Shadows of Doubt
The streets of Dimmsdale filled with activity as cars sped along in their commuting routines. People with umbrellas in hand walked briskly down the sidewalks to work, feeling oddly refreshed and not quite so depressed as before. Children in raincoats and shining rubber boots laughed happily as they splashed in puddles and reached for the clouds above. A few of them listened to soft whispers that surrounded them and then closed their eyes, murmuring silent words of praise and gratitude to the one or ones who lifted the magical oppression from their district.
Down the street, just outside the freed section of city, a little girl in tawny pigtails and a pink nightgown hummed cheerfully as she sat in her chair at the kitchen table. Her parents hustled and bustled about her, giving her a bowl of cereal for breakfast before they forgot and rushed off to work without a second thought. The two adults seemed almost frazzled, snatching up quickly heated breakfast items and cups of coffee before heading for the door. The little girl was already partially through her bowl of cereal when she heard the door open and a bright voice called out to her parents.
"Don't you worry! She'll be in good hands! After all, it's your good neighbor and fellow love-filled citizen, Remy Buxaplenty, who pays my babysitting fees so that you don't ever have to worry about it again!"
"Uh oh." the girl murmured and quickly scrambled out of her chair. Running to her room as fast as her padded feet could carry her, she waved her arms almost frantically. The door to the apartment closed and she could hear her babysitter search the area for her.
"Oh, Sophia! Guess who's here to do another little search?" the voice chirped on and Sophia reached for her doorknob, stretching up as high as she could on her toes to grab onto it. A shadow passed over her and she looked back, fearful. Tall, thin, a cruel smile displayed for only her to see on her face, Jeanette was Dimmsdale's new city-wide babysitter, hired and paid for by Remy Buxaplenty in his bid for the title of Heart of Dimmsdale.
Several kids compared her to Vicky in terms of meanness; Vicky still won, but only by a slight margin.
"Well, if it isn't my favorite little runt all dressed up in pink." Jeanette purred darkly, "Your parents are off for their daily drudgery, so that means you do what I say and stay out of my way!" Sophia whimpered and covered her head as the teen reached down, grabbed her by the back of her nightgown and dropped her onto a nearby hat rack. "Now you stay put while I do that customary search that dear little Mr. Money pays me to do." She laughed near maniacally as she kicked open the door to her room and marched in. Sophia kicked and squirmed from her position on the wall, trying to slip free or at least rip through her nightgown's collar.
"Mister Fairy! Hide, hide, hide!" she whimpered softly as her possessions were strewn all over the place for the sake of Jeanette's search. It took several minutes before the babysitter came out of the bedroom with a sour look.
"Kid, I make you miserable enough to bring down a clown's mood. Remy wants a fairy, and here you are being a lousy little brat and not getting one for me to take to him!" Jeanette snapped at the dangling little girl, ignoring her loud wailing, "Now get in your room and shut up! I don't wanna hear anything out of there that sounds like fun!" With that, she snatched the girl from the hat rack and tossed her carelessly into the bedroom, slamming the door shut after her.
Sophia picked herself up, trying to quiet her sobs so as not to invite more cruelty from the babysitter. Her room was a mess again, toys tossed about and dresser drawers opened, clothes strewn over the floor. Every time Jeanette came to Sophia's home, this was the same result; she would ransack the little girl's room in a search for fairies, then blame the mess on her being a temperamental child. Of course, her parents believed the babysitter. Every time, Jeanette would fail to find anything and remained sour and bitter up until it was time for her to leave and be paid. But this time, there really was a fairy in her room. Why didn't Jeanette see him?
"M-Mister Fairy?" she called out softly and looked for the little cradle where she often put her little dolls for playing 'Mommy', the same toy she emptied out earlier that morning to make room for the fairy she found just outside her apartment building. It was now overturned, probably had been kicked over during Jeanette's search. She crawled towards it and carefully lifted one side of it, peeking underneath.
A green-haired fairy curled underneath it, arms lifted to protect his head and legs pulled up to make himself smaller. One wing fluttered, the other had been torn almost in half when she found him and the poor little thing had the icky red stuff that meant she needed to give him a band-aid to help it. Sophia reached out and poked at his head.
"Mister Fairy, she's gone. It's okay." she whispered and the fairy uncurled, looking at her with wide green eyes.
"And I thought Vicky was bad!" he murmured back and shifted around until he was on his knees, both arms held up over his chest protectively, "Who's that?"
"Jeanie. Meanie Jeanie. Her name is big and hard to say, so I call her Jeanie." Sophia returned and pushed the cradle higher so he could shuffle out. "I'm sorry, Mister Fairy. I said I take care of you, but I forgot Jeanie comes and messes up my room." She reached out and barely touched his right arm with her fingertip. "It still hurting?" she asked. The little fairy pressed his hand to it, winced and nodded. Sophia sighed. Taking care of him was harder than she had thought. He had the icky red on his back, right where the wing was all torn up and she put the smallest band-aid she could find on it. Then she found out his left hand also had little owies on it that had more red. No band-aids for that, but she wrapped it up in one of her doll's ribbons and it seemed to do the trick. She didn't know how to fix his wing, though. She wanted to use tape, like Mommy always did when paper tore up and his wings were a little like paper so it could have worked. But Mister Fairy's eyes went really wide and he shook his head. Maybe tape was bad for fairies?
"You don't have a fairy godparent?" the fairy asked suddenly and Sophia looked confused, tilting her head. "Someone like me. A fairy, but one who looks after you."
"Nope. You're the first fairy I ever seed. Saw. Yeah, that." she replied and looked around her room sadly, "I'm gonna be in trouble again. It's not fair." The fairy rubbed his head, lost.
"If I had my wand, I could make it better." he remarked and brightened, "And I'd be better, too! My wand has all my magic in it, so I can use it to heal myself up!" Sophia lit up and clapped her hands, giggling.
"Really? Okay, then, Mister Fairy! Let's find your wand!" she exclaimed and the fairy shook his head.
"Cosmo. My name's Cosmo." he remarked, "And I'm kind of lost. I got separated from my friends and I don't know where I am." Sophia got up and began toddling to her closet to get her jacket and hoodie.
"Are they fairies too?" she asked, opening the door to look inside.
"Some, but the rest are normal people. I want to be home with them. With Wanda and Timmy." Cosmo returned, getting to his feet and following the small girl.
"Uh uh. You can't call anybody else 'Timmy'. That's against the rules here." she said with a shake of her head. Cosmo sighed in exasperation.
"Okay. Timothy. If I had my wand, I could fix your room, fix myself and go home to Wanda and Timothy." he amended and Sophia looked at him with wide eyes, on the verge of tears again.
"You'll go away? But, I thought you could stay here with me and be my friend!" she whimpered and began to cry. Cosmo waved his hand at her in a panic.
"Don't cry, don't cry! It makes me wanna cry!" he exclaimed, feeling his own tears start up, "I'll stay here for a while longer, okay? Just don't cry!" Sophia stopped abruptly, sniffling as she rubbed at her eyes.
"P-promise? You'll stay and be my friend?" she asked softly. The fairy stared up at her, then sighed and hung his head.
"I can't promise to stay forever. I have things I have to do." he murmured, then smiled up at her, "But I can stay for as long as it takes for my friends to find me." Sophia tilted her head, thinking it over, then nodded. It seemed good enough. Maybe they wouldn't find him, then she'd have a friend to talk to and play with when Jeanette came, and she wouldn't be lonely and sad anymore.
"Okay." she mumbled and turned back to her closet, "Uh oh. She messed up my closet, too." She looked around at the clothes tossed around and recognized a few had been thrown out of the closet entirely. "Your wand was in my pocket in my jacket. I put my jacket here, but it's not here anymore." Sophia murmured and hurried back into her room, gazing out at the mess of toys and clothes. "I have to find it in all this?" Cosmo joined her, fluttering his good wing out of habit.
"Not good. This could take a while." he sighed and the two of them set to work picking up clothes and toys in search of the red jacket.
A single black van, unmarked, slowly cruised along the roads of Dimmsdale, trying to avoid the early afternoon traffic. Spread out around it, seeming to jog alongside the vehicle, were more than half a dozen teenagers prowling the sidewalks. They had gone from one mission that took a full night almost immediately into another. Somewhere in Dimmsdale, a beloved member of their team was lost, possibly hurt, probably scared out of his mind.
High above them, a ghostly teenager soared invisibly past buildings and small aircraft, looking around himself worriedly. Quietly relaying information down to his friends through a pair of bright green earring-like communicators, the phantom nodded at a change of direction and altered his flight to continue following the van down below him.
One of the young teenagers peering into alleys and into abandoned containers was Timmy Turner, better known as Timothy Neogene as Dimmsdale and the world in general believed truthfully that Timmy Turner was deceased and had been for four years. Hanging around his neck and shimmering against the black of his stealth outfit was a pink iPod with a golden crown logo displayed beneath the LCD screen. This was Wanda, his fairy godmother and fellow outcast from life and the world, taking the place and guise that her husband, Cosmo, usually held.
Cosmo had been missing for several hours already, deemed MIA since the fall of the third Dark Spire spreading anti-magic over the city.
The van was driven by Caleb, a redheaded angelic android charged with watching over Heroes and the knowledge of the world. In the spacious cargo area of the vehicle, a plush bed took up space, a resting place for members of Team Phantom and Team Turner to retire to when they couldn't go any further in their search for the fairy. The anti-nullifier device that once was located in the Ivory Tower had been relocated to the interior of the truck, providing a short-range barrier against the anti-magic zone. A bubble of protection from the devices that banned wishes, it was a safe haven for the fairies to gather and recover from exposure to the outside field and grant a few wishes.
Clutching umbrellas and checking in constantly with each other through the Fenton Phones, the S-List teenagers continued their search, hampered slightly by the problem of calling out to someone who could not be revealed without jeopardizing their mission. On top of that, they had to resist using magic of any kind, lest they draw the attentions of the anti-magic devices scattered and hidden throughout the downtown district.
"Cosmo? You here? Oh, drats; I think I chipped a nail."
"Come out, Cosmo! Uh, here, kitty, kitty? That's a hint, okay?"
"Hey, little dude! Are you here? Ooh, is that burnt bacon?"
"Cosmo. It's us, Timmy and Wanda. Are you okay? Are you here?"
Soft murmurs, whispers and calls of his name fell from the mouths of each youngster, but no response came to them. Even Timmy's white armband, a magically conjured computer designed to display a map of Dimmsdale in various ways and locate fairies by use of their names and wands, was of very little help. It couldn't locate Cosmo directly using his wand, so it made a rather general search of the city for his wand and located it within the city limits. But the wand had fallen into one of the five remaining nullification zones, so a precise location was impossible to determine. Still, knowing that he was within a thirty-block radius inside that district was somewhat hopeful.
"This is gonna take forever!" Chester complained as the group came together in front of one shop, "Can't we trash some of the nullifiers and anti-magic junk in this place and make another scan or something?"
"That could work. If the nullifiers are throwing off the echolocation scan of Cosmo's wand, then we should shut down as many of them as possible and try it again." A.J. remarked thoughtfully.
"We can use our newly discovered skills and fighting styles to destroy them much faster than Timothy alone could!" Sanjay exclaimed brightly. Elmer looked around the area and scratched his head in mild puzzlement.
"Why do I get a weird feeling about this place?" he muttered to himself. Timmy folded his arms over his chest, thinking hard about the situation. It would be easier to get a better scan of the area to find Cosmo's wand if the nullifiers were all destroyed. But the magitech armor that Team Turner wore during the assault on the third Spire had been taken back to the Ivory Tower for minor repairs and data collection, deemed magically unreliable until they managed to make them immune to wishes. Would it really be a good idea to let the other teens attack anti-magic devices without the protective armor? Especially now that he knew Remy was beginning to hide bombs within some of the units?
"I dunno. I can cast Revive on you all to keep you from getting killed, but it's only good once and if something happens to you again..." he began worriedly.
"Then I will step in and cast Resurrection. Honestly, did you really think I'd allow a Hero's allies to die before the mission is completed?" Caleb interrupted over the Fenton Phones. Timmy rolled his eyes and shook his head.
"Okay. Fine. Whatever. Wanda, you up for some anti-magic device hunting?" he asked the pink iPod. Wanda's face replaced the screen, still a bit tearful from her few hours of sobs and wails.
"If it will help find Cosmo, yeah. Just be careful yourself, Sport. You're all I have left..." the disguised fairy murmured and drowned the rest of her words in tears. Trixie and Tootie both looked faintly uncomfortable; to lose a fairy godparent the way Cosmo was lost could be devastating to anyone, but it was far worse when they were one of a set. Wanda could barely focus and Timothy seemed dead-set on searching the city for him, come Hell or high water and being immortal gave him all the time in the world to do it.
"All right. Then how should we track down the nullifiers? I'm the only one with a portable detector." the brunet questioned the group. The van pulled up beside them and Caleb leaned out the driver's side window, grinning.
"I have an idea. That map of yours can download data from both Fairy World's computers and Earth-based ones, right? Hand off the detector to Chester and let me upload the software for the detector into your map. If it can pick up the signals from a fairy's wand, it can pick up the signals for an anti-magic device." he remarked and pointed up at the sky. "Danny's still doing aerial patrols, so he'll look out for the airborne nullifiers. You guys handle the ground-based units. If you're lucky, most of them will be the stationary ones. The ones on legs are harder to deal with."
"I'll say." Tootie muttered, remembering the drops in mana from the night before each time one of the walking nullifiers ran by her. She watched the brunet hand the small device off to Chester, then head for the van, climbing into the back for the transfer.
"Well, let's get started. He'll join up with us later, I bet." Chester remarked, "Let's stick together so we can overpower nullifiers as a team, 'kay?" The teens nodded and ran off down the sidewalk, following the markers on the screen. Tootie held back, watching them make their way to the first nullifier, then headed for the van herself. She climbed in and smiled up at Timmy, who gave her a startled look.
"What are you doing here?" he asked as she settled on the bed beside him.
"If you're getting an upgrade, I want one too." she remarked and pushed back her hair so her fairy godmother, Andromeda, could poof out of earring mode and float in the air before them. Caleb gave them both a strange look, then shrugged and inserted the cable from his laptop into the armband Timmy wore. "Romi, I wish I had an Adventurer's Map just like Timmy's!" Tootie declared and the fairy waved her wand to grant the wish. A burst of dark blue smoke later, a white metal band similar to the one on Timmy's arm appeared on the young Goth. Tootie looked it over and crinkled her nose. "Can you make it black?" she asked and smiled brightly when Romi tapped it with her wand to change the color, "Thanks!" She held out her arm and grinned. "Look, Timmy! We match now!" she laughed, "This way, we can have three times the search power!" The brunet blinked at her, puzzled, and she squirmed about until she could rest her head against his arm. "I said I was gonna help you any way I could. I want to be strong enough to stand by you." she murmured, "So let's work together and find Cosmo so you can be happy again. You're the Heart of Dimmsdale. If you're not happy, our city isn't happy."
"All right, all right." Timmy sighed in resignation, but cracked a small grin, "If I had only known just how much people here really liked me, maybe I would have been more careful on that jungle gym."
"Upload complete. You're good to go." Caleb remarked and disconnected the teen from his laptop, "All right, Tootie, step up. You're getting hooked up next." Timmy jumped from the bed and headed for the street again.
"Catch you later, Tootie!" he called back cheerfully and leaped out of the van, ready to start the search again.
Sophia pulled the pockets of her jacket out and whimpered. The wand wasn't in it. Cosmo sighed and sat back against her bookshelf, exhausted from the effort of picking up fallen books and toys with only one hand, his right arm in far too much pain to be moved. The jacket had been found but the wand that was supposed to have been in the pocket was not there.
"I'm sorry." Sophia murmured and sat down amidst the mess of clothes, books, toys and small furniture. "Can we get another one?"
"No, not really." Cosmo muttered and looked around, hoping to catch a glimpse of the black handle or gold star, "Fairy World gives out only one wand when a fairy's born." He pressed the heel of his hand to his forehead, fighting down the pounding ache that spread through it. "I got that one when I was a baby. There's no way I can get another one; I'm banished from Fairy World so I can't go back and ask for a new one."
"Head hurting?" Sophia asked, watching him with a worried face. She toddled over, picking her way past the mess to sit by him. "Why can't you go to Fairy World? Is that your house? Is that where you live?" Cosmo smiled brightly.
"It's really big and lots of fairies live there on fluffy pink clouds and there are rainbow bridges all over the place! That's how it connects here, with a big rainbow bridge full of pretty color magic!" he exclaimed and looked vaguely thoughtful, "There still isn't a single manly word in that sentence. Oh well." He went on to describe what he could focus on, the streets that alternated between being covered in gold to being covered in shiny pebbles that were lost to the rivers and oceans to being paved with playing cards; the little diner where he worked as a young fairy and saw Wanda for the first time, falling in love right on the spot after accidentally spilling food all over her; the Fairy Academy he'd been dragged off to by his mother to get his uncontrollable magic fine-tuned and to keep him away from Wanda.
He never did get control of his magic, not until after it was sorely needed to defend Timmy and Wanda.
Sophia listened with wide eyes, captivated by the stories Cosmo told her. She giggled through his description of his wedding and how he misplaced the ring and frantically tore through the chapel in search of it, only to discover that he'd placed it in his other pocket, and booed at the mentions of Jorgen and his harsh punishments for his mistakes in training, sinking Atlantis multiple times, wiping out Pompeii by accident, and creating Pittsburgh out of the blue. History, as written by Caleb, had scrambled to find a logical cover-up for that one.
"So you're a grown-up fairy! But you are little, like me!" she pointed out and stood up, helping Cosmo stand for comparison, "Just like me!" He nodded, grinning. "And Wan-dah is another fairy, too? Small, like me?" He nodded again and Sophia laughed, lifting her arms and stamping her feet in place excitedly. "Daddy Fairy and Mommy Fairy! Where's the baby?" she squealed and Cosmo sat back down, shaking his head.
"No baby. Sorry." he sighed sadly. Sophia stopped her dance and looked down at him, puzzled.
"No baby fairy? Why?" she asked, "You don't like babies?" Cosmo shrugged vaguely, gazing off at the pile of pink and red and white items scattered across the floor.
"Too sad. Wanda was too sad." he finally mumbled, "She got a baby, a cute one, once. But it got taken away." He toyed with the ribbon that bandaged his hand and shrugged again. "I thought it was cute too, but I guess somebody else wanted it. Wanda was sad, so she didn't want to get another one." He smiled suddenly. "Then we got Timmy, and everything was okay again!"
"You can't call him 'Timmy'." Sophia murmured softly, "Who is he?" Cosmo shrugged a third time.
"Someone special. Very special. He made Wanda happy. He makes me happy. It was supposed to be the other way." he replied and laughed, "We made him happy because he made us happy!"
A banging on the door startled them both and Cosmo shut his eyes tightly. A wand wasn't needed to transform shape, but it helped with the effort. Pop! He took the form of a stuffed green teddy bear, flopping back against the rest of the mess of toys and stifling a cry of pain as something jabbed into his shoulder. Sophia watched in surprise as the door flew open and Jeanette stuck her head in, eyes narrowed.
"I heard laughing! You're not supposed to be having fun; you're supposed to be miserable as hell, you runt!" the teen spat out, sending the little girl scrambling to get away. Cosmo stared up at the babysitter unblinkingly. Jeanette glared at him suspiciously. "I don't remember you having a green teddy bear in this place, what with all the pink and red junk your parents keep heaping on you." she growled.
"It's new! I got it from my grandpa!" Sophia yelled, "It was in my Mommy and Daddy's room and I got it and it's mine! Leave it alone! It's mine!" She ran after the babysitter as she snatched up the bear by the black tie wrapped around its neck, the tiny carving on its cord dangling alongside the tie.
"Well, it's mine now, runt!" Jeanette taunted and laughed maliciously, "And do you know what I do to my teddy bears?" Sophia froze in place, little hands raised up to her mouth as her eyes went wide.
"N-n-no. What do you do?" she stammered fearfully.
"Anything I want!" the babysitter crowed and slammed the door closed, her laughter ringing throughout the apartment as she walked away with Cosmo in hand. Sophia dropped to the ground, tossing aside toys and books in a frantic search for the wand. If she had it, maybe she could help her new friend. Meanie Jeanie was mean for a reason, and her poor fairy friend wasn't healthy enough to deal with her!
Master Control Spire~
Crocker sat at the drawing board, sketching out rough drafts for what would become the latest addition to the anti-magic device classes. The other Spires had received their orders from Master Control; double the search for the fairy whose DNA matched the sample in their databanks. Leave nothing untouched. If the fairy that had successfully been captured, then lost, that night was the same fairy, then wonderful! That single fairy could potentially hold enough magical influence to grant the wish that could restore Dimmsdale's hopes and dreams.
It would take a while to design and begin the manufacture of these new units, roughly a month if Remy threw enough money at him. Oh, yes, that's right; he had to let the boy know another of his towers was gone. Crocker snickered and clapped his hands together gleefully. Let them fall; let them all fall to the ground in glorious black granite and steel rubble! He didn't care, not at all. Yes, he designed them; yes, he improved on them, but it was all to make the new Timmy stronger. After all, it was far more fun to watch Remy be defeated by someone who trained using his Spires than to have some form of fairy punishment fall on his head for creating the blanket of darkness to begin with.
Fairies! The thought of it brought a renewed vigor and life to him that he thought he'd never have again. The chance to experiment on them again was elating. In the first year or so of the nullification field being placed on Dimmsdale, dozens of fairies had been captured and brought to him. He tested his theories of magic transferal on them, creating machines to siphon off magic and encapsulate it for later use. Those fairies had shriveled to dust, their magic lost in the moments of their deaths, so those had been utter failures.
But if he could get a fairy to stay alive throughout the procedure, to live through the draining of their magical strength, then he would have the window of opportunity to grant his own wish. Fairies were immortal, true, but drain them of magic and they died just like any other living creature. They just couldn't die from time. And injuries were easy to deal with, long as they had magic. Instantaneous healing!
Only, take away the magic, and they were as vulnerable as humans. More so, as sometimes their ages caught up with them once Nature realized what had taken place and swooped in for the kill. Not often, but it happened before his eyes several times. A few of the fairies chose to suicide rather than let him steal their magic, forcefully turning their power on themselves in a violent implosion that left little in the way of evidence of their existence.
It was irksome but what could he do? Sedate the little cretins and hope it didn't dilute the magic?
No matter. A month to create his new units and the new Timmy would have to prove to him again if he was as adaptable as the original had been. Could he outwit that which was designed to outwit what had outwitted the Spires?
Confusing, true, but that was the beauty of it.
He returned to the designs before him, smiling. This was going to be fun. Oh yes, he was going to enjoy this battle, matching his genius and technology against Timmy's magic and spirit. This was how it had been long ago, this was how it should have been for years and years. It was late in coming and the boys were different, though not by much. Close enough; he could consider this to be a relatively well-matched fight.
"Turner, your namesake is going to be so much fun to play with. Tell me, how are you working through him, if you are? You must be, to send so many fairies after me for vengeance." he murmured, pencils flying across the drafting paper, "Soon, dear child, very soon. Soon I'll have the power to bring you back, and all the sorrow, all the misery, all the darkness in Dimmsdale will fade away with your coming. Almost biblical, neh?"