Kyle looked around the gymnasium. It stood, perhaps, three stories tall and was 100 meters wide and long. There were bright ceramic metal halide lights set on a framework below the ceiling and dark shadows above them. The walls were cement blocks, and the floor was polished concrete with rubberized mats rolled out over it. There were obstacles scattered around through the large space, and those were a little unusual, but otherwise it was a fairly normal room.
Unless, the viewer knew, as Kyle did, that the entire structure was located several hundred feet below ground.
It must have cost a fortune to excavate. Literally, a fortune, a couple million dollars a least. Labor was probably somewhat cheaper in the Caribbean than it would have been in the states, but beyond the walls of the room the ground was probably solid rock, and at least some of the work would have involved contractors specifically vetted to avoid anyone blabing about the existence and purpose of the facility. At least Kyle assumed that was a secret Charles would want to keep. It seemed reasonable, the Archmagi were basically compulsive about secrecy, and the existence of such a facility was the sort of thing a normal person might be a bit cagey about. Well, not that any normal person would have a giant combat training gym under their house in the first place.
Not for the first time, Kyle wondered what sort of rabbit hole he’d fallen down. On the one hand it was cool to be part of the world behind the world. On the other he still wasn’t 100 percent convinced he was on the side of the angels.
He shook his head, putting it all out of his mind for the moment. If he was distracted, he was going to get his butt kicked. Actually, he thought, that’s being too charitable. I’m going to get my butt kicked either way. It was just going to happen a lot faster if I’m not paying attention.
He’d come down to the diabolical lair to do some sparing with Jessie. She would use her magic, he’d use his, and they’d see who could pin the other first. When Jessie had first proposed such a sparring match, Kyle thought he’d best her easily. First, he actually knew how to fight, and second his magic was vastly more flexible. That match, he hadn’t even lasted long enough to cast a spell. These days he could typically make it all of five minutes. That improvement was why he kept persevering through the humiliation; it was good practice if people started to try to kill him for real again. Well, that and another less practical reason.
Their setup for this bout seemed designed to take Kyle down even faster than usual. Jessie had wanted Kyle to take a position somewhere in the gymnasium’s obstacle course without telling her where he’d hidden and then she was going to stalk him and attack from behind without warning. She hadn’t put it like that, but that’s how Kyle figured it would go.
The obstacles in the gymnasium were kind of cool. They were ionized gas shaped with magnetic fields. You could hit them at nearly any speed and they’d slow you safely. Their shape was totally programmable. They looked kind of like little square clouds. Of course, bean bags would have done nearly as good a job at being largely harmless obstacles, but Kyle appreciated the class inherent in the crazy high-tech solution. Jessie had set it such that the ones around the wall of the gym were mostly low things about the size of furniture. As one moved to the center of the gym they got much bigger until they simulated something more like architecture.
There was only one entrance to the gym- an elevator down from the main house. Given all of that, Kyle had decided to hide behind a man tall rectangle on the far side of the room from the elevator. He thought, that way, Jessie wouldn’t be able to immediately see him past the large central obstacles, but he’d have a good chance of spotting her as she crossed the room.
However, that was only half of his plan. While Jessie had been away on business for Charles. Charles had taught Kyle a new technique. Readying himself for that, Kyle let his senses roll out to take in the gymnasium then, fully aware of his surroundings, he drew in a deep breath of…
Nitrogen, oxygen, argon, and other trace gasses. He sighed, exhaled, and tried again. He let his senses roll out into the gymnasium. Above his head the lights were buzzing slightly. All the objects in the room had at least a half-dozen shadows, and the shadows were all washed out. He could smell dampness in the air as well as a bit of ozone from the magnetically controlled gas. He could feel his cloths against his body. In the distance he thought he heard the creak of the elevator descending. He didn’t have much time.
Kyle drew in a deep breath of air and with it came magic. As much magic as he could hold in a rushing swirl of energy ready and eager to use. Kyle raised a finger and drew the formula for synthesis of argon fluorohydride in the air then struck the last step out and wrote in argon and hydrogen fluoride in its place.
He felt magic wash out into the spell. Not much of it, admittedly, the spell had a profoundly low scale factor. That was reasonable, given that it made a reaction that was normally only possible under the narrowest of circumstances impossible. It was a tiny change to the universe. Moreover, it was a nearly useless spell so it was unlikely anyone else was using it.
However, Kyle now had a very good use for the strange little spell.