“No Greater Love”
“No Greater Love”
(John 15:13) By Zapper *************************************** Chapter 7 *Meka & John* ***************************************
*Meka & John*
With a start John came awake for a moment he felt a surge of surprise to find that he was driving, it was dark, and he had no control over his body. With that he remembered what had happened a few hours ago.
“Hey, how are you doing?”
‘Fine, did I fall asleep while you were driving? What time is it?’
“Almost 11 pm. Yeah, I could sort of feel you getting bored and then it was like you were getting quieter and quieter then you were gone. When that happened, I got a little worried so I tried talking to you. I felt you stir and then I heard you snoring, only . . .”
“Well, the way I hear you in my mind, it changed. You sounded like a girl making little sleepy moans not like a guy snoring.” ‘WHAT?’ “Yeah, and now, your voice in my mind, you sound just like how I always thought I sounded.”
‘Fuck, this can’t be good.’ John thought, then added, ‘what do you think it means?’
“I don’t know. This is something new. If I had to guess, I’d say we’re sort of “adjusting” on a spiritual level to the magic the crystal used to join us.”
‘The sooner we get this fixed the better. I love you like a sister, but I don’t want to be you!’
‘Where are we?’
“About twenty minutes from Victor’s place. Oh, Elaine called while you were out. She wanted to know if you were still in the country.”
‘Did you tell her about us, about our situation?’
“No. I didn’t think you’d want me too. I told her that I’d located Meka, and that she was in trouble, and that I was trying to rescue her, which in a way is true. I mean, I am in trouble someone else is running around in my body. To rescue me we need to put me back into my body.”
Meka could feel John nod, ‘I don’t like lying to Elaine, but she’d freak out if she found out about this. I mean she sort of flipped out when I told her we’d swapped bodies for a week. And that was well after the fact. I think in a way she’s jealous of how close we are.’
“John, hon, I can honestly say that I’ve never been closer to another man, or woman, in my life.”
‘Hahahaha! I bet you say that to all the people you share a body with.’
Meka climbed out of the Challenger and stretched feeling her back pop several times. “Damn, do you always get so stiff if you sit still?”
‘Yeah, just remember, I offered to drive.’
“Listening to your sleepy little girl moans was just too cute, there was no way I was going to wake you up to drive.”
“Hehehe . . . watch that mouth, you’re a lady now.”
‘Fuck you and the horse you rode in on.’
Meka, still laughing, pulled John’s cane from behind the driver’s seat and moved toward the main doors. At her approach the porch lights came on flooding the area with bright white light. Just as she reached out to knock, Victor opened the door.
“Answering your own door?”
Victor scowled. It was a first-rate scowl and Meka guessed he’d spent years working to get it just right. It had the proper amount of irritation, disappointment, and a bit of resignation all mixed into one disapproving expression. Then the scowl vanished. “John, I’m glad you’re back. You know, after the attack, I sent all my mundane servants on a paid leave of absence. Were you able to reach Meka with the ritual?”
“Uhm, yeah, I’ll say. Do you mind if we go inside to discuss this? I could really use a beer.”
“Sure, come on in.” Victor led them through the house and to a room that could only be classified as a bar. The floor was a dark hardwood and the white walls with the colonial style beams and the brass, wood, and leather bar with expensive stools shouted old world. “Have a seat, I’ll grab us a couple of German hefeweizen’s.”
“Have you talked to Gwendolyn today?” Meka asked settling onto a stool and then wincing as she accidently squashed her new masculine appendage. After adjusting her new man-meat, she laid the cane with the Cavanaugh crystal on the bar, within easy reach.
“Not today, well, not since I talked to her about the attack.” Victor set a bottle in front of Meka and lifted his, “Your health.”
“Health.” Meka said and took a drink. ‘Oh my god. I think I’m in love! This is fantastic!’
‘Victor might be a little put off if you kissed him in your current form.’ John noted, laughter in his mental voice. ‘I do love the Hefeweizen.’
‘You mean you’ve had it before? He was supposed to be my mentor and he never offered me a beer. Sexist pig!’
“You said you contacted Meka? How is she?”
“She’s fine and not fine.” At Victor’s confused expression she continued. “The ritual worked the Cavanaugh crystal is restored, at this Meka nodded toward the crystal in the pommel of the cane, but there was an unintended side effect.”
Victor slowly lifted one eyebrow, “Oh?”
“It’ll be easier to show you. John, you’re up.”
With that John felt Meka pull back and, feeling resigned, he moved forward to take control. At once he felt the shifting sensation of flesh moving around. John lifted the beer and took a long pull before glancing at Victor. “Hia, Vic.”
“Nope, sorry to say, I’m John. You were just talking to Meka.”
“What?” Victor looked confused.
“So this is what happened. The rite restored the crystal and we think it considered Meka and me two halves of one being like the crystal was, so it fused us. Only it made me the female half and Meka the male half.”
For the first time since John had known Victor he looked completely stunned. Then he lifted his pint of beer and drained it in one long drink. “I’ll be damned.”
“Yeah, probably. Putting aside the state of your soul, we’ve got two problems. First, we need to get to England. Gwendolyn knew that the person wearing Meka’s body wasn’t Meka. She’d planned to set a trap. I assume she’s now got Meka’s body safely tucked away. Second, once we get to the UK we’ll need to figure out a spell that will pull this “Max” person’s spirit out of Meka’s body and put Meka back where she belongs.”
Victor shook his head and retrieved another set of beers. “Getting to the UK isn’t a problem. I’ve got a gate that will bring you out in Gwendolyn’s estate. The second issue, restoring Meka to her body, that’s different. This is all new, experimental, magic you’re talking about. I don’t even know where to begin.”
‘I do. But I’ll need access to his research library.’
“Meka says she’s got an idea. But she needs to use your library.”
“That’s fine. In the meantime, I’ll get in touch with Gwendolyn and confirm she’s got this person, did you say, Max? As in Maxwell Jackson, The Syndicate assassin?”
‘I don’t know. He never used his last name. I do know that he was originally a man. He could access my memories but I couldn’t access his. Talk about unfair!’
“Meka says that she doesn’t know. He never used his last name, but he was originally male.”
“It’s too early to call the UK right now. Let’s give it another hour and then we’ll contact Gwendolyn.”
John nodded and then looked down at his ill-fitting clothes. “Uhm, I’m practically swimming in these. I need to either give Meka control or . . . you wouldn’t happen to have any of Meka’s things?”
“Sadly, no. She didn’t visit much and when she did she took everything with her. I suppose when you get to London you can visit her flat and pack a bag.”
‘Alright, you ready to drive again?’
The change was quick, less than two seconds, and Meka took a moment to adjust her clothes, getting everything properly aligned. “I think the shift is getting faster.”
“That was incredible.” Victor said staring at Meka. “I was using the Sight when you shifted and it’s like one person was here and now there’s another. To my sight, you’re John, in every way, including your aura.”
“Yeah, I was wondering about that. To be honest it has me a little worried.”
“More than a trained, hardened, killer running around in your body?”
At this Meka glared at Victor, “Don’t be an ass. Of course I hate it. The thought of what he’s done makes me crazy so I’m not thinking about it.”
Victor nodded and let out a sigh. “Sorry, it’s just, I tried to warn you and you didn’t want to listen.” Then before Meka could say anything he continued. “The war with the Syndicate is going badly. The Society wasn’t designed for this sort of thing. The Syndicate is always one step ahead of us. Like they know what we’re going to do before we do it. Plus, it’s as if the Syndicate no longer cares if the world discovers that magic exists. The attack on Cancun was blatant and open. We had to work for weeks, suppressing memories and building false ones to cover everything up.”
“Well, that sucks. You know I’m not a soldier, right?”
“That’s just it, John-er-Meka, none of us are soldiers. Now it looks like the Syndicate has found a way to open gates to the realms of shadow. There have been attacks by beings that are not human. Just this morning my estate was attacked by a troop of Aelf!”
Meka nodded, missing the way her hair moved when she moved her head, “John told me. I think one of the artifacts I was examining was a gate. I don’t know if it was attuned to the Aelf realm, but I’m sure it would open a gate to several different shadow realms.”
Victor leaned forward, “Don’t you see? We need you! Both you and John! We need John’s training, both in terms of modern military warfare and magical combat. We need your unconventional way of looking at magic. Most witches are trained from very young and while that training makes us powerful it limits how we perceive magic. We assume rules to be set in stone and then you, Meka, go and prove us wrong.”
Abruptly the lights went out.
“What the fuck?” Meka said jumping to her feet and grabbing the cane with the Cavanaugh crystal from the bar. Just as Meka’s crystal flared with a light purple radiance the crystal on the end of Victor’s cane lit up yellow-white.
“Quiet,” he hissed. The sound was faint at first and Meka wasn’t sure what to make of it. A high pitched clicking, but not from one source, it sounded like dozens if not hundreds. Moving to the set of windows along one side of the bar Victor looked out into the night. “Douse your witch-light.”
Meka released her spell just as Victor did and the room was plunged into darkness. Then Victor reached out and opened the curtains that had covered the windows.
‘Oh, shit!’ John gasped. The horde of creatures moving over the lawn in-mass couldn’t have been more than three feet high. Yet the chitinous exoskeletons, the multifaceted eyes, mandibles, pincers, and wings proved these creatures were from one of the farthest shadow realms. Then the winged insectoids took to the air with a buzz.
‘Meka, give me control, right now!’ John ordered and after a moment’s hesitation he felt her pull back. John surged forward and blinked down as his too large shirt slipped off one shoulder. “Victor, we can’t fight that!”
Victor seemed to come awake and he looked at John. “Meka?”
“No, remember, I’m John.” John snapped, rolling up the sleeves of his shirt. “We can’t fight that! We’ve got to run.”
“But my house; I’ve got artifacts, books, tools that are irreplaceable!”
John stepped forward and stumbled over his too long pant legs, ‘Gandalf never had over sized clothes!’
‘Gandalf didn’t change from a crusty old man to a hottie.’
‘HA! Ego much?’
John pulled his belt to the tightest hole and noticed it still felt loose, “Look, the only thing irreplaceable is life.” John moved forward and stumbled, before kicking off his shoes. “They’ve got flyers up there. We won’t escape by fighting our way to my Challenger.” He looked up at Victor, “Focus Vic! We have to escape. Can we use your gate to London?”
Victor nodded, “Yes.” Then he seemed to come to a decision, “We should hurry. My wards at the edge of the property were good, not my best, but good. They got through them in seconds, my house wards are better, but I doubt they’ll hold for very long.”
“Lead the way.”
At this Victor gave John an odd look and then he shook his head, “That’s right, Meka’s used my gate several times to travel to England but John hasn’t. I keep looking at you and even though I know you’re John, you look just like Meka.”
‘Meka, which way do I go?’
‘Through the door, turn left and go back down the stairs to the main floor.’
Without waiting for Victor John spun around and ran, barefoot, into the hallway following Meka’s directions. As he ran John caused the crystal in the handle of his cane to flare up with his customary blue-white light. Racing down the stairs John felt his chest bouncing around painfully and tried to use one hand to support the soft flesh. “Damn it. Now I see why women need sports bras!” ‘HA! Welcome to womanhood.’ Meka giggled without the slightest bit of sympathy.
By the time John reached the main floor he looked around and realized that Victor wasn’t with him. “Fuck! Where the hell did Vic go?”
‘My guess? The library. He’s got a few grimoires that are ancient and invaluable. I bet he’s trying to save them.’
“Son-of-a-bitch! Which way?”
Heart racing as he jogged up the stairs John wished that Meka had worked out more. ‘You weren’t complaining when you were checking me out in the mirror!’
“That’s before I tried running up two flights of stairs!”
Racing as fast as he could down the hallway John burst into the library in time to see Victor stuffing a stack of books into a large satchel. “What the fuck are you doing? We’ve got to get out of here!”
“I just need to save these. Who knows what those things will do once they’re in the house.”
“I’ll tell you what they’ll do, they’ll kill us! Now come on.” John said, grabbing Victor by the elbow. As he did he realized he was several inches shorter and at least a hundred pounds lighter than Victor. In his normal body, he’d have manhandled Victor to the gate. Now there was no way he could physically dominate him.
Victor pulled his arm away, “I just need to grab a couple more books.”
The sound of the entrance door being smashed open echoed through the house. “Okay, you’re done.” John said, and grabbed Victor’s hand in an Ikkyo grip, then spinning around and stepping behind Victor, John used his hips, legs, and abs to twist Victor’s arm into a classic Ikkyo-Come-Along.
“What, ouch, stop it.” Victor gasped trying to struggle. John just tightened the lock and started walking toward the door. Victor wincing in pain tried to resist but he had no leverage. “Fine, fine . . . I’ll go, but let me grab the bag.”
‘Okay, this is cool. You’ll have to show me some of this Aikido stuff once we’re back in our proper bodies.’ Meka said.
“If I let you go you’ll come right-the-fuck-now?”
“Yes, on my honor.”
John released Victor and he stumbled forward before glaring at John. Then rubbing his wrist and flexing his shoulder he said, “What was that?”
“COME ON!” John shouted, snatching up the bag, with the books with his free hand and slung it over one shoulder. “We don’t have time for this.” John raced past Victor and this time Victor followed John out into the hallway. By the time they got to the stairs leading to the main floor John saw that the giant insect creatures had broken through.
The first two monsters through the broken door looked like a cross between a human and a Praying Mantis. The human head, with multifaceted eyes, sat on a human looking torso that slowly transitioned from skin to chitin until from the waist down it was all insect. It had a set of human looking arms and a second set of the classically folded Praying-mantis appendages. The monster swiveled its mostly human head to orient on them. Then it let out a chirping noise and jumped. The open entryway had a vaulted ceiling and sweeping stairs that formed a graceful arc and provided access to the upper two floors of the mansion. It had to be at least twenty-five feet from the main floor to the second story. The mantis creature made the jump look easy.
Just as its legs touched down in front of them Victor unleashed a blast of force from the crystal in his cane. The mantis was blown off the landing and smashed into the far wall before falling onto its fellows below.
John grabbed Victor by the elbow and dragged him back a few steps. Then letting go he lifted his battle rod and pointed. “Clypeum!” The air across the hall shimmered for a moment and a semi-transparent energy shield materialized. A second later the next Insectoid landed in front of the shield and spotting them launched itself forward. It hit the shield and a concentric ring of force rippled over the surface as the creature was thrown back.
“That’ll hold for a couple of minutes.” John said looking at Victor. “Is there a back way down to the gate?”
“Yes,” Victor responded and held out his hand. “Give me the bag.” With a shrug John slid the bag off his shoulder and handed it over, glad not to have to carry the bulky thing. He knew it would just get in the way if he had to fight. “This way.”
Trailing behind Victor John couldn’t help looking over his shoulder as now a half dozen Insectoids threw themselves at the barrier. The stairwell that Victor led them to turned out to be hidden by a panel halfway down the hallway.
“This is a servant access. It helps them to move around the mansion without being in the way.” Victor said using his crystal to light the stairs. John followed him and made sure to shut the door before descending.
The stairwell led them down to the kitchen. Victor raced through the kitchen and out into another hallway and John breathed a sigh of relief when he saw that it was empty. Slowing down, Victor moved to another set of doors that opened to a set of stairs that descended below the estate. As soon as they stepped through the doors Victor turned around, closed them, and touched them with the crystal in his cane and murmured a word.
John felt the power of Victors spell and for a moment the doors shimmered with magic. “That should hold for a few minutes.” Victor noted; satisfaction in his voice.
Panting John nodded and leaned back against the wall. “I’m getting a little tired of running.”
“Yes, quite. Follow me.” Moving at a more measured pace Victor descended the stairs.
‘Don’t say it!’
‘Say what?’ John thought innocently back at Meka.
‘That I need to exercise more. I’ll have you know I’ve been running every day for the last six months!’
John pushed himself away from the wall, wiped the sweat from his eyes with the back of his free hand and followed Victor. ‘Well, I have your body from four years ago and you should have worked-out more, then.’
John caught up to Victor at the bottom of the stairs. Victor turned and started down another hallway, “This way.” At the third door Victor stopped and took out a key. John noticed the door was made of solid oak with heavy metal hinges and the door post had been reinforced with metal. The lock made an audible, heavy sounding, click and then Victor turned the handle.
The room beyond the door was unimpressive. It was a simple twelve foot by twelve-foot cell, with a high ceiling. In the middle of the room on a slightly raised platform stood an arch. Suddenly, John had a mental image of the Gateway Arch down in St. Louis, and shook his head to clear the vision.
Victor spoke a word of power and pointed his cane at the arch and symbols. John saw the arch flare to life with a yellow-white glow. Then the air shimmered within the arch distorting and making it impossible to see anything on the other side.
“This will take us to Gwendolyn’s estate. There is an arch just like this one in her traveling room.” Victor looked at John and nodded, “I know you’ve never used a gate before, so you should go first. It will close a few seconds after I step through.”
John nodded and moved forward and then after a slight hesitation stepped through. The energy within the arch felt like cool water moving over his skin. John wanted to shiver and then he stumbled into darkness. John could feel cold stone under his bare feet and he lifted his cane, “Lux.”
Blue-white light filled the room and John stepped off the stone pedestal. Unlike the room in Victor’s house this one was round. It had four arches set at the cardinal points and in the center of the room a tight circular staircase led up to a closed door. Just then Victor stepped through and moved to stand next to John.
“It’s six am here in London, so most of the house will be asleep. I think I know the way to the kitchen. The staff should recognize me. How do you feel about breakfast?”
“I’m starved.” John replied, and felt his body start to react. The tension and adrenaline all sort of crashed home at once and he began to trembling. To cover this, he coughed and gestured to the stairs, “Lead the way!”
Victor hurried up the stairs and to John’s relief the handle to the trap door turned and Victor swung it up and open. The room above the traveling room was also circular. It had been painted in pastels and gold. There were low Roman benches under windows on two sides. Straight ahead John saw a double set of glass doors with light white lace curtains and through the glass he could see a well-maintained lawn.
At this John turned around and saw Victor standing in front of second set of doors that he guessed led into the house. “Yes?”
“Perhaps you should change.”
“Change? What . . . oh, why?”
“You’ve seen the news these last few days, right? They are looking for a woman, a terrorist, who looks like Meka. At the moment, you look just like Meka, we don’t want any misunderstandings.”
“This is Gwendolyn’s house. I’ve talked to her and she knows what’s going on. That the person who did those things wasn’t Meka.”
“I know, but did she tell her staff? Besides, you look ridiculous wearing John’s clothes.” Victor pointed out.
‘He’s right.’ Meka added, ‘Time to give me control.’
“Fine.” John reached down and loosened his belt and then thought about stepping back, giving up control. As soon as he did he felt Meka surge forward. There was a shifting sensation and then it was over.
“Ah, feels good to be back in the driver’s seat.” Meka commented adjusting her cock.
“Ahem, right. I’m still having a hard time getting used to seeing you do that. Let’s go to the kitchen.” Victor said, trying not to stare.
“I know the way.”
If the servants were startled at the sight of unannounced Americans stepping into the kitchen, they hid it well. By the time Meka and Victor had been led to the breakfast room and were through the second round of eggs, toast, and bacon the door opened and Gwendolyn glided into the room.
The blonde mistress of the house slid into a seat between Meka and Victor with her back to the bank of windows. The morning sunlight flowed into the room illuminating Gwendolyn in its golden radiance. John felt stunned at her beauty and he sensed Meka laughing silently at him. ‘Men, you are so caught up in appearance. Although, she’s using every trick in the book to bewitch you and Victor without any actual magic.’
“Victor, John, what brings you to my house so early?”
Pushing back his plate Victor nodded toward John-Meka and said, “We have a unique situation.”
“Oh? Do tell.”
“I’m not actually John. I’m Meka, although John is here inside me. We’re currently sharing the same body.” With that Meka launched into her story and when she was done Gwendolyn was tapping her perfect pink lips thoughtfully with one well-manicured finger.
“I’d like to see the transformation and then hear John’s story.”
‘Okay, John, your turn.’ Meka thought pulling back. John surged forward and the now familiar shifting sensation rippled through their shared body.
John adjusted his oversized clothes and looked over at Gwendolyn. “Morning, yes, I’m now John. Er . . . well, actually, it’s probably more accurate to say that “we’re” John and Meka. See, when we’re in our Meka body I’m in control and when we’re in our John body Meka’s running things.”
“Amazing.” Gwendolyn stood up. Slowly, she walked around John and shook her head. “Did you use the witch-sight on them?” she asked, glancing at Victor.
“Of course. I’ve not done extensive tests, but from what I can see the person in front of us is Meka Petrucci. When they are John everything I’ve tried tells me it’s the real Jonathon Bedford I’m talking too.”
“When I examined the fake Meka’s aura after we captured her I could see differences. I know Meka and am familiar with her and her aura and it would take a person with that level of skill and familiarity to figure out that Maxwell Jackson wasn’t the true Meka Petrucci. Now, however, as I look at you . . . I can’t find those differences. In fact the only way I can tell you’re not the true Meka is that you have two good eyes, no scars, and you look younger.”
John nodded. “We think that when the Cavanaugh crystal was restored it restored us physically to the point in time where we split it. Meka also thinks the spell considered the crystal two different beings just as we were. Because of the bond between us and the crystal as the magic joined the crystal into one being, it did the same to us.”
“Interesting. Yes, I can see the law of similarity at work. This will take some study to figure out.”
‘John, ask her if she still has my body and that fucking thief, Max, still in custody.’
“Gwendolyn, Meka would like to know if you’re still holding Max?”
At this Gwendolyn frowned. “No. I don’t have a place to hold someone like that. This is a house after all not a prison. I questioned her and then sent her to the prison we’ve set up for Syndicate agents in Sheffield.” Then Gwendolyn looked down at her soft delicate hands, “Unfortunately, the van transporting her was attacked. From what we can tell it was Aelf Knights from the Winter Court. I do not understand what has happened but it appears the Winter Fae have allied with the Syndicate.”
“I’m sorry.” John leaned forward and placed one of Meka’s hands on Gwendolyn’s to comfort her. “Was anyone hurt?”
Gwendolyn looked up and a tear formed on her perfect eyelashes, “Yes. Two Society Guards were killed.” Then she pulled her hand away and used a napkin from the table to daub her eyes. After a moment, she cleared her throat, “I assume you’re here to find Max?”
“Yes.” ‘YES!’ John and Meka said at the same time.
“But that’s not all.” Victor added. “My estate was attacked, again. This makes it twice in less than twenty-four hours. And this time it wasn’t Winter Knights. My defenses were swarmed by a horde of Insectoid creatures from some dark shadow realm.”
Gwendolyn went pale. “What?!”
Victor waved his hand and the crystal in his cane glowed and light flowed up from the crystal creating a three-dimensional image of the estate. It showed Victor and Meka looking out into the night and across the grounds a horde of creatures burst into view. The image froze and then zoomed in and Gwendolyn gasped.
“T-Those are from a shadow where human and insects were blended with dark magic. I’ve read about it. When magic in our realm was at its peak. Human witches traveled the multiverse. If I’m right the witches that made it to the insect realm discovered highly intelligent creatures. Insects, larger and more intelligent than any that are native to our realm.”
“These explorers learned to communicate with the giant insects and even brought a few ambassadors back here. Intelligent as they were the insects had no magic in this realm. They began kidnapping humans and taking them back to their realm. By some vile magic they bread with them creating the Insectoid race. A union of human and insect, able to use magic in both realms.”
“When these new beings entered our world, we fought a short violent war with them. Once we drove them back into their realm we sealed the gates to that shadow world. I would dearly love to know how they found their way here.”
“The Syndicate.” Victor’s eyes flashed with power. “It has to be. They’ve turned to open war.”
“I’ll call the elders. We were already planning to meet in Boston to discuss the war. This event changes things. I fear it might be time to use the last contingency plan.”
“The last contingency plan?” John’s high-pitched voice sounded frightened. “You’re not talking nucs or something, are you?”
It took a moment for Victor and Gwendolyn to look over at him and for an instant they seemed surprised to see John. Then Victor nodded and Gwendolyn flashed a quick smile.
“No, nothing as ominous as all that. It’s the plan that the Society made years ago in the event we must go public. You see we’ve established connections to every industrialized nation. Now, provided the elders agree, we’ll use those connections to introduce the world to magic.” Gwendolyn stood up, “Victor, if you are not too fatigued from your fight, I could use your help.”
“What do you want me to do?”
Gwendolyn looked down at John, “Philip, will show you to a room. From everything you’ve told me I doubt you’ve slept in a day. You must be exhausted, besides, don’t take this poorly, dear, but you’re dirty and you really need to bathe.”
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