I absorbed that, “Wow. Have I heard of any of these people?”
[None of them currently have public personas. Should I give you the data directly?]
“No. I’ll take it with everyone else. I think we need to have a meeting about it and find out what to do. Give it to me as an email or a pdf or something that I can share with everyone,” I said, trying to let myself focus on the real world.
[You may wish to know that one of them is associated with the North American Wizards’ Council and thus with your current visitors.]
“I did want to know that. Thanks. Who’s the one that works with them?”
[Ruthie Shaw. She’s spent the last hundred years located in various places in British Columbia, often accompanied by associates from the Council. Her association with it is at least one thousand years old. Prior to that, data on her life is fragmentary. There is evidence of her leading communities in Europe and the ancient Middle East. Fragmentary evidence points to the same in human prehistory.]
Tempted to ask for Hal’s full direct download, I decided that I didn’t have time to understand it, and said, “Alright. I’ll look at the rest later.”
The connection ended. Alien AIs didn’t care about social niceties like saying goodbye.
This was fine, but it left me on the street with Haley, Vengeance, his co-workers, and half a dozen stopped cars, all of them still pointing phones at us.
Vengeance looked up and down the street, muttering, “We’d better get back inside before they get out of the cars and start asking questions.”
A car door opened. I didn’t pay attention to who it was. We were all pushing through the door, a task made a little harder by the fact that Graffiti Knight and I were both in armor.
Ahead of me, I heard Amothel tell Graffiti Knight, “Careful where you walk. That armor’s heavy.”
Meanwhile, Haley raised her eyebrow and looked up at me as she stepped into the doorway. I let her pass and didn’t try to get too close.
Inside, Vengeance and the others sat with Amy who’d apparently been watching us through the building’s mirrored windows, still in civilian clothes—which showed just how much the fight had taken out of her. She’d have been outside normally whether we wanted her or not.
More than a little tempted to ask my own questions, I decided I’d be best off waiting for the end of their conversation. In the meantime, I told Haley what I’d learned.
“What?” She kept her voice low, but I could still hear the alarm. “She might have control of the Council.”
I thought about that. It was a distinct possibility. I pinged Hal, “Is there any hint that this Ruthie Shaw person controls the Wizards’ Council?”
[There is no evidence that Shaw has been manipulating them, but she does appear to be under their protection. If she does have some hold on them, it’s subtle. There is no evidence of luxury in her life. Nor is the Council is acquiring wealth for her or killing her enemies. While the evidence isn’t there for certainty, the overall pattern points more toward her being a kind of refugee.]
I told Haley, “Hal doesn’t think so,” and looked over at the group around Amy, hoping Hal was right.
I could try some of the trigger words that Kals had told me about, but they were all in Ascendancy and there was no reason to assume they’d be used. As I wondered whether asking them was worth the risk, Vengeance stood up and the other two followed his example.
Amy stood up with them, shook their hands, and walked toward us as Haley said, “This is going to sound like a strange question, but do you know someone named Ruthie Shaw?”
As she said it, she glanced over at me, either trying to get my attention or make sure that I was paying attention. By the time she’d finished, I knew why.
Vengeance’s eyes narrowed. Amothel’s face didn’t change in a way that made it feel deliberate and controlled. Graffiti Knight stopped and cocked his head, saying, “No. That name doesn’t ring a bell, but you know, I forget a lot. Amothel? Vengeance? Do you know her?”
A point in Haley’s favor? They did not attack. If you thought about it, suspicion was a good sign. If I were in hiding and willing to control minds, my orders would be to show no sign of recognition if someone said my name. To be fair, it was possible that she’d given that order and Vengeance and Amothel were terrible actors.
Vengeance stared at Haley, “Never heard of her.”
Amothel shot him a look. I imagined she was thinking, “Is that really how you think you’ll handle this?”
Haley looked at Vengeance, “I don’t need to hear your heartbeat go up or be able to tell that your scent changed to know you’re lying, but you are.”
Amy turned to watch the Council’s team, her hands going down by her sides, free to grab a knife or cast spells.
Amothel glanced over at Vengeance and shook her head, “What do you want of her?”