Chapter 12 - A Helping Hand
With a flick of her wand, Sammy sent the water balloon flying at Cristlyn, who took it the shoulder as she tried to duck behind a table covered with weird knick-knacks.
Chucking, the Seed said, “She’s quite the little spell-slinger. Reminds me of me when I was a little thing.”
“But that’s impossible!” Cristlyn said, huddled behind the desk with her halter-top plastered to her frame. “We’re artificial.”
“Yes, but that hunk of crystallic you use as an energy core has a definite stream flux pattern. Magical Skill and talent rely on that body, apparently whether it is artificial in nature or not.”
“I think I understand.” Bethany said, still holding the water balloon, “Magic is simply a deeper level of awareness of the fabric of reality, and using one’s flux to change it. Now that we have localized stream-fields …”
“Boring!” Sammy sent another balloon flying at her sister.
Again, Bethany’s body moved as though of it’s own accord, this time gracefully stepping aside before slipping her hand around the balloon mid-transit and cradling it just enough to prevent it from bursting. This time, however, she let her arm continue moving in a curve and used the saved momentum to throw the balloon back at Samantha. With a yelp, she ducked behind the Seed’s desk, the balloon sailing out of the window behind her.
Flicking the wand over the side of the desk, Sammy raised the rest of the balloons and sent them flying at Bethany. Bethany started moving immediately, weaving and spinning between the balloons with ease and catching each and every one, only to fling them back at Sammy.
Cristlyn said, “Okay, how are you doing that?”
“I don’t know.” Bethany confessed. “It just feels natural, that’s all.” Glancing down at the remaining water balloon, she said, “There’s something … familiar about it, though.”
“Maybe you’re a mage as well.” Gill suggested.
“Maybe, but I don’t think that’s what it is.” Seed Thamasa said, a calculating look in his eye. “I’m not feeling any magic from her. Odd question; have you ever had any martial training?”
“Me? No. I watch Jimmy’s family train sometimes, but …”
Bethany stopped, her mouth still open. “Shal-fen.”
“Shal-fen. It’s a martial-fighting style developed by the fional. Terra was teaching Fei.”
“And you learned all that just by watching?” Gill said. “Damn. I saw you, and I don’t think I could do all that.”
Bethany frowned. Gill was right; she shouldn’t know how to do all that just from watching. Oh, she could probably mimic the movements to a degree, but it wasn’t just how to fight; her awareness seemed to sharpen when the balloons were flying at her. Her movements were precise and practiced, and somewhere in the back of her mind, she knew it wasn’t from practice, but from experience … like she’d used it before, in less silly circumstances.
Cristlyn took the balloon from her hands and ran at Samantha. Samantha shrieked and ran away from her sister, flicking her wand around to send stray books, trinkets, gadgets, and whatnot flying at her sister in defense. They disappeared downstairs
“Should we stop them?” Bethany asked.
The Seed chuckled and shook his head. “Bah. I’ve got too much junk in here as it is; time for a clean up. Let them have their fun. It’ll give us a moment.”
He looked at Bethany, his smile falling somewhat. “I’ve heard the rumors, of course; CIC Angela missing. That’s why you’re here, am I right.”
When Bethany nodded, he let out a deep breath. “So it is true. That is … troubling. Angela’s influence has touched all of Vinta; anyone capable of taking her out of her facility against her will undoubtedly is up to something unpleasant.”
The Seed’s eyes moved to Gill. “You there; Gillbert, wasn’t it?”
“Close enough, sir.” Gill said, bobbing his head.
“You’re one of Cid’s group, yes? Magi-tek specialist?”
“Yes sir! Working on my thesis.”
“Go to Cid, let him know about Angela, and tell him I want him to put together a team to go to Ronisgald and help with the investigation. I want you on that team; a little field work will do you good, and might earn you a few bonus points on that thesis.”
“Yes sir!” Gill hurried down the stairs after giving Bethany a quick but polite nod.
“I’d ask you to wait and go with the team.” Thamasa said kindly, “But it’ll probably take a few days to get the group together, and I’m guessing you’re just here to pick up your sister on the way. Am I right?”
“Well, yes.” Bethany said, “On the way to Rimstak.”
“The Guildmaster’s Workshop, am I right?” Thamasa said. “Don’t be so surprised; Cristlyn from Genovis, you from the Saybaro, Sammy from Naidyr. I don’t see Alaina of Natalya around, so I’m guessing she’s with CIC Jocelyn. The Wenapaj facilities; the only one missing is Ethan.”
“Ethan.” Bethany said, putting a hand to her head. “I just realized we only had six bodies! Five for the Wenapaj sisters and one for Rebecca. I didn’t even think about Ethan.”
To her surprise, the Seed chuckled at her. “Something tells me that even if you had, he’d probably have abstained from a cross-country journey with six sisters.”
She smiled at him, though she did mentally make a note to apologize to him later. The Seed offered his arm, which she hesitantly took. In a strange way, Thamasa reminded her of Desygan. It was something in his eyes, a kind of twinkle that belied the presence of a brilliant mind beyond.
“You’re a very caring woman, I can see that.” The Seed said as he led her down the stairs. “Jimmy always speaks well of you. I trust he and his are doing well?”
“Yes, very.” Bethany said. “They’re preoccupied with their baby at the moment.”
“Ah, yes; young Annie.” He said with a smile. “I always wondered whether Jimmy and Terra named her after Annabelle Kaboume or Lady Annabelle.”
“Indeed.” Bethany said. In truth, she was pretty sure it was the former; while Lady Annabelle was a friend of the Sakamotas (in as much as anyone can be a friend of the Lady Death), Annabelle Kaboume raised Jimmy since the death of his parents. Uncle Ann definitely viewed herself as Fei, Tifa, and little Annie’s grandmother, despite the fact that she recently had a child of her own.
“I hear young Fei has been taking an interest in more scholarly pursuits.” The Seed said casually.
“He does well enough when sparring with his sister.” Bethany said.
“Well, of course; he’s a Sakamota.” The Seed chuckled and said, “Still, it’s good to know I’ve got at least one Sakamota likely heading for the Center. Have you considered enrolling yourself, maybe take a few classes in teaching? It’d be interesting to have a Glyche teaching Glyche History.”
“An interesting proposition.” Bethany admitted, though truth be told, she would much rather stay at the Saybaro. Even unfettered, she felt strange to be so far from her old home. Still, it wasn’t like she’d have to move; the teleportation grid would allow her to commute. It was something to consider at least.
When they reached the bottom of the Seed’s tower, Bethany was surprised to see Gill, Cristlyn, and Samantha hanging from the roof, their arms and limbs bound by thick vines. The dryad was tending to a patch of brightly-colored wildflowers that looked as though two or more inconsiderate core units had trampled through them.
“Ah, Beth? Good. We, uh, could use a little help.” Cristlyn said, her whole face gold
“Crissy started it.” Samantha said, trying to wriggle out to no avail.
Sighing, Seed Thamasa patted Bethany’s arm and said, “Pardon me, madam.”
As he went to talk to the dryad, Bethany approached her hanging sisters, feeling a bit mischievous.
“Such troublemakers.” She chided, looking from one to the other. Reaching Gill, she asked, “And how did you get involved?”
“I saw them wrestling in the flowers and tried to get them out of the flowerbed before Neena noticed them.”
“And how did that work out?” She asked, unable to keep a small smile from her face.
Samantha’s wand lay on the ground not far from where the young CIC hung. careful to twist her knees to the side to avoid displacing her kimono, Bethany crouched and picked up the implement.
“Hey!” Sammy said. “That’s mine!”
“And I’ll give it to you when your on the ground.” Bethany told her. “Or were you wanting to risk breaking it when the three of you fell down?”
To Bethany’s surprise, the vines binding the three core units chose that exact moment to release them. In short; they did fall down.
“Creator’s Grace.” Cristlyn muttered as she stood. “It was just a bunch of flowers.”
Not wanting to risk another incident, Bethany said, “Cristlyn, could you wait outside the tower?”
“Why? I’m just-”
“All right! I’m going!” With a final glare at the dryad, Cristlyn left the Seed’s tower.
“She’s just mad ‘cuz I totally got her!”’ Sammy said as Bethany handed back her wand.
“Are you two going to be this way for the whole trip?”
“Trip? What trip?” Sammy asked, a puzzled expression on her face.
“To Rimstak. We need to go pick up Jocy and Alaina.”
“So we can go to Ronisgald and try to find Mom.”
“Can I come?”
Resisting the urge to sigh, Bethany said, “Of course you can.”
Squeeing, Samantha hugged Bethany before hurrying after Cristlyn. “Hey! Hey! Sis! Wait up already!”
“I’d say have a safe trip.” Gill said, watching her go, “But maybe a quick trip would be a better idea.”
“Indeed.” Bethany said. “Fortunately, the teleport grid should get us most of the way. Once we’re in Rimstak, we should be able to use the Node network to get to the Guildmaster’s Workshop.”
“Ugh. Be careful when using the nodes, okay? I passed through Shadeside on the way here, and believe me; it’s easy to get lost in that place, especially if you’re not used to Rimstak.”
“I’ll be careful.” Bethany promised, shaking Gill’s proffered hand. “I guess I’ll see you in Ronisgald then?”
“We’ll be there.” Gill promised. “And don’t worry; I’m certain we’ll find Angela. We’ve got Ronisgald’s tech division, Cid’ll definitely be sending along the best Tekkers and Builders, and who better to help investigate a missing Glyche CIC than her daughters? With you all focused on the search, we’ll find her in no time.”