Daze sat at a computer, staring at the screen in complete bewilderment. The Wizard she'd marked had spontaneously disappeared – she'd assumed he'd died – and then had re-appeared. Now he was apparently swimming across the Atlantic Ocean – A feat that, at the speed he was going, she thought highly unlikely.
Either it's a glitch, she mused to herself, or…
She switched the model to 3D, and immediately saw what she'd missed – he was over a kilometre up in the air.
He's on a plane, she realized. Damn it, how can I follow him now?
Her train of thought was interrupted by a separate buzzer going off. She spun in her chair, her human legs pushing it in to a spinning motion, to look at a different screen. Her breath caught in her throat as she saw the flashing dots.
There were five Chol closing in on Padmal's apartment. Rapidly.
She was already dressed in her battle clothing. So her only time expense was opening the door and shooting out – she already had little to none of the stuff left. Padmal had perhaps minutes left before they struck.
She arrived at the apartment, and could already see three Chol in human form standing around it, looking up at the top floors. Daze could only assume that the other two were on the other side of the building.
The Penguis leaped in to action immediately. She pulled out a pistol from her belt, and shot two of them in the backs of their heads before they realized she was there. The third turned, and threw up a shield, blocking her bullet and sending it ricocheting off to skid off the wall. The Chol then shattered her shield, and sent the shards flying at Daze. She summoned a wind to slam them in to the wall, and then whipped several bricks out of said wall, and shot them at the Chol.
The woman dodged, smiled, and then hissed "Nice try, scum. Better luck next time. You Penguis are all lousy sho-"
She was cut off by Daze shooting her through the face. She dropped to the ground, and the Penguis stepped over her body.
"Time to take out the other two," she murmured, half to herself.
Far above her, Padmal heard the shots, and put down the book he was reading – one of his favourites, The Life of Pi. Although it regrettably didn't contain any trains in it, he found it thoroughly enjoyable, especially because it was about an Indian moving to Canada.
He walked to the window, and looked out in time to see a hooded figure dash around the side of the apartment building. His eyes widened when he saw the bodies on the ground, blood seeping from them.
"Damn it," he muttered, and ran to the door. He threw on his coat and shoes, and then reached in to his closet, and pulled a worn hunting rifle out. He quickly loaded it, then raced down the stairs and outside the back of the building just in time to see Daze stow her still slightly smoking pistol on her belt. She then turned to him, and his breath caught in his throat.
"Er… hello," he said awkwardly.
Daze cocked her head in confusion, and said, "Aren't you scared of me? I just killed two men!"
"So?" laughed Padmal, walking over to the nearest corpse, and feeling its jaw. "It's a Chol, or a Wizard, isn't it? If you've killed them, and haven't killed me yet, I know I've got nothing the fear. Are you the one who talked to Zemy?"
"Is Zemy that Israeli guy who lives near the river?"
Technically, anywhere was relatively near the river, but Padmal nodded, and said "I guess that's a yes. What do you want with me?"
"I've been protecting you, human. Sorry, I don't know your name. All I know is, there's a death warrant curse placed on your head – I don't know who by, it could have been either faction – and every warrior within two hundred kilometres have been converging on your apartment. The only reason you're not dead yet is the Chol and the Wizards fighting each other here, and my killing the assassins."
"I'm pretty sure my own skill at dodging bullets had some effect," Padmal remarked dryly, and Daze laughed.
"Not really. If it weren't for the bounty on your head, I wouldn't even believe they were after you…" she noticed the rifle held limply in his hands, and said, "…though that rifle might also convince me. Though the fact you even know what the hell I'm talking about might also be an indicator. Isn't that illegal?"
"Nah," Padmal shrugged. "I've got a hunting permit. I like hunting. Hunting is cool."
Daze stared at him silently for what felt like a minute, and then asked, "Who are you?"
Padmal leaned on his rifle, and, grinning broadly, proclaimed, "I am Padmal Dakshi. I am a warrior, I am a hunter, and I am an Indian-Canadian. I'm the world's first, and only, human Magic-Hunter."
There was a long, awkward pause, and then Daze said, "Well damn. Looks like I was right in saving you." She extended her hand towards the arms-toting man, and smiled warmly.
He hesitated, and then took her hand.
In the distance, police sirens began to wail.
"So, how do you go about… doing what you do?"
Daze sipped a cup of tea in Padmal's living room, staring around her. Everywhere, pictures of different locomotives, spewing smoke, steam, or simply not spewing anything. It had quite an odd effect on the room at large, and Daze wasn't totally sure it was a pleasant one.
"I… see you've got a hobby," she said, and Padmal nodded happily.
"Yeah," He said, smiling. "I like trains."
He put down his tea cup, and stared intently at the Penguis's odd, split face.
"You're not a Wizard or a Chol," he stated, and Daze shook her head. "What are you?"
"I'm a Penguis," she said. "We control Antarctica."
"Yeah," She nodded, taking a sip of her tea cup. "Penguis."
There was a moment of awkward silence, and then Padmal cleared his throat and said, "So, uh, will you be offended if I ask who the Penguis are?"
"Nah," grinned Daze, setting her teacup down next to Padmal's. "It's more what we are. You know about PFs?"
Padmal nodded, and Daze said, "Well, we don't have 'em in the usual sense. This is them – our OFs are something completely different. We wouldn't be able to survive full time in the Antarctic in this shape, we'd freeze to death. So our OFs are different from the Wizards, and even the Chol by now – we're not human."
Padmal raised his eyebrows, and said, softly, "Show me."
Daze took a breath, and then light began to emanate from her skin, rays piercing the layers to launch out of her body, forcing her onlooker to look away in order to prevent himself being blinded. When he could finally look back, before him was a tall, graceful form. A lean Emperor Penguin stared down at him.
"Oh my God," he whispered, his eyes as wide as plates.
Yeah, I figured that was what your reaction would be, Daze laughed, her voice ringing inside his head. I can't speak any human languages in this form – don't have the right vocal chords – so I have to communicate with you telepathically.
Padmal nodded speechlessly, and the penguin appeared to grin at him. You look shocked.
"I am shocked," Padmal replied slowly, his eyes slowly returning to their normal size, and his look of shock fading. "I've just… er, never seen anything like that before."
I don't doubt it. However, I didn't come here to sit and have tea, however pleasant that may be.
"Why're you here, then?" Padmal asked, tilting his head to one side curiously. The emperor penguin turned to stare out of his window, and her shoulders seemed to droop somewhat.
Well, I originally came to save your sorry butt from those Chol, but I have a problem I think you can help with. You're on summer break, correct?
A Wizard I marked for tracking is currently on a plane, I believe for France. It's safe to presume that he's with a platoon of some sort – he'd be insane to go anywhere in the eastern hemisphere without one.
"So you want me to follow him and find out what's going on?"
Padmal sighed, and Daze looked confused.
Is that a problem?
"Sort of… I just got back from France a month ago. I was hunting a Wizard doing precision strikes in Paris – He'd killed 19 people before I took him down. It's been causing riots, because I caught video of it, and released it to the public.
The penguin's eyes went wide, and she squawked. You told the public about magic?
"Of course not," Padmal scoffed. "He was in an elephant form."
There was a moment of silence, and then Padmal said "I don't have the money for a return trip."
The Penguin tipped her head, and clicked her beak. Then she smiled, and transformed back in to a human, light radiating out of her. When Padmal could look back, she'd already pulled the majority of her clothing on, and was just closing the zip on the hoodie. She put the belt of weapons back on, and then grinned at Padmal. "You look shocked."
"Once again, yes, I am. Wouldn't you be if you found out that penguins were magical?"
"Well come on," Daze scoffed. "Everyone knew that!"
Padmal gave her a pained look, and she laughed.
"Anyways," she continued, "I just put $50 000 in your bank account. I presume that's enough for a flight to Paris?"
Padmal just stared.
The plane had a bumpy landing, coming on to the runway at an odd angle. Padmal gripped his seat, his teeth clenched as he feared the hunk of metal would explode in to fantastic flames. He shook as he grabbed his carry-on, and got off the plane.
He was in a small airport outside of Paris. He'd caught a flight to London, and then a small chartered flight to the small town. He knew it was likely the Chol were monitoring the International Airport, and he didn't want to get caught. He glanced at his new wrist watch, and saw a black-and-white face on it.
"I take it you've landed?" Daze purred in a slightly off-putting way. Padmal nodded, and she smiled.
"Brilliant. Hire a taxi in to the west end, and set up base. I'll guide you from here."
Padmal nodded, and Daze's face faded away, leaving it a normal, albeit fancy wristwatch. He'd bought it, on Daze's instruction, at Heathrow Airport. She could use the gold in it to contact him using her magic.
A fell wind blew across his face through the open window as he rode in the taxi in to western Paris, and though he couldn't sense them, several pairs of eyes stared at the car, analyzing the face, before flitting away. Padmal paid the taxi driver, and then pulled his luggage in to a large hotel.
As he entered the lobby, he saw a man reading the guestbook. Another was lounging in an armchair, reading a book. He walked over, and checked in, and then put -his stuff down on a trolley, which a bellboy took to his room – Room 610. He then noticed the man reading the guestbook had turned to look at him. He had blond hair, and wore a skin-tight black t-shirt and black jeans.
The man smirked and turned away. Padmal felt something rise up in him that screamed "magic!" He shuddered, and hurried over to a nearby elevator, in order to go up to his room.
James glanced through the guestbook, the Indian man he'd seen already out of mind. He then turned and grinned at his partner.
"Found him. Doctor Argent Headley. Founder of the 17th legion. He checked in two days ago, and he's still here."
"How did you get that from a guestbook?" Mickey asked.
"What guestbook…?" James asked mysteriously, and moved aside. There, where he'd been standing, was a small, touch-screen terminal, from which he'd magically accessed all of the hotel's data.
"Yeah, but how're we gonna get him? He's probably got a ton of guards.
"Yeah? So what?" smirked James. "We'll nab him tonight."
And with of a snap of his hand, he turned the terminal back in to the guestbook.
The words "enjoy your stay" in brass letters on the top of the page seemed to taunt him as he walked away.