The rain felt more wrong than wet.

Zak Harris cursed as he stepped from the taxi. He had no idea what it was that was wrong about the weather, but he did know that he didn’t want to be out in it. The gusting wind blew needle-like pellets of water at him, nearly knocking him back into the vehicle. He struggled to regain his balance and forced the taxi door closed behind him. He swore again. He would have preferred to drive himself. Then he could have parked in the underground and avoided this weather altogether. But Jacob Bowers, the only mechanic Zak trusted, had not returned his Subana Sport Classic from its latest round of repairs.

After three days of dark turbulent weather, most of the residents of the city of Sol Kappur had taken refuge indoors. Weather experts were only now admitting, although somewhat reluctantly, that they were perplexed over the incessant storm which had settled over the city. Atmospheric conditions were all wrong to create such a weather event. It had originally begun as an ominous black smudge in the sky over the east bank of the Serpent River.  Since then the storm continued to grow, its circumference now encompassing the entire city.

The deserted city streets seemed strange to Zak. This was the heart of the Aragne Commonwealth. Most of the mega-giants of the nation’s corporate community were located here, housed within towering architecture that flaunted money and power. The multilevel walkways of the city were normally overflowing with pedestrians rushing from one place to another with urgent intent. The city streets were usually choked with streams of anti-grav vehicles, stacked one above the other at the various fly zone levels as they weaved their way through the maze of colossal buildings. The city traffic was usually a mass of organized chaos. But now the walkways were practically deserted and only the ground level streets were open to the scattering of traffic travelling in this weather.

Lightning slashed through the blackness overhead, quickly followed by an angry rumbling of thunder. Zak was drenched before he made it halfway to the double glass doors of the Grimrok Building. Even among the city’s corporate goliaths, the Grimrok Building loomed with intimidating predominance. Occupying a full square block, it rose up like a monument to free enterprise, a tower of black gloss marble and symmetrically spaced bands of plate glass rising up into the heavens. The upper stories of the building had been swallowed up by the ominous clouds that had seized the city, but artificial light continued to shine through the lower bands of windows like beacons of defiance toward the dark weather outside.

Zak pushed his way through the ornate glass and brass doors of the building into the foyer. His clothes were so wet that water immediately began to pool on the polished marble floor as he stood inspecting the room. The area was isolated from the main lobby by a wall of thick smoked glass. A matching glass security door inlaid into the center of the wall restricted further access to the building without proper security clearance. The glass of both wall and door was so dark that only hints of shadows could be seen beyond, like ghostly apparitions wandering aimlessly in a void. A large sign next to the entrance door notified visitors that this was a high security building.

“Attention!” A pleasant feminine voice spoke from invisible speakers. “This is a public service announcement. Federal regulations require that you be notified prior to being subjected to any public service paranormal occurrence. Due to inclement weather, the Insta-dry Forty-five magical spell will be activated under Federal Permit Number 213522-47. If you object to the use of this magic, please state your objection now. Do you wish the Insta-dry Forty-five spell to be invoked?”

Zak was sufficiently soaked to be glad of the drying spell and responded in kind.

“Very well, Insta-dry Forty-five is now activated.”

True to its name, the spell instantly dried Zak and his clothes. There was no sensation of warm air, or heat, or any other detectable occurrence from the spell, although Zak had detected the spell itself even before the public service announcement. The ability to detect magic was a natural talent he possessed, although his skill could be somewhat inconsistent at times. He took full advantage of the ability when it was to his benefit and when it actually worked, but he was not particularly proud of the bloodline that had provided him with the ability.

“Please remain motionless during our security system scan.”

Zak did as the voice instructed.