I entered the underground parking lot and let Gabriel turn down the bass’n’dub booming from the stereo. All the passengers seemed to relax as the parking lot necessitated I slow down. During the ride, Gabriel had stared me down; a look that said i wasn’t fooling anyone with my bad attitude and my stonewalling. I knew I would soon have to answer the questions that visibly simmered under his surface. As far as our Unit went, Gabriel was the untitled leader of the OtherWorlders; if they needed anything all of them had gone to him. So generally as the mouthpiece of the group he always felt the need to be heard.
“What’s going on with you?” He asked in a barely heard whisper. The question met more silence from me. “You’re gonna have to tell me eventually.” He said as I pulled the SUV into two parking spots next to another Unit’s SUV; by the look of the creatures getting out it was our closest brethren in H Division; the SUV’s required two parking spaces. I parked next to the H Division vehicle and as I was pulling in the driver’s side door cracked on the other vehicle; Zillah, H’s Witch, got out and the rest of the H-Div moved towards the vehicle in anticipation of seeing their friends. I parked and realised I’d made Head Office in record time; really demonstrative of how pissed off I was right now.
“Sup?” Zillah asked having scooted across the front of the car as I had pulled it into place. He’d opened my door and beamed down at me. Zillah was my closest human colleague; H and G Units always ended up in the trenches together and Zillah had showed me how to celebrate after. I slid out of the seat and exchanged the customary handshake, which when our heart lines crossed a zing ran p my arm. That zing could be expanded if Zillah needed a cardiac massage; I had never had to do it cardiac massage anyone and had heard that it took more out of the instigating witch than a site-to-site transport.
“Not much Zil; sup with you?” I asked closing the door of the SUV and arming it with the cars remote.
“About the same, baby.” He said smiling through to his icy blue eyes. Messy blonde with a short back and sides, six foot something and a scar that ran the left side of his jaw line. He had a hold of my hand and played with my fingers as I walked to the back of the car. Usually I would let him flirt but I had other factors weighing on my mind today and the thought of sex with anyone made me squirm. I snatched my hand from Zillah who looked at me as if I’d done something very interesting. Before I could school my face into a blank wall he saw a conflict of emotions that I didn’t intend for anyone to see right now.
“Shit Civ,” he hissed and lent in for a hug. The OtherWorlders of both Units had mingled and they were used to seeing Zillah and me be very… close. So when I dodged the hug everyone started to pay attention; eight sets of eyes scrutinised the situation.
“Guffey?” I said holding my hands out waiting for the guns, once laden with steal I holstered them into my Utili-Vest and headed towards the stairs beside the elevator. I could hear conversation start up behind me and was glad that I was no longer of concern to the other beings. I had noticed that H Division were missing an OtherWorlder as well and wondered if this is why we were at Head Office; something I’m sure the significance would be relayed after I’d descended the three levels of stairs into the Portal Keeper area of Head Office.
Head Office looked like someone was trying to create a lounge room from an office space. The magic around the building provided a darkness that even if the levels had been upstairs would have left very little light seep through. But in the Operational area, lamps reigned supreme. Little clusters of armchairs and pools of warm light helped hide the cubical farm that the space really was. When one Unit came to visit Head Office it was a red letter day for the drones of the cubicles; but two Units swarming through the hive should have caused more a stir than it did. Heads popped over the short walls like meerkats assessing threats.
We needed to move through the desks maze to the rear area which was a training room I stalked through the room with purposes as my Master had taught me; he’d said that if the Office Witches suspected that everything was less than in control then they were fraught with fear which could spread to the further Coven Witch community and usually caused more issues than it was worth. The rest surged to keep up with my fast clip as we moved in formation. Most of the desk monkeys were low skilled witches who provided a very valuable service of pushing paper and figure calculation; the type of work that was laborious to the Unit employees. The training room was close to bursting as we entered. The other six units were all sitting around the room in clusters and this made me understand why the office workers were less than impressed with out entrance.
Up front was the well known Lieutenant Lal; the Luey was the overseer of all the Units. We all had handlers who mostly handled the interference between the Units and the Luey. Drea was standing up the front next to the other more important members of the Inter-Portal Enforcement division of the Witch and Magical Enforcement and Governing Bureau which sat under both Home Land security and international relations. Drea is a pocket rocket of a woman with cascades of brunette hair that fell down her back and over her shoulders. She was out handler and could procure almost anything. Between the two of us her job ran smoothly; so smoothly that she ran assistant services for the Luey too.
The training room was crammed between its beige walls with witches and OtherWorlders. The bird’s eye map of the portal locations and the green dots of Unit housing was projected onto the whiteboard at the front of the room. The Luey caught my eye as I made my way into the room. I took up a leaning position just inside the door under his scrutiny. The Luey had also apprenticed to my Master; apprenticing to the same Master was like being inside an insular brotherhood within a insular community. I could tell when he took in the fact that Giffen was missing from our ranks and that something was wrong with me; he put two and two together and nodded curtly. I looked around the room and noticed that every unit was missing an OtherWorlder.
“Alright people, quiet down!” he snapped and all the noise fell away. “A pattern of concern has come to our attention. A member from every Unit has turned and I can tell from the late comers that this has spread across every Unit.” Everyone in the room swung in our direction; I looked over the faces of the other witches within the Units. I could see that B Unit’s Tricky was holding his shoulder and nursing his side – as well as a flora of a new bruise across his forehead. But other than Tricky, no one else looked as if the OtherWorlder who had turned in their Unit had down so against the witch. Of course, I couldn’t see any emotional scars and I was the only female Portal Keeper; so it’s not like the OtherWorlders to rape a male witch in order to turn.
“Standard witching patrols are sweeping through the known rogue witches within the city. Some have already turned up dead which is showing that the turned ones are trying to cross portals. Obviously this means that we’re all on high alert but we should all know that only Portal Keepers can open and close the portals. So I’m unsure as to what this act of killing lone witches is supposed to prove.” Luey said and Gabriel sidled closer to me. “Make sure that your Portal Keepers travel in groups at all times. But we will need to track down the OtherWorlders responsible to bring these people to justice,” the Luey said and stepped aside as an elder OtherWorlder stepped up.
Dr Roberts was the closest to an academic that they OtherWorld could offer; considering that there were no institutions of higher learning in a feudal, war lord society. Dr Roberts have latent magic capabilities. He could also father magic from others which was a very rare talent between Earth Witches. Of average height his most defining characteristic were his dreadlocks that lacked any colour; no base tones or greyness; the white was as complete as a Polar Bear’s fur.
The night before I had just dumped my Util-Vest on the floor of my wardrobe without restocking; now I have no time for it. My father had always said that laziness was the downfall of fools; it’s not that I didn’t learn the lesson I just had opted for bed over sitting and restocking the clips of my pistols, so I grabbed a full box of bullets and some extra satchels of pre-made mixed herbs and stepped out of my room.
As I locked the door to my wardrobe I saw Guffey was straightening my bed. The lithe and industrious blonde with musculature like a lightweight boxer, he was usually paired up with me when we took down OtherWorlders. He knew my emotions before I did, almost like a natural empathy.
“What do you think you’re doing?” I asked between clenched teeth.
“What?” Guffey responded stepping away from the bed, hands up in surrender. Uncertainty played across his face as I realised I’d confused him. Usually Guffey was left to do most of the domestic duties because he liked doing them; normally I would never have a problem with him making my bed, but then, today was a little different.
“We have no time for housework,” I said hiding my emotional turmoil at seeing anyone else get involved in what Giffen had perpetrated.
“Oh, it won’t take but a second,” he actually clucked at me as he moved back towards the bed.
“You know what… how about you make yourself useful and restock my pistols?” I asked chucking the box of ammunition on the bed which upset the line that he’d already pulled the doona across. He snatched up the box and frowned at me; he knew something wasn’t right but wasn’t de classe enough to ask about it. But as soon as he went to touch the bedding again I’d had enough. I stalked across the room and gripped the mattress at the lower edge then flipped heavy load; the mattress up ended and slid off the otherside of the bed frame – taking all the linen with it.
“What is your problem!” Guffey extolled, his face a mess of emotions that I couldn’t deal with right now. I turned and strode out of the room. Other peoples need and wants; fears and cheers; would need to take a back seat today. I couldn’t always pander to the needs of people who were used to getting their own way through my easy-going personality. Not now, not while Giffen was out in the wilderness trying to hitch a ride across a portal.
I stalked out of the room and across the short hall made from concrete walls which separated two vast rooms. The ice factory was previously required to cater for large trucks resulting in the need for an undercover dock area; accessed from the ice factory through a large roller door. This door stood open waiting for me and I knew that Guffey was on my heels when I heard the door start to close as soon as I crossed its threshold. The dock area was a large U shape of building that originally had no fencing at the external end; this was replaced with a high brick wall, razor wire and a bullet proof roller gate. The gate stood open; as did the rear passenger door of the extended frame matte black SUV that was purring in front of me.
I strode to the SUV and snatched open the driver’s side door. Gaito sat looking at me as I demanded he exit the seat. He was the least prone to fluctuations in his emotional state out of the whole Unit; it was like he was always weighing up the benefits of choosing whether the fight was worth the expenditure of energy and the fight never was. He was more a thinker than a doer, but when he did something it was usually worth the time and effort expended. This was the same for his fighting; he was a quintessential marital artist; his movements were always technically correct and usually extra quick. To watch him fight was a thing of beauty. As he sat starring at me and evaluating the situation he cocked his head to one side and gave a slight nod; then he flowed from the driver’s seat and went around to the rear of the SUV.
Basically the SUV had forward facing front and middle seats then rear facing seats at the back. The glass and chassis was bullet resistant for 10 hours of sustained continuous fire; the tyres were ‘run flats’ and there was a kicking stereo. Gaito took up residence in the rear seat while Guffey took up his standard residence behind the front passenger seat.
“Guns,” he said and I flipped him the weapons before climbing into the vehicle.
“What’s going on?” Gabriel asked from the front passenger seat.
“I’m driving bitches, if that’s OK with you Miss Daisy;” I said knowing that the reference would fall flat.
“Who’s Miss Daisy?” Groman asked from behind me as Gabriel asked;
“Are we going to wait for Giffen?”
“Not fucking likely,” I said engaging first and hammering the accelerator. The car shot out of the gateway like a cannon and someone tapped the gate remote to close up after us.
“Slow down!” Gabriel hissed at me and I tapped the sound up button on the stereo.
OtherWorlder’s don’t have cars in their dimension; these vehicles were a very new concept and usually very confusing to them. Gaito and one other OtherWorlder were the only ones I knew who had taken the time to learn how to operate the technology. There was no point, in their dimension to have these vehicles because these guys could run at pretty much the same speed I drove; which was the reason why I was so anxious to get on the trail of Giffen. Every minute I spent sucking up the arse of a suit about something inane, was another minute that Giffen’s trail was growing cold.
The Inter-Portal Enforcement Agency existed within a ‘Federal’ Building in Melbourne’s CBD; we lived approximately 10 minutes from the building and the most active portal was 20 minutes from Melbourne’s Post Office. The building was one of Melbourne’s ‘landmark’ edifices; it had neo-gothic columns and arched windows, very pretty from the public side of the building.