Kirstin Martin

Period 1

Aftermath

The bright sun fell upon the mountaintops, casting golden rays down into the valley that contrasted against the dark shadows caused by the mountains that fortified it. The valley forest came alive with the calls of various animals as they prepared for the looming night. Occasionally, a flash of one of the voices' owners could be seen, for just a second. Darkness rose quickly, its shadow reaching across the valley and engulfing everything within it until, after the sun had finally disappeared beneath the mountains, everything was wrapped in it, covered in pitch and tar and ink.

Alyaida loved the early night. Everything was so awake—so alive. She could stand for hours and just be at peace with the night, but she shouldn't. She was not exempt from its unwritten laws. She shifted a little in the army-grade mercenary suit that she had stolen from a victim (not like they needed it), tightened her grip on her rifle, and strode on, her eyes glancing back and forth in a constant scan of the shadows and trees.

A voice coming from a mini-radio in the suit broke the silence, calling for the person whom the suit belonged to. Alyaida ignored it until it finally became too distracting and, in a fit of annoyance, pinpointed the radio and yanked it out, snapping the wires and surely sending a signal to the command center that something was up. She quickened her pace, though didn't really need to. She knew how to remove the tracking device located in the back collar. It was still with the corpse of the owner of the suit.

Something shifted in the corner of her eye, and she turned on her heel, bringing the gun up to her face and taking aim at something that probably wasn't there. Her finger twitched on the trigger.

"Easy there, Alyaida," said a calm feminine voice situated in the trees.

"You know, it would have been a whole hell of a lot easier to find you if you had told us that you were going to dress like a 'cen'ry," continued a different, masculine voice using the derogatory for "mercenary."

"Byerra, Vyeuz," Alyaida acknowledged, mild irritation evident in her voice.

"Now, now, no reason to be mad at us, it's not our fault that you don't know how to control that trigger-happy finger of yours," Vyeuz, the male, mocked.

"That doesn't have anything to do with this! You leave her out of this!" Alyaida yelled, her anger escalating.

"Tad touchy about that still, are we?" Vyeuz asked, chuckling. "I thought you weren't going to let her get to you anymore?" He chuckled again.

"That isn't the point and you know it!" Alyaida yelled, her voice cracking as repressed tears attempted to find their way back to the surface.

Byerra, who had been watching silently as Vyeuz mentally tortured Alyaida, finally decided that Vyeuz had pushed too far and that Alyaida, in all her trigger-happy, possibly-insane glory, was teetering on the edge. "Vyeuz, that's enough," she commanded, her voice holding an unspoken threat. With that, she jumped down from the branches so she was standing right in front of Alyaida.

Vyeuz jumped down seconds afterward, a cocky smirk sent in Alyaida's direction who met it with a venomous glare.

"You brought the charges, correct Vyeuz?" Byerra asked, deliberately avoiding another argument. Vyeuz nodded. "Alyaida, you have the maps?" she continued.

"Yes," Alyaida said simply, her voice still slightly choked.

"Good. We only have tonight to pull this off, so we better hurry."

They headed west, their pace kept between a quick stride and a jog. They arrived at the destination shortly before midnight. The half moon provided just enough light to see. The large, sprawling building in front of them was built with the Gothic styling of old, except this castle was not made of stone, but steel. Along the walls, hired mercenaries stood as guards, while the actual guards slept behind machine guns in the turrets, their fingers resting on the trigger and twitching ever-so slightly with dream battles riddled with glory and honor against the insurmountable odds of swarms of "infidels" and not enough ammo. They were all wearing armor of a similar styling and color as the stolen mercenary armor that Alyaida was wearing.

"Now do you see why I wore the armor?" Alyaida asked Vyeuz cockily.

Vyeuz didn't answer, instead preferring to simply shove her forward with enough strength that, if a tree hadn't gotten in the way, she would have stumbled out of the forest before she was supposed to.

"If the both of you can't keep control around each other, I swear to the gods, I will murder the both of you myself," Byerra whispered, grabbing hold of Vyeuz's collar as he went to further push Alyaida into the tree. "We have very little time to finish this mission, and even less time to screw around. Vyeuz, give Alyaida the charges. The fortress is more heavily guarded than I thought it would be. Only Alyaida will be able to get through."

Alyaida nodded and pulled the hood of the armor over her head so it shaded her striking green eyes. She backed a little ways, and then broke into a sprint, stopping at the gate only when the other guards verbally stopped her.

"Soldier, where's the rest of your group?" one asked her.

"Dead, sir. We were ambushed by some of the outsiders. I'm the only one that survived," she answered, feigning regret and irritation. "I was left with no choice but to leave them. I thought I should warn my other comrades (she almost choked on the word) of the danger."

The two mercenaries looked at each other for a second, and then the one that had spoken initially motioned for her to follow him into the building. She was led through the twisting maze, but with each turn, she came to know where she was more and more. She had been there before, years ago, detained, tortured, and almost executed save by the grace of her sister, who lost her life in the process.

Alyaida ran her thumb over the button of the detonator of the charges that lay underneath her armor. She restrained herself for just a few more seconds, and then pressed down it. A heartbeat and everything went white, and then black.

Sister, Tuquya, I will be there, I promise you this.