Back on Earth, things were settling down. Thanks to cremation and decay near the surface – and to the shielding spell that kept the fossils and oil in the deeper strata from waking up – there hadn’t really been that many zombies with enough real structure to do that much damage. Thanks to prompt superhero response from the Mandate, the White Necromancer, the Warlock, and many others, they hadn’t had much time either – and between sheer distance and the protective spells which had become so popular during the Darkstorm War there hadn’t actually been many casualties or all that much damage.
That didn’t make anyone much happier about the episode. It was easy enough to detect the power signature. The various rewards hit 200,000,000 within the first eight hours and there were any number of denouncements.
They didn’t know who the reward was on at first – but the power signature signature matched the recently-countered demon-cultist-empowerment spell, and Dr Midnight linked it to the mess in central park – which the Mandate had been heavily involved in. The White Necromancer had been behind one of the major anti-zombie counterspells too. They had the Mandate in for a consultation shortly thereafter.
That revealed that the Darkmage had been responsible for the Darkstorm War, the Demon Cultists, the massive destruction in China, and the recent nuclear launches. That sent the total reward to 16,000,000,000 – plus a variety of medals, amnesties for lesser crimes, estates, blessings, honors, artifacts, and even harems. It also touched off a congressional debate about reprogramming some of the orbital defenses so they could fire at earthbound targets (the military was still pretty doubtful about that), increasing the funding for antimissile programs, and as to whether – as President Bush insisted – the Darkmage was an Islamic Terrorist.
Unfortunately, the White Necromancer got dragged away by his Mother for breakfast and school. He refused to shortcut through the Aztec realms of death, but Jason was waiting with a cab – and got towed along. It wasn’t like the boy really had a choice about following him. Unfortunately, getting Jason into school (and into his classes) – and catching up – meant explaining why they couldn’t be separated, which meant a trip to the nurse and a diagnosis of “superhero syndrome” for the White Necromancer, a verdict of “unsafe around other children”, a reference to alternative education funding, and the start of questioning Jason – perhaps fortunately interrupted by a supervillian attack.
Ranko got distracted by her husband’s presentation of a baby cat girl to Isakura – under an accelerated growth spell that would taper out when she was effectively about one year old… Apparently two of the pacts he’d accepted at Halloween had been for the would-be witches firstborn child – very classic she supposed – and he’d used some magic to obtain some playmates for his one-year-old son. Well, it had been before he’d read those law books, but still.
Ranko went to Japan to talk to her producer, got asked to get her husband to stop putting in stuff they had to edit out – and found that she was much better TV then the Zen group: they hesitated when confused, whereas she simply hit people. “Satan” had developed his own fan base and would be getting his own comedy special if she could get him to sign a contract – or at least a wavier – and that the fans would like more classical ninja and weapons, but that she should caution the kids at the orphanage about “imititatable behavior”.
Ranko abruptly decided that she had to finish her degree (Majoring in Psychology, Minoring in Paleontology) and set out to apply for Tokyo U – only to find out that Tokyo was overrun with minor magical beings
Meanwhile, the Chauffeur was busy compiling a list of the Nexi the Darkmage was probably controlling (Amesbury England, 3 in North America, 2 in New Mexico, and 1 in Antarctica), determining that Sedona was controlled by Red Jack, that Stonehenge had been sealed by the Night Watch, that there was a religious cult collecting power in New England, that one in Australia was being watched by a local hero and his cartoon conjurings (he left a contact link with the man), and that one in Antarctica was apparently set up as a runestone-controlled nature preserve… He was also wondering what – if anything – to do with orphanages new herd of horses – the War God had apparently decided to dump the ones with irreparable minds and had remembered that the children had been promised horses – when the call from the school nurse about the White Necromancer came in.
The rescue mission was actually fairly simple. While a surprise attack from Lazer – a thug wearing power armor and carrying a heavy military laser system (apparently simply a member of a mercenary group who all used the same name) and a followup from Robin – a slightly-crazy and easily-led werefox with psionically-enhanced strength, durability, and arrows – had been enough to take out an unprepared White Necromancer (and Jason hadn’t had a chance of course), the pair really wasn’t a match for Ranko and the Chauffeur even before they sent Robin into full-scale lunacy (they fixed it afterwards).