Chapter Twenty, Keys

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Bennie found Perce, Sean, Gemini, and Peter all waiting quietly outside, the racket of questions, arguments, and teasing aptly silenced by Aila's formidable display.

"Respect her need for rest and quiet," Aila said to them. "In fact, I suggest we all get some rest and quiet, now everyone's been debriefed."

Bennie, stressed, confused, and with the sickest stomach in her life, was not about to mince words with anyone. She wanted straight answers from Perce and Perce alone, but she didn't want anyone else around.

"Bennie—" Peter started.

"Just call me later," Bennie said, trying to sound as calm as possible. "I'm still feeling awful, just want to lie down." She turned to Perce. "Mind taking me home?"

"No problem," Perce said, seeming to understand. "Hey Sean, Bennie needs to talk to me so you don't have to rush back with us. We'll take the teleporters."

"I'll see y'all later," Bennie gave Sean and Gemini hugs.

"Be careful," Gemini said with force enough to make anyone believe she'd kill them with a look if they disobeyed.

***

"Perce, we need to talk," Bennie said once they were alone, walking to the teleporters.

"Yeah, I noticed," Perce said sheepishly. "You gave me the same stare you mother did that day at the hospital back at Aila's when you asked me to take you home. So just how much trouble am I in?"

"Perce, it's not funny." Bennie said irritably. "You're not telling me something and I know it."

Perce was quiet as Bennie quickly ranted about how Aila had explained about the Guardian who just happened to be in the vicinity when she and Peter were attacked, able to respond long before Sean could have gotten help from Pelanca.

"Perce, I'm fifteen but I'm not a fool. The acid Reyortsed's goons attacked me with was too slow to kill me before help could arrive; that's what Aila said. And she wouldn't lie. It's almost as if killing us wasn't their intention, just incapacitation.

"And to top it off, the random mage was there to jump right in and take over, when Peter knows of no other Guardians live within 20 miles of his house.

"Since there were only the two of us, really, why would Reyortsed have anyone there at all? Surely the area can't be that important to them, and if they were seeking out the mage they'd have looked for him in a more obvious place, wouldn't they? Because I highly doubt they'd be able to follow him without his knowing.

"There were at least five of those critters there, more than anyone with common sense would send only one person against, so he wasn't following them."

Perce never broke eye contact with her, taking her every word to heart.

"The mage was following us wasn't he? Notice he didn't show himself until he knew we wouldn't win. He wouldn't want to blow his cover too easily."

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