Cape City Chronicles
v1: Today the City, Tomorrow...
#20: The Shadow Wakes!
by Jennifer Kohl
Alex looked up as Tina entered her office. “Tina, good,” she said, and smiled. “I wanted to let you know that we’ve cracked the text message thing and it’s okay.”
“Really?” asked Tina. Why is she so... calm? Something’s not right here.
“Yes. You were on the right track all along—physical access to my phone. Nobody touched it, but there was one person recently near it who didn’t need to touch it, and they were compromised by a mind-controller at the time: Technopath. They must have connected with it under orders from Mastermind, and then later acted on a residual suggestion to divert the chips. But he’s in prison and she’s in treatment, Ali’s office is already getting the location of the missing chips out of him.” Alex’s smile broadened. “Open and shut, and everyone involved is already put away where they need to be.“
“Wow. When did you figure it out?”
Alex waved a hand vaguely. “Oh, it just sort of clicked last night. You know how it is sometimes.”
“Hmm,” said Tina. It all sounds plausible enough, but... until we have the chips, shouldn’t we try every lead? You don’t just stop at one possibility, do you? And she seems... “If you don’t mind me saying so, you seem very... relaxed.” And pretty. Dangit, Torrance, no, don’t go down that path, there’s no down to go!
“I suppose,” Alex replied. “I like it when a case wraps up neatly, God knows it’s rare enough. And I had a nice chat with Allie last night.”
Tina nodded. “Do you talk to her often?”
Alex shrugged. “Depends. Sometimes we go a few weeks without a word, sometimes we talk more. With everything going on lately, we’ve been talking just about nightly.”
Tina nodded, and the conversation soon wrapped up. As soon as she was out of Alex’s sight, she broke into a run for her workstation and franticly pulled Alex’s phone records back up on her computer. Her sister! The same sister I delivered the chips to! And there it was: a call from the same number every night—and the mysterious texts to Tina had been less than a minute after the end of a call from that number.
Tina sat back and stared unseeing at the wall behind her computer. Somebody’s controlling Alex and her sister—and the sister is the contact. I need to report this to—who? The head of SCI and at least one person in the DA’s office were both compromised. Who knew who else might be?
Shit, I need an expert. ...shit, where do you find an expert?
Michelle sat on the edge of her bed. I should study, she thought. I’ve got that psych test next week. But... But what she wanted to do was slip into her memories of the dreamscape or of Candice’s enslavement and drift in submissive bliss. Maybe just for a few minutes... she thought.
But before she could start, she was interrupted by a knock on her door. She opened it to find Cara and Candice waiting.
“Can we talk?” asked Candice.
“Sure...” said Michelle. “What’s going on?”
She sat on her bed. Cara sat on it as well, a couple of feet away from Michelle, and Candice pulled the chair away from Michelle’s desk and sat in that. Michelle could feel concern radiating from them, and outright fear from Candice, and that worried her.
Cara tilted her head at Candice, indicating for her to start, but Candice shook her head, sharply, just once, her eyes wide. Cara sighed. “We’ve been... sensing things. Experiencing certain... energies that we believe are coming from you.”
Michelle’s brow furrowed. “I don’t know what you—”
“Have you been—been using the memories you took from me?” Candice blurted out.
“Oh,” said Michelle.
“Yes,” said Cara. “’Oh.’ I take it you have.”
“It—it’s just a bit of fun! I can stop...” Michelle trailed off.
“Any time you want?” Candice finished bitterly.
“OK, look, I know how that sounds, but I swear, it’s fine! I’m in complete control!” Michelle could feel an edge of panic creeping in, and fought to push it down, though it’s very presence worried her.
“Except you’re not,” said Cara. “You’re leaking every time you do it.“
“Plus it’s gross!” Candice’s face was turning pink as she fought down anger. “Those are my memories!“
Michelle looked down. “Not uh, not entirely...”
Cara and Candice looked at each other. “Michelle, what do you mean?” asked Cara.
“I’ve been, uh, dreaming, too.”
“Oh,” said Candice. “I know those dreams. The... the first time he touched me, ages ago, when we first caught him. I had those dreams for a while after.”
Cara’s eyes narrowed. “I don’t think that’s what Michelle quite means, is it, Michelle?”
“I—are you going in my head, Cara?” Michelle started to stand, but Cara put out a hand to stop her.
“Now is not the time to get self-righteous, Michelle. I told you, you’re leaking. You know I can sense emotional energies, that’s all that’s happening.”
“Please,” said Candice. “We’re you’re friends. Whatever it is, we’ll understand.”
Michelle sighed. “All right. I’ve been constructing a dreamscape to—to visit him in prison.”
“Michelle!” Candice’s expression was one of utter horror. “You—if I’d known you—”
“It’s OK,” Michelle insisted. “I keep telling you that! The dreamscape is perfectly safe. I’m just... dreaming I’m under his control, and then I wake up and I’m fine.“
“Michelle,” Cara said sternly. “You are letting a mind-controller into your subconscious. One whose powers addict the person exposed to them.”
“Right, but it’s like dreaming about doing drugs. It’s not actually—”
“It’s not!” Candice insisted. “Drugs are chemical, his power is all in the nerves and mind. Your brain doesn’t know the difference, Michelle!“
Michelle shook her head stubbornly. “I’m not a human, remember? We can compartmentalize better than you, and we’re better able to see what’s happening inside our own minds. I’m telling you, I’m not—”
“You’re lying,” Cara said quietly. “Maybe to yourself as well, but you’re still lying. I can sense the kinds of energies you’re playing with, and they are not safe, and again, I know you’re not containing them because if you were, I wouldn’t be feeling them.“
“I’m done talking about this,” said Michelle. “I get that you’re scared, but you’re both being completely unreasonable. It’ll be fine, just leave me be, I’ve got studying to do.”
“We’re not done,” said Cara.
Michelle stood. “Yes, we are. Now go! Away!” Her eyes flared green as she spoke, and both of the other girls felt a compulsion so strong it was practically a physical force slam into them. Candice was halfway to the door before she could register, but Cara was a little more used to psychic attacks and only got as far as standing before she was able to stop herself. A hazy wall of shadow formed, dividing the room so that Michelle was on one side and the other two the other, and Candice felt the compulsion lessen until she could turn back.
“Really?” said Michelle. “You want to do this? You want to challenge a Tylifarian in psychic combat, human?“
Cara smiled nastily, her teeth bared. “You’ve been in my mind,” she said, her voice dropping into a sibilant whisper that sent shivers down Candice’s spine. “You know what I am.” The sound seemed to summon all the room’s shadows, slithering across the floor to circulate around Candice, surrounding her in a sinister shroud that obscured all but her shape—and her eyes, of which there were suddenly far too many, and all of them slits shining a sickly dull red. “You know as well as I do that human isn’t... entirely... accurate.” Her gaze locked with Michelle’s, and even though neither moved, Candice could feel the energy passing between them and shrank away.
“You are strong for someone from this planet,” Michelle admitted. “A direct approach might not work. But...” Her eyes flared brighter, and Candice could see the tremor that passed through the shadows around Cara in response.
“Really?” said Cara, her voice echoed by a chorus of soft whispers that seemed to come from inside whoever heard them. “The memories themselves, that’s your idea of subtle? Are you trying to make me lose control? Would you like to know what would happen if I did?”
Michelle smirked. “Is that a threat, human?”
“No,” said the bubbling whispers that spoke through Cara in a voice that increasingly did not sound to Candice like hers. “It’s an offer, mortal. And you just accepted.“
“Cara!” Candice pleaded. “Stop!”
Shadows danced over the floor, walls, and ceiling, the shadows of some monstrous creature festooned with tentacles and claws, but dimly in the center of the room it could still be seen that all there was casting the shadow was one small, dark-haired young woman—or at least something in the shape of a young woman, as it had far more glowing red eyes than the usual number for young women. “Cara’s not here anymore,” it hissed. Tentacles of shadow grabbed the shadows of the other two girls, and suddenly both Candice and Michelle found their limbs being pulled inward as if they were wrapped in invisible tentacles that somehow still cast that shadows.
In truth, however, it was the other way around—the shadow tentacles were casting the invisible ones, or rather the girls’ bodies were being pulled along as the thing that had been Cara’s shadow pinned their shadows in its dozens of squirming, flexible arms.
“You wanted her to lose control,” it continued. “And she did. I’m awake now—and I’m thirsty.”
Halfway across the city, the woman known as Devildancer sat at her desk going over the week’s books. Suddenly, her head snapped up, tilted slightly to the side, as if she’d heard an odd noise and were trying to pinpoint it. She turned slightly, and sniffed.
“Ah, shit.” It was, of course one thing to summon a sex demon. She did that regularly—they were quite useful in both her major lines of work. Even fucking one, if you took the proper precautions and trained carefully for it, was fine—she’d enjoyed it quite a few times herself, and emerged with life, soul, and free will intact.
But having a child with one? That was just unprofessional. Especially given that demons could not normally create life, a limitation that could only be overcome by—she made a face as if she’d just tasted something sour—true, mutual, love. It was incredibly rare—but there were millions of people in this city, enough that even something that rare happened every couple of decades or so.
But, as gauche as their origins might be, those children tended to be disruptive, with odd powers and magical gifts and a tendency to making bad things happen if they got out of control—which, being children, they of course inevitably did. Given that disruptive nature, it was natural that she would have to keep tabs on them—and especially the most dangerous one.
She summoned an imp with a gesture that activated the circle tattooed on the back of her hand. “The demonspawn at the college is starting to wake,” she said. “I’m on my way there. You know what to do.”
“It’s early,” said the demon. “The event isn’t scheduled for at least another—”
“I know,” said Devildancer. “There’s still a few years yet before she’ll be ready for that. Just a slip in the girl’s control. I’ll take care of it, just do your job.”
The imp bowed, and then vanished. Devildancer locked her computer and grabbed her purse from under her desk. As she walked out of her office, she called to her assistant. “I’ll be out for a few hours. Reschedule any appointments and hold all my calls. Tell them I’m dealing with an urgent matter and will get back to them as soon as I can.” Just urgent. Not the end of the world.
At least not for a few more years, anyway.