A big thanks to FrozenWateryMystic for recommending this story on Reddit! Thanks as well to the people who keep voting at top web fiction. You guys are the best. Also, quick disclaimer, I’m not a creepy stalker or anything. I just saw the inbound track-backs in the server traffic logs and followed them out, that’s how I knew about the recommendation and your site.
After Jessie dropped him off at the hotel Kyle tried to contact various Archmagi. All he had to work with was the public contact information of the famous old magic users, but in speaking to their receptionists and PR teams he dropped the word tekhnikos hoping it would act as a code of sorts to get their attention.
Or at least it didn’t in a couple of day’s time. Kyle couldn’t guess what that meant. Perhaps his message had never reached the magi, or it hadn’t reached them fast enough, or maybe it was something else entirely. The most sinister possibility was they weren’t responding because they were working with Thomas to suppress Kyle’s knowledge of the tekhnikos.
Kyle tried to confirm or refute that possibility, but didn’t get very far. Tekhnikos communis seemed really obvious now that he’d been introduced to it, but he couldn’t find any mention of it in the historical record. That seemed to suggest suppression of the knowledge. He did find one modern reference. At one point, there had been a proposal to put an autocaster on Voyager 8. Paired with a device on Earth, it would cast a single low power spell which would allow for tests of how non-scalar effects propagated. There’d been considerable interest in the rate of propagation as well as any fall off that existed. There had even been a proposal to use the paired spells for a backup communication system. The system hadn’t made it into the final probe. The official decision paper listed weight requirements, along with the difficulty of radiation hardening a device. Those were reasonable considerations, but Kyle couldn’t help seeing a conspiracy.
He also didn’t make any progress on his personal situation. Now that he was thinking of “his spell” correctly he could see it had applications well beyond illusion, beyond light in fact. He was also nearly certain Thomas was interested in him because he knew tekhnikos lux. Moving away from illusion wouldn’t help. Perhaps nothing would as long as Thomas could find him. He couldn’t be certain how important the knowledge was or how unified the Archmagi were on its suppression. Kyle was actually researching how to construct a false identity in order to flee, when a knock sounded against his hotel door.
It was a sign of where his head was, that he considered hiding under the bed. It was the best place to hide in the tiny room, his other options were in the shower or closet, and he was pretty sure anyone who was willing to come track him down this far would check those. He couldn’t even summon up his stupid defensive spell because he couldn’t “steal the sun.”
Get a grip, he thought. It’s probably just housekeeping.
He crossed the room and looked through the door’s peephole then sagged in relief. It was Jessie. That made sense, she knew where he was and it was even reasonable for her to wonder if he was OK. He still felt vaguely like he needed someone to zap him with a defibrillator. He slipped the bolt back from the door then opened it quickly and gestured her inside. “You shouldn’t be here!”
“Ok fine. Hello? How do you do? Lovely weather we’re having, isn’t it? Now, you shouldn’t be here! First, someone might still get your car’s traffic records, and second there’s no reason for you to be involved in this mess.”
Jessie didn’t answer, instead she walked over and sat down on the bed, which was the only piece of furniture in the small dingy room. She poked at one of the cigarette burns in the dusty quilt, and gave it a serious look like she expected to learn something from the patch of shiny fabric. “My car isn’t a problem. At least not a big one. I parked at a store a few blocks away and walked. It’s not somewhere I normally shop, but I don’t think it will give you away.”
Kyle sighed. He flipped a switch by the door and LCD crystals embedded in the hotel windows aligned making the them opaque, cutting most of the light to the room, and preventing anyone from looking in. Of course, one of the windows didn’t change at all because they, like everything else in the room, were old and junky. Kyle pulled the shades over it then turned on a lamp. “OK, fine, but that still leaves objection number two.” He looked around for a place to sit but there wasn’t anywhere good since the bed was taken. He leaned against the TV stand instead before continuing. “Look, if it’s some sort of loyalty to the business, I don’t think there can be a business anymore.”
Jessie laughed a little at that, but didn’t look at him. Instead she kept poking the burnt patch on the bed while she answered. “Funny you should say that. On the subject of loyalty I have good news and I have bad news.”