Saturday, 27 June 2009

Zokusho: Crystal Blade Chapter 4

This is why I should never try to gaurantee updates. I never actually manage to stick to them. I fully blame people who are not me. I am working on something, or, more precisely, several somethings, which don't exactly make things easy. For now, here's part four of Crystal Blade, in which a very fateful meeting occurs.

Jon and James left the junk shop via the rear exit. Jon had transferred all the important files from his computer to an emergency disaster recovery back-up facility, in other words a memory stick, and had gone to James’ apartment. It wasn’t very big, which is why they never held meetings there, but at the moment it seemed as if they had no choice. Jon showed his friend what he had found, which got James very excited. It was always easy to tell when James was excited, since he said man even more than usual.
“Man, this is it man! This is what it’s all about man! We are in man!”
“Whoa James. Calm down. We don’t know what we’re on to. This is Guild stuff; we could get ourselves iced over this kind of thing.”
“But man, this is big stuff man! We gotta do something about this man!”
“No, we have to wait until D gets here, then we can decide what to do.”
James had just opened his mouth to retaliate when his phone rang. He picked it up and answered in his usual manner “Huh?”
“It’s Lya; I have some work for you.”
“Nah, it’s not Lya. I’m James. You must have the wrong number.” James said and hung up. The phone rang again.
“James, go to Lya’s place. Now!”
“Okay.” He hung up again and turned to Jon “Yo, Shiro man I gotta go. This girl wants me to go around her place for some reason. Wait for D to show up man. Oh, and don’t eat the blue cheese in the fridge.”
“Why not?”
“Because I’m saving it for a special occasion. Oh, and I think it used to be yellow.” He said as he left. Jon looked around James’ small apartment a little, then decided he was hungry and proceeded to eat the blue cheese in the fridge. He then spent the rest of the day in the bathroom puking it back up.

Mike stared at his mystery opponent. After the first lunge, which he had parried almost effortlessly, they had begun to circle each other. The Samurai’s feet barely made a sound as he moved, which struck the Swordsmith as rather odd. The samurai took another lunge, which Mike once again parried. The Samurai spun around though, and swung at Mike’s head. Mike hopped back, whilst simultaneously parrying the blow. He had been taught when younger that the best way of avoiding an attack is to both dodge and parry at the same time, just in case. However, a samurai is hardly the same as the thugs he had just fought, and Mike found his opponent had expected the move and followed.
The Samurai opened up with a fast flurry of blows, all of which Mike managed to deflect, but only barely. And he was running out of space to dodge into. Mike concentrated all of his efforts on gaining the upper hand, but his opponent was too skilled, and he continued his offensive. Mike tried to step to the left for a surprise attack, but he slipped on the third thugs, ahem, parts, and landed heavily on the ground. He looked up to see the Samurai swinging his sword downwards for the final blow.

Rachel asked the new waitress for a fourth cup of coffee. She had been waiting for well over ten minutes now. She was watching people pass by on their ways to work. She liked to entertain herself when waiting by making up life stories for random people. For example, the man across the street wearing a sleek, pinstriped black suit and fedora (A type of hat, I’m not wholly sure on what it looks like myself) with a blue shirt and electric blue tie was probably a very boring man. She imagined him to have a desk job similar to Harvard, and was trying to appear more exciting than he actually was. When she noticed that he was dragging what looked like a dog-sized demon behind him however, she abandoned this particular hobby.
A shame really, because she missed the rare treat of seeing three men, bleeding profusely from where limbs should have been, run past. Rachel was checking her watch instead.
“One coffee, with extra milk and four sugars.” Sheridan said as she placed the mentioned beverage in front of Rachel. She hung around a little bit longer than a waitress normally does, and Rachel became slightly unnerved.
“Is there a problem?”
“Oh, no! It’s just, well. I’ve never seen anybody with ears like yours before.”
“What? Really? You can’t have lived in Interplanes very long then. They’re rather common.” Rachel’s green eyes blinked in the comedy way that anime characters eyes do when surprised.
“If you don’t mind my asking, how did you get them?” Sheridan held her tray to her chest tightly; worried that she would upset her customer.
Before Rachel could reply though, Simon’s booming voice called out “Table four ready!” Sheridan excused herself and scurried away. Rachel decided it was time for her second favourite hobby. She leaned in close over her coffee, and twitched her ears until she could clearly hear what the couple at the next table were saying.
“I’m telling you honey, I don’t find her attractive!” the man said. Rachel sighed deeply and cursed Mike for being late. If her only subject was that bad at lying, then she’d have nothing to entertain herself.

Mike opened his eyes when the final blow he was expecting seemed a little late. To his astonishment, the Old Man had intercepted the blow with his walking stick, and was currently engaged in head butting the mysterious samurai. It may not be apparent, but a samurai (particularly ones from Terra Raiga) are trained in sword-fighting, and so are unaccustomed to being head butted in the nose. He staggered back, clutching his broken sniffer.
“You should not have involved yourself Old One.” The Samurai said. He probably meant for this to be intimidating, but since he had to stop halfway and spit blood out of his mouth, the effect seemed somewhat spoiled.
“I will not stand idly by while you kill the boy I helped raise. Either fight me to get to him, or leave with your dignity. I leave the choice to you.” He had shifted his grip on his stick, holding it almost as if it were a sword he was about to unsheathe. The Samurai also shifted his grip on his sword.
“As if I would ever cower before a blind man!” He yelled and subsequently charged. The Swordsmith gripped the handle of his stick, and unsheathed the Crystal Blade. Mike caught the scabbard when the Old Man let go of it, and he noted the strange rune near the hilt. It was unlike anything he had ever seen, but it paled in comparison to what was going on before him.
The Samurai had lunged at the Old Man, flying through the air. He thrust with his sword, being careful to make as little noise as humanly possible. It didn’t help. The Swordsmith parried the thrust with ease, and sliced a deep cut along the Samurai’s shirt. The Samurai twisted around in the air, at one point he was upside-down directly over the Swordsmith, and he swung his sword towards him. Mike watched in astonishment as the sword hit what looked like empty space, but sparks flew as it scratched along the Crystal Blade. Mike’s eyes were as wide as they could go, but they found somewhere when the Samurai’s sword snapped in two. The Samurai also seemed shocked at this, but he didn’t let it distract him. He effortlessly rebounded off of the wall and landed some way away.
“What kind of a sword is that?” He asked.
“One you will never see again.” The Swordsmith snatched the scabbard away from Mike and dramatically sheathed the Crystal Blade. The rune on the scabbard glowed white for a second, and then they were gone. The Samurai looked around the empty alleyway, utterly bemused as to what had happened. He couldn’t remember anything past charging the blind man. He went to sheathe his sword, only to find it had been shattered. So, it was like that was it? He turned smartly on his heel and left the alleyway.
Mike watched the Samurai leave. He too had lost all memory of the battle past the point the Swordsmith had saved him, but he certainly wasn’t going to complain. The Old Man turned round and stared at where he assumed Mike was lying.
“Well, are you going to lie there all day, or are we going to get moving?” He said, whacking Mike with his ‘walking stick’. “I told you not to take a shortcut through an alleyway. But would you listen? Oh no! You thought you could take anybody. Bloody youngsters.”
Mike stood up, shook his head to try and get rid of the fuzziness inside it, then followed his old master out of the alley.

Gethin was frantic with worry. He had answered a routine dispatch for a stabbing victim in one of the less-reputable areas of Interplanes, but had found his older brother lying in a pool of blood. The officer had done a good job bandaging the wounds, and they had gotten Harvard to hospital in record time, but he was still worried. As he sat outside the hospital, he pulled his mobile phone out of his pocket and phoned one of his younger brothers. It rang for a while, until it was answered.
“Aster, tell mum we’ve got a problem. Something’s happened.”
“What? What’s happened?”
“It’s Harvard, he’s hurt. Just come to the hospital and I’ll explain.” Gethin hung up. He didn’t feel like explaining anything over the phone, especially not to Aster. Gethin hung his head in his hands. He looked up again when he heard someone collapse nearby. As he did, he saw three men staggering up the steps to the hospital. They had lost various body parts and were bleeding heavily. The one who had collapsed was missing his entire arm.
Gethin conjured up some bandages and rushed straight back to work.

Detective Red waited on top of the police station. It was an unlikely place to wait for a wanted criminal, but that’s why it was so great. Carr was getting an earful from the police chief about reaching a dead-end with the Nebull case, but the chief just liked shouting, so it wasn’t anything serious. Red turned when he heard footsteps behind him, and was unsurprised to see empty space.
“You’re behind me, aren’t you?”
“I’m always behind you Detective.”
“How did the mission go?”
“Badly. Look at this.” A sword clanked onto the roof at his feet. It had been cut clean in two.
“I thought I was hiring the best.”
“You did, there were just some, complications. I underestimated the boy.” The samurai stepped out from behind the shadow. He was a good 6 foot 6 inches tall, with blond hair tied into a ponytail. His samurai robes were jet black, but he wore a white undershirt which was clearly visible at the collar and cuffs. Despite his height, Detective Red was still slightly taller, with long unkempt red hair framing his rock-like features.
“You didn’t think the Dragon Cult would hire an amateur did you? Long have they been a thorn in my side. It’s about time we crushed those old fools.”
“You can rant all you want later, just pay me what you owe.”
“Owe? I owe you? You didn’t kill the boy. I owe you nothing!” At this, the Samurai took offence. He withdrew a wakizashi and charged at his employer. Red, however, was too quick for him. The Samurai stared down the barrel of Red’s pistol. Silently, he sheathed his blade.
“I have another job for you.” Red said, holstering his gun.
“What kind of job? It’s not like I have a sword anymore.”
“A simple arson gig. A friend of mine has some secrets he doesn’t want anyone else to know, but someone does. The Shiro junk shop, tonight at midnight. I’ll be accompanying you. Maybe you’ll even be able to get yourself a new sword while you’re at it.” Red smiled a wry smile as he turned away from his employee. By the time Red had even reached the door to the stairwell, the Samurai had gone.

Rachel was messing about with the games on her phone. She was bored. As you may have noticed, Rachel didn’t take boredom well. Her mood was not improved when the battery died. Luckily she looked up out of the window and saw Mike running towards the café. She hastily paid the bill for six coffees and ran outside to meet him.
“Where have you been? I’ve been waiting for over an hour.”
“Sorry, but someone got us lost.” Mike said, panting heavily. The Old Man whacked him around the head with his walking stick.
“Don’t talk bad about your elders.” He harrumphed “So who are you?”
“Rachel Dent, Private eye.” She thrust her hand out for him to shake, but he ignored it.
“Whatever.” He harrumphed “We need you to do something for us.”
“Do you know of any places that sell dispelling weapons?” Mike cut in.
“Why would you want a dispelling weapon? Interplanes isn’t exactly crawling with fiends you know.”
“Madame Nebull was a fiend.” Mike pointed out.
“She’s the exception. And from what you’ve said, she must’ve been a pretty high-level fiend to have been able to hide here. You won’t be needing a dispelling weapon. Trust me.” She thumped her fist against her chest.
“But what if we ever have to leave Interplanes?”
“Good point. I know this little shop just around the corner, they sell just about everything. Follow me.” Rachel started off across the road once more. Mike followed, being careful to guide the Swordsmith in the right direction. Rachel stopped next to a battered-looking Mitsubishi Warrior in chrome black. She reached into her pocket, causing her shirt to crumple in ways Mike found annoyingly pleasing, and pulled out a pair of black sunglasses. They didn’t look like normal sunglasses though. Due to her fox ears, she had had to have them specially made to fit. She pushed it through her short orange hair and struck a pose.
“Well, this is my little mover. What do you think?”
“Who cares? Let’s just get moving!” The Old Man harrumphed again as he whacked Rachel with his stick. They bundled into the vehicle and drove off; leaving some very confused onlookers behind.

Lya Lorne waited in her apartment. She had phoned in sick. There was no hope in making it to work on time anyway, and she had to speak to James too. This was her chance. If James could get evidence that Miah Faradays was having an affair, she would make the front page. Bolstered by this feeling of optimism, she paced around her living room. When the doorbell rang, she practically fell over herself in her rush to answer it. James wandered in, the usual blank look plastered over his face.
“Hey man, what’s up?”
“I have something great for us tonight!” Lya nearly screamed at him. When a giant grin spread across his face, she instantly corrected his assumption. “And by that I mean my career. I have something great for my career that you can do.”
“Ah man! Just when I think I’m gonna get some. What do you want me to do then man?”
“I need you to take some photos with me tonight.” The grin returned, so Lya had to correct his assumption once more “I have a lead on a story, but I need you to take some photos and get the evidence. Meet me at this address at midnight tonight.” She handed him a piece of paper and practically shoved him back out the door. After a deep sigh of relief, she started writing her article on her computer.

Rachel found a parking spot in record time, mostly by shouting. Mike hopped out of the car, and gazed around in a state of awe and wonderment. The street was positively lined with shops selling magical wares. He recognised the sign at the end of the street which said ‘Surly Dragon’ in big and imposing letters. The shops also had imposing signs, proudly proclaiming ‘Finest Magic Items’ or ‘Fillian’s Magicks’ or even ‘Jerry’s Hand-Crafted Magical Antiquities’.
While he was staring, Rachel prodded him in the ribs “Leave your coat and hat in the car, these guys don’t co-operate well with detectives.”
“But didn’t you used to be a cop?”
“They don’t need to know that.” She said, swiping for his hat.
“The hat stays on.”
“What’s the matter? Embarrassed about your hair?” She playfully took another swipe, but Mike slapped her hand away.
“No, it’s not that. It’s just that I, uh, have an embarrassing scar.” Rachel narrowed her eyes, but her Empathic abilities told her he was telling the truth. She decided not to press the issue.
“What are you young’uns yammering about? We don’t have all day you know.” The Old man whacked them both with his walking stick. Mike dumped his coat in the car and they entered the shop with the ‘Fillian’s Magicks’ sign. Rachel glanced in the window before they entered.
“Uhhh, they sold the deep pockets coat. I wanted to buy that.”
As they entered, a bell above the door made a pleasant tinkling sound. The effeminate looking shopkeeper looked up from his book, and spread his arms nearly as wide as his smile.
“Rachel my dear! You never visit. And who is this lovely young man?” Fillian glided past Rachel to take Mike’s arm. Fillian looked Mike up and down, and then started measuring him. “Oooh, you have a lovely figure young man. I’m sure I have just the thing for you. A strong build like this just screams leather to me. Oh, I’d love to put some leather on you.”
“We’re not here to buy clothes.” The Old Man harrumphed his loudest harrumph yet. Fillian looked at him with obvious distaste.
“Oh, I don’t like you. I don’t like you at all.”
“Good. I don’t like you either. We’re here to buy a dispelling weapon.”
“Oh Rachel, the old prune reminds me. I got in a box of dispelling bullets which would fit that pistol of yours perfectly!” Fillian glided back behind his counter and placed a box on top of it. He opened it slowly, as if to increase suspense. Inside it were twenty finely-crafted bullets. They were pure white, with a small band of what looked like scribbles around the tip, but on closer inspection appeared to be tiny runes.
“Normally an entire box of twenty would be over a thousand credits, but since it’s you I’ll round them down.” Rachel’s eyes had focused on the bullets; so much so that she didn’t notice her sunglasses slip off her nose.
“They’re beautiful! I’ll take them!” She handed Fillian a wad of cash and clamped her hands around the box. Once Fillian had finished counting, he turned back to Mike.
“So, what kind of dispelling weapon are you after? I have knives, swords, axes, hammers, halberds, bullets or arrows! You name it, I’ve got it.”
“Just a dagger will do fine.” Mike was feeling strangely uncomfortable around this man, but he had no idea why. He would later describe it as a strange but familiar tingling sensation in his ears. Even later he would realise why the sensation was so familiar, but now’s not the time for that.
“A dagger.” Fillian rolled his eyes “Everybody just wants a dagger. Nobody ever wants any big dispelling weapons, just the small ones. When you’re fighting for your life surrounded by hundreds of fiends, then you’ll wish you had a bigger weapon! But if the customer wants a dagger, then the customer wants a dagger.” Fillian ducked under his counter again, and when he came back up he had several small blades in his arms. He placed them on the counter, each with the point facing Mike.
“I’ll inspect them!” The Swordsmith said. He lightly tapped each of the blades once with his finger. After doing so, he picked up the one at the far right. Unsheathing it, he listened intently to the shing as the wakizashi met with the air. He ran his fingers along the edge and then spun it round once or twice. Fillian scratched his pointed ear with impatience.
“Are you going to choose or practice?”
“I’ve chosen. We’ll take this one.” The Swordsmith sheathed the wakizashi again. “What’s it called?”
“It’s a dagger, it doesn’t have a name.”
“All swords should have names. It’s only respectful.”
“Fine, name it what you will! But that’ll be 2000 credits named or not.”
“Rachel? Is that a good price?” The Swordsmith turned to look at the girl, but she wasn’t listening. She was busy placing some of her new bullets into a gun clip. She stopped when she was whacked with the walking stick. “I asked if 2000 credits was a good price.”
“What? Oh, yeah. 2000 sounds about right.” She hastily got back to her task. Mike handed Fillian the money, and they left without further comment. As they did, Fillian turned back to his reading, muttering something about how Elves shouldn’t have to put up with prunes like that.

Officers Blake and Buddy returned to the station in order to write their reports. Blake was not looking forward to how much paperwork he had before him. First were the standard papers for requesting medical assistance. He also had to write a statement about what had happened and his role in it. Then there was the form covering why he saw fit to leave his police vehicle unattended, then the form for removing his police badge and showing it to someone, then came the declaration to follow up on the progress of the victim, which was standard in all mugging cases. Once he had finished that, he had to do most of it all over again in order to request a new uniform since his old one had been damaged. And after he had finished that, he had the paperwork for the witness interrogation to look forward to.
And once he had finished he had to help Buddy wade through all of his.
By the time Blake had a chance to get out, it had already turned dark. Therefore he and Buddy played no further part in the events that happened that day, but it’s nice to know what kept them busy.

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Zokusho: Crystal Blade chapter 3

Not much to say today really, other than that you should totally check this out.

Lya Lorne was eating chocolate ice-cream again. She had taken to eating it a lot recently. The corner shop she bought it from had started ordering it in bulk. She was sitting on her sofa with her next door neighbour accompanying her. Rachel had broken the terrible news to her friend, who hadn’t taken it well and was now crying into her food.
“That was my last hope!” she wailed “I was hoping you would become a detective and tell me all sorts of stuff, and then I could be a reporter and then… And then…. And then….” Whatever was to come next never came as she broke down into tears.
“It’s okay. I might not be a cop anymore, but I’m still in the game. I’m a private eye now.” Rachel wasn’t too good with the whole hysterics thing. She had grown up with her twelve older male cousins, so crying was a sign of weakness. She went for the safe approach of rubbing Lya’s shoulder calmingly.
“A PI?”
“Yeah, so I’ll be able to leak to you all sorts of stuff. And I won’t even get into trouble for it.”
“So you’ll still help me?”
“Of course.”
“Great.” Lya brightened up almost immediately. It’s amazing how quickly a reporter can go from miserable to excited, just with the glimmer of a juicy story. “So what have you found out so far?”
“Nothing much. We’ve only just started. Oooh, you know that Miah Faradays?”
“The romance novelist?”
“Yeah. Her husband hired us because he thinks she’s having an affair. And the juicy bit is that she is.”
“This is great! People love celebrity scandals. This could even get me the front page.” Lya jumped up from the sofa, spilling chocolate ice-cream everywhere.
“But we don’t have any proof yet. Mike can’t work a camera.”
Lya fell back onto the sofa once more. “And without proof then it’s just slander.” She began eating what little ice-cream she had saved, but lost it all when she jumped up again “Wait a sec. I could get James to do it. He’s a photographer; I’ll bet he can get clearer photos than you could.”
“Are you sure he would help?”
“Oh please, he fancies me. He’ll be easy. I’ll just go phone him.” Lya rushed to her kitchen where she kept her mobile. Reception in her place was terrible, and you had to practically be leaning out of the window to talk properly.
Rachel however had bought a new phone, which could get reception even if it were buried in a peat bog for a hundred years, or so the advertiser claimed, and it chose that moment to start ringing.
“Ahoy-hoy.” Rachel said as she answered.
“I have a job for you.” The voice from the other end said.

Harvard locked his apartment behind him as he left for work. The crossword had been a particularly difficult one today, but he was happy with himself for completing it anyway. He left the apartment building, taking the usual twenty-seven steps to reach the elevator, and then thirty-eight to leave the building by the front door. Harvard had never read Around the world in eighty days, but if he had he would have found a lot about Philleus Fogg that he liked. With this philosophy he took his usual shortcut through an alleyway. After working at the government for over twenty years, he owned his own jumping crystal and could easily have used that, but he didn’t like to waste the tax-payers money on something so trivial. So, without thinking about it, he entered the dark alleyway.
Anybody who has taken a shortcut through a dark alleyway in a major city, such as New York or London, will be unsurprised to find out that he was then mugged.

“What kind of a job?” Rachel asked.
“I said I’ve got a problem. Can you meet me outside Simon’s café please?” Mike asked down the phone. Unfortunately, due to the inaccuracies of advertising, Rachel only heard about half of this.
“Mike, I can’t hear you. Hello? Meet me in Simon’s café and we’ll speak there. Hello? Blast!” Rachel clipped her phone back down “There’s a story for you Lya. The phones never get reception around here. It’s like a dead spot.”
“Old news. Never get past page eighty.”
“I’ve gotta go. Might be a really good job.”
“What are you waiting for then? Go!” Lya practically yelled. Only after Rachel had left did Lya realise that she had only five minutes left to get ready for work.

Detectives Carr and Red had arrived at their destination. They shoved past the old man and the little punk who was yelling into his phone and proceeded to barge their way into the little junk shop. Carr looked around with distaste, but Red seemed to have mild interest in the goods. Particularly a suit of used armour left in a heap on one of the shelves. Carr left him looking at it and strolled up to the young redhead at the counter.
“Hello sir, how may I help you?” Fey said with her usual charm.
“The computers out back. Give them to me.” Carr tried the menacing voice he liked so much, but Fey was a different creature entirely to Blake.
“I’m afraid I don’t know what you are referring to sir. We do have a range of computers out here which may be suitable for whatever needs you may have.”
“Don’t mess with me! I know you tried hacking into police records just yesterday! Give me those computers!” he yelled, switching back to his default shouting.
“Show me a warrant.” Fey replied, narrowing her eyes coldly.
“This is interfering with a police investigation.”
“Sorry Officer, but I know my rights, and if you want to remove something from my property then you either have to buy it or have a warrant. And if you try otherwise I can protect myself however I wish.” Fey stepped back and picked up a shotgun hidden under the counter. Carr growled, but was powerless to do much else. Instead he left, gesturing for Red to follow him. Outside the shop, now conveniently clear of old men and punks, he turned to his partner.
“We need those computers. If anybody important finds out what we’ve been doing then we are right royally screwed.”
“I know, but how can we get them?”
“Bring your boys round tonight and burn it all.”
“What about the girl?”
“Well, that all depends on whether she’s going out tonight, doesn’t it?” Carr shrugged as he walked off. Red made a mental note to pick up the armour first. He could add it to his collection.

Officer Blake and his partner Buddy had been given standard patrol work to do. Blake had been delighted about the prospect of seeing the detectives getting an earful from the chief, but they hadn’t gone back to the station. Instead, Blake had to drive around pointlessly while Buddy bored him to tears about his private life.
“And so I said ‘Listen honey, I’m doing my best, but the money’s just not coming in’ and she said ‘I thought you said you would become a detective and earn lots of money’ and I said ‘I will, but they don’t just let anyone become a detective these days, you have to pass a test’ and she said-”
“I don’t care what she said. Geez man, do you even listen to yourself speak? It’s amazing that she would stick with you with how you do nothing but talk all the time.”
“Oh she loves it when we do nothing but sit and talk for hours” Buddy looked off into space dreamily as they hit traffic lights “She’s so wonderful. Hey, what’s that?” he suddenly pointed out the window.
“That looks like a homeless guy sleeping in an alleyway. Happens all of the time. Sad really, but it’s just the way of things when you live in a city as big as this.”
“Then what’s that red stuff in a puddle around him?”
“Red stuff? How can you tell the colour from here? That alleyway’s very dark. I can barely see the man.”
“I think it’s blood!” Buddy said as he got out of the car. Blake had no choice but to follow, leading to several honks from behind him as the lights turned green.
“Police work!” He shouted, holding up his badge. When he reached the alley he found Buddy leaning over the prone man, checking his pulse.
“He’s alive!” Buddy yelled. He was trying to simultaneously stop the bleeding while keeping his uniform clean, and wasn’t doing any good at either.
Blake pulled out his radio “Dispatch this is Officer Blake requesting assistance. We have a stab victim in an alleyway off of 51st and Main. Requesting assistance and emergency medical support.”
“It’s on its way Officer.” The woman at dispatch replied.
Blake pushed Buddy out of the way “You keep the civilians away from the crime scene.” He said, gesturing towards the crowd who had gathered. Blake bent down in the pool of blood and ripped some cloth from his sleeves. He did his best, but the man had been cut in several places, some of which were quite deep. Luckily, everything happens quickly in Interplanes, and the ambulance arrived within minutes. Two men got out and rushed towards the unfortunate victim. The first gestured for Blake to move out of the way, while the other unfolded a stretcher. Just as he bent down to help his comrade, a look of fear plastered itself onto his face.
“Oh my God! Harvard!”

Jon returned to the junk shop with his two friends. When James had mentioned Edgar he suddenly remembered something he had found while hacking the government the previous day. He hadn’t paid much attention to it, but maybe it was important after all. As usual they went in the back way, just in case his sister had any customers. But Fey had closed up the shop after the detectives had left. She was waiting in his room.
“What did you find this time?”
“What do you mean?”
“The cops came round earlier saying that someone had been hacking into their records. Someone from this address.” She wasn’t carrying a shotgun, but she was gripping his lamp rather tightly.
“I didn’t find anything, honest.” He waved his arms as he spoke.
“What’s happening man?” James asked from behind him.
“Ah-ha! Your friends are here, and they only ever come round when you’ve found something you shouldn’t have. What did you find?” She advanced on her brother, who tried desperately to back away into a space which was already amply occupied. Luckily David came to his rescue.
“Fey, I haven’t seen you in ages. How have you been?” He said, nudging past his stricken friend.
“Oh, uh. David. What are you doing here?”
“Oh, you know. Secret society stuff. Nothing particularly interesting. But tell me, what’s been going on in your life? Any more funny customers?” he took her hand very calmly, and she was so flustered she didn’t even notice that he removed the lamp from it to do so.
“Well, there was this wacky pair earlier. Some blind guy who thought he knew about swords. His appearance was hysterical.”
“Why don’t we talk about it over tea? Downstairs.” Fey was completely unable to resist the sheer confidence radiating off David. As they left, David gave a sly wink to his friends, which they knew meant that they should get everything onto a file and meet him later.

Meanwhile our main character was having a wonderful time with the Old Man, who had considerable difficulty listening to Mike’s directions.
“I’m telling you, the café is in the other direction.”
“No it’s not. It’s on the corner of our road, and our road is that way.”
“But that’ll just take you around in one big circle. Why don’t we just take a shortcut through this alley?” Mike tried to steer the Old Man towards it, but without luck.
“Have you never been in a big city before? You never take a shortcut down an alley. If you do, then you’re just asking to get mugged.”
“Have you ever been in a big city?”
“Yes I have. I found you in one didn’t I? It’s not like I stayed in the village my entire life you know.”
“We’re going down this alley. We’ve been following your directions for over an hour and if we do any more we’ll just get lost. I’m going down this alley!”
“Well why were you following me in the first place? I’m blind, I’ve been lost since we left the junk shop.” Mike would have ripped hair from his head if it were not for two things. One, the Old Man was being difficult purely for difficulties sake. And two, he really didn’t want any strangers to see him without his hat. He contented himself with storming off down the alley instead. Naturally, three large men stepped out of the shadows carrying knives.
Mike turned to the Old Man standing next to him “You are just impossible, you know that.”
“Give us all of your money!” one of the men said, holding the knife out in what he thought was a threatening manner. The Old Man just smiled.
“How many of them are there?”
“Oh, only three of ‘em sir. I think you might as well stay out of this.”
“Okay, I’ll just have a sip of tea then.” The Old Man said as he turned and sat on a doorstep. He pulled a thermos out of his pocket and took a sip. “But hurry up, I haven’t got all day.”
“Just give us the money!” The mugger said, this time less sure of himself. He waved his knife towards Mike, and fresh blood dripped off of it.
“Have you ever heard of Rule one?” Mike asked, pushing his trench coat back a little.
“Shut up!” The mugger said. His brain obviously wasn’t capable of working out such strange behaviour, and he did what most thugs do in situations of confusion. He attacked.
Mike drew his sword with blurring speed. The mugger only had split seconds to work out that his opponent was better armed then he before he realised that his opponent would now be permanently better armed. He stared at the arm lying on the ground, only vaguely aware that it used to be attached to him. The other muggers drew small knives too. This was not a wise move. They only realised this after Mike closed the gap between them. The first one got off pretty lightly in that he only lost his hand, but the other was possibly the unluckiest of the trio. The sword had pierced through his delicate region, effectively performing a very cheap vasectomy. All three men looked at the blood that was pouring over the ground. They looked up at Mike, who was calmly cleaning his sword with a piece of cloth.
“Don’t scream. Just run.” He said as he sheathed his sword. The would-be muggers took the hint. The Old Man finished his tea and stood up.
“I told you. I said never to walk in a dark alley in a city, but would you listen? Oh no! You had to try your luck didn’t you? And now you’ve had to injure three people.”
“Well, at least they won’t be mugging anybody else.” Mike replied as they continued walking.
“And one of them won’t be having any children either.” The Old Man said, deftly stepping over where the third man’s, uhm, body parts fell. He bumped into Mike abruptly. “Why’d you stop?” He asked, rubbing his nose.
“It looks like there was a fourth.”
The dark figure walked towards them through the dark alley. Thanks to the shadows, Mike couldn’t make out his face, but the Old Man took careful note of the footsteps.
“Be careful my boy. This one knows what he is doing.”
The dark shadow stopped about ten feet from Mike, still masked in darkness, but now Mike could work out what he was wearing. It was a traditional Raiga samurai outfit. The shadow drew a long sword with his left hand and spoke in a deep voice.
“Are you Mike? From Raiga Detective Agency?”
“Yes, I am. Who wants to know?” Mike drew his own sword once more, and subtly changed his stance.
“My name is of no importance, but you may call me your executioner.” The shadow said, just before he lunged.

Back in Simon’s café, Rachel was onto her third cup of coffee.

Monday, 22 June 2009

Zokusho: Crystal Blade Chapter 2

I can now personally gaurantee that I will post something every night from now on. It won't exactly be much, probably just a paragraph or two set in the Zokusho universe (Yeah, I'm totally ripping off Aerix here). But at least it'll be within my little corner of Zokusho, centering around the history of Terra Raiga, or some of the other species and worlds I've created.

But for today, here's the second part of Crystal Blade.

Harvard Dent went home. He had spent a solid 8 hours happily stamping approval for various licences and was looking forward to a chance to unwind. Harvard had a rather unique method of relaxing; he went to sleep. This may not seem so unique at first; after all, everybody sleeps. But think about it, when was the last time you fell asleep in order to relax? Most people just think of sleep as an inconvenient habit, something they have to do to prevent tiredness. Not Harvard though. Harvard enjoyed sleeping. He spent most of his free time doing it. He never went out partying and he never watched television. The closest he got to a hobby was solving the crossword in the morning paper. But he only did that because he knew it was important to exercise his mind. He didn’t have any friends. He had acquaintances, but no true friends. Harvard wasn’t unduly concerned however, because he had never tried to make any. And so, he slept his day away in bed, thoroughly enjoying himself.
By all accounts, Harvard Dent was rather dull.

One person who was not dull however, was his young cousin, Rachel Dent. Most people who knew her would say she didn’t know the meaning of the word. They were all wrong. She did indeed know the meaning of the word dull, and she was saying it rather a lot to her new partner.
“Dull! Dull, dull, dull, dull, dull, dull, dull, and dull! This is unbelievably dull!” She turned to look at Mike “Let’s get pizza.”
“You’re the one who wanted to do a stake-out!” Mike replied.
“I was told it would be fun! Blake said it was the most exciting thing a PI did. Git!” Rachel crossed her arms and slumped further into her seat. She had rung Mike within five minutes of him having drifted off to sleep. She had explained at length how one of her school friend’s dad’s cousin’s wife was cheating, and her school friend’s dad’s cousin wanted evidence. Her school friend new she was a cop and had asked for help. So here they were, sitting in Rachel’s car outside a stranger’s house hoping to catch some good photos of the woman. So far, they had spent five hours waiting, without success.
“So, how about that pizza?”
“I thought we were supposed to keep our eyes trained on the house.”
“Only one of us has to. And you can do that. I’m going to go get that pizza.” Rachel said, and deftly opened the car door. Before Mike could utter a word of complaint she had vanished into the night.
“But I don’t know how to work the camera.” He said to himself. And as luck would have it, it was then that their target decided to stagger out of the house. Mike fumbled with the camera, but as he had said, he didn’t know how it worked. Instead he took some photos of the inside of the lens cap. By the time he had worked anything out, the target had left.
“I got anchovies. I hope you don’t mind.” Rachel gently placed the red hot pizza box on Mike’s lap “What are you so grumpy about?”
“She left.”
“Sweet. Mission accomplished.”
“I didn’t take any photos. You forgot to tell me how it works. We failed. Only our second case and we’ve failed miserably.”
“Darn. Oh well, guess we’ll have to try again tomorrow won’t we?”
“You hated it today! Do you mean to tell me we have to do this again?”
“Yep. Every night until we get that photo. You look tired, you should get some sleep.” Mike fumed silently as Rachel drove him home. The stake-out location was distressingly far from Mike’s apartment, and it took over an hour for him to get back. When he got home he fell onto the sofa and fell asleep instantly.
Five minutes later Sheridan’s father whacked him with his walking stick.

Mike would have felt only slightly better if he had known that someone else was having a bad day too. Her name was Lya Lorne, and her neighbour was partying. Lya hated and despised her neighbour. Almost every night was another party, each inevitably involving loud music and drunken roaring. She would often glance out of her apartment door to find party-goers passed out in the corridor. And just once she could’ve sworn she had seen a needle. Luckily for her, her other neighbour had returned. She glanced out of the window and saw the familiar black pick-up truck pull up next to her scooter. Her other neighbour, although rather too young to be living on her own, and far too cute to really be safe in this neighbourhood, was a police officer.
Lya remembered when she had witnessed her young neighbour being attacked outside the front of the building. Her attackers, three heavily built men, were still strapped to life-support machines in the local hospital. Lya had immediately struck up a friendship with this neighbour. The main problem was, Rachel Dent, the neighbour in question, was almost instantly annoying. Still, it was a small price to pay for the safety that came with her friendship. And Lya lived in constant hope that Rachel would leak some useful police info to her.
Lya Lorne was in for one heckuva shock.

The night came and went. Unfortunately, since Mike had spent most of it in a pick-up with Rachel, he hadn’t enjoyed much of it. Sheridan’s father wasn’t exactly full of sympathy though.
“That blasted noise machine of yours woke me up in the middle of my favourite dream!” He said in between whacks. “And when I finally get it back, you go and wake me up with your noise! If you’re going to go out at night, at least have the decency to be quiet about it!” The Old Man gratefully accepted a bowl of cereal from his daughter. Once he had finished it he whacked her round the head.
“And what are you doing up so early? Young girls need their sleep you know!”
“I start my new job today father.” Sheridan replied, holding up her new uniform. It was brown and, in her opinion, ugly. It was of the Ann Millers French maid style, which Sheridan instantly hated. “I’m going to go put this on. Mike there’s cereal in the cupboards.” She said as she closed the door to her room behind her.
Mike had just opened the door to the kitchen when Sheridan’s father whacked him around the head with his cane.
“Where do you think you’re going?”
“To get breakfast.”
“No time for breakfast, we need to go shopping.”
“What are we going shopping for?” Mike asked as he put his hat and coat back on. He had long ago given up arguing with his elders.
“I was listening to a documentary on the television and they were saying about those fiend things that kidnapped me.”
“What about them?”
“Apparently they can only be killed with a certain kind of weapon. We need to get you one of those weapons.” The Old Man opened the front door.
“But I’ve already got a weapon. I don’t want to have to get a new one.”
“You don’t have to. Just get a new spare weapon. Come on, let’s go.” He said, and with that, they left. Sheridan stepped out of her room in her uniform, hoping to get an opinion from Mike, but she never got one. Instead she sat down on the sofa and looked at her reflection in the television screen. She had never considered herself good-looking. She wasn’t unattractive, just not eye-catching. She had plain brown hair which fell just below her shoulders. Coupled with brown eyes and ruddy skin, she considered herself plain.
After a minute of sitting, she got up and left for her job.

Feyanna Shiro didn’t consider herself very attractive either. She ran a small junk shop in one of the rundown parts of Interplanes. Her father had owned the shop before her, and he had handed the deeds to her brother Jon in his will. However, Jon wasn’t particularly interested in running a junk shop. He spent most of his time out back, trying to hack into secret government files. So far he hadn’t proven to be any good at it, but he was nothing if not optimistic.
Mike and the Old Man walked into the shop. Fey, as she was known to her friends, smiled her best smile from behind the counter. She watched her customers carefully. Mike had spotted a suit of armour which was strikingly similar to the one he had left in the taxi the previous day, even down to the dents. The Old Man however, walked straight up to the counter.
“Hello sir, may I help you?” she asked as sweetly as possible. She looked at the Old Man, and had the same reaction most teenagers did whenever they first met him. She burst out laughing.
I should probably explain why. The Old Man was blind, as has been previously mentioned, and was therefore incapable of seeing his moustache and beard. His moustache started off thick and dark, but the very edges of it were white and wispy, and they were long enough to reach his shoulders. His beard was very much the same, except that it grew suddenly from just beneath his lower lip and ended somewhere near his belly button. But the rest of his lower jaw was completely clean-shaven. He wore black sunglasses and his hair was virtually non-existent. What little there remained was just as long as his beard.
The overall effect was rather comical, and Fey couldn’t help herself. She stopped when the Old Man whacked her around the head with his walking stick.
“Stop laughing! Haven’t you ever seen a blind man before?”
“Sorry sir. I, ah, remembered a joke I heard a few days ago.”
“Whatever. Mike, get over here!” He gestured towards Mike, who scurried over, carrying the suit of armour.
“That will be five hundred credits sir.” Fey said, brushing a strand of her long red hair out of her eyes.
“But this was mine! I left it in a taxi yesterday!”
“Sorry sir, but I bought that off of a gentleman last week,” Fey lied “So it will cost you five hundred credits.”
“Put that back,” the Old Man whacked Mike “We’re here for a reason, and I don’t want you wasting any more of our money.”
“If you’re here searching for a particular type of item, I’m sure I could be of help.” Fey was putting on her most professional voice, despite it never normally getting her anywhere.
“Dispelling weapons.” The Old Man grunted.
“I’ll need to see cash up front.”

While Mike and the Old Man were busy negotiating, Officer Blake had his own problems. He had been called as back-up for two detectives who were seizing evidence. When he had been sent as an escort for this type of work before, he had gotten all excited, but pretty quickly he had gotten bored with the whole affair. He and his new partner were busy standing next to the door while the detectives got to do the fun stuff.
“I’m telling you they’re not here,” James told Detective Carr “I’ve sent them off to the developers.”
“Oh please. Who do you think we are? We know all you amateur photographer types like to develop your own pictures. Now, where have you hidden them?” Carr had cuffed James to the table and was the kind of Detective who believed in guilty till proven guilty. James did not look happy.
“I don’t even know what photos you’re on about.” He pleaded.
“Two days ago you were sighted in the area of the Nebull residence!” Detective Carr slammed his fist down onto the table. “I know you know something! Tell me what you saw!”
“I didn’t see anything man! I was just walking past on my way to the developers when I saw Edgar entering her house. Two people were with him, but I didn’t take any photos.”
“Edgar? Damn! If he’s involved then we can’t do jack about it.” Detective Carr punched the table again, not to intimidate, but this time out of frustration.
“I would’ve took photos, but I didn’t have any film man! I’m just a photographer. And not even a very good one man!”
“Be quiet. Don’t mention this to anybody! Red, we’re leaving!” Carr called to his fellow detective. They both stormed out, leaving Blake to sort out the mess.
“That was so cool! Man, I want to be a detective someday.” Blake’s new partner exclaimed.
“Huh. Those detectives aren’t all that. All they do all day is shout at people and never get anywhere,” Blake unlocked James’ cuffs “It’s us real cops who do all the work. They just take the credit afterwards.”
“I’m sure that’s not all they do. I’ll bet they get into car chases all the time. And gunfights.” The new partner followed Blake as they walked out of the door.
“Those guys wouldn’t know a car chase if they got run over by one. It’s us guys who do all the dangerous stuff.” Blake replied over his shoulder.
“I’m taking the detectives test next week. I’m going to be the best detective ever!”
“Listen buddy,” Blake stopped halfway down the stairs and turned round “What was your name again?”
“Buddy. Officer Stephen Buddy.”
“Okay Buddy,” Blake added the capital letter “That test is nothing. My previous partner was the best cop this city’s ever known, and she failed the test three times. They don’t care about investigative skill or even how good you are with people. All the police chief cares about is whether you look good in a trench coat or not. This police force is all about appearance. They don’t care whether they catch the bad guy or not, just as long as they get their time in the spotlight. Stick with the real cops kid, it’s the only way you’re ever going to do any good around here.”
Detectives Carr and Red were waiting for them next to their squad car.
“Officer Blake, could I have a word with you for a second?” Carr asked him. With the large Detective Red towering over them, Blake wasn’t inclined to disagree. Carr led him away from the others by the shoulder, and began whispering into his ear. “I heard your old partner is a Private Investigator now.”
“Yeah. So?”
“So, as long as Edgar is involved we can’t investigate anymore. The guild will protect him. But a PI is still allowed to poke around.”
“So you want to hire her to look into it?”
“No, I want you to hire her to look into it. You see, if the guild finds out I’m investigating his actions I’ll be in deep trouble for hiring her.”
“But so would I be!”
“I hear your little daughter has just started school. Her first day went swimmingly. I heard she made lots of little friends. Think how upset they would be if she were to stop turning up one day.” Carr’s voice was as low and menacing as he could get it.
“Fine, I’ll hire her.”
“That’s a good copper. Give your daughter a kiss for me would you?” Carr said giving Blake a seemingly-jovial pat on the back. When Carr and Red had left, Blake got into the squad car next to Buddy.
“What was that all about?” Buddy asked.
“Nothing. Listen, don’t mention what that photographer said to anyone. If you do, we’ll all be in trouble.” Blake said as he started the ignition.

Mike and the Old Man were having some trouble of their own, although nothing anywhere near as sinister. Mike had shown Fey the money he had earned the previous day, and her eyes had opened wide. Neither Mike nor the Old Man knew the true value of a credit, and Fey could spot a mug a mile off.
“The only dispelling weapon I’ve got in at the moment is this small dagger.” She said, handing them a battered blade which looked older than the swordsmith.
“How do we know this actually works?” Mike asked, holding the dagger in his hand.
“Give it ‘ere!” The swordsmith said, whacking Mike around the head and snatching the small blade from him. He ran his hands up and down the dagger, then held it to his ear and flicked it. He slammed it back down onto the counter. “This thing’s useless!” He roared “It’s a second-class piece of junk. It’ll break the moment anybody tries thrusting with it! Give us a real weapon or we’ll take our custom elsewhere!”
“Huh. What would a blind man know about weapons?” Fey snorted.
“Have you ever heard of Escalirion?”
“Of course I have. It’s one of the twelve legendary swords. It’s rumoured to be nothing but a myth.”
“Oh it’s real. And let me tell you something young’un. It was me who forged it!” He leaned in close, to make the event more ominous, but merely smacked his nose on the edge of the counter.
“Yeah right. As if a blind man could ever forge a weapon. If you’re not going to take this seriously, then you can just leave my shop.” Fey pointed to the door, mostly out of habit since obviously he couldn’t see her hand.
“Very well, but you’ll regret this. You may not believe us, but you’re losing potentially loyal custom here.” He called back as he left. Mike scurried on behind him, only pausing to mourn the loss of his armour.
Once outside, the Old Man turned to Mike and whacked him round the head once more.
“Why’d you take me to this useless dump? Take me to another shop. We’ll find you a good dispelling weapon if it kills me.”
“But sir, I don’t know of any other shops.”
“Then how are we supposed to get you a good weapon? It’s not like I have a forge back in our cramped little apartment.”
“Maybe Rachel would know a place where we could buy one.” Mike said, taking out his mobile phone.

James rushed to meet his friends. The moment the cops had left he had rung the group, and they had arranged a meeting. Since known of them had any space for secret society meetings, the three of them had to meet in a café whenever any of them had something new. James was certain the little group would change the way the city was run, despite its small size. He entered the café, and spotted his friends around one of the tables. He made his way over to them and sat down.
“Hey guys, you’ll never guess what happened to me today man. Barely an hour ago. What’s up?” He asked when he noticed neither of his two friends had noticed him. He followed Jon’s gaze and saw the new waitress. She glided over to them, appearing to him like an angel.
“Hello sirs, how may I help you?” Sheridan asked.
“Oh uh. I uh. Ummm.” James responded. Jon could barely do more than open and close his mouth, but luckily their friend had more experience with pretty women.
“Yeah, we’ll uh, have a coffee each and a cheeseburger.” He glanced over to James “What do you guys want to eat? I’m paying.”
The prospect of a free meal snapped James out of it immediately. “I’ll take a cheeseburger too. Shiro?”
“A veggie-burger.” Jon said. Once Sheridan had left they all crowded around each other again.
“So James, what did happen?” Jon asked.
“The cops, man. They busted in and cuffed me to the table. I was scared man.”
“That’s police brutality.” Jon said.
“I know, man! It’s not on.”
“What did they want?” The as-yet-unnamed friend asked.
“They wanted to find out what I saw when I passed that Nebull place a few days ago man.”
“What did you see?”
“It was that Edgar dude. The one you told me about man. The copper wasn’t happy when I dropped his name.”
“There’s something they don’t want us to know!” Jon exclaimed, rather loudly.
“Keep it down Shiro. Of course there’s something they don’t want us to know. There’s always something they don’t want us to know. I say we find out what it is.” The friend said.
“Three coffees and three burgers, two with cheese one veggie.” Sheridan placed the food and drinks on the table. James and Jon gazed at her as she left, but their friend just sat in silent contemplation.
“I think I know someone who can help.” He said, just before biting into his burger.
“I hope so, D. We haven’t had much luck with this whole secret society thing.” James said, also tucking into his burger.
Before they left, David Dent made sure he gave Sheridan a great tip.

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Zokusho: Crystal Blade. Chapter 1

I know, I know, I should try and update more often. As in, according to one of them schedule things. But this little thing called a full-time job keeps getting in the way. Well, not the job itself, more the two hour train journey each way. I really need to get a moped. Anyhoo, this is an old project of mine called Zokusho: Crystal Blade, set in the Zokusho Universe, which you can find easily by going to or checking the fantasy section of the Legends Of Satura library.

Mike, Sheridan and the blind swordsmith were walking along a road in the great city of Interplanes. They had all grown up in the little village, and so everything seemed new and exciting. At least, it did to the younger two; the Old Man just thought it was noisy.
“Tell those people to keep the noise down!” He shouted to his daughter.
“I can’t father. This is the big city we’ve heard so much about. It’s supposed to be noisy.” She twirled as she spoke, looking at all of the skyscrapers. Her plain brown dress twirled with her.
“Well I don’t like it!” her father harrumphed to himself, wildly whacking with his walking stick.
“We should go to that Nebull woman’s house.” Mike suddenly said. He had been quiet ever since they had left Edgar’s place.
“What? Why would we want to go back there?” Sheridan asked in mild surprise.
“We need to find that sword.”
“Why should we have to do anything about it? It’s not our problem any more.” The Old Man continued his harrumphing.
“You created that sword and that makes you responsible for it.”
“I’ve never been responsible for any of my swords before. Why should I be responsible for this one?” He replied, stamping his stick on the ground.
“We’re going to go get that sword. Now let’s go.” Mike strode off purposefully. He had no idea where they were, or where Nebull’s house was, but luck seemed to be on his side since he found it when he turned the very next corner. His luck wasn’t that good though.
“Okay people, keep moving. Nothing to see here.” A policeman informed them. Mike and Sheridan stood dumbfounded at the sight before them, but the Old Man just walked straight up to the policeman.
“When someone says there’s nothing to see, he generally means that there is stuff to see but he just doesn’t want you to see it. So, what happened?” The policeman was only slightly intimidated by his stare, since it was fully 90 degrees in the wrong direction.
“I don’t know; I just redirect traffic. The largest crime in Interplanes history and I’m here, not 50 feet away, telling people nothing happened.”
“So what did?” the Swordsmith said, spinning round to the correct direction.
“Some bigwig aristocrat went missing yesterday. All her staff vanished along with her. No witnesses nothing. That’s bad enough, but for someone as rich as Madame Nebull to go missing it didn’t take long for the vultures to arrive. Some gang thugs broke in and started looting the place. Looks like they got into a fight with some other thugs and by the time we got here the entire building was a smoking ruin.”
“That’s some pretty impressive deduction for a traffic cop.”
“I overheard a detective talking. But anyway, you guys should keep walking.”
“Yeah sure. Come on young’uns, we gotta go.” The Old Man whacked his daughter and her companion around the heads with his walking stick, and they turned around and left.
“Why did you do that father?”
“Because you two seem to have forgotten one important fact. We’re jobless and homeless. I’m all for finding the sword, but I’m even more for finding a warm bed.”
“Edgar said he would sort it out for us.” Mike said, just as his new mobile phone began ringing.
“What’s that horrible racket?”
“That’s this phone thingy. Let’s see, he said I just needed to flick it up to answer it.” Mike did as he said, and pressed the phone to his ear. Luckily it was the right way up.
“Hello, is that a Mr Mike?” A voice said.
“Yes this is Mike. Who are you?”
“My name is Mr Harvard Dent. Edgar rang me and said that you three would need some help getting settled in to your new lives. I’ve arranged an apartment for you. Meet me in ten minutes.”
“Okay, but where should we meet?” Mike asked.
“That depends. Where are you now?”
“Outside Nebull’s house.”
“Just wait there then.” Mr Dent hung up. His office was on the far side of Interplanes, but he had his own jumping crystal so he didn’t need to hurry. He left his office and subsequently the building shortly afterwards. He worked in the Interplanes main government building, mostly stamping approval stamps on forms. He had already submitted the paperwork for the change of ownership of the apartment, and since it was he who had to stamp approval it was processed in record time. He took his jumping crystal out of his pocket.
“Nebull residence.” He said, and promptly vanished.

The trio were slightly bewildered when he showed up out of thin air. He held out his hand for Mike to shake, but Mike obviously hadn’t grown up with this custom.
“Hello. As I have said, my name is Mr Harvard Dent and I have found you three a nice little apartment.”
“That was fast.” Mike said, his mouth still agape from the sudden appearance.
“Oh don’t mention it. In Interplanes, everything happens fast. You’ll get used to it. Now, if you would like to follow me.” He turned smartly on his heel and began walking briskly away. Everything about Dent seemed carefully coordinated to make him appear smart. His black suit was carefully ironed, his hat was of the variety favoured by superheroes hiding their identities and the same could be said for his glasses. Sheridan was willing to bet anything that his hair was immaculately combed underneath the hat. They followed the man to their new home.
The building was old and run down, as if it had been built before the city, and Interplanes had merely sprung up around it. The apartment itself wasn’t too bad though. It had two bedrooms, a kitchen, a living room and a bathroom but nothing else. Dent handed Mike the keys.
“This will be your home. The paperwork has been taken care of, and you can move in immediately.” He said, and smartly left. Mike just looked around the apartment.
“Only two bedrooms?”
“You’ll be sleeping on the sofa young’un.” The Old Man whacked him with his stick again. “And don’t you dare forget that you still need to find jobs. Now get out there and go find some.” Mike and Sheridan scrambled out of the door, avoiding more whacks as they went. They wandered around Interplanes for a while. Sheridan asked at every place they passed, but didn’t get much luck. That is, until she found a small diner on the corner of their block. They needed a new waitress, since the old one had died of old age. The owner, Simon, was all too happy to hire a young girl since he rationalised that she wouldn’t die of old age anytime soon.

Meanwhile, the old man was getting used to his new surroundings. He rested his walking stick against the wall and turned the radio on. He listened for a while, but got bored with the terrible rap music that these young’uns insisted on playing. He was therefore only mildly irritated when Mike and Sheridan returned.
“You get jobs?” He barked at them.
“I did, but Mike just wasted our money.”
The Old Man swung his stick with such speed Mike didn’t realise he had been whacked until fully five minutes later. In the meantime he was forced to explain his actions.
“All I did was take out an advert in the local paper.”
“And what was that advert about?” Sheridan asked with her arms crossed.
“It was about hiring myself out as a private investigator.” He said, to which he received another whack. Sheridan stormed off to her new room. Everybody was surprised when Mike’s mobile began ringing. Mike answered it excitedly, but was disappointed to hear Dent’s voice.
“I’ve just read your ad in the evening paper. You should have mentioned you were going to do it. You do realise you need a licence right?”
“I’ll take that as a no. Luckily for you I noticed then. I’ve put the papers through for your new licence, and they should be approved any second now,” Dent said as he slammed the stamp down on the appropriate paperwork “There you go. You are now a fully licensed private eye. But I only do this on own condition.”
“Which is?”
“Well, every private eye needs to have a registered partner so I’ve arranged one for you. She’s my cousin and she’s an ex-policewoman so she’ll have all the skills you’ll need. She’s on her way to yours. Meet her outside and she’ll explain the rest.” Dent said as he hung up.
His cousin was busy running to Mike’s apartment building. Just as her cousin had said on the phone, he was waiting. He wasn’t hard to notice. Not many people were wearing a full set of armour, including helmet and cloak. If she had ever seen the Lord of the Rings she would have described the armour as being exactly like that of the Riders of Rohan, but since she hadn’t she wouldn’t. Instead she described it as a sore thumb. She ran up to him anyway.
“Hi, are you Mike?” She asked panting. Mike’s eyes immediately rested on her heaving breasts.
“Uh, yes. I am. I’m Mike. Are those fox-ears?” he asked when he finally regained control of his eyeballs.
“Yeah. My mum was an Interplanes native, and I got these from her. They make it really hard to get sunglasses I can tell you.” She said as she stretched her back. Mike found his eyes wandering again. This girl seemed far too young to be an ex-policewoman. He mentioned this thought.
“I’m seventeen. They let me in because I’m an empath, but I failed the detective’s exam too often so I left again.”
“Empath?” Mike asked, his voice floundering with the unfamiliar word, his mind floundering with the unfamiliar woman.
“Yeah. I’m not very skilled though. I can only tell when someone’s lying to me. Are you looking at my breasts?”
“What? No! Of course not. I was just admiring your, uh, t-shirt.”
“See I can tell that you’re lying. Not that I need to be an empath to do that. I can also tell when people are thinking about naughty things too.” She winked at him as she said this, and his brain nearly switched off. He regained control of both his brain and eyes, but in doing so lost control of his mouth, which hung open. He took control of it, but his eyes went back to their own business. It didn’t help that this girl was wearing nothing but a white t-shirt, some biker shorts and trainers.
“Oh stop ogling already, I’m just teasing you. Now, what’s our first assignment boss?”
The sudden shock of realising that this attractive girl had called him boss met with the horror of realising they didn’t have any assignments, and Mike nearly fainted when his phone rang again. Instead he settled for jumping out of his skin.
“Hello?” He asked, turning away from the girl behind him.
“Is this Raiga detective services?” A stuffy voice asked.
“Yes it is. May I ask who’s calling?”
“A client. I have a job for you. Come to 1043 Mustrum Boulevard. I’ll explain there.” Stuffy voice said and promptly hung up.
“I really don’t think I put enough thought into this.”
“Why not?”
“I have no idea where 1043 Mustrum Boulevard is.”
“Don’t worry. I grew up in this city and I know it like the back of my hand.”
“Good, because that’s where our first client wants us to meet.”
“Okay, but first we need to get you some new threads.”
“Why? This is the official guard uniform of my country.”
“And we’re not in your country; we’re in Interplanes so you need to sharpen up. Come on, I’ll buy you a new outfit.” The girl said just as she began jogging back in the direction she had come from. Mike had no choice but to follow her.
“Wait up! I haven’t even gotten to know your name yet!”
“It’s Rachel. Rachel Dent.” She called back.

About half an hour later they emerged from a second hand shop. Mike was wearing a trench coat with matching hat and suit, while Rachel had indulged herself and bought a similar hat. She placed it on her head with a twirl and walked to the edge of the pavement.
“I think we had better get going. Our client’s probably pissed.” She said.
“A lady shouldn’t speak like that. Heck, even men shouldn’t speak like that.” Mike said as he held the door open for her. She got in, wondering who in this world used the word Heck in daily conversation. They finally reached 1043 Mustrum Boulevard. Mike seemed slightly put off by the fact that it was another large mansion, but Rachel just hopped out of the taxi and told the driver to wait. Mike followed her up the driveway to the ornate front gate. Rachel pressed the button, and they swung open. Rachel didn’t bat an eyelid when they passed the fountain, but Mike just stared. His mind boggled at the thought that anybody could afford to waste so much money on such an ugly thing. He shut his mouth when they reached the front door.
“You certainly took your time.” The owner harrumphed at them from his front door. Mike relaxed; he knew how to deal with this kind of person. The man had wispy grey hair, with a large grey moustache above his upper lip. The suit was obviously several hundred times the price of the one Mike was wearing. Rachel seemed underdressed for the occasion.
“Sorry about that but we got a little delayed in traffic.” Rachel said, holding her hand out to shake.
“And why’s that my problem?”
“I was just trying to explain is all.”
“Well don’t. You there, I hope you’re the messenger for Raiga detective services.” The man put extra spittle into this particular harrumph. Mike just grinned.
“Yes sir. I’m to take notes on the case. Raiga’s training me sir.”
“Good man. It’s important to learn skills at a young age.”
“Yes sir. So, what do you wish us to investigate?”
“I want this Raiga person to find my dispelling staff. It’s been in my family for generations and I’ve lost it.”
“Do you have any idea where it may be?” Rachel asked, taking out a notepad and pen.
“If I knew that I wouldn’t have hired you. I might still be better off without you.” Extra harrumphing with a side of spittle.
“Where was the last place you remember using it?” Mike jumped in.
“I was at Madame Nebull’s dinner party last week and I don’t remember having it since. I tried talking to the police but they keep saying they haven’t seen it.”
“Do you have a photo of it?” Mike asked.
“Of course I do! What do you think I am stupid? I keep a photo of everything I own, for insurance purposes. Here.” He held out a Polaroid of a long silver staff with an ornate carving of a dragon running up its length. Mike reassured the man that they would find it, and then said their goodbyes. Walking back to the taxi, Rachel rounded on Mike.
“So who’s this Raiga person then?”
“Nobody. It’s just the name of my home, Terra Raiga. I can’t help it if he got the wrong idea.”
“Right. Anyway I don’t think we can find this staff.”
“Why not?”
“Because it was my job to catalogue all of the evidence from that place before I quit. It wasn’t there. In fact, there weren’t any dispelling items, which struck me as strange for someone so rich, but I didn’t make anything of it.”
“What are these dispelling weapons?”
“You really don’t know anything do you? Dispelling weapons are the only way to get rid of fiends. I’m surprised you don’t know.” Rachel said as she climbed into the taxi.
“Fiend? I’ve heard that word before.” Mike started to stroke his chin as he tried to remember.
“Where to this time?” the driver interrupted.
“Nebull’s old place.” Rachel said, jogging Mike’s memory.
“That’s it! That Edgar guy said that Madame Nebull was a fiend! That’s where I’ve heard it!”
“What? Are you sure?”
“Yeah! That’s probably why the police haven’t found it. She must’ve thrown it out. She wouldn’t want any anti-fiend weapons in her home.”
“Driver, take us to the dumpster behind the Nebull residence.” Rachel suddenly declared.

It didn’t take them long to get there. But when they got out of the taxi, the driver drove off with Mike’s armour in the boot. Mike was very frustrated by this, and said so. Rachel ignored his protests and jumped in the dumpster. As she was rummaging, a policeman turned the corner into the alleyway. He had short dark hair, and was only a little bit on the pudgy side. Mike recognised him as the policeman from earlier that day.
“Hey!” The policeman called out “What are you doing back here?” he jogged up to Mike.
“I’m a private investigator following up a case.” Mike replied, maintaining his composure.
“Oh yeah? Where’s your licence?”
“Right here officer.” Rachel called out from inside the dumpster. She jumped out, clutching both the staff and Mike’s licence.
“Rachel? What are you doing here?” The policeman asked, only briefly glancing at the licence she was holding.
“I quit remember? I’m a private eye now.”
“You know this guy?” Mike asked her, gesturing towards the cop.
“Yeah. This is Blake. He used to be my partner until I quit. Ain’t that right?”
“Yeah. So you gave up the glamorous lifestyle of a cop to become a two-bit PI? Can’t say I blame you.” Officer Blake glanced around the alleyway, his eyes finally coming to rest on the staff Rachel was clutching. Before he could ask though, Rachel headed him off.
“So how’s the investigation coming along?”
“Not well. I overheard a detective saying that they had a witness, but not a very reliable one. It’s the bum from last week, and he said that he saw a member of the Dragon Cult leaving the middle shortly before the police arrived.”
“The Dragon Cult? What would they want with the stuff in here?”
“Who are these Dragon Cult people?” Mike asked, but nobody seemed to be listening.
“I’ve gotta go, or the Captain will chew my head off again. Good luck with the new career.” Officer Blake called as he left. Mike repeated his question, and this time Rachel answered.

The Dragon Cult in question is a group of power hungry individuals who at that very moment were having a meeting. They were standing in a darkened room, all wearing black robes with golden dragons decorating them. They were wearing masks in order to prevent anybody from seeing each others faces. This of course lessoned the chances of being betrayed to the cops, but it had its own inconveniences. Arranging secret meetings for one.
And so this meeting was held in utmost importance. They had retrieved, at great risk, several very powerful artefacts from Madame Nebull’s residence and were discussing them.
It wasn’t a particularly great haul.
Most of the items they had collected had been mere knock-offs, created to give the impression that the owner was richer than she actually was. Within all of this though, they did find three items of particular value. One was simply a sword which, despite however much magic is poured into them, are a dime a dozen. It would be used well though. The second was a coat with deep pockets. Not the rarest of items, but it was rare enough, and was perfect for their smuggling operations.
But it was the last item they were interested in most. Although not magical in the least, it was probably worth most to them. It was a copy of Nebull’s computer hard drive, and it had information. It mentioned something called the Crystal Blade, and this sword looked like the sword to conquer all swords.
Unfortunately, nobody had the slightest idea where it was.

Mike pressed the button, and the gates swung open. When they reached the front door, the stuffy-voiced man greeted them happily. Rachel handed over the staff.
“Well done. The police were totally useless. Tell Mr Raiga that he has my thanks. Here, as payment.” The man handed Mike a large wad of cash and went back indoors. Mike and Rachel left, Mike happily counting the money, Rachel seemed uninterested.
“What’s wrong? Our first assignment went off without a hitch.”
“I’m just worried is all. The Dragon Cult is really dangerous.”
“Well, as long as we stay out of their business, I’m sure they’ll stay out of ours.” This seemed to cheer her up slightly, and she joined him in counting the money.

What they didn’t know was that their client had hurried back into his basement in such a hurry that he nearly forgot to put his robes and mask back on. His brothers in the Dragon Cult didn’t share his excitement, but he said he had found a wonderful private investigator who didn’t seem bright enough to check on whom actually owned items before retrieving them.
“I’m sure that with time and careful handling, we can get Mr Raiga to find the Crystal Blade for us.” He laughed a deep laugh, not once harrumphing while he did so.

In the tower block belonging to The Interplanes Paper, hot shot reporter Lya Lorne was finishing up her latest front page article. She was therefore quite surprised when her photographer James woke her up.
“Lya, the chief wants those documents proof read before we close for tonight.”
Lya pulled her forehead up from her keyboard. Her eyes grew wide when she realised that she had just deleted the entire front page of the morning edition.
Her scream could be heard from the very top of the building.

Mike and Rachel were too far away to hear this of course. They had been forced to walk because everybody was finishing work, and they couldn’t get a taxi for love nor money, although admittedly they had only tried the latter. They were having a lovely awkward silence when they came to a road. Nothing particularly strange, but they nearly had premature heart attacks when a silver-haired woman on a bike nearly ran them over. Once their heartbeats had steadied, they said their goodbyes and went their separate ways.
Mike arrived at his apartment late, only to receive several whacks from the Old Man for missing dinner. Sheridan had been whacked into making a celebratory roast, and Mike had completely missed it. He did calm down slightly when Mike showed them the wad of cash he had been paid earlier.
After Sheridan and her father had gone to bed, Mike set up the sofa for himself. He removed his hat, which he had worn all throughout dinner and let his short, spiky black hair out. He glanced at his reflection in the mirror. His ears stuck straight up from the top of his head, and they had always marked him out as different. But today all that had changed. Today he had met someone just like him.
The Old man clutched his walking stick to him as he slept, mumbling something about having hidden the Blade in a place where nobody would find it.