Witch Trial, 2024

Chapter Five

If you haven’t read the other chapters up to this point in the story, start HERE!

Isabella Sakura

As Rachel frantically searched the Archives, I watched Lily give up on her sister. The shock of what had happened hurt me, despite the fact that I couldn’t feel pain anymore. Giving up was not like Lily. What was she doing? I checked her mind, and I received a single thought back.

“I’ve wasted enough time here,” she thought. I couldn’t access Rachel to get more information; she had taken her mind completely off-grid for this operation. I went to watch Rachel, disguised as the assassin she was five years ago, in her search. She worked quickly, but quietly – she had moved through three rows of files since I had last checked on her. I sensed the presence of another group of people. Ignoring the physical world to reach the elevator, I saw two uniformed men in the doorway as it opened – Tribunal members looking for incriminating evidence for their next case. Involving none other than Rachel and Lily McClellan. I was in plain sight, but they didn’t see me. Which wasn’t a surprise, because I didn’t exist in their world. I hadn’t been Physical for two years.

I went back to check on Rachel and found her slumped against a cabinet. Taking a break, with the Tribunal actively searching the archives.

“…Which aisle are the records for the McClellans again?” I overheard, and Rachel McClellan registered the question. Carefully, she got up and started to continue down the hallway. On the other end, the Tribunal members appeared in the opening. She didn’t notice.

“You there!” one shouted. “Who are you?” If she hadn’t known she was in trouble before, she did now, because she was running at this point. She knew very well that she didn’t have clearance to enter the Archives unannounced, even if she was truly an assassin. Little did she know, another Tribunal official was waiting at the end of the aisle. And he was armed. He walked in, ready to intercept, and Rachel took notice. The two groups advanced on her from either side as she froze in her tracks. At this point, I noticed that one of the three Tribunal officials was holding a tranquilizer dart.

The next few moments exist in my mind as a series of still images, like a gruesome comic book.

Rachel stood still, hands raised.

The Tribunal official raised his weapon.

Rachel unfurled a pair of wings, now looking not too far off from an angel, taking out two officials.

The third shot a tranquilizer through her shoulder. Not fatal, but ultimately detrimental.

Rachel, with the last of her energy, fired a small amount of her remaining power through her attacker – ouch – and the wall, leaving a smoldering hole. She escaped, and flew to a nearby rooftop before collapsing, exhausted.


Back at the executive offices of the Tribunal, Valérie Lavigne was reaching the end of her fuse.

“You’re telling me,” she asked, her accent thick and her temper short. “That your men found McClellan?”

Thomas Smith hesitated. “I…”


“I think so. Our optical connections on Collier showed her receiving a successful blast from one of our tranquilizers,” Smith explained.

“And then what?”

“That’s all we saw. Almost immediately afterward, Collier was struck head-on by a mass of feathers and knocked unconscious along with the girl. We lost contact with him.”

“Why did they even go after her?” Valérie asked. “We could have just as easily sent in a separate squad to extract her.”

“I tried to stop them,” Smith explained. “They didn’t listen.”

“I hate to tell you this, but even if you were ordered to send them in for her, she was just a little girl,” Lavigne said, in a tone of exasperation that made Smith go silent. She put a hand on her chin and stared down at him, contemplating. “It would have been easy to neutralize her with no losses.”

“It was,” Smith agreed. “But she is a Sorceress, we are unsure of the extent of her power.”

“Then figure it out!”

“I wish it were that easy.”

Lavigne sighed.

“Well, at least McClellan’s alive,” Smith said. “You’ll have to take what you can.”

“Not so fast,” Lavigne said, “You’re supposed to be conducting an investigation, not all-out war.”

It was true, they were only supposed to be collecting information for the hearing that week.

“Thomas Smith,” Lavigne declared, finally. “You have disobeyed direct orders from the Queen. You will now be turned over to the Department of Realignment for retraining.”

A look of pure terror appeared on Smith’s face, as two uniformed guards marched to either side of him, and pulled him out of the room. He didn’t resist, for he knew it was futile.


Meanwhile, on the rooftops of London, Rachel was waking up. Her body was aching all over, and her eyebrows shot up in surprise when she found a tranquilizer dart, now emptied of its payload, embedded three or four centimeters into her shoulder. That’s a first, she thought. She had always been the person firing the tranquilizer, not the one being fired at. She knew her wings were still out, but she wasn’t awake enough to summon the energy to get rid of them. No, if she wanted to stay awake, that wouldn’t be an option. She had to get back to the Palace, and off of this rooftop – did she have a grappler? Yes. Could it reach the street? Maybe. Did she have the energy to use it? Again, maybe. It was worth a shot. She walked to the edge of the roof, pulling out the device that she had used so often six years ago. She took aim and fired at the top of a building two blocks down, as a door opened behind her.

“Rachel, is that you?” Alvin Cruz shouted from across the roof.

Rachel didn’t respond. She felt the impact of the hook hitting the building and the slack disappearing in the titanium cable. Alvin Cruz was still trying to get her attention as she jumped, holding onto the grapple launcher as if to try to cut off her own circulation.

The wings made it a rough jump, unfurling like a parachute as she left the firm concrete at the top of the building. She realized this and folded them around her hands for extra grip. Clever.

The slack came back for a second, putting Rachel in free fall, and tightened again with a jolt that almost ripped her hands away. The wind was whipping her hair as she flew, but it was enough that her eyes were watering. The buildings were so close to her, the street a thin line rising between them. It was a clear drop of several hundred feet, but she was lined up for a perfect landing. She loosened her grip as she neared the ground, ready to let the precious device swing back up to the heavens. It was designed to quietly destroy itself after a while, and she had learned to extend her reality-warping capabilities to include creating small objects she had used before. Her wings disappeared back into the ripped shoulders of her old uniform, as she prepared for her landing.

And then the cable snapped.

A sharp yelp.

A glance upward, revealing a shadowy figure standing with a grinder of some sort.

Another (vaguely familiar) figure throwing herself into her path.

The cold concrete of the sidewalk, approaching at a frightening pace.

And me, from the Beyond, screaming, though no one could hear me.