Gertie and Bridget make a delivery

Photo by Brandable Box on Unsplash


“I don’t care how nice it is here,” Gertie said, holding her laptop. “The Wi-Fi sucks.” She had been trying to download a spell from her friend Darryl for what felt like hours, but hadn’t been able to get a reliable connection. “I swear, the only place it works is in the closet.”
“Well, it is a huge closet,” Bridget said, looking around the luxurious hotel suite that they had been put up in. “Probably pretty comfortable.”
Gertie stuck her tongue out at her sister, as their friends Peter and Vivien laughed, but went into the back of the closet with her backpack and laptop, leaving the door propped open.
Dr. Lucas Farwell, of the Dordon Foundation Animal Center, was desperate to conserve the majestic storm owls of Mercurial Mountains. When he found the Mallon sisters selling a storm owl egg online, obliviously labeling it as a “rock statue”, he knew something must be done. Since the egg was too magical for air travel, he had paid them generously to drive the egg to the town nearest his rehabilitation center and had booked them a ritzy hotel to stay at until final preparations for the delivery were made.
There was a knock at their door. Vivien exchanged a confused look with Bridget, as they weren’t expecting Faye, Ernest and Charlie back with breakfast yet, but went to answer it.
A man in a nice suit with shoulder-length hair, a clean shaven face and a winning smile was on the other side.
“Hello,” he said. “My name is Jack Wade. I’m an associate of Dr. Farwell, and he sent me to protect you as you deliver the egg to our facility.”
“Oh,” Vivien said. “I didn’t think we’d be leaving so soon.”
“Dr. Farwell became aware of...certain dangers to the egg,” Mr. Wade said, taking a step into the room. “He believes we should move up the schedule.”
Bridget saw something that wasn’t there with her enchanted eye. The future.
Gertie came out of the closet, holding the egg that she had pulled from her backpack. Mr. Wade thanked her warmly, then pulled a gun from under his suit jacket. He threatened Gertie until she handed over the egg, then ran out the front door, leaving a magical fog in his wake that put everyone to sleep.
Bridget fought to catch her breath as her heart raced and her head spun. Seeing visions always overwhelmed her. She leaned backwards against the door to the closet in the back of the room, closing it as inconspicuously as she could. Mr. Wade was still at the front door, talking to Vivien. Bridget could hear Gertie protest, but most of it was muffled.
“Here, let me get the egg out,” Bridget said, grabbing the imposter’s attention, and walked to the hotel room’s safe under the TV. “We wanted to keep it secure,” she explained.
That was a bold-faced lie. The egg was safely tucked away in Gertie’s backpack like it always was. And she had her backpack with her in the closet.
Gertie frowned, listening at the door, and tried to figure out why her sister was lying.
“Very smart. There isn’t a shortage of nefarious sorts who would want to steal such a precious creature,” Mr. Wade said, the picture of a concerned associate.
Bridget typed in the code for the safe - the group’s seven initials in numeric form from oldest to youngest.
“I hear you came all the way from Wespire?” Mr. Wade asked good naturedly.
“Yes,” Bridget said, thinking quickly. “Have you ever visited?”
“No.” Wade shrugged. “Although I’d certainly like to someday. See the sights.”
Bridget swallowed nervously. “Yeah. We absolutely love going to the Beddy Wax Museum.”
Inside the closet, Gertie gasped quietly. The Beddy Wax Museum was a codeword for danger. They had never needed to use it before, but it had been drilled into their heads by their parents all the same. Gertie stopped her futile download, and pulled up a different program Darryl had sent her to edit. While it was loading, she pulled her storage hat down from where she had stowed it on a shelf, and quickly picked out an enchanted hat she hoped would help.
Outside the closet, the safe opened.
“Well, there you are,” Bridget said, standing and turning to face Wade.
“Thank you, very much,” he replied. He reached into his breast jacket, pulled out his gun and aimed it straight into Bridget’s prepared kick.
The gun went flying and landed on the plush carpet. Peter Nessing dove for it, turning his body to keep Wade away from it. He grabbed at it with his fingertips, found his grip, and turned on the floor to aim it at the intruder.
Mr. Wade hadn’t moved, still standing where Bridget had disarmed him. He sighed and reached into his breast pocket to pull out his phone. With a swipe and a press, he activated a spell that sent a visible magical current through the room.
Everybody froze. Bridget struggled to move, not even able to twitch her eyeballs. Vivien’s mouth was stuck open in a gasp; the only thing she could do was breathe. Peter tried as hard as he could to pull the trigger and shoot at Wade, but it just wasn’t possible.
And Gertie, in the closet, felt the wave of magic outside, but continued preparing her defense.
“I really didn’t think it would be this easy, that you’d just hand it over,” Mr. Wade said. He pushed Bridget out of the way and she toppled over like a plank of wood, stiff and unmoving. Though her arm and side hurt from how she landed, she couldn’t manage a groan.
“I’m still not sure what the good doctor was thinking,” Mr. Wade continued. “Using children as couriers? How would that possibly work out?” He chuckled. “Luckily for my employers, they’ve hired the best.”
Mr. Wade rooted through the safe. Unfortunately for him, all he found was Ernest’s handheld gaming console, Vivien’s drawing tablet, and Faye’s necklace with a ruby pendant, enchanted to allow her to speak to dragons.
“Alright,” he muttered to himself. He switched his phone to a different app. The camera opened, and revealed the room in shades of blue. Occasionally certain objects were outlined in other colors - the safe had a protection charm on it revealed in yellow, Peter’s healing necklace was a neon pink, and there was something green in Peter’s back pocket. It was almost how Bridget’s bespelled eye worked; Wade’s phone showed him the magic that was attached to certain objects.
He swept it around the room, revealing the egg in the closet, and Gertie standing next to it.
If Bridget could have moved, she would have hung her head in defeat.
“Don’t worry,” Wade said to Bridget as he moved to the closet. “You’ll be able to move again soon. The spell only lasts a minute. But it’s enough.”
Wade smiled, opened the closet door, and immediately raised his gloved hand.
Gertie hit “Enter” on her computer, and activated the buggy spell Darryl had sent her. Instead of acting as a pleasant fan, it sent a gust of wind out of her screen, strong enough to send whoever was in front of it careening backwards and slam them into a nearby wall.
Except Jack Wade, it would seem. His raised hand, or the spell enchanted into his glove, split the wind it two. His hair and suit jacket seemed a bit buffeted by the gust, but he was otherwise unaffected.
“A valiant effort,” Mr. Wade told Gertie. His eyes alighted on what he came for - her backpack, carrying the egg.
He bent over to reach for it, but his fingers slammed into a magical shield instead.
He looked up at Gertie, who held her hand outstretched towards her backpack, creating the shield with the powers granted to her by the pith helmet she was wearing.
“A valiant effort,” she sneered back.
Wade quirked an eyebrow and reached up. Before she could stop him, he’d flipped Gertie’s hat off her head. The shield vanished, and he grabbed the backpack with one hand.
In the other, he pulled his pocket square from his front breast pocket. He muttered a spell and flicked the cloth onto Gertie’s face.
The cloth adhered to her like a second skin, covering her nose, mouth and eyes. It only took a moment for panic to seize. She couldn’t breathe!
Wade exited the closet with the backpack slung over his shoulder as the rest of the group began to unfreeze.
Peter, barely able to move, but getting along faster than the other two, stood on stiff legs and moved to block Wade’s path, shakily raising the gun he still held.
Wade shook his head and clicked his tongue. “I wouldn’t worry about me right now,” he said, and turned to reveal the struggling Gertie.
Gertie scratched at the fabric, unable to scream.
“Shit,” Peter said, dropping the gun and reaching for the pocketknife he always carried.
As Wade left the room unpursued, Peter flicked his knife open. Its blade had the gleam of enchanted metal.
He knelt next to Gertie and pulled at the corner of the cloth on her face as Vivien and Bridget crawled toward them.
“Gertie, hold still!” Peter shouted. Bridget anxiously wrung her hands. Gertie whimpered and tried to stop her muscles from shaking.
Peter nicked the corner of the handkerchief, barely missing Gertie’s cheek. The magic in the knife allowed it to break through the cloth, but it wouldn’t let him tear the rest of the way.
“Okay, I’m going to have to cut the whole thing,” Peter said, hoping he wouldn’t scar her. 
Gertie moaned.
And then the pocket square fell off.
Gertie coughed, gasping to fill her depleted lungs, and stared down at the cloth on her lap.
“Did you do something?” she asked Peter, her throat hoarse.
He shook his head, bewildered. He looked down at the gun he had dropped to save Gertie and picked it up gingerly. Pulling from his knowledge of video games, he ejected the magazine to confirm his suspicions; it was unloaded.
“I guess he didn’t want to kill us,” Bridget said, sitting next to her shaking sister to give her a hug.
“Yay,” Gertie managed.
“What about the egg?” Vivien asked.
“He got it,” Bridget said.
“I’m sorry,” Gertie murmured. “I tried.”
“There was nothing you...any of us could have done,” Vivien assured her, kneeling to put her arm on Gertie’s trembling shoulders. “We weren’t prepared for this.”
Bridget’s phone rang, the loud trill making everyone jump.
“Hello? Dr. Farwell,” Bridget said. “5:30 tonight? Uh-”
Gertie grabbed the phone from her hand.
“We’ll be there,” Gertie said.
“Wonderful!” Dr. Farwell said. “I’ve emailed you the address. I look forward to meeting you in person.”
“Likewise,” Gertie said. “See you tonight.” She hung up, and everyone stared at her.
“How are we going to deliver an egg we don’t have?” Peter asked, crossing his arms.
“We’re going to steal it back,” Gertie said.
“And how are we going to do that?” Bridget asked.
“My phone’s in my backpack,” Gertie said. “We can track it, find Jack Wade, and get the egg back.”
Vivien grinned. “Excellent.”
***
Jack Wade was sitting in a diner reading a newspaper someone had left at the table. He sipped his coffee with cream and two sugars. He’d had a long night determining just where the storm owl egg was and figuring out the best approach, and now he had to stay awake until midnight, when his employers would exchange the egg for cash.
The girl’s backpack, with the egg still inside, sat at his feet. The egg itself was trilling in annoyance at the diner’s choice in music. At least, that’s what Mr. Wade assumed it was whining about from what research he had done on storm owls.
The unhatched chick had managed to use its powers to turn the sky a dark gray, ratcheting up the humidity in the city to its breaking point. But the diner had air conditioning, so Wade was willing to wait it out.
The waiter stopped by to refill his cup.
“Thank you very much,” Wade said, giving him his best smile. He had a standing rule never to upset someone who brought him something as precious as coffee.
Then the bell on the diner’s door rang out as it was knocked aside, and an ostrich, of all things, ran into the diner, squawking incessantly.
Half the patrons stood up, getting out of the way as the large bird trampled through their chairs and tables. It screeched and honked, flapping its wings and continuing to spill drinks, plates, and purses on its rampage through the restaurant.
It headed for Mr. Wade’s table, and he stood to get out of the way, nearly spilling his full coffee cup on the way up. His table was knocked to the side, and he barely avoided being taken with it.
A young man burst in, apparently chasing the ostrich.
“I’m so sorry, everyone,” he said, wiping sweat from his forehead. “I’ll have him calmed down. Just...one second.”
Wade struggled to grasp at his cufflink with his coffee mug-laden hand while trying not to trip over anything the ostrich had overturned. If he could activate the enchantment, he could put the dang bird to sleep.
The man that had owned the bird suddenly pursed his lips, and began whistling the sweetest melody Jack Wade had ever heard. He was entranced. How could a few notes on the wind sound so wonderful?
And then, while everyone was transfixed, a girl sitting on one of the diner’s barstools turned around. She had been there for some time, nodding her head along to the music of her large violet headphones. If Wade had pulled out his phone, he might have noticed that they had been enchanted to filter out musical magic. But he hadn’t, and now it was too late.
Ernest’s music, even his whistling, was powerful enough to make anyone forget where they were. As long as his magic was filling Wade’s ears, he wouldn’t notice anything else.
Faye pulled a backpack out of her lap where she had been hiding it; it was the twin sister of Gertie’s backpack, purchased from the same chain store before arriving at the diner.
The backpack that held the egg now lay near the overturned table. Charlie, the ostrich, had done his best not to hit it for fear of hurting the egg during his performance, but at the same time wanted to get it as far from Wade as possible. Faye hopped off her barstool and quickly grabbed Gertie’s backpack and replaced it with the one she carried. Then she headed out the back door.
Satisfied that the coast was clear, Ernest stopped his whistling and walked over to his “pet” ostrich.
“Good boy,” Ernest said, stroking Charlie’s neck. “Now let’s get going. Alright?”
“That was incredible,” Jack said, wiping away the tears that threatened to fall as he came out of the reverie. The other customers agreed.
“I’m sorry for the damages,” Ernest said, blushing as the diner’s wait staff started bearing down on him, even with the influence of his music. “I...uh…”
“I’ll cover it,” Jack said. Ernest looked shocked, and Jack smiled. “It’s the least I can do for that performance.”
“Thanks,” Ernest said, looking very confused. “We’ve got to go. Sorry again!”


***


Ernest and his friend Charlie, who had accidentally transformed himself into an ostrich at the end of the previous school year, walked a few blocks away from the diner.
A purple minivan pulled up next to them and the trunk door lifted open.
“Need a ride?” Faye asked.
“You got the real backpack?” Ernest asked, hopping in through the side door that Bridget opened as Faye helped her ostrich brother into the trunk.
“Yes,” Gertie said, holding up the egg box in triumph. “We got Shelby back!”
Everyone groaned.
“You’re keeping the name?” Bridget asked.
“Yes.” She started comically cooing over the box. “Who’s my little Shelby? You are!”
“Come on,” Vivien said, enjoying her job as getaway driver. “Let’s get Shelby to Dr. Farwell before we lose them again.”
***
The group was greeted by the Dordon Foundation Animal Center’s admin, who led them back into Dr. Farwell’s office.
On the way, they passed animals of all shapes and sizes, magical and not, who stared at them through their glass cages and barked, hissed, or cooed.
“Don’t mind them,” the admin said, “They’re just curious. They always are with new people.”
Gertie clutched the egg to her chest, starting to realize this might be the last time she ever saw it.
Dr. Farwell’s office was small, with no windows and lit by harsh fluorescent lighting. As the admin pushed the door open, it was quite clear that it was empty.
Then there came the sound of quickly moving dress shoes on linoleum tiles, followed soon after with, “Forgive me, there was an issue with the dragon’s food.”
A roar of triumph echoed through the hall as a man of average height with round glasses and a balding head approached. He smiled at the group. “Hello, I’m Dr. Farwell. It’s wonderful to meet you. In the flesh, that is.”
“Great to meet you too,” Bridget said, shaking Dr. Farwell’s outstretched hand. “I’m Bridget. That’s my sister Gertie and that,” she gestured to Shelby, “is the egg.”
“Wonderful!” Dr. Farwell walked into his office and started moving papers off of a metal table in the middle of the room.
“Thank you, Alex,” Dr. Farwell dismissed the admin, who nodded and returned to the front desk. “Come in, everyone.”
Even Charlie, as tall and fluffy as he was, was able to fit in the office, gathering around the table that Dr. Farwell tapped to signify Gertie should place the egg on.
“I’m sure you’ve been wondering why I’ve been gone for so long,” Dr. Farwell said. “Storm owls are very particular creatures. They only live in the Mercurial Mountains, and the only way that their eggs hatch is with the water from the streams that run through it. I wanted to keep this entire operation as secret as I could.”
Dr. Farwell produced a capped beaker of water from his desk drawer.
“So I had to fetch this myself.” He smiled kindly. “I thought, with all the effort you’d gone through, you might want to see the chick for yourself?”
Gertie smiled so wide that tears threatened at the corners of her eyes. “Yes, please.”
Dr. Farwell uncapped the beaker and poured the water out over the egg.
Everyone held their breath as the egg glowed a soft blue.
And then, ever so slightly, it moved. It shook one way, and then the other. It pitched back and forth, until there was a cracking sound, and then a little beak broke through as a jagged piece of the shell fell away.
“Shelby!” Gertie cried, crouching next to the hole to look at the little chick inside.
And then a little black ball rolled into the lab from the hallway, halting right under the table.
Before they could do anything but notice it, the ball exploded, splattering everyone and shoving them against the walls and cabinets of the office.
For the second time that day, they were frozen in place. This time, goopy webbing held them there.
“A Spicron trap?” Ernest realized, groaning. He had been caught in one of these before.
Jack Wade strode in, the fake backpack in his hand.
“How lovely to see you again,” he said bitterly to Ernest.
“What did you do to my staff?” Dr. Farwell yelled, struggling to get free.
Wade rolled his eyes. “I’m a thief, not a murderer. They’re a bit tied up at the moment, but everyone will be just fine. As soon as I get what I came for.”
His eyes lit up upon seeing the bits of the shell that had fallen onto the table. The Spicron potion had managed to avoid hitting the egg.
“You hatched it,” Wade said, his voice filled with wonder. “Excellent. It should be worth more now. No need for my employers to drive all the way to the mountains.”
“No!” Gertie cried as Wade picked up the still hatching egg. “Bring back Shelby!”
“Shelby?” Wade repeated as he paused in the doorway. He chuckled. “It’s a good name. I’ll advise the buyers to keep it.”
Then he left.
Gertie struggled to remember the spell to deactivate a Spicron potion.
“Didn’t it start with ‘Loec’?” Vivien suggested. Gertie shook her head.
Peter, meanwhile, adeptly dislocated his shoulder in order to reach the knife in his pocket. He flicked the blade open, and stuck it into the webbing.
To his relief, the enchantments in the metal allowed it to pierce through. He dragged the knife upwards, hurting his shoulder all the more, but eventually the webbing lost its hold and Peter fell to the linoleum tiles on the floor of the office.
He panted, waiting for his shoulder to click back into place from the healing magic of his necklace.
“Peter!” Gertie shouted, struggling to get free.
“One second.” He pulled out his cellphone and looked up the charm to release a Spicron hunting enchantment.
He read the spell outloud, waving his hands to conjure the magic, and the webbing flowed off everyone to turn into a messy paste that spread into a large puddle on the floor of Dr. Farwell’s office.
“No time to worry about that,” the doctor said, and ran out of the office, everyone else following after.
He waved at his staff, also stuck to the walls, cabinets, and in their various offices via a Spicron webbings, as they ran through the hallways. “We’ll be back for you.”
Peter stopped, raising his hand to free them, and Bridget nearly collided with him.
“What are you doing?” a trapped white-coated scientist shouted. “The egg is more important. Go!”
On her order, the rest of the teenagers ran after the doctor.
Alex was slumped over the front desk, deeply asleep, a product of another one of Wade’s magicks. Bridget stopped to double check that he was still breathing before following everyone outside.
Vivien pointed out her minivan to the doctor and everyone piled in. She disabled the magical auto-driver and took the wheel herself.
“Which way?” Vivien asked through gritted teeth, revving the engine.
“Uh…” Gertie looked, wide-eyed, at her sister. No one knew where Wade had gone, and their only method of tracking him previously, her phone, was now safely in her pocket.
Bridget took a deep breath, and did something she hadn’t done in years.
She chose to look into the future.
It came in bits and flashes. She furrowed her brow, trying to to make it clearer, focusing on the image she had of Wade, trying to see him anywhere in the pieces she could see.
“Highway 413,” she spoke the entrance to the freeway she saw Wade merging onto. Then she leaned out the window and threw up.
Once her head was back inside the car, Vivien peeled out of the parking lot, crossed three lanes of traffic and sped towards the highway.
Gertie rubbed her sister’s back as Bridget’s head hung in between her knees. Being forced to see into the future was hard. Attempting to look at it of her own free will took her out of commission.
The gray sky got darker, with storm clouds brewing.
“Shelby isn’t happy,” Gertie said, biting her bottom lip.
“There!” Faye pointed at a dark sedan with out of state plates that was driving ahead of them. “That’s the car! He left the diner to make a call and I saw-”
Vivien floored it and sped around the cars nearby. They were getting closer and closer. Peter opened the minivan’s sliding side door, intent on jumping onto Wade’s car when they were side by side. Ernest readied his piccolo, the instrument that helped his music magic do physical damage. Gertie found the hat that would let her conjure fire.
And then Bridget saw another flash of something that wasn’t there yet.
“Lightning,” she whispered.
The air around them charged and seemed to lift everything up; their hair and clothing floated as if gravity had shut off. And then there was a spark, and a lightning bolt seared down from the clouds and landed squarely on Wade’s car with a clap of thunder.
The sedan halted in the middle of traffic, tires melted to the road and engine steaming.
Vivien slammed on the brakes, as did the surrounding cars. They screeched to a halt and left tracks burned into the freeway.
All was quiet as they took in the sedan from the open side door; Wade’s car was an ashy mess. It was hard to believe anything could still be in there.
And then a window broke open, and a small bird poked its head out.
“Shelby?” Gertie said in a daze.
The chick peeped and flew, a bit haphazardly, through the air and landed in Gertie’s outstretched hands.
Shelby’s feathers were black and gray, like the outside of the egg. Its face and breast were feathered green, and its wings had streaks of orange and brown in them like jagged lightning. The bird’s claws were impressively large, and its sky-blue eyes huge. It peeped again, ignorant of the damage it had wrought with its weather magic.
The passengers in the road were stepping out of their cars, staring at what remained of the sedan. Some were rallying others to call the police, others were trying to figure out the best strategy for getting into the car to help, and many were praying.
And then the driver’s door opened, revealing a coughing and singed Wade. He raised his left arm, only to reveal that there was no longer a hand attached to it. He all but fell out of the car.
Wade’s shouts and curses that followed were drowned out by the sounds of sirens that were fast approaching.
Then Wade scrambled to his feet, holding his injured arm with his mostly healthy one.
“Fine! Keep the little pigeon!” Wade shouted, starting towards the group. Dr. Farwell got in between them, his arms held out in defense.
“I don’t even know why I took this job!” Wade screamed. “Dangerous rotten animals! Why even bother?” He was ranting now, shouting towards the heavens. “Why does anyone try to steal something that can actually object to being stolen?”
The paramedics arrived, running through the crowds to get to Wade. He shouted at them and swung his mangled arm out, but was eventually talked down and convinced to lie down on a stretcher.
Dr. Farwell explained everything when the police showed up, after Albert Makipire, alias Jack Wade, was taken to the hospital in custody.
Shelby sat on Gertie’s shoulder, running its beak through her hair and whistling contentedly.
If the police noticed anything odd about the sun suddenly shining brightly, they didn’t mention it.
***
“You be a good girl, okay?” Gertie instructed, looking deep into Shelby’s eyes. The doctor had verified, after the chaos with Jack Wade, that Shelby was uninjured, healthy, and female.
Shelby whistled sadly, sitting on Dr. Farwell’s outstretched palm.
“You can visit her here whenever you want,” Dr. Farwell said. “I assure you, she’ll be perfectly safe once she’s in her new aviary.”
Gertie nodded.
“We’re, uh,” Ernest cleared his throat, trying to hold back a wave of emotion. “We’re all going to miss you, Shelby.”
She whistled then, a melody of a song Ernest had often played during the car rides. Ernest quickly wiped away a tear and whistled the rest of the line.
The group piled back into Vivien’s purple minivan. Viv pulled carefully out of the parking lot, properly signalling, now that they weren’t in a high speed car chase, before switching lanes to head home.
Faye played with the single down feather she had managed to get from Shelby as she had preened. She would use it to enchant an earring that would let her talk to the storm owl the next time they met. If they met again. She took a shaky breath, trying to hold back tears.
Gertie tried to focus on how light her backpack was, and that it would be nice to not have to worry about keeping the egg safe from harm. She refused to look back, knowing if she did she wouldn’t be able to hold it together.
Rain started tapping on the windshield, providing an excellent atmosphere to how they were all feeling in the moment.
“Gertie,” Bridget whispered, touching her sister’s shoulder. Gertie looked up.
The sun was still shining. Shelby had made a sunshower for them. And right in the middle of it all, there was a beautiful rainbow.

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