8FOLD: Mancers # 7, "Blood Magic"
joltcity at gmail.com
Mon Aug 20 07:46:23 PDT 2018
Theirs is the midnight war - theirs, the twilight destiny! Kissed by
Venus, conduits for eldritch forces beyond mortal understanding, are
they the last best hope for the Earth, or the instruments of its
' '`-`-' '`-`'-' -'
# 7 [8F-181] [PW-29]
BY TOM RUSSELL
MAILE AKAKA, age 19. Aeromancer.
Abducted and memory-wiped by the secret circle, she now knows that she
is in fact The Company's top field agent and assassin.
LIEKE VAN RIJN, age 26. Doppelmancer.
Split into two autonomous bodies. Members of the secret circle tasked
with gaining Maile's trust.
AZABETH "BETH" COLLINS, age 36. Oneiromancer.
A member of the secret circle, and its true leader. Comatose.
JUNE LASH, age 46. Ailuromancer.
Gourmet chef and spymaster of the secret circle.
TREVOR JEFFRIES, age 22. Mekhanomancer.
A member of the secret circle; saboteur. Romantically interested in June.
DAVID COLLINS, age 30. Mnemonomancer.
A unwitting sleeper agent embedded within The Company by the secret
circle. The Company knows this, and the circle is trying to get him
out alive. Husband of Beth Collins.
TRINITY "TRINI" TRAN, age 34. Haematomancer.
A fugitive who works for The Company in return for their protection.
David's live-in girlfriend, unaware of his true history, spying on him
at the behest of Claire Belden.
CLAIRE BELDEN, age 29. Metamancer.
An agent of The Company, tasked with keeping their identity
clandestine, and with rescuing Maile from the secret circle. She is
also secretly responsible for Maile being captured by the circle,
unbeknownst to her superior, Lydia Black.
LYDIA BLACK, age 45. Paralymancer.
Head of Human Resources for The Company. Claire's lover.
SAMSON DRAKE, age 28. Sciomancer.
Company assassin, and formerly Maile's lover. Swallowed by a demonic
mass and disappeared.
PINKY, age 22. Apparamancer.
Company teleporter. Swallowed by a demonic mass and disappeared.
SARAH AVERY, age 24. Evocamancer.
Engineer and demon-summoner, currently and reluctantly allied with the
The waiter asks if they want to start with an appetizer. Trini looks
at David, and David at Trini, each waiting for the other to make a
decision, it's up to you dear. After a moment David decides that, what
the heck, we're celebrating, let's splurge. He orders the mussels.
Trini stares at him.
"Are you mad at me?" she says.
"Am I mad at you," he says, flat and confused.
"I'm allergic to mussels."
He pretends to remember it. "Right. Of course. I'm sorry. Let me
get the waiter."
"No, if you want to have it, you can have it."
"I made a mistake, Trini. Let me make it right."
She takes a deep breath. "I just wish you'd pay attention."
He gets a little furious, but buries it. He does pay attention.
Close attention. She thinks he doesn't, that he's oblivious, wrapped
in his own little world. But that's not it at all. He just doesn't
remember. It's not for lack of effort, for lack of trying. Sometimes
he tries so hard.
He flags down the waiter and changes the order to artichokes.
"Thank you," says Trini quietly. Then: "I don't mean to stop you."
"You're not stopping me," says David.
"The thing is, it's your special night," says Trini. "If you want
to have the mussels, have them."
"I don't want them," says David. "And it's not my special night.
It's our special night."
"You're the one that got promoted," she says. It's almost like an
accusation. Like he's done something wrong. Like he's disappointed
her. She catches herself. "I'm proud of you."
"This is good for both of us," says David. "We'd have enough money,
you know. Where you wouldn't have to work at all."
"I mean, it'd be a little tight," continues David. "But we could
make it work. I know you hate it there. I know you hate what, what it
is that we do, what The Company does. We both do." He reaches for her
hand. "That's because we're good people. We work for bad people. I
know that. I have my eyes open here. Sometimes I think you think I've
got blinders on, but I don't."
"Oh, David," she says, shaking her head. "David, listen to me. They
know that you forget things."
"They know. And they promoted you anyway. So you need to think
about why they did that."
"How? How do you know that I forget things?"
Trini gags. She puts her napkin to her mouth. When she pulls it
away, it's wet and red. David sees the blood without seeing it.
"How do you know that I forget things?" he repeats.
"Trini told me," she says. "She's been spying on you. She wasn't
supposed to tell you and I'm very disappointed in her." Trini jams a
steak knife into the back of her left hand.
David sees it without seeing it. "Who are you?"
"It doesn't matter," she says. "You're going to get a phone call in
a moment, calling you into work for an emergency. You'll leave
immediately, and you won't remember any of this."
Trini's head pitches forward, as if she was just starting to doze
off, then she jerks awake with a start. It only takes her a moment to
notice the knife in her hand. She starts screaming. David hears it
without hearing it; his phone is ringing. They're calling him into
work, some kind of emergency. He leaves immediately.
Claire taps the glass with the handle of her umbrella, and her
reflection shimmers until her mouth becomes Lydia's, her eyes become
Lydia's. She looks at Lydia, and then feels a familiar pressure in her
throat as Lydia's voice comes out of her mouth.
"Status report, Miss Belden."
Claire clears her throat and speaks with her own voice. "We
captured the doppelmancer. Alive. She's being questioned now."
"I don't like the fact that you're leading with that."
"Akaka escaped with the target. Samson and Pinky were swallowed by
a demonic mass."
Lydia seeps into Claire's hand, and she slaps herself across the
face. "Unacceptable. Why didn't Jamison cancel her out?"
Claire takes a breath. "Samson saw fit to kill his brother."
"Why would he do that?"
"I'd be happy to ask him if and when he turns up."
Something flickers in Lydia's reflection, and Claire immediately
begins to apologize. It's not fast enough; Claire smashes her own face
against the glass. She does this three times. Her nose breaks before
the glass does.
"You useless cow," Lydia screams. "Do you have any idea how
monumentally you have screwed up?"
"But Samson," Claire begins, and then she stops, because her hands
are around her own throat.
"I'll fix it," gags Claire.
"No, you won't," hisses Lydia. "Garland will head security going
forward for this and all operations. You will be put on leave until I
determine where your incompetence will do the least amount of damage
to The Company and its interests."
Claire gets her hands back. "Yes, Miss Black."
"I blame myself," says Lydia, softening. "I wanted your plan to
succeed. I wanted you to succeed. You're too clever by half, Claire.
We should have terminated David Collins the moment we suspected he was
"You're right," says Claire, trembling. "Will you let me do that much?"
"Not a chance," says Lydia with Claire's mouth.
Claire closes her eyes. She takes a breath through her red wet
nose, then says her own words with Lydia's voice. "On second thought,
Claire opens her eyes, and Lydia speaks through Claire. "On second
thought, yes." (Oh, thank the blue lady. Claire wasn't sure that would
Lydia's reflection shimmers in the darkness, and soon Claire is alone.
The emergency is that one of the field teams has captured one of the
terrorists. Or half a terrorist, anyway; it's a doppelmancer. David
waits outside the interrogation room.
Gavin pops out of the room. "Mr. Collins," he says. As soon as he
got the promotion, Gavin stopped calling him David and started calling
him Mr. Collins. Supposedly it's meant to be deferential, but David
can hear the sarcasm. One of Gavin's two specialties is treating
everyone with contempt, and then playing dumb whenever he's called on
The second is the particular relish he takes in torture.
"Do you have anything yet?" says David.
"It will be in my report," says Gavin.
Part of David wants to let it pass; it'd be easier that way. He
knows he's going to have many battles with Gavin, and if he tries to
fight every one, it's going to make his life miserable. That's the way
it was with Bill. Better to let some things go, and be a stickler when
it really counts.
But maybe it's better to nip this in the bud right from the start.
"Gavin, that wasn't what I asked."
"Nothing yet," says Gavin. "But I feel confident I'll get something
in the next cycle."
"How long?" says David.
"Six hours. Your replacement starts Monday, right?"
"Taking your old job. The new wiper."
"Yes," says David.
"But I guess you'll still do the wiping from time to time. Keep
your hand in it."
"Uh, I don't know," says David. But he does know. Once the new
mnemonomancer starts, and David can concentrate all his attention on
managing his team, he fully intends never to set foot in an
interrogation room again, not if he can avoid it. This might be the
So. He just has to walk in, wipe the last six hours from the
terrorist's memory, then walk out. Gavin will head back in after his
smoke break and will tie himself to the other chair, pretending to be
a fellow prisoner, see what she might confide in him during her
David opens the door, and then closes it behind him. He looks at
the subject long enough to see that she's still restrained, without
looking long enough to see her as a real person. He starts moving his
fingers toward her face.
That's when the lights go out. David freezes. "What? Gavin!"
"They can't hear you," says the woman. David can't quite place the
accent. "Cameras are out too. We don't have long, David."
"How do you know my name?"
"Because I know you. Because we're friends. Because when you were a
kid, you had a dog, and you liked your name so much, that you also
named it David. You felt that David was the perfect name for any
occasion. I don't blame you; I feel the same way about the name Lieke.
Beth sends her love."
"I don't know anyone named Beth."
"You don't remember anyone named Beth," corrects Lieke. "She sends
her love anyway. I know who you are because you know who I am, you
just don't remember. I know who you are because you're part of the
circle. You're undercover. You've wiped your own memories. Are you
with me, David?"
"I did have a dog named David."
"We don't have much time. Are you with me?"
"I wasn't captured. I'm here to get you out. Hold out your hands."
He does so. She gags, and spits something out. It plops wetly into his
hands. He feels its weight; then it's gone, dry as a bone, like it was
"I don't understand."
"It's better that you don't," says Lieke. "You'll need to wipe the
last day or so from your memory. For your own protection. They'll
think it's some weird magic thing, my magic interacting with yours.
But first, you'll need to wipe my mind. Not just these last few hours.
You need to wipe it completely."
"Everything, David. A blank slate."
"You'll be useless to them. They'll kill you."
"Won't be the first time," says Lieke. "And David? Beth sends her love."
"Getting close to go-time," says Maile nervously. They've spent the
last eight hours at Sarah's, waiting for midnight. The door that will
take them home only works between midnight and dawn.
The first time they went through, Maile had asked Lieke (the other
Lieke, the one that's gone to rescue David) how that can possibly
work. How does the door know that it's after midnight? Because time
zones and such?
And Lieke had just shrugged. Somehow, the door knows. It's magic.
It's easier if you don't think about it.
Right now, it's all Maile can think about. She'd rather be home.
She'd certainly rather not be staying here, at Sarah's place, an
address that The Company almost certainly has. It's a monumental risk
staying here, though it's a calculated one: they're hoping that The
Company thinks they've well and truly skedaddled.
"June? We still in the clear?"
June looks up from her paperback, closing it around her finger, and
takes a moment to consult her adorable spies. Then, she nods, cracks
the book open again, and continues reading.
"I can make the rounds as well," offers Trevor.
"June has it covered," says Maile. "Sarah? How goes the packing?"
"Nearly finished," says Sarah, adding yet another box to the pile.
"Can I help with that?" says Trevor.
"No," says Sarah and Maile at once.
"I feel kinda useless just standing around."
"Then sit," says Maile.
Trevor throws up his hands.
"Just one more box," says Sarah, not for the first time. She's
concentrating on tools and widgets. Earlier in the evening, Maile
noticed that that was all there was: no clothes, no photographs,
nothing personal. Sarah said that that was by choice. The chances of
them being able to come back to get something after were close to nil.
"I can spend my time matching socks or I can spend it ensuring I
have a working, useful workshop."
That made sense, but a body still needed clothes, and teeth still
needed brushing. Maile saw an opportunity and gave Lieke something
other than the fate of her other self to worry over.
"Maile," says Sarah. "When we get to your weird house, I need to
talk to you a minute. Privately."
"About what happened at the restaurant?" says Maile.
"Well, about one of the things that happened at the restaurant,"
says Sarah, throwing a glance across the room. "Something that doesn't
Maile nods and whispers. "I saw it too. I'm working on figuring out
what it means and what to do with it."
"I might be able to help with that," says Sarah.
"Counting on it," says Maile. She pokes her head into the bedroom.
"How's it coming, Leek?"
"Almost done," she says. Then, in a stage whisper: "Her clothes are
"Well, you and you will have to give her some tips."
"Are you holding up okay?"
"Yes," says Lieke. She pauses for a moment. "Just a little anxious.
I always am when she's going to die. And I stay that way until she
comes back. It's silly."
"It is," insists Lieke. "She always comes back. But I always worry
that this time, this one time will be different. And every time I tell
myself that there's nothing to be anxious about, and every time I'm
right, but it doesn't stop me from getting anxious."
"I have a feeling that she feels the same way."
"Yes, she does," says Lieke, smiling.
The alarm on Maile's phone starts beeping. Midnight. "Everyone ready?"
Sarah puts the last box on the stack. "Ready as I'll ever be."
"June, will you draw our door?"
"Actually," says June, "I think you should do it. It's something
you got to get used to again."
"Alright." Maile takes the chalk and starts drawing on the wall.
"There goes my deposit," says Sarah. "And everything else."
"You sure you don't want to bring any of your photos?"
"Nah," says Sarah. "Anything worth remembering, I can remember.
Besides. It will just remind me of what I'm leaving behind."
Trini hates the infirmary. It reminds her of who she used to be. What
she's lost. How she's been diminished. How much she hates magic.
She stares at her thickly-bandaged hand, infuriated. If it had been
someone else's hand, she could have stopped the bleeding with a
glance. But Trini's blood magic doesn't work on her own blood, just
like most pyromancers can't burn themselves. That's great and all for
the pyromancers, but it sucks for Trini.
There's a quiet knock against the frame of the open door, but
before that Trini hears the familiar click-clack of Lydia Black's
"Miss Tran," says Lydia with a nod. "How are you doing?"
"Fine," lies Trini.
"I've been told you were possessed."
"I think so. I'm, uh, I'm not in the habit of stabbing myself normally."
"No, I don't expect that you are," says Lydia. "But you've no idea
who would possess you?"
Trini hesitates. She knows about Lydia and Claire. Everyone knows
about Lydia and Claire. This must be a test. "No. Sorry."
"Pity," says Lydia. "Have you met your roommate yet?" She tosses
her head casually toward the other bed.
"No, she's been asleep since they brought her in," says Trini. "Is she new?"
"Something like that," says Lydia. "Poor thing used to be part of
the circle, but she wanted to defect. So they cut the mancer's mark
right off her face and wiped her memories. She's barely a shell. She
doesn't even know her own name." Lydia leans in, sharing a secret:
"It's Angelique. Call her Angel.
"I know," Lydia continues, "that you're not with us because you
believe in our mission. Or our methods. We only have your loyalty for
as long as you need to be protected from the human police."
Trini starts to protest, but can't move her mouth. That's when she
realizes that Lydia is touching her arm, paralyzing her.
"Minimizes interruptions," says Lydia sweetly. "And don't
misunderstand me, dear; I think you're to be commended for the service
you've done us. We're not the circle. We're not fanatics. We don't
expect blind loyalty against your own self interest. We fully expect
you to always be angling for what's best for you. And The Company?
Well, The Company can be fully expected to do what's best for it. When
those interests are aligned, it works out so well for both parties,
don't you agree?
"And when they're not, well. The Company will do what it has to do
to protect itself. And we will reward those who help us protect those
interests. Which we appreciate you doing in the case of David Collins.
I imagine you cared for him at least a little, since you're carrying
his child. Of course we know, Trini; why wouldn't we? Though I don't
think you told him. Kinder to him, given the circumstances."
Lydia pauses, reaches over to the side-table, and procures a
tissue, dabbing at the corners of Trini's eyes. Trini must be crying.
She often heard that Lydia liked to paralyze everything but the tear
ducts, so she could watch her victims cry. That's not something Trini
ever wanted confirmed. She would shudder if she could.
"I know it's very little consolation, but given your cooperation
with this Collins matter, I have decided to promote you. You'll be
reporting to me directly. Twenty percent pay increase, which we'll
retroactively apply to the last two months. It would be very much in
The Company's interests, and yours, and your child's, if you were to
She removes her hand from Trini's arm, and leans in, close to her
face, so close that Trini can feel Lydia's lips brushing against her
cheek: "Just between us girls, we both know you can't really say no.
But in these circumstances, I really enjoy having someone actually say
"Yes," Trini hears herself saying.
"Splendid," says Lydia. "Your first assignment is right over there.
Angel desperately needs a friend, and someone to keep an eye on her.
She'll be needing a place to stay, and as you're now short one
roommate, well, I think this arrangement will be in everyone's
"Of course," says Trini.
It's well past midnight when David stumbles into the apartment,
clutching his stomach. Why does his stomach hurt so much? What on
earth did he eat? For some reason the word "mussels" comes to mind,
and for some reason this reminds him of Trini.
Who does not appear to be home. Did they have a fight? The last day
is a rough blur. He tries to remember the last thing he can remember,
and the thing that comes to mind is telling Trini, almost a week ago,
that he finally got his promotion. He knows that can't be right. But
all he can see is the disappointment in her eyes.
Did they argue then? How long has she been gone?
"Not long," says a voice.
He looks around the living room. Empty chair, empty sofa. He looks
at the television set, and reflected faintly there is a woman sitting
in the empty chair. When he turns back around, she's there, legs
crossed, leaning forward, both wrists resting atop the hook of an
umbrella in an aristocratic affectation.
"Hello, David," she says.
"I don't know who you are," he says, and then he stops himself.
"But I do, don't I? Claire?"
She nods. It hurts to look at her, the way it hurts to look at the
sun, sharp, intense, disorienting. It makes his head boil and his
stomach churn. He looks at the reflection instead, and even then, he
only does so out of the corner of his eye.
"I think you're having a bad reaction to my glamour effect," says
Claire. "I might as well drop the pretense. Turn around."
He doesn't want to, he even tries not to, but somehow,
irresistibly, he pivots. Her nose is smashed in, freshly bruised, red
"I'm sorry," he says.
"About my face? Don't be. Though partially it was for your sake."
"I don't understand," says David.
"I don't expect you to," she says, suddenly kind. "You have
something I need, David."
"Something you," and then he stops, because spontaneously he begins
to vomit. On its way up, something gets stuck in his throat, something
hard, something impossibly big. He gags and sputters and beats at his
chest, falling to his knees. His eyes bulge and plead.
Claire stares at him, cold and impatient. She holds out her hand,
just below his mouth, and the moment she does, the thing comes out of
his throat, landing wet and red in her palm. It's a kind of disc. It
sits in her hand; he blinks; her hand is empty now.
He looks up at her face.
"David has quite a future ahead of him," she says. "But it's the
end of you, I'm afraid; there needs to be a body."
She points the tip of the umbrella at his heart, then runs him through.
TO BE CONCLUDED
COPYRIGHT (C) 2018 TOM RUSSELL
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