Happy New Year

Thursday, July 28th, 2011 11:59 pm
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[personal profile] forestsofthenight
For most people, New Year's Eve is a big old party. For me, it's just another day at work.

Carol is a Warden, responsible for maintaining the delicate supernatural balance that keeps our reality recognizable and in working order. For her and her team, New Year's Eve is a routine disaster, a regularly scheduled destabilization of the world's order that they work so hard to maintain. This year, though, the Eve is going to be anything but routine. With the clock counting down to midnight and one of her partners gone AWOL, Carol has to find and stop whatever force is turning the laws of reality and magic on their heads--oh, and figure out her personal life while she's at it.


    For most people, New Year's Eve is a big old party. For me, it's just another day at work.

    Well, another night at work.

    New Year's Eve is one of those days when the barriers of reality seem to get a little bit weak around the knees, and just faint dead away at the first sign of a breakthrough. Unsurprisingly enough, on New Year's it's usually time that gets a little wonky, as the past and present collide and jostle for space. In truth, midnight is always a pretty chancy time, what with it being today/yesterday and today/tomorrow, but New Year's Eve is worse. My first Scholar tried to explain it to me once--something about concentrated thought energy or something. Truthfully, I don't really care about why it's worse--I just know it is, and that it's my responsibility to see that we don't get any more slipthrough than can absolutely be helped.

    So getting a call just after sunset to hear that we were already experiencing major leakage hours before the event was not what I'd call good news.

    "The tally so far is 3 people backslipped, two forward-slipped, and one just… gone," Gina informed me briskly.

    "Backslipped should be pretty easy," I mused. "Put a rookie on them. What about the forward-slippers? Did you send word upstream?"

    "Yeah, but they sounded like they had their hands full. It'll probably be a while before they can spare someone to bring those two back."

    "Well, we'll just have to hope that their presence in the here-and-now isn't vital to the course of history. I hate it when time collapses." Gina laughed--a little feebly, because I was only being a little flippant. I speak from experience when I say that having the timeline collapse is a HUGE pain in the ass, not to mention scary as hell. I chewed on a nail, thinking. "That last one--just gone, you said? Not back, or forward, or sideways, or even dead?"

    Gina's voice was grim when she replied. "That's right. Gone. Jeremias says he's never seen anything like it."

    "Shit. If the Professor doesn't know what's going on, we're in really in trouble. I thought he knew everything."

    "So did I," Gina replied quietly.

    I heaved a sigh. Nothing like a challenge to start the day off with a kick. "Right. Well, I'll head over, and we can try and figure out what to do next."

    "All right. Walk as light as you can, Carol. Everything seems more stirred up than usual tonight."

***

    Nothing happened on the short walk over to the office, but Gina was right- reality felt thin and tight, and the barriers heaved and rippled. When I arrived Jeremias had coffee ready, bless his tiny, ice-cold heart. Don't get me wrong, Jeremias is a very sweet and loving guy--to his books. I took a careful sip of the mug he handed me. Extra cream and sugar, just the way I liked it.
    "All right, I've gotten the very short story. Now, give me the in-depth on our missing person." I plopped down on the couch, and looked expectantly at Jeremias and Gina.

    "One of our field agents reported it," Gina replied. "Said it felt like some kind of… earthquake or something in the barriers. When it was over and he took account for disturbances, this guy was just gone. His timeline is intact through to that moment, he doesn't seem to be dead… but he doesn't seem to be anything else, either. There's no trace of a travel through time or space at all."

    "Does he live near any of the local hotspots?"

    It was Jeremias's turn to reply. "His apartment is one… no, two blocks from where the Chimera's been trying to break through," he said, his eyes going a little unfocused as he concentrated on the pictures in his mind. "But he's also right inside the edge of the calm zone." I sighed.

    "Well, it was worth a thought. Biographical information, please?"

    "David Kayne, age 26, born to a completely ordinary family in Norfolk, Virginia. Graduated from UVA four years ago with a degree in business management, moved here three years ago. Currently working as a bartender at Sirens," Jeremias rattled off.

    "What about significant others, friends, enemies, that sort of thing?" I was grabbing at straws and Jeremias knew it. No human had the ability to excise someone so completely from our reality. Hell, no non-human that could pass as human could pull this sort of stunt.

    "Why don't we just cut to the chase. You want me to do a full Knowledge on him, don't you?"

    "…yes."

    Jeremias heaved a sigh. "Two magics in an hour. You owe me."

    "Fine. Just… do it, please?" I watched as Jeremias collected the materials he needed. All Scholars have an unusual gift for information magic, but Jeremias was the best I'd ever met. Unfortunately, he was also one of the coldest and most arrogant people I'd ever met. His utility in our work more than outweighed the disadvantages of his personality, however, and as he settled into a light meditative trance I was reminded of the other benefit of having him around. With the fierce glare smoothed away, he had a face like a modern Adonis--deep blue eyes framed by surprisingly full lashes, a strong nose, lips that just begged to be kissed, and thick dark hair of the sort that made you want to bury your hands in it. And as if that weren't enough, he had the body to match, tall and strong but lean. In short, the man was awfully easy on the eyes. I knew Gina had her eye on him, and I wished her luck, although I didn't think it would do her any good. Even if she could get him to notice something besides his library and his spells, not even that body could make up for that personality.

    "Got it."

    I realized I'd zoned out, staring at Jeremias as we waited. I snapped my eyes away to Gina, catching the edge of an odd look from her before turning back, praying that the burning in my cheeks wasn't manifesting itself as a flaming blush. Bad enough to feel like a clumsy teenager without looking like one as well.

    "The guy's as ordinary as white bread, Carol. Nothing weird at all, except for the fact that he's just not there. But I know where it happened, whatever 'it' is."

    "Great. Get me a map and I'll go check it out," I said, springing to my feet.

    "No." His reply was so level and matter-of-fact that it took me a moment to process.

    "What do you mean, no? Last time I checked, it was your job to provide support for the Wardens of this district. That would be us," I indicated myself and Gina.

    "I mean no," he said firmly. "I'm not going to give you a map. I'm going to go with you. There is no way I'm going to let you leave me behind while you investigate a phenomenon that nobody has ever seen before. You'll just try to undo whatever it is without studying it properly. As a Professor it's my duty to keep you from screwing up what could turn out to be a major magical discovery." He turned and went to get his jacket, leaving me standing slack-jawed at his gall. "Well," he called from the front hall, "are you coming or not?"

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