amadhay: (Default)
 It was a nice feeling to stargaze with Scott and Michael.

It was a different feeling to be stargazing with their families, the pack, and a handful of mostly unidentifiable Collective and Gathering people. While there wasn’t exactly a hostile energy, it was an active emotion bouncing around, between trepidation, intrigue, arousal, and eagerness. I was willing to bet my oboe that the arousal was primarily from my boys and somewhat from Ariadne and Lil Asha. The trepidation was 100% from the witches I didn’t really know, who seemed to be important to the Collective. Intrigue was strong from one Gathering man, the same one who had been staring at me non-stop when the Gathering important people talked to us and he was staring almost as much tonight. Eagerness was, well, from everyone.

I didn’t really understand why, though there had been lots of explaining. Something about a special comet, blah blah blah. I didn’t really care, other than to know that it would be kickstarting some extra strong energy and magic and bouncing it around for a month or so. And, also, it was all that Scott wanted to do for his birthday, which I thought was weird, but hey, it was better than going to a Murder House to have a murder mystery birthday right after being attacked by vampires, women who looked like Samara’s cousins, and a porcupine shadow. So I was all for it.

In any case, all of their families were there, the entire pack, a handful of people I didn’t know, and most importantly—to me, anyway—the witches. Ariadne, my witchy mentor and the Maiden of the Gathering’s Triumvirate was there with her twin brother, Theseus. The two of them comfortably melded with Michael’s family, which was expected, considering Ariadne was dating Michael’s aunt, Lil Asha. The rest of the witches, like the rest of the people not directly involved with our group, were further off, keeping to themselves.

On the edge of that group was my godmother, Violet. She kept glancing to me, worriedly, and away when I caught her. We hadn’t talked face to face, unless forced, for the past four weeks. I had been screening her calls, only answering her once or twice, and not since she’d laughed about the potion and amulet fiasco. Ariadne had been doing a good job of holding her at bay, but I knew I’d have to talk to her soon, or else she would go crazy.

“Not your problem,” Scott muttered, not looking down from the sky.

It took a moment to realize he was commenting on my worries about Violet. If it hadn’t been his birthday, I would have punched him. He knew how I felt about the link the three of us had, which gave us almost literally no privacy, including in our own minds. I liked it shut down as far as it could go, which was still far too open for my liking.

So instead, I gave him a sickly sweet smile and in the poison candy voice I’d perfected over the past few weeks said, “Thanks for the opinion, baby.”

He rolled his eyes and Michael pinched me, mentally reminding me to ‘Be nice,’ because it was still Scott’s birthday.

I cut a look at Michael that quite clearly said I was being nice.

“Can you three stop thinking so loud?” Ariadne called. “I can hear you all the way over here. Plus, that image is definitely not nice and if I can see it, so can he.”

I flushed, knocking away the less than sweet images I had about duct tape and my boys mouths. “Sorry,” I muttered, more to Scott than Ariadne, since she could easily stop reading my mind whereas he could not.

“Used to it. I’m dating a scary, violent, curly haired creeper. And you too.”

I swallowed my laugh, but knew it echoed in both of their heads, since Michael sputtered and Scott smirked in that self-satisfied way he did when he knew he’d been amusing.

“I’ll show you violent,” Michael growled pouncing on top of Scott to pin him down. I rolled away, well aware of how they got when the play wrestling came about. I wasn’t nearly durable enough for all the elbows and legs that would be coming my way.

So while they did that, I scooted over to the pack and leaned onto Vanessa’s shoulder. She was reading some smutty book, and completely unashamedly. She was so into it that she jerked at my movement.

“Oh,” she glanced past me to my boys, who were still wrestling in some play at finding the dominant, even though there was never a question about that. “I see your number one and two are busy.”

I rolled my eyes. “Oh shove off it, Nestle. I still think you’re the prettiest,” I teased.

Vanessa had become increasingly jealous of the time I spent with Michael and Scott, even though I still tried to spend a goodly amount of time with her, like whenever they were working and she was free. It wasn’t as often as I’d like, but they did take up a lot of my time, considering there were two of them. And, you know, we were supposed to spend our lives together. Still, considering my schedule was pretty empty aside from a babysitting gig here and there, I wasn’t the one with scheduling conflicts.

“Oh?” she questioned, tucking her book away. “I was sure I came somewhere after Scott and Stef.”

Sometimes, when she was frustrated, she stirred shit. Saying the name ‘Stef’ around my boyfriends was stirring a colossal pot of shit that I’d been avoiding since the beginning of the month, when Stef had gone home. I felt the tension coming from them, but neither one jumped on the opportunity to talk about my relationship with my ex, which I thanked the audience around us for.

Anyway,” I stressed, pushing her side lightly so that she knew I wasn’t blind to her attempts. “Anything new on Seer vision?” I asked, really hoping she would say no. Everything had been clear for her, aside from a ghost here and there since we’d destroyed porcupine-headed-shadow Piney and I’d made a deal with my personal shadow so that he’d leave us all alone. No creepy reflections doing their own thing, no strange shadows, no Scratchers, no uninvited vampires. We’d been in the clear.

She shrugged, which I knew meant something was up. I opened my mouth to ask her about it, but she jerked, her eyes wide and staring up at the sky. I followed her gaze and sure enough, there was a meteor shower. I mean, it didn’t warrant her reaction, but it was amazing. Tons of fiery balls of sky debris shot through the sky unlike I had ever seen. They went in all different directions, but most…most seemed to be coming straight for us.

I started to get up, but five hands pushed me back down before I could. Scott and Michael pulled me to them, helped by Ariadne gently pushing me their way while Lee took Vanessa’s hand away from me.

“Don’t interfere,” Ariadne ordered gently, but firmly. She gave a knowing look to my boyfriends before joining the other witches, who were slowly standing in a circle.

Michael wrapped an arm around my waist and pulled both me and Scott into him until we were both between his legs, leaning back into him. “Watch,” he said softly and I couldn’t help but to glance back. His eyes were gleaming gold. A glance at Scott showed his were doing the same.

“Happy birthday, Scout,” Michael and I thought at the same time, staring at our beautiful boyfriend as he shed his human skin and became his true shapeshifter canvas. It was an explosive reaction that came down. All of the weres turned into their truest creature. The shapeshifters shifted to their true selves. The vampires, succubi, banshees, furies, muses, and incubi let go of their cloak of humanity. The witches began to glow in their glittery auras. Even Vanessa changed, and I was sure she wasn’t doing it intentionally.

The closer the comets came, the brighter my boyfriends’ eyes became. And more than that, everyone’s magic and energy seemed saturated. The gold Gathering energy hung heavy in the air because there were so many of them. The scents of violets, honeysuckle, roses, scents I didn’t recognize became stronger and stronger, and when I looked to the witches again, they were holding hands in a circle.

They were floating off of the ground, all six of them. Magic lit up the air around them, twisting and twirling to meet the comets and inviting it in. A part of me opened up and I was starving, starving for their magic, for the energy, for everything that I could take. I reached out, both magically and physically, but instead of touching the magic, I was held back. Scott took my hand and Michael pulled me back. I felt locked in placed, shackled to the ground and it was torturous. I needed to get to the power before me. I needed to fill myself with it.

But I couldn’t.

By the time the witches stopped floating and the Gathering stopped glowing, I was squished between my boyfriends as inconspicuously as they could manage. Eyes turned to us and Scott turned to kiss me. I stole from him, not as much as I wanted, not as much as I needed, because it didn’t do anything for me. His was mine and mine was his. I could steal energy from him for days and it would never satisfy the urge I had, the pit of nothingness I needed to fill that had come from nowhere.

“You’re alright,” Michael whispered into my ear, or perhaps he thought it to me. “You don’t need anything, I promise.”

He was wrong. So very, very wrong.

“Charlize?” Violet’s voice rang across the field. Just her words were full of power. I wanted to steal it from her.

“You don’t need it,” Michael reminded me again as Scott let go of me. The smaller man studied my eyes.

“She needs something,” Scott muttered.

“Charlize?” Violet called again, but this time, she was closer. The pack was cutting her off from me.

“Let the witch to her mix,” the Ranger ordered.

Even he was soaked in the magic. It wasn’t fair. Why were they all allowed it and I wasn’t? That wasn’t right. I deserved some too.

Reluctantly, the pack backed away, though not without looking to Scott, and then me, to make sure they didn’t want to ignore the order. They didn’t. I’d seen the punishment they’d received for hunting rogue vampires in the Unruined Lands without the Ranger’s permission. I could only assume disobeying his direct order here would be worse.

Violet rushed forward with Ariadne at her tail, moving clumsily—which was highly atypical for her—but still quickly enough to catch up before Violet could touch me.

“She’s fine,” Ariadne announced with a peal of laughter, grabbing Violet’s hands and attempting to spin the older woman away from me in a silly dance. “Charlize is fine,” she said a little more firmly, which was made less affective by her ensuing peal of laughter. “Gods. I forgot how this feels,” she moaned, falling into her brother’s arms, not that it did her much good because both of them fell in a heap to the grass.

Violet paused, looking back to them and then to me, as if trying to determine which of us was in more dire need. She chose me, throwing a “Thorn, see to the child,” over her shoulder when Theseus and Ariadne started giggling again.

She stopped about a foot away, eyeing me. “You’re still too open,” she stated softly. “Still too torn open from the Others. You’re too sensitive to the changing flows. Here,” she reached out to me, and I could taste the power, wanted to pull it to me.

A hand caught her wrist, pulling it back. “You will not share our bounty with the mix-breed.” A man said. I didn’t recognize him, had never seen him before, but the way he spoke to Violet made it clear that he knew her very well, and the way he spoke about me made it clear that he knew about me.

“I am sharing my power with my charge,” she spat.

“What you hold now is the Collective’s power,” he corrected. “And if I’m not mistaken, it has chosen the Gathering life.”

She hasn’t chosen anything,” Ariadne and Violet said at the same time, Ariadne sounding strained.

“I took too much,” the golden witch murmured. Instantly, it was as if I’d been forgotten, because Violet and the man went to her side. I watched closely, recognizing the act of transferal of energy. It was different from my way, since that was my ability. But I’d seen it done before, when I’d been drained by Piney and needed witch magic. And it was easy enough to alter to steal.

Which I did.

And all hell broke loose.

It was like a slap in the face. The magic, not the literal slap in the face I received, which was much more shocking, which led to a lot of growling and threatening and all that nonsense. The magic brought me out of that weird pit and into a more comfortable place.

The, uh, slap, on the other hand.

I blinked a few times, trying to push the pain out of my face to focus on Violet, who’d just slapped me across the face. Scott and Michael were between us. The pack had risen. The witches were all at her back, as if keeping her safe. I knew for a fact that if she’d felt threatened, she wouldn’t have needed their help to get my pack back.

She wasn’t nervous. She was pissed. “What was that?” she demanded, stepping forward. Ariadne tried to step in front of her, but she was apparently still weak, because Violet easily just pushed her away and the man witch (Thor?) caught Ariadne and pushed her and Theseus back. As if they were in danger. As if anyone would dare hurt the two of them.

“I, I’m sorry. It just happened,” I tried to explain.

Scott snarled at Violet. “What was that?” he countered. “You assaulted my mate.”

I put pressure on his shoulder and Michael followed my suit, but still stayed in front of me, so I had to look over his shoulder.

“Snatching rebirth magic doesn’t just happen,” Violet exclaimed and right then, I saw the crack in her fury. She was scared. Scared shitless.

“Who taught you that and where did it go?” my long-time friend, Mogra, demanded. She had that same look of disgust I always received, only this time it was accompanied by the kind of fury I normally expected from a scorned lover.

“No one?” I asked, glancing at Michael when he looked back to me in question. “I just, I felt faint so I grabbed some energy.” Not strictly true. Scott and Michael knew that, but we had been working on keeping a united front, so they didn’t call me out on it. Not aloud, anyway.

You were jonesing. What have you had today? Michael corrected.

Did anyone eat from you? Did you give out anything? Scott wondered at the same time.

Since I still had pretty limited control over giving out energy, especially when I was as content as I always was with them, I had no earthly idea about the second question. And since I was a long time practitioner of fake it ‘til you make it with differentiating energy, I couldn’t answer the first question either.

“So you just somehow managed to divert magic no singular entity can hold and ingested it so well that it’s gone?” another just super friendly male witch snarled at me. He looked older than dirt and sounded about the same.

I blinked owlishly.

“Or is it more likely that the mongrel is stealing from us to give to them,” the Violet-age male witch suggested, gesturing to the group of Gathering who were off from the entire situation, talking amongst themselves. I was insulted in several different ways. Apparently, so were they, because at that point they joined in.

I stopped understanding words, aside from mutt, crossbreed, mix, half-breed. Everyone was loud and angry and yelling and then…

There was quiet. The Gathering were pushed back on the clearing, just as the Collective were, in the opposite direction. Then I was standing there in the center with the Ranger. That made me nervous, because, you see, he’d never really forgiven me for punching him. Or for existing as far as I could tell. He seemed to blame me for just about everything wrong that had happened in the past month.

Handful of others? Charlize’s fault. Strange vampire camarilla running around? Charlize’s fault. Unusually cold? Charlize’s fault. Animals acting up? Charlize’s fault.

“Explain what you did,” he ordered in a voice that was much farther past his irritated voice than I was comfortable with. So I did as he said. And quickly.

“I needed energy, so I redirected some that was in the air and took it in. Now I feel better.”

He cut off angry mutterings with a single look. “And did the ‘energy’ feel strange to you?”

“No different than I usually get from in here,” I lied. A sharp look had me backtracking. “I mean, sort of. It felt a little stronger, and it was calling, like it wanted me. So I took it. I’m sorry. I didn’t think it was a big deal. It was too much for Ariadne and Theseus and I’m, like, limitless or something, so I figured it would be okay?”

“Give it back,” the Ranger ordered.

I frowned. “I don’t know how.”

“Yes, you do,” he stated, as if he knew what he was saying was completely true.

What bothered me was that it was.

“I would, but then I might hurt someone,” I attempted, glancing to my boyfriends, who were straining against whatever hold the Ranger had on them. Even though I knew he was stronger than both of them, by far, I still appreciated the attempt.

Ranger levelled me with his Alphing glare and I took a deep breath to try to fight it. Of course I lost, since his power was so strong I didn’t even realize what I was doing wasn’t my idea most of the time. Looking away, I pulled at the magic. It was easy to toss it away. Bouncy, firm and yet still malleable, it was willing to go wherever I put pressure. Still, I didn't want to let it go, so I let it flow back to the witches, but reluctantly and slowly.

And still I received looks of terror when it was all gone.

Ariadne was the only one looking at me as if I were a puzzle, rather than a monster. "What do you think you just gave me?"

Well, first of all, I didn't give you anything, I thought but didn't say. "What I took?" I replied as if it were obvious. Because it was obvious. I gave back exactly what I took.

They all looked a little more comfortable with that answer, though there was still some hesitation and mistrust I didn’t understand from not only the witches but the Gathering.

"Your student's ignorance is a problem," the old man shot at Ariadne. "Which, of course may simply be because of her unfortunate bloodline."

"Her unfortunate mixture, you mean," Thor snapped, as if he were personally offended by the slight at my ancestry.

"She's not ignorant," Violet jumped in.

"Are we done here?" the Ranger asked as politely as he could when almost snarling.

"We are," the same man who'd been creepily watching me all night stated. "Now if the witches might finish? Some of us have things to do, people to meet." He glanced to me at that and instinctively, I shifted toward my boyfriends, but the Ranger had me in place with a hand holding light pressure to the back on my neck.

"We are also finished," Thor stated, looking pointedly to first Violet and then Ariadne. Both women moved toward me, but the Ranger cleared his throat.

"Then, as signs of goodwill, as always, both groups will leave the Unruined Lands for the 36 hours required, by law, for my unbiased defenders to use unclaimed starburst to replenish the lands."

There were far too many eyes on me.

"Meaning the Leegion Pack stays here, including its witch and mix."

Oh. I glanced to Lee, who looked self-satisfied as all get out. The pack had relaxed, though the Gathering man, my godmother, and my mentor looked irritated, to say the least.  I smiled at everyone.

"Nice seeing you all, let's do this again sometime? Maybe minus the insults, yeah?"

Apparently renewing the land mostly meant picking up litter, cleaning firepits, and making sure that there were no stragglers. I mean, the Ranger did some strange energy shit and instructed Morgan and Michael in it. But for me, the wolves, and Vanessa, it was just cleaning up. And when I offered my help, the Ranger used a strangely gentle voice to suggest that I keep myself "from stealing any more energy and fucking things up any more for the next 24 hours, if that isn't too hard."

So I stuck with Scott, who stayed near Lee, who stayed close to Vanessa who was inseparable from Tyler. They had started not-dating a few days after Halloween, something about YOLO, since being around me made life expectancy pretty low, or something equally as insulting. Not-dating included being strong with PDA, not having sex, not labeling the relationship, going out to "hang" every week, and giving me and my boys shit about the time we spent together instead of with the pack.

Tyler squeezed Vanessa's side when he passed her, doing the heavy lifting with one hand while she and I sat there, watching him with impressed looks. Scott and Lee had gone off, chasing a squatter off the land, so it was just the three of us.

"Charmander," Vanessa spoke once he was out of sight, taking a large rock to its 'proper place'.

"Hmm?" I asked, squinting at the shiny dust all over the place. It looked a lot like magic, but as far as I knew, magic wasn't actually a solid.

"How have you been?" she asked, making me focus on her. She was edging around saying something. While on one hand, I didn't want to hear her complain about my time with my boys, she sounded like she had something important that she needed to share.

"I've been okay," I said. She still didn't say anything. "Having a blast with the guys," I added, looking for a reaction. There wasn't one. She kept avoiding eye contact, which meant it probably wasn't about how much time I spent with them. "I've been playing again. The oboe. I forgot how much I miss playing when I don't. So far, none of the neighbors have complained. I, uh, saw Spectre the other day. It wasn't all that great."

Still, nothing. I squinted at her. "How about you? How've you been?" I prodded.

"Good. Fine. I'm good," she said, giving me a fake smile. I wanted to push it, but at that moment, Tyler came back. Fortunately, I was pretty sure whatever was bothering her wasn't about him, because she looked relieved when he came back and all-but launched herself at him.

"Okay, good talk," I muttered to myself, walking away so that I didn't have to watch them make out. The first few times had been amusing because of the height difference between them, but they'd perfected the art of him lifting her up so that he wouldn't have back pain. Now it was just unnecessary sucking noises, sloppy technique, and awkwardness.

I wandered a few feet pretty aimlessly until I started to hear voices. It sounded vaguely like Michael, so I started to announce my presence, but a gnawing fear stopped me. I took a step back and looked around. There was nothing around me. It was night time. I was alone in an ever changing terrain. I took another step back.

"Charlize?" Michael's voice called. Only it wasn't Michael's voice. Every time Michael spoke, I felt a rush of his energy. If he'd called my name, I would have felt like I was wading in a pool. I didn't. I felt nothing but an emptiness.

"Come here," the voice called again. There was a draw to it, something that made me want to obey the command. It wasn't quite the same as Alphing but a more familiar, personal appeal. I wanted to go to it because it felt like a part of me.

"Who's there?" I asked in reply, turning in a circle. It could be a shapeshifter or a vampire, I decided, though that didn't seem right. Even though the dominance power that Morgan and Scott had was in some ways different from Alphing, it was still, in the end, just a different version of the same thing.

This was more like having time and distance from my oboe and wanting it because it was a part of me. It was like seeing it and knowing that if I picked it up, I would play the most beautiful music, and all I had to do was get it. It was a tempered longing, similar to what I'd felt earlier, during the meteor shower. Only if I opened up, I knew I wouldn't get what I wanted. I had to go to it.

"I want to show you something," it had melded Scott and Michael's voices together. I took a step toward it, but stumbled over a sapling. I fell forward and landed on the ground, my torso hitting hard. The strange, glittery sand covered my hands and forearms as well as part of my shoulders.

And then it sunk into my skin. And I was on fire.

amadhay: (Default)
 Little Red and Her Wolf
In Which The Game Begins
In Which Amadhay is Rude
In Which Amadhay Meets Darach
In Which Atlas Slips Up

In Which Benjy is Hurt

In Which Amadhay is Compromised

In Which Amadhay Hurts Christein

In Which Riff Learns Something

In Which Alphonse is Angry

In Which Atlas Gets Punched

In Which Amadhay Fight Golems

In Which Johannes is Difficult

In Which Rea Trusts Amadhay

In Which Amadhay is Playing

In Which Amadhay Annoys Essies

In Which Amadhay Is Amaya
In Which Riff compliments Amadhay
In Which Amadhay Surprises Atlas
In Which Ben is Dumb
In Which Christein Deserves It 
In Which Amadhay Doesn't Panic
In Which Amadhay Thinks Hard
In Which Dreams Are Reality
In Which Amadhay Isn't Saved
In WHich Amadhay Ignores Atlas
In Which Amadhay Is Bouncing

In Which Ribbon Tells Stories

In Which There's A Deal

In Which Amadhay's A Worm

In Which Ribbon Sleeps In

In Which Amadhay Is Fickle
In Which Amadhay Makes Decisions
In Which Amadhay Isn't Kissed

In Which Amadhay Eavesdrops Some

In Which Amadhay Gets Hurt

In Which Johannes' Not Rea

In Which They Go Swimming

In Which Amadhay Asks Questions

In Which There Is Sparring

In Which There Are Reconciliations
In Which Amadhay Saves Herself
In Which Atlas Is Pissed

In Which Everyone Is Mad

In Which Stefan Hugs Amadhay

In Which Kimiko Is Annoying

In Which Amadhay Races Sha'adahk

In Which Atlas Is Playing

In Which Mayday's A Busybody

In Which Lots Isn't Said

In Which Tenshu's A Brother
In Which There Are Pegasi
In Which Amadhay Is Confused

In Which Palnoki is Phoegani

In Which Amadhay's Heart Breaks

In Which Atlas Washes Hair
In Which Ribbon's A Possession
In Which Atlas Is Truthful
In Which Amadhay Is Sneaky
In Which Amadhay Tells Lies

In Which Amadhay Keeps Promises

In Which Hands Are Forced

In Which Amadhay Breaks Promises
In Which Amadhay Chooses Wings
In Which Amadhay Is Alive
In Which Nolando Calls Christein
In Which She Could've Asked
amadhay: (Default)
 Phellimore was a very different type of place than Roadesia. Though the air was the same, or at least similar enough that she didn’t notice anything, everything else was different. While she was used to a fair amount of trees and forest, the city in which they set their shuttles down upon was a veritable jungle. The people all had rather feline appearances and actions, and she wasn’t entirely certain who the natives were, considering she recognized a few cat-kins—or at least people who looked like cat-kins—interspersed with what she could only call cat Ferals and talking cats. The clothing ranged from fully clothed, like herself and her entourage, to wearing only scraps to cover genitals, to wearing absolutely nothing. And it wasn’t just the talking cats who opted for the latter.

There were no roads or pathways and there seemed to be an unspoken rule that if one could walk in the trees, above everyone’s heads, they should. The only hint of technology was the docking port, and if she hadn’t already known better, she wouldn’t have believed that Resor had a good system of trade with this planet, specifically one where the transporters of the planet moved Roadesian goods to this planet, where they were subsequently shipped onward.

She smiled at Harpess, who was relaxed, walking beside her. Kit Rain, on her other side, was quite a bit more tense and he flinched every time someone leapt over their heads from tree to tree. It amused her to see him so uncomfortable.

“Don’t spend much time in the wilds?” she asked innocently, receiving a sharp look.

“These aren’t wilds. This is a city,” he corrected her as if someone might be insulted. She doubted it.

She snorted, but didn’t say anything more to the man, instead focusing on the trio who led them. All three stood on their hind legs and stood about Kit Rain’s height. Each wore a single length of cloth wrapped about them similarly to Amadhay’s, but it was their only clothing and was as sheer as hers, not that their fur left anything visible. The one closest to her, which looked like a puma, glanced back at the three of them and Amadhay’s bodyguards. She wasn’t sure that she liked the look in its eye, but it didn’t look long. It exchanged looks with the lion and tiger at its sides before shaking its head slightly.

They were led to a tall tree with a growth in the base that opened enough for them to walk into it. The puma entered, while the other two stood on either side of the entrance like guards. Prillo and Faeo looked to her for orders and she looked to Harpess.

“They stay outside,” the woman said softly. “But we are allowed to enter with you.”

“Goodie,” she muttered.

“You could have had the company of the lord and his knight. It would have been more appropriate. You were the one to turn them down.”

She had. Phellimore was still too close to Resor. If Benjy or Christein were to spot her, she was sure that they would make her go home. Or at least they’d try to. She didn’t want to fight with them just yet. “I know,” she said. “I’m not complaining about your presence. Simply a little stuffy in this get up,” she lied, using her obvious inexperience to cover up for her.

Both of the humans grunted in acknowledgement before gesturing for her to enter first. She made a face. She recognized that that was the custom, but given how utterly unsafe it was, she wasn’t particularly interested in following that one. She had no idea what was inside the tree. It could be an ambush for all she knew.

She smiled dumbly at Kit Rain, gesturing for him to go first, who she knew was impatient for everything to be over, and he went through first. She followed quickly after him before Harpess could follow his lead, wanting to be between them if anything happened. What she lacked in strength, they had in surplus and it made sense to be between the walls of muscle.

They walked a foot or so forward before finding the puma, who was pausing on a spiraling staircase, waiting for them to catch up to it. It led them up, all the way to the top and pulled a sheer curtain to the side to allow them to leave the tree and walk forward to a sort of balcony, high up, above many of the trees surrounding them. It would have been a horrible place to be during an air attack.

Sitting around a trunk that seemed to double as a table were three more large cats. One of them sat in a seat, sprawled out like a person, but the other two sat on the floor. The one laying more than sitting caught Amadhay’s eye because it was the only one clothed, in a bejeweled top that was definitely holding magic, but a kind that she’d never seen before. Thoughtfully, she fingered the amulet on her necklace, feeling her own magic swirling inside and letting out the smallest bit to touch the other magic. It moved, unseen aside from a faint glitter in the air that only she and—apparently—the cat-people noticed, because they all watched it approach the jewel and circle it.

The one whose jeweled gown was being touched by Amadhay’s magic gave a mouth twitch that, on a different face could have been a smirk. It sat up, slowly, before moving to them on all four. Once it was before them, it stood up, eyes on Amadhay, making Kit Rain and Harpess close in tighter on either side of the girl.

It caught her magic around one paw and held it forward, making a soft sound in its chest.

“He says, ‘I think this belongs to you,’” The puma stated, clarifying her presence as translator.

Amadhay flushed at being so blatantly caught and reached out to take the magic, but paused, making eye contact with the lynx who stood only a little taller than herself. “No offense meant,” she stated, soaking her magic without touching it to make it clear that she wasn’t weak. It was obvious they thought she was, since they were acting like predators. She wasn’t their prey, and she wanted that to be plain.

It didn’t seem like she impressed them, however, because the lynx turned his back on Amadhay and sprawled out on his side. He was telling Amadhay that none of them were frightened of her by exposing his sensitive bits.

“Magi Hei, Momma Zue and Poppa Ferv receive you, Consort of the Master of Resorian Magi.”

Amadhay was almost positive that the three in the room understood Roades and that the translator was only there as an excuse for them to speak in their native tongue without being rude. Though that was still speculation, she was certain that they didn’t think she could hear them talking, given that the humans certainly couldn’t. She smiled nicely as they conversed in strange noises.

“Momma Zue would like to remind that the Resorian contract has expired and been null for several cycles now,” the translator said. Amadhay was pretty sure that the black panther was the ‘Momma’ Zue, the Phellimorian equivalent of an empress. Her green eyes gave a long blink, locked on Amadhay. In fact, all four of the cats were staring at Amadhay, which made her uncomfortable. She didn’t like being the center of attention when she wasn’t putting herself there.

“Expired?” Kit Rain demanded in a tight voice. The translator nodded. “We apologize for the inconvenience, then and appreciate you allowing us to dock regardless. We will leave immediately.”

The other cat, a serval who had to be the Poppa, their emperor, looked lazily to the man. His unblinking stare stayed on Kit Rain and Amadhay knew the human was uncomfortable, but he didn’t move. Dealing with large cats was like dealing with vampires: no sudden movements, show no fear, don’t try to intimidate.

“Poppa Ferv wants to know if Resor no longer wants their agreement.”

“We do,” Kit Rain assured them. “We are unprepared, however, to do any negotiations and for that, I apologize. If we had known, we would have brought a kylit with us.”

The translator didn’t wait for the other three to respond, and by doing that, made Amadhay sure that it was more than a translator. “You have. The Consort of the Master of Resorian Magi is kylit.”

“What is your aelfe?” Harpess asked, looking skeptically to Amadhay.

“Leopard,” she answered uneasily, not taking her eyes off of the ‘translator.’

“You should have mentioned that before now,” Kit Rain said quietly, as though to keep the others from hearing, which was impossible given the space they were all in. He cleared his throat to get attention back to himself. “Our envoy here is still new. We don’t have the proper diplomat to—“

“Christein and Benjy are authorized to make diplomatic decisions and, as the emissary of this mission and consort to the Grand Mage, I am allowed to stand as him in the event that it is necessary to make any Roadesian Army decisions. So, unless there’s an actual reason for you not wanting to reinstate the deal, I will wait here while you retrieve them.”

Amadhay was glad that she’d read the books Lizumeizei had sent for her. She needed some time alone with these people to find out why they were looking at her as they were, and if alerting Christein and Benjy to her presence early was the price of learning that, she would deal with that.

Kit Rain tensed and looked at Harpess, “Christein and Benjy,” he muttered to the woman, who simply nodded in a knowing way. “Of course, Lady Consort,” he said stiffly before he left.

She looked pointedly at Harpess. “Two sets of eyes is better than one,” she said, dismissing the woman.

“Don’t insult them. Try not to talk until we come back,” Harpess whispered before leaving as well.

Once it was just her and the four cats, she squinted at the translator. “I’m taking a guess here, but are you the, uh, I don’t want to insult you by calling you the wrong one,” she sighed dramatically. “Are you the Sissy?” she asked.

The translator, or rather the Sissy, looked to the panther, who no longer looked so lazy. She tilted her head at the same time as the Poppa, and the Magi sat up slowly. “Why do you ask that?”

“Just curious,” Amadhay said with a shrug. “Making conversation. Just, one thing. If you’re going to pretend to be a translator, you should probably make sure you’re speaking when they speak or after, because it’s noticeable when you don’t.”

The Sissy hissed, but the Magi relaxed and, apparently taking cue from him, the Momma and Poppa calmed their tails. In a low, grumbling noise, the Poppa spoke to the little puma, whose tail was twitching angrily.

Amadhay watched closely. While the puma didn’t look much like the blank panther or serval, she acted like them. She walked as comfortably on her hind legs as Amadhay, and that was strange here, much less than she did it with so much grace. Only the “royalty” did that because it was hard to get respect from other planets when they already looked like animals rather than intelligent beings.

“I’m Amadhay,” she introduced herself. “What’s your name?”

“What does it matter?” the Sissy snapped.

“Because I think we could be friends,” she answered honestly, looking around them. She had only seen cats so far. Did the food-animals live somewhere else or were they just good at hiding?

“Not interested,” she growled.

“Alright.” Amadhay turned her attention to the Magi, who would either be the Sissy’s older brother or her uncle. The first born of all Phellimore natives became a magician and the royal magician was an important part of the ruling body. She had a feeling he was the brother, because he seemed younger than both the Momman and Poppa, but older than the Sissy. “How about you? Friends? I’d like to learn about that cool magic there.”

The magi rolled to his feet and crossed the room again. For a brief moment, Amadhay felt uncomfortable when she was all alone, with four large cats, but she brushed it off. They could try to intimidate her all they wanted, but they wouldn’t hurt her. They wanted something from her. She could tell.

“Are you nervous little kylit?” he purred into her ear. “Do you talk when nervous?”

Amadhay smiled. “No, I attack when nervous,” she answered, pushing his muzzle away from her face. Their brief staring contest was cut off by a low growl that had the magi move back from her and look at the Momma. Her teeth were bared and Amadhay mentally counted how many knives she had on her. She wasn’t sure if her gift would work this far from Resor, but she was willing to try if it came down to it.

“I like her,” the Magi said in response to whatever the Momma was growling at him. The Sissy hissed and spit at him, but the Poppa kept his eyes on Amadhay as she side stepped so that her back was to the entrance.

He growled at her when she started to take a backwards step down the stairs. Immediately, the cats turned their attention back to her.

“Oh, Mumu, look, you’re scaring her,” the Magi purred, looking and sounding strangely pleased. “Calm little kylit. We mean no harm.” He looked to the Sissy, who gave half of a growl before he interrupted her with his own.

She eyed Amadhay mistrustfully. “The Magi would like to offer you permanent asylum on Phellimore given that you do not leave.”

Slowly, Amadhay tilted her head in question, narrowing her eyes. “And why would I be interested in that offer?” she countered.

None of the cat people blinked, giving her a long look before exchanging glances. “Are you unaware of the price for you?”

Amadhay gave a long blink. Arne Riff put a price on my head? She thought incredulously. How did he know I was out here? She chose her words carefully. “Hmm. How much of a price?”

“Alive, 30 million Galactic Credits. Dead, 15 million.”

It definitely wasn’t Arne Riff in that case. While the Hakinato clan was wealthy, she wasn’t sure if even with the combined Phoegani treasury he could scrounge together 30 million Galactic Credits. That was equivalent to nearly three times as many Roadesian chips. Whoever it was, wanted her alive pretty badly to half the price for her dead, but not enough to even offer a prize for her dead.

“And who, may I ask is the bounty for, specifically?”

The Sissy spat in irritation. “For you. It is for you.”

“For the Consort of the Master of Resorian Magic.”

Ah. It was about Lizumeizei, not her. She would have breathed a sigh of relief if the price didn’t imply that whomever it was knew that she was a good bargaining chip. Moreso, she knew that a dead bounty implied that they had an idea of just how hard she would be to capture. That was…problematic at best, and she decided to think about it at another time.

Instead, she smiled sharply. “And should I decline the offer?”

“Then we cannot promise your safety in leaving the planet,” the Sissy hissed, only to be reprimanded with growls from the others.

“We will not threaten you,” the Poppa stated, his words slower and a bit stilted.

“Good to know,” Amadhay responded, keeping eye contact with the lesser threat, the Sissy. “Because I came here with people who would die to keep me alive.” And you’re about to meet two who would kill for me. She smiled with that knowledge, but chose not to disclose it. It was better to keep that knowledge close to the chest, otherwise it might get around.

“Are you threatening us?” the Sissy purred, giving Amadhay a much sharper smile than the aelfe could have possibly given.

“Never,” Amadhay assured over her head, looking to the three representatives of the world. “I am merely warning in such a case that action must be taken.”

The posturing and threatening could have gone on until someone attacked, but instead it was cut short by rushed footsteps. She tilted her head forward in respect at the entrance of her cousin and friend, and looked directly to the true power in the room, the Magi. He may have attempted to seem less powerful through titles and by giving respect to the Momma and Poppa, but Amadhay knew that he would have been capable of destroying Lizumeizei at his absolute best. And that meant that her team’s main strength was gone.

You could kill him easily enough, that same dark voice muttered in the back of her head and her arm twitched, something she covered by tucking her hair behind an ear. “Momma, Poppa, and Magi, I present to you Christein Hakinato, Lordling of the Hakinato clan and Sir Benjym Base, Knight Loyale of Empress Kellinara’s regime.” She had gone deep into her memory for the correct titles of her cousin and friend and still wasn’t sure she was completely correct.

She supposed she shouldn’t have been surprised that the rulers focused on Benjy. Empress Kellinara was well known, the primary figurehead of Resor’s Galaxy-wide known history and recognized by many planets in their system as the conqueror of earthlings, savior of worlds, and Herald Supreme. Her Knight Loyale and her Knight Royale were nearly as well known, though Benjy had put a lot of effort into disappearing the last century or so.

She glanced to her friends and recognized that she had done them a disfavor by having them first know of her presence in front of an audience. Still, it did well for her, because Christein’s entire posture screamed out that he wanted to murder someone, and he was focusing instead on the Momma and Poppa, who seemed to recognize his posture and were just as bothered, since they kept glancing to him.

Benjy, on the other hand, was much more composed. He stood tall, eyes on Amadhay and giving a protective aura that even someone as blind and dumb to magical and emotional auras as herself could recognize. She smiled sweetly.

“So, about those negotiations, hmm?”

Next Chapter

amadhay: (Default)
 The only reason she knew that she was out of the dreamplane when she opened her eyes to find herself in bed with Tenshu was the pain radiating through her body and the incessant knocking on her door.

“Consort? We haven’t heard from you for a few days. Are you still sick?”

Her head throbbed, she felt burned and blistered all over, not to mention she was fairly certain that at least three bones were broken. But no, she wasn’t sick. She cleared her throat to speak, but found nothing came out but a faint whisper. More knocks and basically the same words made her realize that she needed to answer the door before someone knocked her door down and came in out of some misguided idea of security.

Trying to get up, she found, from the unexpected excruciating pain, that her right leg was, indeed, broken and in several places if the pain was anything to go by. The longer she was awake, she found, the more pain came forward. She dropped to the floor onto her side and cursed softly, wishing she hadn’t been so dumb. She should have done a self-heal the moment she had awakened, and so she did one while lying there on the floor.

It only mildly relieved the pain, which she expected but had wished otherwise. Her self-healing needed a lot of work, though it did fix her ribs and inner organs. It also, though she didn’t check because she knew it would, healed her face and any surface bruises. Her leg, on the other hand, we beyond her ability, so she clenched her teeth to ignore the pain. Her left leg was fine, luckily, so she was able to stand so long as all of the pressure was on it. Moving was more difficult, so she didn’t. Instead, she used a quick spell to open the door and turn off the security spells.

Immediately, both Kit Rain and Harpess entered, her mute servants following behind and looking decidedly judgmental. Kit Rain and the humans looked over the room, but Harpess kept her attention on Amadhay.

“We’ve been calling to you for almost a zoot. We were almost to the point of breaking the door down. What happened?”

Amadhay shrugged. “I was sleeping,” she said. “Didn’t hear you.”

The look of disbelief on the two human’s faces made her smile innocently at them. She stretched her arms, but didn’t move from her spot. “Was there something you needed?” she asked.

Eyeing her suspiciously, Kit Rain nodded. “We are setting down on Phellimore soon. You need to be ready.”

She nodded. “Of course,” she answered with another smile, while inwardly wondering how she would be able to do anything without fixing her leg and the pounding in her head.

“And you read the book?” Harpess pushed, making Amadhay want to roll her eyes.

“Yes. I know what is appropriate,” she promised. “And I know my duties. So, if I may?” She prompted for them to leave the room and, after a moment, the two did, leaving her mute bodyguards.

Legs, broken. Need help, she spelled out painstakingly to the men once the door was closed and locked.

Faeo immediately scooped her up, while Prillo picked up her handheld DS and handed it to her.

We don’t heal, Prillo signed with his free hand as he pressed the DS into her hands. She clenched her hands around the DS, knowing that he was suggesting that she contact someone who could tell her what to do.

She sighed softly, but turned the device on and quickly sorted through contacts. She didn’t have the time to be dragging her feet. Catching Rea’s name, she pressed on the woman’s name. Her call was answered on the first ping.

Wherever you’re hiding, stay there,” Rea said in a rushed voice. “After that stunt at the Mall, you’ve been suspended indefinitely. There is a warrant out for Red Robin by order of the Roadesian Army, and Lord Phoeganis wants you held in one of our holding cell until everything dies down and you are fit for duty again. Stay away and don’t trust anyone.

Amadhay took a deep breath. She hadn’t expected that. She supposed she should have. Her uncle had told her upfront, when restoring her status as an active agent, that if she did anything he didn’t like, no matter how small, he would lock her away until she had been retrained enough to be trusted. Well, attacking the du Kay princeling and water Herald in broad daylight, at a public venue, for no apparent reason was definitely not a small matter.

“Okay. That’s not a problem. I have no plans to come back any time soon. But, Rea, I need help.”

I don’t know how or why you expect me to help you,” her voice was sharp, and Amadhay wished that she could turn on the holo-avatar and see her friend, but she didn’t. Amadhay didn’t need anyone to know that she was on the ship and while she trusted Rea, she didn’t trust that her DS or that wherever she was was unbugged. The dragon was notorious for not being observant about things like that.

“I just need a spell. I broke my leg.”

Rea’s voice was suspicious. “How? Where are you?

“I’m sorry, but I’m not going to tell you that,” Amadhay stated, nodding at Prillo when he showed her the purple outfit Lizumeizei had chosen for her first diplomatic meeting. Of the ones she’d seen in the closet, she liked that one the most, with the thin material and golden embroidery of the outer wrap. The outfit beneath the wrap, a darker purple with similar golden embroidery in a thicker material and light beading, was perfectly modest enough to calm Kit Rain and Harpess’ nerves about her while still looking like her. They needed to know that she could do what was required of her as their envoy even though she was young and untried. She needed to know that she could do it, regardless of what Arne Riff repeatedly told her.

How broken is it?

Amadhay shrugged. “Very?”

Rea sighed. “How many times is it broken and which leg? Please tell me it isn’t your right leg again.

“Alright, I won’t tell you,” Amadhay quipped as she tried to focus on how many separate points of pain there were. It was difficult, considering they all blended together, but after a moment, she nodded to herself. “Twice. Maybe three times?”

“And there’s no chance of you going to a proper healer-medic?”

“You just told me not to trust anyone,” Amadhay reminded her and was met with a long silence that, if she hadn’t been able to hear the tell-tale sounds of machines working on the dragon’s side, she might have thought they’d lost connection.

You don’t have to trust someone to let them fix your breaks,” she finally responded, but it didn’t particularly sound like she was pushing for Amadhay to go to a medic. “And I suppose you don’t want anyone to know,”

This time, Amadhay was the silent one. She allowed the mute brothers to help her to the bath, but refused to undress with them there. I do it, me, she signed, shooing them away before sinking into the warm water Faeo had run for her. It was easier to get her clothes off when she was surrounded by water, despite the nightgown and shorts clinging a bit.

“Are you in a tub?” Rea asked. “Please tell me you’re in a tub and not trying to swim with a broken leg.”

“I’m in the tub,” Amadhay replied, having almost forgotten she was talking to her friend. Her DS was on the floor beside the tub and she considered picking it up, but didn’t want to chance dumping it in the tub. As waterproof as it claimed to be, soapy water was notoriously technology’s undoing.

“Good. That makes this easier. Get your leg out as straight as you can. If you have to move the broken parts into alignment, well, you have to. Once everything looks straight, the spell is ‘more minu ma.’ Say it.”

“Mor-ay mee-new-ma,” Amadhay repeated slowly.

“Minu and ma are two different phrases. Try again.”

“More minu ma,” she tried again.

Good. And when you say that, imagine the pain gone and your leg whole while rubbing down from your thigh to ankle. Six times, no more, no less, and then you soak it for five more minutes. It will be healed when you step out of the water if you did it right.”

“Got it. Thanks.”

“But if you could perhaps have someone help you?”

“No time. I can do this on my own. Thanks Rea. I’ll call you again when I have time.”


Amadhay couldn’t blame her for that. Fraternizing with a known fugitive of the Phoegani was the same as being one for all the trouble it could cause her. Still, the response hurt. “Oh. Okay.”

“Be safe,” Rea added before disconnecting their call.

Next Chapter

amadhay: (Default)
 The dreamscape didn’t immediately change. She wasn’t sure if it was because Tenshu wasn’t fully determined or if it was just because it had to sort through his mind to find another fear worth their time, stronger than his own guilt and worthlessness. When it changed, she knew exactly where they were going.

The dreamscape formed the familiar shape of the Sand Castle Palnokian base and Amadhay held her breath. She didn’t want to go in, didn’t want to see Ribbon or Stefan or any of the others. It was an automatic response and she had to swallow it down, pulling Tenshu to his feet from where he was still sitting, staring at tombstones. She tried not to notice the name on the one he sat before, but it was branded on her mind as she led him away.

Tairyn du Regen. She shouldn’t have felt anything, given that the man had betrayed her. He had sold her out to the Palnoki, told them everything about her. He had led them to her Indy. He had chosen Kimiko over her. He was nothing but a traitor to the end of his days. Still, she remembered the days when he was her only friend, when he had comforted her and been there for her.

She pushed him out of her mind completely as soon as they stood in front of the Sand Castle. This time, she was the one stalling and Tenshu impatiently pushed the doors open.

“What? Scared of what you might find?” he taunted. “Not excited to have a chance at killing Ribbon again?”

No. She wasn’t. In fact, she was anxious, afraid that that would be what she had to do. Because if it was, Tenshu would die. She couldn’t do it again, not when she dreamed about it, thought about it, tried to imagine all the ways that she could have changed the outcome. If it came down to killing Ribbon again, even a fake Ribbon, she would rather die.

So, honestly, when they roamed the building and found room after room empty, it was a relief. They went to all of the common areas, and Amadhay was positive that she smelled gingerbread cookies in the kitchen. She heard laughter in the sitting rooms. Thought she saw flashes of black, flowing skirts and cloudy puffs of hair at every corner. By the time they reached the rooms, Amadhay completely refused to go in.

She wasn’t sure if it was her own guilt lending to hallucinations, if part of Tenshu’s fear included Ribbon, or if his dreamscape was genuinely trying to mess with her. She didn’t care. She just wanted to go. She needed to get away from all the memories, but when she started to leave, the pulsing of the link reminded her that she couldn’t leave Tenshu, no matter what she was feeling. So instead, she focused on keeping her breathing even, standing just behind Tenshu so that he could check the rooms and she wouldn’t see anything, but also wouldn’t be shut outside if the door were to slam closed.

They had gone through most of the rooms and even Tenshu was becoming antsy. “We should have found something by now,” he said, slamming Kimiko’s door shut.

“Maybe this is all about the expectations?” she suggested hopefully, noting that he couldn’t stand to be touched by her. Where before, they’d been holding hands to keep close and to strengthen his energy, the longer they were in this place, the further he stood from her.

He barely spared her a glance, as full of scorn as it was, before stalking toward Nico’s room. It too was empty. That only left three, the three that they honestly should have check the moment his own was empty.

“Atlas or Ribbon?” Amadhay asked, her voice wavering. They could either go to her room, Atlas’ or Ribbon’s.

“I dunno, which one would you prefer killing?” he snapped.

Atlas, she wanted to say, but instead shook her head. “Which one are you afraid of?” she asked, not particularly sure why he’d have been frightened of either. From what she remembered the familial bond between Tenshu and those two had been incredibly strong, as if they were truly related.

He didn’t answer, and when he led them to the hallway she and Ribbon had shared, she tensed, not ready to go into Ribbon’s room. They didn’t. Instead, they entered her room. As the others, no one was in there. Unlike the others, all of her belongings were there, torn down and thrown around in someone’s anger. The canopy above her bed was pulled close.

They were leaving when Amadhay felt every hair on her body stand up. It was only her instincts that had her dropping and rolling out of the way, barely missing a spell so harsh that it made the stone floor bubble. She hopped to her feet, glancing to Tenshu, who was staring back into the room in horror, rather than shock, that told her he, at least had expected this. Knowing that there was only one place left in the room for the attacker to be, she turned back to her bed.

Sitting there was Atlas, with Ribbon’s dead body on his lap. She held back a cry, dropping down to her knees. A sob got caught in the back of her throat as she stared, unable to look away from the limp body of the woman, cradled to Atlas’ chest. His red eyes only focused on her and he couldn’t miss her when he threw another spell, this one slamming her against the wall hard enough that had she been in reality, it would have knocked her unconscious or, at the very least, dizzy.

She slumped against the wall, her eyes still focused on Ribbon. Her eyes were still open, a pale unseeing green. Her mouth was partially open and the ugly gash on her throat was so red, as if she had just killed her.

“You betray us,” Atlas whispered, sounding broken. She was ready to take another hit, she deserved it, but the magic that left him hit Tenshu. With a pained cry, Tenshu dropped to his knees as well, his body convulsing. “You betray Ribbon.”

“No,” Tenshu swore. “Never. I would never—” Atlas cut him off with another ball of magic that Amadhay felt keenly, now that her purple aura was nearly covering Tenshu.

“You would give up all that I’ve done for you for her. Turn your back on your family for her. Forget this,” Atlas’ hands went to Ribbon’s hair and for a moment, Amadhay feared that he would pull her head back to show her neck. He didn’t, instead petting her brokenly. All three of them were silent for a few clicks as Amadhay and Tenshu recovered from their hits.

Once Amadhay was able to stand, she avoided looking at Atlas and Ribbon, instead focusing on crossing to Tenshu. She didn’t make it, because the spell that came at her smelled of death and she threw herself back. She turned her attention to Atlas, who was gently lying Ribbon on the bed as if she were only sleeping and he didn’t want to wake her. His attention was on Tenshu and she was reminded that though he had attacked her, this was about Tenshu. Atlas wasn’t really there. She had to remember that.

“You know what happens when you betray the family,” he said menacingly, “You are removed from the family.”

Tenshu just nodded in reluctant agreement.

“Get off your ass,” Amadhay growled. “And fight him!”

Tenshu shook his head. “I can’t,” he whispered. Atlas paid no attention to Amadhay when she slowly approached, following behind him.

“You agreed to this from the beginning,” Atlas said sadly. “Though I never thought I’d have to do it.” Tenshu bowed his head when Atlas pulled his hand back for some kind of attack. Amadhay wasn’t sure if it was magic or if he planned to beat Tenshu to death, either way, she couldn’t allow it. She hadn’t come this far just to let Atlas kill Tenshu.

So she latched herself onto his back, doing her best to distract Atlas enough to get him away. When Atlas stopped and focused on detaching her, she barked at Tenshu. “Move out of the way!”

He barely moved in time before Amadhay and Atlas went tumbling down, into the wall. Atlas’ head hit, but she knew better than to hope that that would stop him. Taking a deep breath she readied herself for the kidney punch she saw coming even before he moved. She didn’t let that move her. Atlas was stronger than her, though, and it was only a matter of time before he got the upper hand and slammed her into the wall. She breathed rattily, feeling as if something had been broken, but didn’t let that stop her. She had to keep him down.

The red covering his hand made her jerk away to avoid a fireball to the gut. “How come he can use magic if I can’t?” she demanded softly, using her wit to keep her on her toes. She always had when sparring with Ribbon.

At the thought of Ribbon, she faltered, looking over to her lover. It was enough of a distraction for Atlas to grip her throat and squeeze even as his attention went to Tenshu, who was just standing there, though his fists clenched and his arm muscles flexed.

“Come here,” Atlas ordered and Tenshu did it.

And of course he did, because all of them just did whatever Atlas wanted. Everyone, everywhere did what Atlas wanted them to, whether they knew it or not, and the thought just made Amadhay so angry. Tenshu, Kimiko and Ribbon had befriended her because Atlas wanted it. She, herself, had stayed with the Palnoki because Atlas wanted it. Benjy and Christein had been hurt, so badly, so many times because Atlas wanted it. Ribbon had lied to her, attacked her, hurt her, tried to stop her, tried to kill her because Atlas had wanted it.

The violence in her permeated every muscle of her body and she vibrated with it. She could hardly feel his grasp on her throat. Her hands, her claws, because that was what they were, covered in some white energy she didn’t recognize, cut into Atlas. The first cut wasn’t hers, wasn’t her action because despite everything, she couldn’t imagine really hurting Atlas. She didn’t think she was strong enough, she didn’t think it would have made Ribbon happy.

But when she stabbed him again, it was all her. She kept stabbing until the white energy disappeared and she was just sticking her fingers, broken nails and all into him. Tenshu made a sick noise, and that was the only thing that made her stop, the reminder that someone was seeing the part of her that she tried to keep hidden. There was a line between someone who killed for a living and someone who enjoyed the suffering they could cause with a sadistic glee. There was an even bigger line between someone who killed and someone who ripped another person apart. One was a murderer, the other, a Feral. She wasn’t a Feral.

She jolted away from Atlas’ corpse, feeling worse by the click. Ribbon’s body on the bed, Atlas’ body on the floor, her covered in blood, reeking of it. She looked helplessly to Tenshu, who flinched away from her eyes.

“I did what I had to,” she whispered, her voice raspy in a way she remembered far too well.

Tenshu didn’t agree with her, but neither did he disagree with her. Instead, he took one last look at both his father in all but blood and his sister in the same, before leaving the room and leaving Amadhay there. It took her a bit longer to get up and follow him. Even though she knew it wasn’t real and was only a figment of Tenshu’s mind, she couldn’t stop herself from getting on the bed and lying beside Ribbon, breathing in her scent.

It was sick and she knew it, but she didn’t want to leave her, not again. The link throbbed and pulled taut, reminding her of what she was really doing there, but she didn’t want to go. She wanted to stay with Ribbon forever and she didn’t care if she were alive or not. She just wanted to be with her.

You are, Ribbon’s voice said in her mind. I’m always with you.

She shook her head. “Not really,” she whispered, wanting to cry but not capable of doing it on this plane of reality. “You’re gone.”

Only in body. A warmth came from nowhere, enveloping Amadhay for a moment before disappearing. And even if she were hallucinating, which she was used to because she hallucinated about Ribbon at least once a week, it felt better. She felt stronger. She felt closer to the dead woman. Taking a deep breath, she let go and immediately, the setting around her disappeared, leaving her floating above the ground, outside of the same bubble Tenshu had been stuck in to begin with.

He was inside again and she was outside, watching him as he paced there. Breathing deep, she turned her back to the bubble and entered, letting the remnants of it from before rejoin so that it was a solid barrier once more. She avoided eye contact with Tenshu, who watched her with a strange look in his eye.

“I thought you had left me,” he said.

“I didn’t,” she responded unnecessarily.

A whimper from the corner of the barrier made her turn her attention to see Tenshu again, this one in a ball, trying not to look at the other. That one was the one she was attached to via the link.

The other crept up behind her and spoke in her ear, one hand on her hip and the other on the side of her face, tilting her head away from his mouth. “You should have just left us,” he breathed into her ear.

She turned into him, vaguely aware that he hadn’t moved his hand and that now his arm was curled around her head, in the perfect position to twist her head and snap her neck. That was a careless mistake. “Isn’t a bit egoistical to be afraid of yourself?”

He gave her a sharp smile. “You would know.”

She tried to move from his grip, but instead of dropping to get away, she only gave him her hair to roll around his fist and he pulled her face up toward his own. Still, she continued their rapport. “I wouldn’t, actually. I don’t do the whole fear thing.”

He laughed in a mocking way that made her eye his torso. His muscles wouldn’t be the best to punch, but his stomach or throat would be. “You fear more than I do,” he taunted her. “Only I’m capable of fighting my fears.” He pulled her in close. “How about my desires? I don’t think I want to fight them.”

She tried to push away, but he had too good of a hold on her, because while she’d been thinking up a plan, he’d been implementing one. Christein always said that planning to the point of inaction was her largest flaw. “If you’re about to tell me that rutting with me is your biggest fear, I can assure you it’s unwarranted.”

“Shame,” he responded, running a finger up her spine in a way that made her shiver. “I think we’d have fun.”

“We’re not already?” she asked just before she kicked up her legs and dropped her weight, throwing him off-kilter when he suddenly had to hold all of her weight. He stumbled and falling on her backside gave Amadhay the upper hand. She kicked his legs from under him and flipped on top of him.

“Now we are,” he said with a smirk, easily flipping them when she wasn’t able to perfect her hold. She didn’t give him time to either, slithering out from under him and landing a quick, desperate kick at his spine. It hit, but it barely even effected the necromancer, because before she was standing again, he’d pulled her feet down and had a knee to her chest.

“I think I like you beneath me.”

She had a vague memory of Ribbon saying that before and that was what gave her the strength to roll to the side, taking him with her until she was on top with her knees at his throat. She glanced to the other Tenshu. “What do I do? Do I kill him? Try to combine you? What?”

That Tenshu didn’t get a chance to respond, before the one beneath her gripped her hair and used it to pull her down. She wished she’d listened to her instructors when they’d told her to either cut it or always wear it up and out of the way, even when she wasn’t expecting a fight. He head butted her, making her fall back on her back. A swift punch to her face was followed by a kick and she curled into a ball, knowing that he wouldn’t give her the chance to stand and that she couldn’t use her Gift in this plane.

Then again, she’d been able to somehow use a spell that she didn’t even known, so she figured trying wouldn’t hurt. Her attempt at teleportation was hit by a wall so hard that she was breathless. Tenshu took advantage of that to pull her to her feet.

“Oh, what should I do with her?” he asked the other Tenshu, mocking her previous question. “Fuck her? Kill her? What would you hate more?”

“Let her go,” the real Tenshu demanded, standing up. She wasn’t sure what had made him intervene, but she appreciated it, because the fear-Tenshu dropped her as if she were inconsequential.

“Finally,” he said, moving to the other Tenshu. The fight that ensued was rather, impressively short. She doubted that if she’d been pitted against herself it would have been nearly as short, but apparently knowing his own weaknesses was all Tenshu needed. Or perhaps the game was rigged for him to win. She wasn’t sure and she didn’t care. All she knew was that she was grateful when real Tenshu had used her hands to twist the neck of fear Tenshu. Because it was finally over.

Next Chapter

amadhay: (Default)
 Pressure Sequence
Heraldic Whispers


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


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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 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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 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)

“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.

Previous  Chapter  Next

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.


“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?”


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.

Chapter   Next

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)

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.”


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)

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.


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
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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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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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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)

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

amadhay: (Default)

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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November 2016

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