Scene 4 – December 18th
Interior Mansion, Late Evening
“How were your finals?” I asked Viv as she sprawled onto the couch, someone not spilling the coffee she was gripping tightly. I had barely seen my twin over the last week, busy with my own finals.
“A nightmare,” she groaned. “The tests themselves wouldn’t have been all that bad, except that mother,” she inclined her head towards Morgan’s wing of the mansion, “didn’t let up on the magic training.”
I winced. “Ouch. I barely had free time and I didn’t have magic tutoring. When did you find time to sleep?”
“I didn’t,” she muttered darkly, then drained half of the coffee in one long draft. “On the plus side, I learned to do this.” She spoke a phrase which my mind completely failed to comprehend or register, and as my hearing returned I saw the coffee refilling itself. Viv sighed happily and took a slower sip of it. “Object manipulation isn’t all bad, however difficult it is.”
“Why was Morgan being so hard on you?” I asked. “I mean, she knows that we didn’t have much time this last week…”
“Because my information says Copperfield will be making his move soon,” the woman in question said, striding into the room. “He is, apparently, more cautious than I thought – or perhaps less willing to believe any information that he didn’t figure out himself -” Morgan made a face, obviously disgusted with someone being so irrationally narcissistic – “but he’s been scouting out the Higgins Museum. From what I can see through my scrying, I believe he’ll be making the theft tomorrow morning, early.”
Percy paused the video game he had been playing while we waited for the rest of the family to arrive and glanced up at her. “A whole month though to get from receiving the information to using it, though? Really?”
She nodded, then shook her head. “Only two weeks, really – I spent a week forging a stealth cloak with the Kovals for Viv to use in our own operation,” Morgan nodded to my twin, “but it took nearly a week to make the arrangements for that with them. You know how reclusive they are.”
“Mages get like that, I hear,” Mom said, entering behind Morgan and propping her head up on the woman’s shoulder. She pressed a brief kiss to her cheek, and a smile spread across Morgan’s face despite the grim context.
It was true, at least to my knowledge – the Kovals, a couple that Dad had been good friends with back in the day, had become more and more reclusive as their magical research became more and more esoteric. I didn’t think I had actually seen either of them in over a decade – I hadn’t seen their kid, either, who had been a good friend of mine and Viv’s when we were kids. Morgan, too, would sometimes not emerge from her wing for weeks at a time, but Mom and Dad had always dragged her out before she could get too deep into any particular project and forget about the outside world completely. The Kovals, on the other hand, were both mages – it wasn’t surprising that they got wrapped up so completely in their research.
“I’m surprised it only took a week to get through to them,” I commented, then turned back to Viv. “You would never get as bad as the Kovals, would you sis?”
“Only if it was a project based around coffee,” she joked, then refilled her cup again. “But no, I don’t think you’d ever let me get like that.”
“Why didn’t you just make the cloak yourself?” Percy asked Morgan. “You’re a great artificer without them, you don’t need their help.
“It would have taken at least three times longer and not been as high quality,” she told him. “Enchanting items on your own is slow – the more mages you have the faster it goes, even for me. And the Kovals are the best at any sort of illusions, stealth, or trickery in the world – that’s why we asked them to protect our home.
“I guess that makes sense.”
Viv yawned. “So Magnificent Max is going to do his thing tomorrow, right? And we’re using that as a distraction?”
“Yeah, can we go over the plan?” I asked.
“We would,” Morgan said, “if Tristan were around. Where is he?”
“I think he was calling his girlfriend,” Percy said.
“Ooh” Viv and I said in unison. “He’s got a girlfriend?” she continued.
“First I’m heard of this,” I commented.
“And me,” Mom agreed. “What’s this about a girlfriend?”
Percy shrugged. “Maybe not a girlfriend, but a girl he likes. Some redhead from his school who travels a lot – she’s coming back to town tomorrow and he’s been really excited about it.”
Mom shrugged. “Not something to get too excited about, then. Let me know if he actually asks her out so I can embarrass him, though.”
“Will do,” he said, giving her a thumbs up.
At that moment Tristan zoomed into the room, moving so fast he was nothing more than a green-glowing blur. He skidded to a stop, exiting the magically-fast ran, but not fast enough – he nearly collided with the wall, and was only caught by a word from Viv which levitated him into the air by the armor strapped to his legs.
“Tristan,” Morgan said to him disapprovingly. “You know you’re not supposed to wear your father’s armor without cause.”
He flipped her off, and she rolled her eyes. “Superspeed is way too useful not to use it,” he pointed out. “Besides, it took almost two decades for the magic to mess with dad, and even then it only came up because… well… and I’m only wearing one piece of the set anyway!”
Viv spoke another one of those incomprehensible words, and our little brother flipped upside down in the air, now dangling nearly out of the greaves. “You know that Alzheimer’s runs in families, right Tristan?” she said. “We’re all at risk. And the fact that the effects of the armor didn’t become apparent until he needed magical healing means that we have no idea how long it took for it to affect dad. Mother is right – we don’t wear the armor unless we have to.”
He sighed. “Fine, I get it. Can you put me down though? I’m getting a headache.”
“You deserve it,” she said. “Little brat.” But the next word she spoke did lower him gently to the ground, rather than dropping him unceremoniously.
When he landed, Tristan began to unbuckle the magical armor from his legs. As each piece was removed, they stopped emitting the faint green mist that showed they were in use and went inert instead.
“We let you each hold onto your piece of Art’s armor so you could practice, not so you could use it frivolously,” Mom told him.
He rolled his eyes. “Viv just gave me the chewing out, I don’t need it from you and mother too.”
“None of the rest of you have been using your pieces without supervision, right kids?” Mom asked, glancing around the room. We all shook our heads. “See?”
Tristan crossed his arms and pouted.
“Can we please get to the briefing?” I asked.
“Yes, of course,” Morgan said.
Scene 5 – December 18th
Interior Mansion, Continuous
Morgan tapped the TV – one of the many enchanted items that she had created for the family – and quietly murmured the phrase that activated it, allowing her to project sounds and images to it directly from her mind. It popped on and began displaying a split screen image of the MLED Compound on one side and the Higgins Museum on the other.
“Tomorrow morning,” she began, “Canaveral will be on duty, with Zookeeper on call in the Compound. We know that Starling does not generally take overtime, but Vulcan is known to do so on occasion, and Anima does so regularly – as such, we should assume that Canaveral, Zookeeper, Vulcan, and Anima are all potentially in play.” As she spoke each name, their logos appeared on the screen over the MLED Compound. “Also potentially appearing are any of the Journeymen – Loki, Journey, Hypnos, Sequoia, and Newton – with the exception of Referee, who is still out of town.”
“And thank god for that,” I muttered, Viv nodding in agreement.
“My scrying has told me that only Hypnos is actually scheduled tomorrow,” Morgan continued, “but all of the Journeymen regularly spend time at the Compound outside of the time they work, so assume that they’re present.
“Fortunately…” A logo for the Magnificent Maxwell appeared on the side of the Higgins museum. “We’re going to have an unwitting patsy to draw off the heroes. Max is looking for an instructional book written by Merlin, but what he’ll actually find when he searches the museum will be a power-magnifying artifact that should induce him to provide a rather effective distraction.”
“What’s he going to find?” Viv asked. “All you’ve said is ‘power-magnifying artifact’, which could be just about anything.”
Morgan hesitated. “I’m… not completely certain,” she admitted. “Peregrine always played his cards close to the chest, when it came to powerful artifacts like this. I know that it can make just about anyone into a city-level threat, even Max. It should be enough to draw off the adult heroes.”
“Will it be enough to draw in Peregrine?” Percy asked. “If it’s one of the things he keeps an eye on…”
“Max picked a good time for it,” she said. “Peregrine won’t be available until the 23rd at the absolute earliest, probably not until the 24th or 25th. We’ll be done before the day is out.”
“Okay, so Max finds this thing and becomes enough of a threat to draw in the heroes to deal with him,” I summed. “While they’re busy dealing with him…”
Morgan nodded, and the logos of the adult heroes moved to the Higgins Museum side of the screen. “While they’re busy dealing with him, you all sneak Vivian into the Compound.” She smiled at Viv, who preened. “She’s the one who’ll be wearing the Kovals’ stealth cloak and will be taking the information from the servers – when and if you’re detected, the rest of you need to draw any attention away from her.”
“Shouldn’t the stealth cloak be enough on it’s own?” Percy asked. “The Kovals are the best mages for deception in the world, so…”
“We don’t know if Loki would be able to see through it,” Morgan said. “His power over light might be able to trump theirs, since he’s more specialized. Probably not, but it isn’t worth risking, so you’ll be ready to distract him if necessary.” We nodded. “Once Viv gets the info, you just need to escape and break contact with any pursuers long enough to get back under the Kovals’ wards, and then…” She sighed. “Well, I won’t know what then until we have the info. But I’ll be able to start working out the next step.”
“Are you sure I can’t convince you to join us?” Mom asked her. “It would be nice to have a full fledged mage along with us. No offense, honey,” she said to Viv.
“None taken,” Viv responded, flapping an arm dismissively. “I know I’m barely more than an apprentice – just enough to defend myself if I get caught along the way, and even that’s a maybe.”
“You don’t even get a superpower from your piece,” Tristan teased.
Viv frowned at him. “Intelligence is a superpower, Tristan. Just because you don’t have any yourself-”
“Kids, come on,” Mom said soothingly. “We all love each other, right?”
“…yeah,” Tristan muttered, and Viv nodded.
“She didn’t apologize for using magic on me earlier,” he protested.
“That was to stop you from slamming into the wall,” Viv defended herself.
“Viv is right,” Mom said sternly. “That was for your own good – this was just cruel sniping from both of you, and I won’t have that. Not among family. So apologize, alright?”
“…sorry,” they chorused.
“Still, it doesn’t seem as obviously useful as, say… earthbending,” Tristan said, gesturing at me, then at Percy. “Or superstrength. Or…” he grinned. “Superspeed.”
I raised my eyebrows at mom, who considered this and then shrugged, apparently deciding that it fell on the right side of teasing.
“It may not seem as useful, but it is,” Viv insisted. “It’s part of the set for a reason – the increased speed in thinking matches the superspeed, the enhanced focus and enhanced senses in general help guide the earthbending. Not to mention how much of a boost it’s been for learning and using magic.”
“Kids,” Morgan said, drawing our attention back to the TV. “Let’s keep going with the briefing, okay? Can we go over the floor plan, maybe?”
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