Chapter 40: Jumper
"Elspeth," coughed Jake.
"What?" I asked, leaning in.
"Th' other wolf," he said, and took a deep, difficult breath. "Quil."
"You think that Quil is the wolf who was still in your pack when you phased?" I asked, to confirm.
"Mmhm." His eyes closed again.
"Interesting," murmured Siobhan, interrupting the overcomplicated conversation about travel to address this information. "It's hard to know if there's more than one remaining packmate... but if they had several who hadn't been moved to one of the girls' packs yet, I think we could expect them to have been watching for Jake to phase in shifts, so he would have noticed a second presence as soon as he phased, instead of afterwards. It's probably just Quil."
"Why would they leave just one, instead of two who could trade off on surveillance?" my mother wondered.
"Maybe they didn't," Siobhan murmured. "Quil has an imprint. If he has some reason to believe Claire is threatened, he could defect on his own, just like Brady did on Pera's say-so five years ago."
"Jake," I murmured, touching his shoulder. "Jake, can you remember anything Quil was thinking? I know you were asleep, but if there were odd dreams or anything..."
"Claire," Jake whispered, cracking one eye open. I felt bad about waking him - until his healing routed from his system the last of the venom I'd failed to remove, and got to work repairing the direct damage it had done, he was going to be in significant discomfort while awake.
"What about her?" I asked.
"Don't know..." His eyes fluttered closed again and I let him drop back off, glad that he wasn't an insomniac or in too much pain to sleep.
"Of course Quil was thinking about Claire one way or another," my mother said. "She's his imprint. I'd be infinitely more surprised if he managed to think about something else. What would possibly threaten Claire, though? The Volturi don't have any reason to hurt her. She's a seven year old girl."
"She's eight now," I murmured. "Her birthday is the sixth of July..."
"Eight, then" said my mother, "there's no significant difference."
"If she turned up with significant witchcraft they might want to turn her...?" I proposed skeptically. I'd seen no hint of any unusual power from Claire when I'd been traveling with Jake's pack before our capture. "But not that young, and I'm not sure if Quil would take her away from Volterra rather than let them do it anyway. Brady didn't kick up that much of a fuss over Pera. He didn't like it, but they didn't have to keep him unconscious or anything."
"They wouldn't turn her that young - unless it was exceptionally useful withcraft and she were dying," Siobhan said. "Like Jane and Alec."
"It doesn't fit," I said. "If Claire were dying, Quil would want her turned rather than dead, wouldn't he?"
"No," coughed Jake, waking again, and I wondered if we'd better move somewhere else so our talking wouldn't disturb him. I decided after a moment's thought that he'd probably prefer to have me present even if I was going to make noise.
"Really?" my mother asked skeptically. "Being a vampire is a fate worse than death according to Quil?"
Jake had worn himself out, and didn't answer; I speculated in his place. "For a little girl, maybe," I said. "Especially if she's not definitely dying."
"I think we're veering a little too far away from the information we actually have," Siobhan said. "Alice, can you catch an image of Claire when she's not affected by wolves, or does Quil hover too much to allow that?"
"Uh, hang on," said Alice. "...I've got a look at her sleeping, alone in her room. She looks fine to me."
"There goes that idea," my mother said. "I suppose there could just be a gap in the schedule, if they have a schedule, of who keeps an eye out for Jacob?"
"Possibly," I said. "So there could be two, and Jake phased between when the one went off duty and Quil took over..."
"Or Addy found out a way to poach him that we haven't thought of and he's trying to get in touch with Jake," said Siobhan, "or something else is going on. We don't know, and have no good way to get more data. Let's get back to the issue with Pera. We don't have a mate for her handy. We can't guarantee that Elspeth will be able to deprogram her. She has no Genevieve-like relatives lurking in Mexico that the Volturi have plausibly overlooked. And she could singlehandedly kill us all with the exception of Allirea, anybody Allirea shields, and maybe Kate. Discuss."
"Somebody could e-mail her and offer to bribe her outright," I said. "Doesn't have to be someone known to be affiliated with the resistance - we could make a dummy account or something, or pretend to be another person altogether."
"She probably has weaker connections to the guard than most," mused Siobhan, "because she's hidden so much of the time and Chelsea can't work on her incidentally throughout the day like she can with everyone else... so something like that might work."
"Razi," my mother said, naming the teleporter witch who'd escaped the dungeon for good. "Pera could sneak up on him and take him apart and bring him home, especially if Demetri were still alive - she's probably the only way he'd ever get recaptured. He'd be a believable source for a bribe offer. But what would he - or anyone - offer? The Volturi aren't cagey with their vast fortune when they're trying to keep their guard happy..."
"Alice, can you see Razi?" Siobhan asked abruptly. "I wrote off the possibility of getting him to help us before, because we had no way to find him, but even though he never managed to develop the ability to take passengers for all Addy's trying, he would be outrageously useful..."
"Sure," Alice said. "Plain as day. He's all over the place, though. He's in Shanghai - aaaaand now he's underwater someplace - that's France or at least someplace that has French on the signs - a boreal forest of some kind - the man cannot hold still, I'm going to get dizzy - is that Tasmania?"
I heard a pen scratching. "Does his moving around mean that you can't share a vision with him?" Siobhan asked.
"What are you writing?" my mother asked, as Alice said, "I don't think so."
"A description of Pera's power - I'm leaving out Demetri's fate for the time being to make it sound more threatening - and an offer to let him join us and a statement of where we are," Siobhan said.
"Razi doesn't have a mate," I remembered. "Maybe he'll wind up mated to Pera. He hasn't met her yet."
"We'd better hope he winds up that way after agreeing to join us, and not before, if that's the case," Siobhan said gravely. "Bella, is there anything you think I should add to the note?"
"Tell him he can contact us by writing something so Alice can see it, in case he has further questions," my mother proposed.
"Now that is one way to go skydiving..." Alice muttered, presumably observing Razi teleport himself somewhere high above the ground. He usually didn't let himself hit bottom. "Say when."
"When," said Siobhan.
We waited, silently, and then Alice said, "He's -"
"Hello," said Razi's voice from Siobhan's end of the phone connection, wary, but cordial.
"Welcome," said Siobhan. "Elspeth, would you like to join us to help catch our guest up on what's been going on?"
"On my way," I said, hopping to my feet and taking off down the mountain with a brief wave in my mother's direction. I kept the phone open and held to my ear in case more was said while I was en route.
"Who's Elspeth?" asked Razi suspiciously.
"Elspeth is a half-vampire witch whose power involves being able to communicate very quickly and understandably," Siobhan said.
"You might remember me from when you escaped from the dungeon," I said. "I was there."
"I didn't notice you," he said. "As soon as I had my senses back I got out."
"I caused it," I said. "By replacing Addy's power."
"Thank you," said Razi. It seemed like an awfully terse - albeit sincere-sounding - thing to say under the circumstances, but Memory informed me that Razi wasn't the type to attach extraneous words just to make the same basic message sound more context-appropriate.
"You're welcome. I'll be there in a couple minutes, and then I can tell you - or show you - whatever you want to know," I said, beginning to compose a summary in my head that carefully excluded pictures of Pera in case it was necessary to save that possibility for later.
"I look forward to it," he said, with the strange discontinous ripple in his voice that meant he was flickering from place to place mid-word.
I turned up at the houses soon after. "Which house are you in?" I asked into the phone.
"Over here in the gray, Elspeth," said Siobhan, from the middle house of the three, and I ducked inside it; Siobhan and Razi were both in the large front hall, along with Alice, and the two American nomads Mary and Randall. I heard footsteps shuffling around up the stairs, and spotted Liam through the open door into the next room, where he kept an eye on his mate and the newcomer. Razi was swapping locations every second or two between the corner of the colorful rug and a spot three feet to the left of it. He'd shaved off what patches of hair his time in the dungeon had left him, presumably for a more even look than the patches of what had previously been a long head of black hair, and he had his arms folded and a skeptical look on his face.
"Hi, Razi," I said. "Do you want me to tell you anything specific, or just hit you with a summary of everything important straight off?"
Siobhan was looking apprasingly at Razi's less-than-comfortable body language and location-jumping, and said to me, "Why don't you just start with the part where we don't wish him any harm."
"We don't wish you any harm," I obliged. The teleportation slowed down a little, although he didn't relax his posture at all. "We just want your help. We don't like the Volturi, and want them to go away, and we figure you don't like them either, and would also want them to go away." I copied his style of speaking deliberately, remembering that he tended to become impatient with more roundabout ways of talking.
"Approximately correct," he said. "I don't dare jump into Volterra, though. I could land someplace where Alec is projecting a field, or close enough to Jane that she can knock me down, or something with one of the others who were in there with me - I have no idea what they do - could happen."
"With people helping you, the situation wouldn't be irrecoverable if something like that happened," Siobhan pointed out. I had the impression that she was mimicking his style too.
"What, specifically, do you want me to do?" he asked.
"We don't know yet," she said. "Elspeth, go ahead with the summary."
I looked to Razi for confirmation, and he nodded once, and I flung the condensed version of who was who and what information we had at him.
Razi disappeared, and I opened my mouth to make some displeased sound, but Siobhan held up one finger. "Give him a minute. He could just be going someplace more comfortable to process everything."
Sure enough, thirty seconds later, he popped back into place, newly damp and with a bit of seaweed clinging to his shirt. "You lead an interesting life," he told me.
"Recently, yes," I agreed.
"Want in?" Siobhan asked.
"I'll bail on you if it goes badly," he stated, twitching six inches to the right.
"I wouldn't expect you to die for a failed attempt at a coup when you could just as easily escape to the middle of the Gobi Desert," said Siobhan derisively, as though he was stupid to have bothered pointing out anything so obvious. "I just want you to try to help make it go well, and not turn on us outright."
"Do we have a plan?" he inquired archly.
"About a quarter of one," Siobhan said. "Elspeth here can reverse some of what Chelsea does - the generative half, not the destructive half. Also, she's a wolf's imprint, and so wolves won't attack her. That means she can in theory enter the wolf village and deprogram them safely."
"Won't they be expecting that?" Razi asked, twitching to a spot behind me and then back to his original location.
"I learned to deprogram people after leaving Volterra," I said. "They don't know I can. They do know wolves won't attack me, but since that doesn't prevent the wolves from attacking anyone I bring with me, or holding me still, or telling the vampires I'm there, it wouldn't normally be that dangerous without the deprogramming on top of it."
"Then what?" Razi said.
"Do you know who Allirea is?" Siobhan said. "It just occurred to me that with Bella too far away to shield her, Elspeth will have neglected her existence."
"Huh?" I said.
"Case in point. Well?" Siobhan said.
"Haven't heard of her," Razi said. "Why would Elspeth neglect her existence?"
I rolled my eyes as Siobhan prattled to Razi about trivialities, again. I understood that we didn't need to feel too hurried, but it was such a waste of time even so. I watched Mary and Randall play backgammon, in a variation that seemed to be mostly about who could best get the dice to fall favorably via assorted methods of cheating. Alice was sitting at Tanya's harp, looking at it but not playing; as I observed she reached out and turned a page on the sheet music sitting on the nearby stand.
"Elspeth," Siobhan said.
"We're done talking about boring, unimportant things now," Siobhan told me dryly. "You can stop zoning out."
"Oh," I said. "Good."
"So apart from what I just discussed, and possibly Kate," Siobhan told Razi, "Pera is basically unstoppable."
"Wait," I said, "we have somebody besides Kate who could fight Pera?"
Siobhan rolled her eyes. "It doesn't matter, Elspeth. Anyway. Razi, even you could be in deep trouble if Pera snuck up on you and separated your head from your body. Since it's possible that Elspeth won't get any chance to deprogram her, the other thing we thought of was figuring out in advance via Alice if Pera will find a mate on our side, so we can plan around that. Nobody we've already signed on is a candidate, but..."
"You want me to have a look at her?" Razi asked. "I suppose if she's my mate, at least that way I won't need to add "paranoia about a witch who can behead me on no notice" to the list of things that make me want to risk trying to teleport to the Moon..."
Siobhan nodded. "Alice?"
"Can't see her just now," Alice told her.
Siobhan frowned, then looked at me. "As long as Alice can't do it, might as well give your communication style a try," she said. "If it doesn't work we'll have Alice try when Pera's about to be visible again... if it does we'll have learned something new."
"Hold on a second," Razi said. "If Elspeth shows me Pera, and my reaction is something on the lines of "this woman is lovelier than the stars and I wish to spend the rest of my eternal life with her", what is it precisely that you want me to do after, presumably, dropping myself into her room and getting the reciprocal response? I can't teleport her here. How's she supposed to get out?"
"She can do that by herself if she wants," Siobhan said. "She just has to hide and... walk out. They were very, very careful about turning her, because after doing that it became impractical to have Addy physically control her, and now they don't even have Addy."
"Speaking of which, do you know where Addy is so I can at least mildly injure her before she takes my power and escapes?" Razi said. "I owe her for putting me in that dungeon."
"We'd like nothing more than for you to displace the power we think she has now, which is mine," Siobhan said with a sigh, "but we don't have her whereabouts. She's blocking Alice with a half-vampire or a wolf."
"Damn," he said. "Anyway. Let's have a look at Pera," he said, looking back in my direction.
I offered him a purely visual memory of Addy's, for the benefit of vampirically clear vision and because of the fact that she was my only source of memories of Pera as a vampire. In theory, human Pera would have had the same effect, but it seemed like a better idea to present her in her current form.
Razi tilted his head at a peculiar angle and quit flickering. "Where is she?" he asked in a low voice.
"Is she -" I started to ask.
"Obviously," he said snappishly. "Where is she?"
"Hang on, Alice," muttered Siobhan. "Are you planning to bring her back, Razi, or run off with her by yourself and forget about helping us with the Volturi?"
"Show me where Pera is," Razi said insistently to Alice, who shook her head once, and Siobhan frowned and dialed what sounded like Maggie's number. "What are you doing?" he demanded.
"I'm calling my lie-detector friend," Siobhan said. "Convince said friend that you're going to do your best to convince Pera to come here, let Elspeth deprogram her, and help us - again, I don't expect her to do anything other than flee at top speed if things go seriously south - and Alice will show you where your mate is so you can go fetch her."
"Hello?" said Maggie's voice, and Siobhan recited a condensed version of the Razi-related events, while the teleporter fumed and began jumping around the room again.
"How do I know this isn't some kind of trap for her?" he demanded.
"How would we trap her?" I asked, bewildered. "Kate has a kind of defense against her, potentially, but no offense."
"If you got her to unhide and Allirea was there - ugh, never mind, you wouldn't understand," he snarled, red eyes flashing as he appeared standing on top of Mary and Randall's backgammon game. Randall hissed at him, annoyed, and Razi jumped back to his spot on the carpet.
I blinked, puzzled, by this statement - I had an awful lot of memories about what it was like to have a mate, in spite of lacking one of my own, so I thought it was reasonable to imagine that I would understand. But I let it go, and said, "Not only do we not have a way to hurt Pera, we wouldn't want to if we didn't have to. My mother wants to be queen of the world and use the hiding place as a kind of jail for vampires who break laws, as an intermediate step between letting people off with a warning and the death penalty."
Randall and Mary looked up at that. "How would the prisoners hunt?" exclaimed Mary, shocked.
"That's actually kind of the idea, is that they would have to hunt animals or at least only drink blood that nobody died to produce," I said. Randall shuddered, and looked like he might lodge some complaint, but Razi interrupted.
"Tell me where she is," he snarled at Alice, appearing inches away from the tiny precog, and Jasper rushed into the room, a blur flashing down the stairs to stand near Alice and growl menacingly. Razi's hostile body language diminished, presumably as a result of Jasper practicing his empathy, and he flickered away from Alice.
"Here," Siobhan said, offering Razi the phone. "Tell her."
He snatched the phone out of her hand and brought it to his ear in one continuous motion. "Hello," he snapped. "When I find Pera I will attempt to talk her into joining this little group and its efforts to destroy the Volturi, with the "deprogramming" that implies. Satisfied?" He thrust the phone back into Siobhan's hand; Maggie's little voice trilled out of it a confirmatory response.
"Close enough," said Siobhan. "Elspeth, hit him with our contact information - Razi, you seem to be in a hurry, so I won't bother you about obtaining a phone of your own today. You can just swipe one or teleport into somebody's house with a landline if you need us. But that means we'll have to ask Alice to show you a note if we need to get ahold of you."
"Fine," barked Razi as I sent him everyone's phone numbers. "Fine. Just show me where -"
"Go for it, Alice," Siobhan said.
Alice closed her eyes. "There -" she started to say, but Razi was already gone.
After a beat, Siobhan said, "Well, that was convenient."
"Now he's invisible too," frowned Alice.
"Of course he is," Siobhan replied, letting out a breath through her teeth.
"Do you think he'll bother to stop back here, or just escort her?" I asked.
"I'm not sure," Siobhan said. "He has enough information to gather that we'll be able to notice his hiddenness, so he might assume there's no reason to check in if she agrees to come here. At any rate, Elspeth, you can go back to your wolf now unless there was something else here you wanted to accomplish."
"This will make getting everybody onto a plane easier," I observed. "Pera can just hide us and we can walk right on."
"That's if Razi succeeds - if he doesn't change his mind entirely," Siobhan said. "We have cause for optimism, but there are still wild cards, including Pera's suggestibility. And the fact that we still don't know what Addy is up to. That said, yes, our transportational woes will be effectively over with Pera on our side."
"Are we invincible if Pera decides to help us?" I asked.
"No," Siobhan sighed. "Their witches are better equipped to fight her than the few we've got. If Benjamin figures out where Pera is, he may be able to set her on fire by setting some object near her on fire. Vasanti's animals, like animals in general, are going to be in both the hiding place and outside, so Vasanti will be able to keep track of her. We don't know if Corin's shield or Emere's knife will go through to the hiding place, but they might. Li-qing's gravity adjustments will probably be just as able to catch Pera in midair as anyone else. Pera will be able to hear Pyotr if he commands her to do something whether she's hidden or not. Emel could at least inconvenience Pera with shaped metal getting in the way of whatever she was trying to do. And we don't know if Marcus's sight can observe people in the hiding place, but I would be surprised if it couldn't, especially as long as the hidden person has relationships with unhidden people. No. We are not invincible. We are not even slightly invincible. But we have a fighting chance, now."