Dialogue 13

After what has been probably one of the most stressful nights in recent memory, Isaac is only too glad to slip away to the darkness of his room. Nevermind that the basement is haunted and leads to vampires; the important thing is that it’s quiet and it’s dark and there’s no one there.

“Well, Isaac. Much has happened today. What do you plan to do next?”

There’s a groan from beneath the pillows Isaac has over his head; reluctantly, he shifts enough to speak clearly from under them (nevermind the fact that he could, technically, send his response mentally—the savage headache rampaging around his braincase at the moment means that mental conversation is one of the few things he wants less than actual conversation at the moment). “Go comatose for about twenty hours until my brain is solid again.”

The shadow grumbles. “You are satisfied with how events played out today, then?”

“About as satisfied as I can get when my brain is trying to bleed out my ears. The old man’s safe. He’s coherent enough to put on his PR face, he doesn’t have extra tentacles or a hunger for human flesh, we’ve given Anansi another flesh wound, and there were no casualties. Aside from, you know, you and Chun and Desi getting knifed in the dignity,” he adds.

“A fact which none of us are amused by, save perhaps the last,” the shadow growls. “That miserable affair came to little enough, ultimately… though your Professor’s threats are another matter. Are you not concerned?”

There is no immediate comeback from Isaac; headache or no, he appears to be giving the matter some thought. “Somewhat. I don’t think that’s going to amount to anything, though.”

“You seem confident. You certainly seemed surprised earlier, though; what if she surprises you again? What will you do if she decides that she will not be distracted, next time? That she will not suffer me to taint this mortal coil with my presence any longer?” the shadow asks, a mocking edge to its voice.

Isaac is silent for a long moment. “Then I’ll come get you. One way or the other,” he says, his voice leaden at the prospect. “And anyone who objects to that gets to answer to me.” There is a long moment of silence, broken only when Isaac groans and flops into a more comfortable position. “I don’t think it’s going to come to that anyway, though. In case you didn’t notice, none of us were at our shining best, ‘cept maybe Desi. You were throwing nukes with zero shits given about friendly fire, Chun tried to straight up murder someone in about the coldest way I can think of, I went all in and turned Doctor von Bitchenstein’s brain into pudding—coincidentally, I am about ninety percent sure that is the source of my current misery, by the way, which probably means I deserve it—and you’ve already been over how our dear Professor went full ‘I Am The Law’ mode, at greater length than is probably deserved.” Isaac groans and rolls over, pulling the cool side of his pillow against his head. “The point I’m trying to make here is that we’re all usually a little more together than we were earlier. I think, anyway.” There is a pause as Isaac turns over the implications of this in his mind. “Dear God, I hope Desi didn’t round up samples of anything worse than the mushrooms. Again.”

The shadow is silent for another moment. “Hmph,” the shadow grumbles. It remains silent for a moment longer. “Very well, then; I will press that point no more. But what else is bothering you?”

Isaac grunts. “For one thing, the fact that the old man is being gracious; I mean, good God, he never even bothered to correct her about his name,” Isaac grumbles. After a moment, Isaac sighs and rolls over. “Fine,” he grumbles sleepily. “The stripper, whatshername… Rise, wasn’t it? And her backup squad, come to that. I just wonder…” he yawns. “I wonder if we did the right thing in letting them go?”

“What do you mean?” the shadow asks, sounding puzzled. “What else would we have done? Taken her hostage? That would have been… extraordinarily unwise, I think. Particularly given the point you made about tensions.”

“…mm. I guess you’re right. It’s just… that thing she’s got. That ‘Dance All Night’ groove, or whatever you want to call it. I… I think it’s similar to what I’ve got. I could feel it when she was using it. Pressure. If it is like mine… then she could still have it. She probably DOES still have it. It could be in any of them, come to that,” Isaac mumbles. For a long moment he doesn’t say anything else, his breathing growing steadily slower and deeper as he slips into sleep. Then, finally, he speaks again. “Could be in any of them… no way to tell. Doesn’t… doesn’t always show up… right away. It can bide…” Isaac trails off, the last coming out as near incomprehensible mumbles. He is silent for another minute or two. “Hell, what if it got into the old man,” he mumbles, in the last moments before sleep takes him.

Hawaii is a nice place to visit once in awhile. Sure, it’s got problems—inflation is nuts, there’s some incredibly shady business going on behind the tourist-friendly facade, and it can be a pretty small place in some respects—but it’s definitely got some nice beaches.

Like this one, for instance. It’s rare to get a beach to yourself, but his luck appears to be in today; he’s got miles of black sand and not another person in sight. It’s a beautiful day, too—the air is warm, the breeze is gentle, and the soft sound of the waves washing up on the shore makes the perfect background. He’s sitting in a comfy chair, shaded by a big beach umbrella; to his right, a small table has a fruity tropical drink, while to his left, an old fashioned radio plays relaxing music.

It is, all in all, about as close to a perfect day as you can get, given all the construction that’s going on over the horizon. Still, can’t have everything. He sips his drink; it’s not bad—some kind of mango-strawberry concoction, with a rich, full-bodied formaldehyde flavor and just the faintest hint of acetone. Not bad at all.

The radio finishes its last set—something slow and relaxing being played on a sawblade orchestra, it’s actually pretty good—and the DJ comes on. “Hey there, champ! Seems you’ve been busy—just wanted to let you know that I love what you’ve been doin’ out there. Look, some of the work on the control interface miiight have been a little rushed; I think you might have shaken a few things loose when you turned Lavender’s brains into plum pudding. I recommend you NOT open the Eye again for awhile… of course, if you just can’t help it, hey, them’s the ropes. But don’t sweat it either way; we’re doing renovation and restoration at this very moment, and you should be right as rain in a jiffy. For now, though, let’s hear the next hit on today’s smokin’ hot playlist, Nyarlathotep’s ’It’s in my Blood, Get it Out’!”

Jangling discord plays through the speaker, construction noises and faint screams audible in the background. He sips his concoction—it’s the red of old blood—and listens to the music, watching the lightnings chase themselves through the fractured sky as black shapes stir in the ocean depths.

Dialogue 13

Mana of Mayhem: Magic School Blues Dry