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A Dragon is for Life, not just for Xmas

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A Second Generation Whateley Academy Story

A Dragon is for Life, not just for Xmas

by

Astrodragon
(with help from the usual suspects)

 

WA Break Small_Solid

December 25th, morning, Dragon Standard Time

 

Thulia finally realised what was different about visiting her parents this time. Today, she wasn’t worried about what she’d been doing and their reaction to it. A clear conscience was something she hadn’t been used to for a while. So she was happy to greet her parents with a close hug. The lack of worry made her holiday so much better! Then of course it got down to the inevitable question of ‘How are you getting on at Whateley, dear?’ She gave a deep mental sigh, well that wasn’t exactly unexpected, after all. So an explanation of her classes was in order, although she did keep quiet about the combat finals. What they didn’t know about they wouldn’t worry about, after all.

Thulia took a sip of her wine and sighed. “I think the most annoying thing about Whateley is they don’t keep the place to a comfortable temperature. I mean, it isn’t cold, except outside, but I’m always a bit chilly. It’s nice to be home and warm.” She took another sip of her wine. “And for some reason, they say I’m too young to be allowed to drink. It’s quite bizarre.”

“Do you have much planned for your visit, dear?”

She shook her head at her mother's question. “Not too much. I have to give a short report to the Order, and I have some shopping to do. Stuff I can’t easily pick up on Earth. I wanted to say hello to a few people, but that’s all.

“Your grandmother did ask if you’d visit while you were here. I think she was interested in you and Morgana.”

Oh crap, she thought. She just bet Tanau would have a load of the sort of inappropriate questions that she could only answer with terminal embarrassment, even if she did mean well. Still, she did owe her a lot, and at least any embarrassing question would probably go no further than the ex-succubus. She hoped. Just in case, she’d brought a gift/bribe for her, maybe a big box of chocolates would distract her? It was worth a try...

So she smiled at her mother and said of course she’d visit. After the events of the last months, it felt reassuring to just be with her family again, with no ongoing alarms and excursions. Of course, that meant she was free to worry about meeting Morgana’s parents.

WA Break Small_Solid

December 25th morning, Morgana’s home

 

Morgana woke up and wondered for a moment why she wasn’t in her room. Oh yes, it was Xmas! She didn’t bother to dress, just slipped on her robe and went down, following the aroma of cooking from downstairs. To be greeted by her family with a chorus of ‘Happy Xmas Morgana”. She wasn’t going to tear up, really she wasn’t, but it was so good to be with them again, especially after some of the horror stories she’d heard at Whateley about family problems, sometimes she didn’t realise just how lucky she was.

After a quick group hug, there was the issue of presents. It took Morgana a few minutes to explain the colour-changing material she’d got for Rhee and Ceri, but from the looks in their eyes, a lot of experimentation was being planned for later. There were also the usual small gifts passed around the family, some cool, some involving serious eye-rolling and snickers. She wasn’t quite sure about the towel with little dragons on it.

For Morgana, the present she’d saved till last was in a fancy clothing box of some kind. She’d wondered about that, but it had been worth the wait. A heavy robe in black silk was lovely enough, but what made it was the detailed red/gold dragon embellished across the back. OK, she did admit to a small squee, it looked spectacular. So of course she had to drop her casual robe and try it on and model it for the family. Some of the girls in Poe were going to be so envious!

The rest of the day was mundane (at least for Xmas), and Morgana was happy it was just that – a normal family Xmas. Even if she did eat a bit more than usual, ignoring the sotto-voice comments of ‘Where is she putting it?’ and ‘It’ll all go to her hips!’ Ceri, you’re just jealous. She spent a fair bit of time ‘priming’ them for Thulia to visit in a few days, and that going well was SO important.

WA Break Small_Solid

December 28th, early evening, Ceri’s car.

 

“Not a bad movie.”

Morgana nodded. “I didn’t get a chance to watch Rogue One, it’s been a busy December. Made a nice change to relax and watch a movie with you. And with decent British snacks, they sell some weird shit in American cinemas.”

Ceri laughed. “Mmm, so it's more fun than doing all that stuff in that Combat Final?”

Morgana took a moment to glower at her sister. “WHY do people keep bringing that up? And just WHEN did you see that, anyway?”

Her sister looked smug. “We get the feed at AEGIS for reference purposes. And some laughs. So I looked up a few that got recommended, yours and Thulias in particular. As well as a few which were funny, as well as a couple which were hysterically bad.”

“Morgana worried her lower lip. “Oh. I haven’t got around to telling Tim about the Finals yet. I haven’t really had the chance, and I thought they might upset Aunt Ree.”

Ceri snorted. “You didn’t do too badly. Thulia’s was a lot more traumatic. Is she OK now?”

“Yeah, it was fixed. They have a good infirmary and healers at Whateley, and she did a healing on herself, just in case.”

“Good, I was a bit worried after seeing all that blood. By the way, she got a round of applause from the audience after her tail attack.”

Morgana blushed. “She really doesn’t make a habit of that, you know.”

“I know. But no one likes that sort of backstabbing.”

WA Break Small_Solid

“What’s that?”

Ceri looked out of the car in the direction her sister was pointing, towards an odd red flickering glow and the winking of emergency lights. “That’s a funny light. A fire of some sort?”

Morgana nodded. “It's definitely a fire, trust me on that. Can we pull in and take a look, there seem to be quite a few people there.”

“Sure, why not? Should have expected a fire would attract you.”

Morgana stuck her tongue out at her sister, which just produced a snort of amusement.

There was a group of cars parked near a merrily blazing building, behind a police car and a fire truck keeping the voyeurs back from danger, their blue lights flashing merrily. Ceri stopped behind them, then motioned Morgana out.

“I know you have fire powers, can you stop one?”

Morgana shook her head. “No, but I am fireproof. Should we go and see if we can help, they don’t seem to be having much success at putting it out, it seems to be spreading along the building.”

“Let me get my ID card out.”

“Since when did you have an ID card?”

“From AEGIS, of course, I work there part-time now, remember? Granted, it’s only a temporary card for a part-time worker, but THEY won’t know that!”

While the police sergeant was more concerned with keeping everyone well back from the fire, he let us closer once Ceri had presented her AEGIS ID.

Once we got to the harried-looking Inspector supervising things got more interesting. Ceri had to admit we weren’t an authorised AEGIS unit, which seemed to disappoint him.

“I’m sorry, ma’am, but we have a bit of an ongoing situation here. There are some people trapped in the building, and the fire brigade is waiting on more people and equipment.”

Ceri and I exchanged glances.

“Officer, is there any way we can help? My sister is fireproof, could she be useful?”

The fire officer standing nearby took an interest at that point. He'd been talking into a phone until now, but looked up when Ceri mentioned fireproof.”

“How fireproof?”

I smiled at him. “Very. Perhaps there is something I could do to help? I’m also pretty strong.”

He looked at me thoughtfully, then made a quick decision. “It won’t hurt to take a look. But you do everything I tell you, right? No hotdogging or grandstanding.”

I gave him my best serious look. “Of course, I won’t do anything until you tell me to.”

“Come on then, we’ll go and talk to the man in charge.”

WA Break Small_Solid

I trotted after the fire officer towards the burning building, changing to my dragonform as we went, as he explained the problem to me.

“The building is well alight, and at the moment we can only contain it. We can't get at the root of it, so if we can get the people out we can just let itself burn out. The problem is that there is a woman and her child trapped on the first floor, with no way they can escape. We have a ladder on the way, but even then there will be an issue, there isn’t a door they can get to. We’ll have to make a hole in the wall, and that will take even more time.”

I nodded as we got to the small group of firemen outside the building door. My guide pointed and continued with his explanation.

“As you can see, the fire is stopping us from getting up the stairs. We were going to try anyway, with luck a hose on one of my men would allow them to get up, but it’s chancy at best, and if he fell... You said you were fireproof? Could you get up these stairs and help?”

I took a long look and nodded, as I stripped my shirt and jeans off. He raised an eyebrow at that. “I’m easily fireproof to that level, but my clothes aren’t. “

He chuckled. “We have some fireproof blankets, they will keep them safe as long as you don’t hang around.” He pointed at a door at the top of the stairs. “In through that, then they should be at the end of the corridor. Think you can do it?”

“Yes, I think I can.” I stopped for a moment to take some deep breaths as I examined the scene – I might be fireproof, but there wouldn’t be much oxygen left, and I wanted to be safe.

“Give me the blankets, I’ll go straight up the stairs and through the door. Be ready to take them when I come out.”

He nodded and passed me a couple of blankets and a – hopefully –fireproof radio. “Good luck.”

The firemen were using their hoses on spray to cool things down a bit – every little helped, I guessed – as I settled everything under one arm, I wanted at least one hand free, just in case, then trotted forward, through the flames busily destroying the ground floor as I headed up the stairs. The stairs were already smoking, and although I was more concerned about how they felt under my feet, they really didn’t feel that secure. I could feel a worrying wobble, a man in full heavy firefighting gear would have been a lot more iffy. Still, as long as they lasted for me. I heard a few encouraging shouts urging me on as I got to the top and leaned on the door a bit. It was locked, but that wasn’t a huge issue, it was only a door. Inside, it was dark and smokey. I was glad of my night vision as I kept low to minimise the amount of smoke which was already curling along the ceiling , but I didn’t have to breathe quite yet. Another door at the end of the corridor must be the one they had mentioned, as I headed for it. This one wasn’t locked, and there were two people inside, a woman and a young girl, who looked at me with wide eyes. If the situation hadn’t been so serious I think she’d have tried to touch my horns,

“It’s OK, I’m here to help get you out. I put my burdens down. “I’m not sure if I can carry you both at once, we need to wrap you in these blankets. The girl first?”

The woman nodded, the situation obviously worrying her more than a few little details like my horns as she pushed the child forward. “Take my daughter first, please.”

I shook one of the blankets open and we wrapped the small girl in it. She was still looking at me wide-eyed, and I grinned reassuringly. “Now don’t worry, the blanket will keep you safe from the fire, and I’ll have you straight out. Then I’ll come back for your mother.”

It only took a minute or so to tuck the child up inside the blanket – she’d be a bit smothered, but it was only for a few minutes. I reminded the woman to keep low to reduce the smoke, and that I would be back in a few minutes for her, then gave the firemen the heads up that I was coming back down with the child, but would have to go back for the woman. She kissed her child as we wrapped her up. “Please take care of her.” I nodded and headed out with my bundle.

The corridor was starting to burn as I headed down it, the paper on the walls charring and smoking and small flickers of flame starting to slide along the painted ceiling, but the only issue I had was when I got to the main room. I shielded the child with my body when I opened the door, but a wall of heat still hit us, the fire in the main room had really taken hold even with a stream of water playing on it. I took a firm grip on the girl and headed down the stairs as fast as possible, the stairs starting to shake now. They were also starting to burn, and as soon as I got to the bottom I handed the wrapped child over to one of the firemen.

“Only one of them?”

I nodded. “I didn’t think I could carry both, and the mother wouldn’t have made it through the fire. I’d better get back and collect her, these stairs are feeling a lot more fragile than I’d like.”

This time getting up the stairs was much more of an issue. They were well alight, and as I neared the top, I could hear an ominous creaking noise as I felt them start to slip away from the wall. Some feet from the top I jumped, stabbing my claws into the wall to hold myself as the stairway groaned and then collapsed completely. Just great, that was all I needed... I steadied myself at the top of what remained of the stairs and looked down. They’d collapsed into the burning mess that was the ground floor, and while I could have jumped down, that would have been right into a mess of blazing rubble. I think I could have made it on my own, but there was no good path, and I didn’t fancy my chances of carrying a woman wrapped in a safety blanket. I took a good look, but it wasn’t looking promising. My radio crackled.

“Yes?”

“We saw the stairs go, how are you?”

“I’m OK, I got to the top before they collapsed, but there’s no way down. The floor is a mess of burning rubble. Is there any other way of bringing the woman out?”

There was silence for a minute. “I’m afraid this is the only way out. Can you save yourself?”

“Yes, but I don’t want to leave her. That room she’s in, is that an outside wall?”

“Yes it is, but no doors or windows.

“OK, that gives me an idea. Give me a few minutes to see what I can do.”

WA Break Small_Solid

The woman looked up expectantly as I entered the end room. Time to give her the bad news.

“We have a problem, the stairs I used to get up have collapsed, and we can’t use that way to get out.”

She looked terrified – well, I could hardly blame her. “But that’s the only way out! What will we do?”

I grinned as I examined the wall. “Make a new way out. It’s only a wall.”

Well, granted it was only a wall but this was something I hadn’t tried doing before. The obvious, and simplest, way would be to burn a hole, but the heat and fire backwash would likely incinerate the woman in this closed space, and I wasn’t sure what that sort of heat would do to bricks. Maybe make them explode? Not a good idea, given the circumstances. Still, it was only a wall. I stepped back, popping my claws as I used them to carve the shape of an opening. My claws weren’t that big, and it took a few repeats before I was happy with the depth of the gouges.

“Stand back and cover yourself with the blanket, we might get bits of flying brick. And they could be sharp.”

She looked terrified but nodded and did as she was told. I took a breath and hammered my fist into the wall around the carved area. Some bits of brick did spall out, but I could feel it starting to give as the bricks and mortar cracked under my assault. A few kicks helped, and as soon as a few bricks came loose I was tearing at them to make an opening, tossing bits of cladding and brick into the corner of the room. It only took me a couple of minutes to make an opening a bit bigger than I was – luckily, I could hear the fire getting worse, and more heat getting into the room as I peered out of the hole. Good, we were only on the first floor and it was only about 15 feet, I could handle that easily, even carrying someone. There were a couple of firemen standing there looking up, so I gave them a quick wave and went back to get the woman.

“Ok, I’m going to hold you and get out through the hole, Just hang on tight, don’t want a waving arm to hit the brickwork. Don’t worry, I’ll be holding you tight.”

She looked pretty scared – I could hardly blame her, as we wrapped the blanket a bit tighter and she put her hands around my neck. I held her firmly – not too tight, but enough that she would be reassured by the strength of my grip – before taking a final look down and jumping.

It took about a second to fall 15 feet, just long enough for the poor woman to realise that she was falling and start to scream, then I was bending my knees to take the impact and making sure I rolled to keep her on top of me.

“Ooof.”

Well, such a short fall didn’t hurt me, but the shock of landing was a bit unexpected, as a couple of firemen ran up to us and picked up the woman, who was still shaking like a leaf.

“My daughter, is she alright?”

One of the men nodded. “She’s fine, ma’am, she's getting checked over just in case but that's just a precaution.”

The other man turned to me. “Are you OK?”

I nodded. “I’m fine, just a bit dirty.”

He grinned at my smoke and fire-stained body and underwear and held me out a blanket. “Here, we’ll bring you your clothes. You could probably use a shower too, you smell of smoke.”

WA Break Small_Solid

The group by the police car seemed happy with me. “That was well done. And you followed instructions as well.”

I blinked at the sergeant. “People don’t?”

He grinned. “You’d be surprised how often untrained people swan off and do what we told them not to do. Now we have to see about you.”

I probably looked surprised. “See about me?”

He nodded. “We need to get you cleaned up, and as you aren’t an authorised operative we do have to do some paperwork. “ He paused to talk into his phone for a minute. “Let's do it like this. One of my men will take you to the station, you can clean up there. We’ll type up a short statement - sorry, but it’s procedure – and once you’ve signed it you can go on your way with our thanks. Doing it like this will also keep you away from the news vultures.”

That all seemed sensible, so I tucked my blanket a bit tighter – I could see people with cameras and what looked worryingly like a news team, and slipped into the back of the police car. Trying to be as inconspicuous as possible, tricky though that was in a blanket.

“Ceri, apparently this won’t take long, can you pick me up when I’m done.”

“Sure, just call me.”

I’d never been in a police car before, it wasn’t nearly as interesting as on the TV. I was hoping for sirens and a speed run, but no such luck. In any case, it wasn’t long before we pulled up at the local station.

“Now, there are showers in the station, you can clean up and dress. Then it will take about 15 minutes to type up an incident report, you just sign it and we’re done.”

I was forced to use a mundane hair drying before dressing, I wasn’t sure about when my fire would set off in the way of alarms, but as promised, once done I just had to answer some straightforward questions and produce my MID as identification, as one of the officers typed it in.

“There, I’ll just print it out, you should read it to check it, then just sign at the bottom and we’re all done.”

So I hung around in the foyer while he produced a written copy. While I was doing that, and wondering if I should call Ceri now or see if they wanted me to do anything else, a couple of men came in. One older, one younger, in dark suits. I wondered what they wanted, but the older one distracted me for a moment, and that was all it took, as the other one rammed an injector into my back. I yelled in outrage, but whatever it was was powerful, my legs were already feeling weak and wobbly.

“Hey, what do you think you are doing?”

I think I felt one of them catching me as I fell, but I didn’t remember anything after that. The constable behind the desk came out, but when he did the older man held up an ID to him.

“MCO, you probably didn’t know, but this is quite a dangerous mutant. We’ve been waiting to take her into custody when there weren’t any civilians around to get hurt. We’ll take her to the local office and make sure she’s safe.

The constable still looked concerned and worried, but after taking a good look at the card he nodded. The two men dragged the girl out and stuffed her in a black SUV. Once they’d left, the constable was joined by another, this one with the statement I’d been waiting to sign.

“Where is she?”

The younger man explained, although his companion didn’t seem at all happy. “That’s not how they are supposed to do things at all. I’d better tell the sergeant, he’ll know what to do next.

WA Break Small_Solid

“What happened to her!?”

Ceri's voice was shrill as she interrogated the police officer, who’d been relaying the story of what had happened to Morgana at the police station.

“I rang the station to see about collecting her, and I got told she’d been picked up by someone with an MCO ID card! I want to know where she is right now.”

“Now ma’am, I’m sure it’s nothing to worry about.”

Cari hissed at the man. “You idiot, she’s been abducted! Is this the sort of thing that happens at your station?”

The worried-looking police sergeant wisely decided to pass this up the chain to his boss. He didn’t like the way the girl was acting or the look on her face. She had displayed an AEGIS card when she arrived, it might be best not to antagonise her.

While he was busy trying to pass what had suddenly become a rather explosive can of worms upstairs, Ceri was ringing one of the emergency numbers AEGIS had given her.

“I need to speak to the duty officer right now! My sister has just been kidnapped.”

Even with the obvious urgency, it took some minutes to give them the details they needed. Who she was, ID, who Morgana was, and who seemed to have kidnapped her. Oddly there was a speeding up of the process once she ID’d Morgana, and it wasn’t long before she was speaking to the current duty officer himself. He at least seemed a lot more alert, and once he had the details he needed, he gave her some news. Not necessarily comforting news, but at least news.

“Ceri we haven’t much to go on yet – we are contacting the relevant Police Station and the local MCO, but that will take a little time. In the meantime, given who your sister is, and that she is a student at Whateley, we are activating a liaison team with meta support, they should be with you in about half an hour. In the meantime, try and stay calm – I know it's difficult – and if you find out anything else that is helpful, let us know. If you need to call us again, use this incident number, it will get through the paperwork.”

WA Break Small_Solid

MCO basement, secure prisoner holding.

 

Morgana opened her eyes, then winced and shut them immediately as the glaringly bright light sent a spike of pain through her head. The next time she was a lot more cautious. She was seated uncomfortably, so of course immediately tried to stand up, which didn’t work. This time she took a minute to take stock of her situation. Why couldn’t she stand up?

She was seated naked in what looked and felt like a steel chair. No wonder it was uncomfortable, the designer hadn’t bothered with luxuries like padding. The room itself was a steel box, with those glaring lights set into the ceiling. Both hands were encased in some sort of close-fitting metal gloves, her forearms clamped down to the chair arms with yet more steel clamps. Not just steel, she realised, some sort of alloy. Even her fingers were individually clamped down, making it impossible for her to make any gestures. There was some sort of clamp or gag fastened around her mouth. Standard anti-mage precautions then. There was a camera on the wall in front of hers, and her eyes narrowed as she inspected it. Nothing terribly unusual, but she did spot the very small MCO logo on it. Most mutants would have been more than upset at seeing that, but she found it more reassuring than most. It could have been the Order, but she didn’t see them using MCO equipment. The idea of being taken captive again by the Order terrified her, the MCO she could deal with. Hopefully.

So, they obviously had access to her MID and data, hence the anti-mage precautions. The reason she hadn’t been able to move wasn’t just the arm clamps, she was held against the chair by a number of metal bands – steel, she thought. Certainly thick enough to defeat her strength, especially with her lack of leverage. So the question was, how much did they know about her fire and what had they done about dealing with it? Her ability to use it was on her records, so her assumption was that they did know about it even if not everything about it. There were some aspects of it she’d kept quiet about, if only because she didn’t quite understand them herself. The obvious solution was some sort of devisor tech to suppress it, but she had a feeling the MCO weren’t likely to use devisor tech given that it was built by mutants. They’d taken her clothing just in case, she reasoned – who knew what sort of stuff a mutant would have hidden in it. Something else to consider, then. She looked at one hand and tried to manifest her fire into her aura. Not too much, let’s see what happens.

The experiment didn’t go well. As soon as the flame appeared and the temperature started to rise, she screamed in pain as the electricity slammed through her. Her vision greyed out, the only thing stopping her from spasming hard enough to break bones was the way the chair held her virtually immobile. She could hardly think through the pain, the edge of her vision going dark as the combination of helplessness and electrocution threatened to allow a PTSD seizure to take control of her. The electrocution didn’t last long – it just seemed that way – and she shivered, trying her best to push the seizure back down where it belonged. Giving way to it probably wasn’t a good idea, she needed to think.

OK, it wasn’t her worst nightmare – that was being captured by the Order – but it came far too close for comfort. What she wanted to do was to give way to her PTSD, but that probably wasn’t going to solve this problem, even if it did sit there lurking at the edges of her thoughts like a barely trained beast. As it was she was rather hanging onto the cliff-edge of her sanity by her fingernails. How had this happened anyway? The last she remembered, she’d been at the police station. She’d given them a statement of what she’d done, they seemed quite happy with it, and she was just waiting to sign a hard copy before calling her sister for a lift home. Two men in suits had entered. She hadn’t really been paying attention, but one had come up behind her and she’d felt a sharp pain in her shoulder. In retrospect, that had obviously been an injection of some sort of drug, as in seconds she’d felt disoriented and her vision had blurred out. She still felt a little disoriented, which reinforced her supposition of being drugged.

But why? She hadn’t done anything wrong. Technically she wasn’t an authorised hero or anything, but she hadn’t just charged in, she’d asked what she could do and did what the fire chief had told her. They’d explained after that they were more than fine with what she’d done to help and how she’d gone about it, but they needed a statement for the records. That hadn’t taken long and all she’d done was to go to the local police station and give one as they'd asked. Why would any of that involve the MCO? Well, yes, she was a mutant, but this wasn’t America, the MCO couldn’t just grab a mutant off the streets because they wanted to. Her abduction gave her to think that the proper authorities didn’t know about this – if it was kosher, surely they’d have shown the police some paperwork and taken her into custody - but that wasn’t going to help her any. She didn’t even know if anyone knew what had happened to her or where she was. One of the MCO’s notorious ‘holding cells’, she assumed. A cold trickle of perspiration ran down her back as she thought about that. If no one knew where she was, what was stopping them from doing whatever they wanted to her? She’d be missed, but it would take time. She knew only too well, from bitter experience, how long a few hours of ‘interrogation’ could feel like.

She was thinking through some possible plans, all of which were likely impractical, when there was a ‘click’ as one of the wall panels swung aside and a man walked into the room. He didn’t look like a brutal torturer, he looked like a middle-aged executive in a nice suit. She wasn’t convinced. The look of disgust he gave her didn’t reassure her at all.

“Ah, awake. Good, we can’t interrogate you while you’re unconscious.”

WA Break Small_Solid

Morgana managed to turn her head slightly to look at him. “Interrogate me? About what?”

That was interesting, this weird muzzle they’d put on her seemed to allow her to talk, if not normally at least understandably. She was guessing it had some way of not letting her try and cast a verbal spell, probably by shocking her senseless again. Seemed a possible weakness, but then they could hardly question her otherwise.

The man sneered at her confused question. “We want to know why you set that fire you were involved in.”

She blinked. Why she did what?

“What on earth are you talking about, the fire was going strong when we ran across it by accident.”

He sneered again. She did have to admit he had quite an impressive sneer, if he’d had a moustache he’d have been twirling it.

“We want to know why you arranged the fire, and what you hoped to achieve.”

That didn’t do much to relieve her confusion, any more than the subsequent conversation did. For some reason he was fixated on her being responsible for the fire, why she couldn’t make out, he wasn’t at all clear on that point. She suspected he was trying for some sort of confession from her that he could leverage into making some actual charges against her. Well, one thing Bianca had told her was how to deal with this – Either say nothing at all, or make useless comments that went around in circles while saying nothing at all. It was surprising what useful tips you picked up rooming with a Mafia Princess.

She gave up on the first tactic – saying nothing at all – when that just resulted in him pressing a button and sending a substantial and painful electric shock through her. So instead she led him through a confusing thicket of answers that answered precisely nothing, but at least was less painful. The only thing she really noticed was that he had a distinct American accent. She found that odd for a British MCO agent to have

WA Break Small_Solid

When a rather frustrated-looking agent had finally given up on getting anything useful from her for a while, she gave more serious thought about what to do next. She wasn’t strong enough to break herself out, and they’d been pretty comprehensive about their anti-mage precautions. There were a few possibilities, but they were not guaranteed to work. The easiest way was to burn her way out, but last time the electrocution that had followed had been anything other than pleasant. The question she couldn’t answer was whether the chair and its circuits would melt before the electricity fried her brain. She wondered if she could keep burning even after it shocked her mind blank – she had a feeling giving in to her PTSD might work, in that state her rational mind wasn’t exactly operating anyway, and if anything it made her fire stronger. Maybe as a last resort...

While there didn’t seem to be any play in her restraints, she wondered. Maybe continually working against the ones on her arms might weaken or loosen them a bit. A little bit of freedom of movement would give her the possibility of casting a spell, and Bianca had shown her a rather useful corrosion one that would allow her to break out of her restraints. If, of course, she could actually get enough movement in her fingers to let her cast the spell. What was promising was that they didn’t seem to have accounted for her claws, and she could - just – pop them and scratch whatever metal her bonds were made of. Doing anything with what were basically shallow scratches would of course take time, but she suspected she’d have enough to at least make a start and see how things went.

Still, it was worth a try at breaking out of her bonds. Some minutes of straining and jerking at them had just left her with some bleeding from where the bare metal had rubbed her skin, but no indication of her bonds actually loosening. Why did her captors have to be so bloody efficient?

WA Break Small_Solid

2230, Outside the Lodden Valley police station in Reading

 

Ceri had been waiting in the car park for the AEGIS SUV, which finally rolled to a stop beside her. The team introduced themselves as Agent Baskins, who seemed to be in charge, Waterwitch – who she assumed was some sort of mage, even in civvies, she’d never met her – and a driver. After a brief exchange of ID cards, they all piled back in the SUV, along with Ceri.

Waterwitch turned around in her seat to look at Ceri. “We need to find out where she is, the sooner we locate her the better. You’re her real sister, right? Not adopted or anything?”

Ceri looked puzzled. “No, she’s my real sister, why?”

Waterwitch grinned as she took a small inscribed silver pendulum out of her bag, flipping the top open to show her it was hollow. “The best way of tracking someone is by blood, and as her sister your blood will align closely enough with hers. So if you can give me some blood, I’ll get to work.”

Ceri nodded, holding out her hand as the mage carefully made a small cut and let enough blood trickle out to fill the hollow pendulum. “There. Even if they have her shielded, unless it’s very good the blood will give us a rough location. In which case there are other ways, but this is the easiest and simplest.”

She had obviously done this sort of thing before, unfolding a small table from the back of the car seat and laying out her equipment – mainly some maps and a cloth with some protective circles and stuff embroidered around it. The woman hummed to herself. “Now, let me cast the spell and we’ll see what we can find.”

Ceri looked at the maps, then whispered to Agent Baskins. “What if she’s shielded and the blood won’t find her.?” The man gave her a reassuring look. “If this fails, we drag the records of cars from the traffic computer, then get one of the bloodhounds, like Bast or Baskerville, to smell her out. It’s pretty hard to hide someone properly at such short notice without leaving a trail we can follow, and this doesn’t have the feel of a long-term plan.”

Ceri nodded. Having a backup plan was reassuring.

It didn’t take that long for Waterwitch to make a satisfied sound, it just seemed like forever to Ceri.

“We have her.”

Agent Baskins looked relieved, and for a moment Ceri wondered how optimistic he’d been earlier just to reassure her.

“Judging by the maps, I’d say she was in their Bracknell office. Even with the blood, it's a bit fuzzy, so I would say she’s locked down, possibly underground. It’s not far, though, so if we need to we can check again when we get there.”

Baskins nodded and tapped the driver on the shoulder, giving him the location for his GPS.

“Let’s get going, then. I’ll pass the address on to the rest of the team, they can catch up with us there.”

WA Break Small_Solid

Bracknell MCO office

 

The SUV pulled up outside of a rather nondescript office with a squeal of brakes. The only thing giving the place away was a small plaque by the door marked ‘MCO’. Ceri got out as fast as she could and headed for the door, only to be held back by Agent Baskins.

“Wait, let us lead, we know how to handle them. You’ll only get upset and maybe say things you shouldn’t.”

Ceri reluctantly let him take the lead, as the small team entered. There was nothing much here, just a reception desk, with no sign whatever of Morgana. Baskins walked up to the desk and gave the rather worried-looking receptionist a glare as he showed her his ID card.

“We’re with AEGIS and we’ve come to determine the whereabouts of a missing mutant.”

The man looked even more worried. “I don’t know what you’re talking about, we don’t have any mutants here right now.”

“We know she’s here, our mage tracked her here. So stop stalling and let me speak to your boss.” The ‘or else’ wasn’t actually stated but was clearly implied.

The flunkie nodded and pressed a button under his desk, and a minute later two suited MCO agents arrived. One of them quite a bit older than the other, with the unmistakable look of ‘yes, I’m in charge here’.

There followed some timewasting as the MCO tried to insist that they didn’t have any mutants here right now, with Baskin and Waterwitch claiming they knew damn well that they did. Baskin's suggestion that if they weren’t holding anyone then surely they would have no objection to letting AEGIS check out the holding cells went down like a lead brick. The situation rapidly deteriorated into a tense standoff with the unstated insistence that the MCO was going to be really stubborn about this and that AEGIS wasn’t going to just go away and forget about it all.

Things were just getting worse when the door opened to let in another AEGIS team. This time one that included two more agents and a very annoyed-looking Bast. That just got things even more tense, with at least one person ‘accidentally’ fondling a firearm, when the standoff in the foyer was broken, rather surprisingly, by the unassuming man who’d arrived at the rear of the AEGIS team. He didn’t look particularly dangerous, he was a somewhat overweight, middle-aged man in a rather rumpled suit. It wasn’t until you looked into his eyes that you saw the steel lurking there. He coughed and gave an almost apologetic smile.

“Let me introduce myself. I am George Rumpole, barrister, and I represent AEGIS. And also Ms Jones, who is a person of interest to the organisation. “

Such an innocuous statement from a quite ordinary-looking man, but at least one of the MCO men must have recognised him as he turned pale. Ceri found that interesting, she’d never seen someone react like that before in real life.

“Now, I understand from my colleague here – he made a small gesture at Waterwitch – that Ms Jones is being held nearly, probably in the basement of this building. I require you to produce her.”

He reached into his briefcase, pulling out some sort of legal documents. “I have here a Writ of Habeas Corpus in Ms Jones's name, properly attested by a Judge. I also have an order to bring her immediately to the Crown Court in Reading, to be examined in front of the court there.”

It was interesting for Ceri to see the difference in reaction on the MCO men’s faces. The younger man had gone a sort of pasty grey-white, giving the impression of a man who’d just realised how big a pit he was staring into. The older agent, the one with the American accent, had gone the dark red of someone who was furious and who really needed to control his blood pressure. Ceri had a hope he might have a heart attack right there, you never knew your luck.

“You can’t do that! You have no right to demand the release of a dangerous mutant from our custody!”

The lawyer just raised an eyebrow. “On the contrary, I have every right. May I see the arrest warrant please?”

“We don’t need one, not for a dangerous mutie like this!”

The lawyer coughed politely. “Without a warrant, you are guilty of Arbitrary Arrest. Even if you claim she is some sort of terrorist, you are required to get a warrant certifying this to allow an extended period of detention with the permission of the police.” He didn’t move, but his eyes got a lot colder. “The MCO does not have extralegal powers to override UK law in this fashion, so unless you present Ms Jones now, I will have no option but to require the use of whatever force is necessary to make you comply.” He smiled in an innocent and totally unbelievable manner, without even seeming to notice the heavy mob backing him up. “Whatever force.”

The older man was still looking stunned. “But she’s dangerous, we can’t just let her out”

Ceri almost spat at the man. “She’s not dangerous! What did she do that was dangerous?”

WA Break Small_Solid

MCO Headquarters, London

 

Director Cummings was still scrolling through the details on his monitor, his expression murderously calm.

“Do we have any updates on this clusterfuck?”

His assistant nodded. “We do, but you aren’t going to like them either.” He passed the Director his own pad to read. “Looks like they found the girl, or at least where she’s being held. That’s bad enough – we can hardly claim not to know about her now, but an AEGIS team turned up. With their lawyer.”

The Director read it and almost snarled. “So they have a lawyer and all the correct paperwork?”

“Oh yes, they have George Rumpole with them, he wouldn’t be there if they didn’t have the right papers. We’ve had issues with him before. And it gets worse. Superintendent Harris, whose station they extracted her from by force, is NOT happy. He’s already launched formal complaints about our action. Now he’s been in touch with the Chief Constable, who is equally unamused about us taking her out of the police station as we did. Especially as he got dragged out of bed about it. It doesn’t seem to have gone higher - yet - but if we don’t do something fast it’s likely to.”

“Do we have any good options at this point?”

“I don’t see any, Sir. We can’t claim we don’t have her, and we have to produce the body. Alive. And she isn’t going to be happy, and neither is AEGIS. We stand to lose a lot of the goodwill and tolerance by other agencies we’ve built up, at the very least.”

“Dammit, why did he grab her? She wasn’t doing anything wrong, in fact, she’d just been helping the emergency services save lives. Grabbing a pretty teenage girl who’s been doing that is not going to look good. No matter how we try and spin it, the optics are terrible for us.” He scrolled through the pad again. “It says here the agent in charge is Agent Prendergast. That American idiot we got lumbered with on an exchange posting. The fool seemed to think he could just go in mob-handed like in rural America, he has NO idea of the state of things here.” He looked at his pad again as he made a decision. “Burn him. We ship him back to the States on the morning flight and claim it was the actions of a rogue agent, who’s been punished and sent back in disgrace. Which it pretty much is, it’s all his fault after all.”

“Do you think that will be acceptable, Sir?”

The Director shrugged. “It’s a start, and getting him out of the country derails them a bit. We’ll probably have to toss some more sweeteners into the pot, but I think it’s our best action at the moment. We’re already in a hole, let’s not dig any deeper.”

WA Break Small_Solid

Bracknell MCO office

 

Given the threat of the lawyer, Morgana had finally been extricated from the bowels of the building, the MCO acting like they were surprised they’d found her there, an act which fooled no one. She wasn’t in good shape, clutching a blanket around her, still pale and with some bloodstains on her wrists. She looked up and as she saw Ceri and her associates the expression of relief on her face made all the effort worthwhile for Ceri. She hugged her sister as she demanded the bag with her possessions, while Bast practised her ‘I’m a cat and you’re a mouse’ expression on Agent Prendergast. They didn’t waste much time there, AEGIS would get back to the MCO – with prejudice – and given the way she was shaking, Ceri just wanted to get Morgana home. So they left with the lawyer and Agent Baskins still talking to the MCO. Well, threatening rather than talking, but she didn’t care.

WA Break Small_Solid

December 28th, Morgana’s Home, late evening.

 

While Morgana was now safely back at home, and Tim had given her a quick check to make sure there was no damage that hadn’t been noticed, she was very despondent after her capture.

Ceri nudged her sister. “Hey, cheer up! You're home now and everything will be OK. “

Morgana gave a deep sigh. “I felt so helpless! Here am I, a magic-using dragon and they reeled me in like I was nothing. And they were equipped for keeping me helpless.” She scowled deeply. “I hate feeling helpless!”

Her sister patted her hand. “Look, no one can be prepared against a surprise attack all the time. Especially when you’re in a police station signing some documents.”

“I know, but what would have happened if you hadn’t missed me and arranged a rescue? I’d still be locked down in that basement until Thulia gets here.”

Tim gave her a searching look. “She could have helped find you?”

Morgana nodded. “Those marks we have let us sense each other, she could have tracked me right to the building.” She gave a half-hearted attempt at a smile. “Maybe it was best she wasn’t here, they probably wouldn’t have a building left by now!”

Tim coughed. “Morgana, you mentioned you had some sleeping pills from Whateley. I suggest you take one, or you're never going to get to sleep after all this.”

The girl nodded as she fumbled in her bag. “Yes, you’re right. But...” she looked at her relatives. “I know this will seem odd, but could I sleep on Ceri’s floor, just for tonight? I don’t want to be alone.”

Tim gave Ceri a look even as she nodded. “Of course you can! I’ll put a mat down for you.”

Morgana gave her sister a rather strained-looking smile. “Thanks. It’s just I’m feeling a bit fragile right now, waking up all alone – well, I’d rather not.”

Ceri hugged her sister. “It’s no trouble. And Thulia will be here tomorrow, that will help, right?”

Aunt Rhee nodded. “Come along dear, I’ll make up a futon and get you some water to take your pills with.” The older woman helped her upstairs, making sure she kept contact with Morgana, who still looked pale and upset.

“Ceri turned to Tim. “So what do you think? As a doctor?”

Time gave a deep sigh “It’s been a nasty shock for her, I think it’s reminded her far too much of her experience over the summer. The sleeping pills will help, a good night's rest is what she needs right now. And company, as long as you don’t mind. Waking up alone might cause a panic attack, and that wouldn’t be a good thing.”

“Of course I don’t mind, and at least her girlfriend will be here tomorrow, that should help. In the meantime, I’ll check with my boss at AEGIS about what they intend to do about this.” The flat undertone in her voice implied that someone had better do something about the situation.

WA Break Small_Solid

December 29th, Morgana’s home, breakfast.

 

“So how are you feeling this morning? You do look a lot better.”

Morgana paused from scarfing down another slice of toast to think about it. “A lot better than I was last night.” She patted Ceri’s hand. “Thanks for being with me, having someone there made a big difference.”

Ceri grinned. “It’s what big sisters are for. Although I bet you’d rather have had Thulia with you than me.”

There was a chuckle around the table at Morgana’s more-than-a-little red face.

“Er well, yes. She makes me feel safe, which helps a load.”

“So when's she arriving, anyway?”

Morgana tapped her phone. “Soon, she’s gated in and just has to get a drive here,“ She blushed. “I do hope you’ll like her.”

Ceri gave her sister a hug. “Silly, I’ve already met her, she’s a lovely girl... er, dragon...er, whatever.”

“You’re on TV.”

There was considerable amusement in Aunt Rhees's comments on the local news on TV. They were reporting on a bad fire from last night. Fortunately a report without any clear photos of her. The Fire Service was talking about the actions of an unnamed mutant who’d helped them save a woman and child from the inferno, and the police were keeping rather quiet about the details of the (unregistered) mutant.

Ceri gave the screen a thoughtful look. “Well, it was going to come out, but luckily in a good way for you.”

Morgana gave the TV set a disgusted look. “Whateley is still going to be mad at me.”

“For what? You didn’t go in and fight some supervillains, did you? The Fire Brigade are happy, the police are happy with you but I suspect mad at the MCO, and AEGIS has their lawyer looking into it. Could have been a lot worse.”

Morgana still looked unhappy. “Last time we ran into villains it wasn’t our fault, and we still got yelled at.”

WA Break Small_Solid

December 29th, the Dragongate close to Avebury Circle, 10 am, Britain.

 

Thulia shivered slightly at the change in temperature as she appeared through the gate. OK, it wasn’t that cold, but she’d got used to the pleasant warmth of her home after the last week. At least she had a coat now, she was getting used to the vagarities of Earth’s weather even if she wasn’t impressed by some of it. So she figuratively girded up her loins (and just what did that phrase mean anyway, it seemed to imply girders somewhere, which didn't make sense) as she walked across the gravel to meet her car. Which was hopefully here.

Britain was a small country, and thanks to the length of time Dragons had been around, as well as some human endeavours, there were a fair number of established gates, but even so, Morgana lived annoying between the closest two, and she wasn’t allowed to just fly there. At least her working with the Order had allowed her access to their network and lowered the essence cost to her considerably. The biggest one was in London, of course, it was the main UK transit point, but she really didn’t want to be navigating across London on her own yet. Even though her experiences with people at Whateley had helped, London was still busy with people, and she still worried about it. Her uncertainty of arrival time had meant Morgana couldn’t just meet her here, so instead she arrived at the next closest gate near Avebury. Which, in the middle of December, had very few tourists around, something she found a relief.

She walked over to the car park, where a quick interrogation of her phone indicated her booked car was indeed waiting for her. An hour's drive didn’t seem too bad, she thought, as she texted Morgana to report her safe arrival and when she could expect to be there. Visiting her home and parents was still a rather worrying idea, Ceri had seemed nice enough, but meeting parents was always scary, even if Morgana said they were very nice people and keen to meet her, she still had an uncomfortable little feeling in the pit of her stomach.

WA Break Small_Solid

December 29th, Morgana’s home, 11 am

 

Thulia was trying to look unconcerned as she walked up to the house and rang the bell. Which was followed by a smiling Morgana opening the door from her, her speed of arrival at the door accompanied by chuckles, as two older people came up behind her. She gulped. Family. She was strong, she was a dragon, she could handle this. Still, the proprieties should be followed, and following them did distract her a little. She bowed formally to the pair and made a gesture (she knew they wouldn’t understand it, but still) as Morgana ushered her in, followed by a BIG hug from her leman, which left the others in the room smiling. They only broke apart when the simulated coughing was getting rather obvious, as Morgana held her hand and introduced her to everyone. She smiled shyly, greeting each one in turn.

“OK, now sit down and tell us about your trip home. And then you can tell us about the two of you and how you’ve been getting on.”

Oh crap, there was the second shoe...

WA Break Small_Solid

Thulia turned to her leman and smiled.

“Morgana, I had something ordered when I was home before, it’s ready now and I wanted to give it to you as a Xmas present.”

Morgana looked eager at Thulia’s words. “A present? Love, you didn’t have to...”

Thulia smiled. “Of course I did, it will help keep you safe.” She pointed at the long box she’d brought with her and deliberately not explained. “I even arranged permission for it with Grimes.”

Morgana was torn between being polite and just ripping the box open and seeing what goodies Thulia had brought her. “Can I open it?”

The others in the room smiled at the greed she was obviously trying not to show too blatantly.

“Of course you can.”

That was all it took as Morgana, and her claws, made quick work of the paper wrapping the box. She gave a look to Thulia as she knelt down to open it, and then popped the catches on the hardwood box. Inside was a long rod, wrapped in silk.

“You can take it out of the silk, that was just to keep it safe while I carried it.”

Morgana nodded, carefully opening the silk wrappings to reveal a long spear, much resembling Thulia’s, the haft a rod of dark red crystal wrapped in a dark metal container. The end was a serrated spearpoint, covered in a protective wrap. She couldn’t help it, she squeed in pleasure.

“Oh, it's a spear like yours! For me?”

Thulia grinned. “It’s more than a spear, it’s a spell staff like mine. But as you look like you will be doing more physical stuff than I usually do, I got it made with a spear surrounding it. Once you have it all finished, you can either use it like my staff or my spear.”

Morgana sat there running a hand lovingly along the polished metal. “It’s beautiful. But it isn’t finished?”

Thulia shook her head. “Not nearly. You’ve seen my staff, the spells embedded in it. You can do the same with this, but I’ll have to teach you how to do that. Grimes was quite insistent on that. There are only two spells in it right now.”

Morgana nodded, still caressing her new gift. “Yeah, she was firm about you teaching me how to do stuff rather than just doing it for me. I did see her reasoning. But... two spells already in it?”

“Just two, because without them you couldn’t do anything with it. She pointed at a complicated and multicoloured spell matrix embedded in the centre of the shaft. “This is part of the spell that melds the staff to you. I’ll tell you about that in a bit. There is also a structural reinforcement spell as part of the spear – that was put in when they made it, without that it’s not really tough enough to be used as a weapon. It’s a rather specialised spell, so I had the maker put it in, they do it all the time.”

She turned to Tim, who’d been watching Morgana open her gift with some amusement. Most girls got that sort of expression on their faces over jewellery or a dress, rather than a spear. “I’d like to put the other half of the attunement spell on her while I’m here, if I may.” She opened her purse, bringing out a small flat box. “That way once it’s done it's part of her, and she can draw it to her whenever she wants.”

WA Break Small_Solid

Tim had led them down to his basement office/workroom to give Thulia somewhere to work.

“The procedure - it’s safe?”

Thulia nodded to Tim. “Oh yes, in many ways it’s just a more sophisticated way of linking it to her like her athame.”

The man nodded thoughtfully. Given Thulia’s track record of looking after Morgana, he was willing to take her word on this.

“So exactly what are you going to do?”

Thulia thought for a moment before answering. “Basically I will connect the spear to Morgana by blood – just as she did her athame. Then I will use the sigil to inscribe itself on her.” She held up the spear to show a complex 3-D spell diagram deep inside the shaft. “The counterpart is already set into the spear. It’s a rather specialised job, so the maker put it in place before giving me the other part. I was going to place the sigil on the nape of her neck, like mine. “She paused to pull her long hair aside, showing a complex pattern in red and black inscribed into her skin. “It’s out of the way here, and my hair hides it.”

“Now I need to make some preparations for the actual attunement.”

Tim nodded. “What do you need, Thulia?”

“Nothing much, just an area large enough to hold the two of us while I embed the spell on her. I just need to cast and cleanse a protective circle, just to make sure there are no outside influences.”

He pointed at an area of the floor that he used for his own spellcasting. “Will that do?”

She gave it a quick look and smiled. “Perfect. I just need to dig out my chalks.”

“If you don’t need anything special, I have some here.” He pointed at the workbench, and she took them with a smile of thanks. “These will be fine, it’s just a circle, nothing that complicated.”

She missed the look he and Morgana exchanged. Thulia’s ideas of ‘nothing complicated’ didn’t quite work for most people.

“Thulia, just what does ‘make it a part of her mean’, exactly.”

Thulia paused in answering Tim, before looking thoughtful. “Well, exactly what it says, really. It’s connected to her on a very deep level, and she can call it to her at any time, it doesn’t need a spell. If I could demonstrate it might show you?”

“Yeah, that would be interesting.”

She paused for a moment. “You can see magic, right? I know Morgana can.”

“Yes, but just give me a minute. He spun the dial on a small safe sitting on his bench, bringing out a plain ring which he slipped onto his finger. “This gives me a better look and more detail, I use it when I’m working.”

Thulia nodded. “Now first a normal summon. She concentrated for a moment, and both Tim and Morgana saw a swirl of magic around her hand as her spear appeared in it. “You saw that, right?”

They both nodded, so she made another gesture and the spear vanished. “That’s a normal summon from my storage space, as you saw it uses a spell. Now, watch carefully.”

This time she just stood there, arm outstretched. One moment her hand was empty, the next it was filled with her spellstaff. The others looked, both squinting slightly as they tried to see what had happened. Thulia grinned.

“As you saw – or likely didn’t see – there was no spell involved. The staff is part of me, so bringing it to me involves no spells.”

Tim looked serious, as he tried to work out the implications. “Is that dangerous at all?”

She shook her head. “No, it’s not dangerous, The only difference is that if something were to damage the staff, I can’t actually mend it. I have to heal it instead, it’s basically a part of me after all. Oh, and it cannot be separated from me if I don’t want it to be.”

Morgana looked interested. “Not at all? So it’s always available.”

Thulia nodded. “It’s possible in theory, but to be honest if anything was powerful enough to force a separation, that would be the least of your troubles...”

For his part, Tim was still looking thoughtful, but as Thulia already had done this attunement on herself, and it didn’t seem to be causing her any issues, he couldn’t see how it would harm Morgana.

WA Break Small_Solid

Having answered the pair’s questions, she knelt down and started to draw a large protective circle on the floor. “Morgana, you’ll need your athame, we’ll need your blood for the bonding.” Morgana nodded and went to get it as Thulia continued under the interested gaze of Tim Jones.

“OK, that’s the preparation done. I don’t want any possible outside influences inside the circle, so I’ll neutralise the space first. Now...”

She guided Morgana to the centre of the circle and got her to kneel, standing beside her as she placed the sigil box on the floor, and laid the spear down next to it. “First we need a blood connection between you and the spear, so we’ll need you to cut your hand. Enough to get a nice layer of blood on it. Just let me ready the circle, and we can begin.”

While she cast a spell that made her chalk diagrams glow slightly and caused the space inside it to glow very faintly, Morgana winced as she drew the blade of her athame across her palm, letting her blood drip onto the haft of the spear. It seemed to absorb the blood just like her athame had done. Wow, was that only three months ago? It seemed like so much longer.

“Good, now hold the spear while I inscribe the sigil onto you. This will hurt a little, but only for a few moments.” As she spoke she pushed Morgana’s braid aside to leave her neck bare and took the sigil into her hand. “I’ll put it on the back of your neck, like mine, out of the way and your hair will cover it.”

Morgana nodded as she prepared herself, breathing deeply in anticipation of the pain. Thulia pushed her head down a bit more, giving her a flatter surface to lay the sigil down on the girl’s neck, before her hands moved in graceful motions as she intoned the binding spell. Morgana hissed in pain as for a moment as the sigil seemed to burn against her skin, and Tim watched closely as the complicated inscription seemed to settle into her skin leaving an almost 3-D effect. Luckily for Morgana, it didn’t take long. Thulia then had to bat the girl's hand away as she tried to investigate the mark.

“Now don’t touch the pattern, it will be sore for a little while.”

WA Break Small_Solid

“So how do I use it?”

Thulia chuckled. “Practice. I usually visualise opening my hand for it when I recover it, and closing my hand when I put it away. If you reach out with your senses, you should be able to feel it in your hand.”

It took Morgana a few minutes, eyes closed as she concentrated, then gave a smile of success. “I can feel it! At least I think I can.”

“Good, now think about putting it away safely.”

Doing that took a number of tries, until finally the spear suddenly vanished, leaving Morgana’s hand empty.

“Cool! Now how do I get it back again.”

“This time feel for it beside you. It may feel a bit odd as it’s not really separate from you. When you’ve done that, concentrate on feeling it in your hand again. Opening your hand ready usually helps.”

Again, it took a few minutes of trying before suddenly the spear was in Morgana’s hand again.

“Yay.” She looked at Thulia. “Not nearly as easy as you make it out. More practice?”

Both Thulia and Tim nodded, speaking almost in unison. “Of course, practice!”

“Thulia... does the spear show on any detectors or spells?”

Thulia tilted her head at Tim’s question. “Not really, no. It’s just as if it were a part of her, so a detection spell just registers her. “

He chuckled. “That’s useful. She’ll have to take it back through customs, so if it’s in its pocket she won’t have to declare it.”

Morgana grinned. “I hadn’t thought about that, but it will be convenient. Just bringing my athame along was paperwork enough. I can’t see them being too happy about a spear.”

WA Break Small_Solid

Having gone back upstairs with the promise to Morgana that she could practice later, Morgana had asked Thulia to wait while she went and got something. The other two exchanged glances but didn’t comment. She came back down bearing a couple of packages in colourful wrappings.

“I know you don’t really do Xmas, darling, but I got you a present anyway. I hope it’ll be useful.”

For her part Thulia grinned widely at the idea of a couple of gifts, reaching for them eagerly. “May I?”

Morgana laughed. “Of course, that’s why I gave them to you after all.”

It only took Thulia moments to open them – claws can be very useful sometimes. To reveal a couple of small packages and a pair of sunglasses. She looked at Morgana questioningly.

“The glasses are dual purpose. You can use them with the rest of the package, or on their own. They are toughened and have flash protection like the lenses on my mask. Now the rest is a bit more complicated, it works best with the glasses. Give me your phone.”

She grinned as Thulia looked a bit confused before Morgana brought up Google Maps on the phone. “It ties into Maps, that way you don’t have to worry about updating it. Now put on the glasses.”

Thulia did as she was told, then waited as her girlfriend pressed a few buttons on the device, then touched it to her phone and the glasses to connect them. “Now...” She waited for a few moments to build the suspense, then pressed a button as head-up display-type images appeared in the glasses. Thulia gave a small gasp of surprise.

“Now this should be the complete package you need for flying. The display can be customised – there’s a big help file on it. But it can show compass heading, attitude indication, ground speed and height and any aircraft with transponders in the vicinity. It will tie into your phone for Google Maps and messages. Oh, and this “– she brought out a small throat microphone that had been hiding in the box – “you can do text and speech as well.”

Thulissqueed with delight as she examined her gift. “This is SO cool, it's just what I need for my flying certification. And it’s so much smaller than the one the school gave me to practice on.

Morgana grinned at her girlfriend's reaction. “I hoped you’d like it. The control unit” – she pointed at the small phone-size box – “can go anywhere on you, it's wireless. The other box is the charging unit, or you can use a standard phone charger if you have to. “She played with the menu a bit, and suddenly the glasses had a mirror effect. “And you can use this to hide your eyes if you need to.”

WA Break Small_Solid

December 30th

 

Morgana craned over her sister’s shoulder as she tried to read what was on the invitation.

“So what’s this thing we got invited to?”

Ceri moved a bit just so Morgana couldn’t see. “It’s an invite for us to the AEGIS New Year's Dance. For two people. There’s a note saying it's to give us a treat after that MCO fiasco.

Morgana’s face fell. “Only two? But there are three of us...”

Ceri laughed. “Actually, it will work. I’m going with Jim as his SO, he’s a full member so he got an invite. This we can use for you with Thulia as your SO. Or should that be SOD?”

Morgana was obviously trying to work that acronym out as she helped her. “Significant Other Dragon, of course.” Morgana just groaned and made the sign of the cross at Ceri.

“What about the fireworks display? I wanted Thulia to see that, she’s not seen one before and the London New Year one is pretty spectacular.”

“Oh, that’s no problem. Watching it from the rooftop is part of the party, even if some of the devisors apparently mutter about how they could do a FAR better job of the explosions. We sit on them. And we can still crash at my place after, you really don’t want to know what the congestion is like trying to get away after the events. You teenagers will be fine on the floor, won't you.”

“I guess we can tough it out.” She wiggled her eyebrows at Thulia. “Together...”

For her part, Thulia just smirked before asking some more practical questions. “What are we supposed to wear, and do we go as ourselves or humans?

“Well, it isn’t a formal dance, so something nice. From what I’ve been told the older members wear more fancy stuff, but for the rest of us, it's, mmm, posh clubbing? I guess that gives us an idea of what to shop for. Thulia, do you have something suitable?”

The dragongirl looked thoughtful. I do have a dress in my storage, but this posh clubbing sounds rather interesting. You can explain it to me while we’re getting to London. There’s an outfit I bought at Whateley that might be suitable if I got some things to go with it.”

The look of anticipation on Ceri’s face really should have worried Morgana more, especially given the way she was appraising their bodies. This time it was Ceri and Thulia who made eye contact and murmured in unison “Shopping”. Morgana wondered how worried she should be. Probably very.

Ceri looked slightly amused. “Yes, we want the two of you to make an impression. And yes, you can go in your dragonforms if you want, quite a few of the people there won’t be normal, or dressing in their supersuits. It's encouraged to show off a bit at New Year, it’s not really a stuffy formal event. Jim’s told me all about it, I’m looking forward to going.”

Morgana had been busy with the online train timetable. “Ok, then I’d better text Tabitha and tell her when we’re arriving. Paddington?”

“Yeah, Paddington works, it's central and there are plenty of Ubers. I’m not sure if I want to trust you two on a tube.”

“What’s a tube?”

Ceri facefaulted, to Morgana’s snickers.

WA Break Small_Solid

December 30th, Paddington Railway Station, London.

 

Ceri looked at the crowd streaming off the train and gave the resigned sigh of an experienced London commuter. “So how are we going to find her?”

“She said she’d be under the clock.” Morgana pointed at a teenage girl standing under the old-fashioned clock and looking around her. “See, right there.”

It only took a moment to introduce Tabitha to Thulia. “I’m not used to seeing you guys without the horns.”

Morgana grinned. “Well, we’re trying to look inconspicuous! At Whateley we only bother on some of the red flag days, our dragonforms just feel more comfortable.”

Tabitha nodded. “So, what do we have in mind for this shopping expedition? Whimsy, practicality – boring, I’ve already heard - decadence?”

Ceri pre-empted Morgana to make sure she didn’t miss any of the important stuff, like clothes.

“OK, well, Morgana and Thulia want to take a look at any good magical shops, if you know of some. They say they can get all the modern stuff via your campus shop, but maybe somewhere that has old, working gear?” Ceri took a glance at the two innocent-looking dragongirls. “We definitely need clubbing gear. We got an invite to the AEGIS New Year party, and while Thulia has something I can see working, Morgana as usual is horribly deficient in the apparel department.” She ignored the protestation of ‘Hey, I’m not’ to carry on. “And if we get some new party gear, some appropriate bling would be useful. Anything I’ve forgotten?”

Tabitha looked thoughtful. “You got an invite to that party? Cool. I’ve heard it’s pretty fun if you like rubbing elbows with posh financial backers and people like that. Those dresses you guys were wearing for the Xmas party were nice, but maybe a bit too old for teenagers at this sort of party, I’d save them for a more formal event. “ She grinned widely. “I might have some ideas, though.” Ceri nodded enthusiastically at the suggestion of more ideas, while Morgana just looked worried.

WA Break Small_Solid

The two dragongirls had been rummaging through the shop contents more like a couple of ferrets on crack than dragons, while Ceri and Tabitha watched with some amusement. There were obviously some things of interest that were really magical, judging by the occasional exclamation, but as neither of them could sense magic they just occasionally pointed out something that was pretty or interesting.

“So, have you decided?”

Morgana held up a pack of large tarot cards, obviously old from the state of the box. “These. I haven’t got a good set and these ones are lovely. “

Tabitha cocked her head, remembering something.

“You’ve asked them properly if they want to go with you?”

Morgana smiled and nodded vigorously.

“Nothing to be done for it then!”

Ceri grinned. “And the fact that they are a dragon-themed set is totally a coincidence?”

Morgana nodded. “Of course. But they are beautiful, so much nicer than the modern sets. Oh, and this bracelet.” She displayed an old-fashioned wrist bracelet in what seemed to be copper. “It isn’t actually magical, but it is lovely and I was thinking to see if I could enchant it to use in my healing. Looking at it people will think it's just an ornament.”

Thulia was clutching her own purchases. Mainly a 6” crystal ball made of rock crystal, on its own stand. Tabitha recognised the little micro-fractures that meant it was the real deal, although surprisingly large. “I don’t actually have a crystal ball, and while this one needs recharging, it works with local essence, it will be interesting to use. This – she held up a rather plain mirror, nothing special but with a lovely antique surrounding – the mirror is just a plain mirror, I want it for the frame, I can mount a proper working mirror in it later.”

Ceri rubbed her hands in anticipation as the two stashed their purchases carefully in their backpacks. “Now for the important stuff – clothes shopping!” Words that were greeted with an enthusiastic look from everyone except Morgana, as Tabitha took the lead.

“Now do you have anything already you want to work with?”

Thulia nodded to her as she held up the phone. “I got this at Whateley, I thought it might work?”

On the screen was a picture of her in a rather hot outfit, a backless bustier-type top that displayed her toned midriff, and a reasonably short – and slit – skirt, both in black leather.”

Tabitha examined the picture closely. “Yes, this should work. Hot, but not too sexy for this sort of event.” She gave it a critical look. “You need boots to set it off. What about jewellery?”

Thulia looked thoughtful. “The jewellery I have is magical as well as attractive, but I can always use some more. And Morgana is very deficient in that area.”

“OK, so next stop, boots, shoes, clothes for a fun night out, and accessories! I know some shops. You have to see the goods to believe they’re real.”

WA Break Small_Solid

A few hours later they had exhausted the possibilities of a number of stores. Ceri had added an outfit for herself which she said would give her more options, and had acquired a large ornate fastener so she could use her new scarf/whatever as a wraparound skirt to show off its variable colours. Tabitha had spent a lot of time considering various patterns and colours of headwraps, as well as a rather nice leather skirt and jacket in medium-weight oil-tanned leather which she explained would be necessary for the cold weather at Whateley. Morgana wasn’t quite convinced of the logic, but it did look good on her.

Morgana’s outfit had been more controversial, she didn’t want to just copy Thulia, so after a lot of consultation (read: arguing), she had been persuaded into a skin-tight pair of pants, in some sort of part-spandex material (she thought, that part of the discussion had been mainly between Ceri and Tabitha), laced up the sides to leave part of her legs exposed, and a matching halter-type top, both in black, which she was told worked with her hair. She wasn’t quite sure how she was supposed to get in and out of it without help, or at least magic, but the ‘oohs’ from the other girls made her accept it. That same store had provided boots, gloves, and purses for the girls as well.

There had also been discussions between the other three girls about a hot clubbing outfit, which Ceri and Tabitha had agreed they’d need at some point for a real club. Given that Morgana had no real idea of what was currently in keeping with the clubbing scene, and Thulia seemed happy, with what was probably worrying naivety, to go with what the two ‘experts’ suggested. The two dragongirls had ended up with similar outfits that Morgana thought didn’t really use an overabundance of material. While the tops were at least held in place by some straps (needed, she felt, because without them they’d just have fallen off), the skirts were short enough that she wasn’t quite sure if ‘skirt’ or ‘sash’ would be a more accurate description. Maybe ‘belt’...Still, Thulia looked really hot in hers, and as long as she remembered to wear panties she’d probably be OK. As long as they kept her off the streets, that is. She’d been pressed into a similar outfit, on the grounds that similar outfits would show they were together, a matching couple. She’d given Tabitha a sharp look at that, but years of working at a hotel had given the girl a poker face to be envied. She’d been the one to remind them that they’d need appropriate makeup to go with their new outfits, and Morgana was starting to worry that Tabitha and her sister seemed to be getting along far too well, in the arena of shopping. And she’d been innocent enough to think that just Laura on her own had been bad enough.

Of course, the appropriate sort of bling had required searching through yet another series of stores. It had been explained to Thulia that they wanted something that didn’t look cheap and tacky, but not expensive enough to make them a target. Thulia had nodded thoughtfully and bought a number of bracelets and rings that would cover leaving off some of her magical jewellery. Morgana had just gone along with Thulia's choices and got similar ones for herself.

The only pieces they actually spent serious money on were a couple of dragon earwraps, one for each girl. They curled around the ear, looking like a tiny dragon was actually perched there. While the silver ones weren’t expensive, Morgana had paid for two in gold, because the gold one had looked so much better on Thulia, a right ear one for herself and a left ear one for Thulia. A bit of checking out of sight while they shook their heads showed they still held firmly even after their change, which was cool. She’d also bought one of the silver ones for Tabitha as a ‘thank you for helping’ present’, the silver standing out well against the girl's dark skin. The only thing they hadn’t covered was ornamentation for their horns, which Thulia had told them was a common thing at home, especially for formal events, but going dragon to check, in a crowded London store over the holidays, didn’t seem a good idea.

“Nah. Next thing you know, the fish-and-chip wrappers will be covered in nonsense about some alien invasion.”

WA Break Small_Solid

They’d decided to go back to the hotel with Tabitha so they could drop her off and then get an Uber to the station, with full backpacks and some clothing boxes as well. Tabitha had offered coffee and a snack on the grounds a later train would be less crowded with shoppers, and the other three had gratefully accepted.

The hotel itself was studiously nondescript, for a Regency townhouse within walking distance of The Regent’s Park and the Marylebone Railway Station. Inside, it was as warm and cosy as the outdoors weren’t. Ceri suspected the restaurant that Tabitha was raiding for snacks was one of those where one hands over a credit card and doesn’t ask what the damages were.

WA Break Small_Solid

December 31st, Morgana’s home, New Year's Eve.

 

“So how are we getting there? I don’t fancy fighting through the crowd in London this evening, they looked bad enough on television.”

Ceri waved the nonchalant hand of a London resident familiar with the pedestrian chaos that was London. “Not this evening. We’ll get an earlier train, then an Uber to my flat. Traffic won’t be so bad earlier in the evening. We can change there, and then get another Uber to the party, it’s not that far from where I live, and we’ll pick up Jim at the flat. The invitation said to come for 9 pm, so we’ll have plenty of time. After, we stay at my place for the night. I have a futon for you two to use, I assume you don’t mind sharing it?”

I saw the knowing glint in her eye and just nodded. Thulia seemed rather happier at the idea of sleeping with me on the floor, but I wouldn’t comment on that in front of my big sister, she really didn’t need any encouragement. I was wondering who she'd bet with about Thulia and me getting close and personal...

She continued “That way we just have to carry a suitcase of clothes, easy enough, and we don’t have to worry about our costumes in the crowds. Any questions?”

We shook our heads, she’d obviously planned this all out in advance, in rather worrying detail.

WA Break Small_Solid

December 31st, 9 pm, Cari’s flat, New Year's Eve.

 

Jim, Ceri’s boyfriend, had arrived shortly after us. An average-looking guy, he was friendly but not that talkative. He actually worked for AEGIS as an engineer, so I suppose he was used to weird people like us. He was also the only one of us who wasn’t a mutant, though that didn’t seem to worry him at all.

Changing was easy enough, the longest part was waiting while Ceri insisted on helping us with our makeup. Which was probably worth it, judging by the ‘wow’ and the thumbs-up the three of us got from Jim when we showed him the results. Ceri clapped her hands for attention and then played with her phone.

“OK, I booked a cab for us, should be here soon. It will take us to the AEGIS building for the party, so make sure you have all your stuff it’ll be an issue if you forget anything you need.

I looked up at the AEGIS building, lit up for the occasion with coloured spotlights. I had to admit that it did look impressive. There was a surprising number of people gathered by the security barrier, and I wondered if they were all cape-watchers or just waiting till midnight and the fireworks display. At least there didn’t seem to be any demonstrations or nasty signs, just a fairly happy mob of people.

“So how do we get in? I was unconscious last time remember?”

My big sister just ignored my sarcastic complaints as she tapped the driver on the shoulder. “Just go to that reception point, we’ll get out there and show our ID.”

I pulled my cloak around me as we got out and waited patiently to get through the security gate and the men in dark suits. While it wasn’t as cold as New Hampshire, it was a chilled and damp December night in London and I appreciated the fur lining. Also, the way they hid what Thulia and I were wearing – I know she wouldn’t mind, but seeing pictures of myself in clubbing gear in the papers tomorrow wasn’t on my to-do list. Even so, we could see the flash of cameras when we went in. We were processed through with an appreciated speed and then had to wait for a lift. Some things never changed. There were a reasonable number of people milling around in the foyers, including a few in costumes that I recognised from the tabloids, but most seemed to be heading up to the 13th floor. I did wonder if anyone had decided to fly there, but given the sort of security this place would have for a big event, that seemed a rather risky way of saving a few minutes. An anti-aircraft gun can ruin your whole evening.

We stepped out of the lift to a hum of conversation in what looked like a reception hall. I didn’t know what they usually did with this space, but I guess it had been repurposed. So we handed off our coats and cloaks to a receptionist by the lift and tried to mingle while staying sort of together. I knew that logically we were as safe or safer here than anywhere in London, given the amount of security and capes, but the idea of mingling and chatting with strangers was a bit daunting. Thulia seemed a bit shy at the idea too, before Ceri gathered us and dragged us over to meet some people.

WA Break Small_Solid

It was the sort of gathering that neither Morgana nor Thulia was quite happy with; neither of them was too ready to meet a big group of strangers - but Ceri dragged the pair over to a group anyway. Sometimes there was something inevitable about my big sister.

“Morgana, Thulia, I’d like you to meet someone. Arthur, this is Morgana.”

I didn’t recognise the man I’d just been introduced to. He was tall and well built – an exemplar? – with a small, neat beard. He smiled and held out his hand. “You’re looking better than the last time I saw you.”

The tall blonde woman next to him, showing signs of pregnancy, elbowed him. “Arthur, don’t tease the poor girl. I’m Gloria, and this joker is Arthur Smith, who goes by Pendragon.”

Her words sort of implied they were married or in a relationship, but I didn’t ask, I was trying to be polite. However, my eyes widened when I heard his codename.

“Pendragon!” I gave him a big smile. “I owe you so much for rescuing me!”

He grinned and waved a hand depreciatingly. “It’s OK, rescuing beautiful damsels in distress is my job.” At least this time he prudently moved away from Gloria to be out of elbow range. “Serious, we were happy to make the rescue, and I’m happy you’re looking so well now. He looked over at my companions, where Thulia was looking a bit confused, so I introduced them.

“Pendragon, this is Thulia Firedrake, my...companion.” No, I wasn’t going to try and detail the ins and outs of her being my dragon leman. Not here. Despite Ceri's barely concealed snicker.”Pendragon and his squad were the ones to rescue me from the island.”

Thulia bowed slightly. “For that you have my thanks.”

Arthur grinned and motioned to the other person with them, a short lightly built man who looked rather like an accountant. “And this is Trevor.”

Trevor grinned and offered his hand. “And before my friend tries to make you play twenty questions again, yes, we’ve also met before. I’m Warspite.”

I must have looked a bit bemused. This was the guy behind the most feared battle suit in Europe? He must have recognised my look because he just grinned wider. “Yes, I get that reaction a lot.”

Despite my apprehension at meeting part of one of the top super squads in AEGIS, they were good at putting me at ease. Nice people, and I could see why Pendragon was their lead.

WA Break Small_Solid

Pendragon and his friends had gone off to circulate, so Thulia and I decided to try out the long bar along one wall. They wouldn’t serve us any real drinks, but they had an interesting and varied selection of juices, which Thulia and I were busy working through the more exotic or interesting-sounding ones to go with the plates of munchies we’d obtained.

“Ah, girls, there’s someone who’d like to meet you.”

It was one of the men circulating around the room - I wasn’t sure if they were guards or just looking after things, but they did have those earpieces you see on agents on TV - and I wondered just who he was talking about.

A group of three men stepped up to us, the older man in front obviously in charge. But he didn’t speak first, instead he was introduced by one of his sidekicks.

“Ladies, I have the honour of introducing Lord Panavictorix, Draconic Ambassador to the Court of Kings James.”

OK, I could guess he was pretty important, as Thulia bowed low – lower than I’d ever seen her do – and made a formal gesture. I knew her well enough to see from her face that she hadn’t been expecting this!

“Lord, it is an honour to meet you.”

Panavictorix smiled broadly. “Please, Lady Thuliafaraxorics, no need to be so formal, this is a casual occasion.” He smiled at us.” It's a pleasure to meet you and your companion, I’ve been told about you.”

Oh, like that wasn’t sending my worrying into overdrive. This guy was obviously important, so just what had he been told about us?”

Thulia was still looking a bit stunned at meeting the ambassador, but I guess one of the tricks of being an old and established diplomat is to put people at ease.

“Please, I have just heard about the experiment you are helping us with. A good thing, I was in favour of it. So I thought I would wander over and say hello.”

For a dragon, he really did have a charming smile. I was still a bit suspicious, but he explained that he actually liked attending these sorts of informal functions, he got so bored with all the diplomatic rigmarole he usually had to suffer. And there was a definite glint in his eye as he saw what we were wearing.

After his small talk, he excused himself explaining that even at a party like this he did have to circulate and meet people, but as he left one of his flunkies gave us each a rather flashy card. “Just in case you need our services in the future.”

Pity I hadn’t had that before Xmas. I did look at Thulia, who was still looking a bit boggled by the meeting. “Love, what have we done that makes people like an ambassador interested in us?”

She shrugged comprehensively. “I have NO idea. And that itself worries me.”

WA Break Small_Solid

It was getting close to midnight as Jim and Ceri collected us to lead us up to the roof terrace. It did have a great view over London, and the devisor space heater thoughtfully provided meant it wasn’t as cold as I’d feared. People were just chatting in small groups as they waited for midnight, and we even got offered a small glass of champagne to toast the New Year in, despite our age. OK, one glass of fizz wasn’t likely to do much to a normal human, let alone a dragon, and it was a special occasion.

We could clearly hear Big Ben chime as the crown loudly counted down. 5..4..3..2..1..Happy New Year! There was a loud cheer as people toasted each other as well as the coming of 2017. What I’d brought Thulia for in particular was the fireworks display. The explosions and effects were spectacular and noisy – I’d only ever seen them on TV, and they were much better in person. Thulia was mesmerised, and I slipped my arm around her to hold her close as we watched the extravaganza. She smiled as the wind wafted some of the smoke over the river to us. “Nice. The smell reminds me of home.”

WA Break Small_Solid

2 am came, and the party was finally breaking up as all but a few people finished dancing to bid their friends goodbye and slipped away.

“So, Ceri, how do we get to your place?”

She grinned. “We walk, it's only about a mile and you have about as much chance of getting a cab at this time as hiring a unicorn.”

I looked a little surprised. “Will it be safe? I mean, all those crowds and all. I’ve heard it's a bit of paradise for criminals taking advantage of the crowds of drunks.”

My big sister gave me a very old-fashioned look. “Don’t be silly. I have a Taser, Jim has a Taser. And we have two dragons to look after us! Me, I’d be worried for the muggers...”

I guess she did have a point, so we got our coats and cloaks to head off out.

Ceri showed us to the spare room. “Here, I’m sure you won't mind cuddling up to keep warm. See you in the morning.”

Sometimes my big sister, nice as she was, was as subtle as a brick around the head. Still, neither Thulia nor I was actually objecting to the arrangements.

WA Break Small_Solid

January 1st 2017, Ceri’s Flat 3 am, London

 

“Do you like it?” Thulia’s voice sounded a bit hesitant.

Morgana had turned her back as Thulia got ready for bed, it seemed polite, and she’d got used to the habit with Bianca. Then she turned around fully and saw what Thulia was almost wearing. The sheer, semi-transparent negligee didn’t quite show off everything, but it certainly highlighted it in a most interesting manner.

Morgana managed with some restraint not to let her mouth fall open. “Wow. Just...wow!”

Thulia preened more than a little as she posed to show it off. “Laura suggested I buy it when we were shopping and you were looking at jewellery. She said you’d like to see me in it, and I should keep it just for you.”

Morgana made a mental note to get Laura a nice box of chocolates when she got back to Whateley.

“You look absolutely amazing. And me just wearing an old t-shirt, I feel grossly inadequate.”

Thulia pulled Morgana close, holding her as she eased them both down onto the futon.

“I think this is the first time I’ve got you on my own like this, Morgana. At least in this position.”

Morgana blushed slightly. “I know. Do you realise how long I’ve waited for us to be together like this?”

Thulia silenced her nascent conversation with a long, intimate kiss.”

“No longer than me, darling.” She smiled at Morgana as she deliberately breathed in, the movement having an amazing effect on her negligee as it pressed against her. “Like what you see?”

Morgana just nodded, as she reached out tentatively to stroke Thulia’s thigh, an action which resulted in a contented purr of approval. Then she slipped off her t-shirt and tossed it down. “Somehow this just seems more right. “

Thulia nodded as she stroked her fingers across Morgana’s cheek in a feather-soft caress. “After all this time, we’ve finally got time alone to ourselves. Morgana nodded, smiling as she gently felt Thulia’s shoulders. “you feel so tense, love.”

Thulia nodded. “All those people this evening, and the crowds after. I’m still not quite used to them. Being with friends helped, but...She gave Morgana a quick kiss on the cheek and winked. “and for some other reasons, of course.”Morgana gently turned her around as she started to massage Thulia’s shoulders, feeling the tense muscles loosen. The dragongirl almost purred at the feeling, and let one foot slide up and down her partner's leg. Morgana shivered slightly - that wasn’t distracting at all, was it? So she started to kiss her ears and neck as she carried on with her massage, light brushes with her lips that caused Thulia to breathe a bit faster.”Don’t stop, it feels wonderful.”

Morgana smiled, still kissing her leman softly as she cupped her firm bottom and gave it a squeeze. Thulia gave a small happy squeak and wriggled. Morgana finally eased the straps of her negligee off her shoulders, kisses moving around to the nape of her neck, and then lower, actions which produced a happy moan and heavier breathing.

“If you keep kissing me like this I’m going to lose all restraint.”

I grinned and flicked my tongue across one of her hard nipples. “And this is a problem how, exactly?”

Thulia slid her hands up and down my thighs, her hands surprisingly soft and gentle. “It’s not. At last, it’s not.”

Then she took my head in her hands and moved it. “That feels lovely, but do it again here.”

WA Break Small_Solid

We lay there under the futon, naked and rather tangled up with each other. Morgana could see the happy smile on Thulia’s face and wondered if she had one as well.

Thulia gave me a look and murmured.“So, finally.”

Morgana grinned and teasingly kissed her love's nose, to be rewarded by a small squeak. “Finally.” I’m just sorry it took us so long.”

Thulia almost – but thankfully didn’t quite – giggle. “It's not like things haven’t been busy, and they keep such a close eye on us at Whateley.”

Morgana pulled her a bit closer. “It was well worth the wait, I love you, Thulia.”

She smiled and kissed Morgana gently, her lips tasting of cinnamon. “I know. I love you too.” She snuggled up closer. “You don’t think we made too much noise? I wouldn’t want your sister to be disturbed.”

Morgana just grinned. “Know what she said before she went to bed?”

Thulia shook her head.

“Enjoy the futon, and don’t get her pregnant.”

Thulia gave a small half-smothered laugh. “We’re both girls, how could one of us get pregnant?”

I wiggled my eyebrows at her. “True.”

WA Break Small_Solid

January 3rd 2017, AEGIS headquarters, 11 am, London.

 

“Ceri, didn’t they give any more details about why they want to see us?”

Her sister shrugged. “They didn’t tell me either, just that it was nothing bad and not to worry about it.”

Morgana and Thulia exchanged worried glances anyway.

One of the helper minions hanging around the foyer led them to a pretty unremarkable office on the 3rd floor. Unremarkable except for containing Ceri’s boss, a senior AEGIS official and the lawyer they’d last seen bullying the MCO. At least they all smiled when the girls appeared, which they took as a positive as the girls accepted chairs on the other side of the meeting table.

“Please be seated, ladies, we have a few things to discuss about your little adventure with the MCO after Xmas.”

Morgana winced visibly and pressed closer to Thulia. Ceri just scowled “I don’t think adventure is the word I’d use. Maybe kidnapping, abduction, torture, those sorts of words.”

“Well, true. We’ve been thinking of some ways to give you more protection against something like that in the future.” He looked down at his pad.”Now ideally, we’d make you a member of AEGIS, but we can’t do that, you’re too young.”

He gave Ceri a look. “How much has your sister told you about the way we are organised?”

Ceri shrugged. “Not that much, Morgana isn’t 18 yet, so I didn’t think it was that important.”

He nodded. “Let me explain, then. You can’t join AEGIS full-time until you are 18 for legal reasons. We do have a number of branches of our organisation, despite what the tabloids say it’s not all about running around in a spandex supersuit. Your sister, for example, is looking at joining our Research and Support section once she graduates. We also do things like Civil Rescue, aiding the emergency services, and some people are consultants with us on various matters. We aren’t going to try and pressure you into any of them yet, but you might like to talk with us again once you’re finished at Whateley. There are all sorts of niches to fill, and one of them may suit you. If not, we won’t press you.”

He paused to take a sip of water.

“Now, we have a junior division, for people between 16 and 18. A lot of them are doing early training – part-time - for a later job with us, although we can’t take them into any situation that might involve combat – again, legal reasons. It also gives them a good idea of it they fit with us later on. I’ll send you full details on that so you can see if you’re interested, but as you’re attending Whateley it would be a bit more difficult. You might want to spend a week or two with us during your holidays to see how things work around here.”

“Now still being under 16 is a bit more tricky. We can’t recruit you directly, but we do have a procedure for people like you who might need our assistance. It's basically a training role, and there would be some minimal reading we’d ask you to do, but it doesn’t involve you actually working for us. It’s really just a way of allowing us to give you an MMID tied to us, and that should ward off the MCO. How does that sound?”

I looked at Thulia, who shrugged. “It’s not like I haven’t got my own backup, but an MMID would help for you, Morgana.”

I looked at him. “OK, as long as you send me all the stuff to look at first before I sign anything I’ll look it over.”

He smiled. “Of course, and have your sister and your uncle look at it too, we aren’t trying any tricks. While it was the MCO rather than us, we do feel unhappy at the way you were treated.”

Ceri stirred. “OK, I understand all that. And an MMID would be useful. But why is a lawyer here?”

That caused both the AEGIS men to grin broadly. “For Morgana’s benefit, actually. The MCO really put both feet into it when they grabbed her, and they’ve been trying to dig themselves out ever since.”

The lawyer stirred. “You have a good case for suing them, but there is a problem. It will take a long time, a lot of your time, and any award may get eaten by the lawyer's fees. Someone like the MCO could spend a lot of time dragging it through the courts if they cared to spend the money. However, I’ve suggested a much simpler solution. Basically, they will pay you off to ‘forget’ about it.”

I thought about that. Getting revenge in court would be nice, but as he said would take ages and make me even more of an MCO target, embarrassing them in public likely wouldn’t go down well.

“How much of a payoff?”

The lawyer gave me a grin rather reminiscent of a shark. “£500,000. Tax-free.”

Wow, that was a lot of money! I must have looked a bit stunned at that.

He gave me a considering look. “I could have squeezed more out of them, but at some point that would just get you in their sights. This way it’s inside their discretionary budget, so fewer repercussions. My personal recommendation would be to take the money and run.”

I looked at Ceri, who nodded.

“OK, I suppose I have to sign yet more paperwork?” Well, at least it would be an unexpected Xmas present. Maybe I should talk seriously to Thulia about Swiss Bank Accounts?

WA Break Small_Solid

Read 1808 times Last modified on Thursday, 23 May 2024 13:25
Astrodragon

Incredibly cute coffee-loving dragon. What else needs to be said? 

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wyrm
3 weeks ago
Minor error - The Ambassador is to the Court of St. James. (Saint James's Palace, as the oldest royal palace, is the official location of the King's court, despite the King not living there)
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