Chapter 5

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Terra started to pull out on her motorcycle, then thought better of it. She should check in with her central contact first - if anything just that it appeased Walt. She took out her viewer, pushed a few buttons, and waited for the encryption to enable. Putting it to her ear she listened for a response.

"Hey, Hex. Just checking in."

"Hey, Terra. Are you staying out of trouble?"

"Well, mostly." She continued before Hex could question her further. "I met with the informant and he pointed me to someone named Will Sall. Dig up what info you can on him? I think he normally lives up in Freehold, but travels a fair amount."

"Will. Sall. Got it. 'Will' do!"

Terra groaned. "That was a really bad pun, even by your lax standards. Anyway, he may be here in Stronghold now. I am going to try to meet him. That is if he is 'Will'ing."

"Good come back." He paused. "Oh, Terra, there was an incident a few days ago at a tavern along the road between here and Stronghold. Seems a female Talent with long dark hair roughed up three locals, one of them from a prominent family. You wouldn't know anything about that would you?"

"Who, me?"

"Yeah. That's what I thought. But don't worry. The local police do not have many leads, and I hacked the report and changed a few details to throw them off some more."

"Thanks, Hex, for having my back."

"Always do. Stay safe, Terra."

Terra pocketed her viewer and rode over to the Crossroads Tavern that Lar told her about. True to its name, it was indeed located at the crossing of two major roads. She stopped short - there stood Will. He and another, a tall lanky and younger man with brown hair, strained to move what looked like a large metal valve from one beat-up flatbed truck into another. His arm muscles bulged as they lifted the load onto the truck bed. 

If he is a powerful Talent, why does he not use his telekinetic power to move the valve?

Will and the younger man tied down the valve and brushed the dust off their clothes. They laughed and slapped each other on the back as they went in to the tavern. Terra parked her motorcycle on the other side of the building in a gravel lot and walked around the building before entering herself. The tavern was a well kept two-story building with an add-on at the back, likely the owner's residence. The inside featured a long polished wooden bar along one side lined with stools and sets of wooden tables with chairs dispersed orderly about the room. All classic tavern décor. A bartender stood behind the bar busy cleaning. A set of stairs in the back led up to what likely were additional rooms.

Only a few other men sat inside, two having an animated conversation at a table off to the side and another quietly drinking from a mug at the bar. 

Will and his companion sat at a table near the back and peered over some sort of technical drawing or schematic that they unfolded on the table. Terra sat down at a table close to Will, but not too close. The younger man shared a joke that she could not quite hear and both of the men laughed out loud. They then looked back down at the diagram before them and began a discussion. Terra only caught a few phrases: "What were they thinking?"; "..never use a fast-closing valve in a pipeline..."; "...make sure you...". They laughed again at something funny.

Terra took a few minutes to study Will as covertly as she could. Simple observation often revealed much about a person and that had served her well in the past. However, she also knew a degree of objectivity must be held as sometimes appearances were misleading. He wore a simple green tee-shirt, damp in spots from sweat; pants of rugged brown fabric and somewhat worn; and sturdy but well used boots. His calloused hands featured more than a few scrapes.

This is the appearance more of a common working man than a powerful upper-class Talent.

The two men shook hands warmly and the younger one stood up. He nearly tripped over Terra as he walked toward the door, reaching to the table to steady himself.

"Oh, pardon me." He said with a small gesture and a smile.

Will did not notice the near collision as he continued to look intently at the diagram and jotted a few notes on his viewer. Terra continued to study him. His mussed sandy-brown hair would have been unruly if it had been any longer. He was fairly tall, trim but not skinny, and with well defined muscles. A two day stubble grew on an otherwise gentle face.  His deep green eyes held a hint of mischief.  And, oh that smile.

Down girl! Stay on task.

She shifted mentally to the aura to check the extent of his Talent. This was done carefully, as she could just as easily reveal her strength to him at the same time, but he remained so intent at his task that he likely would not notice. Nothing. She checked again, no aura at all.

How can this be? Everything has an aura! Is there some kind of interference? He either has extremely low levels of Talent or he is very adept at concealing it.

She was going to have to get closer to him, but first some preparation. She stood up, walked back to the lavatory room, and looked in the mirror. She sighed.

I look like a mess!

Terra snuck quietly out the back door of the tavern and retrieved a few items from the motorcycle saddlebags. Returning to the lavatory, she washed her face and ran a brush through her hair. Not normally one for makeup, she decided some enhancement would be helpful. Finally, she unbuttoned a few more of her shirt buttons to show some cleavage. She pivoted in front of the mirror. Her long dark hair softly flowed as she moved, one of her best features. A slim face with high cheekbones, coppery skin, and amber eyes defined her facial appearance.

Not exactly top model material, but I can distract a man. All in the line of duty, of course.

She returned the items to her motorcycle and walked back into the tavern. She glanced around the room as if confused, and drew Will's attention.

"Excuse me, would you help me with something?"

He looked up and let his eyes survey her body, stopping between her breasts where her pendant lay. His eyes shot up to hers and widened. "You... Are you Terra Lorr?"

Terra's mouth opened wide, but she was not able to speak.

A grin came over his face. "You are! I was hoping to someday meet you some day, but it seems you found me first."

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