Author: K. Presson PM
Civil War on Aida has pit the surface dwelling Aidans against their brothers of the sky, the Enjera. Kavryn and Kya must travel into the heart of their greatest enemy to save a life. "It's not about revenge, or getting even. It's about protecting the ones we love. It's about protecting our family, Kya. We are all we have."Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Fantasy/Sci-Fi - Chapters: 3 - Words: 7,340 - Updated: 01-19-13 - Published: 01-01-13 - id: 3088166
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Chapter 3: Burgess
"Well, would you look at that. They extended the outer patrol border."
Kavryn slid an annoyed glance to his partner. He didn't need the obvious to be so clearly stated, and was thankful for the large boulder they hovered behind. The six man patrol wandered the narrow neck of the gorge in an almost lethargic pace as one of the men crouched down to check the perimeter beacon. A blue light strobed to life at the apex of the silver cylindrical object.
"Back up," Kavryn pushed backward out of sight as the beacon shot out a beam of the same cerulean hue to net the entire visible area. It passed harmlessly across the boulder, then back again. Having not received any readings, the scanner disappeared, and the orb of light at the top winked to green –signifying the area was clear of any humanoid life. He watched the operator press his fingers to his ear and say something, though he was too far away to make out what it was.
Kavryn peeked around the boulder to watch as they packed up the equipment and loaded it onto a hover sled. He waited for them to maneuver the sled into a waiting truck. "We can't take the main road. We'll need to go around."
"But what about Powell?" Kya's feet touched the ground briefly to rest from constant hovering.
"He knows we're coming. We'll just have to sneak in the back door. I'll contact Leena." He removed a small handheld pad from his pocket and tapped lightly on the screen. He replaced it once the message sent.
"Those things can detect the difference between Enjera and Aidan?"
"I don't think so, but it's easier to avoid them than having to explain why we don't have Aidan ID's." He settled to the ground next to her and crouched down as his stomach grumbled. "Give me one of those pies, will you?"
"Please?" Kya folded her arms.
He sighed in irritation, though couldn't help but smile slightly. "Please give me one of those pies?"
She smirked and dug two out of the satchel, taking one for herself. They ate them quickly.
The wind and chirping of midnight crickets surrounded them in a blanket of calm, though they felt anything but. Although he kept a cool exterior, Kya knew her best friend's brother too well to believe he wasn't afraid. She knew he was keeping up an act for her, to assuage her uncertainties, but she also knew the act was for himself as well. His only sibling now suffered in one of the most terrifying places an Enjera could possibly be; alone in the cramped darkness of the planet. "Kav," her honey voice eased into the sounds of the night.
His eyes flicked to her.
"We should go."
"Right." He wiped his hands on his pants and stood. "There are tracks to the west. We can cross them into the station and blend with the crowd."
The two turned away from the gorge to go the long way.
They stayed low to the ground until the lights of the first Aidan home came into view, then –as promised—stowed their goggles and walked. Kavryn's com pad buzzed with Leena's response.
An hour later, past the outskirts of suburban homes leading down into a valley, they passed a rudimentary sign reading 'Welcome to Burgess. Population: 8,000"
It was small in comparison to an average Aidan city, with a few multi-story business buildings spearing into the sky at the central square. Mostly, the buildings were old, suggesting it had somehow managed to survive the usual death of an Aurora crystal mine boom town. A slim line of track cut along the far west side and disappeared around the distant hills where the sleek snaking body of a train soon came into view.
The two held back as the train trundled to a lazy stop at the station. As soon as it had, they bolted down behind the train and climbed up onto the platform to mix with the crowd. Fortunately the clothing of the two peoples didn't differ enough to readily tell one from the other.
"Play it low, Ky." He felt her tense when he took her hand.
"Kavryn, what the—"
"Go with it," he tugged her lightly closer. "We're blending in."
She grit her teeth as they wove through the visitors greeting family, talking on com pads, or generally milling around . His warm hand easily encompassed her small one. Although she was close friends with him, she'd always thought of him as extended family. Being this close in this manner made her uncomfortable –even if they were faking it for the sake of survival. The feeling confused her, and she didn't know what to do with it. Thankfully, she didn't have long to dwell on the awkwardness of being near enough to Kavryn Ryder to smell the subtle musk of his antiperspirant.
He put his arm around her shoulder to pull her close as they passed by a trio of guards patrolling the platform. Their monochromatic green and yellow uniforms identified them as local Burgess Police detail. He tipped his head down as if to kiss Kya's head as they passed the Aidan patrol. His only response was an off-comment muttered by one of them about how he wished he could find a woman with legs like that. Kya's hand tightened in his grip, and he knew from experience that she was considering how long it would take introduce the vocal officer violently to the cement.
Once they descended the steps and cleared the station, he let her go. "See? That wasn't so bad."
"Says you. Your hands are clammy. Nervous much?"
"We just snuck past security into town on one-hundred-percent dumb luck. I'd say 'nervous' is like saying it gets slightly damp during spring storms."
"Doesn't make it any less disgusting." She looked around at the houses squished up against one another along the rolling streets, and the rows of fences in front of each. "So, Mr. Map, where to now?"
"Leena said her cousin would be meeting us here." He looked around the area for anyone suspicious, or at least more suspicious than they most likely appeared, and spotted the lean form of a man reclining comfortably against a street light. He glanced up briefly from the datapad he was reading from, then back to the tech. Whatever it was didn't seem to hold his interest at all. He seemed to simply be waiting. "I think that's him."
"He looks a little like Leena. It's the hair, isn't it."
"Dead give-away. No one else I know has hair as funky curly as that."
"I'll tell her said that," she smirked and started walking toward the light post.
He paused a moment, "In a good way," and followed.
Powel looked up at the young couple approaching, and pocketed the pad. "Lost?"
"No," Kavryn began. "We're just looking for a friend. Maybe you know him?"
"Gimme a name."
"Who should I say is asking about him?"
"Someone said he had an amazing collection of tea from all over Aida."
The older man smiled. "Leena knows how to impress family, that's for sure." He extended his hand in greeting, which Kavryn received in kind. "Have a nice trip?"
"Could have been a little quieter."
"I don't talk that much." Kya punched him in the arm. "It was a long trip. What did you expect me to do? My mind was everywhere. The silence was killing me."
He rubbed his sore shoulder. "See what I had to put up with?"
Powel chuckled. "C'mon, you two, before someone starts asking questions."
They piled into a nearby hovercar –Kavryn's knees sticking up in the front seat due to his height—and smoothly pulled away from the curb.
She looked out at the passing city as they drove. "Any word from your contact?"
"Yes. He said the airship that attacked Onan landed yesterday and the prisoners were taken to the detention center before transport to the mine."
She frowned. "Poor Mer. The anxiety of having to wait to be taken underground must be horrible."
"Honestly, I can't believe it took them this long to find Onan. Sometimes I really miss that place. The lake was always my favorite spot as a kid." Powel stated. "The cloud bank does a great job of hiding the island, and it helps that anyone from there hardly ever leaves."
"We're pretty self-sustaining," Kavryn's flat tone said he wasn't interested in conversation at all. Just finding his sister was all that mattered.
He drove down a few streets toward the shopping district, passed the stores, and up a hill to a slim street with two storied houses bearing small fenced in yards. The solid gate at the side of the house near the top of the hill opened and he angled the car in to park it in the garage. Once the solid gate closed, he turned off the engine. They moved around the front into the house after Powel unlocked the door.
"Ehryn's closing up the shop early, so she'll be home in a few minutes. Make yourselves at home."
Kya glanced around the simple, yet spacious home. It looked compressed from outside, but surprisingly held a lot of room. Sadly, she could make out no trace of a typical Enjeran home. "Leaving the Enjera must have been hard," She asked, taking a seat in one of the living room's comfortable chairs. "How can you stand not being able to fly?"
"Oh, I still do, sometimes. Floating through a room with the windows closed takes a little of the edge off." He handed them each a bottle of soda. Mission or not, they were still considered children despite them being nearly twenty in age, and this was a favorite among their age group. Even he liked the fizzy orange drink. "Every once in a great while, I'll go way out to the east on one of my trips to restock the shop's teas, stop in the middle of the flood plains where the lights of the city wouldn't dare to reach, and leave gravity behind for a while. Even Ehryn will come with me at times, although she's afraid of heights."
Kavryn unscrewed the top of the soda and took a long gulp. "We need a plan to get Merida out of the detention center before she's transported. Any ideas?"
"Actually, I'm glad you asked." Powel set his drink down on the coffee table and stood. He removed two Burgess Police Force uniforms from a drawer in the side room and set them next to the drink. They were neatly folded and the lapels pressed in a sober fashion. The black and yellow security patch on the left breast stood out in brass contrast to the sage coloring. "All we need are security clearance badges, which my contact will give you. Once you're in the facility, he'll tell you where you can find the Enjera."
"Where did you get these?"
"I've been here for a long time, Mr. Ryder. You're not the first Enjera I've helped."
The uniform lay heavy in Kya's hand. It wasn't just the thickness of the wool blend, she knew, but the meaning that went with it. "Are you sure you trust him?"
Powel picked up his drink once more. "With my life. I saved his hide once before he joined the Airforce Academy a couple years back. We've been friends ever since, trusting each other with our secrets. We've been through a lot together since then. That kind of brotherhood is something that a simple badge can't break."
"How is it a tea shop owner and a member of the airforce can gain anything from each other?" Kya asked.
Powel didn't take it personally. "It's an odd arrangement, I admit. Who would think to look at a hole-in-the-wall tea shop for conspiracies or sympathizers?" He chuckled. "Don't worry. I've made it my business to remain a shadow, even when the guards are looking right at me." He smiled into his bottle and took a brisk chug, downing the rest.
"So, we'll go in tomorrow, find Merida, and get her out before they can transport her. Where will we meet you when we get out?"
"There's an old power station near the western bank of the flood plane that used to power the towns windmills. It's on the same side of town as the detention center, but far enough across town to not be of any consequence. I'll meet you there. Message me when you're clear of the facility."
It seemed like everything was rushing so quickly now, that Kya felt her head swimming from the information. If this worked, they could go home with her best friend and never have to think of this town again. If this didn't work, they would either succumb to a similar fate as Merida's, or meet death. The first option sounded much worse. Her grip tightened around the uniform. It was all so real, now. In less than a day, Merida would be free, or…
She hadn't realized her eyes were squeezed shut until she felt the familiar pressure of Kavryn's hand of her own. He eased her fingers away from the fabric and laced them between his own. She looked to him, and sighed in resignation. "I'll be strong for you, Kav."
"Just be yourself. That's what I'm counting on," he held her gaze for a moment, seeing that spirit he'd always come to depend on in aerial battles, or even when hanging out at Leena's after school or practice. It was that bond between them that gave him the strength to challenge the Aidan king's military forces and plan this rescue.
"You're right. We'll be fine, and we'll get home before the sun sets tomorrow," she put the uniform back.
"It'll be an early morning, so you should get some sleep. I'll wake you when we need to leave." Powel stood, stretched. "You can have the spare bedroom upstairs for the night. I've got to work on the car to fix that damn pinging. The Aurora crystal's out of alignment, and I'll be damned if I'm gonna pay a mechanic to fix something I can do myself." And with that, he marched into to the garage with determination to fight the mechanical beast and fix it before his wife got home and demanded he take it to a professional. Again.
"Th-the same room?" Kya glanced upstairs, that same sense of nervousness flaring in her chest, then looked to her partner. They each stared at the skinny stairwell for a long moment. In a flash of moment, they simultaneously shot up their seats for the stairs.
"I call the bed!"
"You get the couch!" Push. Shove.
"I'm a girl, so naturally I get the bed." She leapt up four stairs ahead of him only to be dragged back.
"How is that natural?"
"Be a gentleman." She caught herself over his head, pushing him to the side and dashed up the rest of the way.
"There might not even be a couch!"
"Then I'll give you a pillow and you can become best friends with the floor."
They slammed into the door and forced it open.
The room was small, sparsely decorated with one window looking out over the back yard, and indeed had a couch, though it was a love seat. The bed's width suggested only one person could sleep in it comfortably.
Kya flopped onto the bed before Kavryn could move from the doorway. "I win."
"I take it back," he grumbled, eying the couch. "You are a cruel, cruel woman."
She chuckled. "It's weird enough sleeping in the same room with you, let alone the same bed, so cushions off the couch and put them on the floor." She tossed him a pillow.
He caught with one hand. "How kind of you, to relinquish such a prize, oh sovereign queen."
"The queen does not appreciate snarky sarcasm, subject," she smiled behind closed eyes.
Kavryn looked out the window. "It's still daylight. I won't be able to sleep." He crossed his legs, though remained at the same height without the aid of a chair.
"Gonna go for a walk?"
"Maybe just to the shopping district. Don't worry," he rolled his eyes at the look she was giving him. "I'll be careful. I'm not going to do anything stupid to jeopardize this mission."
He just eyed her like someone would judge an eccentric woman for wearing the most outrageous hat in all of Onan.
She sighed and sat up. "Guess I'll talk to Mrs. Kinryn when she gets home."
He nodded once.
Long moments of silence passed before they heard the door close downstairs, followed by the musical tones of Ehryn Kinryn calling for her husband. Kya stood, stretched, and left the room to the solitary care of her friend
Kavryn remained at the window, staring out at the distant hills shaded by the grey billows of an incoming storm. Despite the nature of their visit, he had to admire the view. "At least this place has its scenery going for it," he muttered to himself. He took in what little peace he could, knowing that tomorrow would put them into the heart of danger, and hopefully at the end, the heart of home.
Hold on, Merida. I'm coming for you.