dreams since he was
moving from one to the other, appearing to sleep through them. Bits
and pieces, motion, voices... He couldn't really remember them, they
weren't clear, and he couldn't manage to find the energy to pay
attention while they were happening. He just knew when he was
somewhere still, somewhere dark and warm and far away.
the pieces became a little clearer. Bit by bit, there were memories
returned through a sleeping haze. Names, faces... sirens, and...
wake up... still raining..."
voice he knew, he thought. Was pretty sure. Female... worried?
Irritated, more likely.
Footsteps. Something... cold. Not
unpleasant, but very cold...
gasped, trying to form the word, trying to call her back. His throat
was too dry, tongue numb and heavy in his mouth--
Shuffling. He heard movement by
his side, but his eyes wouldn't open. He
thought he heard his name but he couldn't be sure...
warm was on his forehead. Then on his shoulder.
Rean. Calm down."
Hurt. His whole body was
overcome by intense pins and needles, every
muscle twitching with the sudden onslaught of feeling.
from the withdrawal... over soon..."
and frightened--he wanted the whole story. Everything; he needed to
know and he needed to understand. "R-- 'Kshi..."
"Ssh." Warmth on his forehead
again. "Just relax and be patient. It'll pass."
slowly realized that his hearing was coming back fully, though it was
tinged with a dull hum. Once the vicious tingling slowly left his
limbs, he also realized that he was completely exhausted--but
unwilling to surrender back to sleep. He opened his mouth to speak
again, instead finding something cold pressed to his lips. Cold,
wet; instinct told him to accept, and he was rewarded with slow sips
still dehydrated." The quiet, familiar voice informed him. "And
sensitive to light, so be careful. There are just a few
candles in here now."
don't know yet." The voice that was unquestionably Rakashi's
admitted. "Language barrier. I suppose that says enough about
distance..." She sighed in annoyance. "This is an inn,
though. I know that much."
lifted shaking hands to rub over his still-closed eyes, carefully. They
ached in their sockets, making him even more unsure about
opening them. "How're you so awake?" His throat felt
seared, scratchy... but at least he could speak.
be the first time I've been through this." She informed him
dryly. "Knocked out via electric pulse device. kept sleeping
through some pretty damn strong drugs... but withdrawal gets easier,
ice that moved through her voice made him shiver. Slowly,
tentatively, he began to crack his eyes open, immediately overcome
even by the soft candlelight. It was an instant headache, aching
from the bridge of his nose to deep within his skull--but at least it
was short-lived. He didn't want to ask what he was thinking. Maybe
he just didn't want to know so soon.
about her silence seemed to suggest that she wasn't all that willing
to be asked, either. Rean felt her push against the bed to stand,
then heard her quietly walk across the room. She didn't leave
at least, which made him feel the slightest bit better.
know as much about what happened as I do, more or less." She
finally spoke, staring out the window at the rainy night outside. It
had been raining heavily when she'd woken, never letting up enough to
let her see what was outside. Exploring while Rean remained
unconscious hadn't seemed like a good idea, and the fact that he'd
woken two full days later confirmed that he probably wouldn't have
been anything more than a panicked mess if there were no one around
at the time. "There are two people who run this inn, an old man
and a young woman who appear related. Clean towels and bedding are
left outside the door every morning, along with food for both of us
three times daily. I can only assume they've been paid handsomely
for this service, but the language barrier prevents me from asking."
things really weren't his concern, despite being good to know. Fighting
to keep his eyes open for more than a few seconds at a time
no matter how much they were watering, Rean allowed himself to play
back the last events at the Tower in his mind. Certainly Rakashi
knew something more. "What... happened there? I
remember... the siren and..." Demi. He didn't want to say that
part out loud.
sighed quietly, turning back to him. "I'd gone to report to the
admiral... but he was dead." Not that she had any remorse in
her voice for that bastard. "I was a little understandably
surprised and the blood was still fresh, so going out in the hallway
to see if the killer was still around seemed like the best idea." She
paused uncomfortably. "I saw someone sprinting toward me."
Dulce." He guessed softly, not wanting to use the man's
nodded, sure he could sense it even if he couldn't see it. "He
was visibly upset. I'd use the word afraid, more,
actually..." Trailing off, she remembered the events detail by
detail as she'd spent the last two days doing. As she continued, her
voice lost emotion and tone; it was like a dull report, forcefully
removing herself from the moment so as not to let anything interfere
with the events unfolding. "He insisted there was no time to
explain, that I needed to get to my office. I wasn't about to let
him go, so I insisted he accompany me." The laugh was weak,
fake. "He didn't seem to have the time to argue. It was on the
way down that the siren went off."
could imagine the rest pretty easily. She'd asked Demi what was
going on, and he'd probably dodged the question several times before
she finally lost patience completely. That still... answered
nothing... "What now?" he hadn't entirely meant to ask out
she tasted the word, its meaning lost over the days. "You try
wasn't what he'd meant. They both knew that. He was enormously
grateful for her answer, however.
part of the first day. His hands shook and
his eyesight phased in and out for the first several hours, hearing a
bit spotty from time to time. It was still easier to deal with than
a sour stomach, somehow.
that Rakashi was still alive as well was a help. Having her so
obviously watch over him was a little strange, slightly
disconcerting, but not unappreciated. She seemed to stay close to
the window, for the most part... staring out at endless rain and
wondering where it was they'd wound up. He wasn't sure why she
didn't just go out to explore, but he was admittedly glad that she
was close. Someone familiar, someone he could maybe trust...
never questioned that much. He didn't really question any of it,
possibly being too much in shock to do so. Far too surprised over...
everything. His life had changed in seconds and he just didn't
understand how that was possible. He'd been too exhausted to get out
of bed on his own until the following morning, damn well needing
to use the bathroom--but he'd been woken by a knock at the door.
general responded with no hurry, movement cautious as she approached.
Sitting up with a little difficulty, he watched her open the door.
Surprise came first, then a puzzled expression as she took the
envelope that she was handed. Nodding in thanks, she closed and
locked the door before slowly making her way to the desk. Envelope
placed on its polished surface, she simply stared at it for what may
have been several minutes. Maybe she was gathering the courage to
look inside... and Rean dare not interrupt even though the desire to
know what was inside was nearly enough to get him to open it.
she reached for the off-white paper, neatly tearing the side of the
envelope open and pulling the note from inside. He held his breath
along with her as he watched, paper unfolded delicately and with
hardly a sound. The reading was silent, Rakashi completely still
save for her eyes.
Rean prompted softly, seeing her stop and then read the note over
again. There was a very uncomfortable feeling in the pit of his
stomach that had nothing to do with the reason he'd so desperately
wanted to get out of bed in the first place.
cleared her throat, for a moment having forgotten that she wasn't
alone. "Andrew." She responded quietly, voice tinged with
an emotion that she was trying to reign in. "He's here."
didn't recognize that name. It probably didn't matter. "Wait
for me." He insisted, not knowing what he was asking and being
quite aware that he had no right to request anything--but it would
seriously suck if anything dramatic happened while he was in the
the room and rest. Strongly
insisted. Maybe he'd just been around her for so long that he found
it easy to strongly insist right back that he didn't exactly want to
be left out of this conversation. Even if he had the feeling it
might turn into more than just "conversation"... but
Rakashi knew what she was doing. Hopefully. He just had to know,
needed to be there and hear and see, despite slightly trembling legs
and provided clothes that didn't quite fit right. Shit, if Demi had
immediately shoved that thought from his mind. Walking a straight
line was requiring more concentration than usual anyway, adding to
the uncertainty of the world around him. At least the general was
kind enough to walk slowly, which was a little odd in itself. Maybe
she wanted the company? Or this was just to brace herself. Her
complete silence during their walk was more than a little
uncomfortable, something very much noticed. She seemed focused to a
that did seem a bit necessary, he supposed. With every step, he
swore he could see that coldness that she was known for become ice,
little by little. Armor, maybe. This did feel like a bit of a war,
marching on toward the unknown... not that he would know anything
was just too much to think about, and too little known. Far less
understood. He focused instead on Rakashi's pace, on trying to match
it as he followed. Wherever they were going wasn't a public place,
but another room that appeared to be on the opposite side of the inn
from where they'd been staying.
stopped at a specific door, giving the hallway surrounding them a
long look, up and down. No traps that she could sense, no one
spying, not a sound or a single indication that this was a trick.
Careful fingers rested on the doorknob... a rare moment of naked
uncertainty in her expression. It passed as she took a breath,
preparing; and that was all that she'd needed. There was no more
hesitation as she turned the knob without knocking.
there were no defenses. Just a man sitting in a chair turned toward
the door, having expected them. There were two more chairs facing
him, left and right, as if set up for a bit of conversation.
Rakashi took the chair to the man's front right without a word, Rean
stopped short and stared. Even without the uniform, there was
no doubt in his mind that this man was the janitor. The one he'd
asked Demi about just before everything...
"Sit." She managed to order and
invite at the same time, not even looking
at him. Her eyes were on the janitor, on Andrew, and Rean could only
sit numbly and wait for this all to make sense.
as prepared as he suspected he would ever get, Andrew began speaking.
"You have to understand their intentions. Our intentions."
expected... something. Anything. Violence, yelling, maybe worse. All he
got from the woman at his side was blankness. Silence. An
unnerving clarity about exactly how closely she was listening.
man continued in a show of blazing courage or phenomenal stupidity,
trying to remain calm in that golden-eyed glare. "You,
Rakashi... you were... you are..." His hands balled into
fists with frustration, eyes averted for a moment. The words weren't
coming as he'd hoped, the explanation seeming to escape even him. If
nothing else it made him seem honest. Afraid. "You're here
because of an experiment."
could be far more than just deafening--it could grasp one by the
throat and shake with a demon's ferocity. Still nothing from
the woman, no outward reaction. She was waiting for more.
continued, spurred on. "You don't remember anything before the
Rush because... technically, you didn't exist before then. At
least... not as you are."
suddenly counted his blessings. He was already sitting down, which
was good. He was too shocked to turn his head and see the general's
expression, which was also good. Best of all, he was too weak and
tired to panic.
last, Rakashi spoke. Low and expressionless, demanding with the
barest threat of violence. "So what am I, then?" She
revealed nothing of her thoughts on this, on her feelings. Just a
sharp, shining blade taking human form.
sighed deeply, looking more exhausted than the other two put
together. "I was originally an experimental weapons technician
for the Castle. That's why I was brought on to consult on... you. On
your project." His voice had begun to tremble at that point,
showing everything from anger to sadness--but the fear began to fade
from it entirely. "I honestly don't know who's responsible for
the idea, but I remember it being explained to me. That there's
some... 'thread'. A thread that's energy, that runs through all of
existence and links everything together. Sometimes... life moves
through the thread, too. Maybe souls, I... I wouldn't pretend to
on." She ordered, far too calmly.
man bowed his head, continuing to speak even though the words
themselves appeared to make him ill. "All I can tell you is
that someone found out about this thread, and the idea of
individuals--souls, people--being transfered by it. The theory was
that one could be... 'captured' as it passed." Andrew forced
himself to look up, to make eye contact even if it made him
physically pained to do so. "But it required energy. That's
what I was there for, to try and figure out... how to create,
then harness this energy to make it work... and how to trap what came
through because of it. It was all sort of silly at the time,
but the brass was so insistent and we got it to the last stage. We
experimented, and... well, it..."
"Worked." She finished for him,
soft but cold.
nodded with a swallow. "The Rush was actually... us, on
purpose." He winced as he spoke those words, stomach clenching. "I
didn't know. I'd theorized and drawn up plans, but I
didn't know they would take them to full power and... that was the
energy. That was what brought you... into the crater..." A
continent divided. Millions dead. Thousands wounded, remembering
the horrors. The surrounding environment had been forever destroyed,
and further still there had been mutations, mass die-offs, poisoned
only makes so much sense." Rakashi spoke with absolutely no
sign as to whether she believed him or not. Simply cold.
was listening in astonished silence, feeling every bit of the tension
building. He was truly outside of himself, none of this seeming real
but everything seeming too real at the same time. He had to
be dreaming. He hoped that he was dreaming.
man, the not-really-janitor, took a ragged breath and looked down...
then made eye contact with the general once again. "Someone
figured out that your... 'kind'... makes a habit of traveling that
thread. Specialize in it, even. And, according to whoever was in
charge... it wouldn't be the first time your kind has been here."
Andrew took another bracing breath, as if feeling the hand of fate squeezing.
artificially, I think. To... selectively choose one. I don't have
evidence of that, but... it's all I've come up with. I can't
comprehend why such an atrocity would be committed in the first
calm. So very, perfectly, eerily calm. Her voice was a veil over
things that the other two in the room both hoped would not be
revealed in its truest form. "What were you, then? A weapons
tech or a janitor?"
contact was lost once more, the man's hands balled into such tight
fists that they were white, shaking... "Once I understood what
was going on, I wanted to... befriend you, I guess. After the brass
discovered that you weren't exactly the 'friendly sort', I was
relegated to watching you."
"Yes." Swallowing, he tried
desperately to make a joke, "Who would
suspect the janitor?"
didn't laugh. But she didn't react negatively, either. "Who
else was involved?"
looked like he was going to be sick right then and there, glancing to
Rean--who jerked back at the fleeting eye contact. "There were
only a few people that I ever came into contact with. Dr. Taiyet,
Admiral Quent... And Captain Dulce."
for Captain Dulce..." Rean found himself somehow able to speak,
legitimately surprising himself as well as his company. "What
man answered the question to the best of his ability. "Technically,
like a psychologist of
sorts." Shaking his head, Andrew knew that didn't really
explain or describe anything, but he didn't know any more than that. "I
think the two of us were the only ones who every thought
about our mistakes... ever thought about the person rather
than the general..."
a general anymore." She dismissed, starting to feel too numb. Too
distant. This was all... insane... and yet she couldn't
deny that there was something to it. Something... there... "And
seemed to be attempting to be assuring. "Sarah and Rean are the
only innocents in this entire thing, as far as I'm concerned."
sat silent for a moment, gathering what was left of her conscious
thought. Even if this were the truth, it only explained so much... She
stood for no discernible reason, moving slowly and quietly. Rean
swallowed hard, absolutely certain that she was going to gut the man
with her bare hands--and he seemed just as certain, the very essence
of surrender all around him.
now?" her voice remained soft, however. "Why all of this now?"
shook his head, trying to stop himself from trembling. "What
happened at the Tower... I don't know. I just know it was destroyed,
someone killed Quent... and with nothing to keep you there, the
captain decided to act." He laughed suddenly, the sound of it
forced and tense. "Don't ask me why he decided to drag you two
this far out. He never made sense to anyone."
that sounded like Demi, alright. Rean wasn't willing to move let
alone say a word. None of this made any damn sense...
ready, though." The man continued, voice far softer as he sat
back. "You know the truth, and now... well. I've sinned
against the universe by helping them. By... enabling them to kill so
many. And by bringing you here in the most unnatural way possible." He
looked at her, a calm certainty in her eyes as he nodded. "I'm
die. Yes. She hadn't seen that often, but... enough. She
understood--not that she allowed anything though her expression. After
a long moment of silence, she merely answered, "Don't
teeth clicked together as he closed his mouth quickly, seeing Rakashi
turn to open the door in order to leave. He ignored his weak limbs,
ignored the dizziness, and pushed away everything but the instinct to
follow her out. Thought, thinking, would take much longer.
room they'd started in, Rakashi making it
to the desk... but no further. She just couldn't find the
strength for another step, falling into the chair and remaining.
took it upon himself to close and lock the door, the action having
become routine. The way his legs started to shake were not, of
course, but he wished that desk were more familiar. And had another
chair, preferably metal and creaky as hell to offer some sound,
leaving tomorrow." She whispered, voice slightly rough from
things he could only imagine. "The captain... he can't be that
were no answers for him in that announcement... but he could go along
with it. "I have to find him, too."
word was quiet, Rakashi not turning to face him. "Why?"
just do." Maybe he didn't know why, or just didn't care to
figure it out. "I thought... he was my friend."
closed her eyes, slumping against the desk as she fought back a
confusing flood of emotion. Everything that had kept her in that
godforsaken place was either destroyed or in chaos, unknown... and
then that possible revelation. She didn't know what she believed,
but... she didn't have a memory of the Rush itself, nor the time
before. Her whole life may have been a lie--and not just a
lie, but a prison. Outside. There was the overwhelming need to feel
the rain on her skin, to prove that she was out of that place, to
wash its filth from her...
I come with you?" Rean asked outright, voice quiet. He'd
managed to walk to the corner of the desk, more holding himself up
than leaning against it.
a shuddering breath answered at first. The forced control was
becoming... painful... "Yes." She managed. But that was
am an idiot. He told himself
firmly. The fact established, he half-stumbled over to the woman and
placed a hand on her shoulder. He was more surprised about Rakashi
reaching up to place a hand over his own than he was about the fact
she'd squeezed it lightly.