The escapists: part 6
Traps are sprung
The Triverse is
Mid-Earth, an alternate 1970s London
Max-Earth, a vision of the 26th century
Palinor, where magic is real
Previously: Investigations have led to a raid on a criminal exchange in the ruined outskirts of Bruglia. DC Lola Styles is present to watch the city guard do their thing. This is the final chapter of ‘The Escapists’…
Lola watched from a distance. “You’re not going to want to be a part of this, detective,” Captain Rexen had said with a wink, “but you’ll definitely want to see it.”
The flare went up first, firing into the sky above the ruins of the old town before coming to an abrupt halt. It hovered in the air like an especially bright street light, despite being attached to nothing. She knew it wasn’t an actual flare, but an illusion spell drawing its magic from the stars overhead. As well as illuminating the operation, it would also provide the other wielders on the city guard with a portable energy source for their own magic. The trick, as she understood it, was having a visualist with enough skill to cast light faster than the others could consume it. Something to do with efficiency of energy transfer. Sometimes Palinese magic sounded more like science.
There was shouting from inside the carcass of the building. Rexen himself was in the fray somewhere, along with the most skilled of his guards. There was nothing to stop the gang from using the ball of luminous energy, but the gamble had been that they wouldn’t be equipped for a fight. The benefit of surprise was on the city guard’s side.
An ambush, then. A proper, take-them-by-surprise ambush on the outskirts of a fantastical city in another dimension. Lola had to suppress a squeal of excitement. She was crouched on the roof of another half-demolished residency, flanked by a couple of observers. Her companions were watching through binoculars and apparently issuing battle updates directly to the city guard via some form of micrologist telepathy. It wasn’t quite that simple, of course - telepathy didn’t really exist on Palinor, but micrologists were able to tug at specific brain neurons to trigger responses, like a harp player plucking at strings. The guards trained together to the point that the micrologists could transmit particular notions over distance, even when line of sight was slightly blocked.
It certainly beat calling time on a pub in the Barrel and arresting drunken punters. Lola wondered if she could arrange some specialist training - not in wielding, obviously, but at least in Palinese martial tactics. That would be something to take back to England.
There was a detonation of some sort, masonry and dirt projected above the fight. As she watched, the eruption of debris slowed and paused in mid-air before seeming to change direction and fly back into the ruin as it aimed by a guiding hand. Which, she supposed, was precisely what had happened. There was a burst of fire, seemingly countered by the crystalline sheen of a wall of ice, growing from nothing to rise above the rooftop. The fire swept around it as if it were nothing. Two figures became suspended, tussling with each other as if fighting underwater. If Lola had to guess, at least one of them had to have physology as their wielding specialism: the ability to manipulate local physics. One of them was wearing a guard’s light armour, she saw, and appeared to be winning.
“This will be over soon,” one of the observers said with confidence. “We can move in.”
She didn’t need to be told twice.
On duty: DC Frank Holland & DC Yannick Clarke
“Catch!” Robin shouted from across the office as she flung an envelope, which spiralled through the air and somehow landed on Clarke’s desk. To be fair, she knew the office better than anyone, though that didn’t diminish Clarke’s admiration of her ability to arc a piece of paper without even folding it into a plane. “Another one from Ms Styles,” Robin continued, before turning towards where Kaminski and Chakraborty were arguing over something on the evidence board.
He tore open the envelope to find a letter in Styles’ hand-written scrawl. It was almost like she missed them all.
Breakthrough! Still not sure how you guys found that portal tear, but it paid off. The coordinates were spot-on and we were waiting for the gang when they came to do a transfer. They must have been doing this for years, I’d guess. Right under Thamesmead’s noses. I don’t know if we’d ever have spotted it from the London side?
We didn’t get Collins, which I’m still angry about. But! We did get his partner in crime. Fred Thomas is in custody, stuck in a lovely cell at the city jail. Not the prison we went to together, but one of the cells at the garrison. It’s where they hold people before trial. I’m not sure how exactly the justice process works here, but I guess I’m going to find out soon enough. You know how we always get the impression that Palinese society is a bit backwards, or primitive? Not with magic, obviously, but in everything else? It’s not at all like that. They have art, music, philosophy. The poetry nights here are astonishing - readings mixed with magic displays, just small gatherings in taverns and in cellars below bars down hidden back streets. I could write five thousand words about that, but I won’t (for now). Point is - the cells are decent, prisoners are looked after. I mean, it’s not pleasant, obviously, but it’s fine.
The bit I’m not sure about is whether they’ll try to extradite Thomas back to London, or put him on trial here. Theoretically he’s still a convicted prisoner in London, right? It’s a weird one.
I’m hoping we can get more information on Collins and the rest of the gang, but Captain Rexen isn’t holding his breath. Reckons they’ll be in the wind already - but at least we’ve probably shut down their operations in Bruglia. It’s still weird that they started showing their faces at all. Maybe they’d been doing this switcheroo for so long they got cocky. Or just wanted to show off how clever they are.
We might not have got Collins, but this could hardly have gone better. I couldn’t have done it without you, pardner. Thanks.
Wish you were here. Come visit. You’re a natural with portals!
P.S. I got to see a magic battle.
The kid sounded more optimistic. That was more like her. Clarke smiled, and filed the letter away in a drawer. Not a bad turn out for the books, and a good way to finish his shift. It was a good job Holland had decided to start ripping down posters. He claimed he’d seen something similar in an ancient Max-Earth movie, which sounded unlikely. Holland didn’t strike Clarke as being a history buff.
“Listen up, everyone,” came Walpole’s voice as he emerged from Bakker’s office. Clarke had forgotten that he was there, as he’d been holed up with the other big wigs all morning. “Word’s come down from the top. We’ve got everything we asked for, plus a little more. But it’s going to mean changes, and I know that can be unsettling. So, know two things.
“One. I’m not going anywhere. I have your backs, as I always have done.
“Two, the Commissioner is on board. He set up this department and he knows we’re doing the best work we’ve ever done.”
Walpole walked into the middle of the office, where he leaned back on an empty desk. Styles’ old desk. “So, with that out the way. We’re getting some new gear. New vehicles. Top of the line stuff.” There was a whoop from Kaminski. “Quite right. That’s happening in the next month. We’re also getting new people, to try to fill the sizeable holes left by Styles and Hobb.” He looked around the room. “They can certainly try. No word on new detective posts, but we will be having new support staff and fast-response officers. Need people who know how to drive these new vehicles. The idea is to make us more able to provide end-to-end service. We investigate. We respond. No need to bring in other departments or squads - we can handle it all in-house. In conjunction with DI Bakker I’m also reworking the shifts. Expect to see more of DI Ford and DI Morgan. DS Shaw will be assisting DS Collins more frequently. This is all good news.”
Chakraborty raised her hand. “What’s the bad news, boss?”
“Bad news is we’re moving house.” He held up his hand at the groans. “No, hold on. I’m being unfair. We’re getting new digs. They’re moving us to the Joint Council tower. It’ll be fancy. You know what it’s like there - a real hybrid of Triverse perks.” Clarke noticed that Holland had raised his hand, in an unusually polite gesture. Walpole continued: “It’ll take some getting used to, but it’s only round the corner. We can probably just about still walk to the White Horse. So you can put your hand down, Frank.”
Holland shrugged and crossed his arms, looking content.
“We’re going to have more space, which is good, because we’re going to have more people. It also means I’ll be always nearby - I’m not going to be stationed at Scotland Yard any more.” He took a deep breath. “Any questions?”
“Yeah,” Kaminski said, lighting a cigarette. “I got a question. How much can we expect Joint Council brass to be breathing down our necks?”
“I’m not going to lie,” Walpole said, “no department gets this kind of budget increase and these new resources without some caveats. We’ll have more supervision, to be sure, but that’s why I’m staying close by. It’s why Ford and Morgan will be more visible, alongside DI Bakker. We’re the Specialist Dimensional Command, and hopping across town isn’t going to change that.”
Robin put her hand up. “What’s the coffee like?”
“Yes, Robin, we can afford a new coffee machine,” Walpole said. “Next question.”
Clarke waved a hand at the office walls. “What’s happening to Stamford and Coin?”
“Keeping it for now,” Walpole said. “Officially it’ll still be part of the SDC inventory. It’ll be useful storage until we’re set up.”
Glancing at the ceiling, Clarke thought about the hidden microphones that tracked their every conversation. He wondered how many mics would be installed in the new place. 1974 might have brought them more money, but it definitely didn’t feel like freedom.
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Last week I mentioned how I’d changed my stance on using AI generated images. I’ve since expanded on that into a full post explaining my thinking, which you can find here:
TL:DR: AI generated output is (currently, at least) ethically dubious and extremely dull.
As a consequence, today’s chapter features some art by me! As I noted, moving away from MidJourney to produce my own accompanying visuals will mean two things: 1. The illustrations won’t be as technically competent and 2. They will be much more me. So here we go:
I was rather pleased! One challenge is always time, and this was very much a quick sketch. I’m half tempted to turn it into something more refined, though. I like the the flare burst provides the primary light source, only half-illuminating the ruins. And the fire and ice magic was fun. Not sure about the stick men: realistic people continue to be the thing I can’t crack.
Thanks go to everyone who has bought a copy of No Adults Allowed this month (I figure there’s a good chance that some of you read this newsletter!). Please do leave a review on Amazon if you can be bothered! If you haven’t checked it out yet you can take a look here. I should note that it’s also on Kindle Unlimited, if that’s a thing that you have.
On Monday I’ve got a fantastic interview with none other thanof fame, talking about writing short stories and publishing his anthology. Do keep an eye on your inbox for that!
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