Modern Crusaders, Book 2
Disclaimers in Chapter 1
"Alleandre, please come in," the stout brunette said, holding out her hand. "Welcome. I'm Doctor Willa Young. It's good to meet you."
"Thanks," Ally replied warily, though she accepted the other woman's hand. The doctor seemed friendly enough, but Ally still extended her mind slightly, brushing the surface of the woman's thoughts. There was intense curiosity there, but it was overshadowed by professional concern, and Ally relaxed slightly. She glanced around the room as Dr. Young showed her inside. "Nice office," she ventured.
"Thank you. My partner did the paintings."
"Really? I like that one with the trees. It reminds me of home."
"I'll be sure to tell her," Dr. Young said. "Please, have a seat wherever you're comfortable." She sat down in a comfortable leather armchair, while Ally lowered herself more gingerly onto a couch opposite. "May I say first off that I'm honoured to meet you. I followed your activities in Atlantis quite closely."
Ally shifted uncomfortably. "You and half the world," she muttered, then winced at how bitter she sounded. "Sorry."
"That's quite all right. I just thought I'd mention it right off the bat. However, you needn't worry about it. In this room, you are simply Alleandre, and I am just your therapist."
"Yeah, I've heard that," Ally said. "I've been to a therapist before."
"Yes? When was this?"
"Part-way through grade six. There was an incident that really…" She shrugged.
"Ah. Well, as you probably know, since I am your new therapist, you have a clean slate with me. You are free to speak to me about anything you wish. I promise you that it will not leave this room."
"Yeah. I just don't know how much… You might not have had…" Ally trailed off uncertainly.
"A client exactly like you? Of course not. Every one of my clients is unique. However, I believe you are referring to the fact that you are, to use the popular phrase, a telepath." Dr. Young looked at Ally calmly as her client stared back in shock.
"What, was there a news announcement that I haven't seen?" Ally asked in exasperation. "Is there anyone who doesn't know?"
The doctor smiled reassuringly. "Don't worry, there have been no newspaper articles. Although I think I did actually see an article in the Enquirer that said you had used an alien mind-control drug to convince Princess Evelynne to marry you."
Ally chuckled. "I saw that one, actually." She shook her head bemusedly.
"No, I know about you because Mrs. Chen told me. I've worked with her in the past. Although the last time, I actually sent a client to her. My brother, as a matter of fact. He'd been diagnosed as schizophrenic because of the voices he was hearing. However, somehow Mrs. Chen found out and came to me. It turned out he's a mind-reader, and couldn't control the thoughts that were turning up in his head. So that was my introduction into the realm of true parapsychology."
"Really? Cool." Ally was impressed. "Still, I don't think you've ever met anyone quite like me." Her tone was matter-of-fact, rather than boasting. "Yeah, I'm a mind-reader, but I'm also a telesentient and—" She reached out a hand towards the doctor's desk and focussed her will. "—a psychokinetic." A moment later a thick black fountain pen leapt from Dr. Young's desk to Ally's hand.
Dr. Young jumped at the unexpected movement. "Oh my goodness," she murmured, her voice shaken for the first time. "Now that I wasn't expecting." She leaned forward eagerly. "So how do you go about doing that? Is it a matter of controlling the—" She broke off suddenly. "Sorry. This is supposed to be about you, not my interests." She settled back into her chair. "Now, I've only heard the vaguest details from Mrs. Chen, so why don't you talk to me?" She affected a fake Austrian accent. "So, tell me about your mother."
"Damn it, I thought this area was contained!" Royal Atlantlan Customs Agent Gerome Halliwell gasped as he ran, feeling every ounce of the anti-ballistic gear he was wearing.
"It was," Sergeant Oliver Marchant huffed back as he pounded alongside. "This guy was outside the area."
Halliwell didn't respond, choosing to save his breath for running as they raced after their fugitive. The raid on the incoming ship and the dock area had been near-perfect so far, and neither of them was willing to let even one suspect get away. Members of the RCMP and Vancouver Police had already secured the ship and most of its crew, but the man they were chasing had been away from the ship for some reason, and had bolted as soon as he saw the police. That was not innocent behaviour in the eyes of either man.
Marchant cast a glance at his new partner as he ran. The Customs Agent was on temporary loan from the Atlantlan Customs Service, part of an exchange program between the Canadian and Atlantlan governments. With Atlantl's centuries of experience policing their ports and waterways, their agents were in constant demand from administrations wishing to improve their own security and anti-smuggling techniques. So far Halliwell had been a boon to the Vancouver police, and while his ideas were rarely revolutionary, they were certainly effective.
Of course, even the most effective plan, complete with high-grade intel from an anonymous source, was vulnerable to Murphy's Law, although if only a single suspect evaded the police Murphy was certainly taking a vacation. However, both Halliwell and Marchant were determined to make this operation as textbook as possible. The police back at the ship were in control of that situation, and were also sending a team to try to cut in front of the fugitive, but until then the two of them were on their own.
"Damn it, where did he go?" Halliwell asked, peering ahead between the huge shipping containers on the dock. The sky was gloomy and overcast, but thankfully the rain had held off. The thought of running while carrying an extra ten pounds of wet clothing in addition to the thirty pounds of protective gear was beyond awful.
"He turned left," Marchant said, jogging more slowly now, his gun held at low ready. The suspect had not displayed a weapon, but running into even a knife while in the confines of this maze of containers was not high on Marchant's list of priorities. With his back against the metal container, he nodded at Halliwell, who was also standing with his weapon at the ready. He waited a moment, then snuck a glance around the corner, jerking his head back abruptly as a sudden crack was accompanied by the unmistakeable whine of a ricochet bullet. "Shit," he swore. Keying his radio, he called the command centre. "Base, this is Charlie Tango Three. The suspect is armed. I say again, the suspect is armed."
"Understood, Charlie Tango Three. Where are you?"
"How the fuck should I know?" Marchant snarled without keying the mike. "It's a fucking maze in here." Into the radio he reported, "I'm not sure, Base. We kind of got turned around. Can the helicopter get a fix on us?"
"Negative, Charlie Tango Three. It's too crowded."
Marchant swore again, but understood. With the stacked cargo containers reaching heights of up to ten metres, and no more than three metres between them at most, a helicopter wouldn't see anything unless they were directly above. "Understood, Base. Tell the perimeter team to head for that big crane with the '3' on it, and I'll try to—" He stopped at a sudden bang that echoed around the corner in the direction of the fugitive, as though something heavy had been thrown against the side of a container. Ignoring the queries coming from his radio, he looked at Halliwell, who shrugged in ignorance. Another heavy thud echoed through the steel canyons and pushed Marchant's curiosity over the edge. Dropping to one knee, he peeked around the corner and gaped.
The fugitive, an unremarkable young man indistinguishable from the thousands of other workers on the docks, was just getting to his feet after apparently being thrown by another figure which was quite remarkable indeed. Dressed all in black and grey, culminating with a long dark cloak and a deep hood over its head, the figure looked a little like Death. If He had taken gymnastics. As Marchant watched, the young man jumped to his feet, his shakiness not preventing him from firing two shots from the gun still in his hand. By all rights the shots should have connected, but the dark figure jumped with an odd whirling and spinning motion that didn't seem like it completely obeyed the laws of spacetime, and the bullets went wide. The man only had time for those two shots, and then his target surged forward. The cloak whirled again, and then there was a thud of impact that sent the fugitive flying back at least a dozen feet, where he made an abortive attempt to rise again and then lay still.
"Jesus and Saint DeMolay," Marchant heard Halliwell breathe. "It's here?"
The words seemed to catch the attention of the cloaked figure, which turned to face them. Marchant had the briefest impression of a strip of pale, smooth face under the hood, and then the being crouched and leapt straight up thirty feet to the top of the containers and disappeared.
Still, staring up, Marchant moved slowly out into the aisle. "That was the Lady in the Shadows." He hadn't realised he'd spoken until he heard himself, and knew instantly that it was true.
"The Lady in the Shadows?" Halliwell asked incredulously. "You know her?"
Marchant shook his head. "Not really. I've never actually seen her before. But we've been getting tips from her for a while now, and somehow I know that's her. One of the cops in my unit called her ‘The Lady in the Shadows' once as a joke, and it's stuck." He looked quizzically at the other agent. "You said she was here. What did you mean?"
"I was involved in that massive drug seizure we had in Atlantl last year," Halliwell explained.
"Yeah, I remember hearing about that."
"Anyway, on one of the raids some scumbag managed to ambush me and clipped me in the leg." He patted the limb absently. "I went down and would have been dead, except that this crate suddenly fell over onto the guy. I was never quite sure if I imagined it, but I thought I saw this shadow moving away out of the corner of my eye. It wasn't just me, either. A few other people also got 'lucky' during those raids. We all took to calling our guardian 'the Angel'."
"The Angel, huh? Well, if she is the same one, she's doing more than just providing 'luck' now." He knelt down next to the fugitive they had unexpectedly captured, who was now groaning feebly. "Let's get this guy back." He took out his handcuffs.
"Sure. Uh… What are we going to say about…?" Halliwell jerked his head upwards in the direction of the now-departed Lady in the Shadows.
"Say? Obviously our suspect here tripped while fleeing and ran into a wall. We caught up and had to struggle a bit before we subdued him." Hauling the groggy suspect to his feet, Marchant looked at Halliwell, who was looking back questioningly. "What? You think anyone's going to believe us otherwise?"
Claire looked up from the newspaper she was reading as she heard Ally call from the direction of the front door. “Hello? Anyone home?”
“Back here,” Claire called back. “On the back porch.”
Ally appeared a moment later, peering around the empty back yard. “Hi,” she said simply. “You here alone?”
Claire nodded. “Yeah, just enjoying some more of this lovely liquid sunshine.” She grinned briefly, waving a hand towards the overcast sky. Taking a closer look at Ally, she noticed her friend's haggard look as she sat down on the bench.
Before she could comment on it, Ally asked, “So where are Evelynne and Mrs. Chen? Upstairs?”
Distracted, Claire replied, “No, they walked down to the store. Mrs. Chen needs some more squid for supper tonight.”
Startled, Ally started to rise. “Evelynne's with her? Is that safe? Are they going—”
Claire grabbed Ally's arm to restrain her, slightly alarmed at the tension running through Ally's frame. “Ally! They're okay. It's fine. Evelynne's unrecognisable, and they both know not to take chances. Besides, I'm, uh, keeping track of them. You know.” She pointed to her eyes and then into the distance. “I figured it would be good practice to try tracking a moving target.”
“Oh. Okay.” Ally relaxed slowly, and Claire removed her hand with some reluctance. Ally abruptly started. “Oh shit! I was supposed to be helping you practice this afternoon, wasn't I?” She turned distressed grey eyes on her friend. “I'm so sorry. I completely forgot. I'm sorry.”
“Ally, it's okay, really.”
“No, I should have remembered. I promised to help you out, and it just completely slipped my mind. Really, I should have…”
Concerned over how badly Ally seemed to be taking the subject, Claire wrapped a comforting arm around her. “Ally, you just forgot, that'll all. You had a lot on your mind today. I forgive you.”
Ally relaxed slightly at that. “Thank you,” she murmured, rubbing her eyes wearily. “It's just been a weird day.”
“I can understand that,” Claire said soothingly. “So how did your session go? You don't have to talk about it if you don't want to.”
“It went okay, I guess. I left it feeling like I'd been caught in a stampede of cats. That's a good sign, right?”
Claire chuckled. “That's kind of like how I remember my therapy sessions when I was in foster care. They're not cuddly little kitten cats, are they? They're big, nasty alley tomcats.”
“That sounds about right,” Ally said, managing a small smile. Sighing wearily, she leaned back and closed her eyes, allowing her head to rest on Claire's shoulder, to its owner's surprise. “So, can you really see them?”
Claire nodded, a little disconcerted. “Yeah. They're just turning onto Commercial Drive.” She looked into space for a moment. “They're heading for that little Chinese store.”
“Are you still having problems with that double vision thing?”
“More like triple vision. I can see Evelynne and Mrs. Chen, but for some reason I'm also picking up the playground down the street and… I think it's someone's kitchen.” Claire tapped her head with the knuckles of her free hand. “Still some fine-tuning to do, I think,” she said wryly.
“Oh, you'll get it,” Ally assured her. “I'm still impressed at how easily you can do it. It's always a trial for me.”
“Mmm. So, what were you doing this afternoon?” Claire asked. She frowned as she felt the shoulders under her arm tense.
Ally sighed. “My session with Dr. Young brought up a lot of stuff. I went out to just kind of burn off some energy. There was this police raid going on at the docks, so I went to… help out a little.”
Claire blinked. She had heard, through Evelynne, of Ally's “superheroic” activities, but this was the first time she had heard Ally talk about them herself. It was still wildly surreal to imagine her friend as some kind of “Dark Avenger” type. “Well, did everything turn out okay? Was anyone hurt?”
“Not seriously,” Ally murmured, her voice low. “I twisted my back a little, but I'm okay.” She was silent for a long moment. “I was seen.”
Claire started in surprise. “Seen? How badly?”
Ally chuckled mirthlessly. “I feel like I'm in The Borrowers. Have you ever read that book? Anyway, I don't know. There were two cops, and I know they must have seen something.”
“Oh. Do you think they'll do anything?”
“I don't know.” Ally looked up into Claire's face. “I'm sorry. I didn't want to have to move again so soon.”
“Ally, it's okay. Wherever you go, I'll go. And Evelynne too. Neither of us is leaving you.” Claire paused. “Maybe this is a dumb question, but have you thought of maybe talking to those cops? Seeing what they know, whether they'll talk to anyone else? It's just that if you are going to keep doing this Batman routine maybe having some friends in the police is a good thing.”
“I've though of it, and I don't know. Now if this were Atlantl it would be different. I have contacts in high places.” Ally smirked. “First I want to see if anything weird shows up on the news. Then I can go from there.” She looked up at Claire again. “Thank you,” she said simply.
Claire smiled back warmly. “You're welcome.” Her eyes went unfocussed for a moment, and then she shook her head violently. “Evelynne and Mrs. Chen are on their way back. Why don't you go have a bath and relax your back, and I'll start making up some hot chocolate for when they get here?” Ally nodded and stood, stretching her shoulders as she did so. “And Ally?” Ally looked down into penetrating bi-coloured eyes. “Everything will work out. I promise.”
Colonel Nixon growled in frustration as the telephone on her desk rang. It wasn't the call in itself that annoyed her; the cause was the small Isis medallion that was resting peacefully on her desk. Despite the fact that she had been concentrating on it intensely for the past half hour, it remained unassuming and—especially—inanimate. The Colonel had taken to “practicing” her psychokinetic muscles at least once per day after Sergeant Gyrus' unexpected revelation, without success. The entire team had, in fact, but Gyrus was still the only one of them who could shift anything mentally, and even his success rate was less than stellar. At one point it had appeared as though Corporal Halan il-Pesek had suddenly developed a much more controlled ability, but the ease with which he had moved coins across the table had been revealed to be a heretofore hidden talent for legerdemain, and an even more hidden sense of humour. Colonel Nixon wasn't sure whether it was the parlour trick or the humour that had shocked the rest of the team more.
Despite the lack of concrete results, Sergeant Gyrus continued to work with tremendous dedication both to improve his own ability and teach it to the others. Colonel Nixon had created a rank of “Adeptus Minor,” based on a remembered conversation with the late General Danun of the Guard, and promoted Gyrus to the position. It wasn't an official designation—it couldn't be, given its highly secret nature—but it gave Gyrus effective authority over the rest of the team when it came to psychogenic phenomena. Despite some hesitation, Gyrus seemed to be taking his new “command” well.
The phone rang again, and with a sigh the Colonel grabbed the handset and punched the button to accept the call. “Nixon.”
“Dicky, how are you doing?”
Nixon smiled and sat back as she recognised the voice. “Ci'nas, good to hear from you. How's the Customs business these days?”
“You wouldn't believe me if I told you. Or maybe you would. Do you know how many places there are for people to smuggle things on their own bodies?”
Nixon grimaced and laughed. “I probably do know, although I'd rather not.”
“A nice wish,” Ci'nas said, his voice light. Then his tone got serious. “Listen, I'm calling to give you some information. Although I don't know exactly how accurate it is.”
Nixon sat forward with interest. “What do you have?”
“Well, I know you've been wanting me to keep my ears open for more, ah, unexplained sightings, shall we say? Well, I have another possibility.”
“What? Here in Atlantl?”
“No, not here. One of my agents is in Vancouver…”
Continued in Chapter 21
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