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Box of Tricks {History}

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Araxiel

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Under Pressure

It was a cold September night. Night like this, for what’s going on, you’d expect it to be stormy and shit, right? A group of about half a dozen unhappy men huddled in a pokey little basement room under a block of flats. It was southeast London, home to all manner of grotty basements and unpleasant weather, and in the opinion of the man stood in that basement, trying his best not to seem like he belonged with the others, it was a fine example of both.
Not bad weather. I want it to be stormy and dramatic. Not this lame drizzly shit. A light rain was falling, on and off, just enough to keep everything generically damp, with a wind kicking up to thoroughly chill it once it was. Not bad enough to justify complaining about, really, but he felt like complaining to himself anyway. It took his mind off what he was about to get sucked into.

“Oi, dumb shit. I’m talking to you.” One of the larger men snapped his fingers twice, leaning over a folding table. “You better listen.”
“I’m listening, sorry. Just thinking it’s grotty out there.” Much as he would have liked to ignore the large, rude man, that would have led to violence, and he wasn’t in a mood to hurt normal people. Besides, even though these people fancied themselves gangsters- a group of thugs, really, this guy only being in charge by dint of being the biggest and baldest thug- this man had tears in his eyes when he’d asked for help. Well, demanded, really.
“Quit fucking around, Mercury. I’m not in the mood.”
To get the situation more under control, the man who went by Mercury sat down across from the gangster, giving him his attention. “Alright, I’m listening. This is obviously isn’t normal stuff, or your guys would handle it themselves, right?”
The gangster went quiet, losing some of his bluster. There it was again, Mercury noticed- the slightest hint of tears in the eyes, a brief flicker of an emotion that wasn’t anger across his broad boxer’s face.
“What do you need me for?”
“…it’s my son.”

Aha. So the big man’s a family man. It made sense. That’d be his weak emotional point, then. Not wanting to destabilise the man’s emotional state any further, Mercury stayed quiet and waited for him to elaborate.
“He’s… dead. Some accident, this…” His brow furrowed, his fists clenched. Trying to seem calm, Mercury tensed up. Shit. This isn’t good. Even if it was an accident, he’s gonna be out for violence now. I just need to make sure he doesn’t take it out on me. “Then I remembered. Hey, we know that Mercury guy. Seen you do some stuff. You know, all that extra-normal shit. Even heard, you’ve messed with ghosts.”
“Deacon, man, don’t ask me to-“
“Bring him back. Get his ghost, put it back or whatever, bring him back to life.”
“It doesn’t work like that-“
“Anything you need, I’ll get. Whatever you want.”
“I can’t do this, Deacon, fuck-“

“Then what fucking use are you?” The table went over, Mercury scooted back a foot, and Deacon, the six-foot ex-boxer gangster loomed over him, hardly looking the soul of emotional stability. “Huh? You tryin’ to be clever? I don’t care if you’re a wizard or a fucking fairy godmother or what, you get my boy back or you’re joining him on a slab, right?”
“Alright, alright!” Things had gotten very sour very quickly. At present, Mercury wasn’t interested in getting any profit out of this venture any more, so much as he wanted everyone present to get out of this unharmed. Well, the kid was already dead. Best will in the world, not much he could do about that. He had to think quickly. “Okay. I don’t know if I can do what it is you’re asking.” Murder flashed across Deacon’s eyes, making Mercury think talking quicker was better. “But I know someone who might be able to. We can figure something out.”
Deacon calmed visibly. He sat again, resting a meaty hand on Mercury’s shoulder. “Pull this off, Max, you’re gonna be loaded, you and your mate. Or, you fuck me over on this and we have a problem. Got it?”


He got it.
Maybe I could leave town, that’d work. Deacon acts like a big shot, but he doesn’t really have anyone outside of London, really. Mercury sat staring at a damaged concrete sphinx, tapping his feet on the steps. Neither do I, though. All my stuff’s here. He checked his phone. Late as usual.
“Where are you, Kira…”
“Behind you.”
He looked around. Sat on the steps above him, a disinterested-looking Asian girl waved her phone. “What did you want?”
Mercury explained. Kira lifted an eyebrow.

“Wow, he sounds fucking insane.”
“What he wants is impossible.”
“I know.”
“He thinks it’s a kind of magic.” Mercury waved his hands, raising his own eyebrows in silent question. She rolled her eyes.
“Well, you have to… play the game. I guess. What are you doing about this, then? Skipping town?”
“I’d like to. But that’s a last resort.”
“You actually want to help him, don’t you? Dude, Deacon’s a piece of shit. Not saying he deserved his kid dying,” Kira raised her hands, cutting off Mercury’s question before it formed, “but you have to stop being so soft on assholes like him.”
“You going to help?”
“I’m getting such a big cut from this.”
“Thought you said he was a piece of shit, you still want his money?”
“Cash is cash. It’s going through the Post Office before I go back, anyway.”


Though ‘Max Mercury’ was known- to those in certain circles- within London as a person with certain paranormal abilities, and a capability regardless of that to investigate and solve unusual problems, Kira Kurin and her abilities were more or less known only to Mercury. At least, in this sort of capacity. She had friends and family, who he could only assume were largely unaware of what she could be asked to do in her spare time. At the drop of a hat, she’d use her fairly unique power to help Mercury in his endeavours, motivated as much by the excitement of it as by any monetary reward. She was playful as a cat, though, on the quiet, and hard to entirely predict. In general, as long as she could experience Mercury’s jobs while being one step removed, that suited her fine.

I can’t fault her, though. A girl her age shouldn’t be slumming around in basements with grotty gangsters.
“Alright, Kira.” He brought out a map, spreading it out on the step between them. “Find me one in the city.”
“Here?”
“No time like the present.”
She narrowed her eyes. “Making so many demands. Ugh. Why don’t you ask those other psychic girls you hang around with all over London?”
“You overestimate me, really.”
“If I do this, I get to ask about your personal life some more.”
Mercury groaned internally. He must have made some actual noise as well, prompting a weird look from Kira.
“Alright, the sooner the better. Please find me one that can do what we need.”

“You might still be better off asking a mind-reader.” Kira sat facing the map, and began making signs with her hands, touching her fingernails to precise points along the map’s boundaries. “I can locate some within the general range of power that you want, but to tell specifics will be hard.” A grid pattern of thin, glowing red lines spread across the map from the points she touched, interconnecting in strange geometric designs. ” We’ll have to just go through the wandering ones till we find one willing to try.” Keeping one finger on the map, Kira raised her other hand skywards. A rapidly-growing duplicate of the red pattern flew into the air, settling somewhere above the rooftops. Invisible to most mortal eyes, Mercury knew, but the more canny ghosts and psychics would have already spotted that. Speaking of which…
“I know a telepath, but she’s busy today.” He put his hands on his hips, standing to observe the pattern in the sky. “Still, once she sees this she might get jealous and want to be involved.”
“So that’s why you were so urgent.”
“That, and we need the dead body as fresh as possible.” He sighed, still not really at ease with his own plan. “We need to find a ghost to possess it, and soon.”
 
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