Margot left her office and took a turn into the first alley she could find. It didn’t matter where you were in Makai, all alleys led to the Alleyweb. She firmly held on to the image of the Mapmaker as the world around her slipped away, replaced by hundreds of branching alleys, the bustle of the city around her dying out instantly, leaving only the eerie feeling of being watched. With a snap of her fingers and a measure of the King’s magic, she made it stop, hearing bones crunching in the distance. Margot allowed herself a chuckle, “So you can be useful…” she hoped Weston could hear her even from across the island. Knowing him, it was very much a possibility.
She strode on, her step confident and her gaze hard. She knew where to go, where to find the informant. You need to know what you’re looking for before you head into the web. This isn’t a place for empty hopes and vague dreams. It’s a tool and a beast, and it’ll swallow you if you’re not ready. The web doesn’t distinguish between prince and pauper, Fixer or Psyclone.
Taking a right on the next crossroad brought her into the core of the Alleyweb, where the mapmaker held court and did his business. He saw her approach and had only disdain in his eyes, but she see could see the fear past them. JC had never been a strong man, just one with a big mouth and none of his counterpart’s powers. The modern world was too full of sceptics for an alternate Earth Jesus Christ, especially when he didn’t have the juice to back up his claims. Immortality gained through magical means was his only ability.
“Ms. Vance!” He said, the words dripping with contempt as he curtsied for her from behind his stall, a simple wooden shack with maps and documents nailed to the walls, the images in them always shifting. Forced upright-position, shifting eyes, trembling clenched fists, grease-matted hair, red eyes, Margot took everything in, her training sifting through the possibilities, the meaning in what she saw. Fear, exhaustion—hiding, paranoid. Likely holding important information. Related to my case? She analysed the situation, her hard eyes meeting his. “W-w-what can I help you with today?” He leaned on the stall counter, his shoulders sagging as he did and the smile slipping from his face.
“I’m looking for twenty missing Fixers, JC.” She said flatly as she approached him, tensing her muscles, her expression threatening violence, exploiting his state of mind. He backed away from the counter, his arms raised defensively in front of him. “You know everything that moves through the city, so don’t even bother telling me you don’t know!” She barked, and he flinched, backing into the far wall and pressing himself into it, as if he could pass through.
“I don’t know!” He said, desperately, but Margot didn’t believe it. With a flick of her wrist, she cracked his and he fell to the ground screaming in pain. “H-h-he put you up to this?” He sobbed, realising where the power came from. “You’re going to kill me…for him?”
Exploit paranoia, establish rapport. “You know I don’t take orders from the King…but he is paying my time right now.” She said callously, no emotion in her voice and eyes. “I don’t want to use his power, JC…please don’t make me.” With practiced effort, her eyes watered as her expression softened.
Different emotions passed through his face—hope, fear and suspicion. But JC always knew when an opportunity presented itself and he clung to this, his expression turning confident even through the n. Thinks I need him now, apply pressure. And so she broke his other wrist, the hands now hanging limply from his arms and pain shooting through his body. “You sadistic bitch!” He screamed.
“Watch your mouth, Oh Saviour…” She said cooly. She leaned on the counter as he’d done before and watched him with a curious expression. “I can keep this up, JC. Tell me what I want to know, no nonsense, and I’ll fix that up and be on my way. I might even throw some change your way.” She said calmly, sounding as reasonable as possible.
“Alright, alright!” He said. He raised his hands to head, begging her for help. With another flick of her wrist, she mended his. “You b…” She raised an eyebrow and he fell silent.
“Where did the Fixers go?”
“I don’t know, Vance.” He said flatly as he rose to his feet. “I’ve tried to find out, but they’re just gone!” He looked around him, at all his maps. JC raised his hands and brought them together in a wide arc and all the maps lining the walls fused together in front of him, creating a three dimensional version of the city. “See…” he pointed at a sphere floating above the island. “This is the web, see the anchors to the city?” He pinched the image, spread his fingers and the sphere expanded, zooming in. “This is where we are. There’s you and me.”
“Why am I a red dot?”
“That’s how Fixers show up. Red for you, Purple for the UIs. You can go over the map if you want, there isn’t a single red dot on the entire island!”
“How about the world outside?” She asked, frowning, panning through the island map and looking at the multicoloured dots representing the myriad of supernatural beings going about their businesses.
“It’s the first thing I tried! Nothing!” He said desperately, running his hands through his hair.
“I you don’t know jack, then why’re you so fidgety?”
“Because I knew one of you would come eventually!” He snapped. “And if the big bad king was behind this, with how many of his UIs are now in Fixer territories, he wouldn’t want me around to spill the beans, now would he?”
“He’s not behind it…” Margot said, annoyed that she was defending him.
“You believe him?” The Mapmaker looked shocked.
“Yeah…” She took a moment to consider her options. “I do, because there’s something else, someone else who’s gone missing, JC.”
“I don’t like the look on your face right now.” He said, worried.
“J.W.S.” The mapmaker’s jaw slacked and once again hundreds of emotions passed through his face, only this time they were all shades of fear.
“Shi-i-i-i-i-it. I’ll check the map.” He leaned into the map and tore the image apart, looking through every piece of Onigashima with inhuman speed and attention to detail. Margot wasn’t the type to hope, but this time she did. “Nothing.” he muttered and both their spirits deflated.
“Don’t look for him or the Fixers then, look for traces!” Margot said, something clicking in her mind.
“Fixers and JW-fucking-S are some of the most powerful supernaturals in the entire world. If they were taken, they didn’t go down without a fight.” I wouldn’t and I’m the sensible in the group, Margot thought to herself. “So find me traces of their power, signatures, lights in the sky, whatever it may be!”
JC frowned, racking his brain as to the meaning of it all, then a thought struck him and he gave Vance his most trusting smile. “This is gonna cost ya!” He beamed, having found a step to stand on and get control back. While the threat of the King’s power still scared him, he forced himself to smile.
“Yes, really!” He smiled. “You need me to read the maps, the people and find out everything, so you’re gonna have to cough up!”
“I could break you again.” She said, locking her hard eyes with his. He flinched for a second and Margot had to fight down a smile. She liked intimidating people more than she cared to admit.
With a dismissive wave of his hand the map disappeared and he leaned on the top, so his face was inches away from hers. He could smell her bath oils and she his cheap whisky. “Not if you want The Lord and Saviour to look at the maps!” He grinned with yellowed teeth.
“How much, JC?”
He thought for a moment. “Ten million.”
“Dollars, dear, dollars!” He said, condescendingly slow.
Little bastard…on the other hand I do have an all-expense purse. “Deal.” She said casually. She put her hand in her trouser pocket, opened the clasp and willed ten thousand dollars to appear in her hand. “Here’s ten-K, to start you up. I’m not paying you fully unless you give me something to work with and I find my target.”
“Where did you get so much money, Vance?” He said, curious, his eyes following her hand, pocket to stall.
“Wouldn’t you like to know? Do we have a deal?” She said confidently.
“Yeah, sure, why not?” JC said amicably. “I’ll let you know once I have something.”
“You better, and no talking to anyone else, not even the UIs, you hear me?” She said as coldly as possible.
“Would I do that?” He said, with a sleazy look on his face. It quickly turned into a grimace as she grabbed him by the scruffy shirt and lifted him up effortlessly.
“I hope you don’t, JC!” She twisted the shirt’s collar, forcing it into his throat and choking him. Coward, violence drives point home. He shook his head furiously as his skin went from red to a fine shade of purple. Margo dropped him.
He coughed and wheezed. “Okay, okay! Got it! Now go bother someone else!” He pulled himself up using the counter as support and scowled at his new client.
As Margot left, the image of Abaddon and Lillian firmly in mind to guide her through the web, she heard JC’s whisper. “Psycho cu…” is as far as he went before she broke one of his ribs.
Margot whistled a calming tune over the sound of his screams.
That’ll teach him.