“You have got to be kidding me,” Alec said to the air around him.
That air was, of course, the same air his erstwhile husband was currently breathing beside him, and so Magnus was in range enough to ask, “Do I want to know?” He did, which is why he tried to glimpse at the remnants of the fire message, but only caught a hint of Izzy’s scrawl. She and Alec communicated regularly between New York and Alicante, but often times that communication was in a code that they had come up with as children. A plus for extra security, but a minus for nosey significant others.
In response, Alec stood and stretched and reached for the bow that was always nearby but rarely needed in his new status. “You might actually want to see this,” he non-answered. “Besides, it’s you, or Rey, and you know who we all prefer.”
Lorenzo Rey was still the High Warlock of New York. He had also gone on record as stating he would not be at the beck and call of the New York Institute but had yet to clarify if he would be at the beck and call of a certain Nephilim that resided in that Institute no matter how many times Magnus asked. He was also possibly about to be challenged for that title by another warlock but that was something Magnus would know precisely nothing about save for the date, time, and name of the challenger. They had put aside most but definitely not all of their differences but it was still very true that Magnus would love the chance to show him up if at all possible.
As such, he snapped his fingers to ready himself in something elegant yet imposing, guessing at mobility and cleanliness issues as his spouse had yet to actually clarify as to where they would be headed. Said spouse was wearing his usual work clothes, which meant precisely nothing as he had seen his dear Alexander readily jump into an ichor-covered mass of dripping demons in Dolce in the past. Said spouse also seemed more amused and possibly annoyed than actually worried though, so he made the assumption that things were not completely dire. Yet.
One portal later, and they emerged just outside the entrance to the Institute. Nothing seemed awry from the outside as far as he could tell. No, correction, the wards were flickering as though stressed, which meant they would likely catch the attention of something unseemly and incredibly stupid soon. No one directly attacked a Nephilim stronghold unless they held vast amounts of resources and/or miniscule amounts of intelligence.
“Shall we?” he asked with a broad gesture to the archway. Alec’s response was to nod and move his bow to an almost but not quite ready position.
The doors opened to reveal quite a lot of chaos within. Lights flickered and flashed, screens lit with symbols and sigils only to go dark again, and every single Shadowhunter available was armed. People swarmed about, blades at the ready, and looked seriously miffed that there was nothing to use them against.
“For the love of the Angel, do NOT attack the computers!” Isabelle’s dulcet tones snapped. When one of her minions protested, she did the Lightwood trademark of sighing disappointedly just a hairsbreadth from shouting and advised, “Yes, I know it’s in there, but so are all of our files. It needs to be banished, not stabbed.”
The alarms were just annoying, so Magnus silenced them with a wave of his hand. “Is it over? Did you get it that easily?” a voice he didn’t recognize asked.
The Lightwood siblings rolled their eyes in unison. “Pretty sure all those alerts mean it’s still here,” Jace pointed out sarcastically as he walked by the idiot. It was true, the screens still flashed that there was an unauthorized presence that was demonic in nature. Not out of the norm when he was around, but he rarely set the things off to this level. Also, the readouts showed that presence in far more than just the room where he currently stood and, seeing how he had been told one of him was more than enough in nearly any situation, there was little chance he had suddenly been duplicated, especially to that level.
“Does anyone wish to clarify just what it is and where it currently resides?” Magnus asked when no further information appeared to be forthcoming.
“It’s my fault!” yet another voice entered the fray. Simon. He’d say Isabelle should have better taste, but the Daylighter was actually quite kind and caring and believed she hung the moon, the stars, and vast amounts of weaponry. The still quite young vampire fidgeted and played with his hands and, any time he would start to reach for something, pulled those hands back when he received a cadre of glares from all currently gathered. “I… did something stupid,” he eventually offered.
“You usually do,” Magnus agreed easily enough. “Do you care to elaborate as to just what non-intelligent action you took this time?”
“It was a toy!” Simon blurted. “It was supposed to be a toy. A little robot that I was going to program to bring Izzy her lunch and some comics and… But it needed to be charged and it only had one of those little USB chargers and like no one around here had one of those adaptors, not that they’d give me anyway, so I plugged it in to my laptop which was plugged into the wall and…”
“He bought a demonically possessed robot from that toy shop on Fifth that we warn everyone away from,” Jace finally clarified enough for a few things to fall into place.
Alec had lowered his bow completely at this point, possibly solely to rub at the bridge of his nose. “The wards didn’t catch it because they always register him as demonic and he brought it in with him,” he guessed. There were nods all around. “When he charged it, he charged it, which allowed it the full force of its powers?”
“I would also assume that he was signed in to your equivalent of wi-fi at the time, which allowed it to hack the password and routing and allowed it to leave its tiny robotic prison for something far larger and far more entertaining,” Magnus added as he slid the last of the pieces together in his mind. “Depending on the type of demon, it has either been attempting to feed off of the Angelic Core, or off of just the sheer amount of fear and chaos it produced.”
“At least it’s contained?” Izzy tried. It was not quite a defense of her boyfriend, but he gave her credit for it anyway.
“At least it’s only one big bad to fight?” said boyfriend chimed in.
“Until it weakens the wards and invites in all its playmates to tear this place apart,” Alexander replied with a glower. He glanced around at the various Shadowhunters that were gathered and noted some looked worse for wear. “How many people have been injured so far?”
Simon gulped guiltily as Jace reported, “Only about three, maybe four. There was a team training when the simulator went berserk. Kensie will be working on how to decide if he should follow through with an attack when the lights go out, and Brooke had a shelf fall on her when Dan tripped over it.”
“But you can fix this, right?” Simon asked.
“Your stupidity, no. The demonic presence that has taken up residence in your servers, yes,” Magnus replied. He turned to Izzy and verified, “I’m assuming everything was locked down immediately and there is no need to also cleanse any other Institutes that may have shared a connection at the time?”
“I was online with Paris when it hit,” she winced. “They locked down as a precaution, but you might want to check them as well.”
Magnus nodded as he knew nothing would be easy if there were ever an alternative. “Excellent,” he said with a clap of his hands. “We purge this place and can pick up some wine for dinner on the way home, maybe even some croissants for breakfast.”
His husband lit up at that. “Can we get some of that duck stuff? No one here makes it like that,” he asked, which meant he was at least in a little bit better of a mood with the promise of specialty meats on the way.
“Of cour-” he started, but cut himself off when he caught sight of something on one of the screens. “How much do you trust the information being shared by these readouts right now?” he asked instead.
“I’m guessing it’s about to only be the stuff we visually verify for ourselves, why?” Jace sighed.
“Because it’s gone now and showing perfectly fine, which we know to be a lie, but I could have sworn I just saw a flash of multiple presences approaching the greenhouse,” he reported.
“It was locked down with everything else, right?” Simon confirmed. This was followed immediately by an extremely dejected, “It was locked down with anyone in it locked out, wasn’t it?”
“Clary!” Jace bit out, already taking off at a full run. Ever since her return to the Shadow World, she had taken to the greenhouse like a moth to the flame. She said it helped center and ground her when everything became too much. Magnus was certain it had nothing to do with the very specific plants and/or sigils carefully placed around the glass structure. Plants and sigils that he may have possibly spent hours poring over ancient tomes for to make certain they did just that.
“Max is with her!” Izzy called after him, not that such knowledge would stop him and not that anyone expected it to. The youngest Lightwood had placed himself as dear Biscuit’s personal guard whenever the others were not available. He had expounded, at length, about how she had literally saved them all and sacrificed so much and he would be damned if he was going to let her wander off into danger because her still-returning memory wasn’t enough to protect herself. In other words, he was a Lightwood and behaved precisely how anyone would expect a Lightwood to behave when there were those they deemed family involved.
Magnus let the Simon charge after Jace, using his vampiric enhancements to their full abilities. Alexander and Isabelle shouted out places for the other Nephilim to barricade and/or reinforce while he focused on figuring out how to banish the demon itself. The problem was that it was everywhere. Every computer that was hooked in to the network could potentially be a hiding place and the tiniest sliver might survive to wreak havoc later. There was one potential way, but it would suck for all involved, especially given that he was fairly certain the weakening wards had already caught the attention of some beings decidedly not on their side.
“You have that look on your face,” Alexander commented. He glanced around to see if anyone else had picked up on it and found he was not the only one. He had gotten lax in his old age, or possibly just far too comfortable when certain people were around. Even Raj looked to him with a sort of expectant hope slathered in despise. “What do you need and how bad is it going to suck?”
Which is how the Institute as a whole was powered down. Every single computer, every server, every electronic device unplugged and turned off from the emergency backup power supplies they all inevitably had. Half of the Institute’s residents went outside to fend off the potential oncoming hordes, and the other half readied themselves for the aftermath inside. He then methodically banished the demonic presence, little by little, until he drove it back to its source. A source that had taken up residence in the weapons’ room, because of course it did.
He was escorted to that room, a bow on one side and a whip on the other, past other doors that reverberated with people pounding to be let out. He couldn’t help but do a quick review to verify only angelic presences remained in those rooms, not willing to lock potential unarmed Nephilim in with a manifestation of a demon for too long. Finally, they reached what was likely the final stronghold of the demon and he held out an arm to stop a certain Inquisitor from barreling in headfirst. A wave of his hand showed what lay on the other side of that door and he didn’t bother resisting the urge to raise his eyebrows.
“It’s been busy,” Izzy commented, stealing her brother’s knack for understatement. While the Angelic weapons would resist use by anything with demon blood, a helpful little robot had found ways around that and all sorts of implements both Angelic and Mundane in nature were primed and waiting for them.
“This would be that part that’s going to suck,” he confirmed before he unleashed everything he had at disarming and containing the quite intelligent beast. The Lightwoods assisted by dismantling as many traps as they set off, a blur of constant motion and perfect black hair as they dodged and shielded and protected. Eventually, all that was left was the original robot, now augmented to be several times its original size. He was also willing to lay money on it not originally being quite so weaponized. He had to pause and blink at the sight of its cartoon features lit with an ominous red glow, the once simple blunt pincers now capable of removing vital body parts.
It charged, but didn’t get very far. An arrow plunged right between the LED eyes a split second before the little rounded head was torn from its square body by a snake-like whip. The remaining torso continued a jerky hobble towards them and he felt the whoosh of air a split second before Simon called out, “The blue box is the power source!”
Magnus turned to focus on that, only to discover it truly was not required. The Lightwood siblings decimated the small square, and then continued to near gleefully smash anything and everything around it. A little chanting and hand waving later, and the sucker was finally fully vanquished.
“Aw, I was hoping to do that…” a new voice complained. Max. He stood in the doorway with a blade at the ready. His glasses were speckled with a tiny bit of what appeared to be red, and Magnus automatically checked the boy over to make sure he was not injured.
“You have done enough,” Clary assured him as she stepped up beside him. She peeked her head in to where the others still stood over the remains of gears and wires and advised, “Your brother held more than his own. To the point he barely let me fight. Most of the Shax killed before Jace and Simon showed up were his. Not that you keep score or anything.”
“Good job!” Alexander told him, and Magnus noted he did not differentiate between the offing of the demons or keeping Clary away from it all as much as possible. He motioned to a handful of pieces on the floor that were still not quite dust. “Want to have a go?”
Max and Izzy gleefully smashed the remaining bits and bobbles, save for a small silver box that Magnus rescued from the destruction. He tucked it in Simon’s hand with an offhand comment of, “Good choice, decent karat with a gorgeous cut, but perhaps the delivery system could be a little less possessed? I made sure it’s demon-free if you want to give it another go?”
Simon pocketed the box but shook his head. “If there were ever a cosmic sign that this is not the right time, I think we just saw it,” he sighed.
Magnus scoffed at that. “When it comes to Lightwoods, the cosmos has it out for us all.”
He would have said more, but was distracted by Alexander. Not an unusual occurrence, but this time his husband strode over to Clary and told her, “Use your iratze, Fray.”
The redhead waved him off. “It’s just a couple of scratches, and not even venomous ones. Max took the brunt of it,” she tattled. The couple of scratches were enough to tear the hem of the shirt she wore and there was a telling stain on her thigh. The pale skin on her arms were dotted with something decidedly not paint or charcoal as well.
“And I’ll tell him the same when he’s done smashing things, but there are healing runes for a reason,” he coaxed. He was joined in his efforts by his parabatai, who even did the eye thing that Magnus himself was rarely immune to.
“Fine,” she huffed, and started to pat herself down to look for her stele. Three were offered to her without a word, and a fourth when Max belatedly realized what was going on. “You’re using that one on yourself,” she chided him. She then responded to his eyeroll with an exaggerated one of her own.
Simon waited for her to activate the rune before he started in on his apologies. “I am so sorry! So very sorry! I didn’t know, but that’s no excuse, and now you’re hurt and…” he babbled. He ran his hand through his hair and ended up tugging at the strands until they stuck up at even worse angles than before. “This is my fault…”
“It is,” the Inquisitor for the Clave agreed, possibly just to see the other man shrink in on himself. After the appropriate dramatic pause, he added, “But it has also revealed weaknesses in our system. We can use this as a learning opportunity and work to ensure something like this never happens again.”
Simon nodded readily enough, easily taking the out. “What can I do to help?” he asked eagerly.
“We’re not yet at full power and won’t be for a while. We’ll need scouts and a rotation to make sure no one and nothing attempts to attack while we’re down. You’re on first shift,” Alec advised.
Another nod. “First shift, all shifts, whatever you need,” the apologetic man agreed.
Magnus stepped back and let Alexander take control. Technically, this was Isabelle’s Institute now, but old habits died hard. Even if his rank didn’t dictate it, she would more than likely listen to her older brother’s ideas and manipulate them into her own. He let them at it while he did a subtle review of all involved.
Other than the dust of robot guts, Alexander and Isabelle were relatively unscathed. Jace had a smear of something unseemly along his side, but didn’t appear to notice. He also didn’t appear to have any actual injuries when he scanned a little deeper, which meant either nothing got close or he had already healed himself. Clary’s injuries were fading fast, but he knew they would be used to keep her away from any of the watches until the worst of the threat had passed. Max was volunteering for any and all watches he could get his hands on, but settled for a pointed interior detail that would just happen to be wherever Clary felt the need to chip in. Simon didn’t notice his own scratches, but his innate healing was already taking over so there was little risk. All in all, it could have been far worse.
“Can I assume my services will be needed to review the wards?” he asked when there was a pause in the conversation.
“Isn’t that the High Warlock of Brooklyn’s job?” Max asked with an eyebrow raised precisely like his brother’s. The smirk was pure Isabelle though.
“Not when the High Warlock of Alicante, who happens to be the one to create the initial wards, is present and the Inquisitor allows it,” Alexander replied.
“Or when the Inquisitor of the Clave specifically requests otherwise,” Izzy chimed in knowingly. It was followed by a heartfelt thanks and the admittance of, “I know it’s not your job anymore, but it just feels more… right when you do it.”
Magnus pondered that for a moment and wondered if it was just that they were used to his energy or it was simply her way of saying she liked having him around. Regardless, he would do it and possibly add an extra oomph or three based upon some of the scrolls he had recently snuck from the Clave’s archives and have been studying as much as possible before they were found to be missing. He had tested some of the bits and bobbles with the warding around their own residence, but it would be interesting to try them on a far grander scale.
The others set up watches and began the reboot process for the Institute as a whole. He monitored everything to make certain no remnants of demon energy lay hidden even though he trusted his own work, and then began the process of rebuilding the weakened wards. It was tiring, especially after such an involved banishing, but the knowledge that it would help keep his loved ones safe gave him more than enough energy to see it through.
That, and the promise of a decent Bordeaux and maybe some chocolates from that tiny little shop down from the Louvre when he was through.