I had never known with certainty, but had long suspected that there were other Gifted personages that shared this world with me. In part, that was why I had chosen to use the Gifts of Power and Love carefully.

For the next few weeks, my schedule was a dizzying interconnecting intricacy of lunches and evening meals. The delicate, crystalline web of supporting influence and relationships were slowly but surely hardened against intrusion, primed to alert me to interference, and readied for war. I was sure to tread lightly, for it would not do to underestimate a potential foe who might well be even more experienced than I.

For weeks more, I watched the ripples of power and influence slowly settle down into calmness without the slightest hint of another player on the field. I ratcheted a notch higher; spread my most powerful pieces in slowly widening orbits, dragging their near-worthless pawns with them.

Nothing. It was like she didn’t exist.

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