Interlude--Mandragora

From the Story Arc: The Fading Flame

Previous Story in the Arc: Turpibus exitium. --"Destruction for base men."-- Chapter 4 by Dr. Jacob Garvey (Saturday, March 31, 2007)

Next Story in the Arc: Interlude--Belladonna Aura by Belladonna Aura (Monday, April 02, 2007)

(posted Monday, April 02, 2007)

Just another day in Paragon City.

Detective McLord had asked Mandy to look into reports of a theft, some strange device that probably shouldn't have been invented in the first place. The rumor was that an Arbiter was interested in acquiring it; she wondered how this one – Maximillian by name – would explain his failure to Recluse.

Now, now, don't go getting overconfident. She glanced up warily at the storm clouds gathering overhead. They were a bit unusual, but this close to Portal Corp, very little was truly out of the ordinary.

Carefully, she stepped into the lab, cloaking herself in her magic. After a moment's worth of 'listening', she nodded and started to make her way through the nearly empty hallways. It was so much easier when the villains were all she had to worry about – and the only Music she heard here belonged to those who had allied themselves with Arachnos.

Where she could, she knocked out the various operatives as quietly as possible; there was no sense in alerting Maximillian that he was in for a rude surprise. There were a few moments of concern when she turned a corner and ran into the Fortunata Seer and the two Mu Strikers, but the Arachnos mystics soon had Zig tags attached with appropriate warnings for whoever received them.

She'd reached the third level of the lab when the Symphony shivered for a moment. A lone note, discordant and shrill, tore through the Music. Something bad was about to happen, something so traumatic that ripples of that event reached her before it had even taken place. Her awareness kicked into 'Dragon overdrive' as she worked to find the source of the discord before it became inevitable.

Oh gods no, no, not again!

Here. Here in Paragon, in Peregrine, less than a mile away in the direction of Portal Corp. At Portal Corp. No time, no time – could she somehow manage to get there? She pulled in all the magic she could, planning to ride the Portal energies back to the underground machines –

When Sera's Song stopped.

For a heartrending instant, she didn't understand what had happened. Then she reached for the threads that connected her with the Seraph… and not just them, but the Music belonging to Astra, Aedan, JJ and even Ratt… The Music was gone, the Symphony now missing five pieces that represented friends and family.

The next few moments were a storm of emotion: loss, anguish, rage and fear. Something snapped as she screamed.

NO!

Her next clear memory was of looking at Arbiter Maximillian, who cowered in front of her, fear permeating his very essence. The smell of destroyed machinery and blood, the sounds of whimpering Fortunatas, the feel of space grown too small for her bulk…

Clarity slowly returned as she looked at the claws at the end of her feet, one of them clenched around the throat of the Arbiter.

Claws.

Feet.

Bulk.

One of the Fortunata Seers still conscious in the room was muttering the same phrase over and over again: "Do not meddle in the affairs of Dragons, for you are crunchy and taste good with ketchup."

Mandy's awareness now extended along the length of her body, coiled in and around the various machines in this room, her wings held tightly to her body to protect them from snagging on the various bits of metal and plastic. She tilted her head down, the better to look at the Arbiter and the now-mangled device.

"D-d-d-don't kill me!"

"Today, you live." The Dragon voice echoed through the room as Mandragora wove the spell that would act in place of the Zig teleport patches. As the Arachnos operatives faded away, she struggled to shapeshift enough to get out of the lab. The humans outside would not give her two-legged form a second glance, but as she was now… It took her precious time, but at last she was able to leave the lab walking unsteadily on two legs.

Only to hear the sound of sirens and Longbow fliers from over at Portal Corp. She took to the air, despair already beating inside of her like a poisoned bird.

Not again. Oh gods no, I'm too late.