Wednesday 1st August
Kenny took away all of it: her memory of meeting him by the fountain in the town square, the memories of sending and receiving messages using the magic notepad, the one of where they had met in the park the first time and he had given her the feather with which she had almost tortured him by caressing it so tenderly, that of him collecting the feather from her that evening, and finally the more recent ones. He took painstaking efforts to make sure the transitions between the starts and finishes of the removed memories were seamless, somewhat helped by the way the Ring of Subjugation had made her feel normal every time he hadn’t been interacting with her. He had to harden his heart as she stopped recognising his mental voice, as she called the ‘Order’ song “depressing”. He desperately wanted to stop the mind-wiping when she thought she was having a sad and lonely dream, but he knew that would have left her extremely confused about the scene in the park. He barely cared that Joel and Susanna would try to jog her memory when they found out he had mind-wiped Jennifer anyway: it wouldn’t work with such a thorough, careful wipe. It might confuse and annoy her, but at least she wouldn’t think she had the choice of helping /him/ anymore. He couldn’t believe he had been so careless earlier tonight. Letting her count the feather ridges, telling her that she could help him... It had been reckless and he could’ve ruined her life. No, it was far better that things were this way. Being an orchestrator of so much pain anyway, a Guardian strove to keep extra damage at an absolute minimum. Letting Jennifer become cold, letting her be aware of the people who caused bad things to happen and think she was one of them... no, he couldn’t have that.
He finished singing, felt Jennifer enter a dreamless sleep and finally let go of her hand. He pulled out the feather, sighing slightly as he braced himself for what he was going to see.
The second strand on the left hand of the stem after the sixth ridge had turned white. 6.3. Kenny winced. That was very high - even higher than he had expected. It was definitely for the better that Jennifer had forgotten. They were too much of a risk to each other.
He left her room, forcing himself not to take one last look at her to try to capture the image of her sleeping face, so free of worry and younger- and more innocent-looking, so soft and smooth and beautiful, and arrived in the apartment the Order had provided for him.
He would go to see his superior later on that day. For now he just wanted to fall asleep and forget the wretched world he lived in.
Kenny’s mission-giver, Frey, a middle-aged Guardian with brown hair and hazel-coloured eyes under glasses with lenses in the shape of parallelograms, met him in his office: a tall, grand room with a chessboard floor, white walls and black furniture save for the glass chandelier that hung above where they sat in leather chairs on either side of his desk.
“What news do you bring today?” he asked formally. Outside the Council Halls, Frey was a warm and friendly man but the Halls had the kind of atmosphere that subdued bubbly people and made everyone feel that any other mood than stern sobriety was inappropriate for the centre of Council activities.
“I accomplished the mind wipe and I took the notepad and ring from Miss Towner. Unfortunately, I have been seen by Master Maine and the other Miss Towner. The reception was as to be expected but fortunately there was no physical or magical combat.” Kenny hesitated, swallowing and staring fixedly at the glossy black wood of the desk, knowing he had to make a full report but hating that fact as he said “I caused a Chaos level of 6.3 - I think, by distracting Miss J Towner with a couple of mental songs as I wiped her mind... and by feeling distressed to be doing so.”
“Even for that, 6.3 seems unreasonably high, Kenner.”
“I know,” Kenny whispered, “but I finished it. I don’t think it would be an exaggeration to say that the mind-wipe I performed last night was my personal best. I know that if I ever attempt to interact with her again, she will not recognise me and thus I believe the risk is lessened. I am now determined to finish my mission as speedily as possible - although of course with an absolute minimum of extra damage - and once I have finished this mission, I may put in a request to never perform a mission in England again. Breaking her sister’s heart will certainly help me to desire to avoid J. Towner but it never hurts to be extra careful. I don’t wish to cause the same problem as Master Maine has.”
“T for the tears,” Frey said, looking at Kenny intently.
Kenny met his gaze directly and responded “to kill the fires.”
Frey nodded. He looked at the paperwork in front of him that he had been filling out as Kenny had been speaking and, looking genuinely sorry, asked “If what it took to stop Master Maine and Miss S Towner was to cause something to happen to Miss J Towner, could you?”
“No,” Kenny confessed softly.
“It is highly unlikely that it will come to that, Kenner, but the Council may be unhappy with your continuation of this mission.”
Carefully, Kenny said “I think that perhaps there is still room for me to be given a chance?”
“Certainly 6.3 is high but it is below 6.5. If, however, you try to interact with Miss J Towner during your mission, or, in fact, for whatever reason, cause a Chaos level .2 units higher, you know that I have to withdraw you.”
“Would you like a mission partner?”
Kenny considered it. A mission partner would be a pleasant distraction from the mission, in the moments when they weren’t working towards it, and if they were a girl, they could befriend Susanna and achieve things that Kenny could not do on his own, especially now she knew that he was the enemy... But Kenny spent so much of his time on his own that he didn’t know if it would be fair for anyone to be partnered with him.
“No, thank you, Frey,” he replied.
Frey sighed again.
“It is your choice alone, Kenner, but are you certain? It could be particularly useful if you grew close to them.”
“I realize that,” Kenny said softly. “That is not the reason I am rejecting one. I ... simply think I work best alone.”
Frey nodded, although he didn’t quite look wholly pleased.
“I understand. Well, then, Kenner, there is nothing else that I have to say. Is there anything else you have to report?”
“Then you are dismissed. Thank you for today’s report. May the next one be the final one for this mission.”
“That would be a good situation,” Kenny replied truthfully. He stood up. “May you be strong and continue your Duty.”
“May you be strong too,” Frey replied.
Kenny left the room. Outside the Council Halls, he instantly transported himself back to Earth. He took a walk around town, starting to think about how to go about breaking Joel and Susanna up. He even scribbled a few ideas down in his notepad:
1) Break-up text sent from S’s or J’s phone
2) Delay Joel so he stands Susanna up for a date (important one?)
3) Influence Susanna to dump Joel (in person)
He had to admit that they didn’t sound brilliant, except perhaps for the last one, which could work if the others failed, but they were all he had for now. The problem was that the first two could really have done with Jennifer’s help - he couldn’t imagine ever laying hands on Joel’s phone, but Jennifer could have got him Susanna’s. And Jennifer could have told him when Susanna and Joel were planning an ‘important’ date.
Kenny felt annoyed with himself for thinking about Jennifer. Wasn’t it bad enough that unwittingly becoming attached to her had caused a Chaos level of 6.3? He couldn’t afford to lose sight of what he was doing and why. Just because she had seemed to understand the things he did, just because she seemed like a beautifully caring person, didn’t mean he should abandon the path he had chosen. He just wished he had pressed her to react negatively when he had talked about his Initiation exam and the hypothetical situations in which it had been him who had caused the death of someone dear to her. That might have made it easier, he thought, for her to hate him.
He almost didn’t notice when a tall girl with long fair hair and large sunglasses sat beside him.