Detective Lisa Reynolds was fuming. At the moment, she was driving her department-issued vehicle with the police lights off. A few hours ago, she had presented her suspicions—again—regarding the group of witches whom she believed were responsible for the disappearance of two young girls in the southern Vermont region. Eyewitness testimonies about members of the group being seen near neighborhoods were they Her boss had called it ridiculous, telling her that her obsession with the “new-age hippies” who were “probably just Myrddin groupies” was apparently harming the morale of the investigation. I need something; a new lead, anything.
She immediately regretted that thought when a young man suddenly appeared in the middle of the highway. “What the—?!” Lisa immediately hit the brakes of her vehicle, barely hitting him. She opened the door and stepped out of the car, hand resting on her taser.
“Where the hell did you come from?” Lisa took a few steps in his direction.
The young man groaned and looked up, wincing at the bright headlights. He was boyish-looking, tall with bright blue eyes. A large messenger bag was slung around his shoulder. He mumbled.
“Something went wrong. It never felt like that before. Who are…”
He blinked, looking at her.
She froze. Lisa drew her taser and pointed it at him.
“How do you know that name?”
He raised his hands up in a panic.
“Wait, no, you’re Mrs. Reynolds. It’s me, the boyfriend!” The young man suddenly squinted at her. “Wait, why are you wearing a police uniform?”
“My daughter is in a long-term relationship with her girlfriend. Who are you?”
The young man looked even more confused. “My name is Declan,” He stood up, swaying a bit from the effort. “Look, can you stop pointing that? It doesn’t work on m—,” Lisa fired. Declan fell to the ground, shaking and twitching. She slowly walked forward, then crouched to see his unconscious face. Lisa frowned.
“Well. This is going to be a long night.”
My body felt heavy. I groaned, trying to adjust myself to a comfortable position, only to discover that my wrists were cuffed, arms behind my back. Great. Wonderful. I looked around, trying to see details through my squinting eyelids. I was alone in the back of a sedan. How the hell did I get here? I tried to remember the last twenty-four hours.
Artifacts. We were trying to collect a strange magical artifact. With Omega’s intervention, the world’s nations had no control over their nuclear weapons. Thus, they turned to more arcane sources of mass-destruction: magical objects recorded in myths and legends that could supposedly harness the power of greater beings—in this case, Earth elementals. Well, more “get their attention and most likely piss them off,” which tends to be more highly destructive to the wielder than to the enemy. We figured that we’d collected all of them, and turned our focus into preparations for the defense of Earth. However, a few weeks ago, one of Omega’s reconnaisance drones that he’d tasked to find possible spots for defense installations found an energy signature in one of Cuba’s many islands. The weird thing was, there wasn’t any stories, myths, or legends that could connect with its appearance in the island chain. Once Omega recognized the signature, Chris, Stacia, and myself immediately went to locate and retrieve it. When we got there, we found a circular formation of black crystals protruding from the ground. Chris felt uncomfortable at its presence, but I remember being entranced by it. It was leaking so much magical power. I was walking myself closer when—oh. Stacia’s going to be so pissed; if I ever get back home. I stretched again, feeling the weight of the nanotech smartwatch strapped on my left wrist.
“Omega.” I whispered. No response. I was about to ask again when I heard a beep.
“Status: Main computation node inaccessible. Connection failed; could not find appropriate quantum signatures. Switched to core programming.” A flat voice intoned from the smartwatch. No connection? How could that happen?! Quantum entanglement allows for instantaneous communication across any length of distance. Not having a connection could only happen if I was in a different—.
My thoughts were interrupted by the car door opening.
“You hungry?” A woman’s voice. She peered into the back of the car. Blonde locks framed her face, hard green eyes staring at me. More memories came back to me: Lisa Reynolds, Stacia’s mother…and apparently a cop? How did that happen? And how the hell did I get tased? My stomach growled before I could form a coherent response. She raised her eyebrow. “I’ll let you eat if you don’t anything weird.”
I mumbled my acceptance, and she pulled herself back out of the car. She opened the door next to me and gestured for me to turn my back to her. I complied. She slipped the cuffs off my wrist, glancing at the sleek watch for a moment before offering me the plastic bag. Heavenly smells wafted out of the opening and I plunged my aching arms in, retrieving a paper-wrapped hamburger. God, I was so hungry. I unwrapped it and dove in, tastes exploding in my mouth and eating large chunks off the burger. Reynolds looked at me for a moment, then spoke.
“So, want to tell me who you are?” She questioned. I frowned a bit. Okay, not to be a narcissistic asshole, but my face had been broadcasted on a handful of television stations after all the stuff we pulled. Unless...
“My name is Declan O’Carroll. I was born in Burlington, Vermont, and I went to Castlebury High School.”
Reynolds looked at me closely, then nodded. “You’re not from around here. Or at least, not from this version of ‘around here.’ Your wallet has dollar bills instead of coins, and your driver’s license has a slightly different design than I’m used to seeing.” So, I really did get transported to a different universe. Really cool; also kinda worrying. She stood upright, retreating slightly from the door. “I also checked out your phone earlier. Different OS, and the lock screen has quite an interesting picture on it.” I remembered just which picture I set and my cheeks reddened. “Yes, it’s quite strange for me to see my daughter in such a… provocative pose. So, do you want to explain why you’re here instead of Aleph?”
I coughed and got myself back together, then frowned. “Aleph? What’s that?” Reynolds looked at me in confusion. “Didn’t you know about the alternate Earths? Earth Aleph is a version of Earth Bet but with a lot less capes. We almost went to war when contact was made with that world.” Earth Bet? Capes?
I shook my head. “I think I would notice if Earth suddenly was connected to different versions of itself. What are capes?” Lisa looked truly shocked. “Capes are people with superpowers. Flight, laser beams, super-strength, that sort of thing?“
“Sounds like a comic book plot.” I remarked. “I mean, I know that humans with powers existed. Werewolves, vampires, witches and all that.” She was looking quite incredulous, but froze at the last one. “Witches?”
“Uh, yeah? I mean, I’m a witch myself.” I blurted out. She stepped back, hand going to her sidearm. Oh, crap. I almost raised my hands in surrender, then realized what that would look like and stopped myself.
“So… witches are real then? The whole brewing potions and casting curses thing is real?” Lisa asked, a serious expression on her face.
“Well, to my Earth, yes. Don’t know about this one.” I was still looking at her sidearm. She turned to follow my vision and removed her hand from the gun. She looked at me, face clearing of expression.
So I told her. I told her about werewolves and vampires and how they get their powers from getting infected by specific types of viruses. I also explained about witches and their circles, how powers are usually transferred from mother to daughter, and how their families go back centuries, partners carefully selected to strengthen the bloodline. She was incredulous about the parts regarding werewolves and vampires, but she nodded thoughtfully when it came to the witches.
“So, why do you want to know about witches exactly?” I asked. She looked at me for a moment, then spoke.
“I’ve been investigating a group of self-proclaimed witches for their possible involvement in the disappearance of two young girls in the southern Vermont area. I shared my suspicions with the captain, but he’s not really receptive to it. When I went to the PRT—,” She looked at my puzzled expression and explained further. “Parahuman Response Team. They’re the group tasked with responding to cases involving superpowers.” She scowled. “They rejected my request for assistance, telling me—in polite terms, of course—that magic does not exist and that there was likely no parahuman involvement. They also reported me to the captain. He wasn’t happy with that, and he implied that I was going to be let go soon.”
She sighed in frustration and stared at me. “However, you seem to know about witches. You claim that their powers are real, and I believe you about that. If you can help me with locating this group, I promise that I’ll help you with your situation, as much as I can anyway.” I thought about it. “If I don’t?”
She narrowed her eyes. “The PRT would be remarkably curious about a person from another world finding themselves in Earth Bet. They’d probably be asking a lot of questions from you, and you probably won’t be leaving for a long time.” I gulped. Yeah, getting interrogated by the federal government isn’t exactly my idea of a good time.
“Okay. I’ll help. But why would you trust me, uh, ma’am?”
She paused. “You know my daughter—or at least, a different version of her. I figure if you knew my family well enough that I could at least trust you.” Reynolds stared at me with hard eyes. “If it turns out that I’m wrong, I will not be happy.”
I gulped. The expression on her face was quite familiar to me; the only thing missing was the low growl and yellowed eyes. “Yes, Detective.”