical trace as well. She may very well have brushed up against the spell, which would help us trace it back to the mage who cast it.”

“Yes, sir,” Serenity said. She bounded over to a waiting cruiser with Warden Roderick and soon the pair had disappeared around the corner.

“Miles, I appreciate that you feel fine; but you need to realize you were attacked by a magical construct and it’s possible that the spell may affect you adversely. I’m sending you to the clinic to be checked out,” he continued. “Go now with Warden Everett, if you would.”

“Yes, sir,” Miles said with obvious reluctance. He followed Everett away from the scene.

“Emery,” Morrissey started.

“I’m fine,” the teen interrupted.

“I know,” Morrissey said, mimicking his tone perfectly. He sighed and glanced at Hurley, who was grinning and clearly enjoying the exchange. Returning his gaze to Emery, he said, “Wait until I finish before taking my head off, if you please.”

“Sorry, sir,” Emery said softly. He nodded once to show he was ready to listen.

“Now, Emery, I’d like you to perform a stress test on the body as well. Determine just what kinds of injuries, if any, were inflicted before she was killed. In addition, see if you can determine if she was also a mage. If someone attacked her with a magical construct and if, as you say, she knew what it was, it’s possible she’s a mage herself, even if she wasn’t a practicing one.”

“Yes, sir,” Emery said. “We have to go to the coroners.” He looked up at Hassett then returned his gaze to Morrissey as he asked, “What are you gonna do?”

“Armand and I are heading back to the lab with the construct. He can get on tracing the elements that made it up and I’ll prepare it for the spell trace. Get going, now,” Morrissey said.

Miles waved a healer over and smiled as the man began examining him. “It tried to kill me,” he said, gesturing at the monster.

“I can see that,” the healer replied. He applied a compress to Miles’s neck for a few moments and Miles sighed in relief as he felt the soothing energy flow through it. After a moment the healer stepped back and Miles turned to Hassett. “Are the others finished at the crime scene?” he asked.

“They appear to be,” Hassett replied as he gestured at the building.

Miles turned to see his brother dashing across the parking lot. “What did you do?” the older Ballard snapped.

“I sealed the construct,” Miles returned, in as calm a voice as he could manage. “I’m fine, Brother.”

“Fine?” Emery said, as his voice rose in both volume and pitch. He gestured at the compress that Miles was still holding. “This is fine? This is not fine. This is hurt. What happened?”

“I’m not hurt badly, Brother,” Miles assured him. “The mage activated his construct when I tried to seal it. I took care of it and then sealed it. I’m fine. Stop being a mother hen.”

“I’m not being a mother hen,” Emery retorted. “I’m being a big brother. It’s my responsibility to keep you safe.”

“Actually,” Hassett interrupted. He smiled as both brothers looked over at him and he continued, “it’s my responsibility to keep him safe. We were very lucky.” He glanced at Miles and added, “A little warning of just what could happen and just what to do if it did happen might have helped, Miles.”

Miles looked down, with a short nod. “Sorry, Warden Hassett. Sorry, Brother.”

Emery rolled his eyes and nodded. “I’m sorry too. I shouldn’t have snapped at you like that.”

Miles followed the unmistakable sense of a dark spell down the stairs and out the building to a park that was nearby. As he approached the source, the sense got heavier and thicker. He could almost see the dark magic that had gathered by the time he reached the locus of the spell.

“Here it is,” he said softly. “Warden Hassett, it’s so dark. It’s almost palpable.”

“I can see it,” Hassett whispered. “That’s unusual, right?”

Miles nodded and knelt down to look more closely, dispersing the spell he’d followed to the construct. “It’s here. It was buried by its creator but I think it’s still active. I’ll have to seal it so we can bring it back to the lab. Serenity can analyze the hair and fiber to determine the origins.”

“Armand can too, right?” Hassett said. At his answering nod, he asked, “How do you seal it?”

“It takes a spell and it’s a little dangerous. If the mage senses me trying to seal it, he could activate it and it could… attack me. So just watch me, please?” He pulled a different wand out his bag and waved it as he envisioned the proper glyph.

Somehow he wasn’t entirely surprised when a hand shot out and lifted him off the ground. There was a roar, several screams interspersed with the soft pop of a dart bow. Miles kicked his feet and struggled. He was choking, he realized as his vision began to gray around the edges. Suddenly his foot connected with something and he dropped to the ground.

“Dart bow doesn’t work,” he rasped. “It’s not alive. I have to seal it.” He stood and once more focused on envisioning the glyph for the sealing spell. He had to back away as the construct continued trying to grab him while he worked. Finally his efforts were rewarded by a bright flash and the sight of the construct collapsing to the ground.

With a sigh of relief, Miles also sank to the ground. “Well, that was exciting,” he said. “Please don’t tell Emery. He’d only worry and I’m fine.”

“You can say you’re fine after a medic checks you out and says that you’re fine,” Hassett snapped. “Is it dead?”

“It was dead already, Hassett. It’s a construct of the parts of various cadavers. It’s sealed. The mage who was controlling it has lost contact and can no longer animate it. In addition, since he activated it before I sealed it, it probably sent a backlash on him that at the very least gave him a demon of a headache.” Miles stood, albeit somewhat shakily. “If he put enough of himself into the spell, it might have given him a heart attack or a stroke.”

“You just killed someone?” Hassett asked softly.

“I sealed his construct. He killed himself trying to kill me with it,” Miles snapped. “He might not have, if he was careful. We should get this back to the lab.”

“Can you trace the mage with it?” Hassett asked softly.

“Medic first,” Miles said, massaging his throat. “What made it let me go?”

“You kicked it in the… it’s cees, Miles,” Hassett said. “You kicked the monster construct thing in the private place.”

Miles shook his head. “Why would you make a construct with those – oh… oh my. This mage is one nasty fellow.”

“I don’t want to know, Miles,” Hassett said. “I really don’t. Can we just leave him or do we carry him with us?”

“He called in for help right away,” Hassett said, spreading his hands. “Mostly it’ll probably be a civil case. The victim or his family might want to press charges, of course but was an accident. The only possible crime here was Mister Foley hiding his involvement.”

Emery nodded and screwed the filter onto his camera lens before taking pictures of the crime scene. He listened to the conversation that went on behind him as the pair of wardens discussed how best to proceed. Apparently, they weren’t sure if Foley would actually admit that he was the one using the trebuchet.

He turned back and tilted his head, “Is he coming here or are you going to him?” he asked.

“He’s on his way here,” Ingram replied.

“I can prove that the guilt is his then,” Emery said. “Guilt is an emotion only the man responsible for the incident would feel. Each person has a… unique psyche, a unique emotional signature. It can be matched up, like fingerprints.”

“So you can get a print of his emotions when he gets here and match it to the guilt that you already have,” Ingram said. “Can we use that?”

“Technically no,” Martha said.

“But he doesn’t need to know that,” Emery said. Martha looked at his with a mixture of shock and almost admiration. He turned and looked at the boulder and frowned. “I think I’m going to have to perform the kinetic stress test to get a more accurate reading,” he said, calmly.

“We’ll need to back up so we don’t interfere with your readings,” Hassett said. He looked up as they heard the crunching of leaves on the walkway toward them. Ingram and Martha stepped up to meet the small portly man who was approaching them.

“Mister Foley, I presume,” Ingram said. He gestured toward Emery and said, “This is Master Emery. He’s one of our forensics magicians. He’s performing a test on the crime scene that reads the emotions of those in the area during and after the event.”

“Fascinating,” Foley murmured, stepping up closer. When he came to stand before Emery, separated only by the boulder, Hassett snapped a picture. Emery smiled and the spell abruptly dissipated. “What?” he asked softly, looking around.

“Sorry, Mister Foley,” Emery said softly. “We needed your emotional signature, to compare with evidence we’ve already gathered. It seems there was guilt associated with at least one witness to the event. Guilt being a singular kind of emotion, belonging to those who feel… responsible for something.”

“It was an accident!” Foley shouted. He spun away from Emery and began pacing as he continued, “It was so early in the morning. I didn’t think there’d be anyone else out and about. I couldn’t see into the rock garden. There are trees in the way. I didn’t even know something had happened until – until I’d gathered up my things a prepared to go. Then everything happened just like I’d said. The rock was lighter than I expected and overshot. I didn’t mean for it to happen. I didn’t want to hurt anyone. I was just playing. I was getting ready for the Faire. We’re going to lay siege to the castle.”

Hassett stepped up and set a hand lightly on Foley’s shoulder. “Mister Foley, are you an innocent?” he asked softly.

Nodding the man whimpered, “I’m sorry.”

“It’s alright, sir. Accidents happen,” Hassett replied softly. “It’s important that you called for help right away and I’m very glad that you did. Please be more careful in the future when you’re playing with your trebuchet, though.”

“I will. I promise,” Foley said softly.

“Please go with the officer and he’ll finish taking your statement.” When they were alone, he turned toward the others, “Well, that’s once case solved. Shall we be getting back, so we can write our reports?”

“Innocents,” Ingram said with a shake of his head. “Don’t they have watchers for people like him?”

“It depends on how young he is emotionally,” Martha said. “If he’s an adult he doesn’t need any more supervision than Master Emery does but he’d be just as upset by something like this.”

“It would certainly be upsetting for me,” Emery replied.

Introductions

Emery Ballard followed Warden Hassett into the station that morning, rather than bounding ahead. A part of him was hoping to make a good first impression with his more sedate, more mature, pace and a part of him was a little anxious about meeting the new team of forensics magicians that had been added to the force.

“You know, some of them have been on the force for a while, just not as forensics magicians,” Hassett said. His tone was meant to be reassuring, but Emery found the words less so. The forensics team was meant to work with any and all of the wardens that were on call when they were, but in the year since his graduation from the academy, Emery had only worked with a select few. Veterans of the force or not, these men and women would be complete strangers.

“Are they being supervised by Morrissey too?” Emery asked. He glanced back at Miles. His brother was both strangely quiet and reticent to be in the station. Without waiting for Hassett to answer his previous question he asked, “What’s wrong, Mi?”

“Hannah,” the younger boy said softly.

“You know her?” Hassett asked.

“We were in school with her,” Emery said. “She and Miles have a bit of a history with each other. As I recall, you two went out together a few times. You were quite taken with her.” He glanced at his brother for confirmation and received a glare in reply.

“She was just using me to get to you, brother,” Miles said softly. “She had no interest in me at all. When she figured out your preferences, she dumped me before I could even blink.”

“Ah, so she’s a heart-breaker,” Hassett said softly.

“Yes,” Miles replied. “I ain’t saying she’s a gold-digger…” he hummed, edging ahead of them.

Emery smiled and shrugged. “She likes to date people she thinks are going to gain her power or prestige – or she did in school. She might have changed, Mi,” he called to his brother.

“Don’t count on it,” Miles shot back. They ducked into a conference room just off the lobby and paused as they noticed that they weren’t alone. “Here they are. Good morning,” he greeted the new team, all animosity gone from his features. He may dislike Hannah, but he’d hide it well – at least in front of other people. Emery doubted very much that his younger brother would ever have a good working relationship with the girl.

“Hi Miles. Hi Emery,” she greeted, bounding forward. “You must be Warden Hassett,” she added, looking up at the older man. Her green eyes roved over him as if taking in every detail and Emery caught Miles scowling out of the corner of his eye. He sent a brief smile toward his brother, along with a sense of calm that the empathy was likely to pick up on.

“We should wait until the rest of the team arrives for introductions,” Hassett said. “Though the boys told me that they knew you already.”

“We were in school together. Emery saved my life,” she said. She caught his hand and smiled at him. “He’s a hero.”

“She wasn’t really in any danger,” Emery said quickly. “She was in the woods on school grounds and… broke her ankle and… well, I found her.” He darted a glance at Hassett as if to ask if the other team should be let in on their secret. The warden caught his look and nodded once. “I just followed the trauma from the injury – and her distress, I suppose.”

“Emery can sense trauma and I pick up on emotions,” Miles said. “We both have off-magic but we’d prefer that no one knows.”

“Especially since Em was recently kidnapped by a group that is trying to exploit people who are specially gifted as they are,” Hassett said.

“The presence of off-magic tends to indicate Cygman blood,” one of the newcomers said.

“The blond hair and blue eyes tend to agree with that, Elsa,” another said. She smiled at the boys and added, “We can keep a secret.” Her dark, angular eyes and equally dark hair announced her Shynian heritage as much as the brothers’ coloring announced theirs.

“Technically, we’re all Shynian,” Hassett pointed out. “Whatever our ancestry, we live in Ameria, which is a Shynian state. Here’s Morrissey and Serenity. Is Armand on his way?” he asked the supervisory investigator.

“He had some things to do this morning to wrap up a case,” Serenity said. “He wanted your input on something Miles. He found some anomalies in the samples he was analyzing.”

“Some of the sample was connected to the region we found it in and some was,” Miles surmised. When the older investigator nodded he grinned. “I thought it might be. That’s not an anomaly. The samples were mixed. The suspect was trying to throw us off. If you’ll excuse me, I’ll go talk to Armand about it.”

He didn’t wait for permission, he simply left, glad to be away from his former girlfriend. Emery nodded at him as he passed, well aware of how tense the younger boy was. “Since everyone who’s coming is here, shall we proceed?” he asked.

“Very well,” Morrissey said. “All of you know me. I interviewed you. In case you’ve forgotten, I’m Robert Morrissey, supervisory investigator and ballistics expert for the first team. This young woman is Martha Sheppard, the ballistics expert for the second team.” He gestured at the woman who’d spoken to Elsa earlier and she bowed at the team members.

“Pleasure to meet you all,” she said.

“Miles Ballard, who left to help Master Armand, is the first team’s trace specialist. Cliff Woodin is his counterpart on the second team and also will act as my second, supervising them when I’m not present,” Morrissey continued.

Emery looked up at Woodin. Like Armand, the man was unusually tall for a magician, approaching what was considered average height for a non-mage. Unlike Armand, the man had dark features typical to those who were ethnically Shynian. With a glance at the other team members, Emery wondered if this was a trend or if there were just more ethnic Shynians in Piedmont than in his hometown of Lyroron.

“Samuel Perkins is the second team’s hair and fiber analyst; just as Serenity Adams is ours,” Morrissey continued. Perkins was as different from Woodin as night was to day. The man was even shorter than Miles and fair enough that he could have been an albino.

“Hey all,” he greeted in a softly drawling accent. “Glad to be working with you. I hope we can all manage to get along well.”

“I hope so too,” Emery replied. “I’m Emery Ballard, Miles’s older brother. I’m the trauma and bodily fluids analyst for our team.”

“Elsa Adamson,” the woman who’d pointed out their Cygman roots said, extending her hand. As Emery shook it she smiled and nodded at him as if in approval. “I know your teacher, Rafael Cain. We were apprentices to the same master.”

“Professor Cain?” Emery said, beaming enough that his cheeks hurt. “You know Professor Cain? How is he?”

“He was well when last I saw him,” she replied. “I’ll have to tell him how you boys are doing when I talk to him. Would you like me to give him your contact information?”

“And how!” Emery said, bouncing up on his toes. He blushed as he realized how youthful his actions seemed and settled back, murmuring, “I’d very much appreciate that.”

“I’m sure that Emery knows Hannah Keller,” Morrissey continued, ignoring the interruption. “She is the counterpart to our own Armand Livingston. Master Armand is, as Master Serenity stated, in the lab, wrapping up a case.”

Monica Ferris

an author with many hats

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