Jessie was contemplating how happy she was Thomas was dead when the two bounty hunters who had hounded Kyle and her at Thomas’s behest walked through the door followed by a third man.
The two men looked a lot alike. Both were well dressed and good looking. They were about the same age, though that age could have been young looking 30s or old looking 20s. They were both in extraordinary shape, and they both carried themselves as though they’d been forced to do push-ups for bad posture at some point. One of the men had a dark complexion and probably wasn’t Caucasian, and one was white, but that hardly served to distinguish them.
Jessie felt herself falling into her combat spell. Thomas had told her it was wired to the presence of adrenaline and cortisol in her blood. The two hormones served to activate the strands of DNA that triggered the spell. At any rate, using it was now an instinctual response. With the spell came changes.
Her breathing accelerated, her senses seemed to grow brighter, her muscles tensed, and new awareness flooded her. The men no longer seemed to “carry themselves confidently” and “move smoothly”. Instead, Jessie could see how they were holding themselves with a clean balance that would have allowed them to spring in any direction even as they walked through the door. They were both holding their hands a bit away from their body. They were ready to reach out and respond to threats. They were also used to working with each other. They weren’t blocking each other’s sight lines or ability to move.
The third man was not a threat. He probably had a little training and conditioning, but he wasn’t ready to fight. Nothing in his movements suggested magical enhancement or even possession of a weapon.
Kyle was reacting to the men as well. He was moving slowly, like a normal person, but Jessie was pleased to see he was using what he had. He stood with enough force that he knocked the chair he’d been sitting in over and inhaled sharply. The inhalation must have been a focusing technique because she saw light catch in his eyes, and realized he now held magic. He flipped his left hand over and said, “Flare!” A ball of red light caught there. With his right hand he began to sketch some sort of formula in the air.
The men reacted to Kyle’s reaction. They stepped a bit away from one another, and both began to reach for something in their jackets. Jessie could only assume they had weapons, but she wasn’t certain what. Nothing too bulky, she thought, there wasn’t much lopsidedness to their suit coats nor was their anything printing through their clothes. Of course, if the men routinely carried weapons they’d have tricks for dealing with those things.
Jessie tapped her chair just hard enough to send it rolling away from her as she stood. She took a half a step back. She now had enough clear space to move. She could jump over the table or dodge.
Charles flared with magic. Jessie was startled, and shifted some of her focus to him. He was a worse potential threat than she’d realized. He hadn’t moved or seemed to react to the situation. Of course, her instincts also told her to trust him and to follow his instructions. As such, she didn’t react when he chanted something sharp in an unfamiliar language.
The third man did though. He became a threat. He shifted his center of gravity so he could move toward Charles, tension washed down his arms, and he scowled. He was very angry at Charles, but why? Was the spell something bad?
Charles released his spell. The room sort of flattened for a moment. Jessie lost all hold on her magic, and for just a second she was an ordinary human. She used the time wondering what sort of crazy attack she was contemplating, though she still noticed when both bounty hunters stumbled slightly. Kyle was most affected. He lost all his magic and both of his spells collapsed. He inhaled again, but nothing happened. Jessie thought that was a failure of focus on his part. Her own magic was already starting to come back.
“Jessie, Kyle,” Charles said, “these men are friends.”
Of course they’re friends, Jessie thought. Then she wanted to slap herself for thinking it. The combat spell made her suggestible. That’s why Thomas had cast it on her originally, after all. It was the spell, playing with her mind and making her tractable. When she was normal she trusted Charles, under the combat spell she’d do whatever he said almost without a second thought. Fortunately, the healing spell she ran whenever she came out of combat mode undid the cumulative effects of the combat spell. Without it, she’d be basically a slave.
Still, she trusted Charles for legitimate reasons, so she sat down. She didn’t roll her chair back to the table.
The three men relaxed somewhat. It was odd, but the unknown man relaxed the least. The bounty hunters returned to their previous level of easy vigilance, but the other man just consciously relaxed his face. Otherwise, the focus of his body language stayed centered around Charles. Jessie was pretty certain he could have happily jumped the table and started throwing punches. Jessie could have been mistaken, she couldn’t read minds, but these days she could read body language very very well. She picked up her coffee, and pretended to sip it, but really got ready to throw the hot liquid in someone’s face.