Home > Veiled (Alex Verus #6)(11)

Veiled (Alex Verus #6)(11)
Benedict Jacka

Unfortunately for me, both Griff and Belthas had been Light mages in good standing with the Council. The Council may turn a blind eye to infighting among Dark mages, and they really don’t care very much about what happens to adepts or Orphans, but that definitely does not apply when the victims are Council mages themselves. To make matters worse, Griff and Belthas had also been working for a Junior Council member named Levistus. Offing them (and messing up his plans in the process) had placed me firmly on his shit list. Levistus didn’t come after me personally—that’s not his style—but since then he’d taken the opportunity to bureaucratically screw me over in several ways, some of them quite lethal.

My past history with Levistus was one of the other reasons I wasn’t comfortable here. Logically, I knew that staying away from the Keepers wouldn’t actually make it any harder for Levistus to mess with me—if he really wanted to nail me, he could do it no matter where I was—but I still didn’t like the idea of being any closer to him than I had to.

But at the same time, I knew that Luna was right. For too long now we’d been just reacting to Richard, gathering up scraps of information and waiting for him to make a move. I didn’t know how we were going to beat him, but I knew we had to do something. Trying to make more friends amongst the Keepers was at least a place to start.

“Okay,” I said. “Cards on the table. Are you saying you don’t want me?”

“No,” Caldera said.

I paused. “No, you don’t want me, or no, you don’t not want me?”

“Do you know who makes the final decision on security screenings?” Caldera asked.

I shook my head.

“After that call last week, I wrote up your submission for auxiliary status and sent it off to personnel,” Caldera said. “They sent it to the Keepers in charge of your cases. Those Keepers have a dozen active cases already and didn’t have the time to go reopening yours, so they passed it to Rain. And Rain passed it down to me.”

I tried to follow all that. “So . . . ?”

Caldera looked at me. “So right now, there is exactly one person who’s been given the job of deciding whether to take you on or not. Me.”

“Oh. So is that a yes or a no?”

|  |  |  |  |  |  |  |  |

“So was that a yes or a no?” Luna asked.

We were in the Islington gym that we use for training. Luna was in her exercise clothes, white T-shirt and tracksuit bottoms, with a book balanced on her head. My clothes were similar to Luna’s, but instead of a book, I was holding a weapon: a simple but functional-looking katana.

“She didn’t say no,” I said. I stepped forward and aimed a two-handed blow at Luna’s head. The swing was at seventy percent speed, and my grip was angled so that the impact would be with the flat of the blade, not the edge. It wouldn’t break the skin, but it would hurt. Luna stepped back, spine straight and movements smooth to keep the book from falling, and I followed up, continuing to threaten her.

“So she said yes?” Luna asked. She adjusted her position on the mats slightly, keeping just enough distance that I had to move to come within strike range.

I made a couple more head-level strikes; Luna stayed out of range. “She didn’t actually say that either.”

“So what did she say?”

I began another step, then changed it into a low glide, striking at waist level. Luna was caught within the sweep and had to block cross-hand, the flat of the blade meeting her palm with a slap. The movement left me within striking distance and she had to block twice more before she could open the range again. “Making it onto the sanctioned list is out,” I said, glancing at the blade. The colour hadn’t changed. “At least right now.”

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