“I was thinking that I would ask them to infiltrate Galais Center,” Alessandra replied. “It seems to be the least heavily defended of the three main Storm Corps bases.”
“Interesting,” Evila said. “Of course, you realize that means it is also the least likely to contain the information we need.”
“I don’t expect them to find a document that says, ‘here is the location of the Receptor’ or anything like that,” Alessandra said. “But if they can find any information on Storm Corps movements, any concentrations of troops in unexpected areas of the city, any kind of records of supplies being sent to unusual places, anything like that could help us narrow down where in the city they may have other secret bases.”
“I see,” Evila replied. “And what makes you think that they have the Receptor in a secret base, rather than one of their three primary bases?”
“Because of the nature of the thing,” Alessandra said. “It’s like Shalor said. On paper, the Order and the Storm Corps are allies. If word got out that the Corps had stolen an important artifact from the Order, people would be pissed. I suspect that very few people even within the Corps know that the Receptor exists, much less is in their possession. They went to very great lengths to obscure the fact that the Vanmorzen manor was one of their bases, and as far as I can tell, the whole reason for that base was to hide the Receptor. All the information we have indicates they’ve completely abandoned the manor now that the Receptor is no longer kept there. For them to go to that much trouble to make a base just for this one item tells me that they’re going to great lengths to keep it secret even from their own members that they have it.”
“Impressive,” Evila said. “So far, it seems as if we did not make a mistake putting you in charge of the investigation. I’m very glad to know that. Your reasoning is not perfect, however. It is also possible that the Corps abandoned the Vanmorzen manor because they knew it was compromised.”
“Unlikely,” Alessandra replied. “They knew the base was compromised before the Order’s raid. They had set a trap for the Order, after all. As long as they thought they could defend the Receptor, they believed it worth keeping that base. As soon as it became apparent that the Receptor was not secure there, they no longer had any use for the base. Therefore, it seems highly likely that they have moved it to another secret base, one even more heavily defended against mages.”
“That is the trouble, isn’t it?” Evila said thoughtfully. “Yes, I think your plan is sound. Find evidence of another secret Storm Corps base, and we should find our stolen property. Good work, Alessandra. You have proven yourself most capable so far. I am certainly going to be keeping an eye on you for the foreseeable future.”
“Thank you very much, Olorin,” Alessandra said with a deep bow.
“What did I say about excessive formality?” Evila replied with a small smile. “Now, I assume you would like to return to visiting with your friend. Please, do not allow me to get in your way.”
“Of course, O-, uh, I mean, Evila,” Alessandra said with another, smaller bow. “Thank you again for your kind words.”
“Please, do not mention it, child,” Evila said with a dismissive gesture. “Now, go.”
Alessandra gave Evila yet another bow, and then turned to go back to Mikaelo’s room. Inside, she found him sitting on the couch, looking around at his surroundings as if he still couldn’t quite believe how lucky he was. Alessandra knew the feeling.
“So you really are a member of the Order of Sunaru,” Mikaelo said, a touch of awe in his voice.
“I really am,” Alessandra replied, pride and resignation mingling in her voice.
“Hey, what’s that tone for?” Mikaelo asked.
“I don’t know,” Alessandra sighed, sitting down on the couch next to him. “I mean, the Order of Sunaru! Being part of it is beyond any slumdweller’s wildest dreams! I should be ecstatic with joy! But…it’s like I don’t really belong here.”
“That doesn’t sound too surprising,” Mikaelo shrugged.
“What do you mean?” Alessandra asked, slightly puzzled.
“You don’t belong here!” Mikaelo exclaimed. “I mean, you do, I guess, or they wouldn’t let you be here, but you don’t really. You’re from the slums! How many other people here have ever even set foot in the slums?”
“Yeah, like, a few, I guess, but for the most part you’re right,” Alessandra said, sounding resigned. “It’s not even just that, though. Most members of the Order have the memories of their predecessors, going back to before the barrier was raised. I don’t have my predecessor’s memories, and they keep telling me I’m going to get them someday, but I don’t remember anything yet, and it just feels like I’m a second-class citizen because of it.”
“That’s…intense,” Mikaelo said, looking slightly awed. “How is that even possible?”
“I dunno?” Alessandra sighed. “Magic? I’ve been training for three solid months about how to use these powers I have, and I still feel like I have no idea how any of it works. I can do a lot of things on instinct, like turn invisible, or teleport through walls, or even throw fireballs from my hands! But I can’t explain to you how any of it works, which is yet another reason why I feel like I don’t belong.”
“Alessa,” Mikaelo began, and then he fell silent, looking pensive.
“Uh oh,” Alessandra said with a slight grin. “You’ve got your thinking face on again.”
“I just…I wish things could go back to the way they were,” Mikaelo said with a sigh. “I know they can’t, and I know you’re much better off here. I’m being selfish, but things were going so well, and now…I don’t know what’s going on.”
“You’re not the only one, my friend,” Alessandra said, closing her eyes and slumping back against the couch.
To be continued…