Season Content Notes (incomplete): violence, anti-nonhuman bigotry, consensual violence
It was an unusual group that gathered on the roof of an old warehouse. Amal was a slim man in his thirties who looked like the stereotypical intellectual — right down to the old-fashioned glasses and wide skirts. What most wouldn’t notice was that the skirts were actually split skirts — a fashion even older than the glasses. They allowed him the same freedom of movement as the gusseted pants of truly committed active lifestylers. Even fewer would notice the weapons those voluminous skirts concealed.
Joan squatted next to him, drawing a diagram with a circuit drawing pen, her trenchcoat flaring out behind her. Her tablet sat in the center of the diagram. The tablet chanted out the invocation as she drew.
Next to Joan was Ahnold, a skeletal cyborg with glowing red eyes whose creation was probably illegal. He was strong, usually silent, and fairly impulsive. Ahnold refused to wear clothing, and of those who were foolish enough to ask him to, no one asked twice.
Rounding out their circle was an older man, halfway to bald. He was on the short side but broad as a barn door. Most of it muscle, but in recent years he’d developed a bit of a paunch. Only his wife dared say anything about it, and she delighted in embarrassing him enough to make him stammer and blush. He went only by ‘Sargeant’ and wore gusseted pants that had pockets on their pockets as well as a fully stocked tool belt. Sargeant gave a nod to social convention with a pair of square-shaped silver earrings but otherwise had no decoration or jewelry.
Joan finished the diagram at the same moment the tablet stopped chanting. A holograph popped into existence over the tablet — one that wasn’t supposed to exist.
“Alright,” Joan said, “They got a kabbalist to help with the defenses.”
“So we’ll be facing strong defenses, but not much in the way of attacks.” Amal nodded.
“Don’t get overconfident. Most kabbalists prefer to stay on the defense, yeah. But the Golem was first created as a ‘defense’.”
Amal nodded. “Point taken.”
“Those assumptions’ll bite you in the ass every time, kid,” Sargeant growled.
“Still, I doubt we’ll find a golem here. It would be disrespectful to animate one to protect a warehouse.”
“Heavy defense, no golems, but don’t get overconfident.”
“Luckily, kabbalists are usually traditionalists and don’t have much to do with technomagic, so I was able to get through the wards and get us a rough blueprint.”
“It looks nothing like the official layout from intel,” Ahnold observed. “How do we know this is the right place?”
Sargeant snorted. “If it did look like the official blueprint, we’d know we were in the wrong place. No one puts out official misinformation and heavy magical defenses unless they’re hiding something.”
Amal started laying out a plan. “Joan, you hang back and keep the defenses off of us.”
“Yes, I know you like to go bursting in and making a scene, but we don’t want to rush into…”
Ahnold, done waiting, said, “Cover me.” He stepped off the roof and dropped to the ground hard enough they cracked the asphalt. A split second later, he was racing across the street and kicked in the door.
The other three ran to the edge of the roof.
“Levitating now,” Joan said, activating a stored spell on her tablet.
“I’m in first,” Amal said as they floated to the ground. “Then Joan, Sarge cover us.”
An electronic scream rang out from the warehouse. “Fuck that,” Sargeant said as they landed and ran for the door, Amal of necessity hanging back to cover the other two as they raced to be first in the door.
Another scream as they burst through the door to find —
Ahnold standing in the middle of a completely empty room. The entire warehouse was a single giant room with nothing in it. Ahnold had his head thrown back and hands fisted as he screamed at the ceiling. “Intel, you useless fuck ups!!!!!!!”
At breakfast that morning, Wu received a short briefing on all security issues during the night. “Of note,” his assistant reported, “three of our dummy warehouses were broken into, all by small groups with skilled magic users. Two of them, we have video of the intrusion and successfully tracked the teams back to their bases.
“Their magic users were skilled, sir, but their security left… a great deal to be desired.”
Wu nodded, flipping through the written report on his datapad. Zi could have done without the face-to-face entirely, but zi still read expressions better than zi read ‘between the lines’ of a report.
“The third group?”
“We wouldn’t have caught them at all if some of the team hadn’t entered the building before the mage finished their work. As it is, I can tell you that we’ve got a technomage working with a cyborg. The cyborg’s design is… distinctive. But if the team is as good as the mage indicates, they’ll have some kind of cover planned for the cyborg. Every system in the warehouse shut down before the cyborg left or the rest of the team entered — if they did enter.
“Worse, the alarms were corrupted, so they didn’t go off until after the intruders were gone.”
“Thank you, Akemi.
“Anything else of interest?”
Shortly after, Wu met with Ameohne’e for their daily briefing. “As expected, we’re seeing signs of an organized resistance. It appears the leaders are sending teams out on test runs: to test our defenses or weed out the useless. Possibly both.
“So far, there is one team that might be what we are looking for for our endgame. I’ll keep you updated.”
“Good. Very good.”
In one of several secret hideouts scattered across the city, Amal was out of patience.
“You were the one who couldn’t wait for the go-ahead. You were the one who had to go bursting in before Joan finished securing the site. You were the one who got caught on camera.
“So you will be the one to wear the damn skin suit over your skeletal ass.”
“Fine! But no clothes.”
Amal and the Sargeant (now fully bald, just in case) looked at each other and sighed. It was going to be a long day.
Joan was ignoring all three of them. Somehow that kabbalist had slipped something into the defenses that made Joan’s tablet display a false layout for the warehouse. She wasn’t resting until she figured out how.
How NOT to Save the World S1E7
How NOT to Save the World (S1, E9)