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Chapter 3

Sarah Starling raced along the bridges of Talos Island at noon easily accelerating the speed limit. After market blue lights mounted on the front her white Honda Interceptor desperately tried to warn those in front of the unmarked police bike to get out of the way, but she left them in the dust before they could react. The only saw her license plate and the letters CYA. Her black leather biker jacket was flapping in the breeze revealing a white leather corset underneath. Chocolate brown hair tinted with a paprika red whipped in the breeze when she accelerated into the Skyway City exit through the war wall.

Yellow sunglasses like the kind sport shooters wore covered her eyes and she had no other head protection. Her eyewear being more functional then fashionable currently projected CNN in front of her left eye. It was silenced because she mostly read the scroll bar at the bottom, but she taught herself to read lips and was doing so at the moment. Music from Godsmack’s latest album played from her left earpiece connected to the glasses. The earpiece running to her right ear was broadcasting chatter from the frequencies of the police scanner. She deftly processed all the information and passed her third white Grand Am for a total of seven counted so far. She had encountered sixty-three vehicles already and knew the make, model, license plate, and how many passengers each contained. She would not retain the flood of information for long but it helped keep her powers escalating out of control.

Once into Skyway City she headed south to the Faultline entrance. Sarah pulled into the fenced construction area and parked her bike. During her ride, she had counted three thousand seven hundred and twenty-six stripes in the centerline of the road. Two hundred and three civilians were out walking to their destinations and the President of the United States had dropped fifteen percent in the latest polls from his response to an international incident involving the Navy. Someone had murdered one, maybe two, Skulls in Kings Row and beat the crap out of another. The Paragon Protectors were also seen battling a black and red caped individual and members of the super group Top Ten assisted by the Dogs of War were responding to contain the fight and prevent it from spreading to the civilian populace.

Her job with law enforcement as a threat analyst for Paragon City Police Department kept her mind busy. She was thankful for the diversion, but was sure the blissfully ignorant civilians would not be if they knew she potentially threatened them every second of every day. Her subconscious had assaulted and killed several innocent people in Kings Row when she was a teenager; in her estimation she had a societal debt to perform and would spend the rest of her life to do it. Some debts required constant effort and vigilance.

Sarah was finally able to come to grips with her powers and the guilt through the wonderful pragmatic counseling of Occam’s Razar, the half-dragon half-human warrior from Earth’s most ancient history. If she could not maintain a level of discipline over her curses she would once again end up in the Zig medicated to the point where even her subconscious could not act. Allowing the negatives provided by sorrow and regret to cloud her mind would unleash it. There was no real name for her pseudo personality, a fragment of her psyche, but she called it her Other. After years of doctors and specialists, none could fully explain her mutant abilities. Her mind abilities were potentially stronger than any could measure. The worst things about her powers were the fears and terrors besieging mankind, a problem considering they are from the state of being human.

Her psyche effortlessly saw into people’s minds and exposed their nightmares opening them like books to be read or movies to be seen. The darkest emotions overwhelmed her threatening her sanity. Then the subconscious, the Other, would respond to protect her and create those night terrors in reality and attempt to destroy the source. Like a drug addict or the reflex one has to look at an accident on the road, her id continued to read others thoughts seeing people’s darkest desires exposing even more fears and terrors. Occasionally, her cognizant, uninhibited intrusions tinted her world only darkness, but with Occam Razar’s teachings she was able to see the light causing the deep shadows. It was an endless cycle she broke only by keeping her conscious mind busy by multitasking. It was like confusing the id by giving it too many things to focus on. The idea originally sounded implausible to her because her id was able to multitask too. Anyway, it worked and she became constantly amazed her how many things she could keep track of at one time. It seemed her true mutant ability was multitasking.

Sarah moved toward the five uniformed officers, three plain-clothes detectives, and one SWAT Assault Armor piloted by a familiar cop. Approaching them she could sense their existence by the whispering of their surface thoughts. To her it was no secret some hated the fact she was free from the Zig; she was a murderer after all. It would be a simple task to enter their minds and see how they really thought, but it did not matter; for redemption was a road few traveled and even fewer ever saw the end. It was a necessary journey nonetheless. The ring of doughnut lovers stood next to four black plastic body bags freshly filled. She counted the buttons on the uniforms shirts and multiplied them by the number of stains on the detective’s pants. She let a sly smile grow along her rose-colored lips and came within reach of the armored SWAT officer.

“Hi David,” she said with a knowing smile.

Officer Sparrow lifted the visor of his helmet and smiled back, “Hi Sarah, Occam was right, we have another one.” He knelt done and unzipped the body bag closest to him.

Sarah started counting the teeth of the zipper and bent over too examine the green robed Circle of Thorn member. Its face was still sunken, hidden in its hood and the glowing green eyes normally associated with the cult were forever extinguished.

“Notice the front of the robe,” David commented.

She unzipped the bag further revealing a black elongated triangle patch traveling down the front of the robe. A smaller black crescent moon was sewn over the patch. Counting the rough stitching she traced the curved phase of the moon with her finger wondering what the meaning of this fractured cult member truly meant for the citizens of Paragon. “Well, I suppose he isn’t with the Circle anymore.”

“That’s because he is dead,” came a viperous snide comment from one of the detectives. David glared at the detective while Sarah just ignored him.

“Did you supply the bodies or did they do each other in before you arrived?” she asked.

“Believe or not,” David replied. “The other three are definitely Circle members. They were chasing this one down sending what seemed like every spell they could think of at him. Some civilians were injured, but no deaths. He led them here near the police drones, probably out of desperation. When I showed up he took his own life and the others in a large green flash.”

“Odd, considering he appears to be one of the Circle’s defenders and not a mage,” Sarah commented.

“Yes. Something must be happening inside their ranks.”

“Desperation and disappointment are my guess,” Sarah said activating the Bluetooth on her cell phone creating a second channel in her right earpiece overlaying the police scanner. She held the phone up to speak into the microphone. “Dial… Occam’s Bow.”

While she waited for the connecting circuits to cross-link and ring her friend and companion, she connected the dots of strewn gravel on the ground creating patterns of the constellations. When the phone rang the other end, she had moved on to counting windows of the nearby building and singing a random lullaby under her breath. The Dow Jones was down ten points on CNN, the eighth song on the Godsmack album began playing, an officer in Skyway was initiating a traffic stop, and the Other was still unable push itself into her consciousness. For the moment everyone was safe.

“Hello Sarah Starling,” Occam’s Bow an elf from the forgotten realm of Faire answered.

“Quien, Occam has indeed uncovered some splinter cult of the Circle of Thorns. Do we know where he is?”

“I have not seen him since this morning; he mentioned something about discovering a lead on the whereabouts of the Dark Lord.”

Sarah’s conscious mind worked through the clues and recent discussions of the past three days. Occam’s Razar had come across some faction of the Circle of Thorns when searching for more clues on the Saurian god and his followers. “Quien, I think there is a connection.”

“I believe your conclusion may be the correct one. I also believe Occ may be setting out to face the Saurian deity alone.”

“Then we may need to find him, if the Dark Lord has usurped the Circle of Thorns, then his powers will have increased. Meet me at my apartment.”

Sarah hung up the phone remembering her alter-ego’s official uniform was still with Serge at Icon, the tailor specializing in hero costumes and respecting privacy. She thanked David ignoring the other doughnut flatfoots and sped off to Independence Port on her Honda daring to boost her speed by manipulating her kinetics.


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