11. Sponsor – 1

Raven immediately began pelting Ellis with questions, but Ellis refused to tell her more about the sponsor she would be meeting. “You’ll see soon enough.”

She knew that, but she would have liked to be prepared. Excitement and anxiety battled inside her. Who wanted to sponsor her and why? Did she even want a sponsor? Part of her still held onto the possibility that her parents would get her out of here. At the same time, even if she ended up only having to stay for three months, she wanted to have a stabilizer. A stabilizer would give her more access to her magic. With her bullies and some unknown person targeting her, having a larger pool of power was an advantage she could use.

Settled on at least considering the possibility of getting a sponsor, Raven mentally prepared herself to meet them. Ellis stopped in front of a door near where she met with her parents during their visit. This door was right next to that office. Ellis gave a short knock and then opened the door, nodding for Raven to step in. Taking a calming breath, Raven walked inside. Before she could take things in, a man’s voice called out to her.

“Ah, there you are Ms. Delias.”

Raven blinked as she looked up at the familiar face of Dr. Kesson. The older man wore a gray turtleneck over khakis. It was almost like he was on a casual day out. His bright blue eyes glinted in excitement at the sight of her. Immediately, Raven was wary.

“You’re the one who wants to sponsor me,” Raven asked, peering behind him. There was an empty table with two chairs and a stack of papers, but otherwise, there was no one else in the room.

“Yes,” he said with a wide smile. “If you’re looking for Micah, he’s not here. He’s with his mother at the dojo. Perfect timing, otherwise he would have insisted on coming.

Raven flushed. “I wasn’t looking for him.”

Dr. Kesson gave her a knowing smile. “Come, sit down. There is much I want to discuss with you.”

Raven’s guard came back up and she nodded slowly as she took a seat at the table. Dr. Kesson slid into the seat across from here with a wide smile. For a moment, he simply looked at her and Raven shifted uncomfortably in her seat.

“There. Now we can talk privately,” he said.

Raven looked at him in confusion, but her confusion turned to surprise as Dr. Kesson stood up from his chair. A copy of Dr. Kesson remained in his seat. The real Dr. Kesson waved her over and she stood up nervously. Surprise lit her face at the sight of a copy of herself sitting in the chair she left behind.

“Are these illusions?” Raven asked in wonder.

Dr. Kesson nodded. “Yes. Whoever is spying on us will see you and I chatting over there. There’s even audio.”

Raven’s eyes widened. “I didn’t know Illusions could go that far.”

Dr. Kesson laughed. “I specialize in pushing the limits and I suspect you do too.”

She wasn’t so sure about that. She felt like she was dragged across the limits instead of pushing them. Today was the first day she actually done things, even if it only had been a prank on Patrice. It felt good to be the one doing something.

“Then the reason you’re here isn’t to sponsor me?” Raven asked as she looked from Dr. Kesson to the copy of him talking animatedly to her double. She couldn’t hear what they were saying. It was like the copies were in a bubble.

“I am,” Dr. Kesson assured her. “Raven, I’m not sure how to say this, but events were manipulated so that you would end up here.”

The first reaction was to let Dr. Kesson know she already was aware of that, but instead, she thought better of it. This was a good time to get information and she wasn’t sure how much she could trust Dr. Kesson.

“Manipulated? You mean someone sent me here on purpose?”

Dr. Kesson watched her carefully but nodded. “Exactly. What happened at the Access Facility was unfortunate, but in the end, you weren’t at fault. Awakenings are very dangerous and the results can be unexpected. After all, that’s what Access Facilities are for.”

Dr. Kesson began to pace. “You were sent here due to someone manipulating the fear of those around you. You see, Raven, during an Awakening there is a special magical device that gives us information about a person’s Core ability. In your case, the reading came up as unreadable. “

Raven blinked. “Unreadable?”

An excited nod came from Dr. Kesson. “You were even tested again while you were unconscious, twice in fact, but you still came up as unreadable. Of course, this was terrifying, especially with what happened with that smoke of yours. The unknown always scares people.”

“You don’t seem afraid,” Raven said.

“My job is discovering the unknown,” Dr. Kesson said, giving her a bright smile.

It wasn’t reassuring. She felt that if Dr. Kesson had his way she would be his personal experiment.

“So is that why you want to sponsor me, because I’m unreadable?”

“Yes,” he said. “But that’s not the only reason. I want your help in revealing the people involved in you being here.”

“What?” Raven asked, shaking her head in disbelief.

Dr. Kesson laughed. “Sounds very heroic, doesn’t it? Very unlike me.” He shook his head. “But I’m sure you’ve figured out that ECI isn’t all that it seems and neither is the Sponsorship Program.”

“I had a suspicion,” Raven said dryly, crossing her arms.

“There is a lot wrong with the Sponsorship Program, but at its core, it was a program to help with rehabilitation. Unfortunately, it’s easily corruptible and can force students into a sort of indentured servitude,” Dr. Kesson said with a wave of his hands like this was a given.

“Wait,” Raven said. “If you know all this why haven’t you done anything?” Her face scrunched up. “A-and why me? Shouldn’t you be revealing this in the news or something?”

Dr. Kesson frowned. “That would be ideal, but I lack proof. No, more, I lack the right kind of proof. What I have will at most lead to a few scapegoats and sweeping things under the rug. You, Raven, are the key.”

Raven shook her head. “I’m 13, what can I even do?”

“You’re inside of it all,” Dr. Kesson said, stepping towards her.

“No. What you’re asking is that I become some sort of spy? Everyone already has it out for me. And I…” She took a step back. “I don’t trust you.”

Dr. Kesson’s eyes widened and then he looked at her sadly. For a moment, she felt like she had kicked a puppy. But it was true. She didn’t trust Dr. Kesson. Ever since she met the man, he always seemed to be in the midst of every bad thing that happened to her.

An awkward silence surrounded them, but Dr. Kesson straightened. “I want to show you something.”

The scientist pulled up his sleeve showing his wrist. His Embud band was red on the Illusion side and orange on the Core. Then before her eyes, it changed. The Illusion side stayed red, but the Core side shifted to a deep purple. Raven’s eyes widened.

“You’re a Purple!”

“One of the very few,” Dr. Kesson said. “And it’s a well-kept secret.”

“Why?” Raven asked.

“Purples are restricted and used when found out. I quite enjoy my freedom,” Dr. Kesson explained.

Raven blinked. It didn’t go over her head how much Dr. Kesson was trusting her with such information.

“Ms. Delias, I know our first meeting hadn’t been the best. I let my excitement get the best of me, but I know you’re the key to this.”

“How?” Raven asked a little overwhelmed.

Dr. Kesson grinned. “You know, you never asked what my Core power was. So let me show you. Maybe then, you can start to trust me a little more?”

Raven nodded, unsure. “I’ll try.”

“Good enough,” Dr. Kesson said. “Okay, stand right there and watch.”

Dr. Kesson held out his hand and before them, a large map appeared. Next to it was a scrolling list. On the map were hundreds of lines leading to dots. Raven looked at it all in confusion.

“I don’t understand,” Raven said.

“A mess, isn’t it?” Dr. Kesson said proudly. “But this is my ability. I call it Discover. It’s the ability to be in the right place at the right time. These points are people or places that are important pieces to new discoveries or mysteries.”

Suddenly, the map zoomed in and there were pictures of triangles in various colors. “The triangles indicate how large the risk is to delve into the discovery. Danger level would be a better way to explain it. Of course, there is more to it, but what’s important here is your part.”

The map zoomed in and a tiny image of her showed up with a line connecting to it. “Raven, you are a key to revealing what’s going on in ECI and showing it to the world.” Dr. Kesson met her eyes. “It’s not just a guess or a game of chance. It’s a fact. You have an undeniable role to play in all of this.”

Raven stared at it all, not sure whether to be horrified or in awe. “This is too much.”

“It can be,” Dr. Kesson said and waved his hand. The map and all its information vanished. “Even I can get overwhelmed by it, but finding you when you were taking your Illusion test was not an accident. Even when I’m not actively looking, Discover will lead me instinctively to an event or person. It led me to you.”

“Because of ECI?” Raven asked.

Dr. Kesson hesitated. “At the time I didn’t know how you were connected. My ability isn’t always clear in what sort of discovery I might find, just its importance. It’s my job to connect the dots.”

Raven tried to grasp everything, but it felt so big. Nothing had been an accident after all. Dr. Kesson’s magic led him to her and now she was supposed to unravel the corruption involving ECI. It all felt unbelievable but here she was, living it.

Dr. Kesson spoke hesitantly. “I know it might be hard to trust me after everything that has happened, but I’m still asking you to, even if only a little. Do you think you can?”

A leap of faith was what Dr. Kesson was asking of her. She still wasn’t sure if she could trust him, but she was alone with an unknown enemy after her. To finally have someone on her side, someone who had so far been upfront with her meant something. She swallowed and hoped she wasn’t about to make a huge mistake.

“Okay,” she said. “What do we do next?”

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