Book 2, Chapter 092

When Rachel came to she was not alone — and not just because of the omniscient psychic entity watching who was watching events unfold. No, there was also someone else — someone she could hear moving around.

Rachel tried to look around. She was hindered in this by the fact that she had been restrained on Michael’s ritual table. Still, by twisting her head painfully to the left she was able to catch a glimpse of someone in a skirt walking just out of her field of vision.

“Hello?” Rachel called. “Hey, you there… Can you do something about these straps? Um… please?”

The person stopped walking, though they didn’t come back where Rachel could see them.

“Yes,” a dull, almost emotionless voice answered.

“Oh, thank God!” Rachel exclaimed. “Hurry, quick!”

The person turned and shuffled listlessly to Rachel’s side. She was revealed to be a tall, svelte woman in an overdone sexy French maid’s outfit. She was also wearing a battered leather collar with a deep red gem — a piece of jewelry that was out of place with the frippery of the rest of her outfit.

“Who are you?” Rachel asked while the stranger unlatched one of the belts that had her strapped down. “Where am I, and what’s going on?!”

“My name is Elizabeth,” Elizabeth said. There was a hint of warmth in her voice when she said it, but that was washed away with her next statement. “And you are in my master’s ritual chamber.”

Rachel opened her mouth to ask: Master? But before Rachel could get the word out, Elizabeth tugged hard on the strap she’d undone, tightening it sharply enough to steal Rachel’s breath. Then Elizabeth buckled it back into place and moved on to the next belt, tightening it as well.

“And as for what’s going on,” Another voice — Michael’s voice — suddenly added, “I think I’ll take the pleasure of answering that for you, myself.”

Et Alia, Book 2: Black Magic, Secret Agents, Shakespearean Tragedies and Interoffice Dating

Book 2, Chapter 091

While JD and the others were fighting the gang that had been sent to capture Rachel, Sakura was at the estate of the evil wizard who’d actually abducted her.

Sakura perched in a tree that gave her a vantage from which she could see over the hedge wall that surrounded the battered old mansion. From there she contemplated the creepy architecture, the dead grounds, the vaguely demonic gargoyles and the open plots in the old family graveyard. She assessed all of this while determining her plan of action.

Finally, Sakura nodded.

“Yeah,” she said to herself. “I think I’d rather just owe E.”

Then she dropped silently to the ground, got back in Rachel’s car, and drove away.

Et Alia, Book 2: Black Magic, Secret Agents, Shakespearean Tragedies and Interoffice Dating

Book 2, Chapter 90

Mister One’s eyes went wide. With the barrel of a gun leveled at his face, he panicked. He jerked the machine gun up toward Hito Yon while stepping backward to give himself enough room to fully extend his arm. So Hitomi stepped forward into the space he provided.

She snagged Mister One’s wrist and pushed his arm to the side, deflecting it so that his gun was out of line with anyone else. Then, continuing forward, she turned. She lashed out with one hand and caught Mister One’s elbow. While she shoved his wrist away with her first hand, she yanked toward herself with the other.

Mister One’s elbow dislocated. He screamed and dropped his gun — then Hitomi finished stepping through and delivered a sidekick to his nuts.

The scream vanished into a whimper.

“Dude!” JD exclaimed. “That was awesome.

Hitomi turned, all set to tackle Mister Eight before he could start shooting — but he was already unconscious, trapped in a headlock by JD. Hitomi took a half step back in surprise.

JD quirked an eyebrow at her in response. “What?” He asked. “I said this guy was going down first.” He grinned and let Mister Eight fall to the ground. Then he turned to Al. “Sorry,” he said, “but I’m going to have to postpone victory smoothies.” The rest of the gunmen were only just beginning to react to their leader’s cry of pain. “Don’t worry, though,” JD concluded. “As soon as I take out the rest of these guys I’m totally going to set up that date.”

A ‘date’ I thought I should inform Al, was not just a point in time like she was probably thinking from the primary English definition: it was also a colloquialism for a terran pre-mating courtship ritual. It could take many forms, but knowing JD it probably would involve smoothies: if he won another fight around her, there was no way he was going to miss out on a second opportunity to ask her out and victory smoothies were something of a tradition of his.

Al, frozen in horror at her reunion with JD, finally reacted as I reminded her of what JD had thought about in regards to a date with her back when they’d first met on the bridge of her space ship. She narrowed her eyes and Misters Two, Four, Six and Seven were telekinetically flattened.

“No,” she said. “I got four, you got one. I win. No victory smoothies for you. No date. Just… No.

JD pouted. He started to form some kind of a protest. But it was lost, because just then every door to the theatre auditorium burst open and men with assault rifles and kevlar body armor flooded in.

Et Alia, Book 2: Black Magic, Secret Agents, Shakespearean Tragedies and Interoffice Dating

Book 2, Chapter 89

Mister One was not amused. His machine gun moved from JD to Hitomi. “You know, bitch, you should really be careful of who you’re calling names.” He jabbed his weapon at her. “We don’t even need you.”

“Being antagonistic does seem to undermine the whole ‘surrender and cooperate’ strategy we decided on,” Hito Yon commented dryly.

Hitomi snorted. She didn’t even bother looking at Hito: she was two busy meeting Mister One, glare for glare. “Yeah,” she said blindly to Hito. “But it’s not like we can let them take Al. So I guess we’ve gone full circle and are back at plan one.”

“Well, obviously,” Hito Yon said. “I just thought I’d mention it, since this is a lot more inconsistency in a field mission than I was led to expect from training.”

Then he spun around. As he did, the knife edge of his hand chopped Mister Three in the back of the neck. Mister Three dropped like a sack of logs.

But that was just the start of Hito Yon’s spin. Halfway through it, he punched Mister Five in the throat with his other hand. Then he whipped his first around. The strike cracked Mister Five’s wrist, sending his gun tumbling from nerveless fingers. Hito Yon deftly plucked it out of the air and completed his spin.

It took him less than a second, and when Hito Yon stopped it was with his arm extended over Hitomi’s shoulder and his captured pistol pointed straight at Mister One’s head. “Now then,” Hito Yon said. “Would you mind not pointing that gun at my associate? It’s rude.”

Et Alia, Book 2: Black Magic, Secret Agents, Shakespearean Tragedies and Interoffice Dating

Book 2, Chapter 088

Mister Eight grinned. “Well, there you go. These are the only two girls we found out of their seats, and the doofus digs the blonde, so she’s his date.”

JD looked at Mister Eight. Behind his goggles, JD’s expression was unreadable. “Okay,” he said cheerfully. “I like the way your logic concludes, but you just called me a ‘doofus’ again, so I’m afraid I’ve gotta put you on the list.”

Mister Three frowned. “Are you sure? What if this is that reverse psychology and its actually the Chinese chick?”

“American,” Hitomi corrected him. “By way of Japanese immigrants. Nice try, though.”

The two thugs ignored her. “Nah,” Mister Eight opined. “Doofus’ aren’t that smart.”

JD’s eyebrow twitched. “Right. You’re going down first,” he commented. “I mean: that was already a given but now I’m gonna make it hurt.”

“I don’t know…” Mister Three started to say.

But Mister One interrupted him, settling the debate. “Mister Eight is right,” he said. He tucked a piece of paper — his crib sheet for the job — back in his pocket and pointed at JD with his gun. “But not because he’s an idiot,” he said.

“Thank you,” JD muttered.

“Which you are,” Mister One continued, “if you honestly think insulting the guys with the guns is a good idea.” Then he smiled. “But I know she’s is the one we want,” Mister One told his cronies with absolute confidence, “because our boss said Rachel was blonde.

“Woah, wait.” JD suddenly interjected. “You guys are here to abduct Rachel? Ean’s girlfriend? That’s it, everybody with a mask is on the list.”

But he wasn’t the only one who was confused. Al turned to Hitomi. “I thought we decided my designation would be ‘Al’,” she said.

“Yeah,” said Hitomi. She was scowling at the entire situation. “It is. Don’t worry about it. These guys are just really confused. I mean, they think I’m Chinese. Idiots.”

Et Alia, Book 2: Black Magic, Secret Agents, Shakespearean Tragedies and Interoffice Dating

Book 2, Chapter 87

Mister Three hustled Hitomi and Al into the theatre. Mister Five followed behind him, covering Hito Yon with his gun. “We found her, boss,” Mister Three announced as they approached Mister One, who stood with Mister Eight, watching over JD. “There’s just one slight snag.”

Mister One looked back and forth at the two women Mister Three was escorting. “Mister Eight,” Mister One asked dryly. “Would you be so kind as to have your friend resolve this?”

Mister Eight jabbed JD with his gun. “Alright, doofus,” he growled. “Which one is your date?”

But JD was ignoring Mister Eight. Instead, he got up to his feet. Also ignoring Mister One, who started pointing a gun at him as soon as he started moving, JD entered the theater aisle. “Dude!” He exclaimed at Al, who stared back at him with something akin to horror. “I have been wanting to ask you out for victory smoothies!”

Et Alia, Book 2: Black Magic, Secret Agents, Shakespearean Tragedies and Interoffice Dating

Book 2, Chapter 86

“Aw, hell,” Hitomi said with feeling. From her position in the sound booth she had a very clear view of the armed men storming her theatre. and screwing up her show’s opening night.

“I take it this is not the way this performance is meant to be done?” Al asked, even though it very much wasn’t. I had to assume that she wanted that confirmed — and that she also probably wanted some kind of context. Basically, the thugs who’d broken in were acting in defiance of civil codes of law and order.

“It isn’t,” Hitomi fumed. “The question is: What are we going to do about it?”

“We fight, we flee, we hide or we surrender and cooperate,” Hit Yon said in his order of preference. “But whichever course of action we take, we dedicate to it fully.”

Hitomi glanced at Al. She didn’t want to ask the alien lady to get involved in a fight, though she wasn’t sure how practical any of the other options were. She also hadn’t realized she’d already called for help with an inadvertent pocket dial. Instead, she got on the radio to her JSSDA contacts. “Has Bones looped back to the theatre? We have a developing situation here.”

“Negative,” the answer came back. “He appears to be heading for his estate.”

Hitomi sighed. “Dammit,” she said. “Well, it looks like this might be unrelated to our investigation. So JSSDA command is going to be pissed if we reveal assets doing something about it. And I don’t know if those guys left anyone watching the front — so if we flee we might end up fighting, and if we fight we’re probably going to give away that we’re more than we’ve been portraying ourselves locally. Or at least, more than I have been. And we don’t want the USASSDA to get wind of us. Those guys are assholes.”

USASSDA? Al thought at me.

The USASSDA, I explained, was the United States of America’s equivalent of the JSSDA. Only the USASSDA was a lot more concerned with keeping the public ignorant of the supernatural and high science threats, rather than keeping them protected. They also tended to get really touchy about perceived foreign agents and tended to think that only they were allowed to act unilaterally in response to things. Kind of like the United States in general, actually.

“Then we hide,” Hito Yon said. “And if we’re discovered, we surrender and cooperate.”

Of course, no sooner had he said that then the sound booth’s door burst open. A gun wielding Mister Three burst in. He waved his pistol around, making a point of pointing it at everyone at least once while shouting: “Freeze!” Then his eyes sparkled with excitement, and he shouted over his shoulder: “Hey, Mister Five! I found her!”

“Sweet!” came an answering shout from the lobby. A second later a second gunman entered the crowded booth. Mister Five looked at Al. Then he looked at Hitomi. Then he said: “Uh… so which one is she?”

Et Alia, Book 2: Black Magic, Secret Agents, Shakespearean Tragedies and Interoffice Dating

Book 2, Chapter 085

Unfortunately for Mister One, the cops were already there. Unfortunately for the cops, there were only two of them. Danny had killed the sirens and pulled over just out of sight from the theatre. He and Marco had gotten out of the car and crept closer to investigate. From the outside, there was no sign of a disturbance. Danny knew, deep in his gut, that what he’d heard over his ex’s phone was serious, though.

Danny continued to scan the theatre for any clue of shady going-ons. He also drew his gun, checked his ammo and disengaged the safety. Even if he couldn’t see anything, he knew there was trouble out there.

Marco looked at him like he was crazy. “Jesus, Dan, calm down! We don’t know what’s going on in there — or how many bad guys there are, if any, or what.”

Hitomi is in there,” Danny said.

“Yeah,” Marco agreed. “And if there are bad guys in there too, then it’s a hostage situation. And if you go charging in half cocked, you’re going to make it a messy one. We need to sit tight and wait for backup, Dan.”

Dan knew he was tensed up, so he forced himself to relax. He knew Marco was right — and if it were anyone other than Hitomi who’d called… And the worst part was, the fact that she’d called him instead of nine one one meant she was probably involved somehow. They’d split up because he wouldn’t put up with her non-answers about her past anymore, or the weird, semi-suspicious favors she would occasionally ask for.

Well, that and because she’d found out he’d had the guys in organized crime tap her line to see if she was involved with the local mob.

“Yeah,” Danny forced himself to say. “Okay. We wait for backup.”

Marco breathed out in relief

His relief was short lived, though. Almost immediately after Danny agreed to hold back, a black sedan screeched to a halt next to their cruiser. It’s front doors opened in unison, and two people who could only be described as agents got out. One was a shorter fellow in a full suit and tie. The other was a taller woman, also in a suit — but without the jacket. A shoulder-holstered gun was clearly visible on the woman, since she’d done without the jacket. They both wore shades and wired ear buds.

The woman cupped her hand over her ear and stalked toward the theatre. “Where’s my perimeter,” she snarled. “We need snipers on these roofs and air support, now.

The man left her to do whatever she was doing. He approached Marco and Danny, blocking their view of his partner. “Hello,” he said. “I’m agent Johnson.” He jerked his head vaguely in the direction of ‘behind me.’ “That’s agent Richards. Homeland security. You two can relax now: we’ve got this from here.”

Marco tried to reply, but his words were drowned out by the sudden whumpa-whumpa-whumpa of a helicopter arriving. Instants later, Marco’s jaw remained hanging open and his words unformed as the first helicopter — heavily laden with belly-mounted machineguns and rockets — circled the theatre and more helicopters arrived, disgorging men in military tactical gear who rode ziplines down to the ground and then charged toward the theatre, only to stop and begin fortifying well short of the building itself.

Danny looked at Marco in shock. Marco realized his mouth was open and clicked his jaw shut. Agent Johnson smiled at both of them. “Please remain here,” the agent said. “We’ll want your contact information and statements after the incident is resolved.” Then he tipped his shades the way another man might tip a hat, turned on his heel, and strode off to join Agent Richards — who was busily directing the soldiers in the streets.

Et Alia, Book 2: Black Magic, Secret Agents, Shakespearean Tragedies and Interoffice Dating

Book 2, Chapter 084

Mister One marched up to the stage. The actors, despite their best intentions, had abandoned the play and were cowering at the back. Mister One paid them no mind: he climbed up onto the stage and turned so he could look over the audience. Shit yeah: surveying my guys like a fucking boss, he thought. This is awesome.

Four of his guys — Misters Two, Three, Four and Five — were combing the aisles, grabbing up loot and pointing their guns at anyone who looked like they’d been remiss in throwing valuables their way. Mister Six had stayed behind to make sure no one snuck out the front doors and Mister Seven had come up on the stage with him — he was rounding up all the actors and back stage folk. And that left Mister Eight to collect their ‘hostage.’

Except, of course, Rachel wasn’t there.

JD looked up at the thug who’d stopped next to him. The guy looked young, reasonably fit, and was carrying a pistol. Anyone else would have thought he looked dangerous. “What’s up?” JD asked.

Mister Eight didn’t answer. Instead, he turned to look at the stage. “Uh, boss! The girl ain’t here! It’s just some doofus!”

JD, still looking up at Mister Eight, cocked his head and frowned slightly. “Doofus?” he asked. Then he pointed at himself in surprise. “Wait! Me?!”

Neither Mister Eight nor his boss answered. “Shit!” the boss shouted. “Mister Three, Mister Five, get out there and check the restrooms — anywhere she might be hiding! We gotta find her before the cops show up!”

Et Alia, Book 2: Black Magic, Secret Agents, Shakespearean Tragedies and Interoffice Dating

Book 2, Chapter 083

Not far from the theatre, a fellow named Danny was driving lazily around the city. His best friend, Marco, was riding shotgun. Danny had just pulled up to a stop light when his phone rang. Without thinking about it, Danny pulled it out of his pocket and checked who was calling.

“Hey,” Marco protested. “You can’t be on the phone while driving.” He jerked his head toward some people who were strolling by outside. “Be a role model, Dan.”

Danny snorted. “It’s my ex.” He frowned, debating chucking the phone out the window. Then he relented. “And we’re at a light. Shit, she hates me. I should answer this.” He accepted the call with a frown.

“What do you want?” Danny asked crossly.

No one answered. There was just muffled noise.

“Ha,” Marco laughed. “You were so worried and it was just a pocket dial.”

“God dammit,” Danny grunted. “Although, that figures: it’s opening night at her theatre.”

He was about to hang up when a voice shouted in the background over the phone. “This is a robbery! Throw your valuables into the aisles and no one gets shot in the face!”

Danny grabbed the phone and hastily muted his side of the conversation. Marco looked over at him, wide eyed and alarmed.

“I thought they were doing Macbeth,” Marco said.

Danny scowled and tossed Marco the phone. Then he reached over to the dash and flipped on the sirens. “They were,” he growled before tearing through the intersection.

Marco yelped and grabbed the arm of the door. Then he reached forward to grab the radio: someone had to contact dispatch, and Danny was too busy burning rubber to make the call.

Et Alia, Book 2: Black Magic, Secret Agents, Shakespearean Tragedies and Interoffice Dating