You are a Wizard employee at Capital Resources, LLC – one of the largest magical firms in the Red Wizard Capital. Smart, talented, capable…and single. You’ve always been rather tongue-tied around the ladies, but hopefully as a rising star in CR, things should turn around soon in that department.
Every weekday morning, you walk several blocks from your luxury apartment to the headquarters building. You enjoy the routine, and like to catch a bit of air before your workday begins. Lately, you’ve gotten the feeling you’re being watched as you approach HQ. You even casted a detection spell yesterday, but it didn’t reveal anyone that might be hidden nearby. You decide to ignore the same feeling today as a bit of paranoia.
You think about your next assignment. Several survey reports from potential cinnabar mine sites are awaiting your analysis. Your recommendation will have an outsized impact on next year’s operations. You smile, confident in identifying the best location to maximize resource extraction, while minimizing costs.
You approach the front doors of HQ. There is a small device attached to the wall beside the door. You take out your ID card and swipe it against the reader – the magical energy in your card causes the device to beep, and the door clicks as it unlocks. You open the door and are about to enter when a voice shouts, “Wait!”
You glance backward, and your heart stops as you glimpse the young woman running towards you. She breathes heavily as she reaches you and comes to a stop. I’ve never seen her before, you think. I would have remembered.
“Hey, I know we’re not supposed to swipe each other in, but could you help me out? I forgot my card today.” She blushes slightly; you aren’t sure whether it’s due to the physical exertion or embarrassment at her predicament. Regardless, it only serves to accentuate her lovely face. You feel yourself drowning in her liquid amethyst eyes…
You suddenly realize you’ve been staring at her without responding for a few seconds. “Oh, ah, yeah that s-sucks,” you stammer, while thinking, no, it’s happening again! You’ve got to get a hold of yourself, and quick!
“Can’t you go back home and grab your ID card? There’s still a bit of time before official working hours begin” you say, then clear your throat. Why does it feel so tight?
The woman’s frown deepens as she says, “yeah, I normally would, but there’s no time! I have a big presentation this morning with the finance team, and they wanted to have it early! And you know how McDermott is.”
You do know, although thankfully not firsthand. The head of the Finance Department is notorious as a stickler for punctuality and professionalism. You sigh. “Sure, come on. I wouldn’t want you to get in trouble with McDermott.” You put on what you hope is a reassuring smile.
“Oh my gosh, thank you so much!” She smiles, relieved, and lightly touches your arm. You blush, and quickly turn around so she can’t see.
“No worries,” you say as she follows you inside. “My name’s Hadrien, by the way. I work in the Survey division.”
“Oh, you must be a Wizard then,” she says, impressed. “I’m Sabina, and I’m in Accounting – yeah not exciting, I know.” You’d never had a reason to visit the Accounting floor before. You’ll have to think of some excuses to go there later.
The two of you approach the ground floor security station. You hadn’t thought of this at the door – without an ID, the guards aren’t going to let her past the lobby. Sabina looks at you, pleading. It’ll look bad for her if she has to get someone from Finance to let her up, you think.
“Hey,” you tell the security guard, “I’m bringing a guest in today.” The guard looks bored – his job must be pretty monotonous.
“Sure thing, boss,” the guard says. “Please state your guest’s name and reason for visit.” Ah crap, you think, I don’t know her last name!
“Sabina Hawthorne,” she interjects.
“Sabina’s one of our new field contractors – she’s here to present some survey findings to my team this morning.” You pride yourself on your creativity and ability to improvise.
“Alright. We’ll give her a guest badge for now, but next time you’ll need to have her submit the contractor ID form before your visit,” the guard says.
“Thank you. I will, I promise,” Sabina says earnestly. She takes the guest badge, then both of you scan your badges at the turnstiles and walk inside, towards the ascenders. One opens as you arrive, empty, and the two of you enter. You are very aware that no one is with you two as the doors close.
“Let’s see, you’ll be needing the 18th floor for Finance,” you say, “and I’m up top on floor 20,” you say, pushing the appropriate buttons. There is a slight hum as the ascender rises.
“Must be nice working up there – it’s basically the penthouse,” Sabina says, pinning the guest badge to her white blazer.
“The view’s great – you should come up and visit sometime,” you reply without thinking. You start to blush again, and decide to just go for it – who knows when you’ll see her again? “H-hey, I know we just met and all, but would you like to go out for a coffee sometime? Maybe after work someday, only if you want to, of course.” Your face feels so hot, and you can’t hold her gaze after making your request.
Sabina blushes slightly as well. “Uh, sure, I’d like that,” she says, running a hand through her ponytail. She reaches inside her blazer and takes out a pristine business card. “I had these made, but my job doesn’t really require me to meet customers. Kinda stupid I guess. But I’m kinda glad I have them now.” She smiles, and hands it to you.
The ascender smoothly glides to a halt, and the door opens. “Ok, I’ll send you a message later to figure out a time,” I say. “Good luck on your presentation.”
“Thank you! And thanks so much for your help today.” She steps out, then turns her head, smirks and winks at you as the door closes.
You can’t remember the last time you felt this elated. You reach your workstation with a big grin on your face. Nothing can ruin this day now.
Hmm, he was cute, in a way, Vega thought as the ascender doors closed. But also the perfect target – he was clueless! He was around the same age as her, but he seemed so much younger.
Vega quickly glanced in both directions on the Finance floor, and as expected, spotted the bathrooms directly to the left of the ascenders. She briskly walked to the ladies’ room, which was empty. Vega knew that the Finance team was mostly men, and the only woman was away on business travel this week. She was unlikely to be disturbed.
Vega smirked again as she began to take off her business clothes. Underneath, she wore her usual getup: a pair of flowing magenta harem pants with a teal sash, and a matching magenta top. She took her teal climbing slippers from her purse, then removed her heels, donning the slippers instead. They had cleats on the bottom, for extra traction when climbing. Business outfit, heels, and costume jewelry promptly went into the trash. They wouldn’t be needed for the rest of the operation.
Vega briefly looked into the bathroom mirror. My look’s a little flashy, but I can get away with it as long as I have these. She eyed her Armbands of Magical Resistance appreciatively. They were the secret weapon of her fortune-seeking career, and the main reason she targeted magical ruins and businesses.
These Wizards, they all think Magic can do anything, and so they leave big gaps in their security measures. Vega had verified that Capital Resources only used magically-powered surveillance devices in their HQ. With her armbands, she appeared as a faint shimmer in the air on those devices – not perfect, but good enough to fool most security personnel reviewing dozens of live feeds.
Now, let’s see… Vega checked the walls and ceilings of the bathroom, and within moments, found the air vent opening. It’s not even screwed in – this is almost too easy, she thought as she removed the vent panel. She quickly slipped inside, then replaced the panel. Next stop – the lab storage room.
The bottle seemed to glow. It was a deep red color, with a bit of yellow on the bottom as if some denser fluid had settled.
That’s gotta be it, Vega thought. The unlabeled, experimental Potion of Greater Intelligence was greatly prized, and was worth more than all the other potions in the store room put together. The base ingredients alone could have bought a multi-story home in the merchant’s district.
She had first heard of it while doing reconnaissance in the local watering holes, collecting information from CR’s employees, who were only too happy to spill more than they should to a sympathetic ear. Not to mention, a pretty face, Vega thought, smirking.
At that point, her target was clear – this singular potion would be easy to transport on her person. And no doubt the Blues at the Bastion would fall over themselves to buy something that might lead them to unprecedented insights.
Vega carefully took the potion off its shelf and slipped it into one of the various hidden pockets on her pants. All that remained was to get to her pre-planned escape route, and she would be…
“Sabina? Is that you?” Vega whipped around, towards the entrance of the store room. Hadrien, the young Wizard who had been her mark to infiltrate this place, was standing there, along with a second, older man.
“How did you get in here? This is supposed to be restricted to anyone outside of the survey and research teams,” he said. Vega noticed that the 2nd man was already gone, probably to notify security. She didn’t have much time.
“Just doing a little sight-seeing – thought maybe I’d find you up here,” she said, giving Hadrien a wink. As expected, he immediately started blushing and looking flustered. She used the opportunity to move towards the window. It wasn’t her planned egress point, but it would have to do.
“It looks like your co-worker wasn’t too happy about finding me here though,” Vega said as she unlatched the window. As expected, it wasn’t otherwise locked or sealed in any way – the top floor was a hundred feet in the air, and they likely hadn’t expected anybody to go in or out.
“Ok, I think I know what’s happening here,” Hadrien said. “Maybe your presentation didn’t go so well, but you can’t jump! We can figure out another way – I’ll help you!”
Quantum Shadow, he’s so adorable. “Don’t worry about me, Haydi,” Vega said. She stepped out the window to the ledge outside, then undid the teal sash around her waist. There was a segmented frame embedded inside the sash, which she quickly assembled to form a fabric-covered, V-framed glider.
Hadrien stuck his head out the window. “Will I ever see you again?” he asked.
Wow, he’s totally infatuated, Vega thought. Maybe I poured on a little TOO much charm earlier…
“Hmm…” she replied. “I guess if you keep working here your whole life, we probably won’t meet again,” she said. “But it’s a wide world, and I’ll be out there, somewhere. So I guess you never know.” She smiled at him fondly. Maybe in other circumstances, a coffee would be nice – no, get in the GAME, Vega!
“Hey, stop right there!” a gruff voice shouted from the store-room entrance. Looks like security had finally arrived.
Vega leaped off the sill and into the air, spreading her glider wide. She was not quite as high as she had planned, but she should still be able to complete the jump safely…probably.
Luckily, there was a breeze, and it helped give her a bit more lift as she soared away from CR HQ. She could hear faint shouts from the guards at the window, but she doubted that they were equipped to chase her through the air, and her bracelets would thwart any magical counter-measures they’d prepared.
Instead of the rooftop she’d originally planned to use, Vega directed her glider to a large 2nd floor balcony that was used by a fancy eatery for its outdoor seating. Guests shouted in alarm as Vega landed among them, knocking over a few chairs and tabletop glasses in the process.
“Sorry to drop in on you like this,” Vega said with a cheesy grin. She quickly collapsed her glider, bunched it up, and stuffed it in another one of her pants pockets. Before the angry waiters could get to her, she took a running start and leaped off the balcony, grabbing onto the carved stone of the next building over. From there, it was child’s play for her – she’d been scrambling around on all kinds of structures for as long as she could remember. The CR security team and Capital City enforcers never caught up with her.
Written by: kel1of1.eth
Images: NovelAI Generation + editing by Kel