Monday, 29 August 2016

amadhay: (Default)

Green paced around in the hallway before the soon-to-be-live studio, trying to banish his impatience. He looked for logical reasons why the person he was waiting for was late, though, deep down he knew there was no serious reason. She just liked to upset him.

“Maybe she slept in and now she’s rushing as fast as she can to get here,” he tried to reason with himself, then paused and thought about it. “No, she doesn’t sleep this late. Maybe she slipped on the glossy steps of... She doesn’t fall.” Green bit his lip, trying to out-do his impatience with false worry. He resumed his pacing seconds later, unable to halt this twitch.

Finally, the one on whom he had been waiting entered through the staff door, slinking causally behind him. He didn’t notice her even as she mimicked his pacing, smirking as his actions became more irritated. When he looked to his time implant, she finally gave up on her shenanigans.

“You know you could always just go into one of these meetings on your own,” she teased before leaning back against the wall, waiting for his expected explosion at her extreme lateness. Annalise didn’t even attempt to give a reason for her tardiness. As usual, she didn’t have one and they both knew that without communicating.

Green spun to face her. “You!” he shouted before he could stop himself. She simply gave him the same wide smile she always did when attempting to get to him. Willing, as always, to allow him to work himself into a fit, she waited him out.

His eyes widened and he quickly turned away in shame, trying to force himself to calm down. He shuddered and tried again. “You’re late again, Annalise. I would truly appreciate it if you were to be more prompt when it comes to the citizens. I deal with your attitude and your personality enough at home, but I cannot tolerate it when you snub the people in such a way!”

She raised her eyebrows. “Don’t we have a newscom to give?”

Green gritted his teeth, forcibly unclenching his fists. He took a deep breath and turned again to face the woman. “Let us get this over with as fast as possible,” he said and held up his hand, waiting for the amused woman to do like-wise.

Annalise smiled slightly at seeing the man she saw as a brother try to calm himself, however, she held in her laughter as she nodded sharply to his request, knowing that there was a limit to how far she could push him. She didn’t want to have another case of them being incapable of syncing because he was so upset with her. She gave pause for a moment, looking the man over to determine where his thoughts were before she too, held up her hand.

When their hands met, a great force pulled them together and they felt as if their very atoms were rearranging themselves. Used to it, neither screamed as they had their first times, but that didn’t mean it wasn’t painful. It was painful every time, the rewriting of their bodies to combine into their new, shared one. The lack of oxygen hit them hard and as one, they tried to catch their breath, the shared action completing their synchronization. When they were able to see again, it was from one line of vision. The usual immediate side-effects of the fusion (disorientation, claustrophobia, migraines and an open mind) were more difficult to deal with this time, most likely due to their fight.

Annalise started to apologize, but the thought traveled faster than her intentions and Green waved it away with ease, their body relaxing a bit and the migraine fading to a dull throb.

It’s fine, Annalise. Save your comments for later. We’re late, Green thought.

Annalise merely nodded—or rather, her mind seemed to. With her controlling their body, as she had the most control of their motor functions directly after a sync, she led them out of their private room to the camera room and the adjoined stage. She could feel Green in the body with her, a presence that was always there. Sometimes it irritated her, sometimes it scared her, and at times, it even embarrassed her. At this particular moment, their closeness made her feel a tendril of happiness slide through her. She disliked Green being able to feel that as well, since she wasn’t sure how he would interpret it.

Green’s response, as usual, was neutral, which Annalise attempted to mimic but never did well. He was in one of his moods where he set his whole concentration onto one thing. That thing this time was the weather forecast and the updates about the festival that was going to take place to honor the several men and women who founded the city.

Partly cloudy, possible showers, the sun shines by noon, clear the rest of the day. Annalise supplied him when it seemed that he had misplaced the information.

Good, I was planning on dinner with the festival committee members for us. I was hoping to do it in the open-air pavilion, Green stated, informing Annalise of the plans that she knew the moment he thought about them.

Annalise’s mind seemed to be mulling over the thought, before replying Sure, why not? in an almost sarcastic tone, More fun, being stuck with you throughout a dinner with a bunch of boring stupid people. Fun...

Green found that strange, though he didn’t comment on it. The festival committee always seemed to raise her spirits, so for her to be disinterested was a change he wasn’t sure how to interpret. He started to question it, but she cut him off before he could.

So, let’s go on and get these announcements over with, her voice told Green, echoing through their one head with the force of it. Whatever was bothering her, she didn’t want to tell him about it, so he decided not to pry.

Green took brief control over them, mentally smirking at Annalise, who whined about it being unfair for him to fully control their body. They looked up into the ready camera with an equally ready, yet rather small, smile on their oval shaped, olive face. The cameraman began recording the live broadcast. “Good morning, citizens...” Green started the announcements in their steady, neutral voice.

So, you finally got that awful weapon? Green mind-asked Annalise, putting the body on semi-auto-pilot. The Seer continued to give the citizens of The City their daily announcements of weather, Founders festival progress, an update of The City’s most wanted criminals, reminders of curfew for the System’s children, and notes to the museum’s newest upcoming exhibit on the Memory Stone of Ancient Civilizations.

Annalise’s mind sputtered, making the Seer blink twice in quick succession before she too put all control to their queue. Embarrassed about her lack of control for a moment before remembering he could see all of her thoughts, she blanked the emotion away. Yeah, it’s actually a pretty interesting specimen. Apparently they used it in their wars a few centuries back. Checking to make sure the broadcast was still going, and there was enough concentration left for this, she showed him the image. It was what their ancestors called a ‘rifle’ with a long barrel. Much outdated in terms of technology, but a fine specimen of old warfare.

And it’s not awful, it’s a fine artifact of our violent past! she replied, somewhat hotly at her male counterpart.

It may be a wonderful relic, but it is not a good weapon. Destructive, chaotic, almost uncontrollable. How did our ancestors even survive, anyways? With all of the things that they surrounded themselves with, I’m surprised we made it far enough to realize how reckless that stuff was... And to develop more controllable things. Green argued, before taking back control of their body. “Have a wonderful day, my citizens. And prepare for the best festival that you’ve ever attended,” Green said and the camera ended the recording.

Annalise sighed, Oh well, whatever you say, Green-boy. A flash of amusement from Green hit her before he could pull it back and she bristled. Let’s get out of here. You are way too close to me right now, she thought snippily as she took over the body.

She led their body to their back room, the one exclusive to them and their guardian, Aristotle. Once safely inside of the room, Annalise led them to the bed there. Against her will, she could feel their body’s cheeks reddening at the thought of having to be on the bed to “deconstruct”. Hoping that Green was once again in his little world, she lay the body onto the bed.

Well, hopefully we’ll be able to stay awake this time, he thought to her, making it clear that he was entirely too aware of her thoughts, or at the very least, experiencing the same discomfort. It was strange, the way the two of them had begun to see each other as separate entities, rather than the other half of their whole. That recognition made some of their interactions a bit strained and needlessly awkward as of late. The further recognition that Annalise was attracted, in some way, to males, especially slender ones with darker skin and hair was what made their bed sharing uncomfortable in ways it had never been before, regardless of their sibling bond.

She pulled her mind as far from him as she could without starting the separation and tried to get their body comfortably in the center of the bed so that neither would fall off when there were two. Despite Green’s comment, neither had any high hopes to stay awake, considering they never could once they defused.

They weren’t quite sure why they could fuse, nor why it was only with each other. The previous Seer had never explained any of it to them and they weren’t even sure that they’d known. They were positive, however, that the fusing took a lot of power out of their individual bodies, which was only felt when they separated. Thus the reason the bed was there, so they could sleep off the after-effects of the defuse.

 

Although, as always, it took extreme effort, the two pushed the others body away from their own. Unlike fusing, defusing was less painful physically, but always left them feeling bereft. To go from knowing a person’s every thought, feeling their every breath and then to go back to being a singular rather than a plural was hard on their minds. But when it was over, the two were lying beside each other on the bed, their hands still connected. They could only keep their eyes open long enough to glance at each other before their lids became too heavy to keep open and with that, they fell asleep.


Next part of Chapter 1: Rich

Next part of Seer: Chapter 2 

amadhay: (Default)

Lav had sneaked into Are’s family mansion quite easily, not that she had really needed to. All she had to do was be on good terms with the security and they usually turned a blind eye to her. Considering she had helped the current guards get out of a bad situation involving the Net security, she was pretty golden with them. So she had slipped up the stairs, and into Are’s room mostly silently. She was now trying to succeed in her game to frighten Are.

Are, unaware of her best friend’s presence, giggled as she messed with a small, animal-esque figure. It was palm-sized and very active, or it would have been, if it hadn’t currently been struggling under a heavy book. She lifted the book and the tiny robot-companion bolted across the floor of Are’s room. It quickly made its escape and left Are to roll onto her back, sighing. With nothing else to do, she closed her eyes and listened to the endless noise of her home. 

Lav crept closer and closer in her hunky combat boots, with her jeans softly sliding across the carpet. Her upper torso was hidden by a large black cloak that was following behind her, also softly sliding across the carpeted floor. She had a very scary mask on her face—or at least scary to her—of a person from their distant past, a person who had aged well enough to have a face covered in facial sagging. She knew Are’s fear of the elderly would be triggered by the incredible oldness of the face.

Are grinned as she heard her friend’s unstealthy approach. “Finally, Lav,” she said as she rolled back onto her stomach. “I thought that you’d never...get...” Are stared at the masked being standing above her with disgust and disbelief before shrieking, “What are you wearing?”

Lav snickered, pulling the grotesque mask off of her face. She gave Are a look, “It’s what old people used to look like,” she replied, dodging the pillow her friend tossed at her before plopping down onto Are’s bed beside her. “And how’d you hear me coming? I thought I was being sneaky.”

Are’s nose wrinkled in amusement as she kicked the mask underneath her bed and out of sight. “Sneaky and boots don’t mix, you know. That’s why ninjas in the movies wear slippers and not army regulated boots. And why armies all fell.” Are grinned and playfully punched Lav’s arm. 

Lav nodded in thought, “Ya know, you may be right...” she muttered with a sigh, “I guess I’ll have to wear some different shoes next time.” She poked Are quickly, jabbing her stomach.

Are doubled over with a protesting squeal. “Not the stomach,” she moaned while wrapping her arms around the assaulted area. She wiggled away from her friend, struggling to maintain her balance and get off of the bed at the same time. However, she failed and fell flat on the floor, laughing. 

Lav doubled over, laughing at her almost-athletic friend. “Wow...that’s actually got to be the worst...” her words were choked back by her laughter as she fell forward onto Are’s bed, “You’re such a doofus!”

“Don’t make fun of me,” Are wailed breathlessly from the floor. “You’ll get your own.” 

Lav finally sat back up again, once she was breathing properly. She looked at Are with a smile, “I doubt it, but whatever helps you sleep at night,” she replied. Blowing her black hair from her face she stood up, “So, let’s get started. I know I didn’t come over here simply to laugh at your doofusness, so what did you have planned for today?”

Are scratched her head. “You know that building in town? The one with the tall windows and cool structural designs?” she asked. She didn’t wait for an answer, since she knew her friend knew of the City’s only Seer-funded museum, “I was thinking about scoping it out, getting the floor plans in preparation for that artifact that’s supposed to be shown in the next couple of days.” Are smiled and stared off into the distance, dreamily. “That wonderful hunk of stone that people pay hundreds to see for just a moment.” She snapped out of her reverie a moment later. “We have to rescue it,” she demanded firmly. 

“...you want us…to save…a rock?” Lav asked incredulously. She stared at her best friend. She was used to Are’s harebrained schemes, especially the truly strange ones that they somehow always managed to pull off. But those were normally for someone’s good. This stunt was just stupid, in her mind anyway, “And just how do you save a rock anyway?”

Are pouted, crossing her arms and turning away. “It’s not just any rock,” she said grumpily. “It is a sacred stone artifact intact with memories of all of past civilizations that was once believed to give its owner incredible power through supernatural means.” Are huffed and continued to look away from Lav, refusing to go on. 

“It’s. A. Rock. But fine, I’ll help you. Don’t see why you wanna ‘save’ the rock, but I agree, we’ll save it,” Lav said, moving forward and enveloping Are in a hug.

Are sighed and mumbled under her breath, but hugged Lav back despite the “rock” comments. “Thanks, I guess,” she said uncertainly. “We’d better get moving soon. That museum’ll open pretty soon and we need to get in with the daily crowd,” Are grinned at her joke. There were rarely crowds in places that people could just look at from the Net, museums being one of them. However, art fanatics, educators and old people kept these sorts of buildings open. 

Lav stretched her arms out in front of her and glanced at Are expectantly, “Okay, if we’re going to ‘save’ the rock, how are we going to get in and out without being noticed, and how are we getting it back here?” she asked skeptically.

Are smiled widely. “I’m going as an aspiring artist ready to study from actual art. You’ll be an old dame visiting the peaceful and relaxing environment of the museum. I’ll get there at 9 and wander around, staring at the most common art works and you’ll arrive at noon, half-an-hour before the carefully guarded stone arrives. I’ve cooked up your false identification, just in case.  As for the retrieving, you’re going to carry it out in your pocket.

“There just so happens to be a conveniently unplanned emergency drill on Friday and I would like to take advantage of it while it’s available to us. This is why we need to scout the place out. We have to get an idea of the daily activities,” Are finished with a feeling that she may have been forgetting something. 

Lav stared at her, “We’re saving a tiny rock?!” she asked incredulously. She sighed, shaking her head with a small smile gracing her lips, “I’ll do it,” she replied before Are could go into a huff again, “But I just don’t really see the point in ‘saving’ a rock small enough to fit into my pocket. Also, if people go in and out of there, there’s obviously going to be security cameras. So if there’s cameras, there’re security guards who’ll catch us. So, before we put this plan into action, we need to take out the cameras, because unplanned fire drill or not, the cameras will rat us out.”

Are smiled nervously. “I happen to know a few people who might be willing to help us,” she said and coughed into her hand. She avoided her friend’s eyes by looking innocently at the room’s decor. 

Lav crossed her arms over her chest and raised a thin, arched eyebrow, her blue eyes attempting to stare her friend down, “Explain,” she demanded.

Tiny beads of sweat appeared on Are’s forehead as she continued to avoid Lav’s eyes. “I have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about,” she squeaked out and shrunk slightly. 

Lav’s eyes narrowed minutely and her lips pursed, “Uh huh, spill, Are,” she demanded.

Are hesitated before wincing. She held up her arms to defend her head, even though Lav hadn’t moved offensively. Yet. “Some people are interested in the stone and they want to see if it really is magic. It’s obviously not since they’re putting it on display, but these people have been known to return favors!” she blurted quickly. “Sometimes, we need favors,” she added with a quietly purposeful voice

Lav threw Are a look, “I knew there was no way you were just trying to ‘save’ the stupid rock. So we’re stealing it to give it to people who think it’s magic, which it isn’t, in hopes that they’ll help us out later. Have I got it all summed up, or do we plan on stealing it back from them for other people as well?” she asked semi-sarcastically.

The taller girl didn’t really mind it all. She just disliked the fact that Are had tried to hide it from her. Her friend had never done that before and she really didn’t like that it was something they did now. If they were in this together, they couldn’t be hiding things from each other.

Are shifted to the side and looked away, trying to dodge the look that was thrown at her. “No one else has approached, as of yet, but it’d be a good idea to get the stone before someone else tries, at least. So, let’s go scouting now. Before someone tries to, er, tries something,” she said in a rushed breath.

Lav knew something was wrong the moment Are wouldn’t look at her. The brunette quickly turned around and scurried to a closet to grab a pack ready for scouting. However, she didn’t get a good grasp on it and it fell to the floor. Are stared at it, biting her lip and trying to keep her back to Lav.  But after Are’s backpack fell to the floor, Lav grabbed Are by the shoulder and turned her around.

“What are you hiding from me?” she asked fiercely, but barely above a whisper. “I hate it when you keep things from me. It makes me feel like we’re not a team, and I’m just one of the pleebs.”

Are chewed on her lip. She sighed and rubbed the back of her head apologetically. “They don’t want me to tell anyone else, Lav. They made me take a blood oath about it,” she said, looking into Lav’s eyes finally. “They’ll tell you in their own time, alright?” she asked. Then, under her breath, she said, “Well, that’s what they said, anyways.”

Lav frowned, scrutinizing Are soundly before letting her go, “Fine. But if either of us are hurt because you made a stupid blood oath, it goes on your conscience.”

Are laughed. “What’s a blood oath to me? I’d sooner break it than let anyone I care for get hurt as a result.” She shrugged, mostly back to her old self now that she told most of what made her nervous. “So, are you ready? Or should we take a short break to catch our breaths?” 

“There’s the Are I know,” Lav said with a smile, though the wariness didn’t dissipate. She shrugged, looking down at her boots when she replied to the second part of the question. “Whatever you think you need,” she replied.

Are gave her friend a look. “Me, a break? Since when?” With that, she picked up her pack and slipped it onto her back quietly, then paused, eyeing her friend who was staring at the black boots. “You should probably change your shoes, since we’re going into a peaceful environment. We don’t want them memorizing our faces for any reason. They might recognize our features when we return in disguise.” 

Lav sighed, and pulled out her extra pair of Air Lyte shoes from under Are’s bed. As with many other useful things for their outings, she always had a pair there to keep them from gathering any suspicion when they went out places. Air Lyte was the mandated Rich shoe, as they were expensive and had tracing bands on them to make it easy to recognize people. The most current version, which she, of course, had, actually allowed her to levitate for a few seconds and helped increase speed. She didn’t like them nearly as much as her Old Style shoes because they weren’t nearly as hardy. She had a quirky Old Style fashion sense that was only suppressed when needed to be seen as a rich kid to get what she needed. Style aside though, the tracking bands were the reason Lav preferred her other shoes when they actually did anything since the Air Lyte would have been better for any running or sneaking she needed done.

Are grinned as she watched as Lav reluctantly took off her boots. “I found a good, discrete Old Style maker that would work with you if you can find it in you to slightly alter a pair of shoes to give you the comfort of your favorite and the convenience of camouflage,” she offered while stretching her arms above her head. 

“Um, no,” Lav replied. She shook her head as she slid out of her pants and shirt to replace it with the white dress Are had already left hanging on the light hook for her, “This way I keep ‘work’ and ‘fake’ separate. With Gregor nosing around, it’s safer that way. Besides, if I didn’t, I’d go crazy.”

Are chuckled mischievously. “Like I?” she asked in a low falsetto. She held a hand up to cover her smile and blinked rapidly, looking up at the ceiling to feign innocence. 

“Yes, definitely like you,” Lav replied, now dressed appropriately for a young Rich girl. She pulled her bag onto her shoulder and hid her elderly mask farther under Are’s bed with her normal clothes, knowing if some MaId became plucky enough to come into Are’s room to clean, they wouldn’t be brave enough to touch under Are’s bed. One never knew what toys the brunette might have hidden under there.

Are pouted childishly and headed for the door. “Whatever you say, Mama Lav,” she said while digging in her pocket. 

“Ew. You are definitely not forgiven for that, Are,” Lav complained, following her comrade, her steps now silent.

 

Are grinned at her friend as she pulled out a small remote. “Sure, sure. Either way, look excited. It’s time to test out my new security,” she said and pressed a button. A small whirring sound started up, but calmed down after a couple of seconds. After that, twelve lights blinked from different, strategically placed points in the room. Both girls nodded to each other. “M’kay. I’m ready as a pea,” she stated, stuffing the remote back into her pocket.  

 
Next part of Chapter One: Cell

Next part of Rich: Chapter Two
amadhay: (Default)

Cane watched as he passed people, or rather, as he was pushed past people. He didn’t have time to really look at anyone, as the COPS behind him were shoving him too fast, completely ignoring his wounds and sores. They finally shoved him into a Cell, which inhabited only one other boy, a purple one. He landed on the floor painfully, feeling all the ribs that had been bruised, possibly broken, in the “interrogation” he had gone through with the COPS. He groaned in pain, gritting his teeth as they left.

The purple boy, Ortzi, opened an eye from where he was laying on a rough bench. He watched his new cellmate for a minute as the other male clutched his ribs and scooted himself back into the corner farthest away from both the Cell door and him. When the man didn’t so much as glance his away, Ortzi turned over to face the wall, trying to go back to sleep. It was one of the few hours where it was almost completely quiet, and he was planning on taking advantage of it. Even though his Cell mate’s presence made the quiet feel strange, Ortzi remained silent, trying to keep his breathing calm and even. He was going trying to go through the process of relaxing himself enough for unconsciousness, but now he was at an uncomfortable angle that had his pants digging into his hip. He wiggled slightly, trying to fix the problem, and the bench creaked slightly underneath him. 

Cane looked up and around sharply at the sound of the bench creaking. His eyes focused intently on Ortzi for a moment, before mentally dismissing the other boy. With his slender build and strange coloring, Cane quickly determined him not to be any kind of threat. He was, after all basically glowing in the dim light of the Cell. If he tried anything, Cane was fairly certain that he’d see him before any damage could be done, however the purple boy seemed intent on not acknowledging him, which Cane was able to appreciate even if it set his on guard.

 After a couple of minutes of peace and quiet, loud murmuring erupted from outside of their cell, making Cane flinch in alarm, and look to the solid door of the Cell to try to see what was happening. Ortzi, on the other hand, groaned loudly and covered his ears. That almost seemed to make the sound louder, turning it into a roar of a multitude of shouts, taunts, and screams of the Cell-dwellers.

“Not now,” Ortzi whimpered. “I haven’t slept in three days.” 

Cane closed his eyes tightly, trying not to hear the noise too clearly, “What are they doing?” he asked, since the other prisoner seemed to know.

“The Warden is making his rounds,” Ortzi muttered, sitting up and rubbing his eyes grumpily. He stared intently at the door and as the volume increased more, he sat on the edge of the bench, gripping the seat tightly. His brow was furrowed and a re-opened wound on his lip was bleeding slightly. 

“So they decide to be loud and violent?” Cane asked, tilting his head back so his blond bangs were no longer endangering his eyes. Now that he looked at the other boy without his hair in the way, he no longer seemed to be glowing, though he still had purple hair, eyes, and an almost purple tinged skin coloring.

Ortzi looked his cell-mate over. “Have you ever been here before?” he asked, wiping his lip with a slightly bloody, bandaged hand. He winced just as the other answered.

Cane shook his head, “No,” he said warily before adding, “This is my first time, you?”  when Ortzi seemed more interested in checking the skin under the bandaging on his hand than his answer.

Ortzi snorted. “I don’t keep track,” he said and stood to walk closer to the door. Once there, he listened intently to what was happening outside, since the sounds were pulsing. “Ugh, is that another food riot? They should know by now that those never work.” 

“Food riot?” Cane asked questioningly but didn’t receive an answer.

“It’s gonna get crowded in here for about a day, or so,” Ortzi said grimly, walking back to the bench. “You’d best claim your favorite spot before you’re pushed someplace bole.” He thought for a second before adding, “Be ready to fight for it, too. You never know who’s behind what or where they wanna lounge.” 

Cane frowned, but remembered the pointers the green girl had given him and pulled himself onto one of the slabs called beds in this miserable place. Fight for what you want or everyone will take from you. He hugged his ribs in place and swallowed the pain, remembering his training. He’d never been this hurt before, but the idea was the same: don’t let the pain control you, control the pain.

A large raucous shouting sounded outside of the cell, making both boys jerk and look to the door. Protests and commands were called from all different directions as a swipe-card unlocked the cell’s door with a forlorn beep. The door was quickly shoved aside and several kids were thrown into the room, each landing with a thud and a shout. They all quickly scrambled to their feet and ran back to the closing door, shouting obscene things to the COPS at the top of their lungs. As soon as the door shut completely, blocking their view of the outside, they turned to each other with grins and friendly knuckle-punches.

“Chweet! Di’n’t fink dat wud wuk,” a swollen faced kid said.

“Strewth, yeah, it worked. It was my plan, after all,” replied a short, stubby-nosed kid, his arms crossed defiantly.

“Shut your trap, Gluck, no one cares about your freepin’ plans,” a kid completely covered in grime, from head to toe, commanded.

Ortzi sat in silence on the bench, a queasy expression on his face while Cane watched the kids warily. The latter didn’t even want to know why they had wanted to be sent to this particular room. Exclusion wasn’t exactly something he thought people would want to be shoved into. He was tempted to turn his back on the others in the cell, but the queasy look on the other boy’s face made him continue to watch the scene.

The grimey kid and the kid with the plan got into each other’s faces threateningly, bumping shoulders and pushing chests. Their attempts at deciding who was better made both Ortzi and Cane relax because with their attentions focused on outdoing the other, it wasn’t on either of them. However, their luck changed when the swollen-faced kid made everyone’s attention turn with a shout.

“Dere ‘e ish!” he cried out, pointing at the Ortzi.

Ortzi slowly rose, his queasy look turning to disgust. He clenched his bandaged fists as the three boys cracked their knuckles and shook out their arms, preparing to hammer him into the ground. He silently stood his ground as they approached him. 

Before any of the opposing boys could make an offensive move, Ortzi, fast as lightening, leapt forward and slammed his elbow into Grimey-Boy’s face, making him spin sideways to the ground. The other two boys jumped back in surprise, staring at their fallen comrade in astonishment. He was clearly out for this round, and the other two had been putting their hopes in his semi-good fighting skills. Hesitantly, the swollen-faced kid took a swing at Ortzi, and grazed his arm with a knuckle as Ortzi took a simple step back. He shook his head in disappointment and quickly swiped the kid’s feet out from under him. 

Cane, who had sat out of the fight because Ortzi had taken care of it before he’d even been able to come up with a plan, stepped forward before Ortzi could finish off any of the three. “Fighting is unneeded,” he said, repeating the mantra of his homeland.

He knew, mentally, that there was some story behind the one-sided fight, and that if the purple boy hadn’t attacked first, he would have been attacked, but he didn’t know what else to say. This place was so much more violent than he was used to. Ortzi looked at his cell-mate, then looked away guiltily.

“I hope this isn’t a repetitive occurrence,” Cane muttered, looking at Ortzi with black eyes that seemed to attempt to bore holes into the other boy, making him uncomfortable. 

“Don’t set your hopes too high,” Ortzi murmured, avoiding eye contact. He stepped over the cowering kids to bang on the cell door loudly. “Hey!” he shouted. “We need a Medic!” After he was done. he walked back over to his bench and sat back down. He dropped his head into his hands and shut his eyes, waiting. 

Cane could tell from the boy’s reply that these others were undoubtedly a major pain for him. He trusted his first instincts about people, and his told him that Ortzi was someone who he could trust, someone who would help him. Those other three, however, were, without a doubt just going to be a problem to them both if something didn’t change. His cell-mate could beat them up as often as he needed, but sooner or later, he was going to have to sleep and Cane knew that once he did, they would attempt to attack then. He didn’t want that.

 So, without really thinking of the implications, he stood up, and walked the fifteen paces over to the lame gang. He crouched until he was somewhat to their level, and muttered softly to them so that the purple boy couldn’t hear anything, but the trio could. “If you don’t stop with your stupid little attempts to beat up my friend, we’re going to have problems. Trust me, you don’t want problems with me.” He pulled up his gray sleeve to reveal his temp-Cell tattoo, showing the markings that depicted what he was temporarily convicted of: mass murder.

The two conscious boys scrambled away quickly. “Frap! Stay away from us!” Plan-boy shouted, scared out of his wits.

Ortzi’s eyes cracked open and he caught a glimpse of the tattoo to see the red but no more. He knew that red meant it was a major crime and wondered what it was his cell-mate was convicted of. He was about to say something when the cell-door slid open to reveal a young man decked out in a depressing Old Style nurse outfit. At the sound of the door opening, Cane pushed his sleeve back down to cover the branding and moved back to his bed, leaving the cowering couple to their groveling near the medic.

The Medic surveyed the scene, his eyes immediately going to the unconscious boy, and then jumping straight to Ortzi. His eyes narrowed and he walked briskly to stand before the bench, disdain pouring from his expression.

“Shoot,” Ortzi managed to say before his face was harshly slapped by the medic. He quickly put a hand to his stinging cheek, and, despite all he had just gone through, his eyes welled up in tears. Slaps always managed to hurt in just a way to make him tear up in even the worst of times.

Still without saying a thing, the medic grabbed Grimey-boy by the feet and dragged him from the room, kicking away the boys’ friends when they attempted to join him. The cell door shut, enunciating the quiet of the room. 

Cane frowned but didn’t move other than to look at the purple boy, taking in the tears, “Are you alright?” he asked.

“I’m fine enough,” Ortzi muttered, rubbing his face slightly, though unsatisfactorily because he couldn’t help sooth his dignity. He was annoyed about the slap. Greatly annoyed. In fact, he was so annoyed, that he began eyeing the two cowering kids, seriously considering personally letting them join their friend.

Instead, he sighed and shook his head. He figured that it was a bad decision when the room started spinning. He lay down on the bench and shut his eyes tightly. However, nausea met him behind his eye-lids and he moaned. He clutched his stomach and curled up in a ball on his side.

Cane wasn’t sure what to do, so he stood up, walking over to Ortzi, “You don’t seem ‘fine enough’ to me,” he replied. 

Ortzi shuddered, then forced a smile on his face. “Really, I didn’t notice,” he rasped, bitterly sarcastic, then winced. “N-no. I’m grateful for your concern,” he mumbled. 

“Is there anything I can do?” the boy asked concernedly.

Ortzi looked at his cell-mate. “I-I’m not sure. There’s a small possibility that if I throw-up, I’ll feel better,” he said, then chuckled weakly. “That might not make this room’s smell very tolerable, though.” He sighed, and stared at Cane’s feet randomly. “I like your shoes,” he said. 

Cane laughed, the sound catching in his throat for a moment. It had been so long since he had done anything other than scream, cry, and whisper that the laugh felt as alien to him throat as he did to this planet. Ortzi smiled at the sound of Cane’s laughter, feeling his spirits lift ever so slightly, and Cane noticed it so he tried to keep himself light.

“Is that sick person for ‘I’m going to throw up on your shoes’?” he asked, taking Ortzi’s shoulder and pulling him into a sitting position, “I’d feel better if you threw up, regardless of the smell,” he said, pointing to the single toilet in the corner of the room. He looked at it for a moment, thinking about the fact that it wasn’t surrounded by anything, just out in the open, which could prove to be a problem sometime in the near future. 

When Ortzi was in an upright position, he winced, the smile fading. He looked longingly toward the indicated toilet, wishing it were closer to the bench. “I’m not sure if I’ll make it on my own,” he mumbled, silently pleading assistance. He was slightly embarrassed, and it showed on his purpling cheeks. 

Cane nodded, understanding, and feeling it was most likely imperative to get the boy to the toilet before he had the chance to lose all that he’d eaten, he lifted Ortzi into his arms. Cane lifted the other boy with the same amount of effort most people would use to lift an empty box, which was more indicative of the purple boy’s weight than of Cane’s strength. He sat Ortzi near the toilet.

“I hope that wasn’t too uncalled for,” he offered with a smile

Ortzi was slightly dazed, not only from the sudden movement and the spinning-room effect that it had, but also from the feeling of Cane’s arms. “Uh,” he almost responded, but his face quickly turned a sickly shade of green before he could finish the thought. He was soon completely absorbed in vomiting up the meager meal that the Cell had given him several hours previous, as well as bile and a tad bit of blood, into the disgustingly filthy toilet. 

Cane was worried about the blood, and for a moment, wished he had taken his friends up on the offer of learning first aid when he had still been free. He just rubbed Ortzi’s back gently, as his medic friends had done with him. He wasn’t sure if the touch was welcome for the other boy, but he knew that it always helped him when he was sick

Ortzi gagged some, his body trying to expel whatever had made him vomit in the first place. His head was in a great fog as he leaned over the toilet, grasping the rim to keep balanced. He could only think about the burning of his throat and mouth, the aching of his intestines, and the soothing feeling emanating from his back. He closed his eyes and tried to gather enough saliva to spit one last time. He took his time, since he was also relishing the comfort of the feeling. 

Cane continued rubbing circles into the boys back, “Are you feeling better?”he asked after Ortzi was through throwing up for the moment. 

Ortzi nodded a bit, his eyes still shut. “Yeah,” he whispered hoarsely. “‘M feelin’ a little better.” 

Cane nodded, “Okay, that’s good,” he said, smiling at the purple boy. 

Ortzi stared at Cane’s smile. His eyes began to droop as his exhaustion was finally catching up with him. He reached out a hand, in child-like fascination, and touched his cell-mate’s cheek gingerly, right before his eyes fluttered close and he passed out.

 

Cane caught Ortzi quickly in his arms. He was worried, he wasn’t sure if he should call the medic or simply set the other boy on the bench-bed. He decided to do the latter and should Ortzi not wake up in an hour or so, he would call for the medics.

 
Next Part of Chapter One: COPS

Next part of Cell: Chapter Two
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Gary crossed his arms, looking away from his partner. Senior Officer Conrad Rose, was taste testing the goods of a local food merchant, or rather, he was getting his lunch in. It was no secret that Sprout Gary Crims was still a greenie because his partner was incapable to doing his job. Or, maybe not incompetent, simply uninterested.

“Hey! What’re you trying to feed me?” Rose joked with the oversized man who owned the stand. Uninterested, the younger man looked out to the street, watching to see if there was anything worthwhile.

As per usual, he missed the way that Rose jokingly bullied the merchant into lowering the price on a few pounds of meat close to its expiration date. He also missed Rose slipping a small child a piece of fruit and flipping his own money to the merchant when the man looked ready to complain.

“See you same time tomorrow, Pedro,” Rose called over his shoulder before standing next to his greenie. Together, they watched the street for a minute, but nothing stood out to either of them aside from the group of small children walking around with red balloons.

“Ready to actually patrol?” Gary asked, as always put off by his partner’s lack of professionalism.

Rose smiled a dopey smile at him. “What’s the hurry? The City’ll still be here no matter when we start.”

Gary pressed his lips together to keep himself from responding because he didn’t want to get into the mentality behind it. He had been Rose’s personal trainee for nearly two months and while all the rest of his graduating class was moving up, becoming buds and even junior officers, he was still just a sprout. He had been the top of his class, which he regularly reminded Rose, and still he was the last of his seedlings to still be a sprout. He had been specifically pulled from the group and given the chance to shadow a senior officer, but once he’d realized the type of officer Rose was, it had been too late to back out.

To be fair, he’d never really had a choice either way. Their captain, Cleopatra Hartsteele, had personally set him with Rose. The only way to get out of it would be to go over her head, which would be to his father and board of directors, half of which were also related to him. Gary knew that if he ever wanted to be taken seriously, that he should avoid doing that at all costs. So he was stuck with Rose, who would never fill out the paperwork associated with making Gary anything more than a sprout.

“Did you see that?” Rose asked, squinting his eyes.

Gary followed his eyes to a candy stand and rolled his own. “No. What?” he asked, losing all interest in whatever had taken Rose’s attention. He looked down the streets and thought that at the end, he’d glimpsed a familiar head of blue hair.

“Sprout, pay attention,” Rose said in a serious voice, getting Gary to look back at him. The only times Rose normally used that voice was when they were dealing with the captains and chiefs. That was how Gary knew he needed to get focused.

“What is it?” he asked, trying not to appear too excited. The last time he had, Rose had sent him to continue the patrol while he checked something out and Gary had missed being part of the bust on an illegal genetic operation.

Rose frowned and then gave a wide, easy-going smile, nodding to a few people on the other side of the street before turning to Gary. “I need you to go over there and chat up that pretty blonde.”

“What? No,” Gary glanced to the girl that Rose was talking about. Everything about her screamed out that she was part of a gang.  She had multiple piercings in the form of nuts going down either side of her face. Her hair was canary yellow, her eyes the gleaming silver of the street drug they’d been trying (and failing) for almost a year to get rid of, and she was wearing a flashy silver dress with knee high platformed shoes. Most of all, she had golden lightning tattoos on every uncovered place of her body, including her face. “You can get your own dates.”

“Don’t be silly. She’s too young for me. You too, by the looks of her. I need you to get close so you can tell me what’s behind that stand. That stand has never been there before. I’ve been here every day for the past fifteen years and never seen it before or any of the people over there. I want to know what they’re doing.”

“Selling candy?” Gary suggested, trying to see the stand through Rose’s eyes. There was something strange about it. All of the people around it had the silver nightshade eyes. The entire time they’d been standing there, he hadn’t seen a single person buy any candy or even approach the cart, but he had seen people come up from behind it and leave. He should have noticed that and he was irritated with himself for not noticing.

Rose knocked his shoulder understandingly. “You’re still a sprout. You’re going to miss things,” he said, trying to make it better. “Now go flirt. Make it good. You’re attractive, she’ll be interested.”

“But what about the COPS right there?” he asked, nodding to the officers on either side of the stand, chatting. “They’re close. Wouldn’t they have noticed?”

Rose laughed. “You keep doing that. Go on. Go talk to her.”

Gary moved away, confused by Rose’s comment, but still doing as he was told. Rose, on the other hand, looked away from him almost as soon as he moved. He leaned back against a trash compactor, letting his tan uniform pants press against the regulation puce green of a food wastes container. While he had genuinely wanted a closer look, he also wanted to force Gary to loosen up a bit. There was no better way than to get the boy into a comfort zone. He’d seen him flirting with one of the street girls before, the notorious blue haired one. Getting Gary in a comfort zone would make him less noticeable to the other officers who had been watching them.

Rose hated seeing his fellow officers turn bad. He knew the look of glossy contacts over nightshade addled eyes. All three of the officers were wearing them, and if he had to guess, he’d say that they were guarding the stand from any nosy officers who might try to do their job. Like him and the kid. The worst part was that he knew Twigs and Waratah were supposed to be training greenies. That would explain the unusual number of sprouts budding into junior officers so soon.

It was just one of the many things that worried him. Another was about how his fellows were affording the drugs. He was paid better than them as a senior officer to their protective officers and even he wasn’t sure he could have afforded the drug without doing some irreprehensible things. He doubted just guarding the stand would have been enough. The gang that came out with the nightshade wasn’t known for being easy to deal with, unlike the Snakes or Mongeese.

He had a bad feeling about this entire situation and considered calling Gary back to him so that they could finish their patrol and he could check out the scene at another time when the boy wouldn’t be in danger. But seeing Gary comfortably flirting with the girl, the way she played with her spiky hair and took his hand to run over the shaven patterns, he knew that Gary was probably the safest he could be at that moment. Because for once, he wasn’t paying attention and wasn’t giving off the obvious signs of a self-important greenie too interested in doing his job.

Rose moved across the street and made a beeline for Waratah. The two of them had some sort of companionship leftover from his ex having been her trainer, giving the two of them someone to gripe about together. He knew he’d chosen right when the woman smirked at him, glancing knowingly to his trainee.

“I see you’re letting your greenie out for a walk,” she teased, her voice higher than normal and strangely hysterical, as though there were a private joke she was holding to herself.

“I think it’s better to let them have a little fun so they loosen up,” he responded, giving her a look up and down. She was thinner, and it wasn’t from the new exercise regiment because her wiry muscle hadn’t increased any. If he had to guess, he’d say it was a side effect of the drugs.

“You need some loosening up too?” she asked, clearly not thinking properly. She, above everyone, knew his tastes were rather singular in terms of bed partners. He liked them muscular, tall, and male. She was none of the requirements.

“No, not me,” he replied casually. “How’s Brick been doing?”

She snorted. “I wouldn’t know. Soon as he signed me off to protos, he moved up to First Street peace patrol. Haven’t heard or seen him since.”

“Huh. I guess with all the new greenies, it makes sense,” he said, pointedly looking around her. “Hey, where’s yours?” he asked.

She shrugged. “Worked well so I made him a standard.”

Rose blinked at her. “In three months?” he asked, raising his eyebrow.

She frowned. “You trying to say something?” she asked defensively, narrowing her eyes. She looked past Rose, to Gary, and Rose immediately moved to grab her attention again.

“Nah. Just Captain won’t let me sign off on mine. He’s a great worker, but I’m better off without a partner.”

She laughed. “You’re going to Hartsteele aren’t you?” she asked before laughing more. “You have to go to Ginger. He’s the only one who’s not a hardass about the greens. He’ll sign off on your greenie being a junior at the least. But he’s,” she paused and glanced at Gary again. “He’s part of the Adela family isn’t he? I heard his dad’s a director.”

“He’s a Crims,” Rose corrected her, which made her laugh.

“Nah, better to keep him a greenie. That family’s always in everyone’s business.”

Her laughter was a sure sign of the drug. Waratah wasn’t the type of person to laugh so much unless she was signaling something. Luckily for Rose, she wasn’t signaling anyone and was truly so under the influence of the nightshade that she barely knew what she was saying.

Realizing that now was not the time to stage a bust, Rose backed away from her. A single glance at Twigs showed that the Special Officer and the Standard Officer whose name he didn’t know were not nearly as caught in the drug as Waratah and were watching him. He flashed them one of his dopey smiles and whistled for his trainee.

“Let’s get patrolling,” he said.

Gary immediately left the girl’s side, expecting them to do something immediately. He was disappointed, however, when after a few minutes, it seemed that they were truly just going to go on with their patrol. “What happened?” the twenty-two year old asked.

 

Rose shrugged. “I was mistaken. They were just selling candy,” he lied.

 
Next part of Chapter One: Street

Next part of COPS:  Chapter Two
amadhay: (Default)

Amelie looked around for her Tanith. After a little over a month, she had only recently been let out of the B-Cell and was happy for it. It had been getting a little rough with the others, especially once word got out that she’d been Celled with some Rich kid, which took from some of her Street cred. No one wanted to be known as the one who was so little a threat that they’d been set with a taloppy. No one mentioned that she’d be cuffed nearly the entire time or that the Rich kid had been personally responsible for getting them water and that no one in their right mind would have done anything to hurt her.

Either way, she was free and trying to find some sight or sound of the only person she wanted to see. So far, however, she hadn’t seen Tanith’s bright green hair nor heard her distinctive voice. She searched through most of the Middle Streets before catching her voice. As she came closer, she mentally berated herself for having looked anywhere that wasn’t full of sweets.

On a street corner between Lower End and Middle Merchant, Tanith stared at the candy that was placed in her hand. “Are you sure that it’s safe to eat? It looks kinda... Rotten,” she said skeptically to the person that had offered it to her. 

Amelie slipped in beside her, glancing down at the discolored sweet thing the other girl was trying to buy. She made a face. “I wouldn’ eat that if I was you,” she said warily. 

Tanith shrugged and carelessly tossed the candy over her shoulder, to the feeble protests of her supplier. She smiled at Amelie, but then started in surprise. “Amelie! You’re free!” she exclaimed, pointing in her amazement. She grabbed Amelie’s wrist and squeezed lightly, receiving a smile and squeeze of her shoulder in reply

“A’course I’m out. Did ya think they’d keep me forever?” 

Tanith ducked her head, moving away from Middle Merchant and further down Lower End, where they were more welcome. “Well, what reason was you put in for, to begin with?” she asked, trying to remember if she had been told or not. She hadn’t. None of their chinwags even knew.

Amelie tilted her head, thinking for a moment, “Um...somethin’ ‘bout fightin’ I think,” she replied with an uncaring shrug, “Alls I ‘member is it was somethin’ stupid.” She watched the ground as they walked, intent on avoiding anything sharp or sticky, as her shoes had been nicked at some point during her stay in the correctional facility.     

Tanith’s eyes widened. “You were in a fight? And I wasn’t there?”she asked, completely taken by surprise. “And you were celled for it?” 

“Yeah, was with some taloppy. He got in my face when I didn’t rack off after he tripped me. So I got celled. You weren’t there, I think you were food findin’.” 

Tanith’s face scrunched up in disgust at the thought of confronting one of them. “Did’ya at least grab somethin’ to sell?” she asked seriously, licking her lips at the thought of possibly having something good to eat soon. 

Amelie gave her a look, “Do I ever come without somethin’?” she asked, before blatantly showing her friend a nice watch-cuff, radio-bead, and a full purse.

“Them in the cells don’ know how ta search for anythin’. They jus’ frisk a lil’ and send ya on the way.” 

Tanith sighed with such great relief that she could have collapsed when Amelie handed her the purse. “The food stash is empty. Completely. Now, we can feast ‘gain,” she said, a content expression on her face as she counted a handful of the real, completely true credit chips. She was holding more money in her hand than she had ever before been able to touch in her entire life.

 Amelie grinned, “That’s what I’m for, Tanny. I’m your personal food-giver. So, are we gonna get some food, or are we gonna stand aroun’ here all day?” 

In her excitement, Tanith didn’t even wait for Amelie to finish her thought. She was already several yards away and running as fast as she could up to Mash Place, the nearest eatery with decent food. 

Amelie laughed, running after her best friend, “Yo! Tanny! Wait up! I wanna eat something that doesn’t look like it was spit up, too!” she called after her friend, attempting to catch up. 

Though, it looked as if she were about to die from waiting, Tanith did. She jumped and jogged in place until Amelie was within a couple of feet. She immediately took off again and Amelie waved her off, deciding that it would be best to let her go on and catch up at her own pace. She was happy she had only given Tanith a part of the money considering she knew her friend would probably spend a large portion of what she had given her on food. She wanted to question what had happened to their last haul, which should have held them over for much longer than the time she’d been celled, but she knew without asking. Tanith wasn’t the best with bartering when it came to sweets and that she ate more sweets when she was scared or worried.

No more than a few minutes after Amelie had quit chasing, Tanith was seated in a booth at Mash Place with a large plate of steaming pancakes covered in caramel drizzle and a banana split large enough to feed three people. She had already finished a chocolate smoothie and was beginning to dig into the syrup-drenched pancakes. Her facial expression made it seem as if she were in heaven as she shoveled food into her mouth as fast as she could. Amelie dropped down next to her, and spooned a bit of the banana split into her own mouth. 

With a mouthful of pancakes, Tanith looked at her friend in horror. “Met mer mnnn,” she whined, pointing at a menu.

“You met my what?” Amelie asked innocently, feigning ignorance, as she looked over the menu. They rarely were well off enough to manage to eat to their hearts content and there were a great many foods that Amelie wanted to try. Unlike Tanith, she didn’t think the entire sweets menu to be good enough for her dietary needs. Honestly, she didn’t really have Tanith’s sweet tooth and rather avoided sugar where she could manage. Regardless, she took a fork full of pancakes, watching her friend’s expression with a smile.   

Tanith’s face looked extremely pained. Her eyes even watered slightly as she continued to shovel her food into her mouth. “Op! Mm phood!” 

Amelie laughed, and ordered a fish platter. There was no doubt that Tanith was hungrier than Amelie. After all, the Cells were a guaranteed two meals every day, where being out on the streets was a guaranteed nothing. So Amelie didn’t try to eat any more of Tanith’s food and Tanith was thankful. 

Tanith finished the pancakes before Amelie’s food came. For a long moment, the two just stared at each other, Amelie’s smile never slipping, though Tanith’s face went from pouting to serious. “Why’d you steal my food?” she asked with a hurt expression, though, as always with the two of them, there was more unspoken to that question. Before she let her friend answer, however, she grabbed her banana split and dug into that, as if her life depended on it. 

Amelie sighed lightly, leaning her head on her propped up fist. She felt tired all of a sudden. “If it’ll make you feel any better, you can have some of my fish,” she said, cutting her fish cakes into neat squares. 

Tanith paused and looked at Amelie. Without taking her eyes off of her friend, she scooped a portion of the untouched cranberry sauce from its spot beside the fish cake, onto her banana split and continued eating as if she had never stopped, or ever would. 

Amelie ate careful, deliberate bites, watching as the food disappeared from her plate. She stopped and watched her friend eating for a few seconds before looking back at her own food and pushing her plate Tanith’s way. It still had a little less than half of the food on it, “I don’ feel so good,” she said softly, burying her face in her hands. 

While pushing the plate hastily away in favor of her slices of pie and cake after finishing the split, Tanith examined her Amelie with concern. She ate slower so that she could communicate between bites. “When did it start ‘n,” she took a large bite, chewed, and swallowed, “Where does it hurt?” 

Amelie frowned slightly, evident from the crease in her visible forehead, “Hurts all over, but mainly my stomach...” she said slowly, “ ‘N me throat,” she added, switching into a familiar accent when the booth behind them was filled by a group of young men. “Started mebbe hours ‘fore they let me outta the cell.”

Tanith pushed the empty plate away and covered her mouth to belch. “That doesn’t sound good. Were ya sharin’ Cells with any sickly?”

 Amelie shook her head, “Nah that I know of. I thought they were fine ‘nough, since they were all clean ‘nough ta try ‘n bug tha hell outta me.” 

Tanith frowned deeply and leaned back, looking around the room to see if anyone was watching them. The men in the booth behind her were doing a poor job of not being obvious about watching them and though she didn’t recognize them, she knew Amelie did by the way the blue-haired girl kept squinting past her, at them.

Leaning forward, she whispered, “On a scale from one to ten, how bad is the pain?” 

Amelie frowned, scrunching her face slightly in pain, “Mebbe a seven ‘r eight,” she replied, biting her lip, “Ah wanna go home,” she said, standing up. She sank back into the seat immediately, “Soon’s the room stops spinnin’.” 

Tanith leapt out of her seat to Amelie’s side, helping her sit back. She grabbed Amelie’s hand and held it. “Whatever you do,” she said solemnly, “Don’t die.” 

Amelie smiled slightly at her Tanith, or rather where she thought Tanith was, since due to her dizziness, she was looking someplace in the air a few inches from Tanith’s head. “I promise, I won’t,” she replied. 

Worried, Tanith let go of her friend’s hand and began to pace, disturbing the other customers. Every other pace, she went back and check on Amelie. “Are you better yet?”

She avoided looking to the men in the booth behind them, though she felt their eyes on her. She tried to keep her mind on Amelie and wanting her better, but they needed to get out of the restaurant. Amelie had been trying to tell her that before she’d become dizzy and Tanith was well aware that the longer they stayed, the more likely one of the men would try something.

After about ten minutes of Tanith’s pacing, Amelie’s vision had declined to a single blur, but she had ceased to be dizzy, “Tanny, just...I can walk, if ye lead me, we can get back to the hole. I think I jus’ need a lil’ sleep,” she told her friend. 

“Oh, r-right,” Tanith replied and immediately stepped up with a helping hand. With a tight grasp on Amelie’s upper arm, she asked, “Alright, are you ready?”

Amelie nodded in Tanith’s direction, closing her eyes, “Yeah, let’s go.” 

When Tanith pulled Amelie to her feet, the green-haired girl glanced past the blue-haired one more time to get a good look at the men. Two seemed to be focused on Amelie, which worried her only until one focused on her and gave a dangerous smile. She immediately shifted her gaze away, to Amelie’s face.

“Are you good?” she asked softly, staring into the other girl’s blue eyes.

Amelie nodded, but she stumbled forward until her head rested on Tanith’s shoulder, making the girl worry twice as much. “We have to go,” she whispered. “They got eyes on us.”

“I know,” Amelie whispered back, forcing herself to stand upright. Tanith brushed Amelie’s hair from her eyes so that she could see how glassy they were looking and worried when it didn’t look like Amelie was focusing on much of anything.

 Tanith led Amelie out of the restaurant and though she wanted to go straight to their home, knew that it wasn’t safe. Amelie murmured incoherently, but Tanith knew she was most likely trying to tell her that they were being followed and which paths to take. Amelie was the better of the two of them at losing a trail, but Tanith still had a few tricks up her sleeve. Leading Amelie gently through Middle Merchant, she navigated them onto the ladder paths between the tightly packed buildings. Most people avoided them and she had no doubt that their unwelcome tagalongs didn’t even know of their existence.

She was hoping they didn’t, anyway. Going by ladderways through Middle Merchant landed them at the bend of Upper Downs and the long alleys made it easy for her to check regularly to be sure they weren’t being followed. Once at the end of the alley, she turned them back through the maze of streets and alleyways to Fig Lane, avoiding as many people as possible and barely acknowledging the existence of the ones that they did come across. She consistently glanced at her friend, becoming more worried the more weight Amelie forced her to carry.

Tanith glanced at the Golden Fig landmark. “We’re almost there, Amelie,” she said, glancing into the slats on the back window of the pits restaurant. She could see the cook as he washed food that didn’t really look edible anymore, which meant that no one was watching their Hole.

“I know,” she said, her breathing a little ragged. “Could we go faster?”

Tanith looked at Amelie. “You’re soundin’ better already!” she lied. “You wanna to run the rest of the way?” she inquired jokingly, practically dragging Amelie through the dirt path.

“Don’ think I would make it,” Amelie whispered, closing her eyes for a bit longer than Tanith liked. The green one shifted Amelie to a better position and her eyes fluttered open. “No running.” 

Tanith put on a sad expression and sighed. “That’s disappointing,” she said, shaking her head to further show her fake disappointment.

From around the corner, a familiar voice called out, “Tanith! What are you doing here!?” 

Tanith groaned quietly, and shifted Amelie again so it looked as though she were standing on her own. “ ‘m goin’ home,” she said, forcing a smile. As they turned the corner, they faced another girl, dirtier than they and skinnier to boot. Her clothes were in a horrible state and her brown hair, while long, was in knots.

Azzie squealed and smiled broadly. “Hey! Me too! I can walk you home,” she suggested. 

Tanith kept smiling at Azzie though she looked a bit strained, relaxing slightly when Amelie leaned her head on her shoulder and managed to fully stand on her own. Tanith let her arm fall from Amelie’s shoulder to her waist and shrugged. “If you want, but we’re a bit out of the way,” she assured the new girl, who was openly looking at Amelie as though she were trying to figure her out.

“Oh! I remember you!” the girl exclaimed after a moment of openly scrutinizing the blue girl. “It always was Tanith and Amelie. Of course Amelie would be around.”

“Do I know you?” Amelie asked bluntly.

“I mean, you might not remember me very well, but we were in classes together. I came from a feeder system in the Middle when my parents went broke. Azkadelia, remember? I used to bunk with Tanith?”

Amelie knew exactly who Azzie was. She also knew how to read Tanith’s body language. Tanith had worked up a rapport with Azzie for some reason Amelie didn’t understand, but because Amelie hadn’t, she could be rude and make the other girl feel uncomfortable. Because rapport or not, Tanith definitely didn’t trust the skinny girl and neither did she. The skinnier a street person was, she’d found, the more likely they were to be on some kind of substance that altered their minds and made it justifiable to hurt others for just about anything. She didn’t particularly want someone she didn’t fully trust knowing where their hide-out was or to be alone with them while she was feeling sickly.

So Amelie gave the girl a blank face. “Not ringing any bells,” she said before turning her attention back to Tanith, purposely blocking the other girl out. “Can we go?”

Tanith nodded at Amelie and waved to Azzie. “You comin’ or what?” she invited as she trotted in a direction that would lead to their hide-out after a few twist and turns.

“Oh. Um. Some other time. I needed some food from Fig’s Market. I’ll see ya,” Azzie stuttered, stumbling away from them and toward the market, which was a block away from the restaurant.

“Kay. Bye,” Tanith called, moving her hand back up Amelie’s back to her shoulders.

The other girl stayed tensed up, “Not yet,” she whispered, forcing herself to continue walking until she could no longer feel Azzie watching them. When she did, she almost collapsed into Tanith.

“I’m so sorry. I didn’t know she’d be there,” Tanith whispered, holding Amelie up with all of her strength.

“Just get me home,” she whispered.

 

“I’m trying.”

 

Next part of Chapter One: Lasts Place

Next part of Street: Chapter Two

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It was Sunday. Heather hated Sundays. Sundays were full of idiots who managed to get Celled coming home and the big hoorah for them managing to survive being given two meals a day, mandatory showers, a place to sleep in relative safety, and shelter from the weather changes. So while her Snakes were celebrating with those who’d been returned to them, she was out on the streets, checking out the conditions.

By conditions, she meant searching for Rod to make him miserable.

She hadn’t seen her brother since the incident involving them and the hole in the ground, when they’d had to work together to get out. She wanted to make sure that he knew their momentary truce was no longer active. Her not trying to kill him recently had more to do with her being busy than anything else. Besides, keeping him alive kept the Mongeese around and that gang was doing good things for her no matter how accidentally.

There he was. She quickly fell into step behind the tall man, making sure to blend as well as she could with the crowds. Unlike Rod, who towered over everyone with his height, Heather fit in well with the street children with her relatively small stature. Of all the features they could have inherited from their shared father, the only things both seemed to have taken was his complexion, complete with freckling from sun exposure, and his brown eyes, which were twinned on both siblings faces.

Heather twisted her mouth to the corner as Rod paused and looked behind him. Before she could avert her eyes, he spotted her, freezing up for a moment before turning. Surprised that the coward was considering approaching her, she stood up at her full height of five feet and four and a half inches, not counting the five-inch heels she wore. She raised her eyebrows threateningly and watched as Rod faltered, smirking when he averted his gaze and made a point of putting distance between them.

She laughed mockingly, turning away from him to study a stand she’d never noticed before. It was obviously a coverup for the newest drug the Electronuts were hashing. Even if she hadn’t seen the silvery eyed gaze as they watched her pass by, she would have recognized the Electronuts members from a mile off with their lightning bolt tattoos covering all of their exposed skin.

A sharp smile at one of their pet COPS made the man flinch back. She laughed mockingly at him before turning on her heel and determining that there needed to be a raid on the Electronuts as soon as possible. She wanted those drugs off of her street because too many of her people were dying from bad batches. Besides, she didn’t like the power the Electronuts were getting by being the drug gang. Mongeese were the protection gang and she allowed that because she didn’t want to protect anyone. Snakes were the information gang. She liked that, just knowing everything going on and the power she gained by knowing more than others; it was what made the Snakes the most powerful gang aboveground. She didn’t want to lose too much of her power to a truly neyed run gang.

Noticing something strange, Heather narrowed her eyes. There were too many children with balloons. Why did they have balloons? Where were that many children going with that many balloons? She shifted from the wall to follow them when she saw a familiar towering form doing the same. The little bastard had been following her, she realized, vaguely disturbed that someone that large could follow her without her knowing and twice as irritated purely because it was Rod.

She shifted once again, into the shade to watch as her younger brother approached one of those children. It was a straggler, glancing around nervously and when Rod completely blocked out the sun, it froze, its eyes going so wide that its face seemed to be made only of the two eyes. She watched Rod talk to the kid, probably threaten it like she had been planning to do.

And then the kid stabbed the balloon. A green fluid dropped out of the balloon and hit Rod, dropping him to the ground. The kid looked around in fright when Rod yelled out. It shot off as quickly as possible, the string on its wrist dragging behind. Heather looked back to her ridiculous brother, who was snapping out orders to no one, though she had no doubt that some of his followers were nearby. To be sure, there were a handful of weasels coming out of nowhere to save their leader.

 

With a smirk, Heather slunk back and away. She was always so grateful to Rod for doing the hard work for her.

 

Next part: Seer Chapter Two

Next part of Lasts Place: Chapter Two

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Green woke with a start, his hand tightly clenched in his shirt and sweat soaking his forehead. The dream he’d had was so bizarre that he didn’t even want to try remembering it. Not hearing the comforting whir of Ari’s sanitation tiles made him aware that he wasn’t at home. He sat up in the bed and tried to remember where he was

Annalise was sitting on a chaise, waiting for Green to wake, “Feeling better?” she asked the boy, scrutinizing him closely. Although she had been around him a lot less in the last few years than their previous ones, she still knew to be wary when he awoke with a start and not to pry too much. So even though she wondered what had jerked him awake, she didn’t ask, knowing he would tell her if it was of importance.

 Green dropped his head into his hands, feeling very hazy. “I’m fine, it’s jus’ the usual post-split reactions,” he mumbled, feeling a bad headache coming on. He glanced up at Annalise, then did a double-take. “Are you alright?” he asked with a shocked tone. “You don’t quite seem... your usual self,” he said, referring to her position.

She had her arms around her knees and was hugging them to her body closely, almost as if she were afraid. She clearly didn’t realize that was what her position conveyed, or she would have immediately changed positions to one that conveyed a great sense of self and power. No one, not even Green, was allowed to know how much she really was scared of since their Dreams had taken a dark turn.

Annalise tilted her head, “What do you mean?” she asked him, before catching a glimpse of herself in a nearby mirror. Not breaking eye contact with the man, she immediately changed her position to cross-legged, sitting straight up, in a position that showed the world that she needed no help from others. 

Silently daring Green to comment, she pretended that moment of vulnerability never happened as she tilted her head back to stare at the ceiling, “So, should we be getting along, or is there anything we need to converse about?’ 

“ ‘Getting along’ sounds great, actually,” Green replied, crawling off of the bed and stretching. He acted as if he hadn’t seen any vulnerability at all, knowing bad things could happen if he did.  

Annalise nodded, leaping to her feet and stretching her back in an arch. “See you ‘round then,” she said, as if she didn’t live with him, before walking towards the door to leave.

Green reached out in half an attempt to stop her. “W-wait up there a moment, Annalise, we need to discuss a couple of details about the party, right? We can’t go putting that off for too long.” 

Annalise jerked away when his hand was too close to her. He knew better than to touch her unless he wanted them to have a quick sync. Considering she had only just lost her own headache, she didn’t want to share his or any of his thoughts on the party until she absolutely had to. That was his job.

“Fine. Start talking,” she said, sitting back down on the chaise with a sigh. “I have somewhere to be.”

Green hesitated, wondering if she really had another engagement or if she was still avoiding him because of their fight over the Dreams. “W-well, we have to agree on several food choices, pick some sort of theme to put the minds of the construction workers to rest and, um, other stuff,” he said and rubbed the back of his head. 

Annalise laughed, “Wow, and stuff,” she said in a mocking tone. She shook her head and glanced towards the only window, outwardly a one-way mirror. She watched the few stragglers walking around, aimlessly. She frowned, wondering for a moment how long they had been sleeping. She shook the thought from her mind and turned her attention back to the man who stood with her. Seeing how flustered he looked, and feeling bad about it, she tried to be a bit more accommodating. “Um...I dunno...just regular food, ya know? Maybe things that people would enjoy eating but don’t, I guess.” 

Green thought for a moment. “Squid? I heard it chews like rubber. Um, alligator meat, ostrich eggs, cow brains, stuff like that,” he asked with a totally straight face. 

Annalise stared at Green in horror, “Have you ever eaten those things before?” she asked, then shook her head, “Not that it matters, but if you haven’t, I’m convincing Ari to give you a big plate of just those things. But NO. I was thinking more along the lines of fresh fruit, salad,” she made a face as she said the next food item, “Chicken. Things like that from the Agro-building that they can’t afford too much of.” 

“I haven’t tried those things, no. I was trying to think of things that people would enjoy eating but don’t. However, finger sandwiches, salad, and chicken sound just lovely!” Green exclaimed, slapping his hands together. “Now, onto the theme. I guess, with your food choices, it should probably be a more Victorian era sort of theme, fancy, but not ridiculous. Any other suggestions, comments or input?”  

“You aren’t being serious, are you?” she asked, staring at the man in bemusement. He raised his eyebrows questioningly in response. “No. Not fancy, definitely not ridiculous. More of a normal casual thing. It’ll ease the people’s fear and tension and make it easier to persuade them.”

Green slumped and crossed his arms. “That isn’t a lot of fun. If we constantly stick with ‘normal’ and ‘casual’ things, the people might not give us the due respect that we, well, I deserve in the Party-Throwing Department. They’ll think we’re lame, unimaginative shlubs,” he whined, adding the perfect pout at the end.  

Annalise threw her head back in one of her very few true laughs, not of spite, but humor.  “And your point is?” she asked before she looked at him, “We want them comfortable. When we have a party with directors of whatever, then you can plan it whatever way you want. We want the constructors to see that we’re like them, although we aren’t. We have to gain their trust and feeding them cow brains, ostrich eggs, alligator meat and squid is not going to do that. Let’s keep that for the Rich people who enjoy the spectacle.”

Green groaned, though he knew what she said was the truth. “Fine, have it your way,” he mumbled and hit the side of his head. “I’ll hang out in a corner moping and whimpering as our image doesn’t improve.”

Annalise laughed again and almost reached out to hug Green, before getting herself back in check. The touch would only sync them and while they used to do that when they were kids, they weren’t anymore. It had been both of them who’d decided to cut back their syncing to only when they were fusing. They liked the modicum of privacy it gave them. She would be rude to touch him and sync now, right after they’d de-fused.

“Yes, okay. Laugh all you want, but scoot on out of here before we’re seen together. Who knows what kind of rumors might crop up if people see us,” he said, making a little shooing motion with his hands as he also headed towards the door. 

“Your point being?” She asked, looking at Green through her curtain of cyan hair. He gave her a look she knew too well. They both knew she was the one most worried about what others thought about them being seen together. Only her paranoia led to the conclusion that seeing the two of them together at the broadcast building would lead to people finding out that they were the Seer and an ultimate crumbling of society creating an anarchy movement. Nevermind that no one aside from Ari and the previous, dead, Seers knew that the Seer was created by a syncing of two people. Nevermind that no one would look twice at the Seer’s assistant’s children being there.

She sighed, knowing how little he worried about the possibility. Moving towards a different exit that only she ever used, she gave him a mock salute. “I guess seeya sometime,” she said, slipping through the exit and out of the room. 

 

Green grinned as Annalise departed. “Later,” he corrected even though she couldn’t hear him, and then walked right out of the main exit.

 
Next part of Chapter Two: Rich

Next part of Seer: Chapter Three
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The museum was a large building, one of the largest in the City, which was to be expected because it held all of the City’s most prized possessions, both those on exhibit and those hidden within the vaults. In their entire lives, the two girls had been there, with their Educator fifteen times—once for each year they were old—and for their own personal pleasure, never. Both supposed it would be a new experience without an Educator describing everything there with the lesson blurb.

 Lav glanced at Are when they made it to the doors, “I still want to know what you’re hiding from me,” she muttered as they were screened for entrance. Seeing their credit information on the door pad, both girls pressed their hands onto it to gain access. After a blue light shone to indicate their identities had been verified, the door slid open to allow them entrance.

“I’m selling you into a marriage, along with the gift,” Are stated calmly with a simple smile for her friend. She glanced around the place and quickly took note of all of the cameras and other security features. The information she had been fed was correct and they were precisely where she’d expected. There were a surprisingly few visible, however, which definitely meant there had to be some in hiding.  Those were the ones she still had to find on her own.

Lav laughed, and seemed to shake her head at her friend. What she was really doing was checking for weapons, people with cameras and for any other recording device. She checked over each person quickly, coming to conclusions about most of the groups. She counted forty-two people, which she was positive meant the museum was more populous than on average. Most of them had the cheekbone shimmer of an old bog plug and a few had the left eye glint of a flash plug, but those seemed to be the only recording devices—aside from the surveillance domes.

She leaned forward as if to whisper a joke into Are’s ear, “A few COPS, but I don’t think any of them are here to intercept anything, more likely for a little extra as security since they’re out of uniform. There are a lot of artists, old Rich and a few young Rich so we don’t stand out too much. There are three weird, though. They look like Rich but I don’t recognize them. New money? Maybe meebs dressing up as plebes to feel good. I can’t tell why so many people are here, though. It doesn’t seem to be a Lesson,” she whispered. “Maybe we should come back when there are less people around?”

Are smiled and coughed slightly, to give herself time to examine the people. She followed this with a roll of her eyes and a short, barking laugh. “Don’t say something like that in public,” she whispered loudly. “Someone might hear you.” She playfully shoved Lav and walked up to a piece of art on a wall. 

Lav scoffed, “Right.” But she was wary. Her friend was acting out of character, almost as though she knew something that made her skittish. Lav shook the thought away and followed Are to the piece, staring at the lines of the painting. She squinted and turned her head, trying to see the appeal, but coming up with nothing. It looked like something a child would toss together while still trying to understand their motor functions. “What is the point of something so disastrous?” she asked loudly. She wasn’t a big fan of abstract art. She wasn’t really much on any art, but abstract art was definitely her least favorite—possibly because it was Gregor’s favorite.

Are elbowed her buddy in the side. “Dangerous words, friend,” she warned under her breath. Dangerous words, indeed, for several heads had turned sharply, accusing the strange child of blasphemies far beyond her years. The last thing they needed or wanted was to cause a scene and gain attention. It would cause questions about them being there, and neither had a good explanation for their trip—not one that would be believed.

Lav pulled the band from her hair to let it fall around her face, but didn’t stop speaking. “Maybe, but I don’t see the point in cacophony. Whether it be in the form of drawn, written, or sounded art.” She chose not to make any direct eye contact with those around her, because she felt the artistics around her readying to intrude. Eye contact would be the opening they needed to school her on the art.

Are sighed, not sure why her friend was acting as she was. Looking around, she used Lav’s comments as an excuse to drag her further into the museum, past the abstract and concept art, to the more realistic, which was closer to where the rock would be placed. “Hush your complaints if you want to live. I’ve heard nasty stories about art fanatics,” she said, trying to keep them off of any guard’s watch list. 

Lav giggled, “Well you and I both know that I just cut our expected time in here by half,” she whispered into her friends ear before passing her, to stand next to a man she knew to be a COPS. Are smiled after her, as ever glad that she’d underestimated her friend’s cunning. Both girls tilted their heads at the sculpture the man was looking at. Lav tried to look at it from all angles, but for the life of her, she couldn’t understand what was holding his attention to it. In fact, the way he was looking at it told her that he was pointedly not looking somewhere else and she wanted to know where that somewhere was.

Seeing that her chatty friend was about to say something, Are grabbed Lav’s arm and swung her to look at a painting up on the wall. “You see that? That tiny little figure in the distance over behind that pathetic shack-like building? How much do you want to bet that it’s an authority figure?” she asked, her voice bland as she tried to determine if her other half realized that she had been about to converse with a COPS. That was a horrible idea, considering that any COPS worth his or her grain recognized members of the Adela family.

Lav smiled innocently, “And why would you think that?” The way she said it told Are that she had missed something, that her friend had noticed something she hadn’t.

Are raised an eyebrow. “Who else would be sneaking around the buildings like that with children playing in the foreground, eh?” 

“An assassin, a politician, a parent, a thief, a murderer, a kidnapper, or you. No one knows why you’d do it, but you would.” Lav turned away from Are when she was done talking, ignoring when Are gave her the driest look that she could, only to see the COPS had moved away to another part of the building. She squinted after him, but he kept moving. She started to head after him, but a metal conceptual piece caught both girls before they could keep moving further in, to the main exhibit room.

They walked to the strange metal sculpture, something that looked like it was reaching towards the sky, but falling into a very dark place. Tapping her implant, Are listened to the information on the piece. It was a recent contribution from a small-time artist that seemed to strike a resounding emotion in the Seer. It was made of twelve separate parts, each simultaneously lifting but falling, and all different. Listening, they were told that the structure was made of plastic, metal, gems, gold, wood, and clay, and then painted the silver of metal before being splashed with black paint. It kept their attention far longer than any other piece.

“Huh, how peculiar,” Are stated once the voice finished its explanation.

“It, it symbolizes our life, in a way,” Lav said softly, trying not to let anyone overhear her. That was definitely a statement that would stick in other’s minds, given this statue was clearly striving to leave what it knew, what was holding it down. No Rich child should have been saying anything like that.

A smile played on Are’s lips as she thought about what her friend said. She could find no fault in the statement and she kind of liked the comparison. “Definitely,” she mumbled. As she stared at the statue, she noticed a tiny discoloration in a shadow. She quickly pretended to sneeze, which came very naturally to her, relaying a message to Lav through it. “Hidd’n cam’ra,” she let out in her real-sounding sneeze. “Uh-oh, I think there may be a little dust in this place. Or maybe I’m allergic to peculiar,” she said and laughed lightly. 

Lav looked skeptically at the art for a moment, looking for the camera. Once she spotted it, she nodded. It was a standard fare, though much less ubiquitous than the ceiling domes. “I’d go with the second. Let’s look at something less clangy.”

Are’s eyes narrowed. “Don’t use that word,” she snapped and walked to another piece several feet away. 

Lav grinned. Whether on a job or not, she couldn’t help but take the time to tease her friend with street slang, particularly the rude ones, “What word? You mean,” she looked slyly at her friend, “Clangy?” she asked before shouldering Are, “What about drongs?”

Are quickly covered her ears and hummed to herself, trying to keep the words from reaching her sensitive eardrums. “Ew, ew, ew, ew, ew,” she said until Lav walked away. She shuddered and glared at her friend, though she was noting that there seemed to be an increase in people in the main exhibit section.

Bugger,” Lav muttered when the two stopped outside of the main exhibit hall to stare at the sign. The rock exhibit was three days early. “Wasn’t it supposed to be here Friday?”

Are nodded, scanning over the people around them. Seeing the trio she was searching for, she nudged Lav. “Go on in,” she said loudly before whispering “And find the cameras.” She giggled and twirled her hair on one finger, attempting to seem far emptier in the head than she was. “I wanna look around here first.” She didn’t have to say the implied ‘for exits and to change strategy.’ 

Lav paused for a moment before nodding and entering the enclosed space, allowing Are to walk towards a huge painting on her own. In front of said painting were three older people, the ones that Lav had pointed out to Are.

 “Wow,” she said, awestruck enough to almost run into one of them. “This is so huge and pretty,” she said quietly. “Can you see the stars?” she asked one of them, one who held himself very tall and contemptibly. The man nodded slightly and walked away, followed by those around him. In passing by her, he handed her a small computer chip, which she immediately palmed into her locket. Everything seemed to be happening too quickly ad she couldn’t help but wonder if they’d planned that.

Feeling a bit disoriented, she turned on her heel and started into the main exhibit hall to find her friend. She was side-tracked, however, by the sight of what looked like a side deal between a guard and a plainclothes COPS, who handed he guard a small, fluorescent vial. When both glanced up and around, Are quickly moved into the exhibit to hide. This entire situation was problematic, she decided, and it was time to pull out. She had what she came for. She could try for the stone some other day, when everything hadn’t been changed. Little did she know that the situation was becoming even more problematic as she tried to look as unobtrusive as possible.

Lav had gone through the exhibit, searching for the telltale signs of hidden cameras: spaces that seemed purposely left clear, strange shadows, off-colored walls, gleaming from flashes. Getting into the security system would be easy, she could tell. The locket she wore, a twin to Are’s in appearance, was already working into it and the light shock she got every time it made it past a firewall had stopped a few minutes previous. That either meant that it was stuck or it was in, and she would bet on the latter. The physical security was a bit more of a problem. The date change of the exhibit as well as the number of plainclothes COPS told her that they had somehow been tipped off that the stone was in danger of being redistributed.

Unable to take the suspense anymore, Lav leaned against a wall, where Are had left her, and opened the locket. To any watching, it would appear she was checking the entertainment feed, but the secret coding in her optical implants showed that the locket had been stopped by a firewall. It wasn’t a particularly difficult one, because she could see a way around it simply looking at the coding, but it was one her locket was incapable of executing on its own. A new shock from the locket made her frown as she watched the code change into a repeated string of words “You’ve been caught.”

Hastily closing her locket, she looked around for her friend. Not seeing her on her level, she turned her attention upwards. It was there that she spotted that same COPS from before looking down at her, then his attention shifted and she followed it to Are, who was staring at an old painting of indigenous people with the rock. He was watching them, and not with the eyes of someone making sure they didn’t break anything or annoy too many people, but seriously watching them. She twitched slightly, and as his eyes turned back in her direction, she immediately turned her head away, well aware that her hair flying would let him know that she had seen him. She shoved herself off of the wall and calmly walked over to Are, although her heart was pounding with fear and she wanted to run to her friend.

Are was frowning at the painting, oblivious to anything, as she was actually interested in the art. There was something strange in the painting, something familiar. Double blinking took a picture of the painting so that she could look at it later. She felt someone coming near her and feared it was one of the COPS from the deal, but she didn’t move.

Lav almost reached her side, but a hand enclosed around her wrist, and a palm covered her mouth. No sound of the scuffle was heard as she was lifted off of her feet and away from her friend quickly and silently while Are stood still for a minute, listening intently to what was happening around her. She heard normal noises, people talking quietly, rustling of clothes, the wheezing of an old man, the steps of classy shoes on the faux marble tiles heading in her direction. 

Lav’s heel kicked into the shin of the man holding her, causing him to give a muted groan, but she wasn’t able to hit hard enough to make him let go of her. Keeping her mouth covered and her arms to her sides, he managed to get them through a side door and took her down an abandoned hall that seemed to be used for maintenance. He reached another door and this time she kicked against the reinforced glass paneling to keep him from gaining authorization to use it, pushing him back against the wall. Caught unawares, he dropped her and Lav fell hard, landing against the door, which shone red for unauthorized entry.

“Bugger,” she muttered under her breath, turning to confront the man, only to see empty air where he had hit the wall. Somehow, he had managed to disappear without making a sound. And worse yet, he’d left her in this part of the museum. Making quick work of the panel with her locket, she managed to shut off the alarms as well as open the side door she’d been brought through. Hurrying back to where she’d last seen Are, she checked to see that the COPS was missing from up top, leading her to conclude it had been that man who had attempted to kidnap her.

Luckily, Lav’s entire encounter had taken less than three minutes, and Are had yet to move. “Someone is watching us,” she whispered into her friend’s ear, holding her right shoulder up as if her left arm were a sling.

Are laughed softly. “Fine, you’re right. I’m bored. Can we leave?” she asked, directing her nervousness into a small, twitching hand muscle. They needed to get out of there, and fast. 

“Fine. With. Me,” Lav bit out through clenched teeth, still trying to hold her shoulder blade in place, in hopes of not having to have a sling at best, or at worst, a cast.

 

Are clutched Lav’s and helped her move quickly out of the museum, making their escape with a perfectly amused face. Lav glanced back over her shoulder only once, to see the COPS watching them from the door. He grinned and waved after them, his eyes silver and a small rock in his hand. She turned her attention back to Are quickly, and pretended she hadn’t seen it. 

 

Next part of Chapter Two: Cell

Next part of Rich: Chapter Three

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Ortzi cracked open his eyes. He couldn’t stand the taste of sleep and vomit in his mouth any longer. While the taste in his mouth was horrible and he wanted to fix it, he found that moving was hard to do. So instead, he lay where he was and stared at the ceiling of the cell, trying to gather enough strength to go to the sink to rinse his mouth out. His muscles were working against him and he let his breath out in an elongated sigh. To top it all off, he wasn’t thinking well because his mind was sleep-hazey. “Life sucks,” he said, though it came out as a hoarse whisper.  

Cane, who had settled himself on the floor directly to the side of the “bed”, started from his near sleep when he heard Ortzi speak. “I’m hoping that’s a good message,” he said, standing up and stretching out his back muscles, which had become taut during his uncomfortably short rest. “Feeling better?” he asked.  

Ortzi opened his eyes wider and looked at Cane, trying to remember who the new face was. “Urgh, how long have I been out?” he asked, rubbing his eyes and sitting up.  

Cane looked from the other boy to the wall embedded with a clock. It took him a few seconds for his groggy eyes to make sense of what the digital numbers were telling him. When he did, he shrugged at Ortzi, “Maybe about three hours,” he replied, rubbing his eyes with the backs of his hands. He frowned, remembering that he had been going to call the Medic had the other boy slept for more than an hour. However, since Ortzi seemed better, he figured it was alright that he hadn’t.

Ortzi swung his legs over and let his feet touch the ground before he shook off the numb feeling that had pervaded his body. He rubbed the back of his head and glanced at Cane from the corner of his eyes. “I’m real sorry, but what was your name again?” he asked, genuinely sounding apologetic.  

Cane smiled, “Don’t be sorry. I only told you once and then you were out. I didn’t expect you to remember. I’m Cane Gin,” he said.    

 “Oh, yes of course. I remember now. But just to make it even, I’m Purple, er, I mean, Ortzi. Well, you can call me whatever, I guess. Um…Yeah.” Ortzi stared at his feet, feeling like he had just botched something up. He clasped his hands together in front of him and bit his lip.  

Cane nodded with his normal smile. “Good, so we both know each others’ names now. But...just because I’m curious, do they call you Purple because of the hair and eyes?” he asked, not yet asking if it was all natural. He figured he’d get to that later rather than sooner. 

Ortzi laughed nervously. “Oh, ah ha ha, yeah. That’s mostly where the name came from. Really, it’s just one big’n’long story, but it’s basically ‘cause of the hair,” he said and ran a finger through the mentioned hair, examining it, then letting it fall back. 

“And you never answered my first question. Are you feeling better?”    

 “Honestly, I’ve been much better, but I usually feel like crap when I’m in this place. It kind of comes with the territory, I guess.”  

Cane nodded, and let go of his smile, “You do know you’ll be stuck here for a while, cuz of how you just beat those boys, correct?”  

Ortzi looked slyly to the right, where the other boys were still in  corner, sleeping. “Who’s going to tell? They were messed up when they got in here, right? They’ll be messed up when they leave. You never know with virals. They do what they please, no concern for the law. ‘Sides, self defense hardly counts as beating.” He stood up and stretched his hands towards the ceiling making his back crack before leaning forward and touching his toes. “These benches will be the death of me yet,” he mumbled to himself and plopped back down onto the bench.    

Cane coughed out a laugh, but didn’t argue, because he wasn’t sure that that wasn’t how it worked. As far as he’d seen, the justice in this place was questionable at best and completely absent in others. He was here without a trial, without any evidence linking him to the murders. He could only imagine what the true criminals got away with. Not that he considered Ortzi a true criminal. He liked to depend on his instincts, and his instincts told him without any hesitation that he could trust Ortzi. And there was no way that he would trust a criminal.

Glancing up at the ceiling, Cane made a face upon seeing dried blood and other, less easily determined stains. He had never been anywhere as unclean. No wonder the other man had been sick. “This place is disgusting,” he muttered. 

“They only clean the cells when no one is in them,” Ortzi stated, letting Cane know how often this particular cell was occupied.  “Better than that, no one was in here when I was dropped off,” Ortzi said with a bright smile.  

Cane glanced up at the stains, then over at the disgusting toilet before looking at Ortzi again, “How long have you been here?”  

Ortzi hummed, thinking. “Probably about three days, by now.” He stood and shrugged. “But I’m awful with time, so you can’t really trust what I say in that respect.”  

Cane looked at him, “Either they didn’t clean it before you got here, or it’s been a while,” he said before turning his attention to the thick wall holding them in. He had to figure a way out, because he had no hopes of his team managing to break him out. It was his duty to lead them and covert rescue missions wasn’t their forte even with him. A glance at the purple boy walking the length of the cell kept his attention for a few moments. Cane recognized that he could be of some use if he was as familiar with this place as he seemed to be. Besides that, he was curious about who the small man really was, aside from his cell-mate.

“What got you here?”

“Are you talking about in this cell or in the Cells in general?” Ortzi asked, pausing with a lopsided grin, remembering both incidents.    

Cane tilted his head, wondering what could bring such an amused grin to the other’s lips. “Both.” he said.  

Ortzi dropped down onto Cane’s bench and rolled up his sleeve to show his black, permanent branding. He grinned at Cane, expecting the other man to recognize the markings, but instead he got a question.

“What’s the different color mean?”

Cane knew that brandings were a way for those in charge to recognize different Celleds. Where he was from, they used similar brandings, though he couldn’t discern between the different markings because he was rarely up close to them. His team was generally just information and medical.

“You’re new to Cells, aren’t you?” Ortzi asked instead of answering. “What’d you do to get in here? Piss off a taloppy?”

“What’s that?” Cane asked curiously. Tanith had used that word in disdain and he’d heard it quite a few times, but never in a context where he would understand it.

“Where are you from?” Ortzi asked jokingly. “Don’t know taloppies, don’t know the Cell marks, helpful, weird peace-y. Are you an alien?”

“No,” was all Cane replied, looking away from Ortzi. He didn’t know him well enough to really go into the whole situation. And even if he had, he wasn’t really sure where he was. He might be an alien. All he knew was that he’d awakened in a pod inside of a larger pod, surrounded by his team. When they’d managed to get out, they had found themselves underground, barely managed to get to the top, and then they’d been separated. The pink haired woman had helped him, there’d been the manhunt, he’d found Tanith, he’d been framed for the murders, and then he’d ended up here.

“Well,” Ortzi spoke when it was obvious that Cane wouldn’t. “I was disturbing the peace, street fighting, vandalizing private property, destroying government property, assaulting an officer, and assaulting another human being with the intention to kill. Then, when I got in here, I met up with an old friend and started a food fight with fresh, three-week-old bread and cussed out several ‘A’-dolts.

“The Warden didn’t take too kindly to his scare tactics not working, so I got perm-branded and then they stuffed me in here to wait for permanent placement,” Ortzi stated. He rubbed his chin, trying to remember any events that he missed. When he couldn’t, he shrugged and said, “Yep, well, that’s what they put me in here for. At least, that’s what they probably have written down. I still consider it all self-defense. And for the record, a taloppy is a Rich and the black means it’s permanent.”  

 

 
Next part in Chapter Two: COPS

Next part in Cell: Chapter Three
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Gary tried very hard to figure out why Rose would have lied to him. While talking to the girl, Aster, he’d been in a great position to see behind the stand. There was no candy, not even a tiny gumdrop. Instead, there were weapons, lots of guns, a partly open hatch to the Old City, and a few closed cases. He wasn’t sure what was going on there, but it wasn’t a candy stall and he knew that Rose knew that.

But he didn’t ask. It wasn’t that he trusted Rose to be making the right call, in fact, there were few people he trusted less than Rose to make a good call. No, he didn’t ask because he was observant and he didn’t miss that they were being trailed by Aster. The girl was deeply under the influence of some drug, but it wasn’t Nightshade. Gary knew what Nightshade looked like, and while the color of her eyes was right, there was a lack of hysteria, a definition of her blue veins. She didn’t look high, she looked focused. And she looked focused on them.

Out of the corner of his eye, Gary watched the girl as she stalked them. She didn’t even try to be sneaky about it, and it was as if she wanted them to know she was watching.

“We should stop here for today,” Rose decided, sounding a bit distracted. He patted Gary on the back. “I have business I need to attend to and you have to get back to the station. Captain Hartsteele had some tests she wanted you to get done a week ago.”

“What?!” Gary exclaimed. While one part of him suspected Rose of simply attempting to get rid of him, he was also incredibly aware that forgetting to tell him about tests for a week was exactly the kind of thing Rose would do. “What tests?” he asked worriedly. He wasn’t aware of any tests once out of basic training in the academy. None of his friends had gone through any tests, that was for sure.

“Something about being a probationary,” Rose said with an air of nonchalance, but secretly he enjoyed the excited look his greenie got at the news.

“She wants to make me a probationary?” Gary was so excited that everything else dropped from his mind. While, sure, a Probationary Officer was still less than a junior officer, it was better than being a sprout. It had the word officer in it! Better yet, a probationary was on the track to being a Special Officer, which was higher than a standard. More than that, with a Special Officer career track, he would never find himself stuck with the rest of his family, on the council or in a position of power. He never wanted that.

“Yeah,” Rose answered, looking past Gary, to their second tail. Whereas the lightning tattooed girl was obvious, the boy following them stuck to the rooftops and alleyways. If he hadn’t been expecting to see him, Rose would have completely overlooked him. Gary had.

“Wh—I—Do I need anything? When was I supposed to be tested? Am I too late? I—She—The Captain won’t think that I was avoiding her, will she? What if she thinks I don’t want to be promoted? Or that I don’t want that promotion? I do!”

“Then go over to the station. I’ll tell her you’re coming. Explain that I forgot,” Rose assured Gary, turning him back the way of the COPS rail. The younger man stumbled toward the rail before looking back to Rose suspiciously.

“Call her first,” he demanded, knowing that it might slip his superior officer’s mind otherwise.

Rose gave a small laugh, but connected his social implant to the network. Pressing the soft skin behind his ear, a soft buzzing entered his ear to let him know that he was, indeed, connected. Waving his hand at the impatient Gary, he allowed himself a moment to sync with his missed notifications and unsurprisingly, there was a message waiting from his captain. Rather than listening to it, he tapped the prominent vein on his wrist to connect to the line for a work related call. Closing his eyes, he saw the images of Gary, Brick, a few other workmates. Mentally scrolling past them, he then saw his higher ups, and focusing on Captain Hartsteele’s image, he tapped his wrist again.

The call connected almost immediately. “You had better have a good excuse for why I’ve not heard from you, Conrad.”

“Oh, did I have something to report on?” he asked casually, smiling at Gary, who stared at him in horror.

Please tell me you did the follow up on the Mongeese run. You told me you would and I didn’t do it. Please,” Gary whined as Captain Hartsteele reamed into Rose for the same reason.

“And the next time you want to go out with just a Greenie and bust a handful of Mongeese, DON’T.”

“How about if I do it with a Probie?” Rose suggested, grinning at Gary, who was still fuming. Even though the boy couldn’t hear their captain’s side of the conversation, it wasn’t too difficult for him to follow along with the conversation.

The anger left Captain Hartsteele’s voice and was, instead replaced by a perplexed curiosity. “Are you agreeing to sign for him to test for probationary status?” She asked after a moment of silence. “As I recall, you told me that you wouldn’t sign over for any increase for at least another three months unless I forced the matter.”

“Yeah, he’s ready,” Rose said, waving Gary toward the line. “I just forgot to mention it to him. It’s what he wants and he’ll be there immediately.” When Gary didn’t move, Rose nodded at him. “Go. The rail leaves in three minutes.”

“You didn’t answer me, Conrad.”

Rose waited until Gary had rushed off to respond to the captain, his Electronut stalker right behind him. “There’s something happening and I need to upgrade him to keep from being suspicious as I investigate. Besides, if I’m honest he’s been doing well enough.”

“Good. Now I’ll have the Councilman off of my back.”

“I knew there had to be a reason you were so interested in promoting him.”

“But what’s this about tests?”

Rose grinned, heading to Broke-Deal alley. He heard trepidation in her voice, and could tell that she was wondering more what he was investigating with Gary not around than what tests he’d convinced the Greenie he had to pass. “Eh, I dunno. The ominous tests. It got rid of him.”

“I partnered him with you so that you wouldn’t go off on your own,” she lectured, but rose was in the alley and didn’t have any more time t talk.

“I’ll take that into consideration later,” he agreed before cutting off their conversation by disconnecting himself from the network. He hated the buzzing sound and so, to the ire of everyone who had ever worked with him, rarely had the communications implant on.

A soft thud behind him told Rose that his shadow was joining him, but he didn’t turn to greet him. Instead, he took a deep breath and was reassured by the smell of black licorice that he had, in fact, been joined by his informant. The young man liked to stay in the shadows because, though what he did was sanctioned by the leader of his gang, he preferred to have an air of mystique. Or perhaps it was because he didn’t want to be fingered if things went sour. It was probably a mixture of the two.

“Do you have anything new?” Rose asked, staring at the dents in the metal of the sliding ladders that led to the rooftop. “Anything about the Electronuts, perhaps?”

“I’m not here to give up any, pal. Taipan’s not happy. Your credit ran out last week, yooky. So either you hand up some good creds today to pay off your tab and we negoshate fer more, or…well, you’ve found the people who upset Taipan.”

Rose frowned, trying to figure out how he could pay off his tab. It was quite a bit higher than he had in his own account at that moment. “Can’t we come up with some kind of payment plan?” he attempted.

“Is that you saying you can’t pay?”

“No!” he exclaimed, knowing that he didn’t want that to get back to Heather. She was likely to cut him open and string his body on the data holo at the station as a warning to anyone else who couldn’t pay up. Or something worse, since she’d already done that to one of his fellow officers a year or two ago. She wasn’t one to repeat a lesson.

“Good. We’ll be expecting you by four.”

 

“It’s noon already,” he complained, but got no response other than the sound of footsteps leading away from him.



Next part of Chapter Two: Street

Next part of COPS: Chapter Three

Next part with Rose: Chapter Three Street

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Once they were almost at their hideout, Amelie clutched her stomach and doubled over, losing all the contents of her stomach from the past few hours. She closed her eyes to avoid seeing the chunky liquid falling from her lips, but the simple feel of it against her lips, falling from and sticking to her lips made her head feel even dizzier. Making the mistake of opening her eyes to ground herself, the sight of the vomit made her stomach churn harder and before she could stop herself, she pitched forward. 

“Nyah! Amelie!” Tanith exclaimed, catching her partner before the other girl could fall into her own mess. Worriedly, she felt at Amelie’s cheeks and forehead to gauge her temperature and, once she decided the other girl was in fact clammy and cold, checked for a pulse. It was steady and a relieved breath left Tanith before the girl even realized she had been scared for her friend’s life.

“Wake, ‘fore I’m forced to carry you in a way that will be both embarrassing and uncomfortable for both of us,” she threatened, not really expecting a response and not giving enough time for the other to respond even if she had been conscious. With strength that belied her rather slender frame, Tanith easily heaved Amelie up onto her shoulders. As if to some joke that no one else could appreciate, Tanith smiled to herself as she bent her knees and swung Amelie’s dead weight over her head, less than gently arranging her so that she wouldn’t fall.

With a quick glance around, Tanith continued to their hideout. It was merely a few dozen footsteps away from where Amelie had collapsed, though its appearance was rather disguised even as in plain sight as it were. They had rounded back almost to where they’d run into Azzie before, but to the other side of the slats, in the alley behind the pit restaurant. Between the gates and the backdoor to the kitchen was a small dugout. It had three stairs that seemed to lead nowhere, a common spot for backhanded deals and lewd activities. What most overlooked was the covering that seemed to block off entrance to the Lasts Place.

Tanith set Amelie down to push the covering into the wall. Checking once again that no one was watching, she pushed her partner through the hole first before climbing in after, keeping a good hold on the covering so that she could pull it closed before sliding down the piping that led down the steep decline to their nest. With Amelie out of commission, if she hadn’t been able to close it, she would have had to go out of one of the exits and rush back to the opening to close it. They’d been lucky before, lucky to have found this place abandoned after they’d been forced to leave their old nest, lucky that no one had found this place but the one that they’d taken care of back when they hadn’t realized the opening wouldn’t close on its own, lucky that they were still alive given the person who was so interested in them. And while neither of them particularly believed in karma or a god, they believed in luck and, more importantly, that luck can change.

So Tanith was going to go out of her way to make sure that it was their own actions that kept them alive and safe, not luck. Especially now, when they had just been reunited and Amelie was sickly. Especially now, when it was exactly a year since their last run in with the one person who truly wished them ill. He wasn’t one to stay silent for so long, not when they had something he wanted.

Apologizing to her unconscious partner when she rushed into her at the end of the pole slide, Tanith rolled to her side and did a quick glance around their relatively spacious area. While it wasn’t exactly small, the pair tended to stick to their nest in the center. At one time, or at least Amelie thought, this place was one of the secret labs where the genetic manipulation that was now prevalent in their lives had secretly been advanced. Tanith didn’t really care one way or another, since it didn’t much matter. What did matter was that it came with strange refrigerator units built into the ground, waste holes with pipes leading to the main waste recycling plant and a clean water source—almost a pond with pipes that they assumed connected it to the city’s water supply—to one side of their nest. There were various exits, all implementing a clear tube and pressurized air to transport them to the ground level, which most likely meant that they were actually in some hidden chamber in the Lasts Place.

Tanith dropped Amelie onto the spot that could be considered their bed—a relatively soft pile of blankets, rugs and clothes in the center of their nest on the hardened ground, surrounded by short but thriving plants—and collapsed right beside her, feeling like a siesta after the large consumption of sweets and the exertion of energy. She yawned, stretched, and sprawled out to make up for the room Amelie wasn’t taking, a habit she’d been used to in the past month she’d been without Amelie. Seeming to come to the slightest bit, Amelie curled into her, making Tanith smile and awaken a bit, preparing to wait out the hurt of her friend.

It wasn’t too long after that, perhaps a few hours, that Amelie sat upright, her arms crossed in front of her face to deflect a blow. Not receiving one, she looked around with a small yawn before a sour feeling came back over her. She fell back, watching the gauzy, starry material they used as a make-shift roof for their nest to give the illusion of smaller space. It swirled lazily, reminding her of nights at their first nest, on the abandoned miniature carousel and calming her as she came to terms with the memory that she’d been released from the cell and was back on the streets with her better half.

When it finally became steady, she sat up once more, “...Tanith?” she called cautiously, wondering if her friend was there or out. And although she received no response, when she turned, she spotted Tanith nearby, but not nearly as close as they had been initially. Unaware that Tanith had ever been lying right beside her, curled into her, Amelie watched her breathe, and found herself worrying even without recognition of the worry. She started to stand, but then Tanith made a soft, unintelligible sound before muttering softly. Curious, Amelie leaned forward until she could make out what her friend was saying.

“Watch out for…octopus eyes…like weird bugs…killed the cousins…then stop running…” 

Amelie snorted. “Sounds like a fun dream,” she teased her unconscious partner before crawling over to her soundlessly. She looked her friend over, noting a healing bruise on her cheek, before mercilessly dumping her entire body onto the other girls sleeping form. 

Tanith jerked awake, gasping in surprise, but not acting to defend herself. She was sure that the hideout had given and collapsed on everything she knew and loved. She could see the rock crumbling, feel the dust on her skin, hear the explosion that had taken it down. Her arm was trapped, but still she reached for Amelie. That is, until the scent of vomit and cell soap brought her back down to reality, her vision cleared, and she realized she was actually being smothered by a warm body, not cold and sturdy metal and stone.

“Lungs aren’t indestructible,” she forced out. Amelie wasn’t that heavy, but she needed her off of her so that she could focus on the present, not her far-too-real dream of horror, death, and torture. 

Amelie didn’t move for a moment, unsure of the other girls reaction. They both knew that Tanith could easily have shoved her off. She could have rolled them over. But, maybe she’s worried because I’m sick, Amelie realized. If Tanith had been as sick as she remembered being, she wouldn’t have been too rough with her either. With that, she rolled off of Tanith to lay beside her, on her back. 

Tanith dragged in a large, dramatic breath and let it out. “Ah, life-giving pollutants! What would I do without you?” she cried, turning on her side to look at Amelie. She looked better, but there was still a sheen to her skin that worried Tanith. 

“Die,” Amelie stated simply before giving her a gentle smile to reassure Tanith that she was feeling much better. 

Tanith grinned widely. “Feelin’ better?” she asked. 

Amelie nodded slowly, “Much better now. I don’t know what was up, but I’m sure glad it’s over.” 

“Good,” Tanith said with relief written in her relaxed facial expression. “I was almost worried about you. Almost.” 

Amelie pouted, mimicking a face they knew too well, “Only almost?” she simpered. 

Tanith gave a short laugh before giving Amelie a genuine look of sincerity. “‘tween Cell and sick, I was scared you ‘ere gone forever.”

Amelie nodded before laying a brief kiss on Tanith’s shoulder, well aware of how much she stank. “You know anywhere I’m goin’ forever I’m takin’ you.”

Tanith nodded and a strange relief went through both girls as they continued to lay side-by-side. “Thank you,” she said and between the two of them, nothing else needed to be said.

 They could have stayed like that for the rest of the day, but Amelie’s stomach made a loud noise, demanding sustenance to make up for what she’d lost earlier. Tanith hugged the complaining section of her torso. “Ugh, we forgot to restock, didn’t we?” she asked. 

Amelie pulled a small wallet from her inner vest pocket, “Loads in there. We can buy ‘nough for maybe a few months.”

Tanith gasped. “For me?” she teased, picking it up gingerly and holding it as if it were a sacred object. She sat up as she opened the wallet a little to peek inside. The paper money she saw made her squeal, hugging the wallet tightly. “Everything I’ve always wanted!” she shouted loudly, happily. This was quickly followed by her chanting the names of all kinds of foods.

Even though they both knew that Tanith’s ability to not waste all the money on sweets made her a poor choice to go running off with all of their money, Amelie didn’t get up when Tanith did. Tanith glanced curiously back at her, only to see Amelie closing her eyes.

 

“I think I’ll go back to sleep,” Amelie suggested. And even though Tanith wanted her to go with her, she didn’t argue. Amelie looked too exhausted and she was sure that she could manage not to spend all of the credits just yet. Just enough to get them food to eat until Amelie was back on her feet again and able to go out with her.



Next part of Chapter Two: Lasts Place

Next part of Street: Chapter Three

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When the door opened, Annalise smiled winningly at the person on the other side.

“Ah, Annalise,” the wizened old woman said, stepping to the side so that the girl could enter. “I just found something else I thought you might like.”

“What’s that?” Annalise asked, closing the door behind her and taking the elderly woman’s arm to help her walk more easily.

“I found an armory in this latest capsule.”

“Ooh,” Annalise crooned, a bit of extra bounce coming to her step. “What type?” she asked hopefully. She was looking for a specific piece to finish the weaponry timeline she had begun in the museums.

Knowing that, the old woman smiled at her. “I haven’t checked very far. You know my body’s not what it used to be.”

Annalise made a face, biting her lip. It was a battle not to remind the woman that it could be if she would only use some of her fortune to regain her eyesight and to pause the degeneration of her body. The woman knew that and actively chose not to do any of that, saying that it went against nature to defy the body’s biology.

“Has Wombat been around?” she asked hesitantly, never sure when was a good time to mention the woman’s only child. At times, the woman seemed to remember him, but at others, it was a guessing game. Even when she did remember him, it was up in the air whether it would be favorable. As far as Annalise could tell, there had been a period when Wombat had betrayed his mother’s trust and hurt her deeply, though things seemed to have been patched up since then.

“Of course,” the woman replied offhandedly. “He’s here now, somewhere. He thinks I don’t know when he stays to check up on me. I’m old, not stupid.”

Annalise laughed. “I’m sure he doesn’t think you’re stupid,” she assured the woman, helping her to her normal seat.

Once she was settled, Annalise started toward the kitchen. “Coffee now or later?” she asked, walking backwards so that she faced the woman.

“Now, I think. I’m sure you’re excited for the rifle and capsule, though, so I’ll get it myself.” She cut off Annalise when she started to argue. “Hush. I may be old, but I’m not incapable of getting my own coffee. Go get my boy and he’ll show you the new capsule. Just know when you’re done I have some fresh lemon pastries for you to take home for that brother of yours.”

Holding back a smile at the woman’s antics, Annalise nodded. “I hope you have some cookies for me too.”

“Greedy girl,” the woman teased before waving Annalise off.

Laughing, Annalise went to the elevator. She wouldn’t admit it, but she was glad that the woman had decided to let her go on her own. It wasn’t that she didn’t have the time, or that she didn’t want to be with her, but she was feeling a little antsy since the new capsule was mentioned. She never got to see the capsules before the woman and wombat had combed through them, and though she trusted the woman, she knew for a fact that Wombat was the type to hide some things and sell them.

So she knew that he was down with the capsule if he was in the house. The ride to the capsule recovery chambers was a quick, three second drop down seven levels. It always left Annalise a little light headed, but she quickly got over it, shaking her head lightly and looking around. If I were a new capsule, where would I be?

The search was short-lived, because before she could even take a step, she heard a loud crash followed by Wombat’s cursing. How about there. Wombat hadn’t stopped cursing by the time she had crossed the metal bridges and rounded the stairs to get to the capsule. It was clear he was trying not to be found, because there were no lights on inside of the capsule and the linking bridge between the capsule’s opening and the dock was disconnected. Honestly, with the capsule at the awkward angle and the walkway so high above it, she would never have found him if he hadn’t been so loud.

For a moment, she tried to determine how he had managed to get into the capsule, but saw that there was a thick chain tying the capsule to the tower dock. It was better than a rope ladder, given the links were large enough for her to fit her fingers between them to keep her grip, and so she quickly made her way down it. It never occurred to her that she could have simply used the control panel to link the capsule up.

The step down from the chain, to the capsule was shaky. It wasn’t surprising that Wombat was waiting for her, given how her every move on the chain made the capsule jerk. She almost tripped up, but he grabbed hold of her as if he were worried that she would fall, which she doubted. She gripped his shoulders as he turned and placed her on her feet in the capsule.

“What are you doing here?” he demanded, and she gave him a pointed look.

“Your mama’s giving me the rifle today,” Annalise answered, looking around the capsule. The woman had been right. This was an armory, an armory made entirely of sniper rifles and ammunition. She had a feeling that it was her lucky day. From the looks of things, if she were going to find a sniper rifle anywhere inside the City, it would be in this capsule.

“You could pay her, you know,” Wombat sneered, and Annalise completely ignored him. She wasn’t taking advantage of his mother. The woman wanted to give away most of the relics of the violent past and when Aristotle had offered to pay her for indulging in Annalise’s weaponry collection, the woman had been incredibly insistent that they take whatever Annalise wanted, free of charge. Besides, how was she to pay her? The old woman had purposely never given Annalise or Ari her name or credit information.

Even Wombat’s name was false and, despite having all the records of the City, she still didn’t really know who they were, other than the descendants of one of the Founders of the City. Beyond that, there was absolutely no record. It was as though they didn’t really belong to the City. The Green part of her mind wondered why the woman’s ancestors would have filled a capsule with these weapons and then hidden it away. This wasn’t the same as finding a few weapons here and there in the other capsules, or the few that had been full of decorative weaponry. These were meant to be used.

 

But it didn’t matter, Annalise convinced herself, because those ancestors were long dead and whatever they’d been planning was long forgotten.


Next part of Chapter Three: Rich

Next part of Seer: Chapter Four

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Back in the safety of her room, Are threw herself onto her bed, face-down and waited until Lav had settled cautiously at the edge of the bed. She turned onto her back and looked at Lav. “What happened, Lav? Something went wrong there. I'm positive of that, but what was it?”

“That COPS was watching us is what happened. I was into the security data when I got a ‘caught you’ message and spotted him. He caught me watching him and I went to warn you. Someone tried snatching me, and since I couldn't find the COPS, I’m going with him as the most likely suspect. No one in the museum seemed to notice, even though he literally lifted me off my feet and into a service hallway. So, Are,” she said her friend’s name harder than necessary, purposely not looking at her, “I think we were just set up.”

Are frowned, glaring at the wall that held her holo-screen. “Great. And I was the one that fell for it.” Are couldn’t believe she’d been that stupid. It had looked easy, but when everything had started to get too complicated, they should have pulled out right then. It was her fault that Lav had almost been taken. And why had they tried to take Lav? Other than being her partner, what did the other girl have to do with the theft? What did the COPS have to do with anything?

Had the chip been worth it? Maybe. She hated herself for even thinking that, because no information was worth more than Lav’s well-being. She let out an irked breath before rubbing her eyes and then turning her attention outward, to her friend who still held her arm awkwardly. “Okay. We have to fix you up, first of all, and then we'll figure everything else out, okay?”

“Sure,” Lav said, making a face when she shifted position. After a moment, she made an apologetic face and looked to her friend. “And don't be hard on yourself, it sounded legit enough.”

Are smiled at her, feeling even worse. She sat up and scooted off her bed. “Come on. Up, up,” she said, changing the subject without even acknowledging the forgiveness. She didn’t deserve it yet, but she would once they figured out what was going on.”We're going to go see if we can get that shoulder of yours looked at by a professional.” She walked back to her room's door, and motioned for Lav to follow, though the other girl gave her a knowing grimace.

“I’m sure it can wait until I’m home,” Lav tried to assure Are, whose stubborn look made the darker teenager sigh, knowing she as fighting a losing battle.

Are paused and looked back. “Don’t make me resort to drastic measures.” There were no more words needed to get Lav off of the bed and following her. Both girls were uncharacteristically silent on the walk to Are’s family physician, who lived only a few stairways away. Both were deep in their own thoughts. Lav was going over their earlier trip, trying to determine where they—or rather she had buggered up enough to have been not only caught slipping into the data, but almost abducted and for what reason. Are was trying to determine if the entire job had been a set up and she had been blinded by the promise of information, or if there had been a change of plans at some point.

They almost passed by the physician’s rooms, Are catching herself before they could. She tapped Lav on her shoulder to catch her attention and when she had it, gestured to the room. The door was open, so she knocked twice as she walked in, almost as if it were out of habit rather than courtesy.

“Hellooooo! Doctor! You in here?” she called needlessly as she approached the doctor at his desk, keeping her grip on Lav’s wrist to force her to follow her inside.

The doctor ignored Are for a second as he finished writing something down. Are waited patiently with a wide smile, while Lav fidgeted restlessly, wincing every time she shifted her shoulder. After a minute or two, he looked up. “What?” he demanded, glaring at Are.

Are grinned and leaned on his desk, getting all in the doctor's personal space. “I need, well we need, your help,” she said, managing to get a quick glance at the paperwork he’d been filling out. He covered it before she could understand much more than that it was for Gregor. 

The doctor continued to glare. “What is it? Can’t you tell I’m busy?” he gestured to his desk, which had x-rays, blood tests, and all sorts of other information. She couldn’t fathom why he had it all out, cluttering his desk.

Are stepped aside to present Lav, who avoided making eye contact. The doctor stood from his chair and walked around his desk. He took out a pair of glasses and slipped them onto his face, scrutinizing Lav. His eyes settled on her shoulder before returning to her face and while he seemed to relax a bit, his tone didn’t soften.

“Well? What happened this time?” he asked, reaching behind him for a short needle. He set it down on top of his desk and gestured for Lav to come to him.

Lav flinched at the sight of the needle and backed a step away, “You make it seem like I get hurt all the time,” she complained before attempting to step out of the room. Her own physician at home never used needles. The woman preferred the needle free injections. She wasn’t a sadist like Doc, who never seemed to pass up on an opportunity to inject her with something.

“You do, Lav,” the doctor replied drily.

“Her shoulder is displaced or something,” Are said, blocking off the exit. They both knew that Doc was the only physician with the authority to attend to the two of them, given their special genetic modifications. While it wasn’t an experimental modification, the changes made to them on a genetic level were still rather new and so far, only Doc had been trained on how to work with them. That was why he had personal chambers in both of their homes.

  Gesturing once again for Lav to come to him, which she did reluctantly, Doc lifted his hands to gently touch the injured area. He leaned forward to examine it more closely before pushing slightly on the skin around it. As he was working, Are pretended to be curious and watched everything that he did very closely, close enough to make the doctor grind his teeth. He put a hand to her face to shove her away roughly, so she backed up to his desk.

“It doesn't seem too bad. Can you lift it at all?” he asked. 

Lav glared at him, “Are you that sadistic? No. I can't.”

The doctor tilted his head in thought. “On a scale from one to ten, how badly does it hurt? Ten being the most painful.”

Are snickered, turning once she was sure that Doc attention was on Lav. Shuffling the papers as quietly as she could, she tried to find the one with Gregor’s name on it. All she found instead was that all the papers on his desk were about her and Lav, trying to determine something she couldn’t make out. “Yeah, he's sadistic,” she said distractedly, turning back around just in time. Doc glared at her with disdain, and so she continued on, trying to embarrass him for Lav’s amusement. “But, from what I've heard, he's also a little masochistic, eh, Doc?”

Lav smiled at Are, appreciating her attempts at humor. “Eight at worst,” she replied, getting his attention back onto her.

He frowned slightly but nodded. The doctor walked to a small cabinet and pulled out some bandages. “Alright then, the best I can do for you right now is to secure it and give you pain meds. Until I’m sure how bad it is, I’m not going to shift it or try the Straits on you.” He walked back over and began to apply the bandages appropriately, though there was a challenge in his voice, as though he wanted the girl to push him to use something on her that he’d never tried before.

Lav had been too busy watching Are as the other girl picked around the room to pay attention to the doctor. She looked at him warily when he started to tightly wrap her shoulder, restricting her movement. “Huh?” she asked.

The doctor sighed, deeply annoyed. “I'm not saying your shoulder isn’t broken, though it’s obviously not dislocated. I could do the tests, but you know they don’t always show rights with you. Still, give it a few hours and if you still think it might be, or the pain worsens, come back and I’ll do more,” he said, and finished off the securing with a quick injection from the short needle.

Lav squealed in pain, a moment late and by that time, Doc was finished. He walked back to his desk and stood above it, looking at them both over his glasses. “Now get, before I call an exterminator.” He sat down and picked up his pen again, not looking at them.

Are smiled sympathetically, helping Lav to the door when the other girl swayed on her feet for a moment. Doc’s painkillers always hit her a little harder than they should. “He must be anxious,” she fake-whispered loudly enough for the man to her. “Maybe his secret lover hasn't come to visit him in a while.” She snickered when she heard the impatient exhale from the doctor. 

He's irritable,” Lav muttered, regaining her composure as the drug spread through her body and dulled the pain.

 “Isn't he always?” Are replied, steering them in the direction of her room.

“Not unless you two have done something to him,” she was answered. Both girls glanced up sharply, to see Are’s brother before them in his costly suit. The suit told them that they’d caught him before he was due at his job, assisting the personal assistant to the Seer.

“Gregor,” Lav said in a slightly clipped voice, acknowledging his presence only because he had sent her home to learn manners the last time she hadn't.

“Lavendula,” he replied, before looking to Are in a deeply disapproving way, “What did you two do to him to make him irritable, Arenaria?” he asked. While the question was phrased to include both girls, it was implicitly aimed at Are, who was almost always the principle reason behind Doc’s bad moods.

Are smiled up at Gregor prettily and inched around him carefully, her hands behind her back. “We didn't do anything to him this time, just got a shot for Lav. And maybe said a few things. Nothing real bad, this time.” She smiled brighter and continued to inch away from him. “Well, it's a real big shame, but we've got plans to keep up, Lessons to finish, so, I'll see ya later.” With another smile, she walked calmly away, fully expecting Lav to be right behind her.

Lav smiled sweetly at Gregor, “Well, seeing as I'm simply here to be with Are, I should be...going,” she said as quickly as she could, trying to get away from him.

His eyes, however zeroed in on her arm. “How did you hurt your arm?” he asked sharply.

Lav flinched, freezing in place. “Um, it's a good story,” she said, trying to think of an excuse that didn’t put them in the museum. She drew a blank and when Gregor glanced away from her, to Doc’s room, she saw an opportunity. “Maybe I'll tell you one day. Better go catch up with Are before she gets into trouble.” She gave a nervous laugh when Gregor’s eyes narrowed, but he nodded and she breathed a sigh of relief, running after Are.

“You. Are. Dead to me,” she told Are, once she found her at the nearest stairwell, hiding in plain sight beside a potted plant. “You left me with that!”

Are tried to look apologetic. “Well, we did mess with his precious,” she joked. “I thought I was beginning to feel that thing you feel around him, so I ran,” she claimed, refusing to use the term Lav had for the strange type of control her brother had, on a biological level, over her friend. “You should've just followed me out, no comments made.”

“If you could feel the Juice, you would know that I couldn’t without permission,” Lav stated, reminding her friend for the hundredth time that her free will was a lot less free with Gregor around. “Besides, I’ve been trying to get on his ‘good’ side. I don’t think he actually has one.”

Lav began to head up the stairs, to Are’s room, but the brunette held out a hand, stopping her. Seeing the considering expression on her face, Lav raised both of her eyebrows in a silent question.

 “Okay,” Are began. “Two options. One, we go and make plans for revenge. I have a chip they gave me full of information even you wouldn’t have been able to find. I don’t know if it’s safe, considering everything else today, but it’s a good place to start. Or two, we go and eavesdrop on them, see what they're really up to. I can’t be the only one wondering why Gregor goes to Doc every day for no apparent reason. I think they’re up to something but I don’t know what.” She looked at Lav expectantly. “I know what I want to do, but considering my choices haven’t been so great today, it’s up to you.”

Lav was torn. On the one hand, her shoulder still hurt past the dulling and revenge was high on her top three things to do. On the other hand, she had theories on what the men were up to and she really wanted to know if she was right. One option took anywhere between a few minutes to an hour, maybe two. The other was an undetermined amount of time with no guaranteed satisfaction.

“Eavesdrop. We can start revenge later, like tomorrow, when I'm not so hazy and can use my rig.”

 

Are grinned widely. “Good, 'cause I wanna torture Doc some more.” 



Next part of Chapter Three: Cell

Next part of Rich: Chapter Four

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Gary wasn’t sure why he’d been surprised to get to the station and have Captain Hartseteele tell him that there was no test. He was sure that Rose had been trying to get rid of him, and knew he should be irritated that it had worked. Luckily, he couldn’t bring himself to care because he was the proud owner of a new, probationary uniform. There were worse ways to get him out of the way, and Rose had used most of them before.

The captain had praised him for his work at keeping Rose on track and he wouldn’t lie, he’d felt validated. No one ever mentioned how much work it was being Rose’s sprout. He had to make sure the man filled out paperwork, and when he didn’t, do the paperwork himself. He had to, often enough, patrol on his own while Rose disappeared. He regularly—almost on a weekly basis—found himself in the worst situations because of Rose. This was the first thanks he got for it, but he took it graciously, responding that it was ‘no big deal’ and his ‘pleasure,’ neither of which was true in even the slightest.

He wasn’t surprised that his partner had turned off his comlink. Rose almost never had it on, said that there was a feedback that gave him feedback, not that Gary believed that weak excuse. Everyone knew that the comlinks didn’t give a static feedback, much less the buzzing sound his partner claimed. Either way, he knew he wasn’t going to be finding Rose before their start time the next day, not if the man didn’t want to be found. So instead of attempting to, he followed the Captain’s advice and headed home.

“I can’t wait to tell everyone,” he was saying to one his old friends—more of an acquaintance now—from training. The man, wearing the muted pink of Inspector, smirked. Gary didn’t notice, still talking. “It’s one step closer to Special Officer and—“

“But it’s not really a step,” another one of their fellows, Yve, said, the woman looking curiously from his current uniform to the ones held protectively in his arms. “What’d you do to get stuck a Greenie so long?”

Gary tried not to frown, but failed, looking at the others on the elevator with him. Of the five, he was the only one still wearing Sprout green, with the three women wearing the dark khaki of Standard Officer, and the last, silent, man even wearing the tan, orange-striped uniform of a Protective Officer.

“I haven’t done anything. I mean, we’re supposed to go through the order so it’s the next step—”

“Except no one ever goes to Probie or prelim anymore,” another of the women, Sara, cut in. “So you took like a half step.”

“What? Daddy can buy you the grades but not rank?” the last woman—the only one whose name he couldn’t remember—sneered. Bo, the Inspector, and Sara laughed with her, but the woman who’d questioned him before just rolled her eyes.

Gary stated to defend himself, but his words got all fumbled and all that he managed to say only made it worse. “Of course my dad could get me promoted!”

This time everyone but Gary and the silent one laughed. It was a mocking sound that grated on his nerves and made him wish he hadn’t said anything at all. He focused on his feet and tried to force the words out correctly. “I worked for my grades. I worked to get my placement and I—”

“You were teacher’s pet and now you’re seeing the real world isn’t like the classroom. Fess up,” Bo pushed.

Gary looked to Yve for defense, but she was looking away, as though she agreed. “Not everyone’s fit for the job, Gary,” she stated. “Just ‘cause your family—”

He cut her off. “I’m probably better at this than any of you,” he argued.

“Right, because we used our family’s name to get us in, cruised on assignments you probably copied or had your cousins answer. And clearly you’re better because you’re still just a greenie while we’re actual officers.” Sarah scoffed at him. “Maybe you should go back to training.”

The doors of the elevator slid open with a soft hiss and everyone but Yve left quickly. “You know,” she said after a few seconds of staring at each other. “I always stood up for you in training. But since you’re better than the rest of us, I guess you didn’t need me to, did you?” She pursed her lips when he didn’t answer because he genuinely didn’t think he had anything to apologize for. She realized he wasn’t going to say anything after a few more seconds and laughed humorlessly. “Well then, I guess I’ll go back to work, actual work, while you go back to your shadowing, huh, greenie?”

. He stood there for a long moment after she was gone, the weight of his new uniform increasing as he let the words process. He had been the top of the class. He had trained his entire life to become a Special Officer. Of his class, he’d been the best prepared and every single one of their instructors had spoken of their high expectations of him, and then had signed off for him to leave the rest of his class behind four weeks early to go into active duty under Rose’s supervision.

Yet there he was, the last of them to be a sprout, still a greenie even with his promotion. And it was all Rose’s fault. If he’d been under anyone else, he was sure, he’d have been promoted even faster than the others had been because he was simply better than them in every way. Standing there, he didn’t notice the officers piling into the elevator, ready to go down into the station, only coming to when one of them nudged him, asking him to press a button.

“Oh, sorry, excuse me,” he pushed his way out as politely as possible, ignoring annoyed grumbles as they made way for him to exit. As he stepped out, he paused, glancing back. There was a majority of officers in tan and blue uniforms, which struck him as odd since it was highly unusual for there to be any Peace Officers going in during the day. Wondering about it, but deciding not to ask questions, he started walking again and crashed right into a large man who was hurriedly trying to get onto the elevator. Not having expected the collision and undoubtedly bearing the lesser force, Gary was tossed onto his back and his uniforms strewn around him.

The man started to run right over him, but he paused, eyeing Gary for a moment. “Go on, I’ll catch up,” he ordered to someone in the elevator, who’d been holding the door open for him. It was no surprise that they did and the door slid closed immediately, sending all of the other officers down.

“Sorry about that,” he said, crouching down to Gary, who still hadn’t moved to stand or collect his uniforms. Giving Gary a knowing grin, he held out his hand to help him. Staring at his hand, all Gary could think was His hand is bigger than my head. “You okay, kid?”

Gary nodded slowly before catching his wits. “Yeah, I’m sorry. I should’ve been watching where I was going.” Now past his amazement of the redhead’s Herculean size, he was feeling embarrassed. The last thing he’d wanted to do today as make a fool of himself, especially in front of a Peace Officer.

The redhead grinned. “It’s definitely my fault, but thanks for trying to make me feel better about it.” Seeming to realize that Gary wasn’t going to take his hand, the man instead gathered up the uniforms, holding them out to Gary once they were both standing. “New Probie?”

Feeling even more embarrassed, Gary quickly took the uniforms from the man and nodded, just knowing that he was being judged. He was sure that everyone knew he was the last of the greenies. His embarrassment intensified when the man laughed.

“I didn’t even know we still made Probies. Doesn’t everyone just go to Junior?”

“Apparently not,” Gary muttered before standing up for himself. “I mean none of the others are on the Special Officer track, so I guess the other tracks are just easier to rank up.” Mentally he backtracked the moment the words were out of his mouth. Great job. Insult the first Peace Officer you’ve met. Great way to make a good first impression.

The man laughed before Gary could try to fix what he’d said. “You’re Rose’s greenie, aren’t you? The Crims kid?”

He was sure that he should be worried that the man had been able to figure that out from his fumble. Then again, he was nearly positive that it was the joke of the year, a Crims kid being the final greenie of his class, being unable to rank up on his own. Either way he nodded before remembering protocol. “Sprout Gary Crims, sir,” he responded, giving a tight salute.

The man laughed. “Probie Gary Crims,” he corrected him. “And relax. You’re off-duty, aren’t you?”

“Technically,” Gary answered, looking down at his uniforms.

“Let me guess. Rose went AWOL on you?”

Gary made a face, not wanting to seem unappreciative of Rose’s tutelage, even if he wasn’t particularly appreciative of Rose. “Not exa—”

“You don’t have to make excuses for him,” the man cut him off. “I know how he is. Hell, everyone knows how he is, but I especially know. We used to be partners.”

Gary stared in shock. He was talking to Brick Montgomery, former Special Officer, the lead officer on the biggest Nightshade bust in the history of the City. He was making an ass out of himself in front of Brick Montgomery.

Brick grinned at him. “I see he’s told you about me?”

Gary shook his head. “No, um, Rose, he doesn’t really talk about you. I, uh, read about you a lot,” when he realized how strange that sounded, he changed his words. “I mean, in case files. In class. And my dad talks about you. So,” he felt like he was starting to come off as creepy, so he decided to shut his mouth.

“Right,” Brick said after a moment, before looking at the uniform one last time. The elevator dinged to say that it was back on their level. “Between us? I think your potential’s being wasted. Everyone knows that it’s on Rose that you’re still green. I would’ve made you a Specs by now, but with Rose you never know what you’re going to get. Especially lately.”

Gary frowned and started to question him on what he meant by ‘especially lately,’ but the doors hissed open and the other officers trying to get off or on pushed them apart. Instead of following him to continue the conversation, Gary took a few steps back, feeling extremely validated. Smiling to himself, he tried not to show how excited he was when Brick gave him a loose salute before the elevator doors closed.

I can’t wait to tell dad about this, he thought, brushing off dirt from the uniforms. As he started out of the station square, a chunky rock caught his attention. There wasn’t really anything about it, other than it looked so out of place. He’d never seen one like it before, and given the rock collection on his shelves at home, that was saying something. Picking it up, he felt even better, almost as if everything was going right.

It had been a good day.


Next part of Chapter Three: Street

Next part of COPS: Street

Next part for Gary: Chapter Five

amadhay: (Default)

Tanith let out a huff of air as she dropped from a building’s escape ladder, onto the streets. Still thinking about how suddenly Amelie had been sick and wondering if it had been the best idea to just leave her alone, she moved by instinct rather than paying attention. She headed towards Market Street, where with what she was holding, she would be able to buy as much as she wanted of whatever she wanted. The thought of money made her a little giddy and she weighed the wallet in her hand for a moment, looking at it. It was definitely a Rich bag, given the pretty graphic of a peacock spreading its tail feathers that embellished it. Every time she opened the wallet, the bird caught fire and turned to ash, only becoming the peacock again when she closed it.

It was fun to look at, but also incredibly conspicuous. So as she approached a main street, rather than her empty alley, she decided to put it away. There was no point in drawing any more undue attention to herself, especially with the Eagle’s people looking for her and Amelie. As she slipped the wallet into an inside pocket of her vest, she bumped into someone. 

"My bad," she mumbled, trying not to look like she had anything to hide. She tried to slip past the man, but he put a hand out to her apologetically. 

"Oh, no. Excuse me, it was my fault," the man responded. He shot her a smile before casually slipping a hand into his pocket and walking onwards. 

Tanith looked up at him suspiciously as he walked away, automatically not trusting him and not sure why. She eyed his back, pondering at it for a moment, and then gasped. Her hand went to her inner pocket and yanked out the wallet. What she saw made her angry. It wasn’t her Rich bag, but a normal wallet, replaced by a quick hand. 

Cursing under her breath, she quickly began to pursue the man with a glass-encased rose embroidered on the back of his coat. No one stole from her. She would either get those credits back, or she would get revenge if he managed to spend them before she could get to him. Keeping far enough behind him for him not to notice her, but keeping close enough so as not to lose him, Tanith followed the man through Market Street and down several of the busier alleys right down to Gangway. 

She barely paid any attention to where he was leading until it was almost too late for her to back away. The man had stepped right into Mongeese territory without a pause and she’d almost followed him, until she’d spotted the mongoose snarl tag beneath her feet. This man was either affiliated with the gang, or he was dead. Either way, the money was probably gone for good. 

Still, seeing him run off with all the money she and Amelie had in the world—when they had to stay low profile and try not to gain any attention by stealing more—made her brave. She took another step, officially in Mongoose territory and her heart skipped a beat, making her pause again before she single-mindedly followed him. He headed toward an oversized building, the main defense of the area and she was sure that she could catch him before he got to the gate.

Unfortunately, he jogged those last few feet and she lost him when he went into the building. She backed away quickly, lucky for the shade when the door opened again and several COPS stalked out, irritated expressions on their faces even as they stood to guard the gate around the building. She quickly backed away, looking for quick ways around the gate. There was still a chance that the man would come out of the other side of the building with the money still on him, and she decided that she would wait there all night if she had to to find out. 

She was ready to settle in when a sudden idea popped into her mind. Her head snapped up to stare at the buildings, remembering the way Amelie had gotten into the main building the last time she’d been on gang land. A smile crept on her face and, sneaking further back to a neighboring building, she quickly dashed to a delivery truck idling next to it. She climbed onto the top of the truck, taking care not to be spotted, which was easily done given the lack of visible guards aside from the chatting COPS. Gauging the distance between her and the escape ladder, Tanith leapt towards it, managing to easily grab onto the rail. Pulling herself up, she managed to get onto the building, high enough that the COPS weren’t likely to see her.

She eyed the distance between the two buildings, knowing that she and Amelie had decided it was too dangerous before. But since this was a matter of food, she was pretty certain that she could do it. She backed up all the way to the opposite side of the roof before giving herself a running start and jumped to the roof of the building the man had entered. If she couldn't go through, around, or under without wasting a lot of time, she might as well try going over.

Unsurprisingly, she misjudged the distance between the two roofs. She made that realization as her arc began falling too short of the roof itself. She stretched out her arms and just barely grabbed the edge with her fingers. Her body slammed into the wall, knocking her breath out of her lungs. If she hadn’t been ready for it and properly incentivized, she would have fallen. In fact, she was only able to hang on because of the thought of the money being used by not her and not to get her food. 

Carefully, she managed to pull herself up, grabbing onto the guardrail. Her hands were clammy and it was somewhat slippery, but she didn’t lose grip, instead managing to grip the horizontal part of the rail, which helped her a bit. Her feet scraped and slid on the side of the building, trying to find a foot-hold, but failing until she managed to pull herself up far enough for her legs to wrap around the lower, vertical pole of the rail. Eventually, she was resting on her back on the roof, breathing heavily and berating herself. Of course the Alpha wouldn’t put them somewhere that anyone could just cross over roofs to get in. Stupid. Stupid dronger. 

Remembering her mission, she jumped up and began running across the rooftop. The building was larger than she’d originally thought, but it was the highest and she could see everything else from there. She needed to catch up, but she also needed to know where the man had gone first. She slowed her running to a slight jog and drew closer to the edge of the building. 

Immediately, she spotted the man's jacket, which almost never happened and as she was acknowledging her luck, she began backing up. He was just leaving the territory and she needed to get out with him. With determination, Tanith picked up her pace once again. She would catch that man and she would get that money back. Hopefully

The opposite edge of the building was coming closer when Tanith saw the man make a left. Without really thinking, she began to run to the right so that she could arc back around to the left and leap over an alley-way and onto the roof of another building. This time, her judgment of distance was much better and she landed delicately on her feet. She slowed again to a jog as she came close to the edge of the building once more. The man was directly below her and she saw the perfect opportunity to get off of the roof without hurting herself too much. 

She jumped, fully intending on landing directly on the man's head. It wasn't the clearest decision that she'd ever made, but if it worked, she'd get the money back.  


Next part of Chapter Three: Lasts Place

Next part of Street: COPS 4

Next part with Tanith: COPS 4

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Stuck on his back, Rod smiled up at Jamie, making a kissing face at her as she pinned him below her. “Gotcha,” she exclaimed proudly, pressing down with her knee into his solar plexus. He grunted in pain as she put more pressure on that knee to shift her position, putting her forearm to his jugular.

Taking advantage of her loose pressure on his upper body, he simultaneously pulled his arms from behind his back and shoved his knees into her back. “You stopped treating me like an opponent,” he told her as she rolled away to keep him from getting a grip on her.

“It’s pretty hard to think you as my enemy when you still got that gunk in your hair,” she teased, ducking under his arm when he tried to grab her and weaving behind him to plant a solid kick to the highest point of his back she could reach.

She’s faster, he noticed, turning to face her once again. Grinning at his beta, he decided to tease back, “What if I told you that you don’t eat ‘til you got me down for a minute?”

“I’d tell you good luck getting them that feed us not to give me food,” she answered honestly, leaping at him. She didn’t expect him to see it coming, and he caught her, slamming her against the wall before she could try to kick away.

“You remember who’s in charge here, right?” he asked, pressing his body against hers to keep her in place.

“No worries ‘bout me tryin’ to take over,” she assured him, even though the thought hadn’t occurred to him as more than a passing thought. “Alpha’s not my style.”

“Not really worried,” he laughed, backing off and dropping her before she could manage the hard kick between the legs she was aiming for. She dropped to the floor and tried to kick his legs from under him. He just kicked her legs away from him. “Are you even trying anymore? You’re boring me.”

This time Jamie didn’t take the bait, keeping her calm even after he insulted her. “But, if you were really worried, you’d be looking to Axe,” she stated casually, rounding him to try to come at him from behind. He side stepped her. “He’s getting a li’l antsy being number three. Doesn’t fit ‘im. Heard ‘im talkin’ with the others ‘bout taking you out to the Pit and leaving you for the Taipan to deal with.”

She thought that talking about an usurping attempt would throw him off, but since he’d already heard the chatter, it didn’t. The mention of his sister, however, as always, made him a bit more violent than strictly necessary. He let her weave her way to him and grabbed her throat, lifting her up to his eye-level.

“Don’t say that name.”

She kicked out hard enough at his hip to make him let go of her, following it up with another kick to his face when he bent forward. He fell onto his back and she pounced on top of him, nipping at his throat to let him know she had won that round, as she could have killed him with a bite or—more likely—a blade. He didn’t say anything, didn’t so much as look at her, furious with himself for letting the mere mention of the Snake’s leader make him lose so quickly.

 “But seriously, do you want something done about Axe? Small following, no real danger. Most everyone’s turned against him for being such a dronger. I can make it done real quick, real quiet.”

Rod shook his head, standing up again. “I have plans,” he told her, checking the time. “Rose here yet?”

Jamie shrugged. “I been here with you. How’d I know?” She pressed the soft spot behind her ear and called his second beta. “Az, where you at?”

Not able to hear the conversation between his betas, Rod stretched out a bit, trying to ignore some of the bruises Jamie had left on him. She’s not Hell-Snake, but she’s good enough, he though.

“What?” Jamie asked in a flat voice, glancing to Rod, who turned to watch her, wondering what could have irritated her enough to give her that tone.

“Where is he now?” she demanded. “Don’t tell me you don’t know! Find ‘is ass and bring him back ‘ere. He can’t just walk through here like he owns the place!” she snapped her fingers, effectively ending her call before turning to Rod, visibly trying to calm herself.

“I take it Rose isn’t here?” he suggested.

“He came, like he said he would. Then he just left, no explanation. Came in, didn’t wait, left out the back.”

“Is Azreal looking for him?” he asked. Jamie nodded and he rubbed his temples, trying not to be irritated by the turn of events. The COPS had come to them earlier to try to break a new deal with them for protection from the Snakes. For him to run off either meant the deal was off or that he had Snakes in his den who had taken the man. He would kill if that were the case.

And he would enjoy it.



Next part: Chapter Four Seer

Next part of Lasts Place: Chapter Four

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By the time that Annalise got home, it was nighttime and she fully expected the furiously worried Aristotle who greeted her at the door.

“Where have you been?” her guardian demanded, hands placed delicately at her hips even as she scanned Annalise over.

With a knowing smirk, Annalise spread her arms open wide so that her guardian could do a “sneaky” complete body scan with her implants. A discreet pop came when it was through, but Aristotle hadn’t stopped chastising her the entire time.

“The Lady told us that you left hours ago and it certainly doesn’t take this long to get here. Why is your chip off?”

“You mean the tracking chip that you put in me without my permission?” Annalise pointed out before pretending to think it over. “Huh, however could that have managed to be turned off?” she asked snarkily, glancing around for her brother, not spotting him, she assumed that he was in her room, waiting for Aristotle to be finished with her before giving his own opinion on her disappearance.

“Annalise,” Aristotle barked, making Annalise glance back at her as the woman’s appearance morphed into a male one, larger than the slight female one. “You’ve been disappearing far too often lately. Where are you going?”

Annalise shrugged. “Who knows?” she suggested, having not stopped the entire time in her beeline for the stairs that led to the elevator. She hopped up one step, turning to Aristotle, who had followed her. “Maybe I’m part of a gang,” she teased him, grinning as he scowled. “Ooh, or maybe I’ve started a torrid love affair.” She hopped backwards up two steps once Ari stopped at the bottom. “I could be part of a secret anti-Seer organization. That’d be fun.” She hopped up another step. “Or I could be blackmailing someone, oh, or being blackmailed.” She whistled as she hopped up two more steps. “Can you imagine?”

She laughed. “Or I could just be going to museums and walking around the city, making sure everything’s good. Could be doing that.” She winked at Ari as the man began to shift back to a woman, an exasperated one. “Why do you always think the worst of me?” she asked in a simpering tone, batting her eyelashes.

“Maybe because you’re always up to something?” Ari suggested, taking a step up.

Annalise turned and jogged up the remaining stairs, ignoring Aristotle’s sigh. “Either way, I’m safe and sound and going to bed. Early day tomorrow!” she called over her shoulder, slipping into the elevator that would take her up to the living areas. Pressing her hand against the panel, she waited until prompted to choose which room she meant to enter. “Love you, night!”

“I’ll send dinner up,” Ari called quickly before the door slid closed.

Grinning at her reflection in the silver plated elevator wall, Annalise finger combed her silver hair, pulling it back into a low, loose ponytail. Squinting, she realized that she had a chocolate smudge on the corner of her mouth, obvious against her snowy complexion. Flushing even though no one was there to witness her embarrassment, she rubbed at the smudge until it was gone and fidgeted with her skirt. She hated the long elevator rides in their home. Unlike at the old lady’s place, the lower levels and, consequently, the living areas weren’t a straight shot down, instead shifting at an angle and at times even circling back. Which meant that the ride was far longer than it necessarily needed to be and couldn’t be made faster, even if Aristotle trusted anyone enough to let them into their home and see the true architecture.

Finally, after twenty-seven seconds, Annalise stepped out of the elevator, and into her personal room, side stepping a pile of clothes that she would have sworn hadn’t been that large when she’d left earlier that day. Spotting Green sitting in his favorite wicker chair, but choosing not to acknowledge her better half because she knew it would frustrate him, she dropped face down onto her bed. After nearly a full minute of silence, Green decided to speak, because it was clear she wasn’t going to.

“Anna—”

Before he could even finish her name, Annalise held one finger up to him. “Shhh,” she said, her voice muffled by her pillows. “It was so nice and quiet. Don’t ruin it.”

Affronted, Green stood up at the foot of her bed. “Annalise!”

Before he could start on his speech about how inconsiderate she was being, how she had a duty to the City to stay safe if she wouldn’t do it for herself, or worse, his speech about how he and Ari worried when they didn’t know where she was and couldn’t contact her for hours, Annalise held a hand up. Rummaging through her bag with her other hand, she pulled out a small container to him.

“The old lady made fresh pastries for you. Don’t lecture me, and you’ll get them.”

Green faltered for a moment. “Fine,” he huffed, taking the container from her. Instead of leaving, as she had expected, he sat on the edge of her bed. Tucking his legs under himself, he laid back, setting the container on his stomach. “There is something I would like to talk to you about, however.”

Curious, Annalise turned onto her side and wiggled until she was lying beside him. “What about?” she asked, propping her head up with one arm.

“I was looking at the farms and—”

Annalise groaned. “I thought you meant something not Seer.”

“I do,” he said, tugging on her shirt before she could turn away from him. “Listen.”

Frowning, Annalise eyed him for a moment. He was serious, and not in his normal, business-like manner. He looked away from her when she squinted and she poked him in the side, careful to avoid where his shirt had ridden up. “Go on,” she prompted.

He looked at her again, his hazel eyes unsure until locking on hers. She nodded encouragingly and he smiled ruefully. “I was looking at the farms and was thinking about how that’s where you found me.”

“Oh,” Annalise said, her eyes wide. She glanced to the elevator, hoping for Aristotle to come in at that moment. She didn’t, so Annalise took a deep breath. “Um, what’s got you, uh, why—”

“Why now?” Green asked for her. She nodded. “Well, I talked to Ari about it before, and he always told me to just ask you. But, well, I know that you don’t like to think about it, so I didn’t. But, if there’s any chance that…”

She didn’t have to sync with him to know what he meant. If there’s any chance that my parents might be alive, I want to find them. She’d known he thought about it, how could she not when they shared the same mind at least half of their lives? And he knew that, aside from finding him, that night had been the worst night of her life, one that she never talked about even with Aristotle. Still, Green had a right to know, because it was his life. It was how they had come into Aristotle’s care, how the old Seer had found them. She just didn’t want to talk about it.

Because there wasn’t a chance.

“I just—” she started to tell him that she didn’t want to talk about it, but she couldn’t. She looked down at the container. “Share a pastry?” she suggested.

Frowning, Green opened the container. “Sure, of course,” he said, offering it to her.

She took the edge of one and offered him the other side, since she didn’t want to chance a syncing from touching the same part.

Still confused, Green took the other side and both of them twisted, making the party crumble into two parts. Green caught the lemon goop from the center before it fell and, because he got the smaller half, he decided it was his share and popped it into his mouth.

Taking advantage of his full mouth, Annalise started talking. “I didn’t actually find you in the farm,” she admitted. “I had a vision of a fire. It was my first vision and I saw you, being hidden by an Outer. You remember how when we were little there was a problem with the very outer edge of the City’s defense? There was a tiny, tiny hole. Only big enough to fit someone’s head or, well, a little kid. There were a bunch of City kids being traded for things like, like guns and pretty things. And sometimes Outer kids were traded by geneticists for water and food.

“Um, so you were traded, so were a bunch of others. But that time the traders were caught. The COPS interrupted and a lot of the kids were, uh.” Annalise swallowed. “Well, the COPS used the firewall to close the hole and…well, you get it.”

Green was staring at her in horror. “They…they set them on fire?”

Annalise nodded. “Um, and it covered the whole outer wall of the City, so anyone too close was also…” she stared at the lemon pastry in her hand, trying to decide if she wanted to eat it or not. Green’s half was already half-eaten and hung limply from his hand as he stared at her.

“Did…did the Seer know?”

“Yes,” Annalise answered softly. “They ordered it.”

“But did they know about the chil—”

“I said yes!” Annalise snapped, sitting up. “They saw the whole thing and that’s how they found us. I came because I knew I had to save you. The Seer was waiting for me to get to you, and Ari intercepted the plan or knew or something was there to make sure that they didn’t kill us to stay the Seer. I don’t know. She never explained it.”

Green was silent for a long time and Annalise avoided looking at him, choosing instead to focus on her flowered bedding. “I ran away with you and Ari found us in the Green Farm.”

“So my family…”

“If they were there, they died. If they weren’t, they traded you for food and water. Either way, all you have is me and Ari.”

Green frowned, but bit into his pastry. But they might still be alive, he thought, ignoring Annalise’s words. He could understand trading another mouth for food and water. If there was a big group of the Outers, chances were that his parents hadn’t been among the traders. He doubted the traders would have had to sell any of their own. Still, knowing how Annalise felt about the entire situation, he kept his mouth shut. She had been given up to the geneticists when she was small by her parents, who’d needed the money.

He wasn’t going to abandon her, no matter what she thought. “Are you sure you don’t want to hear my new lecture about safety? I wrote it today. If it doesn’t make you more considerate of all I do for you, nothing will.”

Annalise shoved him. “All you do for me?” she laughed.

“Oh yes. I ate all of Ari’s latest attempt at gimchi so that you wouldn’t have to attempt it cold. And since I’m not the one who avoids ‘Understanding Cultures and Your Ethnicities’ night, I’m pretty sure it isn’t for my benefit.”

“Woah, woah. But who ate all of the, uh what was that weird octopus thing?”

“The pulpo a la gallega? I wanted to try that.”

“Trust me, you didn’t,” Annalise assured him. “It was chewy and horrible.”

Green sighed. “Your lacking in a taste for cultured cuisine makes my life much harder than you ever seem to recognize,” he sniffed.

“Okay then. I’ll just tell Ari that you’d love to try anything she wants to cook up.”

“Let’s not go that far.”



Next part of Chapter Four: Rich

Next part of Seer: Chapter Five
amadhay: (Default)

A tiny spider bot from Are’s locket had found its way quite easily to Doc’s rooms without any steering from the girl. Through its cameras linked to the visual data disks implanted in their eyes, Are and Lav could see that either Gregor had taken his sweet time going to Doc, or that he was just biding his time because Gregor was leaning against his doorframe, watching the other man.

When Doc shifted the papers on his desk, studying some of them intensely, Gregor smirked slowly, entering the room fully and closing the door behind him with a soft fsh. ”Knock knock,” he said in a dry tone, his eyes moving around the room before settling back on the doctor..

The doctor's head shot up. “Gregor,” he said simply, though his hands fingered his pens nervously. When Gregor looked to his hands with an amused smirk, he placed his pen on the desk quietly. He bit his lip and glanced behind the man, to the closed door. Gregor had already locked it. “You shouldn't be here. You’re too early.”

Gregor ignored him, moving to his desk and looking over all the papers on it. He ignored Doc for a moment, reading one with a little bit more focus. “I'm hurt, Doc. You don't want to see me?” he asked, his tone was more than mocking, but there was a hint of sentiment to it that couldn’t be ignored. 

Doc covered the paper Gregor was studying with another, suspiciously watching the other man move casually about his office. “It's not that I don't want you here, it's just that I'm working right now.” He again glanced to the closed door, as if making sure it was truly locked before he lowered his voice to a whisper, “What if someone walks in on us?”

Gregor shook his head with a mocking grin, “No one will walk in on us,” he replied, walking around Doc until he was behind the man. He stopped, and leaned his head over his shoulder, almost intimately, before his fingers went to the papers again, gently pushing aside the paper Doc had used to cover the one he’d been reading. The two stayed like that, with Gregor’s arms on either side of Doc and leaning almost into the man.

Doc tilted his head, his eyes on Gregor almost as though he were memorizing the man’s face. “How would you know?” he asked, shifting until their faces weren’t as close. His arms twitched as if they wanted to raise and either touch Gregor or push him away, the girls weren’t certain, but they remained where they were. Gregor made a soft, thoughtful noise before pulling another paper from under Doc’s arm, where he appeared to have been hiding it.

“Because my parents are throwing a small get-together in the garden. No one wants to miss anything there,” he replied, tutting at whatever was written on the paper.

“Can you get the spider close enough to see the writing?” Lav asked.

Are shook her head, before adding “No,” in case her friend was too busy watching to see her. “I’m afraid if I move it, they’ll notice.”

“I don’t think they’re going to notice anything but each other,” Lav responded with a snort.

“Better safe than sorry.”

The two were caught back up in the two men’s interactions when Doc pushed Gregor away from him and stood up to create more distance between them when he crossed the room to a small centrifuge. “I don't believe you. I think you're making that up so that you can get what you want.” 

Gregor smirked. “That is something I'd do, isn't it?” he asked tauntingly, following him so that he stood at his side, far closer than strictly necessary, eyeing the tubes that he pulled from the machine. The girls didn’t even have to see the labels to know the tubes were of one or both of their blood, considering the thick, milky white layer between the plasma and the buffy coat. They didn’t really know what it was, but it was very recognizable when compared to other blood.

Doc nodded, but something about the vials made him smile and he looked to Gregor with hungry eyes. “So, are your parents really throwing a get-together?” he asked. 

“They are,” he assured him. “So it’s just the two of us and no worry of anyone walking in,” he added pointedly.

Doc squinted. “Shouldn’t you be there, too?” he suggested, eyeing Gregor with mistrust. “Doesn't that just double the risk of us getting caught?” 

Gregor shook his head, “With Arenaria and Lanvedula missing, they’ll simply assume I spent my time searching for the girls. Trust me,” he said confidently.

Doc eyed Gregor suspiciously, but soon nodded, as though he couldn’t be bothered to distrust the man any longer. “Fine, but if someone walks in on us, I'm blaming everything on you,” he said, keeping a straight face as he looked Gregor straight in the eyes. 

“You go ahead and do that.” Gregor hardly seemed worried, and really he had no reason to. No matter what they were doing, his family could cover his involvement by pinning it all on Doc.

“I will,” Doc promised before showing him two vials. “They’re the same.”

Gregor nodded. “I can see that.”

“You don’t understand.” He pulled out another vial, this one with different levels. The milky white layer was between the buffy coat and the red blood cells. “This is normally Are’s blood,” he explained. “I think the difference in the effects of the modifications can be directly linked to this.”

“So if you were capable of fixing her blood?”

“Then I can use this as a basis to equalize her better.”

“And—”

It was the worst time for the spider to malfunction. But that was what happened. Are and Lav looked at each other in disbelief.

“Did you charge them last night?” Lav accused Are, who gave her a look of contempt, before realizing that no, she hadn’t. She hadn’t charged her locket since she’d last used it, which had been a little over three weeks past.

She covered her eyes in embarrassment. “I forgot,” she admitted. “Do you think—”

Knowing where she was going with her thoughts, Lav pushed Are out of range from the spider bot and to the stairs. “It’s a lost bot. No saving it. Let’s go to your room and—”

“Figure out what in Capecchi’s name they were talking about? I agree.”

“I was going to say see if we could link into the spider’s memory, because it might not be sending it to us anymore, but it doesn’t mean it isn’t recording.”

Lav and Are exchanged determined looks. Between being betrayed by Are’s benefactors, attacked by a COPS, and learning that Gregor and Doc were working together to do something to Are, they had a lot to think about. A lot of research, a lot of hacking, it was going to be fun for them.


Next Part of Chapter Four: Cell

Next Part of Rich: Chapter Five

amadhay: (Default)

“Hey! Let us go!” 

Cane perked up at the familiar voices before realizing that hearing them meant nothing good. Glancing to Ortzi, who was glaring at the door, as if daring them to put more people into the cell with them. For all his glaring made the other occupants cower, it didn’t impede the officers, who tossed two new bodies into the cell. Cane tried not to grimace when they hit the ground hard, but otherwise the two seemed uninjured because they jumped right back to their feet and to him.

“Gen!” Dodie exclaimed, reaching out to hug their squadron leader, who jerked back with a vague look of panic.

Before Cane could say anything, Ollie took in his flabbergasted expression. Seeming to take that as a lack of recognition, she groaned and curled up in a little ball. “He’s forgotten, Dodie,” the girl whispered, and Cane didn’t disabuse her of the notion.

Cane glanced to Ortzi, shrugging to play it off. He opened his mouth to reply when Dodie grabbed his shoulders and stared into his eyes. Cane raised an eyebrow, “Hey there,” he said cautiously, eyeing the taller boy for a moment.        

“You don’t remember me, the Artful Dodge and his partner, Ollie?” Cane rolled his eyes at Dodie. Leave it to him to try to convince me of that stupid name when he thinks I’ve forgotten. “We’re part of your squadron? Come on, Gen. You can’t forget us now!” Dodie exclaimed, seeming genuinely distraught. Incapable of letting his friend be upset, he squeezed his arm as subtly as possible, and relieved, Dodie let go of him.

At his sudden silence, Ollie sat up, hugging her ribs. She glanced between the two men and when Dodie seemed calm, looked hopefully to Cane. He nodded slightly, but looked sideways at Ortzi, giving them a signal that he didn’t want them to talk so candidly in front of other people. While his instincts told him that he could trust Ortzi, he wasn’t going to stake the others lives on it. They were in an enemy zone with no mission and no idea how to get home. He wasn’t taking any chances that they—the infamous, anonymous They—were trying to get all of the squads together to do something horrible to them.

”Sorry, you’ve got the wrong guy,” he said with a shrug.  

Ortzi raised an eyebrow, “They said your name. Wrong guy?” he asked.

Cane didn’t smile, but he looked to Dodie, knowing the answer. “Right. How did you know my last name?” 

“What?” Dodie asked, playing purposely obtuse. “I didn’t call you anything?”

“Gin? His last name?” Ortzi pushed, glancing between Cane and Dodie mistrustfully. He knew that they knew each other, but he couldn’t understand why they would pretend otherwise. And while he wasn’t typically one to care about secrets unless they involved him, he’d been in the cell for a long time—and would be for even longer—and would pick at just about anything for some entertainment.

“What? That’s wild. I was saying General, though. That’s who I thought he was. My friend, General.”

While he didn’t believe that for a moment, Ortzi let it go for the time being and instead decided to change subject. “Crowds, I tell you. One dronger gets thrown in, bunches flow in after ‘im. Personally, I can’t wait for morning exercises. Counting up all of my bruises always brightens my days,” Ortzi said brightly, hiding a smile at the surprise on the strange trio’s faces.  

“Morning exercises?” Cane asked hopefully. “So we do get out of this thing?”        

Ollie jolted to her feet, stepping toward Ortzi in a vaguely threatening way. “So, now, what’s all this then?” 

Ortzi rubbed the side of his face, eyeing this Ollie with vague disinterest. “We never leave the cell until we’re let out,” he answered Cane incredulously, still not sure how he wouldn’t know that. Everyone knew that. Except these three, he noted, seeing the discouraged looks on the new two. “No matter how many people are in a cell, everyone gets the privilege of exercising every day, space provided, or no. It usually causes sore limbs, broken noses, and fights, yet the kind officers enforce it daily, despite the problems.”  

Ollie started and turned to Cane to say something, but Dodie gripped her shoulder and turned her away from their leader, to the wall. “Shut up,” he hissed warningly.  

Ortzi smiled coldly, but remained silent. He had an inkling feeling that this cell-stay would be mighty fun.

Cane, on the other hand, scrunched up his nose, “How fun,” he said drily. He turned his attention to Ollie and tilted his head his head back. She couldn’t stay here for more than thirty-six hours or else the lack of sunlight would make her wilt like a flower. He had no idea how to get her out, but knew he had to before she got out of control. 

Eyeing the reflectionless glass before him, he posed a question to Ortzi, “Is this the worst cell there is?” he asked. 

Ortzi chuckled. “Of course it is. It’s kind of like time-out, if you know what I mean,” he said. “Who ever’s idea it was to stick all of the worst or the worst together needs a reality check, though. Gangs get in trouble on purpose so that they can all be put together in the same cell.”  

Cane lay back on one of the “beds” to think. He kept a careful eye on the three, however. He had no idea how long Ollie had already been in these cells, but would wager it had been a few hours by how twitchy she was. Strangely, though, her aggression was on Ortzi and he didn’t know what to make of that, considering she was only ever aggressive to the one in charge, him.

Ortzi sat on the floor in front of Cane, which was as far as he could get from both Ollie and the other two kids. When Cane didn’t comment on his closeness, Ortzi let out a nervous breath and began to unwrap a bandage that was on his wrist, wanting to check the wound beneath, while quietly listening intently to the things happening in- and outside of the cell. 

For his part, Dodie seemed all but oblivious to the growing tension in the cell as he helped steer Ollie to one of the metal beds, sitting beside her once she lay down. Her eyes kept straying to Ortzi, but she made no movement towards him and for that, Cane was thankful. 

“How’s your ribs doing?” Dodie asked, breaking the silence. Cane started to answer, but Ollie answered first, making him aware that the boy had been speaking to her.

Ollie put her hands to her ribcage and gently rubbed a spot. “Bloody bastards,” she muttered. “Roughing me up for no reason.”  

Cane’s voice was laced with amusement when he aimed his next question at Ollie, “Were you truly innocent?” he asked, knowing she had a penchant for getting into fights even when she wasn’t sun-deprived.  

Dodie answered for her. “Actually, for once we were. We were trying to find y—Gen and this pink lady took us to this building where she said she’d sent him. Next thing we know, we’re being accused of stealing and pulled here.”  

Cane jerked at the mention of the pink lady, wondering if it had been the same one to help him. If so, what was her game? What did she know? She’d sent him to Tanith and then he’d been framed and caught. She’d sent them to some building and they’d been framed and caught.

Ortzi snorted. “What did they accuse you of stealing to land you here?” he asked, beginning to rewrap his bandage.  

“Um...some weird thing...I don’t remember what they called it,” Dodie muttered uncomfortably, looking to Cane. 

Ollie jumped in when Ortzi looked up in interest. “Some lady’s jewelry,” she claimed.

Ortzi looked at them as if they were crazy, and when they still looked blissfully ignorant, he looked at the ceiling of the cell, shaking his head. He tried to imagine what they could have really stolen to land in here, then looked over to the wall, forcing his voice to sound casual when really, he couldn’t believe how stupid they thought he was. Really? Jewelry? Jewelry landed them in Exclusion? Maybe if they stole it from the Seer. “That must have been some pretty expensive jewelry from some very powerful and wealthy lady to get you guys in Exclusion, then.”  

Dodie waved a hand dimly. “Naw, it’s just our twentieth time gettin’ in here.”  

Ortzi nodded, growing quite suspicious. It wasn’t that they claimed to have been there so many times when the limit to being perm-celled was ten times—everyone had managed to get in and out of a cell without being properly booked. If he’d been properly booked every time, he would have been perm-branded six times ago. It was just that he had never seen or heard of them before. He knew quite a few people, more than enough for his suspicion was well merited. The City wasn’t large enough for criminals not to know each other, not the celled ones anyway.  

A glance at the clock reminded Ortzi that the world didn’t revolve round mysteries and strnge trios. Some of it revolved around something far easier to get. He stood abruptly from his seat on the ground and walked over to the entrance to the cell. “Hey!” he shouted loud enough, to be sure, that several other cells would most definitely hear him. “Where’s my food?” 

After almost a full second, the whole building was roaring as kids of all ages started screaming and shouting, creating absolute havoc for one lousy meal. 

Ortzi walked back to his spot on the ground, smiling broadly and chuckling to himself. “I’ve still got it,” he said.  

Dodie snickered. “Nice...” 

Ollie rolled her eyes. “Whatever.”  

Ortzi looked at Ollie with a raised eyebrow. It took most of his will power not to make a rude comment. “Be nice to me. I’m feeding you,” he said instead, keeping his voice fairly even and joking, though there may have been a slight edge to it.  

“I’m not that hungry,” Ollie snapped, but Dodie pinched her lightly and Cane gave her a look over Ortzi’s head and she recanted, “But I haven’t eaten in a day, so...thanks...”  

Ortzi strained a friendly smile. “Eating is healthy,” he stated before sitting down. “So, Cane Gin. What did you do to end up in here, anyways? I never did ask, did I?” Ortzi asked, moving to sit on the floor where his back could lean against the bench. He didn’t look at Cane as he asked the question, but once he was settled, he glanced up for the answer.  

Cane avoided his eyes. “I was framed for a lot of things,” he stated, rubbing his branding through his sleeve. “Seemed like it was everything they could fit in.” He shrugged, “Guess someone had it in for me,” he said, skipping over the truth of the matter.  

 

“Huh, it seems like framing is quite popular these days, eh?” Ortzi responded. He was about to say something else when someone slammed open the door of the cell. 



Next part of Chapter Three: COPS

Next part of Cell: Chapter Four

Next part for Gary: Chapter Five

amadhay: (Default)

“This was a bad plan, Aimy,” Croy-li whispered to his best friend, who glanced up at him from the ground to where he was hiding in the rafters of the building, nearly unseen in his black sneaksuit, with his dark skin and black hair hidden partially under his hood.

“It was your plan,” she hissed at him, getting a running start before she launched herself into the air. Aiming at the wall and kicking against it to get herself higher, Amaya made it into the rafters as well. Croy-li grunted when her weight slammed into him, but he kept them both from falling, holding tight to the support beams with his long limbs hooked around the beams until she was situated. At that point, he balanced on a single one, reaching into the pouch at the small of his back.

“That doesn’t make it a particularly good one,” he contested, pulling out his datapad as she hung onto him with her legs, her arms keeping them in place on the support beams while alarms went off in every direction. He was lucky she had grabbed him when she had, because he nearly tilted over in surprise even though he’d been expecting them. She helped him balance.

“Well, bad plan or not, it got us this far. Now will the escape part of it work?”

“I don’t know,” he responded. “That’s why it’s a bad one. I didn’t know they had override power on their alarm system! I can’t get in without, well,” he waved his hand at her and she grunted. “But I’m trying to see if—”

Below them, light spilled and a group of no less than ten armed soldiers entered the room, their guns and lights pointing all over. Croy-li silently put his datapad back into his pouch and pointed up. Amaya closed her eyes for a long moment, as though praying, before nodding. As the soldiers below searched through the room, its many containers and hiding places, the duo made their way higher up, trying to be as silent as possible. None of those below so much as glanced up, apparently not even considering up to be a possibility.

They were almost to the top when Croy-li slipped. Even though Amadhay caught his arm, bracing herself with the crisscrossed support beams to help hold his full weight and helped him steady himself, neither of them realized the amount of noise they made with their scrabbling until they were found. When lights shone up at them, they exchanged glances. The sound of wings and heavy feet and claws on metal approaching them forced the duo to make a rash decision.

“Throw me,” Amaya ordered, grabbing Croy-li’s hands. The boy started to argue, but a heavy body landing close to them changed his mind. She was the better bet at getting out and back in if he were to get caught. Besides, he had something he wanted to try out, and she would be an impediment to him if it did work.

“I’m right behind you,” he promised, throwing Amaya as hard as he could, through the glass dome. Light from outside shone in where the girl had gone through, and Croy-li was able to see that he was surrounded by guards, rather than soldiers, which made it easier on him. Adjusting his mask and hood with one hand, he rummaged through one of his suits’ many pockets, going by sense of touch to try to find the right tool.

“Hey guys,” he said nervously, taking a step up.

They all rushed at him, and without any time to find something else, Croy-li pulled out what he hoped was his blind bomb and dropped it. He jumped up and it hit a lower rafter, just as his legs were grabbed by several of the guards. Silently mouthing a prayer to the Escort that it would work, Croy-li squeezed his eyes closed just in time, holding onto a support beam to keep from being pulled down. The little metal sphere exploded with a soft fwoom and even through his eyelids and with his head facing away, he could see the bright light and felt its warmth through his sneaksuit and on his exposed skin.

Unlike him, the guards had not been ready for the heat or brightness of the light. Those holding onto him let go to catch themselves as they took wrongs steps and found themselves falling from the rafters. The other guards near him were crying in pain.

Light-blindness achieved, assumed temporary. Unexpected accompanied heat and probable severe burns, Croy-li thought, looking over the guards once the light died away. The ones that had remained on the ground seemed to have been hit by some debris, or perhaps the bomb had been harsher on them, because they were all unconscious, most looking injured. Will need to observe the focus subject’s accompanied effects and— 

“Hey, dummy!” Amaya’s voice hissed from above him. Looking up, Croy-li remembered that they were still on a mission and still attempting to escape. He could get into the system from the safety of his room to look at the security footage at a later time to document the progress of his invention.

Amaya reached out for him and he climbed higher as quickly as he could, taking her arm to help lift him up. The broken glass cut through his top where it wasn’t reinforced with padded armor when he pressed against it, lifting himself up. Mentally noting to have Squirrel heal it before someone outside of their team noticed, he brushed glass off, making sure to use the reinforced back of his gloves. Stepping lightly, he followed Amaya’s mimed directions to avoid where the glass was thinner and breaking further.

“Have they found our sled?” Croy-li asked Amaya once they were off of the glass and headed for their escape mobile, which was hidden near the tree line. The girl grabbed his arm and leaned into him, using his movement to keep herself going before looking all around them with a distant look in her eyes that told him she had reached out and was seeing someone’s thoughts.

She snapped back. “No one’s thinking of the trees or the sled. But they know we took the chip, so maybe run faster.”

Croy-li groaned, but ran faster, getting ahead of her so that he could get to the sled to start it up. If he could get it going by the time she caught up, they would be out free. Otherwise, it was far too possible that they would have to fight their way out. He hated fighting the RA. The soldiers were too well trained and comfortable with what was necessary to take them down.

“Have I mentioned how horrible this plan was?” he asked.

She grunted and a thud made him look back just in time to see her jump over an unconscious body. “Well, it was your idea, genius.”

Assured that she was alright, Croy-li focused back on his own running when he stumbled. “I feel like you’re using that term as an insult and as a genius, I am insulted.”

“Good. It worked, then.” She left out a huff of breath that made him look back again. She had stopped running and was frowning, with that distant look in her eye. “They know where we are,” she stated, snapping back. “So get the sled up. I’ve got your back.”

“I’d feel better if Squirrel were here,” Croy-li muttered, hopping over a fallen tree branch to their sled. He pulled it up from its hiding place and brushed the snow off of it. “Or Jazz. Or Soda. Even Brave or Blu. Why are we here alone again?” he muttered, pulling a small spark stick from his pocket. “Oh, I remember. Because you wanted to do it without them. ‘cause the stinking Thief Lord told you to do it alone. And of course you do what he says.”

“Are you done complaining?” Amaya asked hurriedly, “Because we have two Arachins coming at us and I definitely forgot my bug spray.”

Croy-li glanced up and at seeing the scorpion Arachins, looked back to what he was doing. “You could take them,” he said with a shrug, wishing suddenly that he hadn’t unplugged everything. He had only needed to switch the spark plug out and no one would’ve been able to take it anywhere. But no, he had to be thorough.

“Can I borrow your gun?” Amaya asked and Croy-li scoffed.

“You asking tells me you want me to shoot them. Wouldn’t work. Scorpions’ exo’s too thick for bullets except for point blank. And I’m not getting that close. You?”

“Only if you don’t get the sled working in the next few clicks.”

A loud whir came from the sled and both teenagers sighed in relief.

“Thank Goddess,” Amaya muttered, keeping her eyes on the Arachins even as she jogged over to Croy-li and wrapped herself around him.  Once she was tucked behind him, Croy-li glanced back to see the Arachins still hadn’t closed the distance between them. They didn’t move through the snow very fast and he assumed that they simply couldn’t. He vaguely remembered that scorpions hibernated in winter, so for there to be any out was atypical.

“Wait a click,” Croy-li muttered, trying to take a quick picture of them with his vid-pod.

“No clicks,” Amaya stated, reaching around him to put the sled into motion. The runners beneath them moved jerkily to get them moving on the even ground. She was wise, because the Arachins started moving more swiftly, closing the distance between them almost in time to catch the duo, but the sled hit a hill and sped down, dropping them right out of the stinger’s reach.

Amaya gave a relieved huff, wrapping her arms around Croy-li’s waist once he took the controls. She pressed her face into his back and Croy-li smiled, almost forgetting that they were still in danger.

“For the record,” she muttered and he strained to hear her over the wind. “Thief Lord told me to pick a partner. He suggested Jazz or Soda. I chose you.”

“He was probably right,” Croy-li said loudly to combat the wind, smiling when she pinched him in the side.

“Mutt,” she teased, and Croy-li relaxed as they got out of the RA’s territory.

They were only a few yards out when the vrrm of snow cars and the crunch of snow under running feet indicated that they were still being chased. They both glanced back and cursed at the sight of wolves. The snow cars weren’t as much of a worry, considering they were obviously standard peacekeeper mobiles and wouldn’t last much longer at their current speed—especially not given that Croy-li had made sure to pour a drop of Sludge Freeze on all the wheels he’d seen while they were back at the compound.

“Drive for me,” Croy-li ordered Amaya, not giving her a chance to argue before he opened the main panel for the engine of their sled.

“What are you doing?” she demanded, grabbing the joystick with both hands so that she could evade a large rock. “Other than trying to get us killed.”

“Trying to not get us killed?” Croy-li suggested, focusing on rearranging the wires. “I put this in just in case of wolf ferals, so here’s hoping it works.”

Hoping?!” Amaya screeched. A loud howl came from behind them, echoed by several others. Both of them glanced up and back to see that the snow cars were, in fact, stuck in the snow. Unfortunately, they had been replaced by several wolf ferals, two large cat shifters, and an enormous bear that neither was sure if it were a feral or shifter.

They exchanged glances and Croy-li went back to switching out wires and gears. He wasn’t sure that Amaya noticed when the motor in their sled stopped, since she was focused on trying to steer them, and he hoped she wouldn’t need to. Taking a deep breath and shooting a quick prayer to Escort, he molded his sticky tack into a ball, stuck three wires into it, and then pressed all of that to an otherwise untouched, shiny metal box the size of his thumbnail. At first nothing happened, and Croy-li chewed on his lip, ignoring when Amaya again asked him what he was doing.

He pressed the sticky tack more closely against the box, taking care to keep the wires from directly touching the box with a thin layer of the tack insulating them. Unsure what he had done wrong, he flicked the box, noting that it moved when he did.

Is it not in right? He wondered, moving the box until it was firmly in place.

“Take the wheel and I’ll shoot,” Amaya said right before the speed adapter started working. The motor woke up and worked double time, making the runners move with the momentum of the sled instead of just allowing the momentum to take them.

“No shooting,” Croy-li muttered, checking his hip to make sure his friend hadn’t taken his gun while he hadn’t been paying attention. It was still there.

“What do you want us to do, then?” she asked, glancing back again. The animals had stopped chasing now that they were moving too fast and were watching them, but had not stopped howling. “Because they’re still tracking us.”

“Trust me, okay?” Croy-li closed the engine and covered her hands with his. “We don’t need to shoot anyone.”

Amaya huffed, leaning her forehead on his spine. “I wasn’t going to kill anyone,” she said softly, and Croy-li forced a laugh.

“I know,” he said, trying not to look back at her. We’re moving too fast, he told himself. If I look back, we could crash into something. The truth, though, was the he didn’t want her to see that he didn’t believe her. “I just don’t want any more evidence left than necessary.”

“You’re using a standard Local Force 2802 Hemlok,” she stated matter-of-factly. “We chose that gun because it’s standard fare and evidence left by it would be useless.”

“And you’re a crap shot,” Croy-li added defensively. “I mean, I don’t think you’d kill them if you weren’t meaning to, but…” You might not hit at all was where he meant to continue with it, but they both knew he was lying.

“I wasn’t going to kill anyone,” Amaya repeated, lightly hitting her head against his spine several times. “I don’t do that for him, not anymore.”

He wanted to believe her and knew that she needed to believe that, so he didn’t point out that her continued requests for his gun really pointed the other direction. Instead, he shrugged. “Point is, we didn’t kill anyone. Still got the chip?” he asked.

She bit his shoulder. “Of course I still got the chip.”

“Still got that can I gave you?”

“Yeah…” she said slowly.

He lifted his hands from hers. “Grab it,” he ordered, taking the joystick again once she took her hands back to rummage through the pouch attached to the small of her back. “Got it?” he asked after a moment.

“Yeah.”

“Spray it all over yourself and as much of me as you can.”

“Why?” she asked even as she did it, spraying a cloud over herself. “Woah.”

Croy-li glanced back to see that the cloud hadn’t moved from her, staying tight to her skin and the sled. It was white and glittered like the snow, but when he looked close enough, he could see the nanites that he’d set into the can. Amaya stood, her arm linked loosely around his neck, to spray his front and the rest of the sled.

“Are we invisible?” she asked, sitting down again as the cloud settled.

“Close enough,” Croy-li responded, squinting to see. It hadn’t come out at transparent as he’d wanted. It was supposed to be undiscernible from the outside, but easily seen through inside of it. Instead, he managed a sort of translucent cloud, more like a thin sheet or curtain than glass, like he’d expected.

“Can you see?” Amaya asked after a moment.

“Yes,” he responded instantly, even though he was having trouble. Considering the cat of her aelfe and the low light of the early morning, he had no doubt that she would be able to see better than him. Still, he didn’t want to admit that he hadn’t planned the cloud to be so thick.

She laughed softly and wrapped her hands around his, looking over his shoulder and through the nanites. “Stop being like that. You know my sight is better than yours.”

He mimicked her under his breath before making a face at her. “Anyway, wanna know the best part?” he asked, seemingly just in time when the sounds of large wings and clicking reached their ears. Amaya reached one hand up to cover his mouth, but Croy-li shook it off. “They can’t hear us. Or locate us by sound.” That part he was sure about, considering it was the nanites main function.

“I could kiss you,” Amaya flattered, making Croy-li flush. “How long before they give up?”

Croy-li shrugged. “How should I know?”

“How long before the cloud goes?” she asked instead.

“Uh, that I don’t know either.”

She pinched his side as hard as she could. “I take back the kissing,” she snapped. “So what do you know?”

“I know the boiling point for every element off the top of my head,” he quipped, wincing when she pinched him again. “And that you need to cut your nails,” he muttered under his breath to receive another pinch. “And that we’re twenty clacks from Ainran and since Thief Lord didn’t sign the new RA accords, they don’t have jurisdiction and can’t search his land or air.”

“Finally, something useful. So if the cloud fizzes and they follow, they can’t go in after us?”

“Exactly.”

Even as they talked, the wing beats seemed to get farther away. Bird cries were still loud, but didn’t seem to be following them. In fact, the loudest sound was their motor as they lapsed into comfortable silence.

“I am going to sleep for six years when we get back to Verseins,” Amaya whined, rubbing her cheek affectionately against his back.

“I thought we were going to Whitestaff tonight,” Croy-li whined.

“If we finished last night, we were. But it’s easier to sneak into Verseins in the morning. Amadhay gave me a fool-proof way.”

At the mention of Amaya’s sister, Croy-li tensed. “Oh, and if Amadhay says it’s good, I’m sure it’ll be all clear,” Croy-li drawled.

Amaya sighed, rubbing her cheek against his back in relaxing circles. “I know she’s, well, Amadhay, but can we just not right now? If she says it’s fool-proof, it’s fool-proof.”

Croy-li sighed. “Fine,” he said after a few clicks. “Verseins. We stop by the kitchens though.”

“Get in, change, kitchens,” Amaya assured him. “Gotta feed my growing princeling,” she teased, hugging him and pointedly squeezing his stomach.

“I’m a growing boy,” he whined. “I need constant sustenance.”

“I think you’re getting fatty,” she stated. “The aelfe’s kicking in.”

He snorted. “Alright then,” he said, knowing that the only way he’d get fatty would be if his dominant, elfin genes completely shut down and let his metabolism slow down to a crawl. And he stopped getting so much exercise running for his life.

A green light scanned over them dispersing their nanite cloud and surprising the duo out of their chattering.

“What was that?” Amaya demanded, while Croy-li’s hands jerked and very nearly ran them into a tree.

“Ainran’s borders?” he suggested doubtfully, as confused as she, though he tried to hide it.

“But we didn’t leave Repunsil!” she exclaimed nervously, clutching his sides as she looked around. “And it’s barely been ten minutes. We weren’t ten minutes away from the border!”

“Maybe,” Croy-li brainstormed for explanations and only came up with one plausible one. “I miscalculated our speed?”

“And what? The cloud worked leaving Repunsil and failed into Ainran?”

That wasn’t likely, no. The two border scans were simultaneous: red showing exit of one territory and green showing entry of another. So, for the cloud to have malfunctioned only on the other side was highly suspicious, if not utterly impossible. Croy-li kept trying to find an answer even as he changed course to head to the Thief Lord’s mansion.

“Worst case scenario, we’ve been made and have to fight out of RA custody. Game plan?” Croy-li asked, shifting the control back to Amaya, who took it easily.

“Lay low,” Amaya said, eyeing the change in scenery from coniferous tree to bare ones. “Only fight back if they try to unmask. I have Blu and Soda on retrieval mode if no contact by full sun.”

Croy-li nodded, glad that she had thought of all this beforehand. He wouldn’t have, considering he was more of a sneaking plan than fighting one. That’s what made them such a good team.

“But considering we just passed our tree,” Croy-li started, watching as they sped past their old treehouse, “I think we’re safe.” He was smacked on the back of his neck by Amaya’s thick braid when her head snapped back to find the colorful, peeling paint on the orb in an old, misplaced willow tree amid the snow. She relaxed for a moment before tensing again once the mansion was in sight.

Taking one hand off of the joystick to squeeze one of hers, Croy-li leaned back into his friend. “Quick in and out. We step in, throw the chip at him, and leave without a chance to get new orders. Kay? Kay.”

He thought she might have kissed his back, but he wasn’t sure because it was quick and followed by a quick, “Kay.”

In no more than two clacks, they were sliding to a stop before an imposing building surrounded by three gates. The first of the gates was made of a thick, smooth material and raised twenty feet off of the ground. The second was even higher and glass plated, sparking with something. The third was the tallest, a curling patterned iron, deceptively pretty yet every inch had poisonous needles to keep intruders from climbing it.

The first gate was already open. “Yay,” Croy-li drawled sarcastically, “We were expected.”

He followed Amaya’s suit in hopping off of the sled and to the gates. Once inside the sleek gate, less than a full foot away from the clear one buzzing with the promise of a good, life-ending jolt of electricity, the duo slapped their dominant hands on the smooth gate and it closed tightly and silently behind them. A quick, blue light scanned over Amaya upon recognition of her biological signature, but there was a red one that slowly filtered over Croy-li. When the red lights touched his gun, an alarm went off, screeching high pitched threats of violence to an assessment of perceived danger. Both teenagers looked around in alarm, stepping back when the second gate inched closer to them.

“What the—!”

Amaya turned to Croy-li and studied him as he tried pressing his hand against the gate again, receiving the same dissatisfied beep at each attempt.

“Let me in! You know me!” he yelled, to the gates, attempting to use his technopathy to force them to do his will. However, as the gates had been made specifically with his abilities in mind, and with his help, to keep those Gifted like him out, they didn’t have nearly enough passably sentient technology or data in them for him to override the code red—at least not with his gloves on.

“Why am I red listed?” Croy-li whined. “Jazz I could see. You, Squirrel? Definitely. Immortals, I could even understand Soda or Blu. But me?”

Amaya suddenly made a sound of disgust, smacking herself on the forehead. “Your gloves, genius. It doesn’t recognize you through the new gloves!”

Oh, Croy-li opined, glancing to the new additions to his otherwise unchanged uniform. That makes sense. His old gloves--identical to those that Amaya wore--had been thinner and clung to his palms specifically for the purpose of allowing biological scans. They had also, too often, allowed for him to be sucked into the data-sphere, any network, and the motherboard of most complex machines he touched. His new ones didn’t allow any of that, limiting the distance he was allowed to be pulled while also not completely cutting him off, as his everyday gloves did. He hadn’t remembered to have them made with scanning frequencies embedded.

“Oh, for all the water in the world,” Amaya cursed, grabbing Croy-li’s hand as he thought about the major flaw he had overlooked. She took his left glove off, slammed it against the wall, and waited until the second gate stopped moving. By that point, his pale blue eyes had been covered by a staticky, sick blue film and his skin felt electrified. There was barely a pause between the blue light scanning over Croy-li and the door opening, but in that time, Croy-li had gone fully into the computer controlling the gates and back out.

He snatched his hand away from Amaya, who was breathing a sigh of relief. “Damn it Aimy! That hurts. You know that,” he hissed, shakily forcing the glove back onto his hand. Using only his fingertips, he pushed Amaya away when she tried to brace him with her body.

“Let me even out,” he gritted out through clenched teeth, his hands balled into fists at his sides. The girl took a step back, tilting her head to watch him unblinkingly. The data on his tongue and electricity in his veins was boiling, making his head throb. He took a deep breath. Synchronize the TAU channels. He let the breath out, only seeing 0’s and 1’s to dictate his brain waves. He breathed again. Increase circuit efficiency. Even in this state, Amaya was a comforting familiarity. He breathed again. Lower variable control. And again. Faulty microfilament pathways. And again.

Then, finally, the world was in colors and shapes, rather than computer code. He could breathe without tasting the flow of data all around him. Croy-li rubbed the palm of his hand against his leg, feeling slightly better when the scaled palm of his glove slid easily against the smooth fabric of his sneaksuit.

Amaya rubbed apologetically against him, but didn’t say anything. Instead, she walked past him, apparently recognizing that he was leveled out. He followed her through the second gate and stopped short before the guard in front of the third gate. Amaya smiled sarcastically at her old Rageing instructor, Dawles, who nodded in response, though the woman’s eyes were set on Croy-li, who ran a hand through his short, dark hair.

“Hi?” he asked, unsure why she was so focused on him.

“Your gun, Cole. We aren’t trusted enough to have weapons when meeting with him anymore. Right?” the last word was aimed at the woman, who merely nodded.

Croy-li sighed. “If I was gonna shoot him, don’t they think I’d have done it back when we lived here?” he suggested, unstrapping his gun. Not particularly trusting the woman before them, he opened the gun to show that it only held stun pellets and emptied them into one of his pockets. She watched him, but made no move to stop him from doing it.

Only once all of the pellets were out of the gun and Croy-li showed it to be empty did Dawles hold her hand out. Rolling his eyes to Amaya, who rolled hers in agreement, Croy-li tossed the gun to the woman, who caught it without taking her eyes off of the pair.

“If we split up, who do you think she’d watch?” Amaya whispered to Croy-li out of the corner of her mouth.

“You,” a man’s voice stated, passing through the last gate as though it were merely an illusion. Both teenagers tensed, instinctively moving closer to each other while simultaneously taking a step forward.

“We have what you wanted,” Amaya stated, reaching back into her pouch for the canister holding the chip.

“Because without his gun, Croy-li is rather unintimidating. He is lacking in any real physical skills, defenseless against most attacks. Even his Gift is rather lackluster and more of a handicap than an advantage,” the man continued his explanation as though Amaya hadn’t spoken.

The girl faltered for a moment, looking up at Croy-li, whose expression was a simple smile, covering his absolute hatred for the man standing in front of them. Not only was this man—not that he could prove it—responsible for not only his parents deaths, Amaya’s parent’s deaths, and the eradication of Squirrel’s entire tribe, but he had kidnapped all but two of them, attempted to brainwash them, and blackmailed them into doing his dirty work. And beyond all that, he never let up on an opportunity to remind Croy-li that, as the only non-Herald of their team, he was dispensable, the weakest link, one only kept around to keep the girls, primarily Amaya and Jazz, compliant. He hated him. There were only three people in the world that Croy-li could say he hated. Amadhay was number three. Amaya’s power-hungry uncle, Arne Riffle Hakinato was number two. Thief Lord was number one.

“So it confounds me to attempt to understand why, time after time, I hand you a difficult mission and you choose him.” He turned his attention to the canister. “And surprises me time and again how talented you are.”

Croy-li knew Amaya’s temper was about to flare up and he tried to stop it, grabbing her hand. She looked up at him again and smiled, but it was a dangerous smile, with the same look in her eye a cat gives its fellow before downing prey. He didn’t try any of the switches, not with the Thief Lord watching. He didn’t want to give him the satisfaction of knowing something that he’d taught him was still being used.

The girl tossed the canister at the Thief Lord’s feet. “I’m talented because I have Croy-li to pick up my slack,” she snapped. “This is my last job. You can tell the world what you want to, but this is it. I will snap your neck before I do another thing for you, so find someone new to blackmail.”

“And the others?” his asked archly. “Will you leave them to do your dirty work? You and your little princeling might be shielded from repercussions by your families, but what of the rest of my Twisted Dragons. How about the banished Lazaili? My little orphaned Bravery? Our pirate refuge Adosoda or freed slave Bluregarda? Can’t forget Kruremuangra. She doesn’t even speak Roades. How do you think any of them would be to fare if information became loose about their escapades?”

Escapades?” Amaya and Croy-li asked in incredulous disgust.

“You call forcing us to steal and kill for you escapades?”

“No one forced anything,” he responded with a smile, looking to Dawes. “Do you ever remember me holding a knife to their throats?”

“No sir,” Dawles responded with a fake smile. “You were nothing but encouraging of their interests and games, as any foster father would be. They were excited to learn. How were you to know what they planned to do with it?”

“Kill the Jasta master vampire?” Thief Lord gave a false gasp. “I wasn’t expecting our little Lazaili to do that when she was twelve. Steal important Roadesian Army plans? What can I say? They were always so eager to impress me. Do you know what the Roadesian Army does to Heralds they can’t control?”

It was too late to use a switch, so this time Croy-li kept Amaya from doing something she would regret by grabbing her wrist and twisting until she backed down. She even allowed him to push her to stand behind him. “Of course, my lord. We will be waiting patiently for your next summons. Until then, we both need sleep and to get back before we are missed.”

Amaya hissed at Croy-li and he easily ignored it and her spitting while Thief Lord and Dawles watched them with vague interest.

“Hand me the chip,” the man ordered, making Croy-li flinch.

“It is right there. It won’t hurt you to pick it up.”

“But it might hurt you if I have to,” he threatened blatantly, making Croy-li tense when Amaya gave a low, angry hiss. He kicked her.

“Of course,” Croy-li gritted out, keeping Amaya behind him, but knowing better—from experience—not to let her go when she was that riled up. She would only make the predicament worse. So instead, Croy-li closed the distance between them and the Thief Lord. Not lowering his eyes as he had been taught, he kept eye contact with the man to make it clear just how little respect he had for him. He bent at his knees, picked up the canister, and when he started to stand, the man touched the crown of his head to keep him down.

“Remember where your alliance lies and who your true king is,” he reminded Croy-li before turning his attention to Amaya. Without looking, Croy-li knew that she wouldn’t kneel without being forced, so he twisted her wrist again, only letting up on the force when she knelt beside him, in the same subservient position before the Thief Lord.

“Say it,” Thief Lord ordered.

Croy-li blinked, choosing to stay silent. He kept his eyes even with the Thief Lord, who looked from him, to Amaya, and then back with a decisive gleam. Even though he expected, Croy-li flinched at the white-hot surge inside him and tried to fight the need to properly kneel before the man. He lost the fight, as always, and moved from his crouch to kneel, lowering his eyes subserviently.

The pain left Croy-li’s body for the few clicks it took for the man to get the same reaction from Amaya, and returned, this time primarily to his mind. Croy-li tried to fight it, mentally listing the elements and their corresponding weights, but the pain seared until he couldn’t stop it and, as always, he and Amaya spoke at the same time, their voices monotone.

“You have my allegiance, my king.” Once the words were out, they were meant. Both teenagers hated it, hated the brand of the Thief Lord on their minds, but there was nothing they could do about it. It was better to have the brand than to have him push further and make them his like he used to.

   “Canister,” he ordered, holding his hand out and Croy-li lifted it to him, placing it in the man’s hand as hard as he could. With that, the man walked back through the gate.

   A few clicks later, Amaya and Croy-li were able to move from their knees. Amaya started toward the gate, as though to follow the man and the violence in her shaking body made it clear what she intended.

Dawles moved in front of her. “You have been dismissed,” she said, her fingers twitching in a tell-tale manner that had Croy-li grabbing Amaya again. Unlike before, the girl didn’t allow him to handle her, instead needing to get some of the violence out. She shoved him away and jumped at the Rager, who immediately swept her hands into the air, snatching water from the snow around them and making it circle the duo.

  Amaya pushed at the water, easily making a path for herself and throwing that water back at Dawles, hitting her face. The woman didn’t so much as flinch, shifting to get a better stance. She pulled more water from around them and took her attention fully from Croy-li to focus on the Herald. Amaya pulled water of her own and swirled it into a mini whirlpool, aiming it at Dawles, who had to dodge it. The force of it hitting the third gate made the tiny needles thicken in threat to a nonexistent trespasser.

“Aimy, come on,” Croy-li tried as the girl dodged a water ball. Dawles was playing with her. While Amaya undoubtedly had more ability and power as the Water Herald, Dawles had spent her life mastering the element and the past thirty or so years as a Rager, the highest class of learned elementalist. She had always held back, blatantly so, when teaching Amaya because she didn’t trust her. Amaya was only proving her right, and Croy-li wished she wouldn’t. “We need to get home before Soda and Blu come looking,” he reminded her.

That made her pause long enough to be hit in the side by an icicle, though luckily not the sharp point. He hadn’t realized that water included control of ice, and the surprised look on Amaya’s face told him that she hadn’t either.

“You have a lot to learn before you can take me, much less our king,” Dawles stated. The second gate reopened to let them out. “Now leave.”

 They did just that.



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“Wake up, wake up, wake up,” a harried voice called, shaking Croy-li.

Groaning, he cracked open one eye to see slanted, golden eyes on a pale olive, oval face framed by straight, strawberry kissed auburn hair. The feline ears placed near the top of her head twitched in irritation. “Why won’t you lemme sleep, Blu?” he whined.

“Because you aren’t supposed to be in here!” the girl hissed in a hushed whisper. “You’re going to get Amaya into trouble.”

“Who’s gonna know?”

“Amaya’s aunts! They’re coming right now!”

“Arche Loralyn doesn’t care,” Croy-li muttered, turning onto his stomach so that he could try to ignore the cat girl.

“But Arne Riffle does and Lady Peru will tell him!”

  “They’re not gonna come in.”

  “You’re awake enough to argue, you’re awake enough to move to the next room,” Blu stated matter-of-factly, pulling him up.

  Croy-li groaned, but allowed her to pull him to his feet, not that he had much choice considering she was more toned than he and far more stubborn. She steered him by his shoulders, practically using her thick legs to move his gangly ones.

  They almost made it to the attached guest bedroom, but three quick knocks preceded the main door being pushed open before they could. In walked three women, two of which were of obvious relation to Amaya, with similar, dark complexions and dark hair. The third was blonde, with a lighter complexion and more athletic build than the other two as well as having a few inches on them. She wore a thin circlet on her head, and immediately grinned, raising an eyebrow at the two.

“What is happening here?” the less attractive of the two remaining women asked. She had a permanently pinched face and her scowl was unfortunate.

The remaining woman, who was beautiful despite her sickly thin, frail looking body, hid a smile and arched her brow questioningly.

“Um,” Croy-li started, glancing to Blu, whose lips were pursed to give an explanation, but no words came out.

“I asked Cole to wake me up. Blu was trying to keep him out,” Amaya said, not moving from under her covers. “He stayed the night again.”

The blonde smiled knowingly. “Your brother was looking for you, Croy-li,” she said, looking expectant. “You should perhaps contact him so that he doesn’t send his watchers out looking for you again?”

“Oh, right, of course,” Croy-li responded, stumbling back from the room. He paused before exiting, remembering his manners and nodded in acknowledgement to the older women and gave a short bow to the blonde. “Princess Anne.” The blonde rolled her eyes at him and waved him on.

Croy-li closed the door behind him, but stood at it, listening in on the conversation on the other side.

“Now’s as good a time to ask as any, Loralyn,” the pinched face woman, Lady Peru, said to the beautiful one.

Arche Loralyn sighed heavily. “Of course, but considering other news, perhaps it could wait?”

“I think Riff would agree that it is important to know now.”

Arche Loralyn sighed again, but it was Princess Anne who voiced the question. “Are you and Croy-li entwining or just blunderlusting together?”

Croy-li flushed, but noted that Amaya didn’t respond for a few clicks, undoubtedly staring at her cousin-by-binding. “What?” she asked incredulously, but her irritable aunt seemed to think she didn’t understand the question.

“Are you in a romantic engagement with the Prince du Kay, or is it just blunderlust rutting?”

Croy-li felt even more embarrassed, though he had no reason to. He knew, logically, that given their closeness and how often he had to sneak out of her bed to keep those kinds of rumors at bay, that it was a good question. Still, he wished that he didn’t have to be there when it was asked, especially when Blu and Amaya began giggling, as though there were no chance.

“Me and Cole? No, of course not,” Amaya said, humor still in her voice. “He’s my friend is all. No one’s asking if me and Blu are entwining. Or Jazz, even. I could be her thrall.”

She was finding the entire situation too amusing. And while it hurt Croy-li a bit to know that she didn’t consider him as any more of a romantic interest than Blu or Jazz, both of whom the duo regarded almost as sisters, the humor did take away from his embarrassment.

“Well, I would hope that you would have better sense to choose a princeling over your servant or a disowned valev.”

She could have pointed out that Heralds were legally not allowed to become involved with each other for fear of them banding together against the rest of the world in the best case or the horrifying children they were known to have with each other. Instead, she chose to make it about status, which was a bad idea, given Amaya was hardly going to start caring about their statuses now. Surprisingly, the girl didn’t explode. She didn’t say anything, though the tension was thick.

“That’s not what we came in here about. You went to sleep early last night, so you missed the news,” Arche Loralyn said, ignoring the tension. “Hynnkel is—”

“Is he okay?” Amaya asked immediately. “Does he need help? Is he lost?”

“He’s home. He got in this morning, and you missed him at breakfast.”

The sounds of her getting out of bed quickly, followed by her jumping to the floor were followed by shuffling. He could only assume that she was getting dressed. “Where is he? Is he in his rooms? With Arne Riff?  Croy-li! Stop eavesdropping and get dressed, Hynnkel’s back!”

“What do I care about Hynnkel?” Croy-li joked, opening the door and leaning against the doorframe.

Amaya gave him a murderous look, her blue eyes narrowed, and he remembered just how strongly she felt for this cousin. He held his hands up and she turned to Blu, gesturing to her hair. “Anything?” she asked, undoubtedly wanting to look pretty for the cousin she all but hero worshipped.

Blu sighed. “Sit down. Let me brush it some and you can wear it down.”

Amaya made a face. “Just braid it,” she said instead. She hated brushing her hair, which was why it was always in a state of messy, wildly curling disarray.

The other women exchanged glances and when Lady Peru started to say something, likely a snide comment on the girl’s appearance, both Princess Anne and Arche Loralyn raised a hand to silence her. Fuming, the woman simply left.

“Hynnkel is resting right now,” Arche Loralyn said gently. “It was a long trip, so it wouldn’t hurt to take a little more time.”

Princess Anne was much more blunt. “You’ve been doing that weird grooming thing. I get it, aelfe, cat share, whatever. But your hair looks like you could have baby sparrows playing hide and seek in it and, honestly, you smell bad.”

Blu turned her face away to keep from laughing, while Croy-li had to keep a straight face when Amaya threw an affronted look his way.

“I don’t smell bad, do I?” she asked.

Croy-li glanced to the older women, who gave him expectant looks. Blu went so far as to kick him and he sighed. “You smell very...natural?” he suggested. He was used to her scent, and it didn’t bother him, though he had no doubt that it was getting to her family of cat-aelfe and their sensitive noses. “Maybe Feral is the word I’m looking for.”

Amaya stared at him aghast. “I do not smell Feral.”

“A bit,” he returned.

“So that settles it,” Princess Anne broke in. “Amaya will bathe and brush her hair. Croy-li will call Khale, before he thinks you’ve been kidnapped again.”

“And Blu, sweetheart,” Arche Loralyn added in while Princess Anne gave Croy-li a serious look and mouthed ‘Now.’ “Would you be willing to help Hynnkel for the time being? His servants were all sent away and can’t come back for another day at least. I think I remember that he liked you?”

Blu nodded quickly, always glad to be of help, though Croy-li noticed the flush at the mention that Hynnkel had liked her. He started to tease her, but after another look from Princess Anne, Croy-li crossed the room and reached under Amaya’s bed for his DS.

“I’m going, I’m going,” he said when she looked ready to say something. He glanced back at Amaya before leaving the room. Standing there, with her wild hair, half-dressed in baggy pants and her thin sleeping top, she looked beautiful.

“Come get me when you’re ready,” he told her before leaving the room. He waited to hear her agreement before closing the door. Crossing further into the guest room that, for all intents and purposes, was really just his room, he sat down on the bed. He still wore his working gloves, so those were the first things he changed. Dreading calling his brother, he then looked through the closet and drawer space for spare clothes. Unsurprisingly, there was quite a bit to choose from, so he chose to take a quick shower.

Exiting the shower in just a towel, he was in no way surprised to see Amaya sitting on his bed with Blu behind her, brushing her hair out. By the faces Amaya made every time her hair got caught, he’d have thought Blu was killing her if he hadn’t known how whiny she was about her hair. Neither girl watched him as he put on underwear, but once it was on, Amaya looked to his side, where there was a pretty ugly cut he had forgotten to take care of the previous night.

“Is Squirrel around?” Amaya asked Blu, watching as Croy-li gently patted the wound dry and wrapped it up.

“She’s back in Rattigattan for the week. What about your family healer?” she suggested, giving Croy-li a disappointed look.

“What did I do? She wanted me to go with her. She would’ve gone alone. Tell Blu you would’ve gone alone without me.”

“I would’ve taken Soda,” Amaya said instead. “But I dunno. Bart asks a lot of questions when I have to go to him. And you know Cole’s a nervous blabber mouth.”

“Hi, accused blabber mouth right here.”

“Then we’ll go with him and keep him distracted from the blabbering,” Blu suggested. “But that needs to be looked at sooner than later.”

Amaya and Croy-li both sighed at their friend’s mother henning. She had only taken to doing it once they’d been freed of Thief Lord, and only for them. Brave was barely a year older than them and she didn’t get nearly the same treatment.

“Yeah, yeah,” Croy-li said, pulling on a light, long-sleeved shirt, followed by a sweater. While it wasn’t snowing, like up north, it was still an unusually cold spring and Hartin’s temperature charms were set for someone with far warmer blood than he. Donning his normal cargo pants, he checked his pockets to be sure what he wanted was in there.

“I have to call Khale first though,” he weakly protested, wanting an excuse not to.

“Call him while you’re getting fixed up. That way your stories will be the same,” Blu suggested and Amaya agreed.

“Remember the time you told Nolando we were going to the beach, told Arche Loralyn we were checking out some witch shops and told Khale we were going to eat?”

“Can’t forget. Soda keeps reminding me of sand-witches.”

Blu was so good at ushering the duo that Croy-li didn’t even notice they were moving until they were out of the rooms.

“I really think I can wait until Squirrel comes back,” Croy-li complained, remembering his last and only visit to his own family’s healers. The trio was so old that he had to yell for them to hear and they had steadfastly ignored his suggestions for newer equipment, saying that if what they had worked for his brother, parents, and grandparents before him, that they would work for him too. And he hadn’t honestly been doubting them—though, to be fair, with only him, his brother, his uncle, and his cousins Fallora and Chun-ti still alive of their families out of the twelve that had been there only a decade before, he had a right to—he was only suggesting that it would be faster and more efficient than using old blood elf traditional healing magic, especially for simple check-ups.

“That’s three days from now. That looks like it might be infected. Squirrel would murder you if she came back and you had a four-day-old, infected wound waiting for her.”

He had to concede to that point. Squirrel would heal him, hurt him, heal him, and hurt him again just to heal him one last time. Then she wouldn’t talk to him for weeks on end and then, when she did, make him explain to her all the reasons he shouldn’t have waited. Missing out on one uncomfortable encounter with an official healer wasn’t worth the trouble.

“I know,” he whined, giving Blu his saddest eyes. “I just—”

“Hate dealing with healers who aren’t Squirrel, I know,” Blu reassured him, “But Bart isn’t like the others.”

Amaya nodded. “Yeah, he’s nosier,” she said with a grin. “But also,” she added once Blu gave her a warning look, “He’s got all the machines you like and doubles as a doctor and healer.”

Croy-li raised his eyebrows hopefully. “You promise?” he asked.

“Yup. He’s not even old. Nolando’s age, I think. You’ll like him. He talks genius-ese.”

Blu snorted at the term, guiding her friends through the Hakinato estate until they reached the medical wing. She stopped outside of the doors and allowed them to continue forward. “Bart doesn’t like it when we stomp in together,” she stated when Croy-li and Amaya looked at her questioningly.

Amaya rolled her eyes. “He doesn’t like it when we’re loud and distracting and only in here to steal his stuff,” she corrected. “He doesn’t care if we’re quiet.”

“Either way,” Blu said, the downturn of her mouth saying that she disagreed, “I have other work to do. Find me when you’re done here.”

“What other work?” Amaya called after her. “You’re my servant! What’ve you got to do? Clean my room? Please don’t clean my room. I’ll feel bad forever.”

“Duties that don’t involve you!”

“But she’s my servant,” Amaya said again, this time in confusion as she turned to Croy-li, who was apprehensively eyeing the open doors. “What duties could she have that don’t involve me?”

“Arche Loralyn did just ask her to take care of Hynnkel.”

Amaya made a disbelieving face. “I think she’s hiding something,” she stated flatly, walking forward.

He followed her after a click. “Why?” he asked.

“Have you noticed that she’s been gone a lot lately? She’s here when I wake up and when I go to sleep. But between that? Anyone’s guess. We have Lessons together and she’s been absent, but when I ask, Pride says that she’s making up for them at other times.”

“What times?” Croy-li asked. “Because Brave has been running off too. I thought she was with Jazz and Squirrel down in Rattigattan, but they say she isn’t.”

“Then again, they could be lying and they’re all doing something together.”

Croy-li frowned. “Think Soda would trail them for us?”

“If she isn’t in on it with them,” Amaya replied sullenly. At a bark of male laughter, the duo paused.

“I thought you said he liked it quiet?” Croy-li asked uneasily. There was more loud laughter and this time they could hear the rumblings of a deep, male voice talking.

“He does,” Amaya replied uncertainly, and the two found themselves holding hands as they approached where the sound had come from. Before Croy-li could discern anything other than an examination room full of state of the art machines and simple yet nice furnishing, Amaya had launched herself across the room.

“Hynnkel!” she exclaimed, hugging a tall man with black hair and a similar, sandy complexion. He laughed and hugged her back. “I just heard you were back, but Arche Loralyn told me that you were sleeping and to wait to come see you. Where have you been? Where did you go? What happened?”

Hynnkel patted the top of her head, effectively mussing up her hair when entire tufts of it clung to his rings. “Nice to see you too, Amaya,” he said, before nodding to Croy-li. “Prince du Kay.”

Croy-li wasn’t sure, because he’d never really spent much time one-on-one with Amaya’s cousin before, but he thought he detected a frosty tone when the man said his name. He took a step back and avoided his mahogany eyes.

“Hold on now,” another voice spoke up. Croy-li turned his head to see another man, even taller than Hynnkel, and much, much paler. “I sincerely doubt these two came here to see you. What is it you need?”

Amaya seemed to either not hear the man or not care, because she kept chattering on to Hynnkel, demanding to know where he’d been, what he’d seen, why he left, what had made him decide to come home. Croy-li, on the other hand, stared at the man in absolute awe. Obviously an elf by his height and elongated ears, the man wore a white lab coat over his clothes, which held almost no contrast to his snowy complexion, silver hair, and pale grey eyes.

It was a face Croy-li recognized better than his own brother’s. Standing there, looking at him expectantly, was Sir Barthew Base, the main inventor and owner of Base Inventions. He was Croy-li’s hero, an elf killed in the 2300’s and raised as a phantom to fight at Empress Kellinara’s side against the Earthlings. He was to thank for almost all of their current electronics, was the main brain behind the intergalactic network and the Roadesian/Resorian datastream.

In the face of his greatest idol, Croy-li was struck dumb. Unfortunately, he was not struck mute. “I build stuff.”

Those three words stopped Amaya’s flow of words. She looked from Croy-li, to Barthew Base, and back again. “Did you break him?” she asked accusingly, moving from her cousin. Touching his shoulder and receiving no response, she poked her best friend, who was hiding his face in his hands, feeling absolutely embarrassed for the second time that day. “Hey, what does that mean?”

Barthew Base, on the other hand, laughed. “I take it you’re the technopath Amaya talks about?”

“Have you not met?” Amaya asked, looking from Croy-li and Barthew Base again.

Hynnkel coughed into his hand. “That’s when you introduce them,” he suggested.

“Oh. Right. Bart, Prince Croy-li du Kay. I really can’t believe you’ve never met him before.”

“I tend to stay to my warehouse when I’m not needed,” Barthew Base said, still smiling at Croy-li, who was looking at him between his fingers.

“Croy-li, Sir Barthew Base.”

“I know,” Croy-li blurted before he could stop himself. “I mean, not that I stalk you or anything. I don’t. I just, I’m a fan of your work. And I like to tinker. And sometimes I invent, but mostly I tinker, no way in league with what you do, but I do build things. Like I was recently working on a nanite cloaking cloud, but for some reason it doesn’t work as well as I thought it would. The vision is barely passable and it goes down when scanned, I think, but I don’t know because I haven’t checked it out. I mean we used it last night but—”

Amaya covered Croy-li’s mouth with her hand and he silently thanked her. Once he got started nervously talking, he couldn’t stop himself.

“Croy-li got cut. We went out last night, to a, uh, place to do something and he got cut. We forgot about it and now it looks gross. Fix him.”

“Sorry Hynnkel,” Barthew Base said, gesturing for Croy-li to come over to him and the examination table he had been sitting on. “Duty calls. I’ll catch up with you later.”

Hynnkel nodded. “I need to go talk with my mother anyway.”

“I’ll come with!” Amaya invited herself after pushing Croy-li all the way over to Barthew Base.

Hynnkel smirked. “Don’t you want to stick with your princeling and make sure he doesn’t implode from Bart excitement?”

Amaya waved it off. “He doesn’t need me.” She glanced to Croy-li, who was shyly lifting his shirt for Barthew Base to see the wound. “Do you?”

Yes, he thought, but shook his head because he didn’t trust what would come out of his mouth. And even though he knew she had to know better, Amaya linked arms with Hynnkel and walked with him.

“I can’t actually see anything through the wrapping,” Barthew Base said gently, and Croy-li forced himself to stop watching after Amaya and to instead focus on the phantom. “So I’m going to cut them off. Anything I should know?”

Croy-li shook his head, unsure what the man meant by that. It wasn’t like his wound was going to gush blood or let loose an angry astral. It was just a little, well alright, a big cut. It barely bled, just hurt and oozed a little.

“Is your brother aware that I am treating you?” Barthew Base asked, and Croy-li was glad that he wasn’t trying to make small talk. He shook his head. “I am required to call him and ask permission before I do anything other than look at it. Do you understand that?”

Croy-li nodded. There was no more talking as Barthew Base cut the bandages off of Croy-li, though the boy recognized his ‘wrong-hypothesis’ perplexed look. He wanted to ask what had perplexed Barthew Base, what he had hypothesized, but didn’t, unsure what else would come out of his mouth if he did. It could be anything from ‘You look different from the poster in my room,’ which would be embarrassing, to ‘I got cut by glass jumping out of a window at an RA archive to steal some chip for the Thief Lord last night,’ which would just be stupid to say aloud.

“This is a surprisingly bad cut, Prince Croy-li,” Barthew Base stated, moving away from him, to a moveable screen. “How did you get it?” he asked before tapping a few times on the screen. “King Khale du Kay,” the phantom spoke into the screen before Croy-li could think up a good excuse.

He really should have come up with an excuse before coming. What had Amaya said? Oh, right. I got cut when we were somewhere, doing something. She usually lied better than that.

“For the last time, Bart, I didn’t bother your warehouse,” Croy-li’s brother snarled, his face appearing on the screen. “And I am busy, so I would appreciate if you would continue blaming me some other time.”

Croy-li’s eyes widened at the tone Khale took with the inventor and he looked to the phantom, whose mouth turned down in irritation. “And while I maintain that, as they are technically on your and Fallora’s lands, one of you had to have had them moved without my consultation and the damage done is on you, that is not what I called for. I have your princeling here and need to know if I have your permission to heal him. He has a rather bad cut received last night.”

What? Croy-li? Are you alright?” Khale’s tone went immediately from angry and defensive to worried and he seemed to be trying to see his brother over Barthew Base, which was nearly impossible, given the gangly teenager wasn’t as wide as the elf and at an awkward angle from the screen.

Barthew Base turned it so that Khale could see Croy-li before speaking. “I was just asking him where he could have received such a cut.”

With both men looking at him expectantly, Croy-li avoided looking at either of them until he could come up with a good excuse. “Um. Well. Uh. Could we maybe talk after?” He met Barthew Base’s eyes and held them unblinkingly, “It really hurts a lot,” he lied.

Barthew Base looked to the screen for Khale’ permission.

“Of course you can heal him. Why wouldn’t I let you heal him?”

Barthew Base shrugged, turning his back to the screen in order to get a suction tool, which made Croy-li grimace. While he tended to prefer scientific healing, especially with infection, he absolutely hated the tools used to get the gross bits of the liquid proof of infection out. They felt horrible, and as someone who regularly hurt himself and forgot to get the wounds looked at until there was an infection, he was on the receiving end of one at least once a month.

“Your family has had a history of not wanting any of the direct royal line healed by anyone other than your healers,” Barthew Base pointed out. “I had no reason to believe that tradition had changed.”

That comment made Croy-li mildly suspicious about the strange drop in living members of his family. His generation only held four children, only two being direct du Kay First Family. The previous one had been also been four but all First Family, each had bound and all but one had died so far. His grandparent’s generation had been with sixteen members and before that, sixteen. It had continued in that vein six generations further. And all only healed by their personal healers, elves who had lived through eight generations.

It was suspicious, but he wouldn’t say anything yet, until he had decided what to do about that, if there was something that needed to be done.

How long have you been at the Verseins Fortress?” Khale asked, forcing Croy-li away from his thoughts.

“Uh, all week,” he lied, keeping eye contact with his brother through the screen. Barthew Base was finished sucking the infection out and was now coating it in a salve that would expedite the healing process on the inside. If he had wanted, he could have watched the muscle and skin stitch itself together, but he had lost interest in that a few years back.

“But I’ve asked—”

“I told them not to tell you,” Croy-li lied, not blinking. “You’ve been smothering me and I needed some air, so I got some with Amaya and Blu.” It could have been a good lie if not for the fact that Khale had been ridiculously lenient. He only checked up on Croy-li once a day, he didn’t sit in on his Lessons any longer, he didn’t force him to spend any time with him or to learn about his duties as prince of Kayden any more than he learned in Lessons, though Croy-li knew there was much more to it.

Either way, the lie hit home with Khale, who looked away, as if ashamed. “I’m sorry,” he apologized, and Croy-li had to look away to keep from feeling guilty. “I don’t mean to make you uncomfortable. What can I do?

“Nothing. It’s fine. It’s not too bad,” Croy-li recanted, rolling his miniature electric fuser between his fingers. He wasn’t sure when he’d taken it out, but was glad he had something in his hands. “You’re fine.”

Barthew Base patted the regrown skin lightly. “Feel better?” he asked. Croy-li nodded, watching his tool to keep from making eye contact, being forced to acknowledge that he was in the same room as Sir Barthew Base and getting nervous.

“I should probably go find Amaya and--”

“Hold on,” Barthew Base said, holding his hand to Croy-li’s chest to keep the boy from jumping off the table. “How did you get that? It’s important for me to know that I couldn’t have missed anything.”

“I, well, Amaya and I. We, not I, really. We, uh, went out last night because we, um. We needed to do something because we were bored and needed to do something. So we went out. Last night. To go, uh, sledding?” Finally grasping at a truth, he felt comfortable rambling about his own brilliance. “We tried out my new sled and it works well. It works really well, better than I expected. We tried out a new speed alteration and we made a thirty minute trip in ten. On a sled!”

Remembering who he was talking to, his eyes widened and he looked to Barthew Base, whose eyebrow was raised. “I mean, it’s not like your hoverboards, because I’m nowhere nearly as talented as you and couldn’t come up with the technology to get it to hover, much less move as fast as it does or with the network. I mean my sled is pretty simple in comparison, so I shouldn’t really talk like it’s special. Because it isn’t. It’s just a sled.”

“Croy-li,” Khale cut in. “I get that you’re excited to meet Bart and all, but you never really answered the question.”

“Oh. Right.” He pulled out a small toy he’d been working on and tinkered with it nervously.

“Right,” Barthew Base added with a knowing grin. “So while sledding with Amaya, how did you get a cut that deep and nothing else?”

Clearing his throat, Croy-li set the toy down and tried to channel Soda. She could make the most ridiculous thing sound true. “We ran into a tree.”

“A tree? That left no splinters and didn’t impale you.”

“I mean a house. We ran into an old cottage and I got cut by the broken window?”

“Where was this cottage?” Barthew Base asked, looking like he was enjoying himself. A glance at Khale showed the king to have a similarly amused look to the phantom.

“Uh, I don’t know. We weren’t really paying attention.”

“And when did you try the nanite cloud you mentioned?”

Croy-li choked on air, completely having forgotten he brought it up. “Um. Just. We were testing the cloaking cloud and sled at the same time,” he said, looking away, but still not blinking. His eyes were dry, but he couldn’t blink until he was done. He didn’t want to be like Brave, who blinked a million times when she lied.

“So, to get this completely straight, you and Amaya went somewhere north with enough snow to go sledding in a cloaked joyride and ran into a tree or cottage, where you were cut deeply.” Croy-li nodded. Barthew Base’s mouth twitched and he looked ready to laugh, but he didn’t. He did, however look to Khale, who was smiling widely. “Alright then.”

“Sounds plausible,” Khale stated.

“I’d like to go find Amaya now,” Croy-li said, staring at the floor.

“Of course,” Barthew Base said, waving for him to go.

“Please tell me if you plan to stay at Verseins for longer,” Khale called after him before he could rush off.

“Okay,” Croy-li squeaked out before rushing away.

 

I think I understand why you enjoyed when we tried lying to you,” Croy-li heard Khale say to Barthew Base before he was out of hearing range.



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amadhay: (Default)
 It was easy enough to find Amaya again. He just had to follow the loud voices and laughter. The closer he came to the Arche Loralyn’s study, the more he could understand what was being said.

“And so I told her, ‘Look, I am really sorry that your twine ran off with my friend, but no, I’m not going to pay for you.’” Hynnkel was apparently in the middle of a story, and Croy-li assumed he’d come in on the punch line, because all of the others laughed.

Unsure whether he was welcome or not, Croy-li hovered at the door, listening as Amaya asked Hynnkel more questions. Deciding that she probably wanted time with her family, Croy-li turned on his heel to instead look for Blu and nearly ran right into Amaya’s sister. The girl, an inch or two shorter than Amaya but otherwise almost identical, aside from facial spoors, gave him a sarcastic smile.

“Smart Ass,” she acknowledged him.

“Milky,” he replied in kind, making her eyes flash at the cloaked insult of a nickname. For a moment, he was sure that there was something strange with the sky blue of her eyes because it looked darker than normal.

“Amaya, your pet princeling is out here,” Amadhay announced, stepping past him and into the room. “Maybe tell him what to do? He’s not so good figuring it out on his own.”

“Join us, Croy-li,” Amaya’s cousin, Kelly, invited, opening the door. She smiled widely at him, brushing her dark hair back over her shoulder and holding her hand out for him to take. Glancing past her, he saw Arche Loralyn quietly chiding Amadhay, with Amaya practically sitting on Hynnkel’s lap, Princess Anne and Nolando sitting side-by-side with their son sleeping peacefully, and empty space on a loveseat.

“I dunno,” Croy-li said, watching Amaya, who never so much as glanced at him, “I don’t want to invade on—”

“Don’t be a dummy,” Kelly stated, cutting him off and taking his hand. “Kel’s just telling us funny stories about his time away. You’re practically family anyway.” She led him to sit next to her on the loveseat, sitting a little closer than strictly necessary. She didn’t let go of his hand.

“Did anyone throw themselves at you?” Amaya asked pointedly, not looking at Kelly, but not having to for her cousin to get the point.

Flushing, the older teenager pulled away from Croy-li, her brown eyes glaring at Amaya, who was smiling sweetly at Hynnkel.

“Have you looked at me?” Hynnkel boasted. “Of course. I had people offering themselves every turn.”

To keep Kelly from taking his hand again, Croy-li pulled out his forceps and a small device that would work to scan for biological presences in a certain area from a single sample of air—once it was done anyway.  At this point, it was just a mess of exposed wires and fuses on his hand-sized circuit board. For a few clicks, Kelly watched him, but was quickly pulled into Hynnkel’s stories about all the people he’d met.

“None of them were really good enough for me though,” he said with a shrug, his smirk bothering Croy-li, though the boy wasn’t sure why. In fact, the entire conversation had bothered Croy-li for some reason he couldn’t put his finger on.

“Right, because Fallora’s the one you wanted, right?” Kelly asked with an enchanted smile. He glanced up at his cousin’s name, looking at Hynnkel who gave another shrug. Right, Croy-li remembered, Fallora and Hynnkel are promised.

“Not really.”

The general joyous attitude died down rather quickly. The adults looked to Hynnkel in silent surprise while Kelly and Amaya looked to Croy-li, who was staring at Hynnkel in disbelief.

“Does she know that?” Amadhay asked, the only one in the room who seemed to still be enjoying herself.

“I would assume that Khale told her.” There was very real contempt in the way the aelfe spoke Croy-li’s brother’s name that had all eyes turning to Croy-li, who immediately went back to tinkering, trying to pretend that he hadn’t been paying attention. He was neither his brother nor his cousin and had no part of whatever situation had gone down between the three of them. It was a sense of loyalty that, considering he didn’t owe it to his brother or cousin, was unwarranted that had him uncomfortable.

Still, Croy-li couldn’t help but to think, Hynnkel is an ass.

"What happened?" Kelly asked, exchanging intrigued looks with Amadhay, who covered her amused smirk with the back of her hand and tried for the same concerned look Kelly had. She didn't do it very well.

Hynnkel just shrugged as if he hadn’t just acknowledged he had, at some point, cut off his entanglement with a queen and not had the decency to tell her. Croy-li tried to keep a straight face, but he found himself exchanging a look with Princess Anne that said ‘He thinks an awful lot of himself.’ “We grew apart,” he finally said when no one else spoke.

“Sounds like you grew apart and kept it quiet,” Kelly said accusingly, glancing again to Croy-li, who tried to keep his attention on the objects in his hands, though most of his attention was on his peripheral, watching the others.

Hynnkel shrugged again. “I would figure she got the message a few months ago.”

Amaya and Amadhay both snorted, as if he’d said something funny, though Amadhay, at least, had the humility to pretend to be ashamed. Amaya only glanced at Croy-li before asking her cousin another question. “Did you decide before or after leaving that you were done with her?”

“Can we stop talking about Fallora? I was gone for a year. Don’t you want to hear more about what I did, where I went? Fallora can wait.”

“Can she?” Arche Loralyn asked softly, giving Hynnkel a disappointed look. “Does anyone but you know about your plans to detangle?”

Hynnkel gave another shrug. “All of you? Khale. And since both du Kays now know, I’m expecting it’ll get around to her pretty soon.”

Amaya sat up straighter, giving Hynnkel a look that wasn’t quite threatening, but wasn’t the same enraptured one she’d been giving him. She pushed herself onto the arm of the chair Hynnkel was seated in and glanced to Croy-li, who caught her eye. He gestured with his head toward the door, sliding his forceps into his pocket and making a face. Amaya made a face in return, flashing her eyes at Hynnkel before shaking her head slightly at Croy-li. The boy shrugged in response, ignoring her request, and stood, slipping his invention back into its appropriate pocket.

“—and see? He’s going to run off and tell her now.”

Croy-li frowned, looking to Hynnkel. He hadn’t paid any attention to what he was saying, considering his own, silent, conversation with his best friend, but he knew when he was being accused of something. And he didn’t like it. “I’m leaving because I don’t like your company,” he said bluntly, tossing an apologetic smile to the others.

“And my Cole doesn’t blabber,” Amaya spoke in a hard voice, sliding off of the arm of the chair to stand. “If you want your message to get to the Queen Ora, then you should take it yourself.” She smiled sweetly, before adding in an acidic tone, “That’s what a real aelfe would do.”

Hynnkel didn’t even seem bothered by the attack to his character. “Your Cole, huh?” he asked, eyeing Croy-li speculatively. “I’m thinking you could do better.”

“Wow,” Amadhay and Kelly blurted, once again exchanging looks. Amadhay was far too amused by the entire situation,

Knowing that Amaya’s fuse was blown by the way she tensed, the way the muscles in her arm looked ready to grab her bow—which was thankfully nowhere near her at the moment—and the way her eyes widened, he quickly intervened, placing a warning hand on her hip. He had to reach all the way across the room and it was an awkward gesture, particularly given the way she was so close to her cousin, but that didn’t make him move his hand from her. It was the only thing keeping Hynnkel from getting a fist—at the very least—to his face.

Amaya turned her head to him when he moved across the room to stand beside her, keeping his hand on her hip in their ‘don’t do it’ gesture. He put his other hand on her shoulder, their ‘think about it’ gesture. “Let’s go find Blu,” he suggested, choosing not to waste any more breath on her cousin.

She looked up, at his eyes, and when she raised an eyebrow, he shook his head. She let out a sigh and relaxed. Croy-li knew from the silence in the room that her family was watching them, that they were silently judging, probably wondering what had happened, why it had happened. He had no plans of telling them that their team all had those little on and off switches taught into them by the Thief Lord. He definitely wasn’t going to mention that he had saved Hynnkel from some kind of pain, possibly even his life given the way Amaya had been on edge in regards to others’ lives the past few months.

Instead of wasting breath on explanations he didn’t really want to give or fighting with Hynnkel, he pulled Amaya to the door. As an afterthought, he turned back to acknowledge Anne and Nolando who, as the crown successors of the Tierdom throne, were the only ones higher than he in status. “See you at dinner,” he said, not sure what the correct way to excuse himself and Amaya from the situation would have been and honestly not caring. He hated nobility politics. They were stupid.

Anne and Nolando nodded at him and so with only a nod to Arche Loralyn and then Kelly, he and Amaya left the room. Once out of the room, Amaya walked beside him with barely contained amusement.

“So, you build things, huh?” she asked, as if everything between her leaving him with Barthew Base and them leaving the room hadn’t happened. That was her normal way of dealing with things she didn’t want to, she didn’t. And his way was to go along with her, so he did.

“Shut up,” he whined. “I was blindsided. You set me up for failure.”

I did?” she countered. “I didn’t even know that he was someone you were going to go happy puppy over.”

“He’s Barthew Base,” he exclaimed, following her as she led him out to the gardens. He assumed she knew where she was going. “I can’t believe you’ve known Barthew Base for two years and never introduced me to him!”

“Well,” Amaya started, hopping onto the low gate separating one of the vegetable gardens from the walk path. “Maybe I didn’t want you to make a fool of yourself,” she teased.

Croy-li crossed his arms over his chest and followed her, spotting a familiar head of auburn hair inside the gate, tending to some of the plants. He hadn’t known Blu worked with the vegetables. “If I’d been ready I wouldn’t have embarrassed myself. Did you think, at any point to tell me that the Barthew freaking Base was your family physician?”

Amaya shrugged, crouching down low on the gate. “I didn’t know he was that big a deal, honestly,” she stated, dropping down to sit on the gate with her legs on either side. She glanced to Blu, who looked toward them before going back to her work.

“You didn’t—how could you—I have a poster of him in my room, Aimy!”

“Your room room or your building room? ‘cause if you’ll remember, we spend most of our time here ‘cept when we need to grab one of your toys. I dunno if I’ve ever been in your room.”

Croy-li thought about that for a moment. It was possible. “But I talk about him all the time,” he added.

She shrugged. “You talking about scientists and inventor people is boring and I don’t listen.”

Croy-li stared at her for a moment. That was blunt and mean, two things he wasn’t normally the recipient for, not from her. She poked him with her foot when he didn’t respond and her questioning smile made him smile back.

“Well, you’ve got to make up for this, you know.”

“Okay,” Amaya said before standing up again. “Bart!” she yelled, waving her arms around. Blu looked up in surprise and Croy-li caught her gathering something up before Amaya turned him around so that he could see Barthew Base approaching them, a glass jar full of something green in his hand.

“Ah, there you are,” the phantom stated, reaching into his pack for something. He stopped a few steps away from them to rummage through the overly full cloth bag, awkwardly holding the jar with one hand as he held the flap to his bag open with an elbow and searched through it with his free hand.

“My Cole is upset that I didn’t introduce you two, so to make up for it, will you sign something for him or something? He’s apparently in love with you and I forgot that.”

Croy-li ducked his head, once again shocked mute by the mere presence of Barthew Base. The phantom grimaced and some papers fell out of the bag. Noting that his idol seemed a bit flummoxed and that Amaya was hardly going to do anything to help him, Croy-li jolted forward.

“Here, let me,” he picked up the papers that the phantom hadn’t even seemed to notice he’d lost and then took the jar so that the man had both hands. He glanced to Croy-li thankfully before going through his sack to pull out a second jar, this one with a sack attached to it. After the scientist pushed the second jar in Croy-li’s direction, he traded the papers for it.

“That is a protein shake both of you need to be taking,” the resident physician said, smiling slightly when Amaya and Croy-li exchanged disgusted looks. Amaya hopped off of the gate and took the smaller jar from Croy-li, eyeing the mess inside.

“Um,” Croy-li said, glancing to Amaya. “What’s in it?” he asked.

“Just proteins needed to make up for your lack of appetite. It will help to keep your magic level. Your tutors mentioned that the two of you seem to be a bit unfocused and Arche Loralyn and King Khale both suggested that both of you have been missing meals.”

Amaya’s lip curled in disgust when she opened the jar and sniffed it. “Is the alternative death? I’ll take death,” she stated, trying to hand the jar back to Base, who wouldn’t take it. Croy-li took a tentative sniff of the green in the jar and quickly closed the top. Base shook his head at both of them.

“In the future, perhaps taking proper meals would help, but at the moment, you are both lacking in major nutrients. Also, your bodies are straining, so perhaps cutting down on the physical exertion would be a good idea, okay? I’m not going to ask what you’re doing, because I know you won’t tell me,” he was looking directly at Amaya, who looked at him blandly. “But I am also going to strongly suggest that whatever activities have been keeping you from resting adequately, keeping you from meals and eating away at your magic reserves, should stop for the foreseeable future.”

Amaya shrugged. “I will take that into consideration,” she stated, glancing to Croy-li, who was staring at the jar to keep from blurting anything.

“In the meantime, both of you have to drink the Green Sludge to make up for what you aren’t doing. And while I can’t force either of you to take this, I’m afraid I may have mentioned to a few people that I was giving you medicine to take daily for the next few months.”

Months?” Croy-li cried out, looking at Amaya, whose face scrunched up.

“Months,” Base confirmed. “Perhaps less if you take my advice. Longer if you don’t.”

“How do you know I need them?” Amaya countered. “Cole was in there, and look at him, he probably needs something. But me?”

“I keep track of you,” Base stated calmly before turning his attention back to Croy-li, who was weighing the jar between his hands. It was full of the green muck. “And you left some things I thought you might want returned.” He gestured to the small sack attached to the lip of the jar.

Once he opened it, Croy-li patted at his pockets. Yes, he had left his miniature electric fuser and the mouse toy. Seeing it, Amaya grabbed it out of his hand.

“You still have this?” she exclaimed, apparently forgetting all about the green muck. She stuck the jar under her arm as she studied the tiny robot.

“Well, yeah,” Croy-li said, rubbing the back of his head. “It was—”

“The first thing you made for me,” she said softly, smiling up at him. She abruptly turned to Base. “Have you seen this?” she asked, showing him the toy.

He smiled kindly at her, making Croy-li flush when he saw how unimpressed he was. “Yes, Lady Herald. It is very cute.”

“Cute? This thing shot off lasers when we were four.” She glanced to Croy-li when Base did. “What does it do now? Fly and drop explosives?”

Croy-li shrugged. “I was just trying to put it back together the way it was originally,” he said.

“But?” Amaya prompted.

“I think it scans for weapons. I don’t know where I messed up,” he said in exasperation.

Base plucked it up from Amaya’s hand, ignoring her indignation. She grinned and winked at Croy-li, making him think that had been her plan all along. The phantom studied the mouse for a few seconds before laughing softly. “I see,” he said before tilting his head at Croy-li. “You altered this to shoot lasers?” he asked in surprise.

Croy-li shrugged self-consciously. “It blew up after two,” he added.

“And you collected all the pieces and made them working again,” Amaya pointed out.

“But it still blew up,” Croy-li countered.

“Still impressive,” Base corrected. “Do you like computers?”

“He’s a technopath,” Amaya said, as if trying to sell Croy-li, because the boy was silent again, staring at Base in shock. “He loves computers. But mostly, he invents stuff. Cool stuff.”

“If you’d like, I could look at some of your inventions,” he offered, smiling at Croy-li’s dumbstruck expression. “I like to screen people before I let them into my lab,” he added, chuckling when Croy-li looked like he had shut down from shock.

Amaya looked from her friend to the white-haired phantom. “You have a lab?” she asked, genuinely curious. “What do you do?”

“For Thief’s sake, Aimy!” Croy-li exclaimed, looking at her exasperatedly. She looked at him expectantly, but Croy-li was suspicious. “You’ve been here for two years and never found out who he is?” She’d had enough time to figure out that he was a major inventor and the brain behind almost all the technology they had. In fact she should have known that given how many times the Thief Lord had wanted something from him.

Amaya shrugged. “He’s Bart,” she replied, looking to the phantom for backup, but he was leaving them.

“I hope to see you before you go home, Croy-li,” he threw over his shoulder to the boy who was categorically going through every invention Base had ever made, in order of importance. “And don’t forget to drink the Green Sludge.”

“So…he invents things,” Amaya interrupted him only a few clacks into his explanation.

Yes,” Croy-li responded. “Like your DS? He made the technology.”

“Wow, so he must be super smart.”

Croy-li gave a dramatic sigh. “Yes, Aimy. He’s smart.”


Previous  Chapter  Next

amadhay: (Default)
 Croy-li and Amaya lay parallel to each other, across her bed, tossing back and forth ideas for where their friends were and why. They had yet to come to one they could agree upon, much less one that seemed logical. The others in their team were leaving them out of whatever they were planning, which meant it could be against the Thief Lord, since they were the only ones still directly interacting with him. But that was precisely the reason they would have brought them into it.

They could have been planning against the royalty and nobility and leaving them out because they were a princelet and lady. But Amaya was a Herald first and foremost and Croy-li was part of the team more than a prince, so they couldn’t justify it, and there was no real reason for their friends to be a part of anything political. They were setting up a surprise for them. But, considering that their birthdays were months away, that possibility was just as unlikely as the others.

They couldn’t figure it out, and the longer they were in the dark, the more frustrated they became. To make matters worse, Blu had just disappeared on them. She wasn’t in any of her normal places, she wasn’t answering her DS, and as far as the others would tell them, she wasn’t in Rattigattan with them.

Croy-li turned onto his side, to look at Amaya. “They could be on a secret mission for the Thief Lord. If he told them not to tell us, they wouldn’t.”

“But why would he choose them?” Amaya countered. “He knows we’re the better duo out of the team.”

“Maybe he wanted the team and they fought to keep us out of it?” he suggested.

“Why would they do that?” Amaya retorted. “That would be keeping us in the dark. They wouldn’t do that.”

“Unless it’s against us? He might be having them do something against us.”

“He can’t do that,” she reminded him. The Thief Lord’s ability to force them to obey him went pretty far, but couldn’t break their other allegiances, and there was no allegiance stronger on Resor than the one between the seven of them.

“Okay, but what if it’s about someone close? Like they have to murder Amadhay or Khale? He might think we have allegiance and not use us. So he would have to use them.”

“But he wouldn’t. It would be the best way to test our allegiance to our families, Cole. If he wanted one of them dead, he’d use us to see if he could. And he wouldn’t keep it secret because he’d want to see if we’d fight them.”

“Unless he doesn’t want it linked to him. Or he really thought we would fight him. If he ordered you to kill Hynnkel, could you? No. If he then ordered me to, I couldn’t because I couldn’t hurt you or even Kelly or Khale. But the others don’t have any links here except us. And so they would keep quiet to keep us from being hurt or trying to stop them. Because, Hynnkel’s life on the line? Who are you going to help?”

“If it came between one of us and him? Them,” Amaya said. Croy-li thought she believed that, but he didn’t. She might stop Hynnkel from insulting him, but if he had a knife to Hynnkel’s throat because the Thief Lord told him to, he wasn’t sure what she would do.

“Okay, next idea.”

“Well, you can’t keep a secret,” she started. “And I tell you everything. So whatever it is, it’s sensitive information, right?”

“Maybe,” Croy-li agreed.

“That’s all I’ve got,” she admitted. “I’m out of ideas. You?”

“All gone,” he seconded. “And I’m hungry. Sneak to the kitchen with me?”

She nodded. “Or maybe we could even go to dinner.”

He shrugged. He didn’t want to chance a meal with all of her family. Besides Hynnkel, he didn’t particularly care for her uncle, Arne Riff, who went out of his way to be proper and in charge. Then, there was Christein, who was between Nolando and Hynnkel and incredibly crass. Amadhay was always a joy to eat with, and then there was always a chance of running into Amaya’s other aunt or distant family.

“Actually,” he started, trying to determine how best to say what he meant without angering Amaya.

“You want to avoid my family and go home?” she suggested for him.

“Not exactly,” he denied. “But I should head back. Khale was getting antsy. You could come with me?”

He knew before the words left his mouth that there was no chance. In a choice between him and Hynnkel, it was going to be Hynnkel, even if the man had been a first rate hunk of feral ass. She liked him, looked up to him, and even though he seemed to be a different person now, that wasn’t going to stop her infatuation.

“Well, I would, but maybe we should do what Bart said? Rest up, not drink that crap. ‘sides, I bet your tutors are getting all worried you’re dropping them for mine.”

Croy-li shrugged, “Fine by me. I’ll enjoy not nearly dying for a few days.”

“Woah, woah, who said anything about a few days,” Amaya whined. “I was giving you the rest of today away from me.”

Croy-li smiled at her. “Then you’re going to have to come to Kayden,” he told her, pushing himself to his feet. “Because I’m missing the beach.”

As he expected, Amaya smiled goofily. “You’re right. We should go to Kayden, spend some time swimming. Then we’ll figure out what the others are doing. Plan?”

“Plan,” Croy-li agreed, checking his pockets to make sure he had everything. “See you tomorrow, Aimy,” he called, leaving her rooms.

In doing so, he nearly ran right into Barthew Base, who was once again trying to reach something in his bag. The boy nearly toppled over after smacking into the solid man, only catching himself when his flailing hand caught the wall.

Distractedly, Base smiled at him. “I was just looking for you,” he said, making Croy-li sputter.

Me?” he asked in surprise.

Base nodded, pulling a hunk of metal out of his bag. Croy-li studied it for a few clicks when the man held it out to him. It wasn’t just a hunk of metal. It was some kind of conductor, for what, he wasn’t sure. It was dull and bent in a few places that didn’t look purposeful.

“Can you fix that?” Base asked, staring at Croy-li in a way that made the boy uncomfortable.

“Maybe,” he hedged out, turning the thing in his hands. “What is it?” he asked.

Base raised an eyebrow. “You tell me.”

Oh, Croy-li realized. This is a test. Nodding to himself, he turned the object a few more times before pulling a small strip of testing metal from his pocket. Both of the metals sparked on impact. “It’s some sort of conductor,” Croy-li muttered, walking as he thought. He turned it again and was certain that he had it right side up that time. He blew lightly on it and a small spark of electricity flew up, making him smile.

He pulled his handheld multitool from his pocket and poked and prodded at the conductor for a few clicks before it sparked again. “Thought so,” he muttered. “What did that mean phantom do to you, baby?” he muttered, stroking the metal gently. Through his gloves, he couldn’t feel the response from the miniscule computer deep inside of the hunk of metal. “Just tearing you out of your home,” he soothed.

He turned around, heading back for the medical wing. “Don’t worry, I’ll put you back,” he muttered, only stopping when a hand landed on his shoulder.

“Where are you going?” Base asked him.

Croy-li blinked a few times, staring up at the man, having forgotten he was being tested. “Um. This is the pneumatic cylinder for the engine of the hydraulic chamber in the tank. The, uh,” he gestured to the outside of the device. “This is the conductor to allow for the electrical currents to work the cylinder inside. Underneath the cylinder is the data and compression chip. If I don’t put this back soon, won’t it stop working?”

Base smiled slightly. “It’s an old part,” he answered. “Did you speak to it?” he asked. Croy-li shook his head. “Then how did you know it was part of the hydraulic chamber?”

Croy-li fingered the metal for a moment. “Amaya used to be stuck in a tank a lot,” he answered softly. “Only hydraulic chambers require the piston to be that shape. And there’s a certain type of rust that comes from a leaking one. That’s why you took this out, right? Because it was leaking.”

Base stared at him critically for a few clicks, making Croy-li shift uncomfortably. “Yes,” he agreed. “Are you going to Kay Castle?” he asked.

Croy-li nodded, but didn’t ask why. He didn’t have to.

“Good, I’d like to speak with you brother about you.”


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amadhay: (Default)
 The entire way to Freeman’s Hold, Croy-li had focused on the conductor. He focused on what he could make from it, how the parts of it that were still perfectly intact would come in handy. He thought about making a sleeping tank for Amaya now that he had it, but put that thought away as wishful thinking. He still didn’t understand enough about the hydraulic chamber to even begin to work on something that difficult and the information behind the ones used for the tank Amaya needed was guarded zealously by the Water temples.

In other words, he focused on anything that wasn’t: What does he need to talk to Khale about? Did I do something wrong? What did I do wrong? Am I in trouble? What does he know? Does he know about the mission?

It wasn’t easy, because sitting beside him on the public zip train was Barthew Base. He knew that the man had to have had a personal teleport or at the very least, a private car on the zip train. Yet there he was, sitting beside him, watching him with interest. He hadn’t said anything since Croy-li had pulled out a few tools, except to the people around him to assure them that he wasn’t doing anything dangerous.

They still had ten clacks left before they were in Freeman’s Hold and then it was still another thirty clacks walk to Kay Castle. He could bypass that walk by telling Khale he was coming and his brother would send a car for them, but he liked the walk. Normally.

“You turned it wrong,” Base said softly.

Croy-li looked up at him. “Sorry?” he asked. He didn’t even know what he was doing, how could Base? Except that he was the greatest mind in the past centuries.

“You were making a water heater. But if you keep the way you’re going, it’s going to explode and take out half of the train,” he said softly, so only Croy-li could hear him. “Right now you have most of a pressurized water bomb in your hands. So please turn that valve the other way and remove the light strip.”

Croy-li stared at him for a few breaths before quickly pulling up the light strip. He had only put it in there to see what was inside of the conductor. He hadn’t considered that the addition of that bit of fusing wasn’t a good idea. It was, indeed the beginning of a bomb. All he had to do was add some water, finish the pressurizing and it would have been ready to go. He ducked his head.

“Sorry,” he muttered. He stared at his hands, wondering when he had taken off his right glove. That could have done it. If the conductor wanted to explode, he might have been influenced to do with it what it wanted. He’d built bombs before.

“Were you unaware?” Base asked softly, plucking the conductor from Croy-li’s hands before the boy could do anything worse.

“I wasn’t paying attention,” he admitted sheepishly.

That made the phantom laugh. “You almost made a water bomb from a conductor because you weren’t paying attention?”

Croy-li’s shoulders were up to his ears. “Sorry.”

“No, it’s alright. Do you often build bombs when you aren’t paying attention?”

“If it wants to be a bomb,” he said softly.

Base watched him for a long moment. “What sort of technopath are you?” he asked.

“I’m mostly a data-path,” Croy-li corrected. “I feel the network and data and become part of it. I can speak with technology on an electric basis so long as it’s connected in some way to a network.”

“So this?” Base held out the conductor. “It isn’t. It’s on its own.”

Croy-li shook his head and took it from him. He gently stuck his hand inside and plucked the heart out. It buzzed loudly in his veins for a moment and he remembered he hadn’t put his glove on, but as soon as it started, it stopped. He showed the data chip that had once connected it to a main computer to Base. “It’s not much, but it’s enough of an echo of the machine. This isn’t connected right now, but up until you took it out, it was. It has a memory of being a part of something and more than that, it has a sort of personality. This bit felt abandoned and wanted to feel one more time.”

Base was watching him with such undisguised intrigue that Croy-li didn’t stop like he normally would. Ever since leaving the Argents with the Thief Lord, he had no one to talk shop with. None of his team understood it and none of them really wanted to. But Base understood, in some manner, and more than that he cared.

“So while I was working on it, it put the impulse through me to give it something big, something that would feel like being a part of the network again. The only thing that feels like that is being blown up. It’s an intense, immediate feeling, only it ends as soon as it starts. It could feel itself losing the memory of the network, and with as little as there was to begin with, it couldn’t imagine being a part of something else. I was just fiddling, but I’m easily led in one direction or another when I don’t really have plans.”

“And so it used the echo of the hydraulics chamber to put you in mind of…?”

“It was more the conductor. Electricity is all it knows, but it felt a sort of pain from the water of the tank when it leaked. My brain is always a little connected to whatever electric field there is. So maybe someone’s talking about bombs? Maybe I just remember building water bombs for Thief Lord. Maybe someone recently did this and it stuck with me.”

Base smiled again, leaning back into his seat. “Interesting. And you think it could happen with anything?”

“Maybe. I don’t think most toys are going to want to become bombs, but Amadhay’s toy mouse was made from the same parts that the laser guns are made from. That’s why I made a laser mouse.”

“Why did it explode?”

Croy-li shrugged. “I was four? Maybe I was missing some parts, put something in the wrong place, maybe Amadhay snatched it from me too fast.”

“Do you often find your inventions blow up?”

Croy-li looked away. “Sometimes, yeah.”

“Do you know why?”

“No,” he sulked. “They just do.”

Base nodded after a few more clicks of Croy-li’s sulking. “Do you have any plans for University?” he asked.

Hoping he knew where this was going, but not wanting to jump to conclusions, he shrugged as casually as he could. “I think I’m supposed to become the Herald’s liaison.”

The phantom waved his hand. “You’re already that and you do a wonderful job of it. What would you like to do besides that? Are you thinking of doing the tinkering track at University?”

Croy-li swallowed and looked hopefully to Base. “Um, do you think I should?” he asked.

Without a pause, Base shook his head. “No. I don’t. If you getting distracted or just experimenting can turn into you building a bomb, or worse, simply exploding, you would be a danger to the other students,” he said bluntly. “The normal tinker track wouldn’t be a fit to you and you’d probably be thrown out.”

“Oh,” Croy-li whispered, dropping his gaze to his lap. He tried not to focus on the way that stung. His idol was telling him to give up something he loved because he wasn’t good enough. Maybe the Thief Lord was right…

“But considering I have no students, there wouldn’t be the same problem if you came immediately to an apprenticeship with me. I think I’d be able to catch just what has you blowing things up a lot faster than any of the other Tinkers, and to be honest, it would be safer for me to keep an eye on you. You might accidentally make the next war machine because you were imagining swimming with our water Herald.”

It took Croy-li a few clicks to realize that he had really just heard what he thought he had. He looked up at Base to see an expectant look on the inventor’s face. “Mind you, I can’t officially offer you the apprenticeship until you’re done with Schooling, but with your brother’s permission, I’m sure we’d be able to add a few new lessons to your schedule. It would be in my warehouse, and anything you saw in there would have to be kept a secret.”

“You want me as an apprentice?” Croy-li whispered in disbelief, holding his breath.

Base smiled. “Yes, Croy-li. I would like to have you as my apprentice.”

“You never have apprentices,” he whispered again.

Base shrugged. “I haven’t had the time.”

The rest of the ride, Croy-li was shell-shocked. The Barthew Base wanted him as an apprentice. Even after he’d almost accidentally made a bomb. Even after he admitted that his stuff kept blowing up. He had to have known plenty of other starstruck inventing hopefuls who’d wanted his tutelage before and he’d chosen Croy-li. He couldn’t wait to tell his team. He couldn’t wait to go to the warehouse. He couldn’t wait to…

“Prince Croy-li?” Base nudged him to attention. “This is our stop.”

“Oh, right, of course,” Croy-li exclaimed, jumping to his feet. As he led Base to the exit of the train, he pulled his DS out and called his brother.

Khale answered immediately. “Are you staying in Verseins tonight?”

“What?” Croy-li asked, perplexed for a moment before realizing that he hadn’t talked to his brother since he’d been in the medical room. “No. I’m actually in Freeman’s Hold right now. I just got off the train. With Barthew Base.”

Khale chuckled lightly. “Alright. I’d offer a car, but I know that you won’t take it and Bart prefers horses. Can you ride?”

“Of course I can,” Croy-li responded, eyeing the train hub. There were three exits. One would take them directly to the streets, another would take them to food and the third would take them to gain a form of transport. Base was already heading to that one.

Good, because Bart loves horses. There’s a horse there that you can borrow. She’s my personal one, Sunny. I’m sure they’ll offer her to you. If not, I’d prefer you ask for her than take any other one.”

Croy-li rolled his eyes. “No one sabotaged a horse to get to me, Khale.”

You never know,” his paranoid brother countered. “And I would prefer you be safe.

“Fine, fine,” Croy-li assured him, though he had absolutely no plans of riding Khale’s ‘safe’ horse. He’d seen Khale ride her before and he was nowhere near the equestrian his brother was. He needed a smaller horse that didn’t move like the wind.

Base was standing next to a brown mare with wild eyes when Croy-li caught up with him. “What do you think?” he asked Croy-li, who gave the horse a wide perimeter.

“I think that if she doesn’t try to murder you outright, you should count yourself lucky.”

Base laughed. “Not much for horses?” he asked.

Croy-li shrugged. “I’m fine with them. I prefer the mechanical ones I can control, but there are worse animals.” He focused on the stallion beside Khale’s favored horse. Sunny, a light colored monster of a horse that stood towering all the others was showing love to the honey colored stallion beside her, rubbing against him. That horse was about Croy-li’s height, but built stockier.

“That one’s Sandy,” the stable master told him before giving him a double take and giving him a deep bow. “My prince,” he added. “I assume you’ll be taking Sunny?”

“No,” Croy-li blurted out when the man went to make quick work of getting the mare ready. She trotted around the honey horse, who didn’t move. Croy-li made eye contact with the stallion. “I think I’d like Sandy.”

Base chuckled under his breath, but the stable master nodded. “Of course. Anything you’d like,” he responded, grabbing a different saddle.

While Base got his horse ready, Croy-li stood back and watched the stable master. He’d never really paid attention to this part, but if he was going to be around Barthew Base, he decided that he’d make sure he didn’t disappoint him. If Base readied his horse, so would he the next time they took horses.

“Sandy was a good choice,” the stable master said conversationally now that he was comfortable with Croy-li’s presence. “He’s Sunny’s little brother and a bit easier to control. Sunny is good and all for the king, but she’s a bit too large for you, no offense. I’m sure you’ll be the same as your brother once you’re done growing. You look just like he did at your age, all legs.”

Croy-li shrugged, unsure if he was being complimented, insulted or simply being compared to Khale. “Thanks?”

“Alright, there we go. Remember to feed him once you get to the castle to make sure he doesn’t associate you with hard work and no reward.”

“Will do,” Croy-li promised, mounting the horse. Base sat atop the wild eyed mare a bit off to the side, moving with barely controlled energy.


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amadhay: (Default)
 Pressure Sequence
Heraldic Whispers

Theft


Coal Under Pressure

Chapter One
Chapter Two
Chapter Three
Chapter Four
Chapter Five
Chapter Six


Resistance of Steel

Negative Pressure

Momentum of Radiation

Positive Pressure

Pressure Underwater

Earthquake Weather


Immortality


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November 2016

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