Post 16:“Shhpt!”

Ilya was startled from her dozing by a metallic bang.  She looked up to see a new woman drunkenly stumbling away from the steel door, pulling a matted fur coat tightly around her.  Ilya sat up from the narrow bench she had been curled up on, and looked around.

There were only a handful of others in the large cell.  Everyone kept to their own metal bench, either napping or lost in thought or, as Ilya watched the new woman drop to a bench, no thought at all.  Ilya had made the mistake when she came to earlier of trying to talk to a few of the women; but she had been so scared and confused.  Lukas had not explained anything when he escorted her from the ship.  The last thing she remembered was coughing uncontrollably and struggling against a drowning feeling as he pulled her along.

She woke up here alone, with no answers.  No one spoke her language.  Even those who weren’t slurring or muttering to themselves, their words were too fluid, the sounds too mushed together for her ear to piece apart.  Ilya had tried calling for help through the door, but that was only answered by screaming from the others in the room.

Ilya realized the new woman was staring back at her, so she quickly looked away and studied the scratchy graffiti on the wall beside her.  Childish scribbles were intermingled with crude diagrams of genitalia and sex acts.  Ilya had wrinkled her nose at a particular pair of stick figures.

“Oy!” The drunk barked.  “Kssssskl fandbei drrrrp.”  The woman let out a long belch at the end.

Ilya pretended not to hear, but that didn’t seem to help.

“Kissskilfand abeidrrughh PA!”

Ilya turned away as a couple of the others drowsily responded.

“OY!”  The drunken woman could be heard lurching from her bench with a metallic scrape.  “Mn… mwen ichrdandrrughh! Huh?  Ki sa ki…”

A deeper voice rang out from the opposite corner, the words flowing in a slow rhythm like someone reciting a child’s rhyme.

“Daismattoi und aswattoi, schlampute dumbaka.”

The tone commanded without shouting, but the drunken woman fell heavily back to her bench and let out what Ilya was sure were a few more expletives before turning inward.

Ilya looked to the corner where the new voice came from, hoping for a friendly face.  Instead she saw a bored young man, pale skinned with a shaved head. What was a man doing in here??  She had assumed she was in some kind of women’s holding cell.  Ilya stared in disbelief until the man looked back at her, and she quickly averted her eyes to her lap.

There was something off about this person, but… also familiar.  After a few minutes she hazarded another glance.  The young man looked ragged as he sat collapse in the corner.  His long, black coat with its padded segments crumpled shapelessly around him; Ilya knew it hid a long, wiry frame.  Her eyes followed the somewhat delicate line of his jaw.  He may have been too young to grow a generous beard, but the bare cheeks were too smooth.

He caught her staring again and she blinked hard, averting her gaze.  What was it?  There was something about him she just couldn’t place.  Her next peak showed that he was watching her this time.  Startled, she turned and sat facing away.  That can’t be good.  She heard a rustling as the man stirred from his corner.  She kept her eyes averted as it approached and pulled closer one of the free standing benches.

He eased down to the bench and stared for a moment.  She could see him in her peripheral vision as he cocked his head sideways.  When she didn’t move, he whistled softly to get her attention.  She shut her eyes tightly as he snapped near her face and whistled again.

“Nazawharranatawha starrtemichanneh?”

Ilya couldn’t understand what he said, but his question had a playful tone to it.  He continued to talk quietly to himself as she remained frozen in place.  After a moment of silence he sighed and whistled again.  She finally opened her eyes, and when she looked over, he sat back to give her space.

She realized what was off.  He had left his coat in the corner, and sitting so closely Ilya could see that this man was in fact a woman.  The dirty jumpsuit worn as pants opened at her waist to reveal a form fitting and equally grimy t-shirt.  The woman stared hard at her, yet not in a way that Ilya found threatening.  It felt more like an intense curiosity.

“Nazegh wharanata wha starrtegh  michanegh?”

Ilya shrugged and shook her head.

The woman frowned and rubbed her hands up and down her face.  It reminded Ilya of Cael when he was frustrated.  The thought must have changed her expression, because the woman cocked an eyebrow and looked encouraged.

“Queist vodresuka nom? Ah?”  The woman tilted her head again.  She rested a hand on her own chest.  “Marghi.  Undomaegh? Ah? Margh-i.”

Ilya nodded to the woman.  “Mari?”

The woman’s face lit up.  Ilya had rolled the r against the front of her teeth instead of breathing through it at the back of her throat, but it was close enough.  She had understood.  “Ah… Und omaegh?”

“Mm… my name?”

“Marghi… ah?”  She gestured to Ilya again.

“My name is Ilya.”  She tapped her own chest.  “Ilya.”

“Igh-le-hya.  Ihl… hya?”

“Ilya.”

“Eeilhya.”

Ilya nodded but the woman gestured for more, her hands beckoning.

“Halnazhi rheddenegh,” the woman raised her hands and had them do the talky motion by flapping the fingers to the thumb, “da-da-da-dagh.”

Ilya was confused.  She wanted her to talk?  But they couldn’t speak each other’s language.

The woman’s voice rose in pitch, like she was coaching a baby, “Da-da-da-dagh.”

“Um,” she looked around at the others in the cell.  No one seemed to take notice of them.  Not even the drunken woman with the matted fur coat.  “My name is Ilya.  I…” The woman’s gaze was intensely focused on her face.  “I don’t know why I am here.  I want to go home.  I should never have come here.”

The woman rolled her hands over each other nodding for her to continue.

“I… um.  I miss my family.  My husbands, my baby girl.  Bhaga, I didn’t get a chance to say goodbye… can’t remember how long it’s been since I saw little Nessa.  The last time I was really home… I’m such a horrible mo-”

“Shhpt!”  The woman Mari flapped her fingers in Ilya’s face as she turned away.  They sat in silence, Ilya watching her think.  Think of what?  She couldn’t imagine, but the woman started nodding to herself and turned back.

“Jhour… nahmeh… ease… Eeilhya.”

Ilya gasped.

“W-what?”

The woman scrunched up her face.  “Jhour…. nameh… ease… Eeilhya.”

“Uh… yes.  My name is Ilya.”

“Mah… nahme… ise… Marhi.”

“How?”

Mari waved her question away.

“Jhou…” She thought for another moment.  “Why argh  jhou… stargheen… ateh… meh?”

“I… I’m sorry.  I thought I recognized you.”

The woman took this in.

“I’m sorry, how are you doing this?”

“Hmm?”  The Mari sat with her hands over her mouth as she thought.

“How are you learning my language so quickly?”

“Ah… Ieeghave a fhiende.”  She tapped her head.

“A… friend?”

The woman suppressed a chuckle.  “Jhess.”  She shook her head.  “Gharde to explaineh.”

“I can imagine.”

“Jhou argh fromeh Bharha?”

“Um, yes.”

“Baht Bharhenne do not aleave Bharha?”

“Not usually, no.”

“Jhou have beenegh to atherr worldse?”

Ilya shook her head.

“Walle, Iye ghave not beenegh to Bharha.  So et was not meh jhou recohnize.”

“No, it was a mistake.”

Mari nodded and sat back.  Their conversation apparently over, she twisted on the bench and lay down on her back.  The chill of the room didn’t seem to affect her as she casually tucked her hands behind her shaved head.

Ilya had begun to doze again, hunched over with her riding jacket pulled tightly, when Mari spoke up.

“Why did jhou leaveh Bharha?”

Ilya snorted and straightened her back.

“What?”

“Bharhenne do not leave Bharha, so why did jhou leave?”

Ilya sighed.  “It’s sort of a long story.  I guess… I should say I left to help one of my husbands.”

Mari raised an eyebrow.

“I thought he was in trouble, but he was just running away… and now I think I’m stuck.”

Mari raised both brows.

“One of jyour husbandse?”

“Yes.  Or, not anymore, I guess.”

“Why ded ghe leave jyou here?”

“It’s not his fault.”  Mari eyed her skeptically and Ilya shook her head.  “No, no, you have it all wrong.  A bad man is chasing him, and I thought… I thought I could protect him if I came along.”  She rolled her eyes in embarrassment.

“Where are jyour ather husbandse to help?”

“Yes, well, I sort of left them behind.  I know it sounds odd, but, the entire situation was odd.  You see, Cael, he-“

“Cael!”  Mari sat up as the women around them protested the shouting.  She leaned over to Ilya and whispered.  “Ded jhou saygh Cael?”

Ilya sat back and nodded.

“Cael Dimini?  Skinny?  Paleh?”

“You know him?”

Mari suppressed another chuckle.

“Ghe es my brothar.”

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Post 15: “This was a horrible plan.”

                Alberich’s mind raced.  He’s here!  Is he?  Was it Lukas?  Should he try to run?  It could just be someone who works there.  He held his breath and listened to the steps as they echoed in the warehouse.  He clutched the kampdator, eyes glued to the opening of his hiding place.  The wedge shape created by the rounded edge of the storage discs leaning over his corner burned into his vision.  He felt like an insect hiding beneath a roll of coins.

                The slow gate seemed to be walking away but just as Alberich felt he could breathe again, the footsteps began to approach again.  He was walking up and down the aisles between the containers.  This man was looking for something and he was taking his time.  Alberich was going to have to run.

                As gently as he could, Alberich placed the kampdator on the floor and used the wall to quietly heave his massive frame to a crouched position.  His lungs were screaming at him to breathe and he forced himself to suck in air slowly.  Alberich wished he’d had a chance to get a new change of clothes, he reeked.  Lukas would probably find him by smell alone.  

                The man started whistling.  Alberich heard the proud melody leap and fall in a way that was hauntingly familiar.  Something tickled the back of his mind and Alberich squeezed his eyes shut.  He could feel the other memories stirring as a wave of déjà vu crept over him, and it was tempting to give in, let them flood back and take over.  It had gotten him out of situations like this before, but waking up to the aftermath was getting harder to deal with.  So, he focused on his breathing and tried to clear his head.  He didn’t notice when the footsteps and whistling stopped.

                “There you are.”

                His eyes shot open to see Lukas’ head peaking in, hanging sideways from behind the edge of the last container.  His tone had been playful and he had a grin on his face.  He was speaking the language Alberich had heard nowhere else but from Lukas, and yet he could understand it perfectly.  For the moment, the large man was frozen in his crouched position.

                “Take your time,” Lukas walked across the opening to lean against the wall; his gray, seamless suit already matching the concrete behind him.  “I don’t know why you insist on playing these games.  You insist on running away, and yet, here make yourself so easy to find…  I assume that was intentional?”

                Alberich dropped his head.

                Lukas tsked, “Ooh, and I know you had such high hopes with this one.”              

                Cael clung to the bike and managed another attempt to sit up.  The throbbing between his eyes had lessened but there wasn’t much to see in the tiny room, anyway.  Just him and Ilya’s bike, alone in the glow of the laveli pad on his arm.  He remembered his idea about accessing the ship’s computer and leaned over his arm to try.  Something odd caught his eye by the wall and he leaned forward and screamed when he saw his right foot missing.

                Lukas slid down the wall and leaned his head back as he sat there.  He was staring up at the ceiling, but Alberich knew all of his senses were on full alert.

                “Aren’t you tired, Alberich?”

                “Of you chasing me?  Sure.”  He answered in common speech, slowly placing a hand on the kampdator.

                Lukas smiled to himself and shook his head.  “You have it all wrong, my friend.”

                Cael managed to calm himself when he realized his leg and absent foot didn’t hurt.  He wiggled his toes and felt them press up against the inside of his shoe, so his foot was still there, somewhere.  He tried to pull his leg back and saw the dark sock at his ankle reappear.  Oh, it was just in the wall.  So the it couldn’t seal with his foot in the way.  That was very nice of Lukas to keep that safety precaution activated.  Cael was certain he could work with this.

                “Your memories are incomplete, Alberich.  You run because you’re confused.  Things aren’t as they were.”

                Alberich pressed at one of the kampdator keys.

                Cael was in the middle of convincing the ship’s computer to talk to him when Alberich’s messages came scrolling across the pad on his arm.

                He’s here.  He’s here.  He’s here.  He’s here.  He’s here.  He’s here.

                Cael sighed.

                Working on it.

                Alberich watched the man casually sitting at the mouth of his hiding place.

                “Am I confused about what you did to Dr. Vitor-Bieito?  Is she even still alive?”

                Lukas looked over at him with a wounded look, “Of course she is.  You see, this is what I’m talking about.”

                “And Ilya?”

                “No need to worry.”

                “Where is she?”

                “She doesn’t matter!  None of them matter, Alberich.  If you would just come with me, no one else would have to get hurt!”

                Alberich continued to press at the kampdator keys as Lukas turned away.

                “And if you’ll recall, the recent death toll was not taken by me.”

                Cael had just been kicked out of the ship’s computer again when he saw the second message from Alberich.

                He’s here.  He’s here.  He’s here.  He’s here.  He’s here.  He’s here.

                He growled in frustration.

                New plan.  Well, Plan B, sort of.  He’s not going to hurt you.  Let him take you back to his ship.

                And after thinking about it.

                Trust me.

                 Then after thinking about it a little more.

                And don’t lose my stuff.

                Alberich stared at the words in disbelief.

                Lukas looked over again.

                “What’s he saying?”

                Without replying, Alberich picked up Cael’s suitcase and kampdator, and began shimmying his way between the two storage containers nearest him.

                “Alberich.  Really?”

                 Lukas deftly hopped to his feet and followed around to the other side.  As soon as the large man cleared the containers he started running.  The man in gray sighed and picked up his pace to a light trot. 

                Cael experimented with the wall, tapping around his ankle with his free foot.  It seemed solid enough.  He pushed his snared leg forward and the wall accommodated by expanding the hole.

                “Ah!”  He laughed in relief.  “Happy birthday to ME!”

                Alberich tried to pick up the pace once he made it out of the warehouse, but his weight and the thin air caught up with him quickly.  He struggled to keep moving, gasping in the thin, freezing air, and glanced back to see Lukas casually strolling behind him.

                “I can’t tell, are you cooperating?”

                Alberich, breathing too hard to reply, just adjusted his grip on Cael’s suitcase and kept his feet moving.

                “I see.  You’re still hoping he can get you out of this.  You put too much faith in these people.  Though I admit, even I was fooled by this last one.”

                Lukas’ tiny ship sat waiting in the distance.  Alberich tried to focus on it, but his vision was tunneling.  He hadn’t realized he was falling until Lukas caught him.

                “I got you.”  His tone was reassuring as he took the kampdator from under the large man’s arm. Lukas wrapped the arm around his shoulders and they began walking again. Alberich was too exhausted to fight him off and submitted to leaning on him.  He found the gray man bore his weight easily, and was practically carrying him to the wing.

                “I don’t know why I believed he would hold true to his word about destroying all of the Legion.”   

                “We…we did.  Everyone…”

                “What I heard was YOU whipping everyone into action.”

                Alberich bit his lip.  They were already nearing ship’s ramp.

                “But I guess I couldn’t have expected him to sacrifice himself.”

                “What?”

                An engine roared to life at the top of the ramp, and out flew Cael on Ilya’s bike.  He slammed into both Alberich and Lukas and they all tumbled backwards on the pavement.  Alberich woke up face down, crumpled over heavily on one shoulder.  His face was numb but he was sure it was a mess from skidding on the pavement.  He heard Cael’s voice through a tinny haze as someone pulled weakly at his hand.

                “Get up!  Get up you fat bastard!”

                He rolled onto his side and dragged the wiry man to his knees before they had enough leverage to get him off the ground.  Alberich looked over and saw Lukas on his back, grimacing but slowly coming to as well.

                “Come on, come on!  On the bike, let’s move it!”

                Cael righted the bike and Alberich wearily eyed the small, rickety contraption. 

                “Just get on!”

                Alberich obeyed, and awkwardly straddled the seat as Cael grabbed his suitcase from the pavement.

                “I don’t, I don’t think I can drive this.”         

                “No worries,” Cael ran to the kampdator.  “Just start the engine.”

                A horrible rattling of glass and metal could be heard inside the cracked box.  Cael sighed and dropped it down again as Alberich managed to get the bike to cough and sputter back to life.

                Lukas groaned and rolled onto his hands and knees.

                “Cael, he’s waking up, Cael!”

                “I can see that.  Catch!”  He tossed the suitcase at Alberich who caught it with his belly and pinned it there with one arm.  Cael hopped backwards and perched on the handlebars.  “Okay!  Ah, hold on!”  He twisted the handlebar revved the engine.  “Feet up, please.” 

                Alberich picked up his feet and flung his free arm around Cael as the bike lurched forward.  Unfortunately, they were slow to accelerate after that. He looked back and Lukas was standing again.

                “This was a horrible plan.”

                “Don’t be so pessimistic.”

                “He’s already standing.”

                Cael leaned over to look back, causing the bike to dip and turn sharply to the left.

                “Barely.”

                “Don’t do that!  What happened to the rest of Plan B?”

                “What, alerting the authorities?  Let’s go right.”  They slowly skirted around one of the clunkier looking ships.  “I made the call while I was waiting for you guys, but it’s not as if they’re in on the plan.  I can’t simply make them appear.”

                “Oh God, he’s running now!”

                Cael tried to push the bike to go faster, but there wasn’t much more speed they could get out of it.

                “How close is he?”

                Alberich quickly glanced back.

                “He’s just behind the last ship we passed.”

                “So, he’s catching up… very quickly.”

                “What did you say when you made the call??”

                “I said he was a spy working for the Manana Corporation.  I figured with everything going on, it would be considered, you know, a priorit-”

                Cael was cut off when the sky lit up with blinding lights and every siren went off at once.  Despite the shock they managed to stay upright on the bike.  As soon as they cleared the next ship they were met with a line of utility vehicles, much like those that Cael had seen earlier, except these had been panted blue and white with matching blinking lights. 

                There was a voice on a speaker barking orders at them, but they couldn’t understand it over the sirens.  When threatening looking guns popped up from around the vehicles, Cael brought the bike to a stop.

                The voice barked something else they couldn’t understand.  Cael slid off the bike and took a few steps with his hands up.  That seemed to anger the voice as the barking grew more frantic and all the guns trained directly on him.

                “No!  Wait!  Not us!  The man chasing us!”  Cael was using both arms to point behind him and looked back to see Lukas had disappeared.  Of course.

                He felt something sting his neck, and before he could even bring a hand up to check it, the ground slammed him sideways.  Alberich’s face hit the ground near him.  Cael could see the large features relaxing as the paralysis spread through all the muscles, but they managed to make eye contact as the authorities reached them.  Alberich’s breathing grew shallow.

                “You… are so… bad at this.”