“Third-order Designate Miriam Akins, reporting to a council of eight. Second-order Chief Bartholomew, hereafter known as me, has been placed in the role of Speaker. Judgement and revision of operating procedure to follow. Let it be known that this is not an inquest and neither punishment nor reward is to be rendered to the Designate for the report. Please explain the situation involving yourself, third-order Designate Martinez and fourth-order Designate Saunders in your own words, Designate.”
“Yes, sir. We tracked down the incursion into our world via an automated search engine; anomalous high scores in a staggering variety of games used on modern phones were noted in a routine internet search. Said anomalies were traced to two phones and subsequent investigation at shops revealed both to have been the property of what appeared to be a human boy, approximately ten years of age. Further examination revealed him to be in the company of the wandering magician. A report found in the records of the Black Chamber mentioned such a boy, noted for being shockingly quick.
“We tracked down the subject to a cheap motel and found him to be on his own. Third-order Designate Martinez decided that capture and containment was warranted. We had successful captured and – when needed – eliminated several entities from Outside the universe as per the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952, public law 414-stroke-C, the clause dealing with entities from outside the known universe. Fourth-order Designate Saunders and myself both expressed misgivings but were overruled.”
“Please state the nature of your misgivings, Miriam.”
“The boy registered as human to all available technologies, sir. That a magician had done this – especially a magician who is not tied down to any location and could follow said Outsider – made it likely that he would take offence and attempt to retrieve said Outsider. Martinez thought it would be a good test of operational procedure. The boy was discovered alone playing a computer game known as flappybird with a high score close to the four-digit range, which no human could successful produce. His scores in other games are likewise high. His focus on the game allowed us to enter from three access points – the door, ceiling and a flimsy wall between two units. The room was gassed and the subject held down by both myself and Saunders.
“The subject proved remarkably fast, but the drugged air meant he did not escape us quickly enough. Attempts to administer a sedative failed as his skin proved too tough for a needle. A tungten-tipped needle applied with sufficient force was found to pierce skin adequately though it took four doses to render the Outsider unconscious. Containment secured, we department the motel in a standard-issue black helicopter devoid of markings. Travel to Safe house 11 was accomplished in under an hour and the Outsider confined to cell 21. The subject woke after 16 minutes and attempted to exit the cell to no avail.”
“Please elaborate on the confinement methods for this council.”
“Yes, sir. The cell had no walls and only one-way windows: we could see the subject, and the subject not see us. A transit shift – also known as matter displacement or teleportation – placed the subject in the cell. Said transit shift is not survivable by humans at this time due to stresses on the body. The subject seemed a little dizzy when he woke, and uttered the word “Honcho” several times in a frantic tone while attempting egress. Movement was impossible to follow with the human eye but the subject came to a stop after roughly two minutes, panting a little for air, and then turned and faced us.
“The method by which the subject was aware of our presences was unknown. No unusual energies were detected in the cell at this time and every scan revealed him to be human despite evidence to the contrary. The subject then glared up at us and said, verbatim, “You’ve made a really big mithtake,” and then grinned and sat down. As per a request by Saunders I scanned the subject and found no obvious cause of his noticeable lisp in either movements of tongue nor the state of his teeth or mouth. Precisely why a creature so good at hiding would have such a noticeable tell was puzzling but beyond our purview at the time.
“The subject held his breath when we gassed the room again and ignored us entirely. Martinez proceeded to electrify said cell, which did cause the subject to jolt and jump about. The degree of electricity required to render the subject unconscious was enough to power a dozen other cells and was far less effective than it should have been. We were unable to ascertain why. Permission to speak freely to the council?”
“Martinez fucked up. Saunders twigged to that before I did and insisted Martinez cease electrocuting the Outsider. He did, but said Saunders would be reported for violating operational procedure and defiance of a superior officer in the field. As they were otherwise occupied, I was the one to notice the magician walking up to the entrance to the Safehouse. He just stepped out of thin air, walked up to the front entrance and the door opened. I activated every countermeasure I was cleared for, and not a single one was successful. As far as I could determine, most did not activate at all. Martinez then did the same, for fourth-order clearance, only with even less success.
“The magician just walked down the stairs toward us in silence. He passed several empty cells and paused at each, then walked a little slower after, staring at the walls as though listening to them. He was wearing jeans and a cheap jacket, hands shoved in his pockets, and entered the control room. Martinez collapsed unconscious as the magician looked at him. I didn’t move. Saunders produced a weapon. Sonic-based, at least second-order – and how a supposed fourth-order Designate had such a weapon I will not speculate about at time time – then collapsed with blood coming out of his ears when he went to fire it. I guess the magician turned it against him, but I didn’t hear a single sound. He just walked up to cell 21 and the walls opened like a door would, never mind that cee 21 was apparently not in the building proper. It was when he walked into it.
“Over three hundred billion dollars went into Safe house 11 and the magician just – ignored it. All I could think was to wonder why the fuck we’d decided to get him angry, or draw his attention to us.”
“You may proceed, Miriam.”
“That’s for the offical report. Bart. And the question about Saunders. Anyway, the kid came out of the room in a blur and collided into the magician, who had braced himself. They didn’t talk. The kid was grinning ear to ear, maybe wider than humans could grin, and stepped back, his kept his eyes fixed on the magician as if worried at being left behind. They didn’t talk for a few seconds, then the magician turned to me.
“He asked ‘How did you find Jay?’ and his voice – I don’t have words for it. I couldn’t not tell him, that’s what his voice did to me. I understood a little about why we really fear magicians in that. And he blinked, and looked so shocked at my reply that I almost laughed. He looked human, then. Maybe that’s why we really fear magicians? All the things they can do and they’re still so very human.
“His high scores on games he played on his phone were anomalies,” the magician said slowly, as if not sure he’d heard me.
“What’th the point of playing if not to win?” the creature snapped, looking churlish as the magician stared down at him. I’d seen it move, I knew how tough it was, but in my head it was a pouty kid and I couldn’t shake that. “A lot of people friend my account when I win,” he continued proudly.
“I see,” the magician said. “And there’s a reason you didn’t escape, then, kiddo?”
“They wanted to thee you a lot,” the creature said, “becauthe they’re thcared of you.”
“And not you?” the magician said dryly.
“Nope!” The creature grinned at that, looking so smug it was hard not to see it as just a kid.
The magician just shook his head, then turned and walked back toward the exit, the creature tagging along beside him. He didn’t warn me away. I guess he thought he didn’t have to. I tried to revive Martinez, to get him sensible. Is he –?”
“That is not your concern.”
“I guess not. That’s it. They left. Walked away. We stole data from the Black Chamber, sunk billions into this program of capturing Creatures and our best success just upped and walked away from our cells. I think that is why I was laughing when the support team arrived. It was laugh or give up. I haven’t given up, but I think – I think we should be a lot more careful when dealing with magicians. And with their friends.”