The Children didn’t do anything to block Kyle or Jessie’s magic. That wasn’t too surprising. Spells that prevented magical charge from being gathered were in high demand after all. Kyle had one, but he had powerful connections. Still, they could have tied Jessie up and gagged Kyle or even just gotten them both drunk, so it was also evidence they didn’t intend to do anything too nefarious.
Or, at least, if they did they’d better come loaded for bear because the first thing Kyle did when he and Jessie were alone was to gather up as much magic as he could. He meditated to do it, because that served the dual purpose of getting him charged up and calming him down. Still, it all went pretty quickly and once he was finished, his skin glowed visibly even against the backdrop of the well-lit room.
Next he set about updating Charles on what had happened. This was a violation of his own rule that the operation should stay secret, but if Charles was the one who had leaked what was going on to the Children they were playing a lot deeper and more dangerous game than anyone realized. In that case, Kyle wasn’t certain what the safest thing to do would be, but fighting Charles directly wouldn’t be it.
The Children had suggested Kyle and Jessie leave their phones outside of the room. They hadn’t demanded it as such, but in Alison’s words it was “So that everyone has time to talk about everything before we get outsiders involved.” She had also assured them that they’d get the phones back shortly.
Kyle had complied without arguing. He had Tekhnikos Oritos after all. That was a bit ironic, actually, since it was the one secret he’d intended to give up to the Children of Atlantis from the very start. However, he hadn’t gotten around to explaining the trick of it so so the Children wouldn’t have any reason to suspect his summoning, and then dismissing, a small ball of light was anything other than a nervous habit. Unfortunately, that precluded Charles from responding. Even if he got the message instantly, which he might Charles had a framework of magical circuitry watching his end of the spell, if Kyle’s “nervous habit” started flickering out Morse Code the Children would probably guess it was something more than the magical equivalent of a yo-yo.
While Kyle was charging, worrying, and messaging, Jessie flopped on their bed and began to read a paperback romance novel. Kyle had no idea where, or why, she’d gotten the dog-eared old thing. It looked kind of trashy, or at least it had a man with giant pecs, long hair, and a kilt fondling a not much more extensively clothed woman on the cover. Then again, maybe that was a scene from the book and it was pivotal to advancing the plot. Either way, Jessie seemed to be enjoying it. She hadn’t said much of anything since they’d entered the room. Kyle hoped she wasn’t ticked off at him.
As such, Jessie was reading and Kyle was just finishing up sending his message when Bob walked into the room. Kyle finished the word he was on so he wouldn’t look guilty, but let the rest of the message trail off, so it wouldn’t seem like he was doing something important. Or at least that’s what he hoped it would all look like. He’d already sent enough that Charles should understand what was going on and know to get the rest from the bounty hunters.
Only, Bob didn’t say anything at first he just stood there for a moment sort of looking around the room. Kyle realized he’d probably been trying to find a place to sit when he took a step further in, leaned against the wall, and stuffed his hands in his pockets. It was only then that he spoke, “Thanks for helping me out earlier.”
That caught Kyle off guard, “Oh, well, no problem I guess. It looked like you were taking some pretty rough hits. I didn’t really come here to get anyone beat up. I just wanted a little information.”
Bob shrugged. “Still, I appreciate the thought. A lot of people are scared of me.”
Kyle couldn’t help but laugh. “I can’t imagine why that would be.”
That was a little rude, fortunately the other man didn’t get offended or shut down. “Yeah, I know. They’re probably not even all wrong. I mean, if I wanted to hurt people I could. I probably wasn’t even out of the fight you saw earlier. I’m tougher and faster than a normal human. Those guys were obviously enhanced, but if they forgot to take that into account they likely would have backed off too soon then maybe I could have gotten my desiccation effect together and sent one of them reeling with thirst. As it is I’m not injured, but…”
Bob trailed off and something complex played of his features. The silence was long enough that Kyle thought Bob would leave, and he did push himself off the wall as though that’s what he intended, but then he settled back against it. “You know, I’m actually mostly Korean? I’m named after my grandfather, but he’s my only white relative. These days most people assume I’m black, because well,” he paused stretched out his hands and rolled them over for effect, “because I am black! But I’m not African-American. I’m just a nerdy Asian kid, son of second and third generation immigrants with an aptitude for magic and a really really stupid desire to be ‘badass’. At least that’s what I use to want. These days, I’d like to go back to everyone automatically assuming I’m gifted at math and otherwise ignoring me.”
“That sucks,” Kyle said trying to pack as much sympathy into it as he could. It wasn’t adequate, but it was all he had.
Bob shrugged, “Everyone has some suck in their life, I guess. Starving kids in Africa and all that. I mean, at least no one shoved an AK into my hand when I was 13 and told me to go overthrow some warlord so a new warlord could abuse everyone. I’m trying to own it, you know. I’ve been reading up on Saulabi and all to tap into the warrior traditions of my heritage.” His tone was casual, and Kyle got the impression he’d like to let the subject go. “Anyway, I argued to let you stay with the group. Lynn says you couldn’t have lied to us under that spell so we know you really don’t mean any harm and you are sympathetic to the ends of the group so…” He trailed off.
Kyle tried to complete the thought, “So you figure I ought to just stay here, like, spying on you and at some point I’m going to realize you’re totally cool and join up? That’s a really strange way to handle this.”
“Well, maybe it proves we don’t have anything to hide. It’s like we’re freedom fighters and you’re a journalist. If we were out massacring villagers you’d see it, report it, and we’d be screwed. As it is you’re going to see we’re doing the right thing and what you report will only help us.”
“You see yourself as a fighter?”
“Maybe that’s a bad choice of words. What I told the others was, do we believe in our cause or not? If we do, and we intend to win people over to it, then we basically have to try to win you over. If not, what are we even trying to accomplish?”
“How’d they like that argument?”
“Too early to say, man. Still, if you get kicked out that’s the worst that’s gonna happen. You’ve got my word on it.”
This time the conversation actually ended. Bob pushed himself off the wall, gave a ‘goodbye’ sort of nod, and walked out.
Once he was gone, and maybe out of earshot Jessie set down her book. She hadn’t said anything while Bob was in the room, which was slightly out of character, but she had watched them over the edge of her paperback. “I think maybe we were wrong,” She said.
“About what, and how?”
“I’m not sure this is a terrorist cell. I think it’s a cult.”