My name is Molly. I’m seventeen years old, and I’m a few moments away from doing something that will probably get me arrested as a terrorist, if not killed in pursuit by the Atlanta Police Department. Specifically, I’m standing in the Maynard H. Jackson. Jr. International Terminal, and I’m about to douse a bunch of businessmen in duty free alcohol then light them on fire. And they’re gonna stand there and let me do it. I swear there’s a perfectly reasonable explanation for all of this. Perhaps it might make more sense if I started telling this story a few hours earlier.
How does one get to a point in their life where they’re about to immolate some (literally) soulless capitalist drones in self-defense? Well, for me, it all started with a job posting on the internet. Not the shady kind sort you sometimes see on Craigslist that involving twenty dollar microwaves or fifteen dollar hookers, the super shady kind where wizards arrange for couriers to smuggle arcane antiquities out of countries that actually have histories longer than 200 years. Did I lose you there? Yeah, I’m a wizard. Or witch, or mage, or whatever archaic nomenclature you prefer to use. Well, some people would probably telekinetically castrate you for using the wrong word. I take myself a bit less seriously than most of those stodgy old geezers. The proper term for me would probably be mage, or magus, but I’m not really picky about it. I’m a person who has some modicum of magical power and is rather desperate for money. Starting to see where taking on shady online job postings comes into play?
I needed rent money, and some anonymous mage needed an object smuggled out of Ireland and into the good old U.S. of A. He offered five thousand dollars plus reimbursement of reasonable expenses. Given that the alternative was working at Sonic for seven twenty-five an hour plus tips, I jumped at the opportunity. Just like in the mundane world, few people are willing to take on employees without references or formal qualifications. The unfortunate consequence of this, is that most people who are willing to hire someone with a background like mine are either doing something illegal, or dangerous. This job turned into more than a little of both. I’ll skip what happened in Ireland for now, I’ve been told that starting a story with that many animated corpses tends to put people off. To make a long and modestly disturbing story short, I left Ireland having lost several inches of hair, the contents of my stomach, and most of my clothes, and having acquired a certain piece of rusty metal approximately seven inches long.
Anyway, so there I was, trying to catch some sleep on my flight from Dublin to Atlanta. I usually fall asleep the moment a plane takes off, especially when I’m lucky enough to fly anything other than economy. Normally I wouldn’t charge business class plane tickets to a client, but after the shit-show that went down in Ireland I considered a decent seat vital to my sleep and sanity. If my client objected, well then he shouldn’t have given me a card to charge, if he wanted to take it out of my fee, I had no doubt I could find someone else interested in whatever it was he’d had me steal from a tomb. Sleeping on the plane had been my plan, but its surprisingly hard to sleep when a clean cut man in a charcoal gray suit that you’re pretty sure you’ve never met in your life is giving you the evil eye from across the aisle.
At least I think it was the evil eye, his expression was pretty flat, so I guess he could have just been staring at me. I don’t exactly blend into crowds, and I really stand out in business class on an international flight. For starters, I’m an unaccompanied minor. And I really don’t look like the sort of unaccompanied minor that you might occasionally see in a business class flight. I’ve got white hair, and after I cut it in Ireland, it was even shorter and messier than usual. I’m scrawny and short, and probably weigh less than the average adult sheep. Also, my eyes are crimson. Unlike the hair, which is just an affectation, those I was born with. The white hair helps me pass as albino whenever I forget to wear my colored contacts. They’re itchy as hell if I sleep in them, but people treat you remarkably horribly if you walk around in public with crimson eyes. Especially Irish Catholics, they really don’t put up with that sort of thing. The constant signs of the cross when people think you aren’t looking gets old fast.
Also, I was wearing all black. Black jeans, black tee shirt, black leather jacket. Hell, even my ring and bracelet were unadorned black bands. In hindsight, that probably wasn’t the best way to blend in, but I lost most of my more normal clothing in Ireland. I’m a big fan of black, it’s a great color. It also doesn’t really show burn marks or bloodstains, which is sadly sometimes a huge plus in my line of work.
Anyway, I wasn’t sure if this businessman fellow was a pervert, thought I was some kind of heiress, or just was pissed that someone who wouldn’t look out of place at a rock concert was sitting in first class. I considered making some sort of snide comment, but decided to let the opportunity pass since I was in the middle of committing crimes against multiple nations.
I may or may not have been kicked out of multiple public schools in my time, but I do have at least that much common sense. Anyway, I curled up in my chair, pulled down the window, and tried to get some sleep. I’m not really sure how long I slept. A flight from Dublin to Atlanta takes anywhere from eight to eleven hours depending on the wind. I’m pretty sure that man stared at me for at least six of those hours. I drifted in and out of consciousness during that time, secure in the knowledge that I was in a public space and relatively safe. He did go to the bathroom at some point, while he thought I was asleep. I was watching him through the tiny slit between my nearly closed eyes when he got up. I was already pretty thoroughly creeped out, but when he got it, it really didn’t help with the creepiness. Without ever breaking eye contact, he got up with one frighteningly quick motion, and stepped across the aisle to loom over me.
It took all my self control not to scream or attack him. Then he paused, just leaning over me, standing in the middle of the aisle. His face was just blank, there was no emotion on it, just almost obsessive attention. He wasn’t stereotypically creepy looking. Appearance wise, he was pretty unremarkable. Hell, if you were a sex-starved soccer mom, you might actually think he was attractive. His gray jacket was a little loose on him, his pants were a bit shorter than would be stylish. He had that sort of pseudo-combover that screams corporate middle-management, and a worn black briefcase that he had snatched up when he stood. But his eyes were what stood out. They were marbles. I don’t mean they were flat looking or he had big corneas or something like that. I mean his eyes were fucking marbles. They looked like someone had decided going to a professional for glass eyes was too much trouble and just grabbed some of their kid’s dark blue marbles and stuck em in their eye socket.
And he just kept looming over me. It would have been comical if it was a bit less terrifying. He just kept stalling there, bent awkwardly in the middle of his step like he was paralyzed. Staring at me. Ten seconds passed, then fifteen, and just when it looked like a flight attendant was going to say something, he swung around and marched off towards the bathroom. It was kinda reminiscent of a toy soldier, all jerky and mechanical. He looked like he was going to topple over every time he swung a leg forward. In hindsight, I probably should have realized something was up a lot earlier than now. Generally, there are reasons why people hire wizards to smuggle things. The two most common are that the artifact in question is valuable enough that there are other mages willing to expend a non-trivial amount of effort to acquire it; or the artifact itself is inherently difficult to manage or contain. Things like stones that raise nearby bodies as hostile undead, or rabbits feet that someone stuck a misfortune curse on. This job was starting to fall decidedly in that first category. For those of you who haven’t figured it out yet, jerky movements plus artificial body parts equals construct.
Constructs are objects given life by magic, simulacrums of life used by mages to manage tasks too trivial to attend to personally or devote a familiar to. Well made constructs, like my new friend Marbleface, could pass for humans long enough to get through a airline security, especially if their master was careful enough to augment them with some sort of enchantment to deflect attention. Being in a plane with a construct was a disturbing enough to dash any hopes I had of getting rest. On the other hand, I wasn’t exactly worried for my life yet. A humanoid construct that realistic is made in large part from wood, wax, and flesh. I don’t really want to know which bits are which, but the sort of magic I favor tends to be pretty good at dealing with this sort of thing. I started rummaging through my bags for a book. After deciding against rereading ‘Skin Game’ or ‘The Will to Power’, I settled on ‘Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter’. After enduring several hours of terribly racist representations of vampires, heavy-handed metaphors about slavery, and the occasional staring match with my inanimate stalker, returned from the lavatory. I realized something.
Why would a construct take a bathroom break?
At that moment, I damn near took a bathroom break in my seat.
Marbleface doesn’t need to drink or urinate, in fact, unless it’s maker has some pretty messed up fetishes, it probably doesn’t have the bits it needs to do so in the first place. Lacking said bits are also pretty solid evidence for it not jacking off or pooping in the plane’s bathroom. There aren’t a lot of hard and fast rules when it comes to dealing with the supernatural world, but one of few that usually holds true is: if your adversary does something unexpected, you’re probably screwed. A surveillance construct that’s paying this much attention to me means someone at least considered I’d be on this flight. A construct that takes bathroom breaks could be a whole bunch of things. It could be a mage or familiar enchanted to look like a construct, it could have been trapping the bathroom, communicating with a master, or half a dozen other things. On a plane, neither of us have a whole lot of options, but once the plane lands… Well, things could rapidly get sketchy, especially if Marbleface’s master knew what flight I was on. I checked the monitor in the seat in front of me. Less than half an hour until we touched down in Atlanta. I braced myself, then flooded my eyes with mana.
The sight is weird. The best way I can describe it to a normal person is that using the sight is like trying to smell out of the corner of your eye. For me, looking for traces of magic is like trying to count the number of cinnamon jellybeans in a bag filled with a mix of cinnamon and cherry jellybeans. While wearing drunk goggles. In the middle of a rave. While high. Its pretty disorienting, and confusing at the best of times. In an small space like the plane I can manage it, at least if I’m not expected to interact with people or do anything other than hold back my vomit. And the sad part is, I’m considered pretty gifted with the sight. It’s even worse for most other mages.
The entire cabin was swam in front of me, slowly fading to gray. Marbleface was obviously magical, his entire body retained enough color to suggest a modicum of magic, while his eyes blazed with a brilliant green light. The rest of the cabin was gray, devoid of magic save for occasional flashes of color rushing by, likely steams of ambient magic in the atmosphere. I tensed my legs, trying to stand. The floor seemed to suddenly drop out from under me. My legs gave way, and I blacked out for a moment. At least, I hope it was a moment. I awoke sprawled in my chair, with a little blood in my mouth and pain in my tongue. Yeah, that wasn’t going to work. Its hard enough to move while holding the sight when I’m stationary. Apparently it’s pretty much impossible at 800 kilometers an hour.
If I was going to check out the bathroom, I would be doing it blind. The captain would probably put the fasten your seat-belt sign up shortly, so it was now or never. I put on my most annoying smile, and announced to nobody in particular “I’m going to go take a leak”. Marbleface didn’t respond, though one flight attendant gave me the sort of look most people reserve for the homeless and senile grandmothers.
The bathroom was, well, a bathroom. Completely normal as far as airplane bathrooms go. One of the previous poopers had left the aluminum toilet seat up. Some asshole had gotten what I really hoped was water all over the tile floor. There were no magical traps in the toilet, or anywhere else for that matter. After I had searched the bathroom as thoroughly as was humanly possible without actually touching any surface other than the floor, I gave up. On the bright side, I hadn’t fallen into some devious magical trap. On the less bright side, the mystery of the urinating construct remained unsolved. I went to the bathroom, I was already here after all, and turned to leave.
When I opened the door, Marbleface was standing there, the expressionless bastard somehow radiating smugness. Fanned out behind him, was a posse. Four more glassy eyed suits.