The Wells Residence
The Wells family again sat around their dinner table, Morgana between Janie and her mother.
“You were really great, Janie,” Brian said. “You went through the bad variations, and sort of skipped the good ones, except Eclipse’s. And the three Grandmasters just stood there nodding.”
“Speaker Ming stayed awake,” Patrick said, “An art in itself.”
“He plays,” Janie said. “Whenever he asked about the board, he asked the right questions.” Janie decided that the Speaker was really a nice person. After all, he had said good things about her command of the game. She yawned. She’d had three grandmasters grilling her about her move, for two hours, sometimes interrupting each other, sometimes interrupting her before she could get an answer out. It had been exhausting, but she’d learned so much from their questions, so much about how to think about game positions. With real luck, she’d fed them the subtly bad variations on her move.
“He is a gentleman,” Patrick said, “so of course he plays the Five Games.” Unlike, he thought, my oldest daughter, whose skills at the Five Games are non-existent. She may be good in school, but in her development of personal excellence she is hopeless, gifts not counting toward excellence.
“You two were very thoughtful,” Morgana said to Brian and Trisha, “to prepare tea for everyone. In nothing flat. I assume the caramel-frosted hazelnut cookies were Brian’s again?”
Brian nodded. “I made them last Sunday and was saving them,” he answered. “Well, I was saving the ones Janie and I hadn’t eaten yet. Trisha, I told you that you were perfectly welcome to have more of them. Especially after you did all that shoveling. That’s why I made so many of them. I knew we’d have snow shoveling.”
“Professor Lafayette,” Janie said, “You were hiding it really well, but you looked nervous.”
“Just a bit,” Morgana answered. “The Americans were fine, but Kamensky had the Russian Imperial Elite Strike Command at the far end of his leash. If he’d decided that Joe is Eclipse, which to me sounds massively idiotic, he might have had his people try to kidnap Janie to extract details from her.”
“No!” Abigail said. “My little girl?”
I’m not little any more, Janie thought. I’m twelve. Well, barely twelve, but twelve. And the Russian who puts a hand on me is dead.
“I said try,” Morgana answered. “Janie was safe. You were all safe. The Tsarists? Unless things went massively bad, after they finished discussing good manners with me they were toast. Burnt toast. Two out of three safe isn’t bad, is it? OK, I was more worried about the neighborhood. But there are two things I need to do here, and then I really need to go home and make dinner.”