Watch Me Burn – Chapter Five

Five –

Beyond my comfort zone

“Lara,” I said in my best reasonable voice. “No.”

She’d realised the day of the Phantom rescue thing that my new found communication skills were for more than just show. They were convenient and helpful and in the right circumstances, served a pretty neat purpose. But now she had taken on a new… lease on life. Not really the best way of saying that, she kept saying that she wanted to make something of herself. She wanted to be more than she was at the moment; she wanted a ‘big’ life. So naturally, she decided to come with me to SPIRIT.

On top of that, Patrick wouldn’t be left behind. It was my luck that my two best friends had decided that my course sounded like so much fun they just had to tag along. I guess in the long run though, that’s not a bad thing. Companionship is always welcome. Hey, I’m still human.

So there I was, standing in Lara’s bedroom as she tossed things that had only recently been put in their respective drawers over her shoulder into a suitcase, trying to pry out of her exactly why it was she wanted to come with. My parents had been pretty okay about the whole thing, but they’d wanted me out of the house for the last two years. Patrick’s parents hadn’t worked out whether they were happy to be rid of him, happy that he was finally looking to make something of himself, or a little put out because now they had no default baby sitter for Thomas. Lara’s parents though, well… they might execute me for taking her with me, condemn me for leaving her here or they may not even care either way. They were very strange people, the Matthews’. But unlike Patrick and me, Lara was an only child; they wouldn’t have another kid in the house if she left. At least for me and Patty, there’d be Jeremy and Thomas still at home to help with the whole ‘a child’s leaving home’ thing. Mr and Mrs Matthews had no one else.

Not to mention, if absolutely anything happened to Lara, I’d be to blame. I don’t hold that against them or anything, but how is it my fault if she gets a boyfriend? Or a tattoo?

Maybe my incredible debating skills could talk her out of it, but it’s her decision and I’m not going to get caught up in her minor problems. Piercings, tattoos and sleazy boyfriends… well that’s a learning curve, although I might talk her out of tattoos, they’re just yuck. It’s the bigger problems I care about. Don’t go home with strangers, don’t walk on the streets alone at night, don’t play with firearms, etc. That sort of stuff is likely to get Lara into a lot of trouble. Normally, she’s a sensible girl, but half a can of beer and she’s drunk as she’ll ever get. If she drinks the whole can she’s passed out (she doesn’t hold her alcohol well). And when she drinks, she stops thinking. I’m going to stop rambling about her now. I’m sure there’ll be times in this story where you’ll get the full picture.

Actually, just while I’m off on a tangent I’m going to give you all a brief over view of some of the other companies that exist in our world. SPIRIT (Specialised Phantom International Rescue and Infringement Tacticians) deal with Phantom rights and protection, just what the name says basically. Most notably we have Knight Industries who have a successful chain of stores that sell internet, a few computer things, computer consoles  as well as phones, televisions, home phones… loads of stuff in other words. Knight also deals in weapons and solid explosives (dynamite for example), but that’s mostly just to the governments. They do those earpiece things and satellite phones and wireless comm. links as well, but again, they’re not available to the public. Oh, and mining. That’s their forte as well.

MIBEC (Medicinal, Information Technology, Biogenetics, Engineering and Cybernetics – you’d think it would be MITBEC but whatever) does medical stuff. They fund Phantom nurseries and supply stock to both them and pharmacies. They also stock hospitals and make cybernetics. Have you seen… ah what was it… limbs that look real but have been enhanced with a mechanical bone and nerve structure? That’s basically what MIBEC do as well. They haven’t perfected the technology yet, but they’re close. At the moment they’re limited to limbs of various alloys that do the same things as a real limb only better, they can’t get them to look real. They also get illegal drugs from Sonde that they use when making their legal drugs. Their experimentation with medicine is quite illicit and if it was to be discovered by the powers that be a large number of silent executions would take place within a very short period of time, but I’m not supposed to know that. MIBEC also do structural stuff. Need an architect? Go to MIBEC. They do engineering too. MIBEC are Knight’s adversary when it comes to phones and computers as well, they both do the same thing in that area, but pardon me for saying I think Knight does it better. Although I could be biased.

Oh one other thing about Sonde. I said above that they make aircraft, aircraft fuel and satellites well they also do a special kind of explosive made of two liquids. When the two liquids mix you have about a minute to get the fuck away from it before it blows a crater in the face of the world five miles wide. It’s potent stuff, highly illegal and the government don’t have it. On top of that, they have drug farms (illegal ones) and they sell the produce to MIBEC because MIBEC uses that stuff and they can’t get it anywhere else without consequences. MIBEC gets their weapons from Knight, some of which they then covertly sell to SPIRIT because the owner of Knight wants nothing to do with them, and some of it they sell to Sonde. If Knight was seen to be dealing with Sonde there would be a huge explosion of negative publicity and that would be bad. In exchange for getting Knight Tech, Sonde sends its members out as cheap labour to work for either company. All three companies are so closely interconnected it’s almost impossible to discern one from the other. Rumours are floating about at the moment, just as a little bit of gossip for you readers, that Sonde is working on anti-gravitational technology. That shit would revolutionise the world! But again, I’m not supposed to know anything about that.

Anyway, enough of that rubbish, back to the regular program.

“I’m coming with you,Kirin,” said Lara, throwing another coat over her shoulder. “You’ll get yourself into trouble if you go alone.”

I folded my arms. “You know I’m not buying that.”

She turned and started putting the clothes into her suitcase. The whole time she kept her eyes downcast so she didn’t have to meet my gaze. The chicken.

“Lara,” I said again. I left it at that this time. Reasonable arguments weren’t doing anything so I saw no reason to continue with them. Either way, my tone worked. She looked up.

Lara sighed, dropping her clothes into a messy pile on top of the suitcase and she slipped to the floor. “I can’t stand being left behind,” she said. “I feel like I’m losing you.”

I lifted an eyebrow. “So it’s got absolutely nothing to do with the fact that I’m going off to have an ‘adventure’ and you’re staying here?” I left no doubt to the question that she wouldn’t be coming with; otherwise she’d get her hopes up.

The shadow of a smile ghosted across her face. “Okay, maybe it has a little to do with it. But you can’t leave me here with Patrick. Not by myself, I’ll die.” She paused. “Or I’ll kill him.”

I smiled and sat opposite her. “But you hate SPIRIT,” I said. “Why on earth would you want to come with me?”

“Because you’re my best friend,” she said. “I’m going wherever you are. I’ve told you that before and it holds true now.”

Yeah, she had told me that before, but we were about six at the time. I’m actually surprised she remembered saying it and more surprised that she’d meant it. No, not surprised that she’d meant it, I was surprised that she’d bring it up here.

“I believe what I actually said,” she went on, “was, you’re my best friend and wherever you go is my home.”

“That’s lovely Lara, but you know I don’t bat for that team,” I said.

“Do you not want me to come than?” she asked.

“It’s not that,” I replied. “I just don’t want you coming if you’re not going to enjoy yourself. I don’t see the point in you coming because this isn’t what you want to do with your life, you hate SPIRIT and, from what you’ve told me recently, you’re not a big fan of travel. I just don’t want you to have a bad time.”

She took a big breath and just looked at me. Silence for a long time.

“That’s sweet,” she said at last, “that’d you’re thinking of me all the time. But first, what I said was that I don’t like plane travel. Second, I wanted to be a conservationist, that’s what SPIRIT does, but in a more aggressive way, I never said I hadn’t thought about them as a career choice, I just don’t think they’ll accept me. Third, I don’t hate SPIRIT, I don’t like killing. They have their own little wars all the time and that kind of annoys me, but what they’re doing is the right thing. I think perhaps they could be going about it better, that’s all.”

More silence. She was fidgeting with the hem of a dress and avoiding my eyes again. I kicked her.

“So do you want to come, then?” I asked.

She beamed. “I’d love to come. You won’t be put out by my company will you?’

“Contrary, it’ll be nice to have someone I know along.”

“Good.” She stood and started packing again.

“Uh, Lara,” I said. “I wouldn’t take so much clothing if I was you.” She looked at me questioningly over her shoulder. “We can go shopping when we get there. Until then, you’ll probably only need two changes of clothes. Pack food instead, the less we absolutely necessarily have to buy the better.”

Her eyes went wide, she smiled and gave me her best ‘ah, I’m a wise ass and what you say makes good sense’ look. I honestly thought that look was so trite, but what was I to do? Then she started unpacking all her stuff.

Now to deal with Patrick. I figured he might as well come now too, but I didn’t particularly want to tell him that. He’d kill me, the fuss he’d been chucking about me telling him to stay home and keep Lara company. It made perfect sense for him to come with; he wanted to be a soldier for gods’ sake.

I left Lara’s room to look for him; the sooner I got this over with the better. He was sitting, actually no sorry; he was moping in the living room. He looked up as I came in, but then he gave me the coldest glare I ever have seen and promptly began to ignore me. Oh, the male psyche, to one day understand how his brain works would make me so happy.

For a long moment, I just stood there, staring at him. I figured if I waited long enough, eventually he’d grow tired of being silently observed and he’d snap. But no. The moment stretched out longer and longer. He began to fidget, wanting to say something but stubbornly refusing to be the first to crack. It was kinda fun for a few seconds.

“Patrick,” I said lowly. He ignored me. Typical. “Patrick.” Nothing. “Patrick!”

He jumped, not ready for my sudden increase in both volume and pitch. That made me happy. “I can hear you,” he growled, finally looking at me. Then he remembered he was supposed to be ignoring me and looked away again.

“I know, I just wanted you to respond.” Nothing. “Listen, I’ve been talking to Lara and defying all belief she actually managed to convince me to let her come.” Still nothing. “Do you still want to come with?”

And again, nothing.

“Well all right then, if you’re absolutely positive you’d rather stay here…” I began to move. Nice and slowly, I knew he’d come around. But he didn’t. He just sat there, looking for all the world like a fat piece of stubbornly immovable lard. I wanted to slap him. But that would stuff up my genius plan. Although at the time, it didn’t look so genius anymore. Regardless, I went back to Lara.

“He didn’t give me an answer,” I told her.

She shrugged. “And?”

“So I’m just going to assume he doesn’t really want to come with.”

Lara huffed. “All right. His loss.”

I must say her response was so casual I was stunned for a moment. Then I grinned. As I recall, she gave me a curious expression.

“Why on earth are you smirking like that?” she asked.

“You sound just like me,” I said, still smiling like a fool.

Now what happened after that is kind of blurry. Like I said earlier, some things I just don’t remember. I know that the Phantoms were having a ball and it was at least two more days before we left but the details are a little hazy. There was frantic packing, a lot of tears on my mum’s part. A bit of grumbling from Jeremy and a long sit down session with my dad, he was very concerned but he tried not to let on. Anyway, my parents were letting me drive down in the ute, they were going to follow in the other car (they had decided to make a day trip out of it) and they were taking Lara’s parents with too. I gather one of my parents drove the ute home once they were ready.

But before we get to the flight I have to tell you what happened as we (Lara and me) were packing the car. Neither of us had much, in fact I do believe we managed to get all our clothes into one largish suitcase and we each had another small satchel with some more personal effects as carry on luggage. While we were double checking things… well, Lara was double checking things, I was standing impatiently on her front porch waiting for her to say for the hundredth time why it was she thought she should take an extra pair of jeans. While I was waiting, Patrick arrived in the driveway. He had a rucksack over one shoulder and a look on his face that made me want to slap him.

“Rin,” he said. I levelled my best glare in his direction. “Do you have room for one more?”

“Patty!” Lara burst from the house once more. “Are you coming with? We don’t have an extra ticket.”

He shrugged. “I’ll come if you let me.”

I sighed. “Yeah, whatever.” Then I grinned. “Took you long enough to come around.”

He smiled and moved over to the car, opening the boot that Lara had just closed. “Thanks guys.” Then he casually chucked his rucksack into the boot with the other stuff.

“Got food?” I asked him. When he nodded I checked off a finger. “Two or three changes of clothes?” Another finger checked. “Passport?” Three. “Spare atomisers?” Check four. “Money and various other identifications?” That’s five. “And I have the spare ticket. Looks like we’re ready to go.”

Patrick and Lara exchanged curious glances. “Spare ticket?” Lara asked.

“Sure,” I said with a shrug. “I knew he’d come around and I knew one way or another you two would want to come with, so I bought three. Even if you hadn’t wanted to come with, I would have two spare seats so no fat smelly folks sitting next to me.”

Patrick laughed but Lara growled. “If you knew we would want to come with you why did you argue against it so strongly?”

“I had to know you really wanted to come. This isn’t going to be a holiday you know.” Patrick nodded, I was glad at least one of them understood my motives. Although I could see where Lara was coming from, she needed to be just a little more understanding.

Her anger wouldn’t last. I knew that for a fact and as we drove to the Carissa airport she mellowed. When we finally pulled into a parking space her anger had faded completely and had been replaced by nervous excitement.

We went inside where it was blissfully cool curtesy of air conditioning and queued at the bag check in desk. Once we had ditched our big suitcases we said our goodbyes to our parents and descended the stairs. I think Lara’s parents were on the verge of tears, but as we’d arrived a little later than we had originally planned we didn’t have time for long winded emotionally straining farewells. We rushed through the checkpoints, slowed for the time consuming customs (those people really are pernickety about safe flights and whatnot, I mean come on, it was a domestic flight) then we hurried through airport shopping and boarded the plane. The nice hostess lady showed us to our seats, three off to one side in economy class (those seats are crap, I warn against flying economy class) and there was a very plane smell that made me feel a little bit nauseous.

The nice hostess lady told us to put our baggage in the overhead locker, but I’m super suspicious (which has probably saved my life on a number of occasions) and instead I shoved my bag under the seat in front of me. Lara and Patrick did the same then we plugged our headsets into the entertainment system which was über-awesome (wide screen, great sound and free earphones, not to mention about five hundred movies to select from). When the pilot finally announced the plane was departing we removed our earphones and looked around. It hadn’t been all that long since we’d boarded, but the plane was still pretty much empty.

“Cool,” said Patrick, going back to his movie. “Small flight.”

He was right, but then not many people go to Bisque, a tiny town north of Eridare (the capital of Kalidor). Bisque is the closet town with an airport to SPIRIT and it has a population of about three hundred. It sits on a low escarpment on the side of Mt Merlor and is pretty isolated. They rely almost solely on SPIRIT for protection and supplies except for fruit and vegetables which they grow themselves. From Bisque it’s about an hours drive to SPIRIT headquarters which was a bit further up-slope from the town. By the time we got to Bisque though it would be too late to attempt the drive up to SPIRIT, we’d have to stay in town the night. It wasn’t a particularly long flight, we’d eaten lunch on the way and we could wait until we left the airport for an evening meal (plane food is disgusting – unless you’re in a private jet with some high flying superstar with his own chef, no pun intended – and so we didn’t particularly want to eat it). Oh, the plane flight from Carissa to Bisque is only five or six hours tops, but again, it would be night by the time we arrived.

The flight was, in general, boring. I watched a few movies. I don’t mind movies, what I don’t like is reading about them. I mean, I don’t really need to know what Erica Davis had for breakfast. Media sucks. Mostly they concentrate on the antics of Derek Knight who is the most world renowned man-whore we have. Or on mega-movie star Harriet Morgan who, only thirty-four has still married and divorced five men and has three children not related to any of her previous husbands. She is the most world renowned slut in our world. But the whole Knight family, just backtracking a bit, is probably the biggest money haul you can write about. If someone writes a piece on Lucy Knight, the youngest of three children, everyone will read it. If someone writes on Benjamin Knight, the middle child, everyone will wonder when his next failed relationship will start; I believe he’s currently in the process of breaking up with the hugely popular, unfairly beautiful Miranda Childs. That woman is blessed with enough beauty to explain the rest of the population’s lack thereof. She also happens to be the sixth girl he’s fallen out with, number seven will be huge, but we’ll get to the Lorethans’ strange suppositious beliefs revolving around the number seven later. I swear the whole Lorethan population is messed up in the head. Needless to say, if he goes out with a seventh girl and breaks up with her, the media fallout will be tremendous; if he marries her it’ll be the story of the century. Ben also happens to be the recluse of the family and despite the fact that every woman around the world knows his name you’d be flat strap to find one who knows him on sight. He’s very good at avoiding cameras and the media whores behind them. And if someone writes about Derek Knight well… I think I’ve already told you about his habits with women. Someone needs to isolate him for a month and see how he fares. Maureen Knight, the mother, keeps a low profile, you don’t hear much about her, although I hear she’s quite the fashionista. And Nathaniel Knight, the father, has a personal grudge held through about four generations against the Pyrol family. The significance of that will become apparent later on.

Have I made my point? Movies are great, but the actors and their lives sort of impede on the enjoyment factor. It’d be nice not to have to know everything about them. Directors should hire nobodies every now and then.

Anyway, the flight was boring. A few movies, a bit of chatter and I think Patrick slept for a bit. Oh and Lara made two trips to the bathroom, I didn’t enquire as to why. I was afraid it would make me vomit.

Then we landed.

We then proceeded to do the whole thing in reverse. We powered through customs, grabbed our suitcases off the bag wheel, had our bags sniffed by a couple of duskhounds at the exit and navigated our way through a curiously empty lobby. There were no people, no bag trolleys, hell there weren’t even that many signs around the place. Apart from a few other people trickling out of customs behind us, the place was deserted.

As we wound through a few roped off sections clearly meant to extend the length that queues could be for people on their way in, we noted a few other people our age coming out from the other side of the exit. For some queer reason, the exit was comprised of a pair of double doors, as in two lots of double doors, and then the flow of people was directed down one of two aisles before they entered the lobby proper. Why they couldn’t just let people go out the door and rope off a section of the lobby for those waiting for people getting off the plane, I had no idea. Anyway, one of the two people there was a young man, about eighteen which made sense; he would have just gotten his license. The other was a girl of probably the same age. While I could see part of his face, hers was completely obscured by her hair, which flopped across her face like a wet mop. Now it was dark, and the lights were dimmed because few people were here and no flights come in or leave Bisque after seven, so it was right on closing time and I couldn’t see much of either of them (beyond the face behind her hair) other than the rough estimate of their age.

We were tired and from the look on Lara’s face, she was still a little nauseous, so we weren’t about to hang around and ask questions. Instead, we rolled our bags out the door. There were a few rental cars in the parking spaces, metal bars extended out in front and behind them that retracted when money was inserted into the mechanical control thing. It was twenty dollars for a day which I thought was ridiculously cheap; as such I sprung for forty dollars and two days on the condition that they paid for meals in that time. Then, with Patrick behind the wheel because he was the only one of the three of us completely conscious, we headed off into town.

Now I believe I mentioned that Bisque was a small place, only a few hundred people? Well as a small place, they had no take away food places, only a pub. In addition to the pub there was a hotel that provided rooms for about thirty people and had a restaurant in the lobby. That was where we were staying and while the food in the shop didn’t look particularly appetising at the time, a burger and chips was about the best thing for us. My parents had paid for the rooms saying it was the least they could do for us, but it was really just the one room and Patrick had graciously accepted the floor not wanting to share a bed with either of us girls. Lest he catch something I believe he mumbled, ungrateful little wretch.

Seeing as Phantoms aren’t allowed out in flight on account of potential… mess, Lara and I decided we should go for a walk. Patrick didn’t want to come with; after he’d eaten he seemed really tired and said he just wanted to go to bed. I guess that’s fair enough, plane flights are, for some inexplicable reason, draining. Lara and I kept our valuables on us while we were gone though; despite the seeming innocuousness of this small town we knew that where there was ignorance lurked opportunity. And not necessarily for the ignorant, theft was common among travellers and we’d decided that even if it meant sleeping fully dressed with our pillows stuffed with our things we wouldn’t get robbed.

The streets were dark, only a few light posts scattered here and there, no need for much light when most people were either at the pub getting stone cold drunk after a hard day in the field or asleep in a more conservative state of unconsciousness. As such we deemed it pretty safe to let our Phantoms out although both of them seemed mostly petrified being in a foreign place and so clung to us for dear life. They both appreciated the fresh air though, I’d already been told by both Winter and Canon that atomisers were the bane of their existence and that they hated being inside the damned little things. Furzy, while mostly agreeing with the boys, seemed less hateful of them and less against being on the inside of the small black mechanism.

Once they got more acclimated to new surrounds however they began chattering softly and pointing at things. The subdued darkness, kind of like walking through an almost fog of nothing was quite bizarre. I’m not really sure how to describe what it felt like, it was surreal. Like we were dreaming, the darkness was there, but the few lights seemed to cast an ambient glow that was further diluted and filled with dust clouds that made the lights seem almost fake. It was a very strange feeling, like walking through a misty field in a dream. Crazy, if you ever experience it you’ll know what I mean but I can’t describe it to you. This feeling was supplemented by the knowledge that I was in a strange town, a place where my parents weren’t just a short drive away, a place where the greatest safety was me. Yet I felt nothing, like I was numb to the distance between me and my home. I guess my safety blanket was more Lara and Patrick than anything else. It seemed wrong, somehow. Again, travel to a foreign country, go with someone you know, do it spontaneously and against everything your very nature tells you to do and you might begin to feel the same way I did.

You need to know that I’m a very insecure person when away from the familiar. I was always a social introvert and it took a lot of effort for me to make friends. I never went to the parties held by my peers, I never partook in any of their little adventures, but the biggest decision of my life was to leave home and it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Big things scare the shit out of me. The idea of moving out, domestic disruptions due to things you can’t help, death, you know, I still shudder at the idea of marriage. It seems stupid to do that to yourself. I’ve always loved the idea of making my own choices and being tied to someone (or more than one person if children become an issue) is a hard thing for me to wrap my mind around. Needless to say, the whole leaving home and trying out for SPIRIT runs was difficult. On many levels. It’s just that, even though I never actually thought of myself doing the things that SPIRIT would require me to do, I’d never thought of any other career choices. Oh being a farmer for the rest of my life, but despite my fear of being from home I’d always wanted to travel. Crazy right? But you’ll no doubt get a better idea of the problems I have with myself as we go along.

We spoke little and mostly kept out of dark places. Winter thought the whole thing was grand and told us as much ever other second. Furzy though was more reserved, she said something about serious decisions and that’s what prompted my quick run through of my own stupidity. Yet despite my fear and doubt gnawing at my insides, I was surprisingly keen to get to SPIRIT in the morning. Sleep was the best thing at that moment.

We saw a few locals leaving the pub on our way back to the hotel, but we didn’t stop to speak and they didn’t move to speak to us either. As I watched a few people in the shadows doing what was no doubt shadowy things my mind wandered back to the pair of people at the airport. I was hit by this sudden irrational need to know if they were trying out at SPIRIT and if those were their plans, who the hell they were.

I just really wanted to know who else would be there. Would we be accepted? What would the trials be like? Would we be divided up? Would my anti-social behaviour allow me to make new friends if we were separated? All these questions ran through my head and I knew I had to distract myself otherwise I wouldn’t sleep that night.

“Lara,” I began as we rounded a corner. She looked at me funny, obviously picking up on the uneasiness in my voice. “Are you… worried?”

“About what?” She asked it nicely with a concerned little frown on her face, but I knew she thought I was loony. She was probably right.

“About SPIRIT.”

She just laughed at me. “You’re not having second thoughts are you? Getting cold feet?” She compared it to marriage which sent a shiver up my spine. People always ask if the bride is getting cold feet right before the ceremony which of course makes her second guess herself. I knew I was over analysing it, but I couldn’t help myself. What if nothing went to plan?

“Not really, I just wanted to know if you’d thought… maybe it won’t work out.” I paused, my feet just stopped moving. “Will we be alright? You know, will we be together for all this or are we going to be sent different places?”

“Kirinyou’re letting your insecurity get at you again.” She wrapped one arm around my shoulders and I realised I was suddenly cold. “Just relax, even if we are sent to separate places we’ll all be on the same campus. You’ll meet new people, have more friends. Patty and I can’t be the only people in the world who think you’re just swell, fear, crazy self doubt, anti-social insecurities and all.” She winked at me and I realised she was right. I was being stupid. But don’t you ever get that twisting sick feeling in your gut like something is going to go horribly wrong? I feel like that most of the time.

When I was thirteen my parents took me into Carissa to see a personality consultant. He became my lifeline… sort of… not really. He’d send us mail all the time asking questions, giving answers. He told me I’d probably never get over my irrational fears and doubts, but if I could get a good grip on myself I could fight them. He said someday there would be people in my life who made me realise that I was just fine, even though on the inside I was waging a war. He said all I needed was to find something or someone and make it home. Once I’d done that, once I’d found something I could take with me and hold to my heart like home I’d start to get over it. Lara was always a little bit sour that she wasn’t the one to cure me, but he’d made her feel better by saying that she was part of my home, but because she’d always been at my home, it was hard for me to differentiate the two so that she became ‘part of the furniture’. It was the same with Patrick. When I meet this thing or person that will become my… ‘home away from home’ he called it, I will owe them everything. Winter was without a doubt the first step towards my independence. I couldn’t be a homebody forever, and he made it that little bit easier when we went to Bisque. It was nice knowing that he’d be there for me wherever I went. Like my soul mate.

He was always so warm and he was holding tightly onto my hand and looking at me with his big blue eyes, so soft and reassuring and I just knew. Somehow everything would be okay. I had absolutely no idea as to how everything was going to turn out alright, but it would. At some point in the hazy future, everything would be great. And, despite Lara’s friendly smile and reassuring words and her arm around my neck, it was his great broad pointy fanged grin that eased my fear. He needed no words, that was his language and mine. His grip on my hand tightened.

We entered the hotel foyer and wandered up the stairs, making sure the attendant didn’t see our Phantoms, we still weren’t sure as to how hard to find ours were. I mean, some are just harder to come by than others, that’s why mum had been so worried about Winter. Lara banged on the door to our room and a muffled grunt came from within as Patrick heaved himself to his feet to open the door.

He pulled it open with one hand while wiping his bleary eyes with the other.

Rapist!” screamed Lara, throwing her hands out at him.

He staggered back, eyes wide, shocked. “What the hell was that for?”

“You didn’t ask for the secret code word,” she said, waving her finger around like she was schooling a child. “We could have been anyone.”

He frowned, but nodded tiredly at her words. “True, but only you would knock ‘The Free Flier’ chorus on the door.”

Lara went bright red. The Free Flier was a children’s song, a stupid little rhyme about the first man to fly on the back of a Phantom. I never thought much of it and not many people know it, it tends to be something only rural people sing to their kids. At any rate it stuck and ‘flying free up in the sky, no one below can see me passing by’ became our secret code. One person would say the first bit and the other person the second. Generally, the person behind the door would start. It was stupid, but no one ever guessed it.

Patrick gave me a passing glance and then exchanged a look with Lara. They were clearly having a ‘Kirin’s on the verge of a breakdown’ moment and I brushed past Patrick so I could leave them to it. All I wanted to do was sleep. The sooner I slept, the sooner I could be at SPIRIT.

“Sorry buddy,” I whispered to Winter, “you have to go back in the box until we get to where we’re going tomorrow. I don’t want anyone to hurt you.” He nodded reluctantly, seeing the wisdom in it but hating it just the same. People tend to call atomisers ‘boxes’ because it’s easier to say, just slang.

I flopped down on the bed and kicked my shoes at the wall but didn’t bother getting changed. There was simply way too much effort involved. I don’t remember much after I closed my eyes. I heard the door click shut, I felt the mattress move as Lara lay down beside me and a dull thud as Patrick hit the floor. Both of them still dressed I thought.

My mind whirled, like I was sick kind of whirling, not thinking. God, my mind was a blank. I wouldn’t have been able to think in a circle let alone a straight line. It seemed that I was more tired than I’d first thought.

Not long after Patrick started snoring softly the blissfully warm and fuzzy world of dreams enveloped me. I think, I don’t dream much and I doubt I did that night.

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~ by reliquiaen on April 12, 2012.

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