The meeting broke up pretty quickly after that. Agent Sandborn and Archmage Charles gave each other a few more dirty looks and the everyone disconnected. Kyle’s was pretty preoccupied when he got up and left the room, so much so that he didn’t even think about the people who were physically present in it with him until Richard stopped him with a hand on his shoulder just after they had walked out of the building.
“Hey,” he said, “I guess if you’re still in this we are as well. Don’t hesitate to call on us, OK. If things get hot.”
Kyle raised his eyebrows. “Sandborn seemed to think everything would be OK.”
“Yeah, well, that’s good and all, but something feels funny about this.”
Kyle smiled slightly, “You mean like your bounty hunter instincts are kicking in?”
“No, not at all like that. I mean I’ve never seen an op that wasn’t scrubbed after the kind of screw-ups we’ve had. I also don’t know why there aren’t more agency people involved. Did you know even we wouldn’t be in on this except Charles pushed for it? I think Sandborn may be playing cowboy here, running this entire thing low key so he doesn’t get told to pull the plug on it. Maybe he’s trying to make a risky bust to help his career.”
Richard fixed him with a serious look, “Be smart.”
Kyle nodded, and that must have been enough for the bounty hunter because he and his partner turned and walked to their car without any further goodbye.
Kyle didn’t walk anywhere, instead he reached up and massaged his temples with one hand. He stood like that long enough that Jessie walked up and put a comforting hand on his back rubbing a bit between his shoulders, “Hey, you OK?”
He looked over at her and forced a smile, “Yeah, I guess. It’s just, what I said in there, I don’t know if I can do that. Or, rather, I don’t know if it’ll do any good.”
“You can’t find the Room?”
He shrugged, “Jen’s research is really the best lead we have. Failing that, what Fern and Alison have the right training to figure this spell out. I can run some modern tests, look for energy the spell might be putting out, but I don’t have much hope that’ll do any good.”
“A spell shouldn’t be able to put out energy like that if it’s not getting continuous magical power. If we were looking for anything other than an impossible room, I wouldn’t even look, but some of them have been known to have a continuous effect. Magical physicists aren’t certain if they get their entire charge when they’re created or opened, if they change reality in a way that doesn’t violate physics but does require magic to set up, or if they’ve got some other power source.”
“Yeah, the things is only a few rooms have been located with plant or animal life that could have fed them magic. Normally that theory is discounted on those grounds.” He looked back and forth to see if anyone could have been listening. No one was paying any attention. “Here’s the thing, though, because of Charles I know magic can be used for computational purposes. Maybe it could have enough computational power to feed a spell magic. Knowing that is one of two things that might give me an edge.”
Jessie swept a hand back through her hair, curled a lock around it and then scratched her head before dropping it all. “You might ask Charles about all of this.”
“I’m pretty sure I can’t. He was clear about what he thinks of all of this, and he’s been sharing this sort of secret pretty slowly even when he’s in a good mood. I think I’m on my own.”
Jessie patted his shoulder, “Not entirely on your own. Wait, you said two things might give you an edge, what’s the second?”
“You,” he smiled, “or at least your magic.”
* * *
“No, we’re staying here,” Kyle repeated sounding very firm.
“Why now? You know the community work we do is important!”
“Yes, Allison, I do know that. I also know you’ll all be there so we can look for the Room privately.”
“Oh, so you’re keeping secrets.”
“Yes, yes I am. If you want this Room found you’ll accept that,” his tone was flat, and unbending; Jessie realized she found it kind of sexy. Kyle seldom did the macho thing, but he actually wore it well. It helped that it was her secret he was keeping. Kyle thought the spatial twisting spell she channeled her extra energy into might help with finding the Room.
Allison narrowed her eyes and for a long moment Jessie thought she might not allow them to stay, but at last she relented, “Whatever, just find the Room.” Then she turned and flounced out the door. Jessie grinned at her reheating back.
After she and the other Children had driven off Jessie turned to Kyle and asked, “So how exactly does this work? I just wave my box around and we should see something.”
“You should feel the amount of energy the spell takes changing. Or, at least, you should if I’m right and the spells interact.”
“Oh, the non-scalar thing.”
“Not quite in this case. A spell’s energy depends on several things. The most mundane of them is how much it’s actually changing reality. If we put two spells that bend space next to one another I’m hoping they’ll fight a bit and you’ll feel the energy drain increase.”
“I presume it’s all part of that equation you told me about the first time we meet?”
Kyle blushed a little bit, “Yeah. That was sort of a lame pick-up attempt wasn’t it?”
She winked at him. “I’ve had worse, actually. However, you generally shouldn’t use math when you’re trying to impresses a girl. Well, unless she’s a math girl.”
“A math girl?”
“A girl who does a lot of math.”
“Like, a mathematician,” Kyle asked sounding smug so Jessie punched and didn’t pull it all that much.
* * *
Forty five minutes later they’d gone over the house top to bottom waving the little cube of twisted space along all the walls and they hadn’t found anything. Well, Jessie hadn’t found anything. As Kyle had no way of measuring how much energy was going into a spell written into her DNA he was just along for the ride. Still, he was good company. She enjoyed just hanging out and talking.
They were in the basement when she thought she felt the first tug at her spell and Kyle was in the middle of a story about an accident from his college days, “…should have seen the table. It was sawdust! That’s why fourier transforms are important.”
“Wait, I think just felt something.”
“It was just, um, a blip. I’m not really sure it was even there. I never would have noticed if I hadn’t been paying attention.”
Jessie had stopped as soon as she thought she felt the tug. She focused on the magic flowing through her body. It felt about like it always did, which was still a little weird, but it wasn’t a more or less intense or energetic weird than normal. She stepped back from the spot still paying attention, and then forward again, nothing really seemed to change. “Now it’s gone.”
“Crap,” Kyle looked really disappointed.
Jessie tried to remember exactly how she’d been standing. How had she been holding her hand? Maybe a little higher? Had she brushed her hair back? Experimentally, she lifted her hand near her head. Maybe there was the tiniest tug at her magic. Or maybe she’d just imagined it. “It might be above me can you boost me up?”
“What? Lift you?”
“I want to sweep the box along the ceiling.” She saw doubt on his face, “Come on, I have to fight to stay above 100 pounds. You can lift me for a little bit at least.” Then something, maybe the unpleasant thought of her always problematic weight, made her decide to fish for a compliment, “Just put your hands below my boy hips and lift.”
“Your hips are nice.” Kyle was quick with the complement, which earned him a point.
“You’re svelte, and anyway, your hip shape is at least partially determined by your bone structure so your weight doesn’t matter.” He lost a point for the qualifier, but then got it back because he checked her out a little as he moved to lift her up.
When did I get so insecure, Jessie thought. Then she focused on the job, sweeping her box back and forth along the ceiling. She didn’t feel anything. Or at least she thought she didn’t. “Could you take a couple of steps forward.”
They moved forward. Jessie concentrated on how she felt. Nothing seemed to have changed, but to make sure she said, “Now take us back.”
“‘K,” Kyle’s voice sounded tight. He took a step backwards. Then he grunted and dropped her. That, in itself, wasn’t such a big deal. Her feet were pointed down and she wasn’t that far off the ground, but as he dropped her Kyle stumbled forward. He’d been facing her when he lifted her so he was still facing her, meaning that carried him right into her. He caught himself against her shoulders and that pushed her back a couple of steps until her shoulders thumped against the basement wall and he regained his balance though with a bit more of his weight on her body than would have been socially acceptable under ordinary circumstances.
Their pose reminded her of how she’d pinned him after their sparring match, and that reminded her of her desire at the time, and the way it had lead to her nipping his nose. Only now she didn’t have a head full of magic just normal human instincts which were telling her she wanted to be kissed. Her hand was already on Kyle’s back, she slid it up towards his shoulders pressing him in toward her with enough pressure that he wouldn’t miss her point as she closed her eyes and tilted her lips up to meet his. He stiffened for a moment, but then he relaxed and leaned in his lips meeting hers in a kiss. A good kiss. A kiss that was better because it had really been hanging in the air for way too long.
A kiss that could have gone on a little longer if Fern’s voice hadn’t interrupted them. “Oh! Sorry, I just wanted to know if you’d found anything. I’ll come back later.”