Haley kicked her shoes off and literally leapt across the room, landing on all fours. She hadn’t transformed. However her body worked, she was already stronger and faster than normal humans even before a transformation.
As she crouched, she sniffed the air near the doorway.
Almost simultaneously with Haley’s leap, Amy touched her gem, setting off an explosion of red, darker red, black, white, and pink.
A hint of music lingered in the air as armor appeared on her body. White, with extensive dark red and black detailing of abstract designs that centered around the dark red gem in the middle of the armor. Form fitting, the armor wasn’t as bulky as I remembered her last transformation–though she was still taller. Inexplicably, her hair now hung halfway down her back.
It struck me as the kind of armor you might wear more for formal occasions rather than fighting. The spear on her back and black sword at her side hinted that it was more than a little useful for killing though.
She joined Haley, crossing the room in a few steps, and making a sign in the air in front of her face that shimmered.
After a moment of looking over the area around the door, and then stepping through it into the commons, she came back. “It’s gone.”
“Do you mean gone,” Haley asked, “or dead?
Amy touched her hand to her gem. As colors swirled and her armor disappeared, she said, “Gone. I don’t know where.”
Haley frowned as she stood up. “I can smell it was here, but can’t smell what direction it went. It’s like it teleported away or maybe disintegrated.”
“Or wrapped itself in shadow, and disappeared.” Amy took another look at the area around the door.
I joined them, quietly wishing I’d worn my stealth suit under my clothes.
“Shadow?” I stuck my hands in my pockets. “I know the answer is ‘magic,’ but how would that work? Shadows aren’t a substance. They’re just the absence of light, and not even the complete absence. All you need is to have less light. It’s a little like deciding half a glass of water is a different substance than a full glass of water.”
Amy glanced over at Haley, and when Haley didn’t say anything, she turned back to me. “You believe that I can do things with magic, right?”
“Well, yeah. That’s obvious.” The dark red gems all over room burned a little brighter now, and had since she’d done whatever she’d done to get us some privacy.
Even if that was the most current example there were so many more. I’d seen her spear pass through metal like it wasn’t there. What’s more, there were her transformation sequences, and well, so much.
“Good,” she said. “The program offers a basic magic course for non-practicing students. Take it. You’ll get a better overview than I’ll give you, and every school of magic will explain how it works differently.
“Let’s talk about something more important. Who did you piss off?”
I looked over at Haley. The only person I could think of lately might be the photographer, and most of that probably wasn’t me.
“I don’t know. I don’t think I’ve pissed off anybody lately. We literally bumped into one of the paparazzi last night, but I don’t think he’d be able to send anything after us.”
“He’d be more angry at Hunter and Gifford,” Haley said, adding, “They’re the ones who broke his camera.”
“No kidding?” Amy grinned. “You’ve been busy, but there has to be someone else. Fairies don’t decide to follow people for no good reason.”
I thought about that. “Couldn’t it be after you?”
Amy shook her head. “No. If my people wanted to track me, they’d use spirits they have experience with–not yours.”
Haley frowned. “We haven’t fought anyone who does anything with fairies.”
Amy shrugged. “Then maybe it could be someone your grandparents fought. Revenge is a classic motive.”
Groaning, Haley said, “Then it could be anyone. ”
Amy laughed, and Haley stared at her.
“Sorry,” Amy said, “I should have thought about that. If we were back in my home universe, I’d be in the same boat. Well, then could it be connected to what you wanted to talk about?”
I shook my head. “Probably not, but before I go further, does the privacy thing still work, or did zapping the fairy use it up?”
“Still works,” Amy said, “but if you want privacy, let’s move further into the room.”
We did, and sat down at a stainless steel table that made me think of a restaurant kitchen, an impression compounded by the line of refrigerators at the back of the room.
I turned away from looking at them. “What’s with the refrigerators?”
Amy smiled. “I use blood magic. I’ve got to keep the blood somewhere, but you know what? I’ve been thinking I could get away with keeping beer if I spread it out between them.”
I looked down the line of refrigerators. “That’s a lot of blood. Where do you get that much?”
“It’s not that interesting. I buy most of it. It comes from animals or people, but mostly animals. People get weirded out.”
“Yeah,” I said. “I believe it. Anyway, I was wondering if you could magically read a new language if we needed a translation.”
Amy leaned back in her chair. “Sure. No big deal if I had blood from someone who could read it, or who could translate as a power.”
“Oh. So that’s how that works.” Where would we find someone who knew Turkmen? I had no idea. Not to mention that hypothetically at that point we might as well just hire them. Dealing with the jet’s AI would actually be easier.
“That’s how it works,” she said. “That’s blood magic. So what’s going on? Why would you need that?”
That was it–the point where I had to make a decision. Should I trust or not? The fairies decided me. “We’re going to try to overthrow Turkmenistan’s government indirectly. We need someone who can read Turkmen and help me decide what documents we steal and translate.”
She didn’t say anything at first, but then said, “I’m in, but I hope no one from home hears about it. They might get the wrong idea.”
“To be honest,” I said, “we’ve got an alternate way to deal with the documents, but I’m thinking we’ll need you because of the fairy. My best guess is that whoever set it on us is here.”