On the top floor of Thorn Tower, the tallest skyscraper in Chelandia, a very important man looked at very important figures on a floating display. He did not like what the figures were telling him, and he decided to take his frustration out on his imp. He gathered up a ball of energy in one hand and threw it through the wall of his office. A muffled “ow” on the other side told him his aim had been true.
A minute later, his imp, a worthless little scab named Ganna or something, bled through his office door rubbing a spot on his tiny orange head.
“Now I have told you about using the door as a door,” the man, whose name was Lukas Thorne, and who was the head of ThornCorp, and who was a very busy and important man, admonished the imp.
“Sorry, Mr. Thorne. What can I help you with?” The imp's reedy voice spiked into Lukas Thorne's brain like a metaphor he had no time to come up with right now.
“Take care of these,” said Lukas, and pointed at a teetering pile of paperwork that Lukas had hexed to prevent it falling over.
“I was just getting to that, sir, but you said you wanted me to work on -”
Lukas shut the vile creature up with a simple look, one that told the imp that he wasn't even worthy of Lukas's words right now.
“Yes, sir,” said the imp, who gathered the paperwork in an energy sphere and bobbed it in front of him as he left the office. Lukas was glad to see the imp carefully use the doorknob, open the door, and then close it behind him. He hated that the imp could bleed through solid matter, and had often questioned whether he needed such a blatant security risk sitting so close to his inner sanctum. In the end, though, he really enjoyed humiliating the little bastard, and he had other security measures in place that ensured the imp would never be able to find or steal anything of value from Lukas's office.
Lukas stood and stared out the glass wall of his office at the virescent skyline of Chelandia, the last bit of red daylight boiling away into darkness. His darkness. He owned the light pouring out of the buildings into the night sky, painting the low cloud layer a deep emerald. He owned it, and he owned the method for creating it. He'd even named it after himself. So when he looked out of his office window, he saw an empire he had the power to turn off at a moment's notice.
He turned back around and leaned over his glass desk, studying the floating figures again. He winced at all the red pouring out of his earnings from the constant Guild inspections since the westside energy plant had gone critical, nearly sending an entire neighborhood into an alternate dimension of pain and torment. Nearly. Nearly. But the damned Guild couldn’t see that the difference between near disaster and disaster was quite a bit more than a faulty fellbolt.
He needed a drink, and he needed not to be here, staring at these floating numbers, telling him that his business was floundering in a sea of bad magic and bad mojo. And he needed to get to the bottom of something itching at the base of his brain.
He gathered up another ball of energy to unleash on his imp, but then dissipated it. He’d tortured the poor creature enough tonight. Instead, he used the intercom. Sure, he could always use the intercom, but energy balls had so much more of an impact.
He pressed the button on the intercom.
“Make me a reservation at Kass, and invite Wendy Potter. She's on 40. Make sure she says yes, but don’t hurt her.”
Lukas disconnected the intercom. He waved away the display, which poofed itself off in a shower of virtual sparks and an actual “poof” sound, a thoroughly unnecessary flourish that the software designers had insisted on and Lukas hated. He leaned back in his chair, pulled a blue cylinder from behind his ear, and lit it with a flame he clicked out of his right index finger. He dragged deep of the sweet suggarette and relaxed, exhaling a multicolored cloud that danced and bobbed around him.
Soon his office filled with the pepper and jasmine smell of sugga, and a rainbow haze swirled its way along the ceiling. Lukas stubbed out the butt in the overflowing silver ashtray on his desk.
A few minutes later, his imp reappeared, opening and closing the door behind him with sarcastic care. Lukas frowned at him.
The imp was accompanied by a series of enticing curves and legs that came together under a smiling face framed by long blonde hair.
"Wendy Potter, Mr. Thorne," said the imp by way both of announcement and introduction.
Lukas stood, and Wendy walked forward and shook his proffered hand.
"Nice to meet you, Mr. Thorne," she said.
"No, nice to meet you, my dear," he responded. He waved away the imp, who stood orange and awkward in the doorway awaiting instruction. The imp turned on his claws and prepared to leave.
"Oh, hey, imp," Lukas said to the retreating figure, who stopped and turned again.
"Go get my car and have it downstairs in 20 minutes." Lukas threw the imp a set of keys. The imp caught it and nodded, and then left the office.
"Now, Ms. Potter, what can you tell me about the Gray Sisterhood?”
She was silent for a minute. An eyebrow raised and lowered itself as if by its own volition.
“I’m afraid I don’t quite know what you’re asking me.”
“What element of the question I asked you are you having trouble with - the words themselves, or the order I put them in?”
“Listen, my dear, you now know that I know that you know the answer to my question. So…get on with it.”
She reached for the coat she’d lain across a chair in the corner of the office. “I’m just going to…”
“Go? But I made dinner reservations. Best restaurant in town. Tasty stuff. You can’t pass up a free meal, can you?”
“Yes, I rather think I can.” She proceeded to walk toward the door.
Lukas held out his hand and projected a mental image, replaying a conversation he'd had with a guy who knew a guy who knew about the Sisterhood. It was a circuitous way to find information, but Lukas didn't have access to anyone closer. As the image played, Wendy turned around and watched it, her eyes wide.
It had been a cold night, and green streetlights pooled foggy circles on the pavement. Lukas and the informant, a guy named Guy, were standing in a shadowshroud so as to be hidden from prying eyes and ears, a circle of darkness that looked like someone had pulled an extra layer of shadow up over them like a...well, like a shroud. He fast forwarded the image to the proper moment.
"...new members of the Sisterhood?" Lukas had asked Guy.
"Yeah, there have been a few. One works for you. Wendy Potter. She just joined a few weeks ago, going to be some kind of special agent for them.”
"Where does she work in my organization?” Lukas asked.
Guy shook his head. "Don't rightly know."
"So what will she be doing for the Sisters?"
“Don't know that either. They have an initiation period, and then they'll give her an assignment. Sabotage, probably.”
"So what's the Sisters' game, then?"
Guy shrugged. "The only thing I know about the Sisters is that they have some kind of a problem with magic. Their actual plans are cloaked. Difficult to penetrate."
Lukas lowered his hand and the telepagraph dissipated.
"You want to tell me what your Sisters are up to? Over that nice dinner I’ve already arranged, perhaps?"
Wendy Potter’s eyes were frozen fire. “Consider this my resignation, Mr. Thorne.”