Charm Offensive : a Psi-Kicks story by: GF Willmetts

January 31, 2016 | By | Reply More

‘We were only supposed to be back-up. How did we get elevated to first position?’ Eddie Martyr complained.

‘Chris had a priority call to Russia.’

‘More important than saving a Vampiri?’

‘It needs his particular talent.’

Rhyma Penhalligan adjusted her jacket as they approached the gate and showed her security pass to a guard before putting it into the slot. A green light clicked on and the gate opened. Her talent wouldn’t affect mechanical devices but at least they had access cards. She walked through and waited while the burly Martyr repeated the procedure and followed her into the complex of large warehouses.

‘Can we talk?’

Rhyma looked around. ‘Opaque terms only.’

‘Huh?’

‘Don’t use any exact names.’

‘Oh! So what is this place?’

‘Depot 31. The place where the Americans hide things that they don’t want found.’

‘I thought that was Area 51.’

Rhyma gave a brief chuckle. ‘The world’s most public secret place? I don’t think so.’

‘But this place serves the same purpose?’

‘Yep! They stash things away but don’t even check what they’ve got. Regular hoarders. They just want to make sure no one else has it. Sara discovered it a while back. They think by not keeping records, we’d never find anything we were after here. They don’t know we’ve been popping in from time to time just to have a look around. Seems the Pattern discovered it, too, and sent either or both Vampiri here.’

time-heist-psi-clara-saibra-jr

‘And…?’

‘So they want either us or the Vampiri to find something else.’

‘That’s a long shot, isn’t it? What if neither of us know what it is?’

‘Not with what Sara discovered in the Med.’

Martyr shrugged. ‘Intercontinental spaking.’

‘Mostly one way.’

‘And you can take on the Pattern?’

‘If I can’t, you have that fist of yours.’

‘I’m not going to live that down, am I?’

‘Your claim to fame, Eddie. I doubt if they’re armed. We haven’t triggered any alarm by not carrying guns, so they aren’t armed neither. We want them alive if we can capture them.’

‘We’re not asked to do much, are we?’

‘You’ll be the first Blank to have a look around in Pandora’s box.’

Rhyma stopped at one door and they both used their passes again to get inside. From the gloom outside, they were in a semi-lit warehouse, caused by the way the shelving obscured some of the lighting. The lights went up to a better glow.

‘Are you sure we haven’t got into an Amazon warehouse?’

Rhyma chuckled as she passed her security card through another slot and looked at a camera scan before getting inside the fence and waited for Martyr to follow. When both were cleared, the final door opened. The entire depot was a maze of short rows and columns, often stacked six shelves high. Along the wall, these were even higher. Somewhere in the depot there would have to be a a fork-life truck.

‘There shouldn’t be that many people in here.’

Martyr look at the shelves. ‘They’re all identical boxes.’

‘What other way to conceal the contents. The other depots have medium and small boxes just in case anyone thinks shaking them will reveal something. A couple of the depots don’t have anything in the boxes at all just to confuse things.’

‘Can’t they just open them up?’

‘My card will actually allow me to open two of them to ensure they haven’t been tampered with…’

‘But not take?’

‘Yep!’

‘That’s going to be difficult.’

‘But she or them will be standing up. That’s a lot easier. Maybe but whichever Vampiri is here, she’s going to be hungry.’

‘For blood?’

‘Psionic energy. But she might spot you as someone not giving off energy and realise we’re here to rescue her than a threat.’

‘Which is why I wasn’t left outside.’

‘Aren’t you glad I didn’t bring Bianca.’

‘How could she help?’

‘Distraction.’

‘She’s pretty distracted herself.’

‘That would really confuse any Pattern here.’

‘Our new secret weapon.’

‘But let’s not tell her that yet.’

They wandered down the first passageway. ‘Sara says the Vampiri travel by freight as it keeps out all energy so she must be starving by now. She might have opened up a bit for a sniff or an escape.’

‘But she’s also in a second box now. Wouldn’t she be trapped? How long can they live?’

‘They’re long-lifers. Energy is a supplement. Enhances their abilities.’

‘And we’ve never recruited them?’

‘Not yet. They aren’t really sure about us other than as a potential meal. This rescue mission might help.’

‘It would help if we know where to look. Don’t they keep shipping orders?’

‘No. That does make removing a little easier…if we can find her or them.’

‘Them?’

‘There are still two Vampiri missing, remember.’

They continued wandering around the depot with Rhyma consulting a scribbled map from time to time.

‘Rhyma, why would they put a guard in the last section?’

‘What guard?’

They both looked back around the last corner. Rhyma had to squint and slowly a shape came into view.

‘Can you see him?’ Martyr whispered. ‘Bullish man. Really big. Looks like he’s got a pair of small horns growing out of his head. How could you miss him?’

Rhyma squinted again and turned her head. ‘Oh my! He is a giant…and a Fey?’

They turned back to their section.

‘You know him?’

‘Them. By reputation.’

‘I’m surprised you saw him. Cam says they can even mess with Blank vision.’

‘He did suddenly appear there.’

Rhyma chalked a mark on the floor and moved on a few rows before sitting on the floor. Shrugging, Martyr joined her.

‘Is this safe?’

‘I doubt if he’s following us. Now, hush. I hope someone’s looking out for my thoughts.’

Adopting a yoga crossed legs pose on the floor, Rhyma closed her eyes.

Martyr stifled a yawn, settled down behind her, but looked around. Shelves of boxes. The blandness was beginning to get to him. None of this Indiana Jones crap with different sized crates with serial numbers on. Thank God there wasn’t a Holy Grail. They really wanted to hide things around here. Were the Americans so lacking in curiosity or as Rhyma said, it was keeping everything that was more important, even for things they don’t even know what they had. He yawned heavily this time. Maybe the place needed more ventilation. Rhyma just sat calmly. Maybe she couldn’t get through. Maybe the yanks had some scramblers here that they added to their stockpile. Wouldn’t a mobile phone be easier?

Rhyma’s eyes snapped open. ‘Follow my lead.’

‘You’re the boss.’

They returned to the guard’s position.

‘I wasn’t aware that there was anything here worth a continued guard.’

The giant turned and looked down at the two people facing him. He was dressed in a light fawn uniform that was probably there to help him blend in when he left.

‘Yes, I’m aware we’re not supposed to see you but my people are aware of you Fey. We’ve come looking for one thing and I think we’ve found out whatever you’re guarding might be the actual target of a current pantheon at large.’

‘You think they can beat me?’ he rumbled.

‘You’re only one on a shift. Can you be sure that the next one won’t be a shape-shifter? After all, you can’t be fooled by your own optical effect…corner of eye thing…can you?’

The giant snorted.

‘Just checking.’

‘What we really need, Mr. Fey,’ Martyr interrupted, ‘is have you seen any human-sized boxes that were put in another box in the past couple days so we can liberate the lady inside?’

‘Eddie. They might have put her in their box before bringing her in here.’

‘Just trying to move things along.’

‘But why let the Fey see it unless it’s a trap?’ Rhyma paused. ‘Then again, we do need to know where any new boxes were put recently. We have a…damsel in distress to rescue.’

The giant just looked around and then down at them again.

‘Great conversationalist, isn’t he?’

‘Let’s start again,’ Rhyma said patiently. ‘This new pantheon have taken the name of the Pattern. They abducted three crates carrying Vampiri to get other members of my team of…Psionics into other high security places to rescue them. The first was to rescue a Gorgon but was stopped. We’re here to rescue the second and maybe third that might be here and put a stop to whatever they are supposed to be after. I presume there are no Gorgon statues here. As you’re here, we assume it must be something you’re protecting unless you know of anything or anyone else guarding something in here?’

‘Which Gorgon?’ The giant’s voice was low but distinctive.

‘Euryale on Asinara Island. Another maze. But you’re used to those aren’t you…looking like a minotaur or at least someone that fulfilled the myth of one. I love the little horns by the way.’

‘There are no Gorgons here.’

‘We didn’t think there were. Nor do we think the Pattern are masquerading as one of the Vampiri this time. But they want something and whatever you’re doing standing in one spot means you’re our best bet.’

‘Why are you rescuing Vampiri?’

‘We owe them a debt for being involved in Japan but these three got kidnapped instead. My people pay their debts. We can move a lot more freely than them and one of my people is an excellent tracker and sent me…us here. There might be one or two of their freight boxes here. If you know, you don’t even need to leave your post, just give me some directions.’

The giant continued to stare down at them again.

‘Sooner or later, it’ll dawn on her to get out of her crate and then you’ll have to show her how to get out or risk feeding her psionic hunger. She can have a quick snack off me and we’ll be out of here and you can go back to guarding whatever it is. We have no interest in that.’

The giant continued to glare.

‘Please?’

The giant continued to glare.

‘Oh very well, I know the secret of the Fleece. If I do, don’t you think the Pattern will as well?’

The giant snorted.

‘Listen, chum,’ interjected Martyr loudly, ‘We just want to help.’

‘Calm down, Eddie,’ Rhyma looked around. ‘I think we’re already helping. Snap!’

Facing them were duplicates of themselves and a movement behind them revealed another pallid face, gripping them by the arms. She wavered but stayed in vision this time. It must be their proximity to the Fey, Rhyma thought. Their captor had obsidian eyes under long fair hair.

‘Hello. I assume you’re either Olicia or Charlyse and you’ve just resolved one problem and caught your own captors who look remarkably like..us?’

The Vampiri raised an eyebrow but not at them but at the giant Fey. ‘I could hear them all the way back there. Why didn’t you tell them to be quiet, Benne?’

The Fey snorted. ‘How could I tell them apart? They could still be part of this new pantheon. Keeping them talking meant you knew where they were.’

‘True. OK, change into your true selves?’

‘We really look like this. If you nerve pinch your two prisoners, they should change back to normal. If they were hunting for our friend here, would they have missed him? We didn’t.’

The giant reached across and pressed the necks of both captives, who collapsed to the floor, leaving the Vampiri to stagger to hold onto the shelving. Instinctively, Rhyma reached out to support her.

‘Shouldn’t you be feeding off me or something?’

The Vampiri shook her head. ‘You said you knew the secret. Let’s go down there and…talk.’

‘Keep an eye on those two, Eddie. I’m sure Benne here can supply you with rope or handcuffs. I’m Rhyma.’

The two women continued down the maze of corridors with the Vampiri gaining strength as they got further away.

‘So which one are you? Olicia or Charlyse?’

‘Charlyse.’

‘They didn’t bring both of you here?’

‘I don’t know. I revived a day back. Benne says I’m in America. I don’t think she’s here nor Basilee.’

‘We told Basilee we’d find you both.’

‘She is safe?’

‘Long story. Why are you so weak?’

‘You don’t know?’

‘I know my…talent isn’t working. I didn’t think that box’s closed content would sap you as well. Benne the Fey should have been falling all over me.’

‘He can be stubborn.’

‘Like a bull.’

Charlyse gave a wry chuckle. ‘Or a minotaur. Let’s sit here. You need to gain some of your own power back and that means some distance from the…box.’

‘So why didn’t you just flee when you got out? At least away from Benne’s secret cache.’

‘Lack of energy. It can draw you in. Suck out your energy. Even stronger than I could. It was enough to capture those two but only because I fooled them enough to get close. When I heard you with Benne, I realised I caught the right ones. A good thing I didn’t bump into you first.’

‘I heard you Vampiri were smart.’

‘But tired. You know what I’m going to do. My strength will be your weakness.’

‘I’ve been feeling this lack of something for an hour now. I’m surprised my…associates never have when they’ve popped in. I’ll have to live with it for a while. Just don’t knock me out.’

‘You haven’t got much energy. I should have found you before you found Benne. This will take longer than usual.’

Rhyma pulled back her sleeves. ‘I presume the arms are OK and you not going for the neck?’

‘Proximity or skin. You use that term yourself, don’t you?’

Charlyse touched and then held Rhyma’s wrists.

‘We call it share. Some of the others can improve their ability to scan by touch or make it work faster and gain their abilities. I’m not one of them. I only have one talent. Do you get that benefit?’

The Vampiri shook her head. ‘Just enhances our own ability as far as the others have told me. Speed. Strength. The Norms would call us super-human.’

‘Pretty much like the Fey.’

‘Except we don’t look like beast hybrids.’

‘This tingles. Does it always feel like that?’

‘I’ve never known. I just feel…enhanced.’

‘And when you don’t?’

‘We hibernate.’

‘And avoid priests with stakes?’

‘That only happens in the movies.’

‘So you Vampiri are more like running on batteries?’

‘I heard you Sta…people like your metaphors.’

‘It’s a good way to conceal what we do as opposed to you hiding away from the world.’

‘It’s a practiced regime amongst the Sodality.’

‘Sodality?’

‘A different name for a sisterhood. My kin says its posher. We have to hide from the myth.’

‘Why avoid sunlight?’

‘It leeches energy too quickly. Over-feeding. When there’s not enough, we leach off humans. That’s why we fly freight. No sense draining the pilots.’

‘How do you gauge how much you need?’

‘I could do with more but you’re pretty low.’

‘As I said, I only have a single talent. I’m very low key. Chris got called away. He’s have really topped you up.’

‘The telekinetic?’

‘You know that much?’

‘We are…interested. Was it that important?’

‘I wasn’t given any details but he’s really one of a kind for some work…’

‘Hush! I heard something.’

‘We better look.’

They stood up, Rhyma more shakingly. She glanced at her watch. They had been sitting there for nearly an hour.

‘That’ll pass. Just walk.’

With that, Charlyse was gone.

‘Must be a proximity thing,’ Rhyma muttered to herself, walking slowly back.

On the ground was both the bull-fey and Eddie, a box was open on the floor, its content empty. The two Pattern had gone.

‘Shit!’

Checking their pulses and finding them alive, Rhyma looked around. Not beaten. Probably drugged. She might not have a Vampiri’s senses but there had to be a clue to their direction, especially as Charlyse wasn’t here. Were they going to run or hide? Whatever, there was only one way out if they had this box, she headed directly for the entrance.

No one there, she sat down. They could have gotten there first and escaped? There hadn’t been anyone else in her path but the depot was a big place. They could easily have seen and dodged her. They could already be out of here. Where was Charlyse? Could they have used the same drug on her?

There was a noise. Rhyma looked up. They must have taken a roundabout look or trying to find another way out. They were carrying a large box. They also hadn’t changed their appearance. That was a good sign, she thought, getting up. No masquerades although they could have taken their form again.

‘You took your time.’

The two Pattern stopped in their tracks.

‘You didn’t think there would be no back-up. I got the girl. What did you do with the Vampiri?’

‘We haven’t seen her.’

‘It’s that funny thing with the eyes. Have you checked it’s the right box?’

‘We haven’t been able to change. It’s the right one.’

‘Then I’d better take it. You’ll never pass the visual ID outside.’

‘We do not want to stay inside with the Vampiri.’

Rhyma swayed. Behind the two Pattern suddenly stood Charlyse.

‘You won’t have any choice with that.’

‘Is there anything you want from them, Rhyma?’

‘Only the box.’

They spun right into Charlyse’s hands and in an action too fast for Rhyma to follow, landed on the floor, both with their necks broken. It was that fast.

‘Can’t let them get out with that information.’

‘They didn’t seem very clever.’

Rhyma looked down at the box. ‘Why didn’t they carry it in the depot box? Might have given them some protection.’

‘Don’t get too close. The…Fleece does more than strip abilities.’

‘That would explain them being so stupid.’

‘And why they wanted it. Your people wouldn’t have a chance when exposed to it.’

‘How did you know it was me. You heard my speech. Telling them I was one of them. I thought it would slow them down. You might have thought me a traitor?’

Charlyse smiled. ‘I drew some more energy. Couldn’t do that with a Pattern. Is that your ability? To manipulate words?’

‘So how do we move this box?’

‘Take your pick. Eddie or Benne or both.’

‘Make them feel wanted after falling like that.’

 

############################

 

Rhyma and Eddie watched Charlyse drive their car away from the airport. The Vampiri would have to find her own way home without her crate and had said she knew a way.

‘What do I say in my report?’ the Blank asked. ‘Not a lot. They jumped me. I missed most of it.’

‘Then that’s what you say.’

‘And people?’

‘We rescued Charlyse Valneria. Olicia Noctoree is still missing. We’ll need Sara to restart the search.’

‘And this…what did you call him? Benny?’

‘I think its spelt with two ‘e’s. B-E-N-N-E. Just say he was on a rescue mission as well.’

‘And the box?’

‘Box?’

‘Yeah. That I did see. I did help move it.’

‘The Pattern was after some Fey property. We didn’t really see it.’

‘Do I mention you spaking home?’

‘You can but they were out.’

‘You were faking it?’

‘No. I just couldn’t get through. I was only asking how I should treat this Fey. I didn’t want a Colombian incident. You can say I never mentioned the Oberon clan. That’ll get you a brownie point for safety. No sense being on the wrong side of a possible vendetta.’

‘Does that happen a lot?’

‘I hope not.’

‘We are autonomous, Eddie. No one’s my boss. We talk to each other for advice.’

‘Did I do OK?’

‘You did well and I spared your fist. You couldn’t have anticipated them drugging you. They kept most of it for Benne.’

‘Can you keep watch when we sit down. I’ve got to reach out and see if anyone’s listening. Maybe they’re listening in now.’

‘OK.’

Carrying a small suitcase each, they found a secluded bench and sat down.

Rhyma closed her eyes.

<Anyone listening?>

<Hello Rhyma. Where have you been?>

<Inside Depot 31. Rescued Charlyse Valneria and she’s finding her own way home. Canada I think. Bumped into a very unusual box. Contains the legendary Golden Fleece no less. A Fey was guarding it. Name of Benne. Would need some help identifying his clan. Had the characteristics of a bull. Probably how the minotaur legend happened. No wonder the Gorgons wanted to get away from it. The Fleece robs our abilities as well.>

<What did you do with it? >

<Told Benne to find somewhere safer for it. As his clan’s been keeping it hidden, thought safer to keep it that way. If we don’t know where it is then no one else will neither. I didn’t tell them about Medea but only of Euryale. He was most interested in that. More so that she remained a statue. That needs investigating.>

<We agree. A good choice. The Norms would be overjoyed if they thought they could put a control over us if they knew of it.>

<What does Eddie know?>

<He was drugged for most of it. I just told him to report what he saw. He didn’t see inside the box. He probably wouldn’t have known what it was anyway let alone the effect.>

<More about the effect.>

<You couldn’t spake to me. I tried from some distance in the depot. No shield. Found my energy drained up close but a little way away I could at least feed Charlyse a little energy when I found her.>

<What was that like>

<Tingly. Like being hooked up to a battery charger. It was a psionic link. She was still draining me at a distance even in the depot. I don’t know what her range is out here. Hopefully Canada will be far enough to break the link. She did say it wasn’t like the share so none of my abilities. Even if she told a porkie, as I can’t spake, she wouldn’t have that ability. She doesn’t appear to have my…charm offensive.>

<Was she affected by the Fleece?>

<Yes. Almost normal because of it. Says it draws her in. An hour with me made her capable of killing two Pattern with her bare hands. So quick I didn’t have a chance to react and I was trying to turn them at the time. Couldn’t tell her that. We left their bodies in her freight box. Let Depot 31 keep our secrets. No wonder the Pattern is targeting us.>

<Better us than the Norms.>

<We don’t want another nuclear warhead stolen.>

<You’ll get another opportunity, Rhyma.>

<The Golden Fleece and a minotaur legend all in one Not bad for a day’s work.>

<Someone’s supplying them with information.>

<We still have to find Olicia Noctoree.>

<Another day, Rhyma.>

<What other legends are they going to unravel next?>

<At least we didn’t have to use a string in the maze. The Fey-minotaur might have been stubborn but at least we weren’t attacked..>

<Come home, Rhyma.>

<On the next plane. Can you arrange for us to be picked up at the airport?’

<Already in motion.>

<More later.>

Rhyma opened her eyes.

‘Did you get through this time?’

The Psionic nodded.

‘Was it a long conversation.’

‘I had a lot to tell them about. Arranging a car to pick us up at the other end.’

‘I’m not even sure just what you did today.’

‘I’m the charm offensive. I’m very subtle.’

‘That’s something to doing with being fit, isn’t it?’

‘That’s supple. S-U-P-P-L-E. I’m subtle. S-U-B-T-L-E. I do the delicate work. The negotiation. We made good in-roads today.’

‘This seemed…ordinary compared to the assignments the others have done.’

‘Be grateful your baptism of fire was as easy as this. If it had gone pear-shaped today, we wouldn’t be going home. You kept your head. We see that as important and you met a minotaur Fey. How many Blanks can say that?’

‘I’m just glad I didn’t have to fight him.’

‘That fist of yours would have truly been beaten.’

‘He only had a size advantage.’

 

end

Psi-Kicks, Blanks, Rhyma Penhalligan, Eddie Martyr, Charlyse Valneria

(c) GF Willmetts 2016

all rights reserved

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Category: Scifi, Short fiction

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About the Author ()

Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 15 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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