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Monthly Archives: February 2014

Fiction: Ixi Agency (Part 5)

–Marcy–

Marcy blinked back and forth between Joey and Willow, not really seeing either of them.  When she finally spoke, all she could say was “No. No, no, no.” She shook her head and pushed herself up off the couch. “No, I’m sorry, but you guys are crazy.  Or mistaken. Or just plain wrong. I’m not any kind of Magical or fantastical, or whatever it is you’re calling it. I mean, come on, Willow, you’ve known me for nine years. You should most definitely know that it can’t be me you’re looking for.”

“I have known you for nine years, Marce. And that’s how I know and believe so easily that it is you.  Come on, think about it.  Sometimes weird things happen when you play with things you’ve never touched before, Right? I mean, remember that time you got a new bracelet and started to consider dying your hair? Your hair grew more and more auburn, but then you broke the bracelet and it faded back to black?”

“That was just because I was in the sun more often,” Marcy defended weakly. She knew that wasn’t true, Marcy avoided the sun more often than not, but it was the only logical explanation that Marcy could come up with, so it was what she stuck to.  Willow gave Marcy a skeptical smile and raised both eyebrows.

“Out in the sun? Sure.” Willow shook her head and pulled a necklace that Marcy had never seen before up and over her head. “Here” Willow handed the charm to Marcy, still carefully holding the chain in her own hand. “Close your hand around that and think about—I don’t know—Agent Seven, and then shut your eyes for a second.”

Marcy did as Willow told her. “Agent Seven, Franklin George Kurlt. Location: Agency. Status: Alive, Awake, Healthy, and Uninjured. Agent out of tracking range.” Marcy said automatically. She turned to look wide-eyed at Willow.

“Now try Agent Four,” Joey suggested.

Marcy tried the process again. “Agent Four, Joseph Andrew Rodgers. Location: On Mission, currently in Shelton, CT. Status: Alive, Sleep Deprived, Healthy, and Uninjured. Agent within Five feet.” Marcy Recited.

“Sleep deprived? When was the last time you slept?” Willow turned towards Joey now, pulling the charm out of Marcy’s hand as she did so.

“I’m not sure. Jet lag has the most to do with it. I’m not even sure what time my internal clock thinks it is. I got a call and boarded the next plane, and then you dragged me out on the retrieval. What did you want me to do?”

“I want you to sleep. Sleep deprived on a mission. Honestly.”

“Hey, hey, you volunteered us.”

“Not the point. You’re sleeping on the drive back to the agency. I’m driving.”

“Yes, Mommy Six.”

Marcy watched them go back and forth, still not one hundred percent sure she believed all that was going on. But she had always trusted Willow, and that charm was pretty compelling.  Unless of course, this was all some kind of elaborate brainwashing program that Willow had been working on for years, in which case it was probably too late to do anything about it anyways.  Marcy decided, either way, she should probably just go with the flow.

“Uh, guys. Aren’t you supposed to be taking me into protective custody or something like that?” They both turned back to Marcy for a second, staring blankly for a moment.

“Right!” Willow suddenly, declared, looking a little bit more like the woman who burst through the door with no explanation than the friend trying to explain everything.  “Marcy you come help me decide what you want to bring with you.  Joey lay down and try to take a nap until we’re ready to go.” And then she headed towards the bedroom again, muttering under her breath, something that sounded like continued distaste of her sleep-deprived partner.

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Posted by on February 28, 2014 in Ixi Agency

 

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Fiction: Morning After the Snow Moon (580 words)

“It’s kind of like waking up after an awful bout of the flu.” Liam’s voice was soft and delicate.  Beatrice was momentarily concerned that talking was only going to make him weaker, but she was too curious to stop him. “Your head feels stuffy and dizzy.  All of your joints ache.  You feel like you are going to be sick, and more often than not, before the day is up, you are sick.  Depending on what you actually got into the night before, you’re usually cut or bruised, but those injuries always tend to heal much faster than expected.  For the next couple of days, you feel the moon rise and set.  Your bones pull towards it and everything is stiff and uncomfortable.”  Liam coughed and Beatrice reached up to sweep his hair out of his eyes, casually trying to feel his forehead for a fever at the same time.  “Don’t you know some of this?  From your sister and your step-dad?”

“We don’t talk about it,”  Beatrice answered shortly. “Mom won’t let us. It almost seems like, to her, if we don’t mention it, or think about it, then it doesn’t actually happen.”

“My mom is the same way.  She tells me, ‘Most of the month you are my normal little boy.’  I know she’s just trying to be comforting, but most of the time I want to grab her by the shoulders, shake her and say, ‘No, I’m not. I will never be normal again.’  I wish she would stop denying it.”  Liam coughed again and settled deeper into his pillows.  “Who’s taking care of your dad and Margie this morning?  I hate to think I’m keeping you away from them.”

“My mom is taking care of them.  They’ll be fine. Who normally takes care of you?”

Liam looked timidly up at Beatrice. “I don’t want you to think less of them.  They just don’t know how to handle it.”

‘I’m sorry?”

“Usually, I take care of myself.  I’ve gotten very good at doing my own bandages and suffering in silence.  My parents can’t handle me in the mornings after.  My father can’t handle me very well on the best of days, and it just breaks my mother’s heart to see me.  I’d prefer she stay away then have that pathetic look on her face every time she looks at me.”

Beatrice, almost subconsciously, tucked the blankets tighter around Liam’s legs. She smiled as best she could and said, “That settles it then.”

“Settles what then?”

“Margie’s old enough that Mom can take care of her and Stephen without breaking a sweat.  I’m redundant over there.  From now on, I will be coming over here to take care of you on the morning after.”

“That really isn’t necessary.”

“I know it isn’t necessary, but I’ll be here anyway.  No one should have to take care of themselves while recovering from a bad bout of the flu. Now, close your eyes, and try to get some rest.”

She could see that Liam was ready to argue again, but his fatigue seemed to win out. “Thank you.”  He said simply. He reached up, as if to touch Beatrice’s cheek, and then seemed to think better of it and let his hand drop back to his side, before shutting his eyes again.  Beatrice watched as he drifted to sleep, and once she was sure he was out for the count, she leaned in and very carefully kissed him on the forehead.

 
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Posted by on February 26, 2014 in Stories

 

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Fiction: The Family Way (Part 5) (616 words)

The night of the winter formal was a good night.   Marta stayed out all night.  Bradley stayed until about four in the morning, before slipping out the window, across the roof, along the tree, and into his own house.  Marta and I slept through a majority of the remaining weekend, to the point where our mother insisted that she take our temperatures to make sure that we hadn’t caught some deadly virus at the dance.

But we were just bracing ourselves.  Because starting the Monday after Winter Formal was the exam weeks, the last two and a half weeks of the semester, when everything was due, and every free minute was filled with studying. Bradley didn’t see each other much more than the rides to and from school.  Marta and I didn’t see each other much beyond collapsing into bed each night.

The second to last day of exams, I woke up to the sound of Marta retching in the bathroom.  I got up and let myself into the bathroom, helping to hold her hair away from her face and neck, all with my eyes mostly shut still, hoping I’d be able to fall asleep again when this was all done.  “It’s okay.” Marta reassured me weakly, “Just overstressed.”

“Mmhmm.” I muttered in response, “Just don’t let Momma hear you.  I don’t really want to go into the city today.”  Our mother was constantly convinced we were dying.  If one of us had so much as a cold, we were both dragged into the doctor’s office for a day full of tests.  Just in case it was actually some strange international flu that was going to kill us dead. Today that would mean rescheduling exams into the winter break, which meant extra days of stress, and even less sleep.  Besides, I’d never been a fan of needles.

Marta made some sort of grunt that was probably supposed to be a reassurance but then leaned over the toilet again.  I sat on the edge of the bathtub and leaned my head against the wall, gently rubbing Marta’s back, hoping she’d feel better soon.

The next morning and throughout exams at school, Marta seemed fine.  You never would have guessed that we spent half the night in the bathroom.  A couple of people commented on how exhausted I looked, but Marta was practically an image of health, all smiles, and giddiness.

I wanted to believe that it was just stress, or perhaps just something that she ate. I wanted to believe that everything was going to be fine.  But the next day, and the next, and the next, I was awoken sometime in between one and two in the morning to comfort my sister as she was sick for a couple of hours or so. Even as school ended, and we made our way into the relatively stress-free two weeks that were the Christmas and New Year break, including our eighteenth birthday. Morning five, I was starting to get concerned.

“Maybe I should get Momma.  You’re starting to worry me.”  I offered that morning as I clipped her hair up.

“No. No, I don’t want to go to the doctors.  It’s just a little stomach bug.  Natalie says she thinks she had something similar right before the formal.  It’ll pass.  Just, give me a couple more days, alright?”

I considered saying no, I considered running out of the room in case I’d get sick too, and I considered telling Momma anyway. But I owed Marta more than that, so I just sighed.  “Two more days.  If you’re still sick, then I’m telling Momma.”

“Fair enough.”  Marta sat up a little straighter, “Come on. Let’s go back to bed.”

 
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Posted by on February 25, 2014 in Avery and Marta

 

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Fiction: Superstition (99 words)

I know a lot of superstitions.  Most of them I don’t really believe in, but I follow them anyway. Some are just good fun, and I use them to my advantage.  Like, “It bad luck to wake someone up on the day of their birth.” So, no alarm clocks on my birthday.  Others are fun to believe because others believe in them.  I will always flip tails-up pennies heads side up, just to try to make it someone else’s lucky day. Because it costs me nothing, and someone else might love to find it. What’s wrong with that?

 
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Posted by on February 24, 2014 in Stories

 

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Fiction: Wedding Thoughts (678 words)

Ellie sat at the top of the hill, looking down at the steps that were carved into the hillside, the triangle stack of rocks that made a pulpit, the wooden cross that sat behind it, and the beautiful dark water of the lake that sat behind that.

Ellie pulled her knees in a little closer to her chest, pulling her hoodie down over them a little bit further in an attempt to block out some of the night’s chill. She couldn’t go inside yet. Too much was still running through her head to actually head back to bed for the night.

After a little while longer, she heard soft footsteps and knew that someone was standing behind her. She didn’t even have to turn around to know it was Benjamin. Because whenever she was feeling particularly introspective or “thinking meaningful thoughts” it always seemed to be Benjamin who would show up. Her suspicions were confirmed when he sat down on the grass next to her with a thud.

Cutting her eyes to the side for a second, she took his appearance in. Benjamin had clearly attempted to sleep as well. He wore a pair of blue green plaid pajama pants and a thick hoodie sweatshirt. His hair was sticking up in the back, and Ellie had to wonder if he had been asleep before coming out here.

They sat there in silence for a while before Ellie sighed. It was barely audible, but Benjamin knew it as his cue. He scooted a little bit closer and put his arm around Ellie’s shoulder, and pulled her into lean against him. “So, Ellie, what brings you out here to stare at a lake at three thirty in the morning?”

“You know, I used to imagine that I would get married here,” she offered instead of actually answering the question, “Dad would walk me down the aisle, the edges of the stairs would be decorated in flowers. I could stand on that slight slope so that I didn’t look as ridiculously short in comparison to my husband as I undoubtedly would be. The sun would bounce off the lake and it would all sparkle like diamonds. I used to imagine that it would just be perfect.”

“And now?” Benjamin asked.

“What do you mean? Now what?”

“Well, you said you used to imagine that you were getting married here. What do you imagine now?”

“Oh,” Ellie chuckled to herself, “Now I know I’m not getting married.”

“You don’t want to get married anymore?” Benjamin was shocked. For as long as he had known Ellie, which was most of their relatively short lives, she had always dreamed of being a wife and mother. Not exclusively, mind you, but it had always been a part of her plans. The fact that it wasn’t anymore was simply mind boggling.

“Oh, no. I definitely still want to get married.”

Benjamin opened and closed his mouth a couple of times, before just letting out a breath with a puff. “Okay, I’m confused.”

“I want to get married. But the truth of it is that I am way too picky and my expectations are way too high. I’m never getting married.” Ellie wasn’t saying it for sympathy, or for those reassuring comments like “You’re wonderful!” or “Of course you’ll find the perfect husband someday.” It wasn’t her style to fish for compliments like that. She was saying it because she thought it was genuinely true. Somehow, that just made it that much worse.

Benjamin knew Ellie well enough to know that at this point there was absolutely no “right thing to say.” So he just hugged her a little tighter and leaned his head against the top of hers. “Well. We’ll see.’ He whispered.

“Yeah. I think we will.” Ellie replied, snuggling a little closer into his side. They sat there together until she finally fell asleep.

With the well-trained movements of an old friend who had done this several times before, Benjamin scooped Ellie up into his arms and carried her back to her room.

 
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Posted by on February 23, 2014 in Stories

 

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Fiction: Play Place (748 words)

Beth had to roll her eyes.  This was a Samuel plan if she had ever seen one.  He might try to pass it off as a James idea, or even a Richard idea in a pinch, but it just had Samuel written all over it.  Nate, being the older of the two toddlers, seemed to have taken charge.  He was standing up in the “crow’s nest” of the little play area, calling out orders in that strange little language of his that none of the adults seemed to understand.  Obviously Drew could though, because he was running around the grounds shouting back at Nate, pulling on different spots on the play ground structure.

“What in the world is going on here?” she asked with half a note of exasperation in her voice.   The three grown men watching the two boys play, turned to face her, all with well practiced and almost identical looks of sheepishness.

“It was James’ idea.”  Samuel immediately spat out. James slapped Samuel upside the back of the head with a quick, well practiced, motion, not even faltering in his sheepish ‘I’m sorry I got caught’ look that he was still sending Beth’s direction.

“Beth, Angel, I thought you were going to the bookstore.  I thought you’d be home later.” Richard started damage control mode.

“They were having one of those really annoying book club meetings where no one shuts up long enough to have a proper discussion, and certainly isn’t very conducive to writing,  so I thought I’d come home.  Even if I was going to be home later, how in the world were you going to keep me distracted from the new wooden play ground that had been constructed in our back yard?”

“I–”  Richard paused, before finishing lamely, “would have thought of something.”

“Or at the very least he would have gone out and bought you some chocolate as a peace offering,”  James assured her, probably hitting closer to the truth than Richard really felt comfortable with.

“Welp. I am tired. I think it’s getting late.  It’s–” Samuel stopped to check his watch, “Almost two in the afternoon! Wow, about time for me to hit the hay. Goodbye, all.”

“Wait!”  James’ voice was just on the side of desperate, “I’m coming too!”  James scooped Drew up, who laughed at the impromptu ride and yelled buh-bye to Nate. James followed at Samuel’s heels, eager not to be around if Beth was going to explode.  Nate was completely undeterred by his loss of a first mate, and kept yelling out orders, pointing at imaginary people around his “ship.”

Richard stuck his hands in the pockets of his jeans, his face shifting from the teenage troublemaker’s look of sheepishness to a husband’s apologetic smile. “So, are you really mad? Do you hate it?”

“How much is this going to cost us?” Beth asked.

“Not a thing.  It’s Samuel’s gift.”  Richard reassured her quickly.

“Then I love it.”  She smiled.  Richard let out a sigh of relief.  “It’ll be good for the boys to have some place to run around and play, I think.  It’ll keep them from completely destroying my living room over and over again.”  Richard smiled sheepishly again, knowing that more than once it had been under his watch that Drew and Nate had destroyed her living room.  But then he wrapped his arms around her shoulders and kissed her on the top of the head.

“Pillow forts are fun.” He offered as a way of an explanation.

“I don’t remember ever ripping pillows apart to build my forts as a kid.”  Beth countered

“Well, then I guess it’s very clear that you didn’t have too many awesome pillow forts as a kid.” Richard laughed.

“I beg your pardon.  My pillow forts were completely awesome, Richard Micrada, way cooler than yours could have ever been, and don’t you forget it.”

“Of course not. I wouldn’t dream of it.”  Richard kissed the top of Beth’s head again, and Beth smiled in spite of herself. “What do you say to bringing our little ship’s captain inside and getting plans started for dinner?”

“Sounds like a plan to me. But you’re the one who has to drag him inside kicking and screaming.  Good luck.”  Beth turned and headed inside, while her husband gaped at her with his mouth open.  How was he going to get their two-year old inside without him screaming like he was being tortured? Beth wasn’t sure, but she was eager to find out.

 
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Posted by on February 22, 2014 in Stories

 

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Fiction: Ixi Agency (Part 4)

–Marcy–

Marcy didn’t actually expect Willow to answer the phone after the movie.  After all, Marcy knew her paranoia sometimes went over the top, so she could really blame Willow for probably looking at the caller ID, rolling her eyes, and continuing on with her night.

When Willow didn’t respond to Marcy’s text message in the morning, Marcy didn’t think too much about that either. After all, Willow didn’t work in the summer, and Marcy thought it was very unlikely that Willow would be waking up early when she didn’t have to.

But as the night grew closer, and Willow still didn’t respond, Marcy started to get worried. As she climbed into bed, she decided that if she woke up and Willow still hadn’t replied, she would just go straight to Willow’s house regardless of the hour. It wasn’t like Willow to go all day without answering a text.

However, Marcy didn’t even think about checking her phone when she woke up because she did not wake up to her alarm or at any kind of sane time. She woke up to the intercom buzzing repeatedly and rapidly at 3:07 in the morning.

Annoyed Marcy didn’t think to put on her dressing gown but just stumbled towards the noise She picked up the handset attached to the intercom and tried to sound more awake. “Hello?”

“Marce, it’s me.  Buzz me up, Please. It’s important.” Willow’s voice had an edge to it that Marcy had never heard before.

“Willow? It’s 3 am.”

“I know. But please, buzz me up.” Marcy sighed and reached out to press the button that would unlock the door downstairs. “Thank you. I’m bringing up a friend, so don’t freak out.” The line went dead and Willow was gone. Maybe Marcy was over-paranoid, maybe it was the after effects of worrying about Willow all day. Maybe it was just the fact that it was three in the morning, but Marcy was very sure that something was very wrong.

Marcy stayed by the front door until she heard Willow’s sharp single knock, and let her in quickly.  Willow was barely in the apartment before she started doling out instructions. “You need to pack, Marcy.  Try to pack lightly, but also assume that you won’t be coming back here for a while, maybe a month or so, if not longer, so bring the essentials, but we are on limited time here.”  Willow blew past Marcy, heading to the bedroom, leaving Marcy standing alone with a rather attractive, almost six foot, fit, blonde man who had followed Willow into the apartment.  He gave Marcy a smile that gave her the feeling that he’d seen Willow like this before, and he wanted to apologize without actually saying anything.  Marcy, suddenly very aware that she was only in a tank top and boy shorts, followed Willow into her own bedroom, where Willow had already started pulling clothes out of the dresser and stacking them on the bed. “Where do you keep your suitcases?” Willow demanded as Marcy wrapped herself in her dressing gown.

There were so many questions bouncing around inside Marcy’s head, she wasn’t sure which to ask first.  The first ended up being the vague “Willow, what in the world is going on here?” which was quickly followed by “Who is that man standing in my front room?” and “Why are you packing my things?” When Willow didn’t answer, Marcy sighed and reached underneath her bed to pull out her duffel bag.  “You know, I was just kidding about the whole being kidnapped thing, right?” she added weakly.

“Uh, Wil?” The blonde guy had come to the doorway, and Marcy tried not to blush. “This girl is your best friend this cycle, right?”

“Uh-yup,” Willow responded her head in Marcy’s closet.

“Well, do you think that maybe we should try to explain what’s going on before we do kind of kidnap her?” Willow pulled her head out of the closet and raised an eyebrow. “I mean, we can’t tell her everything, but enough to keep her from freaking out.  Just saying.”

Marcy watched the two of them back and forth for a moment. While they seemed to have a silent conversation. She had always thought that she had been Willow’s longest and closest friend, but now, watching the two of them together, she could see that wasn’t true.  Willow’d know this guy, whoever he was, much longer.  So why had Marcy never heard a single thing about him?

Willow finally said “Highly unusual.”

“Everything about this is highly unusual, Sixie, why start being normal now?” The blonde man smiled.

“Well, okay.” Willow looked around at the mess that was half her fault. “Marcy, can we talk to you in the living room for a minute?” Willow led the way, and the man kindly stepped to the side so that Marcy could follow next.  She sank down on the couch, but Willow and the man remained standing. Marcy had a flashback to when her parents sat her down to tell her they were getting a divorce Marcy had a feeling that whatever Willow had to say was also going to change her life.

“Can we start the explanation with who the hell is he?” Marcy asked. She didn’t know what was going on, but there was a man in her apartment, and that was something tangible that she could focus on.

“Right,” Willow turned to face the man and then back to Marcy. “This is Agent Four, but you can call him Joey.  He’s been my partner and one of my closest friends for as long as I can remember now.  Joey, this is Marcy Jenkins, but you can call her Marcy. She’s been my best friend for the duration of this cycle.”

“Pleased to meet you.” Joey nodded politely.

“The pleasure is all mine, I’m sure,” Marcy responded automatically, but then said, “That’s the second time someone has mentioned a cycle. I’m assuming we’re not talking menstruation here.”

“Uh, no.” Willow laughed a little bit, “It’s um—“

Willow looked back at Joey, who shrugged and said, “Complicated.”

Willow sighed. “You aren’t going to believe most of this –if I can convince you to believe any of it at all. Joey and I will try to explain as much of it as we can, but it’s still going to sound crazy.  But try to believe?” Marcy nodded carefully, so Willow took a deep breath and began to explain.  “Joey and I, along with nine other people, make up a group called the Ixi Agency.  We were chosen to collect and protect the fantastical objects in the world.  We were selected a millennium ago for different abilities and were brought together to form a team.  By who?  We’ve long since forgotten if we ever knew at all.  We age in cycles, starting at fifteen, aging normally until we are thirty-four years old. On what would be the morning of our thirty-fifth birthday, we wake up fifteen years old again.   I was supposed to be on a break this cycle, twenty years off for a couple hundred years hard work, but I have the world’s worst luck.” Willow glanced back at Joey, and they shared a smile.

“So, you’re telling me you are some kind of magical being?” Marcy asked slowly.

“No, not magical.  Magic has all kinds of connotations that we don’t like. We use the word fantastical to describe both ourselves and the items we work with.  Things straight from, or that created, the fantasies of human kind.” Willow corrected gently.

“So-you were chosen for abilities.” Joey and Willow both nodded “Then what was it you were chosen for?”

Willow half turned to face Joey, an almost pleading look to her face, which freaked Marcy out even more, Willow had never been one to keep secrets, or so Marcy thought.  Almost any question Marcy could think to ask, Willow would have an honest answer. She never hesitated, and she never turned to someone else to answer her questions for her.

“Willow and I are what we call ‘After the fact’ Agents,” Joey spoke, but Marcy kept her eyes on Willow, “We are the agents that get called in when the shit has already hit the fan.  We are very good at saving people.”

Willow nodded at Joey’s answer and turned back to face Marcy with a smile. Only to have the smile melt off her face at Marcy’s expression. “What?”

Marcy ran her tongue over her front teeth as she thought for a second. “Willow, do you remember Hulk night?”

Now Willow looked confused. “You mean that night we got smashed out of our minds? Remember doing it? Yes.  Remember every detail of the night? No. Why do you ask?”

“Answer the questions, will you?” Marcy replied.

Willow looked at Joey skeptically, but he just gave her another half shrug, so Willow turned back to Marcy and said, “Well, okay. Fire away then.”

“What were our drinks, who was our sober sitter, and what did we make her get for us at three thirty in the morning?” Marcy Challenged.

“I was drinking Vodka cranberries and you were drinking screwdrivers.  Our sober sitter was the beautiful Kathryn Anne, and we made her go get us blocks of cheese.”

Marcy sighed and sank back on the couch, only to have Joey’s explanation start to sink in.  “Wait a minute.  If you guys are the people who get called in when the shit has already hit the fan, then why are you here? What’s wrong with me?”

“Nothing’s wrong with you.” Willow quickly reassured her, sitting on the couch and placing a hand on Marcy’s knee. “We’re here to protect you. Everyone has a little bit of something inside them that lets them control these fantastical items if they come across them. However, each item has a level as well, the stronger that level, the easier the item can resist use by a user.  Some humans develop higher levels of abilities to overpower the resistance in these objects.  The Ixi Agency has the ability to search for these people and organize them into levels from the average people who have the lowest strength to the Top Tier Users, who have the strongest power.  Four days ago, one of the most powerful items in the Ixi Agency’s collection was stolen.  We believe that those who stole it are going to realize that they need a Top Tier User to make it work, so we are collecting all of the top tier users, and bring them into protective custody until we can get it all sorted out.”

“So–“Marcy trailed off. She was still trying to process everything that was just said.

“You are a top tier user, yes.” Joey provided for her. “You’re kind of a big deal.”

“And—“  Willow said, giving Marcy’s knee a little squeeze, “—I’m sorry. But you’re in  a lot of danger.”

 
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Posted by on February 21, 2014 in Ixi Agency

 

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