Chapter Forty-Nine: Formicarius

DDHA Inspector Ronald Vanhurst nursed his mid-morning cup of tea in the corner-booth of the Camel Stop Diner while skimming The West Australian, trying not to think too hard about what he expected to find later that noon.

He glanced over his newspaper at Agent Louis Becker, who appeared to be consuming his toast and black coffee in the gaps between Vanhurst’s eyeblinks. The inspector decided to break the ice.

“Says here the Flying Man dropped in on the South African Parliament yesterday.”

That instantly caught Agent Becker’s attention, while Inspector Vanhurst just as instantly realized he had picked the wrong small-talk subject.

“What’s he done now?” the American asked in his cool, yet interrogative, Midwestern manner.

Ronald sighed softly. The poor inspector’s life the past few weeks had been a river of unwelcome news. First he drew the office shit-stick, condemning him with having to make the bi-annual inspection of Timothy Valour’s pet experiment. Then he got word that the old bloke in charge of said experiment was using it to run some crazy teenage breeding scheme, almost immediately followed by the news that Northam had been attacked by supervillains, one of whom was still at large, and that the Institute was apparently in a state of anarchy. So now Ron’s box-ticking mission had turned into the bastard child of a reconnaissance mission in hostile territory and a child welfare visit—as performed by a man trained to inspect safety railings in tinning plants.

And then, finally, there was Agent Becker, his DOPO1 shadow for the trip.  

Still, he started it. “Apparently he told the South Africans they were giving the blacks back the franchise, or else everyone in the country would wake up with their colours swapped.” Ron chuckled. “Think he could do it?”

“He’s overplaying his hand,” Agent Becker said authoritatively. “If he’s so unstoppable, why did he bother being quiet when he took out the nukes?”

Vanhurst shrugged. “Maybe he was bored? Maybe the Flying Man is just what happens when you can do anything and don’t have anything better to do.”

Louis shook his head. “He has to know he’s not unique.”

Ron raised a greying eyebrow. “Know a Flying Lady, do ya?”

“Nothing and nobody is special, Vanhurst. If there isn’t already another Flying Man out there, someone will invent him eventually.”

“Then how will we handle that bloke?”

The DOPO agent’s voice was steady and grave, like he was sitting in on a policy meeting instead of brunching in some also-ran country town. “We’ll deal with that when we come to it.”

Vanhurst scoffed. “Because that worked out so well for your lot with the Soviets.”

Agent Becker allowed himself a shrug. “We’re still here, aren’t we?”

Ron let out a grudgingly affirmative grunt. Inspector Vanhurst could understand why the DDHA was trying to cozy up to their American cousins. The world was changing. Mother Britain had been hemorrhaging power and territory since the war, while America kept on rising in the world like it had designs towards the letter “u.” What Vanhurst couldn’t figure out was why the boss of bosses wanted him to show some random DOPA bloke what was shaping up to be one of their biggest fuck-ups?

Then again, what did the DDHA have to show for themselves besides fuck-ups? The Americans had Pendergast, while Australia had one mad old queen and a lot of bitter prisoners that hadn’t figured out their cells were made of paper yet.

Agent Becker was grimacing at something. “There’s something not right about this town.”

Ron followed the American’s eyes towards a pair of young boys running around with comfort-blanket capes tied around their necks, laughing as they weaved around the legs of a fuming ginger bus-boy.

Vanhurst leaned over the table. “Gonna let you in on a secret, mate.” He made a big show of looking around the diner, screened his mouth with his hand and whispered, “They’re not really supers.”     

Agent Becker didn’t smile. “That’s not what I mean. Look around. At the people.”

Smiling. Laughter. Two sets of clearly embarrassed parents, but even they seemed more amused than anything else.

Ron looked back at Becker. “They’re kids, Louis.”

“It doesn’t make sense, Vanhurst. My intel said the Northamites weren’t on good terms with the sorcerers.”

“Demis, Becker.”

Magically empowered individuals,” The agent insisted. He pointed at the blackboard menu hanging behind the diner-counter, bordered by chalky, pastel wreaths and surprisingly well-detailed koalas2.  Specifically, he was pointing at a sandwich:

THE NEW HUMAN     

Vanhurst tapped the busboy on the arm as he passed. “Excuse me, can you tell us what a ‘new human’ is?”

“It’s new,” the red-haired teen explained. “Pretty much two sandwiches inside another sandwich. It’s free if you finish it all… lookin’ to order it?”

“Nah, just curious.”

The busboy wandered off, muttering something about finchy time-wasters under his breath.

“Why would they name a sandwich after a school for sorcerers if they didn’t like them?” Agent Becker asked rhetorically. “It doesn’t add up.”

Inspector Vanhurst rubbed the bridge of his nose. To be honest, he’d been a little intimidated by Agent Becker at first. With his black suit, glasses, and military-neat haircut, the American looked like he immigrated from a world built out of blurry photographs and strung together with red-string. After spending the better part of a morning and a two hour drive in a rented truck with the man, Ron was beginning to suspect that if fortune hadn’t blown Louis Becker towards DOPO, he’d probably be busy building those worlds himself.

“A bunch of supervillains attacked here a few days back. Apparently some kids from the Institute warded them off. They’re probably just… appreciative.”

“I don’t buy it,” said Becker. “Bigots don’t distinguish between good and bad actors. That’s what makes them bigots!”

“Bigots?”

“Well, that’s what they are.”

“What are you trying to say?”

“I’m suggesting,” Becker whispered, “that it’s not outside the realm of possibility for the NHI sorcerers to have cast a spell over Northam.”

“So you think these people are prejudiced against ‘sorcerers’?”

“It’s a matter of record.”

“So clearly that means the victims of this prejudice have bewitched their minds with black magic.”

“…Life is complicated.”

The inspector checked his cheap quartz watch. It was time for them to get going. The sorcerers were waiting for them. “That it is, Agent Becker, that it is.”

Dr. Herbert Lawrence was knocked out of his fretful, hungover dreams by a hard punch to his side.  

The children were gathered around the old man’s bed: Stratogale, Ex-Nihilo, Reverb and Myriad. Reverb had the dressing gown they had dyed and sequined for Prospero slung over her shoulder, while the youngest girl was carrying a bundle of rough rope.

Stratogale was hovering a few inches above the floor, a yellow paper-crown on her head. “It’s inspection day, Laurie.”

Lawrence sighed. “Trust me, child, I know.” A weak, despairing rictus spread across his face. “Queen of the festivities, are we, Stratogale?”

The girl slapped him hard. It took Lawrence a second to realize he was still alive. How easily could Stratogale have sent his head flying into the wall?

“It’s Sadie, Bertie. This”—she tapped at the crown, before removing and slipping it over—“I was just keeping it warm for the king of the festival.”

“We got the idea from your mate Graves’ book3,” Lana jeered.

Lawrence remembered what his friend said became of those ancient ceremonial kings at the end of their reign. The idea was colourless; removed, like the weather forecast for a far-flung city.

Mavis’ manufactured voice echoed like a priestess in a cavernous temple. Allison, prepare the king for the procession.

Allison giggled and saluted. “Yes, ma’am!”

The little girl set about binding Lawrence’s hands in an expert handcuff knot. She was naked, bar a thin layer of dyed frost and a feather tucked behind her ear, her face streaked with acrylic paint like some ghastly picture-book Indian.

What was left of Lawrence despaired for Myriad. Not too long ago, he had believed she was the beginning of a cognitive revolution. Now, he realized, the girl was nothing more than a child wearing adult knowledge like her mother’s shoes and lipstick.

He didn’t resist when they pulled him to his feet, draped him in that butchered wizard’s robe, and started marching him down through the house.

Mary, Cormey, and Melusine were in the kitchen when they passed, the nereid keeping watch over the teachers with a cup of black coffee.

Bryant went ballistic when he saw Lawrence trussed up. He jumped out of his chair. “You ungrateful little shits!”

Lawrence and Mary locked eyes for a moment. The old woman said nothing. She looked so tired.

Cormey tried running to the headmaster’s aid, but Françoise blocked the man with her arm.

“For God’s sake, Mels, do you want Mael thrown into McClare?”

Fran smirked. “Bryant, if David doesn’t want to go to McClare, nobody’s taking him to McClare.”

Tiresias was waiting to open the door for the procession. “All hail the king!”

Lawrence managed to muster a question for his former student. “How do you see this game turning out for you, Tiresias?”

The psychic closed his eyes and put his fingers to his temples, groping the air with his other hand. “I see… a penthouse… on the Gold Coast… full of beautiful women…” He opened his eyes and grinned. “And you know what, Bertie? I think they’re all over twenty-one.”

It took Lawrence a moment to realize Tiresias wasn’t kidding.

He’d won.

“Did you get the sign?” Sadie asked cooly.

Alberto clapped. “Oh, yeah!” The esper picked up a wooden placard threaded through with the same rope that bound Lawrence, hanging it around the old man’s neck. “There. Now everyone knows who did what.”

A throne waited for Lawrence in front of the house, carved from rough grey iron. Well, “carved.” Lawrence had no doubt it was Ex-Nihilo and Growltiger’s handiwork. He was mildly surprised a pyre hadn’t been built around the thing. Disappointed, even.  

Haunt was waiting beside the chair. He was in the white dress shirt and pressed slacks he had worn for his and Britomart’s Naming, his usually wavy hair drowned in pomade.

“Think the inspector will be here soon?” he asked the girls.

Myriad crooked her head. “I there’s a couple new songs getting closer. Too fast for feet. Wonder who the other bloke is?” She looked up at Sadie. “Can I go play now?”

Sadie ruffled her hair fondly. “Sure, kiddo.”

The child bounded off like a gazelle. Lawrence watched her go. How many learned men lay forgotten and neglected within that painted savage?

The teenagers shoved him down into the throne, before Haunt stepped in front of his teacher, regarding him like a squashed bug with human insides.

Lawrence smiled wanly. “I haven’t seen you this well dressed in years, my boy.” He jerked his head in the direction Myriad had run off. “Certainly making more of an effort than some of your brothers and sisters.”

Tom Long kicked Lawrence in the shins. “Just trying to make a good impression, your highness.”

The leftover scotch in Lawrence’s system dulled the pain. It might also have dulled the shock when he realized his legs had been sunked into the throne. He looked like a half-finished statue.

“And we don’t want you spoiling the surprise for the inspector.”

Reverb wrapped an arm around Lawrence’s shoulders, her voice a child’s parody of sultry:

That’s why us girls are gonna keep you company while you wait.

Lawrence’s ears were wracked with drill hisses and a thousand wasps. He futilely struggled against his bindings, desperate to cover his ears.

Lana told Tom, “Go wait with the others while I try to remember how to make mustard gas or something.”

Tom nodded. “I hear ya, bosslady.”

He joined the other children gathered around the Institute gates. A bedsheet banner with “WELCOME INSPECTORS” painted in bright, colourful letters hung from poles of gold light over the dirt-trail.

Booms like prowling thunderclaps closed in behind Tom, and the sky darkened above him. He looked up and nodded. “David, Allie.”

The craggy ice-titan whose shoulder Allison rode on waved, making a sound like wrestling mountains. “Hi, Tom.”

A white van4 trundled up the road. Before coming to a stop in front of the gate. A middle aged man in a khaki vest and shorts climbed out of the driver’s door, followed by a much younger passenger in very square sunglasses and a black suit. The best thing you could say about it was that it hid the sweat-stains.

Inspector Vanhurst blanched at the sight of the ice-giant. Agent Becker’s hand went instinctively for his hip, trying to find a gun that wasn’t there.

“Oh, lighten up fellas,” Bran said near the front of the crowd. “It’s just David.”

Vanhurst managed to compose himself, flashing his best youth pastor smile. “Good afternoon, children. I…” He trailed off for a moment. The children were smiling too much. They looked hungry. He took a deep breath. “I’m Inspector Vanhurst”—he gestured vaguely at his companion—“and this my friend Mr. Becker.”

Agent Becker,” he corrected.

“Sure, fine. Anyway, we’re here to…” Vanhurst didn’t know how to explain it. “—We’re here to speak to your teachers and headmaster. Is that okay?”

No, that was awful. He sounded like he was asking permission.

The children mobbed the two men, chattering and fighting for their attention. Tom pushed his way to the centre of the mass shook their hands.

“G’day, I’m Tom Long. Don’t know if they gave you fellas a student list, but I’m not on it.” He grinned broadly. “I’m one of the kids that got to go on a picnic with the babies when your lot came a callin’.”

“Me too!” Mabel chirped through a conjured megaphone.

Vanhurst blinked. “Wait, then where’d you come from?”

“What, me? Lawrence bought me off the Coven.”

The inspector’s eyes went wide. “The Coven?”

That caught Agent Becker’s attention like a bomb blast. “A coven? Your school principal dealt with mages? Were they psychic or ritualistic?”

Vanhurst sighed. “It’s just what the local supervillains call themselves.” He hoped to God nobody mentioned the Witch of Claremont.

“Yeah,” said Tom. “He paid them like, a million pounds or something for me.”

“…Your headmaster buys kids?”

“Sometimes,” Tom replied casually. “Few of us Laurie just found on the streets and never told your lot.”

“One of us died last month,” Mabel interjected, her voice shaking in a way that probably wasn’t the megaphone’s fault. “Did Lawrence tell you that?”

Agent Becker looked at Vanhurst. The confusion practically burnt through his sunglasses. The inspector just shook his head.

Allison let down from the walking ice-sculpture, landing on and clinging to Agent Becker’s back like a spider-monkey.

“Argh—” He caught himself. “Hello, little girl.”

“He punched me once. In the face. With a big metal glove. Then he pulled me by the hair and locked me in a dungeon!”

“…A dungeon?”

“Pretty much! Didn’t even have a bed! Or a toilet! Even McClare had a toilet!”

“Sorry to hear that, young lady… about the dungeon, I mean, not the toilet.”

The ice-giant cracked at the mid-section, David bursting out out of it like Phanes from the cosmic egg. He landed at the agent and inspector’s feet. “Yeah, I was pretty much never happy when I listened to Lawrence. Got better when I stopped, though. Wanna see me make it snow?”

“Uh, sure,” answered Vanhurst. Christ, he thought. And the DDHA had told him to expect secrecy.      

From his grasping throne, Lawrence watched as David turned his giant into a blizzard. He wondered what his father would think, seeing his son minstrel for rootstock humans like that.

In the thousands of times he had pictured this day, Lawrence had imagined himself in a state of mind shuttering anxiety, like a man with three sixes on his hand come Judgement Day. Instead, he felt like lead plunging to the bottom of the sea. Inexorable, but indifferent. When he fell, he would make no sound. He would’ve said T.S Eliot was right, if the children weren’t cheering at the end.   

Linus walked out of the house. “Hey.”

Hey, echoed Mavis. How’s Mels doing?

“Still keeping an eye on Cormey, really. He keeps ranting about ‘Laurie’s vision’ and the future of the species.”

“God,” said Sadie. “He’s such a lickspittle.” She looked at her headmaster. “Isn’t he, Lawrence?”

He didn’t answer.

“I knew kids like him back in real school,” Lana added. “The ones who were always dobbing on everyone.” She laughed. “They always took it the worst when it was their turn.”

What about Mrs Gillespie?

Linus shrugged. “Don’t think she knows what to think anymore?”

Mavis scowled. What else is new?

The party drew close, Inspector Vanhurst trying to shoo away the children like overly friendly flies while Agent Becker tried drilling them for their sorcerous secrets.

“Look, kids, it’s great you’re being cooperative, but I really need to speak to your—”

The inspector stopped in his tracks when he caught sight of the king of exhibition. A bedraggled, half-entombed old warlock with a “rapist” sign hanging around his neck.

“Good God,” whispered Agent Becker. “Where’s his legs?”  

Sadie floated forward, pointing at her seven-month baby bump. “See this, gents? This wasn’t an accident. Me and my sisters? We weren’t being ‘careless’ or ‘sluts’.” She stabbed her finger at Lawrence. “It was him! Because he wanted some new baby-dolls to play with! And he couldn’t keep them safe.”

The inspector shuffled his feet. “Well, that’s terrible, miss, but…”

“We knew,” Agent Becker said flatly.

…What?

“Miss Winter confessed everything. Then Miss Fletcher fell out of the headman’s mirror and confessed it all again.”

Lana shook her head slowly. “What?” Then she realized what the inspector had said and glared at Lawrence. “You said they were looking for Zy!”

Lawrence quirked his shoulder weakly. “Why worry you all?”

Lana smacked him.  

Vanhurst’s shoulders drooped. “…I think we need to talk.”

“This is a travesty, obviously.”

Sadie nodded from the other side of the library table. “You don’t have to tell us that.”

Linus cleared his throat. “I don’t wanna to be rude,” he pointed at Agent Becker sitting next to the inspector, “but should he really be here?”

“Don’t mind me,” the American answered, “just an observer.”

The remaining human staff of the New Human Institute hadn’t been invited to the meeting. In fact, they had been gently but firmly encouraged to stay in their rooms for the duration. Mary and Lawrence put up no resistance, but Bryant Cormey had already barged in twice, before being seconded in the dark dimension.

“So what happens now?” asked Melusine.

Vanhurst said, “Well, if it were up to me and Becker here, Dr. Lawrence would be heading to the police station,” he allowed himself a smile, “but it seems like you’ve got him well under heel.”

Plus, you don’t try to take a tiger’s meal off them.

Lana cracked her knuckles. “You got that right.”

We don’t care about Laurie, Reverb said, her voice a steady iron string of sound. What happens to us?

“You said Zy—Eliza talked with Tim Valour,” added Sadie. “Did she have our babies with her? Where are they?”

“I’m afraid I’m not at liberty to discuss that.”

God, why didn’t he just tell them he didn’t know? He sounded like Becker!

“That’s not a good enough answer, Mr. Vanhurst.”

Alberto swirled his glass of merlot. “Don’t get so worked up, Sadie.” A sip. “Did Eliza ever strike you as a baby killer?”

Sadie looked at Ophelia’s father like she was considering half-orphaning her.

Ronald Vanhurst threw his hands up. “Look, I’m sorry I don’t have all the answers, but can I at least try and give you some of them?”

Sadie folded her arms. “All right.”

The inspector went into pitch mode. “Before New Years, you and your schoolmates will be transported—comfortably—to new accommodation.”

‘New accomodation’ doesn’t mean the asylums, does it?

Vanhurst shook his head. “Nothing of the sort. The DDHA is establishing their own schools.” He forced a chuckle. “I hear they’re calling them ‘academies of tomorrow’. I assure you, after graduation”—he looked at Fran and Alberto—“not that I expect all of you to be there long, you’ll be well compensated public servants.”

Fran and the eldest students shared looks that might as well have been telepathic.           

“Afraid we can’t take you up on that offer,” answered Linus.

That wasn’t part of the script. “You—you can’t… what?”

“We’re not going,” Lana replied plainly.

“But you have to go somewhere!”

“Why?” asked Sadie. “Regular folks don’t get told where to live by the government5.”

“But they still need somewhere to live!”

“We’ll stay here,” said Linus. “We have money—plenty, in fact. The neighbours are fine with us now.” He smiled. “We’re not against working—”

Alberto cut in, “Speak for yourself.”

“…But we’ll do it on our own terms.”

Fran’s eyes glowed. “Me and my son will not be your pets.”

Agent Becker looked Linus in the eye. “Don’t you want to serve your country, boy?”

“I thought you were just an observer,” Lana said sourly.

Linus smiled softly. “I’m not even allowed to vote, Agent Becker.”

Funny, said Reverb. You won’t draft ladies, but as soon as we have powers…

Vanhurst looked around the table, exasperation burning the colour from his cheeks. “Kids, even if this worked—and it won’t—what about all the little kids? Who’ll take care of them?”

“We will,” said Linus.

Fran looked hard at the DDHA man. “They’re our responsibility now. Our family.”

We’re not handing them over to the bastards who shoved them in the asylums in the first place, who gave them to Laurie.            

Vanhurst shook his head. “It won’t work. I’m sorry, but it won’t. The DDHA, they aren’t going to allow you to… squat like this.”

Fran scoffed. “Allow?”

Agent Becker looked taken aback. “That’s seditious talk, ma’am.”

A broad, Southern accent washed over the library. Y’all better mind y’all business, yankee!

“Excuse me,” said Alberto. “Is this a package deal? Because I’d be game for it.”

Fran and the students all looked at the esper.

“Seriously?” asked Sadie.

“Why not? I’ve spent thirteen years at this bloody school. My résumé is basically empty. Don’t get me wrong, I support you guys but… well, I just want to leave. Go new places. Make some money that wasn’t given to me by an old Wellsian Nazi.” He turned to the inspector. “If you’d give me a lift back to head office or wherever, I’d be willing to leave now.”

Ronald rested his chin on his hand dejectedly. “Sure, why not. At least I’ll have something to show.”  

Alberto got to his feet. His expression was oddly sombre. “I’ll get myself packed then… Sadie, I’ll try to look up Ophelia. Get word back to you.”

Sadie didn’t look at him. “Thanks.”

The psychic put at a hand on Fran’s shoulder. “You’ll be fine, right?”

The water-nymph stood and kissed him. “Of course I will.” She smiled. “You of all people shouldn’t have to ask.”

Alberto looked back at the inspector. “Right, time to start loading the whites into the van. Cormey better not be helping himself.”

Lawrence and Mary Gillespie sat together in the old man’s study. Dark was creeping in, and neither teacher could be bothered setting out candles. Soon, all they could make out was each other’s outlines, and a few snatches of moonlight off the surface of their drinks.

“You lied to us.”

“What good would it have done telling you?”

“What good did keeping quiet do?”

“Point.”

“Alberto’s gone. Didn’t even say goodbye.”

A grunt. “Not unlike him.”

“Why should he have, Lawrence? All we did was keep him cooped up here like a battery hen. At least out there he can do some good for his kind.”

For a moment, Lawrence considered telling Mary what Alberto had done to her. What they had done to her.

No. She loved that boy. She loved them all. Let her keep that, at least.

“Nothing makes sense anymore.”

“I know.”

“Except that’s the thing. I can’t remember why they used to make sense. I think about the stirpiculture and… your words, Lawrence. All those explanations and justifications. They don’t connect anymore.”

“My dear, sometimes we have to wait for history to work out the rights and wrongs.”

“I can’t think about history anymore, Lawrence. All I can think of is how my Frank would look at me…”

“Mary—”

“But then I think, if you lied about this, Laurie, what else have you lied to me about.” Mary leaned forward in her chair, a blade of dusty, pearly light revealing the tears running down her cheeks. “Lawrence, I am going to ask you this only once: how did Adam Sinclair die?”

“…An aneurysm. Poor Adam’s death, it was unavoidable.”

The old woman stood up, her face returning to the darkness. “You should go, Lawrence.”

“What? Why?”

“Because you leave the children so distressed. Because I can’t trust you anymore. And because I love you, Lawrence. They’re coming for you. And I don’t want to see you dragged off in chains.” Mary started off towards the door. “Fetch me a candle and I’ll pack you a bag.”

They said nothing to each other until they were outside, under the unchallenged country-stars.

“Goodbye, Mary.”

“Goodbye, Lawrence. I wish I knew your heart better.”

Mary watched her old friend walk away into the night. Before he had gone completely from her sight, she spotted some silhouettes by lorikeet dorm.

It was the girls, along with Linus and a pyjama-clad Elsewhere—Arnold, Mary reminded herself.

They were talking:

You sure you have to leave?

“Yeah,” answered Sadie. “I need to find Ophelia. I can’t just wait for Alberto to give me answers. To give us all answers.”

“Eliza would never hurt the babies,” insisted Linus.

“No, she wouldn’t… and I’ll believe that as soon as I’ve seen them with my own eyes.”

Elsewhere rubbed his eyes sleepily. “Where do you wanna go?”

Mary was running towards them, her nightgown billowing in the warm, humid air. “Wait!” She stopped in front of Sadie, panting. “Lawrence… he’s gone. You don’t have to go.”

“Oh, Mrs Gillespie, it’s not about him. It’s about our kids.”

Mrs Gillespie moaned, “You’re all leaving me…”

Lana stroked the teacher’s face, drawing away tears. “We’re a school, Mary. Supposed to happen.”

Mary looked at Sadie with wet eyes. “I’m sorry, child. For all of this. Can you ever forgive me?”

Sadie took Arnold’s hand. “Arn, I need you to send me to where Ophelia is. Can you do that?”

Arnold groaned tiredly. “I think so. Might be kinda tricky.” The green started sparking under the boy’s skin.

The flying girl looked back at Mrs Gillespie. She smiled softly. “I’ll try, Mrs G. Someday, I’ll try.”

There was a flash.

In the space Sadie had stood, Mary Gillespie fell to her knees, and wept.

Gently, Linus helped the old woman to her feet. “Come on, Mrs Gillespie, let’s get you a cup of tea.”

And so, Mary’s students led her to their fire.   

Inspector Vanhurst didn’t think he shared any kinship with Agent Becker or the New Human Institute’s telepath. Then they got called up in front of their bosses.

The three men sat awkwardly in plastic chairs that felt designed for primary schoolers, the DOPO-DDHA joint committee glaring at them like a parliament of owls.  

The DOPO attache released a gout of cigarette smoke. “Would you say these children are no longer amenable to human authority?”

The inspector glanced at Becker and Moretti, before tapping his microphone and answering, “I suppose?”

Timothy Valour sighed. “I think we’ll have to take steps.”


1. The Department of Psychonautics and Occultism, the American governmental body consolidated in the 1960s to oversee superhuman affairs.

2. Blackboard menus are a common victim of frustrated amateur artists.

3. Specifically the section of The Greek Myths in which Robert Graves relates his theories regarding the role of kings in a pre-Hellenic matriarchy, with the ironclad certainty of only the truly mistaken.

4. Rented, much to Agent Becker’s disappointment.

5. Unless they were Aboriginal, of course.

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1 thought on “Chapter Forty-Nine: Formicarius

  1. Readers will have to take steps, too. If they want to see TNH on the front page where it belongs: leave a vote on topwebfiction.

    Freaking Mary, though. Lawrence was this close to some kind of consequences — and gah. Why? I can get why she’d do it, but still. why

    The agents were great. I was half-expecting the DDHA to be faceless goons, but I guess I have to sympathize with them too.

    I have to wonder what steps they’ll take, though. The fact that Northam is cool with supers is definitely going to be a thorn, right?

    Like

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