Novoathens Police Department
rating: +7+x

"Oh mama. What's this baby?"

"That there is a Elthorn & Light Mark V, af-fectionately referred to as the Busted Phoenix."

"Why's it called that?"

"Cuz anything you hit with it acts like a busted phoenix — it bursts into ash but doesn't rise from it!"

The Quartermaster guffawed at his own joke and pulled his hat up a little. He put his hands down on the counter.

"Now, really, pick something. I ain't got all day, buddy."

"Right, yeah. I… I dunno Mecks, I was lookin' for somethin'… unique."

"Oh, you wanna be a little special snowflake, huh? Lucky for you…"

He turned and reached into the forest of boxes behind him before pulling one from the haphazard arrangement. A scryoak box, about a foot long and a quarter wide. He delicately placed it on the counter and motioned at it.

"Go on, take a look."

Detective Fyorn Haller eyed the box suspiciously before unclasping the latch and swinging it open. He winced, expecting an explosive response. When none came, he opened his eyes and inspected the weapon.

An unassuming black wand sat in the silk cushioning of the box. No wandmaker monogram, no seal of Federal Occult Administration certification, not even a craftman's signature. Looking at the box, he couldn't even find a serial number.

"What is this? Where did you even get this thing? I'm pretty sure this breaks like fifteen of the Wand Codes, man."

"Uh, it's a custom job. Don't worry 'bout it. All you need to know is that this sucker is powerful, dangerous, and it's obviously unique. Good, right?"

"I mean, yeah, it's good. I ju-"

"Great! It's yours! Here, I'll take your token and just- there we go. I'll get it logged in the system, haveaniceday!"

The door slammed shut in his face, leaving him in the corridor. Haller glanced in both directions of the marble-and-brick hallways of the Precinct before looking down at the weighted box and pulling out the wand, experimentally waving it around. It was weighty in his hand, smooth grip, unblemished. He'd have to arrange a session at the range to get a feel for it. He was interrupted by a familiar warmth from the inside of his overcoat. He drew his hand in and pulled out his miniature scryer — a small contraption, essentially just two panes of circular glass as wide as his palm pressed against each other, with a small layer of oil suspended between them. He rubbed it with a gloved hand, muttering a small incantation. The pane lit up with a familiar face.

"Fyorn, you need to get down here."

"Down where? What's going on?"

"Corner of First and Third, Nth Malignon Bank. Robbery went south, turned into a hostage situation. There's a dozen civvies inside, we've counted three perps."

"So?"

"Two of them are carrying wands."

"Ffffuuuuuuck."

"Yeah."

"Alright, I'll be right there. Uh, who's in charge of negotiations."

"Harding, looks like."

"Rat bastard. Make sure he doesn't do anything stupid until I get there. And whatever you do, do not let ANYONE fire a gun in there."

"Over and out."

The image faded from the scryer and Haller slipped it back into his pocket. He jammed a hand into another pocket and extracted a metal rod as long as his forearm. With a strong flick outward, it expanded into a much larger rod, nearly as tall as him. One-time use broomsticks were, as the name implied, meant to be for one-time use, but these were extraordinary circumstances. Haller flung open the window to his right and threw the broomstick out. Seeing it float in place, he tentatively climbed out of the window, testing his weight with a foot before fully settling on the stick. He gripped it with white knuckles and scowled.

God, I hate these things.

Without any further hesitation, he shot through the skies toward the Malignon Bank.


53 Minutes Earlier

Gryphon — not his real name — tightened his suit jacket and walked into the main entrance of the bank. This was the riskiest position — all the cameras trained on him confirmed that with their little beady red eyes. No biggie. All he had to do was stay cool and wait for the signal.

The bank guards didn't look twice at him. Security had gotten lax. He smiled. It would only be after he left the bank that they would realize neither of them could see his face.

He hopped up the marble stairs and sat himself in line. It was a slow day, only about… a dozen people inside, plus employees. Shouldn't be a problem. This job was simple: get in, get the money, get out. No complications.

In his decade long career of grand larceny, armed robbery, intimidation, theft, and jaywalking, Gryphon had followed one rule above all others: avoid complications wherever possible. Complications screwed up the plan, and if the plan was shot, nothing was sure. That was how he'd managed to evade arrest or someone collecting the bounty on his head.

The line moved forward again. He was three people from reaching a teller. In his peripheral vision, a familiar face in a pinstripe suit entered the bank. He subtly turned his neck in the opposite direction. Sure enough, a woman in courier's garb carrying a duffel bag.

He coughed loudly and drew a hand into his inside pocket, presumably to get a handkerchief. His fingers closed around something narrow and wooden.

Go time.

He pulled his wand out.

The guard didn't even have time to hit the alarm before his brain dripped out of his ears. The moment his body hit the ground the other guard twisted around and raised his pistol. A concentrated blast to the chest sent him sprawling. Another wave of the wand and every teller found their arms locked behind their backs.

Unfortunately, one had already hit the alarm.

An ear-piercing klaxon sounded through the building as the bandit barrier slammed shut. He could hear the massive vault door clanking shut. No doubt the cops were already on their way.

Motherfucking complications.

He cast another small hex, one to keep the civilians still and quiet. Their screaming stopped. The suited man, face hidden by a tiger mask, stood on the counter, assault rifle in hand. The woman with the duffel bag walked over to him, now wearing a cheap plastic fox mask, her own wand in her fist. She slipped the duffel bag off her shoulder wordlessly and unzipped it.

Time for Plan B.


Haller hits the ground running. He collapses the broomstick and drops the remaining few feet, cushioning his landing with his partner.

"Umph- what the fuck? Get off me!"

"I'm gettin, I'm gettin!"

They both stood up and brush themselves off. Gabrielle wiped the dust off her body armor and plugged her earpiece back into her angular ear. A Fae — one of the few in the police force. Her short hair makes sure everyone knows it. She slipped her wand into her shoulder holster.

Haller tugged his overcoat back on and straightened his tie. He spun and made a beeline for the mass of police cars surrounding the entrance of the bank. On the adjacent buildings, he could see tactically placed snipers. A Mobile Command Center was parked away from the main avenue.

"Goddamn, this place is on siege. Status?"

"Yeah. I uh, I made sure Harding didn't do anything until you got here."

"Wait, he seriously agreed to that?"

"I may have cut a deal with him."

Haller stopped to stare at Gabby suspiciously.

"What did you do?"

"I uh, may have promised that we'd get the hostages out in two hours or less."

"Or what?"

"Or we'd lead the assault team."

"Jesus Christ."

"Whaaat? We're a great team, we'll have Harding eating his words in no time!"


Two Hours Later

Tiger hunched beneath a toppled desk, assault rifle leveled at the door of the bank. Through the frosted glass, he could see two of the cops. A guy and a girl — the girl's proportions suggested Fae, but he'd been wrong before. He tightened his grip on the rifle. Fae were exceptionally dangerous. No reason to get complacent. He made sure the hostages on the ground were also in his line of fire, if it came to that.

He shouted, carrying his voice over the noise.

"If you got something to say, do it quick!"

The guy started to say something, but was cut off by the girl.

"We just wanna talk."

No mistaking the sing-song tilt to that voice. Definitely a Fae.

"I don't trust cops, and I don't trust Fae. I sure as hell don't trust you, so the only thing we're gonna be talking about is how you're gonna move the perimeter back another fifty feet."

"You know we can't do that."

He hadn't pissed her off. Visibly, anyway. Interesting. He tended to do that.

"Why's that?"

"We don't have to walk across the street when you surrender yourselves to custody."

Seems he'd pissed off the guy, though. He smirked and checked the safety on his gun.

"You guys already took half the hostages. We need some kinda insurance policy, you dig?"

The girl again.

"I dig. But-"

Whatever she would have said was cut off by the flashbang and smoke grenades dropped from the skylight going off.

Through the blinding light, Tiger stumbled up and grasped his rifle. He heard the telltale noise of a magic blast and let loose a flurry of bullets.

Haller huddled behind the magical shield he erected in front of the hostages. Behind him, the rest of Hostage Rescue crawled forward and dragged away the immobilized bodies of the remaining six civilians. As soon as the last body cleared the door, the smoke started to clear. He spotted Gabby pressed behind an ATM, returning fire at the perp. Harding's squad was probably already moving in from the side entrance.

Time to clean up.

Haller ducked out of cover, shouting over the hail of gunfire and flashbangs going off from the other side of the building.

"GABBY!"

She stopped firing.

"WHAT?"

"CROSS-EYES!"

She nodded and they both ducked behind cover. A second later, the hail of bullets stopped as Tiger ducked behind the desk to reload.

Haller flung his new wand at Gabby, who caught it in her left hand. She leveled both wands at the desk, chanted, and pulled.

The desk came flying across the room and slammed into the wall, cracking in half.

Tiger looked up in shock, still reloading his rifle, just in time to see Haller rushing him with his shoulder. They toppled to the floor and Haller flipped him over before kicking his gun away. He clinked a pair of cuffs on the perp.

"Gabby, read him his rights, I'm gonna go make sure Harding doesn't pull anything insane."


Haller and Harding looked at the bare vault. Every safe deposit box was open and empty. The table was bare of cash. The place was completely stripped of valuables. Forensic techs examined the place for fingerprints.

"Where the fuck did they go? How did they even open the fucking vault?"

"I have no fucking idea."

"You think your guy will be able to answer it?"

"He's got no wand. I don't even think he's a mage."

"Worth a shot."

"Man, the Chief is not gonna be happy about this."

"Yeah. Man, how could you let this happen?"

"Excuse me?"

"Yeah man. You're the boss of this whole operation. Don't worry though, I'm sure she'll see it's not totally your fault."

Haller clapped the bewildered Harding on the back and left the vault.


Gryphon sat in a diner booth a couple dozen miles away, having a late brunch. He sipped his black coffee, stealing a strip of bacon from Fox's plate.

She raised an eyebrow before returning to her food.

Between them lay a simple black wand. No certification seal, no monogram, no signature. A custom job. The van outside had 5.6 million dollars in various valuables in it. The wand was easily worth twice that much.

He smiled. Plan B always works.

"Shame about that Tiger kid, isn't it?" said Fox.

"Eh. Just getting rid of complications."

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