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After recovering some sanity by way of a long talk with Lucy, he crashed at the charming Mallorcan hotel and slept for a good eighteen hours. When he woke up, he was at least rested, but his knee was no better, something which sent the back of his mind into a little bit of a panic. One that he ruthlessly suppressed, to only fair success. That was something he’d have to address when he got somewhere with a hospital he could trust.

He had to assume all the international airports in Europe and in the US were being watched by supernaturals, or at least covered with something that’d alert them if he came around. It probably only took one watcher, since he couldn’t cover up actually using a teleport or portal, and they’d showed that they could track him easily enough.

Callum still wanted to get home, though. Not that he had a particular home in mind besides the United States, a realization that made him stop and think. He wasn’t willing to give up on his home country, or even his home state, but thinking that he needed to only be in one place was a mistake. Once he made teleports, it didn’t matter how far away anything was.

So long as the enchantment actually worked.

Some perceptual poking and prodding provided the reason his contingency had failed. The enchantments themselves were breaking down, very much like they did with mundane materials, though far slower. Apparently even enchantments weren’t immune to the march of time, though he was sure the substandard substrate didn’t help. He probably should have melted down those seals and used them instead, but he’d been far too worried about their destruction backfiring. He just hadn’t known enough at the time.

He suspected it was the receiving plate that had completely failed, considering that his implant had accepted vis and was mostly intact. If anything, he was lucky that he hadn’t torn himself apart with some malformed teleport or the like. The little chunk of titanium was pretty worthless without it, though, so he made a very, very careful survey before delicately teleporting it out from its place in his guts for later disposal. Fortunately it hadn’t been in long enough, or the medical-grade titanium had done its job well enough, that it wasn’t attached. Removing it did feel very weird, though.

While he was self-inspecting he took a look at his knee, but he frankly didn’t know enough about anatomy and couldn’t distinguish well enough between all the various bits to make any kind of guess. He’d be better off diagnosing by symptom, but of course there were a million things that could go wrong with a knee and it’d be better to get actual medical attention first.

He didn’t want to get stuck in Mallorca, since it was still uncomfortably close to France and he didn’t know how quickly and how far they’d widen their search. At the same time, he wasn’t all that far from Algiers. He wouldn’t fit in and he couldn’t speak the language, but he was pretty confident nobody would be looking for him sneaking out through the airport there.

He burned a couple hours searching through flights and planning his route and timing, because he did not want to go through Europe. In the end he plotted out a couple transfers that took him over to Sao Paulo before heading up to Mexico City. He knew that Mexico had plenty of health tourism, so finding a doctor to treat him that also wouldn’t keep records would be possible. Perhaps not easy, but possible.

A very nice employee from the tiny hotel somehow found a cane for him to lean on, since he could barely put any weight on his knee, and directed him to where he could buy a tiny inflatable kayak. Part of Callum wanted to just stay and relax, bum knee or not, but he was running low on money and unless he started cashing out his gold he’d be broke pretty soon. In fact, given he was in some tiny tourist town on an island, cashing the gold might well be impossible. Just the kayak would blow through most of his remaining funds, and that was basically a one-use item.

Besides, complacency would get him killed.

It had already gotten other people killed. Callum knew he wasn’t actually responsible for their deaths; that burden was on the mages who felt it was a good idea to attack a café full of incapacitated people. But he still felt responsible, and he knew that he could have done better. Could have avoided involving others.

It was something to keep in mind for the future. GAR and its agents were the ones responsible, were the ones causing the issues, and there was no temptation to turn himself in to save people the trouble. There was no way he was submitting to such an authority. But he would be more circumspect, so others weren’t involved. If other people were involved, he’d do his best to get them out of the blast radius.

It wasn’t exactly a solution, but it was the best he could decide on for the moment. To distract himself, Callum decided to examine his spoils in the light of day, before he went globetrotting. In sunlight, the mordite spheres didn’t look like they were made of rippling water, but instead some dull grey-blue metal. At least, until he brought them near the plastic water bottle full of the stuff from the cenote, which glowed with the same light as the Night Land’s moon.

It was the Night Land light that made it look weird, too, not simple proximity. He played around with it a little bit and found it would change if he reflected the light using a mirror, but mere proximity did nothing. Through his spatial sense he could only see the faintest of fluctuations within the mordite, and nothing from the liquid, so it was a mystery to him. The only thing they had in common was a touch of the weird spatial flavor of the portal worlds.

He did find it a little wondrous that, even if he could sense mana, and vis was very structured and organized, magic could still act like magic. It was also a sobering reminder that he knew really nothing about how magic worked, and couldn’t assume anything at all.

Sorting through all the books he’d gotten from Lucy and Harry, there wasn’t any reference to mordite being toxic, but there also wasn’t anything useful like its melting point or other standard properties. It obviously could at least be used for wire and bullets, but that didn’t really say much. Especially when he was fairly certain the mordite bullets he had were an alloy of some sort, since they seemed less magical to his senses.

He packed away the stuff, replenished his stock of food and drink, and limped his way over to the shop with the kayaks. They seemed a little dubious about him getting one given his obvious issues with walking, but he managed to convince them and get it inflated. Once that was done, he simply energized his glamour enchant, climbed in, and teleported himself out into the ocean.

From there he just went south, lifting the kayak just a little bit with gravitykinesis and give it a brief bump of Alcubierre movement before continuing with normal teleports. He certainly didn’t want to overshoot. The Mediterranean was actually quite calm, so he didn’t have to tire himself out with rapid-fire teleportation, making landfall a few hours later on the north coast of Africa. A thought that was actually quite surreal to him.

It turned out that he had actually managed to land within ten miles of Algiers itself, so it was fairly easy to make his way in toward the airport. Once again, he couldn’t read the local signage, but there were at least icons. Rather like Mallorca, there didn’t seem to be nearly as much supernatural presence in the area as he would have suspected from such a large city. There were some traces, and he was pretty sure he spotted a few fae, but maybe most mages lived near the portals. So far as the literature went, there weren’t any in Africa.

That didn’t explain the United States, but that might just be a function of wealth. Since mages used gold, they almost certainly hung out with the owners of gold mines or oil barons. World leaders, too. Regardless of the reason, though, that just made it easier for Callum to teleport into the airport and from there onto his target aircraft.

He still hated stowing aboard, and would far rather have just flown normally, but lacking a passport meant that he was certainly not going to be able to pass through customs legally. Not to mention the guns and ammunition in his bag, or the glowing water or weird metal balls. He still purchased a ticket though, under Keith Summers, which was the license he had on him, after observing that nobody’s passport was checked against their ticket at boarding. That satisfied both his need for fairness and anonymity, even if he did skip baggage weighing and security.

Porting his duffel into the cargo compartment wasn’t a problem, either.

The actual trip to Mexico City was long and boring. Callum tried to just sleep for most of it, still emotionally and physically wrung out from his ordeal. Aside from that, he pulled up the enchanting literature on his laptop and tried to slog through it. Even if he’d glanced at most everything they’d given him, it was a lot, and quite a bit of it didn’t make any real sense to him without the proper educational background.

When that got too painful for his tired brain, he took out his old drawing tools and started sketching. His realization that he could, with the mordite, actually make a miniature teleportation network inspired him a little bit to start making plans. Maybe it was too early, but he’d need some kind of bunker, eventually.

It was over thirty hours later when he actually arrived in Mexico City, thanks to layovers, and he was feeling pretty grungy despite taking a shower at one of the nicer airports. The moment he landed, he could tell there was more mana around than there was in the states, but it wasn’t anything like Europe. Which was probably for the best, really, since he was sure supernatural density more or less correlated with mana.

He really didn’t like Mexico City. It was too close, too crowded, too loud, and even if there weren’t many supernaturals relative to Europe, there were enough that he felt overly watched and studied. With his perceptions sweeping around him he was pretty sure nobody was actually following him, but he definitely felt closed in and would be glad to be on his way. He had to stay for a while though, since it took some hours to find a doctor willing to look at him on short notice and for cash.

“You’ve torn your ACL,” the doctor said bluntly, and went on to cover, exhaustively, the required care. Exercises, braces. He was admonished for continuing to walk on it, but it wasn’t like Callum had a choice. At least it didn’t need surgery, yet.

The fact that he couldn’t just walk off what had really been only a simple fall made him feel really old, which was not pleasant. How bad it was remained to be seen, but Callum would be using crutches and cane for a while, so he sure wasn’t going to be going out hiking again. He was certainly not enamored of being so immobile but it wasn’t like he actually needed to do the walking.

Callum tried to look on the bright side. It would give him an excuse to really work on his kinesis and turn teleportation into a reflex. The doc gladly took US Dollars, and Callum got a taxi back to the hotel. There, he made sure to get new clothes, get a haircut and some dye to give himself some extra gray, and a knockoff but good-looking suit to make it look like he was not a refugee. Then he was ready to leave.

Getting back into the United States wasn’t overly difficult. There weren’t even any mages or supernaturals manning the checkpoints, and of course the normal setup had no chance of stopping someone who could teleport. From there, he just paid a taxi to take him deeper into Texas.

The fact that he looked respectable and was on crutches actually made it much easier to work his way back out to his cache in the mountains, and pick up the rest of his supplies. He’d been chewing over exactly how to bunker down for a while, considering what he needed access to, but what he’d seen on the drive through Texas had given him an idea. There were enormous numbers of trailer homes for rent, entire ghost towns where he could get at least shelter, electricity, and internet. With barely anyone around, there was also no real danger of involving other people in the event of supernatural troubles.

He didn’t even need ID, if he paid for it in advance, with cash.

As a bonus, while Texas was home to two major shifter packs and had vampire Masters in Houston and Austin, the bland, hard desert areas didn’t seem to be appealing to anyone. He had to admit even the mana seemed somewhat scarcer there, even though there was supposedly a portal somewhere in South America.

Callum didn’t really enjoy the neighborhood, but it was in the middle of nowhere, and a beat-up, third-hand, used white pickup truck meant he could drive out into the scrub to practice magic. Which was something he very, very badly needed to do. First, though, he had to replace his contingency.

The original was slated for melting down, but he’d kept it for reference. It was obvious both the implant and the receiver plate had degraded pretty badly, but Callum had high hopes for a proper enchant with purer materials. The only problem was how to make his metal spheres into those enchants.

Once again, it was micro-industry to the rescue. Some scouring on the internet and he found a metal shop a few hours drive away with all the toys, and he still had all his old CAD files. The only difference was that instead of filling it with paste, he’d be pouring in molten mordite. At least, that was what he thought, but the folks at the metal shop suggested hammering wire in, instead.

Mordite looked and felt sort of like lead without the light of the cenote water, so he just claimed the stuff was an alloy but he wasn’t sure exactly what. In the end, the melting temperature wasn’t all that high, so it didn’t take them long to turn half of the hundred or so ounces of mordite he had into very fine wire, and the other half into a flat ribbon. The former for generic enchanting, the latter for the twin-type enchantments like homebonds.

He kept a close watch on the process with his senses, a little worried that just normal metalworking processes might ruin the magical properties, but that didn’t seem to be the case. In the end, he ended up with not only the processed mordite, but five sets of receiver plate and implant blanks. Just one was not enough; he needed to have an actual network.

The wire wasn’t quite as ad-hoc as the paste, but it meant he could still make some mistakes without having to start completely from scratch. He could even use a basic acetylene torch to melt the wires together at intersections. The only weakness, then, was his issues with terrible vis control.

The fact that he could only make overloaded vis threads, for lack of a better term, had to be at least part of why the teleports were so bad. He was fine, but it was probably because it was his vis all the way. With the homebonds, it was like someone else doing it with his technique, so he suffered just as badly as the couple he’d teleported before. For that matter, probably as badly as Clara and the teens he’d taken from the vampire nest.

Though he hated to do so, he made a new homebond implant before trying to fix his vis, just because he didn’t want to be caught without it. He could always make a new one, but he couldn’t make a new him if he got caught again. It was a tedious process, but made far easier by being something he’d done before.

With the wire segments he could still work piecemeal, like with the paste, but he had to be careful when joining things. If he melted the metal or even flexed it too much, the enchantment degraded or vanished. From what he could tell, the enchanting structure was bound into the physical matter, and if that started to break down, the vis that was entrained with it did too.

Unfortunately the improved materials didn’t really translate to an improved experience, and it still was like a punch to the gut to go through. That said, it was notably better than the last use of the original model, when he’d escaped from GAR and been laid up for multiple days. He took a full two days to relocate his emergency escape cache, driving up to Montana and placing down another shed-cache before returning to Texas.

Then he called Lucy again.

“Heeey, big man! How was your vacation?”

“I wish I could have stayed longer,” he told her, absently rubbing his knee as he sat in the back of his pickup. “Alas, it was not to be. How about you? I think you’ve answered like, ten seconds after I’ve called you, every time I’ve called you. Don’t you ever rest?”

“Haha! I think I’m owed a ton of vacation time, actually. You gonna take me somewhere?”

“You know, I’d like to,” he said, and stopped for a moment to consider what he’d just said. But it was true; Lucy was about the only person he actually enjoyed talking to. She was fun and sharp, and though he hadn’t really found anyone interesting since Selene died, she ran more to his tastes than the gym bunny that Shahey had tried to set him up with. She was the only one where it didn’t feel like he had to hide everything about who and what he was. Sure, he kept things from her, but she knew it and didn’t mind, even if she did keep cheekily asking for details.

“Gonna show me a good time, big man?” Lucy asked with her usual playful tone.

“I would, but it’s just not possible right now,” he told her regretfully.

“Oh? Oh!” Callum smiled to himself as Lucy made sudden, stuttering flustered noises rather than her usual playful banter. “I, uh. Um.”

“I need to maintain my security, so I’ll just have to be satisfied with hearing your lovely voice,” he told her, still a little bit teasing.

“Wow. You really go right at things, don’t you, big man?” Lucy said, a little faintly. “Whew! You can’t see it but I’m fanning myself right now.” Callum laughed.

“I’ve learned to be direct, yes. But I’m kind of GAR’s Most Wanted, so it’s all academic.”

“I suppose it is,” Lucy said. “I, ah, wasn’t expecting that, though.”

“You don’t have anyone trying to date you over there?” Callum asked, a little curious. He didn’t actually know anything about her besides her voice.

“Ah, man, nah. I’m not a mage or a shifter, so the dating pool is basically other duds and most of them are pretty miserable bastards to begin with. Not that I blame them, but GAR isn’t really a hotbed of romance.”

“To be fair, most offices aren’t. I don’t imagine mages are much different from anyone else when it comes to being boring.”

“Hah! If anything, they’re worse! Mages and Grand Mages and Archmages love their titles and procedures and every little thing being just so. I guess if you’re two hundred years old you don’t like surprises, or something.”

“I imagine not. Back when I did office work, the people who had been around two or three years were crusty. If that went on for decades or longer, I imagine they’re totally ossified.”

“Ossified, ha! Yeah, that’s exactly it. Thankfully I don’t work for them, otherwise there wouldn’t be an IT department and I’d be doing laundry or something.”

“Yeah, that doesn’t sound fun.” It made a bit of sense that non-mage descendants were stuck with more menial jobs, even if it wasn’t particularly fair. If it took relatively rare materials to make enchantments, then they couldn’t automate all the labor they needed, and he was sure mages weren’t interested in doing their own cooking and cleaning. Bringing in regular mundanes had its own issues, so of course there was an underclass.

“Actually the shifters do a lot of that now. Vamps and thralls staff things too. Not the Masters or Alphas, but, you know. Lower tiers,” she told him. “There just aren’t enough duds anymore. Mages are careful about bloodlines and stuff.” Callum suppressed a laugh at that, considering what he now knew about his parentage.

“Well, all that bloodline stuff seems really archaic to me,” he told her.

“I can tell!”

“Anyway,” he said, letting the implied topic drop. It wasn’t something he really wanted to dwell on too much. “As much as I love calling just to talk to you, I do have some business, too. I was wondering about selling a teleport enchantment. A homebond. Basically, who would I sell it to and for how much.”

“Oof, you’re not asking for much, are you? I’ll have to get back to you but I don’t know how many people are actually going to be interested in black-market magecraft. It’s probably like a million-dollar item but who’s gonna buy it? I dunno.”

“There’s no rush,” he assured her. “I haven’t even made it yet. But it would be nice to get that kind of cash infusion.”

“Ha, I bet! But yeah, I don’t think there’s all that large a market for enchanting stuff that isn’t, you know, official. I’ll check around a bit, but it’s possible it’s just not something you can move.”

“Well, if I can’t, I can’t,” Callum said, but he grimaced. He could take some shortcuts with his magic, but it took labor and materials to build a bunker, no matter what form that bunker took. He was going to take it seriously, so it needed to be livable, not something to just hide in for a few hours or days, or even weeks.

That meant he really needed a cash infusion. While he still had a good chunk of gold and some cash from the vampires he’d raided, he was intimately familiar with how expensive buildings could get. A full million dollars could actually be a fairly limited budget, especially taking into account furnishings and equipment.

“I’ll get back to you when I can,” Lucy promised him. “I hope I’ll have some good news for you, but that’s a pretty hot item you’re trying to move.”

“I appreciate it,” he told her. “How’s my deposit holding up?”

“Ah, well, I could use another kilo or two soon,” she said. “Moving it originally was a bit of an adventure, but I’ve got that squared away. Funny, that stuff’s actually a pretty common medium for the Houses, but I hadn’t handled it myself before you paid me.”

“I’ll do another dead drop soon then,” he promised. “I wouldn’t want you to think I didn’t appreciate you.”

“Oh, I’d never think that, big man.”

He stayed on the phone a little bit longer, trying to corral his vis threads into making tubes while he talked, but it was actually Lucy who rang off that time. She did have a day job and couldn’t sit around all the time talking with him. Part of him wondered if talking so blatantly about stuff while at the job was actually a good idea, but Lucy seemed to know what she was doing.

It was just as well, since he needed to properly focus on his exercises.

He'd been using the basic magical structures like balls and bolts and beams as practice, even if they didn’t do anything. While he was fiddling around with casting multiple things at once he’d accidentally shot one of his own constructs, and it had promptly collapsed. That had made him sit up and take notice, because he thought it might give him a way to punch through other mage’s spells, but a little bit of experimentation kicked that idea in the head.

It turned out it wasn’t the vis interacting that was the problem, it was the spatial distortions they made. Even a small amount of disruption to the portal’s frame was enough break the structure and collapse it. The same was true for a teleportation frame, but a simple box or sphere without any twisting or vis fill passed right through. Really, it was the attack forms that had the effect, which implied some deeper substance to their pattern than just the shape of ball or bolt.

Callum already knew that his stuff could be disrupted, but it was good to find out there were more ways than just brute force to mess up magic. He added some way of hardening his spells to his list of things to figure out, as if he didn’t have enough to research. For the moment, he was focused on changing his threads.

He was actually somewhat pleased to have something specific to work toward that he could see palpable progress in. At no point could he figure out how to make vis threads with less energy in them — or more, for that matter. When he overcharged a teleport it was more a matter of increasing the fill portion of the framework, not adding energy to the threads.

Changing the shape, though, that was within his grasp. There were two ways to get a tube; he could flatten the threads and roll them, or try to inflate them from the center. The former seemed like it was easier to work toward incrementally, and he’d already made some strides, but that would make deploying his vis threads into a finnicky multi-step process. Something that was probably a nonstarter for anything but enchanting.

Inflating the vis threads by filling them with the unformed stuff seemed way faster and easier, if it was possible. Considering how they were formed, he gave it a decent chance that it wasn’t, but he still wanted to give it a shot. Besides, he’d not actually tried playing around with his magic for far too long. Especially since he had a self-imposed ban on using it while he was in hiding.

That didn’t mean he hadn’t been thinking about it, and since there was nobody around out in the ugly scrub deserts of west-central Texas he could fiddle around as much as he wanted. Which was good, because progress was slow.

The breakthrough came after about a week of fiddling, when he finally managed to make a strand of vis thread swell up like a balloon. Sort of. It looked like it was full of unformed space vis but at the same time, like it wasn’t, in one of those weird perceptual tricks that his magic could play sometimes.

Naturally, he poked it with a stick.

Actually it was more of a splinter. Callum’s vis threads were really the size of a thread, something like one-tenth the cord thickness of a normal mage’s working, so he had to use a very small test piece. The splinter seemed to distort as it passed through the bubble, but failed to come out the other side. When he withdrew it, though, it looked undamaged. It took him a little bit more poking and prodding to figure out exactly what was going on, but when he did, he threw up his hands and grinned.

“Ha, ha! Yes!” He would have done a little jig, but his knee reminded him that it did not like being used. What he’d done was make an area, however small, that was larger inside than outside.

Admittedly, he had no idea how to make any use of it, both because of the size and because he had to hold the vis in place, so it wasn’t like he could just set it and forget it. It was a pretty great feeling to figure out some new piece of magic by himself but there was a lot of work to do in order to make it at all useful. Like figuring out how to turn a construct into an enchantment, and vice-versa.

Obviously, just turning a tiny speck of space into a slightly less tiny speck of space wasn’t useful in and of itself, but finding out it was even possible was the hardest step. He dismissed the vis bubble, then made a new thread and tried again, repeating the process until he could do it at will. Only then did he try reproducing it on a larger scale.

He found out very quickly that a thin framework of vis threads, like he used for portals and teleports and even his gravitykinesis, was not sufficient. He had to build an actual box, and then shove a bunch of unformed vis into it. Considering how small his vis threads were, that was a problem.

Fiddling around with the tiny box, he naturally poked at it and tried to destroy it just to see what would happen. If he just let it unravel, it was equivalent to a teleport, where the extra space appeared or disappeared slowly enough that the only thing that happened was some mild air movement. With the thin walls of the box, made from flattened vis threads, it wasn’t too hard to pop it instead.

Rather like a portal, it fell apart if he hit it with too large a stick, the rapid passage of matter overloading it. The spatial attack spell burst it too, and either way he could sense a ripple as space realigned itself. He wasn’t sure what he’d do with that, but it was another tool to practice with nonetheless. It seemed that his attempts to flatten his threads had more than one application, so he focused on that when he went out to practice magic.

Even without being able to enchant with it, something that was bigger on the inside had all kinds of uses. Especially when he could collapse it, too. His initial experiments were only on the order of ten or twenty percent before they collapsed, but he could probably improve that. So long as he kept his head down in the meantime.

***

“How the hell can these people just vanish?” Archmage Hargrave scowled, looking at the reports strewn over Agent Jahn’s desk.

“Well, sir, they do clean up after themselves.” Jahn had actually been impressed by the makeshift enchantments they’d found on Callum Wells. They were remarkable in their crude efficiency, while at the same time used such a delicate framework that it was clear special tools were at play. While there were foci to reduce the impact of a mage’s vis, they were generally foci that muddled the local mana field, smearing it and destroying the details of what had been used. Wells’ approach of pulling the vis out and leaving no traces at all only worked because he had an extremely light touch to begin with, and didn’t seem to use any normal mana foci.

Jahn still wasn’t sure whether or not Wells had BSE training. The handwritten notes they’d found seemed to be a random assortment of action items for novice mages, but his capabilities and subtle vis were the marks of someone far more advanced. BSE agents could be remarkably slippery themselves, but there had been actually zero trace of outside vis at the vampire sites and, once they had known about it, the place the fae had disappeared. No mage he knew, not even BSE folk, operated with such a minimal footprint.

“I think we need to give serious thought that they have contacts inside GAR who are covering for them.” Hargrave clasped his hands together, giving Jahn a stern look. “Maybe BSE itself. Ignore that old harridan Duvall. I need you to lead an internal inquiry.”

“With respect, sir, I’m an external agent, I don’t deal with internal affairs.”

“That’s exactly why I’m giving you the job. Neither the Master of Paris or King Suine have found any traces of them in France. Or what that artifact was that he was using to get around.” Jahn nodded. The description from the team implied something very strange indeed, maybe even something from out of Faerie itself.

There was no real worry about the fae as a whole backing Wells. The fae didn’t do anything as a whole, and if one of the fae kings on Earth was starting to get restive, the others would sabotage him out of spiteful glee. But even if one was doing so in secret, the ability to stay so completely off the radar of both magical and mundane authorities was suspect.

“I suppose I could try, sir,” Jahn conceded. “There are other agents more qualified…”

“You’ve met the man personally, you didn’t completely shirk your responsibilities like some people, and we’ve got a lot of other people out sweeping Europe. Some people think the earth mages are going to find a bunker somewhere.” Hargrave rolled his eyes. “Only BSE is taking this as seriously as it should be and, like I said, I suspect they’re compromised.”

“The BSE folks aren’t going to like me stepping in,” Jahn said. “Do I get a crest?”

“Yes,” Hargrave said. “You’ll be doing this on my authority. And Fane’s. He may not be happy with whatsisname, but he’s less happy with Wells.”

“Understood.” Hargrave was a powerhouse, but Fane was a terror. Jahn had never met the man personally, but rumors abounded, and he knew enough to know a lot of them were true. “I’ll start with Black and Danforth. They’ve done the most work on the case, so they’re the most likely source of any leaks. If it’s not them, they’ll be the best ones to handle some of the grunt work.”

“Whatever you think best,” Hargrave said, brushing it aside with an indifferent wave of his hand. “I just want you to find whoever they’ve got inside GAR. Or whatever. We know he can bypass wards; there may be sabotage or surveillance enchants in place. There’s really no telling.”

“Yes, sir. Do you have the crests with you?” Archmage or no, Jahn wasn’t about to start bossing people around without an actual symbol of authority. He already had a significant amount of authority, with a deliberately vague rank and no clear chain of command, but that also meant that anyone high up could boss him around and he’d have to take it.

Hargrave dug into the pocket of his double-breasted suit and took out two crests, one bearing the Hargrave Seal and one bearing the Fane seal. As a matter of course Jahn pushed a little vis out and brushed over them to assure himself of their authenticity. Even if he couldn’t compare signatures right there, they both were energized as proof of an Archmage’s backing. Not that anyone would dare falsify them.

“I’ll get started right away,” he promised.

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