For more information on Modesty Blaise see Jim Pattinson's Modesty Blaise page (sorry, fanfiction net won't let me post the details, but Google will find it.)
by Marcus L. Rowland
When the entry phone of her London penthouse rang, Modesty Blaise was in the middle of a yoga session. The part of her mind that wasn't meditating absently noted the voice of her houseboy Weng. Then Weng came into the lounge and coughed apologetically, bowed slightly when she looked at him, and said "There are two young women to see you. They have been sent by Sir Gerald Tarrant."
Modesty stood, said "Better let them come up," slipped on a house robe over her leotard, and went to her desk. She wasn't expecting trouble, especially from Tarrant, but it was always possible that they were impostors, and her MAB Brevette pistol was in one of the drawers. She heard the lift doors open, and a moment later Weng showed two women into the lounge. Modesty guessed they were in their early twenties. One had dark-hair and a slightly Latin look, and wore leather trousers and a midriff-revealing top that let Modesty see the faint trace of a scar on her abdomen. It looked like a knife wound. The other was a redhead wearing jeans and a denim jacket over a wooly jumper. The redhead said "Hi. My name's Willow Rosenberg, this is Faith Lehane." She had an American accent, probably Californian. "We're here about a guy called Lucifer."
"Lucifer?" Modesty asked cautiously. She remembered the psychic and his paranoid delusions, and the period when she'd been forced to be his lover, but they were supposed to be a closely-guarded secret.
"We were told you were the person to talk to, the person he'll listen to. Only it's a little difficult to explain."
"Maybe you could start by explaining who you are."
"That's one of the difficult parts." Willow looked embarrassed. Faith grinned but didn't say anything.
"Weng said Sir Gerald Tarrant sent you." Tarrant ran one of the less conspicuous and more effective parts of the British Secret Service. From time to time Modesty and her former partner in crime, Willie Garvin, worked for him.
"Oh, right. Sir Gerald said we should ask you to call him to confirm that."
"Thank you, I will." Modesty sat down and dialled his number from memory, and in moments was through to his office.
"Sir Gerald? I have two women here who say you sent them."
"Miss Rosenberg and her colleague?" Sir Gerald Tarrant's voice was unmistakable.
"That's right. Could you describe them, please."
"Miss Rosenberg is about five foot eight, a redhead, aged twenty-five. Miss Lehane is the same height, dark haired, aged twenty-four."
"Thank you. And it's in connection with...?"
"Lucifer. They're cleared for all information on him."
"You're quite sure?" asked Modesty.
"Absolutely. Oh, I should warn you, what they'll be telling you is odd, and has nothing to do with this department. I'd strongly advise you to keep your involvement to a minimum." Coming from Tarrant, that meant that it was going to be very odd indeed, and probably extremely dangerous.
"Thank you. Oh, will you still be free for dinner on Thursday."
"This Thursday?" said Tarrant, surprise in his voice. "I thought it was next Wednesday."
"Just checking it was really you."
"I'm afraid so," said Tarrant. "Call me back later, I'd appreciate your thoughts once you know what this is about."
"I will." Modesty hung up, and turned her attention to her visitors. "What can I do for you?"
"First, let me just check something," said Willow. "You know that Lucifer has powers, right?"
"He can predict the death of anyone he touches, or by touching their possessions, if it'll happen within a couple of months. He's about eighty percent accurate."
"How do you explain it?"
"Psychometry. A type of psionic power."
"Run across anyone else with powers?"
"I know a very successful dowser, and a friend can sense danger sometimes."
"Okay, that's a good start. What about magic?"
"I've met tribal magicians, but I've no reason to believe it works, except by suggestion."
"Okay. Let's just say that you're wrong, that magic exists, and that magic and psionics are all part of the same package. Are you okay with that?"
"I've listened so far because Tarrant sent you," said Modesty, "but that's... well, it's a little hard to believe."
"I guess," said Willow. She cupped her hands together and a ball of glowing light appeared between them, floating towards Modesty as she moved them apart. As it moved towards her it seemed to grow, until it was floating a few inches from Modesty's face, about the size of a grapefruit, and bathing her in the warmth and light of a summer day. "You were saying?" said Willow.
"Oh.." said Modesty, "...is it safe to touch it?"
"Yes. Might be a little warm but it shouldn't burn you."
Modesty poked the ball with a cautious finger and felt a tingle of gentle heat, then reached into a drawer, pulled out a digital camera, stood, and took pictures of it from three different angles.
"Clever," Willow said approvingly. "You're right, of course, except if I was messing with your mind, I could probably make you think you were seeing consistent pictures. But I'm not."
Modesty dropped the camera into a docking station and pressed the "print" button, then watched the pictures appear, each showing the ball. Eventually she said "So magic exists. Now what?" Somehow, she wasn't sure how, she was taking it relatively calmly.
"Now it gets dangerous," said Willow. She clicked her fingers, and the ball seemed to implode on itself and vanished with an audible 'pop.' She leaned forward in her chair and said "Okay. Now, given that magic exists - and if you want more proof I'll be happy to show you - are you prepared to accept that supernatural creatures exist too?"
"My turn," said Faith, speaking for the first time. She was another American, Modesty couldn't place the accent. "I always wanted to give the speech. Really ought to be wearing tweed for this." She stood, pretended to take off a pair of glasses, and in a feigned British accent said "'This world is older than you know. Contrary to popular mythology, it did not begin as a paradise. For untold aeons demons walked the Earth. They made it their home, their... their Hell. But in time they lost their purchase on this reality. The way was made for mortal animals, for, for man. All that remains of the old ones are vestiges, certain magics, certain creatures... ummm...' Damn, can't remember where it goes after that. Anyway, the point is that there's a lot of stuff out there besides humans, and a lot of it is pretty nasty. Black magic, vampires, demons, they're all real."
"And some of the good things too, of course," said Willow.
"There's a war between good and evil," said Faith, "only they don't call it that, of course. One side is the Powers that Be, the guys that want humanity to win, except that they want us to do it for ourselves. Every now and again they'll give us a champion or a seer, or some kinda miracle, but that's about it. The other side... well, their shock troops are vampires and demons, that ought to give you a pretty good idea. Over them are a bunch I've heard called the Senior Partners, half a dozen other names."
"And Tarrant knows about this?" asked Modesty.
"There are several organisations on the side of good," said Willow. "Or at least on the side of keeping the human race from being monster fodder. One of them, the one we work for, is the Watchers' Council, and for the last few hundred years it was based in Britain, had ties to all sorts of departments in the government. Every now and again the Watchers would need something the government had, like weapons or fake passports, and I guess there was some payback. We don't really know much about that, most of the records have been lost, but the government seems to think it owes us a few favours."
"What happened to the records?" asked Modesty.
"I said this was a war," said Faith. "A couple of years ago most of the Council was taken out, their headquarters and most of their people in the field. You might remember part of it, there was an explosion in London, killed about fifty people, got blamed on an Iraqi splinter group." Modesty remembered it; she'd gone to give blood in the aftermath, and been turned away because she'd had several transfusions in the past. "That was it for the old Council, and for a while it looked like we were going to lose, but Willow worked some major mojo that helped us win a battle, and ended up actually making us stronger. Stronger and kinda disorganised, but we're working on that."
"All right," said Modesty. "Accepting all that for the moment, what does this have to do with me... or Lucifer?"
"A couple of months ago I was driving through New York state," said Willow, "when I felt... it's difficult to explain, kinda like a power surge, only magical. I was in a hurry, couldn't do much more than make a note of it, but I came back about a week later and tracked the source down to a sanatorium - you can guess which one, I think."
"The Benson Clinic?"
"Yeah. So I did some checking and found out about Lucifer, and I went back and lied my way in to see him."
"And he ignored you?" asked Modesty
"Showed him pretty much what I showed you, he kinda took it in his stride, said I was powerful for a mere human. When I tried to talk to him about his power, about what he really is, I got nowhere. He's totally locked into his delusions. It wasn't urgent then, so I left it at that, but things have changed."
"So Lucifer is... what? One of the magical creatures you mentioned?"
"Kinda," said Willow. "We need him to return to his rightful place."
"As far as I know he's still a psychiatric patient. Has he escaped?"
"No. He's still in the clinic. That's the trouble."
"He ought to be where he belongs. In Hell."
"I know it's kinda hard to take in, but it's true. Everyone thinks he's nuts, but they're wrong. Well, wrong-ish. He really is Lucifer, the Lightbringer, the Morningstar, rightful ruler of Hell." She paused for breath, then said "I said it was difficult to explain."