The light flared and the blackened flesh of her arm boiled up in snapping little bubbles. It ran off in hot rivers and dripped onto the floor, burning holes where it fell. Enero struggled to his feet and reached to save Xania from the power that was consuming her. The instant he touched her, he was flung back again. He thudded against the wall and landed in a heap on the floor. He didn’t try to interfere again.
He stared up at her with wide eyes. For the first time, he fully understood what she was. In a way, her being Lodi was a story, a myth, a legend. He had always believe his father, but he had never really understood the implications. He did now. He loved her. But now he understood why there were those who wanted them destroyed. Did his father still have a copy of the shut down virus? Looking up at her now, he couldn’t believe there was anything that could kill her.
“I will not be destroyed by mere mortal hands,” she whispered.
It was her voice. It was far away, sleeping. She was some where behind the machine. Was she aware of what was happening to her?
The last of the dead skin ran away. The remaining bones in her shoulder snapped and stretched themselves to reform what was lost. Enero gasped. The sound lurched his stomach and he could taste bile in the back of his throat.
Muscles spun themselves around the newly grown white shafts, and sculpted themselves. Like a sheet of melting plastic, the skin oozed over the twitching muscle and sealed the once missing arm with perfection.
“Renewal complete,” she droned.
She lowered so that her feet touched the ground. Standing in the halo of blue light. Her eyes were open, but they stared out at nothing. All color had drained from them, leaving them a gleaming crystal that reflected back the light in brilliant shards.
“Life Drive disengaged,” she droned.
Beep. Renewal disengaged and Gaia shard disengaged. Beep. Little time. Beep. Stop sequence 27432. Beep. Come. Beep. Full system into standby mode. Beep. Enaid is dying. Beep. Come. Beep. Dipak needs you. Beep.
Then the light and energy were gone, more suddenly then it had come. Xania crumbled onto the floor like an overused Doll.
Leaning against the wall, trembling, he tried to focus his thoughts. Everything swirled and competed for his attention. Scattered and broken fragments, shuffled into corners.
Father had been waiting for her to waken. Pretty sure this counted as being awake. He wanted to use her as a weapon. Lay the Mages low and cut down the Fey. Dreams of controlling all of Solis. Could he control this single girl? Enero tried to imagine what would happen if she rebelled. There would be nothing to keep her from destroying their nation.
The Mages would want to control her or see her dead once they knew about her. And they would know about her once father began his conquest with her at his side. Did they have the shut down virus? It had been made back when it was still a cooperative effort.
Would they kill her?
He crawled over to her. Cautiously, he reached out a hand and touched her shoulder. Nothing happened. He scooped her up in his arms and cradled her into his lap, bringing her head against his chest. Her clothing was charred and torn, but her skin was perfect. Lifting his fingers to his face, he traced the line on his cheek. It stung. She had saved him. Without her, he would be dead.
Knowing nothing else, he knew that he could not let them kill her.
Rising from the floor, her carried her to the bed. He pulled out his cell phone and dialed a number.
“Put plan 2 in motion,” he said.
He hung up. It would have to be enough. There had never been a reason for him to make all these strange plans and arrangements. It just seemed like a good idea to have options. Now it was very good to have an option. But his plan couldn’t help her if she wasn’t awake.
Her eyes flicked open.
Taking a step back, he reflexively touched his fingers to his forehead. Oh Gods, forgive him for protecting her. But there was no other course. Man had created her and now man owed her this.
She sat up and rubbed her eyes. Just the way she did when she woke in the morning. Stretching out her arms and swinging her legs over the bed, she covered mouth as she yawned. Just another day. Would she recall everything that happened? Fuck things would be complicated if she didn’t.
She looked at him.
“Morning,” she mumbled.
Then her eyes went wide. She lifted her hands up in front of her and flicked them back and forth. Then she patted her chest and her face. Running her hands under the tattered shirt, she got up so that she could look in the mirror.
“Life Drive engaged,” she whispered.
She turned to him, her eyes still huge. Hands trembling and eyes full of tears, she sobbed. He held her. There was nothing that he could say. It would have been better if she could have forgotten. He wished that she could just go on being a regular person. Worst part was that there was no time to tell her anything. She had to go. Now.
“There’s no time,” she said.
She pulled away from him and began to strip off her clothing. Good, she understood. Just as quickly, she was pulling on clean attire and then practical boots. Once she was dressed he flipped open his pocket knife and walked up behind her. Pushing her head forward and pulling her hair up, he exposed her neck. So complaint. She’d have to unlearn that quickly. He made a small cut and pulled out the tracker. He tossed it to the floor. Still standing behind her, he stuffed a bag of gold into her pocket and pressed his lips against the wound he’d created. He wished she could kiss the wound she would create whens he left.
“Go out the window,” he murmured. “Someone will meet you at your apartment. Hurry.”
Without a pause, she was away from him and pushing up the window. There was a stab in his chest. She swung herself out onto the fire escape. Before she turned to go she mouthed a thank you. She lurched down the stairs then through the alley, making her way to the back parts of the city. She hadn’t looked back. He had hit her too many times for that. Rubbing his hands together, he pulled his phone out again and dialed.
“Step 2,” he said.
Once the woman’s body was delivered, he would need to have it disfigured more with liquid silver so that it could not be recognized. The general public would think she was dead. Father would be told that she had activated and escaped. He would be punished, but he was alright with that.
Xania burst in the door of her apartment, and then paused. She couldn’t stay here for long. Should she wait for Enero’s man? There was no telling what he would do to her or where he would take her. Where could she go on her own? She closed the door and flung her coet in the general direction of the closet.
What time was it? She glanced at her watch. 2000. What day? She couldn’t tell how long she’d been asleep or how long everything had taken. She wasn’t sure what had happened. It was like a computer had turned on inside her. That was impossible.
She jogged up the stairs, the beginnings of the fear stirring in her gut. What if someone else was already here? Click. Beep. Initiating command sequence 83645. Scanning. She hit the top of the stairs. Bathroom door on the left, she flung it open. Empty. Beep. Reading room on the right. Empty. Scanning. Beep. Next door, guest bedroom. Not that she ever had guests. Empty. Scanning. Beep. Her bed room. Empty. Scanning. Beep. Everything empty! She breathed deeply, tried to slow her heart beat.
She stood at the door. She stepped out of the room and looked down the hall. The doors still flung open like hungry mouths. Xania closed the door, still dazed. What now? She slowly walked to the top of the stairs. She heard the front door close, soft. She froze. Was it Enero’s man? It could be someone else. There could be others coming. She blinked. She wasn’t sure who she was expecting to come after her, but she knew that someone would be.
Her heart thudded harder as the other possibilities dawned upon her. Shit. Carner could be after her. And when a king wants you… well, you’re in serious shit. But why would he? Someone had been keeping her close. She’d had people guarding her and keeping her on a leashed all her life. Even before Enero had been an adult. Before he’d had authority. Shit. It wasn’t Enero who’d been keeping her as a pet.
“Fuck. Fuck. Fuck,” Xania thought to herself.
She slipped into the reading room, quiet. She needed a weapon. But what? She looked at the shelves. Only books. Scanning. Beep. She heard the quite creek of the fourth step, the only time she was glad to hear it. She knew someone was coming, but whom? The desk. Nothing. Wait! A letter opener. It was sharp, but small. She’d have to surprise them… She went beside the door, so she would be behind it when it opened.
Scanning. Beep. She waited. Silence. She strained to hear any clue as to the other person’s location. Silence. What now? Should she go investigate? It felt like she’d been waiting there forever, with the letter opener gripped too tightly. Scanning. Beep. Should she wait longer? Surely they had time to climb the stairs. Wouldn’t they look here first? Or maybe the bathroom… Scanning. Beep. She started to move, then froze as the door handle began to slowly turn. The door swung towards her; hard, pressing against her body.
Initiating command sequence 98365. Her vision sharpened. She could smell his skin and taste him. She was suddenly sure it was a human male on the other side of the door and that she didn’t know him.
“Alright, come out. Or I’ll simply shoot through the door.” A man’s voice.
Shoving at the door, she easily moved his weight back and stepped around the door. Bringing her foot up in an arch, she brought it crashing down on the man’s shoulder. He fell to his knee. His rifle clattered to the floor.
“Fuck!” he gasped.
She punched him, snapping his head to the side. He fell.
“Enero sent me,” he panted.
“Prove it,” she said.
Spitting out blood, he wiped at his mouth.
“I’m not sure why Enero thinks you need any help getting out of the city though,” he growled as he flipped a coin at her.
She caught it. She knew it at once. There had only been ten of these made. He had them crafted by a Dwarf, by hand as a symbol. Something that would prove they were his agent. Stuffing it in her pocket, she backed up and gave him room to rise.
“I just need a guide,” she said.
“Well, you sure as fuck don’t need a body guard,” he groaned.
Grabbing his rifle, he rose and laughed. He gave her a crooked grin and raised an eye brow at her before giving her a quick up and down look over.
Beep. Stop sequence 83645. Beep. Come. Beep. Stop sequence 98365. Beep. Come. Beep.