Tom woke up with an almost immediate desire to bash his head open and release the various demons and hornets making a racket in his brain. He grabbed his forehead and moaned, laying on something uncomfortable and hard. The duet summoning by James, the battle, and… ugh. His mouth tasted like root beer and motor oil. Someone was shouting near his ear and he opened one eye, looking into Zach’s excited eye. “See? I told you he’d be back.” The words banged against his skull like iron hammers.
“No.” Tom moaned as he started to sit up. “I clearly died and someone shoved an engine in my mouth.” He could blurrily make out a few other people in the room. One of them was angry. He closed his eyes and fell back asleep, hoping to feel better or die by the time he woke up.
“Yeah, he’s out of it.” Peepers frowned. “What was that about an engine?”
“Dunno. He makes about as much sense as before he left.” Chebon looked up from his video game, to several stares. “What? He’s kinda insane.”
There was a brief pause.
“Well… yeah, but that’s beside the point. Where’s he been all this time?” Peepers glanced over.
About four hours later, Tom woke up again, immediately grabbing a nearby bottle of water and pouring it down his throat. “What the hell did I drink?”
“Spellbomb.” One of the head medical-mages on campus, a young hispanic woman swiveled in a large chair. “Some kind of oil-based medium for holding a spell in suspension.” Sandra nodded to a metal canister on the desk. “Smells like engine oil, too.”
“Tasted like root beer. I hate root beer.” Tom sat up and stretched his arms out. “Where’s everybody?”
“Most of them are discussing what to do next, but I think a couple were at Zeke’s memorial service still.”
Tom blinked. “Memorial. As in… dead?”
“Like a doornail.” Sandra steepled her fingers. “However, my business is making sure you stay with the living a while longer.” The medical mage started chanting in French, and Tom’s senses felt a spell scanning over him. “Whatever was in that spell you drank, it’s not there anymore. If you can walk you’re free to go.” Sandra smiled, and Tom swept his feet out to jump up and abruptly failed. He glanced over at the doctor, who smiled wider. A pair of handcuffs were holding one ankle close to the metal bars of the bedframe. “Oh, and Maytee mentioned something about ‘he’s not getting loose for this one’ and ‘four months’ backlog of work’. So, no walking for a while.” She turned back around, and the planeswalker groaned.
“Geez. Can’t believe it about poor Zeke. How’d he die?”
“A moon was destroyed with him on it.”
“Ah. I thought it might be something like that.” He laid back and stared at the ceiling.
It wasn’t much, but it was something. A waist-high stone cube carved with squirrel motifs, “Ezekiel Moon, Planeswalker” on a brass plaque, sitting in a small garden off the dorm complex. He hadn’t been that well known among non-casters on campus, but a decent turnout had gathered earlier for a brief moment to honor his memory. A few flowers, as well as several Squirrel Mob cards, had been left on top.
Tom was sitting with an open book when Maytee came into Sandra’s office, James and Leah not far behind. The restrained planeswalker waved to them.
“Hey, guys; James, next time I’m just bringing a box of soda for the fight. Mirrodin drinks suck. Am I free to go, oh Disciplinary Committee Chairwoman?”
“Well… the restraint was to make sure you didn’t go off and, I dunno, ducktape Alex to a chair or something in your sleep. So, yes.” She started to pull a key from her pocket, and Tom kicked his foot free of the unlocked handcuffs before she could pull it out. She gave him a sour look.
“You gave me hours with nothing to do and a minor annoyance. Sandra is lucky I didn’t try to nuke the thing.”
“You’re lucky we need more higher-tier mages or I’d have nuked you myself, jerk,” Sandra chimed in, not turning from her desk. Maytee ignored both comments.
“Regardless of the circumstances, you neglected your assigned work for four months and the rules state there’s gotta be a punishment,” she stated, reluctantly. “So, you can either take over Nick’s paperwork, or engage in seventy-two hours of straight combat drills.”
“How much paperwork can there be?” Tom stood up, grabbing his Izzet coat off the back of a chair. Leah smiled. She had been one of those who’d been helping Nick organize the To-Do Pile into its third small room. “But I do need a workout. I’ll go find Zach or Alex, have them shake the eldritch cobwebs out of my brain.” He paused. “So, about Zeke… he’s really gone?”
“Yeah. We were there, few of us. About the time you popped back, Zeke died fighting Fallor on the moon.” Maytee looked down at the floor.
Tom whistled low. “He was a good guy. Couldn’t have wished him a better way to go; wiping out a huge threat and a freaking moon in one go.” Tom waved to Sandra and the other four casters made their way towards the quad. “So, thanks to some ill-timed thinkamancy, I have exactly no idea what’s been going on. I’m fine with that. It’s… well, it’s kinda how I am most of the time,” he admitted. “You know what would be refreshingly direct? Some villainous exposition speech, a few poses, and a target.”
James and Tom both glanced towards the center of campus at the same time. A bad guy or monster immediately failed to appear and reveal its horrific plan. “Worth a shot,” James admitted. Maytee smiled.
“Well… there’s been a lack of shifter attacks since you got back, or I’d tell you to go out and patrol. For now, go and see Nick; he’ll get you squared away.” Maytee muttered something and floated into the air. Leah took a deep breath.
“I think I might’ve taken the combat practice, if I were you,” she said, and Tom laughed.
“Dumb things… didn’t work. Get me some more of these monsters.” The shadowy figure hunched over mutilated goblin and shifter pieces on a workbench. He’d almost given up on making hybrid monsters, as goblin bodies were apparently not compatible with these wild magic things. The figure paused. “That’s funny… a planeswalker spark I hadn’t felt in a while. Might be time to test out some of these things.” One of the jail cells’ occupants raged against the bars.
Tom stared at the rooms full of paperwork and filing. Leah stood behind him, a little smugly. “It used to be four rooms; Nick and I have been working pretty hard on getting caught up. It’s going to be nice, having a short break.” She started out the door and Tom cleared his throat. “What do you mean, ‘break’? I’ve got to do this on my own?”
“No… you can have an assistant help you, like Nick did.” At that moment, there was a slam as the front door of the offices opened hard.
“Tom, check this baby out, they said that you were in here- oh, hey Leah,” Zach paused, grinning. Tom looked over and pointed at the red mage.
“Congratulations are in order, Zach!” Tom cried out, and Zach went pale.
“Ah.. ah man, what’d I do now?”
“Nothing, nothing at all. You’re exactly what I need. Zach… I need you, right here.” He stepped closer, and Zach’s eyes widened.
“Hey, we’ve been over this, I’m not…” Tom waved a hand at Zach’s confused rejection.
“No. I mean in this office. Zach Hoover, today is your lucky day. You get a promotion.” Tom beamed.
Zach just looked at Tom suspiciously. “Huh?”
“Zach, today we begin a fantastic epoch of cooperation in the vital running of Volst’s heartblood. I hereby promote you to… hm.” Tom glanced at the ceiling. “Ah, ‘Official Lackey, First Class’; quite an honor.” Zach narrowed his eyes.
“I’m a lackey, am I?”
“Think of it as an opportunity. And, unlimited chances for advancement.”
“Oh, really now.” Zach stuck his hands into his pockets, frowning.
“It’s either Lackey or Secretary. Pick.” Tom raised an eyebrow, and Zach frowned.
“Just my luck. Lackey, whatever. So what’s it I gotta do?”
“Help me file this paperwork. I’ll give you-”
“Extra credit?” Zach looked hopefully at his ally.
“Better; extra respect.” Tom patted Zach’s back and walked into the first room of filing cabinets and stacks. “Onward, my lackey, to victory.” Zach scowled.
“This is just my luck, isn’t it.” He followed Tom inside, and Leah laughed to herself all the way to the student union.