constantly reminding himself
that remaining utterly silent was probably the best and only choice
for his survival. They were outside--everything in his being
was telling him that they really ought to stay that way, that
this was some "heroic chance to escape"...
made things worse was noticing that every step Rakashi took seemed
forced. A death march. It was honestly a little sickening in
his mind, particularly because he had the distinct feeling this
wasn't the first time she'd done something like this. The fact that
she was returning on her own... he just didn't know how to process
shook his head with the intention to clear it. His thoughts
were getting pretty weird, to put it mildly. He couldn't help but
notice, though; the deathly silence as they walked back through the
garage, back through every security check and to hallways more
familiar. No more deviously grinning General Vrunai. She didn't
look at him, and she didn't speak.
slowly sinking stomach finally fell completely to his knees when the
last door to freedom opened, only to reveal an extremely large,
extremely angry-looking man in an admiral's uniform. Rean was just
glad that he was still walking behind Rakashi, otherwise me might
have burst into flames by the man's glare alone.
came back on my own." Her voice was controlled, cold murder,
threatening and ready to strike behind the facade of perfect calm.
There almost seemed to be a long, thoroughly involved staring contest
between them for countless seconds, several almost-held breaths,
before the unfamiliar admiral finally shook his head and simply
walked past them and away.
that any part of that made Rean feel any safer. There were so many
questions knocking around in his head that he sincerely wanted
answers to, though none of those were the kind he actually wanted to
ask. Still, the silence was just too deafening and maybe simple was
best. "What was that about?" He began to regret his words
instantly as Rakashi started walking away.
a few paces, however, she turned and noted that he hadn't been
following her. Likely too confused to know what the hell to
do... then, there were some things he didn't need to know, and one
thing that he really did. "Take a moment to consider, Mr. Coi." The
general's voice dropped slightly with his name, indicating that
they were probably being listened to. "You don't have a rank
here. You're expendable."
confusion bled into a slow onslaught of cautious fear. It only got
worse when he realized that was exactly what she's meant to inspire
to your quarters. Do not answer the phone, do not answer the door,
do not leave the room for 24 hours." She didn't fluff it
up, did not pretend like that encounter with the admiral had been a
small thing. Though, she did feel the need to add, "Please."
if that hadn't technically been an order, he had the urge to treat it
like one. "Yes, sir."
full 24 hours." She reminded him delicately. "I'll see
you in my office, after.
managed to take note of the fact that Rakashi took off in the
opposite direction of the admiral just moments before. Whether or
not that was significant would probably never be known--and he'd
rather be safely in his quarters while thinking about it. Just being
out in the open hallway then was starting to creep him out.
time, but Rakashi had had a
point. He used to know a lot of rankless kids, like him. Taking a
moment to think it over, to try and remember their names and faces,
he hadn't actually seen any of them in... too long to remember. He
looked at his desk calendar (even though his quarters weren't
actually large enough for a "real" desk), trying to
determine the last time he'd talked to one. Or even heard a name. Over
a year, to be sure.
it was best not to think about it. Of course, it was hard not to
grasp for any thought that came across while he was expected to stay
in a glorified closet with something that passed for a bed for 24
hours. There had to be a law against quarters that small, rankless
very reasoning behind the general's words, that "order",
were still puzzling. They'd seemed so harsh... well, right up until
Oh. It hadn't exactly
occurred to him that maybe he was just as
in trouble for that little stunt as she was. (As if anyone could
ever be held responsible for what Rakashi did and didn't do.) Enough
trouble to keep the door locked and the phone unanswered for 24
hours? But he remembered the look on the admiral's face, the very
real sense of danger when he and General Vrunai were glaring at once
another, then the tone of that warning...
knock at the door nearly tore a shriek of surprise from him. Luckily
he managed to recognize that knock, and the false urgency behind it. "I
can't open the door." He called simply.
Dulce paused on the other side. "What the fu--can't open the
door? Are you trapped in there?"
under orders." Rean announced dryly.
was a uniquely, devastatingly long pause from outside. "You
should've just told me that the general was in there with you.
she's not? That's either kinky or sad, kid."
could feel his friend's smirk--and wished he could reach out
to just grasp the man's neck and shake. "Demi, go the fuck
okay. I'm done. Really, I'm done." He swore, just shy of
sincerity. "I got your 'request' here."
he was a great deal more interested in his friend's visit. "Can
you slide the files under the door?"
pause. "Under the... Rean, again. Why can't you open the
under orders." He repeated, not quite feeling up to the
"Riiiight. But, why?"
a long story."
captain chuckled. "Let me in and tell me about it."
it was tempting to have two people in that tiny space for
hours on end... "No."
"Yes. That, and I don't want your
personality invading my living space."
completely unhurt burst of laughter from outside. "Ouch."
'borrowed' a car while I was with her... and completely destroyed it
on a jump outside the Tower." He had no idea why he felt
compelled to actually tell Demi what had happened, but maybe that
would at least explain the urgency of the order following.
Laughter. A lot more of it. "I
believe that's referred to as 'not so
quiet rebellion.'" Captain Dulce grinned like a loon. and again
his friend could almost feel the expression through the door.
"You like rebels, Rean?"
"Shut up and go away."
fine. Here." He knelt and pushed the files underneath the
collected it carefully, surprised at how very thin the folder was. "Is
sure there've been parts 'lost' over the years." Demi admitted. "It was
all I could find. And there's no direct mention of the
general, either. Name or deed."
quite what he wanted to hear... but it was a start. "Thanks. Asshole."
time." There was another pause, accented by what sounded like
the captain sliding down and then sitting against the door. "There's
not much hope for her here, y'know?"
brunet stared into space, completely taken aback by the comment...
and the soft sentimentality of his friend's voice. One of those
weird times when Demi just... didn't seem to be himself. "Yeah." He
surprised himself by responding. "I know."
silence went on for minutes before the captain finally picked himself
up. It was all just... too strange. "Well, I gotta get back to
the cafeteria. Should be pretending I'm worthy of a uniform."
remained quiet inside of his quarters for a moment, trying to figure
out how the man had gone from point Z straight back to point A so
quickly. "Yeah. I'll see you when I get out."
laughter. Then footsteps leading away.
whole of 30
minutes to read through. It may have made for a full hour if nothing
were blacked out or literally ripped off. Something... was not
bluntness of what he could read was a bit hard to take, though. The
numbers officially dead due to the incident were... millions. Thousands
had been estimated to die from injuries. Another couple of
thousand were listed as missing at the time the report was filed (and
as he recalled from rumors, they'd simply been disintegrated, bodies
never found). Common injuries to the survivors were loss of
limbs, hearing loss, blindness... and there it was in bold lettering,
"loss of skin."
hadn't wanted to know about those parts. They weren't his interest,
besides being completely nightmarish. There were no descriptions of
the enemy, of the weapons or occurrence that had caused such
devastation, and as Demi had said, Rakashi's name was nowhere to be
found. In fact... it seemed that no names were included at all.
he'd gotten to the last few pages, yammering on about equipment cost
and payments that were to be made to families, he simply tossed the
pages on the floor--then stared as the back sheet separated a little
from the others.
Kaatspur recognized as the only historian of the Rush on-field...'"
he read aloud, right up until his jaw hung open. It was a fuzzy,
black and white, photocopied picture, but he knew the face. That
drop-dead blond that was in Rakashi's office not that long ago. He'd
definitely gotten a good look at her; at her face, even.
was something there, he was sure of it. He just had no idea what the
hell to do next.
Sleep. Take full advantage and
sleep until the time was up. So long as he
willingly ignored everything he'd just read, things should be fine.
when he wasn't entirely in the
mood to do so. But, Demi was a complete and total miracle worker,
and once he'd even almost been humble about it. It was always just
an act, sure... but Rean had pretty much stopped thanking him
altogether just so his ego wouldn't get any larger.
at least the worse case scenario wasn't too bad. "Demi." He caught his
friend's attention in the hall, waving him subtly over
to a seldom-used passage along the side. "I need information on
her." He'd brought along that last page, the picture of Sarah,
unfolding the paper carefully so as not to make too much noise.
Paranoid or not, it made sense to be careful.
raven-haired man raised an eyebrow at that request. "The
general's not doing it for you anymore?"
time, Rean made a fist. Not entirely in jest, either.
Dulce only grinned and held his hands up for a moment. "I don't
think I can get to anyone's personal files. Besides, what the hell
do you care? She's just a field secretary." He moved a little
closer to elbow his friend in the ribs, despite the fist still raised
at him. "Not as cool as a general."
files said she was a historian." The brunet corrected,
attempting to ignore the rest.
"Well any secretary who
survived the Rush is gonna write about
y'know? 'Historian' is probably a pretty loose word, considering."
made sense, Rean supposed. "I want to know if I can get in
contact with her."
look on Demi's face was utterly foreign. Shock, worry, an
exceptional apprehension... "You should let it go."
couldn't understand that reaction. Things seemed to be spiraling
into weirder and weirder places... "Why?"
delving into some seriously bad shit, Rean. Really."
friend's seriousness was still so... different. Out of place. "I
can't just... I can't let this go. Haven't you ever had something
jumping up and down and screaming at you to find out as much
as you can about it, but you just needed a push to get close enough
in the first place?"
Dulce shook his head, the worry not fading. Yeah, he knew that
feeling. Too often. "She..." He stopped to sigh, rubbing
a palm over his face as he debated the information he was about to
impart. "She and Rakashi... they're close. I don't think
anyone else would have access to her."
struck Rean as a little odd. Maybe not as odd as the rest of the day
so far, but it was just one more thing. "But... she's a
secretary, right? I mean..."
it go." Demi insisted quietly. Just short of urgently. "This
is not worth it."
it'll make you feel any better." He lied through his teeth. And he
suspected that his friend knew it as well.
so, it didn't show on the captain's face any longer. "Great. Hungry for
some cafeteria food?"
"No." Rean responded honestly.
"You're always in the damn
always hungry." He grinned. "Alright, catch you around." He gave a wave
and bolted off as thought nothing had happened.
strange was most definitely going on.
desk. Back to paperwork, it seemed.
what can happen when you have nothing better to do than sleep." Rean
shot back with decent humor, locking the door behind him. Now
or never. He'd spent several minutes trying to build up the courage
to do this. "Not to pry, sir..." he started quietly. "I
just... there was a woman in your office not that long ago. A Miss
finally glanced up, regarding him with an almost too carefully hidden
suspicion. "And the point at which you would stop prying would
well... he deserved that. He really wondered how much he ought to
reveal to her. After all, it was pretty much all about her.
"Sorry, sir. I... I've just been interested in... the Rush
was absolutely stock still. "Getting to the point would be
recommended today, Rean."
thought he'd be a bit more glad that she'd finally called him by his
first name, but her tone was just a little too defensive. He
understood, he supposed... or at least he wanted to understand. "There
are things I want to know."
are things all of us want to know."
sounded so cold and closed off, but he had to keep trying.
Especially now. "I was told that the two of you were close...
and you might know how to contact her..."
stand-off, then. And a very dangerous one at that. This was not the
interesting, somewhat good-natured (but viciously-humored) general. It
was the leader of armies, the killer of men. Winner of wars that
raged on for years. "I have to know. I need to find
to me, Rean." Every aspect of emotion had bled completely out
of her voice. It was a commanding tone, certain and unyielding. "I
do not speak out of cruelty or out of some ridiculous goddamned sense
of duty. This is a purely personal level. You're not the first to
try and reach her for information. I will protect her. With my
life, if necessary--with the death of others, if not." She
leaned forward just slightly, voice softening only enough to notice.
"Just asking these questions is putting your life at
suddenly found himself utterly unwilling to let the subject drop
without gaining something of value. The question was sudden,
even to him. "Why don't I have a rank?"
had been particularly unexpected. She understood it, though. It was
a battle tactic; if you couldn't get what you were aiming for, then
you damn well better bring back something of value. If that was the
case... "Would you like the truth, or the military
barely had the air in his lungs to respond... but there was something
in the woman's eyes that drove him forward. "The truth,
gentle, and very much to the point. "The war orphans rounded up
over time were all expendable. You lucked out when you and Captain
Dulce became quick friends. He has a surprising amount of sway
felt his heart beating in his throat, an acrid taste in his mouth,
trying desperately to swallow it back down. "What happened to
sighed, looking every bit as sick to her stomach as Rean felt. "They
were barters. Hostages. Slaves. Human experimentation. Take your
Horror. Immense, physical,
horror. His legs buckled, and he knew he'd be
glad to have a chair so close when he was able to think again. "You...
Who knows about this?"
hand on her paperwork curled into an unconscious fist. That
emotionless quality settled back over her voice again. "Welcome
to the military, Mr. Coi."