Agent Roberts found himself alone as he led the procession of vehicles down the nearly nonexistent dirt road.
Although he could have driven a bit faster, Agent Roberts was mindful of those following him and was careful not to get too far ahead of them. When he checked his rearview mirror, something odd caught his attention or, rather, the absence of something.
Fighting down his natural inclination to investigate, Agent Roberts waved a hand in front of the rearview mirror only once to confirm his suspicion.
He had no reflection.
Agent Roberts felt a rush of panic at the realization, although his logical mind struggled with the reasoning behind it.
The loss of his shadow and reflection didn't appear to have any 'real world' consequences. But for some undefinable reason, Agent Roberts felt diminished by it.
As he approached a sharp turn, he slowed his pace and devoted his full attention to the task at hand. Whether he could cast a shadow or not, the entire group was still depending on him.
Agent Roberts was very aware that the dirt road that they were travelling on had become more of a 'mud' road.
While he didn't feel that he was in danger of bogging down in the mud, he couldn't be sure that the last vehicles in their procession would be as lucky. It was entirely possible that each vehicle might dig the ruts just a little deeper so that the last member of the group might end up being 'high centered'.
Even so, he had no choice but to carry on.
When Agent Roberts pulled through the wrought iron gate he felt some small measure of relief at being outside the 'official' domain of Nevermore.
His spirits lifted further when he and his companions were once again on paved roads.
The drive back to Waxell was long and uneventful.
Even though Agent Roberts wasn't necessarily familiar with the roads, he had looked at the local map enough to feel confident that he could lead the group back to his home.
* * * * *
Upon arriving at his driveway, Agent Roberts was surprised to find a full fledged stream flowing.
When Mrs. Spencer had warned him that the driveway had a tendency to flood, he had pictured a large standing puddle, not white-water rapids.
Agent Roberts pulled his car to a stop and considered what options were available to him.
He could lead everyone to the Spencer's place, then lead a cross-country hike from there.
A knock on his window startled him.
He looked out the window and found Paul and Filipe walking to the front of his car.
As he watched, both boys started making the gestures that Agent Roberts had come to associate with spellcasting.
When they had finished, Paul turned and motioned for Agent Roberts to pull forward.
Although Agent Roberts was legitimately impressed, he was still able to keep his wits about him enough to start driving forward, between Paul and Filipe.
They had somehow been able to stop the flow of water enough to allow him access to his driveway.
He pulled forward and kept close watch in his rearview mirror to be sure that the entire procession were able to make it across.
Once the last of the cars had crossed, Paul and Filipe hurried back to Professor Everstone's car and got in.
As soon as they were safely ensconced in the professor's car, Agent Roberts continued his drive up the slight incline of his driveway, toward his house.
* * * * *
As Agent Roberts opened the door, he had to admit that it felt incredibly good to be 'home'.
The day had been unexpectedly long and he wanted nothing more than to relax for a while.
"Before anyone has a chance to wander away, I want to be sure that everyone knows our plans for tomorrow." Professor Everstone said loudly enough to gain everyone's attention.
"First, I'd like to say that you've all done very well today. You performed beyond my expectations."
Agent Roberts couldn't help but agree. Considering that they were working with a group of young teenagers, he would have expected them to have acted out at least a little bit.
"Although I would like to be able to give you adequate time to rest and relax after the long day that we've had, I'm afraid that there is simply too much left to do. Let's meet back here in the living room at eight thirty in the morning, so that we can go and have breakfast before we leave to assess the state of the Brynn barrier."
Agent Roberts looked around to verify that Professor Everstone's message had been received.
"Sophia, Dag and Shawn, if you wouldn't mind, I'd like to have a word with you before we retire for the evening. Everyone else, enjoy your rest. Hopefully tomorrow won't turn out to be quite as long."
Realizing that they had been dismissed, the teenagers slowly began to make their way toward the door that led to the upstairs.
"Mr. Bentley Brown, let me show you where your room is." Agent Roberts said, before Professor Everstone could start in on whatever he was going to say.
"Thank you. I appreciate that." Mr. Bentley Brown said quietly, then followed as Agent Roberts conducted him down the hallway.
* * * * *
Entering the living room, Agent Roberts noticed that everyone had taken seats, but appeared to be awaiting his return before beginning their discussion.
"I just want to verify what we've discovered today and discuss your insights before we proceed."
"From what I saw at the protectorate today, I believe that any but the most basic 'reconstruction' will require my participation. Although Zanner is reasonably skilled, I believe that the sheer scope of the project may be beyond his capabilities." Mr. Hansen said frankly.
"I have similar concerns about Paul and Filipe. While it is possible that they may be able to rise to the occasion and perform the maintenance tasks without my intervention, I believe that it would be too big a risk to take. Even with three of us, the outcome is by no means assured." Professor Everstone responded.
"What about Dex? What's the danger that he'll get consumed by the power of the earth?" Agent Roberts asked seriously.
"Dexter has performed beyond my expectations. Rather than just being a conduit for the magic of the earth element, he has taken on the role of aiding Zanner in his efforts. That's a level of control that I did not initially expect him to achieve."
"So he's out of danger?" Agent Roberts asked cautiously.
"Not entirely, but the danger to him is less than I was originally anticipating. With the level of control that he has achieved, he can now do something to protect himself if things take an unexpected turn."
"I agree. I could feel Dex's influence when Zanner was examining the earth element of the protectorate. Not only will he be able to protect himself, but he can also help Zanner by regulating the flow of the earth magic as he needs it." Mr. Hansen interjected.
"If all goes as I expect, Miss Oaken, Corabeth and G will be primarily involved in the assessment of the Brynn barrier. Can you think of anything we might be able to do in preparation?"
"I need to call Agent Fastbeck. He knows the people inside the barrier and will want to be there with us." Agent Roberts volunteered.
"Yes. Good idea." Professor Everstone agreed.
"Once we've completed the assessment of the Brynnhollow barrier, we're going to have to come up with a plan for what to do next. Do you already have something in mind for that?" Miss Oaken asked curiously.
"My original plan had been to gather the children and encourage them to evaluate the barrier's strengths and weaknesses, then develop ways to improve upon what already exists. Although the scope of the project has expanded to a rather uncomfortable degree, I see no reason that we should exclude them from that very necessary stage of the process."
"From what I've seen of Paul and Filipe, they'll thrive on the chance to brainstorm and problem-solve." Agent Roberts said thoughtfully.
"I believe that Zanner and Dex will both benefit from being included in the planning, not only to assure their understanding, but also to relay to them that they are members of the team, not just tools being used to accomplish a goal." Mr. Hansen added.
"I know that Corabeth has been feeling a little left out, like her primary ability isn't of any use." Miss Oaken said quietly.
"Although we will have need of Miss Knawld's signature ability, we're also going to need for her to set aside her self-defeating attitude and at least attempt to work on the air manipulation with G. He has been able to successfully wield The Mikael Spear but he won't be able to reconstruct the air element of a barrier entirely on his own."
"I think that once we're done here, I'll have a little talk with her about that. I get the feeling that she doesn't really believe what she's saying. She just needs for someone to reassure her and tell her that she can do it." Miss Oaken said frankly.
"If you think that she will be up to it, I'll leave it to you." Professor Everstone said simply to Miss Oaken, then to the rest of the group he continued, "If no one has anything else, I believe that now would be a good time to retire for the evening."
Everyone seemed to be in agreement as they stood.
"Mr. Hansen, could I talk to you for a minute?" Agent Roberts quickly asked.
"You can call me Dag if you like." Mr. Hansen responded, then asked, "What can I do for you?"
"It's about my shadow. I was just wondering if there's anything that I need to know or if there's any danger that I should be aware of?"
"No. Not that I can think of. If I were you, I'd avoid going out in public in bright sunlight. Casting no shadow can make you look 'unreal', like you've been badly photoshopped or are standing in front of a low budget green screen effect."
"I'll keep that in mind."
"If you're concerned, you might want to ask Miss Oaken about it. Shadowmancy is a wizardry specialty based in the air element. I'm sure that she will be far more knowledgeable on the subject than I am."
"I was wondering. I just didn't know if losing my shadow might have some other consequences."
"Automatic doors and motion detectors probably won't be able to see you, but I don't see that being much of a problem around here. I can't really think of anything else."
"Agent Roberts? Do you have a battery?" Filipe asked as he approached with Paul, G and Corabeth following closely behind.
"What kind?" Agent Roberts asked.
"It doesn't matter. We just need it for a spell."
Agent Roberts walked toward the kitchen and stopped at his computer desk. He opened the drawer and took out a package.
"How's this?" Agent Roberts asked as he held up a nine volt battery.
"That's perfect." Paul said happily, then quickly added, "We're ready to do it, if you want to see."
"Okay." Agent Roberts said uncertainly as he followed the teenagers to the kitchen island.
* * * * *
As Agent Roberts watched, a strange glowing diagram appeared on the countertop. It was a golden circle surrounding the outline of a red triangle.
"Put the battery right there." Paul said as he pointed.
Agent Roberts did so, then stood back to see what was going to happen next.
"Corabeth, yours goes there." Filipe said as he pointed to another section of the diagram.
As Agent Roberts watched, Corabeth placed a necklace where Filipe had indicated.
The necklace had a small pendant that looked like a perfectly clear marble, clutched in a bird's talon made of gold.
As soon as the necklace was in place, glowing writing began to appear within the diagram.
Three small balls of fire sprang into being, one at each point of the triangle.
"I don't have any talent for thaumaturgy, so Filipe is going to have to do this part." Paul explained.
Agent Roberts didn't know what that meant, but had no problem accepting that Paul and Filipe did.
"Filipe, you ready?" Paul asked as he looked over the diagram.
"Ready when you are." Filipe said confidently.
Agent Roberts watched as Filipe began to speak his spell while simultaneously performing the gestures associated with spellcasting.
The whole production took less than a minute.
After a long silent moment, Filipe cautiously asked, "Do you want to test it?"
"No. I'm sure that it worked."
The three fireballs disappeared first, then the spell diagram faded from sight.
Paul scooted the nine volt battery out of the way, then a new diagram appeared, this one being a pentagram, with the necklace located in the middle.
"I'll enchant it and you bind the magic to it to fuel it. Does that work for you?" Paul asked to confirm.
"Yeah. Sounds good." Filipe immediately answered.
Once again glowing text began to appear within the diagram.
Five small balls of fire ignited, one hovering above each of the points of the pentagram.
Paul started his spellcasting and Filipe joined him a moment later.
As Agent Roberts watched... nothing really happened.
At one point Paul reached out and touched each of the five points of the pentagram, but for the most part he and Filipe just spoke their spells.
While the spectacle of the diagram and fireballs was somewhat impressive, the wonder of it didn't last very long.
Filipe and Paul were doing their spellcasting while the rest stood around and watched.
* * * * *
"That should do it." Paul finally said as the spell diagram faded from sight.
"Put it on so we can test it out." Filipe said excitedly.
Agent Roberts looked around the group to see what was going to happen next.
"Agent Roberts! Put it on!" Filipe insisted.
"We made this charm for you. Put it on so that we can see if it works." Filipe said somewhat impatiently.
"What does it do?" Agent Roberts cautiously asked as he picked up the necklace.
"It's the same spell that I've been using on you all day to keep you from being tricked by Jen's mind control illusions. Now you won't have to worry about it if I'm not around."
Agent Roberts brought the necklace over his head, then waited to see if he noticed anything out of the ordinary.
"G, do you want to do something to test it out?"
"Sure." G said easily, then out of nowhere two duplicate copies of G appeared one on either side of him.
Before Agent Roberts could react, the duplicates began to fade and waver.
"What do you see?" Filipe asked hopefully.
"I see two copies of G, but they're insubstantial, almost like they're ghosts."
"Take off the necklace and you'll be able to see them like the rest of us do."
Agent Roberts took off the necklace and all of a sudden the clones of G appeared to be perfectly solid. In fact, he'd be hard pressed to pick which one of the three was real.
"We thought about making you a magic ward too, but that might mess with you getting your shadow back." Filipe quickly explained.
"Yeah, and besides that, we can't be sure that it would work. Not every spell can be used on a charm." Paul added helpfully.
Agent Roberts put the necklace back on and watched as the copies of G once again became insubstantial.
"Thank you, all of you, for doing this for me." Agent Roberts said sincerely.
"Thanks for working so hard to keep us safe." Filipe countered.
Agent Roberts couldn't help but smile as he said, "It's been my pleasure."
* * * * *
"Shawn? Is everything alright? I was beginning to get worried."
"Everyone's fine. The job just seems to have grown beyond anyone's expectations."
"Is it anything that I can help with?"
"Actually, yes. I was hoping that you might be able to accompany us to... Rocky's. We'll be at the Waxell Diner at nine in the morning to have breakfast and we'll leave from there."
"Are you sure that you don't need for me to stop by tonight?"
"No. Everything's settled for the moment. I can fill you in on the details in person."
"Okay. I'll see you then. Have a good evening."
"Thanks. Goodnight Conrad."
* * * * *
When Agent Roberts woke to the sound of his alarm, he felt quite a bit better than he had expected.
After the long hours and amount of hiking that they had done the previous day, he expected to be sore and tired.
It wasn't until he went into the bathroom that he was reminded that it wasn't just a normal day. He did his best to stick to his morning routine, but the entire process turned out to be bizarre and somewhat frustrating.
In preparation for the coming day, he dressed in clothes suitable for hiking rather than the suits that he typically wore.
When he finally emerged from his room, he found Miss Oaken, Professor Everstone and Mr. Bentley Brown sitting in the living room.
"Good morning. How is everyone doing today?" Agent Roberts asked as he took a seat on the couch.
"Although a bit more sleep might have been nice, I believe that we are sufficiently prepared for the coming day." Professor Everstone said calmly.
"Has anyone gone to wake up the kids yet?" Agent Roberts asked curiously.
"Mr. Hansen is seeing to that now."
"Miss Oaken, Mr. Hansen told me that you might know something about the whole thing with my missing shadow. Is there anything that I need to be worried about?"
"In the short term, no. Probably not. In the longer term, there might be consequences."
"You have to realize that your shadow, your other, acts as a reservoir for the things you struggle to repress. Without it, you don't have the same capacity for denying or ignoring things that you're used to. They will weigh on you and eat at you until you deal with them... or until they destroy you."
"I don't know you well enough to speculate. For some it's a tendency toward aggression, for others it might be the craving of an addiction. It has been said that it's the loss of their reflections that makes vampires into amoral monsters."
"The vampires that I've met aren't monsters, although I have to admit that I didn't notice if they had reflections or not."
There was a long moment of silence as the others took in what he had just revealed.
"The kids will be down in a minute. They sure are grumpy when they don't get enough sleep." Mr. Hansen said as he walked into the living room.
"I'm sure that their moods will improve once they've been fed." Professor Everstone said encouragingly.
"I hope so." Mr. Hansen said as he took a seat on the couch.
"In regard to your shadow..." Miss Oaken said quietly. "...for the amount of time that you will be without it, I doubt that you'll even notice that it's missing."
"That's good to know. But I'm pretty sure that I will notice, especially in the mornings when it's time for me to shave."
* * * * *
As soon as the last of the teenagers had straggled in, Agent Roberts led the way out to the cars. The steady rain wasn't a surprise.
Since his car had been the first in, he followed the group down the long drive to the stream that had formed the day before.
As he approached, he saw Paul and Filipe standing in the rain, using their magic to hold the stream back.
Filipe made a quick motion as Agent Roberts passed, indicating for him to stop.
As soon as Agent Roberts had gotten fully onto the road, both Paul and Filipe ran to his car and climbed in.
"How are you guys doing today?" Agent Roberts asked as he started following the other cars toward town.
"Paul and G have been telling me about Brynnhollow. I hope we get to go inside." Filipe said honestly.
"You got to go into both of the last two. Give somebody else a turn." Paul said playfully.
"When it comes to Brynnhollow, listen to Agent Fastbeck. He knows the people and the situation that they're in. He also knows us and the situation that we're in. If he says 'no', he has a good reason. Trust him."
"Do you expect him to say no?" Filipe asked curiously.
"I don't expect anything. I prepare." Agent Roberts said seriously.
"Even if we don't get to visit with them today, we'll probably still have to come back to work on their barrier." Filipe said reasonably.
"Except that it will probably be G and Corabeth working on their barrier. We'll probably be working on the Wudewas barrier." Paul said frankly.
"It's better if we stay in the habit of calling it 'Southseid'.
"What do you want us to call 'The Protectorate'?" Paul asked curiously.
"'Nevermore', I think. Unless there's a need to differentiate the barrier from the surrounding area, it should be close enough."
"Is it okay if we call Brynnhollow... Brynnhollow?" Filipe asked uncertainly.
"Since I haven't been there before, I don't know of anything else to call it."
"Well, I have been there and I don't know either, except to call it the place where Cain and Deimos live." Paul said frankly.
"Even if we're not able to go in and visit with them, it's possible that they might be able to come out and visit with you for a while."
"Yeah. That'd be great. Maybe Jim and Tannis could come out too. I'd really like to see how they're doing."
"Like I said, Trust Agent Fastbeck." Agent Roberts said as he focused most of his attention on his driving.
"Oh! I forgot to ask. How's your thing going with your shadow? Does it hurt or anything?" Filipe asked curiously.
"No. I don't really notice it except when I look in a mirror and there's no one looking back at me."
"There's not? When he said that he stole your shadow, I didn't think about him stealing your reflection too." Paul said with concern.
"I didn't realize that either, until I looked in the rearview mirror on the way home last night." Agent Roberts said honestly, then added, "Mr. Hansen and Miss Oaken don't think it's going to be a problem."
"Maybe not for you..." Paul said hesitantly.
"What do you mean?" Agent Roberts asked curiously.
"Your shadow belongs with you. Being connected to you is its natural state. When it's forcibly separated from you, it tends not to be too happy about it." Paul said carefully.
"It's not happy? Are you saying that my shadow can think and feel for itself?" Agent Roberts asked dubiously.
"Not always. But it is possible. The thing is, if that happened, Milo might have bitten off more than he can chew. Shadows play by a different set of rules. Physics don't really apply to them, or at least not normal three dimensional physics."
"Why didn't you tell me about this last night?"
"Because I didn't know about it then. I sometimes know certain things, like spells and stuff like that, when I need to know them."
"And you need to know this, right now?" Agent Roberts asked cautiously.
"I don't know. It happens when it happens. As far as I know, the timing doesn't mean anything."
"But you're sure it's true? I mean, this information that you get, is it always right?"
"So far, yeah. But you know that thing about Archdruid Highley having second sight? I kinda have some of that too. So, I guess it's possible that if I can see what's going to happen, that maybe I can do stuff to make it not happen. Whatever it is, I don't really have any control over it. Spells and stuff just pop into my head sometimes and usually it turns out to be good if I pay attention to it."
"He doesn't always know that he's doing it, either." Filipe interjected.
"How's that?" Agent Roberts asked curiously.
"Sometimes we'll be talking and he'll say something, like it's something that I already know about and it turns out to be something that hasn't happened yet." Filipe explained.
"Yeah. G's noticed that too." Paul agreed.
"So, do you have any warnings for me right now?"
"I just get the feeling that your shadow thing isn't really that big of a deal for you, but by the time we get back to Milo, he might be really glad to be rid of it." Paul said thoughtfully.
Agent Roberts slowly nodded as he pulled into the next available parking space in front of the Waxell Diner.
* * * * *
"Good morning Agent Roberts. Would you like the country breakfast this morning?" Harry asked cheerfully.
"You must be some kind of a mind reader, Harry. Yes. That sounds great." Agent Roberts chuckled.
"Did you bring your cup?" Harry asked as he stopped to see for himself.
"Not this morning. We're going to be out in the field today."
"Have a seat and I'll bring your coffee then." Harry said before dashing away.
"Shawn. Over here." Agent Fastbeck called from one of the booths.
"Have you been waiting long?" Agent Roberts asked as he approached.
"Not at all. I've barely had a chance to sip my coffee." Agent Fastbeck said and raised his cup to display his evidence.
Agent Roberts glanced at the boys still accompanying him, then thought to ask, "Do we have any official business to discuss?"
"I think I may have discovered Mr. Ingram's true identity but I'm pretty sure that you're already aware of everything else that I know." Agent Fastbeck said frankly, then thought to ask, "Do you have anything that we need to discuss privately?"
Agent Roberts thought for a moment, then cautiously said, "I think the boys are aware of everything that I'm going to tell you, and it's possible that they might be knowledgeable in some subjects that I'm not, so having them here for this discussion might be the most productive way to proceed."
"Okay. Scoot on in here and let's get started."
* * * * *
Before Paul, Filipe and Agent Roberts could get themselves settled, Harry was back, placing a cup of coffee in front of Agent Roberts and menus in front of the boys.
"Would you boys like some milk or juice?" Harry pleasantly asked.
"Can I have some coffee?" Paul asked Agent Roberts hopefully.
"Sure. If you want." Agent Roberts said easily.
"I'll have milk." Filipe added.
"Be right back." Harry said before dashing away.
"Before you begin, I think I've been able to uncover Mr. Ingram's true identity. There's a very good chance that his real name is Miklos Szabla. His mother was a member of a cult in the area called 'The Shamanic Ovates'. According to the FBI records on the group, they have some bizarre belief structure based on classic Druidism and Native American Shamanism. The bureau keeps loose tabs on them, but by all accounts they seem to be mostly harmless."
"That sounds about right. Mr. Ingram goes by the name Milo and the leader is called Archdruid Highley." Agent Roberts confirmed.
"Jarvis Highley, he's the de facto leader since the disappearance of his father, Ambros Highley." Agent Fastbeck said slowly.
"Yes. That's him. He mentioned his father, but never said what happened to him."
"Okay. So it appears that we're talking about the same person. What else have you been able to uncover?"
"Archdruid Highley, Milo and their companion Jengelica appear to be the keepers of a barrier that they call 'The Protectorate'."
"They call the place 'Nevermore' to make it sound creepy." Paul interjected.
"That's right." Agent Roberts confirmed, then looked up and smiled at Harry as he approached.
Harry quickly and efficiently placed the coffee and milk on the table in front of Paul and Filipe respectively.
"Does everyone know what they'd like to eat?" Harry asked as he took out a pad of paper.
"What are you having, Agent Fastbeck?" Paul asked curiously.
"Biscuits and gravy."
"That sounds good. I'll have that too." Paul said decisively.
All attention turned to Filipe as he examined the menu before him.
Finally, Filipe looked up and said, "I'd really like some pancakes."
"I'll have that right out for you." Harry said as he started collecting menus.
"Thanks." Filipe said gratefully.
Harry gave him a quick smile, then hurried away.
Once Harry was out of earshot, Agent Fastbeck quietly asked, "So you've discovered another barrier, what does this have to do with us visiting 'Rocky' this morning?"
"When we were at 'Southseid', Paul noticed that there was an external connection to the barrier. At the time we didn't understand what that was about, but when we encountered Milo, we began to suspect that 'Nevermore' and 'Southseid' were connected..."
"...and you suspect that 'Rocky's' place is as well." Agent Fastbeck supplied, nodding as he did so.
"Yes. That's what we'd like to try to confirm this morning." Agent Roberts said seriously.
"We can't really do what we came here for until we've checked out all three, because if we tried, we might cause all three of them to collapse." Paul said seriously.
"That seems odd. I would think, given what they are, that they would be more durable than that." Agent Fastbeck said honestly.
"Well, that's just one possible outcome. Another might be that if one barrier failed, the other two might end up being without clean water, breathable air or fertile earth." Agent Roberts said carefully.
"But if that were the case, then the failure of one would automatically cause the failure of all three. I can't see that being a very efficient system to have in place." Agent Fastbeck countered.
"When the... Southseid people... were in trouble, they went to Rocky's for help. Right? If they're not really friends or anything, why would they do that?" Paul asked curiously.
"I was told that there was an ancient pact made that if one of the colonies was in trouble, the other would come to their aid." Agent Fastbeck said slowly.
"But if all the colonies depend on each other, then helping each other would make more sense. I mean, it's not only the right thing to do, but by helping each other you help yourself." Filipe said thoughtfully.
"Maybe. But if what you're saying is true, it seems that the people of the current generation aren't aware of it." Agent Fastbeck said speculatively.
"I'd have to go back and look again to be sure, but I think that the barriers have redundant systems in place so that if they lose their outside connection, the local backup system will take over." Paul said slowly.
"As a strategy, that would make more sense." Agent Fastbeck said firmly.
"But there must be some benefit to having the primary system distributed the way it is. Otherwise, why would they go to all the trouble?" Agent Roberts asked slowly.
"From what I saw, that's not normal water. Not only was it created differently from regular water, but it also has the ability to carry a 'charge'."
"So, it's like 'holy' water?" Agent Roberts asked slowly.
"Holy water is a completely different thing, but I think you've got the right idea. I can't talk about the air and the earth, but the water isn't regular water. If the people in the colonies had to start drinking regular water, I think they'd be a lot less healthy and happy than they are." Paul carefully explained.
"So interconnecting the colonies might have been a plan to help them endure for centuries without outside intervention." Agent Fastbeck said speculatively.
"They were set up so that someone could work on them. They meant for the barriers to be updated." Paul said with certainty.
"But it appears that Southseid and Nevermore were forgotten over time."
"If that's true, why didn't whoever updated the Brynn... Rocky's barrier notice the interconnection?" Filipe asked curiously.
"That's a good question." Agent Roberts admitted.
"At Southseid, all of us were in there and we almost didn't notice it. If they weren't looking for it, maybe they just missed it." Paul guessed.
"But wouldn't they notice something weird with there being so much 'air' and so little everything else?" Filipe asked curiously.
"The two barriers that we've already examined are so different from each other that I could understand it if someone didn't notice something out of place." Paul responded.
"Would it have been possible for them to have reinforced the barrier without disturbing the others?" Agent Roberts asked cautiously.
"Yeah. I think so. Try thinking of it like the layers of an onion. The outer layer is the actual barrier. You don't have to dig too deep to change something about it. But the mega air and water, that's almost at the core, if they'd screwed around with that, they might have caused the whole thing, all three of them, to come crashing down."
"Sorry that took so long, we're kind of busy right now." Harry said as he carried a heavily laden tray to the table.
"It's fine, Harry. It hasn't been long at all." Agent Fastbeck assured him.
"Does anyone need a refill while I'm here?" Harry asked as he placed their orders on the table.
"I think we're good." Agent Fastbeck said as he looked around the table, then added, "But you might want to bring the coffee pot with you next time you're in the neighborhood."
"I'll do that." Harry said with a grin, then quickly added, "Just let me know if you need anything."
As the four watched Harry rush away, Agent Roberts quietly said, "The three barriers form a triangle and Waxell's at the center of it."
Agent Fastbeck contemplated that for a moment, then finally said, "Then we'd better be sure to do this right."
To Be Continued...
Editor's Notes: Things seem to be getting quite complicated. I keep wishing the chapters were a bit longer, but I understand that it takes time to put everything together and get all the parts to interact with each other properly; it's a bit like a rubik's Cube. Once you get the perspective in your head, you sort of see the interactions that make up all the ways that ching one element, cause different things with the others.
I'm not really sure if I get what is all happening, but that analogy seems to help me follow along.
Darryl AKA The Radio Rancher