Amy’s mouth twisted as she eyed the glowing object. Part of me worried that she wasn’t in costume, but given that the message had found her, it was too late to worry about revealing her identity. The North American Wizard Council had probably known from the moment she appeared on our world.
In an accent that wasn’t quite Irish, Scottish, or English, but some alternate universe’s near relative, she said, “I’m Princess Amelia of the House of Sacrifice, current Bloodmaiden. You have my attention. What is your request?”
Pausing before it responded, the face said, “We sensed a great outpouring of magic and have sent representatives of our council to investigate your use of it. Be respectful and assist their investigation. Our last interaction left us with a more favorable impression of you than we had before. We hope that we’ll have no reason to change our minds.”
Amy smiled, “Let’s hope that we both leave each other with positive impressions.”
The thin, artificial voice replied, “We are in agreement. Expect our representatives soon.”
Then the face lost its form, separating into puffs of smoke that disappeared into the air. I watched them go. Amy shook her head, “Blood Lords put more power into their messengers, but that’s fine. I can do without that particular taste of home.”
She’d switched back to a light Southern accent. I’d asked her about it once. She’d taken a bit of blood from a woman when she’d arrived in our world, learning how to speak English, drive, and generally live in our world all at once.
Katuk didn’t say anything but watched the remaining wisps of magical power until they disappeared. In the meantime, Haley, Kals, and Julie had walked up, having heard at least part of the conversation with the rest of us.
Haley looked away from where the face had been, telling me, “There was nothing real there. No smell or even a hint of sound when it fell apart. I don’t like it.”
Kals and Julie stopped talking with each other long enough for Kals to say, “I don’t feel like I understand everything that’s going on here, but it looks like it’s getting more complicated. It makes me feel guilty about leaving.”
“What?” I asked. “It makes sense and it’s fine. You did what we asked you to do. I just didn’t expect you to go so soon.”
She shook her head, “Not today, but soon. Maybe as soon as tomorrow. It depends on when the Xiniti pick us up. There’s good news too, though. Your friend, Julie? She’s gifted. If she’d been born in the Human Ascendancy, she’d have been drafted into the best motivator schools and found herself running a planet somewhere.
“It’s good that she’s here instead. I’ve been giving her a crash course in upper-level motivator skills. I think she’ll be able to figure out the rest on her own. She’s got a solid grasp of the basics and she was already beginning to figure out more on her own. If I didn’t know you needed her, I’d be trying to recruit her. We need more motivators in the resistance, especially ones that don’t have any commands built in.”
As Kals praised Julie’s skills, Julie smiled—up until the moment when Kals mentioned recruiting her. At that point, she blinked and smiled a little less.
Kals flashed a grin, “I’m not trying to recruit you. They need you. If they didn’t, I’d do everything in my power to convince you to come along. Almost the moment I get back, we’re going to hit the Ascendancy’s leadership with Nick’s killbots all over the Ascendancy. I’m not one of the planners, but I have to be there as a figurehead. Nick can explain why. Anyway, for real, if you want to when you’re done with whatever this is, I need the help. I can’t be everywhere at once. If you did, I’d be able to train you for real.”
Julie nodded, not saying anything at first, “I’ll think about it. I might. I’m not sure I want to leave Earth to fight in a war, but there’s no one here who knows what you do.”
“Not only that,” Kals said, “but you’d be able to put what I teach you into practice. It wouldn’t be just academic.”
Haley frowned, “I think Julie should think about it for the future, but we need her right now.”
“I’m sorry,” Kals laughed. “That’s what I do now. We’re in a rebellion and we need people. Julie, let’s find a room and get back to practicing.”
“Wait,” I said. “You’re planning to use the killbot design I gave to Four Hands? I’ve got a software update you need to install. They managed to figure out how to stop them here. This update is the fix.”
Even as I said it, I wasn’t sure that I was happy that my design was going to be used to assassinate heads of state across this section of the galaxy, but I also wanted the rebellion to win. I wasn’t going to withhold the fix.
Kals smiled at me, “Thanks. Send it to my implant and I’ll get it out as soon as I can.”
It felt good to help her and her smile reminded me that she was attractive. It was nothing I planned to do anything about, but I still felt it.
Kals, Katuk, and Julie walked away, leaving me with Haley and Amy.
Glancing over at them, Haley said, “I wouldn’t want to go out there, but Julie might. Her mom died years ago and I don’t think she gets along with her dad.”
“If she does go, I hope she at least stays long enough to help us with the Dominators,” as Haley nodded, I added, “but on the bright side, it sounds like the wizards aren’t as worked up as it sounded like at first.”
“Sure,” Amy let out a breath, “that’s what they say now. For all I know, they’re lowering my guard before the surprise attack. I did run into their team again a year or two ago and I think that killing The Thing That Eats impressed them. They might be willing to trust me.”