Joan sat at her computer in a brightly lit office on the 5th floor of a generic corporate building in some mid-sized metropolis somewhere. Joan tried not to get bogged down in mundane human names for things. This city had plenty of reliable internet and no one actively hunting her. It was as simple as that. As her fingers flew over the keys, Joan burned a little Glamour and felt her mind open a direct connection to the internet. She understood enough about computers and Glamour to know that this ability was supposed to be impossible. Such a banal human structure was supposed to resist supernatural tampering. If the others insisted on trying to remember ancient contracts based on trees and time and rules older than dirt, that was fine with Joan. She would be proven right eventually and there was work to be done if she wanted to stay free.
These thoughts were only perceived at the edge of Joan’s consciousness. Most of her mind was entranced, driving her fingers to record in code the pattern she was tracing through the web. She was hunting big game this time. Who would’ve guessed that blackmailing criminals would be so lucrative? It was an awkward arrangement, having to catch humans assigning fake numbers to ephemeral ledgers in order to supply a very real community of people who shouldn’t exist. Accounting was almost arcane enough for Joan to believe a Fae had devised it.
The knock on the door shattered her trance. The thread of code slipped and Joan cursed. It would take more Glamour to try and regain the trail. Before Joan could say a word the door opened and Sophie, the secretary from the front desk, scurried in with three men in suits on her heels.
“I’m sorry ma’am. They insisted I escort them here straight away.” She turned and blinked at the gentlemen as if not really believing they were there and walked out as quickly as she had arrived.
Joan stood and sized them up, picking the oldest one to unleash her temper on. “Now just wait... “
“Joan Darce,” he interrupted, holding up a piece of paper, “You are under arrest for blackmail and piracy. You have the right to remain silent…”
Joan stopped listening and watched the two other men. They wore their disguises well, but no one who looked at their polished shoes and silk ties could miss their deadly grace. These were hunters too. They flanked Joan, closing in on her position.
Suddenly Joan realized the danger she was in. She had assumed these men were human, if the slightly more powerful type known as “federal agent”. Easy enough to deal with for one who could draw on Glamour. As they moved to surround her she saw their true form, just a glimpse of the truth behind the Mask. Two loyalists, both Fairest, trying to drag her back to Arcadia. She had one chance to escape.
She burned what Glamour she could to create a blinding flash and to gain extra speed. This would cost her later when the fatigue set in but she was desperate. She leapt for the door, passing the man with the paper before he could finish his sentence. She thought she heard the sounds of pursuit.
“Damn them! They should’ve been stunned for at least a few seconds.”
Joan ducked around a corner, running for the south staircase. She pulled the door open and bolted down the stairs, jumping several stairs at a time. Did she have enough time to get down to the first floor? She had to hope they didn’t have reinforcements. How could even two loyalists have made it this far into the very seat of the Summer Court for the Changelings of the West?
She peeked out on the first floor and saw only a few corporate drones moving between meetings. She stepped out, took a deep breath and headed calmly down the hall towards the door to the parking lot. At the sound of footsteps she glanced over her shoulder and completely missed the man waiting to grab her from the nearby alcove. He deftly grabbed her wrist and pulled it into a hammerlock. She twisted and dropped to her knees. Joan tried to stand up, grinding her teeth at the sharp pain in her shoulder, but the man twisted her wrist further and forced her down until she was flat on her stomach.
Joan craned her head to see who the footsteps belonged to and saw the second abductor coming closer. She noticed that he, at least, seemed to be trying to shade his eyes against even the brightness of the hallway. Glamour spent, pinned to the floor by enemy Changelings, shoulder in agony, Joan cried out her frustration. She would rather die than be a slave in Arcadia again. The handcuffs snapped firmly around her wrists and the two agents hauled her to her feet and used their radios to confirm their success. Joan glanced around desperate for any kind of help. Was that Matt ahead, what was he doing out before dark?
“Matt! Help me! They are not who they appear to be!”
Matt looked carefully at the men and looked back at Joan with something dangerously close to pity in his eyes. He shook his head and moved out of the way of the men as they passed half dragging Joan to the door. That look in Matt’s eyes... Suddenly, Joan understood. These were actual federal agents and she was actually under arrest and she had just made a mundane human problem much, much worse. And she just might be going insane.