wants you to do what?" Demi was entirely too amused and
completely unwilling to hide it--which was why his friend kept trying
to walk even faster, apparently unaware that the captain ran several
miles every morning.
was not amused enough to keep a certain amount of murder out of his
voice. "I already told you." That ought to be that. He'd
thought his friend might be able to lend a hand, to actually want to
help, but apparently...
pretty clear that she wants you dead, I've got to say." And for
such a terrible thought to declare, Captain Dulce seemed awfully
amused by it.
you." The brunet's tone was just flat enough to be sharpened to
a fine point. "If you'll excuse me, I'm going to get myself
mean... wow." Demi just kept going on, keeping up far too
easily with a sharp turn down another hall. "It'd be less cruel
if she just broke your neck in her office..."
you." Rean repeated, coming to terms with the idea that he
simply wasn't going to get away. "Are you coming in with me?"
snort was not reassuring. "Are you insane? No way I'm going in
there. Good luck, man. Call me if you get out."
that the rumors had never been disputed.
serious. What the hell was Rakashi thinking to send
him into this lowest reach of ill-lit hell that smelled of old paper
and felt like the dead of winter...
Oh. Movement. Great. Taking a
deep breath, he made some attempt at
pretending that he wanted to be there. "Pardon me, ma'am..."
very gruff, rather to the point question answered. "What do you
I'm sure. "I'd actually like to inquire about some archival
photographs taken around Bailen. Roughly three years ago,
where there'd been a dig..."
really was a little like an ogre emerging from its cave. Rean almost
felt badly about thinking that, but the old woman's stature
combined with the hunch and the limp, emerging into the dim light
surrounding the desk, made it impossible to think otherwise. "Old
Woman Keller" indeed. She regarded him with extreme
suspicion for a long period of time, lips almost drawn into a sneer.
was pretty sure that he didn't stand a chance. He was but a mere
mortal. "Yes, ma'am. It's an important matter for General
smile was so fake and full of venom that Rean wouldn't have been
surprised if some of the pages on her desk began curling. "Oh,
is that so. You can tell her exactly where to shove her important
matter, then. Good day, son."
was... unexpected. Remarkably so. "I... don't think she would
appreciate that, ma'am."
Rean's surprise, the old bat laughed. "No, I don't
suppose so. You must be new."
prayed that meant he could get away with this. "Yes, ma'am. New and
trying to prove myself."
picked the wrong person to prove yourself to, Mr..." Even as
she trailed off, she'd turned. She was reaching for something, for a
"Coi." The brunet offered
immediately. "I'm not an officer here,
"Ah." She responded, as though
he'd just explained everything. "Well,
then. What's an old woman to do but indulge the stupidity of youth?"
didn't really seem to be an answer he could offer. Instead, Rean
accepted a large file folder slapped into his hands. "Thank
you, ma'am. I appreciate it."
can still tell her exactly where she can shove it." The
archivist assured. "Now that you got what she's looking for,
she'll be more forgiving."
really hadn't been one of those moments on his list of life
experiences that he felt should be highlighted, to say the least. "Of
course, ma'am. Than you again." He gave absolutely no
concern to the fact that he walked out of there far faster than any
human being would call "walking."
up the folder, he showed off his accomplishment--but his answer was
about Ms. Keller. "Everything is true, Demi."
course it is. You think I'd lie to you?"
was determined to stare in absolute silence for as long as it took
for his friend to get his point. He had no idea how long it actually
took, but the man finally held his hands up in surrender. That much
accomplished, he set off on the journey back to Rakashi's office.
did she want them, anyway?" the captain asked, once again
keeping up remarkably well.
idea." She hadn't told him, and he hadn't asked. Things were
easier that way, to be sure. "But I'd better get something out
grinned. "You just wait for her to ask you to bring dinner,
then--" He was silenced by the heavy slap of the folder
against the top of his head. "I feel so abused."
enough." The brunet responded with certainty.
pride as he laid the folder on the corner of
Rakashi's desk. "The file, General."
looked a bit surprised. He hoped that wasn't a bad sign. "Really?" The
general asked conversationally. "Is she still alive? She
didn't have a heart attack in her chair, allowing you to reach behind
her and grab this?"
blinked. "No. But she did want you to know where you can shove
okay then. Good to know the old bat's still breathing." And
with that, Rakashi opened the bottom desk drawer and tossed the file
inside, closing it right after without ever having looked at the
was all... very odd. "Is there... anything else that you
as such." She went right back to her messy pile of papers. "Considering
what you have survived, however, Mr. Coi, I think
you can take off early today."
acknowledgment that this was all still very odd did not for a second
distract Rean from the knowledge that this was a golden opportunity.
"Thank you, General."
was as he turned that she assured, "'Sir' will do just fine, Mr.
Coi. There's no need to constantly remind me of my rank."
again the woman was successful in making him pause with a slightly
loose jaw. "Yes... sir. Thank you." Waiting just for a
handful of seconds for a response, he got none. That was assurance
enough that he could actually leave, he supposed.
know what to do with himself; more, there was so
much to do and so little time to do it in that it was hard to
choose. Why the hell he'd ultimately chosen to go find the idiot
captain, he really couldn't say.
predicted, Demi was once again in the mostly deserted galley. He
wasn't alone, however, conversing with another man who looked to be a
janitor. Rean quite hoped that Demi hadn't gotten himself into yet
another prank that pissed off the clean-up crew. By the sound of the
are cracks showing." The janitor sounded insistent, and
possibly a little rushed.
"There aren't." Captain
Dulce assured softly. "It's
always been that way."
lately." The other man argued, finally seeing Rean approaching
and started to take his leave with a polite nod.
shows comfort though, right?" Demi's smile seemed the slightest
bit forced at first--but it was purely honest when he greeted his
friend. "Well well, look who survived two legendary bitches
janitor snorted as he walked away, leaving the two in privacy.
It was probably best for the sake of his job not to stick around for
that conversation, really.
shook his head, sitting across from his friend. "Seriously. Demi."
not here." He reiterated. "So?"
did you get a reward? Wink wink, nudge nudge?" the raven-haired
man grinned like a madman.
which Rean just sighed. "This is my reward. I'm off
laughed. "Well, that's good enough. Maybe you'll finally see
fit to get a drink with me later, hm?"
scoffed, as he normally did. Even so, despite his friend seeming
just like his casual self... there had been something in that
overheard conversation that had gotten to Rean. It was probably just
misheard, or the fact that he'd been made paranoid by Old Woman
Keller, but he decided to ask anyway. "Just then... what were
you two arguing about?"
captain gestured casually above them. "Ah, the ceiling panels. I don't
see any cracks, do you?" He looked up, squinting.
gave his friend a very long stare. "The ceilings in here are
kind of high, Demi."
yeah, but... no cracks, right?" He just kept on squinting.