Hidden Dragon: 3

Reading Time: 9 minutes

Hidden Dragon

Welcome to the world of Syn City, where magic is a thing, a host of races walk the streets, and the hardworking detectives of the SCPD are tasked with keeping the peace in a city where, on occasion, shoplifting means lifting an actual shop.

Looking for the beginning of the story? Click HERE.


Hidden Dragon-3

Lena Morai drove down Mercy Street at a snail’s pace, her foot hovering between the power and the brakes as she tried to drive in snow—snow!—for the first time in her life.

And why hadn’t anyone told her Syn City had snow in October? If they had, she’d have updated her car’s weather charms as soon as she arrived. 

Or, at least before she took her first call.

Of course, the lack of appropriate weather charms wouldn’t even be a problem if there had been a police issue vehicle for SCPD’s newest transfer. 

But, as Lena quickly discovered, newbies were on the bottom of the motor pool’s queue—even if the newbie had been on the job in Aux’ian for the last five years.

Lena hissed her annoyance as she eased around a gleaming patch that was probably ice, then murmured a quiet thanks to her ancestors that the power outage had been brief because it was bad enough driving through a new city in the snow; driving through a new city in the snow without even streetlights would have been pushing it. 

Eyes narrowed against the drifting snow, she recalled reading something about Syn City having a lot of outages lately, but all very short, and without any obvious cause.

Which made her wonder about non-obvious causes. 

Then she wondered how many outages there had been, and how often they occurred. 

Probably she could find out, and then determine if there were a pattern to the outages…and then she spied the SCPD barriers, indicating she’d arrived at her destination, and told herself to focus on her actual job. 

 Behind the barriers, she saw the uniforms had set up some of their own lamps, which added an extra ghostly glow to the scene.

She pulled over to the curb, parking just behind the ME’s wagon, and eased to a stop with minimal skidding. Setting the brake, Lena shut off the engine and then engaged in a brief butt dance for having survived her first drive in snow, then she caught the glimmer of lamps at the crime scene, and reminded herself to act like a professional. 

“Game face,” she muttered, before heaving her door open to the cold, where the thrill of her boots crunching in the pure white powder lasted only until her heel slipped on the underlying ice. 

She dropped with a squeal that turned into a curse as she landed on the doorsill, then slipped to the street. 

“Need a hand?” 

Lena blinked the stars of pain away to see, yes, a gloved hand reaching down and automatically took it. “Thanks,” she said to the snow dusted pea coat filling her vision. The hand released hers, and she brushed the snow off the back of her own coat, then dug one heel in, testing the ground beneath the white, and almost slipped again.

“Hold on.” The helpful hand grabbed at her elbow this time. “Nice boots,” the hand’s owner said in a pleasant baritone, “but those soles won’t cut it in a Syn City winter.” 

“So I’m learning,” Lena grumbled, the fog of her breath obscuring the view of her feet.

“Hang on,” the baritone said, and Lena looked up to see a tallish male back retreating through the snow to another vehicle, that had apparently pulled up right behind her.

As he walked away, his silhouette wavered in Lena’s vision, as if he were a heat mirage. 

Which, even for Lena, was something new. 

Narrowing her eyes, she watched him round to the back of the car and open the trunk, hiding him from view. 

Turning her attention to car itself, Lena saw a flicker of lights typical to a police issue comm unit. Which meant this helpful person was likely the Detective Inspector Chance she was supposed to be meeting at the scene. 

Then the trunk slammed closed, and the man came stomping back, black hair poking from a navy watch cap, and holding a floppy something—or two floppy somethings—in his gloved hands.

The heat mirage effect had disappeared, which made Lena think she’d imagined it. 

“Put these over your shoes,” he said, crunching through the snow and holding them out.

Lena, still standing with one hand on her open door, looked down at what appeared to be rain boots, like the ones she’d worn as a child, but rather than a pretty ladybug pattern, these were an indeterminate color between green and black. 

“Umm,” she said.

“My partner’s wellies,” he explained. “Waterproof and fully charmed against ice. Go ahead, Alex won’t mind,” he added as she hesitated to take them, and gently pushed her back into the car, so she was sitting sideways on the driver’s seat. “You can use these on the scene, and return them when you’re done, here.” 

“Thank you,” she said, accepting the pair of boots and sliding the first over her right foot. “Why aren’t you wearing a pair?” 

“Because I’m wearing these.” She looked out to see his foot sticking up to show a muscular looking boot with a seriously patterned sole. “No charms, but they’re actually made for this kind of weather.” 

“Oh.” She frowned as the second wellie went over her shoe. “You’re sure your partner mind sharing her footwear?”

“Alex is a caring type,” he replied after a beat.

Lena nodded and rose, carefully, but DI Chance had it right, the wellies didn’t only not slip, the charms gripped the underlying ice with a near velcro-like strength. “I have to get a pair of these,” she murmured, then shook herself, closed the door, and started tromping towards the green and white barricade, patting her coat to confirm she had everything she needed.

 “By the way, I’m Kai Chance, Detective Inspector with the Seventh,” he introduced himself, confirming her suspicions.

“Lena Chance,” she replied, tugging wiggling her fingers in her new gloves, purchased, like her hat and coat, right before she’d moved to Syn City. 

 “You new to the precinct?” he asked.

Lena noted he was still watching her feet, like a nervous parent, waiting for his toddler to pitch over at any second. “Just transferred from Aux’ian.” 

“Picked a hell of a time of year for the move,” he observed.

“That’s what I was thinking,” she said. “I haven’t even gotten my car’s weather charms updated.” 

“Best get on that,” he told her. “Especially if you don’t want your insurance charms to start yelling at you every time there’s a freeze.” 

Lena turned to stare at him.“They do that?” 

He nodded. “I think they hired a ban sidhe for the shriek-over,” he said, though his eyes were locked on the alley entrance, a few meters behind the barrier. “Anyway, I bet the lab techs will be thrilled to have another hand. They’re always complaining about being understaffed.” He paused as reached the barrier. “Chance, DI,” he said, activating his commulet to display his shield to the beat cop standing sentry. 

The officer was a nacru, Lena noted, his blue-black hide almost indistinguishable from his uniform. 

“I’m not with CST,” she told Kai before tapping her own commulet to life, so the gold and green badge of her rank appeared. “Morai, Detective Sergeant. Nice to meet you, Officer Massu,” she added, reading the uniform’s tag. This earned the bright flash of a smile from the officer, which Lena returned before easing through the barricade. She turned to wait for Kai to join her, but he was standing, frozen, on the other side of the bright green rail.

“Coming?” she asked.

“You’re a detective?” he asked back. “A detective assigned to this case?”  

“If it is a case,” she said. “At the moment it’s just a suspicious death.”

“Very suspicious,” Officer Massu said, glancing towards the alley. “Wait and see.”

Yikes, thought Lena, but she was still looking up at at Kai’s blank features. “Dispatch didn’t tell you to expect me?”

His eyes narrowed, and she again caught a hint of the heat mirage, before his sharp features softened with chagrin. “I think they did,” he admitted. “I, ah, may have closed the call a little too quickly.” 

“Oh,” Lena said, then shuffled uneasily. “Well. I’m here.”

His lips twitched. “So you are.” 

“Should we go, you know—”

“Do our jobs?” 

“Gets my vote,” Massu said.

Kai grimaced, then sidled between the barricades. 

Together, they rounded the corner of the tech-tronics shop and a pile of broken crates, dusted with snow, to see a crime scene tent midway down the alley. 

Lena focused on the glowing orb of the tent and, as she and Kai neared, caught the ozone spark of thaum. “Medical examiner’s been busy,” she murmured.

“Busy, and cocky,” Kai said, loudly enough to have Lena’s eyebrows shoot up. “He better not have messed with my scene.” 

“I only preserved the scene,” a smooth voice emerged from the tent, followed by a figure wearing a hooded coat. “Which I wouldn’t have had to do if you’d gotten here sooner.” 

“I was called in from my apartment,” Kai replied. “While you were on duty so—”

“Your apartment is still closer than my house,” the other man said, referring, Lena supposed, to the precinct’s lab. As he spoke, he shoved his hood back to reveal a mop of curly brown hair, which immediately became dusted with snow. He angled towards Lena, eyes welcoming. “Hello. You’re new.” 

“Detective Sergeant Morai,” Kai introduced her.

“Lena’s fine,” she said, tugging her own red cap over her ears. It really was cold. 

“And this is Sebastian Chance, Th.M., M.D., Ph.D, M.E., and general pain in my ass,” Kai waved at the doctor. 

“But most people call me Bast,” the doctor said. 

Lena, eyes narrowed, noted the easy, habitual banter, along with the matching surnames. “So,” she said, turning from Sebastian’s blue eyes to Kai’s deep brown, “which one of you was adopted?”

Despite the oddness of the scene, both men smiled. 

“Both of us,” Bast said. “Plus we’ve got a small tribe of also adopted siblings, which we’ll both be happy to complain about at any given moment. But first,” he gestured to the glowing dome of the tent, “we should earn our scandalously skimpy paychecks. Fair warning, it’s—odd.” And, as Kai stepped forward he added, “I heard you had an arrest here, today?”

“A violently unstable wizard,” Kai confirmed. “Taking him in wasn’t too rough, once he was cornered, but the chase was messy.” As he spoke, he shifted his weight, telling Lena as clearly as words that he was uneasy about something. 

Knowing better than to point it out, she pulled a pair of crime scene gloves from her pocket, reluctantly doffing her winter weather gloves in exchange but, the moment the thin protective gloves slid over her hands, they shimmered with warmth. “They’re charmed?” 

“Standard issue,” Bast told her. “Along with the regular anti-viral, anti-biotic, anti-cantrip, the manufacturer included weather charms. I hear they’re the top selling PPE suppliers in Nord.”

“I bet they are,” Lena murmured, thinking she was going to call her old LT and tell her to get on the horn with the local union and demand the Aux’ian PD switch suppliers. It might not get cold in Tijas, but the summers were intense, and most of their department’s protective gear became saunas within three minutes.

A chunk of snow dropped from the roof of the antique bazaar to land on the tent and immediately vaporized. “As I was saying,” Bast said, turning from the steam, “I just got the tent up. I haven’t touched the body, and, fabulous gloves aside, neither will anyone else,” he added, sending a warning glare over his shoulder. “Seriously, do not even think about touching anything.”

Lena and Kai shared a glance, but both nodded their agreement. 

Bast, seemingly satisfied, lifted the tent’s flap and ducked in, with Kai close behind. 

Lena felt an unexpected waft of hot and cold air, which confused her, as no ME worth their commulet would mess with the temperature of a crime scene. 

Frowning, she stepped in, only to come up smack against Kai’s back as he stood, frozen, in the entrance.

Lena leaned to one side and spied the body.

“Wow,” she said, staring at the half-charred, half… frozen?… corpse.  

“I know,” Bast agreed, and she saw him shoot another concerned look at Kai before pulling a thaumic thermometer from his pocket. “The burned side is—well, you can see, but the cold half read just over point zero four five nano-sed.”

“That’s impossible,” Lena said. “That’s like black hole levels of cold.”

“A little above,” Bast agreed, holding the thaumometer over the body. “It’s gone up another hundredth of a degree, and the hot side has dipped a fraction since I last checked.” He muttered something about conduction as he recorded the new readings in his commulet. “I obviously won’t be able to get dental or prints,” he continued, pocketing the device, “but I’ll try for a facial  match, now, before the ambient heat from the burned side causes the frozen side to degrade.” As he spoke, he crouched to pull an imager out of the case which sat, already open, next to the tent flap. 

“You don’t need to check the ID,” Kai spoke at last, turning to his brother. “I know who this is.”

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