Linette 1.02

“What the hell are you doing?” I asked as golden light surrounded Angela. When it cleared, she was no longer wearing a blouse and jeans. Instead, she was decked out in golden plate armor that glowed in the sunlight.

The headband she wore had turned into a visored golden helmet with a silver plume. Her right hand gripped a kite shield with silver wings painted on it. Her left hand held the hilt of the three-foot arming sword I had referenced earlier. She gave me a grin before flipping down her visor.

“I think we’re going to use this as a learning opportunity for you!” Her voice was muffled by the helmet, seeming to echo as she spoke. More light poured off of her, surrounding me, the Shadow, and herself. The world outside the light seemed to slow and distort, taking on a golden tinge.

“What the hell?!” Shit, this was creepy. “What did you just do?”

“Before you go picking fights, you should set up a stasis field. This keeps bystanders from getting injured by the Shadow or by your own missed attacks.” She raised her sword into a guarding position. The Shadow — it looked more menacing against the background of her magical light — swiped at her with a large claw.

Angela blocked the strike on her shield and lunged in to stab up under its arm. Light erupted from her sword, and the Shadow lurched backwards, hissing in pain. Angela followed up with a sweeping slash that bisected the shadow horizontally.

“Not bad,” I said. Angela turned to me, raising her sword in some sort of salute. I tried not to grin.

“Most of your fights won’t be this easy,” she said. “I can only assume that this Shadow was a new one, or he would have given me more trouble.” She turned back towards where the monster had fallen. “Afterwards, be sure that you collect the black soul gem it drops, or you’ll find yourself low on magic and no way to restore it.”

She paused. “That’s odd. It didn’t leave one behind.” I saw something move beneath her.

“Angela!” I shouted as claws shot up from her own shadow and dug into the backs of her knees where the armor didn’t cover. The knight cried out and collapsed to her knees. The Shadow formed over her, growling.

Without thinking about it, I threw my mug. The styrofoam exploded on impact, dousing the monster in hot chocolate. It turned its head to view me and I took a step back. Distraction complete, I turned to run. No way could I fight as I was, and I wasn’t sure how to transform. The only thing I could do was try to escape it and get back to Angela.

I burst from the stasis bubble and was sideswept by a pedestrian. Staggering a bit from the impact, I started booking it towards the closest alley. I could hear claws scraping on concrete as the Shadow chased me. I glanced back and cursed. The thing was goddamn fast, and it didn’t slow down for the mundane humans between us. I could see the color draining from them as it passed through them.

I made it into the alley and looked for something to use as a weapon. A short length of steel pipe that ended in a T was the first thing I latched onto. Turning towards the oncoming Shadow, I hefted the pipe in both hands. It paused in the mouth of the alley, seeming to consider me for a moment. It took a step forward; I took a step backwards.

It lunged at me with its claws extended. On instinct, I swung my makeshift weapon. Sparks flew as the monster’s claws glanced off of the length of pipe. I sidestepped and swung as hard as I could at its head. The pipe connected solidly, knocking the Shadow back towards one of the walls of the alley. I roared, jumping forward and swinging the pipe again. It lashed out to defend itself. I felt pain blossom on my left side, and I was sent sprawling from the alleyway, back into daylight and traffic.

I staggered to my feet, hissing at the pain in my knees and shins. I’d skinned them good on the pavement. The Shadow lumbered from the mouth of the alley, roaring. I weakly brought my weapon up to defend as it struck again. I staggered backwards, just parrying any attacks I saw coming. I missed more than I blocked, and ended up with a ripped hoodie and clawed-up shoulders.

I shuddered. Fuck, why wasn’t I transforming?! This had to be the most desperate moment of my life. The creature struck again, claws finally shearing through my pipe. As it clattered to the ground, I turned to try and run again. I staggered, fell . . .

There was a blaze of golden light, and Angela stabbed the creature through the head with her sword. Golden fire blazed down the length of steel into the monster. The Shadow finally dissolved, and Angela casually reached out to catch the black stone that dropped from it.

Her armor vanished, leaving her back in her jeans. “I apologize, Linette.” She turned to me, sighing. “I shouldn’t have grown so overconfident.”

“Damn fucking right you shouldn’t have!” I shouted, ignoring the stares the passers-by were giving us. “I almost fucking died because of you!”

She offered me a hand, and I was lifted to my feet. “I made a mistake. Honestly, I’m lucky you were there, or that might have been the end of me.” She smiled. “So, thank you. Here, I’ll use this stone to heal you.”

“What–” I started to ask as she pressed the stone to my soul gem. For a moment, my body seemed to glow red, and I felt extremely light. When the light cleared, I felt . . . amazing. Not just uninjured, like before the fight, but better than I could ever remember feeling.

“Woah,” I remarked intelligently.

“Yes, ‘woah.’” She grinned. “You use the black soul gems to restore your magic, mostly, but you can also use them to touch yourself up. We don’t get tired from physical exertion, and injuries we have are rarely permanent — our magic heals us naturally — but the Shadows’ stones can help. You can also use them to boost your weapons or increase your energy reserves, but that’s a lesson for another time.”

She inspected the stone. “It probably has another use or two before it needs to be shattered.” She pocketed it, giving me a small smile. “Now then, where were we?”

The tram’s green line took us as far as we needed into Hiro’s territory. Of all the districts in the City, his was second only to Angela’s, which took up a full third of the City on its own. The tram put us right in the heart of the green district, and Angela and I sat in a park near the station.

Hiro arrived about half an hour after we did. A green hooded robe billowed behind him, and he used a glaive like a walking stick. My jaw dropped as he approached. He couldn’t have been any older than my age; in fact, he was probably younger than me. He scowled, his vibrant green eyes locking with mine for a moment.

Seeming to read my thoughts, he curled his upper lip back, showing sharp fangs instead of normal teeth. He turned his intense stare on Angela, then. “What do you want, Angela? Who’s this brat?”

“Brat?!” I shot to my feet. “Excuse the fuck outta you, you–”

Angela grabbed my upper arm, pulling me back down beside her. “Hush, Linette. Hiro, this is Goose’s younger sister. You remember Goose?”

“Yeah, I remember Goose.” He snorted, spinning the glaive in his hand. “Why’d you drag her here? If you’re trying to take over my part of the city . . .”

“No, no, nothing like that,” she assured him. “I brought her here because her brother’s gone missing. I don’t suppose you’ve seen him?”

“Not since you two herded that other girl here. What’s it been, a month? Two?”

“It’s only been about a week. You’re getting worse, aren’t you?”

He glared. “Shut up! I try to give my people as much daylight as possible, makes it really hard to keep track of time.”

Angela sighed, shaking her head. “I’m sorry. I won’t bring it up again. But you haven’t seen Goose at all, since then?”

“No. If I had, I wouldn’t lie about it. I’d have driven him back out or killed him, you know that.” He tapped the butt of his weapon against the ground, bouncing it into the air and catching it. “Maybe he got done in by a Shadow. It happens to newbies, y’know.”

“Goose isn’t a newbie, anymore, and he’s an excellent fighter.” Angela’s eyes were cold and hard as she stared Hiro down. “Would you be so kind as to help us find him, then?”

“Why should I? He’s a pain in my ass. If he’s gone, his sister can take over his district until she bites it, right?”

“It would mean a lot to both of us if you helped.” She sighed and crossed her arms. “I’ll give you some of my territory to expand into, if you want.”

“Three miles,” he said immediately. Wait, what?

“You guys trade territory?” I asked.

“One mile,” Angela counter-offered. “We do, yes. Sometimes we don’t have enough range to hunt the necessary Shadows for our magic. On occasion, we have too much. Territory is one of our currencies, along with the black soul gems dropped by the creatures of darkness.”

“Two miles,” Hiro said, twirling his glaive again.

Angela chewed her lip. “A mile and a half, and I’ll give you five unused black gems.”

He grinned for the first time and I shuddered. Too many teeth in his mouth, and all of them sharp as knives. “You must not want to find your boyfriend too badly. Two miles.”

“A mile and a half, and ten unused black gems. If you won’t help us, I can make that same offer to Crow and he’ll accept it.”

That wiped the grin off of the fucker’s face. His eyes glowed an acidic green. “Fine. One-and-a-half and ten.”

Angela stood, offering her hand. Hiro shook, and yellow magic mingled with green. “The contract is sealed,” Angela intoned. “You have everything south of the library.”

Hiro nodded and turned to look at me again. “So you’re blue’s baby sister.” He snorted and turned away, his cloak billowing. “Follow me. If he’s here, there’s only a couple spots I wouldn’t sense his magic.” He started walking, a lot quicker than someone with such short legs had any right to.

Angela and I followed at a distance, and I glanced at her. “Hey, so . . . What’s with this guy?” I asked in a whisper.

“What do you mean? He’s a Senshi, just like us.” She turned her head to face me, one eyebrow arched delicately.

“Yeah fucking right. Dude’s got fangs. And his eyes are . . . fucked up. Like some sort of animal or something.” Fuck, was I the only one who’d noticed? Or was I just overreacting?

“Oh, yes, that.” Angela sighed, shrugging. “Senshi walk a delicate balance. There are Shadows, there are Angels, and in-between there are Humans. Senshi are Humans given power by Angels, but they also draw on the same source of power — that is, human emotion — as Shadows do. In this way, we embody all three in a Trinity you won’t find anywhere else.”

I was silent for a second as I tried to process that. “Okay, but that doesn’t fucking explain anything. Why’re his eyes and teeth fucked up?”

She sighed again and shook her head. “Some Senshi take in more of the Shadows in order to become more powerful. They let go of some of their humanity, and allow the pure light and pure darkness of the others take its place. Doing this on occasion gives you extra benefits such as night vision, a keen sense of smell–”

“Good hearing,” Hiro called over his shoulder. I swallowed nervously. Bastard had been eavesdropping!

“Among other things,” Angela continued. “However, it does leave its mark on you, and there’s little you can do about it. Giving up humanity is easy. Regaining it is hard. If you give up too much . . .” She fell silent.

I was about to prod her into continuing when Hiro raised a hand. “First stop,” he said as we caught up. I looked up at the building whose shadow we were standing in.

“A hospital?” I asked. “What’s so special about this.”

“Shadows feed off of the negative emotions of humans,” he explained. “This hospital is abandoned; two decades ago, something major happened here, leaving the place inundated in anger and misery that breeds strong creatures of darkness.”

“Wait, so it’s like a haunted hospital?” I raised an eyebrow. That was actually pretty cool.

“Yes, it’s ‘like a haunted hospital,’” he replied, his voice oozing with contempt. “What do you think makes haunted places haunted? The negative areas are a breeding ground for Shadows and other nasties, and they affect the area around them.”

He sighed. “You should probably transform now. If your brother’s in there, we’ll have to fight our way to him.”

Angela and I looked at each other in silence for a moment. Hiro looked between us scowling. “Well, why aren’t you–” Realization dawned on his face. He groaned and pinched the bridge of his nose. “Oh, you have got to be kidding me . . .”

“Hey, it’s not my fault! I’m new to this, haven’t really gotten a chance to learn the ropes, alright?!” I crossed my arms. “It’s not like I asked to be magically uneducated! Mikael gave me the very basics of how it works, and said it would just happen!”

Hiro glared. “Well, in that case you can wait outside. Angela and I can’t get distracted keeping you from getting eaten.”

Fuck that!” I shouted. “I’ve already been in a fight without transforming, and it’s my brother that we’re looking for!”

Too fucking bad!” he yelled back. “I’m already doing you a huge favor by agreeing to help look for him! I shouldn’t have to guard some weak–”

“Enough, both of you.” Angela’s voice was steady, quiet. It was also dangerous-sounding enough to shut down both Hiro and myself. We looked at her blankly.

Golden light surrounded her and she wore her golden armor, minus helmet. “We all go in. Linette will stick behind me, and I’ll set up a shield spell. Hiro, you can take the point, since you no doubt no the layout.”

Hiro scowled. “Fine!” he snapped, turning and pushing through the entry doors. Angela followed, a golden hemisphere appearing in front of her. I followed close behind her on her left-hand side.

The doors closed behind us, and Angela’s magic became our main light source as we waded into the haunted building.


Linette 1.01

There was nothing remarkable about that first day. I went to school, keeping an eye out for Shadows and renegade Senshi. I sat through seven hours of boredom, and then I went home. Goose was gone, which wasn’t surprising, since he patrolled every evening. He’d left some sort of casserole in the fridge with the instructions on cooking it.


That was the sort of person he was. He had given up on his own dreams in order to become a Mahou Senshi and raise me. I started the oven and went to check for any messages on the phone. Goose sometimes left a message with his plans for the night or chores he wanted me to do. Nothing that night, but Angela, one of the other Senshi, had called to talk to discuss patrols.


My finger slipped, and I deleted the message instead of saving it. Whoops.


The next day, Goose still hadn’t come home, which wasn’t all that unusual. I went to school again, and came back to find he still wasn’t home. That was definitely weird; Goose usually took a day off after a night out patrolling. Still, it wasn’t unheard of for him to be gone two days. We had a rule, even, that I shouldn’t call the police until three days without seeing him.


So, I went to school again. Somehow I knew that I wouldn’t see my brother that day, either. I came home to find that I was right. No Goose, no prepared food in the fridge, no messages from my brother. I was on my own, and I knew that the police would be useless. When it came to magic, most of them couldn’t even see the creatures that Mahou Senshi battled. If Goose was in trouble, I couldn’t count on the cops.


I had to do something drastic; Goose didn’t ever want me to become a Senshi – at least not until I was older – but I felt that was the only way I could get anything done. Still, I would have to give it some serious thought before committing. Being a Senshi was a dangerous life, and most died tragically young.


My decision was made when the food started running low in the cabinets. I’d stopped going to school, and Goose still hadn’t even called. After the seventh night, I knew it was my only hope.


In my dreams, I was falling, slipping further and further down into the darkness. As I finally closed my eyes and accepted my fate, there was a flash of light that scoured the shadows. I landed and found myself face-to-face with that bastard of an Angel, Mikael.


The same dream, every night, and every night the same offer. He want to give me power, the ability to stand against the shadows in the world. He knows that I want to accept. He also knows that my brother would be furious.


It’s just been Goose and me for a year, now. Goose accepted Mikael’s offer from the start, knowing that the City would provide us a place to stay and the necessities to survive if he worked for them. What else was he supposed to do? He was fifteen, with no job training and a younger sister to look after.


The dream. That night, Mikael floated before me, holding that shining sword of his. I crossed my arms, waiting for him to speak first. When he did, it was in a booming voice that threatened to burst my eardrums.


“You’ve changed since the last time we met,” he said. I winced as the words rattled my bones, causing my teeth to buzz.


“Have I? It’s only been a night, hasn’t it?” I replied, trying to keep my voice from shaking. Even on nights that I told him where he could shove that sword, it was hard to stay calm when standing before the closest thing to a god I’d ever see.


“One night is more than enough for you to harden your resolve. It takes but a moment of desperation or despair.” If the bastard had a mouth, he would’ve been grinning.


“Yeah, fine. You got me, alright?” I scowled, putting my hands on my hips. “What do I gotta do to become a warrior, then?”


Mikael brought that flaming sword up. Before I could react, he’d impaled me. I screamed as fire coursed through my body. I could feel my muscles tensing as I tried to fight off the pain, tried to focus.


I dropped to my knees, unable to stand against the assault. My vision grew hazy as I felt my life slipping from me. I was sure I was going to die. “Please . . .” I gasped, struggling to form words.

As abruptly as it began, it came to an end. The sword was pulled from my body and I was left gasping for breath. I put my hand to the center of my chest and found no wound. Instead of a gaping hole, I found a smooth, oval stone sitting just below my collarbone. “What the hell?”


“Your soul, manifest,” Mikael explained, his voice uncharacteristically quiet. “The sword concentrates everything you are into one point and solidifies it into a gemstone.”


“I think Goose mentioned something like that, way back when . . .” I stood shakily, grasping the warm stone in my right hand. “How do I work it?”


“You must will your power forth. If you cannot manage it naturally, do not fear. Most transformations first occur in a dire situation. After that, it is for you to unlock the secrets of your soul.” His wings shifted in what I could only assume was a shrug.


“Great. Mind leaving me alone, now? I need to start looking for my brother.”


When he raised the sword again, I was sure he would kill me. The flames grew higher, hotter, brighter . . .


There was a flash of light, and I woke up in my futon. With a sigh, I stood to get ready for the day. I took a minute to inspect myself in the mirror. Nothing obvious had changed since yesterday. Same thin face, same red eyes and wild red hair, same thin, short frame. Some people might call me petite, but I never really liked that label.


One thing that was different, though, was the red gem hanging from a golden chain around my neck. I grinned, knowing that Goose would hate it. He thought that a fourteen-year-old had no need for flashy jewelry.


Well, I’d show him how mature I was by saving his ass. I finished dressing and went to the fridge, where Goose had a list of contact info for the other Senshi in the City. They didn’t all always get along, but occasionally a tough baddie or an outsider would show up, and they had to be able to inform each other of such threats.


Of the five names on the list, the only one I knew in person was Angela. She was the mayor’s lapdog, and had been our welcome wagon into the City. She’d helped us move into the apartment, and had shown Goose the ropes when it came to fighting the Shadows.


The only problem was, while she and Goose were similar in mindset, she and I could hardly stand one another. She said I was too “gloomy and cynical” for someone my age, and that I should “look on the bright side.” Meanwhile, I thought she was a “huge pain in the ass optimist who needed to mind her own fucking business.”


Still, I felt we could make common cause with my brother missing. I dialed her number.


“Goose?” her obnoxiously high voice asked.


“Guess again, princess.”


“Oh.” I could actually hear the disappointment in her voice. “What do you want, Linette?”


“I was wondering if you’d seen my brother lately. Guess not?” If she hadn’t seen him, then there was a definite problem. Despite him trying to cover it up, I knew the two had gone on patrol together often. The forty-eight hour rule was so he could safely spend the night at her place and not have me worry.


“I haven’t seen him in four days or so, no. He hasn’t been home?” Add worry to another emotion I didn’t know the blonde could convey vocally.


“Not in a week. Look, can I come meet up with you somewhere? Talking on the phone is a pain in the ass.” In reality, I was on the verge of breaking down, and wanted someone to keep me calm.


“Well,” she hummed, “there is a coffee shop on the edge of our districts, where Goose and I occasionally meet up for patrols. I can send you the address, but it’s pretty far from your place. Think you can make it across the city by yourself?”


“My school is in Crow’s district; I think I can make it to your cafe just fine, thanks.” What a bitch. I was fourteen, not ten! “I’ll meet you there.”


After we hung up, I double-checked my backpack and wallet, then headed out. The day was slightly crisp, a sure sign of fall on its way out the door. The City’s climate was moderate, never growing too hot or cold for too long at a time. The Mahou Senshi had effects on the area without even doing anything.


I caught the tram to the station closest to the coffee shop and walked the next twenty minutes. The place was pretty busy at this time of morning, but most people were enjoying their hot drinks in the warm interior of the shop. Only a handful of people were on the patio. One of them was Angela.


She was, I’ll admit, beautiful with her golden hair and eyes contrasting her dark skin. She was tall, something around six feet, and well-muscled. Her yellow soul gem rested in a band of silver against her forehead.


She was sipping from a mug and reading a book, both of which which she set aside when I approached. “Hello, Linette. Have a seat.” she gestured to the chair across from her.


I leaned on the patio’s railing just to spite her. “You said you saw Goose four days ago. Were you on patrol?”


She scrunched her brow in thought before shaking her head. “No, our last patrol was a couple days before that. We met with another Senshi, an outsider. I shouldn’t go into the details with you. Just know that we chased her off towards Hiro’s place.”


I snorted. “You don’t have to keep shit secret from me.” I flicked the the red jewel around my neck, causing it to spin and flash in the sunlight. Angela’s face scrunched into an unladylike scowl.


“When did you . . .?”


“Last night. Mickey came to me in my dream and I decided I needed to find Goose, no matter what. Tell me I was wrong.” I straightened, balling my fists. If she did tell me that, I would punch her lights out.


“Not wrong, per se, but . . . Goose was very adamant that he wanted you to live a normal life.” She sighed, pinching the bridge of her nose. “Oh well, I suppose it can’t be helped now. Anyways, the details aren’t important. We ran the girl off, and we retired back to my place for the night.


“After that, we didn’t talk much. He would stop in at my place for a nap and a meal, then head back out. I thought he was just checking the borders and using my area as a way point. He hasn’t been home in a week?”


“That’s what I said, isn’t it?” I scuffed my toe against the ground, scowling. “He never even called, the bastard.” I finally took a seat and ordered a mug of hot chocolate off the menu. “I thought at first that he was just on a long hunt, but after the three-day mark I knew something was wrong. Did he tell you anything while he was crashing with you?”


“He mentioned something about finding a Wraith nearby, but I doubt it gave him trouble. Your brother is a gifted fighter and smart enough that one creature wouldn’t be a problem for him. The only thing I could think of that would slow him down is a higher Shadow or another Senshi.” She twisted her mouth and stood. “I suppose we need to talk with the others.”


“Great. He’s always talking about those assholes, it’s about time I meet them.” I got to my feet, taking the mug that had been delivered to the table. “What should I know? Goose is always dodgy on the details.”


Angela frowned at me. “I shouldn’t be bringing you along. Hiro and Crow aren’t the friendliest people.”


Fuck you!” The group to my left fell silent and gave me nervous looks. “If you think you can–”


“I said I shouldn’t. I didn’t say I won’t.” She sighed. “You would just end up in trouble on your own, I feel. Hiro is grumpy and territorial. He’s spent a few years cultivating a district with very little interference from Shadows and other Senshi. He doesn’t like people coming into his territory without asking first, and can be a bit unpredictable when intruded upon.”


“And you sent that other Senshi to him? Jeez, I wouldn’t have thought you had it in you.”


“Yes, well. In the world of Mahou Senshi, it’s everyone for themselves. We have limited resources to go around, and she threatened to destabilize the balance we’ve established.” She crossed her arms. “We did what had to be done. Whatever Hiro did to her afterwards is on him, not us.”


Denial’s not just a river in Egypt. “Whatever you say, princess. Tell me about Crow.”


“Crow is a con man, make no mistake. He tricks and coerces people into doing his bidding, extorts innocents for money in exchange for ‘protection,’ and uses that money to build on his business.” She shook her head. “I’m not sure why he was chosen by the Angels, but it’s not for me to judge. In any case, we can expect to spend a hefty sum for very little information.”


I snorted. “Or you can bring out your big badass sword and put it to his slimy throat. Bet he values his life a bit more than some creds.”


“I would never do that!” she protested. Her eyes flashed in anger. “Crow is a useful ally, even if his practices aren’t completely moral.”


“Right, so in the end your talk about goodness and morality is just bullshit. Pragmatism is the only way to survive.” I grinned. “Could’ve just said that.”


Angela glared and stepped past me onto the sidewalk. “We’ll go visit Hiro first. Let me do the talking, lest you offend him and get us both killed.”


“Yeah, sure, whatever.” We started walking towards the tram station. The yellow line would take us most of the way there, but then we’d need to switch to the green line to avoid any serious hiking.


We were only a couple blocks from the station when the Shadow appeared. In this part of the city, it wasn’t anything unusual. They were creatures of darkness, preying on the negative emotions of mankind. Even our City, advanced as it was, couldn’t stave off everyone’s misery and fury and loneliness.


Shadows were an everyday sight to those who’d been touched by the Angels, but this one was different. It seemed to glow as it moved from person to person. I would have been content to ignore it, though.


It was Angela who decided to fight it.