There’s not much to say here. Rereading this chapter made me realize that it didn’t hold much of a purpose. I will definitely have to work on giving each scene a purpose from here on.
6 – BLIND TRUST
Thousands of people wait impatiently outside of Ordinance. Twice per year, the province practices fleeing the province. The citizens know to regroup in safe zones just outside of the main city, but no one is happy to endure their first real life drill in seven years.
This area is under twenty-four hour military watch. The streets and buildings are often cleared of ramanga, but Ordinance isn’t a wealthy province, like Vestige. Therefore, the military personnel are often underfunded and understaffed. Even worse, they have rugged temperaments.
The soldiers are on high alert. Their fingers practically jiggle the triggers on their guns. Everyone is a potential threat because there are far too many people to scan for infections. Therefore, many of the soldiers are pushing and shoving citizens, barking orders for the people to stay away from the military posts, and aiming their guns at anyone that refuses to listen.
Emotions run high in families too. Many people struggle to search and reunite with their loved ones. The population of seventy thousand are all shoved inside of a three mile radius. People are stacked upon one another with very little lighting. The guards and electric fence are their only protection. In short, no one feels safe.
Like refugees, citizens huddle under tents and around small fires. Flashlights and cell phones provide most of the necessary lighting to travel the streets. Most surprisingly, very little noise is being made. People communicate with one another through texts or displaying messages on their phones. Only military personnel are allowed to talk, though the rule is broken occasionally.
Sol tries to say as little as possible, though his friends are outsiders. To keep them away from the crowds, he finds an abandoned and crumbling building at the edge of the safe zone. The four-story building is missing most of its windows and appears to have old burns that were cured by rain. The interior is covered with graffiti, which has mostly faded over the years.
An overturned piano sits near the window, where Rayne sleeps. Her head rests in Sol’s lap and her right arm is wrapped tightly around his back.
Laurent monitors Rayne’s body. She breathes like a cat, with expansive inhales and quick exhales.
While warming his hands near their small fire, Laurent asks, “So she heals with your kiss?”
Sol runs his fingers through Rayne’s hair. He peeks out of the window to make sure that no soldiers are passing. Then, he speaks with a very low tone, “Sometimes we use my fire or my blood. But the kiss is stronger. We haven’t figured out why just yet.”
The assassin adjusts his volume to match Sol’s. “She looks peaceful with you.”
The hunter considers how much Rayne has changed since they began searching for Celeste. Rayne is more reserved and cautious, which disrupts any “peace” that such a violent girl could receive. She is most happy when fighting, whether that is slashing throats or arguing. Therefore, peaceful isn’t how Sol would describe her at the moment.
Shaking away the thought, Sol whispers, “How are things with you? What have you been up to?”
A fake smile appears on Laurent’s lips and vanishes just as swiftly. He shifts uncomfortably and releases a deep breath. “I want to tell you, but if I even tried, our conversation would only end in lies.”
“That…doesn’t sound good.”
Nervously, Laurent explains, “Let’s just say that I found someone. Someone that promises to help restore my family.” He clears his throat and rephrases his statement. “I mean, my family name.”
Sol asks, “Is it the same person that will help us get Celeste?”
“Yes.” Laurent lifts a piece of broken glass from the window. It has layers of dirt that he can’t scratch with his nails, but he tries anyway. After an uncomfortable silence passes, he says, “To tell the truth, he’s very dangerous, Sol.”
“Everyone connected to my dad is dangerous.” Sol thinks about Godwin, Eris, and Mother. All of them knew more about Leonardo than Sol, and each person is more dangerous than the next.
“No. I’ve never seen someone like him. A neuromancer.”
“Neuromancy? I never heard of it.”
“It’s a rare…talent. They’re born from very powerful mages, and trained to control the mind in ways that can even reach the dead.”
Though Sol manages to hide his fretful expression, Rayne reacts to the changing pace of his heart. She groans and squirms until she finds another comfortable position.
“I’ve said too much,” Laurent utters. It’s just easy to talk to you. I’m happy we’re together again.”
“For sure.” Sol shares a warm, genuine smile. “I never got to say this, but you were my first friend. The first person I could really rely on.”
The assassin looks out of the window and replies, “Dido.”
Not long after the people of Ordinance are cleared to return to their homes, Laurent calls for a driver. To Sol’s surprise, the driver brings a mobile command center, similar to the one that Godwin owned. However, this unit is much smaller and has very up to date technology.
There are no beds, but a small kitchenette sits at the farthest end. Computer screens and office chairs line one side of the wall. The other side has a whiteboard and three long touch screens. Each has different monitoring purposes. The first is for weather monitoring, the next calculates the number of ramanga within given parameters, and the last controls drones that are capable of plotting landscapes.
As Sol continues to marvel at the equipment, he naturally moves towards the front of the unit. The driver notices his approaching. To prevent Sol from seeing her, Kami loudly clears her throat, which alerts Laurent.
The assassin pulls snacks from a few cabinets and shouts, “Hey, Sol. Let’s get something to eat.” He slightly snarls when he realizes how bad the snacks are.
While pulling up a seat near Laurent and Rayne in the kitchenette, Sol asks, “Where are we headed?”
“The new Absolute,” Laurent replies. “The city is being rebuilt by ramanga.”
Rayne kicks her blood stained boots onto a clean white table and shoves a few chips into her mouth. Between crunches, she says, “If I remember properly, you two are responsible for the destruction of the old Absolute, so going there will be a deathwish. If you really want to die, I can just bite you now. But I’d like to see you share one last kiss first.”
Sol kicks her chair, which causes Rayne’s feet to return to the floor. Then, he wipes the dirt from the table with his sleeve while asking, “Do you think we can find information of Celeste and my dad there?”
The assassin shakes his head and says, “No. It’s not that simple. Celeste isn’t herself. She’s—”
“A ramanga.” Sol clears his throat and tugs at his collar. “Look, Laurent, I can explain.”
“Don’t worry. I don’t need to know what happened.” Laurent rests one hand on Sol’s shoulder and adds, “You do.” He scratches his cheek and explains, “Celeste is like an Asasabonsam, but much more advanced. She maintained a lot of her human characteristics and qualities, but her brain is still undergoing transformation.”
“Is she safe?”
“That depends on what you consider safe. She’s with the neuromancer that works for Mother.” Laurent stutters, “But don’t use that term around him. He likes to be considered a telepath.”
Rayne shifts in her seat abruptly. When Sol turns to her, the butcher already appears pale. Her breaths shorten more with each passing second and beads of sweat form on her brow.
The hunter tries touching her hand, but she snatches it away and stands from her seat.
Sol says, “Is everything—”
“I’m fine,” she blurts while walking away from the table. “I’m still recovering. I guess.”
“We kissed for a pretty long time.” Sol shakes his head and shrugs. “I can try using my flames, but you hate—”
“I’m fine. Sol. I said I’m fine. I just need sleep. I think.” Rayne walks away from the table without saying another word. She squeezes her eyes shut in an attempt to block the blue and green eyes of an old friend, Kitten, from her mind. The little girl was thrown from a building and bitten by ramanga.
Rayne never told Sol, but she managed to track Kitten down shortly after. The butcher intended to help Kitten become restored, but Blas swiftly found them. He forced the girl to tear out her own organs in order to prove a point to Rayne—she is not allowed to care for anyone other than Blas. After watching her friend die, Rayne was taken back to Absolute, only to find that it was on fire and under attack. The butcher managed to get away from Blas during the chaos, and hasn’t seen him since.
Rayne runs into a chair while walking with her eyes closed. She throws it into a wall an marches to the front of the unit. Then, the butcher sits in the passenger seat and closes her eyes again.
Nervously, Kami whispers, “Please don’t tell Sol that I’m here.”
Rayne hugs her knees and rests her head against the window. “I could smell your scent on Laurent. I haven’t said anything yet, so shut up and drive.”
Sol massages his temples while standing from his seat. He takes a few steps away from the table, but Laurent distracts him by saying, “I’m sorry that I left after Celeste went nuts. I mean, after Rayne bit her. I didn’t know what to do when your sister started attacking people.” Still rambling, he adds, “It’s just good to have the team back.”
The hunter crosses his arms and asks, “What team?”
“The telepath asked me to create a team, so I gave him the names of a lot of people that you hate.”
“Kami and Julius?” Sol chews on his cheek momentarily. “I can’t work with them, Laurent.”
The assassin stands beside Sol and says, “I understand. You can choose to walk away, but some things can’t be done alone, Sol.” Laurent removes large Mala prayer beads from his pocket. These beads belonged to his father. They were the first payment that Laurent decided to take from Blas, but in this situation, they are symbolic for something much more.
Sol recalls the moment that he asked Laurent to save Rayne, the Impundulu. He understands that Laurent is encouraging him to do something similar—to go against his better judgment.
The assassin places the beads around his neck. He instantly feels a connection with his past. The dark energy brings a smile to his face, though it isn’t a pleasant one. Something sinister lies behind the grin, but Laurent cannot shake the sensation.
“I don’t know,” Sol mutters. “I don’t think I can do it.”
Resting one hand over his beads, Laurent says, “My father once told me that sometimes, it’s our enemies that provide the most help and our friends that create the most obstacles. There are times when we need them both.”