The Cover Story

S2 Mystery 7: Downtime

Downtime

The team had finally gotten some time to relax! Anna found herself a job at the Clockwork Child working for Lincoln/Ramsey, Mark took her shopping to finally get normal human person stuff like a phone, and Casey was back to hosting regular family dinners. Kira—who does not know how to relax—had been working. Namely, investigating Nathaniel Rose’s business. And she found that first of all, Nathaniel had been working with Rex Crook, and second, the odd chamber in the center of the building was something called a “Soul Silo.” A druidic structure that could draw in and capture loose spiritual energies. So… file that away somewhere.

The Author, a high-ranking member of EARS’ Investigations wing, summoned Captain Tiff Tores, veteran of EARS’s security wing. Which was odd. But not as odd as the reason why: The Author offered to recruit Tiff into The Drum, which she described as a sort of EARS Special Forces. Torres told her she needed time. And the Author gave her 48 hours to make up her mind.

Torres, perhaps emboldened by the new opportunity, re-evaluated her relationship with her team—Agents Lawrence, Rufus and Whitewood—and decided they’d earned a pizza party.

Meanwhile, Casey had been clued in by Mark & Anna’s now regular visions that The Drum may very well have the team in their sights and be looking to close in. Agent Davis tried to meet with the Author herself to see what she could learn, but wound up only being given a mission: A gas leak at the downtown Whole Foods wasn’t quite what it seemed.

Kira, eager to speak with DAD, went to visit the Invisible Family, but found her out on a mission. KID offered to bring her and Tommy to her, and they instantly found themselves standing on the roof of a building across the street from that very Whole Foods. It seemed DAD was already on the case.

Kira grilled DAD on what she’d learned about the Drum and found that they had a tendency to recruit agents with powersets similar to the monsters they fight. As they left DAD to resume her work, Kira insisted they still had more to talk about: DAD had something to do with where Kira came from. And DAD agreed to explain everything. Later.

Casey and her team, having been told off from the Whole Foods mission by Kira, joined Mark and the others at her home, where Captain Torres called them. No sooner had Torres offered herself as an insider agent in the Drum to aid their investigation than Casey and team noticed a cloaked car parked outside, watching them.

To establish cover, the group insisted that Tiff bring her team to them, and decided to pretend that they were just throwing a party. So a party was thrown! Flashing lights, loud music, and of course, lots and lots of drinks. Casey’s team remained in Cosmo to keep an eye on the exterior and the cloaked car, but when Kira and Tommy began dancing uncontrollably, she got suspicious and radioed Gia, only to hear… nothing.

Outside, the neighborhood had been fully replaced with the dishwater gray clouds of There. The whole house had been pulled over to the other side. They attempted to bring Kira and Tommy to Casey’s safe room, but that only succeeded in splitting the party: Kira, Tommy and Tiff & her team on this side, with Theo, Casey and Mark trapped There.

Tiff abandoned the house, leaving those left behind to discover that they’d been pulled to the other side by a Prince by the name of TRAXXAS. Inside the house, Mark was visited by the human Lowry, who claimed he was Mark’s family, of a sort, and that the longer Mark stayed away, the faster Lowry would waste away. TRAXXAS himself explained that he’d brought them here to test them. And after they defeated him in a fight, he implied that Anna owed her life to a King.

On the other side, Tiff sheepishly made her way back to the house, and between her, Theo and Nick Sparks, they were able to unravel the magic and bring the house and everyone in it back home.

Kira took Tiff aside, first to yell at her for leaving. But the secret place they went to talk in private turned out to belong to Tiff’s otherworldly patron The Queen Concealed, and Kira finally saw the horrible situation Tiff was in, and the abuse she regularly withstood at the Queen’s hands. So they made up, and got to work. Interrogating a Drum member led to the knowledge that their leader’s real name was “Mr. Green,” and Tiff presented herself to the Author and accepted her offer to join the Drum.

With everything more or less wrapped up on her end, it was time for Theo to say her goodbyes and head east with her brother, Jacob, for the promise of a normal life in Chicago. But not long after she hit the road, a vision that had been lurking at the back of Mark’s mind for days finally snapped into focus: An older woman in an expensive car watching Theo step onto an el train, only for the train to violently explode as it pulled out of the station.

They were going to have to follow Theo to Chicago.

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S2 Mystery 6: Sigma

Sigma

Tessa Jones. A pivotal figure in the life of Casey Davis. The first victim she couldn’t save, that would ultimately put her on the path that led to her becoming an agent of EARS in the first place. Yet now her brain was being flooded with other memories, of a new story: Casey had saved her from her assassin all those years ago, but more hired killers kept coming, until eventually Tessa ran off alone. And apparently, those assassins hadn’t stopped coming and were still chasing Tessa and her new ally, Sigma.

Casey took Tessa home to figure out a next step while Kira went to the Clockwork Child with Tommy to check on the progress with Anna’s body and found… it was ready. Shockingly, the body was perfectly prepared and all that was left was to complete the spell. And sooner than she’d thought possible, Ramsey Lincoln introduced Anna Ashwood to her sister Kira, and to Kira’s boyfriend Tommy Sparks.

Mark’s ghostly owl was behaving oddly too. Which is to say that the owl wasn’t a ghost anymore. He was fully corporeal, appeared to have a different name—Lariat—and by all accounts had become a perfectly normal pet owl. And that struck Mark Clayton as very odd indeed.

Meanwhile at the Nessos household, Theo’s brother Jacob— the only one to ever seemingly escape the shadow of the family business— had arrived to request Theo’s help with something. But there was no job. He wanted Theo to come live with him in Chicago. Away from all the magic and mayhem of the Magio. She quickly agreed.

As if that wasn’t weird enough, each of them had the same dream that night: A human figure appeared before them with a dull, gray right hand and a glassy orb helmet reflecting stars and nebula storms. He seemed vaguely threatening, but made no move to harm them, instead simply asking, “Isn’t this all you ever wanted?”

The next day, Casey looked into what had happened to Faces the assassin in this new timeline she found herself in. He’d disappeared as a young assassin, and hadn’t been heard from since. But as luck would have it, Tessa’s new ally, Sigma, contacted Casey soon after, and the voice on the other end was none other than Faces. Once Tessa’s murderer, now apparently her protector.

Mark was still trying to find out what had happened to his ghost owl, and apparently, Lowry was now a ghost human, and he spoke to Mark through his obsidian stone. He said as a human the same thing he’d said as an owl: That Mark should “come home.” Spooked and confused, Mark eagerly accepted an invitation from Anna to meet up with Dockers and get stoned.

Sigma/Faces insisted on a public meeting, and communicated via spycraft that Casey would have a meeting with Jeremy Stroud, the current head of the Stroud company, later that day. After his abrupt departure, Tessa pleaded with Casey to trust him. Of course Casey agreed. She was, after all, still in love with Tessa.

As the team regrouped to plan their next move, they were beset by two enormous monsters. One a living tornado, one a being that controlled fire. They were able to destroy some odd control charms each had inside them, dissipating the monsters into harmless energy.

Then it was time for the meeting with Jeremy Stroud. But en route, it was also time for the monsters of earth and water to attack. It was a hard fight, on multiple fronts, but all four of the archfiends were revealed to be controlled by Vanya, an “Elementomancer” that Kira recognized from her cult days. They knocked her out and took her into custody, and the other control charms were dealt with, at no small risk to the health and safety of the hunters, the Sparks Brothers, and their mother Jaime Sparks, who was in town visiting her sons after years away.

Speaking of which, Tommy Sparks had been sent off to investigate one of Nathaniel Rose’s businesses. Not only did he discover a large chamber in the center of the building that seemed unaccounted for, but he also saw a young man who looked suspiciously like Vanya, departing the office with Nathaniel himself.

But that mystery would have to wait. Because Tessa was about to walk away, without Casey. Anna, obviously, pushed the agent to finally be honest, and vulnerable, and tell the girl you like her. And you know what? It went okay.

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S2 Mystery 5: Here and There

Here and There

After their last adventure, everybody needed some time apart. Kira, though brought temporarily back to the front, was still being punished by McLeary for what he viewed as proof that she really was broken. She really was a monster.

Meanwhile, Theo was taken to the family gardens by her eldest brother Bennett VII. There, he introduced her to one of the secrets to their family’s power: Magicka. A glowing dust that can be used to strengthen spells, but can only be seen by Magioni.

Mark was getting odd messages from hisghost owl—you know, telling him he’s not human, offering him unspecified powers in return for destroying the sweater his mother made—so he went to visit Theo to talk about it. That… didn’t go well. First of all, Theo’s twin sisters, Cathline and Katerina tried to drug him to force him to answer any questions they asked, then when Theo tried to hide him, he wound up locked in the bathroom with the family cat Psevdomenos. Who could talk. And could sense lies. But was otherwise pretty cool.

Theo pushed Mark to leave, and made him promise that if he was going to visit, he’d call first. Her family wasn’t safe, she explained. And he wasn’t safe among them.

Kira, meanwhile, was looking into making a gift for her sister Anna. So she and Donovan headed to the Clockwork Child to pick up spell components, but they were surprised to find someone from Kira’s cult past: Clara. Before Kira & Donovan could put her into a magic sleep, she caught sight of Kira and muttered the phrase “Ashen one…” which isn’t ominous at all.

Lincoln Ramsey, er, Ramsey Lincoln (it’s confusing) offered to deal with Clara while Kira and Donovan headed to the converted Dress Barn that Dawnbreak was using as a headquarters to question Riley to see if she knew more. Apparently, the prophecy involving Kira wasn’t finished. If Clara—and the writings of their former cult—were to be believed, Kira may have “The Blood of the Ashen One,” which would explain her ability to stabilize and destabilize gateways between worlds, but would also make her a target for Divinity’s Shadow, or anyone else with an eye on that kind of power.

Across town, Casey Davis took her brother Jesse to visit the Invisible Family, to see if they had any advice. In a way, they did. DAD angrily told Casey to leave. Immediately. It seemed whatever tether to the world’s memories of Casey was fading fast, and if it happened while she was in their Elder House, things would go bad. Casey had to choose. Allow herself to fade and be a ghost agent? Or fight for her place in the world.

She called Mark, Kira and Theo and asked them to meet her at Boom Island Park. It was time to get Casey back.

Kira opened the gateway to There, Mark offered the being on the other side his wings in exchange for a guide to a door into the Infinite Hallway. Here they were introduced to the Charming Coachman. The shrouded, silent pilot of a horseless carriage that would guide them safely through the dim, dishwater grey that was all they could see of the other realm.

It was a good thing they had him on their side, as they were first attacked by a group of giant eagles, then approached by a tall, tailed demon named Traxxus who taunted them, but did not attack.

Ultimately, the Charming Coachman brought them to a spot where they could tell the boundaries between There and the Hallway were weak. Mark was able to pull a doorway open, due to his own connection to There, but he would have to stay behind to keep it open.

The rest of the team went inside, where the Infinite Hallway raged with its distant purple and orange lightning, the place itself still ate at their very being, and faraway voices reached out to each of them. Kira in particular, who heard once again from The Creator, who had founded her former cult.

But there was no time for that. They pressed on and found a flickering, staticky image of Casey, frozen as she was in the moment she saved Donovan all those months ago. The process itself wasn’t easy, but in the end, Casey was able to take the tether back into herself, re-establishing Casey Davis as a presence in the world. Hopefully.

That done, they returned to There, rejoined the Charming Coachman, and were piloted safely back to the gateway into the real world. It was finally over.

And yet.

Casey was relieved at first to see her Van had become her beloved Cosmo once again, but there was something else. A young woman from her past leaning against it. Tessa Jones, Casey’s high school love, had been murdered when they were both teenagers. And yet, here she was. Alive and well.

And she needed help.

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S2 Mystery 4: Exploding Boy

Exploding Boy

Across the city, a new electronic musician was taking the local music scene by storm. Exploding Boy’s new single was on every radio station, but its success seemed to be inversely proportional to its quality. Because it sucked.

When Kira reported back to EARS, she was summoned to see The Director himself. The Director—who had limited exposure with anybody at the agency—had heard of Kira’s repeated contact with The Drum and directed her to continue her investigation into them. But, he said, she should do so secretly, reporting directly to him. It seemed straightforward enough, but the team was not exactly inclined to trust anyone from EARS. Least of all The Director.

Especially because when they reconvened Kira’s house, Anna—Kira’s headmate/protector/sister—had noticed something in the apartment building of Kira’s mind: there was a surveillance camera that hadn’t been there before. Together, they were also able to discover that her car, her phone and her EARS badge had similar tracking technology. Nick Sparks was able to use sorcery to put the camera on a “loop,” but she knew that it would take someone like Jesse Davis to help remove it personally.

As that was happening, a yellow Volkswagen was pulling up outside of Kira’s home, and out poured three people with distinctly Yorkshire accents. They soon discovered that they were all agents of EYES—East Yorkshire Elder Sciences, a kind of transcontinental equivalent to EARS—and they were here to organize a prisoner exchange. The team had possession of a Dr.Michael Umm from EYES, and EYES had custody of Mark and Kira’s boss: Editor-in-Chief Kent Clark. The main agent, Emily, seemed to have information concerning the Drum as well.

But the conversation was cut short by an imminent attack. Emily’s two subordinates, Jamie and Dorian, rushed into the house and barricaded the door. It seemed that dozens of people were shambling towards the house.

When Mark and Theo used their extranormal senses to investigate, they could see they were not normal people at all, but were possessed by the shade of some kind of horned demon. Each of their souls had purple, demonic horns attached, and they were trying to break down the doors and windows to get inside.

But they were just people. So, when the team sprung into action, they did it as best as they could without killing anybody. Theo—with Dockers in her head—was able to exhale a magical gust of weed that slowed down or konked out a majority of the attackers. Mark & Kira set about punching out the rest, while Casey tried to incapacitate the rest nonlethally—to mixed results.

After cleaning up the attack scene (and dealing with the local police), they talked further with Emily and made further deals for ever more information on The Drum. In exchange for the location of the EYES agent Casey had murdered last year, Emily revealed that The Drum had been active for at least 15 years, and their history began with something called “Operation Tourniquet.” Also, she had a name: Lisa Byron. Member of The Drum, and currently a Producer within EARS.

As Casey and Kira dealt with Emily, Mark, Theo and Nick were dealing with one of the survivors of the attack. And Theo was interrogating him—mercilessly. She was using her supernatural lightning to act as a taser as she questioned him. They learned that the culprit was a Prince of There named Hestor who wanted to expand his empire into the real world. Theo continued to electrocute him for more info, learning further that it was someone named “Karl Rathke” who’d become his initial foothold in our world. But before she could go any further, Nick Sparks pulled her clear of the man, finally pointing out the damage she’d done: This otherwise innocent person was nearly completely fried. Horrified at the damage she’d done, Theo ran off.

Then it was time for research. First was to finally learn why Exploding Boy was becoming such an obtrusive part of their music scene. Him and Karl were one and the same. And he had a new single that Internet fans had tied to a deceased collaborator: The late Click Track. Theo looked into the realm of There and learned that the place was a collection of three Kingdoms, with a single Greatking who ruled over the entire realm. The current Greatking, it seemed, was considered by many to be a usurper and a false king. Who was currently fighting a war he claimed to have already won.

At last, Jesse Davis arrived and was able to use a combination of proprietary technology and the basis of Nick’s magic to remove the surveillance camera from Kira’s mind. And on that topic… Kira used a version of her reversed life-drain powers and blood magic to take all the memories she could collect of Casey and send them into Jesse’s mind. At last: Jesse Davis remembered his sister.

But then it was time to confront Exploding Boy. They learned that he was going to use his next concert at the Roy Wilkins Auditorium to mind control his entire audience into finally summoning Hestor into this world. Mark snuck in ahead of everybody else by walking through the walls, but found himself stuck in some kind of trap. When everybody else joined him, Theo recognized it as an Ambition Ward. Mark simply couldn’t bring himself to want to leave the circle.

Then Exploding Boy took the stage, and dozens of fans descended on the dance floor. Casey and Theo did what they could to hold them back while Kira did something she’d sworn never to do again. She used her power of mental domination to override Mark’s own will, practically forcing him to step free. And she didn’t stop there. She turned her power on Exploding Boy, compelling him to smash his synthesizers, and give up the fame he’d gotten from his deal with Hestor, ultimately ending the contract between the musician and the prince.

But it was too much. The stress of using her powers combined with the shame at what she’d done was enough for McLeary—Kira’s punisher alter—to take control. He was not happy with Kira, and he walked her right out the door to take her who knows where.

The rest of the team knew they had to intervene, but how? Theo tried to cast a spell to magically bring Kira back to the fore, but she needed help. Casey would have to do everything she could to remind Kira of herself, and of their bond. She did that, and more. Casey set herself between Kira and the exit, confessed that she was in love with Kira, and kissed her.

The good news? The spell worked. She came back to consciousness. The bad news? Kira was so thrown by the kiss that she walked out the door anyway. And Tommy saw everything.

Now what?

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S2 Mystery 3: The Visible Family

The Visible Family

In the weeks since their trip to Duluth, Mark, Theo, Casey and Kira were plagued by bad dreams. Kira was haunted by a phrase whose origin she couldn’t trace: “Rex Crook has no soul.” Casey learned from her therapist Dr. Mehndi—who did remember her—that the possibility to get her memory back into the world was fading. Theo was spending her waking hours dodging her brother Deacon. And Mark kept having visions of himself and his friends being attacked by enemies he knew to be dead, wearing a sinister ceramic mask.

Kira went to the Third Sons where Aaron Davis’s mind-mapping machine had finally been perfected. She hoped to use it to pull her memories of Casey out and implant them into the mind of someone else. If the world couldn’t remember Casey, then maybe just some of the most important people could. But it didn’t work. Kira’s mind isn’t an easy one to map, and the two of them got lost in it and viewed an odd flashback to a battle involving the previous incarnation of the Invisible Family, and the troubling implication that DAD had something to do with Kira being “created.”

Also at the Third Sons, Theo inspected Quinn’s body and saw that a kind of “manufactured soul” was keeping the body animated. In her ethereal vision, it appeared as a small mask at the base of her spine. And its energy was fading.

Mark decided his new house was feeling awfully empty. He wanted to reach out and make peace with his estranged mother, but first, he wanted a pet bird. So he took Theo along and hit the pet shop, where he came home with a talking owl ghost. Wait, what?

That done, Mark went alone to his mother’s house. But when the door open, he saw another version of himself on the other side. After a panicky, confused conversation, the other Mark ran and hid when Mark’s mother came into the kitchen with an older man named RJ. She seemed to think that Mark had never left. It was odd, but the two Mark’s promised to help each other and parted ways.

Kira visited Tommy Sparks, who was on a hunt in Iowa. She was feeling weighed down by the guilt of what happened to Casey. Closing the Infinite Hallway was supposed to be her destiny. But Casey had saved Donovan for her, and now she was suffering for it. Tommy reminded her that their world was full of impossible problems, and somehow they solved them anyway. It’s just a matter of finding the right way forward.

Back in Minnesota, she learned from Tommy’s brother Nick that the reason he was in Iowa was because Sarah Flass—his ex-girlfriend and werewolf sire—was back from the dead. And he’d kept that from her.

Theo’s brother Deacon also knew about an odd werewolf with some connection to There lurking around Iowa, and he pressed her into accompanying him.

Casey and Kira met up with Mark in his mother’s neighborhood, and he consulted his obsidian stone, which gave him some fractured visions of himself as a child. They didn’t have much time to ponder that, because a sniper had them in his sights. Numbers the assassin—whom they’d killed months before—was on the attack. They closed the distance, and learned that he was working for Rex Crook “The King.” Numbers’s body had also been animated by an “anchor,” just like the one Theo had seen on Quinn. They managed to put a stop to him and rejoined Mark’s mother, where Mark admitted, “I’m the other one.”

It was finally time to get some answers. As a child, Mark had been killed. But his mother Samantha—a magic user herself in a coven of witches called the Sorores Silentium—had made a deal with someone from There. As it’s a kind of waypoint en route to the afterlife, she was able to get Mark’s soul back, but something else hitched a ride. That other consciousness would go on to become the Mark Clayton we know.

Digesting that information would have to wait: an armored vehicle pulled up to the house and several agents from The Drum piled out. The fight was more brutal than usual. The Drum didn’t fight fair, and Samantha Clayton cast a spell on Casey that sent her into a berserker rage. As the fight started to turn in their favor, Kira realized she recognized one of the Drum agents… from EARS. He claimed that EARS had lost its way and the Drum would be how they found it again, before taking some kind of explosive suicide pill.

After the fight, Samantha cast a spell that required wealth and a signature. RJ was happy to provide, but Casey realized that he didn’t sign “RJ.” He signed “Rex Crook.”

They got word that something was going down at the Third Sons: Quinn had awoken and started attacking. Not wanting to leave Samantha with RJ—Rex—they sent her to Dawnbreak’s headquarters: a repurposed Dress Barn on the edge of town.

At the Third Sons’ mansion, a full-on battle was underway, with ghosts flying around, and Quinn in the basement wreaking havoc. The team fought their way in and down and managed to get the anchor free from Quinn. But then something came over Mark. The anchor was a mask, after all. So what would happen if he put it on?

Well what happened is he lost complete control of himself. He reverted somehow to the other-side consciousness he’d been before he became “Mark,” and only by physically restraining him and reminding him of their connection to him could Kira and Casey get him to take it off.

Mark reached out to Theo, they exchanged information and decided to all meet up in Iowa. Nick Sparks used a spell to teleport the group of them to the motel Tommy was staying at—which also happened to be where Theo and Deacon were.

Kira immediately lit into Tommy for not telling her who he was hunting in Iowa. He claimed he wasn’t trying to be dishonest, he was trying to protect her. After all, he’d nearly killed her the last time Sarah came back into his life and took control of him. He could never live with himself if anything like that happened again.

And then it clicked. It was all connected. Numbers’ resurrection, Quinn’s rampage, Sarah Flass’s return. Rex Crook was using these bodies, and these anchors to attempt something called a “soul cracker:” a moment of such violence and trauma, that the soul of the person viewing it would come unmoored and be taken. And then Rex Crook could have a soul again.

Casey connected some dots in Tommy’s investigation notes and figured out that Sarah Flass was based in an ancient abbey nearby. Inside was Sarah Flass and her entire undead werewolf pack. Seeing as they’d teleported, not driven, Casey hotwired a fancy Rolls Royce to drive them there.

Unfortunately, that car belonged to Deacon Nessos, who Theo had been magically keeping asleep. When he woke to find the car gone, he hit Theo in a rage and left to find a bar. Theo cast a flight spell on herself and joined the others, refusing to acknowledge the growing bruise on her face.

Inside, the battle with the werewolves was as hard as it was personal. Many of the hunters had history with Sarah Flass. But since Tommy had stayed behind, she wasn’t able to use what could have been a secret weapon, and the fight ended in her defeat.

They barely caught their breath before a drunken Deacon, having trailed Theo through the sky, burst through the door. He waved a gun around, and a set of oddly runic tattoos on his arms and shoulders glowed with magical energy, but at the end of it all, there was little he could do before he passed out.

And it was finally over.

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S2 Mystery 2: Duluth

Duluth

Mark and Kira—still technically journalists—were sent to Duluth, MN by their newspaper, The Daily Tuba, to investigate an artistic oddity: Renowned artist Tank had opened a show featuring dozens of portraits of the same sinister-seeming man. Theo, meanwhile, was sent to investigate the same thing for different reasons: The man in the portraits was named Lysander Sideris, and he’d been killed hundreds of years before by Theo’s ancestor.

Casey Davis opted to stay behind to recover, and investigate potential fixes alongside The Invisible Family (the powerful, mysterious quartet who’d helped out before).

Their investigation took them first to Tank’s art show, where something was clearly off. Tank himself was a zealot, utterly enthralled by his subject. And his paints were laced with blood. Communing with that blood through a combination of Mark’s and Kira’s natural magics sent them to their next destination: a cave by the lake where the blood’s … former owner had been killed.

Inside, they found a group of hooded figures as well as Tank himself, gathered around a roughshod altar on which a man was having his blood drained into a ritual bowl. Obviously, the team leapt into action. But after a series of backfiring spells where Mark’s body was taken over by Dockers, the stoner ghost that’s hitching a ride in his head, and Kira’s body was fully merged with the shadows of the cave, things were NOT going well.

That is until a husky, mustachioed stranger showed up and turned the tides. His name was Yano, and he was a local handyman who did much more than mow lawns and fix sinks. They were able to rescue the man from ritual exsanguination and knock out Tank. But Yano knew their troubles were only beginning. The ritual they’d interrupted was intended to transfer Lysander Sideris’s spirit to a new vessel. As a blood mage in life, Sideris had put a failsafe in place to bring himself back from the dead, but it hadn’t taken root until now. But he wasn’t done looking for a new vessel.

They’d have to purge Sideris’s remains from this world, and that meant finding the original medium he’d used to enthrall Tank. But first, Mark realized that his visions were showing him that he was at risk of becoming the blood mage’s next vessel. Theo connected with him psychically to try to get a read on where Sideris’s spirit currently was, and they found a trail that lead to the Glensheen Mansion, a Duluth landmark. Theo also accidentally pulled Dockers into her own mind, which was a little awkward, but not so bad.

At the mansion, they got more bad news. Tank had broken free and stolen the original Lysander Sideris poster. So the team made a bee-line for the artist’s home, where they found squalid living conditions, and a number of people chained up in his basement. One of whom was just as invested in tracking down Tank: the artist had kidnapped her young daughter Kumani.

Mark could track the blood mage magically, but something was interfering with his powers: the protection bracelet Theo had made him. So he took it off, which only made him vulnerable to being possessed by Sideris, who forced him to attack his friends. Kira tried to help, but that only made Sideris turn his eyes to her, and take over Kira’s body instead. The possessed Kira overpowered Mark and flew off.

Mark, Theo and Yano returned to the ritual cave, while Kira attempted a desperate plan to exorcize the blood mage: Kira was still host to the mysterious “ deadlife,” which Anna (Kira’s alter and sister) believed would purge the intruder. But to access it, they’d have to go into the basement of her apartment mind palace. And there were monsters there.

Theo knew that they would need to force Sideris out of Kira and into a vessel, but one that they could control and affect: The original painting. While Theo prepared a rune to infuse into the painting to trap the mage’s spirit, Mark reached out to Tank and, impersonating Sideris, ordered the artist to simply bring the painting to them. Which saved a ton of time.

Together, the Ashwood sisters braved the darkness, and faced the monster: A twisted version of Kira’s own father. While Kira distracted him, Anna managed to wrangle the pale green serpent that was the deadlife within her. They still didn’t know much about what it was, but it seemed like the only option.

Tank dropped off the portrait, Mark retrieved it, and Theo set about inscribing the binding rune. She empowered the spell with her own blood, which, while definitely effective at super charging her magic, is still a forbidden art. And deeply concerned Yano. He returned to his truck, leaving Mark and Theo to rescue Kira and the girl alone.

What could have been a huge fight was avoided when Mark intimidated most of Lysander’s followers into fleeing in terror. And the possessed Kira was taken out of the fight when Kira and Anna thrust the deadlife into the ethereal portrait representing Lysander’s possession, banishing the blood mage into a new vessel… But the runes on the painting didn’t work. And Lysander possessed young Kumani instead.

But this time, Mark was in control of his own body and Kira was… not made of shadows. So they restrained the girl, fought back her magical abilities, and Theo pulled the mage’s spirit out of the girl and into the painting which Mark lit up, ending the threat.

Afterwards, Theo headed to Yano’s house to apologize. She didn’t like using that kind of magic, and wanted to let him know that she wouldn’t do it anymore. But there was someone else there waiting for her: Her violent older brother, Deacon. And he was overjoyed that his little sister was breaking rules.

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S2 Mystery 1: Who is Casey Davis?

Who is Casey Davis?

As far as she could tell, Casey Davis had been transported to an alternate dimension. Which made sense. Something like that would be the kind of price you’d have to pay to close The Infinite Hallway, the hub between a limitless number of other worlds. So she and Kira’s mentor Donovan headed off to find Riley, the clairvoyant little girl who’d proven to be older than she seemed, and present in more than one reality. If there was a way for Casey to get home—if she had a home to go to at all—Riley would know about it. She called and left a message for Kira explaining her situation and her plan, though she had no way of knowing whether her call would reach her friends at all.

It did, and the rest of the team was determined to find Casey and bring her home from their side. They hit their first snag when they realized that Nick and Tommy Sparks no longer had any memory of Casey Davis or any of the adventures they’d had together. They headed to the Third Sons headquarters, where they met a young sorceress who introduced herself as Theo Jones (kind of a suspicious pseudonym, but whatever), who was investigating an attack that had just happened.

It seemed a female cyborg had stormed the place, smashed through the wall and tore through the Third Sons’ meager security. They weren’t actually a militia, after all. Just a group of men with a peculiar quirk of birth order that allowed them to remember their past lives. The cyborg (“Zombot,” as she was quickly christened) was single-mindedly after Riley, who was luckily able to escape with her right hand man Gad, and flee to safety at a suburban junior high school of all `places.

Along the way, Nick Sparks showed that he was not a fan of Theo, and that her last name wasn’t really Jones. He knew she was Magio, a member of some kind of supernatural organized crime organization, though she swore she wasn’t like the rest. As if that wasn’t enough, even Aaron Davis, member of the Third Sons and Casey’s own cousin, had absolutely no idea who Casey was. It was like she’d been erased from existence.

But now they had a destination: Century Junior High. En route, Kira’s car was T-boned by some kind of suited private security force that didn’t seem like it belonged to any of the organizations they’d encountered so far—and they’d encountered a lot of organizations that might try exactly this sort of attack.

After a swift and brutal battle, in which Theo proved herself to be a skilled combat mage, they interrogated some of the survivors and found out that they worked for “ The Drum” and got their orders straight from “The Director,” but they refused to say any more. Rather than leave a mess of blood and twisted metal on the highway, Theo called in a favor with the Magio to have a cleaner sent. She may not be like them, but she was certainly one of them.

Arriving at the junior high, the team flew to the roof, where an explosion had torn an enormous hole in the building, finding an injured and unconscious Donovan inside. Kira healed and hugged her surrogate father, bringing him back to consciousness just in time to see the Zombot enter and attack. But Theo recognized the cyborg: She was Quinn Castward, a Magio ancestor who’d gone missing more than a century previous. Or at least, Quinn’s re-animated corpse, assisted by technology and magic. Scratched into her metallic arm and scraped into her rotten flesh were a series of runes that seemed to be holding her together and giving her the unnatural life and power she was using to hunt for Riley.

The Zombot recognized Theo as well, and put up a devastating fight, even against the combined might of Theo’s sorcery, Mark’s fire magic and Kira’s life-draining powers. The latter proved dangerous, as the life that Kira was absorbing was wrong—warped. It wasn’t life energy at all, but some kind of twisted version of it. Deadlife.

Just then, a bullet soared through the air and punctured one of the runes on Quinn’s body, and a badly-injured Casey Davis entered the fight.

Theo, still convinced she could appeal to whatever remained of the once-human Quinn, attempted first to reason with the cyborg, then to banish whatever evil spirit was keeping her under control. The spell went awry, and Theo swapped bodies with the cyborg.

Unfortunately, Casey and Donovan were still in combat with the cyborg Quinn, who now had Theo’s consciousness in her head. Fortunately, Kira was able to tell exactly what had happened, and explain the situation to the rest of the team. Unfortunately, that gave Donovan a dark idea: if they continued to attack the body Theo was occupying, with her comparatively low combat prowess, they could bring it to the brink of death and then swap them back, allowing for an easy victory. But for Kira, it was always less about winning the fight than about helping the victims. Donovan relented, they swapped bodies back, and the fight resumed.

After a few more violent minutes of Mark burning off power runes, Casey shooting holes in the cyborg, and Theo and Kira hurling spells, Quinn was finally brought down. She begged for her life, and Theo decided they should try to help her. The Sparks Brothers brought first aid kits for injured allies and enchanted chains for injured enemies. They’d send Quinn to the Third Sons for now, and try to find a way to purge the evil influence that had turned her into a killing machine.

With the battle done, the team was finally able to collect themselves and realize that Casey hadn’t been sent to another universe at all, but had still been effectively erased from everyone’s memories in this universe, except for Mark, Kira and Riley. The question now was how to get the rest of the world to remember Who is Casey Davis?

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S1 Mystery 10: Outbreak
What Happened in Season 1?

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CASEY
Remember that agent from EYES who had attacked my home? It was time to get him out of my basement and figure out what to do with him. I tried to offload him to Nick Sparks, but he refused. So, I took him to Black Hawk Park. Where it all started for me. Where Tessa Jones—my high school girlfriend, my first love—had been murdered. Where her ghost still lingered. Literally.

I’d gotten some memories back that had been stolen, and Tessa’s ghost and I had sort of reconnected. I guess some part of me wanted her to talk me out of doing what I was going to do, but I should have known I’d be too stubborn for that. I killed the agent and buried him there. But not before stripping him for equipment. Some EYES communications gear I could try to reverse engineer, and what appeared to be a physical brick of static. Tangible white noise. It was some kind of ultimate escape device. Filing that away…

KIRA
I’d gotten some memories back, too as it happens. With the help of EARS resident therapist, Dr. Mehndi, I’d gotten back in touch with Anna. An alter, or imaginary friend or… I don’t know. I always thought of her like my sister. After 10 years of silence, she was back.

I also had been working with Aaron Davis to trawl through his memories of John Graal and we figured out that on the night the four industrialists had “pierced the veil,” they’d torn open the hallway and a voice inside had instinctively granted their deepest wishes. For John, it was to have knowledge and have it survive, creating the Third Sons phenomenon and their connection to past lives. Bertram Stroud’s connection to the land created the Stroud curse: every Stroud who passed was guaranteed to leave a ghost behind, until a countermeasure was developed: “Strouds in shrouds.”

I may have flirted with Aaron a little to get my questions answered. And Aaron may have developed a schoolboy crush on me. That’s not… it’s fine. It’s fine.

MARK
Around the town, and especially at the Third Son’s headquarters, something was driving some of the ghosts we’d met before mad. Nelly, the young ghost maid we’d met at Stroud Manor, turned up and attacked, looking more like a skeletal beast than the sweet young woman I’d talked to months ago.

We drove her off, but knew that things were only getting started. We met up with Casey at EARS headquarters, because, I guess that’s who we thought would know the most. At least we were together when it happened, or we wouldn’t have been able to act quickly enough. Thunder almost literally shattered the sky, and we could feel it, each of us, the same trepidation we’d felt at the museum, at the Source… in the Hallway.

Something was coming.

CASEY
Over two dozen doors to the Hallway were suddenly open, across the city, around the state. Luckily, we were at the one place that would know how to fight back. Teams were being deployed, but we identified five main areas of concern. To cover more ground, we split up.

KIRA
I tried something weird: I used the shadow powers I’d been honing into a force for healing and I built a body for Anna to occupy. I knew it would be temporary, but I knew she could help.

MARK
I headed to the University where I found Ack. He’d been roaming free, and when he sensed the danger, he’d showed up to fight. I reached out to him, I merged with him. And together, operating as a green, three-story monster of strength, we crushed the threat in no time. I also crashed the ceiling of a dorm, but nobody got hurt. So, hey! Still a win.

KIRA
I went to a park, where a winged and violent double of Mark Clayton’s mother was terrorizing the parkgoers. She recognized me. She called me daughter-in-law… so that’s weird.

I got some backup from the Sparks brothers, and we used some kind of magical chains to restrain Mrs. Clayton, ending the threat.

CASEY
My team and I faced off against a team of masked agents with otherworldly weapons. They turned out to be other versions of me, my brother Jesse and Tessa.

My doppelgänger got Diego pretty bad in the ankle with some kind of magma-hot spike. He was going to lose the foot—damn my impeccable aim—but we got them. Three down.

ANNA
Hey, I’m Anna! It was weird being apart from Kira, but I had a job to do. At the Source, I found more Divinity’s Shadow cultists feeding blood and power into the hole, but found that the energy was flowing to a bigger door into the hallway: at Jupiter’s Garden, the low-income high rise in the west of town.

What’s more, the cultists were being led by Nathaniel Rose and… Loretta. Ezekiel Stroud’s first wife, and Marinette’s mother. They’d figured out how to use her family’s curse as a blood gift to jump from body to body, making themselves effectively immortal.

Only effectively though. I took out the cultists, stopped them feeding the door, and then as the magic sustaining my body started to fade, I sprouted some wings, and flew her as high up as I could. The last thing I saw before I dissolved back into my sister was Loretta landing with a crunch. Good luck finding your way back into a body, ghost bitch.

CASEY
I got a call from Jesse, but it wasn’t him. It was Craig. He sounded different. Focused. Lost.

Craig Throat had my brother. And whatever his plan was, it was moving forward. And it was going down at Jupiter’s Garden.

MARK
Everybody else had to drive, but merging with ACK made me not only huge, but fast. I got there before anybody else did. I even turned to wave as the others drove up. I thought they might be scared of my new body, and wanted them to know I was friendly.

KIRA
He didn’t see the soft-ball sized light blue orb that had been thrown out of the window at him. I shot myself forward like a cannon and hurled my axe at the grenade. Except it wasn’t a grenade, not really. It was a displacer field. It expanded, encompassing my axe and a large part of Mark’s ethereal body. Then it all disappeared. Mark was back to normal—I mean normal for Mark—and my axe was gone.

CASEY
I’d had EARS arrange for a cybernetic foot for Diego so he could stay in the fight. It would match his robotic left hand.

We knew Craig was in the basement. Sneaking in, we found my brother, chained up and badly beaten, a whole mess of Divinity’s Shadow cultists, some militia types in Black Rose gear, and Craig Throat. He was standing by a door that had been ripped into the Hallway, held open by the warped and monstrous ghosts of Nelly the maid and Ellsworth Stroud. Craig held out his hand, ready to meet another hand that reached from inside the hallway. When they made contact, Reality shifted.

MARK
Suddenly, I was a badass, graveyard-dwelling monster of the night

CASEY
I was the Director of EARS

KIRA
And I was the queen of Divinity’s Shadow. All the things that the voice in the museum had shown us. And for each of us, Craig Throat had taken some position of trust. He was Donovan.

CASEY
He was my handler, The Author.

MARK
He was DAD, of the Invisible Family. But we all knew he wasn’t, not really. Especially when we heard Riley’s voice, the little girl from Dawnbreak. She told us to meet her at a suburban junior high.

CASEY
But it was besieged by some kind of zombies. We couldn’t do it alone. I called my brother. In this world he was a washed-up drunk. I still needed his help, though. We wound up getting a ride from Tiff Torres. In the real world, she was a captain in EARS security, and one of the people who’d trained me at the agency. But here, she was The Director’s—my—personal driver.

At the Junior High, we fought our way through the zombies, with a massive assist from Torres, who it turned out had access to insanely powerful shadow magic, and apparently served some kind of shadow… God. We fought our way inside to a massive black cube that we knew had imprisoned Riley. Torres’s shadow master started speaking up. And pushing her to get in our way. I had no choice but to put her down.

KIRA
Inside the cube wasn’t much less weird. It was some kind of astral plane designed to look like a young girl’s bedroom. And in that room, Riley explained everything. She’d found out that the prophecy about me was wrong. I wasn’t supposed to bring something from the Hallway out, but to bring it back in. Craig Throat was the wish-granting voice inside the Hallway. When Stroud, Graal and Branson first met him, he’d granted his own wish as well, creating himself a body and a life, with memories reaching back through time, establishing Craig Throat as a permanent presence in our world. That’s why he never seemed to age.

And to kill him for good, we’d have to bring him into the Hallway and kill him there so he could be reabsorbed. Then we’d have to seal him by closing all the doors. Only someone with the power to do it could close the doors. And only from the inside. Someone would have to stay behind.

CASEY
With Riley’s help, we broke free from Craig’s reality prison and found ourselves in the middle of an all-out battle between EARS backup and the Third Sons on one side, and Black Rose militia and Divinity’s Shadow cultists on the other.

The entire Invisible Family was there as well, handling themselves as well as any small army. MOM, UNCLE and KID held the line while DAD fought with us. We focused on Craig. Pulled him into the Hallway, outnumbered him and used all of our powers to finally bring him down. But the job wasn’t done.

KIRA
No sooner had I started sealing doors than Donovan showed up, grabbed me from behind and tried to shove me out. He was going to try to do this for me. Close the hallway so that I wouldn’t have to.

There was too many for either of us to do alone. We decided to work together. I’d figure out how to make sure he couldn’t sacrifice himself for me… later.

*MARK
*One of the doors was open into Craig Throat’s basement, where Riley was watching. Casey jumped through to get some intel from her, I saw the opportunity and… I sealed the door behind her. I also had the power to stop this somehow. And if there was anything I could do about it, I wasn’t going to let this place take my friend away.

CASEY
Mark shut me out! He sidelined me! That wasn’t his call to make! Especially because as I came out on this side, I saw Faces go through to the other side. Faces. The murderer who’d ruined my life—twice—was going to get a front seat to the end of the world, and all I could do was watch.

MARK
He was… here to help. When I asked him what the hell he was doing here, he shifted his form into Tessa’s. He said he was here to do what she would do. And then… he also started closing doors.

KIRA
That was more than enough people. I shouted at Mark and DAD—at Mark and his sister Sasha—to leave and let us handle it. They should be safe, and together. As a family.

MARK
She was right. DAD seemed like she wasn’t going to leave, warrior to the end. But she was my sister. And I’d never gotten the chance to get to know her. If I lost her now, I never would. Not to mention the Invisible Family would lose its leader.

It was a cheap shot. I caught her on the back of the head with a sharp jab, and knocked her out. I nodded at Kira and Donovan, and carried my sister out of the Hallway.

KIRA
Until there was only one doorway left: the one back into Jupiter’s Garden. Me, Donovan and Faces were the only ones left in here. I was all set to try to convince Donovan to just let the shapeshifter do it. After what he’d done… but there wasn’t a shapeshifter. Just two Donovans.

They weren’t budging. So… I said goodbye. The closest thing I had to a father was going to save the world. At the cost of his own life. That’s my dad.

I went back through, and a few seconds later… so did Faces. And the doorway shut. It was over.

CASEY
But I had a plan. I held Donovan in my mind and made as much of a connection as I possibly could. He was my best friend’s dad, and I couldn’t let him take that away from her. I gripped the EYES agent’s brick of static—the ultimate escape hatch—and squeezed it until it broke.

I was yanked through reality, like a rock on a string. The world bent in front of me until I was looking at Donovan, frozen in time, the last door to the Hallway a heartbeat away from closing, and trapping him in here forever.

I let the momentum of the static brick carry us both to the place I’m most connected to: My home.

Except, when we got there, it seemed off. My van Cosmo was there, but he was painted all wrong. The plants weren’t mine. And when I tried to open the door, I couldn’t.

Suddenly it clicked. I’d escaped. All the way. Out of danger, out of the hallway. Out of this world. We were safe, but whatever world this was, I didn’t have a place in it anymore.

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S1 Mystery 9: Vulnerabilities
What Happened in Season 1?

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KIRA
After what happened in the park, where Casey got possessed and… you know… killed me, EARS had her under observation. They couldn’t be sure there wasn’t lasting effects of being possessed. Which was fine, because Mark and I had a mystery of our own to investigate. Namely, what exactly Dawnbreak had been up to, and who had been helping them.

Turns out? It was me. Or at least, a version of me. See, I have these other people who live within me. And sometimes they take the driver’s seat. Alternate personalities. Dissociative identities. Whatever you call it, one of them—Anna—had been causing me to lose time over the last few weeks. She’d been working with Dawnbreak to map out the Infinite Hallway. Riley had been mining some kind of metal ore from a realm called “Ashworld” that gave them the ability to go in and out of the Hallway without it tearing them apart like it almost did to us.

MARK
The Hallway has a kind of idle hunger. It’ll eat you up, like a kind of soul vacuum. Right about then, I had a premonition on the topic. I saw Donovan bringing Riley to the Source and murdering her, letting The Hallway suck up her soul. Premonitions are a thing that’s been happening to me lately. I can see the future, but only when it’s bad. Riley was in danger, and if we were going to keep her safe, we needed somebody who did that kind of thing for a living. Luckily, we knew just where to find her.

CASEY
I was never the kind of kid who snuck out at night, but I imagined this must be what it felt like. Mark, Kira, Nick and Tommy—who’s apparently Kira’s full-on boyfriend now—helped me step out from under the nose of my EARS-appointed babysitter. They needed my help to protect Riley, but I’m an investigator first, and she knew more than what she was letting on.

It turned out she had been the one to recruit Donovan into their little cult in the first place. And this destiny Kira had going on was shared. There were others out there who could pull off whatever she was supposed to do. One was Donovan himself, another was Mark, and also… his sister, who’d been missing for years. Thankfully, Mark got another one of those feelings about who would be able to help answer some of the questions we still had.

MARK
KID, from the Invisible Family. I don’t know how I knew it, but I did. So, we tried a frankly risky ritual to summon him. But when he showed up, so did DAD. We learned that she had been KID herself. She’d been taken into the Divinity’s Shadow cult as a little girl, just like Kira, until she was rescued by The Invisible Family, and the people who’d held the titles of MOM and DAD before her. They’d made her KID until they died, leaving the Family in her command.

But what struck me about the story was where she’d been taken from.

My Mother…

DAD’s name had been Sasha Clayton…

My sister…

Holy shit.

CASEY
Family drama would have to wait. There was a universe-ending murder in the near future. I probed further into the vision Mark had, and it seemed like whatever gave him those premonitions gave him some kind of connection to the monsters—people—that he saw in them. It wasn’t much, but it was a start. We piled into the car and set off, Mark giving his odd, vague directions to the danger.

KIRA
I was trying to help. I thought that if Mark could get a better mental picture of Donovan, we could get there quicker and save Riley. Hell, we could save Donovan. But the moment I mentioned his second wing—the black one, the one I made for him—Tommy called me out.

I had told him about Donovan. From then. The ruthless mentor. The monster. Who’d tried to make me into one, too. And he was. And he had. But I hadn’t been prepared for what it would be like to see him again. With what we knew now, I wondered aloud if I’d made a mistake breaking him free.

Tommy wondered if he’d made a mistake too, in trusting me. And here I had thought my heart was all done breaking.

CASEY
We did wind up tracking Donovan to the temple where the Source had been hidden. Kira still wanted to save him, but when we got there, Donovan wasn’t that interested in being saved. Zealots never are.

He had some kind of dagger that gave me the same kind of vibe as the one Nick Sparks had used to trap Marinette. Less an instrument of damage than a kind of collection medium. So, when he seemed about to slash out at Kira to take her blood, and maybe her soul, I didn’t hesitate. I drew my shotgun, and I put a hole in him.

KIRA
I know why she did it. I have to remind myself that I know she was protecting me. But this was Donovan. You don’t know what he did for me. What he saved me from. Everything else he did was just… what happened next.

So, when he held that dagger in his weakened hand and said, “then let it be my blood,” and thrust it into the crater in his chest, I knew without knowing what he was trying to do. And I couldn’t let him do it.

Even as the blood drained from his body into the blade, I reached out with my own. One of the things they taught us how to do in the cult was pull another person’s life force out of them to heal yourself. But the spell can be… reversed. I can spend my own body and blood to rebuild someone else. And that’s exactly what I did.

MARK
As Donovan’s body started to repair itself, I got the dagger away from him, and it… called to me. It was still charged with his blood. Still had the potential to do whatever he wanted to do with it. Whatever I was apparently capable of doing. Ripping a hole in reality. Changing the world to my whims.

Making everything that had ever been unfair in my whole life into something better. Backwards through time even. I could do it. I could see it.

But then I saw Casey. And she saw me.

CASEY
Look, Mark Clayton is a weird guy on the best of days. But we’ve been through a lot together. And even though it’s pretty clear that there’s something other than human going on inside him, I know him. And he knows me. I had to believe that he could do the right thing. I held out my hand for the dagger, and even though his unnatural flame-eyes literally burned with desire for it, he turned it over. Because I asked him to.

Now it was time for clean-up. I couldn’t very well take Donovan back to EARS—Kira had busted him out, first of all, plus there was the matter of my house arrest. I wasn’t even supposed to be here. So, we took Donovan and the dagger to the only place we knew they’d both be safe. To Craig Throat and the Third Sons. Craig used some kind of gadget to ‘cleanse’ the dagger, and they put Donovan in one of their holding cells in his basement. Whatever Donovan had been planning, it was over now.

Afterwards, we all headed to the Sparks Brothers’ cabin in the woods to regroup. I thanked Nick for his help. In the church, and before. He’d become an oddly trustworthy part of the team. I’d come to… rely on his presence.

I, very… coolly made plans to go on a double da—a group hang out wi– no. A double date. With him and Kira and Tommy. As soon as it was safe, we’d all go get a drink.

KIRA
Which would maybe have to wait. I came clean to Tommy. I told him… everything. About Donovan and how he’d taken me away from a straight up abusive childhood. About how he was the first person—the only person to really believe in me. About the ritual—the murder I’d committed that gave me my wings and my powers.

And then goddamnit, I told Tommy that I couldn’t handle being left out in the cold! I wasn’t okay with where we were, and I wanted to find a way back. Donovan meant a lot to me. But so did Tommy.

“I want that, too,” he said, “But I need some time.”

It wasn’t… it was enough. I could live with that. I could wait.

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S1 Mystery 8: Black Rose
What Happened in Season 1?

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EXCERPTED FROM THE FILES OF CRAIG THROAT
I’ve been alive… for a long time. But for as long as I can remember, I’ve been too distracted with the mysteries of this world to concern myself with the single mystery that’s troubled me most: Who and what I am.

But now, I look around and I’m surrounded by allies. This agent, and her ersatz Journalists, and, of course, John’s Third Sons… I find myself able to take a breath for the first time in … decades.

I find myself musing at last on the circumstances of how I became involved in all of this. It would be easy to say that it began that day in the museum, 1925. But I know that the ripples of what we did—Bertie, BB, John and I—pressed out into the world, both forward and backward through time.

I see the ripples as far back as 1911, back when Branson Branson—BB—thought to host a party for his friend in mourning. Poor Bertram Stroud was distraught after the sudden death of his cousin Marinette. BB thought to stage a séance. He’d done the reading, he’d hired a professional—one Quinn Castward, from something of a family of maguses. Magi… Mages.

But—damn the man—once John Graal got whiff of the proceedings, he felt a party brewing. So he put the word out. As high as the old-money heiress Riley Mathews, and as low as the cut-throat conman Gottfried. Anyone who was anyone was there.

Obviously, so was I. Or at least, I remember being there. And I know others remember me being there. But I have no evidence. No invitation addressed to my name. No record of my attendance.

Which was odd, but not as odd as what else was going on.

Riley had taken to snooping. And she’d found that Marinette was not Bertie’s cousin, as the records held, but was in fact his bastard half-sister. Not only that, but the two of them had been maintaining something of an affair—epistolary, if not more—which gave the proceedings something of a more troublingly romantic pall.

We had little time to digest the whispered information before something more grave overtook it: The séance took a turn, and Marinette’s spirit arrived, but furious. With Bertie himself.

“What have you done” she kept saying. “And what will you do.”

Marinette’s ghost made violent moves towards Bertie before—of all people—Gottfried put himself between them. Between the Criminal and the magus Castward, they drew her attention away from her quarry. Unfortunately, that only enraged the spirit, and she moved to inhabit the magus. Quinn Castward, empowered by the infuriated spirit of Marinette, fought her way through the party’s modest security with ease.

Thus far, we have never seen her since.

In the years that followed, it would be Riley Mathews—with help from myself and the newly discovered bastard wing of the Stroud family—that would take that evening’s symbol—a black rose party favor—and use it to found an organization—The Order of the Black Rose.

I was part of its founding. I was there when Marinette died, and when we brought her back. I remember all of this.

So why is there no proof of who I am??

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