Volume 8, Prelude: Her Arrival

“How is her performance?” a well-dressed man, smoking a pipe, questioned.

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“She is doing well. Although, she is a bit overzealous when dealing with personal matters,” Al reported, crouching down on one knee and bowing downward to the man.

“That is not a surprise, she has always been like that, even as a young child. I trust you will reign her in if she makes questionable decisions. Al, remember, your loyalty lies with me first. Don’t be afraid to chastise and admonish her,” he said, placing his pipe down on a nearby study desk.

“Of course, Master, I understand,” Al said.

“Good. Ah, I believe an interesting guest is visiting soon. Keep a close eye and make sure she doesn’t do anything out of the ordinary,” he directed, standing up from his royal chair.

Al went down on both knees, bowing to the man, and then departed the room. The man crossed his arms, staring up at the ceiling. The matters concerning Tess and their fight against the Traveler, in his view, were of little concern. After all, that’s why he allowed his daughter to handle that. As for him, his plans were grander in scale.


Jessica shone her flashlight at the fenced off building, inspecting the outside for any connections to the Mirror. She stepped back, looking upward for any potential security cameras. Finding none, the woman pulled out industrial wire cutters, making quick work of the fence. She bent down, scanning for any possible triggers that could set off a security alarm. After confirming it was safe, the woman headed toward the building entrance.

“It’s a recent acquisition. Probably didn’t expect any visitors soon. Lucky for me,” Jessica thought, disarming the door lock with ease.

She inspected the first floor, discovering nothing of note. The woman tapped one of the room windows, feeling a faint source of magic. Jessica pulled out a laser, removing a small piece of glass. She dropped it into an evidence bag and then pocketed it.

A creak alerted Jessica to another intruder besides herself. She waited five seconds before peeking through the doorway. No signs of anyone yet. A slight glimmer from the stairs caught her attention. She dashed towards the front door but was repelled back by a barrier.

“Miss Staccato, you’re a hard person to meet,” a masked man said, standing behind her.

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“Yeah, I didn’t think she would bother checking out a place like this,” a masked woman added, flanking Jessica.

“Oh please, I don’t need all this attention. Now, listen, I’ll give you two choices. Pass along a message to your boss, after I beat you both up, or leave now and pass my message without getting beat up. It’s your call,” Jessica offered, raising both hands in the air.

The masked man exchanged a glance with his companion. They inched closer to her, giving their answer. Jessica sighed, anticipating their decision already. The masked man lunged toward Jessica, who sidestepped him, and into the masked woman’s range. The masked woman threw a punch, but Jessica grabbed her fist, twisting her left arm back. She then swept her assailant’s leg, shoving their face into the floor with a loud thud. The impact cracked her mask, revealing the face of a young woman in her mid-twenties.

“You shouldn’t be wearing a mask like that. It doesn’t suit you,” Jessica remarked, shattering the mask with her boots.

The young woman’s eyes shifted from a blank expression to one of surprise. She stood up, stumbling around in confusion, scared of her surroundings. Jessica tapped her forehead, knocking the woman unconscious.

“I haven’t forgotten about you,” Jessica said.

She hurled the masked man into a wall, directing five solid punches into his stomach. He coughed, letting out a weak yelp. As he slid down the wall, the woman launched a kick, destroying his mask. His head tilted to the left, knocked out cold by the attack.

“What do we have here?” Jessica murmured, checking the broken mask pieces on the floor.

She scooped them up, dropping it into another evidence bag. Slipping blank business cards into her unconscious foe’s clothes, Jessica departed the building. The business part of her trip was finished, now it was onto the fun part.


A pigeon cooed at Ace, waddling around her leg. The former hero crossed her legs, reaching into a plastic bag full of bread crumbs. She tossed a few onto the ground, staring down at the bird. It pecked at the crumbs, but not eating anything yet.

“An unexpected visitor, huh? Oh, someone not affiliated with the dimensions. Tell me, what’s her motive?” Ace put on earphones, checking her phone.

The pigeon gobbled up all the crumbs, cooing again. Ace stared at the bird, shaking her head. It pecked at her shoes, demanding more food.

“Hmm, I see. Okay, that doesn’t concern Tess or the others yet. But, I’m interested so I’ll go dig deeper. With your permission, of course,” Ace said.

She poured out the entire bag of crumbs over the pigeon before exiting the park. Multiple third parties getting involved, that was unexpected. For now, they weren’t doing any direct meddling, maybe setting things up for later. The only missing piece was motive and that’s what she intended to find out.

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