“Splash? A splash effect?” Lina blinked. “I – oh, like ripples?”
“Something like that,” Jackson agreed. “I don’t know enough magical physics-”
“I didn’t even know magical physics was a thing,” she cut in.
“Well, to be fair,” Ethan put in, “did you know magic was a thing, like, a week ago?”
“Not outside of my little forcefields. And I was still figuring them out,” she admitted. “I still am,” she whispered.
“The point being, if you did, I bet you’d have been learning magical physics. You’re smart. Right?” He looked over at Mrs. Thompson.
The teacher made a face like she didn’t quite want to argue. “I’ve always said that Catalina was an A student who had decided not to be-” she began.
Jackson didn’t even say anything, just glared. Mrs. Thompson fell silent.
Lina looked between the two of them. “…what?” she whispered. “I mean-”
“It’s a shitty thing to say about someone and more about someone who’s trying to save the fucking world,” Jackson bit off.
“Lina’s smart,” Ethan cut in. “And uh, badass. That’s what matters. So what are we doing this time?”
“Depends on where we’re going,” Lina answered, letting herself be distracted rather than just be confused. “But either way, we’re going to stop the wave and push it back in on itself. Sort of fold it over-” She grabbed the notepad and started sketching. “Something like this. The idea is to take all its momentum away so it doesn’t just wash back and hit more people going backwards. We have to contain it all- what?”
Dylan had a look on his face like he’d been hit with a truck. “It’s – it’s magic, yeah? Everyone’s magic?”
“It is,” Jackson agreed slowly.
“Lina, she’s channeling people’s magic. People can channel other people’s magic.”
“People can, yes, with a bond.” Jackson spoke slowly, like he wasn’t sure he was going to like what came next.
“And the power plant can channel people’s magic.”
“Well, not well, but-” He blinked. “We’d need someone who was really good at being a conduit. I don’t even know if there’s anyone who’s been known for that sort of thing since- Shit.”
Dylan ducked his head. “You know you’ve been channeling like a third of it through me. You can direct it, I’ve watched. Sorry, uh, sorry Lina. I mean, you’re doing the heavy lifting, but uh.”
Jackson huffed quietly. “You’re an idiot, Dylan, and I’m not going to let you burn yourself out just because you’re an idiot.”
“Doesn’t it fix the problem, though?”
Lina looked between the two of them. “Would someone please explain this? Because it sounds nuts.”
“Dylan is a conduit.”
“And you didn’t mention this before, why? Also, what, exactly, is a conduit?” Lina tried to sound calm and quiet. She wasn’t sure how good a job she did, but nobody was staring at them, at least.
“He can hold and channel power. You can, of course, when you’re using it. I think he might be a force multiplier, too, but we haven’t had time.” Jackson looked at Dylan. “You thought you didn’t have magic.”
“Not sure this counts,” he muttered. “But I can do this, I can give her the power, some of it, so she can push the whole thing back better.”
“Wait. You’re seriously talking about using the power of the power plant to — to stop the power plant?”
“It’s magic. I channel magic.” Dylan glared at Jackson. “Down there, when we were stopping the first wave, Jackson noticed. He used me to, uh, like a regulator on the power line. You know. I think, I think that’s what he was doing? I think that’s what I was doing.”
“And that’s the problem.” Jackson hissed it out angrily. “We think that’s what we were doing. I — we — we — you can’t risk this with an I think. After testing, sure. But you know what happens, don’t tell me you don’t—“
“Tell me,” Lina interrupted again. She was ready to throw things.
“All right.” Jackson looked away. “Okay.” His voice was calm again, quiet. “A conduit can hold a certain amount of power, channel a certain amount. It’s generally — usually, people do things like you did yesterday with an hours-long ritual and a formal conduit who takes everyone’s will and aims it. I—“. He huffed quietly. “I’d thought about it and dismissed it because the rituals are almost completely unknown and we have none of the parts.”
“So you thought it was better to, uh, bind dozens of people to me?”
“It has the side effect of protecting you — all of us — because you have a power base.” Now his voice was very barely audible. “I thought — i think — we’ll need it. But. But yeah. Conduits.” He sighed. “I think it’s a bad idea to try this today. And we don’t have anything for a ritual.”
“Compromise.” Ethan looked between the two of them. “Put Dylan in as the conduit with a basic Marlowe and Stowe ritual — come on, Jackson, you know everything, you don’t know — you don’t. Is that just my aunts, because—. Because?”
“I don’t know it.” Jackson let out a pained noise. Lina put her hand on his, wishing she understood half of this. “I’ve never even heard of it. Marlowe and Stowe?”
“I can do it well enough for this. So she has the people bound to her and the rest are just, uh. The step below what you and Mrs. Thompson here are.”
“Why didn’t you mention this before, man?” Jackson shook his head. “Before—“
“We were in a hell of a rush and, uh. I figured same thing you did. There’s gonna be a lot of opposition, and we’re, uh. We’ve put ourselves on her side, or she put us on her side, or something.”
“Okay, okay.” The bus was slowing to a stop. “Guys. Jackson makes this decision. After this, everyone explains. Dylan, don’t do anything stupid. Stupider than normal. Nobody get themselves killed or, uh, braindead or anything. Got it?”
They all stared at her for a heartbeat before nodding in ragged chorus.
“First.” Lina was grim. “We have to ask the officer what we’re doing.”