Abrupt end to a Long Negotiation

The sky was still dim but a glint of sunlight was starting to surface. The atmosphere around us was a profound sight, yet it felt a little eerie to me. As far as I remembered, ever since we had gotten away, no one said a word. The mysterious person next to me had not yet taken off her mask.

By now, I thought I would have proven myself trustworthy, but not in the eyes of that mysterious figure. I waited patiently, but curiosity got the better of me. The hundreds of steps had worn out my feet. The bag that was swaggered over my shoulder was starting to get heavy. I had to know. "You can take that mask off." I told her, or rather suggested. "I'm not even a cop. I- just take it off."

"I still don't see good reason to."

"Look, there isn't, but my curiosity is killing me. I've been tortured enough through training camp, running away, climbing a fence so high it made my hands bleed, falling down 50 feet afterwards, deserted and completely lost, and almost being killed by you. My point is, would it be so hard for you to do me this one favour to satisfy one of my many small wantings?" I rambled.

With a sense of uncertainty that was ignored, she revealed herself. She was a slender tall figure. Her hair was dark black, yet it was golden in the midst of early morning sunlight. These golden bands interfered with her hazel brown eyes, alert and attentive. I watched them shift towards me. "Satisfied?" She asked sarcastically with a vague smile.

I nodded. "Since we're getting to know each other, let me introduce myself. I'm Jyll, what's you're name?"

"You just keep getting more and more information as you go along, don't you, you little spy?" To add to you're information bank, my name's Merril."

We continued walking on the dusty terrain. No one spoke. Even the wind was swallowed up in the silence. There was nothing more to talk about. After all, it was awkward to walk with Merril, who had not only been considered as a stranger only a few moment ago, but could have also been the cause of my death. It was at least 10 to 15 minutes before anyone spoke. She started.

"Since there's nothing to do but walk, let me ask you something, what brings you here in the middle of nowhere? You caught me by surprise. I mean, I seldom run into other wanderers."

"It wasn't exactly what I would have planned, but it will do. It's better than training camp Kenrei." I muttered under my breath.

"You actually got out?" She asked, unconvinced. "I heard it was virtually impossible. Why would you leave anyway? Good training, food and shelter are all provided."

"Yea, so is getting bossed around, getting blamed for everything, and not advancing in ranks no matter how much or how well we do."

"Ok, I can see why you left, but what are you going to do now? Let's take a look at reality. It may have been unfair, but really, how do you plan to live without food and shelter- something that you never had to look after?"

What Merril said was true. I had absolutely no idea what I'd do. Sure, I'd make it to the city, but then what? Think positive. I thought. There's no turning back. "You're right." I admitted. "I may not know how I'm going to get around, but once I do get settled, my plans will be unleashed. I will return to the site. I will be noticed, respected, and conquer." I told her, in a tone sounding to say the least, naïve.

Merril backed away cocking an eyebrow, "Aren't we aiming high?" She remarked. "Tell you what, survive in the city and I'll help you."

"Why the offer?" I asked, curious and suspicious at the same time.

"Because, the city isn't some paradise. It has no rules. "You'll get cheated, robbed, and taken advantage of it you are found as vulnerable. It deals with street smarts, something an inexperienced city dweller like you, would not have."

"You still haven't answered my question." I reminded her.

Merril gave me a sly grin. "You learn quickly, don't you?" In return, I gave her a clueless look. She decided to explain more thoroughly. "People in the city will get you off track to get what they want."

I was confused. Why did Merril tell me all this? What was she trying to get me to think?

"Tell you what, I will help you, but you have to help me in return. Nothing's free." She offered, interrupting my line of thought. The conclusion came quickly.

"What do you need?" I asked her.

"Satisfaction of a safer city, and a successful living." Merril took out her gun. "This could be the ultimate weapon. It kills quickly and silently. Fortunes would be made, but in the wrong hands, so would the development of increasing robberies, and murders."

"Robberies? Aren't you a robber yourself.?"

Merril looked at me, with feelings that couldn't be read. "Well, if I was able to make some business, I wouldn't be a robber, would I?" She directed in return.

"How would I be of help?" I asked, bringing us back on topic.

"A must is that you have to keep quiet about this new invention. The fewer people who know, the better. Next to you, no one knows of this. Eventually, I plan to submit this invention to the army. That's where you come in. You know their system. You're the one who knows who's in charge. Obviously, you've beaten their system by getting out. While we're in the city, we can submit this new invention." Merril proposed.

"But couldn't you do that on your own? Surely you know how their system works." I suggested, still confused about how I would be any help to her.

Merril shook her head. "Jyll, the reason the army is located so far away from the city is because it's a very top-secret organization. I know as much about the army Kenrei as you do about the city. These two locations could be considered to be alienated from each other. We each have our expertise in our home fields, but no knowledge when it comes to venturing into the visitor's arena. Think about what level power lies in our hands if we were to work together." She spoke in a charismatic way.

Her speech was very influencing. If there had been a hundred people, it would have been a success. Well, there was only me, but she got what she wanted. I couldn't argue with what she had just said. "You're right. It would be best for us to benefit from each other's strengths. Let's initiate the basics before we begin: New ID's, a makeover, and an accurate plan.

"Now we're talking." She said as if we were having a successful closing on a deal, which we were in this case. "The convenient store isn't too far ahead. We can start planning our missions there."

I nodded. The small simply building was in sight. Never was I so glad to see a man-built structure, a sign of currently existing civilization. "What are we waiting for? Let's go already." I expressed with enthusiasm and I ran excitedly to the store.

Merril looked at me as if I was some fool who had never seen a store before. To keep up with me however, she picked up the pace. The store was not open all day, but it did open early and close late.

"Darn. It's not open." I muttered.

"It is still quite early, but I'm sure it will open soon." Merril tried to say with a touch of unexpected optimism, though the tone of disappointment was much more noticeable. Perhaps I should try to be more optimistic as well. I thought.

Just the, I realized that all I had pin-pointed my circumstances on were negative ones, though you had to admit, there weren't that many positive outcomes so far. I did complain a whole lot, but I did very little to make things better. Well, I was about to change that.

VROOOM! The sound of the roaring engine interrupted me. A bright light flashed in my eyes, but only for a split second. After my eyes were able to see again, they interpreted a motorcycle driving up to the convenient store. Under that helmet of his revealed a young man in his late teens. It was evident that he worked out on a routinely basis. He was also quite tall and had a trace of a mustache that had been left alone to grow. His short blond hair was dampened by his helmet. He was casually dressed in T- shirt and jeans, while his eyes were shaded away by his sunglasses. Then, he turned in our direction, and gave us a strange look, "What are you crazy kids don't out at this hour?" He asked us indirectly as he took out his ring of keys, fidgeting with them to find the fight one. "Well, I hope you didn't wait too long." He added, opening the door to let us in. He followed. "Thanks." I said.

"No problem. It is my job. There's not much to buy since the store just opened, but feel free to have a seat while I unpack." He suggested and then went about his daily duties. Merril and I ordered some coffee and took a seat by one of the small tables. Although I knew I hadn't eaten in at least half a day, I didn't feel hungry. The caffeine in the coffee helped me stay awake.

Thank goodness for that. Merril was talking extensively about what we were going to do in the city. I hope she didn't expect me to remember everything. I had a hard time trying to make out her words and then, comprehend them afterwards. Nevertheless, I took in what I could.

Thirty-two minutes later, I read on the clock that hung on the wall. I had finished my coffee long before then. During the past half hour, I contributed in tidbits of suggestions to support her almost fully developed plan, but she did most of the organizing. Merril didn't seem the least bit tired! Amazing. I thought. On the other hand, I couldn't bear it any longer. I was going to fall asleep. "I'm getting another cup of coffee. How about you?" I spoke immediately right after she ended her last sentence.

"I'm okay, but thanks." She replied. Then, she added, "Remember, save your money though. Right now, we have a very, very limited supply."

"What do you mean by 'right now?" I inquired.

"It means we'll be able to have access to money later on when we get to the city." She casually explained.

"What difference would it make?" I asked rhetorically. "I have no bank account, and you, well, you wouldn't be a thief if you did have money."

"Ah yes, Einstein, and guess what thieves do?"

The answer was obvious. "But I don't want to steal." I almost exclaimed.

". And the lights of the last house in the neighborhood do eventually turn on." Merril teased in a friendly manner. "Pipe it down, this is a store." She indicated in the direction of the suspicious shop keeper. "Besides, you've stolen before." She stated truthfully.

"Only to defend myself." I stammered. "Otherwise, I wouldn't have."

"Like you have a choice now. You need the money, even to make a fake ID, or for food for that matter."

"There must be an alternative." I suggested.

"Well, if you want this back, you'd better start learning." Merril persuaded me by holding up my bag of money.

"Hey! Give that back! I demanded. Merril ignored the order.

"There are no rules in the city." She told me while teasing me at the same time for being shorter than her. She swung the money back and forth at a height that was out of my reach. "There was one rule." Merril recalled, still not giving me my money back. "What was it? Oh, it was keep what you can get. Since I got this from you, I guess I can keep it. This comes from a lifetime of experience in the city, Jyll."

"Guess again Merril." I fought back pulling her arm down twisting it behind her back to get her to let go of my bag of money. "As I said, there has to be an alternative, and this one comes from my lifetime of experience in the army: Fight back for what is rightfully yours no matter what the cost."

"So instead of stealing, you're going to mob them right off the bat. The victim will have millions of witnesses against your favour in court. We're going to be in the city now, so let's do the profit-making my way. Tell you what though; I'll make you a deal. When we're at the army training camp, we'll do the profit-making your way." Merril compromised.

"Fine." I agreed.

"I'm glad that's settled." Merril responded. Afterwards, we continued to discuss our detailed-plan. We covered names, occupations, and now, we were going to talk about how to get through the security system in the city.

"It's a very big and new building. Security guards comb every inch of each floor. The files are stored in a secret compartment at the very top."

"How would you know?" I curiously asked her.

"I've been there. I got up there. I know where they hide the information; I just couldn't get what I wanted in time, and I barely made it out. I thought about it for a long time, keeping in mind of every camera, the way the rooms were set up. I know how to break through the system." Merril explained eagerly to me.

"Okay, so spill."

"Here's what we do." The rest came in whispers, "Security guards are willing to help any citizen. We'll shut down the power. It's easy to do. Then, distract the security guards, for example, like you saw a robber heading towards the back of the building." She paused. "It'll have to wait. It's too risky to tell you now. I trust you not to tell anyone."

"Of course not. Why else would you have left me alive?""

"I was out of ammo." Merril muttered.

"Oh." I said, slightly surprised yet also a little disappointed at her answer. "Seriously?" I asked, still in doubt. The answer I had received seemed so unrealistic, so silly. Then, Merril handed over her gun. It was indeed empty.

"So you're telling me that I'm only here because of chance and not of choice?"

Merril thought for a brief moment. "Pretty much." She simply replied. Was it fate, destiny, both? I couldn't tell to this day.

"You've got to give me a better answer."

Merril glanced over my shoulder. "Get down."

"That's not an answer. Tell me why." I asked again.

"Really, you have to get down now." Merril ordered.

"Wh-" Merril shoved me away letting me fall to the ground. "Wha- what was that for?" I shouted angrily at her. My feelings changed instantly when I saw a dart that had been chucked in the wall where I would have been sitting. I scrambled up to my feet. "W-what was that?" I asked in shock, repeating the same phrase again. "We have to tell the clerk."

"No need, he's gone." Merril took the dart and examined it closely. "It was poisoned. "Let's get out of here." Merril suggested. Without any hesitation, we both packed our belongings and left. My question for the time was, who would want to kill me, and why? I hoped to discover him or her soon enough.