I cover my mouth as I yawn. I’m still sleepy even though we slept for more than twelve hours. As soon as we arrived at Kaitlyn’s room I was out like a log. We enter the library, which seems to have become our common hang out spot. Kaitlyn and I walk to the back where the chairs are and I spot Kaede, diligently working on the digital library.
“Hey guys, been busy?” Kaede calls without looking up.
“Actually no,” I respond with a smile. “This time we actually slept. Only slept. Right, Kaitlyn?” I turn to her, looking for confirmation.
She looks at me with a raised eyebrow. “You told him?”
“No, he somehow deduced it from my behavior.” I sigh.
“It was dead obvious. The dude was singing Lonely Island.” Kaede smirks.
“What? What’s that?” She looks at me confused.
“Oh, just some geeky YouTube band. They’re pretty hilarious. I should show you sometime.” I offer her a spot on the couch.
“Oh, okay.” She shrugs, taking a seat.
“So, are you researching today? Kae asks.
I shake my head. “No, we have something more pressing than researching time magic.” Kaede grins, looking up from his laptop.
“I saw Kaitlyn got my text.”
“Yea, so what’d you find?” She asks.
“Well, my superior intellect and knowledge have unearthed the deepest, darkest secrets -”
“Get to the point, Kae.” I roll my eyes.
“The company Logan’s working for is a telecommunications company run by a man known as Walter Abernathy. It’s a multi-billion dollar company that’s got shares in everything communication. You name it; social media, internet, cell phones, they got it.” Kaede explains. I hear a ding from Kaitlyn’s phone. “I’ve sent you a picture of him. The company headquarters is in the heart of New York. I’ve managed to identify a few potential candidates whose ID’s you can borrow as they may or may not be seen at the office on any given day, for various reasons. You shouldn’t have any trouble getting in.”
Kaitlyn and I stare at him. “Well, you’re one step ahead of me.” Kaitlyn points out.
“Well, I mean, it’s kind of a given that when someone asks for information on a place, they’re going to want to get into it. Happens all the time in the movies.” He smirks.
“Well, that’s great. So what’s our plan then? Logan thinks we’re going to come, but I don’t think it’s wise to go alone. If he feels outnumbered, we’ll likely have the upper hand, especially if he doesn’t know we’ve come with backup.” I point out.
At that moment, Cliff ambles into the library. “Hey, guys.” He waves, grabbing a chair.
“What brings you here?” I ask casually.
“Nothing. Been pretty bummed since the excursion we went on. Ambrosse chewed me out pretty good.” He sighs.
“Oh? What for?” I ask, Kaitlyn suspiciously turning the other way. I lean over, trying to catch her eye. “What happened while I was gone?” I look to Kaede, maybe he’ll answer me.
“Don’t look at me. No one told me anything. They just up and left me here alone. All alone.” He shrugs.
“No we didn’t, you had Caroline.” Kat snaps.
“Yea, but she was in class all day. I still consider that alone.” He whines.
“Whatever, just tell me. Why’d you get in trouble with the Headmistress?” My tone becoming impatient.
Kat answers reluctantly, “You know, she was mad for the same reasons you were.”
“Oh.” I arch my eyebrow.
“And taking a non-Guardian with us,” Cliff adds.
“Oh? Ryan isn’t a Guardian yet?” I ask curiously, trying to get more than short answers.
Cliff shakes his head, “Not, yet. She’s only been here a year.”
“Which is a shame,” Kat hums, “She’s actually kind of handy to have around.”
“That is true, but maybe Cliff knows some people.” I look to Cliff.
“What? Are you planning another trip? I don’t think this is wise. We already got in trouble once for bringing Ryan. If we try another stunt like this, there might be more serious consequences.” Cliff warns.
Kaitlyn nods, “And that’s assuming we make it back.”
I turn slowly to her, eye’s wide. “Assuming? Are you expecting one of us to die? Maybe this isn’t such a good idea.”
Kaede groans. “No no, I didn’t make the ID cards already for nothing. You’re still going.”
“We can’t just waltz in there without backup though. This is like walking into a hornets’ nest. Logan obviously left this as bait to have us come. He knows we can’t resist another shot at him. But to go in without backup is unwise, and the sooner we go, the better. We’ll have the element of surprise.” I explain.
“Well, what did you have in mind?” Cliff asks, thumbing his beard.
“We aren’t sure yet. I was thinking, his teleportation trick is pretty annoying, we need a way to prevent him from using it. I think this is key.” I reply.
“Well, I have some friends who I could get to help make a ward against that. They’re all Guardian level, so we shouldn’t get in trouble for that. Since Andrei isn’t, he will have to stay behind..” Cliff muses.
“No way in hell am I being left behind,” I shout.
“Yea, that’s not happening.” Kaitlyn shakes her head.
“I know Logan’s fighting style, I know how to get close. You need me on this mission.” I insist.
Cliff looks between us, torn. “Ambrosse will surely find out. Even if I don’t say anything, she will know we took him out of the Guild without permission.”
“How?” I ask. “I just left for two days to the past. If I can time jump out of here and not be found out, how will she know unless someone tells her?”
Kaitlyn eyes me incredulously, “What makes you think she doesn’t know about the time jump?”
I work my jaw, not sure how to answer. “Well, regardless, I’m going and that’s that. I don’t care if I get in trouble.” I cross my arms.
“It won’t be you who gets in trouble Andrei. As Guardians, it becomes our responsibility.” Cliff shakes his head.
Kat stands up, “Look, I appreciate that you want to help, but if you’re not comfortable with this, we won’t force you. You can say no. We’ll find another way.”
Cliff continues to thumb his beard, deep in thought. “It seems important to you, even though you have been asked to stay away from it, but I want to help. My friends and I have been working on wards that will, in essence, lock down any means of magical travel. We believe it will work on teleportation as well. It’s hasn’t been fully tested, but it’s worth a shot.”
“That’s great!” I clap my hands! “So we’ve got a way in, and we’ve got a ward to keep Logan from getting out. I think that’s everything.” I smile. Piece of cake.
“Not everything.” Kat wags her finger. “You need a weapon… and something to wear.”
I look down at myself, confused. “What’s wrong with what I’ve got on?”
Kaede snickers. “This is a top tier Business corporation, my friend. You’re going to need a suit and tie if you want to go in unnoticed. I’ve already ordered a business suit for you, so don’t worry. Did you need anything Kaitlyn?”
Kaitlyn purses her lips, “I think I’m okay.”
“As for a weapon, we have a smithy here who can make pretty much anything you’d like. Do you have a preference?” Cliff asks.
I grin. Of course, I have a preference. “After spending five months in France training with Muskete-”
“He wants an epee,” Kaitlyn states bluntly.
“Hey! The background is important, you can’t leave it out.” I complain. I’m fond of my time in France.
“A sword like that is a little… obvious. We’ll have to see what they can do about that.” Kat muses.
“Obvious how?” I ask a little indignant.
“We’re going to walk into an office building under cover. A full-size sword might stand out.” Kat states matter of factly.
“Oh… good point. What if we just used Rhoan? He could hide until we need him.” I counter.
Kat frowns, “You need your own weapon. Rhoan can’t arm both of us.”
“The smithy can probably take care of that. They have their ways.” Cliff informs us with a sly wink.
“Right. And while we’re waiting, there’s something else we should do.” Kat smiles at me mischievously, “Let’s get started.”
The smithy is an interesting experience. Cliff takes us down to place our order and it turns out they could have it ready in just five hours. That’s pretty fast, considering how long it would take in seventeenth-century France. According to Roger, the smith, they can also disguise it as a fancy key-chain which I can carry inconspicuously. Kaitlyn mentioned she needs my help with something Caroline has been preparing. So, after finishing up with the smithy, Kaitlyn leads me up to the Hall of Water, where Caroline is training.
I push open the doors and immediately enter into a world of water and ice. The floor is glazed over, the walls drip with water, and the pillars are more like tubes of exposed ocean with creatures swimming inside them. My mouth falls open in wonder.
Kaitlyn walks in cautiously, but I don’t see anyone around. Suddenly, water erupts from one of the tubes and a dark-skinned man appears, smiling. He looks to be from Bali.
“Oh, welcome!” He shouts.
“No.” Kaitlyn points sternly.
“I have not even asked you anything.” He says sadly.
“Good, leave it that way.” She growls.
The man frowns. I wonder what happened between those two. “Um, hello.” I call nervously.
“Hello. And who might you be? A friend of Gillian’s?” He asks, clasping his hands behind his back.
I’m about to answer when Kaitlyn casts her arm out towards the pool, summoning a large brazier-sized fire over the water. I’m not quite sure how it stays lit all the way out there, but I’m reminded that Kaitlyn is a Guardian, she’s got skill with fire. It begins to sizzle as a wave shoots out from the center of the pool and Caroline suddenly lands on the edge.
“Oh! Kaitlyn! You’ve come!!” She calls.
Kaitlyn smiles, amused. “Who did you think it was?”
“Oh…” She blushes. “Maybe Kae. I invited him to come see my class. If he wanted to.”
Kaitlyn crosses her arms. “You thought Kaede lit a fire over your pond?”
“No… not really. But I definitely asked Professor Naum about the healing technique! He thinks it will work!” She says, jumping excitedly and gliding on the ice towards us.
“Yes. Her observations about water and healing are intriguing and with careful consideration, I do believe she could accomplish what you seek to remove.” The man, named Naum nods.
“Wait, what did you plan to heal? Did you get hurt and not tell me?” I turn to Kat, surprised.
She blinks, “Oh, no. When we were in the baths, Caroline asked me about the scars. She asked why healing magic couldn’t get rid of them. I can’t do it myself; as you might remember. I leave scars when I heal.”
“So, I thought, since the body is made of mostly water, water magic might be able to enhance the healing process and remove old scars! Are you ready to try it out? Professor Naum and I have been practicing with some minor injuries, and it seems it should work!” Caroline’s says with excitement.
“That’s…” I look at Kat, trying to see how she feels about this. This must be pretty important to her, for her to want to go through with it. I wouldn’t blame her. It’s not a healthy reminder to have everyday, “That’s wonderful!” I say, glad that she can be her old self again, before what Logan did to her.
Kat smiles wide, it’s really cute and I wish I could just kiss her now, except for the fact that Caroline and the teacher, Naum are standing right there watching. “So you’ll help?” She asks.
Help? How could I help? I mean, I guess I managed to help close the cut on her arm, but how can I help if I don’t know how to use water magic? “Of, course!” I grin uneasily. “I’ll be of assistance in any way I can.” What am I saying? How can I help? I look to Caroline for any sign of what I should do.
“Alright, let’s begin.” Naum says enthusiastically. “Now, daughter of fire, remove your garments, and slip into the pool.” He says nonchalantly.
I watch her closely, as she looks into the water, taking a deep breath. “Alright.” Her voice is a little shaky.
“You’ll be alright.” I encourage, nodding.
She nods back and proceeds to take off her sweater, leaving it on the ground beside me. She doesn’t hesitate to strip down to her underwear, and I try to hide my blush as she slides into the pool.
“Don’t get too excited.” Rhoan mutters in my ear. “You need to focus.”
I nearly jump out of my shoes. When did he get there? “Shut up!” I hiss.
“Alright, everyone, let’s kneel on the edge and place your hands on the water. You’ll need to direct your healing energy through the water. Make sure you don’t break contact with the water.” I get on my knees at Naum’s command, placing my hands on the surface of the pool. The water is freezing, how is she not shivering?
Caroline notices my concerned expression. “She’ll be ok, trust me.” I’m more worried that I can’t help as much as everyone else seems to think I can.
“Alright, this will only take a minute.” Naum chuckles. I gasp as Kaitlyn is suddenly dragged under the water before she has time to breathe.
“Wait, Kat!” I shout.
Caroline shakes her head. “It’s ok Andrei, just focus.”
“You gotta be kidding me.” I breathe. I feel the water shift beneath my hands and I see the water shimmer beneath Caroline’s and Naum’s hands. My hands, however, do nothing. “Wait, what’s wrong. How come your water’s all glowy and mine’s not?” I ask in a panic.
I hear Rhoan’s voice in my ear, “Remember what she said about thinking? Shut up and concentrate.”
I remember back to the lesson in the training room, making the fire, which I definitely sucked at, and the healing of her arm. I hear her voice in my head. “Don’t think.” I focus on the healing properties of water, feeling the energy beneath my hands, flowing around them and around Kaitlyn. I watch the water closely and in a short time I see the glimmering light of the healing energy float down to her.
My inner clock ticks loudly in my ears and I begin to worry about how long she’s been down there. It’s not like she can breathe underwater. Shut up! Focus. It’s for her. She wants them gone. Don’t think. I let the lulling motion of the water erase my thoughts as it swirls around Kaitlyn in the pool. A tiny whirlpool forms with her in the center. A spiral of water and blue light illuminating the room.
My clock ticks obnoxiously and I feel a bead of sweat run down my face, but I can’t wipe it away, I mustn’t break contact with the water. The light begins to change, what was once bright blue becomes pure white light and the swirling motion begins to slow. I lean out over the water, waiting for Kaitlyn to come to the surface. Waiting and watching.
She comes to the surface and I expect her to gasp, but her eyes are closed and her chest isn’t moving. “Wha- What’s wrong? Hey!” I nearly jump into the water.
“Oopsy, I must have forgotten, fire cannot breathe water.” Her body is lifted from the water and gently placed on the edge of the pool. Naum lifts a hand over her chest and the water in her lungs spills out.
She coughs, and inhales deeply, each breath causing more coughing.
“You almost killed her! Is that your idea of healing?” I shout at the professor.
“Just a minor oversight. It’s no matter, look! She lives.” He grins.
Kaitlyn rolls over, groaning loudly, “Caroline, would you be upset if I murdered your teacher?”
“I’d prefer if you didn’t, seeing as I need to train… but I understand.”
“How are you guys so calm!?” My hands shake as I scramble to Kaitlyn’s side, helping her to sit up. “Are you okay?” I study her face.
She lays her head against my chest, “I wish I could say that was a first… But I’ll be okay. Was it at least worth it?”
I let my eyes wander over her exposed body, again feeling a blush. Her skin, which used to be pockmarked with scars is now smooth as ivory, except for the fire mark on her inner arm. “Yes,” I say, in disbelief. “Perfectly, I’d say.”
“Good.” She chuckles weakly. “That’s good.”
“You look fantastic Kaitlyn! I’m so happy it worked! Here.” Caroline hands Kaitlyn her sweater, somehow dry. “Best you get dressed before you get sick. I keep telling Naum the water should be warmer.”
Kaitlyn takes the sweater gratefully, pulling it over her head. Before we leave, Caroline manages to pull the water from my jeans. She’s sure getting a handle on the water magic. “Are you sure we can’t bring Caroline along? She might be helpful.” I suggest to Kaitlyn quietly.
She shakes her head subtly, “She’s not ready.”
We thank Caroline and Naum. It’s time to get ready. Soon my sword will be ready and we’ll be good to go.
I lean against my bedroom door, playing with the tie knot. It doesn’t quite sit right and I’m not sure how to fix it. I hear a faint click as Kaitlyn’s door opens and I look up from the tie and freeze. She steps out, hair cascading over her shoulder like a waterfall of fire, form-fitting bright red dress with a plunging neckline. I feel my jaw drop and my hands stop their fiddling.
She tips her head, “Is something wrong?”
“No! Not at all. You look… stunning.” I say, trying to stand a little straighter.
She blushes, dropping her gaze for a moment. When she looks up again, she smirks, “Have you ever worn a tie before?”
“Is it that obvious?” I ask, pulling at the knot in frustration.
I feel her hands slip over mine, pulling them away, “Let me.” She giggles.
I lift my chin, feeling heat run up my neck. Why does she make me feel like this? It’s not like I haven’t seen her naked before. I swallow hard and try to focus on something other than the gentle tugs around my neck. “Thanks,” I mumble as she pulls away her hands to look at her handiwork. I wish it had taken her a little longer.
Her eyes wander over me, “Perfect.”
“Me or the tie?” I smirk.
“Both.” She winks, as she turns to walk away.
I groan at my lost chance. Time to meet the team and get my sword. We walk down to the library and I hold open the door, waving my hand to direct her through first. “After you, my lady.” I say with a little bow.
“Why thank you, good sir.” She teases. I raise my eyebrow. Oh, she’s pushing me.
It seems Cliff and his gang of ward makers are there and waiting in civilian clothing. I see them circled around Kaede. They turn their heads as Kaitlyn steps up to them. Cliffs mouth drops open, hidden slightly under his beard. He quickly recovers and coughs slightly.
“Kaitlyn, wow. You look… fantastic!” He exclaims. His friends turn their heads and gawk. I watch wearily as they each take a slight step back. What’s their deal? Cliff reaches out to pat Kaitlyn on the shoulder. I don’t know how I feel about that.
“So, yeah, we’re ready to go!” I say, stepping between Kaitlyn and Cliff.
“Oh, right. I picked this up on the way. The smithy had it ready and waiting.” He holds up a key-chain from which a little two inch rapier dangles, glinting in the light of the torches.
“Sweet.” I grin reaching for the key-chain sword.
“He gave me a warning for you; be careful when activating it. You don’t want it to become full size in your pocket… you might lose your pants… or your leg.” He chuckles. “Make sure to pull it out by the ring.”
“Sure thing.” I nod in understanding. “Man, I’m so excited to get to know her. I’ve missed having one of these ever since I left France.”
“Alright boys.” Cliff shouts, calling the ward gang over. “Here’s Jim, Greg and Marty, guys, this is Kaitlyn and Andrei.”
We exchange greetings and get down to business.
Before long we’re at the teleport point where Caroline, Kaede and I first arrived. Kaitlyn’s wearing a suit jacket over her dress, the weather’s going to be significantly colder off the island. Cliff grabs the handle and his mark lights up as he opens the door. We all step through into an alley off the main street in the middle of downtown Manhattan, New York City.
We peer around the corner before entering the bustling walking traffic of pedestrians running errands. I spot the building we’re looking for and we cross the street. Look up at the tall glass skyscraper, the impact of what we’re about to do finally hits me. This is it. Time to put on our game faces.
“Alright, everyone remember the plan?” Everyone nods, Jim, Greg and Marty all walk around the building to stand at each corner. Cliff stands closest to us, ready to give the signal once we’ve gotten inside. I look to Kaitlyn, reassuring her.
“Don’t worry. We’ll get him this time. I’m sure of it.” I try to sound confident.
She stares up, head tilted back as she takes in the building. She looks determined. We step up to the front doors at Cliff’s signal and pass through the revolving doors. I make sure to swipe my ID on the box once we’re inside. I walk over to the directory, eyes darting about nervously. I really feel out of my element. I look over at Kaitlyn, greeting the other office workers as they pass her by, calmly, naturally. How the heck is she this calm? Shouldn’t I be the calm one? I nervously tug at my tie, trying to locate the floor we need to get too.
I hear Kaitlyn’s shoes click as she walks over to the receptionist. “Good morning. Do you know where Logan Tryst’s office is? We have an appointment.”
“Certainly. He’s located on the eighteenth floor, North side. Would you like me to let him know you’ve arrived?” She asks with a smile.
“No, that’s okay. He’s expecting me. Thank you very much.” She sounds professional, like she’s done this before.
“Alright, have a nice day.” The receptionist turns back to her computer.
“How’d you do that?” I whisper as we step into the elevator.
She blinks innocently, “Do what? I just asked her a question.”
“Thanks captain obvious.” I hit the eighteen button and the doors shut. We’re alone in the elevator and the bland music makes the time stretch as each floor lights up as we pass it. The smell of campfire quickly fills the space and I start to worry that the smoke alarm might go off. I glance over at Kaitlyn, looking up at the lights patiently.
“So…” I start awkwardly, trying to fill the silence.
She turns to me, curious, “Yes?”
“Um…” That was stupid… I didn’t really have anything to say. She’s watching me and my mind draws a blank. “You look nice in that dress.”
She smiles as she looks at the floor. “You’re nervous.”
“No I’m not…” I lie. She’s got me pegged.
“Don’t think about it so hard. Right now, you’re not Andrei the time mage, you’re a guy who works here.” She peers at my ID card clipped to my suit pocket. “You’re John McCabe. Believe it, and they’ll believe it too.” She looks back up at the numbers.
“When did you get so wise?” I ask. She’s right though. I have to play the part. I stand a little straighter. I am John McCabe. The eighteen lights up and I take a deep breath. John’s in the house.
We step off the elevator. There are two sets of glass doors on either side of us. She barely pauses before taking the door on the right. I follow. She looks around for a moment, before going over to the nearest cubicle.
“Excuse me,” She leans down to whisper. The dress hugs her curves, and I force myself to look away. Focus, Andrei. I mean, John. “Where can I find Logan Tryst?” She asks, in the sweetest voice I’ve ever heard.
“Far corner, down that way.” The man at the desk replies, in a daze.
“Thank you.” She flashes a dazzling smile, then starts down in the direction he’s pointing. He watches her walk away.
“Hey, keep your eyes on your own girl.” I say, noticing the ring on his finger. He quickly looks back to his computer. I follow Kaitlyn down the hall. We arrive at a door with ‘Logan Tryst’ embossed on a burnished silver plaque. I give Kaitlyn another nod and she opens the door.
We walk into the spacious corner office. My eyes immediately settle on the primped suited figure leaning against the desk, legs crossed slightly. His hair is gelled to the side, not a strand out of place. We take two more steps and Kaitlyn freezes. His eyes are on us, a smug smile spreads across his face.
“I’ve been expecting you.” He mocks. Before I can even open my mouth to speak, the floor opens beneath us, and we fall into a dark portal.