Kyle sat and thought about that for a long time. Alison had him. An impossible room, in the parlance of magic, was any spell which made a space that was persistently and obviously abnormal but confined to a single discrete area. Such rooms came in all manner of flavors, in some time was messed up, or gravity didn’t work right, but the most common sort warped geometry. They, like the spell Jessie channeled her excess magic into, made something bigger on the inside than the outside.
Such an effect, almost by definition, twisted spacetime. As such, the Rooms or at least many of them, could be entered from anywhere and exited to anywhere with the correct modifications to the trigger. If the Children had such a room… Well they wouldn’t be able to go just anywhere, there were still magic nullification spells, guards, and other means of protection, but it was a pretty generous bus pass.
So Kyle sat and worried and tried to decide what to do. A little while after Alison left Fern came in and started cooking breakfast. Something, probably the smell of it, was enough to lure Lynn in. That might have been her plan because she’d made extra and she served him some without asking if he wanted in. Lynn looked grateful.
It was enough to make Kyle feel like a third wheel and that reminded him of something. He wasn’t alone in the operation. He stood, and went looking to see if Jessie was back from her run.
It didn’t take Jessie at all long to decide what she wanted to do. She asked, “Are these rooms illegal.” They weren’t, as Kyle explained because there was nothing inherently harmful about them and they were quite useful. In fact, few people who had one would have risked committing a crime with it because they were too valuable. It would be kind of like using a Rolls as a get-away car. Given that, Jessie had wanted to report in and then scrap the mission. She was, as she unashamedly put it, bored stiff with the op and she figured at this point they’d proven there was nothing to fear in the group, or the group suspected them too much to reveal anything. Either way they were “wasting time with a bunch of weirdos” and she “didn’t want to lose any more of her life learning musty dead languages.”
Kyle wasn’t willing to go quite that far, but he did arrange for a meeting with Agent Sandborn. That wasn’t hard. They’d been letting meaningless little status reports trickle up through Richard and Amadeus ever since agreeing that the agency might have a leak. The man must have been getting antsy to speak with them because he responded that he’d meet with them the next day if they could swing it. They could, of course, it wasn’t like it could blow their cover, so sandborn arranged a secure teleconference and then sent them an address and an appointment time.
* * *
“Is this it?” Jessie asked Kyle as they stood outside the unassuming looking building in the strip mall near the business district.
Kyle Looked down at his phone again and then shrugged. “It’s the right address.”
Jessie looked up at the door again. The strip mall they were in was pretty nice. It had that alpine village thing going where every store was fronted with stone and the otherwise flat roof of the long functional building had been made to looked peaked with fancy frontages. As such, the blank-faced shop really stood out. “We should go in,” she said.
“Yeah,” Kyle answered but didn’t open the door.
Jessie shook her head. You’d think that after all that had happened he would be better about walking into a strange store. Yes, they might have inadvertently found the mall office and maybe someone inside would tell them to go away, but that was about the worst that could happen. She nudged him out of the way and stepped inside.
The inside of the building actually had signage. There was a big banner over the reception desk that read TeleConnect. They were in the right place. Kyle walked up to it and said, “We have an appointment for a virtual meeting room.”
“Party name,” the attractive young woman manning the desk asked.
“Room three, down that hallway. I have six individuals joining the meeting today. Four in person, two remote. If that’s correct you’re the last locals to arrive.” She smiled broadly, and Kyle started back the way she’d indicated.
Jessie hesitated at the desk for a moment, “Why don’t you guys have a sign out front?”
The receptionist kept her face straight but her smile got just a bit stiff. Maybe she’d been asked that question a few more times than she would have liked. “Well, we’re new of course, so that’s part of it. But we did have a sign. It’s just it only gave the company name and we got a ton of people wandering in assuming we sold cell phones. I think they’re putting in something that explains we do secure business meetings. It’ll be up next week.”
Jessie nodded, and then hurried after Kyle who was already inside the meeting room.
The inside of the room wasn’t what Jessie had been expecting which had been something along the lines of a standard conference room: big table, bunches of chairs, and boring empty walls. It had two out of those three things, but the walls were covered in strange triangle sponges. She must have been looking at them rather obviously because, someone spoke from the direction of the conference table. “That’s sound proofing. Fairly good sound proofing, actually, once you shut the door no one outside of this room should be able to hear what’s said.”
Jessie turned, “Charles! I didn’t know you were in on this.”
The man scowled, “I almost wasn’t. Richard let me know what was going on, and I decided to join. This foolishness has been going on longer than I initially expected it would, and I want my apprentice back.”
“And your favorite femme fatale bounty hunter, right?”
“Of course,” Charles shot her a warm smile.
While they were talking Kyle walked over to where Charles was sitting. He swept his hand through the older man’s shoulder then unnecessarily announced, “You’re an illusion.”
Charles raised his eyebrows. “Yes, that’s the ‘tele’ part of this conference.”
Kyle leaned forward inspecting the illusion with a professional eye, “This is really good. It looks like…” He trailed off and Jessie didn’t get why until Charles responded.
“Your technology? Yes, actually, it is. While you’ve been away, and thanks to the work of your investors, K&J has been able to release a number of new light producing effects onto the market and secure a relationship with this start-up. There are only a couple of dozen locations so far, all small, and their agreement with K&J hasn’t substantially increased the bottom line because licensing fees don’t kick in until TeleConnect has had some time to become profitable, but it’s still a rather exciting development. Don’t you think?”
Jessie mentally translated that: The archmagi decided to pump a bunch more spells out of Lux and drop them onto the market, and for this particular application we’ve used the spell you fake stole a while back.
She looked over at Kyle, he was looking just a bit poleaxed. Eventually he said, “I didn’t get any updates on that.”
“Yes,” Charles said rather forcefully, “you didn’t, because you’ve been undercover and it’s been interfering with things. As I said, this is taking far too long.”
Jessie raised a hand, “Hear hear!” Richard and Amadeus also nodded.
”Wait a second,” Kyle said. “So I’m the only one who who thinks this mission even might be worth continuing?”
Jessie watched as a slightly awkward silence stretched out in the room. At length Richard shifted slightly and then spoke, “Well you know I never wanted you to go back in after you were caught in the first place. Given that, and how little you’ve learned over the past few weeks, I’m pretty sure this is pointless.” He made a helpless gesture, “You did everything you could, you know. Some ops don’t work out.”
There was a round of nods around the table and Kyle looked somewhat crestfallen. Jessie was a little surprised by that. She hadn’t realized the whole thing meant much to him in the first place.
There was a loud ding from the speaker in the center of the room and a recorded, cool, professional voice stated. “Another participant is joining the conference.” Then the voice changed to a man’s and that speaker said, “Agent Sandborn.” The female picked up again, “To prevent this participant from joining press the pound button on the conference phone in the next 10 seconds to accept now press star.”
Kyle leaned over and pressed star; there was a second ding. The acoustic foam of the room vanished as a wave of illusion washed up it and suddenly it looked as though there confrence table had been transported to the top of a mountain somewhere. They set on a thin rocky plateau surrounded by sky and the distant peaks of other mountains. Mist was blowing past a few hundred feet below, but around the table all appeared sunny and calm.
The illusion wasn’t perfect but it was darn good. Jessie recognized Kyle’s tech. She wondered if there was going to be much money in the deal. There was every possibility the chain of teleconference facilities wouldn’t take off, but on the other hand it might gain traction as a way to interview people or make contracts without traveling. She’d already almost forgotten that Charles wasn’t in the room.
“Hello All,” Sandborn said from where he now set at the foot of the table. “I guess I’m the last to the party?”
Though Kyle stayed silent Charles nodded. Sandborn’s features tightened at that. Jessie supposed it was a bit rude of Charles not to let Kyle speak for himself. Well, and also to horn his way in without an invite.
Sandborn turned to face Kyle more directly, “Well I don’t want to keep you away from the group too long or at least not longer than whatever story you told will support. What do you have to report?”
Kyle sighed and answered, “I don’t think that’s going to be much of a problem. The Children know I’m spying on them. They don’t know I’m at this meeting, but our infiltration was never successful.”
Sandborn took the news with an odd passivity. He raised an eyebrow and said, “Really? What’s been going on all this time? No, scratch that. Just start at the beginning and tell me what happened in your own words.”