For a cell it's not so bad.
Sagira's gaze roved over the interior of her surroundings for the thousandth time since her incarceration. She pushed a rough hand through her scraggly hair trying to tame it some. It was too short to do much more than frizz it and she wondered if she was making her appearance worse or better.
Peering down her body she frowned at the too simple clothes they'd forced her to wear.
Completely unflattering to her figure.
She felt like she was in pajamas – faded, puke green worn by who knew how many other inmates before her. She suppressed a shiver. Wouldn't it have been easier to just take her weapons and leave her, her clothes? Guess they didn't trust that she didn't have a blade or other weapon hidden up her who-ha. She rolled her eyes and giggled at that. There'd been a time or two.
She'd been thoroughly searched, her clothes, her hair, her body – kept from retaliating by exo-suited men and women ready to beat her within an inch of her life is she showed any signs of resisting the ongoing humiliations. She'd been run through a scalding hot shower, interrogated well into the day about what she had done. Sagira was thoroughly exhausted by the time she was allowed to dress and escorted to this very cell. Her eyes roved over it once more.
The place was well lit – in fact a bit too brilliant. While most of the cell was bathed in stark white, the lights closest the bars were that strange orange hue that gave her a headache and made her slightly nauseous. Obviously they'd detained vampires in these cells before. Somehow a quality of that glow weakened vampire-kind. The orange lights kept her kind from simply ripping out the bars and escaping. As long as she'd been working in conjunction with Victor Sierra, she still didn't know how they managed it.
Needless to say, she stayed well away from the entrance.
The starkness of the lighting didn't extend to the cell's furnishings. The bed, extruded as part of the back wall, was thickly padded and the linens were soft and comfortable. The commode was behind a small partition in the opposite corner of the room. The wall was about waist tall – not enough to completely hide behind, but enough to keep passers-by from seeing the occupant take care of business.
Sagira had been occupying this cell for three days. Not a soul but her guards had come near the place. Her meals simply appeared through the small slot in the back wall. Seems she'd really pissed off the council. They were going to let her rot in here without the opportunity to plead her case. She still had a ton of questions bouncing through her skull.
Her gut squirreled. "Garrett," she breathed. Sure, he'd been alive when she was dragged away from him, but was he still? Tears welled, making her vision blur.
Please say I didn't condemn him to death.
The thought had plagued her constantly, and she could do nothing to confirm or deny the results of her actions. Her inquiries of her captors met with stoic, charged silence. Plopping onto the mattress, Sagira curled her fingers into the soft padding and fought to control her breathing.
Worse. What if she'd condemned him to permanent disability? Would he wish he'd died instead?
A sob escaped her, because she knew the answer to that question and it wasn't a hopeful one.
She immediately got angry with herself for feeling so emotionally weak.
"There is nothing wrong with emotion, child."
Shooting to her feet, Sagira immediately sidestepped as if to defend herself. There, inside her cell, was the Matriarch. When had she come in? How had she gotten in? Sagira had heard no key set to the locking device, nor had she heard the gates open.
The faerie merely smiled in that enigmatic way which said Sagira would never be able to figure it out.
She was dressed in a pale yellow gown that brushed the floor and hid her true form from view. The blonde of her hair blended seamlessly with her clothes, making Sagira think for a moment she was wrapped in her tresses rather than clothed.
"Garrett?" slipped past Sagira's lips before any other thought would form.
While relief tried to flood her system, she pressed her small advantage rushing closer to the diminutive woman. "Take me to him!"
The Matriarch held up a hand and Sagira felt as if she'd hit a wall. Taking a step rearward and recovering her balance, Sagira glared at the woman – not in anger but in shock and a touch of fear. Another enigma. How powerful was the Matriarch? How far did her powers extend? As Sagira's gaze roved over the pale beauty, she noted the Matriarch's hand. For the first time she realized that the woman only had three fingers and the opposing thumb. A quick glance at the opposite hand confirmed it wasn't a fluke. She wasn't missing digits because of some deformity or industrial accident. They were graceful and symmetrical – she'd been born that way. She found herself studying the woman's ears, looking for pointed tips, even as stories from her youth played inside her head.
A small humored laugh welled out of the Matriarch, the tinkling of bells in the wind. "No, child, I'm not."
The Matriarch resumed the previous discussion, rather than elucidating on her statement. "You will get an opportunity to see how your beau fares, but not now – not for a while yet."
The cell seemed to grow darker and Sagira found herself shrinking at the implication. "That much trouble, huh?" she asked, resignation littering the question. Once more she lowered herself onto the mattress.
"There are always consequences to rash action," she said. Her head tilted off to one side. "We are curious as to why you decided on yours."
Anger flooded in hot now that she'd been given an opening. "What was I supposed to do? Let the squints hem and haw and hypothesize until Garrett died? I don't fucking think so!"
"You took a huge risk that the EMP burst wouldn't kill him," the Matriarch said.
"The machines were in his brain, they'd caused a stroke. It was the only thing I could think of that would stop them before they did even greater damage to him."
"He is one man," she rejoined. "Your action risked much, destroyed sensitive equipment, and slicked files that can never be recreated."
"He's not 'one man' to me," Sagira snarled. "He is my man, and I'll not let him wither and die if it's in my power to stop it. Equipment can be replaced. Those files are backed up three times over. My lover is one of a kind."
She got up and began pacing, wanting to attack the Matriarch in her anger but knowing it would be futile.
"And don't pretend Garrett's not important to you all." She pointed an accusing finger at the smaller woman. "He is. You know he is. So stop pretending like I didn't do the entire organization a favor in saving him. So what if I crashed one small little sector of the building?"
Her tirade was thrown off when she caught the Matriarch sporting a full blown smile.
"So much passion. You truly are your father's daughter."
Sagira fought with pride and tears. Swallowing, she asked, "Did you know my father?"
A sad, regretful expression wiped the smile off the Matriarch's face then. She said, "I have not had the pleasure, child. It would have been an honor."
But she didn't say why it would be an honor. What made her dad so special that this ancient, powerful woman regretted never meeting him?
The slight figure across from her drew herself to her full height, still not reaching Sagira's collarbone and turned all business. "It's the council's decision that you remain incarcerated for ninety days. The cost of the damage will be taken from your salary at the rate of a half month's pay until your bill is fulfilled."
Sagira's jaw clenched tight, waiting for another even uglier shoe to drop.
"You have been stripped of all previous rank within Victor Sierra."
Not that she'd had much to begin with. She'd always been of the impression that it was honorary anyway – to humor Garrett in his latest fling. Here some hundred years and three Keeper's later…
She giggled despite herself.
Once again the Matriarch's mouth twisted into a knowing grin. Must be nice to have that kind of mental ability. It added to her frustration that she couldn't read the Matriarch at all.
"So that will make me arm trimming?" Sagira said, her brow lifting under her dark bangs. "I'm not so good at being a trophy."
Though the Matriarch didn't address that directly, she did say, "At this point we are not sure Garrett will be resuming his post – or any post – within Victor Sierra. It will depend how far his healing brings him towards full recovery." Her head twisted the other direction. "There is talk he may need to be retired."
Sagira froze. "Retired?" Her voice had gone shrill. "You can't retire him! Why would you throw the effort to save him away?"
The Matriarch laughed. "Not that kind of retirement. I was invoking the more ancient meaning of the word – to be relieved of duty and responsibility. Full pension and health benefits."
"Oh." She was still suspicious however.
Though Sagira wanted assurances, she felt the discussion of the matter was closed. Ninety days in jail, loss of rank, loss of wages.
She could deal with that. That is, she could if Garrett pulled through. This would all feel like wasted effort and folly is he succumbed despite her effort to save him.
"So…" She glanced up. "When will I be able to see him?"
"When he has stabilized," she said, nearly stepping on her question. "They are… cleaning him up, reducing the damage incurred by the nanites, and formulating a course of action should he pull through the preliminaries."
Sagira took a bit of hope in the tone of the Matriarch's voice on the final statement. She sounded as if it was foregone that Garrett would survive.
"I would say it would be safe to escort you there in a week's time."
I can wait that long. Or so she told herself, but her nerves already had begun jangling at the thought of how much could go wrong in that span of time.
"I must be away to other bits of business." Matriarch broke Sagira's reverie with that statement. "I trust you will behave yourself? The council will not hesitate to lengthen your term should you cause trouble."
And all that it implied.
"I'll be a good girl." She had a hell of an incentive to get out of here as quickly as possible. She wasn't going to risk delaying her reunion with Garrett – not for anything. Sure, it would be a struggle, but the prize was worth her insisting on good behavior.
The Matriarch nodded, turned and glided towards the bars. She passed through them like a ghost, and once beyond the confines of the cell, her image shuddered and then blinked out.
Sagira stood, jaw hanging slack, staring at the spot where the Matriarch had vanished. Had she even really been there?
The longest week ever!
Sagira stared at the bars, fervently searching for someone to come get her. The Matriarch promised.
Or had she?
She was confused, realizing that her hopes had her reading way more into the faeries words than were truly there. The Matriarch could have been estimating, could have been just placating her into being good. Or…something had gone wrong. Her gut compressed at that thought.
"No," she insisted. "He's fine."
There was no way she could bring herself believe that Garrett succumbed to the attack and his injuries, or from the EMP burst. He was fine. She would get to see him.
"I have to get out of this cell," she muttered.
The walls had closed in hard on her in the past seven days. She had never done well with confinement, with rules, and it was taxing every bit of patience she had not to tear the place apart and make a spectacle out of it.
Just when she thought she might break, the approach of clanking footsteps garnered her attention. Aug-suits, three of them. Strangely she was relieved by the sound of it. Sagira was the only one on this detention block who would warrant such a heavy-duty escort. Her hope spiraled higher that the Matriarch was going to keep her word as the three of them marshalled outside the bars. The armored humans all stood taller than her, the bulk of their gear nearly too wide to fit through standard doorways. The plating was mottled in greens and blue-grays. She knew from experience that these suits bristled with weapons.
She'd seen for herself what these platforms could do to any opposition.
The orange lights faded and finally died nearest the bars. One of her escorts moved forward, keying the lock and stepping inside.
"Wrists." The female's voice was distorted by the speaker.
Though anxious and starting to feel rebellious, Sagira extended her arms and allowed the guard to close the heavy cuffs over her forearm and hands. Immediately the two devices attracted to one another with a decisive clang. A few moments later a tether of energy snaked from the guard's arm to her cuffs.
The woman stepped to the side, waving with her free arm for Sagira to step out in front of her. The other guards split apart, one taking the lead while the third fell in behind her and her immediate escort.
Everyone got out of their way as they walked the hallways towards the infirmary. She was quick to note the place had been restored to pre-EMP functionality. The florescent lighting was bathing every corner of the hallway until all shadows but the ones the party cast were able to hold sway.
Her forward and rear guard posted outside on of the infirmary doors. Sagira wasn't even sure whether this was the same one Garrett had been in before. Her escort pulled her up short by the electronic leash, sending needles all the way up into her neck.
"SSS! Must you?" she hissed as her glare tried to cut through that faceless armor.
"Just stand there," the woman growled.
Sagira did as she was told, while her guard keyed the door. With a less than polite shove, her escort had her enter the room. When the door had shut behind them and the lock had cycled, the tether on her shackles disappeared.
Pausing midway between the door and Garrett's curtained bed, Sagira lifted her arms. "Can I do this without the restraints?" What would Garrett think if she showed up at his bedside fettered? "I promise, I'm not going anywhere."
"Council's orders – the cuffs stay on." The helmeted head lifted in some semblance of a chin point. "Get to it. You've got fifteen minutes."
Fifteen? That's it? A growl escaped her, but she cut it short lest they shorten the time more. Instead she nodded and turned towards the curtain. It was an awkward thing trying to pull back the curtain hiding Garrett's bed from view when she had not hands to accomplish the task. She simply pushed it to the side and rolled her body around the edge of the drape before letting it slither back into place.
Turning to face the bed, and involuntary in-drawing of breath escaped her at the sight of her lover.
"Oh Garrett!" she whispered. Her shoulders slouched.
The sound of her voice roused him. There was a slight twitch to his head that said she'd startled him out of sleep. He cracked his close eye open and rolled the orb her direction before turning his head.
"There you are," he said. His voice was low and broken. "Was beginning to think you'd made your jailers mad to spite me."
So he knew. A wave of defiance and embarrassment caused her cheeks to heat up.
Sagira suppressed a shiver as she lowered herself into a chair near his bed. His half a gaze followed into her seat. The evidence of the nanites in was already fading, but there was still trace of detritus under his skin. The right side of his face was still a spider web of black and gray against the stretched scars along his cheek. There was a large patch over his right eye.
When Garrett noticed her horrified stare he lifted his left hand and swept light fingers over that side of his face.
"They couldn't save it, 'Gira. I already couldn't see outta it. It didn't get better after the nanites were stopped."
His hand fell to his chest only a moment before it moved to his right shoulder. Sagira's eyes followed. A small squeak escaped her as her gaze encountered the stump which remained of his right arm.
"It's okay," Garrett assured her. "They'll make me a new one."
Sagira met his gaze again, her vision blurred by tears. "I'm sorry Garrett, I didn't know what else to do!"
He reached across the space and laid a hand on her cheek. "You did good, kiddo."
She started to shake her head, opening her mouth to protest, but he cut her off.
"No. It's okay. It was the only way, all right?" His lopsided gaze grew intense. "We all know it. I'll be fine."
He dropped his hand, resting it across his chest. His fingers twitched as if he wanted to cradle his missing limb once again.
"It doesn't even hurt," he said absently.
"That's the drugs talking," Sagira teased, but her voice was still too rough to express the humor properly.
A crooked grin cropped up on his face and lingered.
The silence grew heavier until Sagira couldn't stand it anymore.
"I noticed they've told you a lot." About what she did, about what it got her… hell he probably knew how long she'd be in jail.
His eye slid shut but he nodded.
"What about your… condition? It's not like the nanites were the root of your problem."
His head twisted towards her once again and that green eye regarded her for an unnervingly long time. With a long, deep breath, he regarded the ceiling. "They've got an idea."
"They've said that before. That's why you're where you are."
"It's not… technology this time. It's biology… chemistry."
I don't like the sound of that. But she kept it behind her teeth.
"Somethin' about vampire's blood. I faded before they told me all the details."
Sagira bolted upright. "What?"
Before she could press Garrett for more details, her escort clapped her hands together. "Alright Arturo… time's up. Give lover-boy a kiss, 'cause you won't be seeing him again for a long time."
Sagira glared at the woman and opened her mouth to retort. Garrett's hand on her arm was the only thing that made her think twice. She made a show of that kiss, just to spite her guard. When she quit that public show of affection, she continued to hover just inches above his face. His one good eye searched her features before that smarmy grin cropped on his lips.
"You be good," he said.
"It'll be tough."
"You can do it."
"I know. And ditto."
Sagira straightened and sauntered nearer her escort. She was the picture of patience as the guard restrained her and escorted her out the door. She took one glance back, disappointed when she couldn't see Garrett beyond the curtain.
With a sigh, she fell in behind her escort, wondering when she would be able to visit him again.
A/N: WHUT? Another chapter so soon? IKR? This one was written in two sessions at about six hours total. Rolled it into seven pages. WHUT? The first part of this chapter was not originally in my head canon but it seemed like we needed to see the consequences of Sagira's blowing the medical wing to dysfunction - not just a slap on the wrist - punishment. Also I wasn't originally going to have Garrett be so knowledgeable of his own bodily damage. But that just seemed to fit as well. I only worry he seems a bit OOC here (we'll blame it on the drugs).
Now the debate... do I close it here or do I try to squeeze one more chapter for each group of characters? What do you all think?