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The Mystery of the Golden Fang

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Listening to: December 2914 by James Vincent McMorrowSuite IV: Electric Overture by Janelle Monae, and Teeth by Lady Gaga


Part 1: The Collision

—l—

There are worlds outside our own. Alternate realities tucked into the consciousness of animals, universes scattered across the floor like marbles, otherworldly creatures tipped into mugs of tea. There are worlds that mirror each other, worlds that run alongside one another, worlds that twist and curve around each other. And then there are the worlds that collide, converging at a point so powerful every piece of life around falls into its orbit.

—l—

Earth Stream 245 : September 30, 2040

9:02PM

The town of Ortega is a small one. Expensive in most parts, its residents the relatives of CEO’s and sons of lawyers. Mostly dominated by suburbs, the town has one large center. It’s home to a small mall of boutiques and specialized shops, even housing a small spa and gym. Which is where Hazel Fay finds herself. At work in the care center of that exclusive spa, watching the kids that are left by their parents for an hour or two of relaxation.

“Are you sure you don’t want me to drive you home Hazel?” Hazel and Trish had just finished their shift at the care center. With all the kids gone home and everything clean the duo flicked off the lights and made their way to the exit. The door to the cheery room locked behind them, they chatted as they made their way down the hallway.

“I’ll be fine Trish, it’s only a 15 minute walk. And I make it every Wednesday and Thursday.” Trish didn’t look convinced, but nodded along with the younger woman. She’s old enough to make her own choices, besides, she’s been doing this walk since she started at the center two years ago.

“Just text me when you get home.”

“You got it. Drive safe!” Hazel slipped a headphone into her ear and set off into the night, pausing for a moment to take in the bright, full moon.  

After admiring the moon for a moment longer, Hazel set off. It had been a busy night and she was nearly dead on her feet. The sooner she got home, the better. She made her way through the business center, dodging trash cans and sneaking more glimpses of the moon. Hazel pulled out her headphone as she passed the closing shops. Waving to their owners as she passed by and shouting a few remarks. She promised to stop in and make conversation the next time she had a shift, but Hazel was just too tired to think of anything but her warm, soft bed. That is, until she heard the telltale whines of a baby.

She had just made it past the entrance to the Golden Fang, a bar Hazel refused to even think about considering its less than PG clientele, and heard the baby’s muffled whimpers from the alleyway to the right of the building. For a second Hazel thought she might be going crazy. This wouldn’t be the first time she’s heard cries that weren’t there. Working with kids day in and day out give you the entirely unhelpful ability to hear phantom cries everywhere you go.

Hazel almost continued walking past that dark alley, pointing her feet in the direction of home and bed before she reconsidered. She’d never be able to sleep if she knew she might have left a baby in the alley next to a seedy nightclub. Passing the blinking neon sign of a curved fang, Hazel travelled down the alleyway with caution. Keys laced between her fingers and pointed outwards like claws, phone flashlight on and ready to dial 911 if need be.

By the time Hazel got to the baby, cuddled in a black leather jacket with a bright golden jaguar glittering on the back, she pocketed her phone and dropped her keys in her bag with relief. At least the baby was real.

“What are you doing out here all alone bug?” Hazel scooped the baby up from the ground and cuddled the baby close, blocking the sudden breeze that whipped over them.

—l—

Earth Stream 947 : September 30, 2040

11:02PM

The Metropolis is the biggest VampCity in the country. Gleaming with flashing lights and glutted with humans and vampires alike it is the birthplace of Vampire law and order. After vampirism swept through nurseries of the poor and wealthy alike centuries ago, human lawmakers became nervous about the demographic they had no information about. There was no data to mine until the groups aged out of childhood, infancy protecting that first group of vampires for barely a decade before they were tested and experimented on.

It only took a few more years for Vamps to get their rights, most of the humans in power were easily persuaded or replaced. It was even easier to tilt the laws in their favor when the human population began to drop a century ago. Growing outnumbered, the human faction became even more adamant about the evolution of the laws, so that they might find more protection in their twisted system. Humans claimed to need protection from the bloodthirsty beasts, creating a registry and curfew for humans and vampires alike.

Vampirism is nothing more than a genetic mutation; strengthening the muscles, slowing the aging process and of course leaving those affected with a particularly strong bloodlust. It was at sanguine societies, bloody boulangerie’s and blood clubs where those voracious vampires could sate their appetite. N’Jadaka Udaku owns The Golden Fang, the longest standing and most popular blood club in the Metropolis.

The vamp’s have been around longer than he’d care to admit, whoring, dancing, and drinking from the daintiest necks around the world. Still he always found himself drawn back to The Golden Fang. His first and only baby. Back in the day he had spent nearly a year constructing the club; laying slick marble floors, lacing the walls with mirrors, hanging an obscene amount of crystal chandeliers…He remembered the day of the opening, when he hung the solid gold jaguar head above the door, jagged lettering beneath it welcoming all to The Golden Fang. N’Jadaka reveled in every piece of this club, each piece built by his own hands and paid for by his own coin.

Inhaling deeply, N’Jadaka prayed he could take in enough of that sweet bloody scent to tide him over until tomorrow night. Given how high the moon stood in the sky, it was probably past curfew. He pushed the last human out of the door, holding her neck and groaning. Business was booming at the club, but he still had to follow the laws.

No blood clubs open after 10PM. N’Jadaka checked the clock, clucking his tongue when he saw it read 11:03PM. Well, rules have always sounded like more of a suggestion to N’Jadaka anyways. Still should have sent her through the back door. Terra, N’Jadaka’s sleek golden jaguar padded up to him, licking around her mouth with a satisfied purr.

“Sounds like you found a few mice out back, T.” The cat’s golden eyes slid to N’Jadaka’s brown ones lazily.

“Fat ones?” Terra bared her teeth in a wicked feline grin and N’Jadaka smiled.

“Alright, alright. You’re the baddest cat around.”

N’Jadaka rolled his eyes thinking of the antiquated laws his kind had to follow to appease what remained of the human race. It’s not like the stupid laws made a difference anyways. Humans and vampires will do what they what. They always have. Sometimes that means a human loses a few pints of blood, or a vampire loses their head. That’s just nature.

N’Jadaka made his way out back for a quick smoke. He still had to clear out and clean up before the Keepers make their rounds. Bast forbid he doesn’t have their payment ready for them. He needs those nosy neighborhood guards to stay out of his business, and keeping them paid up is the easiest way to get some peace and fucking quiet in this town. He was interrupted the second his cigarette caught a spark.

“Uh hi. Is this your baby?” N’Jadaka should have known he wouldn’t get what he asked for. He never does.

“What the fuck are you talking about?” He said this after a long pull from his cigarette, only turning after he was ready to exhale.

After the cloud of smoke dissipated, it revealed a coughing girl and a sleeping baby. Studying the girl and the black leather bundle she held close to her chest he wondered what fucking parallel universe he just walked into. Everyone in this town knows N’Jadaka hates children. Maybe not hate but he sure doesn’t like them.

It was only when he breathed in that he discovered her true nature. A human. In this town, if a human was out after dark that meant the only things they were looking for were danger or death. Still when N’Jadaka gazed at the girl before him, he didn’t see a trace of that reckless listlessness most humans held in their eyes after dark.

“This baby, uh…Is she yours?” The girl stumbled over her words as she took in the tall stranger. Hazel knew anyone who hung out in the back alley of The Golden Fang was bad news, but she couldn’t stop herself from staring. The man wore black leather pants, and chains glittered on his textured chest. Dreads tickled his brows and he looked strong enough to snap her neck with a flick of his wrist.

“Nah.” Erik stubbed out his cigarette and circled the human.

“Oh, uh…”

“But I am curious to know what a human like you is doing out after dark.” Before Hazel could answer, a crash sounded from inside the club. The man let out a curse she couldn’t understand, and Hazel jumped, jostling the baby.

N’Jadaka checked his watch. 11:10PM, Shuri is right on time for the scent cleaning, its just a shame he found two humans out back. There’s no way to explain this one. N’Jadaka hoped Shuri brought all of her tools. If he was going to hide the scent of two humans, he’d need the powerful shit.

“Cousin, where did you find a human and a…” The younger girl leaned forward, giving the bundle in Hazel’s arms a sniff. “wolf pup? Seriously?”  

“I didn’t go looking for them. They just showed up here.” There’s no way in hell N’Jadaka would seek out humans. With the laws now, keeping a human is more trouble than the fresh blood is worth.

“Well where’s her registration number?” The slender girl lifted Hazel’s arm and dropped it, peered at her neck like she expected something to be there. “No chip either…”

“I already told you Shuri. I don’t know.”

“N’Jadaka, brother will not be happy about this.”

“Well it’s a good thing he doesn’t own this club” N’Jadaka bared his teeth at the girl and Hazel wondered at the flash of gold in his mouth. She grew even more intrigued as the girl, Shuri, replied in earnest; Silver fangs glinting under the fluorescent light. She watched the pair, wrapped in leather that glittered with zippers, buttons, and fasteners wondering what exactly she had walked into.

“If anyone finds it about this— you harboring humans, it’ll ruin his campaign. He’ll be furious.”

“I ain’t worried about your brother Shuri. Just help me scrub their scent before the Keeper’s come.” A knock pounded at the door and Hazel clutched the baby closer to her.

“Too late.” Shuri was already on the move.

“Hide them and then get the door. I’ll take care of the rest.” The man, N’Jadaka pushed Hazel and the baby backwards, into a ruby red room and under a large circular mattress.

“Don’t make a sound.” Hazel wanted to protest, just to inform him that babies don’t really care about keep quiet, but he was gone in a flash. Literally, she blinked, and the man was gone. Strange.

Back in the front room of the Golden Fang, N’Jadaka opened to door to two Keepers. Both men, both severely out of shape, and both werwolves. He could smell the fur on their backs, the scent of wet dog emanating through the room. He cringed, scrunching his nose in the process.

“Gentlemen.” The Keeper’s barely nodded his way, instead following the scent trail the human and wolf pup left. Shuri, what the hell are you doing?

“It smells like a human in here.” N’Jadaka waved this off, doing his best to look around for Shuri discreetly. She said she would handle this crap, but the PO’s were still sniffing the air like rabid dogs.

“We get all kinds of creatures in this club. You know the law.” The Creature’s Rights act was passed a few decades ago, ensuring that no business could deny services to any creature, human or otherwise. It was the one law N’Jadaka didn’t mind following, if only because it made him more money.

The Keeper’s had already made it to the door where Hazel and the baby hid, pushing it open so hard it slammed against the wall and jumped back towards its assailants. N’Jadaka was this close to ripping their heads off, Keeper’s had no sense of propriety or respect for his things, when a strange odor filled the room. It was soft, so gentle N’Jadaka barely noticed it. The Keeper’s didn’t seem to notice it either, though it did throw them off track. Shaking their heads, they exited the room where Hazel hid, sniffing the hallway instead.

The Keeper’s finished their sweep in 10 minutes, holding their hands out for their payoff. They knew N’Jadaka never closed on time, hell everybody knew it. That’s why most creatures came to his bar. Still the Keeper’s loved to dangle their minimal power over his head, and he could stand to lose a few hundred bucks to keep making thousands every night. The Keeper’s went on their merry way, and N’Jadaka sighed in relief. Whatever Shuri had concocted, N’Jadaka wanted ten.

“You can come out now.” N’Jadaka called out. Hazel jumped at the sound of his voice, jostling the sleeping baby. The little one thankfully stayed asleep as Hazel made her way out to the front of the bar.

“Now, how the hell did a human like you get here?”

“I was walking home from work and I heard—Wait a second, why do you keep calling me a human?”

“Because that’s what you are…” N’Jadaka wondered if this human was just stupid. That would explain how she ended up out alone after curfew.

“Well what are you?” Hazel cocked an eyebrow and hip at his patronizing tone, and stood her ground. N’Jadaka on the other hand, grinned. His fangs dropped, gleaming gold from top to bottom.

“Me? Well I’m your worst nightmare.”

—l—

Earth Stream 328 : September 30, 2040

7:19PM

Calawuga is a mountain town. It rests at the base of the Calawat mountain range. Shops and bars and little wooden houses dot the desert landscape making a home where dust and decay thrive. There were rumors of wild animals and lingering spirits roaming the rocky mountainside but that wasn’t what the people of Calawuga had to fear.

The people of Calawuga only had to fear the magic they couldn’t control. It sparked in the air and lingered in the water, changing its residents in more ways than one from the moment the first settlers made it to the plains. There were more beings in the tiny town than anywhere in the country. The government had even tried to set up shop at the base of the mountain, but the gangs drove them out.

Well the government called them gangs but to the residents of Calawuga, they were the four founding tribes. The Golden Jaguars, Great Gorillas and Black Panthers were the strongest in number, the magic crackling through the town having changed over half of them into shapeshifters. The Vibranium Babes were witch doctors of a sort, mining the land for its magic and exporting it for a penny prettier than any of the townspeople could have hoped.

A town like this drew all kinds of drifters, from witches to fairies and even a banshee or two. The rogue magical creatures in this town never usually affiliated with the tribes, preferring to keep to themselves, but one or two might integrate to make a living. Which explained why Harley, a young powerful witch, found herself in a Golden Jaguar cut within the first week of her arrival in the dusty desert town of Calawuga.

Harley, originally Hazel Vasquez, hadn’t come to Calawuga to join any tribe. She only came to get away from the city where everyone saw her as a freak of magical nature. The magic coursing through her was more than anyone in the city could even begin to comprehend. When she heard of Calawuga she worked her way across the Southwest. It was easy enough to leave home, here siblings were well taken care of, they were normal. She never had many or any friends, word of her powers was enough to terrify anyone within a 2 foot radius and keep Hazel isolated.

It took 3 long months before Hazel rolled into the town of Calawuga on the heels of a burning hot summer. She had arrived in one of the Vibranium Babes’ shops looking for a crystal to calm and clarify. The shop was a sort of apothecary turned laboratory owned by a wraith of a woman named Shuri.

With no previous tribe affiliation, she probably would have been snatched up by Shuri and the VB’s if she hadn’t been so distracted by the baby that crawled into the shop on all fours.

The baby girl wore a tiny leather jacket with a sparkling gold jaguar embroidered on the back. Her head bobbed as she lifted it, dark curls bouncing as she gave a gummy smile. Hazel couldn’t resist sweeping the girl up and pulling her close.

“I wouldn’t do that if I were you.” Hazel was only half listening to Shuri, most of her attention on a completely one sided conversation with the giggling baby girl in her arms.

“Get your witching hands off my kid.” A stranger burst through the door of Shuri’s shop so violently Hazel almost dropped the little one.

Shuri rolled her eyes as Hazel took in the man. He was tall, taller than her at least. His beard was almost grisly, but his scowl broke when his eyes settled on his daughter.

“Relax cousin. ‘Yana likes her, see?” The baby girl nuzzled into Hazel’s neck snuffling quietly.

“I don’t give a shit Shuri. I don’t need a dirty witch anywhere near my kid.” Killmonger, known to the local tribes as KM or ‘Monger, knew what witches wanted with shapeshifter cubs. Witches in this region were notorious for snatching up the younglings and using them for all kinds of ritual magic.  Now Killmonger had never seen this witch around before, but all of those creatures are the same. Power hungry, reckless monsters.

“Considering the fact that your infant crawled in here alone, I’d say you’re lucky to have anyone watching your kid. You clearly ain’t.” Hazel didn’t need a shifter of all creatures shitting on her for the magic that ran through her veins. She didn’t hold back her sneer while she spoke, nearly baring her teeth at the asshole.

“She’s clearly a better babysitter than you are cousin.” Shuri turned to Hazel. “Are you looking for work? ‘Monger pays well for that little trouble maker.”

Hazel had a hard time believing this cutie could cause any trouble, but she knew kids could be deceiving. The shifter named Killmonger sputtered disagreeably, but Hazel ignored him, accepting the job offer. Within a week she become Ayana’s favorite girl and The Golden Jaguar’s favorite baker. With the whole tribe drooling after her pound cake, Killmonger excluded, it didn’t take long for Hazel to be invited to join the Golden Jags. As the leader ‘Monger wasn’t pleased with the vote to invite the witch, but he ain’t a dictator. The tribe votes for what they want, and apparently they want the witch. So three months after leaving home Hazel Vasquez became Harley of the Golden Jaguar Tribe.

It was smooth sailing for a while, Ayana and Harley finding an easy routine. The pair had just returned to the Golden Fang, a favorite spot of the Golden Jaguars because it was owned by a few tribesmen themselves. Harley admired Killmonger’s sparkling golden bike with a sigh, coveting the black and gold beauty. When Harley arrived in the town of Calawuga, she had never even had an errant thought of the motorcycles that kicked up dust and roared like wild animals. Now, she was saving all she could to get her own.

Ayana and Harley had had a busy day, going to the park and then the local library for story time. Harley had hoped Ayana would be tired, she sure as hell was. The sun had already dipped below the mountains, casting everything in a pink haze, but the little shapeshifting cub only giggled for more action as they entered the creaking wooden floors of the bar.

Most of the tribe was present filling the booths and milling around the bar, Killmonger included. After finding a space near the ancient jukebox, Harley tossed Ayana up in the air. They had played this game plenty of times before, it being Ayana’s favorite after all, always leaving her shrieking with giggles. Things were different today though. Harley tossed Ayana into the air, smiling as she shrieked with laughter, arms out to catch her. Just as she was about to come down, Ayana vanished with a pop.

“Ayana?” Harley called out cautiously. The bar had gone silent, but Harley kept looking. Magical children had a way of manifesting and manipulating the electrical energy in the air. Get one kid a little too excited and he turns blue, another might turn into a toad. This could just be something like that. Harley prayed it was something like that. Seconds passed with no answer and a sick lump settled in Harley’s stomach.

“Where the fuck is my daughter Harley?” Killmonger looked just as furious as he had the day she met him but she didn’t flinch, too busy trying to work out what the fuck had just happened.

“How the fuck should I know ‘Monger?” Harley’s voice was frantic. Even as a witch, nothing like this had ever happened. She’s never seen a kid vanish in thin air.

“You were holding her ass! Everybody saw it!”

“Yeah and everybody saw her dis-a-fucking-pear too!” Harley waved her arms wildly, sweeping across the room. The Golden Jags were silent and stoic and for the first time since she started rolling with the Jags, Harley felt unwelcome

Killmonger couldn’t believe this shit. He barely even hired the witch and now his kid is just gone. For a moment he had actually thought they might be able to get along. The girl is quick as a whip and her pound cake is to die for. Now Killmonger wanted to kick himself for even imagining that he could trust Ayana with anyone but him.

“I don’t know what you did witch, but you better get my daughter back or that cut you’re wearing is going to be on a corpse.”

Harley barely registered the threat, mind going a mile a minute drawing up all kinds of answers to explain Ayana’s disappearance.

—l—

Earth Stream 245 : October 1, 2040

4:15PM

Erik Stevens is the best at what he does. He knows that. The cops know that. Hell, that bumfuck of a president even knows that. None of that knowledge has helped Erik live in anything other than a shitty apartment, paying shitty rent, in the shitty town of Ortega. And the coffee sucks too. Well that might be dramatic. Ortega is a nice town, and the coffee might be more of Erik’s fault than anyone else’s, but every nice place has its dark side. It’s a good thing he loves what he does.

Jules Fay spent twenty minutes loitering in her car outside of the office building. She spent another five gazing at the directory searching for the man she prayed would fix her problems. Another two minutes were wasted with her hand poised in front of the door, ready to knock. Before she did, she read over the name on the glass one more time. Erik Stevens, Private Investigator.

Erik welcomed his 4:00 appointment in at 4:16, noting her clenched fists and gnawed lip. He gestured for her to sit, taking a seat of his own behind his desk. He didn’t even get a chance to offer her water before she spoke hurriedly.

“Detective Stevens, sir—”

“Please m’am, I’m not a part of the police force, just call me Erik.” The woman nodded reluctantly, but didn’t quite manage to change his moniker completely. Erik didn’t bother to offer the woman his shitty coffee, he didn’t want to make her day worse.

“Mr. Stevens sir, my daughter is missing.”

“How long has she been gone?” Erik’s pen was poised for her answer, already in work mode. He’d solved plenty of missing persons cases. Not all of them ended in happy reunions, but at least the families didn’t have to worry any longer than necessary.

“A few hours.”

“M’am—”

“Call me Jules, please.” Erik nodded and checked his tone. The woman was clearly frantic, but if it’s only been a few hours…It could be anything.

Jules, if it’s only been a couple of hours, how can you be sure she’s missing?”

“She didn’t text me last night after work. She always tells me when she gets home after work. She never did. She didn’t show up for work today and she’s not answering any of my texts or calls.” The words tripped over themselves on their way out of her mouth, and her fingers tapped an unrelenting rhythm on the arm of the chair.

“Did you two have an argument?”

“No! That’s what I’m trying to tell you. There is no reason for her not to respond to me.”

“And you haven’t gone to the police beca—”

“It hasn’t been long enough for them to start an investigation. Besides, the cops aren’t going to do shit, and I heard…Well I heard you are the best at finding our missing girls.” It was true, Erik had singlehandedly brought home 12 kidnapped girls for his community and a few more with the “help” of the police. At this point, it is what he is known for. Finding the children the cops so conveniently “forgot”. He still hesitated to take the case. What if this is the one I can’t solve?

“Mr. Stevens, please. She’s all I have. If she ran away that’s fine, you don’t have to bring her back, I just need to know she’s okay.” The words tumbled out of her mouth, the same as before.

‘One day there’s going to be a case you can’t solve Stevens.’ Erik pushed away the voice of his old captain and shoved his worries aside. This woman needed help, and that’s why he got into the business anyways. To help. He swallowed a gulp of his lukewarm coffee with a grimace.

“I’ll find her.”


 

Chapter Text

Listening to: Lightyears by KimbraWerewolf Heart by Dead Man’s BonesBad Ritual by Timber Timbre, and Blood on My Hands by Danielle Parente 


Part 2: The Enlightenment

—l—

When a candle burns, even the wind cannot no undo what has been melted by the fire.

—l—

Earth Stream 947 : October 1, 2040

1:02AM

“Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god.”

Hazel’s heart had done more than leap out of her chest. For all she knew the organ had departed her body completely, leaving her gasping and holding the hole in her chest. After N’Jadaka had dropped his…fangs, Hazel promptly took three steps back and clutched the baby so tightly she woke up. Now Hazel focused on the baby’s eyes; wide, brown, round, and curious while she tried to breathe through whatever was happening in her body.

N’Jadaka took a few steps back from the human in confusion. Who is this chick? N’Jadaka had never met someone who didn’t know about vamps. And now this girl showed up with a baby and without a clue. He turned to Shuri in question.

“Shu, what the fuck am I supposed to do?”

“Well you have to tell her, especially after that little show of your fangs.”

“Yeah but look at her. She’s having a freaking heart attack. Wait do humans still have those?”

“Yes they do, so just be chill about it. Ease her into it. I’m sure if you present it to her in a rational way she’ll take it well. Probably.”

“Yeah, chill.” N’Jadaka nodded to himself as he mouthed the words again. Chill.

The girl seemed to have calmed down, though she was still taking careful breaths as N’Jadaka approached. He took in her brown skin and broad nose wondering for a moment if she was actually a fairy. He peered around her back for wings, but none appeared, and he resigned himself to having to explain his existence to a human, of all creatures.

“Now, I don’t want you to freak out okay? My cousin and I aren’t going to hurt you.” He approached her short form cautiously.

“Pretty sure those gold fangs beg to differ.” Even terrified and confused, Hazel managed to snark at the stranger. He had just flashed his razor sharp fangs at her.

“That was supposed to be funn—” N’Jadaka threw his arms up in surrender.  “Forget it. My cousin and I are vampires, but we won’t—”

“Vampires?!” Hazel’s shriek was enough to startle the baby, but instead of holding a crying baby, suddenly Hazel was holding a whimpering ball of fur. Yelping, Hazel squeezed the leather jacket curled around the fur ball tightly. It barked when it fell from Hazel’s arms, and she stumbled back. On the ground was a small jaguar cub; pied and blinking, Hazel couldn’t take her eyes off of it. Luckily, Shuri swept into the conversation.

“Sounds like she’s taking it well.” N’Jadaka curled his lips at the mirth in her voice.

“The kid turned into a jaguar on me! I can’t really keep things ‘chill’ after that.”

“Whatever you say cousin.”

“Wait, wait. You’re saying that baby, turned into that jaguar?” The cub was now playing with Terra, N’Jadaka’s panther familiar. They were a mass of black and golden fur, racing around in circles and nipping at each other’s tails playfully.

“Yep, your kid’s a shifter! Surprise!” Shuri completed the action with a cheesy grin and outstretched fingers while wandering towards the front doors.

“She’s not mine…” Hazel trailed off. She couldn’t find the words, or any words really to describe the hysteria that was going on in her head. Vampire’s are a myth, were a myth up until a few minutes ago.

She’d never thought much of the alley behind The Golden Fang but now she wished she had been smart enough to avoid it. Wherever she was now is proof that that place is not normal. Hazel was tempted to walk outside and see if she would find the same shops across from the club sign, or even walk back to the care center, but something told her that wouldn’t be the case. Hazel had a sinking feeling in her gut that a step out of that door would lead her into a different world.

“You really aren’t from here are you?”

“Where is here, exactly?” caution colored Hazel’s voice as she watched the baby and panther play. Aside from the whole shapeshifter thing, Hazel had never seen any wild animals this close. It was kind of fascinating.

“Metropolis.”

“Like the cartoon?” N’Jadaka couldn’t control his face when he heard the girl’s confused response. She truly didn’t know anything about his world.

“No, its-Haven’t you heard about President Gorya?” The current president was worse than a joke because he took himself seriously, but the rest of the world didn’t. That’s why T’Challa is running. If anyone could make a change, it would be T’Challa. That vamp is too benevolent for his own good.

“Who?”

“What about the Creatures Rights Act?” It was the biggest push from species rights activists at the time and the only bill to pass unanimously. Still, from the look on Hazel’s face, this didn’t ring a bell. The more questions N’Jadaka asked, the more concerned Hazel got. Either this guy was really convincing, or she really is in a different place entirely.

“The what?”

“Tiller Mayhem?” N’Jadaka mentioned the serial killer that had been running rampant, targeting all kinds of low country creatures up until he was caught last year.

“Nothing.”

“Beyoncé?” Shuri had returned from her wandering, slipping back into the conversation with ease.

“Duh! You guys have Beyoncé?” Hazel nearly shouted her response, happy to hear something that finally made sense.

“Yeah she’s the biggest pop vamp in the world.” N’Jadaka could name her last few singles and even knew a few of her songs, but Shuri was the real fan.

“Wait wait, Beyoncé’s a vampire?”

“And a succubus on her mom’s side. What is she in your world?”

“The biggest pop star. A mom. Amazing.”

“She has kids in your world?”

“Yep! A daughter and twins. Blue, Sir and Rumi.” N’Jadaka had heard enough from the girls, and steered the conversation back to answers.

“Back to the original question. Where the hell did you come from and how did you get here?”

“Um, I’m from Ortega,” The blank stares Hazel received from N’Jadaka and Shuri made her even more self conscious. “which apparently doesn’t exist here. As for how I got here…I was on my way home from work and I heard a baby crying.”

“And you just followed the sound?” Hazel could hear the skepticism in N’Jadaka’s voice. She bristled.

“Yes, I followed the sound. I’m not the kind of person to leave a baby in an alleyway.”

“So you find the baby and what?”

“I don’t know. It got a little windy and the next thing I know, you’re walking out for a smoke.”

“Next thing you know? Seriously short stack? That’s the best you’ve got?”

“That’s the truth.”

“Sounds like a load of—” Shuri stopped N’Jadaka before he could belittle the girl further. She didn’t know the human, but no one deserves to be on the end of N’Jadaka’s righteous inquisition.

“Well I’ve got a theory—” N’Jadaka rolled his eyes at his cousin’s statement. He knew all about Shuri’s theories, and as of late they’d become so ridiculous he was getting concerned about her health. Sure she might be the smartest person in the world, but she’s always been one step away from falling down the rabbit hole and onto the Mad Hatters cap. Shuri’s kimoyo beads rang before he could say anything.

Shuri stepped away to answer the call and N’Jadaka returned his attention to the human. She was small, hence the nickname but something about her was big. Currently she was rolling around with Terra and the baby shifter, giggling as they snuggled with her. N’Jadaka wanted to summon Terra back to him with a kiss of his teeth, but he studied the trio instead. In the ten years Terra had been with N’Jadaka she’d always been a good judge of character. She’d sniffed out plenty of shady club goers and warded him away from even shadier business deals. Now the cat was nipping at this girl from another world and purring louder than he’d ever heard.

“N’Jadaka, that was a call from my brother. Nakia’s back. He wants to—

“Have a family dinner.”

“Well we better get packing. What do we do with the…” He gestured to the human and shifter.

“They’re coming with us. Obviously.”

“So you want me to bring an unregistered human and a random shapeshifting kid to family dinner?” N’Jadaka stroked his chin for a second pondering the consequences.

“You know what, that might actually make things interesting. Let’s do it.” Shuri facepalmed before shoving N’Jadaka.

“You always want to make trouble.”  N’Jadaka shrugged.

 

—l—

Earth Stream 245 : October 4, 2040

4:15PM

The nearly Ivy League college was as crisp as the orange autumn leaves. Crestbay University was one of the top 5 schools in the country and home to the most advanced psychological in the world. Detective Stevens found himself there after two days of gathering information and hitting brick walls.

“Will do Mrs. Okoye.” The bright eyed student bounced on his toes as Okoye raised her brow.

“Professor Okoye.”

“Oh, right. S—sorry Professor.” Light in their eyes sufficiently dimmed by embarrassment, the student practically ran away, and Erik couldn’t resist teasing his old friend.

“Still scaring the freshmen Professor?”

“When it suits me.” The duo shared a laugh, and Okoye jumped right into questioning her old partner.

“What do you need Erik?”

“It’s about a case.”

“Stevens we aren’t partners anymore. You can’t come to me about this stuff, especially since I know hardly any of your work is above the board.”

“I know but, Okoye it’s…I can’t explain this one.”

“The great Erik Stevens can’t explain something? Color me shocked!” Okoye teased, but Erik stood his ground. In all the time they’d known each other, Erik had never met a smarter woman than Okoye. She was observant and a savant in nearly every subject, which made her such an annoyingly amazing partner when they were on the force. Usually he never bothered to enlist any other help for his cases, preferring to handle everything on his own, but this case has stumped him from the beginning.

Hazel Fay had no reason to run away. According to her coworkers and friends, she was happy as a clam. Sure she worked two jobs, but that was more for experience than out of necessity. She didn’t have any outstanding debts, no enemies or secret vices. She was—is a perfectly normal girl who somehow went missing without a trace.

“How much do you know about alternate dimensions?” Okoye fixed Erik with an incredulous look considering the nature of the question and its complete ridiculousness, but when she saw he was serious Okoye sighed and grabbed her bags.

“Lets get a drink.”

“Oakies?” Erik was referring to the southern bar chain known for their hospitality, sleek bartops and haunting musical acts. Okoye scoffed.

“What do we need to go to a bar chain for? I got whisky in my office.”

“Okay Professor.”

Erik ran over the case again in his mind on their scenic walk to her office.

Hazel goes to work all day at the school and then her night job at the care center. According to her coworkers, there is nothing out of the ordinary, no angry parents of crying kids. She leaves the care center at around 9PM, and begins her walk home to her apartment on Lafayette Street. She pauses right in front of the security camera posted outside of the Golden Fang Bar for exactly forty seconds. Her head is tilted, she is listening to something. Finally she moves, but instead of heading home, she ventures further into the alleyway. She crouched down to the ground, grabbed something and holds it to her chest. When she rises from her knees, she disappears.

“She just vanished. One moment she was there in the alley, and then she picks up some black bundle and poof!” Erik relayed all he had gathered about the case to Okoye in the beautiful brownstone home that had been converted into office spaces for the professors and their assistants. He threw his notes on her desk, giving her a chance to peruse them while he sank into the wood and leather chair that sat in front of her desk.

Okoye gestured to the bottle of whisky that sat in the corner of her desk, procuring a pair of glasses while she studied Erik’s notes. Erik poured a finger for each of them and leaned back. Okoye hadn’t changed her office much since he had last been here. The walls were still the same boring white—or eggshell as he was initially informed. A red and gold tapestry hung on one of the walls, glittering in the sunlight that streamed through the open window of the room. Her wide wooden desk was littered with rhino trinkets, pens, and golden bits and bobs.

“That is…strange. This whole case is…odd.”

“That’s an understatement. Look, Okoye I wouldn’t be here if I hadn’t run through every logical possibility. No one at the bar even saw the girl. They’ve got nothing.” Okoye nodded gathering her thoughts on the case. It was strange. The girls in Erik’s cases don’t just disappear without a trace like this. Sure they’re hard to find, but there are breadcrumbs to follow. This video leaves nothing.

“I’m a layman’s physicist in comparison to your connections. You should talk to an actual award-winning one.” Erik knew who she was hinting to, but he played dumb.

“You should talk to Nakia about this.” Erik didn’t shake his head at Okoye’s suggestion, but he didn’t nod either. The last person he wanted to think about was Nakia. Super-spy extraordinaire. Award-winning physicist. The first and only woman to break his heart. The reason he works as hard as he does now.

“She doesn’t want to talk to me.”

“Maybe, but she can help with this. She would want to, if it helps you find this girl.” Okoye knew this wasn’t the answer he was hoping to find with her, but she was never in the business of biting her tongue to please others. Erik needed help and she didn’t have nearly enough knowledge on the subject he was looking into to give him a useful answer.

“Yeah, maybe you’re right.” Erik slammed back the rest of his whisky, gathered his notes and waved Okoye goodbye.

“See you around Professor?” She smiled, all teeth and mirthful eyes.

“If you can find me Stevens.” Erik rolled his eyes at the jab and pulled out his phone, dialing the most recent number he found for Nakia before the whisky wore off.

 

—l—

Earth Stream 328 : October 7, 2040

2:05PM

“It’s been a week and I still haven’t seen my daughter Harley.” A week. A full seven days of sleepless nights and endless searching for Ayana. Harley didn’t know what was real and what was a dream at this point, but she still kept searching. She conferred with every deity she could get in contact with, wrote every witch within a 100 mile radius, hell she even prayed. Still, Ayana never showed.

“You don’t think I’ve been looking?” Killmonger didn’t know what the witch had been doing since she’d thrown his baby into nowhere and he didn’t give one flying fuck. He’d gone too long without his daughter, too long without hearing her laugh or seeing her gummy smile. Hell he’d even take her teething cries over the silence that filled his house now. But the witch had no leads and he couldn’t find her scent. It was like she just, disappeared.

“It doesn’t seem like you’ve been doing much of anything.” Finally Harley snapped. After a week of his snide comments and shitty treatment, Harley whirled on the Tribal Leader with a snarl.

“Fuck you ‘Monger.” Killmonger twitched, arms reaching out to grab Harley’s neck before the door to the Golden Fang swung open.

“Well, well, well. What’s a guy have to do to get a drink in this shitty little town?” The white man wore a bright white cut adorned with fringe that didn’t deserve to see the light of day and obnoxious gold epithets on his shoulders. A patch of blood and bone was stitched in a jagged line on the back of his leather cut along with an embroidered name: The Poachers. The man wore his bloody cut and his deranged smile like an accessory. He didn’t make it to the bar before the Jags stood, blocking his path to the bar.

“Poacher’s ain’t welcome here.”

“Oh come on boys. I just want a little drink.” The man gave a small grin, revealing yellowed teeth and a few silver caps.

“No.”

“What’s up your ass? Your old lady ain’t doing her job?” The man waved to Harley, and she nearly lunged for the idiot. Killmonger is the last man she’d ever––

“Oh I know what it is! You lost your kid right? Left her with some witch? God, I’ve never met a shifter stupid enough to leave their kid with a witch, but there’s a first time for everything, right?” This time Harley did lunge. The Jags weren’t expecting anyone to break through from the back, and she got a solid punch in before W’Kabi, Erik’s right hand man, pulled her back behind the wall of Jags.

“Out.” Harley examined the blood under her nails, barely recalling the scratch she had gotten in before W’Kabi pulled her off of the Poacher. The man continued to speak, but Harley ripped herself from W’Kabi’s arms. Stomping out of the back door, pushing hard enough to hear it slam into the side of the bar as she made her way out to the dry dirt.

The Vibranium Babes had a bar just across the street, and Harley stomped her way to the bar. The bar was more of a club in the sense that it was always a little dark and had way too much chrome for a tiny town in the mountains, but Harley liked it. The music they played was a mix of bass electric and bubblegum pop that made her want to bob her head and grin at the same time. Ayana used to love walking by here on the way back to the Golden Fang. That thought was enough to sober Harley and she pushed her way to to back of the club where Shuri’s office sat.

The door glowed purple from the inside out but Harley couldn’t hear a sound. She knocked just below the sign that read: ‘Boss Babe’ and pressed her hand to the door as she waited. She tried to use the cool metal to calm herself and focus her energy. Right now, her powers were going haywire because every single thing she had built for herself in this town was going haywire. Even before she became Harley, Harley couldn’t remember a time where she felt so hopeless. Killmonger hated her even more, and Ayana wasn’t there to soften the blow. As she recalled his words, each one hurt a little more.

“Harley? Come in.” Shuri got one look at the girl and pulled her into her office. She guided them both to a plush purple couch sitting beside her and tossing Harley a pillow to hug. She latched onto it immediately.

“Shuri, I need to do a spell.”

“Harley spell working is too dangerous—” Harley knew spell working was dangerous. She knew every risk from growing addicted to perils of white magic to growing three extra arms and an antenna. None of that mattered. Or the risk was worth it all. Ayana had become everything to Harley, and the longer she was away, the tighter the noose squeezed around her heart.

“I don’t give a fuck Shuri. I have to do something. I have to find her!” Shuri inhaled and held Harley’s gaze. On a good day, Shuri wouldn’t never even begin to entertain the idea of spell working. Ritual magic and energy flow are the safest options for a witch like Harley, but those take time. Time that Shuri could tell they were running out of. Killmonger would lose what little patience he had, and even Shuri couldn’t guarantee Harley’s safety then. On the exhale, she relented.

“We need to go see Oma.”

 

—l—

Earth Stream 947 : October 8, 2040

5:09AM

“I’m just saying her presence proves my theory that multidimensional travel is possible!”

“Shuri, I love you, I do, but her presence proves nothing. What if she just has amnesia or something?”

“How many humans have you seen walking around unchipped and unregistered? And when’s the last time you ran into a jaguar shifter? You know I’m right N’Jadaka.”

“I know a lot of things, but that ain’t it.”

Hazel Fay was amazed to learn not only that vampires existed in whatever world she stumbled into but that they can walk in the sunlight without problem. Though most of them tended to be nocturnal, apparently they travelled in the daytime. Hazel and the baby, which she had taken to calling ‘Bug’ where ushered into a sleek black car by N’Jadaka and Shuri. Upon entering, the car released a mist of something Hazel couldn’t quite place, and then N’Jadaka and Shuri were back with suitcases packed, Terra climbing into the backseat with Hazel and Bug as they set off to…wherever they were going.

N’Jadaka and Shuri have been bickering ever since from the front seat. In an instant it dawned on Hazel that she should have never gotten into the car. Hell she probably shouldn’t have said anything to these vampires at all. Hazel whipped her phone out of her pocket, frantically pressing the home button, but nothing appeared. Either it was dead, or it didn’t work in whatever world she was in right now. Hazel only had a moment to panic before her mouth whizzed past her brain.

“Where the hell are you taking us?”

“T’Challa’s house.” N’Jadaka sighed in annoyance, though he was happy to get some entertainment from the human. He was beginning to wonder if she had fallen mute.

“Which is where?” Hazel did her best to remain polite, she really did, but vampire or not this guy is an asshole.

“Considering you don’t even know where Metropolis is, I doubt you’re going to know where to find Wakanda.”

“Then show me. I’m sure it’s not that difficult.” Hazel was one snarky word away from flicking the back of N’Jadaka’s ear no matter the consequences.

“She has a point cousin.” In an instant, the entire front seat turned to face Hazel, the baby, and Terra. N’Jadaka looked sufficiently annoyed and Hazel was beginning to wonder if that was just his face. Shuri on the other hand had her left wrist outstretched, a bracelet of thick black beads emitting a soft blue light.

“This is our travel plan.” An image of a map projected from Shuri’s bracelet this time, bright, blue and bold. Hazel could see a continent that looked to be like Africa, but the States, or what was the States in her world, was all messed up. The east coast ended where Virginia might have been, Florida was completely gone, and the midwest had become and island somehow.

“We started in Metropolis, obviously. And we’re headed to Wakanda the second largest vamp city in the world. It’s in Cafria, just about 5,000 miles east.” Shuri pointed out Metropolis, which looked to be where New York city would have been in Hazel’s world. then she pointed out Africa, or ‘Cafria’ as it was called here, as their destination.

“How long will it take?”

“A couple of days give or take. As long as the weather holds we should be fine.” Shuri waved off the weather like it was nothing and pulled out a piece of small circular technology. She leaned forward towards Hazel and held it up to the window. Hazel’s eyes widened at the invasion of personal space, but she couldn’t stop herself from looking at Shuri’s eyes. they were yellow and orange, like flecks of fire dancing from a flame. Chagrinned, Shuri directed her attention to Hazel.

“Do you mind if I plug this in? I want to charge my kimoyo beads before the flight.” Hazel shrugged and watched the girl place the tech onto the window. It only took a second to pulse blue and then it began to hum. The sound was nearly silent, but Hazel watched in awe as Shuri pulled off her bracelet and held it to the tech. The bracelet latched on like a magnet and Shuri leaned back, pulling down the shade by her face. Self driving cars and solar power. To Hazel this was more futuristic than she expected for another world.

“Solar charger. It’s my newest prototype. Adding the magnet is always tricky with everything else going on in there, but I think it’ll hold.” Shuri explained when she saw the look on Hazel’s face and again wondered where in the universe this girl came from. She very clearly wasn’t a part of their world, despite what N’Jadaka might think. This girl wasn’t meant to be a part of their world and it’s only a matter of time before fate pulls her back to wherever she truly needs to be. Shuri wanted to be the one to see her back to her world and maybe even get a glimpse of it in the process.

Hazel nodded gratefully at the explanation and watched Shuri lean back in her seat again. She watched as the girl closed her eyes, and watched even closer as her breathing evened out. As far as she knew vampires don’t just sleep in the open, so Hazel had to wonder what the hell she was doing.

“You staring at my cousin pretty hard. You into her or something?” Hazel whipped a side-eye at N’Jadaka. Sure the girl was cute and they looked to be around the same age, but as of right now, she was in another world. The last thing she’s focused on are prospective partners.

“No. It’s just…In my world, Vampires only sleep in coffins. Or upside down. And they can’t go out in the sunlight either.”

“The vampires in your world sound like pussies.”

“Yeah well it’s not like they’re real anyways. At least not in my world.”

“You’re serious about that? No vampires in your world?”

“No magical creatures at all. Why?”

“I don’t know, I just can’t imagine a world without us, and creatures like us. I mean sure I could do without the Stokers, but compared to the fae, they aren’t so bad.” Hazel’s brain spun at the mention of fae and a world with magical creatures before her mind caught on a question.

“Stokers?”

“Yeah the European vampire assholes that love to try and gentrify anything they deem ‘in desperate need of repair’. Those are the ones that can barely tolerate the sunlight, though they still bring their undead asses out on occasion.”

“Wait, there are different types of vampires?”

“Not genealogically, for the most part we’re the same, these are just our…cultural differences.” Hazel raised her brows in an effort to get him to elaborate and after a moment of annoyance that he had to explain anything at all, N’Jadaka relented.

“Okay so, you’ve got the Stokers—”

“European assholes.” Hazel covered the baby’s ears as she said the last word, even though Bug was fast asleep. N’Jadaka almost smiled.

“Right. Then the succoyants. They came from the islands and pretty much dominate the south nowadays. And lastly you’ve got The Adize. My people. We came from Wakanda, and all over Cafria.” Hazel heard the pride in N’Jadaka’s voice.

“So what makes you special?”

“Well, in our legends, we turn into fireflies. We dance along the plains, flying free until we need to feed. Then we can fall into whatever form suits us best and…eat.” N’Jadaka leaned closer to Hazel as he told the story, laughing a little when she jumped at his final words. She was easy to scare. He tried to get a whiff of her scent, but remembered the scent blockers they’d doused her and the baby with. She’d have to remain a mystery.

They pulled up to the tarmac smoothly, Shuri jolting out of sleep the second the car stopped. Hazel peered out the window taking in the small, sleek black jet. It was the only plane on the blacktop and for the first time Hazel wondered just who she was traveling with. Peeking down at baby Bug, she was happy to see the kid was still fast asleep. Terra was too, and she didn’t envy N’Jadaka having to wake her up to get her on the plane.

“This is us.”

“Are you guys rich or something?” Shuri laughed and turned to N’Jadaka, gracefully twirling out of the car and towards the jet.

“You want to handle that one cousin?”

“We’re comfortable.” N’Jadaka shrugged under her scrutiny, then shook himself and sat taller. No human is going to make him feel any type of way about his money. Hazel couldn’t stop digging.

“How comfortable?”

“Let’s just say, Wakanda treats us like kings.”

“So you’re what? Vampire royalty?” Hazel watched N’Jadaka shrug his answer with rapt attention. He was being way too casual about this for it to mean nothing.

“Of a sort. My father was a prince. We tend to live in an…elevated economic status than some of the other vamps.” Hazel couldn’t resist rolling her eyes. Not that N’Jadaka noticed, he was busy checking the flight plan on his kimoyo beads.

“Now I know you’re royalty.”

“Why?”

“Because when you talk about certain ‘economic circumstances’ you sound like a media trained asshat.” Hazel’s hands went right over Bug’s ears again.

“Charming.” N’Jadaka stopped Hazel’s questioning with a sneer. He’d be damned, well even more damned than he already is, before they messed up their flight plan. He hefted Terra over his shoulder and nodded to the attendants. They grabbed the luggage and hurried to the plane as Hazel scrambled out of the car, baby in her arms.

“Please tell me you know what a plane is.” Hazel rolled her eyes at N’Jadaka’s condescension.

“Oh fuck off.” Of course, that’s when Bug decided to wake up.

 

—l—

Earth Stream 245 : October 8, 2040

9:22AM

“Kia.”

Erik was surprised that the phone only rang once after he finally mustered up the courage to call. Nakia’s voice hit him like a hurricane, strong and quick and biting. It took him four days to make this call, and he wasn’t proud of it. Erik had never been anything but bitterly independent, but when Okoye couldn’t help him and he spent another few hours beating his head against the wall and watching a tape that made no logical sense, he gave in and called.

“I told you to stop calling me that E.” Her words wore annoyed but Erik could hear the smile creeping through her voice. He grinned into his own response.

“And I told you to stop calling me that.” The line was silent after that, and Erik remembered why they had stopped talking. They had never been a great match, but convenience makes fools of us all. Not to mention their family history.

“Why are you calling me Erik? I thought––” He didn’t have the hear the rest of the sentence to know how it was going to end. I thought I made everything clear the day you lowered my father into the ground. Erik knew he shouldn’t have called. Hell, he hated that he needed her help, but Jules Fay had called everyday since she first came to his office, and Erik was sick of filling her with non-answers and disappointment.

“I need your help. It’s about a girl.”

“Seriously?” Erik cringed at her tone, sharpened to a point he couldn’t stand.

“A missing girl. I think she’s in another dimension.” Nakia didn’t laugh or call him crazy, but he didn’t expect her to. She’s not that kind of person. She’s too smart to pass judgement without analyzing all of the factors.

“Why do you think that?”

“She’s just disappeared without a trace Nakia. She’s not like you, she couldn’t have done this. She’s got no priors, no secret lovers, no enemies. She volunteers on the weekends and works with kids night and day.”

“She sounds like a saint.” Nakia was intrigued. She’d worked plenty of missions that involved finding people that couldn’t be found, but in her research, she’d never come across something like this without a clear explanation. She could understand why Erik was stumped.

“Exactly. There is no reason she would have been targeted. No reason for her to be taken.”

“People are crazy.” Nakia offered this up delicately, knowing the answer wasn’t in her words but giving them anyway to fill the silence.

“There was no one in or around that alley Nakia. She’s just…gone.” Nakia hesitated. Erik sounded weary. Erik Stevens was never anything but resolute and elegant, but now, he was weary.

“Send me the tape.” Erik’s breath crackled over the line.

“Thank you.”

“I’m not promising anything.”

“I know.” Erik went to pull the phone from his face, but Nakia stopped him.

“And Erik? If this is an impossible case, you need to stay open to all possibilities.”

 

—l—

Earth Stream 947 : October 10, 2040

3:27PM

Cafria is hot. Hotter than any place Hazel has ever experienced. It’s a crisp, dry heat that made her want to moisturize every five minutes. Her fingers swelled the second she stepped off of the plane and her phone burned a hole in her pocket. N’Jadaka and Shuri didn’t seem to share her sentiments. They waltzed off of the private jet with grins to rival a crocodile’s and they stretched like cats in the sun. Their eyes looked more gold than brown in this place, and the pair thrummed with a new kind of energy. Something magical, like they could become anything at any second, and no person or thing would be able to stop them.

After boarding yet another private plane to Wakanda, the quintet landed quickly and made their way into a private limo. Or what Hazel assumed was a limo in this place. It was just as sleek and black as anything in Metropolis, and Hazel pressed her nose against the window to watch the world fly by. Luxurious lakes reflected the pristine blue sky, and that soon gave way to rolling verdant hills with elegant horses galloping through them. By the time they reached the gate, Hazel had to sit back in her seat. Dazed and glutted by the beauty of this place called Wakanda.

At the gate, Shuri mumbled a few words in a language Hazel couldn’t understand and the wrought vibranium gates slid open. N’Jadaka studied this human take in the opulence of the estate. The car glided to a stop and the group made their way out of the car quickly. Hazel, clutched Bug in one arm and the other was free to feel the Wakandan air. Palm fronds of every shape and size enveloped the entryway and N’Jadaka watched as the girl reach out and touch them. She rubbed them between her fingers like she’d never seen a tree before, and once again he had to wonder just where she came from.

T’Challa and Nakia, the Scientist and the Spy stood together, looking just as picturesque as their palatial home. Smiles were plastered on their beautiful black faces, and they almost looked normal, human. All it took was another glance for Hazel to reconsider that thought. Golden eyes glittered like jewels in flawless faces and Hazel slowed her approach, falling behind N’Jadaka and Shuri.

“Sister,” The tall man pulled Shuri into a hug while the woman watched on. Then he turned his attention onto N’Jadaka. “Cousin.”

“Wassup?” N’Jadaka nodded and went for a handshake, finally revealing Hazel, who stood with Bug in her arms while Terra purred at her feet, tail flickering around her ankles. The lean man pulled his face into a judgmental visage of furrowed brows and downturned lips. Hazel didn’t bother waving, instead taking in the grandiose foyer. Dark wood melted into gleaming tile and mirrors reflected the setting sun through the tall french windows.

“This is not a BYOH cousin. We have plenty of blood for––” Shuri shoved T’Challa on the shoulder and though his face conveyed brotherly annoyance, he stood rooted to the spot.

“She is not a blood bag brother. She is proof!”

“Proof?” Hazel never thought someone could raise their eyebrow wearily, but here she was, seeing it happen. Maybe it’s a vampire thing.

“Yes, they are proof that multidimensional travel is possible.” N’Jadaka face palmed while T’Challa sighed. He should have known by now to remain unsurprised by Shuri’s…hypotheses, but he still hasn’t mastered complete control of his reactions. Still, this is better than when Shuri designed that––T’Challa stopped himself before he walked too far down memory lane.

“Why don’t you all come inside and we can talk over breakfast?” Nakia finally spoke, voice even and only slightly commanding. As though her word was law, T’Challa nodded and followed her into the house. The trio followed suit, Hazel gripping Bug a touch tighter than necessary.

The hallways were painted blue laced in gold trimmings and peppered with greenery. Hazel couldn’t imagine living in a place this pristine. Paintings hung from the walls and silvery glimmering busts stood in the corners. It was like walking through a museum. After what felt like a mile long walk to Hazel, the group made it to the dining room. Terra darted to a silvery bowl filled to the bring with wet food and the rest of them took their seats.

Hazel sat Bug up in her lap, waving away the highchair Nakia offered. She felt safer with the baby in her arms. Even if said baby could turn into a jaguar. The table was laden with all manner of breakfast foods. Sausage and bacon and eggs and pancakes steamed from their places on the table, but Hazel caught sight of something else. Pastries were piled high on three trays to the right of her. Perfectly laminated croissants, fluffy muffins, and glossy danishes filled to the brim with bright fruits beckoned her to take a bite, but N’Jadaka stopped her before she could reach for one.

“I wouldn’t do that if I were you.” N’Jadaka had been watching the girl through all of this, and he had to admit he was impressed. Most humans would have run away screaming if the T’Challa Udaku had referred to them as a blood bag, but this girl…Hazel, didn’t seem to know what the hell we were talking about at all. It wasn’t necessarily refreshing, but it was interesting.

“Why not? I’m starving” Hazel nearly bit N’Jadaka’s hand off of her shoulder. She hadn’t eaten since…There had been snacks on the plane, but she’s hadn’t had a real meal since she was back home. Before she came to this world, she had plans to make soups all weekend and freeze them for the months to come. Now Hazel wondered if she’s ever get home again.

“Some of the ingredients might not sit well with you.” N’Jadaka had seen human get sick from eating their food, and he didn’t need to see it again.

“Which ingredients?”

“The blood mostly.” Hazel balked and N’Jadaka barked out a laugh. Now that he mentioned it, Hazel could see the pastries had a slightly pink tinge to them. She pulled her hands back into her lap and let Bug play with them for a bit while she tried to reason with her grumbling stomach.

As if she could read her mind, or hear her stomach, Nakia placed a plate in from of Hazel. It was piled high with fruits and bagels without a bloody tint to them. Hazel gazed up to find herself captured by golden irises as she thanked the woman. Nakia nodded with a small smile, happy that N’Jadaka brought a human with manners this time.

“So, who exactly are you?” Nakia said this after she was seated next to T’Challa. Her tone was kind but her brow was raised high enough to make Hazel want to curl in on herself.

“My name is Hazel Fay. I’m from a town named Ortega, which apparently doesn’t exist here.” Of all the things Hazel couldn’t wrap her head around in the this place, the fact that she was no longer home was the hardest. In fact, home doesn’t exist, or never did exist in this place. According to Shuri and N’Jadaka.

“N’Jadaka found her in the alley of the Golden Fang. With a baby shifter. On a full moon.” Shuri’s emphasis on her last few words made Hazel wonder just how much she was missing, but everyone else at the table looked just was clueless as she felt. Bug wiggled in her arms, reaching for the plate in front of her. Hazel pulled the muffin into bits and handed them to Bug, happy to see the baby eating without problem. The last thing Hazel wants to worry about was a baby who wouldn’t eat.

“And you just appeared here?”

“Yes Nakia! Her presence here is a matter of the divine. Bast herself brought her to us, for some…reason.” Shuri said all this with excitement, but N’Jadaka couldn’t resist a snort. He loved his cousin, but sometimes she let her scientific ideals blind her to reality. This human still hasn’t proven much of anything yet.

“We still don’t have proof that she isn’t from our…world.”

“And that’s where you come in, Brother.” SHuri turned to T’Challa with a grin.

“What is the perfect candidate going to do to prove your theory Shuri?” N’Jadaka’s voice was teasing and Shuri rolled her eyes. T’Challa and Nakia watched on in silence, apparently used to this kind of thing.

“Aside from being the perfect presidential candidate, my brother is a scientist too.” After relaying this information to Hazel, Shuri turned to N’Jadaka with a childish sneer.

“T’Challa is going to scan her and ensure she isn’t in the system. She won’t be, but until N’Jadaka gets his head out of his A-S-S and learns to trust me, we’ll have to waste time.” The man in question rolled his eyes and leaned back in his chair. Hazel was grateful that Shuri spelled out the curse word and couldn’t help but giggle a bit at their interaction. T’Challa on the other hand took charge. He turned Hazel to face him and raised his arm.

“I suppose a retina scan cannot hurt.” T’Challa pressed a finger to his kimoyo beads and a thin blue bar moved over Hazel’s eyes before she could blink.

“Brother just scanned your eyes and is running them through the system. Every creature in or world is registered from the moment of their creation, though only certain beings have access to certain databanks. As a high ranking vampire official, T’Challa has access to everything.” Shuri finished her spiel with a prideful wave, but Hazel could only nod slowly. Just as she thought she was getting the hang of this world, something new popped up. There was a quiet rumbling sound, like the bead was calculating before it released a long beep.

“No Record…”

“Ha! No record, which means she is not from our world because every human in our world is registered. It is impossible not to be.” N’Jadaka huffed when Shuri turned to him with her hands on her hip and a smirk to rival his own.

“Fine Shuri, you were right.”

“If she isn’t from this world, how did she get here in the first place?” Nakia asked this quietly leaning back in her chair as she observed the scene. T’Challa and Nakia had always encouraged Shuri’s natural curiosity, but she couldn’t help but wonder if this was the hypothesis that would get her in trouble that they couldn’t get her out of. She prayed to Bast that that day would never come, but looking at this unregistered human had her heightened senses on alert.

“And how do I get back?”

 

—l—

Earth Stream 328 : October 11, 2040

5:12PM

Four days. Harley has been hiking for four days. Four days in the Calawuga heat, marching on the hardened soil in barely broken in boots. All to see the mystical Oma. Whoever the fuck that is. To be fair, Harley had a vague inclination of who Oma is; a mountain witch with ties to the Great Gorilla tribe. That’s as much as she knew off hand, and after four days of hiking with Shuri, her curiosity won out over her pride.

“So, why exactly are we going to see Oma?”

“She’s the Queen of the Great Gorilla Tribe.” Shuri said this like it was common knowledge, which in part is was. The Great Gorilla’s kept to themselves for the most part, but the town knew their hierarchy. M’Baku was king and his Queen, Oma was the most powerful witch in the town. The only reason Harley hadn’t gone to Oma in the first place is because of the falling out Killmonger had with M’Baku when he decided to marry Oma. The man hates witches so much, he let it ruin his best friendship.

“And?”

“Seriously? You don’t know?”

“If I did, I wouldn’t be asking.” Harley’s annoyance seeped into every word but Shuri shook her head.

“Aside form being a crazy powerful witch, she’s one of the only witches who’s messed with spell work and white magic. Well, one of the only ones who’s lived to tell the tale.” Harley was impressed to say the least. She’d never even bothered with withe magic, the idea of it was more than enough to put her off. White magic or spirit magic in some circles, is more than dangerous. It’s a brush with death. Speaking to the dead is almost always more trouble than it’s worth and Harley never needed the power that came with that kind of magic. That is, until now.

“I can’t believe Monger didn’t tell you.”

“It’s not like he’s my biggest fan Shuri.” Shuri snorted, but in a way that challenged Harley’s statement.

“Shuri, the man hates me.”

“He really doesn’t. He’s just––” They heard the vocalizations before Shuri could get another word out. In a minute, they were surrounded.

Queen Oma of the Great Gorilla Tribe lives deep in the Calawat mountain range. A four day hike will get you to the boarders of her land, but it will take another six hours by foot. Maybe seven if you’re surrounded by an elite force of Calawugan warriors. When the pair were initially surrounded, Harley began sizing up her opponents. They were big, and fierce, but Harley thought with the right amount focus, she could take them. Shuri stopped her before it could come to that, speaking to the warriors in their native tongue, promising them that the duo meant no harm and only requested an audience with the Queen.

They were brought to the palace, a wooden masterpiece that sat on the second highest peak in the mountain. The highest peak was reserved for Hanuman of course, their Gorilla headed god. The halls of the palace were light and open, far from the fortresses of the tribal bars back in town, and Harley marveled at how deeply she could breath the mountain air. It had been a while since she had taken a breath not filled with the scent of smoke and booze.

Their audience with the queen was granted after a moment of waiting and they followed their craven of warriors into an octagonal room. In each wall rested a window and above, the ceiling fell away to nothing in the middle. It was reminiscent of a roman atrium pillars, wooden instead of stone, and the ground paved smooth.  

“Queen Oma, we thank you for meeting with us.” The King was nowhere to be found but taking in the woman Shuri called queen, she didn’t find that strange at all.

Queen Oma stood tall on a rug woven with fresh palm leaves and a crown resting on her head. Small skulls the size of Harley’s palm dangled from the regent’s ears and she granted Shuri a closed lipped smile.

“Shuri, I trust this is important. It is nearing the end of hunting season you know.”

“It is Queen Oma.” Harley was surprised to hear that Shuri never dropped the title of Queen with Oma. Shuri would grant anyone else a ridiculous nickname, but with the Queen, it was only respect.

“My friend and I,” Shuri waved to Harley, and Harley curtsied for lack of better ideas on how best to show respect. “we need your advice spell working.” In an instant, Queen Oma turned her gaze to Harley.

“You want to do spell work? Why?” Bright brown eyes captivated Harley, causing her to scramble for words while Shuri nudged her arm.

“My…” Harley reached for the words to best describe what Ayana was to her, and then decided to avoid that rabbit hole completely.

“I need to find someone. She’s disappeared.”

“And you think spell working will help you? Why?”

“I––I don’t know what else to try.”

“Scrying.” Harley knew what scrying was, a certain type of meditation witches could use to see the future. Harley also knew that she couldn’t do it.

“My energy isn’t particularly inclined towards premonition.”

“It’s a good thing that scrying isn’t solely for premonition then isn’t it?” With a nod, Oma had the room cleared. Only Shuri, Harley and Oma stood in that large rotunda.

The night sky loomed overhead, stars winking into existence here and there. Scraping sounded from the right and before Harley could fall into a defensive position at the sudden sound, Oma stopped her with a hand. Oma strolled to the side of the room, scooping up a large bowl that had been slid into the room from outside and brought it to the center of the room. She placed it on the dais that sat there under the dark sky and gestured for me to look into it.

“I really don’t know how to do this.”

“I will guide you. Now look.”

With a deep breath, Harley turned her gaze downwards, into the bowl. There was a dark liquid in the bowl, still settling from movement. It was so dark Harley could see the whites of her eyes reflected in it, her brown skin finding highlights in the shimmering fluid.

“Concentrate on who you want to see. Not how she was or how she might be, but how she is, in this very moment.”

Harley concentrated. She bit her lip and squinted her eyes. She held her breath and scratched her neck. All of this, and she saw nothing.

“It’s not working.”

“That is because you do not believe it will work. You do not believe your energy will let you see anything outside of your realm of knowledge. You must expand your mind, your energy. Use everything you have to reach out, to see her, to find her.”

Harley forced herself to take Oma’s words seriously. Sure she’s never done this before, but until now, no witch had ever told Harley that she didn’t have the power to do something magical. That she didn’t believe in her energy. Harley knew how powerful she was. Powerful enough to frighten all of her neighbors and classmates with a single glance. Powerful enough to bring down the electricity for her entire city, and bring it back up again. Harley knew power, knew energy, she just wasn’t sure how to wield it.

So she buckled down. She closed her eyes for a breath, and on the exhale opened them slowly. As she raise her eyelids, she could see flecks of energy that flickered around the room. Aura’s could be tricky to see, but on nights like these, dark and clear, she couldn’t help but see them. Shuri’s blazed bright purple, and Oma’s was and emerald green, but Harley was searching for her own. Blue like the inner flame of a fire. She caught a glimpse of it, sitting right beside the bowl. Concentrate on expanding your energy.

For a moment, Harley wasn’t quite sure what to do. She’d found her energy, but controlling it was another thing entirely. Before she could spiral into any sort of despair, she asked her energy to move. To stretch and seek out Ayana, to find her fuschia energy wherever it might be. Harley watched as her energy pulsed brightly, then began to move, flitting around like a firefly. Then, just as she thought she might be going crazy, an image flickered in the bowl.

It was a girl. A girl who looked like Harley before she shaved the sides of her head and got more piercings than she could count. They had the same hickory skin, the same brown eyes, and the same wide nose. For a moment Harley thought the girl was her, that she had messed up and summoned an image of the past, but then she saw Ayana. The baby girl, her baby girl was cuddled up in her Golden Jag cut, snuffling into the neck of the girl who looked so much like Harley. Then another woman, draped in black walked into the frame of the bowl. Her eyes echoed Harley’s own, and Harley couldn’t keep herself from jumping in surprise.

Her movement was enough to shake the bowl and knock her out of focus, but when she looked up, Harley relief curved her lips into a smile.

“She’s alive.”


 

 

Chapter Text

Listening to: Gold On The Ceiling by The Black KeysI Owe You Nothing by Seinabo SeyShadows by Little Simz, and Moteur Action by YELLE


 

Part 3: The Exploration

 

—l—

There is nothing worse than a stone left unturned.

 

—l—

Earth Stream 245 : October 12, 2040

9:22AM

Four days. Four days, and Erik had nothing. He was getting tired of telling Jules Fay that he was on the verge of a breakthrough. He was absolutely tired of watching that damn tape over and over again. Launching himself out his chair, he swiped his tan jacket off of the hook and locked up the office. A cup of real coffee and fresh air ought to do him good. Besides, Erik had someone he needed to visit.

After sparing the barista in the Bean a grin through gritted teeth, Erik made his way out into the crisp fall air. October had hit Ortega hard, the leaves turning overnight and the temperature dropping faster than the years before. Erik clutched the hot cup in both of his hands, cradling it and drawing as much warmth as he could. Another sip spread the warmth from his hands to his chest, and like water it spread, warming him from head to toe as he came up on his destination.

Ortega Cemetery. He pushed open the wrought iron gate with an open palm, closing the gate behind him as he entered. Only a few leaves littered the ground, and the only way you’d be able to tell it was fall in the graveyard was if you took a long look at the grass. It was still green, but at the roots, you could see death begin to grip each blade in a pale, sickly green. Erik took the long way around, passing Harry Townsend and Gloria Johnson. He walked and drank until he couldn’t procrastinate any longer.

“Hey Pops.” N’Jobu Udaku. His name looked so out of place in here. Even after the decades his tombstone stood in this cemetery. Every time he saw his fathers name, he mouthed his own. N’Jadaka. He never used that name, instead keeping it for himself in moments like these.

“I’ve got a new case. It’s…tough.” Erik had been coming here to talk to his father for as long as he could remember. When N’Jobu had died, Erik wouldn’t leave the cemetery. For anything. He would sit in front of his father’s grave, hoping to hear his voice in the wind. After the silence grew unbearable, Erik started talking. That was almost twenty years ago. He hasn’t stopped since.

“Actually, it feels impossible. I think, maybe this once Chief Klaue was right. There is a case out there that I can’t solve. This is it.” He knew he wouldn’t get a response. That didn’t stop Erik from wanting one. It never did.

“It just doesn’t make sense. Pops, there’s no logical explanation here.” Erik stared hard at the grave, the obsidian black tombstone covered in grime. With minimal hassle he pulled his undershirt free and wrapped it around his hand. Then, he started wiping. He only spoke when he could see his reflection in the gleaming stone.

“I made a mistake Pops. Taking this case. I should had told her mom n––” Before he could finish speaking, the autumn wind slapped a scrap of paper onto the grave. Dulled white and black ink contrasting with the newly polished gravestone. It hugged the stone just long enough for Erik to pluck it out of the October air.

The scrap held a picture of a man dressed in heavy robes. He was shaking the hand of a policeman, looking equally confused and disgruntled. Meet the man who claims to explain the unexplainable. This was the only full sentence Erik could see but it was more than enough to encourage hope to bloom in his chest. The rest of the paper only held partial words and and a name. The man’s name was Zuri Badu.

Erik had shockingly good service in the cemetery, considering everything else around him was dead, and a quick search online gave him all of the information he needed. Zuri Badu wasn’t his saving grace, he was a witch doctor at best. Well his website read Zuri Badu, witch doctor extraordinaire but Erik couldn’t bring himself to say that out loud, let alone think it.

He closed the page, then opened it again. Something told Erik that this scrap of paper flew into his life for a reason. As crazy as that sounds, he couldn’t allow himself to let this go. So he decided to call someone smarter than him to set things straight. His fingers trembled with adrenaline as he dialed and he plugged his headphones in, sliding his phone into his pocket.

“Professor.” Erik exhaled when Okoye answered on the first ring.

“Detective Stevens, I didn’t expect to hear from you so soon.”

“What do you know about Zuri of Badu?”

“Pretty sure the guy was a scientist before he fell off of the deep end.” Okoye remembered reading a few articles about the man back in the day, but that had been nearly a decade ago. Anything could have happened, but for the most part, Zuri Badu was something like a local legend.

“Deep end?”

“Started hypothesizing about the end of the world––way worse than the Y2K stuff. Preaching about how we are all going to meet our terrible ends in a blazing fire.” Erik could hear her eyes roll through the phone. “Nowadays I think he runs a floral shop or something.”

“The website says he’s an African medicine man. Sounds like he did more than fall off the deep end.”

“African medicine is traditional not idiotic. You of all people should know that Stevens.” Erik couldn’t help but curl in on himself at Okoye’s chastisement.

“I know, I know, I just––”

“What?” In all of her time knowing Erik, she had never heard him sound so…unsure. He had always been more confident than he should be, but now, faced with an Erik without surety, Okoye didn’t like him one bit.

“I feel like this is a clue.”

“Then follow it.” That was the first thing the duo had learned on the force. Granted they weren’t there for long, but it was still one of the lessons that stuck with them.

“Yeah, you’re probably right. Nakia said I should go with any possibility.”

“Oh did she?”

“Thank you Professor. I’ll talk to you later.” Erik ended the call before he could hear any more jeering from Okoye. The last thing he needed was her teasing.

 

—l—

Earth Stream 328 : October 12, 2040

1:19AM

“Holy Mother Moon.” Harley’s words were a quiet exhale but Shuri heard them.

“You’re awake!” Shuri had waited hours to hear Harley’s voice again. She had passed out after claiming to have seen her niece, and Shuri needed answers.

“What are you talking about?” Harley pushed herself up in bed, and realized that she was in bed. “What happened?”

“You passed out. Oma said scrying can be a tiring process.”

“Oh.” Harley couldn’t find it in herself to be embarrassed about it though. She had seen Ayana. She had seen her. “Shuri I––”

“Saw her. I know. That’s all you said before you, you know.”

“Oh.”

“So. Where is she?”

“I…I don’t know, but she’s with me. Or some version of me.”

“Um what?” Shuri was plenty smart, but there were some sentences even she couldn’t decipher.

“There’s–there’s three of me!”

“Care to elaborate Harley? You’re being way too vague for a sentence like that.” Shuri was bursting at the seams for information, but nothing she got from Harley was making sense.

“I saw Ayana with me. Or another version of me. Well two different versions of me.”

“Sorry what?”

“She’s not gone, she’s just somewhere else. Like another dimension or something where I dress like a rockstar and a stewardess.” Harley changed at the last word, remembering the vision of the girl, herself in that dark scrying bowl.

“‘Monger’s gonna hate that.” Shuri’s comment, though light hearted, brought Harley up short. She hadn’t thought of the man since she left the Golden Fang, bloodied and ready for a fight. Ayana had been the only thing on her mind, but now…Now her mind ran rampant with all the ways explaining this to Killmonger could go horribly wrong.

“I can’t tell him.”

“What?”

“I can’t tell him anything until I figure out how to get her back Shuri! He already blames me for all of this and if I don’t come to him with a solution he’ll…”

“He’s not going to hurt you.” Shuri knew her cousin best, and Killmonger is the last person to hurt the people he loves.

“He hates me.” Harley’s voice had gone small in the meantime. She hadn’t meant to shrink herself, but the mention of Killmonger made her…she didn’t know what exactly. She just knew she wanted to get Ayana back so that everything could go back the the way things were. She was happy. She had a job she loved and she was saving up for the bike of her dreams. Now it had all gone to shit and she still didn’t know how to fix it.

“Why do you keep saying that? My cousin is an ass, but he doesn’t hate you. He loves the way you take care of Ayana.”

“I have to figure out how to get her back.” A knock sounded at the door to her room, and Harley nodded to Shuri. Shuri flung the door open to reveal Oma.

“I think I can help with that.”

 

—l—

Earth Stream 245 : October 15, 2040

10:55AM

Zuri Badu lived in a tiny apartment littered with notebooks and scattered papers with little care too how it looked or how it smelled. After all, where he lived made no difference to him, his shop was the apple of his eye. The apartment was right above his shop, which was a charming amalgamation of a bookstore, floral shop, and apothecary. At least, he thought it was charming. He got so few customers these days, he was happy he paid for the place in full all of those years ago.

It was Monday, and so Zuri opened his shop late. He had no regulars on Monday’s, but he had a feeling that he would get a visit today. He always had these feelings. Sent to him from God, or the Source Energy, or the plants around his shop, they were never wrong. It didn’t take him long to trust in them, and prepare for them when they thrummed through his body.

The feeling in question, or man stood outside of his door at 12:22 exactly. He studied the shop through the grimy windows, and took a moment to read the golden letters on the cloudy glass. Badu’s Botany. Zuri had thought it distasteful, the alliteration, but a friend convinced him it would at the the charm. He hadn’t seen it then, and he still doesn’t see it now, but he’d grown fond of the round lettering.

Zuri recognized the man. He had seen him on the tiny television that was squeezed between a stack of books on top of his dresser. Detective Erik Stevens. He was the kind of man that Zuri’s father wanted him to become. Science evaded Badu’s elder and they shamed him for his aptitude. Still he never resented them, he just left as soon as he could to study the world. Even now, as he stares at what he should have been, he only felt the urge to help his father’s fallen dream. Finally the door was pushed open, rusty golden bell ringing through the small shop.

“I have been waiting for you, Detective Stevens.”

“I’m not a detect–How did you–” Zuri pulled the young man in by his right elbow, thus prohibiting Erik from reaching for his gun. He wasn’t sure the young man would shoot him, but Zuri was a careful man. This is his home, and place of business. It would be wise to avoid any bullet holes.

“Do come in detective. There is much to discuss.” Stumbling over the threshold, Erik got his bearings. He studied the old man, pudgy and draped in purple fabrics that looked more gimmicky than royal. Still he followed the man further into the shop, avoiding outreached cacti, and kicking away pebbles on the floor.

Zuri listened to the man behind him. His moves were quiet, but the shop was quieter, his plants didn’t start talking until 3 after all. The man was graceful, more so when any sort of danger presented itself. Yes, his father would have loved this son. Instead, he got Zuri.

“I came to ask you–”

“A question?” Zuri didn’t have to turn for Erik to hear the smirk on his face. Erik rolled his eyes instead.

“Yeah.”

“Go on then. Ask me your question Detective Stevens.”

“Is it possible for someone to disappear without a trace? To just…vanish?”

“Of course.” Erik deflated and Zuri was quick to reassure him. “Just because she disappeared from this world does not mean she didn’t appear somewhere else.”

“How did you kno–”

“You see there is no true disappearance. Not really. The universe just loves to recycle.”

Zuri plucked a small terra-cotta pot from the table behind him and held it in front of Erik cradling it like a child. A purple hear shaped flower with thin, nearly translucent petals grew curved around a small pink cactus. The flower was practically hugging the cactus, paying its prickly appendages no mind at all.

“The girl you seek sleeps with beasts.”

“What does that even–” As quickly as Zuri pulled Erik in, he pushed him out of the door, terra cotta pot in hand. Erik was left standing outside of the shop, looking at the flower curved around the cactus and wondering what the hell just happened.

 

—l—

Earth Stream 947 : October 16, 2040

5:14PM

Hazel slept on her side with Ayana bundled into her stomach, curved around her so tightly that before she dozed off, she worried the baby might not be able to breathe. She tried to pull away, but Ayana let out a sleepy grumble that was more jaguar than human and so the pair slept.

N’Jadaka on the other hand had been up for hours. In fact, since they returned from Cafria a day ago, he hadn’t slept a wink. Not that he needed to. Instead he’d been up and about, preparing for tonight. Tonight, the Golden Fang would welcome its first musical guest. The stage was built, black plastic so shiny it mirrored the ceilings. Speakers had been installed while he was away, and he spent at least two hours messing around with the sound system. It didn’t matter that he didn’t know what he was doing. N’Jadaka paid for the damn thing, he could do whatever he wanted with it.

After he tired of the sound system, he prepared the greenroom. Blood candles were lit, surfaces wiped clean, a few desserts and blood bags left in a mini-fridge. The room sat right across from his own office, black lacquer door glinting with the name Angel Haze.  Even as he looked at the name, ran his fingers across the raised placard, N’Jadaka could hardly believe it. angel Haze isn’t the kind of star to do small venues. Hell she was too big for most of the big venues, but N’Jadaka wore her management down.

Apparently, Angel Haze was tired of the tour life. Tired of the big stage lights and screaming fans. Tired of the boring board meetings and repetitive interviews. She wanted a chance to get back to her roots. Find where she started or some shit like that. At least, that’s what her manager told him. The only reason she’d agreed to the show is because the Golden Fang wasn’t known as a concert venue. It was a blood club. Nothing more, nothing less. N’Jadaka just wanted to test out some new entertainment.

He didn’t advertise who would be singing, just that live music would be playing. He also had to turn off his bead satellites, which meant no internet once the customers walked in and saw that it was Angel Haze performing. No one would be able to spread the word, not even N’Jadaka himself. That part irked him a bit, he knew he was missing out on big money, but something urged him to keep as quiet as he could.

Finally, the clock struck six. His kimoyo bead buzzed, and he poured himself a drink. Surprisingly, Angel Haze was early. N’Jadaka wasn’t sure what he expected, but he did assume that all artists show up to their gigs late. Angel Haze was early. The door swung open and there she was, wrapped in leather and safety pins with a guitar on her back and a tired grin gracing her face.

“Mr. Udaku. Thanks for having me.” N’Jadaka could barely speak as he drank the woman in. He’d seen pictures and performances, but something was different about her now. She was so real.

“Would you like a drink?” Angel’s grin curved devilishly.

“As long as you make it bloody.”

Hazel woke to the sound of two vampires shooting the shit. Loudly. Hazel had probably slept more in the past week than she had in her entire life, but she waved that away. Traveling to another country was exhausting, not to mention traveling to another world. That is only f Shuri theory proved to be correct, which N’Jadaka and Hazel alike still had a hard time believing. If only for the sheer fact that the idea of it all was insane.

Insane doesn’t mean impossible.” Hazel recalled Shuri’s words as she rose from the bed to close the door. She didn’t want to wake Bug. The poor kid had spent most of her time in Cafria curled up against Hazel or Terra. She didn’t seem afraid necessarily, but she didn’t seem interested in any new adventures either. If Hazel didn’t know any better, she’d think the kid was homesick. Unfortunately, Bug reached the door before Hazel could.

“Bug!” Hazel hissed a whisper, acutely aware of a vampire’s enhanced senses. She could feel her chance to remain undiscovered slipping right through the open door where Bug streaked through, shifting into her jaguar fur on her way out. Hazel blinked, still trying to acclimate to…that.

“Bug! Get back here!” She chased the little jaguar cub all of the way into the main room, where N’Jadaka sat with a stunning black woman. The two had clearly been sipping drinks and laughing about something before Bug entered to play with Terra. Now those two were play fighting, and Hazel had two pairs of eyes on her.

“Uh. Hi.” Hazel gave a thoughtless wave as she stared at the woman.

She wore a threadbare T-shirt, cuffed at the sleeves and thin enough to tease a studded bra beneath. Black winged eyeliner, and ruby red lipstick. With skintight leather shorts and dangerously high heels on, Hazel felt like an idiot in her work uniform and scuffed up sneakers. Hazel had been offered a change of clothes by Nakia which she had taken, but they were too fancy to sleep in. Now she wondered if vampires slept in ball gowns.

“Well well well, Mr. Udaku. Harboring humans? I must say this is a shock.” The woman smirked, pearly white fangs peaking out from her thick lips.

“It’s not exactly what you think. She’s foreign.” To Hazel, her voice sounded southern, but to N’Jadaka, it was the slow, low drawl of a soucouyant. He wouldn’t deny liking it.

“Actually, I’m Hazel. It’s nice to meet you Miss…” Hazel rolled her eyes at N’Jadaka’s dismissal, learning early on from Shuri to ignore his arrogance.

“Haze. Angel Haze.” Angel stared at this human for a while. She could see her pulse pounding against her neck and heard her heart beating rabbit fast, but something lingered at the back of her mind.

“Do I know you?”

“Uh, I doubt it. I’m not exactly from the area.” Still, Hazel looked at the woman again. She couldn’t tear her eyes away, something about her felt familiar. The two women were interrupted when a Angel’s manager ambled through the door of the Golden Fang. The pair turned towards the vampire, short and stocky and paler than N’Jadaka expected.

“Woah boss, I didn’t know you had a twin!” Amusement danced in his voice but Angel curled her lip and dropped her fangs.

“You aren’t seriously comparing me to this human, are you?” Finally, it clicked for Hazel. If she really is in another world, it’s possible that another version of her exists in this world. It’s possible that she’s looking right at her. Right?

“Actually, I think he’s right. I think I’m you.”

“Oh honey, there’s only one me.” This time the words weren’t so much derisive as they were mocking, and Hazel got the idea that she was missing some kind of joke. Even N’Jadaka cracked a smile at that.

“I don’t know if your parents had a secret to keep, but that human is definitely your blood, boss. Looks just like you. Spitting image really.” Angel on the other hand, turned to Hazel. Noting that her previous statement made it sound like she knew more than she was letting on.

“Explain.”

“Uh…” Hazel turned to N’Jadaka for a little assistance as Bug rolled into her legs, Terra skidding to a stop in front of them. Exasperated, N’Jadaka rolled his eyes and poked at his kimoyo beads.

“I’ll call Shuri.”

 

—l—

Earth Stream 328 : October 17, 2040

8:38PM

Erik Killmonger had always been a jagged edge. His father knew, his family knew, hell the whole town of Calawuga knew. When his father died, they all feared he would get worse, of course they’d heard the stories about shifters losing their mind when they lost someone. As they always did with Killmonger, they feared the worst.

He proved them wrong in a way. He never killed anyone that wasn’t worth killing. He studied long enough to lead the Golden Jags. He never missed one family dinner. He was good, at least he was as good as he was going to get. He had his crew, his bar, his bike. The man wanted for nothing. That is until a sexy little creature walked into the Golden Fang, soaking wet.

He caught her eye, she caught his, and the rest was history. They had their fun, but when the wind blew, she was gone. Killmonger didn’t mind too much. Sure he might have grown fond of her, but she wasn’t anything special. She couldn’t be. He fell back into his old routine with ease until he got a know on his door.

People know Calawuga for its desert, scorpions skittering here and there and saguaro’s dotting the landscape. The one thing people never thought about in the desert was the rain. It never sprinkled or drizzled, no, it poured. The night Ayana appeared in his life, wrapped in a blanket and tucked into a basket on the front steps of the Golden Fang, the rain was torrential. And yet, as he peered down at the baby, he could see that she was completely dry.

There was no note but he still scooped the baby up and carried her into the bar. He smelled like her. The Jags all stopped talking and playing and drinking. Instead, they stared as their fearless leader cradled a baby in his hand. She smelled like the boss alright. They remembered that slight creature that slipped away in the breeze, and understood why she left so quickly. None of them could ever imagine telling Killmonger they were pregnant.

Ayana opened her eyes in the way that only babies could. Wide and wondrous. Catching sight of Killmonger made her coo and reach out. Killmonger on the other hand held her farther away from him. Sure the kid smelled like him, but he had no idea what to do with a baby. Then her face scrunched, she sneezed and changed into the cutest jaguar cub he’d ever seen. In that moment Killmonger knew that none of inexperience mattered to this baby. He would give her the best life he could no matter what. He was her father after all.

So, for Ayana, Erik Killmonger began to file down his jagged edges. He trimmed his beard, so that she didn’t have much to tug on. He stopped getting drunk, in fact he stopped drinking altogether. He sang her stupid lullabies that sounded nothing like his mother’s but she seemed to like them so he never stopped. He washed her brown skin and fur, her jaguar form seeming to love the bath just as much as her human form. He even bought a new pair of nail clippers, trimming and filing hers so that she wouldn’t scratch herself bloody in the night.

He couldn’t resist loving her. Loving her meant loving himself. Every time he got a look at those big brown eyes, eyes that mirrored his own, and he vowed to be good for her. She had a crescent moon shaped mark interrupting her lifeline and Killmonger always told her between her own baby babbling that she held the whole moon in her little hands. Bast he missed her. Every bit of him missed his daughter. The rain pounding on the roof only made it worse.

Knock, knock, knock. Killmonger ignored the sound. It was probably one of the Jags by to bring him some sad casserole. He’d had enough of that shit, he just wanted Ayana back. He wouldn’t mind Harley either.

Knock, knock, knock. The knocking became persistent, annoying even. Blowing out a breath, he pushed himself to his feet and padded to the door.

“This better be goo––” Harley stood at the door, soaking wet, rain dripping from her cut.

“I saw her ‘Monger.”

 

—l—

Earth Stream 947 : October 17, 2040

3:47AM

The Lab was an…interesting place. It boomed with music and flashed with lights, but all Hazel could see where the horns, and tails, and scales, and paws, and wings, and––The Lab was a club for all kinds of…things. Shuri loved it. When she first moved to Metropolis from Cafria, she made The Lab her main focus. Getting this place off of the ground was a headache and a half, stacks and stacks upon hellish paperwork filled her apartment for over a year, but it was more than worth it. Now, Metropolis had a place where anyone and anything could dance.

“Say it.” Hazel actually had a hard time hearing Shuri over the music, N’Jadaka only pretended that he did. well, for as long as he could stand before opening his big mouth. Angel Haze had managed to make it through her first solo, stripped show without falling off of the stage or forgetting her lyrics and she could hardly believe it. Especially with the shit N’Jadaka and Hazel had been telling her.

“Seriously Shu? No.” The group had made it through the writhing crowd into Shuri’s small office. A desk and chair squeezed into the space, bathed in neon purple light from the bright signs that cluttered the walls.  

“Just say it and we can all move on.” Shuri said this with a smile too big for her face and barked a laugh at N’Jadaka’s response.

“I ain’t saying shit.”

“Fine, I guess we’ll all just wait then.” She sat back in her chair, arms folded in her lap never breaking eye contact with N’Jadaka.

“Bast! Fine Shuri, you were right about the multiple reality shit. Are you happy?”

“Ecstatic.”

This is my alternate self? No offense, but she seems like a downgrade to me. Humans are so…flimsy.” Angel Haze was anything but that. She’d he’d to be more than sturdy in this industry and she didn’t appreciate the comparison to humanity.

“Flimsy? Seriously? It’s not like I’m Flat Stanley.”

“Who?”

“Forget it.”

“Can someone please explain what is going on here?”

“Hazel is you,” Shuri pointed to Hazel who waved with one arm, the other holding a wiggling baby. “from another world. Or, she’s a version of you from a version of our world. That part is a little dicey.”

What?”

“Basically somehow, Hazel’s world and our world overlapped, and she’s here.” Shuri shrugged before continuing, pulling out a rug from under her desk.

“Think of the universe like a tapestry. Each string represents a different world. Now you’ve got the ones that meet up obviously, those worlds are probably so intertwined that we don’t even acknowledge their difference, but the vertical and horizontal worlds are always parallel.” She pointed towards the threads of the rug, showing the strings that sat next to each other never touched.

“Normally horizontal doesn’t cross horizontal and the same goes for vertical. Except now. Now something’s happened. Some threads crossed, overlapped, and dropped Hazel and the little shifter into our world.” Shuri pulled on the threads of the rug so the two vertical threads crossed each other. It didn’t look easy.

“I’m guessing there’s another version of you somewhere that’s missing that kid.”

“So you’re saying she’s me? From another world?

“Yep, there are probably streams of reality where you’re a mermaid and he’s a siren.”

“Aren’t they the same thing?” Hazel regretted the question as soon as she asked it, if only because she had three vampires looking at her like she wasn’t even smart enough to eat.

“Uh…no.”

“So how do we send her back Shu?” N’Jadaka was loathe to ask, if only because he knew Shuri would mock him for all of eternity for asking for help. He knew exactly how long eternity could last.

That is not my area of expertise. We’ll have to ask Queen Mother.”

“Shuri––”

“She’s going to know more about this N’Jadaka.” He let her words ring in his head. Annoyed that once again she was right. Shuri was a scientist, not a magician. His aunt however, was the biggest magician Metropolis and possibly the whole world.

“Fine.”

“Wait you know the Queen Mother? She’s like my hero.” Angel Haze had grown up watching her videos on meditation and magic. She had marveled at her books and the crystals that graced her body in the magazine photoshoots she dominated. The Queen Mother was a badass more in tune with the magic of the world than she could ever imagine. Before she learned that vampires had no reign over natural magic, she’d wanted to be the High Priestess when she grew up. Angel was more than a fan. N’Jadaka couldn’t resist an eye roll as he responded.

“Well you know what they say. Never meet your heroes.”

 

—l—

Earth Stream 245 : October 18, 2040

12:48PM

“That is…odd.” Erik huffed and Okoye could barely resist a smirk. She couldn’t believe these two ever dated. They were too similar for their own good. The pair sat in her office, Erik’s phone on the desk and Nakia’s voice coming through the speaker. The leaves outside scraped against the window, brittle and aimless in the fall breeze.

“Understatement of the year ‘Kia.”

“Did he say anything else?”

“Nothing. The guy was…odd” Erik couldn’t help but reiterate Nakia’s phrasing. Now, everything about that day was as hazy dream to him, even as he recounted it for Okoye and Nakia.

“So you’re back to square one?”

“Not quite?” More and more, his answers turned to questions. Erik was losing his confidence, but he refused to face Jules Fay without a logical answer. Even if all of this was more than illogical.

“I did some more research, on his research. Turns out he was developing a theory for multiple realities. Basically he believes that at certain times, for whatever reason the universe brings together worlds that otherwise would never touch. He wasn’t screaming about the world ending, he was theorizing about worlds converging.”

Okoye pulled up the university site. She had access to research papers that no one outside of the academic sphere could even dream of reading and did a cursory search. Zuri Badu showed up in the first search if only because he only had two papers available. The first an analysis of time and the lunar cycle, normal enough, but the second must have been what Erik was talking about. Which means he must have used some unsavory means to get this paper.

A Study of Universal Convergence.” Erik nodded at the paper on Okoye’s screen as she saved the file and sent it to Nakia.

“He’s not talking about worlds converging, he’s saying they can crash into each other.” Okoye nodded even as she heard Nakia sigh over the phone, breath crackling with a weary exhaustion they were all beginning to feel.

“So, that’s our theory? That the girl––” Erik corrected Nakia with a scowl. Nakia’s careless attitude about her name grating on him for some reason. Hazel might be missing, but she’s still a person. Nakia of all people should know that. He refused to treat her case like they did at the station, carelessly.

“Hazel.”

“Right. So our theory is that Hazel somehow crashed into another world?” Incredulity colored Nakia’s voice, but even as she said, the trio nodded. It was the only explanation.

“Pretty much.”

“How did he say this would happen? Worlds converging, I mean.”

“He didn’t really give specifics. Everything was a possibility. It’s just a theory after all.”

“Says here that there needed to be a celestial event.” Okoye piped up, head buried in the screen as she scanned the pages for more information. Her comment was all Nakia needed to make sense of things.

“She disappeared on a full moon right?”

“Yeah.” Erik tried to quell the hope that pulled the word from his lips. This was only a theory. It could all go to shit.

“And that the location would have had to been clear of all negative energies.”

“There wasn’t any one in that alley that night. At least that I saw. ” Every word Nakia spoke gave Erik’s hope another foothold, clawing its way up into his chest.

“So…it’s possible. I mean, the factors match up.” Finally, Erik allowed himself the hope. If only because Okoye and Nakia are the smartest people he knows, and if they think this has even a shred of credibility, he should run with it. Okoye, ever practical answered.

“Only two. I mean, he only discerned two factors. The rest is…up for interpretation I guess.”

“So let’s say she is in another world. How do we get her back here?” Erik was excited to finally have something to go on, but there were still so many impossible factors.

“That’s the million dollar question.” Erik and Okoye could hear the creak of a chair and conjured the image of Nakia leaning back, a pensive hand to her chin.

“I’m actually doing this pro bono.”

“Oh shut up Stevens.” Erik stuck his tongue out at the phone as Okoye chuckled. Soon the trio were all laughing, and for a moment he could imagine that they were all back in college, laughing together and shooting the shit. He imagined who they were before they became themselves, savored it, then pushed the image away. The only thing to do is move forward. No matter what.

“Sounds like we’ve got some work to do.”

 

—l—

Earth Stream 328 : October 18, 2040

2:15PM

“My kid is where?” Harley had been trying to explain this to Killmonger for a day. For some reason he still wasn’t grasping it. To be fair, Harley could see the difficulty, but at this point they were wasting time. Time she wasn’t  quite sure they had.

“In another dimension. Possibly. Probably.”

“And how exactly did you come to this conclusion?”

“I saw her with…another version of me.”

“Another version–There’s more of you? Just great.” Killmonger pinched the bridge of his nose in annoyance. “How the fuck did you end up sending my kid to another dimension Harley?” Harley jolted at the sound of her name. Killmonger never usually went to the trouble of saying it, preferring to call her a witch instead.

“I didn’t do anything! Look, even as a witch, I don’t have the kind of power to hop through different dimensions let alone send other people through them. It had to be something else, or a combination of things. It was a full moon when she disappeared and she is a shifter. She’s got plenty of magic on her own.”

“So you’re saying she did all of this herself?”

“No, of course not. I’m just saying, her magic and the moon’s magic and whatever else was in the air that night might have caused this.” Killmonger was silent for a long time. Too long. Harley couldn’t stand the set of his jaw as he mulled over what she had said.

““Look, you can hate me all you want, but I’m getting her back. I would like your help, but if-”

“What do you need from me?” There were plenty of things Harley needed to collect before the full moon, but it seemed that Killmonger already knew that. She went over the instructions from Oma in her head. A salt circle under the full moon, a pitch black scrying bowl, sage and carnelian at the four points, an open mind…

“We need to get the bones of a Juvian Sparrow.” Oma made it clear that Harley needed to find a Juvian Sparrow. The birds were more like myth to her, usually populating the southwest, preferring the open air rather than city smog. They birds themselves are bright red, like a flame streaking through the sky, but their legend goes deeper than that. he first Juvian Sparrow fell from the sky, wings blazing. When the fire died and the bird was left with blackened wings, they were said to reflect the night sky. Star twinkling in their feathers and the universe under their wings. Since then, Juvian Sparrows were known as “The Bird Who Sees All”, collecting the sky in their feathers and flying to worlds unknown. This is why Harley needed those bones. If the animal really could travel to different worlds, maybe it would help her get Ayana back from whatever world she was in now.

“Of course we do.” Killmonger scoffed. Juvian sparrows are as good as extinct around these parts. Sure people had seen them, but those are the same people who claim to see the Yeti’s that come through the mountains every summer. Still, he wanted his daughter back, and this witch was the only presenting some sort of a plan.

“Fine. I hope you’re ready for a road trip witch.”

 

—l—

Earth Stream 947 : October 18, 2040

5:14PM

The Queen Mother lived in a grand house on a grand hill. The hill was so tall that when the sun rose, the roof of the house kissed the sun and when the moon floated into the night sky, one could go up the the roof and grab a piece of the moon for themselves. Having grown up here, N’Jadaka hated the place, if only because his father hated it. If only because his father didn’t trust the Queen Mother’s intentions when she invited them here from Cafria. N’Jobu was just in his mistrust, but justice didn’t raise the dead. N’Jadaka thought that might be the most unjust thing in this world.

Shuri pressed a button on her kimono beads and the gilded iron gate swept open for the group, Angel Haze gaping at the house she had only seen in videos and photographs. The long walk to the door was filled with baby babbles and harsh breaths. The driveway was paved and dotted with beautifully pruned florals and luscious verdant bushes. Finally they made it to the door, N’Jadaka and Shuri motioning for the other three to stay put as they walked around the back. The pair still had a key, and they wanted to ease the Queen Mother into this, if only to gauge her reaction.

The key still slid into the slot with ease, one of the only physical locks remaining in Metropolis these days. Everything else had a digital or bead lock, but this little silver lock dredged up memories N’Jadaka would really have stayed buried. She was waiting for them, a hand on her hip. Wrapped in elegant purple robes she caught sight of Shuri with a smile and pulled her into a rocking hug. N’Jadaka stayed by the door, silent as she gazed at him.

“N’Jadaka.”

“Auntie.” He sneered the word and Shuri threw her arms up with a huff.

“Ignore him. He’s pouting. Mother, we need your help.”

“I assume this has something to do with the human and shifter sitting outside my front door?”

“Did you use your magic for that?” N’Jadaka rolled his eyes at her statement. Of course she knew what was going on. The Queen Mother knows all. Excuse N’Jadaka for remaining unimpressed by his uppity aunt.

“No. I used one of those new age things called windows.” The Queen Mother fixed N’Jadaka with a glare. He wanted to play a game, but he seemed to forget that it was She who made the board.

Shuri ignored the two bickering and launched into an explanation. As she spoke, animated as ever, they made their way towards the front door, passing through the kitchen and sitting room before making it to the foyer. N’Jadaka stared at the door, the largest piece of vibranium in Metropolis. His father brought it as a gift of goodwill. A waste.

“So we need to figure out how to get them back to wherever they’re supposed to be. I thought you were have an idea, or at least a better one than me.”

“She appeared at your bar? The Golden Fang?” Erik nodded, lips tight eye locked on the door that led to his father’s death.

“Well there’s your answer. I told you not to build on that land. It’s a faery ring.”

“Ain’t nobody afraid of the fae anymore Queen Mother” N’Jadaka scoffed her name and received a slap and glare from Shuri.

“Fear has nothing to do with the power of the fae. That does not fade with time. Once they lay roots, they are forever there.” The Queen Mother sighed, realizing that no matter what, N’Jadaka and she would never be anything more than each other’s opposition. A small piece of her heart, a strong blue light the size of a jaguar’s tooth, died right then, dimming yet another light in her heart.

“You built on a fairy ring and now you’re seeing the consequences. Anyone can fall through N’Jadaka. Anything. You putting doors and windows on the ring only made it more accessible to other worlds. Only made our world more visible.”

“Fine so I built on a faery ring and now we’ve got two foreigners waling around. Mea Culpa Auntie. You were right and I should have hung on your every word just like T’Challa. Are you happy now?”

“Do you think you can get them back?” The Queen Mother inhaled deeply, and pulled the heavy front door open, cursing the day she sent that letter to N’Jobu. The door revealed saw a human girl, brown and beautiful, clutching a shifter for dear life. Next to her was what could have been her twin. Under the makeup and clothes, the girls were identical. Then the other girls fangs dropped, golden and glittering and Ramonda shook her head. N’Jadaka would be the death of her.

“I can tell you what you need to do, but it won’t be me getting them back.”

“What do you mean? We’re not witches.” The Queen Mother caught sight of the baby’s hand, outstretched and marked by the moon herself. 

“You aren’t, but that baby is.”


 

 

Chapter Text

Listening To: Ride by Lana Del ReyRidin’ by Lana Del Rey & A$AP RockyNuit de baise II by YELLEBarton Hollow by the Civil WarsBones by MSMRPromises by India Arie and Godspeed by Frank Ocean


 

Part 4: The Discovery

—l—

Of all the languages the moon has mastered, magic is her favorite. Spells and enchantments slip from her lips like an endless waterfall and trickle down into every world she visits in her trips through the starry sky. Her power falls into the hands of the good hearted and strong willed, leaving them with a key to worlds otherwise unknown.

 

—l—

Earth Stream 328 : October 20, 2040

5:06AM

Grooved rubber resting on the hard packed dirt. Golden pipes hugging the pitch black sides. Short handles cased in black, gleaming with reflective glass. A glittering silver grill beneath the engine. One piercing headlight, and the name Killmonger etched above the seat like a promise. This is the bike Harley had dreams about. Sleek like a silver bullet, so loud she could feel it reverberating in her bones, this bike is the first and only thing Harley had ever coveted.

Killmonger sat on the beast, sliding on black leather gloves and taping his foot on the dusty ground. Void black leather groaned beneath him as he shifted. Harley had finally emerged from the club, having spent the past few days preparing with Shuri. She hadn’t stepped foot into the Golden Fang, not without Ayana, and certainly not with the Golden Jags looking at her like that. They stared like she was already a lost cause, destined to be cannon fodder for Killmonger.

“Took you long enough.”

“I’m early.” The pair had agreed to leave at 5:30AM, but Killmonger had been waiting since 5. He wanted his daughter back. No matter how early he had to drag his ass out of bed.

“Whatever witch, let’s get going.” For Harley, it was too early for Killmonger’s shit. She’d tolerated his forked tongue for too long.

“Okay first off, watch your fucking tone Monger. Second, if you want my help you need to call my by my actual name. Not ‘witch’ or whatever else you come up with.”

“Fine.” Harley quirked her eyebrow. That was too easy. She needed more, and Killmonger knew it.

“Fine Harley.” Killmonger resisted the urge to savor the name as he said it. This witch was nothing more than a babysitter. She’d never be anything more to him. She shouldn’t be anything more.

“Great.” After a curt nod, Harley shoulder her bag and approached the bike. It was even more beautiful this close. She could smell the engine oil and longed to feel the bike purr. Killmonger pulled a smirk as she swung her leg over the bike seat and grabbed onto him, resting as little of her body as she could against his back. With a tap to his stomach to tell him she was situated, Killmonger really smiled as he started the bike with a roar.

The duo made it onto the open road in a cloud of dust, both of them reveling in the sound of the engine. There was something about riding west, the wind whipping around them, the sun beaming on their backs that made the both of them feel…whole. Not in a way that family or relationships bring, in the way that solitude could promise anything but loneliness. For a moment, Harley and Killmonger breathed as one. After all they both wanted the same thing. To find Ayana. And maybe a bit more. But for the first part, they drove west, past the mountain range and into the Cactacae Forest.

Juvian Sparrows survived on the liquid they could pull from the cactus and the few flowers the cacti bothered to grow. The cacti in this forest were known to bloom under the light of the moon, and anyone knew that a spirit touched by the moon could do amazing things.

The two barreled up the only road in the copse of towering cacti, saguaro’s on one side, and prickly pears blooming on the other. Killmonger took in the pointed orbs behind reflective shades, and Harley thought they reminded her of something, or someone. Monger rolled to a stop as the road fell to the overgrowth of a wildly growing barbary fig. A few small hedgehog cacti sat below it, small and plump with their bright white flowers.

“Look’s like we’ll have to walk the rest.”

“And where exactly is the rest wi––” Killmonger caught himself and shook the word out of his head. “Harley. Where is the rest Harley?”

“According to my research, about 5 miles in.” Harley’s research hadn’t been entirely scholarly. She remembered some of the legends of the Juvian Sparrow, and followed their trail. Apparently, the bird liked to rest on the highest spike of the largest golden barrel cactus in the forest.

“We’d better get going. We only have until noon.”

“Noon?” Harley only nodded, already having brushed past Killmonger to tread deeper into the forest. The time constraint was something she tried to ignore, Finding the sparrow would be hard enough, she didn’t need the added pressure of watching the clock. Besides, they had almost a week until the full moon. They’d be fine.

 

—l—

Earth Stream 947 : October 21, 2040

1:23AM

Hazel had never met a witch. Especially not one so small. Bug was tiny. Teeny tiny if she was being descriptive. Point is, the baby girl didn’t look like any witch she’d ever seen on tv and movies. She was a kid. A kid that could apparently bring her through a faery ring into another world. Though that information didn’t matter much now, all Hazel needed to know was how to get back.

“You can send her through the faery ring first. She’ll be fine.” The Queen Mother said this so nonchalantly that Hazel almost believed her. The question tripped out of her mouth anyways.

“How will she know what to do? She’s an infant.”

“She did find her way into another world. Seems to me like she’s a natural.” Shuri said this with a grin and a shrug, tickling Bug with lightening fast fingers. She giggled so much Hazel thought she might shift her skin right in her arms. Ramonda sighed before answering with an annoyed sort of gravitas.

“She’s a witch. This will come naturally to her. It’ll be as easy as breathing.” Fixing her gaze on Hazel, her lips pulled tight. “You are the one who should be worried. Humans don’t usually make it out of faery rings whole.” That statement was enough to stutter Hazel’s thoughts.

“Um, what?”

“They usually lose their minds. Or their limbs. Or both.” A shrug from the Queen Mother.

“Oh. Great. And how exactly would I prevent that?”

“You’ll need a talisman from your home world and a blessing from a fae. Blood would be best, but I doubt you’ll be able to get that in time. The full moon is almost here.”

“Okay two impossible things to get to keep my sanity and a time constraint. Easy peasy.” N’Jadaka, Angel and Shuri recoiled from Hazel’s last words, something about it sitting uneasily in their ears. Human’s are so strange.

“Don’t you have a talisman already? What’s that black rectangle you carry in your pocket?”

“My phone?”

That’s a phone in your world?” Shuri found herself feeling sorrier and sorrier for the human. In her world that tech was old they didn’t even call it tech.

“Okay you’ve got the talisman, does anybody know a faery?” N’Jadaka did his best to keep his annoyance at bay. The Queen Mother was only helpful when it suited her, and he needed all of the information up front if he wanted to get his life back. Humans are, in a word? Cumbersome. Not to mention the kid. Terra loved her sure, but she didn’t belong in this world. Neither of them did.

“I might know a guy who knows a guy. As long as you don’t mind a trip south.” Angel’s voice treaded lightly into the space between the group, unsure of her status. The Queen Mother wasn’t exactly what she was expecting; regal and enchanting for sure, but a little colder than she was hoping for. N’Jadaka might have been right about meeting your heroes.

“How far south?”

“You know where I’m from.” Angel shrugged as she answered N’Jadaka. They had started talking when she first made it to the Golden Fang and hadn’t really stopped since. The pair knew a lot about each other by now.

“Uh, I don’t.” Humans.

 

—l—

Earth Stream 245 : October 21, 2040

7:16AM

“So, I just have to wait and see if she comes back on the next full moon?” Erik didn’t like the sound of that.

“From what I can gather, yeah.” Nakia’s voice crackled over the line, and though the words were no help the sound of her voice was a comfort. Erik was at the end of his rope, and this call transported him back in time.

When they were in university, Erik, Nakia and Okoye were a set. Most of the campus referred to them as the ‘Three Musketeers’ though Okoye curled her lip at the lack of ingenuity and Erik rejected the name for the sheer fact that the French were colonizers. Finals season had always been hard on Erik, quietly desperate to excel, and Nakia had always been the one to talk him down from 48 hour study sessions and coax him into sleep. Her voice took on that same tone now.

“Kia, I can’t just wait around.” He’d been waiting for nearly a month. Jules Fay had been waiting.

“I had a feeling you were going say that.” Nakia wondered if there would ever come a day when Erik would be patient. She supposed if there did she should get him to a doctor.

“So give me another option.”

“You said yourself that she’s a smart girl. I’m sure that no matter where she is, she’ll figure it out.”

“I made a promise––”

“You always do Erik.” Ever since he’d started as a PI, Erik made it a point to promise his clients a resolution. He always delivered, even if it wasn’t pretty.

“Nakia I have to do something.” This case was burning a hole in the pit of his stomach. The fact that the girl had gone to another dimension meant nothing to Erik. He still had a case to solve, and getting her back was his first priority. Answers would come after, but he needed her back here, in this world. Jules Fay needed her back too.

“Well go talk to the witch doctor again! He’s the one that came up with the theory in the first place.” Erik didn’t like the idea of going back, but it was all he had. Besides, Nakia was rarely wrong.

 

—l—

Earth Stream 947 : October 23, 2040

5:14PM

Two days of traveling in the car had Terra and Bug growling at each other playfully while Hazel read all she could about Faeries. N’Jadaka, Angel and Hazel were the only “adults” on the journey. Shuri protested being left behind, especially when N’Jadaka brought Terra and Hazel refused to leave Bug alone, but the Queen Mother insisted.

“This will be a lean journey Shuri. They’re on a deadline after all.” No pressure or anything.

N’Jadaka spent most of the drive south staring between Angel and Hazel, marveling at their mere existence. The two were clearly similar, most would guess twins and they acted like it too. N’Jadaka would know, he’d met his fair share of vampire twins. Still, they weren’t just similar, in looks they were exactly the same. Even through Angel’s sweet soucouyant accent certain words the pair said were identical. From the pull of their jaw to the tenor that vibrated from their lips.

“N’Jadaka, are you done staring at us, or do you need another few minutes?” Angel question with a smirk, pearly fangs flashing in her laughter as Hazel whipped her head up in shock.

N’Jadaka for the most part wasn’t cowed. So he got caught staring at a beautiful vamp. He’s gotten caught doing worse. Still, he turned his attention to Hazel before Angel could get another rise out of him. He didn’t like the way she pulled every… emotion, laugh, smile, grimace, everything out of him with a turn of her lips. Pushing his black leather boot to kick Hazel’s paint and sticker covered sneakers he asked.

“Why are you reading that?” Hazel did her absolute best to ignore the fact that she was the knife cutting the UST between N’Jadaka and Angel, and answered with a finger pointed to the title. Fae, Fairies, and Earthen Magic.

“Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t.” For all intents and purposes, Hazel knew nothing about the blessing she was supposed to get. She’d never even knew there was a difference between fairies and faeries. N’Jadaka let out a laugh at her reasoning.

“We’re all the Devil’s creatures. Haven’t you heard?” He smiled that extra wide grin that made his fangs gleam. Hazel repressed a shudder, knowing N’Jadaka was doing this to be annoying. He did the same thing to Shuri all of the time.

“Are you always this unhelpful or is this a special occasion?”

“I am when you’re reading books that old.”

“Shuri game it to me. She said it might help.” Hazel had a hard time believing that Shuri would do anything to lead her off track. The girl had been so kind to Hazel this whole time. She’d been the one to explain all of the tech shit, kimoyo beads being the most important.

“Sorry to say, Shuri might be wrong on this one. This book is older than my grandma, and she’s like twelve centuries old.” Angel said this with a small shrug, sliding the book out of Hazels hands, leaving her grasping.

“Well what exactly should I be doing because I am the only one at rick of losing an undisclosed amount of limbs or my sanity in this faery ring!”

Hazel had done her absolute best to stay calm. She really had, but her heart flinched every time Bug shifted into her jaguar fur, and she shuddered every time some vampire dropped their fangs on the street. None of this was normal, or her normal, and it was all starting to add up. Angel could see her counterpart beginning to crack and tossed the book at N’Jadaka, ignoring the grunt he released, to pull Hazel into her side.

“I’m not saying you can’t do research but this book is way too old. Faeries have changed, hell, all creatures have changed since this was written. Change, evolve, adapt. It’s what we do, It’s in our nature.

“So I’m just supposed to fly blind?”

“No, but we won’t let anything happen to you or the little shifter. You’re safe with us.” Hazel shook her head even as Angel extended her own kimoyo beads towards her. They didn’t get it. They didn’t understand that all of this was life and death for Hazel. Hell, she had a hard time understanding that herself. Angel let Hazel wallow for only a minute, knocking her with her shoulder.

“Hazel, do you trust yourself?”

“Well yeah.” Out of everyone here, she trusted herself the most. Sure she somehow got sucked into another world, but she’d been smart enough to keep herself alive up till now.

“Then trust me. I’m basically you.” Angel finished her declaration with a smile, and Hazel couldn’t help but bark a laugh. She wasn’t entirely wrong.

“Fine.” Angel clapped and took a peak out of the window.

“Good, and not a minute too soon. We’re here!”

 

—l—

Earth Stream 245 : October 24, 2040

8:45AM

“You need to call her.”

“Oh hello Okoye, so great to see you, please come in.” Okoye rolled her eyes and placed a cup of hot coffee on Erik’s desk. His attempts at making coffee were shitty at best.

“Erik, you need more help.” He raised the cup in thanks before taking a sip. Black and burning hot, just how he liked it.

“I don’t. I have you.”

“This is more than I can handle. Erik. Call Nakia, ask her to come down for this.”

“I’m not going to pull her away from the work she ‘actually loves’. Besides I already called her. She gave me whack advice.”

“Oh will you get over yourself?! You two had that fight years ago and you’re still licking your wounds. both of you! “

“I’m not––” A knock interrupted what was sure to be another lie from Erik and Okoye was grateful.

Jules Fay waited at the door, hand poised to knock again. It fell to her side as Erik pulled her into his office, guiding her to a seat and offering her water or juice. Anything but his shitty coffee. She waved it all away.

“I came to see if you’ve found anything about Hazel?”

“I’m sorry Ms. Fay, I haven’t yet. most of my investigation has come up inconclusive but I still have a few more leads to follow.” He didn’t have a few more leads to follow, but he couldn’t tell Jules Fay his working theory either.  

“If it’s money, I don’t have much but I can––” Erik waved off her words, walking around his desk to kneel in front of her. On his knees, he was nearly eye to eye with the woman. He could see fear in her eyes, exhaustion, and worry. He wanted to make all of that go away. He promised to make all of that go away. He would make good on his promise. By the full moon, he would get Hazel back to her mother. Somehow.

“Ms. Fay, it’s nothing like that. I assure you I’m working to find Hazel, it’s just that her case is particularly different than the others I’ve investigated.” A silent nod from Jules had Erik speaking again, if only to fill the silence. “I made you a promise and I intend to keep it. I will find Hazel.”

“Of course he will, he’s assembled the best team in the country.” Nakia entered Erik’s office, the third person today to come in uninvited.

“Ms. Fay, Erik is the best at what he does. We’re going to find your daughter.” Jules Fay nodded with more confidence. Nakia had that effect on people. The woman who had assured her that Hazel would be found oozed a confidence she had never seen, and there was no choice but to believe her. Jules Fay was out the door before long, and Erik raised brow at Nakia.

“You always knew how to make an entrance.”

“And I haven’t missed a beat.” Nakia mirror his gaze, raising her brow in return. “Aren’t you going to invite me in?”

 

—l—

Earth Stream 328 : October 25, 2040

5:06AM

They were decidedly not fine. Killmonger grew more impatient by the day and Harley was starting to lose hope. They hadn’t even seen a Juvian Sparrow, let alone caught one. Cacti bloomed and grew before them as they waited each day, coming earlier and earlier when Harley read that Juvian Sparrows are easiest to find in the dawn. The pair tried everything they could, approaching from different angles, splitting up, setting traps, and still no sparrow bones.

They were running out of time and they could feel it. Each night on their drive home the moon appeared fuller and fuller. If they were ever going to get Ayana back, they needed to find that sparrow today or else Harley would need another plan. Harley and Monger made it to the forest before the sun began painting the sky. Harley took a moment to send a prayer up to the falling moon and marveled at the stars winking above.

They trudged through the forest in silence for a while, doing their best to avoid the pricks of the cacti around them. Sometimes they weren’t so lucky. Harley hadn’t said anything, but Killmonger knew that this was the day. The Last day they’d be able to search for this Bast forsaken bird. If they didn’t find it, well Killmonger wasn’t quite sure he wanted to know what Harley had in mind. he had a feeling it would churn his stomach.

“Did you know Ayana’s mother well?” Harley’s voice pulled Monger out of his thoughts. It was softer than he expected from a witch, but then again, Harley was turning a lot of his preconceived notions on their head.

“Well enough.”

“Was she…a shifter?”

“I…I don’t know.” Harley’s question was cautious and Monger tried to remember more than her brown skin and his bedsheets. He couldn’t.

“So you didn’t know her well.” Monger rolled his eyes at Harley’s remark. Maybe she was right but he didn’t have to admit that. Not now at least.

“Look, I don’t know what she was, but she had power.”

“Like magic?”

“Like I don’t know what. Why do you care?”

“Because, kids take after their parents. We already know Ayana is a shifter but if her mother was a––” Harley stopped before the word witch could fall from her lips. Monger had done a good job of respecting her, he’d even seemed to thaw to her for a bit, but she didn’t want to push it. Not now at least.

“If her mother had power, then it stands to reason that Ayana has that same power. Add the magic that crackles through the town and our girl is a ticking magical time bomb.” Monger pushed down the warmth that bloomed around his heart at Harley’s indication that Ayana was ‘their girl’ and tried to process what exactly she was saying. If Ayana’s mother had turned out to be some kind of creature, then…well that could mean anything. The possibilities scared Monger the most.

“You do know that I didn’t send Ayana anywhere right?”

“I––You’re the only witch around my kid. What was I supposed to think?” Harley was happy to hear the hint of regret in Monger’s voice.

“That I love and cherish her just as much as you do and would never let anything happen to her!”

“Well I didn’t know that then!”

“Well you know it now. Don’t fucking forget it Monger.”

“I’m only letting that slide because your stupid fairytale is sitting on that goddamned cactus.”

“What?” Harley’s voice dropped to a whisper as her head whipped towards the center of the field. There on the largest barrel cactus in the forest was the Juvian Sparrow. The birds wings were black as the night, but seemed to be changing as the sun rose, red rising through its body as the sun glided into the sky. It cocked it’s head this way and that, and Harley held her breath. When it looked away, she released it. She turned to Monger and before Harley could blink, Killmonger was an elegant, golden beast.  

 

—l—

Earth Stream 245 : October 25, 2040

10:14AM

Zuri had that feeling again. It was a tug at his gut, a reminder that there was more to come. That someone would be coming. A pinch between his eyes, that signaled him this would require more than a cursory conversation. This would need him to use his brain, encourage him to think and hypothesize. Excitement thrummed through him. He rarely had feelings like this.

Erik, Okoye and Nakia wandered into Badu’s Botany with hopes the shouldn’t have bothered to bring. Erik had warned them that the man was eccentric to say the least. The pair didn’t believe Erik, and why should they. The man was a scientist, a brilliant one at that. They had no reason to think of him otherwise. The wealth of potted plants was their first indication that what Erik said was true. The wind chimes at the door were the second. As they studied the shop, with its figurines and paper piles, the evidence only grew.

The detective was back. Energy shot through Zuri’s body as the bell ringed above the door. He knew the man was searching for someone, the girl that slept with beasts. From the looks of things, he hadn’t found her.

“Detective Stevens. a pleasure to see you again.” He nodded to Okoye and Nakia. “Ladies…”

“Ten years ago, you wrote a paper. A Study of Universal Convergence.

“I did.”

“Have you found anything that proves your theory?

“Have you?”

“A girl is missing. If you know something, anything––”

“Dr. Badu.” Zuri still at the name. No one had called him doctor in a long time, but Nakia pressed on. “We’re looking for someone who we think…fell into another world. We need to get her back. as soon as possible.”

“Trust in the universe. The moon is her daughter, she’ll see the girl home.” Erik scoffed at the man. If he ‘trusted in the universe’ he’d still be seven years old, waiting for his father to breathe again.

“Forget it. I should have known this would be a waste of time.” Erik couldn’t believe he’d wasted precious time talking to this…ugqirha.

“Don’t worry detective. She will fall into the nest of her making soon enough.” Erik pushed out of the door so hard the chimes screamed his exit.

 

—l—

Earth Stream 947 : October 25, 2040

12:49PM

The Isle, like plenty of other things in this world, is unlike anything Hazel has ever seen. Not technically an island, the large land mass was surrounded by water on three sides, so the name stuck. There was also the matter of the water that flowed through it. Rivers and streams parted the land like hair, slicing through the sandy brush and practically glowing blue. Hazel had only ever seen water that blue in pictures.

Two vampires, a human, a shifter, and a sleek golden jaguar tumbled out of the car and into a boat. Angel’s manager sputtered as she shut the door in his face with a placating wave.

“Rocko, I’ll be fine. If I’m not back in 3 days, call search and rescue, otherwise I don’t want to hear you on my line.” The boat sped off before we could hear his response.

“Where to Miss Haze?” Angel didn’t seem alarmed that the boat driver knew who she was. In fact, she grinned and patted him on the back. N’Jadaka watched their contact with an eagle eye.

“I need to see an old friend.” The driver nodded, and with that they were on their way.

The streams were like side streets, the rivers like highways. Hazel wondered at the houses that stood tall and covered the land mass they reseted on, making them look like they were floating structures instead of tiny islands cut to creation by the waters that ran through the Isle. N’Jadaka stared hard at the driver, wondering how he knew exactly what Angel wanted, before he shook himself out of his jealousy and turned his attention back to the situation at hand. They were pulling up to a bar, if you could call it that. There was no signage, nothing to signify that this wasn’t the shack of a murderer, but Angel hopped out with glee. She gave the driver a tip and a kiss on the cheek and gestured for the group to follow her.

The group pushed through the sorry excuse for a door, wooden slats stapled together and moving on a pair of rusted hinges. Inside it was hazy and red. Sunlight filtered through the holes in the walls, only covered by thin white sheets, and blood red couches littered the space around a small stage. More of a platform really. A duo on an electric piano and colorful soundboard crooned something in what sounded like French, and Hazel took in the scene. Vampires lounged on the couches, velvety and soft, a few humans were bleeding, but other than that, nothing nefarious was happening. Maybe she came at the right time.

“Well slap my cat and call me Lucifer! Forgive me if I’m mistaken, but you young lady, look awfully familiar.”

“Nix.” The man in question approached Angel with open arms and a grin that showed off his platinum fangs. As he got closer, Hazel could see that all of his teeth were platinum. Angel couldn’t keep the grin off of her face. Between touring and writing and producing and life, she’d missed her childhood friend. She’d missed home.

“Well if it isn’t Little Miss Hazie.” The two were a gathering of brown skin and strong arms as they hugged tightly.

Nixie.” He scrunched his nose at the nickname, pulling away from there hug as N’Jadaka tamped down the jealousy the bubbled up in his gut.

“Yeah yeah, you’re too cool for that nickname, owning your own blood club and shit.”

“Well shit, I thought for a second you were a ghost, but not with a mouth like that.” The pair erupted into laughter, and N’Jadaka let them laugh for a minute before clearing his throat. Something about Angel’s smile was different here. Her eyes closed a bit more, her nose scrunched tighter, her shoulders fell back in laughter. She looked more than relaxed. She looked happy. Happier than she had been in Metropolis.

“Right. Sorry guys.” Angel righted herself and Nix. “You got an office?” Nix shook his head.

“I’ve got a bar.”

“Close enough.” As the group approached the bar, Terra prowling close to N’Jadaka with Bug on her back, Angel and Nix spoke in animated tones. Hazel couldn’t understand a word they were saying, though she wasn’t quite sure they’d switched languages, it was more like they had fallen into a vernacular that she wasn’t quite familiar with. Something southern and black and french? Though she couldn’t even be sure France existed in this world.

“Now Haze, I’ve known you for a long time, and never once did you mention having a twin.” Nix busied himself with wiping the bartop, obsidian black flecked in gold, and pulling a few glasses down.  

“She’s not my twin, she is me.”

“Care to explain?” Before Angel could elaborate A tall stocky vampire, with milk white skin sauntered into the bar. Most of the patrons turned their backs on the guy, returning to the conversations with a fervor. A few stronger looking vampires pushed off from their place on the walls of the bar and stood tall. The man in question either didn’t notice the reaction or didn’t care as he sauntered up to the bar.

“Nix! Serving straight from the source now? Very nice touch.” Angel and N’Jadaka pushed Hazel behind them and bared their teeth at the stranger.

“Clive. These are my guests, you’d do well to treat them as such.”

“Well what about that little lamb?” The man shucked his chin to Bug, still sat on Terra’s back in her jaguar fur. “I’ve always loved veal.”

“Back off Clive. You can order something on the menu or you can go. Either one suits me.” Nix balled his fist on the granite bartop and Clive sneered a grin. He knocked on the granite, flashed his fangs at Hazel and sauntered out of the club.

Angel released a breath she didn’t know she was holding. She’d promised to protect Hazel, and she didn’t take her promises lightly. N’Jadaka could see that Angel was shaken, and took the lead no explaining things, still keeping Hazel behind him and beckoning Terra closer. Sure the human and shifter were annoying, but they’d grown on him. And he was almost rid of them, it would suck for something to happen before they completed their little ‘quest’.

“We need to find a faerie. Preferably a nice one.” Nix blew out a big breath at Angel’s request.

“Tall order kid. I’ll give you the info you want. For a price of course.” Though his words were serious his tone was teasing and Angel couldn’t fault his hustle. Keeping a blood club this nice in the Isle couldn’t be cheap.

“What do you want Nix?”

“You got any old tour merchandise?”

“Seriously?” Of all the things she expected, this was not it. She had plenty of that shit locked up in storage, it was an easy trade.

“You seem to forget just how popular you are little Haze. Vintage shit sells like crazy.” With a few dozen shirts, Nix could expand the club and improve the sound system all the while investing in a few local businesses he personally wanted to see flourish.

“I’ll have it sent to the location of your choice as soon as you give me what I want.” Angel wasn’t worried about the merch or the money, she knew Nix would use most of it for the good of the community. Under all of his tough, bar owner exterior, he was a nice vamp. She would know, she grew up with him.

“His name’s Roaen and he lives in The Sink.”

 

—l—

Earth Stream 328 : October 25, 2040

6:19AM

Killmonger and the Juvian Sparrow danced. Monger leaping silently and landing on the tips of his paws and the sparrow, fluttering like its life depended on it. It did after all. Harley watched in awe of the pair. Each time the sparrow flew above the cacti, she could see the dark night sky under its wings, once she even thought she saw stars twinkling in the feathers. She was just about to give up, and try to find another when when the bird squawked. Monger had it between his teeth, fangs bared and pinching.

The Juvian Sparrow never made another sound, even as monger snapped its neck and set it on the gritty ground. As quickly as he had become a jaguar, Killmonger shifted back into his human form. Of course that meant he was standing naked in the morning sun, blood streaking his chin and golden fangs glinting beneath his lips. Harley pushed her focus onto the bird, ignoring the way his perfectly brown skin gleamed in the sunlight.

“Okay, so, there’s your bird.”

“Alright.” The pair stood there staring at each other. Harley waiting for Killmonger to shift, and Monger waiting for Harley to do something…magical. Then the pair spoke at the same time.

“Well aren’t you going to––”

“Can’t you just use magic to––” Harley gestured for Killmonger to finish.

“Can’t you just use magic to get the bones?”

“The spell won’t work if I use magic to procure the ingredients. I can’t upset the balance like that, not if I’m asking for something in return.”

Years ago, when she had first discovered magic and powers and spells, Harley attempted a prosperity spell. Or rather, she summoned a load of cash to use for a school field trip her parents told her they couldn’t afford. With a candle and a wish, the money appeared to her and she took it. She never blew out the candle or thanked the elements for bringing her the money, never once thought about where the money came from at all, but as she found, especially in magic, you can’t get something from nothing.

In the end the money ended up burning a hole in her pocket, literally. She buried it deep within in the earth, giving it back to the soil to do with it what it may. She didn’t go on the field trip, and she didn’t try another spell until she turned 18 and began her own grimoire.

“Everything about magic is reciprocal. I can’t upset that balance.” Monger looked dumbfounded.

“So magic has rules?” Harley waved her hand in the universal sign for ’50/50’ as she responded.

“More like follow the laws of nature and you’ll be fine.”

“Well it’s a good thing I shifted back. I have a feeling I’ll need opposable thumbs for this.” Harley rolled her eyes at the ridiculous statement but Monger didn’t miss the smile that curled on her lips. He liked it.

 

—l—

Earth Stream 245 : October 26, 2040

2:57PM

The trio ended up at Oakies, seated at the bar and shooting the shit, just like old times. The bar was a classic jet black, polished to perfect and currently clear of any patrons. It might have been a little early for a drink, but after their visit to the witch doctor, they all needed a drink. The couple on stage wailed about dead men walking over a country guitar.

Won’t do me no good washin’ in the river. Can’t no preacher man save my soul.

They all had their drinks. None of them had changed their orders, though today, they all ordered an extra set of shots. Erik eyed the glasses slid on the table. A Pimm’s Cup for Nakia, whisky from the highest shelf for Erik, and for Okoye…To be honest Erik still had no idea what Okoye was drinking, but he stayed away from her glass either way. The one time he took a sip from her cup, he woke up the next morning with no recollection of the night before.

“So do you think he’s right?” Okoye didn’t know what to say about Zuri Badu. At the very least the man was an enigma and Okoye had been out of her depth with this case since Erik stepped foot on her campus. At this point, she was just along for the ride.

“About?”

“Letting the universe work itself out? It’s not like he said much more. The man wasn’t exactly a sparkling conversationalist.” Erik was still bitter about that part. He had hoped he would learn more about Badu’s working theory of converging universes, but the man had been just as ambiguous as before.

That is an understatement.”

“So E, answer the question, what do you think?”

“I don’t know what to think Kia. The man speaks in riddles. Do I feel like he told us something useful? Maybe, but I’m not sober enough or drunk enough to decipher it.” With that, Erik slammed his shot back and waved for another. Zuri had plenty to say, but none of it made sense to Erik. He wasn’t nearly as poetic as he needed to be if he was going to solve this case by the full moon.

“Well I think he was telling us to prepare for her. ‘She will fall into the nest of her making’ and ‘The moon will see her home’? That’s not telling us to sit around and wait. It’s a promise. She’ll be back on the full moon, and we have to be ready for her. You have to be ready for her Erik.” Nakia had seen Erik at his worst, and this surpassed it. By a mile. Or two. She’d never seen him so broken up about a case.

“Okay. So I go back to the Golden Fang and I just wait? What about all of the people?” After three days, Erik had recommended that Jules Fay take her case to the police as well. Just to have it on file. He had no doubt that they would screw things up, and the Ortega precinct did not disappoint. They turned the alleyway into a media circus. People were always there, taking pictures right where ‘that girl disappeared’.  

“Try and get it cordoned off. Remember, we’re supposed to rid the location of any malicious beings.”

“Right.” Erik knew what he would have to do to get that alleyway cordoned off for the night of the full moon. Nakia knew he knew too. She also knew he’d drink about five more shots before acknowledging it.

“You should call the Chief.” Erik slammed back another shot. He’d already made up his mind to go visit him tomorrow.

 

—l—

Earth Stream 947 : October 26, 2040

11:09PM

The Sink isn’t actually a sink, Hazel was relieved to find. According the Angel, the Sink was in the center of the island. Angel led the four of them out of Nix’s bar and waved her hand as a few boats whizzed by before one stopped for them. N’Jadaka handed the driver the money before Angel could even bother and she stuck out her tongue. She was the popstar and the one with a doppelgänger apparently. She could pay for a boat ride.

Angel told the driver where to go in her soucouyant tongue. To Hazel and N’Jadaka the words were a garbled birdsong, confusing but enchanting all the same. There was just something about the way the words rolled off her lips that kept their attention. Hazel would have thought that she was a siren if she didn’t know any better. Being in this world for nearly a month meant that she does know better.

This boat driver wasn’t as tactile as the other, but Hazel thinks its because N’Jadaka was staring the guy down. Still, they floated their way towards the center of the Isle, passing houses and shops and even a floating hospital. As they travelled on, the buildings grew sparse. Trees grew wider and wilder, enormous frogs bumped into the boat hard enough to rock it, dolphins puttered through the water and the world grew quiet. Verdant foliage obscured the ground, and eyes peeked through the underbrush. Not silent, Hazel could still hear the crickets chirping and the waves cresting, but everything was quiet. Calm.

The driver docked at the shore of a tiny house. It was built of stone, with a wooden door and a paneless window. A few pieces of the thatched roof scratched at the house as the quintet unloaded. Terra prowled a close perimeter and returned with a snuff. Whatever she had found, she didn’t like. Bug seemed to feel the same way as she squirmed in Hazel’s arms. Soon enough the baby was on the ground, shifting into her jaguar fur and being nipped up by Terra.

“Come on.” Angel had heard of the faeries in the Sink. She’d never met one, but there’s a first time for everything.

The group padded to the door slowly. Angel knocked, and they waited. And waited. The moon was high in the sky for a moment Hazel wondered if they all shared the same one. The door creaked open before she could think any more of it.

“Uh, woah.”

The little thatch cottage was not so little, and not nearly as quaint as the exterior alluded to. A vast room stretched before them. The room with its shiny cherry wood floors, divine golden mirrors, and creatures of all kinds, could not be real. It was at least three times as large as the cottage itself. There was just no way.

“Don’t sound so impressed Hazel, this is faery magic.” N’Jadaka whispered this to Hazel, but the point was moot. He was surrounded by beings with heightened abilities.

“You scorn the name of my people and yet you come to me with a request. Interesting introduction N’Jadaka Udaku.” Angel cringed. They already had an impossible ask, and N’Jadaka was not making things easier. Any other time, she admired his snark, but now it was killing them.

“I assume you’re Roaen.”

The man in question was draped in women. Hazel wasn’t even positive he was wearing clothes. All she could see was brown butter skin and animal print. He was lounging on a tiger fur, and the women around him all wore that same print. Roaen gave a nod to Angel’s statement, and Hazel was taken aback.

Aside from the fact that she’d never even seen a faery before, he wasn’t as small as Hazel expected. Faeries in her world had always been perceived as tiny, cute, bell like beings with adorably short tempers. This guy was…not tiny by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, he was built like a house. Young, but carrying himself with the weight of a thousand years. Not dissimilar from N’Jadaka, though Hazel was smart enough to keep that thought to herself.

“I am.”

Roaen stood, and the fur beneath him took shape, morphing into a tiger. The dress the girl was wearing did the same and she was left naked, peering up at the man with hazy eyes. Jagged grey wings unfurled from his back, the only ugly thing on the man, and he jerked his head to the side. A signal for the girl to leave.

“Is he?” Hazel nodded to Bug who was lounging on Terra’s back, but N’Jadaka shook his head. The man wasn’t a shifter, just a faery. Magic is a powerful tool. Angel stepped forward discreetly, pushing Hazel behind her.

“Dia dhuit ársa amháin.” Roaen’s brow raised at the use of his native tongue, as mangled as it was, and responded with a grin. He loved messing with the young ones.

“Well, well, well. Two vampires, a human, and a shifter walk into a bar. There’s got to be a punchline there somewhere.”

“I––” Angel stuttered for something to say. This was her turf after all. “Arsa ársa, táimid tar éis teacht ar do bheannacht.”

“I’ll give you whatever you want as long as you stop butchering my language with your soucouyant accent. Dia.” Roaen laughed, and continued before Angel could close her gaping mouth. “Y’all must be in some deep shit to need a blessing from me.”

N’Jadaka, Angel and Hazel all exchanged a look. A look that debated on telling this stranger the truth. A look that implored the others to be reasonable. A look that annoyed the faery standing before them.

“Would you like me to leave?”

“Oh no Mr. Faery––Roaen––Uh, sir.” After that, the words fell out of Hazel’s mouth like apples shaken from a tree. By the end, she was winded. “So, I need your blessing to stay sane.”

“Interesting indeed.” A pause. “I’ll do it, but you need to do something for me. Quid pro quo and all of that stuff.” Hazel nodded. “I need you to get me a stone from the bottom of the Middle Well.”

The Middle Well was dangerous. At least, that’s what Angel had always been told. The well itself was rumored to be gorgeous, tranquil, enchanting, but Angel had never met anyone who had seen it first hand. No creature ever wanted to bother with the place. It was steeped in bad energy. Even N’Jadaka knew the tales of the south. That the Middle Well was more than just a scenic view, that it was a passage. An access point for those in the afterlife. That was no place for Hazel. No place for a human at all.

“No. No way. She is not diving down there.” Angel knew the faery would ask for something, but she figured it would be money, or tour merch, not this. The Middle well has no bottom. No creature has ever made it out of that water alive, let alone returned with a stone.

“Angel, I’m sure it’s not––”

“Hazel, you don’t even know what you’re agreeing to. That well is on faery land. You don’t know what you’re risking.” The stories Angel’s mother told her as a child were more than that. They were second hand accounts, memories of friends who had dived in for fun and never returned. “It’s a suicide mission.”

“It’s true that the well was built on the land of my people, but the well itself was made by the hands of hers.” Roaen nodded to Hazel lazily. “Humans built that well, and as such, we magical creatures have a hard time pulling from that place. Her on the other hand, should be fine.” Angel and N’Jadaka knew faeries couldn’t lie, but Roaen only said that she should be fine. That is not enough of a guarantee. Not by a long shot.

“Should be––” N’Jadaka had done his best to hold his tongue, he really had, but things were spiraling.

“There has to be another way––” Angel couldn’t let this happen. She couldn’t let her alternate self die. They had to find another way out of this––

“I’ll do it.” Hazel had been silent through most of the argument, letting Angel take the reigns. She was just a human after all. Apparently, in this instance, that worked in her favor.

“Hazel you can’t––”

“Angel, do you trust yourself?”

“Of course.”

“Then trust me. I’m basically you.” Angel relented to Hazel’s weak smile and shrug, hating that her words worked against her. She’d just have to find a way to keep her alternate self alive. No pressure.

—l—

Earth Stream 328 : October 26, 2040

8:18AM

“Alright, I’ll pluck it and you shuck it.” Monger would be damned if he had to do all of the work for this witch. In all honesty, he didn’t mind the hunt, the early morning rides, even the cacti, but he needed a resolution. This bird was the key to Ayana and he’d done more than his fair share.

“I don’t know how to do that!” Harley’s frustration oozed out of her words, though it wasn’t all directed towards Monger. This may be the first time she wished she knew how to debone a bird, but that didn’t make the feeling any less true. Up until now, Killmonger had done all of the work and it irked her to no end that she still needed help.

“You’re a witch, ain’t dismemberment in your blood?”

“Oh fuck off Monger.”

“You seriously don’t know?”

“No. I never had a teacher okay?” Oma and Shuri were the closest Harley had come to having any sort of mentors, and they were a 4 hour ride away.

“So how did you learn control?” Killmonger wasn’t stupid. Sure he blamed Ayana’s disappearance on Harley, but at this point even he knew that was bullshit. There were bigger things at play here and he’d seen Harley’s powers enough to know that she had a good grip on them. He’d watched her play with Ayana, pulling rabbits from behind rocks and making the sand shine as she blew it from her fingertips. Harley had control, and if she didn’t have a teacher, how did she get it?

“I had to teach myself for the most part. My siblings helped sometimes. Sort of.” Harley cringed at the memory of performing magic in front of her family. The required love that lasted until you moved out of the family house, or were kicked out. Whichever one came first.

“Well come over and I’ll teach you.”

 

—l—

Earth Stream 947 : October 26, 2040

11:09PM

Hazel knew clicking her heels with a chorus of ‘there’s no place like home’ wouldn’t be the thing to get her back to her own life, but she didn’t expect diving for some stone would be the answer either. She supposed she shouldn’t have even tried to guess at this point. She was out of her depth, literally.

N’Jadaka made Roaen state the deal before they left. He’d mentioned to Hazel that even though Fae couldn’t lie, they still loved to omit things and play with promises. She was glad to see that N’Jadaka and Angel wouldn’t let that happen to her.

“The Middle Well was built by your kind. Or shall I say on your kind.” Roaen began his story as they trekked through the woods behind his home. The streams were small enough to hop over now and Hazel savored the crunch of the leaves as she jumped. Bug  and Terra were having a grand old time too.

“That does’t make sense.” Angel and N’Jadaka spoke in sync and Roaen rolled his eyes. He was surprised at how…dutifully they protected their human charge.

“The early humans, the ones here before vampires and shifters and phoenix’s, they had an idea about the afterlife. You see they studied the tides. The watched them give and take. They watched the waves roll out into the sun and they thought that that was the only way to Elysium. Through water, through the ocean.”

“When they found this land, laden with streams and rivers all rolling out into the ocean, they decided to craft a well. A funeral space basically. For centuries they burned the bodies of their dead, praying as the fire kissed them to ash. Then they came to the Middle Well, they sprinkled the ashes into the water and watched as the connecting streams and rivers pulled their loved ones away, away, and out to sea. Out to the sun, moon and stars.”

They made it. The Middle Well was not what Hazel expected. It didn’t look like a well at all, more like a pool. It was in the shape of a half moon, stones built up on the sides to guide the water. Four streams connected to the mouth of the well, pushing the water to ebb and flow.

“This doesn’t look deep enough to dive into.” Hazel had been swimming. Hell, she used to dive in high school and this pool was not nearly deep enough. She couldn’t exactly see the bottom of the pool, but there were only three stone steps leading into the pool. It couldn’t be deep enough.

“The last human I met here said promised it was plenty deep.”

“So you do this a lot to humans?” N’Jadaka couldn’t stand the faerie’s casual tone. If Hazel was about to dive to her death for some pebble, the guy could at least show some respect.

“This well may have been build by humans but it is on fae land. It’s deep enough.” Angel could see the tick in Roaen’s jaw. His annoyance was obvious and she wondered if her hid a monstrous face behind the pretty one they saw. For a moment, she wished she could see beyond his faery glamour. Just so she knew exactly what they were dealing with.

“Alright well, wish me luck.” Hazel had stripped down to her underwear while the vampires were studying Roaen. She padded to the stone steps and Bug did her best to follow her on four legs. She turned, pushing the cub back towards N’Jadaka and Angel. Terra came and grabbed her by the scruff. Then she sat at the top step with Bug, like they were already waiting for Hazel to return. Hazel didn’t bother looking at her promised protectors, knowing their worry wouldn’t help her now. Instead, she turned to Roaen.

“Just one stone?”

“Just one. Ádh mór.”

She waded into the pool slowly. Counting each stone step she took. After the third, the world dropped out from under her and she fell. N’Jadaka and Angel had to hold themselves back. They knew interference was against the rules. if the so much as touched that well, their whole deal could be nullified by Roaen.

Hazel drifted back to the surface of the clear water, doing her best to stay clam. She had no idea what she was doing, but she decided to tread towards the sides of the well, hoping to catch an errant stone from there. After about five minutes of scrambling with her hands, she made peace with the fact that there would be no shortcuts. Not on Faery land.

Three strokes brought her to the center of the pool. A deep, swimmers breath filled her lungs. Then, heart in her chest and eyes wide open, she dove. The water was cold, pricking at her skin as she pushed. Deeper and deeper she swam, knowing that in a while she’d be too deep to save herself. She hadn’t swam in a long time. She wasn’t nearly as strong as she used to be. Deeper and deeper still, and no stones. Not even moss, or frogs or kelp. Nothing lived down here.

Before she could turn back she heard something. A sigh, no, a scream. The sound rang through Hazel’s ears, clear as day. She swam deeper, towards the sound. Breathing was the least of her worries if someone was down there. A few strokes further and an image flashed across her eyes. A bloody chest, scaly tail, and a face like hers. Hazel pushed back, away from the image, but it was in her head. More started coming, more blood, more pain, more death. And it was all her, every different version of her as she died, crying and screaming and gurgling through their last moments.

Hazel felt paralyzed. She let the water pull her deeper as the visions flashed through her mind. She cried as she saw her death over and over and over. Hazel was trapped. Stuck in this well, a hostage to the universe’s plans for her alternate selves. Then her hand brushed something smooth. The feeling of something in this empty pool, anything was enough to shock Hazel out of her stupor. She grasped, and pulled a stone free. It came loose easily, and the visions stopped. No screaming or crying or blood.

She was free. Hazel kicked her way up, up, and up. Further and further as her vision faltered. Her heart was on overload, she wasn’t going to make it. She didn’t have enough breath in her body. She couldn’t have enough breathe in her body. It was humanly possible. Her vision blackened as she rev another push, and then she broke the surface. Sputtering, gasping, alive, Hazel made her way to the stone steps, rock in hand.

Roaen was there to pull her up, and he sat with her at the mouth of the well. He hovered his hand over her shivering body, and murmured something ancient. She followed his hand, and for a second she thought she saw claws. He continued, and she peered up at his face. It was hideous, half peeled and rotting. His blessing came at a cost to the both of them.

“There, you’re blessed.”

“That’s it?” Hazel could hardly believe it. She didn’t feel any different, but she wasn’t a faery either. Roaen nodded.

“Now, leave me. I’ll need some time to reconstruct my glamour.” Hazel nodded, noting how he never turned from her, keeping his back to everyone else. “Oh and one more thing,” He tossed the stone to Hazel. “Hold onto this. I have a feeling you might need it one day.”

 

—l—

Earth Stream 245 : October 27, 2040

9:22AM

The Ortega precinct was just as quiet as Erik remembered. Kinsey and Roles were still at their desk through sour worms at each other, Coles was still color coding her reports, and Frig still sat in his sergeants chair taller than he should. The receptionist waved him in with a manicured nail and a bitten lip and Erik rolled his eyes. Every little thing reminding him exactly why he left the force.

He mocked a salute to Kinsey and Roles as he passed his and Okoye’s old desks, still empty. They weren’t bad cops, just goofy. Frig straightened even taller somehow nodding to Erik as he knocked on the Chief’s door. There was no nameplate glistening at the handle or glittering on the glass. Just shuttered bulletproof windows that vibrated when the Chief’s accented voice shouted ‘Enter.’

“Well if it ain’t my favorite detective. Stevens, how the hell are you boy?” Erik cringed like he always did when the chief called him ‘boy’, but exchanged pleasantries either way. After being ushered into a set before the Chief, Erik finally relaxed. This used to be his normal, bringing cases to the Chief’s office with Okoye and finding new angles, sitting before the Chief and groaning about the grind. Though it was comfortable, in the end, it wasn’t worth it, it wasn’t nearly enough for Erik or Okoye.

“Well then, what brings you by? I know you’re not here to rejoin the force.” The Chief stated this with a pained laugh, and Erik shrugged it off. He didn’t need to feel guilty for leaving.

“Chief Klaue. I need a favor.”

“What kind of favor?”

“Tomorrow night, I need you to cordon off the alley behind The Golden Fang.” Erik didn’t mention anything about full moons or alternate universes. He had a feeling The Chief would be less inclined to help if he though Erik had gone off of the deep end.

“That shitty club? Why?”

“I’m looking for someone.”

“Is that someone going to be in that club?” A breath and another question. “Stevens are you into anything illegal?”

“No Chief. This isn’t illegal.”

“Then why not go through the proper channels?” Erik rolled his eyes at the thought of getting a permit from City Hall. He’d been in his late eighties before the paperwork even went through.

“It’s for a case. A very time sensitive case.”

“A case that isn’t police business. Stevens I can’t just––” Klaue could, and Erik knew that. It’s why he was here in the first place. The Golden Fang was in his jurisdiction, and he only needed the alley blocked off for a night. He just needed it empty long enough for Hazel to…come back.

“I’ve never asked you for anything Chief. Not one damn time. Even when I was on the force. Trust me when I say I’ll never ask again, but I need you to do this. Officially.” Chief Klaue heaved a sigh. The damn boy was right. If this was the biggest thing his best detective could ask for, he’d better count his blessings.

“Fine. I hope you find who you’re looking for. And call me when you’re ready to rejoin the force Stevens. We miss you around here.”

 

—l—

Earth Stream 947 : October 31, 2040

7:12PM

They pulled up to the Golden Fang as the sun was setting. The journey back had been…difficult to say the least. Bug started teething. Sure she had fangs as a jaguar, but her human teeth were pushing through now, and the girl was not happy. The car was filled with her pained cries as the supernatural creatures in the car stuffed their ears. Hazel did her best to placate the baby, eventually giving her her finger to naw on. It turned her cries into whimpers, and they were all grateful. The second they hit the blood club Hazel was behind the bar, filling a clean rag with ice cubes.

Finally. You’re back! I’ve been waiting ages! How did everything go?” Shuri paused. “Wait. What is wrong with her?”

“She’s teething Shuri.”

“Yikes.” She shuddered and turned to N’Jadaka. “So?”

“Well, we got the blessing.” Angel snorted at his tone. There wasn’t much ‘we’ about it, Hazel had done the heavy lifting, and she respected the human––her alternate self for that. N’Jadaka did too, though he’d be loathe to admit it.

“And just in time. Better hurry, the moon is almost up.”

The group made our way towards the back of the bar, standing at the door where Hazel first entered the Golden Fang. Bug had stopped crying, and she was chomping happily at the icy cloth in her mouth. Tear tracks dried on her face, but she looked more like she did when Hazel first found her.

“Okay, Queen Mother told me what to do, so…I’ve got this.” Shuri waved to Hazel and Bug. “I’ve got to put you two into a salt circle, so, uh…” Shuri pulled the pair into a hug, doing her best not to squeeze too tightly.

“Thanks for proving me right. Especially because I got to prove N’Jadaka wrong.” She winked and pranced back, making space for N’Jadaka and Angel. Terra barreled between them and pounced on Hazel. Tackling her and Bug into a hug. Hazel let the two play one last time as she turned to N’Jadaka and Angel.

“So, uh, thanks for not eating me the first time we met.” N’Jadaka’s mouth quirked in a smirk and he shrugged.

“You’re not really my type, but you’re a better human than I expected. Even if you are a little slow––” Angel cut off his teasing with a smack and pulled Hazel close.

“It was nice to meet you. Or well, me. You still have the stone right?” Hazel nodded reaching into her pocket to feel its smooth edges. “Good. That way, you can come back and visit.” Angel squeezed Hazel a little tighter, and stepped back, taking Terra and N’Jadaka with her.

“Okay. Moon’s almost up, We’ve got to move.”

Shuri positioned Hazel and Bug before the door. She drew a semi circle of salt around them, lighting four candles on the way. She spritzed them with moon water, and sent a prayer to Bast. Then, she turned to Hazel.

“You have your talisman right?”

“My phone? Yeah.” Hazel fished it out of her pocket and pressed the home button, still disappointed when the screen didn’t illuminate.

“Tragic.” Hazel rolled her eyes.

“Shuri.”

“Sorry, sorry. Okay, Hold your phone and think of your world. Only your world. When I open this door, I want you to step through, and let go of Bug.” Hazel’s eyes flashed to Shuri in alarm. She wasn’t just going to drop a baby.

“Trust me. She’ll make it back to her world and you’ll make it back to yours. This door opens the universe, so you have to stay focused on your world or you could end up somewhere else completely. Again.” Hazel nodded and gripped her phone. She gave Bug one last glance and a kiss on the forehead. She’d miss the little troublemaker. Then Shuri opened the doorway and it was filled with the moon.

 

—l—

Earth Stream 328 : October 31, 2040

8:16PM

Jet at the north. Celtic salt at the south. Cypress root to the west. The bones of a Juvian Sparrow to the east. A scrying bowl full to the brim with a dark, witching potion. All connected with a chalk circle on the wooden floor of the Golden Fang. Oma suggested that she do the spell and scrying in the place she was most comfortable, and even though Monger looked about ready to blow a gasket from his place behind the bar, he allowed her to stay. He even closed out the bar for the night. She only saw the moon as the Jags stumbled out, it was full and brighter than she’d ever seen. Hopefully that was a good sign.

The spell was easy. She had all of the components. She’d spoken the words until they slipped from her lips in her sleep. She knew her magic wouldn’t fail her in this. The scrying was the hard part. She’d only done it a few times more since that first time with Oma, and the nerves licked at her calm like flames.

Surrounded by candles and crystals Harley knelt on the paneled wooden floor. The spell was done in minutes, opening up the space in the circle to…anything. Hopefully she’d be pulling Ayana through the crack she’d created and re-warding the place as soon as possible. Harley hated the idea of opening the Golden Fang up to anything. One never knew what waited in the veil between worlds.

She turned her attention to the scrying bowl, grabbing it with both hands and sitting it in her lap. This time, as she saw her reflection in the liquid, she did her best to hone in on Ayana’s energy. Monger watched as Harley stopped blinking. He’s pretty sure she stopped breathing, but she’d warned him not to interrupt her. Not for anything.

Harley started with the version of herself she’d seen wrapped up with Ayana’s aura. Pale yellow curled around fuchsia. Now that she knew what she was looking for, they weren’t hard to find. The girl, and her rockstar counterpart were both mingling with Ayana’s essence, but before Harley could coax her aura out to pull Ayana back, the baby fell. Only, she wasn’t falling to the ground. Ayana was tumbling through worlds.

Harley could see tens and hundreds and thousands of creatures like her. A mermaid in one. A succubus in another. A crane. A child. A snake. A knight. She was everything and one thing, but Killmonger appeared in them too. He was her equal, then opposite, her friend, then enemy. Everything and one thing.

Harley tried to focus. Tried to follow Ayana’s aura streaking through the universe. Tried to grab a hold of the girl she cared so deeply for, but somewhere between her queen self and shaman self, she lost her baby girl. Killmonger couldn’t watch any longer. Harley hadn’t breathed in nearly two minutes. He wanted Ayana back more than anyone could know, but he wouldn’t let Harley die searching for her.

Rounding the bar and breaking Harley’s chalk circle Monger reached a hand to her arm. Electricity crackled up to his shoulder as Monger’s fingers wrapped around Harley’s arm. Her inhale was so sharp her body rolled. Shoulders fell back, down her spine. Head lolled away from her scrying bowl, but her eyes, her eyes were still blank.

Monger slid his hand from her arm to her chin. Gentle fingers lifted her face to his. Eyes unfocused. His mouth curved around her name, just a whisper. A breath ghosting past her lips. And then, a pop.

“I told you she was a trouble maker.” Harley was lucid enough to see that Monger finally had his arms full again, and she grinned right before passing out. 

 

—l—

Earth Stream 245 : October 31, 2040

9:25PM

Hazel landed on the hard asphalt with a thump and a huff, the wind rushing out of her. She could see the moon, full and bright shining down on her from its place in the deep dark sky. She breathed in the crisp fall air, and her phone began to vibrate in her pocket. It wouldn’t stop actually, buzzing with a months worth of missed notifications. Hazel breathed out a sigh. She made it. Limbs and sanity intact. Just as she was about to cry in relief, someone cleared his throat.

“Hazel Fay?”

“Yes?”

“My name is Erik Stevens. I’m a detective. Your mother hired me to find you.”

“Oh.” A pause as she processed this, and then. “Oh shit.” Erik’s lips curled into a rueful grin.

“Can you tell me where you’ve been?”

“You wouldn’t believe me if I told you the truth.” Hazel shook her head after responding. Hell, she could hardly believe what had happened.

“Try me.”


Translations

ugqirha: witch doctor

—l—

Dia dhuit ársa amháin: Hello ancient one (Irish)

Arsa ársa, táimid tar éis teacht ar do bheannacht: Ancient one, we’ve come to you for a blessing (Irish)

Dia: God (Irish)

—l—

Ádh mór: Good luck (Irish)


 

Chapter Text

Thanks for reading! :)