Kepa watched as Latxe’s fingers swiped around on the surface of her tablet, trying to figure out what the strokes might mean, but they were incomprehensible to him. She might as well have been waving her hands in the air, casting some kind of magic spell, for all it meant to him.
When she was done, stairs started materializing in the space in front of them, growing almost organically out of the floor and the ceiling until the two halves met perfectly in the middle. At the same time, a small opening appeared in the ceiling at the top of the stairs.
While Kepa had seen the nanobots create doors out of nothing before, this was a whole new level. He couldn’t help stare at the stairs in front of him. He ran his hand along the smooth surface. There was no seam or anything where the two halves joined. He would never have been able to tell where they met.
“These nanobots are so amazing,” he said. “I never would have believed something like this could be possible. It’s almost like magic.”
Latxe looked at him. “Look,” she began. “You keep saying things like that, being amazed at things that anyone from here would simply take for granted.” Her eyes almost turned cold as she looked at him. “Who are you? Where are you from, really?”
Sweat started beading on Kepa’s brow. Latxe was the one friend he had in this bubble, and his one hope of rescuing Maite. He couldn’t afford to alienate her. “The United States?” he asked more than answered.
Latxe threw up her hands. “I don’t know what the hell I’m doing here. For all I know, you work for him,” she said as she gestured vaguely to the ceiling above them. “I don’t know what you’ve done to Olatz, what kind of threat you made to her, but I’m done with this.” Latxe turned away from him and began swiping at her tablet.
“Ez!” exclaimed Kepa. “No!” His shoulders slumped. “I’ll tell you.”
Latxe turned back to face him, her fingers paused above the screen, her face expectant.
“I’m from the past,” began Kepa as he more fell than sat on the stairs. “Maite is too.”
“The past?” exclaimed Latxe incredulously. “You expect me to believe in time travel? Of all of the bullshit I’ve heard, this tops it all.”
“Seriously,” replied Kepa. “We’re from the early twenty-first century. We’re here to retreive a magical artifact…”
“Time travel and magic?” interrupted Latxe. “What next? Are you going to tell me we are all part of some computer game controlled by some kid in his mother’s basement? That none of this is real?”
“It’s real,” replied Kepa with a tinge of guilt. “But so is the magic.” He held out his hand, palm up. His brow furrowed as he focused on his hand. It started to glow, only slightly at first, growing in intensity and brightness until Latxe had to look away.
“What the hell was that?” she asked as spots danced in her vision.
“Magic,” said Kepa.
Latxe shook her head. “No, I don’t believe it. It has to be some new nanobot trick. And you keep acting like you don’t know what the nanobots are.”
“What the hell?” exclaimed a voice from above. “Where did this hole come from?”
The face of a woman peered into the hole. “Who the hell are you two? How did you get in? Central,” she began, “there are… ah!”
Kepa had thrown his hand up and released a flash of light that took the woman by surprise, blinding her. He rushed up the stairs as the woman staggered back, covering her mouth before she could alert her colleagues. Latxe followed him up, and helped him tie the woman up.
“Magic, huh?” asked Latxe as she pulled on the knot of the gag that covered the woman’s mouth.
Kepa nodded sheepishly. “Bai.”
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