Shemi Kasu watched information and images flooding through her desknode. She sighed, looking down at her palmnode resting on the table. No news from Quinen.
She wondered if she should go look for him. The information on her holographic screens showed the coordinates of somewhere within the Karoley Ward. The Collegium was in that Ward as well, but his coordinates didn’t say he’s in the Collegium. She sighed once more, and turned away.
She got up to her knees and stretched. “Hmmm.” She groaned, and then decided to head down to get another cup of coffee from the Quickshop.
* * *
Quinen stretched his legs as he hopped off the chair. His upper body glowed with intricate ink, complex scripts and drawings scrawled down his arms and his back. A few stray tendril-like inks lingered around his torso and toward his chest in a small, tight embrace.
“Where’d you get a Shell anyway?” asked Minada, running a finger down Quinen’s bare chest.
Quinen licked his lips and shrugged. He moved away from Minada and put on his shirt. “I have to go.”
Minada sighed. “When will I get paid?” She sipped a cup of coffee that she had laid beside her Inker tools.
“Soon.” Quinen walked out of the Inking room, through the thin veil. The store still said ‘Closed’. He could see a few people from the mouth of the alleyway, and then walking away. “Looks like you have some customers.”
“Word’s been spreading around,” said Minada as she walked through the veil. “You’re not the only one anymore gaining some traction anymore.”
Quinen smirked. “That’s nice to hear. I’ll see you, Minada.”
“Hopefully, “ Minada grinned, “not so soon.”
Quinen got out of the Inker Shop. He was already in the Karoley Ward, the same Ward the Collegium was in. Indeed, one could feel the immense, looming mass that was the floating isle of the Collegium.
Quinen briefly wondered if he should call a Red Cab to take him to the Collegium, but decided against it. It wasn’t too far from here anyway, and a brisk walk would benefit him and his new body by letting him get used to the body’s functions and machinations.
He walked down the pavement and turned around the corner. Straight ahead, he could see the tallest tower of the Collegium — the Administrator’s Building. The Dean’s room was nestled within.
Quinen sighed and grinned. A straight path to anywhere? That’s the least complex thing he’d had to do in his life. He walked down the path, smiling as he passed complaining, blue-collar workers, automata preprogrammed to grin at you when you walked by, skinny alfr and anzu pouncing out from the alleyways and smelling like piss-all, offering you for a ride…
He crossed a pedestrian’s walkway even when the crossing light was red. There weren’t any autochariots passing by that road anyway.
Quinen flexed his muscles as he walked, feeling the tight and rigid tendons, the taut muscles. Would he need to hit the gym to keep this strength and image up? Or maybe all he needed to do was keep himself moving.
He thought of a quick spell. Manipulate Matter. With a thought, move of a hand, and then the usage of the symbolism of the Ink on his right arm, he moved the dust lying on an alleyway. The dust stirred, and then shot up. With a smile, the Warlock paused, watching as the dust funneled upwards, all the way to the roof.
And just as it was about to escape the gap between the buildings, it slammed and exploded against a vast, blurring black figure. Something… arachnid.
Quinen’s Soul boiled. Shit.
The dust crashed against Hunter’s obsidian black carapace. It chittered and screamed, the force of the dust buffeting its momentum and sending him crashing against the brick wall of the building, and then down onto the alleyway. The homeless people — humans and otherwise — cursed and screamed as they ran away.
The arachnid twitched. One of its now six heads stretched up, and moved around, until its eyes — and grinning mouth — fell upon Quinen.
Quinen turned and bolted.
The Warlock heard the Hunter get on its feet, its blade appendages digging onto the ground as it took up on the pursuit. The Warlock heard the civilians screaming, and some of those screams being cut short as the arachnid eliminated barriers. With this thing in the open light of the day, the Naphli were bound to be en route. Quinen just had to survive until backup came.
The Warlock turned a corner, and dashed. His lungs burned less, and his feet moved faster.
Up ahead, the prism hanging underneath a black wire turned green, and the autochariots would be moving forward on the road Quinen was about to cross.
Quinen ran even faster. He could feel the adrenaline of the chase pumping through him, and he grinned like madman.
The Arachnid Hunter appeared overhead, grinning down at him. Its blade appendages dug onto the sides of the buildings, and it chased Quinen sideways. The Warlock churned a spell in his Mind’s Eye, and in his left hand the Ink he had designated for the Field of Energy burned brightly.
Autochariot horns blared. Quinen’s first reaction as he stepped onto the crossing with the autochariots at full acceleration was to use the timepiece to teleport him forward, but his Mind’s Eye had fumbled — he had visualized an Energy spell instead of a Timespace one.
Quinen’s second reaction was to raise his left arm behind him, and shout, “Herapher!” Manipulate. And he jumped.
The Spell he had been forming in his Mind’s Eye crystallized: Manipulate the kinetic Energy of the jump, and make it stronger.
The Working activated, and right as an autochariot slammed to a stop, Quinen burst up and forward, the kinetic energy of his jump amplified. The tattoo on his left arm blazed orange as he cleared the entirety of the crossing. He grunted as he slammed against the building wall on the other side of the street, but it wasn’t anything that would hinder him. With a grimace, he pushed himself off the wall, turned to his left, and ran. Even farther away from the Collegium.
Quinen took a chance and glanced over his shoulder, and he saw the arachnid Hunter leaping effortlessly across the road, sticking to the wall he had slammed against, and then running sideways once again. Its blade appendages dug into the brick, sometimes crashing through glass windows, wherein the arachnid would stumble a bit, but it would pull its appendage out of the window and continue on with the chase. One of its appendages flickered with blood.
Quinen screamed in his mind: Where are the Adon-damned Naphli?
* * *
“Captain, I’m getting word that some sort of obsidian-carapaced beast is barreling through the Karoley Ward.” Gharth looked down on his palmnode. A few human children were staring at Sersha, who sat on a cement block cross-legged and with her eyes closed.
“Hm?” Urie turned to the anzu. “Give me a visual.”
Gharth showed him the images flashing on the palmnode, which visualized some sort of arachnid… thing crawling sidewards, chasing after a tall man with black hair.
“Adon’s Fiery Spit — send the Wingsglave,” he said. “That’s no ordinary beast.” The image continued showing people scrambling out of their autochariots, taking pictures with their palmnodes, or running away. “Now! Relay the order now!”
The anzu did so.
* * *
“Shit. Get out of the way!” Quinen barelled through a crowd of workers hurrying to get to their trains or buses. They gave the Warlock strange looks at first, but when the Hunter rounded the corner, they dove out of the way.
No use. It probably has infinite stamina or something. Quinen thought quick; he saw an opening to an alleyway. He had to corner this thing and beat it. Somehow.
Okay maybe not beat it. That’s stretching it a bit too far.
Running at full speed, he grabbed the lead pipe running down the corner of the brick building and used that to help him turn sharply. He slid into an alleyway, his shoes slapping against a clear puddle.
It was a dead-end.
It was a narrow end, boxed in by three buildings perpendicular to each other. Quinen inhaled deeply as he careened to a stop. He looked up, saw clotheslines shot out of windows and jumped into windows directly across them.
The Warlock turned. The Hunter reached the opening, and saw Quinen trapped. Its grinning mouth only opened.
Its blade appendages left the wall in a flash, and in the next instant, all seven blade appendages were poised to skewer Quinen. Seven lances wielded by a mass of black Avalonian demonism. The Hunter had jumped from the opening of the alleyway, so it sailed across the space between them.
Quinen screamed and threw up his right arm, “Herapher!” and the Tattoo that had the symbol of the Field of Matter burned.
The water of the puddle exploded upwards, gushing against the Hunter. Quinen closed his hand, and the Matter Inks writhed with power. The water froze.
Quinen winced as stray Dissonance wracked his body, and he fell onto one knee. He reached out with both hands this time, and Manipulated Matter — he moved the lead pipe running down the side of the building, breaking it off and directing the water that jetted out of it towards the Hunter. As the water splashed onto the Hunter, he froze it again.
No stray Dissonance this time, but his skin looked… harder than usual. As if a chrome sheen had enveloped him.
The Hunter, on the other hand, writhed underneath a thick cocoon of ice.
Off in the distance, Quinen could hear the billowing booms of large wings flapping. He looked up, and he saw three creatures with six wings — three on each side — flapping above the alleyway he stood in.
The six-winged creatures — feathered with scales underneath the colorful sheen of plumage — banked, and riding on their large backs were silver-armored Naphli. They spoke through the voice amplifiers within their helmets. “Stand down and do not move. We are Wingsglave.”
Quinen tsked, scowling. The glare of the Daystar bounced off of the clean, reflective silver armor of the Wingsglave.
Managing a slight grin, Quinen said, “He’s all yours, officers.” And he reached out with his left hand this time, muttering “Herapher,” once more, and bent the light around him, reflecting the light away from him like a mirror.
“Sir, please comply and remove the veiling,” Quinen heard the Wingsglave say from afar. He was already five blocks away.
* * *
Sersha sat cross-legged. Gharth watched his Captain. The Detective Kotoro looked at his palmnode with eyebrows in a worried arc. Captain Urie was shouting into his palmnode, ignoring looks and gazes from the people around.
“Give me a report, now!” A voice replied to him from the other end. “There was a Magicker? Did he look like anyone from our records? No. Adon’s Fiery Spit.”
“What is it, sir?” Gharth stepped forward. Kotoro looked up from his palmnode to look worriedly at the Captain this time.
“Some… thing that’s not Mundic was chasing down this Magicker, apparently,” he said, turning to the Portal to the Collegium. “It’s nigh time we visit the Dean to understand just what in the icy nether is going on.” He put up the palmnode near his mouth again. “Give me status reports and examine the thing that was chasing the Magicker. Get some Savant Detectives to track the Magick down.”
The Captain shoved the palmnode into his pocket, sealing off the frequency. “You two.” He said, turning to Sersha and Gharth. Without another word, he walked toward the Celestial Lions. Gharth and Sersha followed.
Kotoro scowled at his palmnode. “Send me a frequency text once I’m clear to head in.”
“Will do, Detective,” said the Captain, as he walked past the Celestial Lions and sank into the Portal to the Collegium.
* * *
Quinen heaved. The adrenaline escaped him like an unraveling cloak. He could feel the Dissonance building within him. His skin felt thicker and heavier than usual, as if he were moving through water. He stopped by another alleyway — this one not a dead end and not smelling of piss — and leaned against the wall.
His palmnode buzzed in his pocket. Opening his eyes, he plucked out the device and answered Kasu’s frequency.
“Where were you?” asked Kasu from the other side, and her sudden shout actually made Quinen physically grimace. “Your coordinates were all over the place!”
“The…” Quinen inhaled deeply, still trying to catch his breath. “The thing that followed me into the Mund from Avalon saw me and chased me down.”
“The spider thing?!”
Quinen swallowed. “Yeah.”
“This is bad. Dangerous.” There was a pause. “Right?”
“Oh yeah very,” Quinen replied. “Don’t get involved. Keep being my eyes and ears Kasu. That thing was in the Karoley Ward — it was heading for the Collegium. That’s where Chrysanthemum is, isn’t she?”
“That’s right.” Quinen pushed himself off of the wall and walked across the alleyway, out to the other side, where he could see the looming towers of the floating island. “Watch my back.” And he ended the call, cutting the frequency, and he shoved the palmnode into his pocket.
The Warlock ran towards the Collegium.