pages in the filing cabinets were arranged, labeled
clearly, and put back just as neatly as possible.
that, Rakashi actually looked up from her desk. "I'm astonished
that you survived, Mr. Coi."
am I." He admitted, staring at the closed and perfectly sorted
cabinets. There had been years' worth of documents shoved
haphazardly everywhere. And now that it was done... "Ah,
sir..." Not that he was sure he wanted to ask. "What
should I do now?"
in your own glory, Mr. Coi." The response came without a single
pause, completely deadpan.
it was a revelation. Maybe it was just the fact that he was feeling
something like giddiness in his vast accomplishment. Whatever it
was, Rean dared to laugh. "I think I will. I just... wanted to
know if I should come back tomorrow..."
was an interesting question, the general giving it a moment's
thought. "Are you still interested in receiving pay, Mr. Coi?"
answer seemed quite obvious. "Yes. At least, that'd be sort of
shrugged slightly when he glanced back at her. "Then, show up
was just short of saluting. "Yes, sir. Thank you."
she could have been a bitch and remind him that he hadn't been
dismissed as he was on his way out the door... but somehow he was
actually working out as an assistant.
tried not to roll his eyes. "Or you should go drinking
and I'll be the one to drag you home." Rean corrected.
usual, Demi was in too good a mood to let his friend affect him. "Yeah,
eye roll. "It's not really something to celebrate with a
splitting headache tomorrow..."
have no idea do you, kid?" He lightly prodded Rean in
the side. "You survived Rakashi. You sure deserve something
it really that big a deal?"
captain made an enormous gesture with his hands as if that was the
end-all, be-all response. Then, just to be sure, added, "Yes!"
gave a quiet snort and shook his head. "My birthday's coming
up. How about then?"
came to a dead stop in the hall, pointing at his friend with great
intention. "You promise."
brunet blinked. "What?"
that we'll go drinking on your birthday. Or we never will." As
soon as the brunet made to argue, he interrupted, "You'll find
some excuse to be anti-social."
was another snort. "Just because I don't want to drag your
drunk ass back doesn't make me anti-social."
does too." Demi grinned before he started walking again. "What
have you got to do tonight, anyway? Got a hot date?"
yeah, this place is just full of attractive women aching for a
date with a rankless orphan."
was an odd flash of seriousness that spread over the captain's face.
"Well, I wouldn't make that last part clear, if I were you..."
had noticed long ago that the raven-haired man seemed to have some
kind of paranoia about admitting to being without parents. Every
time he asked, the question was avoided, so he hardly bothered again.
"But the rest is okay, huh?" he prompted, hoping to get
Demi's humor back. Seeing the man serious was just too weird.
he took the bait. "Yeah, well. Best to be honest, right?"
gave the captain a shove, only to be met with a laugh. Yeah,
maybe some weight lifting would be of benefit. "Point being,
idiot, I might go catch up on sleep or something. The
general's day starts way too damn early."
was a look. And then a grin. "Whoa. Wait. You're done
with the job you were assigned to her for, and... you're still
working for her?"
brunet's eyes narrowed. Oh, he knew where this was going. It had to
be derailed immediately. "You're the one who suggested
that I get something steady that doesn't involve a mop..." He
rolled his eyes as Demi placed a hand over his mouth and laughed into
it. "No I don't want to know whatever entered your sick
mind just then."
"Rean. Dear, dear Rean." Captain
Dulce began, the grin only growing. "Rakashi scares the living shit out
of everyone. For a reason. The fact that she does not
scare the living shit
of you can only be for one of two reasons."
"Demi." He warned, really not
wanting to put up with this--but they were
almost at the entrance to the main resident hall and sprinting would
do no good as his friend knew where he lived.
he ignored his friend completely, "You're too stupid to be
scared by her. But you're a smart kid, so I doubt that. Or, two..."
the pause was drawn out, grin miraculously increasing as Rean was
determined to ignore him, "You're a little keen on her." He actually
stumbled a little with that shove, though it didn't stop
him. "I mean, I guess there is the possibility of three, that
she's not trying to scare you, but I sure don't buy that one."
man gasped dramatically and pointed. "There it is! There's the
patience had run a little thin, to put things lightly. "We are
not all you, okay? We do not all have women on the mind at
every single second, nor are we all looking to score with whatever
woman happens to be in range and is not seriously deformed. The
general is probably almost ten years older than I am, do you really
think I'm sitting around fantasizing about her?"
could have taken offense, sure. He could have answered, but
that didn't seem smart. He could have argued or tried for the hurt
puppy look... but that just wasn't the captain's style. "Are
you gay and you never told me?" He half expected his friend to
take a swing at him, stopping abruptly and taking a step back.
and turning himself, the brunet just stared for a moment. "I'd
be tempted to say yes just to get you off my case, but I
can't help but feel like you'd start leaving me 'muscle magazines' in
incredibly conspicuous places."
laughed--but didn't step closer. His specialty was pushing almost to
the breaking point, but he knew when his life was in potential danger
if he went any further. "It's a shame you know me so well,
with a small sound of annoyance, Rean just continued walking to his
quarters. "And stop calling me 'kid.'" He didn't bother
to turn as he spoke.
captain watched as his friend disappeared around the far corner. Hands
in his pockets as he turned and walked back to the galley, he
thought maybe it wouldn't hurt to put a few 'muscle magazines'
here and there... and then make certain to watch his back for a few
morning that he went through his pockets and realized that his work
card was gone. Cursing to himself, he remembered leaving the damn
thing on top of the last filing cabinet for Rakashi to check. (As if
his perfectly legal card would all of a sudden turn out to be
counterfeit; but that was how the military worked, check and
re-check.) He knew that he could just leave the card there,
certain that the general wouldn't lose it and no one would bother
going into her office, but...
even more loudly, that meant a trip back to her office to retrieve
it. Ah well, it's not like sleep was necessary or anything.
it was still early, he decided he'd cut across the common area that
linked all of the larger resident hallways together. It was a little
eerie to have perfect, complete silence all around him, making him
wonder despite himself if there was something going on that he simply
hadn't been told about. Passing a clock, it hit him; of course it
was abandoned. Everyone was either already off duty and hidden away
in their quarters or had already left for the second shift. That was
probably the quietest spot in the whole of the Tower right then.
was so it was so startling to see two people in a dimly-lit corner.
Rean pulled back not so much out of fear but the worry that he was
going to interrupt something long before his mind made sense of what
he'd seen. Even considering the consequences, curiosity got hold of
him first. Peeking around the bend in the hall again, he simply
was the janitor that had been talking to Demi that day in the galley,
having sounded incredibly mysterious about the cracks in the ceiling
panels. Much more interesting, however, was what he was handing off
to Rakashi--a small dolly loaded with crates. She handed him money,
real paper money rather than military charge notes, and he
smiled with a nod that showed familiarity. That much done, they
simply went their separate ways.
wasn't really even thought behind Rean's actions; he just sprinted. If
he had paused to think, he'd have been intelligent and
sprinted back to his quarters rather than around, going straight for
the general's office. There wasn't really much of an explanation for
it; he had to get his card back, and taking the outside hallways at a
run would more than likely get him in and out of the door before she
noticed. Yes, fine, he was probably much more of an idiot than Demi
would ever be.
at the office, he took out his key card and pressed it quickly in the
side slot, cringing slightly at the light beep before opening the
door. Then he paused. Cold.
cut." Rakashi stated, sitting just as relaxed as ever in her
the door behind him (after all, he hardly need another reason for
Rakashi to tear him to shreds), Rean took a moment to consider just
how much trouble the woman would be in if she killed him. Probably
not much. "General, sir, I... I hadn't meant to--"
you did." She corrected quietly. Purposefully. Intentionally."
was going to die. He knew that he was going to die. Funny
how calm that realization could be.
Coi, you would need a lot more practice before you could ever be
undetectable." She continued, just as conversationally as
anyone who had just been spied on and then run from.
was... unnerving. --Wait, was he already dead? How rude of him to
have missed that.
sighed. "Relax, Mr. Coi." His surprise nearly prompted a
grin, but she managed to control herself. "I am not saying that
I condone your behavior, and if it happens again you're definitely
not getting away with it. But, in the grand scheme of things... this
'wasn't so bad.'"
had to sit down. The rusted folding chair that he'd been using was
good enough, though it squealed loudly as his weight collapsed onto
it. After several seconds, he finally gathered the courage to ask,
"So you're... not going to kick my ass in?"
much courage, in her opinion. Though she could hardly complain. "Next
time." She answered simply.
was then that Rean understood what his father had meant by the
saying, "Only sense enough to run after teasing the lion enough
to chase him." Yeah, colorful. About as colorful as looking
into the abyss. Which he must have been doing at that very
moment, because there were absolutely no active braincells at work
when he opened his mouth again. "So... who was that?"
a moment, her stoic mask nearly cracked into sheer surprise--but it
was experience that kept her looking more or less uninterested. "That
was Andrew." She responded with the same bored
simplicity that she used to answer the questions of officers or
wasn't quite the sort of answer that he was digging for, but it was
interesting in itself. "He's a janitor, right? So are those...
cleaning supplies..?" At Rakashi's narrow-eyes glance, he was
overwhelmed with the feeling that he, was going, to, die.
was silent for several seconds, contemplating either whether to
answer or how many pieces to cut him into. Both, truth be told. "You'd
do well to think about your questions before you ask
them, Mr. Coi." She watched him shrink a bit before her,
trying not to feel a swell of satisfaction in it. "Cut to the
heart of the matter or don't ask at all."
she actually just... given him advice..? Throat dry, mouth not quite
working right, Rean blinked a few times as he tried to figure that
much out. Well, if he was marked for murder anyway... "What's
in the crates?"
got a soft but honest snort. "Well, you are my
assistant, I suppose." She sighed, reaching down to the
bottom-right drawer of her desk before standing.
thought, Who the fuck keeps a crowbar in their desk? was
immediately silenced when the answer was so very obvious. General
Vrunai. Of course. Rean was certainly a bit surprised to see
the top crate hefted carelessly onto the desk, still covered in
official paperwork. The way Rakashi made quick work of opening it
was even more of a surprise.
"Well." She prompted, already
making good work of the crowbar for the other
two crates. "You wanted to know."
was thinking better of it at the moment. Not that he could see
anything under the layer of newspaper, but... well, he was already so
deep that he may as well continue his suicidal behavior until the
very end. Removing the paper, what appeared beneath wasn't exactly
something that he was prepared for. Food. It was... food. "What..?"
to popular belief, I don't usually have lackeys bringing me things
from the galley." She responded, only the slightest bit of
humor in her voice.
his head, it was just really unbelievable. Those weren't rations,
not freeze-dried crap--it was real food wrapped up in layers
of plastic, some in foil, and--"Is that a cake?"
a bit surprised, she peered in. "Huh. It is indeed. I'd
better get these hidden away, then." Brandishing the crowbar in
a slightly threatening manner, Rakashi almost seemed to be
enjoying herself too much. "I can trust that you won't breathe
a word of this, Mr. Coi?"
was so much that he should have answered. Or done. Or not done. This
was all so bizarre and made the general appear to be human
all of a sudden, rather than the Ice Bitch General
she was somewhat famously known (and hopefully not by her)... maybe
it made him punchy. Maybe he was just suicidal, stupid and welcoming
the end. "Not a word, sir. I... don't suppose you'd want to share
got a rather dangerous look, her hand tightening around the
crowbar. She wasn't satisfied until she saw Rean wince just the
slightest bit. Still, there was a bit of a thoughtful look wandering
through her eyes. "Do your job well, Mr. Coi." The
non-answer seemed to stun him enough for her to get the crates
stacked back on the dolly, crowbar placed back in her desk.
not enough to stop the stupidity. "Is he a friend of yours? Andrew, I
over the dolly, she offered, "Like for like, Mr. Coi. Have you
ever heard the expression, 'Curiosity killed the cat with a
a long pause and a hard swallow, he responded, "I haven't heard
that before, no."
seemed almost unaware of exposing her humanity, the sound she made
most definitely one of amusement. Well, she had said like for
like... "I suppose you could say that. He just happened to
know me, from before."
got an entirely different kind of blink from Rean. "From before
deeply, the very subject seemed to cause a severe headache. "Do
you have the time, Mr. Coi?"
"Uh..." He used to wear a watch.
Before Demi had started to take it. It
was just a party trick, taking someone's watch without them knowing,
but Captain Dulce never actually ceased to amuse himself with it. Rean
dug into his pocket, hopeful that he hadn't forgotten it. Hand
closing around the timepiece, he made a mental note to try and
"relocate" a clock to Rakashi's office. "It's 8:48."
working late." The general informed him, making every effort to
end the conversation and push past.
was possible that he felt a little immortal after he'd already
survived so much of what the woman had thrown at him... but really,
it was his curiosity that would not let the subject rest. Rean stood
in front of the door, subjecting himself to a very dangerous look. She
could and very much would knock him out of the way, he
knew that he had absolutely nothing to offer, no rank, no power. "If
you tell me, then I'll put this all away for you..?" Well, he
hadn't exactly meant the words to come out as a question...
raised an eyebrow. Her unasked-for assistant was trying to make a
deal with her. This was... amusing, more than anything. Leaning
over the dolly again, she pointed out, "You don't know where to
that was... a good point. One that took Rean a lot longer to get
around than he'd hoped.
was while he was struggling that she sighed again, bemused. "How
the hell did you come to be here, Mr. Coi?"
for him (for once), his mouth had the ability to move before his
brain did. "I was hoping you could tell me that."
her head once, the general remarked, "All I know is one day I
was told I had an assistant and you showed up. So I gave you the
hardest task I could think of."
mouth was slightly open for a lot longer than he meant for it to be. "I
heard that you had three assistants before me."
did." She admitted, the slightest of vicious grins rolling
across her lips. "They did not live up to the task."
again there was a pause as he attempted to process that information. He
was the only person willing to spend weeks on arranging the file
cabinets. He sort of wished he'd known that before. Or had never
been told at all. "So... have I earned an answer?"
soft snort definitely sounded like a complete denial. As Rean moved
out of her way, looking defeated, she privately acknowledged that she
was either getting very old or very bored. "I can show you how
to get to where the food is stored, or I can answer your question. Only
one, not both."
question." He chose softly, looking surprisingly determined. "From
heavy sigh was followed by a pause as she seemed to be trying to come
up with a way to explain it. Blunt trauma was always best, however.
Besides, most ranked officers already knew the gist of it, not
exactly making it a secret around the Tower. Even so... "I am
to assume that anything said in this room is said in confidence, Mr.
air seemed to have gotten a great deal colder with that statement. Even
through his surprise, Rean turned and locked the door. "Yes,
her temple lightly, Rakashi simplified, "Everything from before
the Rush is gone."
woman was entirely too good at causing his jaw to fall loose. "You
mean, you... don't remember anything from before then?" Her
extremely slight nod confirmed it. "How is that even possible?"
was 'an accident'." The general offered with more than a hint
of sarcasm. "I was injured, amnesiac, wandering around outside
of a disaster... and probably pretty lucky to be alive."
hit him. The Rush. Only a few days after it happened, after those
millions were declared dead, the surrounding earth never to be the
same, the military came forward to admit to their "secret
weapon" that was winning the war for them--Rakashi Vrunai. She'd been a
rumor before then, silent and hidden as a shadow. Rean
supposed that was no longer possible if she was wandering around
without a memory, being seen by everyone... "So that's why you
went public? It was a mistake?"
sound was meant to be a laugh, though she didn't really care just how
short it probably fell. "They couldn't really keep me their
secret advantage after that." She shook her head, disgusted
with herself. Millions dead, so many suffering. Amnesia or not, it
was just so... stupid. A stupid, ridiculous mistake at the cost of
lives and more.
Weird. Too weird. And yet this
was certainly a side of the general that no
one thought existed. He certainly hadn't. "It's not as if it
was your fault."
not-quite-laugh followed again. "You can tell the Control Room
that one. The thought never seemed to have crossed their minds."
terribly uncomfortable silence followed. Rean was going through the
possibilities of what to say, what wouldn't sound just absolutely,
violently stupid or pathetic...
used to be in weapons." Rakashi continued, straighting up and
getting ready to push the dolly out. "So, he identified me.
Unfortunately for him, he had no idea that the Control Room wanted
him to keep his mouth shut, so he told me who I was and what
happened. Control Room didn't like it, permanently knocked him down
to a janitor. I personally think he's better off, but it wasn't the
friendliest thing they could have done for him."
listened on, still slack-jawed. That this had happened, was even possible,
was sharp and acidic, for sure;
but in that moment, it was dull and faked. Angry, but quiet.
general shattered the weight of the moment with sheer simplicity. "Now,
it's late and you've already been dismissed."
seemed to snap Rean back into the reality of the moment. "Yes,
sir." Turning to open the door, he jumped a bit as something
was tapped against his arm.
don't forget your card this time, Mr. Coi." The general
reminded in her usual disinterested tone.
the card with a quickness that might have come from panic as much as
embarrassment, he responded automatically, "Thank you, sir." He was
alive. He was being released. He was exceedingly tempted to
watch his back as he walked back to his quarters a little faster than