Estadio Olímpico Atahualpa
17 Sept 2006
“Quito, Land of the Incas,” said Matt out loud, in the security section of the stadium. This was the first time he’d been in the nation. He’d been in Brazil four or five times. Argentina once and Guyana once. He preferred Brazil to Guyana and maybe if he’d been in Argentina in the spring it would have been better. But Ecuador? “Nice Place!” he said.
“I have always liked Quito!” said Grant.
“So, keeping me on as your apprentice was a surprise,” he said as he sipped a bottle of soda. “Almost as much as this local pop. You’d think it was orange flavored by the name. But it’s blackberry.”
“So you’re wondering why I’m doing things different than Old Man Smith?”
Matt nodded as he chugged his soda. He belched delicately and threw the bottle in the trash receptacle. “Yeah, Smith taught part time and ran the Angels the rest. You...”
“I put Brown in as teacher because he’s better at it than me and I like being ‘out in the field’.” He smiled and put his arm around his young charge’s shoulder. “Besides, Matty Boy, I get to keep you out of trouble this way.”
Matt just looked at the floor and scratched the side of his neck. “Ah gee, thanks, Dad!”
“Okay, why don’t you go recheck the wards on Elder Hatch. He’s getting ready to come up and address the faithful. The service starts in about thirty minutes.”
Matt nodded, straightened out his suit coat. He missed his duster, but this was a Church service and he needed to wear the other uniform. He was not permitted the staff and his crystals were on the inside of the coat, not the outside like he was used to wearing them. He recharged his mana reservoirs and walked down the narrow hall toward what in the US would have been a Green Room.
There was a sudden whirring sound that didn’t sound like air conditioning or electronic equipment. Matt stopped and slid a hand sized crystal out of his pocket. He slid a finger across its surface. A small mana-window popped up. An arrow pointed directly ahead to the room he was approaching.
He crept towards the doorway. There in front, was a spy crystal, buzzing and floating about. Matt reached into his side coat pocket and pulled out a BB. It was just #2 buckshot, that he bought at Black Rifle Armory in Henderson, Nevada. He held it in the palm of his hand and triggered the small over-ride he’d learned at the Ikpeng camp last year. The BB leapt from his hand and shot straight for the crystal.
The crystal tried to zoom right and left, up and down. But Matt was expert at this so the crystal shattered in a cloud of scintillating dust.
He rushed the door, surprising the occupant.
“Oh, Agent Hambly, you surprised me.”
“It’s Hamblin, sir,” he said closing the door behind him. “But call me Matt --and you’re in danger.” Matt looked around the room. “Do you have that tie pin we gave you?”
Elder Hatch nodded. “Yes, Matt. It’s right here.” He held up a small ruby stickpin that went well with the silver stripes on his tie. “I was about to put it on.”
“Do.” Matt tried to open the door. “No! It’s stuck!” He jiggled the handle and twisted it as hard as he could, to no avail. Again he scanned the room, memorizing the layout.
He stepped to the window; it was modern and therefore sealed. He pushed his fingers onto the window pane, no movement.
“I am going to have to do some scans of the room. This may take a while, so you might want to just sit and review your notes or whatever.”
“How long do you think this will take?”
“If we’re lucky, just a moment or two.”
“And if we’re not?”
“Well, I really don’t think we should be dwelling on that. But it’s been nice serving with you.”
Elder Hatch inhaled sharply and sat down on the edge of the bed. “Could we die, Matt?”
“Not if I have anything to say about it, sir.” He held his major crystal before him and tapped its surface. Three things happened at once. All the visible light winked out. All mana began to stream into a small circle on the floor. And all mana-crystals dissolved into dust.
“Hmm,” said Matt in the pitch black darkness. “I’m going to have to revise my last statement. We will die if I cannot figure this one out.”
“Elder Hatch, are you still conscious?”
“Yes,” he called faintly.
“I suggest that you lay back and pray for two things: 1, that you stay calm and 2, that I can slip a mana spike past this knot.”
“What does that even mean?” he asked, panic tinging his voice.
“It doesn’t matter if you understand. Heavenly Father does. Try to breathe calmly. We’re trapped in here and using up the oxygen.”
Matt had no access to mana at all. Every time he tried to throw a spike to search for some it bounced against a powerful ward. He extended his mana sense feeling the ebb and flow of the warding. It wasn’t a sphere exactly. It was more of a sheet folded around them and knotted at the bottom. There were wrinkles and folds that had taken him nearly a quarter hour to explore. Every time he tried to penetrate the warding, it fed the field rather than let him pass.
“How are you doing Agent Hamilton?”
“Hamblin, sir. Just relax and let me work on it. I am making progress.” He suddenly had an idea. “The nice thing about a knot is that it’s not perfectly sealed. But, the passage is small and twisty. If I can follow my senses, --pray that I’m guided through-- then I can open a way out for us.”
Matt created a mana spike thinner than a human hair and laid it alongside the edge of the warded surface. He kept it small enough to be under the radar of the warding over-ride. Gently and slowly, he guided it down, down, and down until he came to the knot itself.
It was actually a simple overhand knot.
He had to narrow the diameter of the spike even further, but he was able to widen it like a very small ribbon which he wove through the folds of the knot, slowly and gently, through the undulating wrinkles until he was out past it. After another three minutes of searching, he found an exit beyond the trap as a whole. The creator was clever, but not thorough.
“We’re out, sir,” he whispered. He was able to get enough free mana to ping on the nearest portal and open a very small opening about two feet off the floor. It was only about 15" by 24". Light streamed through it and so did the smells of the outside. Considering how stuffy and warm it had gotten in the room, Matt was delighted with the smells of traffic.
“Elder Hatch,” he called. “I cannot move from this location; you’re going to have to make it over here on your own. Can you do that?”
The older, gentleman sounded like he was struggling to remain conscious much less move. But he rolled off the bed and physically dragged his corpulent body toward the door. The closer he got, the more strength he seemed to have. “The air is fresher over here, Matt,” he said. Both men knelt by the opening.
“This is as big as I can make this hole. Any bigger and it will collapse the trap, --and kill us.”
“I’m not sure I can make it out of that,” said Hatch.
“Not to be indelicate, sir,” said Matt. “But your choices are: squeeze yourself through the knothole or die. It’s not going to be comfortable and it will probably hurt your bad back. But that’s better than dying.”
“You go first, Matty.”
“I can’t, sir.” He frowned. “I have to hold the spike ’til the last second. If I go first, you’ll be stuck inside the trap, and attacking it from the outside will trigger it and kill you. If you stay inside, you’ll die from oxygen deprivation at the very least.” He shook his head again. “No, sir. You must go first.”
The older gentleman nodded grimly and patted Matt on the shoulder. He leaned forward and put his head out of the hole, then one arm at a time. His corpulence began rather quickly to hinder him. He sucked in his rather big belly and pulled from the outside. Soon he was half in and half out. His belt seemed to snag on the upper reach. He went no further, neither going in nor out.
Matt pushed the belt down under the opening and shoved his shoulder into the man’s generous rear end. Their combined effort pushed Hatch free. Matt went out feet first so he could pull the mana spike through the opening after him. Since he was so thin, this was not trouble at all.
However, in the effort, the spike surged. A loud whooshing blew powder all over the two men sitting on the sidewalk, in the middle of a group of Ecuadorians wondering what had happened and where these two had come from.
Before the cloud of powdered former-contents-of the-room had cleared, Matt pulled a ball of mana and repaired his charge’s clothing. The two walked across the street to the Stadium where Hatch delivered one of the best addresses in all of Church History on overcoming difficulties with the Lord’s help.
Grant wiped some of the dust off Matt’s suit coat. “You did very well, Hamblin,” he said, back in the hotel room they’d been using as a security station. “In fact, no one has ever gotten out of a Collapsing Trap before. It has caught its setters almost as often as it’s prey.”
“Oh, I just did what any competent mage would have done,” he said. “I kept my spike smaller than the trap’s threshold and kept at it.”
“No, Matty. No one has ever done what you did. It’s a good thing it’s not used very often.”
“Speaking of which,” he raised his eyebrows and grinned. “I scooped up a handful of these when we went back.” He held up a few crystal shards. “I shot this out of the air just prior to going in to check on Elder Hatch.” He laid a few of the squarish shards down on the table and sat in front of them. “I was thinking we could follow the mana tails to the perp.”
With a few tugged mana bits and a counting of lunar nodes, Matt pulled up an image of himself shooting the spy crystal.
“That was a pretty good shot.”
“Thanks, Smith taught me that.”
“He told me that you learned that all on your own. That one of your squad mates described the override and then you went and beat the pants off the rest of the squad.”
“When you put it that way... ”
“And he said you did that time after time.”
“Oh, look,” said Matt. “I got a picture of the perp!”
“You’re changing the subject.”
“I am,” he smiled. “Look, he seems familiar.”
“Cross-checking with local mages.” Grant pulled up an index and spun through the files. One popped up. The face from each image slid toward the other and overlapped. They were identical. “Jesus Mendoza de Veracocha y Leon --called ‘Chuy’.”
Matt zoomed in on the picture and soon a life-sized image of Chuy filled the space in front of them. He was about 5′5", had short, black spiky hair and a prominant Inca nose.
“He was baptized into the Church in 2001 but was disfellowshipped in 2003 for ‘conduct unbecoming of a Latter-day Saint’.” Grant checked deeper, opening sealed records that showed “He had joined a rabidly anti-US gang and disrupted the US ambassador’s schedule. Then in February of this year, he was excommunicated for bombing American commercial interests and killing three Ecuadorians.”
“He’s home right now. Watching telenovelas --or porn, not sure which.”
“About a mile and a half east of here. On a street named Eduardo Salazar. The closest portal is less than a block from there at the intersection with Juan de Dios.”
“Copy that to your notes,” he gestured at all the images in the air. “And the best route to him.”
Matt tapped and slid a few times and then stood. He grabbed his duster and his staff. “Waiting for you, Grant!” he said slyly as he tapped his staff and recharged his crystals.
Grant just chuckled and opened the portal.
They stepped through to a sunny street corner. It was cool and there were lots of flowering plants. It looked and felt a lot like San Francisco in California, especially in a Spanish-speaking Barrio.
La Calle Eduardo Salazar rose on an incline then curved to the left. The address they were looking for was behind a cleanly painted gate to a garden area before a modest apartment building. They entered the common area and walked up to the door.
“The door is warded, cheaply,” said Matt. “He’s still in there watching his porn.” He put his hand-sized crystal back in his pocket and took out some buckshot from the pouch in his duster.
Grant finessed the wards and the physical lock with a purplish crystal Matt had never seen before. Then he slowly and quietly stepped inside.
Matt followed, rolling the buckshot in the palm of his hand.
Grant gestured to enter the doorway and head to the right as he entered to the left. It was a living room of sorts and there was Chuy aiming his hand at them. There was a flash of mana which Grant flicked to the side.
Matt slammed his staff and fired off his weapons as a second flash was flicked to the side by Grant. Each of the BBs found its target: four BBs, four limbs. Chuy went down, motionless, in a red cloud.
Grant and Matt looked at each other and then to the couch behind which Chuy had fallen. No noise, no motion. They crept up and peered over. Chuy was splayed out in a lake of his own blood.
“Four at once, Matty? I don’t think I could control more than two! And where did you come up with the idea for buckshot?”
“Oh, I don’t know. It’s easier to carry in your pocket.” He looked down at the perp. “I think he’s bleeding out.”
“It looks like you hit four major arteries.”
“That’s what I aimed for.” Matt leaned forward, tapped Chuy’s chest and said, ”Muti suthi a’deed!”
Chuy suddenly resembled one of those balloon men used as advertisements of a new store. He rose up as a cylindrical balloon filling up with air but flapping to the sides as the air escaped the huge hole at the end. He filled up two or three times and then as he deflated, he changed back to a man.
He opened his eyes and mouth as if to yell the key phrase for some override.
Grant quickly slapped his hand over Chuy’s face and said ”I’keed!” Chuy fell, face first, hitting his forehead on the corner of the coffee table, then bounced to the floor, unconscious.
“I’m not going to heal that one,” said Matt, looking at the gaping wound.
“Why don’t you use a Tattooer’s Override.”
“What are you talking about? Tattoos are gross.”
“I got this from Keith Johnson.” Grant pulled, and copied, a gossamer override from a small crystal on the left side of his duster and handed it over to Matt.
“What is this written in? It looks like fish and aliens and weird things.”
“Yeah, his school has a fixation on Easter Island,” said the mentor. “Just pull the wound as far opened as you can get it. He’s unconscious so he won’t feel it, then shove the tail into the wound and squeeze mana through it. The wound will heal into an intense scar and attach to the basal pattern as a deliberate part of the man’s essence.”
“So, he’ll never be able to get rid of it?” Matt smiled a vicious sort of smile.
“He can get rid of it,” said Grant. “But, it will take a much stronger mage than him to do it!”
“If anyone deserves it, it would be our little Chuy.” He made the scar and stood back to admire his work.
It looked like the brow above Chuy’s left eye had been torn open by a maniac with pliers, filled with an angry fuchsia colored putty, and inexpertly smoothed with a popsicle stick. “Yeah,” he nodded. “That’s pretty intense.” He put the override in a small crystal of his own.