The wind gusted, hard enough that the shutters rattled. “However, I am keeping you up late,” Morgana continued, “I still have a paper to write, and I’ve given your children their grades. They are all Excellent. Your meal was most appreciated. So far as I can tell, you five are not in any particular danger. I should be on my way.” Morgana stood, hugged Abigail, and took Patrick’s hand. “Next time, I should bring some of my cooking. I have, after all, had a few years to figure out how to recognize boiling water.”
“Thank you for everything, Morgana” Abigail said. “You’re sure you don’t want to borrow a coat for the flight back? And you do get a box of my cookies. And some of the fudge.”
“I’m not planning on flying,” Morgana said, “but I would love some of the cookies, and some of the fudge.” Abigail, Morgana thought, really doesn’t recognize that I’m entirely weatherproof. She waited moments for the box.
“Thank you for backing up Janie, Morgana,” Patrick said. “Matters could have been much worse. However, the Tenure Committee really does look at publications.”
“Yes, Professor Wells. Publish or join the glorious dead. Patrick, call at once if Janie disappears. She won’t. And if she does, I should know instantaneously. Krystal North had the fear of the Goddess put into her. So did the Tsarists. It was a delight to have dinner with you, and your children are excellent students. With that I must bid adieu.” Her figure became transparent and vanished from sight.
Great Dome of the Capital
Washington, Federal District
The atmosphere under the Great Dome was even frostier than the Cambridge blizzard. Speaker Ming, three Gamesmasters, and Krystal North stood in a circle.
“The notion that this slip of a girl can come up with such a move is absurd,” Supreme Gamesman Kamensky announced. “She must have backers, backers she failed to divulge. That’s lying to this inquiry, and grounds for more rigorous interrogation. Under the Tsar, she would be removed to the tender graces of the Okhrana until she revealed who her backers are. This could still be arranged.”
Grandmaster Kurchatov’s face stiffened. “Fortunately, Kamensky, this is a civilized country. Such things do not happen here.”
“Alexander Vladimirovich,” Krystal repeated, “Cambridge is in the American Republic, so such an outcome does not arise.” Kamensky and his crew appeared to think that they were the lords of the Earth, entitled to do whatever they wanted. She hoped she could talk some sense into them.
“Miss North. Really. I would not dream of violating your quaint local customs,” Kamensky answered unctuously. “Though Miss Wells’ second, that charming college professor a third my age, would hardly have been a serious threat to my escorts.”
“Alexander Vladimirovich,” Krystal said, “That young lady, as you put it, is a first-line combat persona. I can name three times she had a serious brawl with a Lord of Eternity. She came out on top all three times. In case you haven’t noticed, the Tsar’s Persona Corps has no one who can stand up against an Eternal, one on one, for more than a few seconds. If your unseen Russian Imperial Elite Strike Command had tried what you suggested, Count Supreme Gamesman Kamensky, they would have been reduced to ashes. It was painfully obvious that Professor Lafayette could tell where your team would be appearing, to the inch, and was ready to eliminate your precious national team as they arrived. That’s before my League rode to the rescue. That’s Janie’s rescue. Professor Lafayette needed no rescue. Indeed, my League’s major task on arrival would have been to sweep up the ashes. If you’d been a co-conspirator, we would be sweeping up your ashes, too. With modest luck, the Federal Senate would later have agreed that you had acted on your own, not on behalf of your government, in which case America would not be ending this month by going to war with the Tsar. I hope I have made this point adequately clear.”