Watch Me Burn – Chapter Ten

Ten –

The beginning of the end

That’s right, you didn’t read that wrong. He kissed me. Not just a peck on the cheek either. Oh no, he had to push himself. Although I give him leeway for at least waiting until there was no one around. Still, I’d warned him and now he was going to cop it.

I’ll just have you know that I didn’t participate in it. No I didn’t. I did, however, give him a good kick where it counts.

“Ow!” he screeched, staggering away from me.

I didn’t even bother with giving him a chance to explain, I just stalked off. Making my way to the main training yard, I tried to put him from my mind. It wouldn’t do to go into a fight angry. Dad always told me not to fight in a temper. He meant with fists, but I guess it holds true for a Phantom battle too. Even just a training one.

Pacing in the waiting chamber at one end of the court, I ran over my battle strategy. I’d let Winter out and he was standing there regarding me with an appraising look that felt strange coming from him. His arms were folded and he had one golden brow raised, I felt like he was judging me.

“Stop looking at me like that,” I said at last, but continued my pacing.

Just calm down, he replied. Does this really matter?

“Not really,” I conceded. “But I’m not angry about the match.”

You won’t think straight if you don’t forget it.

“That’s a little hard to do,” I said sardonically.

Concentrate on something else.

“That’s easy for you to say.”

He growled. Then focus your anger on him and only him. Allow it to give you purpose, a sense of need. Then, when you face him in the court, release it, give it back to him. Take it out on him during battle.

I started. “Will that work?”

He shrugged. It might. For some people it works like a charm and for others… not so much.

“Let’s hope I can be grouped with the former,” I said, rolling my shoulders. I was ready for this. I was not ready to look at Daniel’s smug face.

Nor was I particularly relishing the idea of speaking to my friends afterwards.

The bell tolled and it was time for me to head out onto the court. I put Winter away lest they think he was my first Phantom. That would give Daniel an unfair advantage.

I did as Winter had suggested and focused my anger to one point. I held Daniel in my mind and mentally flogged him with my anger. When I saw him at the other end of the field, it only magnified what he was coping in my mind.

He grinned at me with a smug little smirk just the way I knew he would. What he didn’t realise was that he was giving me ammunition. I smiled back, I knew it probably looked a little sadistic, but I didn’t care. It wiped the snicker off his face at any rate.

“Would you all please welcome Kirin Quinn and Daniel Martin,” said Mitchell into the speaker phone. “Today’s first contestants.” The crowd applauded then he stepped out onto the court with a coin.

I don’t remember much of the tournament. My battle with Daniel is no exception either. I feel as though I should remember it, but most of what happened at SPIRIT has been blocked out in my mind. I just refuse to think about it. Ever. Consequently, most of this is a little blurry. Especially the bits that involve Daniel.

In Phantom battling (the fair kind that uses rules and stuff) both people send their first Phantom into the fight at the same time. No one has any advantage and the consequent match is based almost entirely on pure luck. Not that any one class has a significant advantage over the others. With the proper training any Phantom can defeat any other Phantom. Although, defence Phantoms have a higher natural defence (Lara’s florastormer, Furzy), likewise with attacking Phantoms (Winter) and those with impressive speed (Fallow), and may benefit from those skills. It’s not as though we designate Phantoms to certain categories or anything, some are just naturally stronger than others. But then, some specialise in close combat (Faith’s stronghorn, Calyx), while others hang back to shoot projectiles at their enemies (Rose’s firewisp, Azaria).

You’re not allowed to kill your opponent’s Phantoms in proper battling, only render them useless. Sometimes, they do it for you. A tired Phantom can’t fight. But deaths do occur, it can’t be helped, some Phantoms just use powerful attacks that the others can’t dull. Some Phantoms just don’t know their own strength.

Now, some people choose to give their Phantoms commands in a battle (possibly thinking that this will prevent the aforementioned deaths), most people use verbal commands, but that has obvious drawbacks. In the end, that kind of thing can result in two people bellowing incomprehensible things to their poor Phantoms. Daniel was inventive and had chosen to use hand signals to tell his what to do. I however, had countered this when I gave Fallow that camera. We’d studied his battles and knew what each hand sign meant so that what would have been an advantage was essentially cancelled out. I chose to let my Phantoms do what they will. They’re not stupid creatures, far from it, and I believed that in a fight, their natural instincts would kick in giving them a better chance at surviving (or winning as the case may be) a battle than if I was telling them what to do. They appreciated the freedom this gave them. It made me happy. In fact, the freedom I gave my friends is probably the reason they’re all still with me.

I know that his first Phantom was knocked out by Fallow who’d grown a lot recently. She had learned how to use atomisation to her advantage and use it she did. Daniel’s earth class (don’t remember what it was, but I do remember that he had three earth classes and his greymatter which, as you may recall, is a light shadow-subclass) didn’t really stand much of a chance. The earth class was an attacker but was no match for Fallow’s speed.

The second battle pitted another of his earth classes against Arcari. He was quite pleased that I’d held to my promise: that he would get to fight. This battle was two fast earth classes and would be rather interesting. Daniel’s made the mistake of atomising to various places around the stadium. It ran as fast as it could, using it’s atomisation as best as it could. But none of the projectile attacks it launched hit the much faster Arcari. Eventually, (I remember this bit because Arcari likes to tell people about his first fight with me) Arcari grew bored and rested his weight on the hilt of his massive double handed blade (he’d compromised and fused his usual two little blades into the one far more powerful one, he didn’t like the fight style though and later gave up on it), his eyes lidded.

Do you think it would be obvious if I took a nap? he asked.

I laughed. “I should say so.”

Finally, the earth class stopped launching attacks and paused, puffing tiredly. Arcari had exhausted the other Phantom, wearing him down. The poor earth class stood on the other end of the field, his chest heaving as he gulped in air. Arcari straightened.

At last, he sighed.

He charged the other Phantom, his sword held low behind him, as he whipped it up a great burst of green light charged towards the earth class. It dove out of the road, just barely avoiding the dangerous green razor that sliced towards him. Arcari spun (he can turn on a dime that fellow) and raced back across the field. His hands tugged at his sword, atoms flickered around it as he pulled it in two, he was moving so fast it seemed his feet weren’t really touching the ground. He whirled the blades in his hands expertly, conjuring two more deadly green razors that scythed across the field at the other Phantom. The poor dear didn’t even have the strength to atomise out the road, let alone move. The first razor caught him across the chest and sent him flying, the second, higher blade, caught him under the chin as he flew back at Daniel, slamming him into the ground to skid on the dirt.

Arcari had barely even broken a sweat. Or at least, that’s the story as he tells it. Proudly too, I might add.

It was two-nil in my favour. This was the last battle if I won.

His last earth class, an attacker, was against Tierra. It was one sided from the onset. Daniel’s launched an attack that glanced off Tierra’s tough plating. Then she fuzzed momentarily as her armour shrunk and the spike on her tail grew larger. One great thwack from that tail spike was all it took to knock out the attacker.

All this time Mitchell had been commentating loudly but I’d been zoned out. Now, his voice, magnified by the megaphone, crashed in on me.

“That’s three wins toKirin,” Mitchell announced to the crowd like they didn’t already know that. “Kirinhas won the first match of the tournament. Daniel, would you like to try to beat her in one last battle?”

I was stunned, I’d won, why was he even letting a fourth battle be an option? It shouldn’t be. Surprising me, Daniel opted to fight me one last time with the last of his Phantoms. His greymatter was the only one he had left.

And Winter was all I was left with. He burst onto the field, bouncing and excited. Fire sputtered between his teeth as he danced around, happy to be allowed to fight. A hush fell over the crowd as he settled, his icy eyes settling on the greymatter.

A quick glance over his shoulder with a wispy smile was all the acknowledgement he gave me. By this point, his shoulders reached my middle, he was growing so fast. I had trouble imagining Daniel’s greymatter (the tiny little thing) would stand much chance against Winter’s size and firepower (pardon the pun).

Winter did what we’d practiced and sat down, resting his head on the ground as he went to sleep. A mutter rippled through the crowd as Mitchell told them what Winter was doing.

“It’s a pity this fight wasn’t an earlier one,” he said. “Daniel might have stood a chance if this easy win had been the first fight.”

The greymatter fluttered in closer, my face a mask of horror as it approached my apparently sleeping Phantom. When the greymatter got within Winter’s range of attack he leapt to his feet. Fire wreathed his body as he flapped his little wings, straining against gravity. Flames spewed from his mouth and exploded outwards with ferocity that alarmed me.

The greymatter flew through the air with the force of the attack. The power of it whipped up the sand, ruffled my hair and made me feel as though I was burning. Greymatter hit the ground at Daniel’s feet, it’s breathing shallow. I hoped Winter hadn’t killed it.

The crowd was on its feet. Silence reigned throughout the stadium.

Finally, the little Phantom opened its eyes and struggled weakly to rise. Daniel bent and tenderly picked it up off the dirt floor. For that moment, even Mitchell was blissfully silent.

Winter, however, was bouncing up and down, clearly thrilled with what he done. I couldn’t help but smile at him as he fluttered his wings, still useless for flight. That was a while away yet.

Then the roar started as the crowd finally realised what had happened. It had been a landslide in my favour. The applause was deafening.

Even my mouth was open; I couldn’t believe I’d won the match. I knew it was only a small bump, but I was thrilled. Winter and I walked to the other end of the field to congratulate Daniel on a good game. I didn’t want to be such a good sport, but I knew I couldn’t handle much more guilt.

“Good match,” I said to him softly. The crowd was still roaring behind us.

He nodded dumbly. “How did you do it?” he asked. “He’s only just barely old enough to atomise.”

Winter folded his arms, outraged. It was true though, until he learned to control his form better he would be at a marked disadvantage against those who did, but he thought he could take on anything. He’d learn better once he was fully grown.

I decided not to answer that question lest I sound too full of myself. Rather, I just smiled and walked back the way we’d come. Winter however, wasn’t going to just let it go; he poked his tongue out before stalking off after me. I felt like I’d won a resounding victory, but I knew I was just blowing things out of proportion.

We met up with Faith just before she went to fight Jessica. Because she’d had to go down into the waiting room, she’d missed the epic fire attack from Winter. Winter was pleased enough to tell her all about it, through me anyway. He was bouncing up and down when we found her.

“That’s great,” she said, scratching him under a horn. He purred softly, enjoying the praise. “Good for you, Winter.”

“So,” I said, “got a game plan?”

She just laughed. “Go down swinging and have a good time. I’m not here to win; I’m here to fill a place.”

“Not worried about beating her then?” I asked.

“I don’t really care if I beat her or not,” she confessed. “Mostly I just want to see the look on her face when she wins and Dave doesn’t give her a second glance.”

I laughed. “So true, I’ll video it for you, how’s that?”

“Great, good on you for beating Daniel anyway. At least he won’t be winning the contest.” I nodded, thinking about what Stephanie had said earlier about only soldiers ever winning this thing. That was one soldier down of I think eight.

Winter and I trotted up the stairs and found Rose and Dave sitting third row back. We sat with them, Winter on my lap so he could see. We got there just as Mitchell was announcing who would be fighting next.

Faith and Jessica entered the court. The battle was pretty standard, I won’t detail it here. That’s just too much rambling about Phantom battles. Jess forced a tie breaker though after Faith won rounds two and three; they both won two matches and had to go to a fifth which was nice considering she wasn’t really trying. I would have liked to see her beat Jess in a surprise victory, I believe she could have if she’d tried, but Faith’s a lover not a fighter and so didn’t really bother. But Jess took out the match by beating Faith in the tie breaker round. At one point in the fourth round the crowd was on its feet, hands over mouths as they waited with baited breath to see if Faith, the unlikely, would defeat Jess, the favourite in this fight. It was intense.

Not as intense as the last round though. That round the crowd was entirely silent, not a sound to be heard. The quiet was broken only by the rustle of the crowd as they all stood at the same time. All of Bisque was allowed to attend the tournaments and that day most of the town had turned out.

But like I said, Jess beat Faith in the breaker. It was a little unfortunate, but it had kind of been expected.

Faith is a graceful loser though and had fought well. It had been a near thing and Jessica was only moving on through a harrowing close call. Jess looked up into the crowd, I gather she was looking for Dave but he was busy talking to Rose. Faith had been right.

The next battle was after lunch and was between a pair of people you don’t know all that well. The winner was a soldier though. After that, there were no more matches for the rest of the day.

The tournament lasted a great many days and I made it all the way to the semi finals. I won’t bore you with repeated strategies and attacks and whatnot. Pandora won her battle, but she was in the other half of the draw so I wasn’t going to fight her. Patrick and Rose were both knocked out, but I don’t think they tried too hard. David was engaged in a tie breaker in his first match but picked up a bit of a rhythm after that and Lara lost the first round in her match against Patrick but won the other three. I’ve got to say, their’s was the best.

The evening before the semis Lara, Patrick and I were all sitting in Lara’s living room eating noodles Patrick had bought us from town. Rose and Faith had gone out and David was with Daniel, I’m trying not to think about what they were doing. We were watching reruns of an old TV show and waiting for replies to our emails from home.

Winter, Furzy and Canon were in the kitchen eating stuffs. Furzy had finally reached atomising age after straining for it in her battle with Patrick, but Canon was still unable to utilise that skill, something he resented. Because Arcari liked his freedom, I’d told him he could go hunting for bugs in the park, he enjoyed that and Fallow was sitting on the balcony railing watching the stars. I had let Tierra out downstairs, but she hadn’t wanted to go with Arcari and nor had she wanted to be alone, so she was back in my brace. Patrick and Lara didn’t have the same inclination as me in letting their Phantoms have such freedom. But then not many people did.

You might think something amazing is going to happen here, but no such luck. Although it wasn’t so much amazing, more unfortunate, it was still quite the event.

A knock came at the door.

“I’ll get it,” said Lara, standing up. I thought it was pretty fast, even for her, but maybe I was mistaken.

I was watching the show, though, so I didn’t see who it was. Lara had to come back down the hall to tell us. But by then, the person was already in the rooms.

“Hey guys,” she said, “he’s looking for youKirin.”

I started and looked around, a fork full of noodles half way to my mouth. I didn’t recognise the guy, but that didn’t mean much. On days like today when I got to hang out with Lara and Patty I didn’t much appreciate people interrupting, but from the look on this guys face, it was serious.

“KirinQuinn?” he asked.

I nodded and he handed me an envelope. It was sealed with wax, something you don’t see often these days. The stamp was that of the government’s defence office.

“Are you sure you’ve got the right person?” I asked, waving the envelope at him.

“Pretty darn,” he replied. “Mitchell told me your name, gave me your picture and told me the numbers of all the rooms you were likely to be in. It’s for you.”

I frowned. “Mitchell sent this to me?”

He picked up on my incredulity and shared my frown. “No, I spoke to him regarding where I could find you. This is from the government to you, not Mitchell.”

“What is it? Surely the head of defence doesn’t want a kid like me seeing what’s in here,” I said.

Patrick snatched the envelope off me. “This is from the government?” He studied the seal and when he was happy it was he handed it back.

“That doesn’t seem right,” mused Lara. “Why would the government give this toKirin? She hasn’t even graduated yet.”

The man shrugged. “Don’t ask me, I’m just the messenger. If you’ve got queries, take them up with Mitchell. Or government management.”

I tapped the envelope on the palm of my hand as he left. I wasn’t sure whether to open it or not. There was something potentially huge in this piece of folded paper. And whatever it was, this was a group thing.

“Call everyone,” I said, “we need a team meeting.”

“Who does this include?” asked Patrick as he grabbed his mobile.

“Everyone except Daniel.”

“Even Pandora,” Lara wanted to know.

I hesitated. “No, not Pandora. Just Faith, Rose and Dave.”

We each called one of them and asked them to come to Lara’s apartment. I asked Dave to give Dan some excuse or another that would make him less suspicious. I didn’t want him doddering around looking for me. He’d probably come here second and we couldn’t have that.

“On second thought,” I said, “go to the hedge field. We’ll meet at the entrance and then find somewhere else.” Lara and Patrick nodded and relayed the information.

Fifteen minutes later we were all standing two turns into the hedge field. It was grown about six metres tall and functioned as a labyrinth. Sometimes the teachers would use it as part of an obstacle course. Tonight, it served the purpose of keeping us hidden.

“What’s up guys?” asked Rose, the first to speak.

“A guy came round to our apartment,” said Lara. “He brought an envelope from the defence office of the government. It was addressed toKirin.”

Rose sucked in a deep breath. “It’s not about…” she trailed off, leaving it up to us to figure out what she meant. She wanted to know if it was regarding my surname fraud.

“No,” I said. Then I amended that. “Well we don’t know, I haven’t opened it yet. I wanted you all to be here in case I needed objective opinions.”

Faith nodded at the wisdom, but Dave was still caught up on what Rose had said. “Not about what, Rin? What does Rose know that we don’t?” He scratched his chin as he spoke.

I sighed. “I guess I can trust you guys right?” They nodded. “You need to be able to keep a secret, a deadly secret that could kill one or more of us.” They exchanged nervous glances.

“What’s this about, Rin?” asked Faith, clearly concerned.

“I’m a Pyrol.”

I’ve never heard louder silence than that day. Well, maybe a few times, but I could probably count them on one hand with fingers to spare.

“I’m sorry, you say what?” asked Dave.

“I’m not saying it again,” I said. “Even though we’re out here, someone could be listening. I’m just starting to enjoy my life you know.”

Faith pushed hair behind one ear and leaned in closer. “Rose knew?”

I went red. “Yeah, we kind of had to tell her when I threw up in her toilet.”

She leaned back. “Ah.”

“Open the darn letter,” said Patrick, trying to alleviate some of the tension suddenly permeating the air. “I want to know what it says.”

The others all murmured their agreement. So I slid a fingernail under the wax and pried it up. Inside was a piece of folded parchment. It wasn’t paper, it had torn edges all the way around, dark marks where the density of the paper changed and it was more of a yellow colour than the stark white of real paper.

I don’t remember what the letter said, but at the bottom it had ‘burn this once you’ve read it and understand what you must do’. So once I had the gist of it, I torched it. I do remember what it said though. It went something along the lines of the following:

To,KirinQuinn. We have heard about your skill in a fight and your unique talents in keeping Phantoms and people safe and finding resolutions that meet the needs of both parties. On the behalf of the Kalidor Government Defence Office, I, Stanton Marcus, wish to ask your indulgence. South of Quilla in Gaurin, across the water, is a large amount of uninhabited land. Uninhabited by people that is. In this area, some strange happenings have been occurring with curious regularity. We have reason to believe that some highly organised poachers may be at work there devising a way to control Phantoms from a distance with the use of a chip that can be implanted in their brain. They have been stealing Phantoms from national reserves the world over for this cause and should they be allowed to continue their research the consequences could be dire. We believe they are being funded by a large organisation or corporate entity; if you find any information while you are there, please send it to the address enclosed for study. We are in the process of trying to uncover who their associates might be and any information that could further our investigation would be greatly appreciated. We have informed one other trustworthy member of your society who will meet you near the site at these coordinates (I don’t remember what they were) and who will assist you in your task. On the disk also enclosed is the information we have obtained already on this topic. The reason for giving you this task not through the usual system is because we believe the people in management at SPIRIT may be involved. If you have the time and inclination, would you please look into this for us, again, information is what will solve this mystery. Please keep this mission a secret from those who cannot be trusted, although we understand that some outside assistance may be required, we will trust your judgement on who can be involved.

Sincerely,StantonMarcus, Undersecretary of the Minister for Defence.

And then there was the please burn after reading bit. Blah, blah, blah. You know how it goes. I read it to my friends who then unwittingly found themselves in the middle of this secret mission thing. Faith looked markedly concerned but the others all seemed thrilled.

“This is awesome,” said Lara.

“I don’t know,” said Faith. “Show us the disk.”

I handed it to her, wondering what was on it. I imagined it was all the informationStantonsaid they had. There was nothing else in the envelope so that had to be it.

“Can you get the information off it?” I asked.

“Can I,” she scoffed. “The bigger question is what’s on here that Mitchell couldn’t see.”

None of us had the answer to that.

I had Winter burn the letter and envelope on the spot. I have a good memory and it wasn’t too hard to remember the important details. There were the coordinates which I have long since forgotten and an address that could easily be found on the internet. Everything else was pretty much a given. Go here, save some Phantoms, beat the bad guys and get what information you can. Oh, and don’t die.

I asked Faith to look into any information trees there might be on the great entity that is the internet. She said that she’d do anything to keep me out of harm’s way. Even if that meant hacking into Mitchell’s computer hard drive thing. Which, as it turns out, it did.

But first, I had to lose my next battle in the tournament.

The next day I was placed against Lara, but we both knew what had to be done so it was an easy match to rig. We both explained the situation to our Phantoms and just had them do whatever. It was very boring and simple. Lara got first draw and my Phantoms basically just threw their fights. It wasn’t hard really.

From what I heard later, the crowd was very upset about the whole thing. They’d thought I was going to take out the title. Something about me being so good in a fight or whatever. As it was, the two people in the finals turned out to be Lara and Pandora, neither of which was a soldier. Thus Steph’s wish of a soldier not winning this year’s start of year tournament was a success. I hear Pandora took it out.

I didn’t know and I didn’t see the match. I managed to talk Daniel’s greymatter into sending me to the coordinates. He was pretty okay with taking me there, it was the lying to Dan he didn’t like.

Just so you all know, I did warm up to the whole kissing thing, but Daniel didn’t know at the time. I did kiss him just before I left, but I didn’t see him when greymatter was taking me there. I deliberately didn’t go and see him. I knew there’d be some kind of fight thing and he’d have all these good reasons for me not to go.

My standard response to reasons against my going was ‘it’s the government defence office, I can’t just not go’. It sounded good in my mind, but I wasn’t sure it would work in practice and I didn’t want to find out. I was happy in my delusional little bubble.

Winter on the other hand, was thrilled to be going on such a dangerous excursion. Fallow, being a reasonable little dear, was slightly more cautious about it, she pointed out the whole ‘it could be a trap’ thing and I ignored her. Well, I didn’t ignore her, I just said my ‘but I have to’ and she gave in. Tierra was looking forward to a challenge and to stretch out a bit. It must be hard being such a large Phantom. You wouldn’t get out half as much as the smaller ones.

Arcari.

Oh, I love him to death, but he was even more keen to get sliced up than Winter was. He was all ‘I’m a great warrior, I’ll not be defeated’ and the like. I admired his confidence, but even I was scared out of my wits.

Got to tell you, my fears really came to the fore right before we left. I did my ‘what if’ and regretting going already thing and Winter talked some sense into me. Rose and Dave were the only two there to see me off. Lara was fighting Pandora and Faith was already on the computer. Oh, and Patrick was supporting Lara, she had to have even a small cheer squad. One was better than none, so Patrick was being a supportive little sunstreamer.

“Are you sure you’ll be okay?” asked Rose.

Oh my god. I forgot to tell you something. So, the guy who gave me the envelope came back the very next day with a small parcel wrapped in the typical nondescript brown paper bag. I again waited for him to leave before opening it. It was only Lara with me at the time because I didn’t want to bother all the others so early in the morning. Lara and I usually went for a walk at around six in the morning because it was so lovely in the park at that time. So quiet and just generally divine.

We both stared at the box as though it held… oh I don’t know… explosives. It did look just like a parcel bomb now that I think about it. The thought didn’t cross my mind at the time. It had my initials on it.

So, at Lara’s insistence, I ripped of the paper bag and opened a shoe box. Um, yeah, it was a shoe box. Talk about suspiciously ordinary.

It was…

A handgun.

And a big-ass one at that. It was all nice and shiny and came with five extra cases of ammunition. The card in the box read ‘just in case’. And that was it.

Naturally, I looked for the instruction manual, but it turned out to be rather easy to use. I found the safety catch, and the trigger and I also figured out how to reload it all by my lonesome. The rest was child’s play. Which was scary because that thought brought to mind a child playing with such a big gun.

I mean, it was small enough that I could slip it behind my belt and no one would be any the wiser, but when I fired it the first time it sent tingles up my arm. God it fired with some grunt. The second time I was ready for the recoil, but it still shocked me. But we haven’t gotten to the first time I pulled it on someone, let alone firing it so I’ll leave that alone for a moment.

Anyway, back to Rose.

“Yeah Rose I’ll be fine,” I replied. I hiked my pack up a little higher. I didn’t know how long I’d be gone so Rose packed me some stuff.

“If you need us just give us a call,” said Dave. “We still have the coordinates and Dan’s greymatter can take us there in a wink.”

I was fidgeting with my new gun. “Yeah, I know. ButStantonsaid I’d have a partner there, so with any luck you guys won’t even get a call.”

Rose smiled sadly. “You have to at least text us when you get to the spot. I don’t want to be thinking you went astray or something.”

“Got it,” I said. “Anything else? Can I go?”

Dave grinned. “Are you excited or something? Where’s the fear, Rin?”

I glared. “Not excited, it’s just that the sooner I get there, the sooner I can do this thing and be back. Hopefully without any close calls.”

Rose hugged me. “Be very careful. It wouldn’t do to lose you now.”

I returned her hug, it gave me warm fuzzies. “I know. I hate to leave now too.”

I caught the secret meaning in her words, but I think Dave just took them at face value. In fact, I’m not sure she had any secret meaning there or if she just genuinely would miss me if I died. Death. I tried not to think about it.

I hugged Dave too before I left. There was this strange feeling lurking in the pit of my stomach. It was a feeling that said ‘you might not come back’. It scared the shit out of me.

At that moment, I wanted more than anything to stay. I had all these new friends when I’d thought I would never be more than a farm girl. At the same time, I felt strong. But the question still remained.

Why did Stanton Marcus contact me? Of all people.

It didn’t take me long to see the irony of it all. Not long at all.

In fact, just after I arrived at the destination I began to question if Fate had some kind of evil genius plan that involved my demise. I began to wonder if the universe was conspiring against me. I began to wonder if I really would ever see my friends again.

Tempting as it is to believe that maybe I just kept coping it over and over was because the world hated me. I actually believe more now than I ever did that some people are just born lucky. At the time I didn’t know it, I was too busy having an internal breakdown because I was convinced my life as I knew it was over. But I really am the luckiest person alive.

But, my life as I knew it was over. I had to face that, the sooner I grew out of my cautious, fearful and uncertain ways the better, and easier, my life would be. If only it was as easy as writing it on paper.

Anyway, I landed in a clearing. Greymatter popped back to SPIRIT as soon as we got there. It was a small irregularly shaped grove made up mostly of bushes but there was a great number of tall trees nearby too. I dropped my pack under one of the trees and collapsed to the ground. The grass beneath my feet was soft and springy and the air smelt of rain.

There was a rustling noise in the tree above me and I thought for a moment I’d disturbed a flitterwing or something. No, it wasn’t a flitterwing. Oh for it to have been a flitterwing. It was much, much worse.

Well, at least at the time it was. But we’ll get to that later.

I screamed.

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~ by reliquiaen on April 12, 2012.

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