Updated: Sep 22
“Bee!” Drake called from the bedroom of his small family home in Wadestown.
“What’s up honey?” Lisa’s voice reverberated from the bathroom.
“I can’t find my purple tie!” Drake rifled through his socks drawer for the third time.
“It’s on your tie rack!”
“No…” Drake chucked a pair of green socks over his shoulder. They bounced on the bed and vanished behind the bedside table. “I already looked in there six times! I’m going to be late for my meeting at Greng International.”
“Seriously Drake!” Lisa’s voice took on a high pitch, common when she was annoyed with him. “I’m in the middle of bathing, Leon!”
Checking his smartwatch, its face baring a cartoon mouse with a cheeky smile, Drake found its white-gloved hands pointing at six p.m. Late. He sighed. Closed his eyes and drew on his tentamantic reserve of ‘self’ and ‘past’ to banish the weariness from lack of sleep. Combining these two elements allows a tentamancer like Drake to modify their body. Handy when you had a baby in the house.
Drake marched out of the room in brown trousers wearing a green shirt and a purple suit jacket. The knob of the bathroom door was cold to the touch. He turned it. Steam billowed out as he swung it wide. Despite her slight build and narrow shoulders, Lisa wore a maternity shirt so large it could’ve been a duvet cover. Her long, dark hair was a wild tangle that reminded Drake of those chaotic street wiring memes from Delhi; months of sleepless nights had made her resemble a skinny panda. Drake’s love for Lisa was only rivalled by his affection for their six-month-old son Leon, who was playfully splashing his mother with soapy bath water.
“Can you please help…” said Drake, exasperated.
Lisa gave him a flat stare as a mound of bubbles slid from her hair and water dripped from her nose. “Fine… Watch Leon.”
She stood up, and Drake moved in. He could feel his own eyebrows pop and his lips split into a wide grin as he knelt next to the bath where Leon sat in his safety chair.
“I swear…if I walk into the room and find that tie…” Lisa’s voice faded as she entered their bedroom.
“You be good for your mummy…you know you must, you know it…” Drake playfully tapped Leon on the nose and the little boy squealed in delight.
“My god, Drake!” Lisa called; her voice agitated. “I told you the damned tie was in your tie rack!”
Drake looked at the door and said, “But I che—” Sloshing water mixed with a generous helping of soap bubbles smacked into Drake’s face, cutting him off. “Shit!” His suit jacket was soaked.
Lisa marched in the door, her hand outstretched with a bright purple tie, sporting a yellow duck. “Here Santa.”
Drake looked at her; she had a smirk on her lips that showed he had been forgiven for searching like a man in the light of his most recent penance.
The two of them burst out laughing. Sleep had become such a rarity in their household that they often found themselves caught in the madness. Drake stood up and grabbed his wife in a tight hug. “Thank you love,” he said, kissing her on the head.
“Love you too,” Lisa squeezed him, “now go! You’re gonna be late for your meeting.”
Drake kissed his wife, then drew on his reserve of ‘future’ and ‘self’ the make himself appear dry. It was only an illusion; he was still wet, but it drew a frustrated snort from Lisa, anyway. By combining his reserve of the two tentamantic elements, he could create an illusion around himself, limited only by his own ability to picture it.
“What!?” Drake asked innocently.
“Get your unfair ass and your damned magic out of my face before I lose my temper.”
Lisa pushed past him and knelt next to Leon to resume the daily cleansing ritual. Drake caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror and realised he had forgotten to comb his hair. The short brown mop stood at odd angles and smudges streaked his thick-frame glasses. He adjusted his spell to include them.
“Want me to cover you too?” Drake asked, lightly poking his wife’s shoulder. He still had a small reserve of ‘other’ that, if combined with ‘future’ would allow him to create an illusion outside himself.
“No, it’ll only vanish in a couple of hours and I’d have forgotten to clean myself up,” said Lisa, as she dumped water over Leon’s thin blond hair.
Drake smiled mischievously and cast his spell, anyway. Leon burst out laughing and Lisa gave Drake a withering side eye that looked rather odd on her rubber ducky face.
He did. They laughed. He left for work.
At the office
“What the hell, Wiseman? You’re half an hour late,” Marius barked as Drake stepped out of the elevator.
Drake’s heart leapt in his throat the moment he recognised Marius’s perpetually angry voice.
“I swear, I don’t know how Avar tolerates your snivelling around this office,” Marius sneered. “Next time you’re even a minute late, I’ll have you slammed with a disciplinary. Do you hear me?”
Give this bully a piece of your mind, Wiseman, thought Drake. “Yes, Mr Alberts. I’m sorry,” he said, in disgust of himself. Where is your spine, man?! Drake demanded inwardly. Tell him where he can stick his disciplinary. You know he is full of it!
Instead, Drake self-consciously ducked his head, sidestepping the portly, bald man in his grey suit. Drake’s own bright purple and green ensemble made it hard to hide in the sleek modern office as he sped towards his office. The secretary, Terresa, gave Drake a sympathetic look as he passed from behind the pair of 4k monitors on her desk.
He had hoped to go straight to Greng International this evening, but he had forgotten his briefcase at the office and had to stop by to pick it up. Marius knew Drake would be out for the start of the evening shift. He was just looking for an excuse to pick on Drake. Covetors often worked nights. It meant fewer prying eyes. Few people in the world knew about tentamancy, and the Temptarchs, helped keep it that way. The Temptarchs were the secret powers that ruled the world. Business, religions and governments were all under their thumb, either directly or indirectly. In a very real way, they kept the world running.
While Drake believed in the importance of his work, for all of three years, Marius had been on Drake like white on rice. The elitist asshat believed Drake had no place in Avarithor’s tentimancers. Drake hadn’t graduated at the top of one of the fanciest schools around. Unlike Marius, who was a Harvard frat boy, convinced of his own importance. Sure, Marius was a skilled tentamancer on top of being an unrivalled corporate lawyer. However, he more than made up for his achievements in sheer, unbridled toxicity, and he was Drake’s boss.
Drake snatched up his bright yellow briefcase lying next to his desk. It matched his playful purple tie with the yellow ducky on it. Plush desk toys, in the form of all the latest superheroes lay haphazardly strewn about. Drake loved all things comic book. Yet another perceived failing in Marius’s critical eyes. Spinning on his heels, Drake made a beeline for the elevators, hoping to bypass Marius this time.
“Where do you think you’re slinking off to?” Marius boomed from his office, already stomping out to face Drake.
Damn, thought Drake. Can’t the man give it a rest? Seriously.
“I’m going to collect the dagger of Osiris from Miss Antonio at Greng International,” Drake explained, raking his hand through his tousled hair. His reserves of ‘future’ had depleted during the car ride to the office, ending the spell.
“Miss Antonio?” Marius asked in a manner that made it clear he wasn’t expecting an answer.
Despite the rhetorical question, Drake answered, “Yes, I got the file in my inbox this morning.”
“Are you telling me, not only were you tardy getting to work, but you are making one of Avar Corp’s clients wait for you?” Marius fixed Drake with a hard stare. “What kind of excuse for a covertor are you?”
Anger welled up in Drake, causing his neck to flush and his to jaw jut forward. He had enough. The shouting, the constant belittling. Maybe it was the lack of sleep, or the hours of hard work Drake put in to outperform those like this clown who came into the organisation the traditional way. Maybe it was simply Drake’s ADHD not allowing him to let go, but he burst.
“Shut your mouth, you bloated penguin!” Drake watched himself like one watching a car crash. He wanted to stop it, but was powerless to intervene. “I work harder than any of you, I have never messed up on a job and I’m a better tentamancer than you are any day of the week. My appointment with Miss Antonio isn’t for another hour. Plenty of time to make the trip across town. Now get out of my face before I do something we’ll both regret.”
Marius turned red as an overripe tomato, and Drake feared the man might explode on the spot. Instead of waiting to see if the gruesome result would occur, Drake pushed past Marius. Slipping into the still-open elevator, he hastily pressed the ‘G’ button, eager to escape while he could.
When the doors closed and he found himself alone, Drake burst out in nervous laughter. Had he just ended his own career?
A drop of cold sweat tricked down the small of Drake’s back.
“No,” said Miss Antonio firmly. Her bright red hair fanned out in a crown, contrasting perfectly with her tailored white suit. She placed both palms flat on the desk, staring Drake directly in the eye.
Drake slumped a bit further into his seat, asking, “No?”
He was acutely aware of the three bodyguards surrounding them.
“Perhaps you can explain yourself, so we might understand your position a little better?” suggested Cassie. Her voice had the timbre of a pop singer, while her style screamed punk-rocker. Her pink hair was short and spiked. She had piercings along her ears, nose, and lips, some sporting studs, others adorned with rings. With mesmerising pink eyes sparkling—contacts or tentamancy, Drake couldn’t be sure—she wore her black leather and jeans like they were a power suit.
Drake gulped down his nervousness.
Antonio appeared annoyed as she said, “Avar promised me until the end of next month to produce the Dagger of Osiris. I don’t have it yet.”
“Listen, Miss Antonio,” Drake said, his voice wavering. He had grown accustomed to these exchanges proceeding smoothly. He had never seen a client decline to live up to their end before. “This doesn’t have to be a problem. Simply hand over the brooch of power instead. If there were some sort of mistakes, you’ll have it back by the end of the week.”
Both women fixed Drake with smouldering eyes so hot that he thought he might melt.
“What are you talking about?” demanded Cassie. “I need that dagger now.”
“And I have a court appearance in the morning,” added Miss Antonio. “I require the brooch to avert disaster from befalling my company.”
“Ladies…” Drake put up his hands and the three bodyguards in their black suits jolted forward, guns appearing in their hands. “Hold on to your boomsticks fellas… I’m a happily married man.”
The bodyguards backed off, but they kept their hands hovering over their weapons.
Drake turned back to the large oak desk, behind which Miss Antonio sat. Her dark eyes fixed on him. Beyond the office, Drake admired the panoramic view of the harbour. The city seemed so serene from fifty stories up. What I wouldn’t give to be sitting by the beach, sipping on some fine red wine with Lisa right now, thought Drake. He found that reminding himself of her and Leon helped him to stay calm in situations like this.
Clearing his throat, Drake said, “Why don’t I call the office and see if there was some kind of mistake?”
“You do that,” said Miss Antonio.
Cassie snorted. If the wardrobe didn’t make it obvious, she wasn’t one of Avar’s covetors. She worked for another Temptarch, Zelaphina. While Avarithor managed the world of corporate finance, Zela oversaw the entertainment sector. Avar and Zela had struck a deal, allowing Cassie to claim the Dagger of Osiris from this exchange. However, Drake had a sinking feeling that Cassie wouldn’t be pleased with the outcome of this meeting.
Slipping his phone out of his jacket pocket, Drake navigated the glass screen to the number for Avar Corp’s local office. The phone rang. He could feel everyone in the room staring at him.
“Avar Corp, how may I help?” asked a man’s voice.
Strange, thought Drake, where’s Terresa?
“Hi,” said Drake. “This is Covetor Drake Wiseman. Is that you Maxwell?”
What is a high-ranking covetor like Max doing answering phones? It didn’t matter. Max had been the one to discover Drake and bring him into Avar’s tentamancy program. I can trust Max.
“Drake,” answered Max, “nice to hear from you. Terresa just stepped out. How may I help?”
“Oh, right,” Drake stuttered. “Could you check a contract for me, please?”
“Sure thing. Who for?”
“Miss Antonio, the Greng International deal.”
“One sec…” said Max, and Drake could hear typing. “There it is. Collection today. Priority red. The dagger or the brooch, no delay, no exceptions.”
“No…no, exceptions,” Drake choked on the words. “Are you saying…”
“Yes,” confirmed Max. “Collection by use of force is authorised.”
“Is that all?” asked Max.
Drake didn’t reply. He simply ended the call and slipped the phone back into his pocket. Suddenly he noticed how cold his fingers and toes felt. His forehead and jaw felt as tight as shrink wrap on a deli ham.
“What?” asked Cassie.
“I…” Drake trailed off.
“Well, spit it out!” demanded Miss Antonio.
Drake looked at the arrogant woman. She was no angel. The evidence she intended to tamper with in the morning was to save her company in a court case. Her company had bribed its way past authorities to get a drug approved without proper testing, which had resulted in the death of one in ten patients. While Drake would lose no sleep over her being thrown in jail, he couldn’t bring himself to consider using force against her. Knowing that the person in front of you was a corporate criminal is one thing; exacting their punishment is another.
Finally, Drake said, “Okay, now stay calm. You aren’t going to like it, but getting angry isn’t going to make it better.” He cast an eye over both women. If looks were deadly, he’d be in two separate body bags already. “Avar has marked this a priority red. It’s due today. I’m afraid I must leave here with the brooch, Miss Antonio, if you don’t have the dagger…”
Tentamancy is a powerful advantage in most situations. It draws from four elements that are sourced from other people’s minds. Drawing from yourself was possible, but much harder as the act of focusing on a thought changed the thought. The elements ‘self’ and ‘other’ determine where the spell could manifest, while ‘past’ and ‘future’ determine the nature of the manifestation. ‘Past’ is physical, while ‘future’ is illusionary. Combining, say ‘self’ and ‘past’, allows a tentamancer to gain incredible strength, speed or vitality. While ‘other’ and ‘future’ would allow one to craft an illusion that changes how something looks, like say obscuring evidence. It had a major flaw, however, a tentamancer that didn’t know what was coming couldn’t stop it.
Drake heard the scrape of metal on leather, and realised it signalled the drawing of a gun, but his response was slow. Cassie, who was far more experienced, burst into action. She kicked her chair back with supernatural force, darting after it in the same move.
Wood exploded, and a man grunted. Splinters rained on Drake’s tousled dark hair. Behind Miss Antonio, Drake could see the lone guard draw his gun while Antonio reached into her jacket pocket.
The brooch! Drake thought, finally leaping to his feet.
Thinking quickly, Drake slung his yellow briefcase, knocking Antonio out of her seat. Drawing on his reserves of ‘self’ and ‘past’—his constant rumination and worry for his family had given him ample of both—he gave himself speed. Flying forward, Drake was upon the bodyguard in the blink of an eye, seizing the hand on the gun. Long hours of covetor training kicked in, and Drake moved almost on autopilot. He twisted the hand at an awkward angle, forcing the man’s pinkie towards his heel via his elbow. A tendon snapped. The man screamed.
Drake sensed wrath radiating from his victim. Not just towards himself, for causing pain, but something deeper and darker. Drake focused on the sensation. Images flashed through his mind. A blurry bar counter, an empty whisky tumbler, a shaky car ride home, keys that refused to fit in the door lock, unchecked anger rising, a blond woman cowering, her face bruised. Drake gasped as he absorbed the man’s wrath, replenishing his reserves of ‘other’ and ‘self’.
A gunshot rang out, then another. Drake slammed an empowered fist into the man’s jaw, and the guard collapsed to the floor with a thud. Spinning around, Drake saw Antonio raise the brooch of power aimed at him. On pure instinct, he stretched his hand out as flames poured from the brooch, thrashing into the small energy shield Drake was able to summon. The heat pierced through, causing the hairs on his arm to singe away. The pain was unbearable, yet there was nowhere to escape.
Bang! Another gunshot sounded, and the heat stopped.
Drake let go of his shimmering blue shield. His whole right hand was bright red. Blood pooled around Miss Antonio’s body, a large hole in her head.
“Jesus!” barked Drake. “What the hell!”
Cassie lowered the gun and said, “You’re welcome.”
“I’m welcome!?” Drake gasped. “You killed her!”
“What?” Cassie shrugged. “Would you rather I let her roast you?”
“You killed her!” Drake shouted. “Couldn’t you have just knocked her out or something?”
Cassie gave Drake a sceptical sneer and then looked at the crumpled guard on the floor behind Drake. “You said that already… besides, you’re giving me speeches?”
Drake looked down and for the first time noticed the man’s neck. His head had spun entirely around and lay at an unnatural angle from his body.
“Oh g…” Drake couldn’t finish his sentence as he violently spewed.
“What the hell, Drake!” cursed Cassie. “What kind of amateur bullshit is this. That’s DNA evidence your leaving all over the damned scene.”
At that moment, the sprinkler system burst into action, drenching them both in gallons of stale water.
“Great…” said Cassie.
Drake took a deep breath, focusing on the memory of Lisa kissing him, and Leon giggling during his bath earlier that day. He needed to ground himself.
“We need to call this in,” uttered Drake. “We need a cleanup crew.”
He felt for his phone, his adrenalin-numbed hands clumsy as he tapped the screen. After multiple attempts, he managed to call the right number.
“Avar Corp, how may I direct your call?” Terresa’s voice came from the other end.
“Oh, Terresa,” said Drake, “you’re back.”
“What do you mean, Drake?” replied Terresa. “I’ve been at my desk for more than two hours. I’m actually due a break. Is it raining? It sounds like you are standing in the rain.”
A cold chill ran up Drake’s spine. “But I just called you and Maxwell answered the phone,” he said.
“Max?” said Terresa perplexed. “I haven’t seen him in the office tonight.”
The chill kept climbing, and Drake felt his tongue go dry. Water trickled between his cheek and the phone. It wouldn’t last long at this rate. Smartphones and water don’t mix and keeping it inside his soaked purple jacket seemed futile. “Terresa…can you please check on the Antonio contract for me.”
“Sure thing, Drake,” she said. “Here it is. Due at the end of next month. Yellow priority.”
Drake ended the call and slid the phone back into his pocket.