Closed Game
rating: +23+x

The gunfire stopped as suddenly as it had started. An unmarked van that had been driven off the deserted road sported several new bullet holes. The driver's door opened and a body slumped out. A machine gun clattered to the ground and a silence fell.

The agents of MTF Tau-51 closed in.

The back doors of the van were gingerly pulled open. Scattered throughout the back were several watertight boxes. One of them had spilled open, revealing sealed bags of a fine electric blue powder. The lead agent, a slender man with short blond hair and a trimmed beard, stepped inside and examined the contents.

"Ross?" MTF Commander Damion Creed called out.

The man's colleague, a woman with goggles and neck length red hair, responded by coming forward. Taking off a glove, she held an outstretched palm over the bag. The temperature in the van dropped slightly as her hand briefly glowed with a white light. She then turned her head back and nodded.

"It’s Seance Dust alright," Agent Beatrice Ross replied.

Creed grinned.

"Right on! Alright, folks, let's get this cleaned up and sent back to Sixty-Four. Someone get Pi-1 on the line. We're ready for clean up."

As the various members of Tau-51 moved to carry out their duties of packing up the contraband, Ross remained by her commander's side.

"Holman's going to want an update after this."

"I know." Creed deflated.

"Do we have any more to show him?"

"Just another 20 kilos of Seance Dust."


While her time there was always few and far between, Beatrice Ross despised the Site-64 Director's office. Despite it being one of the larger offices in the facility, she always felt like the walls were closing in on her. She looked over to Creed from her spot in one of two large chairs facing the Director's desk. He seemed calm enough, though he was gripping the arms of the chair tight enough to make his knuckles turn white.

Before both of them, across the desk, an older man with salt and pepper hair looked over their case report. Before long, he placed the documents down neatly, then cleared his throat.

"So, let me see if I get this straight," Site Director Holman began. "Six months, seven Seance Dust busts in Portland, and not only are we not any closer to finding the manufacturer, but we also have no idea where the intended destination is. Am I more or less correct, Creed?"

Creed sighed.

"With all due respect, sir, we know the source is Three Ports. Everyone we have apprehended has more or less confirmed that. Unless you want me to make an enemy of the US government, we can't go after the source ourselves."

"Has Spencer had any luck then?" Holman asked, forcefully tapping the documents with his index finger. "I'm guessing not since you didn't mention it in the report."

"The UIU have a few leads," Ross interjected. "But Spencer is still trying to get a warrant. Whoever has set up this operation has done a bang-up job covering their tracks. Until we find the manufacturer we might be forced to just keep knocking the blocks out of their hands when we find them."

Holman closed his eyes and rubbed the bridge of his nose.

"With this kind of success rate, you two would make good candidates for Gamma-13."

Holman opened his eyes and looked toward Ross.

"Is there anything thaumatological someone could be using this for?"

Ross shook her head.

"I've already looked into that. As far as I know, there is not. Then again, it's outside my specialty. We'd be better off asking a necromancer, but the Foundation doesn't have a ton of them on the payroll. Fairly obvious reasons as to why."

"I don't suppose you know of any necromancers from your time at ICSUT Portlands, do you?"

Ross paused.

"Ross?" Creed asked, an eyebrow raised. "Do you?"

"I may know one."


"You know, you can afford to look little less nervous," Ross whispered.

She and Creed stepped off the streetcar, and into a light Three Portlands rain. The two agents, clad in plain clothes, hurried onward across the crowded, water-logged plaza towards the Shadow of the International Rose Test Garden.

"I'm not exactly my mom when it comes to Three Ports, okay?" Creed whispered a reply. "Not exactly friendly territory here. Sorry, I'm worried we're going to turn a corner and it'll be like the screaming scene in the '78 body snatchers remake. Sue me."

Creed stopped midstride and looked at their destination. Before him was a hillside dotted in phantom bushes. Row upon row of black, cyan, violet, and green roses bloomed. Their delicate petals shimmered as the rain passed through them.

"Pretty cool, right?" Ross grinned.

"Haunting is a more accurate term."

"Where else would you expect to meet a necromancer?"

Creed chuckled and nodded, and they resumed walking.

"How do you know this person anyway?"

Ross shrugged.

"Old girlfriend. Animated a skeleton that swept me off my feet so we could dance macabre."

"Really?"

"No." Ross rolled her eyes. "She's an old ICSUT classmate. To be honest we didn't get along too well. She considered evocation to be pop magic. All flash and no substance."

"And you think she'll help us?"

"If you have any better ideas, I'm all ears."

Ross suddenly stopped and sighed. Before them, a dark-skinned woman in a long red coat stood under an umbrella, admiring the flowers. Upon her shoulder, a skeletal bird was perched. The red pinpoints in its eye sockets turned and gazed at the approaching agents.

"That her?" Creed asked under his breath.

"Yep," Ross replied, and began to approach. "Annabelle. It's been a while. How have you been?"

A smirk came to the woman's lips.

"Beatrice," she said softly. "You look well. How's life treating you? Still practicing I hope."

"In a manner. You?"

"Always someone dying." Annabelle grinned. "Who's your friend?"

"Work colleague," Ross replied flatly. "What's with the bird? Pet?"

The skeleton tilted its head and let out a loud caw.

"NEVERMORE!"

Annabelle chuckled.

"Familiar. I call him Edgar. Drums up business a bit."

"Isn't that a bit on the nose?"

"Haven't had any complaints yet." The necromancer shrugged.

Beatrice eyed the bird for a few moments longer, then regained her train of thought.

"You mind if I pick your brain a bit? I have a problem and need your expertise."

"Fire away, my dear."

"Are you familiar with Seance Dust?"

Annabelle's smile vanished.

"Are you a cop?"

"What? No-"

"Is your friend a cop?" Annabelle interrupted.

Ross blinked.

"No. I take it you've heard of it then."

"I've had one or two requests for a vial of it in my practice," the necromancer replied bluntly. "If you're looking for a fix I'm afraid I can't help you."

"That is not it at all," Ross chuckled. "Just humor me here. Hypothetically, if someone had a ton of the stuff—crates, even—could it be used as a component in any rituals or incantations?"

"Yeah. Overdosing."

"That's it?"

"You can talk to the dead. That stuff is basically a poor man's immortality, what more do you need it to do?" Annabelle shrugged. "While it produces a minor necromantic effect, the potential is so small that even if you had a literal mountain of it, you still couldn't so much as levitate a spoon."

"Right." Ross sighed. "I figured that would be the case. Thank you for agreeing to meet up. We should catch up again sometime soon."

"Of course, dear."

Ross gave a nod and began to take her leave, falling in by Creed's side. Before they had gotten too far they heard Annabelle call out.

"Beatrice, you don't actually have a mountain of the stuff… do you?"


"Gotta love a dead end," Creed said as they stepped out of the Way and back into a trash-littered alleyway in Portland, Oregon. The sun had long since gone down, leaving the area shrouded in darkness. Ross emerged soon after, the Way then vanishing back into a faded piece of graffiti upon a nearby brick wall that vaguely resembled a rose.

"I wouldn't say it was a complete dead end," Ross said with a shrug. "At least we know whoever is trying to stockpile the stuff can only use as directed."

"Still are no closer to discovering who that is though. Or why they're stockpiling it for that matter."

"I'm guessing to talk with the dead," Ross chuckled.

"You don't say?" Creed rolled his eyes and gave a small smile. "Come on. Let's hit up Secret Crest. I'll buy."

The two agents began to make their way back out towards the street, stopping only when three men in long dark coats emerged from the street to block their path.

"Well, this isn't-"

Ross caught her words as the three men produced pistols, their barrels aiming directly at her.

"Get down!"

Time seemed to slow. Ross felt herself fly backward, Creed shoving her behind the cover of a nearby dumpster.

Damian? she thought.

"Kill the mage quick!" One of the assailants shouted. Creed quickly produced his own pistol, and let loose several rounds. An assailant dropped.

"Damian?!" Ross whispered.

More gunshots, and the sound of bullets piercing flesh. Her commander fell to the pavement shouting in pain. Blood slowly crept into his clothing and began pooling around him. Footsteps closed in.

"For fuck sake get the mage!"

"Damian?!?" she shouted.

Ice formed over the standing water in the alley as the temperature dropped. The surviving assailants stopped as they realized they could now see their breath.

"Shit, she's casting a spell!"

Ross emerged, her right arm crackling with electricity as she aimed her palm at the lead attacker. With a deafening crack, a single arc flew through one of the men, causing him to drop and be still. As the remaining assailant began to run a wave of pressure left Ross's hand, launching him into the air where he floated. The agent produced her sidearm and fired off two shots.

The floating corpse crashed to the pavement.

"No, no, no…"

A thin layer of frost built up on Ross as she rushed to Creed, a thin plume of breath indicating he was still alive. The blood around him had frozen, and he violently shivered in the sudden cold. His breathing was sharp, each gasp causing him to wince in of pain. Tears rolled down his cheeks.

Gingerly, Ross placed his head in her lap.

"You idiot, you didn't have to do that!" she shouted.

"I'd be a shitty commanding officer not to," he said with a pain-addled chuckle. "Didn't know you had a thing for getting shot."

"For fuck sake, Damian…" she hissed.

"Don't suppose you have any magic tricks you could do?"

She nodded and held a hand on his chest. The temperature dropped again. Creed's eyes began to droop as he seemed to fall asleep. Across his body, the bleeding stopped as the wounds cauterized. Ross's fingers began to turn black.

"They knew you were a thaumatologist," he said as he drifted out of consciousness. "This was an assassination attempt, Bea."

Creed's breathing became shallow, but he no longer seemed to be in pain.

"Hang… in there… sweetie…" she managed to say through chattering teeth and fumbled for her phone.

"911. What's your emergency?"


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