Enjoy the chapter, folks, because if this story moves the way that I hope it will I can finish it and we all can move on with our lives. With the current outline, I'll be done in three or four chapters. Feedback is always appreciated. At the moment, it feels like I'm finishing this for the sake of finishing it, but I have enjoyed writing this story.
Saturday June 13, 8:08 P.M.
There was always time for recon, Jinx's favorite teacher at the HIVE Academy had always said. The Headmistress hadn't led her wrong before, so Jinx made a slow approach from the outside of the base. There weren't any outright signs of trouble, of course, but the keypad by the main entrance told her everything she needed to know.
The four red lights down the outer edge were all lit. Jinx forced herself to take the extra time to think before rushing in blindly. She punched in the long string of numbers needed to access a full status report. This was a four-light emergency, but that could mean any number of things. She tapped her foot impatiently as the small screen above the numbers showed the slow crawl of text. Containment breach, full alert, system lockdown, guards deployed. Slade had his creepily narcissistic robots out, then, and someone had found a way out of the holding cell. Raven-and-Garfield-and-Richard would be moving for the exit if they had any sense, but all of the exits were locked.
A second series of numbers fixed the last problem. Any of the doors in the facility would open or close freely. That was the most help she could offer at the moment.
She would deal with Slade first, because he would definitely be heading toward the containment breach if he weren't there already. Jinx closed her eyes. That was a completely unnecessary habit, but she'd only been a jinni for nine years. It helped to not watch the world shift around her when she moved around this way. Slade had been carrying the bottle full time. It was harder for him to lose it that way, but that meant she had no chance of losing him. Jinx appeared at Slade's side in the next moment.
Of course, he managed to look unsurprised. His only warning had been a slight flare of pink, but he turned to face her as if he had been waiting for her in that particular stretch of empty hallway. "Jinn. You have the prophecy?"
Really, he could at least switch the letter on the end and address her by name. "I have the prophecy as it was said by Trigon himself, you can at least look a little happy." She held out a fan of papers with a flourish. "I couldn't check out any library books without kicking off the prophecy in weird ways that don't stop for anything, but I have the full text."
He took the papers with absolutely no ceremony. If he had done it with less dignity, she could have said he had snatched them out of her hand like a grabby five-year-old. "This is precisely what Trigon said?" Slade said, tapping her transcription of the false prophecy.
"Exactly," Jinx promised. "The gem was born of evil's fire, the gem shall be the portal. The gate will open, twist the gyre to bring the demons to the mortal," she recited when he didn't look convinced. Prophecies always seemed to hold more weight when said aloud.
Slade's scowl only deepened as compared her words to the transcript. Jinx waited, very patiently, and was very thankful that Richard chose to peer cautiously around a corner after two minutes with no sounds from Slade or Jinx. He ducked back before Slade looked away from the paper, so Jinx kept biding her time.
"Just what does this mean?" Slade finally growled.
"If you made that a wish, I might be able to come up with something. As it is, I'm pretty dangerously low on juice here. Trigon and Kore aren't exactly easy to hold back, and Raven gets more difficult when she gets more emotional. She's the odd duck to get more dangerous when she's ticked off."
The permanent lines around his lost eye deepened, but he didn't make any of the usual signs that would accompany an imminent wish. "Very well. I will research this on my own." He stalked back toward the control room without giving her any further direction.
Jinx walked the opposite direction until she found a convenient alcove, and knocked quietly on an adjacent section of wall. "I'm on your team, Richard, let's chat for a minute."
He regarded her warily from the impromptu hiding place, not that she was at all bothered. She was immaterial, not that people ever paid attention, and he had no way of harming her. Still, her glance slipped to the weapon he was carrying. Apparently it had served its use well, because the shoe was very badly dented, but his stalwart weapon remained a lady's shoe.
"Want an upgrade, Cinderella? Pick your poison and I'll see what I can get." It took no more energy than breathing to create flurries of pink sparks around her fingers.
"I know Slade favors a bo staff, when he's not shooting."
"Silver cylinder deal that Slade has on his belt, right next to the tied-on leather pouch with a pink glass genie bottle?" she asked brightly. This wasn't the time to debate terminology, everybody knew a genie's bottle when they saw one but not everyone could read the good translation of Arabian Nights.
He nodded. Apparently, Richard took much more encouragement to move out of the skeptical-looks stage.
Jinx neatly stripped away a long rectangle of metal from the nearest wall. Conjuring was entirely past her, at this point, but she could still shift things around with the best of them. Ten seconds later, she held out a perfectly functional cylinder-thing about the length of her forearm.
Richard promptly extended it into a six-foot pole, but it was much better that they worked out any issues in workmanship immediately.
When he didn't say anything, Jinx decided to keep the program moving. "Slade's in the control room looking up information on a fake prophecy. The exit is straight through, labeled neatly because even villains have building codes. At this point, I could grab you and stick you somewhere safe, but then Slade could make me bring you back… it's better to finish this. Fine the bright pink bottle, open it, and we're home free. First thing you'll wish is for all of Slade's wishes and orders to be null and void."
"You're on our side?"
"Well, mostly. Technically I'm on the side of whoever is carrying the bottle, but I play favorites and you win because I want Slade to take a long walk on a short pier over wet concrete."
He half-smiled, but didn't comment about her metaphorical statement of dislike. Jinx was pretty sure it was metaphorical, at least. She didn't have the patience to deal with all the prep work it would require.
"Thanks," Richard said, gesturing with the staff.
Jinx smiled at the addition of manners. If she wasn't mistaken, they were in business. "I don't want the world to end any more than you do, and I definitely don't want Trigon to get any madder." Raven had told them about that, right? Maybe. Richard didn't look surprised.
He was hopelessly earnest and type-hero, but she liked him anyway. "Same to you. Kick Slade's ass for me?"
Okay, maybe she really liked him—that smirk promised that Slade would get what was coming to him. He saluted with the staff before he headed for the control room. She headed for the two wayward ex-prisoners.
Saturday June 13, 8:12 P.M.
Raven stared up at the giant green gorilla-wolf-lion-thing. She had met several of her father's associates before, but it was very different to meet a twenty-foot-tall demon with purple skin and a putridly orange business suit. It didn't hurt at all that Trigon happened to be extremely protective of her, and she was a little inexperienced when it came to fighting. She had finally convinced Kore to spar with her, but it had taken an entire year to work those sessions into anything physically strenuous.
She definitely didn't have experience being on her own with something that was much larger, and didn't have a game plan for something that looked at her with no hint of comprehension or intelligence. "Garfield, we really should have discussed details."
The dark eyes of the Garfield-creature focused on her, and she felt the faintest stirrings of curiosity behind some impenetrable tangle of simple emotions that flared dark when she drew on her empathy. "I should have mentioned that I'm not great with animals, and that my entire body of knowledge on animal psychology and appropriate body language comes out of books."
Raven's voice was as flat as always, but he didn't seem to mind. Beast had settled back, listening intently, and that gave her the courage to move closer. "Maybe you'll come with me? We need to head out of here, Garfield."
She closed her eyes to focus on the extra sense better. If there was any rage in that knotted snarl of emotions, it was so mixed in with confusion and nameless emotions that it was no immediate threat. She had never felt those emotions from anyone, before, but she would guess that they indicated a relaxed state of mind.
She opened her eyes to find a very large hand-paw with larger nails a bit closer than she would have desired. She watched the claw-tips very carefully, but the pads of the hand-paw stopped half a foot away from her. Raven laid her hand against one of the fingers, to be polite, before meeting Beast's eyes again. "We need to get out of here. Come with me."
When she walked away, there were a few moments of silence before she heard the quiet footfalls start behind her.
Raven was sure that she had never looked stranger in her life. Kore had coaxed her into wearing a bright red dress that really hadn't been designed for stealth, Raven had already abandoned her remaining shoe, and she was still wearing Garfield's coat. The day had started out promisingly enough, but this was not her ideal Saturday night.
She wasn't at all surprised when Madame Rouge stepped into the hallway in front of them.