[AC] Ars Magna #6

Artifice Comics artificecomics at yahoo.co.uk
Mon Oct 27 20:05:25 PDT 2008

He adjusted his jacket in the mirror for the fourth time in as many minutes. His appearance not quite right in these eyes, nevertheless the magician practiced another crooked grin. 
"How American of you, Johann", he told the reflection. 
Running his palms over a shock of his hair, Johann spun on his heels and spied a welcome sight... 
Legs that went on for miles, hips covered by his bed covers, an equally brazen bust, full pouting lips, deep green eyes and an arched eyebrow that spoke volumes. 
"Gods, I love being me", the young magician spoke as he sauntered over to the bed. 

Ars Magna #6 
(Wicked Game - Interlude) 

    [12 year old Sheila Torrance came into possession of a pair of creatures called Talismans. In the span of a year her entire life was turned upside down by different events: mentored by Johann Weisz, a young American practitioner of magic; the revelation that a childhood history of abuse stemmed from her Father's secret affair with her Mother; the deaths of all she loved; and marriage to a dark being named British Rule, the Lord of Shadows. Now 18 years old, she is thrust into a position of power in a pocket dimension populated by creatures both deadly and fantastic.  
    A young woman named Schezerade Pucelle born into a lower class on a world that served under the banner of the Imperial Magistrate, found herself in exile. Forced to fend for herself she began a solo salvage expedition to recover a pair of mechanical suits. On the brink of a watery death she was forced into the role of Pilot to a powerful weapon called 'The Seraphim Wing', a vessel able to take the form of the angelic visage of the Imperial Magistrate herself.]
"You never asked-", she yawned, "my name." 
"I'm not one to question a hassle-free frolic in the splendorous fields of womanhood." 
Her eyes narrowed. 
"Look you disappeared shortly after I did and you apparently went to greater lengths than I to remain hidden - Sheila". 
"The circle is now complete." 
"In more ways that one, my old apprentice." 
Johann visibly winced at the kick to his shin. 
"Last memories of you had a fantasy of this kind of encounter." 
"Your memories and fantasies, on the other hand involved more than just little ol' me, you deviant." 
"I was young and knew spell that'd let me keep up with a pair of fellow practitioners." 
Sheila pulled her head beneath the covers and kissed her way up from Weisz's nethers to his stomach only to leave a wet trail up his chest and neck just to come to a crawl at his chin. She hovered, face to face with her former mentor. 
Five long years from her first kiss - a kiss shared with Johann Weisz. In that one moment they bared souls, shared memories, exchanged and co-mingled their earth-bound spiritual energies. 
Her eyes searched his. 
Nothing, his eyes bordered on drunken vacancy, and satisfied physical lusts. 
Sheila playfully licked the tip of his nose before settling the side of her against his chest. 
"So", he spoke up a few minutes later, "how you've been doing all these long years, kitten?" 
Her heart sank, Johann had been everything to her and now she had him. 
And nothing, empty. 
"Surviving", she murmured before letting the darkness beneath the sheets envelope her. 
The mass of fitted cosmic debris drifted through the vacuum and void that swaddled the planet below. Beneath the shell of asteroid chunks and dust remains a mechanical abomination never truly meant for this world or the next. 
"Seriously, 'C' is it? This is all wearing thin", Schezerade stated to the galley she solely occupied. 
A feminine voice issued from what seemed all directions, "We apologize but the asteroid creature seems very intent on suffocating us and will not release us until its sure we're dead." 
"If you're truly bored we can place a cable back into the neural port at the base of your skull and perform a 'Memory Recall', let you relive a pleasant moment or three to fill the time?" 
Rade thought about it a second as her tongue ran across her teeth fishing out errant bits of the protein paste she'd been eating for the past day or so. 
"No, no thanks C, I've nothing I wish to relive currently." 
"How about you freshen up. Sensors indicate that the bacteria levels in your silhouette skinsuit are bordering on-" 
"Yeah sure a shower sounds grand. Why not go out smelling like a summer's day when a giant spaced out rock creature is trying to crush you to death." 
"That's the spirit! Although we must advise you its not actually a shower, at least with potable water, more like a dust to dry up the sweat." 
"You're joking." 
"No, its supposedly very therapeutic. There is a scraping device involved to help you slough off dead skin cells and dirt particles. Good for the circulation we understand." 
"Okay enough with this 'We' crap. Navigational Computers do not have this level of artificial intelligence. No personality, no quirks, just an impersonal voice that tells you when you're bordering on death or dismemberment." 
No further voice issued from either the floor or walls or ceiling like before. Since her abduction Rade finally felt completely alone. 
Sheila stepped out of the darkened empty closet only to be greeted with a sweep kick that connected with her ankles sending her violently to the wooden flooring. Her head twisted to the right just in time to hear the boards to her left crack sharply and splinter. 
Throwing herself forward into a half crouch, a mistake, as instead of her stomach her chin caught a spin kick dead on. 
This time a weave of shadows cushioned her fall, all at once her control returned and in a fraction of a second the ambush halted. Her assailant was now trussed up in a literal web of shadows in the lightless bedroom. A string of what can only be assumed to be obscenities issued from the young Asian woman's mouth. 
"You're damn good at what you do. Explains why you made it on the New Mages." 
Lin Tsang, the former Silver Shadow, didn't betray the surprise at her captor's knowledge of her identity she only continued to test the stress limits of her dark bonds.

"I'm so sorry, I'm being very rude to my gracious host."

Sheila cradled Lin's head, careful of the first few attempts at feral gnashing, and stopped her attempts cold.

The kiss was short and awkward for the young, restrained Asian woman. Sheila pulled away slowly, a trail of her own saliva connecting the pair before breaking the last of the bond.

Lin hurled another exotic barrage of swears but this time Sheila returned an impish grin, "Most of what you said in your tantrum is true".

Her eyes narrowed at her captor, "You're full of confusion and trickery, Spellcaster".

"Its nice being able to communicate with you now, your language is so - concise."

The tendrils of darkness released Lin, she surveyed the deep shadows that danced across the walls of her apartment before the one-time government sanctioned vigilante sat down on her knees before the Lady of Shadows.

"I've been through -", Sheila started before fixing herself cross-legged on the apartment floor, "we've been through much, and you have to agree we never had a proper childhood."

"None that I'm aware of."

"Yours consisted of training, training, and some more."

"It's a life, a purpose, things much larger than comfort or longings."

"Yes but did you have a choice? Did you ever want to give it up?"

"To train is to prepare, without preparation there is only inevitability and hopelessness. With training I give myself - chance, if even a meager probability, and that is choice enough."

Sheila chewed her bottom lip for a moment.

"That's - very dark."

"So says the one who manipulates the dark."

Sheila lit up, "you made a joke!"

The Lady of Shadows poked Lin in the chest and the barely perceptible smirk faded as quickly as it had appeared.

"Why do you bother me?"

"I've been gone a very, very long time. I'm aware alot has happened since... and I got a chance to comeback. Pay my respects and all that."


"You're around my age and knew, well, them."

Lin's brow furrowed, "the New Mages."

"Yes", Sheila clasped her hands together, her green eyes glittered beneath the dark helmet that shaded her features from the light that poured through the window.

"Michael and Toria and Jeffery - all of them, and you", Sheila continued.

"You know of them?"

Sheila shook her head.

"Weisz?" Lin offered.

"No, he said nothing to me."

"You lie, your own breathing betrays you."

"I kissed him as a I kissed you - when I was but a girl."

Lin shot up from the floor, "Out."

"No, no, no, it wasn't anything like that, Lin!"

"Again, more lies. Out, now", she growled.

"I loved him."

"And you were a stupid child."

"I know."

Neither moved, silence pervaded.

"I said I kissed him because just as we were locked in breath and shared spirit, that is how I now speak your tongue and know your mind. It's how I know of the Mages, the identities."

Silence still.

"I"m not trying to hurt you, I'm looking for an-"

Lin jerked Sheila from the floor with a strength belied by the woman's petite frame.

"Take it."

Lin roughly mashed her mouth against Sheila's, the embrace was both rough and drawn out, but not a second wasted once she pulled away. Memories, painful and enduring, flooded into her mind. Ancient techniques and secrets flooded her thoughts. In daze she stood there, made helpless by revelations of another spirit mingling with her own. 
"Out", Lin repeated before pulling the cord to her window blind, shutting out the light.

And the shadows welcomed them. 

Schezerade threw a fit, free of the black skinsuit that covered her body, she dashed about the galley of the Imperial Magistrate's warship the 'Seraphim Wing' throwing chairs and flipping tables like a wild animal. Her sun-kissed locks danced wildly as the chair slammed repeatedly into the surface of the machinery that issued out liquidized servings of both food and beverage. 
"TALK -- TO -- ME -- YOU -- GOD -- DAMN -- MACHINE!" 
"Enough!", the once shy voice piped up once again, this time from the assaulted food dispenser. 
"We're sorry, truly!" 
"Answer my fucking question." 
Another pregnant pause filled the air. 
Rade lifted the galley chair again. 
"No, no, please we'll talk. Its just very complicated." 
"Tell me about it." 

"I am -" 
An explosion rocked the vessel. 

"Now what?" 
The galley door slid open and Rade raced back to the spherical cockpit of the Seraphim Wing. The warm metallic tentacles snaked out of the sides of the sphere and plugged themselves into the pilot's body. Schezerade blinked the HUD into view and for once rocks and dust did not obscure her view. A golden light blazed, colored blobs danced into her vision.
"Its the creator!", C's voice announced. 

"What?", Rade asked a giant mechanical hand came into view blocking out the blinding illumination.
"Apothecary Dragoon Officer Lady of Shadows, the architect of this vessel. She's here!"
A set of explosion buffeted the vessel, a burst of light proceeding each blast.
"'Lady of Shadows' my ass, your little star-fairy is trying to destroy us."
"I do believe she's freeing us of the asteroid elemental that entombed us."
I find myself coming home, or to what could be considered a home. My last 5 years in this place were neither pleasant nor auspicious. The sterile smell of the operating theater, the cold empty corridors, and ever present howl of the maddening wind that rules the surrounding Alaskan tundra made the memories of my long stay resurface.
Sheila shadow-shifted from room to room, finding each one darkened and empty, her 'family' nowhere to be seen. None of the usual personnel from the paper pushers to lab technicians were to be found, not a soul occupied any of the top level of the Center of Analytical Nuances. She dare not travel the depths of the lower levels, a mix of apprehension and a drive to find company urged her to pass through the two sets of automated sliding doors and out into the harsh clutches of the cold.

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