Copyright © 2002 Chris Gonnerman. All Rights Reserved.
Mara took me to her bedroom and began to disrobe. I must have looked
surprised; she made a disapproving noise and stuck her tongue out at
She quickly dressed in a dress I could tell was old, an apron of sorts, socks
and sneakers. Then she presented herself like a model. "What do you think?"
"Cleaning lady?" I asked.
"You catch on quickly, love. Now we go to the Fremont building just
before quitting time. We go in the back way as everyone is going out
the front. You'll be invisible, so if the guards are looking for you
they won't see you, and I'll look like an ordinary cleaning lady going
"I used to clean offices before I got my current job." I became
uncomfortably aware that I didn't know what she did for a living. It
must have showed, as she giggled. "You know what I do now? I sell
perfume and cosmetics at a department store. Pays better, but I can't
smell anything by the end of the day."
"Easier work too, I'd imagine."
"Come on, let's go. There isn't much time!" She grabbed my hand and her purse
and nearly dragged me out the door.
At the rear of the building we encountered a few people leaving. I was already
invisible, and there appeared to be no guard. I had not yet learned about
cameras, and in fact there was one in that rear hallway, but as I was invisible
and Mara in disguise it didn't matter. She pressed the UP button and waited for
the freight elevator.
Just as it arrived, two other women dressed similarly to Mara came in, and all
of us got on the elevator together. Fortunately it was a large elevator... just
try to stay out of the way of people who can't see you. One of the newcomers
was black, and the other was of some oriental extraction, and older. As Mara
pushed the button labelled 24, the older woman looked her over intently.
"You aren't one of ours," she said in a cross voice. "What are you doing going
Mara looked shocked for just a moment, then said, "Okay, you busted me. My
husband works up there, and I think he's having an affair with his secretary.
He don't come home from work 'til late an' he smells like cheap perfume when he
does. I've tried to sneak in on him, but I think the guard's in his pocket."
The black woman spoke then. "Yeah, you can't trust the brothers when they get
together. She's okay, Mrs. Kim. Let's help her out."
Mrs. Kim! Now I recognized her! I was certainly glad to be invisible.
Just then we reached our destination, and I felt the power flowing into me. The
elevator opened, and Mara waited for the other women to disembark first; then
she went the other way. It took some dodging around for her to avoid them as
she looked for an appropriate room to use. Obviously we hadn't intended to introduce
ourselves to the cleaning crew.
Mara slipped into an empty office and closed the door. I grabbed the doorknob
and cast the spell of Closing as quickly as I could; now nobody could surprise
us. I lost my Invisibility when I cast that spell. You have to maintain a
certain "quiet" of the mind, or the spell is broken. Spell casting by those
made Invisible is possible but must be done with care.
Mara held out her hand, smiling. I put the ring on her middle finger; it was a
bit loose but would work for her purpose. She didn't jump this time when the
tingling began. Then she slid up her skirt and took off her panties.
Now, I had been with women that way before, and ordinarily it would have been
a matter of some interest to me; but what I saw before I turned away made my
bile rise and my blood run cold. I self-consciously began preparing spells,
trying to cover the awkward moment with activity.
This time I prepared three Light spells of twofold potency, dropping all but one of
my Mind Reading spells to make the "space." In place of the pair of
Invisibility spells I normally prepare, I prepared one multi-target version.
Otherwise I prepared spells as I usually would when expecting to battle a
I was almost done when someone tried the door. Naturally the cleaning crew
would get here eventually; Mara and I stepped back into a corner as I began to
cast an Invisibility spell for two. The door had a large translucent window,
and while the door would not open that window could be broken.
Of course the door didn't open, and the cleaning lady (I don't know which one)
moved on. I heard what I took to be curses; it sounded like the younger woman.
I cancelled the spell I was casting and finished my spell preparations.
When I had finished I said, "How are you doing?"
"Fine, I guess. Look if you want." So I did. I would say that she was about
half healed at that point; it had taken most of an hour so far. She was using
a small pocket mirror to watch the progress, and while I understand it was a
matter of great interest to her I found it rather like watching a clock without
a second hand. In other words, tedious. I decided to explore, so I cast a
spell of Invisibility on myself and carefully slipped out the door. (The spell
of Closing does not bar its caster.) No one was in that hallway, fortunately,
so I wandered about on that floor for a while, looking through open doors, and
generally being nosy.
Eventually I reckoned enough time had passed, so I went back toward the office
where I left Mara. As I turned the last corner I saw a guard approaching. He
went directly to that office and tried the door. Of course, the knob didn't
turn, as the mechanism was still held by the Closing. Next he tried his master
key, and of course it wouldn't turn either. Now he was suspicious. He got out
a thick cylindrical object (a flashlight, I later learned) and drew back his arm
for a backhand smash into the window. I readied a Sleep spell... I couldn't let
him catch Mara.
For a moment he stood that way, and I realized he was listening. He smiled and
shook his head, put away his flashlight and spoke into a radio. "Yeah, Mick,
never mind on that cleaning lady. Mr. Steele has some company, sounds like."
He turned and went back the way he came, and I relaxed. Sure enough, the
door of the office said Harvey Steele, Partner; but what was he listening to?
So I listened, and I heard Mara making sounds. It seemed to me that the ring
had finished its work and Mara was... testing. So I waited outside; it seemed
the gentlemanly thing to do.
After a time the sounds ended. I waited a bit more, then entered the office,
ending the fading Invisibility spell as I did so. Mara looked... happy. "Oh,
Solomoriah, thank you!" she exclaimed, pressing the ring into my palm. Then she
kissed me deeply, and whispered "Let's go back to my place" into my ear.
I could easily see in my mind what she was thinking, with no magical assistance.
Now it may not be very manly to say so, but this made me wary. If she were just
another woman seeking pleasure from a mysterious traveller, such as I had
dallied with in the past, I wouldn't have felt that way. This woman, though, I
knew to be special. Rushing into sex with her might be a mistake, even if it was
what she wanted.
Still, the first part, namely leaving the building, was for sure a good idea.
I cast a fresh Invisibility spell, dismissed the spell of Closing and led Mara
by the hand to the freight elevator.
We had only gone a single floor down when the elevator stopped. As the door
opened I saw an oriental woman in a businesslike dress and shoes. She was one
of those women of ageless beauty, one who's age you could not easily determine.
She looked directly at my invisible face, ignoring Mara, and said, "Who are you,
and what are you doing in my territory?"
I let the Invisibility go then. Obviously she could see me, so there was no use
trying to hide. "I am Solomoriah. I apologize for intruding on your territory;
I'm not from around here, I'm afraid."
She stepped into the elevator and pressed the Close Door button. "I am Natomi
Osaka. This building is my territory. You will do well to avoid it." The
elevator started down.
"I understand, Natomi Osaka. I will not trouble you again." I hoped I would
master the tapping spell soon so as to not need intimate contact with a Ley
line; sneaking into the building was becoming a liability I could ill afford.
"Good. Just so we understand each other."
We reached the ground floor, and the doors opened. The freight
elevator was located at the top of a T-shaped intersection of
hallways, facing the lower part of the T, and that lower part led
straight to the back doors. All three of us stepped off the elevator
and started down the hallway; that's when I heard the familiar clattering
"Skeletons!" I yelled. Sure enough, I saw several coming through the
back entrance. Natomi said, "Behind us, too!" She spoke a word in
Japanese (I assumed) and I heard the crackle of lightning. Next I
heard what had to be a curse, also in Japanese.
I released a Force Bolt, blasting one of my opponents to pieces, then
yelled "Only force attacks will work!" over my shoulder.
I let fly another bolt and heard Natomi do the same; hers didn't sound
quite like mine. I quickly released a third bolt, then in the moment
of reprieve I chanced a look behind me. Natomi spoke again and
another force spell was released, but unlike mine, her spell expanded
into a wave which knocked back and destroyed several of the skeletons.
I released my last bolt. Now I was facing three skeletons, each
strong enough to pull me down, and I was out of force attacks. I
longed for my staff.
Skeletons, animated by necromancy, are strong but unimaginative
opponents. Usually they either grab and wrestle with a victim, or
club him with their arms. Clubbing would be stopped for quite a long
time by my Kinetic Shield, but I didn't waste time invoking it because
I was certain they would grapple.
I was right. I raised my arms to defend myself and tried to block the
corridor so they wouldn't get to Mara, but two of them pulled me down
and the third bypassed me. I heard Mara scream but couldn't take time
Wrestle a human and you can do things to hurt him, even if he is quite
strong; but animated skeletons have no tendons, nor joints, nor
muscles. If you grab the skull and turn it completely around you
haven't done a bit of harm, and the same is true of most of their
joints. To defeat one, you must break its bones or forcibly separate
Naturally while you are doing this, it is trying to hurt you too.
One skeleton had its arms around my legs, and the other straddled me
and was trying to pin my arms. Somehow I slipped my left leg free and
wrapped it around the second ones spine (coming in under the ribcage).
I bent that leg with all my might and separated the spine of the one
on top. Unfortunately that only disabled its lower section, and the
arms continued wrestling with me.
Meanwhile the lower one was trying to use my exposure to bite me in a
very tender place. I kicked at it hard and knocked its skull off;
but the larger part of it continued to grapple with me, getting a hold
on my left leg again.
Now the one on top decided to bite off my nose. It was all I could do
to keep those ragged teeth out of reach; I didn't want to have to grow
it back again.
I had heard Natomi fire off at least two more of her Force Wave
spells, and Mara had only screamed once. I hoped they were doing
better than I was.
Finally I worked my right hand loose, and tore the jawbone away from
the skull. The circulation was cut off to my legs, and they were
becoming numb; so I had to rely on my upper body. I bent the
skeleton's left arm up at an unnatural angle, grinding it against the
collarbone until it came free. Then I used the largest armbone as a
club, smashing it into the skull until it came off, and then into the
monster's right collarbone until is broke and the arm came off.
Now I had both hands free, so I threw the writhing ribcage and upper
spine off of me and set to work dislodging the headless skeleton from
my legs. I started by reaching over it and grabbing the hipbones,
then bending the monster backward until the spine separated. Now I
just had the arms to worry about.
As I was pulling off its shoulder blades I chanced a look behind me.
Mara was held down by a headless skeleton, and Natomi was working it over
with martial arts moves I would have loved to have watched.
Unfortunately I was too busy.
I got free about the same time that Natomi freed Mara. Standing was
difficult, as my legs were asleep. "You have an enemy, I see," Natomi
said. "Who is it?"
"He called himself Dreamwalker," I answered. Mara came into my arms
and held me almost as tightly as the skeleton had. She was shaking,
"His name is Caleb Smith, and he lives somewhere south of here. He
trys to claim San Francisco is his turf, but we have all learned to
deal with him."
"All? Are there many mages in San Francisco?"
"A handful." She paused. "You would not have defeated those
skeletons without my help." Natomi opened a nearby closet, and handed
me a broom. We began sweeping the bones outside.
"We are in your debt," I said as I swept. "Tomorrow I will try to
find this Caleb Smith and make him pay for his attempt on our lives."
"You'll need magic for that, and you have depleted your prepared
spells, haven't you?" she asked.
"Yes. I have a few attack spells, but no more Force Bolts."
"Come with me. You can use my office." She looked up at the cameras,
and what she said next explained much to me. "The guards will have
seen our fight. I'll have to help them forget it. Here's my key,"
she said, handing it to me, "Room 2316. I'll meet you shortly."
So we went to her office. I spent some time comforting Mara; it's
easy for me to forget the horror an animated skeleton is for the
uninitiated. To me they are no more than machines; the fact that they
are made of bone doesn't bother me.
Mara felt differently. After a time, she recovered, and I began
preparing fresh Force Bolt spells.
I thanked Natomi again, as I was finishing up when she arrived. Again
Mara and I went down the elevator, but this time there were no
The pile of bones was gone from outside the building; I wondered what
Natomi had done with them.
Mara didn't say much as we walked home. I put my arm around her for
comfort, and for warmth, as it had gotten quite chilly after dark.
I would have liked to exchange spells with Natomi, though I suspected
it would be hard as I didn't speak Japanese. That Force Wave spell
would be quite useful, after all, and I was sure that she knew the
secret to the Tap spell.
Back at her apartment, Mara absently disrobed and went to the shower.
It's strange that her immodesty bothered me, as I had spent time in
cities such as Gharu and Ta Charka where a woman might wear only a
loincloth and not be bothered when the wind blew it up; but I had come
from a more modest people, and here I found myself in a place where
most of the citizens went about dressed in public. (Yes, I still had
a lot to learn about the modern world.)
She spent a lot of time showering that night, as if to remove some
imagined odor or taint. When she came out, I went in, and made a
conscious effort to emulate her. I didn't want her to "smell"
anything on me.
She had expected a joyous night of lovemaking. That obviously would
not happen, now. When I got out of the shower I put on a fresh pair
of shorts and looked out. Mara was laying on the bed, on her abdomen,
crying quietly. She had on T-shirt and panties as I had first seen
I lay down beside her and held her, and we fell asleep that way.
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