Kyle eyeballed the Physical Sciences Laboratory building on the campus of NMSU skeptically. Somehow, back when he’d been in school, he had never pictured a career in magical engineering leading to breaking and entering. Actually, avoiding a life of crime had been one of the more compelling reasons for getting a degree in the first place.
He wasn’t entirely certain how he’d been talked into this faux criminal escapade. Charles had wanted him to do it from the first. However, his teacher had left the decision up to Kyle after a brief and impassioned speech about bravery and the defence of law, order, and even good society as magical virtues. That had been compelling, but not fully convincing. For one thing, Kyle still wasn’t certain he agreed with the archmagi over the Children of Atlantis in the first place.
Could access to powerful technology actually cripple a society? Certainly the Irish potato example was a good one, but that hadn’t happened in a vacuum. Ireland would have competing foodstuffs if not for their political situation, and the modern world had a lot of competing ways of doing things. And while many and varied doomsayers had suggested that technology in general–typically some technology used for entertainment–was destroying the whole of society, Kyle had never believed it. Utterly primitive societies had figured out if they chewed this weed or licked that frog they wouldn’t have to deal with the hardships of life for a while. Was zoning out in front of a show much worse?
Some of what had persuaded Kyle was that the Children seemed to be honestly dangerous people. They weren’t just publishing a web page that said the Archmagi had tricks they weren’t sharing. They were engaged in destruction of property, assault, and perhaps even worse to get their ends accomplished. Even if he wholly disagreed with the Archmagi they weren’t so bad Kyle was willing to hurt innocents to bring them down.
Jessie was also beside him in the dark. She had been sold from the very first, and that had been a big factor in his decision. From a petty standpoint, he hadn’t wanted to look like a wimp with her watching. More than that, he found he honestly trusted her judgement. On some level, she just knew more about how the world worked than he did. She was better with business, better with people, and quite possibly tougher. She wasn’t perfect, but in this instance he’d decided that he could do worse than following her lead.
Kyle was thinking about Jessie when he saw her. Specifically he saw her crawling down the wall of the building across from him. In the movies, they always made someone clad all in black crawling down the side of a building look pretty creepy, but Jessie did it with a sort of elegance. Really, if there’d been a ladder set up against wall she wouldn’t have looked much different.
Of course, she had her head pointed up. She was strong enough to do the creepy “head pointed down” thing, but she only bothered with that when it was really hard to find handholds, and she needed her eyes where they could see better. Apparently the fairly rough bricks of the wall didn’t present that much challenge. In fact, she wouldn’t have descended any more casually if there had been a ladder leaned up against it. She held herself away from the wall somewhat leaving her arms more or less directly in front of her, and she didn’t move slowly and painfully or hurry. It was a very elegant wall-crawl; Spiderman himself couldn’t have done better.
When she got within 8 feet of the ground, she jumped off of it, landed on the ground her soft soled jika-tabi boots making little more than a thump. She hurried over, “I’ve scouted out the roofs around the research building. I think the guard is the only one inside, and the surrounding streets are relatively clear. I saw one student walking away from the library, and a small group making their way back into the housing units, but they should all be out of ear-shot by now.”
Kyle nodded tightly feeling a small thread of nausea catch in his throat. “Alright, I guess now is the best time.”
“You can do this,” Jessie smiled, and that actually made Kyle feel a little better. “Just keep in mind your target and approach.”
“My target is the lab on the second floor east side. I go in through the front, up the main stairs, and make a lot of noise; the tv news will be happier to play footage of this if they’ve got a dangerous looking rogue mage to play up. You’re good with your part?”
“I go around back, jump the fence, and get in the back door by the loading dock. I go down three doors, the security office is on the right. I disable the cameras, and that’s when Ivan takes his dive. I’ll give you five minutes before you start so you two can lay down some good A-roll.”
Kyle nodded, then inhaled. Magic came pretty easily and he saw amber colored light falling on Jessie’s face so he knew his eyes were glowing. “Comm check?” He held out his hand, palm up, and said, “Communications A” triggering a globe of dull red light to float above his palm.
Jessie took a moment to rearrange her internal magic then cast the same spell triggering it through her DNA. Her copy of the spell made both just a hair more magically expensive to run. Kyle had focused the minimum energy into his spell, so it flickered out. Hers got brighter. That was an ancient system for using magic for secure remote communication: Tekhnikos Oratio.
Jessie shut her spell off and Kyle’s came back. He moved it up so it floated in front of him off to the side of his face. He could see it clearly in his peripheral vision. “Do that when the camera is off.” Then he flipped his hand open and said, “Flare!”
A much brighter globe of light appeared above it. He normally used this spell as a weapon, but it would also do to make sure the security cameras had enough light to film his face cleanly. He took a deep breath to steady himself, then stiffened his back and marched across the street stopping directly in front of the PSL building where he knew it’s external cameras would be able to see him clearly.
Show time, he thought.
Then he began to write in the area with magic. First, he drew a diagram of aluminum oxide: O=AL-O-AL=O then struck out the central monovalent oxygen bond. He fed that spell energy and then pushed it over to the big, aluminum, doors at the front of the building. Many people think aluminum doesn’t oxidize. That’s not true. In fact, it oxidizes quite rapidly a fact to which thermite reactions will attest. However, aluminum oxide is fairly tough stuff. It’s crystalline form is sapphire, a thin layer builds up on aluminum and protects it from further oxidation.
Kyle had just shut that process down. The protective coating was now molecular dust. The doors didn’t change much, but if he’d left the spell running for a few hours they’d completely corrode. He didn’t have a few hours, so he sketched a second trigger in the air. This one described a reality where aluminum was much more hungry for oxygen molecules.
When he pushed that spell into the doors the endothermic oxidation reaction increased exponentially. Hoarfrost rolled across the metal, the panes of glass set in the doors, and then out slightly into the surrounding wall. Dust cascaded off of the doors and swirled away in the wind. Fortunately, that wind was blowing away from Kyle. Aluminum oxide was fairly inert, but he still didn’t want a lungful of it.
With a crash the door lost too much of its material and the glass inside of it fell to the ground shattering into a million pieces. Kyle felt kind of like a bad ass when that happened. He knew he was using a spell that Charles had leased from a company that did recycling in Singapore, but he looked like a fairy tale wizard. At that moment, he regretted not bringing a staff of some sort.
Of course, a staff wouldn’t have had any use. He should have brought his cat. He could have had it holding some sort of spell for him. No, a cat wouldn’t have looked cool at all. He should have brought a staff.
The hinges on the doors gave and they fell forward onto the sidewalk leaving nothing but a giant hole into the lobby of the research building. Kyle mentally cut the power to the spell, took a deep breath to preserve his lungs, and strutted forward into the building.