The Order of Magi had, historically speaking, been a mobile base, moving to various locations depending on the mood of the populace and group. A global organization, they sought to regulate the flow of magical science as it had been understood at the time, always ready to learn and teach new arts and 'Magia' as they became available. Employing the latest techniques and understanding of magical power, the Order had also undergone several name changes as well, always on the lookout for breaches in security.
For years secrecy and superstition had been their trade, their abilities and powers putting them on a different track than the rest of humanity. What people didn't know back then, they destroyed.
Nothing much had changed.
Neither did the core tenets and beliefs of the council of the Order, a group of strict disciplinarians led by the greatest magic-users known throughout the world, who were in turn led by the ipso-facto leader of the Order, the Grand Magus. At that level, it was believed that there were no secrets left, no more tests to undergo.
There was only one Grand Magus at a time, each one bested by their predecessor by a show of force and knowledge. Only one who had truly grasped the nature and laws of reality could become the Grand Magus of the Order of Magi.
There had been no new Grand Magus for the past century.
Out of all the various branches and sub-groupings of the Order, the other thing that had never changed was the Special Jurisdiction Branch, a group of hardcore security forces that policed their own with specialized artifacts, spells, and oaths. They swore loyalty to the Grand Magus alone, and to the one who led them: the Darkwatch.
There had also been no new Darkwatch for the past century.
And of all the students of Darkwatch DeFerens, the sullen and growly Frank Todd was the only one to escape the clutches of the Special Jurisdiction Branch, chafing at the idea of bending knee to immortal or man.
"And nooooow...you're here because why?"
Magus DeFerens, Darkwatch of the Special Jurisdiction Branch, wasn't a man known for flights of fancy. Despite his outrageously androgynous features, with long lashes framing overly large green eyes, his blazingly red hair worn long and straight and his eye-level bangs cut straight and held back with barrettes, he was far from the type to be anywhere near as flippant as his usual demeanor had ever suggested.
Magus Dawn Tanelin frowned, caught between what appeared to be either his strange lack of memory or a distastefully bad joke. For the past one hundred years, DeFerens had ruled from behind the scenes, working hand-in-glove with the Grand Magus, and it had been suggested more than once that there was no memory sharper than his.
That is, until the past few months.
It had taken Dawn over a month to prepare for the incarceration of The Generalist, the reputation of The Shop forcing her to seek out advice from her superiors and, ultimately, the Darkwatch himself. At the time he had been a sober and self-possessed man, warning her of Frank's myriad abilities, bizarre allies, and the various layers of defenses and energy manipulation he was able to perform. That she had been able to glean his weakest moments (breakfast, shortly before coffee) after an entire month of surveillance was a stroke of both luck and genius - the Shop resisted all scrying attempts, and it was only after DeFerens suggested using old-school binoculars and a round-the-clock team were they able to gain the information that made the sting possible. And now that very same Darkwatch looked at her as if this was the first time such a thing had even been suggested, let alone pulled off.
Tanelin bowed her head low, her forehead touching the luxurious, black carpet of the Darkwatch office, a small room adorned sparsely with somewhat comfortable leatherbound furniture, a small bookcase of eldritch tomes, and a fireplace that could burn an entire redwood oak. Strewn about the legendary office were paintings and photographs, trophies of past Darkwatches before DeFerens. Amongst their many victories were the safeguarding and transportation of magic-users during the Salem Witch Trials, the various Hunts that occurred under the cloak of the Crusades, and a brick from the Sacking of Atlantis itself.
None of the treasures had any value beyond the intrinsic, and to the Special Jurisdiction Branch they were each proof of their power, their capabilities.
None had added to that collection more than Darkwatch DeFerens, which only made his apparent slip into senility all the harder to take, especially to those closest to him.
"Darkwatch DeFerens, a month ago you assigned a special case to myself and my unit: apprehend Frank Todd without bloodshed and bring him to be tried and executed before the Council. The orders you gave me were signed not only by yourself but also the Grand Magus himself - Frank Todd had been given a Class S+ ranking in terms of criminal activity, and...well, you signed the papers yourself! I saw it. You know what he did, and what I and my crew had to go through to snatch him. That he and his Troll were sanguine towards me only went to prove that your advice was correct, that both have a weakness towards pretty girls." Though hard to believe at first, she added mentally to herself, suppressing a shiver.
"And children. Frank Todd cannot abide by crying children or women either," DeFerens chuckled and drank deep from a porcelain cup. Tanelin chanced raising herself up slightly and spotted the cup's complete dryness, noting that there wasn't even a bit of condensation or moisture to suggest that the cup had ever been full. DeFerens, unaware of her scrutiny, stopped to take a deep breath, casting his green-eyed gaze at the very criminal they spoke of, "And if I gave such an order, then alas, I suppose we must continue this. Mister Todd, how do you do, hmmm?"
Frank frowned and glared, "Pretty good, I guess. My current situation's kinda all FUBAR'ed, but I guess it'll be taken care of soon enough."
DeFerens laughed merrily, slapping his knee. The soft black leather catsuit of his station clung to his form from throat to toe, a further trophy of his past works - no one but the Darkwatch could wear such a getup, nor the black cloak and hood of his station.
Frank Todd had worn those clothes once, and he grunted as he noted the insignia he used to sign his works with still shone brightly under magical scrutiny. His eyes shifted back to normal sight as he looked about the room, "Well, the place still looks good. And you don't seem to be doin' pretty bad yerself, Darkwatch."
"Oh, oh my...we COULD do better. But you never did swing our way," DeFerens pouted pretilly before waving his fingers at Tanelin, the nails aglitter with inlaid diamonds in intricate designs, "Well, in the very least enjoy the hospitality of the Order, hmm? Magus Tanelin, since he's claimed the entitlement of his station, he gets to pick whatever jail cell he wants. On the house~! I'll make certain to furnish it better myself, later on," he smiled brightly at Frank, his eyes closed, "Welcome back to the Order, Frank! We'll have tea later on, yes?"
Frank grunted as Tanelin rose, saluted smartly with a fist to her chest, then led Frank out of the aged room. Frank kept quiet as she led him through hallways constructed of brick and fired earth, his quick brown eyes taking in each feature of stairways, elevators, and the various quarters used by the Order itself. He stopped suddenly as bootsteps caught up to them, Tanelin continuing on, lost in her thoughts until an irate cough caused her to whirl around, saluting quickly.
"Hail, Legatus Valken!" She squeaked, standing at full attention. Frank hunched his shoulders slightly, his thoughts his own as a smaller man slowly walked around from behind him, his hands behind his back, chuckling low and dark.
"Hail, Magus. I had heard that you had successfully brought in California's most noteworthy mage, and wished to see it for myself," the man turned penny-green eyes towards the young magus, "You should be proud of yourself, young one."
Frank's frown deepened as he took in the sight of the Order's second-in-command, given the title "Legatus," a face he hadn't seen in years. He grunted, "How ya doin', Jerry?"
'Jerry' frowned, his pale features turned harsh under his simple bowl-cut of blonde hair. Shorter and smaller in stature than Frank, the Legatus had a handsome look to him, his gaze strong and nose fierce, but his mouth bespoke cruelty and his eyes had a sharp edge to them. Though his hands were small and agile, the body that stood clothed in finely-embroidered tunic, cloak, and soft boots of gold and jade bespoke of serious physical diligence. Swallowing a growl, Jerome Valken instead glared at him and murmured, "Legatus Valken, Todd. Good to see you finally put in your place. The Grand Magus will be overly delighted to hear of your incarceration, I'm sure."
Frank lifted a dark eyebrow, "Wait...so the G.M. knows of this? I heard the girl mention he signed the paperwork and everythin'...still don't know why."
"Why, crimes against nature. Crimes against the Order. Crimes against reality," Valken chuckled harshly, "All of which will be brought forth during your thoroughly-legal trial, right before I oversee your execution personally."
Magus Tanelin, during their exchange, did her best to be both unnoticeable and yet still be prescient enough to listen in at the same time. Frank chuckled, looking at her with a sideways glance, "Didja hear that, girlie? Ol' Leggy Jerry is still hot for my nuts."
Valken finally allowed a growl to escape, reaching up to grab at Frank's collar, "You. YOU! I saw you run out of here years ago, and I will see you DEAD now! You finally fucked up big time enough to be more than a mere nuisance, plebe. I'm going to be ever so happy to rip the very soul out of your body after I've burned your chakra points to useless ash!"
The air became hyper-charged with tension as Frank's voice dipped a degree, his brown eyes going cold and intense, "Take your hands off of me, Jerome. Or I will kill you."
Magus Tanelin immediately averted her eyes and slipped into a shadowy recess, pointedly not looking as Valken flinched and let go, his penny-green eyes confused as he looked at his own white-gloved hand. Wiping it off on his gold-embroidered tunic, he frowned and nodded his head towards Frank, "That'll be all, plebe. Magus!"
Tanelin jumped and yelped to attention as Valken turned to her, "See to it that an entire circle of thirteen are established. This prisoner is to be taken to the gaol immediately! I want a contingent of guards assigned to watch him twenty-four-seven, and I want it down NOW!"
The young woman frowned with intense thought, her beautiful exterior managing a smoldering pout instead as she slowly responded, "...s-sir...Legatus...I...High Magus Todd has claimed his rights. The Darkwatch has-"
"I outrank the Darkwatch, and will speak to DeFerens later about this situation," Valken turned on a jade-inlaid heel and stomped away, putting them both out of mind and out of sight.
Tanelin sighed as Frank chuckled at something with a wicked gleam in his eye. Magus Tanelin turned to him and spoke in a low, heated whisper, "What was THAT about? Mister Todd, how in the world did you get 'run out' of here? I thought you never came to the Order?"
Todd grunted and shrugged, "I never went through Crucible trainin', that's true. But I did have to put in a bit of time teachin' in order to get my credentials, and I had a coupla rivals. One guy I ended up humiliatin' to the point where he had to drop out for, like, a year or somethin'. Y'know that whiny sumbitch, Joseph Daybreaker?"
Tanelin gasped at the mention of California's number one government wizard, "Wait...no. Noooo!"
Frank barked a laugh, "HAH, fuck yeah that's the guy. Did him up good and proper after I figured out he was blackmailing other students into his gang. Well, the other guy was Jerry there. Dude never forgave me for not bein' rich, an esper, or wanting to be DeFerens pet. Bah, fuck 'im," Frank turned to her, handing her handcuffs back to her and ignoring her stutters of surprise, "Here. I wanna be taken to cell 13, block J. We're at the Rancho Cucamonga site, right? Under the mall? Good, so long as I wasn't in Orange County for too long," with that Frank jammed his gloved hands into his black khakis and began to stalk down the corridor, the still sputtering and surprised magus trailing behind him.
She held onto the so-called 'guaranteed unbreakable' handcuffs with both hands, their anti-magic enchantments still radiating from their inner lining, the lock designed to be completely resistant to modern day lockpicks and any current known method.
Frank cast a critical eye over his jail cell as the bars slammed into place, Magus Tanelin having left him to the care of the paranoid guards. That his reputation preceded him pleased Frank, who had worked hard during the year he had spent with the Order to be remembered exactly the way they did now.
As an unholy terror within the Order itself, the self-proclaimed leader of the War Party.
The cell itself was in the lowest part of the underground community, the walls of packed earth more than enough to stop anyone who wasn't a Elementalist specialist and even then only an Earth-aligned Mage could find a way to comfortably tunnel out. Beyond the miles of compact dirt and rock also lay a transmuted cube of purest silver that surrounded the jail level, reinforcing the enchantments and keyed to the spells of the Special Jurisdiction group alone.
His cell, much like the others, had interlocking bars of enchanted metal, a useless wooden pallet and a useable sink and toilet. Unlike the other cells though, the cell he had chosen also had the distinction of one more item the others lacked: a mirror, the one thing he requested as per his wont.
It was almost as immediate as when the bars slammed shut that the two guards posted on either side of his cell heard a strange whirring noise. Dressed in enchanted armor, they had little to fear yet were on high alert for trickery - Frank's past mischief had a way of getting beyond magically resistant full plate armor, and his skills as a hand-to-hand fighter made him all the more dangerous to them. Spinning, both guards gasped as they witnessed a strange thing.
"What?" Frank asked nonchalantly from where he sat cross-legged on the clean-swept floor, working over coffee beans in an electric grinder, an electric coffee maker perched on his wooden pallet, both plugged into an electrical socket that hadn't been there a few moments before, "Hey, you guys want some too? I haven't had any at all today, and the first pot is brewing already."
One guard went running down the long hallway, ignoring the few prisoners they had locked up as the second fumbled at a large, brass key ring, grumbling about the long day ahead of them. As the guard entered the cell Frank stood up and immediately took a step back, his gloved hands flexing as he gave a wicked grin.
"Well! C'mon then!"
The guard ran a quick, calculating eye over Frank's ready posture he instead took a step back as several others appeared, the ensuing dogpile helping him tremendously as he recovered the contraband. Frank, roaring, thrashed about, moving the heavy metal dogpile about as they tore out the electrical socket (which hadn't been connected to anything but the packed earth) and took out the appliances.
"Awwww c'mon, at least lemme have some coffee, I mean - hey, hey, I'll share, I'LL SHARE WITH YOUUUU!"
Black Majesty, Armored Saint.
It was later that night when Kitty awoke, wearing Frank's face. Yawning quietly and stretching, the second soul within Frank's body realized he hadn't undergone complete transformation, and though Frank had uttered the spell he had gone to sleep, his consciousness dimmed as Kitty's took over.
Blinking in the low light of the jail cell Kitty slowly stood up, stretching out each of Franks' muscles, testing them since they were so different than his own. Without the litany that followed the spelled ritual, Franks' body was unable to change to Kitty's lithely muscled, wonderfully flexible one, undergoing the physical change that followed the Soul Switch.
Giving a Cheshire smile, Kitty slid through the solid, packed walls of the jail cell, wondering at why so few actually knew how to do that. If everyone knew how to do it, no one would need walls, Kitty thought to himself as he realized the guards thought Frank completely asleep. Ghosting his way through the dark hallways he slipped easily past the changing guards, who hailed each other and gave a quick report before the new guards began to take up post beyond the jail cell: while the Legatus wanted Frank watched, he also didn't want to expose the guards to Franks' wiles, keeping them posted within earshot rather than actively watching the Magus and giving him a chance to lock eyes or give him a solid opening for conversation. Kitty closed his eyes and grinned as he walked, his arms swinging freely, pleased with the situation: the guards, bearing the insignia of the House Valken on their shoulders, suffered from Jeromes' paranoia to the point that his little trick to walk amongst them unnoticed worked beyond even his usual success.
Soft-stepping throughout the hallway leading out of the cell block area, he opted for a series of stairs that led him further up, intent on finding living quarters and entertainment areas where the guards might be lounging about. Despite the effectiveness of his trick, he would be seen immediately if he tried for the magical teleportation system, and the close quarters of the elevators made him instinctively nervous - he might out himself and cause a furor, completely screwing over the nature of his business.
Eventually he stumbled upon a level of the base that, according to the handy maps set at the head of each stair, gave him access to exactly what he was looking for. On this level a series of large rooms with windows enchanted to allow the outside in, giving the illusion of being topside while also helping to circulate the underground base with fresh air, lay strewn about the perimeter of the base, connected to one another by long hallways, a large cafeteria, gaming and dueling rooms, and a small library with lighter fare for those seeking a break from their heavy studies. Ultimately it was here that he was able to observe the comings and goings of both the guards and the students as they mingled and relaxed, at first seeking out the large dueling arena where many of the guards chose to hang out and compare spells and train, yet a familiar smell suddenly caught his attention. Sniffing the air he slowly made his way down the main hallway, a cavern-like affair with the same window-illusion that brought the outside to them lining each side, broken only by the few small groups of chatting magi, young and old, and guards pretending to make their rounds on this level.
Sniffing the air lightly so as to not screw his trick over by casting a location spell, Kitty found himself drawn inexorably towards the small library where two familiar scents lingered: his old master and friend, Darkwatch DeFerens, and the slightly citrus, bubbly scent of Magus Dawn Tanelin, who smelled suspiciously similar to the red-headed man.
Crouching low within the shadows of a corner, Kitty licked at his hand before frowning, realizing it was still Franks' rough, large mitt, equally realizing he had neither cat ears nor whiskers in Franks' form. Suppressing a sigh he listened in closely, his eyes looking only at the fireplace, knowing both were accomplished enough to sense him looking directly at them.
"...simply moving Todd. Legatus Valken is beside himself with worry and perhaps a bit of fear. The guards mirror that worry, and have begun to space themselves from watching Magus Todd properly. Darkwatch, what is going on?"
"Nothing you need worry about, Officer Tanelin. All goes to a plan, and all is going according to plan," the Darkwatch lounged gracefully within a large, overstuffed, wing-backed chair, his long legs crossed at the knee and his hands hooked around them as he gazed at the younger magus with a wicked grin, "The only thing we worry about is whether or not Franks' patience will last. If it does not, he may make a move we have not foreseen."
Hearing the emphasis in his voice, Tanelin leaned forward from her own chair, her hands gripping the armrests tightly, "Then...he is being tested, perhaps? Darkwatch DeFerens, Legatus Valken is publicly calling for his head and yours! I cannot simply sit by while he makes such derogatory suggestions that you are unworthy to be the head of Special Jurisdiction, and even further that you're in cahoots with Todd!"
"While I would give my right hand to be inside of Mr. Todd, this has nothing to do with my sexual preferences, varied as they are," DeFerens' voice took on a harder edge as he continued, "You will continue to follow the instructions of the Darkwatch and the Special Jurisdiction Branch. Do nothing save that."
"But Frank Todd is out and about at odd hours, doing whatever he wants! Just today he taught at the Shadow Magic class as if he had been doing it for his entire life! Isn't he our prisoner? Uncle, I-"
"Don't you DARE presume upon our shared bloodline!" DeFerens' voice changed dramatically as he shot up to his feet, his shoulders bunching with lanky muscle and his hands clawing at his sides. The air about his mouth fairly rippled from the power of his multi-throated words, his aura changing to a terrifying black. Kitty grinned, recognizing what was happening even as Magus Tanelin squeaked and sank deeper into her chair, sheer fright in her bright blue eyes, "I have buried more of our shared blood than you have friends! So long as you remain within the Order I am the Darkwatch, and pray you never have to be reminded of that again, Officer-Magi Dawn Tanelin!"
Kitty suppressed a chuckle, biting his bottom lip at the delicious upsurge of rage and fear that swirled about the air itself, drawing it into him and feeling it strengthen him as he watched the Darkwatch glare at the smaller Magus.
Shaking, her blue eyes wide with absolute terror, she gasped breathlessly but firmly, "The truth is absolute. Not even the Darkwatch can ignore a direct question from an Officer. So why is Todd being allowed such free reign? What are you planning?"
For a brief moment violent intent surged through the air before the Darkwatch sat back down and sipped from an empty cup, every ounce of tension drained out of his body the instant he sat down, "Everything is fine. All goes according to the plan, and that is all that needs be known. I thank you for your time, Officer-Magi Dawn Tanelin," he closed his eyes and gifted her with a dazzling smile, "My cute and beloved little niece!"
Kitty watched as Dawn waited for the Darkwatch to forget she was in the room, a handy trick that was less on par with his own rather than she was simply hoping he would dismiss her of his own volition. Picking herself out of the chair slowly she left the room with slow movements, aware that her vastly stronger uncle was watching her with his peripheral vision, stalking her movements as if they were predator and prey. Eventually she made her way out of the room and the Darkwatch stood up, silently setting the cup aside and sparing a smile and a glance towards Kitty's corner before pulling the same trick he could, walking through the bookshelves as if they weren't there, leaving behind a sheaf of papers on the coffee table next to his chair.
Well. At least Master is still as crafty as ever, and as theatrical, Kitty thought to himself as he uncurled himself from the corner and strode towards the papers, riffing through them and scanning them quickly. Unlike Frank, his memory was perfectly photographic and he scanned and remembered each word without reading them so he could read them over later from memory to Frank. His mission done for now, Kitty slipped out of the room, intent to return the comfortable cell before Frank woke up and took his body back.
But firrrrst, Kitty purred to himself, suddenly spinning on a heel and heading back down the hallway towards the common area, a quick flash of desire making him grin to himself, A little bit of a reward for Kitty would be just fine! I worked hard, now I play hard, and a little bit of razzle dazzle before the slap and tickle is just what the doctor ordered, murrrrr~!
The Generalist – Taboo 2: Magic and Mayhem (Part 1 of The Mayhem Arc)
Final Round: http://www.thepenismysword.com/2012/10/the-generalist-taboo-2-magic-and-mayhem_8653.html