Casey awakened, cradled in the nook of Falco’s arm. He was applying a cool wash cloth to her face. She lifted a shaky hand to her temple, echoes of agony and revelation lingering in her mind, but already she was feeling better.
She felt knowledge ordering itself in her head… like files in a cabinet….
She understood telekinesis… and telepathy… at a higher level than she had ever imagined possible… she also had some fundamentals of obfuscation, pyrokinetics….
“Why don’t you grab a shower,” Falco suggested as he helped her up. “We’ve got business this evening.”
She barely heard him over her pounding heart. Adrenaline fed her growing elation as she looked around the kitchen for something that would have been too heavy to lift ten minutes ago. Her eyes settle on the big bowl of fruit; she gave it an experimental nudge with her mind, trying to lift it from the countertop.
The bowl tilted, wiggled on the counter…
…Then launched straight up into the air!
She stopped it just before it smacked the ceiling. And lightly, gently floated it back down in a spiral to its resting place. Exercising the control was difficult for a moment, but then she felt the mental synapses firing easily.
Exhilaration filled her. She felt potent, invincible, bulletproof.
And eager to test the limits of her new power. Casting about for another experiment, inspiration struck her and she attempted to levitate her own body into the air.
She rose up from the floor, hovering in mid-air. She knew that she could fly… at a pretty rapid clip, too.
She blinked as another piece of knowledge filed itself away: swordmanship. That was unexpected…but very useful for beheading vampires. Funny, she wasn’t even squeamish at the thought now.
“Easy now,” Falco said. “Don’t bump your head.”
She came back down to the floor, taut with excitement. “Thank you, Mr. Falco. For all of this. I’ll go take that shower now.”
He smiled, “See you in a bit.”
She went to her room and shed her clothing, red-spattered from her recent nosebleed. Stepping into the hot spray of the shower, she still felt like there was electricity running through her veins. This was why she’d come to Austin in the first place. She’d never really expected to reach this level of power though, much less this quickly. It was intoxicating.
Once she was clean she stepped out and toweled off, then found a fresh change of clothes. Just for the fun of it, she used telekinesis to open drawers and take out garments. A storm of clothing swirled about her as she chose what to wear. One at a time garments returned to their drawers, leaving only her selections: jeans, a pale green sleeveless shirt, and her boots.
Dressed and ready to face the night, she grabbed her lightweight Carhartt jacket and went back out to find Falco. As she walked she sifted through the new knowledge in her head, feeling like a child on Christmas morning. The ability to put out fires…and the ability to light them! The power to levitate a person, animal or object heavier than herself. The ability to conceal her presence from the minds of others. While she would not actually be invisible, most people would not be able to perceive her. She was mildly disappointed to sense that she still lacked the skill to create these illusions in the minds of mentally reinforced creatures such as vampires, as when Falco had convinced her attacker that he was on fire, but discovering that she had gained the ability to recognize supernatural creatures on sight was eminently comforting.
The other skills imparted an undenialble thrill of power, but this last gift pleased her on a deeper level. Now she would know the enemy. No more unpleasant surprises, at least in matters of identity. She made a mental note to ask Falco about all possible ways to kill a vampire; her knowledge of the subject came entirely from late-night horror flicks.
She found Cerberus in Dog-Man form sipping a bottled water in the kitchen and reading a book.
“Hi there,” he said.
“Hey.” She smiled a little shyly, still not quite used to Cerberus in this incarnation, and glanced curiously at the title of his book. IMZADI by Peter David. She was inexplicably amused by that. Well, why shouldn’t Cerberus be a Trek fan?
“Himself is getting ready. Should be out soon.”
Casey grabbed a banana and an orange from the fruit bowl and took a seat at the table. “Any idea what I should expect tonight? Every time I start to think nothing else could surprise me, I get the wind knocked out of me again.” It crossed her mind to test the precision of her new skills by attempting to peel the fruits telekinetically…but if it went too badly there was no telling when she might get another chance to eat tonight. She peeled and ate them the old-fashioned way, to be on the safe side.
“I imagine he’ll take you to the Pack tonight,” Cerberus replied. “They need to meet you and know that you’re on the team. Alpha will want to get a sniff of you. I’m sure you’ll be assigned a partner, too.”
Just for an instant she went motionless, then with an effort continued eating calmly. She’d just assumed somehow that she’d be working with Falco; the thought of going off into the night with a strange Dog Person — and without her mentor’s safe, reassuring presence — was dismaying. The anxiety crept slowly back into her stomach. Nodding to Cerberus with what she hoped was an unconcerned expression, she replied, “A partner. Hmm.”
“Someone like myself,” he said. “You know, to shadow you… ensure no one’s sniffing about that’s on the wrong side. People like yourself buzz with power. You attract the wrong types. Folks like me operate off the monitor. We got your back. Watchdogs.”
She considered. Put that way, it didn’t sound too bad. She nodded again, this time with a little more sincerity, them smiled wryly. “You know, if my parents knew I was going out to fight vampires tonight they’d be horrified.”
“Your folks aren’t Awakened?” He chuckled, “Don’t ever confide in ’em no matter how much you want. They won’t be able to handle it.”
“Awakened. I haven’t heard it called that before. Does it just mean knowing about vampires and such being real?”
“Knowing. Understanding. Able to see those things that really shouldn’t be seen without completely losing it.”
She laughed. “So now that I’m Awake, I don’t have to worry about completely losing it next time something unspeakable jumps out at me? That’s good news. To tell you the truth, I was worried.” Her humorous tone lightened the words.
Cerberus laughed. “No guarantees…”
“Damn,” she said good-humoredly. “Thought I was finally catching a break.” She sobered. “To be honest, I’m not all that crazy about the whole vampire-hunting idea myself.”
“Ahhh… it becomes second nature after awhile,” He snuffled. “You’ve got the scent of a fighter. You’ll do fine.”
She smiled, pleased by the assessment. “Thanks. I’m hoping.”
“No hope necessary,” he winked. “You’ll be great.”
Her smile grew a touch more serious. “Thank you. It means a lot to me that you and Mr. Falco have this much faith in my abilities. I’ll try to live up to it. It’s a far cry from pushing cows or tending bar, but I’m generally a quick learner.”
“Himself isn’t one to bring people into his home. You’re the first, in fact. You must be something special.”
That brought a faint blush to her cheeks.
Falco appeared in the doorway. “Cerberus, you coming with?”
“Like you have to ask.”
Casey’s mentor smiled, then gestured to the Dog-man.
Cerberus sighed, standing. His flesh rippling, clothes disappearing… within moments he had returned to Bull Mastiff form.
“You’ll need this,” Falco said, handing Casey a flashlight-length cylinder.
She took it, looking it over curiously. It was comfortable, though weighty in her hand. The grip was leather bound. One end was rounded steel. The other end curved out just a bit and was wider than the grip itself. “Thank you,” she said politely. “What is it, exactly?”
“Close your eyes… see it in your hand with your mind’s eye… what is it?”
She turned the object over in her hands, then closed her eyes. Tried to visualize it in her grasp, tried to open her mind to whatever reality Falco wished her to perceive. She struggled…
“Stop that…” he chastised. “See what is there. Not what I want you to see. See what you KNOW to be there.”
She opened one eye and gave him an exasperated look.
“Close that eye!”
She closed it and returned her focus to the heavy weight in her hand.
…an image began to form…
The weight shifted in her hand.
She opened her eyes to see that what she was holding was the hilt of a sword. A slender, elegant blade had appeared where moments ago there was none. It was unlike any blade she has ever seen…it appeared to be composed of some kind of crystal… or perhaps diamond… it caught the light like a prism. It was brilliant… and lovely.
“The blade is composed of a substance called Adamas. It is the steel of Heaven.”
Casey ran a hand lightly down the flat side of the blade, stroking the glassy surface appreciatively. “Why couldn’t I see it before?”
“Its natural form is liquid. It is contained within the hilt until you call it forth. Your will gives it form.”
She tested the balance of the weapon, calling upon the swordsmanship skills Falco had given her earlier. Stepping away from him a little, she sliced through the air around her, familiarizing herself with the swing of it and the way it felt in her hand. Satisfied, she held the sword up in a vertical line and attempted to ‘put it away.’ The blade, for a moment, shimmered like a fountain — then dissolved back into the hilt. “Neat!” Her innocent pleasure with the magic sword made her seem momentarily younger than her 22 years.
Falco drew his own sword from within his trenchcoat, “I prefer my old standby.” His was a short sword of Roman design. “I thought the Adamas would serve you well.”
“How strong is it? My eyes tell me it’s fragile and brittle, but to my mind it looks just about indestructible.”
“There is no physical force that can break that blade,” Falco said. “It is said that the gates to Eden are constructed of the same material. As long as you remain resolute… this blade will remain true.”
She mulled that over, trying to decide whether it was reassuring or alarming to learn that her weapon was as strong or as weak as her own will. Only time would reveal how strong that could be when it counted.
She made the crystalline blade appear once more, just to be sure she’d be able to do it when she needed to. With a metal on metal SHINK the blade sprang forth. Having done it the one time, it was simplicity itself to call it again. She let it melt away again with a pleased smile. “Does it come with a scabbard?”
He shook his head, “I thought you might just keep it in your jacket, but if you’d like something so you can wear it on your belt…?”
She turned the hilt over in her hands with a measuring eye. “I don’t think the pockets in my jacket are deep enough to be really safe. I’d hate to lose it somewhere. Something for my belt might be a safer bet.”
He nodded and extended his hand behind him. A leather bundle flew to his hand from outside the kitchen. “Here you go.” He handed it to her.
It would loop through her belt. She found that she could wear it one of two ways: hanging vertically, which provided that security-guard-flashlight-on-hip look; or horizontally across her tail bone which allowed it to hide from view under her jacket.
She opted for horizontal under her jacket, and practiced pulling the hilt free of the leather and putting it back a couple of times until it felt natural. It only took a couple of times for her to find the rhythm of it.
With a satisfied nod, she tucked the blade away and turns back to Falco. “Thank you. That’s an amazing gift.” She picked up her jacket and put it on, concealing the hilt beneath. “I guess I’m as ready as I’m going to get.”