A few years ago
"I think we can close the file on this one. The perps were acting against orders and have since died." Xen sat back in his chair. "Thank you, gentlemen for talking about what must be an unpleasant memory."
The two retired Action Teamers glowered a bit at him, and glanced at their own superiors.
Izzo, now the Director of External Relations, walked them out.
Urfa, the Presidential Director eyed him. "I'd love to see any reports about the incident you have. Especially the Asian bit."
Izzo walked back in, and nodded. "They stuttered a bit. I think there's been some memory modeling there. I suspect you noticed it. Did you expect us to edit out a few things?"
Xen passed over two chips. "I brought with me the transcribed report from our agents on site. Lieutenant Bran Butcher and Lieutenant Oscar Harryson."
He settled back in silence, and let them read.
Urfa winced and pinched the bridge of his nose. Izzo looked like he was suppressing a grin.
"Oh. They impressed those memories. No Earthers were actually killed in their raid. No wonder their reaction was so much less than we'd . . . my predecessor . . . had hoped for." Izzo went back to reading.
Urfa grinned. "That wine. No doubt they are eliding past an interesting evening."
"Oh definitely." Xen brought up a picture and turned it around for them to view.
Urfa and Izzo looked at the picture.
"The redhead with the startling resemblance to Rael Withione is Bran Butcher, the son of the Archmage, and very well trained in magic. Oscar Harryson is what we call a Sea King, he is, or was, incredibly good at making water do what he wanted."
"They, with two other mages and some civilians disappeared when Pax teleported the Earther's gate anchor to Fascia. Some sort of odd interaction between the teleportation spell and the shield they were trying to hold. The spells edges overlapped. Everything inside the shield disappeared. We have no indication whether they were destroyed or transported elsewhere."
The two directors finished the report and shook their heads.
"They've certainly got . . . a lot of nerve." Izzo sighed. "I think I'm glad your group came and spied on us, rather than them."
Urfa grinned. "Although there are a lot of similarities."
Xen looked at the picture. "I wonder what happened to them?"
A Thousand Years Ago
Estaven Doscompos cracked his knuckles and admired his kicking foal statue with satisfaction.
The gods themselves had run away.
Most of them.
Barry Virtue was still hanging about. He'd planted his mansion down in a big wildlife park on the outskirts of town and spent more time emoting over the four year comets and disaster than backing up the God of Art.
There were plenty of times when Estaven had doubted the wisdom of standing up to a god. His original desire had been to beat the god to that piece of crap Mikey Flicker. He'd have beaten the information out of Mikey, and then publicly delivered the quivering remains to the god, and told him who'd hired the little turd to rob the god's precious museum.
But Mikey had run like a coward, all the way to the Western Hemisphere. For a while it had looked bad. Doscompos had always known that the gods were the most powerful of the magic users. He hadn't realized he wouldn't be able to find anyone willing to stand up to them. He'd wound up with nothing but a pair of Black Widows to protect him magically, while he managed the rest of the matter in a normal fashion.
"Now? I don't figure anyone is going to give me any grief." He shifted uneasily. "But this shit with the buildings is starting to worry me. He's got more than three quarters of the city covered, now."
The two hags nodded. They had this unnerving habit of doing everything together. Tall thin and dark. Short plump and pale. Early signs of middle age were starting to show. Given their reputation as man killers, he had no desire to romance them, even if they'd been younger.
"Why don't you two go take a good look at Barry Virtue's mansion. See if there are any ways in and out that would make spying easy. Check out his servants, maybe infiltrate them."
They both shrugged. "God's don't overlook very much, but we'll take a look." Tall and thin answered this time.
Looking down at the mansion, Fair hoped they weren't getting over confident.
"No one there." Fair opened her eyes. "He must send all his servants away at night."
Hail nodded conformation. "Let's check out the grounds.
Fair and Hail hadn't been born with those names. The government required a bit more in the way of name, for identification, and society was seriously prejudiced against witches. And since only half of all their children grew up to grasp power, the witches of Scandia gave their daughters normal names, and granted them witch names when, if, they grasped power in their teen years.
The witches also policed themselves, refusing training to any witches who could be a hazard to the public, or otherwise bring the pyramid to the government's attention in a seriously negative way.
It hadn't been their fault. The boys who'd attacked them, raped them . . . they'd killed one each and the others had run and called the police. It had been the worst scandal the Pyramid had had to weather in a century. The law courts had found that they'd acted in self-defense. The courts of gossip had found them guilty, and the Pyramid had expelled them to save their own reputation.
At least there hadn't been any chance that they'd turn to the oldest profession to support themselves. They'd managed through a hodgepodge of begging, fortunetelling, selling charms and stealing.
The six and a half years they'd been supplying magical protection and spying for the Doscompos gang had been the most comfortable of their lives.
They'd been nearly drained, exhausted and close to collapse, the one time Art pulled a frontal assault on Estaven Doscompos. They were both well able to channel, but magic took energy from the self as well as the Earth. Lowering the body's supply of glycogen too far could be fatal.
So this absurd comet scare was a boon to them, distracting the god and his friends. Now, just a single god was left in the whole city. Outside of it, technically. Barry Virtue had made a habit of occasionally bestirring himself to take a slap at the local criminals. They'd managed to absorb, or deflect the attacks aimed at Estaven, and disguise the lack of actual damage from the god. It had been a great game, but now the god had gone completely over the edge.
He was wrapping whole buildings, people and all, in these strange bronze bubbles, claiming it would save them from the comet. Doscompos was sure it was a plot to get him. Everyone else figured the god had gone crazy and appealed to the government. Only to find the government gibbering in panic and swearing the gods could divert the comet, nothing to be afraid of, the bubbles were just a precaution . . .
"Open window upstairs. Let's go take a look." Plump little Hail trotted confidently down the slope and trotted across the lawn. Fair raced to catch up, and managed to be in time to boost her friend through the window. They had agreed that passive magic, listening and looking, would be the least likely to be detected. So she waited nervously for twenty damned minutes, at the french doors on the patio until the lock clicked and the door opened. She slipped in, and froze.
"I landed right on his bed." Hail was naked, whispering and obviously terrified.
The god smiled. "I do so love it when the evening's entertainment organizes itself like this. Now that the initial excitement has calmed down, we can make a night of it."