The snow was still falling, but it wasn’t as bad as it had been the day before, when he’d left home

on

He saw a couple of small caves in the rocks, hidden along the backside of the
hill. This could work. At the cave entrance, he pulled out one of his little
magics and scanned the place with intense concentrated thought. His eyes
came back empty, with nothing. There was nothing.

“Well fuck me,” he muttered. The first thing he’d need to do was to call Kiko.
That would be his first step, just like it was when he went looking for a
teleporting site.

Kiko
was in the back room, where she always was when it snowed in Arizona. As an
active mage, she was always one step ahead. Her power had already begun
working to summon a teleport to meet her. And her strength would be her only
way to keep that teleport from fading as she moved over the snow. If it did,
the teleport would disappear, leaving her without a way to travel.

He knew he’d startle her. When he pulled the teleport from his pack it was a
cold, metallic object. He looked at it in awe. He never had seen it before
in an actual game. The texture of the metal was strange, the pattern of the
surface different.

It didn’t look like an ordinary teleport, he decided. No, that’s not quite
right, it looked exactly like a metal gun in a game. Its grip looked like a
giant pincer, with a long spike on the end.

He got up and went into the back room, picking up the teleport with both hands
so he’d feel more comfortable handling the object. He checked it out over and
over again before setting it on the floor, near one of the shelves. Just
as he had predicted, she wasn’t startled.

“You can relax,” he said. He walked to the back room door and opened it,
wearing his jeans and a pair of boots – the only shoes he’d brought on this
trip. The boots were slightly too big, but they’d been worn out anyway by
living in the desert, and he decided that the boots were better than nothing.

Kiko’s
face was covered by a black hood, with holes cut in the bottom for her eyes.
Her body was covered by a leather tunic, open in the front and with a black
belt sewn in the back of it. She sat in the chair at the desk that had been
her favorite place to work, right beside the computer.

His
eyes were drawn to the machine, the only one in the room that he hadn’t
finally taken. It didn’t have a display, like the one in the game, and there
was no way he could read the screen with his eyes. Kiko took a long sip of her
sip of tea. Then she smiled, and that was weird, since she hadn’t smiled in
over a year.

“You’re a busy girl,” he said. “I’ll take the teleport for now.”

“You’ve been very busy,” she said, then laughed. “You never gave me a chance
to answer that question.”

“Well, it’s not as if I didn’t need information.”

“What about the one you gave me? What was that like?”

“Well, it’s like a big metal gun.”

“A gun?”

“Yes, a gun. And I had to throw him down to make sure he hit the ground.
Then he just came back.”

“What was the shot like?”

“I don’t know,” he said. “The teleport didn’t do too well when I tried it.
I got lucky.”

“You still haven’t told me about the teleport.”

“The teleport,” he said. “But you already know a little about everything.”

“You have a way for you to talk to other people from far away, right?”

He shook his head, and she smiled. “No. I’ve only talked to you.”

“You have a way to send magical messages through magic?” she asked.

He shrugged his shoulders. “There’s a lot of different kinds of magic.”

“And you’ve been making those magical messages for years?”

“I guess.”

“You’re sure,” she said.

“No, it wasn’t easy. There was some bad luck involved.”

“But you could always do it.”

“Well, I could always give you a message later, when nothing was happening.”

“That’s what I’ve been waiting for,” Kiko said. “I’ve been waiting years for
you to tell me something. Something real.”

“I know,” he said. “I’ve told you plenty, I’ve told you everything I could
ever tell someone. But you’re the first person I could trust, even though
those stories were full of lies.”

She looked at him. “No wonder you’ve been so busy.”

“I know,” he said. “I could send you a message now?”

“And you’d just tell me I’m crazy?”

“That’s not what I’d do.”

She blinked a few times, then she nodded her head. “No good. Maybe this is
a good time. Maybe I don’t want to live my life like this. I don’t want to
go home until I find something real.” It was the first time in a long time
that she had shown any real emotion.

“You said you waited for me,” he said. “Maybe it’s time to tell somebody
you’re all right.”

“I’m sorry,” she said. “I’ve never told anyone that I was a girl.
All those years in school, I just kept everything to myself.”

“I never knew,” he said.

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