amadhay: (Default)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Still got that can I gave you?”

“Yeah…” she said slowly.

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

“Yeah.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Uh, that I don’t know either.”

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

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

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

“Exactly.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What the—!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Say it,” Thief Lord ordered.

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

The pain left Croy-li’s body for the few clicks it took for the man to get the same reaction from Amaya, and returned, this time primarily to his mind. Croy-li tried to fight it, mentally listing the elements and their corresponding weights, but the pain seared until he couldn’t stop it and, as always, he and Amaya spoke at the same time, their voices monotone.

“You have my allegiance, my king.” Once the words were out, they were meant. Both teenagers hated it, hated the brand of the Thief Lord on their minds, but there was nothing they could do about it. It was better to have the brand than to have him push further and make them his like he used to.

   “Canister,” he ordered, holding his hand out and Croy-li lifted it to him, placing it in the man’s hand as hard as he could. With that, the man walked back through the gate.

   A few clicks later, Amaya and Croy-li were able to move from their knees. Amaya started toward the gate, as though to follow the man and the violence in her shaking body made it clear what she intended.

Dawles moved in front of her. “You have been dismissed,” she said, her fingers twitching in a tell-tale manner that had Croy-li grabbing Amaya again. Unlike before, the girl didn’t allow him to handle her, instead needing to get some of the violence out. She shoved him away and jumped at the Rager, who immediately swept her hands into the air, snatching water from the snow around them and making it circle the duo.

  Amaya pushed at the water, easily making a path for herself and throwing that water back at Dawles, hitting her face. The woman didn’t so much as flinch, shifting to get a better stance. She pulled more water from around them and took her attention fully from Croy-li to focus on the Herald. Amaya pulled water of her own and swirled it into a mini whirlpool, aiming it at Dawles, who had to dodge it. The force of it hitting the third gate made the tiny needles thicken in threat to a nonexistent trespasser.

“Aimy, come on,” Croy-li tried as the girl dodged a water ball. Dawles was playing with her. While Amaya undoubtedly had more ability and power as the Water Herald, Dawles had spent her life mastering the element and the past thirty or so years as a Rager, the highest class of learned elementalist. She had always held back, blatantly so, when teaching Amaya because she didn’t trust her. Amaya was only proving her right, and Croy-li wished she wouldn’t. “We need to get home before Soda and Blu come looking,” he reminded her.

That made her pause long enough to be hit in the side by an icicle, though luckily not the sharp point. He hadn’t realized that water included control of ice, and the surprised look on Amaya’s face told him that she hadn’t either.

“You have a lot to learn before you can take me, much less our king,” Dawles stated. The second gate reopened to let them out. “Now leave.”

 They did just that.



Chapter   Next

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

Next part: Seer Chapter Two

Next part of Lasts Place: Chapter Two

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Do I know you?” Amelie asked bluntly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Just get me home,” she whispered.

 

“I’m trying.”

 

Next part of Chapter One: Lasts Place

Next part of Street: Chapter Two

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Let’s get patrolling,” he said.

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

 

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

 
Next part of Chapter One: Street

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 
Next Part of Chapter One: COPS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 
Next part of Chapter One: Cell

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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


Next part of Chapter 1: Rich

Next part of Seer: Chapter 2 

amadhay: (Default)
 Killjoys

“Ya know, Monkey,” Amadhay started seriously, “If you grew your beard out, you would look dead on a monkey.” She smiled up at her cousin, staring fixatedly on the short, but very present hair growing on his face.

Christein sneered at her, leaning back against a wall and crossing his arms. “Aren’t monkeys supposed to be fast, physically?”

“Okay,” she conceded, “You don’t move like a monkey, but everything else is right.” She dropped onto the ground to sit near his feet with a soft huff, glancing up at his face in time to see him roll his eyes.

“Just be glad that you don’t have two different legs,” he told her, referring to the fact that one of his legs had been cut off when he was small and regenerated an inch longer than the other.

“I am,” Amadhay replied simply, staring at his feet as she decided what her next move would be. The two of them had been waiting for their target for twenty clacks so far and she was doing her best to keep them entertained, despite his best efforts not to engage with her.

He flicked her off. “Shut it.”

She gave him a sweet smile, “I’ll bite it off if you don’t put it down,” she warned him, now looking up at him as he loomed over her.

“Good thing I regenerate then, huh?” he spit on the ground only a little away from her knee, giving only the barest of smirks at her look of utter disgust. “How long are we going to have to wait for this guy?”

“Ah dunno,” Amadhay replied, scooting away from the spit with a single quick motion. She pinched his leg. “Spitting near me is unacceptable, Monkey,” she told him, trying for an imperious tone. Instead, she simply sounded whiny. To make up for it, she let out a glob of spit between his feet.

In retaliation, he gave her thigh a quick, hard kick. “Shut it!” he repeated, then, muttering more to himself this time, added, “Damn, talk about stupid people.”

Amadhay rubbed her leg, watching him thoughtfully. Ever since she had come back from Palnoki, especially after she had gone to Arne Riff to override his and Nolando’s decisions for her, Christein had been much colder to her. She was just trying to amuse them as they waited for their mark. He didn’t have to be so angry and uncooperative. He never had been before.

“For shears?” she responded, trying to annoy him this time. “Don’ be so mean tah me, monkey-breath.” She quickly stood as she spoke, not wanting to give him an easy kicking target when she recognized the irritated glint in his eye.

“You’re acting like an idiot,” he snapped. “Smart people have a right to criticize the stupid.”

He wasn’t even looking at her. Amadhay was ready to counter with ‘And how would you know, idiot?’ when he held his hand up into her face. “Here he is…”

Amadhay followed his gaze to a middle-aged human that Amadhay had been positive she had killed earlier that evening. Immediately, she knelt in the shadows, trying to blend into her dark silhouette as a smirk eased onto her red lips. This is what they had been waiting for. She watched Christein shift into the shape of their target’s knot, the one he had killed a zoot ago while Amadhay had taken care of the kids.

Watching him, she sighed, wanting to do the deed herself. It had been a while since she could really enjoy her job. If she was being honest, she really meant that it had been a while since she had been allowed to work with Christein or Benjy, which was the only time this felt right. Since coming back with such good intel on the Palnoki, all worries about her loyalty had been wiped clean and she had been able to go back to bloody and violent missions. It was the only thing keeping her sane, the knowledge that she still liked killing, and she did like killing, no matter what she might sometimes think when she was alone and thinking about Ribbon.

Regardless, knowing that it was Christein’s mission, she stayed out of the way. “Do your magic, monkey boy,” she whispered.

Not a monkey,” he hissed at her before running up to the man. Still guised as the man’s late knot, he spoke to him as her for a few clacks, gathering information that she wasn’t privy to. She wasn’t entirely positive why she had been brought on this mission, considering it had gone so smoothly. Christein had told her that there would be difficulties because the man had bought a guard, but so far she had yet to see hide nor tail of anyone who might attempt to intervene.

Once Christein was apparently satisfied, he gave a sharp, derisive laugh that she could hear all the way back to the building, before shifting back to his own form. The man took a step back, looking around as if searching for something, before focusing back on Christein. Her cousin seemed to enjoy the man’s horror of realizing that he had been terribly misled, just before he slit the man’s throat. There was something strange about the man’s expression though. She just wasn’t sure what it was.

“What else were we supposed to do?” Christein called over to Amadhay, who relaxed from her crouch and slunk forward, brushing possibly imaginary dust from her crimson coat, black tank top and shorts. The heat of this area had caught her by surprise earlier, so she was indecently underdressed for the job, having had to ditch her normal sneaksuit to keep from overheating. The full body black outfit was now tucked away safely at a Phoegani safe house a few blocks away.

She gave a one-shouldered shrug, eyeing the body, slumped beside her cousin. Yes, that was definitely the same person she’d thought she had killed. “Make sure he’s dead. He plays really well.”

Christein scowled and knelt by the body. Taking the seemingly dead man by his hair, he slashed the head completely off at the neck with his knife. He then tossed the head to Amadhay before standing at his full height. “There, he’s dead. Let’s go.” He was already walking away from the body.

Amadhay blew her hair from her face, irritated that the wind was fighting against her symmetry, but mostly appeased by the head she held in her hands. It felt somewhat like their old lessons, when Christein would show her best ways to kill a person or toss her body parts to help her past her original squeamishness. This was her comfort zone with him.

“Monkey, you’re so cruel,” she told him with a slightly endeared smile.

She had drowned the man and then watched as his body tangled with anchors, yet he had somehow, still been alive. She wanted to look into that, because that was something she might expect of a magic-use or vampire, possibly even an elf, but not a human. Not a human who was, as far as she knew, unconnected to all of the major names and associations. Still, the brusque execution was so purely Christein that she couldn’t help but be amused and ignore her curiosity about the man. She dropped the head when Christein turned back to her.

He gave her a disarming smile and handed her his blades. “Here, have a present.”

She frowned, staring at him in confusion, taking the blades so that they didn’t fall. He was fastidious about care for weapons, especially his own, and the last thing she wanted with him in this strange mood, was to somehow damage his favorite blades by dropping them. “What?”

“She did it,” he stated as he turned away from her, thrusting his thumb over his shoulder at her and holding his hands up as two Arachin Local Force officers stormed up.

Another day, Amadhay would have loved the present. But today she was incredibly irritated with her cousin, given the way he had just played with her emotions, how he kept messing with her head so much that she wasn’t sure if she was his favorite person or someone he wanted to be rid of. She was tired and just wanted to go see Lizumeizei. Mostly thought, she didn’t want to fight two full-grown Arachins on her own, especially not the half-scorpion-man that reminded her all too much of Sha’adahk.

“Jackass,” she muttered at him before launching herself at the scorpion guard faster than any of them could react. Wrapping her arm around one of the scorpion’s legs, she hid the weapons behind the bend of its knee. Sliding the blades into her empty sleeve-sheaths, she pressed her forehead against the reinforced leg armor and then started sobbing.

“Help me!” she cried to the Local Force, who eyed her skeptically, but had yet to attack, holding his stinger up in the air but not yet poised to do harm to either aelfe. “He just killed my uncle!” The wolf-spider started toward Christein, looking from the decapitated body to the head next to Christein’s steel-toed boots. “I told him I didn’t want him and…and he assaulted me!” It only took the briefest of thoughts to add a glamour and a deep purple bruise appeared on her neck, with the bruise Christein had actually left on her thigh deepening to a black against her sandy olive skin. “And my uncle tried to stop him and he…” she burst into harder sobs, her large, now brown eyes overflowing with fake tears. “He-he killed him!”

“Banshee!” Christein swore at her when the wolf-spider attacked. He was almost impaled by one leg, but managed to get a knife right into his soft abdomen and tore down to his spinneret, cutting the spider-man open and killing him almost instantly.

The scorpion shook Amadhay off of his leg just in time for Christein to slit his throat. Amadhay brushed herself off, looking to the three bodies and mentally calculating how much time they had to leave before the Local Force sent more officer to check on the fallen arcachins. Christein grabbed Amadhay before she could say anything, slamming her back into the shadow of the building and pinning her against the wall.

“You little banshee,” he cursed at her again, his teal eyes glimmering with anger.

She pursed her lips at him. “I loves you,” she told him sweetly. “We can go now,” she added calmly. He didn’t move, so she raised both eyebrows. “Well?”

He slapped her hard enough to make her cheek hit the wall. When she looked back at him, her eyes wider than she had intended, he let go of her. There wasn’t even his normal flash of guilt or shame to accompany his loss of temper. Otherwise not moving, Amadhay carefully yawned, stretching her mouth out to try to make some of the pain go away. Besides that seemingly bored reaction, the same she had learned to respond to his father’s slaps, she took the pain stoically. Even if she wasn’t used to that kind of abuse from Christein, she was, indeed, used to it.

He gave her no acknowledgment, turning from her to glance up to the rooftops. The clicks following were silent as he walked a few paces but when she had yet to follow, he looked over his shoulder and just as calmly as she had, said, “Well? Are you coming or not?”

She shrugged. “I dunno. I was thinking about just walking around, seeing the sights while I’m here. Not every day we get to come to this little rats nest,” she told him, walking backwards. “So seeya next time,” she told him. She didn’t want him to see how much he had hurt her.

“Amadhay!” Christein’s yell of her actual name made her jerk and jolt backward. He only used it when he was surprised. “Duck, you fucking idiot!”

She turned back to him and jolted to the side just in time to avoid being hit by a micro-arrow. “Geeze, Baron, no need to be so loud,” she blustered, turning to try to determine where the arrow had come from.

He didn’t verbally warn her this time. Instead, Christein just tackled her to the ground, just in time as another one sped into the wall right where she had just been. When she let out a soft oomph from the force of his body hitting hers, he clamped a hand over her mouth. “Shut up and stay down,” he ordered. He pulled her closer to him so that they were side-by-side on the dirty concrete of the alleyway, hidden by shadow. She tried to pull away from him, her eyes scanning for any sign of their attackers, but he clamped on tighter, pressing her lips against her teeth and making it hard for her to breath when he accidentally covered her nostrils as well.

She bit his hand, making him curse lightly, and he removed it. In her ear, he whispered the things he was going to do to her if she bit him again. She completely ignored him, glaring at the arrow lodged in the wall just past her. She had better things to imagine than his threats, such as gutting whomever was shooting her with their own arrow. Had everyone completely forgotten who she was? In the past four months, she had found more people trying their luck with her than ever before. She was Red Robin. There was no way she was taking being shot at lying down. Looking at the three arrows, it wasn’t too difficult for her to see where they had come from.

“Someone’s gonna die tonight,” she sang.

When Amadhay tried to get up, Christein kept her pinned. “Idiot!” he hissed, clamping his hand back over her mouth. “Now they know we’re still here.” When she gave him a look that told him she was going to remove fingers with her next bite, he removed his hand but added, “And I hate to break it to you, but people die all the time, even without our help,” in a hiss.

Another micro-arrow shot into the shadows, as if the archer knew they were there but not quite sure where. It missed them by a foot.

“Do you want to die as well?” she snarled at him, her red eyes glinting.

Christein glanced up, as if seeing something. “No, not so much,” he answered her before standing up. He melted into the darkness of the bricks, using his second Gift to blend in with the wall quickly. “Stay down.”

Amadhay rolled her eyes as well as her body from where Christein had left her. Her hand reached out and snagged the micro-arrow sticking up from the pavement and rolled it between her fingers, waiting. She crawled almost out of the shadows, only enough for Christein to see her and become distracted. She grinned where she knew he was from the slight shift of the smooth wall when he moved.

“Get back,” he ordered. She ignored him, waiting for her chance when another micro-arrow hit the pavement only a hair away where she lay.

“Gotcha,” she whispered, jumping up. Christein reached for her, but a long, silver arrow just barely missed Christein’s head, forcing him to pay attention to his surroundings and take his eyes from her, allowing her to dart up the emergency fireway.

She kept an eye on him as he ducked back down into the shadows, visible once again, and knew when he found that she was no longer where he left her when he hissed her code name. “Red Robin!” She knew he used her full code name to remind her that they were on a mission, his mission. “I’m in charge here! You listen to me.”

She snorted, “Sometimes,” she muttered. “But not this time,” she whispered, shifting in her Gift to give herself an extra push for the running jump she’d need to make it from the smooth ramp of the fireway, onto the rooftop. It was an easy feat, through she had to tuck into a roll to soften the blow of the metal rooftop. She hated this city. The rooftops were made for people to walk across them, which meant that there was no cover when she made it there, especially with the bright light shining into her eyes.

It took her a moment to adapt to the difference in light, and when she did, she stood face to point with a micro-arrow, this one more dangerous than the last with a tranq-shaft and needle head rather than the normal magically imbued steel. Now they were trying to sedate her? She stood slowly, hands up in the air on either side.

“I don’t want to hurt you,” a mature voice told her, making her raise an eyebrow as she took in the sight of a man, most likely human if she had to guess. He had tracking goggles on, which made her grin.

“Good for you,” she stated, glancing away from him, across the rooftop. There was no one else around, but she knew that he hadn’t shot the full arrow. That wasn’t a standard Local Force weapon. It was a specialized one, and since the man in front of her was definitely Local Force, given his full black ensemble with the appropriate golden studs on his belt to indicate he’d been an officer for seventeen years, she doubted he had a pundit weapon on him. Only a recently demoted pundit member would be using the advanced micro-arrows, mostly because BI Weapons Division had only come out with that, particular, one a few months ago.

“Tell your friend to surrender and no one will get hurt.”

“Besides the two arachins and that human, right?” she reminded him with a grin, glancing down to the shadows where her cousin was being suspiciously quiet. Had he left?

“You’re still an innocent in this,” the man started, making Amadhay laugh aloud.

“Oh, that’s good. I needed that,” she joked, smiling at him. No, there was Christein. He had apparently heard her laughing and was now cursing at her. She thought she heard something about obeying order, but she couldn’t be too certain.

“Look, I’m going to make this quick for you, okay?” she smiled sweetly, and just as she was reaching for the arrow she’d stuck in her waistband, another of the long, silver arrows landed between her feet. She raised her eyebrows, looking at the officer before her.

He gave her a fake smile. “My partner isn’t as willing to just take you in as I am.”

She nodded slowly, scanning the rooftop again. “And you, you’re just trying to be a good guy, shooting an unarmed girl right between the eyes.”

As expected, that made the man lower his arrow to her chest. It wouldn’t hurt any less if he shot her there, and considering it was only a sedative, it didn’t matter either way, but it gave her a slightly better time to react. She just needed to find his partner, because even at her speed, one of those micro-arrows shot in such a short distance, and with such little room for her to avoid it, would probably hit. She saw something shift out of the corner of her eye, but it wasn’t a Local Force given there was color, so she ignored it and instead focused ahead of her. The other had to be somewhere ahead of her to have made that shot.

“Well, my partner seems to think that you’re more dangerous than you look.”

She raised her eyebrows, looking to around. “Me? I’m just having a little fun.”

He nodded down to the bodies and Christein, who was leaning against a wall, in plain sight. “That fun for you?” he asked before holding up another micro-arrow, this one with a nasty looking mixture in the shaft, dead-vampire venom. Dead-vampire venom would probably drop her in less than a second if even a drop got into her system. Apparently, he wasn’t falling for her innocent girl tricks. “Would this be fun for you?”

There, she thought, spotting something behind the closest lightbeam. That was why she couldn’t see them, because they were hiding in her blindspot. She wasn’t sure if it was luck or if they had recognized her sensitive sight to be her weakness. Either way, it didn’t really matter now that she’d found them.

Again, she smiled sweetly. “Well, I can’t say this has been fun. And it’ll probably really suck for you, but thanks for playing.”

Two micro-arrows were loosed at the same time, hitting right where she’d been standing. She teleported away, to the partner, and easily slit the woman’s throat with the sharpest edge of the micro-arrow, pausing after to stare at the blood on her neck before closing her eyes and stamping her magical three-fingered claw mark on her face to claim the kill. It was all very quick, quick enough that the man hadn’t even turned yet. She closed the distance between them in a click with her Gift and paused for a moment, the arrow lifted to his throat.

“No, please,” he started to beg, but Amadhay didn’t feel like listening. She kicked his legs from under him, making him fall backwards, not wanting to stab him in the throat. One was enough for the night. He dropped his bow and she picked it up, using the quick shoot setting to shoot him with his own micro-arrows until he stopped moving. At that point, she kicked him a few times to make sure he was truly dead before stepping back, bow still in hand.

She checked the macro holder to see that there were still a few micro-arrows in the system. With a grin, she lazily aimed and shot them in Christein’s general vicinity. None of them came close to him, but that didn’t make him less irritated.

 “Red!” he yelled, and she could her how irritated he was, which made her decide to just leave the weapon and rejoin him. “If you’re the one fucking shooting me, you’re dead.”

Amadhay reappeared just out of his reach, purposely looking as sweet as possible, attempting to coax a laugh from him. “Me?” she asked innocently, hopping back when he made to grab her.

“We’re leaving now,” he ordered, glancing nervously back at the silver tipped arrow that had barely missed him.

“Okay,” she responded, not sure why he seemed so nervous. She had taken out the first responders. They had time before any more Local Force showed up and nothing to connect them to the crime given how no blood had stained their clothes. All they had to do was walk away.

“I’m not playing. Don’t make me have to carry you,” Christein warned.

She held up her hands in defense. “I won’t. I’m right behind you,” she promised. But when he disappeared, most likely teleporting back to base to report his findings, she stayed where she was. His mission was over and she didn’t have to listen to him anymore.

“What is his problem?” she asked no one, walking away from the scene. When there was only silence in response, she rolled her eyes, pushing her hair back against the wind as she made it down the abandoned block, heading for the safe house to pick up her clothes. This part of Ratigattan was always so deserted and she couldn’t help but feel like it was made for a good murder drop off, especially considering almost every job she’d had in this city had led her here. Pushing murder from her mind, she looked at her wrist DS to call Lizumeizei. It was weving night the following night and she wanted to know if she could come over sooner, like that evening, and just spend the night and day with him. She smiled when she got to the image of her cat-kin and she clicked on his icon to call him.

Suddenly, a full sized arrow zoomed past her, slicing a lock of her hair in half. She watched as it dropped down to the ground. She stared at it, feeling a stabbing pain in her chest, a tell-tale sign that something had gone terribly wrong and she was asymmetrical. She ended the call before it connected to Lizumeizei’s DS.

“I’m about to give someone a slow and painful death,” she said, glaring now at the arrow that had made her imperfect. She noted that the tip of the arrowhead was silver while the rest was a normal wood. It was definitely different from the tiny micro-arrows that had been zooming at them previously, but it also wasn’t the same silver one that had been shot at Christein either. This was made to kill, not tranquilize and capture.

Christein snickered from the shadows, becoming visible where he was leaning. He looked casual, but there was a tension in his body that made her think he was ready to run. “Bet you wish you had followed orders, huh? Little Miss Perfect ain’t so perfect now.”

“YOU ARE DEAD!” Amadhay roared, fighting both the urge to kill her most beloved cousin and the urge to find the broken hairs and tear them all out. She could fix her hair later.

Christein held both of his hands in the air so that she could see he had no arrows. “Hey, I didn’t do it,” he immediately replied, knowing how serious Amadhay might be about honestly killing him. “I know how you are about symmetry, remember?”

She did. Christein had once had the most perfectly symmetrical face Amadhay had ever seen. He had been verging on pretty. He had been the one to indulge her need for symmetry as a child because he understood it where the rest of their family didn’t. She still wasn’t completely sure what had happened, but she knew the basics of the story. Christein had propositioned one of Amaya’s servants—or friend as she truly was—because she was so cute. Blu, the girl, had decided the best way to say no was to cut his face. He was now left with several different jagged claw marks on his face, going from almost the center of his forehand and diagonally down to his ear, straight across his cheek and to the bridge of his nose, and a single one cutting right through his lip. The cat-kin had almost blinded him in his right eye. All of his symmetrical beauty was gone, instead replaced with rough skin where the scar had healed with thicker skin, making him look dangerous instead of pretty, a fact he tended to hide by brushing his hair over that side of his face.

 Amadhay had a vague acquaintanceship with Blu, vague in that she worked as Amaya’s servant and thus, had been under Amadhay’s scope of interest, regardless of her being the light Herald. Honestly, the two of them had never really gotten along though there had never been any real animosity between them. There had been no real feelings either way until she had come back from the Madra job and first seen Christein with those scars marring his face. She hated anyone who could willingly ruin something of such symmetrical beauty as Christein’s face had once been. Honestly, she just hated anyone who would dare hurt her cousin in general.

Amadhay was brought back to the present danger and hatred when another silver tipped arrow sliced through the skin on her left arm. Christein was luckier, having jumped as soon as one of the arrows shot into the wall an inch from his face.

“Shit,” he muttered, glaring at it as if willing it to change.

“Whoever is shooting at me had better stop!” Amadhay warned. She hated arrows. They were always harder to avoid than bullets because they made so little sound until it was too late to move.

“Red, we need to leave. Now,” Christein ordered softly, reaching for her.

She moved away from him, squinting in an attempt to see the rooftops. It was too late for her to just leave. Someone had to pay. “I’m going to kill you either way for ruining my hair, but I may show some leniency.”

A scoff came from high up, probably where the shooting was coming from. “Ooh, so scared,” another girl’s voice rang out, tauntingly. “Scared of a hair-drama faie. Come at me then.”

Amadhay started, looking in surprise to Christein. That voice had sounded alarmingly like one she knew very well. His pained expression told her that he already knew. Before he could respond to her, two figures dropped down, with one in front of Amadhay and the other in front of Christein, separating the two.

A familiar feline-kin girl looked down sharply, her eyes glowing strangely behind a pair of goggles. She tried to fan-kick Amadhay, who easily dodged, but still knocked the aelfe down with a bright clap of light right in front of her face. There were few people who could use light in its pure form.

“Christein. I should’ve known,” a male voice hissed. There was yet another voice Amadhay recognized. She groped at the ground, trying to get back up, but someone, who she was sure was the cat-kin, kicked her back down.

“Cur,” she hissed, but waited until she could see without blotches in her vision before trying anything again.

The first thing she saw was Christein throw a punch and get blocked by a man whose back was to her, his dark hair pulled into a loose braid. “What are you doing here, Hynnkel?” he demanded, obviously pointedly trying to keep the man’s back to Amadhay. She tried to get to her hands and knees, but the cat-kin knocked her back down, this time to her back.

“Just trying to clean the streets of filth,” Hynnkel’s voice shot back, sounding disgusted

Amadhay froze, her muscles tensing. If that really was Hynnkel, and it was, then the still hidden archer most definitely was Amaya, her sister. The same sister who she had utterly betrayed nearly a year ago, before faking her own death. The same sister who had sworn that the next time she saw her without Nolando around would be her last breath. Amadhay kicked the cat-kin away from her and another silver-tipped arrow hit the ground alarmingly close to her head.

“Don’t you hurt my Blu-belle!” Amaya called out.

She caught Christein looking past Hynnkel, to Blu, who stiffened when she glanced up and caught him. Amadhay’s eyes narrowed as she managed to kick off of the ground and up to her feet, never taking her eyes off of the auburn haired girl. In that instant, the thought of just teleporting away completely disappeared from her mind. She now had the chance to deal with Blu, the “cute cat-girl” who kept catching both Benjy and Christein’s attentions. She recognized her in a recognition of scent and coloring way, since puberty had definitely hit her hard, carving an attractive, pale, round face with pink lips, long, muscular legs, a chest larger than her own, and generous curves that never for a moment made her look anything close to cute. She wondered if Benjy would still call the catgirl cute when she was dead. She shot up and at Blu faster than anyone else could move.

Anyone other than Hynnkel, that is. She always forgot his ability to stop time. Suddenly Hynnkel was between them, his reaction time faster than anyone she had ever met, with his lips pulled back in a vicious snarl. “Leave her alone!” he growled.

Amadhay stopped short, her hair going forward into his face. “Woah,” she said softly, wondering how aware he had to have been of the entire situation to know what she had been about to attempt. No one had ever been able to stop her when she used her gift to full capacity, not since she had found the ultimate speed Sha’adahk had been trying to train into her. The wind suddenly stopped, making her hair fall.

“Kitty’s got bite,” she joked with a smirk before punching Hynnkel in the chest with a glowing red hand. He went falling back into Blu even though she was sure that she had only been able to graze him. The shape of her fist was scorched into his shirt, but it hadn’t burned through the fabric, meaning it hadn’t touched his skin. She faltered when his eyes widened, studying her face and she became aware that she wasn’t wearing her mask. It, like all the rest of her sneaksuit, was at the safe house. This wasn’t the first time in the past few months that she’d made this kind of mistake. It was the first time that it could really hurt her.

“Mayday?” Hynnkel spoke, staring up at Amadhay in stunned disbelief. Amadhay quickly looked away from him, hoping he would convince himself that she wasn’t herself, just as another arrow sliced through her hair.

At the sound of a thud, Amadhay glanced back in time to see Amaya hopping from the roof, onto a fireway across the street from her. Her sister chose another one hiding place in the shadows, closer this time, but Amadhay kept her eye on her, easily seeing her in her bright colors through the darkness of the poorly lit street.

“Step away from them, or the next arrow will be in your forehead,” Amaya ordered. She turned her bow at a slant and added another arrow. “And Christein. So nice to see you. Move and you’ll get one in your shoulder. ‘cause you’re family.”

Amadhay rolled her eyes, glancing back to Hynnkel, who still hadn’t taken his eyes off of her. “I can move faster than your arrows, idiot,” she snapped, glancing back to Amaya just as Blu pounced from behind Hynnkel, pinning her to the ground. She mentally cursed at herself for her inattention as her head hit the pavement.

“Good luck with that,” Amaya retorted sarcastically, and Amadhay watched her feet come forward, out of the shadows so that she was completely visible. “Hynnky. You okay?” she asked, making Amadhay glance at him again. He was still on the ground, his back to Christein, whose eyes were on Amaya and her bow. He had an easy target, but Amaya never missed, so she hoped he wouldn’t attempt anything.

“Fine,” Hynnkel spat to Amaya, standing up. He clenched his jaw as he gently pressed his fingers where Amadhay had punched him and bits of fabric fell away under his fingers, revealing his unmarked chest. He didn’t move any closer, but he looked down at Amadhay with a constrained anger. “We thought you were dead,” he accused her. She squirmed under Blu, the superior weight of the cat-kin keeping her effectively pinned, and considered putting a last click glamour up, but recognized that it was already too late. “Where have you be—”

Christein interrupted him by plunging a knife into Hynnkel’s side. “Shut up, you piece of shit.”

Amadhay and Blu both moved at the same time. Blu sat up, forgetting to hold onto Amadhay and instead turning to help Hynnkel. She didn’t get anywhere however, because Amadhay pulled one of the blades Christein had given her from the sheath in her sleeve and stabbed Blu in the back, aiming for the spine but just missing when an arrow came at her and she had to move. She shoved Blu off of her and rolled away to miss being shot. She felt a second arrow just barely miss her face as she rolled to the wall.

Blu cried out and dropped down, falling onto her side. Amaya didn’t say anything, but another arrow flew at Amadhay, nearly hitting her as she forced herself to her feet. Hynnkel tilted his head back, gritting his teeth as he fought Christein to get the serrated blade out of his side. He could have easily used any of his Gifts to beat Christein back, but his focus was on getting to Blu, not fighting his brother anymore and that gave Christein the upper hand. Amaya wouldn’t shoot at him, not with Hynnkel that close. She might have been able to shoot him, but it was far more likely that Christein would use his brother as a shield if she did.

Christein tugged the knife out and glanced at Amadhay, who was pulling a second blade out as she used her Gift to avoid another of Amaya’s arrows, “Finish her off now, Red,” he ordered, stabbing Hynnkel again, but not able to get it as deep this time, now that Hynnkel was expecting it. “While Hynnkel’s down!”

The brothers struggled and then Christein’s back was to Amadhay. She moved from the wall and then had Blu by the hair, holding her just so that she could use her as a shield against any of Amaya’s arrows. Immediately, the arrows stopped coming, which allowed Amadhay to focus on the cat-kin. Before that, though, she made eye contact with Amaya, pulling her friend’s head back so that she could see the fear in both of the girl’s eyes. Looking down to Blu’s pained face, Amadhay felt a warmth that always came with this. Blu was panicking and forgetting everything she could be doing, which made Amadhay smirk. She loved that look, the moment of absolute fear right before she killed someone, when their entire body was giving the acknowledgement that it was the end for them.

Amadhay had the knife to Blu’s throat hard enough to draw a line of blood on the girl’s porcelain skin. She gripped the knife harder, staring at the line, feeling her breath quicken. She tensed her muscles to slit her throat, but paused again, just long enough to miss her chance.  

“Now, Amaya!” Hynnkel barked, making Amaya loose arrow after arrow, the first one embedding itself into Christein’s shoulder.

At Christein’s cry, Amadhay dropped Blu, turning to see what had happened to him. She stood staring at the arrow in his shoulder long enough that she just barely missed getting an arrow shot through her hand. She dropped the knife and moved away from Blu, as the barrage of arrow was forcing. Amaya was trying to force her back against the wall, but Amadhay didn’t let her, instead using her Gift to speed through the arrow and to Christein’s side.

“Sorry, Baron,” she whispered, keeping Hynnkel, Amaya, and Blu all in her vision. Amaya notched another arrow and Amadhay knew that this one was aimed at her eye. If she allowed herself to, she could take out Amaya easily, but she wasn’t going to, and that made the entire situation incredibly dangerous for her and Christein because her sister didn’t have the same hold back. She ignored Hynnkel as he tried to tug Christein’s knife from his side, deciding that he was no longer a threat. Her only worry was getting Christein safe from the arrows. Hynnkel and Blu were distracted with their own hurts, but Amaya wasn’t. “But our lives come before ending hers, and that archer is dangerous.”

Christein gestured angrily towards Amaya, who was slowly but surely coming closer to them.“It’s just Amaya. You know sh—”

Suddenly Hynnkel’s short sword was all the way through Christein. Amadhay hadn’t even seen him pull it, much less get close enough to them to cut Christein down. Christein dropped when Hynnkel let go of the sword, falling to the pavement with his face making a horrible crack against it.

Hynnkel pinned Amadhay against the wall before she could so much as breathe, his hand around her throat. He didn’t squeeze, but there was something in his eyes that she’d only seen once before, when he’d been cursed. He didn’t say anything, only stared at her with a strange shadow in his eyes.

“What is it with men pinning me against walls today?” She tried to sound brave, but all she could think was Oh Goddess, Monkey. Is he alright? He’s regenerating, right? It will heal, right? He’ll be fine, right?

He slapped her hard enough to make her cheek hit the wall. It was the opposite cheek that Christein had slapped earlier and this slap made her eyes tear. Before he could react, her grabbed her face and turned it so that she was looking at him again. “She had better not be dead, Amadhay. And don’t pretend you’re not Amadhay, because I know you are.”

“Hynnky!” Amaya called from where Blu had fallen. Amadhay and Hynnkel didn’t look away from each other, though Amaya’s voice did seem to make the shadow back away and his mahogany eyes were a little softer, but still angry, still dangerous. “The stab was off. She’s bleeding pretty bad, but it’s not fatal if we get her to Squirrel.”

She tried to punch him in the side where Christein had stabbed him but he caught her hand with ease. “If Red Baron is dead,” she hissed when he slammed her hand against the wall. “I will start with Goggles, go to Archer, and then save your death for last.” Even as frightened as she had to admit she was, she was serious with the threat. She didn’t care that she had promised herself that she would never hurt Amaya again. She couldn’t see Christein over Hynnkel, but she thought she could just hear his wet breaths. He wasn’t crying out anymore, and she didn’t know what that meant.

“If you kill those two, I will take your fucking soul,” he threatened her, the shadow coming back full force and a strange red began to take over his eyes.

Amadhay watched the red with no fear. “I don’t have one left to take,” she stated simply, remembering the last thing Hlala had said to her. You are so covered in bad that your astral is almost gone. You’re barely even alive anymore. What happened to you?

Hynnkel leaning into Amaya until the red coated his entire eyeball, unlike her own simply over her irises, was all she could see. Images began playing through her mind.

There was a baby, a beautiful little girl with olive skin and a head covered by curly, black hair. She was suddenly aware it was her. There was a smoky fog reaching for the baby, crooning for her to help it. The baby reached out and a dark shadow smothered her hand, tried to follow the little hand up to her tiny face until she opened sky blue eyes. It dropped away from her.

The image disappeared and she stared at Hynnkel for less than a click that seemed like an eternity before another image hit her.

It was Amadhay again, a little girl dressed in all pink, the color of the soul Splinter, for a funeral. She had been to so many funerals, but this one was the funeral of her parents, she was suddenly sure. She stared at the ashes as they were thrown into the air. She wasn’t crying, but staring. Christein stood beside her, holding her hand. “It’s alright if you wanna cry,” he told her, but wouldn’t look at her.

She had simply stared at the ashes. “Why would I cry? Everyone dies.”

She took a deep breath and tried to fight away from Hynnkel, but she didn’t get anywhere.

Little Amadhay stared at a bird whose wing was broken. Hynnkel’s voice came out. “We can take it to the healers.”

She frowned and looked at him. “But then the snake won’t get food.” She pointed at the large snake slithering toward the frightened creature. She smiled. “That wouldn’t be fair.”

“Stop it,” she started to cry.

An older Amadhay lay in her bed, her head on top of a book of spells. She was muttering learned words in her sleep, summoning words. “Darelevan,” the dark voice whispered to her sleeping form. She kept muttering and a red fog started toward her. It was on her lips when her eyes snapped open. The sky blue was beginning to get a hint of red. She looked around, but the red fog was leaving her.

She focused all of her power on the words she needed. She couldn’t say it, because he had a feeling that speaking the curse aloud wouldn’t do her any good, she needed it at its full strength. The red eyes regarded her with amusement.

“You are mine.” The words echoed.

“Hynnky, she’s doing something weird…” Amaya warned.

A purple mist was beginning to form around Amadhay. She was determined to get out of this. The red eyes regarded her for a moment before Hynnkel’s lips slammed against hers. Amadhay gasped and Hynnkel opened his mouth. Amadhay felt herself choking on something, something shoving its way inside of her but she couldn’t stop it.

“What are you doing!” Amaya yelled, tugging on Hynnkel.

The last dregs of whatever Hynnkel had given her caught in her throat, but went down as Hynnkel was pulled back by Amaya, who was suddenly given the task of holding up the man who was a foot taller and close to twice her weight.

Amadhay stumbled away, falling to her knees. She could see Christein. Someone, she supposed that it had probably been Amaya, had removed the sword from his body. There was so much blood.

“A…Amadhay?” he whispered, opening his eyes only a bit. He coughed up blood.

Amadhay crawled to him as Amaya got Hynnkel to lean against the wall. Amadhay wrapped her arms around Christein gently, nuzzling her head into the crook of his neck. She held in a scream when a new arrow pierced her back.

Christein moaned. “Amadhay, I, I can’t hold on.”

“It’ll be okay, Monkey,” she promised softly as she teleported them away.


Next Chapter

amadhay: (Default)

I turned in a full circle. "I don't think I'm in Kansas anymore," I muttered to myself. Everything was so…colorful. Had I wandered into someone's special garden or something? This definitely hadn't been here the last time I had been home. Even if I had somehow managed to wander into the park, which would explain being surrounded on all sides by plants with no end in sight, those giant purple leaves on the trees and the weird patches of blue grass? Definitely not indigenous.

Something jumped from one tree to another.

Just a squirrel, I had almost convinced myself when a tiny, almost human, face peeked out at me. I leaped back from the tree, absolutely positive that I had not just seen that. Still, it was better to avoid the trees anyway, right? Who knew what kind of animals or bugs were crawling in them.

I must be high, I determined when a whole flipping family of those creatures showed up, chattering in obnoxiously high-pitched voices as they pointed at me. So high. Tambarle must have slipped something in my food. I knew she was being too nice. I was probably just walking down the streets like a crazy person. The cops were probably going to arrest me for public intoxication or something. That'd look great on the tabloids. I could see the titles already: ‘Jessa Kiss Arrested’, ‘Jessa Kiss Gets High To Get Over Cosmo’, ‘Jessa Kiss Breaks Cosmos’ Heart and THEN Laws!’

Cosimo would know what to do. I nervously rubbed at my ring finger, standing in place and looking around. Even though he hated me right now, I knew that all I had to do was call him and he would fix this. He would help me because that was what he did. I was the one who was heartless, according to most of the world. Knowing hearing my voice would cause him pain, but needing help and seeing no other option, I pulled out my phone, ready to call him.

My phone had no signal.

"Okay. This is probably one of those lucid dreams, right?" I nodded to myself. "I'm in a pretty place, obviously magical. I should just go to the natives. I'll talk to the natives and find out what I'm supposed to do." I nodded to myself. Dreaming seemed like a perfectly good explanation, better than me being high, in fact. I didn't feel high. This all felt very, very real. Nevermind the fact that I had just been walking, taking a shortcut back to Nana's house to avoid the paparazzi.

"I'll just go talk to one of those little people," I determined, sure that this was a dream. It had to be one of those dreams with full consciousness. I set toward my goal.

The small, strange creatures just watched me as I approached. Their heads were enormous in comparison to their itty-bitty bodies. That was the least freaky thing about them. Much less weird than their rainbow hued, translucent skin or their spiny, spindly backs. The weirdest was their eyes. Their bulbous, gleaming eyes, cloudy like a dead persons. I was staring at their eyes. Those filmy, non-seeing eyes.

I turned back to the treeline. No need to talk to the tiny flower people. There were bound to be other natives, right? Right.

So instead of dealing with them, I went into the trees.

I had to walk pretty far, probably almost a mile past the treeline before I saw anyone else. Of course, the first person I saw happened to be a centaur, so there was that. I had finally left the truly strangely colored plants and was surrounded by large, green, trees. There was moss and ivy covering the bark on most of them and the leaves were larger than my head. It was quiet except for the sounds of nature, until I heard music.

I spotted the musician before he spotted me because he was playing this weird pipe creation, eyes closed and head tilted. His front legs were tucked underneath him and he leaned against a large, willowy tree, just playing his music. It was a pretty song, floating between A major and C minor with high, lilting notes. The tree seemed to sway in time with the music and I was mesmerized by it.

It all ended when I stepped on a branch. He immediately sat upright, focused on me, and ran off without a word, a fearful look on his face. I tried to follow him, but that was pointless because not only was he impossibly faster than me, but the trees seemed to move to hide him from me. After my third time running straight into a tree, I gave up on talking to him. He probably didn't even speak English anyway. The horse people never did in my dreams.

After him, I stumbled for maybe thirty more minutes, trying to find someone to talk to. I kept seeing hair and feet and a glimpse of people (and I use the term lightly) running away before I could say anything, but the next time I saw someone fully was near a stream. It was the first time I had seen any water source, which I thought was weird because I'd always thought that forests were supposed to be full of lakes and streams and rivers and things. Not to mention I was thirsty, which I had never felt in a dream before. Dream or not, though, I was parched and it looked gloriously clean.

I fell to my knees in the bank of the stream, drinking from it and hoping that I wasn't poisoning myself. I was so busy gulping down water, that I almost didn't notice when...creatures started to approach me. A few came up from the water, with long fingers and large, watery eyes, their skeletal bodies covered in a scaly skin that glistened against the bright sun. Most, however, were behind me, staying carefully in my peripheral. I recognized a few fauns, but couldn't determine what the girls dancing around them were. They were all whispering to each other and staring at me, pointing at me.

The only parts I could make out were princess, queen, Still wind, Nim wind, Fae wind, and Even way, and only those because they were repeated so many times. Is this one of those dreams where I turn out to be the long-awaited savior queen? I haven't had one of those in a while, I thought, pretending not to notice the ones behind me. Instead, I focused on the aquatic figures in front of me. They didn't flinch or hide away from my gaze. They stayed right where they were, watching me with unblinking eyes, their thin-lipped mouths and protruding jaws beneath the water.

"Where am I?" I asked them. The chattering behind me ended immediately and I saw out of the corner of my eyes that all of the other creatures were watching me silently.

"My stream," one of the creatures said, its voice surprisingly clear given that it was speaking underwater.

"Okay, but where is your stream? I'm not from around here and I don't really know where I am right now."

An explosion of chatter came from the creatures behind me and I glanced back at them when I very clearly heard one all but scream "Someone should tell the king!" Under my gaze, they scattered back into the trees, hiding from my sight once more. None of them had looked particularly frightened when hiding, which I counted as a plus. At least I wasn't scaring the natives anymore. They'd be more likely to help me.

When I turned back to the water, the creature who I had been talking to was now merely inches from me. I jerked back, falling out of my crouch and onto my butt. It made a sound that was similar to laughter, but far more unnerving. The way it looked at me, in particular my stomach, made me uncomfortable now that all the other creatures were gone and it was just me and these things.

"How far away are you from?" it asked me, moving all the way to the edge of the water. "Whose are you?"

I frowned, staring at it. "Whose?" I asked back and it tilted its head.

"Human?" it asked, as if the idea of me being human was confusing for it.

"Yes? I'm human," I responded, sliding back a bit more. I couldn't see how long its arms were, but I was going to guess that they were long enough to grab me and pull me under. While I didn't want to insult it by appearing that I didn't trust it, I didn't trust it. It was like the old stories of mermaids, even if it definitely wasn't one. It looked ready to pull me under, drown me, and eat me. I really didn't want to be eaten today, thanks.

Two others moved to its side and now there were three of the things, staring at me with only their eyes and the tops of their heads out of the water. I scooted back a little more, trying to determine if I wanted to try and make a run for it or not.

"How did you get to the Neverforest?" the second one lisped. The first one to talk to me pushed against that one and it floated back, away from the bank. The third one stayed silent, just watching me.

"I walked," I said, trying to determine if the distance between me and the things was good enough to keep me safe. I hated drowning dreams. They were the absolute worst.

"And no one walked with you?" the first one asked, moving a little higher from the water so that its arms could rest on the bank.

No, I wasn't far enough back. Its arms were as long as my legs, maybe even longer. I scooted back even more. "I was walking with my friends," I lied, deciding that these were definitely not friendly creatures. "In fact, I should probably get back to them."

I stood up and the silent one rose in the water with me. I glanced behind me to see no creatures back there to help me, and when I looked back to the creatures, the one who had been talking to me was crawling forward, almost grabbing me while the silent one held its hand out to me.

“You should join us,” the previously silent one said. “It’s better to swim with us than to drown.”

I’m not sure that it was the selling pitch she expected it to be, because that made me turn tail and run. The crawling one gripped my ankle and I fell forward. Its’ grip was strong as it slid back into the water, pulling me with it.

“No!” I yelled, kicking with all of my might. I was lucky to have landed a kick on the face of the one tugging me. It let go and I scrambled to my feet. I had never before been more thankful to Tambarle and Taylor for their insistence that I learn to quickly get to my feet after dropping low or falling down.

The one who was high up, with only a long, serpentine tail still in the water darted forward to me. It still didn’t touch me, only breathed on me, somehow humming a disjointed melody at the same time as she ordered me, “Join us in the water. You will only drown if you fight.”

I didn’t say anything, only backed up as quickly as possible. It tilted its head and opened its jaw wider, showing off every single horribly sharp tooth. The humming came even louder and the other creature, that had been trying to reach for me, froze in its spot, as if paralyzed.

 I was in the treeline when I felt comfortable enough with the distance to turn and run. My last glance of the creatures was of a bemused expression on the floating one’s face, while the talker just looked pissed and was making a horrifying noise at the other two. Either way, they weren’t getting any further out of the water to follow me, but I didn’t stop running until I couldn’t see the water anymore. Once I was that far away, I slowed to a light jog, incredibly out of breath but I didn’t dare pause just yet.

 So far, in this dreamland, I had run into tiny flower people with dead eyes, a skittery centaur, a handful of gossiping animal-creatures, and three barracuda-looking mermaids. I was starting to get the feeling that nothing in this place was going to be friendly. I wished I could wake up, but so far, I’d made no progress on that front. Either way, I knew I had to keep moving. Bad things only happened when you stayed in one place for too long in weird dreams.



   Chapter    Next

amadhay: (Default)
 In which the game begins

 

 

Atlas Palnoki was snoring gently on his favorite couch for naps, his glasses perched crookedly on his nose.

When a presence flooded his mind, he opened his eyes to find a familiar girl from his past with a blade to his throat. Even with the highly charmed piece of black fabric pressed onto her face to attempt to hide her identity, he knew it was her. Pushing his glasses up, he arched one eyebrow at Amadhay Hakinato, still lying down. In the click it took him to recognize her, he noted that she looked just like she had when she was four, only a little taller, dressed quite differently, and with tell-tale red eyes.

When she smiled coolly down at him, he let his eyes linger a click too long on her scarlet painted lips. “Hello there,” she said lazily. “Plan on coming with me easily? Because I would love to rough you up.”

His eyebrows rose when her eyes turned the hauntingly familiar sky blue as she glanced away for a click when his kitten softly meowed. She didn’t look down at the kitten, but to the wall, before her gaze settled back on his face, seemingly without recognition. He wondered if she truly didn’t recognize him or if she was playing at something. The uncertainty was tantalizing.

He sat up, forcing her to pull the blade back so as not to draw blood, his red eyes not moving from hers as the blue instantly shifted back to red at his attention. He took a deep breath and then looked away, running a hand through his ruffled polar hair. “Can I bring my kitten?” he asked, knowing from her unneeded blink that she thought it strange how uncaring he was about the situation. He thought it was rather cute that she truly seemed to think that she had the upper hand.

He held back a grin when Amadhay’s face twitched in suppressed irritation. He could tell that she had probably been given express orders not to do any real damage to her target, so he had a feeling that she was being unusually careful, and it was obvious that she didn’t like it. She gave another unnecessarily long blink before she looked away, glaring at the floor for a moment before looking to the black kitten. Seeing it, tension eased in her face as she gave a small smile before looking back to Atlas as calmly as possible.

“You may bring the kitten,” she allowed imperiously, backing up enough for him to scoop it up.

Atlas cradled the kitten against his chest carefully. “His name is Mayday,” he told her slowly, “He’s only eight weeks old, so I need to take care of him still.” He paused, gauging her reaction.

Amadhay paused for a click, looking curiously at the kitten. He watched her face closely as her eyes widened for a full click. She even touched her face, as if to be sure that her mask was still in place. He could almost see something wriggling in the back of her mind, but she shut it down, or at least closed off the thoughts from her expression. That was a major difference from the little Amadhay, the ability to not show what she was thinking. Instead of allowing him to see what she thought about the cat having her nickname, she simply shook her head at him. He was a bit disappointed that she didn’t give him more.

He started to say something else, but didn’t get the chance, because  he didn’t even see her move, but by the time he was aware she was doing something, it had already been done. She reached out, quick as a flash and grasped his throat. With the flex of a surprising amount of power for a spell he didn’t recognize from her softly spoken cues, she teleported them to a new building.

The shift took Atlas by surprise, though he wouldn’t admit it. He hadn’t been aware of her pure, unfiltered abilities. He was going to have to have words with his information teams. Rumors had often claimed that she was a proficient magic user, but proficient was hardly the word he’d use now that he had felt the power she had just expended. She didn’t even show any signs of exhaustion, and he could still taste the amount of power it had taken to teleport them into this room of this obviously warded building. If he’d been able to see auras, he was sure that hers would be silver, the second most powerful.

“Ah. Okay,” was all he said before taking in his surroundings. It didn’t take much effort to discern that she had moved him to the Phoegani. She was an operative for them. Besides that, he knew it was the Phoegani building because it had to be.

The bland walls and sparse furniture, save for one table and two rather uncomfortable looking chairs, screamed of an interrogation room. Interesting, he thought, noting the fact that Amadhay was, by trade, a capturer, torturer and mostly a killer, not an interrogator. This was a bit different than he had planned, but he could work with it.

Keeping up with illusions, he turned bored eyes to Amadhay. “So. Why am I here?”

Drawing her hand back from his skin, where it had lingered longer than necessary, Amadhay stepped back from him and to the doorway before checking behind her, out of the room and into the hallway. Her somewhat blank look gave him the idea that she had been expecting someone else to be here when she got back with him.

She obviously wasn’t sure what to do now, but she attempted to cover up that lack of knowledge as she crossed her arms beneath her chest and gave him a haughty smirk. “Wouldn’t you like to know,” she taunted.

“I’ll bet you would too,” he said casually. At her quick look of irritation, he gave her a small smile, his eyes laughing. Glancing up from her, he watched as another, less interesting masked member of the Hakinato clan approached from the hall. The male’s eyes never left Atlas as he moved as quickly as he could with a bum leg, his reptilian tail lashing dangerously back and forth to indicate some dark emotion Atlas didn’t know, but could guess at.

He came up from behind Amadhay before she could turn to see where Atlas’ eyes were trained, tapping her shoulder as he glared at Atlas. “Did you find any trouble?” he asked from outside of the room, only half-teasing, and not looking at his younger cousin in favor of watching Atlas as if the man were going to try to make a run for it.

“I wish,” Amadhay responded, relaxing with his presence.

Atlas looked curiously from the male to the rather younger girl. It gets more interesting by the moment, he thought, noting how close the cousins allowed themselves to be, how possessively Christein laid his hand upon Amadhay’s shoulder, how she all but worshipped him with her eyes. She pointedly looked from Atlas to Christein, her eyes pleading. “Please tell me you have a real mission for me now. Please, Baron.”

The uneasy look she gave his way told Atlas that he made her uncomfortable and that she wanted to be away from him as soon as possible, which he found vaguely irritating, though it would only be temporarily problematic. Besides that, he assumed that her eagerness had more to do with a want to get back to her normal fare of work instead of continuing on with this hoax of a mission. Who in their right mind had sent Amadhay to gather him? He wanted to thank them. Whomever it was had made everything much more fun for him.

“Interrogation,” Christein apologized, finally looking down at her. “Ask him the questions from the card right there.” He pointed to the single white card on the table.

Atlas and Amadhay both looked at the table and then back to Christein with unimpressed looks. He gave an apologetic shrug to Amadhay, not even glancing at Atlas this time. Amadhay gave an aggrieved sigh, making Atlas raise his eyebrows at her, look at the table and then back to her questioningly.

“Come on,” she snapped angrily, swinging and missing, barely keeping herself from punching a wall. She was very hands on in ushering Atlas to the table, after giving an angry glare just past Christein and slamming the door shut between them.

While Atlas sat down and placed the curled up Mayday on the table, Amadhay looked around. He wondered why she took such a long time looking over the room, before deciding that she had probably never been in an interrogation room before and was just trying to get her bearings. She walked around for a moment, which Atlas watched with his chin propped up on one hand and a purposefully bored expression on his face that he knew would annoy her. Finally, Amadhay seated herself on the edge of the table, picking up the card and placing it in her lap.

When she looked the card over and rolled her eyes, he knew that he was in for a treat. If he knew anything about the girl (and he dare say he did), he knew that a roll of her eyes meant she was about to mix things up. “What’s your favorite color?” she asked, staring up at the ceiling, mimicking his purposely bored manner so perfectly that he knew she was trying to get into his head.

“Sky blue,” Atlas said with a small smile. Mayday uncoiled himself and stretched before walking over to Amadhay. He sat down in front of her, blinking his large eyes. She smiled at the kitten, lifting him onto her lap.

He purred when she pet him, and she focused on Mayday, rather than Atlas, when asking her next question. “Fondest memory?” she asked, her tone implying that she couldn’t be bothered to care, though he had to wonder what her endgame was.

Ever one to play along, however, Atlas tilted his head up to the ceiling, blinking three times before answering. “Wow. That’s a lot of memories. Hm. I think right now it would be when Tenshu Tanhakinshu joined my family.”

Amadhay smiled when Mayday rubbed his head against her hand, both of them making adorable feline sounds. “And what is your sexual orientation?” she asked, not looking up from her namesake.

That question surprised him. He smirked, waiting for her to look at him to answer, but she didn’t, drawing out the silence instead.

“I go both ways sometimes,” Atlas said loudly.

Amadhay’s eyes flickered up at him, but then focused back on Mayday as the kitten hopped off of her lap and peeked over the edge of the table, meowing. Interesting, he thought, watching her as she watched his kitten. He wondered if she even noticed how hard he was studying her.

“And who is your current intimate partner?”

Mayday inched forward on the table and pounced on Atlas’ hand as he answered. “Which one? I have several.” He bopped the kitten’s chin lightly, waiting for Amadhay’s full attention.

Her eyes slowly moved from Mayday to Atlas’ hand and then up to the man’s face, making eye contact before asking, “How many are there?”

“Not many right now. One’s a witch, one’s a human girl, one’s just died…would you like to join their ranks?” he asked conversationally, holding her gaze.

Amadhay smirked slowly, giving him a long, appraising look. “I don’t see why not,” she replied, not looking away from him.

“I wasn’t being facetious,” he stated calmly, still keeping eye contact even as he stroked his kitten’s ears gently.

“Neither was I,” she responded seriously before her crimson eyes moved up and studied the asymmetrical hairs on his head, straightening her own ponytail so that it stood center on the back of her head.

Mayday meowed a question at Atlas, whose eyes stayed fixated on Amadhay’s face as he said, “No, I doubt it.” His hand, though, ran self-consciously through his shock of white hair. He knew she was mentally counting all the different points of asymmetry, but aside from the hand in his hair, he didn’t let it show that it bothered him.

Amadhay glanced away, and then looked at Atlas from under her eyelashes. She bit her bottom lip, drawing his eyes to her scarlet painted mouth. It was only once he was fully drawn in that she asked her next question. “What is Project Apocalypse?” she asked softly.

“None of your damn business,” he responded in a polite conversational tone, looking away from her. Inwardly, he laughed. She wasn’t subtle, but then she didn’t need to be. She was a minx, knowledgeable about her assets and observant enough to know how to use them best to her advantage. Mayday meowed loudly at him, making him aware that he had stopped petting the kitten, a sure sign that Amadhay had affected him.

Amadhay shrugged, giving him a perfectly uninterested look that told him more than she meant it to. “Okay. I don’t really care, you know. Just following the script,” she explained, again giving him a sly look. Her eyes were sky blue again, making Atlas wonder if she controlled that even though he knew that she couldn’t.

“I doubt asking me about my favorite color and how many lovers I have is on that card,” he answered, suddenly needing to look anywhere but her. Her eyes, while drawing him in were also bothering him. Those were the eyes of an innocent and had no place on her otherwise purposely seductive form. He focused instead on Mayday, who hopped off of the table, skidding on his bottom for a moment across the tiled floor. The kitten padded back to the table and sniffed around the chair Amadhay had chosen not to sit in.

“True enough,” she replied with a laugh, though Atlas noticed her, thankfully red, eyes narrowing as she watched him pointedly try not to look at her. “I guess I spiced it up a little bit.”

“Well, why would you care?” he demanded bitterly, focusing solely on Mayday, who sniffed under the seat. She said nothing as he did that, simply stayed where she was. He finally looked back at her. “Can I go back to sleep now?”

Atlas watched Amadhay’s nose twitch before she scrunched up her face, looking down at Mayday and his little puddle. The kitten had relieved himself beside the leg of the table. Both of them eyed the puddle for a moment before looking to each other again. Atlas wondered if she would clean it, but instead, a positively vindictive look flew across her face before she focused on him again.

Instead of saying anything to explain that, or even comment on the kitten’s mess, she tried an apologetic face on Atlas, which merely made him suspicious though he, of course, didn’t show it. “I can’t let you go back to sleep until you give me something, just one little bit of information that I can report to Arne Riffly so he won’t chew me up.”

If anything, it was the fact that she called the Lord Phoeganis ‘Riffly’ that convinced him to give her something to go with, something that sounded important enough to whet the appetites of her superiors. “Fine. Tell him Project Apocalypse can’t even be completed yet until a member of the Palnoki, Tenshu Tanhakinshu, becomes a father. Now let me go.”

Amadhay nodded, a slow smile making her beautiful. Obviously, she thought he had given her more than he had, but he couldn’t regret it when looking at that smile. It was just for him. She pulled her legs up, onto the table and crawled to his side. “Whoops, I lied,” she whispered to him. “You know you can’t go anywhere. Lord Phoeganis’ll still want more. Torture, interrogation, the whole mile.”

Atlas knew that better than she did. In fact, from the beginning he expected much worse than to continue to be stuck in a little room with her flirting little bits of information out of him. Her manner in telling him that, however, was what irritated him. It made all of her flirtations ring hollow and made her seem so much more false than he knew her to be. Allowing his disdain to show, he gave her an exasperated sigh, no longer even attempting to look at her as he pulled his feet up onto the table, placing them just to the side of her. He rested his head on the back of the chair, closing his eyes, and said, “Fine. I. Will. No longer. Speak. With you.”

Amadhay knelt before him, but when he didn’t look, she moved her lips to his ear “Hope you change your mind about that,” she whispered coyly. With nothing left to say, she stood and walked to the other edge of the table before hopping quickly to the floor.

As she was leaving, he peered after her, watching curiously as she sashayed from the room as if she had an audience to see her perform for him. She closed the door tightly behind her, but he knew she caught his yelp following Mayday’s pounce on his socked foot with two clawed paws when he heard a soft giggle strongly reminiscent of an adorable four-year-old with symmetrical pigtails.

Next Chapter

amadhay: (Default)
 I wasn’t afraid of the dark until I was four.

See, when I was small, my mother and I lived with her lover and her lover’s daughter. We lived in two different, but very similar, houses, in structure anyway. Both had two floors, a flight of stairs facing the large window above the front door, a basement, and my room, which was a lead off from the attic, where my mother slept. To my young mind, it was a large space, though it would be small and cramped to me now.

The point of this is that in both of those houses, we had one more similarity: the cats. My mom’s lover, Polly, and her daughter, Sarah, loved cats. They might have loved cats more than they loved humans. In fact, the only thing I am positive that they loved more than those cats was me. We had six cats: Cece, Shadow, Katerina, Cleo, Chloe, and Chisholm. I loved those cats, even if I had a crappy way of showing it.

I would pull on their tails and chase them around the house. I would forcibly pick them up, and sometimes, drop them, though I don’t think that was done purposely. It was rare that the cats would come up to me when I was awake and moving, but when I was asleep, they were always there. See, I wasn’t the type of kid to take naps, so the only time I went to sleep was at night.

I could go to sleep without a single cat anywhere near me. They would be in the basement, with Polly, where she was working on photography. They would be in Sarah’s room, watching her do homework. They would even try to curl up with my mother, who has always had a bit of an aversion to cats. But they would never be in my room when I went in there to sleep. In fact, I rarely ever saw them in there when I was awake before…things started happening.

Without fail, when I would wake up in the middle of the night, they would be with me. All six would be there, with Cece and Shadow sitting at my window, Chisholm at my nightstand, Chloe at my door, Cleo at my closet door, and Katerina sprawled atop my toy chest. Sometimes the six would alternate, but they would always be in those six positions, with their glowing eyes settled on me. I would look from one to the next, showing off my newly discovered counting bilties, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. Always six pairs of eyes. Always glowing in the dark. Always watching me, always there until day came.

Now this isn’t a story of how I became scared of cats, because that will never be a story. This is a story about how I think those cats kept me safe. I never felt unsafe with them there, and despite my mother’s attempts to keep them out of the room, they always found their way in. As soon as the light was off and my door closed, I would close my eyes and when I reopened them, there were the cats. They never got on the bed with me or made a noise. They just watched me.

Now that you understand that, I can go on.

When I was, Gods, I don’t know how old. As long as I can remember, I’ve had the feeling of being watched. It’s a constant feeling. My mother always brushed it off, Sarah always joked that it was the cats watching over me, but Polly always pointedly changed the subject if I would say something. She never said anything until the day that I got an imaginary friend.

Now to be honest, I have always had a strong, vivid imagination. I regularly had imaginary worlds and made up nonsensical stories, but this was different. I had never had an imaginary friend before. I talked to myself, but never as if there were another person. I had too many dolls and stuffed animals to need a completely imaginary friend. And that’s truly what the case was, at least until I met her.

I was playing inside the house, talking to myself as I often do, when suddenly I wasn’t talking to myself, but someone else. I remember this, because I was a lonely child. Despite having the attentions of Sarah, Polly, my mom, and our foreign exchange student, Ai, I was lonely. I had biological siblings, but as they were with our biological father and I wasn’t, I rarely ever got to see them. So you can understand why I remember the day that I was no longer alone.

I had been sitting in my miniature chair when a slight, light shadow appeared next to me. I had thought that it was strange, but wasn’t scared. A shadow couldn’t hurt me. So instead, I spoke to it.

“Hi,” I said in a shy voice, watching in wonder as the shadow changed form from a simple shadow to a small girl my age. She had a wide smile and green eyes, like Shadow’s. Her hair was dark and she was covered in freckles. She also wasn’t wearing clothes, which I thought was silly.

“Hi,” she echoed back at me, staying in a crouch beside me. It was like she was playing hide and seek with someone, so I asked.

“Are you play hide and seek?”

She cocked her head. “Why?”

I shrugged. “I could play?”

She shook her head. “Not yet.”

I nodded, because children are used to that. I was used to being told ‘not yet’, and didn’t question it, because at that point in my life, it always meant that it would happen later.

“I’m Clara,” I told her. She nodded, staying low. I turned my head to look to see if there was someone coming. “I can be your look out.”

She shook her head again. “You won’t see them.”

“Bet I will,” I argued, insulted that she would say that I wasn’t a good look out. I was the best look out. I always told the high schoolers when there was another teacher coming so that they could hide me. (I was in a bit of an illegal type of daycare, being that I was somewhere between two and three at this point. I went to school with Polly, who was a teacher at a highschool and the students all pretty much watched over me until I could go to the afternoon preschool. So we had to watch out for other teachers or, worse, the principal, or else Polly could have gotten into serious trouble.) They told me that I was the best scout ever.

She moved down farther, starting to blend into the shadows. “Shh.”

I crossed my arms and pouted, deciding to ignore her, but that only lasted for a breath. I’ve never been able to hold grudges. “What’s your name?”

Instead of answering, she held her finger up to her lips. I had looked around, but there was no one there but me, her, and Cece. The cat meowed at me and batted at my knee with her paw.

I ignored her. “There’s no one here but us,” I told the girl, who wasn’t looking at me, but the hallway. I followed her eyes to the entryway of the living room, where there was a large, out of place, shadow. I tilted my head, staring at it. Cece batted at my knee harder this time, using her claws.

“Ow!” I yelled angrily at her. “Mean cat!” I rubbed my leg, completely forgetting about the weird shadows and started in on my crocodile tears for sympathy. I had only managed to get the first tears rolling when Polly came to me.

She had picked me up, wiped my tears away, and put a Sailor Moon band aid on my knee before I saw the girl again. She was following close to us, walking as a girl. I held my hand down to her for her to hold because she looked scared. She took it immediately and smiled at me.

Polly was taking me up with her to the video room, where we had the big TV and the VCR. It was on the stairs that the girl stopped, staring out the large window, to the front porch. Standing there, was a man. A large shadow, really, but very man-like to my child mind because he wore a hat low over his face and a jacket. He was waiting, but for what, I didn’t know, so I caught Polly’s attention before we could go too far without my new friend.

“Who’s that?” I asked Polly, pointing out the window and to the front porch. She followed my finger, but didn’t see anything.

She gave me a smile. “I don’t know, who is it?” she asked. As I said before, I was known for having an imagination and making up imaginary people for my stories, ones who only lasted at most a few hours before they “went back home” once I got bored with the interactive story-game. Normally, I wanted them to interact with the fake people so they could do things, but I didn’t realize that Polly thought that he was one of mine. I thought she had genuinely seen the man at the door. He was clearly visible to me and standing right where she would be able to see him on the doorstep.

I frowned. “I dunno. I’ve never seen him before. Did he ring?”

“I didn’t hear anyone ring,” she said, seeming a little less sure. I figure that she was thinking my response was off because normally I would have said that he had knocked and we needed to let him in so that he could find the treasure or whatever else. Or maybe it was my voice that gave it away. I don’t know what prompted her to realize that I wasn’t talking about someone I had made up.

“Don’t let him in,” the girl said seriously, looking up at me.”Don’t open the door.”

“Why not?” I asked her.

“He wants to hurt us.”

“Us?”

“Me and you. He wants to hurt us.”

I frowned. “Why does he want to hurt me? I don’t know him.”

“What are you talking about?” Polly asked, her voice edging on hysterical. “Who are you talking to?” As I said, I’d never really talked to invisible people as though they were real. It was always part of a game. This wasn’t.

“She won’t tell me her name,” I stated, only answering her second question.

“He just does,” the girl told me.

“Well make him stop.”

“I can’t.”

“That’s stupid,” I told her.

“Clara. Who are you talking to?” Polly demanded.

“I told you. She won’t tell me her name.”

“Then who is at the door?”

“I don’t know,” I stressed. “A man. She says he wants to hurt us and not to let him in.”

Polly fled up the stairs and closed the door behind her. I didn’t understand why, because we were the only two at home at that point. She set me down on the couch and closed the window blinds, pulling the curtains closed on top of that.

“Did he see you?” she asked me completely seriously.

I shook my head. “He didn’t look up.”

“Is the little girl still with you?”

She sat down beside me and squeezed my hand. “Yes.”

Katerina appeared, seemingly out of nowhere, and curled up on my lap, something that rarely ever happened, but seemed to calm Polly.

She gave a sigh of relief. “She’s malignant. Good.”

“Malig—maleeg—what?” I asked.

“She’s not hurting you.”

I nodded and looked at the girl, who was watching the door, her green eyes narrowed.

“And you’re sure the bad man didn’t see you?”

“He was wearing a big hat, so I don’t think he saw much of anything,” I said, giggling. My mom always made fun of people who wore hats with large brims because they had to move their heads to see what they normally would just by moving their eyes.

“Good,” she breathed, starting to sit beside me, but she was about to sit on the girl, so I made her stop and squished over so that she could sit on the other side of us. The girl hadn’t let go of my hand yet and she was squeezing it a little.

I looked at her and she smiled. “Just making sure you can feel me.”

“Of course I can feel you, silly.”

“How long have you been seeing this girl?” Polly asked.

“Since after lunchtime,” I said, looking back at my second mom, who looking genuinely worried.

“And you only saw the bad man outside?”

I nodded.

“Did you feel like anyone was watching you today?”

I shrugged. I always did. It wasn’t a big thing anymore.

“Why did CeCe scratch you?” she asked, suddenly sounding on red alert.

I shrugged. “I dunno. She’s mean.”

“My brother was getting close,” the girl muttered.

“You have a brother?” I asked her. “Is he fun? I wanna meet him.”

“No you don’t,” the girl said, sounding extremely sure of herself.

“What is she saying?” Polly asked.

“Just that she has a brother,” I said, shrugging.

“Is he like her?”

“No,” the girl said vehemently. “He’s mean and scary and wants to hurt me.”

“Does he want to hurt me too?” I asked.

She shook her head. “He’s not like the other one. He just wants to take me back.”

“Back where?”

“Back home,” she whispered, squeezing my hand.

“Don’t you wanna go back home?”

“No.”

“What is she saying now?”

“That her brother is mean and she doesn’t wanna go home,” I summarized, giving the girl as much of a hug as I could with her holding my hand.

Polly was staring in abject horror. “You can touch her?”

“Of course I can touch her, silly.”

“What is her name?”

The girl shook her head.

“She doesn’t wanna say,” I told Polly. “Can I give you a name then?” I asked.

She gave a hesitant nod.

I thought about it for a moment, trying to determine what I wanted to call her. I didn’t want it to be a normal name like Ashley or Jessica. It needed to be special, like her. “Lena,” I said, really just mixing Xena and Luna. She looked kind of like a child Xena and acted a lot like a cat. There was a flash of surprise and then a happy smile.

“I like that,” she told me.

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amadhay

November 2016

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