Explorers of the Unspeakable

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Summary

When Thea, a magical scientist, discovers that her boss is killing magical creatures and attempting to find the keys to Hades to bring back a dangerous war criminal, she enlists the help of three war heroes and a shopkeeper with a mysterious past. Together with her best friend Jax and her newfound allies, she will navigate a conspiracy eight years in the making and change the course of history forever.

Genre:
Fantasy
Author:
Andie
Status:
Ongoing
Chapters:
1
Rating:
n/a
Age Rating:
16+

Chapter 1

San Francisco, CA

May 2, 2000

“How many times do I have to tell you not to blast the heat!”

Thea flinched, and looked up from her work to see Liam, her former boyfriend and now boss, standing there before her, wearing baggy jeans and with spiky hair that screamed that he was trying too hard.

Thea considered reaching for her wand since Liam had his in his hand, but she didn’t think that would help the situation. “I didn’t blast the heat. I put it on low. It was freezing when I arrived here this morning, and you weren’t here. You’re welcome to turn it down now that you are here.”

“That’s--it’s--it doesn’t matter,” Liam sputtered. “You still shouldn’t have done it.” He turned and stormed away from her, slamming the door to her lab behind her.

Thea imagined that he would fire her if he could, but he wasn’t the one who had hired her--that would be Dr. Wood, the Dean of Stanford University. Explorers Lab, where she worked, was the magical offshoot of the university. Liam may have been the head of the lab, but even he had to answer to Dr. Wood. The problem was that Wood’s office was at the university itself rather than in town where the lab was located.

Thea just shook her head. If it wasn’t for the fact that she was trying to keep an eye on Liam, she would just lock the door to her lab. It would save her a lot of trouble. Shaking that off, Thea turned back to her research on the effects of love.

She was going over the results of scans she and Dr. Wood had done at the university to determine the effect of love on an individual’s brain. Thea was starting to notice a pattern when she had that eerie feeling of the hair standing up on the back of her neck, like she was being watched. Thea looked over toward where that feeling was coming from and laughed out loud. There was an envelope floating mid-air, and on the front of the envelope was written Thea Walker in sloppy handwriting. With a soft smile, Thea reached for it. She had been wondering what Jax was up to.

She opened the letter to find more of his untidy scrawl:

Thea,

Hope you’ve been well. Africa is amazing as always, but I miss home and you. I’ll be making my way back to San Francisco--and will probably arrive shortly after you receive my letter. I found a few things that you might be interested in, but I’m mainly writing due to an intriguing letter I received the other day. It was an invitation to an expo--at your lab. I thought it a bit odd since you can’t talk about what it is you do so what’s with the expo? What are you and the other Explorers up to?

Thea frowned. While it would be nice to see her old friend again, the idea of an expo at the lab was troubling. There was a reason they didn’t talk about what they did, even with other magical individuals. The lab studied metaphysical topics such as love and death, and in the wrong hands, those things could be catastrophic. It was why they had to keep their work in the strictest confidence.

Thea turned her gaze toward the hallway and Liam’s lab. She was going to have to go and see him. Normally, Thea avoided Liam if she could, but if he was holding an expo, that was something she needed to know about--and it was something that Wood would want to know. Fleetingly, she wondered if perhaps Wood already knew about the expo, but she doubted it. Wood’s office was offsite, and he generally allowed them to run things the way that they wished.

With a sigh, Thea folded Jax’s letter and slipped it into the pocket of her dress slacks and grabbed her wand, slipping it into her pocket with the letter. Having a large wand or staff--especially with ornate jeweling and decoration--was considered an honor among witches and wizards, but Thea found that to be too cumbersome. She liked her small, plain wand--she liked that it fit nicely into her pocket, and if she was being honest, she found even that to be a bit of a pain. Why couldn’t they just do magic without a wand? But tradition was tradition for a reason.

She headed out of her office and down the green and brown-checked hall to find Liam. While Thea’s lab was brightly lit and contained lamps, refractors, and other scientific equipment in addition to magical and potion supplies, Liam’s lab was more dimly lit and focused primarily on the magical side of experiments. The clean and sterile environment of Thea’s lab was replaced by a medieval looking round table near the wall and a strange brick archway that Thea had never seen before.

Two lab techs stood on either side of Liam blocking Thea’s view of whatever they were working on. Jeffrey Rogers looked gaunt and pale as usual in his white shirt thanks to his dark hair and pale skin, while Richard Burke, wore navy blue, which was a striking contrast to his lighter hair and day old stubble. She supposed he was cute in a sort of scruffy way, but Thea didn’t exactly have time for romance. Not to mention the fact that she was pretty sure that Burke was married. Liam had been an exception, and their relationship had begun and ended long before they had worked together, and she couldn’t honestly say that she didn’t have ulterior motives for working with Liam anyway. After what he had done, she had to be sure he didn’t put anyone else through that.

She took a breath and approached them. “Liam,” she said softly, but as she got closer, she saw what had their attention. They stood around the heavy brick door that didn’t seem to lead anywhere, and standing before the door was a vanara, a monkey-like person from the forests of Asia. They were forced to obey any human that captured them, and they had magic that enabled them to do seemingly impossible things. That explained what Liam had been doing on his ‘research’ trip to India a month ago.

“Vanara!” Liam barked out the order, “Go through the door and then teleport back out.”

Thea followed Liam’s gaze into the doorway and let out a gasp. There were flames just beyond the opening, rising up and licking at the archway--but only if you looked at it from this angle. The rear of the archway was brick, as if it was just a wall standing in the middle of the room. Now she knew where the door led.

“But, Zelda doesn’t want to...”

Thea’s gaze turned toward the vanara, as she pleaded with Liam not to send her through the doorway.

Please, Liam, don’t kill them. No, she wasn’t there. That was over. That was then and this was now.

“Vanara! I ordered you to go through the door!”

Come on. Did you really think I dated you--a half mortal witch--because I liked you? She didn’t care if Liam liked her, not then and not now.

“I is not wanting to.”

Please! I don’t care if you like me. Just let them go! But he didn’t let them go, just like he wasn’t letting the vanara go.

The vanara was slammed to the floor by some invisible force, intent on dragging her through the door, forcing her to obey Liam’s command.

Thea forced herself to focus on the situation at hand. “Liam.”

He ignored her. “Vanara, you are bound by your duty to obey your master, and I am your master, so you will go through the door and then teleport out.”

“No please no please no please,” the vanara pleaded, managing to grab hold of a throw rug to slow the pull into the door and certain death.

“Liam,” Thea whispered to no avail.

Apparently tired of waiting for the vanara to follow his order, Liam picked her up by her ankles and threw her into the flames on the other side of the door. Her screams went silent, and there was a violent flash of light before everything went still, and the flames died out. Zelda didn’t come back out.

Liam shrugged. “I guess vanara can’t come back from the dead.” He made a note on his clipboard and turned as if to speak to one of the other Explorers, which was what the members of Explorers Lab were referred to as, but then he spotted Thea. “Oh, Thea, did you want something?”

Thea was staring at the door, half seeing the past along with what had just happened. She blinked, forcing herself to focus on the here and now. “I wanted to ask about the expo,” she managed.

Liam shook his head. “That’s nothing for you to worry your pretty little head about. Just run along back to your own lab...”

Thea took a breath to argue it, but Liam had already turned back to his lab techs who were snickering at her and at the situation.

She took another breath and forced herself to speak and confidently, even if she was feeling anything other than confident. “Liam, I am a member of this department, and if you are having an expo, I should not only know about it but be in attendance.”

“Fine,” said Liam, turning back to his notes. “We’re raising money-- we want to go deeper into our experiments into death, but that requires funding, equipment. If you can find an investor for us, you are more than welcome to join us, but otherwise, you should stick to what suits you.” He gestured towards the hallway, the implication being that she should stick to her own lab and leave Liam and the others alone.

Rogers and Burke were still laughing at her, but Thea forced herself to ignore them. Instead, she focused on Liam. “I’m going to go take a walk.” She needed to clear her head. She needed to get out of there; she couldn’t breathe.

She didn’t wait for Liam’s reaction, but headed for the exit, no specific destination in mind. She just had to get away from there. She gulped for air, even as she squinted in the sudden sunlight. Not again, not again! How had this happened? She had gone to great lengths to lock up her feelings about what had happened back then, and now, it was all coming back, and Thea didn’t know if she could put the lid back on.

Thea took off walking down the street, not really sure where she was going or having any destination in mind. Her only goal was to get as far away from the lab as possible.

As she walked, her breathing got easier, and she began to focus more on her surroundings rather than on the memories that threatened to push their way in and disrupt her present reality. There was what remained of a DSW Designer Shoe Warehouse and a Victoria’s Secret, and Farallon--a seafood restaurant that she had dined at once or twice before the Battle of San Francisco--now, the restaurant was little more than rubble. She took a breath in and out as more memories threatened to surface.

The Marriott and Hotel Zeppelin were in various stages of being rebuilt, and the Honey, Honey, Cafe & Crepery, where she got her breakfast each day on the way to work, had been left virtually untouched by some miracle of fate. And then there was the Town and Country Market that had been mostly rebuilt, but Owl Tree, Dakota, and Joy’s place, the San Francisco Hotel were in all varying states of ruin.

She made it all the way to Shannon Street before she was ready to think again. She needed to call Dr. Wood. She needed to report Liam. Her hands still shaking a little, Thea reached into her pocket and fumbled for her phone before dialing Dr. Wood’s office at Stanford.

His secretary answered. “Dr. Wood’s office. May I take a message?”

“Hi, Harriett,” Thea said automatically. “It’s Thea Walker. I need to speak to Dr. Wood. It’s extremely important.”

“I’m sorry,” said Harriett, and Thea could hear the clacking of keys in the background, “but Dr. Wood isn’t available right now. He’s out of town for the next week and a half.”

Out of town? Had he mentioned that to her? At the moment, Thea was simply too out of sorts to remember. “Well, can you still reach him and let him know that I need to speak with him as soon as possible?”

“I’m sorry,” Harriett replied, the ever clicking of the keys in the background, “but he’s on a camping trip with his family at Yosemite. Even if he took his phone with him, there’s not likely to be a signal out in the woods.”

Thea took a breath. Let it out. It didn’t help much. “Well, can you at least try?”

Harriett said she would, but Thea didn’t entirely believe her. She was just hanging up her phone as she reached the corner of Post and Jones where a small group of about a dozen animal rights activists were protesting. One of them, a woman with light brown hair and green eyes, set off by the green sweater she was wearing, was yelling into a bullhorn. “Protect the vanara now! No more exploitation! Protect vanara now! No more exploitation!”

Most of the activists were shouting with her, but a few were passing out pamphlets to passers by. Most people were avoiding the activists like the plague, and Thea didn’t blame them one bit. These were magical protesters, given away by their protest for a magical creature. Most mortals didn’t even know that vanara or magic existed.

Thea couldn’t help herself and moved closer, peeking a glance at one of the pamphlets, which said Vanara Protection Agency--stop abuse of vanara! Across the front.

“Would you like one?”

Thea looked up at the face of the witch who was offering the pamphlet--it was Holly Green, wizarding war hero. It had been she--along with Ian Matthews and Mason Bentley that had managed to find where the terrorist Phyllis Walsh had been hiding by infiltrating a small group of her colony that had been travelling.

“Sure,” said Thea, reaching for the pamphlet from the tall brunette.

“If you want to get involved...” “No thank you,” Thea told her. The vanara made her think about the vanara in the lab, which made her think about Liam and what happened before. She shoved the pamphlet in her pocket before hurrying away.

She turned her focus to a man in his thirties exiting the recently rebuilt Tailor Maid with a clothing garment bag and a couple loading a baby into a late model sedan outside of what used to be a Club Wyndham Canterbury as she reached Taylor Street. And, that’s when she saw them--a pair of SD or security division, the cops of the magical world, identified by a small silver pin on their lapel with the letters S and D.

She ducked into the first shop she came to in order to avoid them. They were probably just on their lunch break, but she couldn’t be sure. Liam had made it out to be her fault last time, so why not send S.D. after her to cover up what he had done. It was the kind of thing he would do.

The SD passed the shop, and Thea let out a breath before finally looking around at her surroundings. Half the shelves were empty, and the products that were in stock were covered in dust. It looked as if the shop had been abandoned long ago.

She was about to turn around and leave when footsteps approached and a voice called out, “Jennifer, I thought I told you...”

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