The Douse led them to a loading yard in a run-down industrial estate, where two huge buildings stood at right-angles to each other. CT and Annode took the south warehouse, leaving Daisy and Stark to take the one to the west.
The warehouse was dark, full of metal shelving loaded with cardboard and wooden boxes, not unlike the Warehouse base. It was all very quiet. Daisy unpopped the holder on the pistol at her belt, Stark took a jewelled stick from his shoulder-bag and held it like a very small quarterstaff.
“There is going to come a time, Demetri”, said Daisy under her breath “When you are going to need to either find an Artefact that works for you, or give in and get certified for actual weaponry. With any luck, neither of these will involve my being on a mission with you carrying a sparkly stick. What is that?”
“Dodgeson’s Fulcrum. In theory, it creates an equal balance between two indicated objects by pointing either end of the Artefact at them.”
“I remember that. We got it from the physics department of the university of … Earth Delta Twelve? One of the earlier ones. This is not a physics demonstration, Demetri. This is a mission.”
“Linear thinking, Daze. This end is currently calibrated to a six hundred pound anchor I saw on the way over.”
“It’s like a seesaw. When I activate it, the anchor will be on one end, and the target on the other. More accurate than your gun, and less lethal.”
“You think catapulting someone a hundred feet in the air is going to be less lethal than my shooting them?”
“Your point is taken. What’s that?”
“Apart from a handy distraction from your losing the argument?”
“The light, Daisy, around that door.”
“Seen. You open, I’ll cover. You’re left, I’m right.”
Demetri readied to open the door as Daisy stood to one side. He looked at her, she nodded, Demetri pulled open the door quickly and several things happened at once.
Demetri saw that the room was brightly lit, washing out the non-thaumantic effects of the candles, which were at the points of a non-equilateral hexagon that had several symbols at the intersections with the circle that contained it. There was nothing inside the circle, and these were the first things Demetri noticed.
Daisy saw that there were two figures in grey nondescript but tactical clothes, both were watching the door when it opened, standing the other side of the ritual circle thing, who both raised their guns. The shorter of the two – female, bobbed blond hair – got halfway though a demand for identification before her partner – female, black hair, gathered at the back – was squeezing the trigger. These were the first things Daisy noticed.
Deborah saw Mercue go though the circle when suddenly the door burst open. Both she and Jane pointed their pistols at the source of the noise. Jane demanded the pair identify themselves, but Deborah recognised the woman who had been in the car behind them during the chase and pulled the trigger. These were the first things the guards noticed.
Daisy had the blonde on the left, so Demetri prepared for the brunette who appeared to be about to fire. He stuck the image of the gun in his mind and activated the Fulcrum, seeing a strange ‘fizz’ around the memory as the Artefact read it. Instantly nothing happened, and Demetri quickly realised that, to extend his metaphor, he’d just dropped a pistol onto a seesaw that had an anchor on the other end. Fixing an image of himself – the thing that the other end of the Fulcrum was pointing at, and the only thing reachable before she fired – and activated again. And that was the second thing Demetri noticed.
Daisy saw the black-haired woman fire, but as she did so her aim was shattered and her gun dropped to the floor. Demetri’s stick appeared to work, then. The gun fired as it span upwards around her fingers on the trigger guard, and the bullet embedded in the ceiling. “Drop your weapons” began Daisy. Demetri appeared to be spinning his baton like an inept cheerleader.
Demetri pointed the stick at the Blonde’s pistol, and activated. He felt a faint tug upwards as the spell hit (Gun dropped on sea-saw against Demetri), and then span the Fulcrum to point the other end at the woman herself. Her image fizzed in his mind as he activated the Artefact, and her gun clattered to the floor.
Deborah felt her grip slip, and then her gun was abruptly massively heavy. She couldn’t extract her fingers from the trigger guard as it dropped, and felt them pull from the sockets where they didn’t break. As it fell, her fingers pulled back on the trigger and fired uselessly into the ceiling. The man tossed his sparkling stick into the air and pointed it at Jane, and her gun fell likewise. Glancing at each other, they stepped forward.
Daisy saw both pistols fall, and stepped towards the guards to subdue, but Demetri shot out his arm to stop her before she stepped into the circle. Both the guards stepped forward, and as they entered the circle both abruptly vanished into a white afterimage. A second later, the candles went out, apparently of their own accord.
“They got away. If you hadn’t stopped me, I could have followed them” said Daisy.
“No. First, we don’t know where that goes yet. Second, that’s a single person circle. I’ve no idea what happens if you try to send two people though at once, but it’s not going to be good for them, and it would be worse with three.”
“Where do you think it goes?”
“I’m not sure. I’m pretty sure the pattern is for this Delta, but I’ll need to run it though. I’ll send some pictures back to the Warehouse.”
“I didn’t think you could make circles that worked inside the Prime”
“Generally, you can’t, which means they’ve probably got an Artefact that means they can. Which means Stack will want us to recover it, on top of everything else.”
Daisy found her phone and called Annode, who answered immediately.
“We found them” she said, “It’s done.”
“Really?” said Annode, “So did we. Did yours have the books on them?”
“Ours did. I’m not sure this isn’t two cases after all.”