“Yes, they would be asking Janie about City of Steel, wouldn’t they,” Patrick said. “Having said that, these people are my guests in my house, so you will treat them politely.” He stared at his son. Brian nodded vigorously. “Janie, I’ll phone Morgana. It’s simpler.”
A few minutes later, there came a knock at the back door. “Lafayette is here!” The speaker’s voice was a rich alto. “You called, Professor Wells?”
Patrick stepped through the vestibule and opened the door. “I did indeed, Morgana.” Patrick stood aside to admit the tall young woman. She wore a baggy royal-blue sweater and loose blue jeans, but seemed unbothered by the blinding snow, gale-force winds, and below-zero weather. Nor had snow lodged in her hair or clothing. Patrick turned to his family. “I believe you all know Professor Morgana Lafayette under one name or another.”
Morgana took Patrick’s hand, just for a moment. “I’m not in garb, so Morgana is good.” She glanced at Patrick’s children as she swept around the table. “Have you three been staying out of trouble?” Patrick decided not to notice his twin children looking furtively at each other. For Abigail Wells, Morgana had a firm hug. “It’s been way too long,” Morgana said. “We should really get together to talk. Soon. I can always be free at lunch.”
“There’s more Indian pudding if you’d like some,” Trisha announced.
“You have to ask? Please? I know about your mom’s cooking. Or is it yours? However, we have almost no time,” Morgana said. “I know it’s not polite, but, Janie, please give me a fast update mind-to-mind of what they all know.” The two women stared at each other for a few moments.
“That was just what you’ve all heard,” Morgana said. “OK, have you folks ever had a champion before? It’s like having an attorney. What mostly matters is that at the end Krystal North wants mentalic contact with Janie, to confirm that what Janie said is true. That’s, well, it’s not dangerous, but while that is going on Janie would be relatively open to someone trying to tamper with her mind. I’m here to stop that. Also, Krystal is well behaved, but sometimes you find persona who try to shout or bludgeon people into submission. Worse, our friends across the waters have some very different opinions about good manners. Some idiot from over there might try to kidnap Janie and interrogate her about her hypothetical contacts with the Bearer. That’s forcibly interrogate. I’m very definitely here to stop that.”
“What’s the issue?” Patrick asked. “Janie, you didn’t have time to tell us everything.”
“They think I know who has the Namestone,” Janie answered. “Or I have the clue! The clue tells them who has the Namestone. It’s all in that City of Steel move. The one I was going to spring at Nationals. But Eclipse used it first! I hate her!” Once again a delicate fist pounded on the breakfast room table. “Eclipse is the most terrible person in the world. No. She’s the most terrible person in the Universe. She’s more terrible than the Silver General and the Lords of Death, put together! She used my move, and she used it first. Speaker Ming, when I was speaking to him before you heard him, said ‘If your parents will consent to having you questioned by the American Persona League, we can say that you have been questioned, everything that could be learned from you has been learned, and therefore you should be left alone.’ ” Janie decided that photographic memory actually did have other uses besides studying games, like remembering exactly what other people said, even if the people in question were only politicians, so they were way less important than Players.
“Did you ever tell anyone about the move?” Morgana asked. “That’s what they want to know.”
“I never used it in a match,” Janie said. “I was saving it for National. Now Eclipse used it! I have friends my age who come over to play Steel. We try all sorts of moves, but we don’t record.”
“Actually, these days it was mostly one friend,” Abigail said. “Joe Cartwright is a very polite young man, OK, boy, he being slightly older than you, Janie. You said he was a good player.”
“He got a lot better,” Janie said. “And he’s only a bit older than me.” She turned at her brother. “Don’t say it, Brian.” Her tone of voice held a touch of steel.
“I wasn’t going to say he’s your boyfriend,” Brian rushed out. Janie briefly considered, enthusiastically, violently unpleasant things she could do to her twin brother. “Honest! You think I want you and Trisha to kill me, just because I deserve it?” Brian asked. “Besides, he’s not. Your boyfriend, I mean. And I wasn’t going to say the other thing you told me, either.”