About a week ago...
It was a slow day at the police station, though the effects of last week's incidents could still be seen in the long row of witnesses trying to explain what had happened during the baseball game; however, none were quite able to recall the events in detail. Due to the increased number of patrols issued to officers, Veronica had to take over at the booth, typing out meaningless dribble for hours on end.
"...It was a bunch of grey aliens I think," one overweight woman claimed. "They dressed up in cables, and and fought against energy beings from another dimension!" Fortunately for her, it was her break after that one, and she could go to her office to enjoy a cup of hot coffee. However when she closed the door, she heard a familiar voice:
"That's a bit too much caffeine, even for a policewoman, miss Vermillion." The cup of coffee floated up from the desk, swaying back and forth; Veronica saw that it was manipulated by the shadow the cup cast, taking the shape of a hand. "You'll stay up all night, you know." “Good thing I have you to share it with then.”
Veronica recognized the voice as the same one she gave her report to a while ago; only now there was a hint of bitterness to it.
"You must already know why I have come early this time, so I'll make it quick; we know of your lies." After the shadow let the revelation sink in, it continued while swirling the cup around her. "One of our agents happened to discover what we first assumed to be a territory dispute between two pairs of twins. But as the other twins ran from the grave site, the operative saw the body they carried off; it was Amber's."
The cup stopped, and with a hard thunk landed back on the desk. Veronica then saw how the blinders in the window turned shut, casting the room in striped shadows. A large, humanoid shadow slowly grew against the back wall; it resembled a mobster with a gun in its hand.
"You've been embezzling Black Coins behind Ebon Mint's back, Veronica, and that's a big no-no. You've also run behind on your missions, and instead sent your agents on unreported assignments." The desk lamp was put on, and it was pointed towards her. "Who got the Black Coin? What are you scheming? This is your last chance to come clean." The shadow twirled its gun in a cartoony fashion. "Otherwise, we'll have a problem. And in our line of business...problems are not tolerated."“Hmmm, yes, I think I said those exact words to the last Vermillion Veronica.”
She folded her arms. “Thank you for putting everything the Mint knows in front of me. Counter interrogations waste so much time. And you've already wasted so much trying to piece together events that happened weeks ago.”
The shadow froze for a few seconds, before it continued looming over the room, the shape fluttering at its sides as if it was an empty trench coat.
Veronica lowered her arms to her sides. She had hoped that the Bates would hand the body to Soth before it could be discovered. But she had a contingency plan in place, and it was time to run with it. “Honestly, I had no idea who's body that was. It was just some info I picked up on a whim. You know what I think? I think a plant put it there. They must have recovered her body from the rubble of Justine's castle to frame me. Yes, that makes the most sense. Certainly more sense than an Ebon coin broker trying to cover the existence of one coin. After all, I've been embezzling coins by the dozens. What use do I have for a single black coin?”
Now the shadow’s fluttering increased, as if it picked up on a gust of wind. “Now that’s rich, coming from you.”“It was rich coming from our unknown higher ups as well.”
She shook her finger at the shadow. “And speaking of plants, that's exactly why I have a hard time accomplishing all of the Mint's objectives in a timely fashion. I need to run verification missions and find out more about where these tasks are coming from. Do you know how embarrassing it is to destroy your agent's own ship?”
“That doesn’t excuse your behavior,” the shadow answered, clearly not amused by her cute antics.
She took in a deep breath. ”Explaining my 'scheme' in detail will take time neither of us have, so I'll help you grab the gist of it. Do you know what the greatest spy organization in the world is?”
The shadow chuckled menacingly, and seemingly picked out a lit cigar to smoke. “A wise gal, eh? Well, what is it, blondie?””Facebook.”
She started to pace around the room, but the light stayed focused on her. ”Facebook is the intelligence gathering capital of the world. They share everything they see and everything they do. It's an organization that spies on itself and everyone around them, and most importantly, it's entirely transparent!”
The shadow’s fluttering now resembled wisps of flame, and the room was gradually turning into a shade of red. “What are you implying?”
She fret her brow. ”If you know someone's email address or name, you can find them on Facebook. People willingly give everything they know, even their secrets, to Facebook. Mark Zuckerberg has personally prevented school bombings, ended marriages, and made billions on information people willingly gave him. If only his sights were more lofty than just the money he could earn.”
Veronica turned to face the shadow. Its finger was tightening on the trigger. ”We can talk about this in detail later. Right now, I'm trying to stop a horror from destroying the world. The entire reason why I sent the Bates after that body was so that Soth would reveal his plans. One of the black coins I 'stole' was given to him purely so that I could spy on him from a safe distance. He wants to put himself in a human vessel, but the process will have negative consequences on the entire world. We'll stand a better chance against him if we work together. But if you pull that trigger, I can't guarantee you'll be around to do anything about it.”
At first, it seemed as if Veronica’s words fell on deaf ears, and shadows of flames seemed to envelop the red walls, slowly rising up to the ceiling. But then, the room turned back to it’s normal color, and the lamp was turned off. The shadow on the wall returned to resembling a trenchcoat-and-fedora-wearing humanoid, it’s arms no longer in sight on the silhouette.
“Hey toots, you’re a smart broad,” the shadow spoke, in a somewhat friendly, gangster-type tone. Next to him appeared more shadows, looking like him.
“You’re good at handling people, with good ears on the street, and better eyes on the cash. You’re one of our best agents.”
On walls perpendicular to the first shadow appeared more gangster shadows; these ones held tommyguns pointed towards her, and she realized she was quickly surrounded by shadows pointing those guns on every wall.
“And that’s why we gotta close this contract.” At that moment, the shadows walked off the walls, having materialized into black shapes, and opened fire.
Most girls try to transform before a fight breaks out, but Veronica was of the type that could swiftly transform whenever she wanted. A black nova erupted from the police officer, transforming her into the Ebon Vampire. The residual energy emitted from her transformation was able to protect her just long enough to sink into the ground. The gunmen wouldn't have time to see where Veronica emerged from. The door to the office was knocked off its hinges as Betty charged inside. With a single swing of her katana, she was able to clear out most of the shadow gangsters as soon as she entered the room. The mobsters were quick to aim their weapons at the newly arrived. By the time they opened fire, Betty had already teleported behind them and cut them down. ”Betty Barton, reporting for duty!”
Her voice was confident, but the hands on her blade were shaking. Veronica's desk had been blown into kindling, and bullet holes lined all of the walls. If Veronica was ever to use this cover again, there would be a lot of paperwork to fill out.
She dropped out of the ceiling, landing beside the window. A few of the tommygun rounds had managed to pierce her shoulder, but such small wounds were nothing to her. They would heal in time. ”You were not the best choice against me.”
She tore down the blinds, letting more light into the room. ”Should you manage to survive this encounter, let the Mint know that I will be suspending all of their assignments indefinitely.”
The shadow seemed undisturbed by how swiftly Betty eradicated the shapes. From the way his fedora moved, she could tell he shook his head. “You still haven’t figured it out....The Ebon Mint always collects their debts. And sooner or later, you’ll pay it.” Betty charged at the smokey shape on the wall and tried to cut it with her sword, but to no avail; it had already faded away by the time she made her mark on the wall. Soon, sounds of commotion quickly rose from outside the office.”This place isn't safe anymore.”
Veronica threw open the window. ”This way.”
Veronica's companion just nodded and ran for the window. Together, they jumped out of the window and took the fire escape straight to the street level. They did not appear to be pursued, nor where they attacked while they left.
Veronica had to wonder if they wanted her to escape. Surely the Mint wasn't this sloppy. You don't send an officer to announce the termination of another. Not when they were in Veronica's league. Either he was putting on a show and really did want Veronica to escape, or they were underestimating her. Regardless of the situation, it changed very little. Veronica was no longer a Mint coin broker. While it would have been beneficial if she could stall them a bit longer, she knew that this outcome was inevitable.”So um.”
Betty and Veronica were still running. ”Now what?””Phase two.”
Veronica placed a hand on the side of her head. ”Attention all Cradle agents: The Mint has cut their ties with us. If you’re a Mint operative, execute extreme caution around new coin brokers and non-Cradle operatives. They know where your allegiance lies, and you won’t fool them.”
Veronica stopped in a back alley and looked around herself, making sure there really was no one following her. ”We’ll have a discussion about this later. For the moment just be aware of it. And prepare yourselves. Something big is coming to Penrose, and we will be ready to fight it.”
The shadows on the walls seemed to swallow the occupants of the alleyway, and all was quiet again.
Back in the present day...
Lily woke up to the familiar sound of Alex's frustrated screaming, and mixed a giggle with a yawn as she stumbled out of her room; she was wearing a bright yellow Pikachu-themed onesie, complete with ears and tail accessories. "Oh, it's another new friend! Good morning, li'l buddy! Oh, and good morning to you too, Alex~"
She watched as Alex stomped off to feed the animals, smiling after him. He tries to hide it by being grumpy, but he really cares for them.
Ixion's voice spoke back to her telepathically. "Indeed. He is a kind soul."
It was then, as she took out juice form the fridge, that she heard the voice of a magical girl ring out across the city. The juice carton dropped to the floor, spilling its orange contents as Lily ran to the balcony. "There's trouble afoot, Alex! Let's go!
She hopped on the railing of the balcony, and reached for the sun in a dramatic pose:"Let my spirit gallop across the field of clouds, and strike my foes down with thunderous applause!"
She then fell down the building, her eyes closed, and in a dazzling sequence was caught by her motorcycle as she finished transforming; the vehicle had also changed appearance to match her new Eastern-dancer motif, with stars formed of lightning bolts and colorful flags that trailed behind. Once Alex got on board, they rode off, ready to face off against the new threat.
At the Beacon headquarters, Sylvia stood up from her seat, and began walking away, to the briefing hall. However, she momentarily lingered by Alicia, and without turning, spoke: "Come with me. We got a new job." Once various members of the local Beacon force have gathered Sylvia spoke: "Ladies...And gentlemen." She nodded towards Aurelio, giving him a little smile before she continued. "I just received reports of some unaffiliated magical girls at Town Hall having announced their intentions on taking over the city. Now, this by itself is not cause for alarm; our main priority is to eliminate the emerging monsters that would threaten the city's populace. However, we are also tasked with preserving peace. To that end, I need volunteers to negotiate with them. If the conflict escalates to outright hostility, you are to retreat; our Beckoners have warned us of a 'great darkness' approaching, and we need to be prepared. We don't know where it's coming from, but stay vigilant, everyone! May the light of Beacon guide your way, over!"
A bolt of lightning struck into the rooftop by Emily, Shannon and the Vixen. After the bolt, Cindy Ford hovered where it had struck, staring between them blankly, measuring them up with her eyes as she floated aimlessly. Behind her emerged a following her gang of girls jumping up from an open roof window, each of them snickering as they saw the contenders. ‘I am Cindy Ford, ruler of Penrose. Have you come to seek my protection?’
Once Emily made her query, the blue monster girl stared sharply at her, a few sparks of lightning arcing around her body. Behind her a couple of cronies were holding themselves from giggling. Cindy answered calmly and focused. ‘I'm starting an age of peace and prosperity for Penrose. As long as I am the ruler, I won't let anyone disturb this city, whether they're Beacon, Ebon Mint, or even a common Magical Girl like you. I will bind these unruly streets into a community which will stand the test of time, and destroy any who oppose me.’
Once Lily and Alex they reached Town Hall, Lily climbed up the side of the building until it flew right off. Then, as she back flipped with the vehicle, she dropped down with a spinning flourish, letting the motorcycle disappear into a crackle of electricity in the air after Alex also got off; she wanted her entrance to be positively shocking. When she took a look around her, she was surprised to see that she wasn't the only one going to see Cindy Ford, as there were two other girls present to see her; a girl she didn't recognize, and one she did. "Shannon! Eeee!"
She squeed, and glomped her friend, spinning her in the air as she hugged her. "I'm so glad to see you again! How are you doing! Did you find the gibbetygong you were looking for? Fought any monsters! Hey look, I got this new outfit, isn't it cute!"
She ran her motor-mouth at twice the usual speed using her magic, making her speech difficult to follow. Cindy glared at her, eyes narrowed in an expression that could be interpreted as annoyed. ‘Silence, bedlah girl.’
With that statement, Cindy now looked to them all. ‘If you accept my ruling, then we will have no problems. If you wish to battle me, then I will arrange for you a tournament, in which you will be smas-’
Cindy suddenly stopped mid-sentence and looked up before anyone else did, and the rest saw that the sky seemed to unnaturally darken, with black clouds gathering. ‘… Tina,’
Cindy commanded, and a girl with long black hair behind her nodded and promptly started focusing. The Vixen’s Third Eye revealed to her that the girl was focusing Beast-specialized magic into the distance. The weather started to get worse, as winds built up, forming small whirlpools of wind, leaves and small branches taken aloft as they travelled down the streets and parks. Soon, everyone else in Penrose saw the ominous signs encroaching from the north, and to their horror saw that far in the distance, some actual tornadoes were forming, slowly approaching the city. Lily looked spooked, and hid behind Alex, her hands on his shoulders as she peeked over him; her jewelry audibly jingled as she shook. ‘Found it,’
Tina stated, and pointed towards the graveyard; it seemed that the ominous signs were coming from that direction. Cindy turned her face to stare in the direction. ‘It seems someone unruly has turned up. Very well. Listen up!’
she turned to everyone gathered around. ‘I, along with my forces, will deal with this disruption. You can all stay put. But first, let us hold the tour-’ "No way! I'm going!"
Lily summoned her motorcycle, waiting for Alex to get on board. "This dark stuff at the graveyard is full-on Horror territory if I've ever seen it! Isn't that right, Shannon?"