Negotiations and Memories
Laura finished her meal smiling on the inside. Longbow was known in many circles, and you just didn’t drop the name if you didn’t know him.
She paced the room as sweat formed on her brow. She looked for any way out she could imagine and found none. Defeated, she leaned against the wall opposite the door and slid to the floor hugging her legs. She closed her eyes and started taking slow and methodical breaths.
At least it’s not a closet.
She closed her eyes and thought back to her first meeting with Longbow.
She was sitting in her room with her stuffed bear held tight to her chest. She had been grounded for setting something on fire, again. She didn’t understand how she kept doing it, but her parents would yell at her anyway. The sound of the doorbell made her wipe the tears from her face and stand at her door with it cracked a few inches.
A man in a deep blue business suit appeared from the doorway, his ears giving away his race. He looked down the hall and stopped when he saw her, making Laura shut her door. After a few seconds, she cracked the door again and realized his caramel eyes were staring at her and smiling along with the rest of his face.
“They call me Longbow, and I am here for our appointment. I hear you are having problems with your daughter?” His tone was soothing and inquisitive, “May I see her?”
Laura’s mom rubbed her hands together as if she was washing them while averting her gaze, “I don’t think that’s a good idea. She’s unpredictable.”
“Well, I can’t help if I don’t meet her, Sarah. I’ll go down the hall and talk to her.”
Sarah held out her hand as Longbow turned toward Laura’s room, “Be careful.”
Longbow looked back and smiled.
He stopped when he got to Laura’s door, “I hear you’re having problems, little one. May I come in?”
Laura’s eyes flew open, “Mom and dad just walk in.”
Longbow put a hand to his chest, “I am not your parents, and I will not come in unless you let me.”
Much to horror on her parents’ faces, Laura opened the door and stepped to one side. Longbow walked in, and looked around.
“Oh, I’m sorry, sir. There is a grown-up chair over here.” Laura pointed to a desk chair, “They always sit there when I am in trouble.”
Longbow wrinkled his nose, “Where do you sit when they are scolding you?”
She pointed to her bed.
Longbow made himself comfortable at the foot of it, “Now, I think it’s your turn to sit.”
“Um, you’re not here to scold me?”
Longbow shook his head, “No, dear, I am here to help you. I hear you are very magical, but you don’t know how to control it.”
Laura climbed onto the bed and sat with her feet swinging, “Mommy and daddy say I need to stop trying to use it, because I will hurt people.”
“Well, you might do that, but if you try to stop using your gift, it can still hurt people when you’re mad or even really happy. Magic can’t be ignored, and you seem to have a lot of it. How old are you, Laura?”
Longbow nodded as he looked around the room. There were scorch marks on the back of the door and the walls, “Was that from fire?”
Laura shook her head, “Lightning, but I didn’t mean to!” There was panic in her voice, “Mommy ran into my room tied my hands together, and put me in there.”
She pointed to her closet. Longbow’s face contorted, and his eyes were slits. The bedroom door opened at that moment and Laura’s parents were standing in the hall.
Her mother saw the look on Longbow’s face, “We didn’t know what to do. Sparks were flying from her fingers. We spanked her, bound her hands and-”
“Shoved her in the closet,” Longbow’s tone was ominous, “Did it ever once occur to you to look for a talismonger or mage to have her tested, or did you think the closet would magically fix her?”
Laura had scooted until she felt her back against the wall on the other side of the bed. Her father had stepped in the room and was pointing a finger at Longbow, “We didn’t ask you to come here to judge us on how we handled our daughter’s condition. We asked you here for your help.”
Longbow stood, “Condition? Condition? Being of a magical nature is not an illness.”
The father’s eyes met Longbow’s as the elf stood, “You’ve been ignorant on how to handle a magical child thus far, and you are now waggling a finger at the only person who accepted your invitation to meet her. Yes, I know you’ve called others, one being priest.”
“Richard, please calm down. We did call him here to help, and he came.” Sarah pleaded, “We don’t need him to leave now.”
Longbow turned to Sarah, “I won’t leave now, my dear lady, especially not after hearing how you have been handling Laura. She needs guidance and a teacher, not bindings, closets, and holy water.”
Her reminiscing was interrupted by the door opening. Her head snapped upright away from the wall.
“I am hoping the room isn’t too small.” Mr. White entered and shut the door behind him.
“It’s not the space. It’s the lock.”
“Ah,” Mr. White motioned to the chair, “You can have a seat, and we can begin the negotiations. You don’t need to sit on the floor.”
Laura stood and met the troll’s eyes, “I would rather stand. Sitting in a chair like that brings back foul memories.”
“Each to his, or her, own. The job is of a delicate nature and requires one of your particular talents.”
“There are a lot of mages in the city that cast what I can cast.”
Mr. White paced and held up a forefinger, “But none who can teleport or cast without encanting aloud, Flashpoint. That is your specialty, is it not?”
“You could say that. I haven’t run into any others who can do what I do.”
“Which is precisely why I need you.”
She waved her arms around the room, “Not a good way to start negotiations.”
“I will admit my associate could have been better at getting you here. He has a problem with humans.”
Laura waggled her head back and forth, “You don’t say. I would never have guessed.”
Mr. White waved his hand in the air, “I will ignore the sarcasm. There is some information that needs to be obtained, and you are the only one who can get it.”
“I doubt that, but go ahead.”
“The facility is heavily guarded, making it difficult for a team to infiltrate to get the information.”
“I’ve heard that one, too.” Laura motioned for him to keep going.
Mr. White huffed, “You’re going to be obstinate.”
Laura sighed, “I am the one being held against her will. Pardon me if my manners are less than stellar.”
“Granted,” the troll made his way to the chair and around it to stand five feet in front of her, “The corp in question is Coatl Tech.”
Laura’s eye flew open and every muscle in her body stiffened, “You’ve got to be off your nut, Mr. White. No one is crazy enough to raid that place, as a team or alone. You know their mages practice-”
“Blood magic, yes I know, but that does not negate the fact my employer wishes me to find someone to infiltrate and retrieve information and that I think one person should be enough.”
Laura sighed, “You know this isn’t going to be a cheap job. Does your employer? I am not saying I’m taking the job. You haven’t thrown out numbers, and I am not keen on doing the job without backup at least.”
Mr. White closed his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose, “You can teleport, correct?”
Laura nodded, “Yeah, but the range is not unlimited. It’s a three-block range, just enough to get to an exfil point. So, if I don’t have anyone to pick me, up I am not even entertaining cred talk, and if you think Mr. Happy sitting in your office is the exfil plan, forget it. The last thing I need after a run is to trade jabs with an idiot that doesn’t like humans.”
Mr. White let out a loud and heavy breath, “Fine, let me go back to my office and think about this. It seems I have miscalculated.”
After breakfast was finished and the dishes were washed, Mims sent a name to a club to each of the people who were going to find where Laura went, “There. Each of you should have a location.”
“There is only Longbow and me. Who’s going to tell Pitbull?”
Mims smiled, “Who do you think I was messaging while you were washing dishes, and yes, I told him he needed to leave his ordinance at home. He sounded deflated.”
James chuckled, “That doesn’t surprise me. So, I’m going to The Spot. Isn’t that where she goes to hang out with her friends? You know when she isn’t interested in getting anyone’s attention?”
“Yes, that’s the one. Longbow is going to Limelight, and Pitbull is going to Ninth Circle.”
Alicia looked up, “That’s a magic club and dance hall. Why are you sending Pitbull there?”
Mims looked at Alicia, “I am getting too old for the club scene, and he won’t get distracted. Shouldn’t you be going upstairs to astral project in order to see if you can find her trail?”
Nodding, Alicia stood from her chair and made her way up the stairs to her room. James watched her ascend and looked back at Mims.
Mims held one hand in the air, “I know what you are going to ask, and no, you don’t need to guard her. I will be going up there shortly. I am still capable of watching a body and jumping in if there is trouble. I am the one who taught her.”