been called to the Control Room for some official reason or
another, and since he was there and her assistant and everything
(though it was most likely because she was just looking to share the
abject boredom of the situation), she invited him along. It still
had never seen the place. He also learned quickly that he probably
never would, being told that he didn't have the clearance to be on
that floor let alone in the waiting area... but the general managed
to surprise him again by insisting. He was technically her
personal assistant, after all, so it made sense. It was simply a
little surreal. Like most things around General Vrunai, he supposed.
there were parts of her reputation that were lived up to. She wasn't
exactly questioned when she side-stepped the guard and told Rean
busy following orders to have enjoyed the look on the guard's face,
but that would have been a lie.
the furthest he got was what served as an otherwise abandoned
"waiting room" outside of the actual Control Room--but by
the general's glance before leaving him there, he really didn't want
to go further. Oh sure, there was the urge to simply satisfy
curiosity... but he was learning that Rakashi pretty much knew what
she was talking about, even without having to say a word.
the door closed and assuredly locked, Rean sighed and sat on one of
the most uncomfortable chairs he had ever encountered. Then stared
at the ceiling. Metal. Damn. Not that he had any pencils with him.
Still, it seemed like a decent use of his time to ponder just how
much force might be necessary to embed a pencil into a metal ceiling.
He'd bet money on Rakashi being able to find a way.
he was decently certain that the walls of the Control Room were
soundproofed, his silent pondering combined with the fact that he was
looking for something, anything to break the monotony allowed him to
all too clearly hear the general's words from inside. "What
do you mean we 'all have to make sacrifices'?"
cringed a bit. He'd never heard Rakashi yell. Hell, she didn't
yell; her version of raising her voice was a stinging comment or a
glare. This was kind of serious, then. And Rean was trying not to
strain his ears to overhear, he really was, but he was pretty sure
that outburst would be followed by bones snapping. All he managed to
hear were muffled responses, far too quiet to actually make anything
out thanks to the soundproofing. He doubted that they anticipated
when everything went utterly silent, he grew concerned. Just as he
was about to press his ear to the door and see if he might be able to
hear anyone breathing, the general managed to storm her way out of
the Control Room with barely a sound. Oh, she looked like she
had plenty left to say, but her jaw was set in quiet rage. She
didn't so much as glance at her assistant, but he knew enough to
follow. Shame that he didn't think to glance back and get a look at
the inside, the mysterious place full of mysterious people that he'd
likely never see again. Not that that seemed like a bad thing, at
anyone that might have accidentally torn that silent rage
right open. The moment she stepped inside, she seemed to be
considering the ramifications of systematically destroying her desk
with the crowbar in the bottom drawer.
walked in behind her, strangely unafraid of that rage. Of course, he
did admit to himself there and then it was probably stupid of him not
to have dismissed himself and let her have some time alone... but if
she wanted that, she probably wouldn't have a problem telling him.
"It's not really my business..."
the woman seemed perfectly fine with answering. "I'm now a
'general off the field.'" She spat in monotone.
made no sense. "Meaning?"
didn't even look at him, eyes narrowing on her desk as though she
were considering fire rather than a crowbar. "I keep my
rank, but I'm 'no longer needed on the battlefront.'" Not that
she was all that fond of being involved in war, but she'd been
looking forward to getting the hell out of her office and back to
where things weren't so backward. Back to the life she knew, to
Sarah and field reports and maps.
found it hard to manage a response. Rakashi was their sure thing. To
keep her away from the battle... "That's... that is..."
"Bullshit." She finished for him.
"Why? Why would they..?"
was an 'incident.'" She finally looked at him, a surprisingly warm
look of murder in her eyes, making them look almost
they didn't tell you what it was." It was an easy guess for him
to make, half from experience and half from Demi's drunken rants.
'for my safety.'" She sneered, once again giving the desk the
kind of look that said she'd have liked to rip its guts out.
"Bullshit." Rean agreed softly
without thinking. Though, he supposed he
shouldn't have been surprised when he wasn't admonished for his tone.
general could only shake her head, seeming to think better of
destroying her desk and preferring to try and get the forming
headache to go away. Of all the stupid things to have happen, and
all of the reasons that didn't even seem to exist...
happens now?" he asked quietly, unable to help his curiosity. If she
wasn't going back to the field, then... was she expected to
stay at the Tower permanently? Sure, Demi didn't mind but... he was
am to wait for my briefing." She snorted distastefully,
electing to actually approach her desk and sit on it, papers and all.
"In other words, the Control Room doesn't know, either."
was all so... weird. And still none of his damn business, but there
was just something about Rakashi's expression that invited theory.
"Maybe they're trying to hide you again? To push you into the
nearly chuckled at the idea, not to mention Rean's attempt at some
kind of comfort, such as it was. It wasn't that he didn't have a
point; military secrecy was kind of big around those parts. Still...
there didn't seem to be a reason for such an action. "I
wouldn't put it past them, though it doesn't add up." There was
a thoughtful pause, something seemingly slow and dangerous. "Mr.
Coi. I don't suppose that you might be able to provide, or get that friend
of yours to provide, a suitable security
while I try to get recent logs?"
--Wow. Did she just ask him to..?
Well. Usually he was trying to remind
Captain Dulce that he shouldn't be causing problems for
people. Rean was aware immediately that Demi would agree to help
right away on principle. Though, there was one concern. "That
might depend on how much trouble this 'distraction' might get anyone
might depend on how good this 'distraction' is." Rakashi
managed to grin slightly, folding her arms across her chest. "Nothing
major. That comes with problems. Something...
yes, the captain was excellent at those sorts of things. "Yes,
is not an order, Mr. Coi." She reminded.
course not." Rean agreed, quickly slipping out the door. He
was the voice of reason most of the time, sure... but given the
opportunity, he supposed that he was just as viciously playful as the
general herself seemed. Kind of weird, actually.
at his friend for a long time after Rean had
that they needed to create a low-level distraction, then had taken a
few more seconds more to accept it as fact and start plotting.
detergent. Specifically, the kind of shitty detergent that was
supplied and used by all of the Tower. Now, everyone was aware that
it could be used as one ingredient in explosives. It was sort
of just a common fact, something that was kind of interesting for a
time and then forgotten.
Dulce had decided to march up to one of the guards with a box of
detergent in hand and demand they change brands. Now this on its own
was nothing. The man could have gotten shooed away easily for being
a nut... except that he was Demi. For the most part, Rean
simply looked on in slightly sympathetic amusement as the
raven-haired man managed to work first one, then two, five, ten
guards into a frenzy of circular logic. The more people who showed
up to explain the situation and be the voice of reason, the more
people got swept up in the insane and wrong "facts" that
the captain continued to list off, all the while having the box in
his hand that would have easily disputed 90% of his claims.
was fascinating. It was also terrifying to think that with a little
effort, this man could jump rank and be in charge of more pressing
things. At the end of a two hour period of what was more or less
watching one man make the heads of a small security force explode,
Demi did the unthinkable: he finally read the back of the box,
apologized for the misunderstanding, and walked away. Rean was
almost too dumbfounded to follow, tossing a quick apology over his
shoulder as he jogged to catch up.
when they were quite far away from the scene did Captain Dulce grin
and ask, "So? That what you had in mind?"
"No." The brunet answered. "That
was at least a million times
better." He hoped that was enough time for the general... but
then again, it was Rakashi.
sitting at her desk. He was a little surprised to see two
pencils embedded in the ceiling above her, though he didn't suppose
he needed to acknowledge that. "Barely escaped with my life." He found
himself joking, in a surprisingly good mood as he locked
the door. "Find anything?"
mood was sadly going to get shattered. She felt the need to get
straight to the point. "The logs are gone."
Rean repeated, not quite certain that information had been heard
closer to a hiss than a sigh escaped her, Rakashi finally looking up
and right at her assistant. "All of my logs, my
files, have seemingly vanished. I even broke into Seris'
desk to see if they'd been 'forgotten for the night', but there was
couldn't quite place his finger on exactly what was so disturbing
about that. Still, such a high-ranking official's logs suddenly
missing completely didn't seem to be either a regular occurrence or a
very good sign. According to both Rakashi and Demi, the military was
so damn anal about those things... "Was it a trap?" It
was all a little too conspiracy theory for him, but the idea wasn't
"Maybe." She shrugged. "We'll
see. I'm sure you'll hear the yelling
all over the Tower if so. But I'd have thought the trap would have
been sprung by now..." Sitting back in her chair, she took on a
thoughtful look. After what seemed like a long silence, she
admitted, "Your logs aren't there, either."
reassurance that he'd felt was instantly wiped clean. The weight of
her words took time to hit, his question a bit numb and lacking the
heat that he was sure it deserved. "What--when were you going
to tell me that?"
had no defense and didn't offer lies. "I just did."
you could have earlier." He pointed out, feeling childish. It
was true, though.
didn't really want you any more involve than you already were." Rakashi
admitted, voice guarded and soft. "But it's becoming
more clear that you already are involved, and you have a right
everything. Strange information, strange feeling he was going to
throw up at any moment, strange that he wasn't unbelievably pissed
off at this woman. He was a bit fearful, though. "So,
what are we supposed to do now?"
response was a complete shock in too many ways to comprehend. Rakashi
didn't speak, merely tossed him (with astounding accuracy) a
heavy plastic key card. He caught it a little clumsily, staring at
it for several seconds in disbelief. "A security card?"
nodded. "I don't have a car."
didn't follow at first, giving the general a long stare until it
finally clicked. "But you know someone who does, right?"
up without a word, she only grinned on her way out the door. What
could he do but follow?
had no idea just how many
elevators went to floors he had no access to, a simple slide of the
key card in almost invisible slots getting the floor numbers panel to
add dozens of options he'd never seen. Every door they
encountered also required the security card, and the fact that they
had to use multiple elevators was starting to worry him.
was roughly three seconds before Rean was about to ask just where
they were actually going that the elevator doors slid open--revealing
a vast, seemingly endless basement garage. He'd never even
he been able to see Rakashi's face at that moment, he likely would
have turned around and gone right back to where he came from. It was
the kind of barely-there but very real sort of grin that was a
bit joyful and a little excited and mostly just evil in its
own way. With great care, she reached into her right front pocket
and pulled out... The Key.
followed after her when he realized she was walking away--and not
stopping at the section of smaller, cheaper-looking cars. What she
was headed for was several aisles down into what he could tell
was the rather exclusive section, straight for the... no, that
couldn't be right. The general reached out and gave one particular
car a light caress as if she did own it, but... she just
couldn't be serious... "T-that's a Fluxx_3 Roadster, isn't it?"
"Oooohh, is it." She
practically purred in a reverent tone, one
hand splayed over the side mirror an instant before she opened the
door and climbed in.
was sleek, black, sexy as hell, and... perfect. Truly, absolutely
perfect. He'd never considered himself to be a "car guy"
by any stretch of the imagination, but there were some things that
demanded devotion regardless of what walk of life you came from. He
could see how this machine could reduce men to tears... or was
possibly about to. He really did find himself wanting to
climb into that passenger's seat, but... "And this isn't
"Nope." The general answered
easily, almost making a bit of a show of
sliding the key into the ignition, her other hand lightly caressing
the steering wheel.
was at that moment when Rean thought he may want to reconsider. The
logical part of his mind seemed to have been knocked completely
unconscious by the part that sort of reveled in suicidal activity,
however. (How else would he explain his friendship with Demi?) He
wasn't even quite aware that he was in the car until he realized that
the seatbelt didn't feel quite as secure as he would have
universe became a streak of motion behind them. How Rakashi managed
to navigate through all those other cars at such high speed was a
matter better left to philosophers. It allowed her passenger to
focus solely on wondering whether he was going to survive the ride.
Sunshine. All of a sudden, it
covered them through the car windows and the,
for once, properly-named sun roof. Warm and gold-red from late
afternoon, the light seemed like a foreign thing. As strange and new
as the wind across their faces from the narrowly opened windows, the
landing strip beneath them that eventually gave way to cobblestones
and then open dirt.
streamed behind them, the car's shock absorbers truly pushed to their
limits over the uneven ground. The artificial valley before them
swiftly became rolling hills--and one very steep drop. When Rean
finally managed to locate his stomach, he looked over to find the
general looking... strangely calm. It really hit him, then:
they were Outside. Rakashi... did not belong behind the walls of the
Tower, behind that desk in that little room. Maybe she didn't belong
behind the wheel of an expensive, powerful sports car, either, but
the speed and the open landscape suited her. The sunlight
at last her assistant gained wits enough to speak, the question
seemed an obvious one. "How are you not going to get into
trouble for this?"
will tell you a little secret, Mr. Coi." She turned the wheel
and tapped the brake, giving the car a little spin-out before
changing direction. Each point she made seemed to add weight to the
foot solidly on the gas pedal. "Being a general pays off." Another
burst of speed. "Being a female is better." The engine went
from a rough hum to a roar. "But being known
as a vicious bitch is a free pass."
laughed. Hard. He didn't mean to, but it bubbled out of him long
before he expected it to happen.
more questions?" she teased openly.
No. No, not at all. Not really.
Well... he couldn't believe he'd come
up with it, let alone the fact that he was actually saying it, asking
it out loud. Demi must never know. "Do you have to call me Mr.
Coi all the time?" He'd been seconds away from using that old
line about it being his father's name, though he imagined that might
ruin the moment.
question caused what seemed to be an honestly surprised glance from
Rakashi before her eyes went back to the landscape in front of them.
"Habit. I don't usually use first names." Her voice
dropped in tone and emotion. "It becomes too familiar."
if they're friends... Went through his mind, promptly squashed
by whatever logical disillusion he could muster.
she continued softly without prompting, recovering as she made a wide
turn at extremely high speeds, "I suppose there's no harm when
we're not under the gazes of a bunch of assholes."
was still trying to wrap his mind around so many things about that
statement when she skidded a long ways into what finally became a
dead stop. She completely interrupted his train of thought by
pointing, clearly indicating that he should follow her line of sight.
that exceptionally steep incline over there?" she asked with a
hint of deviant plotting.
wasn't sure if he ought to say yes, that he did indeed see it, or no,
he did not and had no interest in getting closer. Unfortunately, he
nodded before he really understood what he was doing.
can't set foot outside of the car, or we'll get dragged back inside."
Rakashi informed him, revving the engine slightly as he eyes were
glued to that incline as if staring it down, preparing to go in for
the kill. "And even if we don't get out of the car,
they'll be sending a small army of military vehicles to bring us back
before long. So, wanna jump that?"
a stupid question. What and utterly moronic, ridiculous... "Yes."
general gave him a long, appraising look. Her assistant gave off
every appearance of white knuckles and a forcefully set jaw... but
that answer had sounded surprisingly certain. Almost level-headed,
even. Well. There was an old saying about gift horses.
of the landscape seemed to erupt from underneath them as the tires
spun--but only for the space of a quick heartbeat or two. Traction
was nearly instantaneous as the engine made noises that no machine
should be capable of, thundering them both straight ahead and firmly
in their seats.
became sky. Earth became flight.
then there was dirt. Cracking, breaking fiberglass, twisting metal,
jolting, and... more dirt. A lot more dirt.
at last the dust settled enough to survey the world around them,
there was silence for a little while longer... then a tire popping. A
coughing fit came after that, and then the sound of a seatbelt
"Well." Rakashi cleared her
throat. "That was a complete success."
stared at her for a moment before he managed to release his own belt.
He decided that it was in his best interest to remain silent.
Especially since, apparently, they'd be walking back.