the window at the rain. She
made no further sound, no motion, lost in her own thoughts or maybe
trying desperately to keep her mind blank.
was too exhausted for too many reasons. He took the bed again out of
necessity, gaining anything but the restful part of sleep. It was
nice to hide from consciousness for a while, but every few minutes it
seemed he'd wake with a bit of a start, seeing the general at the
window... reminding him all over again. Maybe she wasn't a
general anymore, but it was hard to think of her otherwise. Hard to
think of... anything else...
same thing must have kept happening over a couple of hours at least,
no memorable nightmares plaguing him; but no decent dreams of better
times, either. He was finally woken fully by a light hand on his
shoulder, causing a startled gasp before he realized what was going
got to get going soon." She informed quietly.
caught himself staring sleepily into her eyes, blinking when he
realized she was gazing back. There were still flecks of gold in
those eyes, but... they weren't anything like they'd been before. That
glow... "I thought... you might try to leave without
me..." he admittedly, honestly not sure if that should have been
kept to himself.
thought had crossed my mind." She countered with just as much
honesty, backing away to give him room to get out of bed. "But
you don't have anywhere else to go, either."
reminder that he could have done without, regardless of the truth
behind it. Rean sat up with a yawn that he hadn't seen coming,
wincing a little as he stretched. At least he felt a lot better than
he had, and a lot stronger despite the nausea remaining. "Is
there time to take a shower first?" He couldn't fathom how long
it had been since he'd bathed, nor did he want to figure it out.
quick one." She agreed calmly. "There are some fresh
clothes in the linen closet. Still a little big, but they'll do."
nodded, standing... then very nearly sat back down again. Getting up
quickly had rarely ever left him feeling dizzy, the sensation
watched, making sure he gained his footing, first. She was already
at the door, seeming intent upon leaving the room. "Wait here." It was
an order, stated softly but firmly.
believed that he knew exactly where she was going, and there was an
all too familiar sinking feeling about it. "Shouldn't I follow
you at least..?"
here." She repeated, tone unchanged. "I won't be long."
failed to be reassured.
in the least. It was how his guest
seemed to patiently wait until he answered the door that made
him nervous. "Rakashi."
stepped past him in a very business-like manner, letting him close
and lock the door before she began. "Captain Dulce. Where is
don't know. He didn't tell me where he was going, but..." he
turned and took a few steps to the dresser, rummaging through the top
drawer. "He left some money for you."
"Money?" Her coldness fell
straight to confusion at the idea.
only reply was to drop an unwrapped, unbound pile of every assortment
of paper money known the world over onto the dresser's polished top.
Gold would not do for a pair of innocent travelers, and the captain
certainly knew that... but having quite so much money from so very
many locations seemed just a touch extreme. Overdone. Quite
legitimately from the captain.
too." The man pointed over to the bed.
over, she spotted two distinctive lumps beneath the comforter. "What is
believe that he wants you to find him." Andrew shrugged. "He
didn't tell me anything. There was actually quite a verbal battle
between us because of that, but no matter. I'm sure he did it for my
'safety.'" He'd have laughed if he could have grasped humor in
are we?" her curiosity continued. She was used to answers being
few and far between, but this was just a little different.
over the hill from Feres."
that explained the rain. Feres was not an ideal tourist spot when
several months of flooding were expected every year. "Not a
single clue as to where he went?"
even a direction." Andrew confirmed. "But the main town
isn't far away. I'm willing to bet he left something for you."
abandoned the conversation for a moment, walking over to the bed and
pulling the comforter away. She was surprised to find two pistols of
a smaller variety than what the military generally used. These would
travel better of course, but it might provide a disadvantage in terms
of ammunition and distance for someone like Rean, who hadn't gotten
wouldn't tell me where those came from, either." The man spoke
up, tone a bit frustrated. "I wonder if anyone was actually
open with one another."
certainly summed up her thoughts quite well, and a damn lot more
politely. Quietly, she picked up each pistol and inspected them,
finding them fully loaded and well oiled. Taking one in each hand to
feel their weight, their balance, they were just different
enough to take note of. Not part of a production line. Probably
built from bits and pieces of other guns.
don't fear this." He repeated himself from earlier, calmly and
certainly. "I'm sure I deserve everything that I get."
was a... strange sentiment. One that she wasn't really sure how to
respond to. "Why would you say that?"
looked a bit shocked by her question. "This... what you are
right now... it's now what you were meant to be. I don't pretend to
know what that was, but I know it's not this. Even if one could
set aside the people who died, the species that
eradicated or affected by the Rush... it's my fault. My theory, my
help." He laughed a little, the sound hollow. "I've never
been spiritual by any stretch, but that was... sin."
odd. Her throat was dry, her hands tightening around the
pistols--but not in anger. It was... longing, all of a
sudden. Of all the ridiculous things. Longing to know more. Things
he couldn't offer her, it seemed. "You think I'd torture you."
shrugged one shoulder. "To be frank... your rage isn't exactly
a secret." There was a little smile than managed to break
through. He'd been witness to many of her "incidents"...
as well as having been the one to clean a few of them up. "Nor
your skill on the field."
skill at killing, you mean." She countered quietly, looking
down at the new weapons. It'd been some time since she'd really needed
any, having been imprisoned in the Tower for so
long. Ha, it was to laugh. Deadly little princess.
are your words." Andrew corrected.
could only shake her head, trying to bind together too many thoughts
that she didn't quite understand. Not that she was sure if she
wanted to understand them in the first place. The urge to sit was
strong, but ultimately ignored. "How can I trust anything that
you've told me? That you're not just delusional?"
don't know." He answered with a sigh. "There's no
evidence anymore. I'm not sure if there ever was, but if so, it
burned with the Tower."
she certainly didn't remember that part. "Burned..?"
don't know anything about that, either. I only looked back once, and
there was fire."
long moment of silence followed. Maybe they'd both been betrayed in
some way or another... or just not allowed to know the whole truth.
Maybe he was a damn good liar and she was letting imagined loyalty
and emotion color her decision. "How much money do you need to
stay here for a while?"
eyes widened, trying hard to not look as surprised as he felt. He
failed miserably. "I have what I need for quite some time."
alive." She came close to outright ordering. Maybe she just
suggested it strongly, instead. With that much said, she turned and
walked to the door.
so I know..." he called after her, "Why are you letting me
was a good question. One that probably deserved proper thought and
time put into a response for, but at the moment she had neither of
those things. "Because I've got a damn good sense of humor." She
decided on, closing the door behind her.
heard Andrew laughing as she walked away. That seemed as good a sign
just as he was drying off. He stood stock still
at first, wondering if it was her, if something had gone
I to assume that you actually might know how to shoot?" Came
from the other side of the bathroom door.
thought he'd be a little more at ease to discover her still alive. "I,
well... a gun?"
"Yes." She sounded slightly
amused. "A pistol, in particular."
an odd and unwelcome question to greet him after his pleasantly hot
shower. "I never learned... but I think I could. If I had to,
to hear." The former general called over her shoulder, already
walking away to gather up their things and get going.
in terms of supplies. Rakashi knew that the
larger town ahead would likely have deals for travelers if the right
language was used; after all, no need to spend that money if they
didn't have to. It had been a bit of a surprise to find full-cover
rain coats had been left for them, but at that point they both
supposed that they ought to start getting used to being surprised.
coats were necessary, the rain heavy and unrelenting. At the very
least it wasn't a cold rain, and the lack of wind saved them from
being soaked through. Save their boots, unfortunately, a fact that
Rakashi quietly cursed about every so often. It really was a little
difficult not to laugh.
tried to focus instead on what he could see. The cobblestone
street beneath was impressive, worn by time but still very much
intact. After a while, he marveled instead on the knowledge that
they seemed to be the only people moving in the rain. There weren't
cars or even carriages going along the same road. The locals were a
good deal smarter, he guessed.
was during one of those long silences between curses that he started
to wonder how she kept going. How she'd ever kept going, even
before... but most certainly now. And how could she stand to have
him tag along? He'd have questioned the same about anyone, but
specifically himself, a reminder of the Tower, someone who wasn't
even really all that much a part of her life. It wasn't comfortable.
Like the weapon she'd given him.
blurred like the landscape in the rain. Another hill, then another. The
sound of rain, water, everywhere. Even the woman's cursing had
stopped, concentration settled elsewhere. Another hill. Again and
again until finally they crested a hill with a steeper drop--and down
below them was civilization.
was a storybook town, or at least that's exactly how it appeared.
Small, quaint, and yet still full of buildings, shops, everything
painted in soft colors and somehow still holding up to the rain.
course, there was also a pub. That Rakashi headed straight for,
ushering Rean in to shake off the water and take in the smell of old,
wet wood, smoke and alcohol. It might well have been more
uncomfortable than the pistol. "What are we doing here?"
he whispered, trying not to sound as nervous as he felt.
what we need." She answered simply. As a soldier, she knew
that the pub was the first place one went to find anything.
Supporters, dissenters, weapons, sex, safe passage, spies, and of
course the all-important booze. "Just follow me. Everywhere."
was not a problem. He walked directly behind her as she approached
the bar, unable to help but notice all eyes on them. Rakashi,
however, didn't so much as glance back at any of them, taking an
empty stool and waiting. Well, that was good. He hoped.
a word, she placed a single bill on the counter and tapped the
printed value with her ring finger twice. Some signal that he didn't
know, clearly, but it got her a small cup of amber liquid from a
very... practiced woman serving as barmaid.
the slightest hint of a grin, she offered the drink to her traveling
companion. Rean shook his head, somewhat vigorously. He could smell
it from there, and it was... unpleasant. She gave a smirk before she
threw it back, swallowing the awful concoction in one go. Sure it
was bad, but it was a bit of a psychological game with whoever
was waiting behind closed doors, watching. And there was always
someone. This was all part of the dance.
then came that unexpected tap on her shoulder. Easily she turned,
regarding the slightly grizzled man with a blank look.
man really had no idea what he was in for. "I see that you must
be new here." He started off, voice some warped version of an
attempt at being suave. "I'm certain you might need a guide,
someone who knows the area. You're certain to need that to keep you
out of danger, aren't you?"
"No." Rakashi answered simply,
turning back to the bar.
the man turned the former general back around, Rean braced
himself for the impact. This was not going to end well, and yet
turning away seemed like it would have been a mistake.
now." The man continued, voice tight and showing anger. "You
one of those military brats who thinks you can cut it outside?" When
she didn't answer, he simply continued. "Well let me tell
you something, sweetheart: your pretty little ass isn't too old to
get sold off. Neither is the boy's frankly."
happened a little too fast to really get the gist of everything. Rean
saw movement, heard glass break, and then the side of the man's
face was slammed into the top of the bar's counter. It was
with a sick feeling in his stomach that he realized Rakashi had
broken the glass first... and the shards were most certainly embedded
in the man's cheek.
going to lay it all out for you, nice and clear." She assured,
tone just short of friendly. "You're going to listen to
me, and you are going to mark my words or they will be the last you
will ever hear." The man struggled. His face was again
slammed against the counter, hard enough to hear something crack as
he cried out. Neither of those things seemed to interrupt her. "You're
the fuck out of here
right now. And you are never going to come back. Because you don't
want to die, do you?"
was a whimper. Then a hushed, wounded, "No, ma'am."
"'No sir.'" She
corrected. "You are going to call me
'sir' and you are going to leave and forget this ever
happened. Because if you don't," that smile got tighter,
more sinister, "Then I am going to thoroughly enjoy widening
those cuts. I'm going to carve you up with a smile on my face,
because you're going to realize how truly worthless you are." The
pretense fell. Her voice was nothing but cold, hand clenching
around the back of his neck. "I'm going to find joy in
the sound of your fingers breaking before I slice them off and feed
them to you. That might be before or after I dig those pretty blue
eyes out of your head with whatever I manage to find in your pockets;
I'm sure you understand that I'm been trained to be exceedingly
resourceful. I'm going to make sure that you wish you were never
born, that you're in so much fucking pain that all you can
think of is the end... and then I'm going to make sure that you know,
completely aware that you are calling out to a
god who wouldn't touch your filthy fucking soul for anything. That
even your creator despises you as much as I do. And I will bathe in
your blood as I laugh and leave your last breath to be one of abject
misery." After a long, intense silence, the smile came up again
like it had never vanished to begin with. "Now. How about you
go on outside now?"
did. Faster than he may have ever moved, the side of his face
dripping with blood. The same blood that the counter was smeared
woman remained impassive even when an older gentleman emerged from
the door at the side of the bar, clearly from a back room. Without a
word he merely poured her a shot of something far better than what
she'd gotten before, sliding it through a bit of that blood to rest
in front of her.
"Rakashi..." Actually saying her
name was a complete accident, but Rean was
grasping for something. Of course he knew those rumors, but
he'd never experienced the truth behind them until that moment. Even
so, that seemed a bit... extreme, to put matters lightly...
having a bad day, Rean." She responded easily, taking that
you are Rakashi." The man behind the counter confirmed. "I was
told that I'd probably know you when I saw you. I've got
a few things that've been waiting."
the captain had been here, alright. "Understood." She
responded simply before standing, waiting for her former assistant to
follow her lead. "How much do I owe?"
a thing." The man responded, lifting the end of the counter for
them to come through. "That useless jackass has been harassing
my customers for years."
allowed herself to grin. Maybe it wasn't quite serendipity, but it
was close enough. Making certain that Rean remained close, she
followed the man through the door and up the stairs to the left,
apparently to the apartments above. He merely opened the door to the
right, prepared to let them enter. "Everything you need until
morning is in there. When you leave, there will be horses waiting
to say the least. "Who paid you?"
his head, the man answered, "No names, no purpose. If there's
no trouble here then I never saw any of you."
had hoped for a better answer... but that wasn't a bad one, either.
"Understood. Thank you." Ushering Rean in ahead of her,
she turned back and offered, "Sorry about the mess."
about that room. An ice box with wrapped
sandwiches in it, for instance. Water in the tap that wasn't brown. The
fact that they had transportation out. But there were a lot of
things that Rean wasn't necessarily happy about. The single and
rather thin bed, for instance. At least he could mention the other
thing. "Why horses?"
rain." Rakashi responded without even taking a moment to figure
out what he was asking, in the process of seemingly inspecting every inch
of the area. Anything out of place would need to be
inspected. "It completely destroys metal after a while. People
still travel here with wooden carts, but... those wear out too after
wasn't that he didn't like horses. It was just that he'd never
ridden one. Like shooting a gun, those had just never been in his
range of experience. Sitting heavily on that bed with a sigh, he
suddenly went very still as he realized there was something beneath
him. Standing to dig it out from under the sheets, it seemed safer
to just hand the envelope over.
a raised eyebrow, she accepted and immediately went about inspecting
the contents. Inside, there was only the single front page of a
newspaper. After giving it a long look, reading it over twice, she
handed it back to Rean. "Read."
actually didn't want to. Not when her expression hadn't changed. Taking
a deep breath first, he started to read aloud, "'Secretary
Sarah Katspur among the... dead at the Unit 183 disaster... no one
survived the bombing'..?" His hands were absolutely cold all of
reading." She pressed softly.
considered outright refusing until he noticed a rather unusual name
in the next line. Something... familiar. "'Tirmedi LeNalldeuc
also killed, sighted under Project Ecsret Essmage.'"
smiled, though it was slight. "That's the most horrifically
blatant 'secret message' I've ever seen."
looked back at the words, then honestly wondered how he hadn't
noticed right away. Once he'd seen it, "Ecsret Essmage"
became "Secret Message" right away. That definitely seemed
the name." She urged him forward. "Look at 'Tirmedi
one took him a bit longer due to the letters he needed to work out.
Once he got the first word, though, double-checking it in his mind...
"Demitri Allen Dulce." Demi's full name. And no one ever
called him Demitri. "So... what does this mean?"
not sure." She admitted, moving to take a look at the page
again. "I might just need to... let it rest for a while. 'Unit
138' is entirely too suspicious. 1-3-8 was the unlock code of
Sarah's field files. All of this suggests that she and the captain
are actually alive and well, but as for where..."
sincerely hoped so. Particularly after that little incident at the
bar moments ago. Reading over the rest of the page along with her,
he pointed out the obvious in hopes that it might be considered
helpful. "Nova is mentioned. So are Pavelin, Jant and
be four corners." Rakashi theorized. "The meeting point
between the four. I'm sure we'll be provided with a map before we
leave, and we'll know then." Those towns were just too small
for her to actually know where they were.
hoped a lot for that, too. They had a few too many complications to
be dealing with any more. Sighing quietly, he looked out the window
and noted that despite how heavy the rain was, it appeared that the
sun was just starting to go down. It was too early to be so tired,
the bed." She invited easily, taking the page and sliding it
back in the envelope to bring with them.
blinked. Not that he didn't appreciate that, but... the only other
places to sleep were a threadbare rug or a much too small bath tub. It
wasn't some show of "maleness"--he was actually
concerned about Rakashi getting rest herself. Just remembering how
long it seemed she'd been staring out the window at the inn... "You
ought to sleep too, though."
gotten by on less." She defended just a little too easily. "There's
always the floor. I've managed to sleep just fine on
she didn't have to here, was the thing. He shook his head.
"There's a bed and we should... both use it." Dammit, he
hoped he'd just started running a fever and not a blush.
did look just a bit too amused by the idea, then gazed out the window
for a moment as if debating. The sandwiches would keep, and they'd
need a big breakfast. Not to mention that sleeping now would assure
it would be easier to start off early in the morning... "I'd
expect you to be a gentleman, Mr. Coi."
honestly didn't know if she was teasing him. Either answer seemed
mildly cruel. "That... that goes without saying, general."
tempted as she was to remind him that the title was no longer valid,
it was best to let it drop for the moment. Removing her boots and
leaving them in front of the door, she checked the locks and then
slid under the top blanket, managing to look entirely too relaxed
was a little hesitation, but... dammit, he was tired and they were
adults. More or less. Sliding off his own boots, he was trying not
to focus on how insanely surreal this entire situation was. He
stalled a bit by drawing the curtains over the window, finding them
just as threadbare as the rug but still mostly capable of blocking
out light. Turning off the lamp, he moved unnaturally slowly as he
got under all of those blankets, providing an extra barrier between
them. How to lay, though... he supposed it was best to get as close
to the edge of the bed as possible, facing away. Except that he
usually got a leg cramp on that side. Sleeping on his back would be
best, but that was just a little bit too close. But maybe if he
moved his arms so he could do something between the two and then bend
that leg slightly...
swallowed. "Yes, sir?"
chuckle was quiet. "Go to sleep."
quiet sound of amusement escaped before he had any idea that he was
going to be making it. He didn't care what she was or where she was
from. This was enough.