Dr. Adjani had finally taken his jacket off when
the call came to ruin his night. He didn’t answer
it at first; he finished hanging up his suit jacket carefully, deliberately, before looking at the caller
ID on his phone.
McCoy. Of course it was McCoy. No doubt with some fresh disaster on the project for him
The project. The Project. So much was riding on it. But he’d already spent all day holding
McCoy’s hand, surely she could hold things
together for a few damn hours before the subject went to sleep?
He let the phone ring as he removed and hung
up his tie as carefully as he had his jacket. She could wait a few more seconds.
Still, he supposed that if she was calling now, it
must have some importance. He had stressed the severity of calling him on his cell phone after
office hours before. It seemed another lesson
would be necessary. “Yes?” he said, pressing the button on the
phone to answer it.
“It’s… It’s Alice.” “I already know that, Dr. McCoy, your caller ID
came up on my phone.”
“I, uh… I’m really sorry to have to call…” “If you feel like you’re wasting my time with your
call, then apologizing for wasting my time only
takes up even more of my time. If you aren’t wasting my time with your call, then you are
now wasting my time with your meaningless
apology.” He could actually hear her gulp over the phone.
Adjani wasn’t sure whether to be pleased that
he had driven home his point so deeply, or annoyed with McCoy’s pathetic display. She
was a double Ph.D., for God’s sake, you’d think
she’d have a bit more confidence in herself. “I’m…” she began again, then stopped herself.
“We have a… a problem.”
“Then clearly you should hurry to the point.” “We may have, um,” she said, her voice
cracking slightly. “We may have lost
containment.” Adjani froze. His arm stayed stock-still in the
act of hanging his tie on its designated spot on
his tie rack. His face was unaccustomed to the wrinkles of
emotion, but now, the skin on Adjani’s scalp
drew back in alarm and a cold sweat began to form. It was his turn to gulp, swallowing down
hard before he spoke again.
“What do you mean? What exactly do you mean?”
“I got a call from the custodial staff at the
office…” “You’re not there? You’re not at the office?”
“No, I… my daughter, I… it’s past dinner time, I
had to…” “You’re not at the office.”
Unbelievable. He took his eye off the ball for one second, for one second, giving it to McCoy,
and she promptly dropped it.
“Then you got a call from the custodial staff because there is nobody else in the entire
“I was headed straight back once…” “Tell me exactly what the custodial staff told
“It’s not good. I mean, it sounded… I know there’s three dead.”
Adjani closed his eyes. Three dead. There
would be no way to sweep this under the rug, then.
“The subject killed them?” he said.
“On purpose, you mean?” she asked. “I don’t know. The guy who called me was terrified and
could barely string two sentences together.”
Yes, what’s that like? Adjani thought. He waited, and when McCoy didn’t continue, he
said, “Don’t make me ask for more information.”
“I’m sorry, it’s just… the things he was saying. It didn’t make much sense. He talked about the
walls bending like taffy. The air changing shape,
whatever that means. And I could hear… things… in the background, things that weren’t
human. What… what…”
“Calm yourself,” he said, although whether he was speaking to McCoy or to himself, he wasn’t
sure. “We knew that the impossible would
become possible once we brought the subject back to life. That was the entire point of the
“Still…” “And it’s not like you haven’t seen plenty of
mage’s Tricks before,” Adjani said. “It’s an
integral part of our business, after all.” “We went too far on this one. I told you that he
was too far…”
“Enough. Are you still in contact with the custodial staff?”
“No. I heard something that sounded like a… a
damn hyena laughing… and then the guy screamed and the call cut out.”
“Conjurations,” Adjani said to himself. “That is
bad.” Conjurations. Top of the list of the Tricks that
had been forbidden to the subject.
The subject had been made well aware of that list, well aware that ticking off any one of the
magical activities on it would result in his
termination. He’d known that, and he’d done it anyway.
Which meant he was ready for a fight.
It was an unaccustomed feeling, the panic, rising up like a swirling wave of electricity inside
him. Still, for all the terrible implications the
subject’s defiance meant, there was still a strong current of curiosity mixed in with Adjani’s
The walls were bending like taffy, the custodian had reported.
Alteration magic? That powerful? If it were true,
then whatever else was happening in that office building, history was being made as well. No
Maestro had ever managed to control that level
of magic in all the years of recorded study. McCoy’s trembling voice pulled him out of his
“What do we do?” “What anyone does when something like this
happens,” Adjani said. “Call the police.”
“The… are you…” “Are you really about to ask me if I’m sure?”
Adjani said. Something about rebuking his
subordinate brought his emotional level back down to that of a glacier. “Do not identify
yourself when you call. Route the call through
the office switchboard. Make it appear as if the call is coming from within the building.”
“She said this couldn’t happen. She said he
would be under our control if we…” “She,” Adjani said, “is not a part of this equation.
She is not our concern right now. Right now, our
concern is containment.” “How do you expect to contain that?”
“I do not. That is a job for the police. Hence
your phone call. Make it now and stop wasting time talking to me.”
He ended the call and tossed his phone onto the
bed, the gesture amounting to practically a temper tantrum for him. His panic mixed with
curiosity was wearing off now. In its place, was
annoyance and anger at the titanic mess he was going to have to clean up. It was going to
get a lot worse before it got better.
“Trouble at the office?” a voice said behind him. A momentary splash of adrenaline surged
through Adjani, before he recognized the voice
and the surge of fear twisted into mere annoyance. When it rains, it pours. Of course
he would have to endure not only one thorn in
his side tonight, but two. He finally turned to face the voice behind him.
Sitting in a chair was a lean, middle-aged man.
Salt and pepper hair and beard, both trimmed neatly, and the expensive suit that he wore was
tailored. His legs were crossed casually and he
seemed more at home in Adjani’s bedroom than Adjani himself.
“How did you get in here?” Adjani asked.
The uninvited man in the chair shrugged. “Teleportation is an extremely convenient and
discreet method of travel. And what, no hello?”
“Hello, Matthias,” Adjani said. Matthias’s thin lips curled into a smile that didn’t
extend to his eyes. “You don’t sound happy to
see me, Dr. Adjani. That hurts my feelings.”
Dr. Adjani swallowed down on his distaste. “I have
a bit of a situation to handle.”
“That’s an understatement,” Matthias said. “I don’t know what on Earth made you think that
bringing Polonius back from the grave was a
good idea.” “I thought he might be able to help in continuing
to refine the procedure. There’s still…”
“Who gives a solitary shit about refining the procedure?” Matthias said.
“I do,” Adjani said. “You may have given up on
it, but I haven’t. It still has possibilities.” Matthias rolled his eyes. “It’s a shell game,
Adjani. It always has been. Whether you knew
it or not, whether you want to admit it or not.” “You don’t work for Revival Tech. You haven’t
put in the years that I have trying to build…”
“No, no I haven’t,” Matthias said, interrupting Adjani again. “And I don’t care. Not about your
feelings, not about your board of directors or
stockholders or whoever the fuck you pretend to answer to. You answer to me.”
Adjani stayed silent.
“Or have you forgotten?” Matthias said. “Have you forgotten how you came to us, came to me,
back when your company was about to fold?
When you had nothing to show for all your experiments, even after your company spent
their bottom dollar on hiring Polonius?”
“I remember that we had an understanding…” “Have you forgotten that we were the ones to
provide the expert who really made your
resurrection experiments work?” “Oh, yes,” Adjani said. “Your expert. Let’s talk
“She has a name, Doctor.” “I know she has a name. I don’t like to use it.”
“Even after she saved your company?” Matthias
said. “She and Polonius, working together, finally fixed the little problems with your
Now it was Adjani’s turn to interrupt. “No. No. They didn’t fix it. Not really. The Revival
process is still flawed.”
Matthias’s teeth flickered in a sneer. “Who cares?”
“I care. You sent her here, and everything about
her was poison. She didn’t give us a real fix.” “What she gave you was good enough. Good
enough to save your company.”
Adjani left that sit for a moment before speaking. “She disgusted me,” he finally said. “Polonius
followed her around like a puppy, you know.
When we Revived him, all he would talk about was her. He called her his ‘Isis’ and his
“Yes, well, she’s not exactly high on my list of favorite people, either.”
“I think she killed him,” Adjani said. “Polonius.
He wasn’t sick. He wasn’t frail. I think she seduced him, learned anything she could from
him, and then killed him.”
“Of course she did. That was the plan all along.” “What?”
“Well, not all along,” Matthias said. “At first, we
were as interested in the prospect of resurrection as you were. But once we realized
that it was nothing but a pipe dream, we kept
our eyes open for other opportunities with your company. And we found them, didn’t we?”
Adjani stared at the floor, stunned. “Where is
“No idea,” Matthias said. “After she killed Polonius,
she disappeared into the wind. There’s some
rumors about Korea, but with her, she could be anywhere. But she’s a problem for another day.
You have a mountain of an issue to deal with
right now. Best to leave you to it.” “You’re not going to help me?”
Matthias laughed and stood to leave. “Are you
joking? There’s no way I’m tangling with the bull that’s running loose in your china shop. Talk
about a suicide mission. No. You brought
Polonius back, you figure out how to return him
to the Earth.”
Adjani found himself staring out his window onto
the city below. He barely realized it when Matthias walked out of the room, calling out
“Best of luck, Doctor,” as he left.
A deal with the devil. He’d clearly made a deal with the devil, although this particular deal had
two devils in it, both Matthias and his murderous
“expert”. No. No, there was no time for this. No time to
waste thinking of how Matthias’s expert had
deceived him. No time to think of her at all. All there was, was how to sort out the problem
in front of him. No crying over spilled milk.
There wasn’t any turning back, not now. He’d sold his proverbial soul for this. He’d sold
many souls for this, not just his own.
“The only way out, is through,” he said to his reflection in the mirror.
He began to put on a fresh shirt and tie, and
prepared himself for the phone call from the police. It was going to be a long night.