A flurry of activity and chaos shoved Miya into a corner in the days since her arrival at Sanchez’s gang. They housed her in a small room in the building she’d arrived in, unsure of what to do with her. The boredom beat sedatives and surgery any day, and they fed her real food instead of nutrient paste from a robot. The building seemed to actually house a real construction company as well, though she never saw any regular employees come to the upper floors where Sanchez and the other bigwigs worked. The rumble of heavy machinery couldn’t be masked, even from eight stories up.
They didn’t bother to lock her up at least, not that they needed to. She couldn’t get too far from her controller, or Overlord’s failsafes would kick in and kill her. Grabbing the damn thing would also kill her, or so she’d been told. I’m not calling that bluff. Sanchez only came to quiz her once, before getting called away with shouting about the MHU headquarters blowing up. His annoying wife came in every now and then, more to gossip and give her opinions to her husband than anything business related. That and drink. She still insisted on being there for any big meetings, including the one where Sanchez introduced Miya to their organization.
Miya sat on her bed, in a shirt and pants both several sizes too large for her. The old TV in her room played some awful late afternoon soap opera she’d never heard of before, but didn’t demand any brain power from her. She’d slept like a rock for days, whatever Overlord’s doctors had used to keep her out hadn’t translated to actual rest. The food and sleep did wonders to get herself back together, even if she didn’t exactly know where she stood in the mob racket she found herself in.
Just as she considered getting up and stretching her legs, maybe listening in on the latest comings and goings, a heavy hand knocked on the door. She opened it to find Sanchez, in a dark t-shirt and heavy work pants, instead of the suit he usually favored. A few wood shavings clung to his forearms. He carried a heavy folder and Miya’s controller. She gritted her teeth in preparation. Don’t give him reason to use that.
The chair in the corner of her room creaked as he sat down, thumbing through the folder. “Bone attenuation, huh?” asked Sanchez. She’d never heard anyone use his first name, not even his wife.
Miya nodded. “Yes.”
He locked eyes with her. “That means you can work with pretty much any living matter, it’s only strongest in bones. Correct?”
He did his homework. “For the most part. That’s not common knowledge,” she said.
“You don’t get to be where I am by being an idiot. Solid Tod is in need of healing, or he’s going to lose his arm. The bone is fractured, but that’s not all. Can you keep it in one piece?”
Miya gave him a tired shrug. “I don’t know. It’s been a while.”
“I’m feeding you out of my own pocket, I’m going to need something more than that.”
“Yeah, yeah, I can. I’d have to see it first.” Jackass.
He walked off, leaving her to scramble after him as he headed towards the elevator. One floor down, he took her to a makeshift hospital room. Solid Tod leaned back in his bed, left arm wrapped in bandages. Miya skirted around a heavy office desk shoved to the side to get a closer look. The room reeked of blood.
“Hey,” he said in greeting as Sanchez walked in. “Oh yeah, the mage girl.”
“We’ll see what she can do.” Sanchez turned to her. “Won’t we.” Miya ignored the lightly veiled threat and peeled off the bandages.
“Shit hurts. Been told to lay off the morphine,” said Tod through gritted teeth.
Four deep gouges in his bicep lay under the bandages. The top two cut halfway through an old tattoo of a pinup girl. “What the hell did this?” she asked. “Did you fight a tiger or something?”
“Feral,” replied Sanchez curtly. Oh yeah, he was the one going hunting.
“Did he kill it?”
“Fuck you,” snarled Tod. I’ll take that as a no.
“Focus. Both of you,” said Sanchez.
“I’ll need my magic if you want me to do anything,” she replied, motioning to the controller in his pocket.
Sanchez opened the folder, leaning it out of Miya’s sight. Oh god what does that thing say? To make the mage dance, press 1? After nearly a minute of reading, he pulled the controller from his pocket.
“This should work,” he murmured. Tod leaned away from Miya.
Sanchez clicked the button. The three of them waited for a moment, then two, Miya bracing for something to hurt. All that for one button?
“Is that it?” asked Sanchez.
“I don’t know,” Miya replied. “What were you expecting?”
“Magic,” he replied, as if it were obvious.
“I don’t feel any different.”
“Did you hit the right button?” asked Tod.
Without waiting for an answer, Miya closed her eyes and focused. Before, reaching for magic had been intuitive for her. Now the sense came sluggish and slow, but came it did. The room dimmed at the edges of her vision. Magic, ribbons of deep ashen red to her, twisted and wound through everything, from the broad thick streams in her own body to tiny tendrils woven like the fabric of the blanket they were part of. It had been too long since she could do this of her own volition. With a smile she announced, “That did it.”
She laid her hand on Tod. Her magic traveled through bone and flesh, not air. The streams slid into the flesh without a mark or pain. She could sense the physical fracture of the bone as clear as day. The rest of the arm was more opaque. Blood rushed where it shouldn’t have, the flesh feverish. Something else, not human, burrowed its way through. She felt aches throughout her back and head, like cuts that hadn’t fully closed.
“That’s bad,” she said.
“Define bad,” demanded Sanchez.
“I’m not a doctor,” she said with a shrug. “I can’t tell you medical definitions and crap like that.”
“Can you fix it?”
“Of course.” His own body will do half the work anyways. “I can fix the fracture just fine on my own, I need more for the flesh.” She frowned as she examined Tod’s gouged arm again. “ I’ll need some blood, freely given.”
“Blood comes from bone marrow,” replied Miya as she got ready. She laid out a few strips of bandage side by side. She motioned for a metal tray with a few medical tools on it. “They’re more connected than you’d think. And I’m mostly not fixing his bones. There’s a rot that’s set in, and a lot of muscle and nerve damage even if that weren’t the case. To fix flesh and blood, I need flesh and blood.”
“Fine.” Sanchez reached down into his boot and pulled out a knife.
“There’s always a cost. It hurts if you try to get cute with it. Intent matters.” If this backfires you’ll kill me. He’d nearly taken the knife to his elbow, but stopped himself as he heard her last sentence. He considered for a moment, then slashed his palm. He picked that up fast. She directed his hand over the clean tray, giving her about ten drops of blood before she waved him off.
As Sanchez cleaned and bandaged his palm, Miya got to work. She dipped a finger into the still warm blood and began to draw on the bandages, tracing the route the magic would weave into. She drew on herself, on the blood, on the world, and it answered. The edges of her vision dimmed once more as she set up the streams. Through long trial and error she had found how her own will, her own magic, would act and react to what she told it to and what it found. A simple stream would mend the fracture, more woven around it to burn out the infection, and the blood to restore the flesh.
“Where’d it go?” asked Tod.
“Non-mages can’t see magic,” said Sanchez, letting Miya concentrate.
“No shit. Blood isn’t magic, it’s blood,” replied Tod.
“Shut up or lose your arm,” snapped Miya. I really need to focus here. Sanchez cut short Tod’s response with a light punch to his good shoulder and a curt shake of his head.
She lay one hand on Tod, the other an inch over her blood bandage. He flinched. The finished braid of magic, woven through the blood of those who gave a damn, flowed through her. Let scientists squabble about ‘possible’. Let them all, Overlord and Sanchez and Tod, doubt, doubt what they cannot measure or control. I say this arm should be fixed. Let it be so. Miya’s vision surfaced from a sea of blood red back to the real world, the streams of magic dispersed having served their purpose.
Tod and Sanchez may not have been able to see magic, but they could definitely see Tod’s arm, whole and healthy. She couldn’t help the tattoo though, or the four white scars streaking across the bicep. Miya crashed on the chair, exhausted. That felt wrong. What did Overlord do?
Tod leaned forward, waving and flexing his arm. “Great! That it?”
Miya took a moment to adjust her position on the chair, sitting up a little straighter, before replying, “You should eat some steak sometime soon.”
“You need protein.”
“Sold. Best doctor I’ve ever had,” he said with a laugh. Now you change your tune.
Sanchez grinned and laid a hand on Miya and Tod’s shoulders. He hid the wince from the impact on his cut hand well. “Let’s celebrate! We’ve got some fights down at the Arena. You’ll get dinner and a show. Both of you.”
“Hell yeah,” said Tod, pulling the IV needle out of his other arm. Shouldn’t you have a nurse or something do that? Why fuck around with needles? “Let me get dressed.”
“Let’s meet up in ten at the garage,” said Sanchez. He raised an expectant eyebrow at Miya, Tod already climbing out of bed.
Do I have to? We’re not friends. But it’s this or a bad soap opera. “Alright,” she said. “But I need to be near you though, remember.”
“Right. Elevator then.”
Miya parted ways with the two of them to head to the bathroom. A spasm ran through her hands as she cleaned the blood off. Magic is gone. Sanchez turned it off. She locked eyes with herself in the mirror. Stubble still covered her head, at least no longer patchy and irregular at least. The acne scarring along her temples and chin hadn’t faded even after months in a sterile lab. She grabbed a towel, soaked it, and washed her face off to no real effect. Fuck it. Good enough. I don’t have any other clothes, I’m not sure what he’s expecting of me here.
Sanchez, now back in his customary tailored suit, insisted on driving the SUV himself, waving away an underling who brought the car to them. Miya had the backseat all to herself. Tod and Sanchez ignored her, instead catching up on business that Tod missed while out of commission. Miya finally got a chance to see Westward City from a different view than from a random construction office. Not that the shanty town vibe got any better on the street level, though eventually it faded to a normal city, albeit one with a wall of mountains to the west. Finally, they pulled up to a fancy and expensive steakhouse. Didn’t you call this place the Arena?
They drove around back. Sanchez lowered the tinted window and gave a look to the restaurant employee loitering in the back. It took Miya a moment to realize said employee packed a pistol under his waistband. Sanchez has to own this place. He waved them through a garage door without hesitation.
The mustachioed man she’d met in the first meeting greeted them as they climbed out of the car. “Sanchez! And good to see you in one piece, Tod!” He led them to a heavy steel door with an obvious guard to either side.
“Damn straight,” replied Tod with a cocky grin. You just sat there.
“Otto! Wasn’t sure if you’d be here. How’s your cousin?” asked Sanchez.
Otto’s eyes ran past Miya without registering her presence. Though far thinner than either Tod or Sanchez, he took their back pats without so much as budging. “He comes and goes. Same as always, I suppose.”
He led them to a secluded dinner table set for four overlooking the Arena. About the area of a basketball court, movable fences closed off a smaller area in the center. Bright spotlights rigged overhead lit the square. Seats circled the whole thing, already filling with people. How the hell is this thing hidden below a goddamn restaurant?
“Tod here needs a steak. Doctor’s orders,” said Sanchez as they took their seats.
“Of course,” said Otto with a thin smile, finally deigning to notice Miya. She returned the false smile with one of her own. He motioned to a waiter standing off in the corner.
The conversation drifted on as they debated old fights and fighters they’d hosted, until the waiter returned some time later with a steak for each. Miya eyed the porterhouse the size of her head. I don’t think I can finish this. This is just a waste of good food. She carved off a piece and took a bite. Really really good food.
“So I hope you gave that feral as good as you got,” Otto said to Tod, gesturing to his scarred arm.
“Shot it out a window. Pretty sure it’s not dead though,” replied Tod.
“I don’t know how you keep ours in control,” confessed Sanchez.
“You have no idea,” replied Otto with a shake of his head. “I had a heart attack when I heard about the new one. Gave the boys a call before I figured out it wasn’t ours.”
“Is it fighting today?” asked Tod. “I want to see how they stack up.”
“No, it’s recovering. We’ve got several dog fights scheduled. The main show tonight is a bout between Omar and McPhearson.”
“Boxing. No hold barred. The bookies have them at even odds, but my money is on Mickey. He’s got a keen eye.”
“Omar’s a mean son of a bitch, I’ll take that bet,” replied Tod. Isn’t Omar the guy who’s supposed to find me a surgeon to get the Overlord crap out of me? Is he just fucking around, boxing for fun?
Sanchez elbowed Tod. “Oh yeah, apparently no one has been in contact with one of your men at the warehouse, Michael. Once he was out on bail he vanished. I was going to take a look at it for you before you recovered.”
“Michael? Warehouse? Yeah, joined up six months ago. Payed off his debts and kept working. Had an ugly breakup last month.” Tod waved a dismissive hand. “The man had a feral running at him, then spent a few days getting grilled by cops. He probably found some sweet thing to take the load off. Let me know if he doesn’t turn up tomorrow.” You know all that about a random dude working for you off-hand?
“Was it that bad?” asked Sanchez.
“That thing was big and fast, man. Wouldn’t go down. It’ll make you feel like a caveman staring down a sabre tooth.”
An announcer’s voice over the speakers caught their attention, hyping up the first of the dog fights being set up in the arena below them. Sanchez and Otto turned, chatting about business once the din faded. Barking caught Miya’s attention, from either corner of the arena. Two giant mutts glared death at each other. She looked away as the cage doors opened and the crowd cheered. Miya saw the hints of exhaustion in Tod’s eyes, though they vanished whenever Sanchez turned to him. He caught her gaze and leaned in.
“Was that Aztec magic stuff or regular magic stuff?” he asked her. “With all the blood and stuff”
“Just my regular magic stuff.”
“Why are you fucking around here? Why don’t you just get that crap out of you yourself?” asked Tod.
“It’s all cased in iron,” she replied. “I can’t get through.”
“Oh yeah, that’ll do it. Hey, why does magic bounce off of iron anyways?”
“Iron is, I don’t know how to put it. It’s like space or something. A vacuum? Isn’t that what space is?” Tod shrugged. “It’s like trying to drink space.”
“Magic is when the universe considers and changes itself. Iron is too stable,” cut in Sanchez, though it sounded like he quoted something.
“Huh?” said Tod and Miya simultaneously. I’ve never heard it put that way.
“How do you know that?” asked Tod.
“You should read a book every now and then,” said Sanchez. “You might learn something.”
“I ain’t an egghead,” grumbled Tod in response. “Oh shit, it’s starting.”
With the blood and bits from the previous dog fights cleaned up, two men squared off in the Arena. With nothing more than a pair of boxing shorts and mouth-guards, they tapped each other’s knuckles and the fight began. At some point Miya’s eyes glazed over. The others watched and dissected minutiae of boxing technique that she couldn’t see. OK. Bored now.
She leaned in as another round started, ignoring the sudden pain in a surgical scar along her back. “Has Omar made any progress on finding someone to get Overlord’s stuff out of me?”
“We’re working on it,” said Sanchez, cutting her off before she could say anything else. By his sharp tone, the conversation was over before it could even begin.
There isn’t anything stopping him from screwing me over, she thought, as Omar landed a monster blow to the side of his opponent’s head, diving on him as his guard dropped and bashing his skull over and over. The crowd went wild.
I’m very glad you’re reintroducing Miya! Glad to see she’s back
Ain’t no way Sanchez is ever actually letting her go
Loving these as always keep up the good work