The lights kicked up again, with their dull hum that replaced birds chirping in Sector 86. I got up and stretched carefully, still feeling sore from whatever that "dual essence" man had done to me.

I put on my coat, attached my sword, and prayed that I could understand the Maruvei without needing a new translator. Checking my town I noticed nothing out of the ordinary, it was about seven in the morning, people were waking up, and I could start my day with a long walk.

Seeing the Fyren flying around town was always a comfort, they were a race that actually could be completely happy with simple remedial work, and they were proud of this. I felt amazed by their optimism, but they were further proof that ignorance was bliss.

The Maruvei have an information ring that is amazing, the problem is they're secretive; finding them to get access to this ring is difficult for anyone, unless they know the trick to it. Maruvei have gray auras, if they're in touch with their spiritual side. All spies and assassins involved with the Maruvei just so happen to be in touch. Find the collection of auras and you've found their current hideout.

Stepping into my sense of "the weave", which is the natural flow and thread of magic in the world, I saw a few smatterings of color from different directions, noticing that two people who were resistant were being intimate in the building next to me, I paid attention only to the grays and focused on those.

Taking a breath and standing still, I saw gray auras all traveling to one point around the middle of the sector, that made sense, if the stretched out like a web, they could get information easier, and besides, in a place with a science facility, the pursuit of knowledge here would be strong.

Taking a leisurely stroll toward the Maruvei's building I noticed people walking around me, I was walking on the grating that was above the 'ground level' of the platform and most people tend to not pay attention past a certain point.

Looking around, I felt a slight comfort at the fact that people weren't noticing me. Being treated as a monster isn't good for one's ego. Finally, after reaching the Maruvei's hideout I spotted one door on the roof that wasn't boarded up, knocking on it I heard a bolt release, and a dark staircase opened before me, like I'd expected, even if I augmented my eyes, I couldn't see anything. Walking into it I heard the hushed whispers of the Maruvei, almost shocked to see the Shield of Sector 86 stepping in.

"I don't have a translation device… can anyone here speak Vageian?" I asked.

A deep voice in the back responded with a calm "Yes."

"Oh, good then, first of all I want you to know that I'm not here to stop anything you Maruvei are trying to do." I said, humbly.

A quiet "good..." was the only reply I received.

"I just am wondering if you could answer a question of mine that might be in your archives? It shouldn't be too hard for people who have your quality of information." I said, knowing to compliment those you need help from abundantly.

"Set down twenty steel coins of a five coin value each in the box that will be presented to you." The voice said calmly. I did as it requested, which wasn't easy, since I had to feel for the coin. Each of those coins could cover the lunch I ate, so this was no short amount of money in Vageian steel. "The question?"

"What does it mean when a Sidhe is a 'dual essenced?'" I asked, expecting a quick reply, and not getting it. In fact, there was silence still, as if the Maruvei were confused. After a few minutes and whispers the box shook again in front of me.

"We're sorry, but we don't know. Please take fifteen of the coins back, five will be kept for our troubles." The voice said.

"Oh… nice of you. If you find out, can I be contacted?" I asked.

"In that case, take ten coins back instead." The voice said.

"Right." I replied, grabbing the coins I was told I could take, and leaving an extra one, just incase they needed more incentive. The Maruvei were very materialistic when it came to money, but never to property, a strange double standard for such a spiritual race.

I left, only a little disappointed. The term isn't something we'd covered while being trained, so I expect it's something rare, though rare things aren't always dangerous. While I walked around I felt a small shuddering through the grating, generally a bad sign I looked around carefully for any changes in the sector. I augmented my ears just enough to pick up some more suppressive fire from the science facility, but this time it came with screams.

Not wanting to miss out, I climbed one of the steel support beams and held on to the wire as it sped me toward the science facility. Chances were that I wouldn't be wanted to help them, even if I was needed, however, I don't think I should give them the luxury of a chance.

Landing roughly, I began a brisk run toward the facility, looking at the building it looked to be shaking lightly around the west end, problem is, that was a good fifty feet from the fencing that I couldn't cross. I waved a camera into locking on me, and decided to try and reason with the guards, thinking that maybe there would be a way in.

"I'm Victor Crane, Shield of Sector 86. You've seen me before, if something's going wrong, you'll want my help!"

The camera locked on for a few second longer, and then turned away. "Damn it all to the Veil. They could probably use the help." I shouted, not really expecting an answer.

A mechanical voice over the speakers behind the fence came on, as a slightly frightened voice said in a stammering tone "Sir, we are simply testing a new weapon for potential future use by the members of Shield. If you could go back to work now, it would be appreciated, as you're beyond your legal territory."

I looked where I was, and he was right. I didn't believe that it was nothing, but until they wanted my help, they wouldn't get it. Shrugging it off I walked back into my domain and hoped that they would ask for my help when they couldn't hold whatever it was back with suppressive fire anymore.

A quick flash of blood and claw marks streaked my vision, and I grabbed my head as the pain went through me, a migraine most likely. Ignoring it, I went to lunch. Eating today was quieter than normal; Wednesdays had a tendency to be calm in Wayen Vage. I also could thankfully eat in silence, since Wednesdays and Thursdays were Sarah's days off. The food came and went, and after that all that was needed was patrol.

Walking through town always gave me a bad taste in my mouth. Not metaphorically either, it was the smoke from the forges. Cooked coal and iron causes a bad taste for all the steel is worth.

A man bumped into me while I was walking and spoke in a rough tone "Hey, watch where you step, Water." He said, I walked a few more paces before I stopped.

"What?" I said, turning and seeing him turn down an alley. I ran to catch up, hoping that he hadn't gotten far. When I ran into the pipe, I noticed it was heavier than my head, which is probably why I hit the ground at the speed I did.

"Sorry about this," He said, "We need to borrow that arm of yours, but don't worry, we won't be taking it from you, just the essence in it." At that point I felt tired, either from the hit to the head, or the draining I received from what I assumed was at least one Resistant. I slowly began to pass out, and faded into unconsciousness. The last words I heard him say were, "There was no other way…"


I awoke at night, my head pounding, and my spirit feeling drained still, though thankfully, not empty. I had all my gear on my, and I was in an apartment, freshly constructed, with a wet rag on my forehead. I tried to sit up, but could barely move, looking around; I saw some candles lit by a window, and a small boy looking out the window, seemingly praying. His father walked behind him, and told him to go to bed, then looked and saw my open eyes and came to sit by me.

"You know, I build steel pipes to carry water for miles," He began, "each pipe has to be a certain length and width… I've carried a lot of pipes in my days. None were as heavy as you with that arm of yours." He said, smiling.

"My coat is near fifty pounds… if I include my sword." I said, in my own defense.

"Ha! Really? I thought you Augmented were made tough enough on your own, there's armor in that?" He said, patting it, and feeling plating here and there. "Well, I'm surprised I didn't notice, but I was a bit more concerned about how shallow your breath was. I think you almost died." He said.

"Feels like it…" I responded, lifting a hand to feel my face, it was sore, bruised, and probably fractured… only this time my arm couldn't help me.

"I'm Gray." He said, extending a hand, shaking it I answered back.

"I'm Victor, it's nice to meet you."

"Nice to meet you too." Gray said, and meant it, "I never thanked you for helping me and my son… for saving us."

"Well, I'll thank you now for saving me…" I said back, laying into the home made bed he'd set up. "What time is it?"

"Almost two, so what's the story?" Gray asked.

"Why I got hurt?" I asked.

"Well, I'd like to know your whole story, I sort of collect them, it's my hobby." Gray said, smiling, "But for now, how about what hit you?"

"Pipe… a few Resistants must've needed power for something big… so they sucked me dry. That sort of thing isn't lethal, but it does weaken an Augmented substantially." I said, feeling weakened.

"How long will it take for you to recover?" Gray asked.

"Usually every week or so if I don't use any power after being completely burnt out I'm okay… but longer if I factor in my injuries." I said, wincing.

Gray paused and thought for a moment, I think he was considering the severity of the situation if I was going to be out of commission for over a week.

"What will happen to '86?" He asked.

"Nothing, I'll keep working." I said, too proud to admit defeat.

"Are you serious?" Gray questioned, looking at me as if I'd sprouted a third leg.

"I have to work, people do rely on me." I said, humbly.

Gray sat for a moment in deep contemplation; he looked at me with deep seriousness, and then walked to the window. He looked out the window at the artificial stars, and then at the candle that burned. My eyes focused more and I could see a half-burnt picture of a woman and a baby, there was an arm around her, I assumed he was burnt out of the picture from the fire.

"My wife…" he began, "she was the reason I woke up and went to work at the hum of dawn… she made me a poet… she made life golden here." He said, looking toward his son. "He misses her more than I do, and I think you have an idea just how much I do." He said, picking up the picture. I nodded, sitting up to listen better.

"She died when the old Shield did, he tried to save her from riot that started back a few years ago when the Sidhe cut wages for the 'forgers, like me. She was in the rally, but it turned violent, too many people were running…" He took in a breath, and held back tears with willpower alone, "She would've helped you up from that alley, when all I wanted to do was blame you for her death."

Gray took out a small pouch, and opened it, taking out a small piece of crystal. He walked over and placed it in my hands. Sitting by me he took in another breath and asked, "Do you know what this is?"

I examined the crystal, it was a pale blue and opaque, with little golden flecks through it, and looking closely I couldn't tell. "No…" I said honestly.

"It's a spirit stone, attuned to a Water Essence, like my wife. She was talented; and she used that stone to heal people. I've been forging for twenty years, and many times I've burned myself or pounded my thumb, but by wearing that around my neck, I always seem to heal faster. I believe she can focus through the spirit world to heal using the stone as a conduit… and I want you to wear it." Gray said, looking at me with a serious look. "I want you to have her blessing."

I looked deeper at the stone, and saw it glimmer slightly. There was something magical about it, perhaps not exactly like Gray thought, but I'd never tell him otherwise, nor anyone else for that matter. The story he told was nicer than any truth that could be found in studying this stone.

"Gray… thank you. This will be a great help. It might not be too long before I'm back in good shape again thanks to you. Your wife was a very lucky woman." I said, patting him on the back, "She had a man whose personal beliefs were as noble as they come." He nodded and smiled, I got up and laid down on the floor near the door, and Gray took his bed back, and his son slept on a real bed in the other end of the room.

"Sleep well Victor, I'll have you up in time to patrol." Gray said, throwing me the pouch to hold the stone in, I put it around my neck and rested, feeling warmth come to me through the leather.