“What do you think you’ve done?” I scream. I don’t mean to. I’m young for this job, I look too young to have my PhD, to be any kind of doctor at all. I don’t need more Doogie Howser jokes, but I can’t stop myself.
“Doctor Henderson, we –.”
“Do none of you remember Detroit?” I get right in Jenna’s face, glaring up at her. “Do you have any idea of how much money we lost then?”
The head of security for Station Alpha just blinks, once. “I am aware we suffered losses, doctor. But we cannot continue this project without information. The risks were deemed acceptable.”
“Acceptable? By who?” I demand.
“The backers of the Project. Sir.”
“Fine. Fine. Fine,” I manage, running a hand through my hair. Balding before thirty, and all because of this job. “We have a magician?”
“There is one that wanders, not tied to any city. It was the safe option, sir. Trying to remove a magician from their city turned out to be – unwise,” Jenna says with more diplomacy than I’d thought she was capable of.
I swear softly, heading down the concrete hallway until I reach the cell the magician is in. He’s male, just sitting up in the cheap prison-like bed, gaze on the cemented over entrance before he turns toward us. Never mind that he can’t see us at all.
“He looks ordinary,” I say.
“There were wards about his hotel room. We had to gas the entire hotel and use tranquilizer darts. I don’t even know how Aowen in PR is going to spin that,” Jenna says.
“This seems a lot of work to keep me alive.” The magician’s voice is distorted by baffles, so his voice cannot command. We’ve learned things throughout the two year history of the Project. If we are to use magic to help the world, then it must be understood, their genetic differences codified and duplicated. The human genome project had many goals: this was one of them.
Jenna listens into her ear piece, then says: “He shouldn’t even be up, let along conscious. He was hit with at least five darts, Henderson.”
I ignore the lack of Doctor. “Magician: you can hear us?”
I don’t know if he can, or if he’s just ignoring us. “You put wards about this place. Blood magic, so it will take longer for me to found. It also means my friends will be worried.” He turns his head, and I’d swear he was looking right at me through five layers of concrete and steel. “I would offer up a warning, but you have harmed magicians for selfish gain.” And he just sits back down, as though bored. Doing nothing our scanners can determine, nothing to set off the defences in the room.
“Red alert,” I say, because something about his calm unnerves me.
“Purple,” Jenna says crisply.
“The alerts go higher than red?”
“They do, we –.” And Jenna goes silent as the lights die.
“There are four sets of backup generators.” I pause, waiting. “Which are independent, and can’t all shut down at once. The security grid includes –.”
Gunfire and energy weapons fill the air above us, a moment straight out of an action movie followed by horror movie silence.
“Doctor. Don’t move,” Jenna says, drawing a weapon.
There is a boy in the hallway in front of me. Perhaps eleven, and pale, and scowling at us. “You tried to kidnap Honcho,” he says.
I’m pretty sure Jenna gets at least two shots off. The kid doesn’t even react, but Jenna lets out a cry and falls to the ground clutching at her head. He walks forward, and I find myself scrambling backwards without thinking. The boy holds out a hand, and concrete and steel simply cease to exist between moments, forming a perfect tunnel into the cell.
The magician walks out, looks at Jenna, then at the ceiling. “You don’t think was a bit excessive, kiddo?”
“No.” The boy raises his chin and glares up at him. “People kidnapped you, and I won’t have that,” and for a moment there is something to his voice, something in how the boy is standing, and I am more terrified of him than even of the magician. Because I can’t shake the feeling the boy is speaking in absolutes, and could easily make them come to pass.
“All right.” The magician ruffles his hair gently. “You did good, even if some of these people might never look at their kids without being terrified ever again.”
“That wasn’t an oops; they aren’t nice to their families,” the boy says firmly.
“I see.” The magician turns to me. “Doctor – Henderson, isn’t it? I don’t know what your people have been doing, but I think I’d like to know more.” He smiles, and there is nothing kind in the smile at all.
It occurs to me, too late, to try and run but I can’t move at all.
“Jay.” The magician doesn’t move, but the kid gestures and there is a doorway in a wall leading back to the hotel. “That’s new?” the magician says.
“I learned it in the future,” the boy says proudly.
“Of course you did. Let’s go. Bring the doctor. We’ll be asking him questions.”
“Good.” The boy looks at me, and the world vanishes into darkness. Not a command to sleep; I’ve been trained to resist, but something else, something larger pressing in on the world until there is only darkness.
Darkness and fear.