Mr. Sharpe drove them to the Sarval Harrier Eyrie on the eastern edge of Gladora in his sleek low-slung groundcar. It was an hour long drive, punctuated only by the frequent chatter between Kara and Mr. Sharpe, both of whom sat up front as the former manager drove the car. Arba stayed in the back seat with Ranglor, quietly observing the streets of the fabled home of the rich and famous. The residents of Nimue certainly lived up to the reputation. He counted no less than thirty well known wives, sons and daughters of thanes from across the aetherverse as well as a few actors, bankers, lawyers and clergymen by the time they got to a fuel station and stopped bothering after they left. At one point, he even spotted the Crown Prince of Darloth himself, exiting a gift shop with five black garbed shinobi bodyguards not far behind and Lord Commander Janus Siimsoo of the Order of the Rose Knights in a civilian outfit and a child of about seven walking by his side. There were relatively few knights in Nimue, but at an intersection, Arba saw a small contingent of black-armored knights with a very recognizable pink-haired yosei woman talking to a hirudo shopkeeper and immediately looked away while slinking lower into his seat. "Damn Orionoro knights," he hissed through gritted teeth. He made a mental note to be less visible in public for the duration of his stay.
Once they stopped at the car park in front of the Eyrie and got out, Marcus turned to them saying, "Let me take you in to meet the others. Don't worry about luggage, I'll have some of the boys bring it here for you. But we'll have to go through the front gates and be searched first. Standard procedure, I'm afraid."
"'Standard procedure'?" Kara said, her eyes narrowing.
"Yes, a deranged fellow threatened to blow up the Eyrie four months ago, forcing us to institute this. This way, if you will."
"Very well," Ranglor said. They were the only words he had been spoken since they had left the airport.
They made their way up to the wide, reinforced steel gates, which rolled open to admit them entry. Once inside, they found themselves surrounded by a group of armored knights in grey and black. The squad leader, a kyberman with a shaved head and a visor-like strip of glass where his eyes should have been, stepped forward and threw a salute at Marcus.
"Welcome back, sir."
"Thanks, Lieutenant Hargrave. You may begin."
The kyberman nodded and signaled to his men. Withing minutes, they had expertly patted down Marcus, Rangor and despite her futile attempt at protesting, even Kara. When it was Arba's turn however, they kept their distance, eyeing him warily.
"I'm afraid we'll have to confiscate the sword, sir." Hargrave said, speaking directly to the yosei swordsman. Arba frowned slightly while Marcus asked simply, "Why?"
"Direct orders in accordance with the Protocol Seven mandate issued after the assassination attempt on Zynogre's life." Hargrave replied. "No weapons, lethal or otherwise, are allowed within a two mile radius of the race perimeter or vehicle storage and maintenance facilities."
Marcus sighed wearily. "Ah yes, I had almost forgotten about that one." He turned to Arba then with an apologetic expression. "I'm sorry, I should have told you earlier but it completely slipped my mind. The knights will have to keep your blade for now, but I'll see to it that it's returned once the Prix is over."
Arba hesitated for a couple of moments, staring at the impassive face of the lieutenant. Then he merely shrugged and unclasped the leather-and-metal harness that bore the blade and tossed it at Hargrave. He caught it deftly out of mid-throw, and without a word from him, two of the knights stepped up and patted Arba down for good measure.
"Careful with that. Mythryl steel stings like a bitch when it cuts, even when wearing titanite alloy armor." Arba said.
Hargrave stepped back with a crisp salute. "Thank you all for your cooperation. Have a nice day."
Marcus waved his three companions forward. "Come on. Hangar 18 is this way."
Ranglor's subdued mood seemed to vanish the moment they walked into Hangar 18. Or more precisely, it disappeared the moment he set eyes on what lay inside the cavernous space that lay beyond the hangar doors. Kara would have found some relief in that fact, had it not been for what replaced the depressed, hangman air around her hirudo companion next.
Fury. A cold, diamond sharp fury that raised the hackles on the back of her neck, forcing her to grit her teeth, and withstand its sudden onslaught on her primal senses. Behind her, she felt Arba come to a stumbling halt, flinching at the sudden change in Ranglor's demeanor. Dammit Birdman, don't do anything stupid! She mentally hissed at him.
Not more than thirty feet or so away, an old, battered and bruised Suzaku T-410S airrake in a horrid red, brown and blue color scheme was raised ten feet off the ground on sturdy pyratex supports. The lower half of the ancient machine's fuselage was gone, leaving a mess of tubing, pipes and wires to dangle helplessly over the industrial grade porcelain floor. The engine itself had been detached, and lay on the floor beside a blond-haired human male in dirty overalls with a wrench tucked into its front pocket, lime-green work boots and a backward facing cap. The mechanic (she assumed that he was one), was chatting with a dolomi who had orange and black striped skin and a short pair of antlers sprouting from his forehead. He had long raven hair and wore only a plain white jumpsuit accompanied by similarly colored boots. As if he too sensed the anger radiating from Ranglor at that distance, he turned towards the newly arrived group and gave a solemn nod.
Ranglor started walking, making a direct beeline towards the dolomi. "Hey Ranglor," Marcus began but never finished as first Arba then Kara picked up the pace and tried to keep up with their avian companion. Kara reached his side first, and grabbed hold of his left arm while saying under her breath, "Razortalon you aetherhead, what the fuck do you think you're doing?!"
The hirudo shrugged her off without sparing even a glance. The casualness of the gesture sent a surge of shock like a fist through her, and she would have fallen down had not Marcus come up from behind to catch her. The darkness that lurked within her gut howled at her to strike back, knock some sense into the hirudo even if she had to bloody her hands while doing it. Her body unfortunately missed the memo and she could only stand there, sulking. Damn that blasted feathery fuckball!
"What have you done with his flyer?" Ranglor said as he stopped just an arm's length away from the dolomi. Though his voice was the same low civil tone he always used, the rage buried underneath the tone made it seem to ring out in the almost empty hangar as if he had yelled.
A hurt, almost pained expression crossed the dolomi's face. Although he stood a good foot taller than Ranglor was more bulky compared to the hirudo's lean and slender physique, for a moment, Kara smelled a powerful flush of fear from the syranno dolomi. "I have done no wrong here, brother of the wind, to be accused such."
"Yes, you're right. How silly of me." Ranglor's speech was coming out short and fast, enhancing the sting of his sarcastic latter statement. "I guess the appropriate question I should be asking is this; what are you doing here?"
Marcus, Kara and Arba joined the fray then, with the blue-haired manager gesturing for peace between the two. "Calm down, Razortalon. Let's settle this in a nice-"
"It's alright Marcus. Apparently my presence here is rubbing Master Razortalon the wrong way." The dolomi flashed a smile at them, and Kara got a whiff of that caustic scent she had long since come to associate with people who were lying. "I'll just be on my way. I hope I can meet your friends under more…favorable conditions."
"We'll be looking forward to it…Stefan Albus Zynogre." The name was said with a strange heavy emphasis that coming from Ranglor seemed downright insulting and threatening all at the same time. He glared at Zynogre, and made a low ominous noise in his throat that caused the dolomi to blanch. A queer gleam seemed to pass behind Ranglor's eyes, like a bolt of lightning behind dark stormy clouds, that went unnoticed by all but Kara, Arba and Zynogre himself.
The dolomi pilot left in what could have been called a hurry, cleverly disguised as a dignified exit. Kara could literally and practically smell the cloud of fright that he left in his wake.