“Well, it was Jessie that realized what was going on, actually, so she might as well fill you in.”
“Really?” Sandborn sounded more surprised by that than by the news they’d been caught in the first place.
Jessie jumped in, “It was practically our first day there. We were helping out at a homeless shelter, and Alison stayed after. It seemed like the other group members were trying to distract me so I snuck out of the building we were in and managed to catch up to her. She was in a little city park and she was speaking with someone who used mind control to disguise their identity.”
“So you weren’t caught spying or anything like that?”
Kyle spoke again, “We made a bit of a bid to make it look like that. Richard, Amadeus, and I decided we might as well search the house where the children were living. We realized there was a chance we’d be caught but at that point it didn’t matter. We were, in fact, caught in the act and I was able to spin that to give me some credibility with the group.”
“OK, hold on, why wasn’t I informed about any of this?” Sandborn kept his voice calm, but there was a hard edge to it.
Kyle winced a bit. Jessie was kind of happy she was mostly getting ignored in this meeting. He explained, “Given what Jessie heard while she was watching Alison’s meeting we were worried that there might be some sort of leak in official channels. As such, we decided to limit how much information we provided right off.”
“Alright, back to the beginning again; what exactly did you hear Jessie?”
Jessie related the conversation as well as she could with Sandborn peppering her, and sometimes Kyle, with questions to clarify various points and details. Oddly, he seemed less concerned about the nature of the mind control spell and how much she could prove about it in court and more concerned about if she could have seen through it. Or perhaps that wasn’t so odd. She’d be more of a threat to whoever the group’s secret leader was if she had been able to penetrate the spell. That would both put her at more risk and make her testimony more useful. It didn’t matter either way, the spell had been good and Charles flatly stated whatever had been hidden by the spell was lost.
After they’d beat on that issue for nearly an hour Kyle sketched out the discussion he’d had with Alison about the hidden room. He didn’t give much detail, and he didn’t sound excited about his plan of finding the room to lock down the trust of the group. Jessie assumed he’d given up on the idea that anything he might do at that point could still help the investigation. On one hand, she felt a bit bad for him, but on the other she was glad he was finally seeing reason.
Charles must have felt the same way because when Kyle finished his story he put in, “It’s a shame we couldn’t have helped you more. However, I think you’ll agree the whole thing was sour from the very start. My apprentice did his best.”
Sandborn gave Charles another annoyed look and then shocked them all, “What are you talking about? I wish you’d let me know about the problems from the very beginning. I probably would have pulled you out then over the risk of continuing the investigation, but now I’d say we’re past the choke point. I think it’s all going fairly well!”
“What,” Jessie asked not bothering to keep the annoyance out of her voice.
“I say,” Charles said. Which made Jessie raise her eyebrows at him. She made a mental note to suggest to Charles that while he was avoiding modern slang he might also want to avoid slang from his own childhood. It apparently made him sound about three hundred years old, which he was, but still…
Sandborn shot Charles a dirty look, and this time it wasn’t even particularly veiled. Jessie had to wonder if there was some sort of history between the two men. She hadn’t thought so earlier because Charles had seemed reasonably content to work with the man but every part of the Agent’s interaction with the Archmage had been off from the start.
“Thank you for your input,” Sandborn said stiffly. “However, Kyle has done excellent work here. He turned some sort of failure with one of our organizations into a success. I probably would have counseled him not to take the risk, but he’s a brave young man who clearly cares about his country.”
Oh, wow, Jessie thought. I’ve got to give Kyle crap about being a ‘brave young man who loves his great nation’. I wonder why he’s laying it on so thick?
Kyle looked slightly pained as he spoke up again, “I don’t think there was ever much risk, actually. The Children of Atlantis are a passionate group but none of the ones I’ve met seem to mean any real harm. I don’t know about the individual who did the mind control spell.”
“Exactly! So far we’ve just got a bunch of people who are lobbying for a change to how magic is used. I guess I can check into a ‘practicing medicine without a license,’ but frankly I don’t see the point. That’s why we need to continue with this work. Do you think you can find this room thing?”
Charles cleared his throat loudly, “My good man, we cannot hand a bunch of ruffians an Impossible Room! Apprentice Kyle has outlined some of the dangers to the commonweal. Also, bear in mind, it was likely created with magic beyond the reach of the Children of Atlantis. Should they aim to utilize it they may well destroy themselves in the attempt. If they are as blameless as you say, surely you don’t want that on your conscious!” Apparently, Charles’s speech regressed when he was angry, Jessie had never seen him really angry before, so that came as a surprise. All that was missing from that speech was a set of bristly mutton chop sideburns vibrating with righteous indignation.
“I am not asking for your permission or advice!” Sandborn turned rather deliberately away from Charles and toward Kyle, “Do you think you can find the room?”
Kyle darted a look at Charles but didn’t wait for the older man to do anything before answering, “I don’t know. I can try things they haven’t. We come from different magical backgrounds. That might do it. One more set of hands on the problem might also be enough to manage it. Is the risk worth it?”
“Absolutely. If this group wanted to do harm, I think they already could. In fact, we may well need to consider the idea that this operation has moved from protecting the general public to Children of Atlantis from a bad influence in their own midst.”
“I’ve never before heard such balderdash!”
Sandborn didn’t even look at Charles. “Kyle, I urge you to continue your investigation. Again, I can’t order you, but it’s the right thing to do.”
Kyle shot another look at Charles. He apparently really wanted some guidance; Jessie felt bad for him. Of course, Charles had made his opinions pretty clear. At some length Kyle asked, “So you think the Children of Atlantis might be at risk?”
“I can’t be entirely certain. Obviously they trust whoever they’re following and they know him better than I do, but I wouldn’t have to try very hard to come up with the names of groups that started in a similar place and then ended badly. I expect you wouldn’t either. I take it you wouldn’t want anything bad to happen to the Children?”
“I suppose I wouldn’t.” Kyle seemed to realize that might not give the right impression. “I mean, obviously if they’re breaking the law they should suffer the consequences of that, but I don’t want this to end with poison Kool Aid or anything like that.”
“I think you might be able to help prevent that. Find this room, gain their trust.”
“Alright, I’ll do it.”
Jessie sighed, and she made sure it was loud enough for everyone to hear, “I don’t suppose I get a vote in this do I?”
Sandborn shot her a startled look that also seemed to contain an edge of worry. “Oh, well, I didn’t intend to ignore you. I was just under the impression Kyle was the one that could find this room, so I was discussing options with that in mind.”
“Oh, I noticed that. Fortunately, you’re in luck. If Kyle’s in, I’m in. Someone needs to be there to drag him out of the fire.” She smiled at Kyle and tried to telegraph ‘you’re not alone.’ He smiled back looking rather pathetically grateful for the small measure of support. “I suppose I also don’t want the jokers to bring on their own end of days. That and I’d like to catch the jerk the that messed with my head.”
“This is over my most strenuous objection,” Charles told the group in general.
“That was quite obvious,” Sandborn responded coldly. “Still, it seems we’ll be doing the right thing anyway.” He turned back to Kyle, “This time please keep me apprised of all events as they occur.”