Post 25: “It’s very rude to carry on a private conversation in front of others.”

She had spoken in their childhood language, but he continued in commons speech.

“The power going out, was that your doing?”

Mari scoffed indignantly and replied in commons as well, “I ghave been well, thanks so much for asking.”

“Mari….”

“And why do you assume it whas meh?”

He squinted again.  “The coincidence would be astounding.”

“Ha!  That’s note faihr!”

“All you have to do is answer the question.”

Mari took a breath and Cael smiled sardonically.

“Okay, so the power bit may ghave been Sieffre’s idea.”

“Sief-Sieffre’s idea?”

Ilya sniffled and raised her head at the familiar name.  She looked from Cael to Mari, unable to understand their conversation.

“What are you doing listening to Sieffre, and what is Sieffre doing having ideas in the first place?”

Mari cocked her head, “Ooh!  I think you ghurt his feelings.”

“Ha!”

Ilya jumped his mocking laugh.  She turned and looked to Alberich.

“What’s wrong?  What are they arguing about?”

“I’m not… entirely sure.”  The large man had sunk back against the wall and was rubbing the feeling back into his hands.  “Apparently, she caused the lights to go out.”

“Yes, I knew that.”

Cael’s head snapped back to tiny woman in his lap.

“You did?”  He asked in Sakhimi.

“Well, yes.  I… your sister, she helped me escape.”

“You know she’s my sister?”  He turned to Mari in commons, “Have a bit of a conversation did we?”

The bald woman hugged herself against the chill of the doorway and shrugged; the lamp in her hand lit up her face in a ghostly blue.

“And what exactly did you two talk about?”

“Oh, well… I suppose a congratulations es en ordah, Mister… ah Enkshi.  Thankjyou, Sieffre.”  Mari then erupted in a low chuckle, leaning as if someone were whispering in her ear.

“It’s very rude to carry on a private conversation in front of others.”  Cael snapped.

“Jyou are one to talk.”  She nodded at Ilya who sat forgotten in his lap.

He cleared his throat.

“Ah, Ilya, are you okay now?”

She shook her head, not sure how to answer.  “Yes?”

He squeezed her shoulders reassuringly.

“Do you think you’re ready to move?”

“Move?  Yes?  I can walk.  Mari only carried me here because of the glass.”

“Glass?”

“Yes, when Sieffre had to pop all of the overhead lights in the locker room.”

“Sieffre?  You know about Sieffre?”

“Well… Yes?  He showed me how to find you.”

“You spoke to Sieffre?”  He leaned back doubtfully.  “How?”

“Well, through the kampdator.”

“Through the….”  He swiveled the box around on the table, and its square skrina lit up on cue.  The blinding light faded to reveal the face of a broadly smiling Sieffre.

“Hello!”  He chirped in Sakhimi.

Cael sighed.

“Hi, Sieffre!”

“Cael, Ilya, good to see you again.”

“Thank you! For… rescuing me back in the locker room.”

“You did so well back there.”

“No, I panicked….”

“It was quick thinking to go for the locker.”

“What?”  Cael jumped in.  “What are you talking about?  Ilya, tell me what happened in the locker room.”

“Well… I… had to find something to cut your restraints and there were these men….”  Ilya’s voice faltered and her chin began to tremble again.  She pressed a palm to her mouth, embarrassed by how quickly her weakness overtook her.

“It’s okay, never mind.”  Cael hugged her to him again.  “We’ll… talk about it later.”

“Um….” Sieffre cleared his throat and gave meaningful look to Mari.

Mari pushed off from the doorway.  “We should get moving.”

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Post 24: “So, I assume you are a friend?”

“Mari…”

“I REALLY liked that coat.”

“Priorities, Mari.  I’ll find you a new one, later.”

She grumbled to herself as she sat down on the stunned man beneath her.  When she leaned over and reached for his blue cylinder lamp, a painful wheezing was forced from his lips; however, when he didn’t stir further, Mari ignored him and held lamp up.  The metallic walls of locker doors reflected the cold light enough to illuminate the entire room.

“So, where is she?”

Sieffre crouched by the corner and appeared to open the bottom door as he popped the lock.  One of Ilya’s legs slid out.

“Is she alive?”

“I think so,” he made a show of peering into the locker.

“Well, um… open up the rest of these lockers, would you?  Maybe we’ll find something helpful, like shoes.”

Sieffre glanced back and the entire wall of lockers next to Mari shuddered as their locks clicked simultaneously and the doors swung open.  From her perch on the unconscious man, she began rummaging through the nearest locker.  Anything she didn’t need she let slide to the floor; files and paperwork, stiff dress shirts and jackets, towels and wallets.  Too bad a Manana post runs on credits, not cash.

“Keep an eye out for something sharp.  Cael and his friend are still restrained down the hall.”

Mari took in a deep breath to relax the tightness in her chest.

“It has been awhile since you last ran into each other.”  Sieffre’s tone was too casual.

“Just because you can see my heart rate, doesn’t mean you know what how I’m feeling.”

“I’m just saying, circumstances could have changed.  You’ve definitely changed.”

“I wasn’t the problem.”

“He’s probably changed, too.  I mean, look!  He has a wife!”

Mari moved over to her third locker and started tossing everything to the floor.

“I don’t want to talk about this right now.”

Sieffre’s mocked her with a deep, breathy voice, “I don’t want to talk about it… Fine!  That’s two conversations I’m rescheduling for later.  Don’t think I’ll forget.”

“Ah HA!”  Ilya dropped two oversized cloth slippers to the floor and scooted her feet in.

“Those look a little too soft to protect you from the glass.”

“It’s better than nothing.  Besides, now I have all of this lovely rubbish all over the floor.”

“Ohh… is that what you were doing?  I thought you were just being disrespectful of other people’s things.”

“Ah!  And look!”  She held up a thin rectangle of metal.

“Is that a razor blade?”

“Yeah!  There’s a whole shaving kit in here.”

“I love how quaint the Novafolk can be.”

“Some habits die hard, right?”

“Well, that should work for the restraints.”

Mari wrapped the blade in a strip of cloth and tucked it into the belly pocket of her jumpsuit.  She lightly stepped over the clothing and files she’d dumped on the floor and eyed the other unconscious man collapsed against that wall as she squatted next to Ilya’s locker. Sieffre’s figure remained squatting next to the door as well, and her eyes were tricked into fitting him into the impossible few inches between herself and the wall.

He looked into Ilya’s locker.  “Is she okay?”

“You said she was fine!”

“I said I thought she may be alive, still.”

“Move.”  Mari leaned in and heard shallow breathing come from the tiny woman.  She set the blue lamp to the side.

“She’s alive.  Now what?  Do I try to wake her up?”

“… Sure.”

She cleared her throat and gently shook Ilya’s knee, “Um… waake… uup?”

Ilya’s giant eyes fluttered and then popped wide open in fear, causing Mari to scream and jump back.   The petite woman took a long, ragged gasp as her limbs flailed within the small space of the locker, and then let out her own whimpering scream.

“Ilya, it’s me!”  Then silently, “Sieffre translate!  It’s me!  Your friend!”  Glowing text scrolled across Mari’s vision, the unfamiliar language spelled phonetically.  She tried to say it as calmly as she could as the woman in front of her continued to panic.  “You are safe!”  She stayed seated from her fall but reached forward to stop the kicking legs.

“Jhou arghe safe!  I am jhour friend!  Jhou arghe safe!  Jhour friend!”

Ilya thrashed for another few seconds before her eyes focused on Mari’s face, side-lit in blue light.  She stopped struggling and took a few more gasps.

“Ma… Marri?”  Sieffre scrolled another row of text as he translated Ilya.  “Mari… is that you?  GET ME OUT!  Get me out of here!”

Ilya pushed forward out of the locker and crawled into Mari’s lap, where she continued to whimper in fear.

Mari held her arms awkwardly out to the sides.  “Now what?

Sieffre shrugged.  “Well, unless you want to find some tiny slippers for her, I’d say your easiest course of action would be to carrier her out of here, no?”

Mari sighed.  “Translate…”

“Ilhya…  I need to ghette up.  Jhere… stand on jhere.”  Ilya was propped against the wall on top of a coarse Manana Corp. jacket.  She stood obediently, shivering in her thin, blue jacket as Mari straightened up and checked herself over.  She patted her butt, no glass, her belly, razor and darts gun, she reached down for the lamp and decided to grab the other man’s darts gun as well.

“Okay,” she turned her back to Ilya, “climbe up.  I will walk us out.”  She realized she had to crouch down pretty low before tiny woman could grasp her shoulders.  Walking around the corner, they saw the smaller, dreadlocked man was slowly pulling himself to his feet.  Before he could react, Mari shot two darts into his back and kept moving.

Where are they?

Sieffre walked by silently and lead her out of the hall and to the closed door.  Certain the glass had not been tracked that far, Mari let Ilya slide down to the floor.  She watched Sieffre act as if he were opening the door to reveal a very large, sweaty stinking man.

“Jhou know jhim?”

“Yes, that’s Alberich.  Oh!  We need something to….”

Mari produced the razor blade from her belly pouch and stepped forward.

“Es jhe dead?”

“No,” came a familiar voice, “He’s sulking.”

Mari pressed her lips together and said nothing.  Instead she reached under the table and felt for the restraints along the large, soft arms.  It was difficult to get a good angle on the chord without nicking the rolls of skin on either side but after a few moments he was free.  The ankle restraints were easier.

“Who are you?”

Cael couldn’t get a clear view from around Alberich’s massive calf and his own arms.  Not yet, she thought.  She stepped back as Alberich’s legs sprang free and he moaned in relief.

“Ohhh!  That feels good!”

“My turn!  My turn!”

Mari stepped back and whispered to Ilya.

“Big man es in the whay.  You ghet Cael?”

“Oh, okay!”

Ilya accepted the razor and scurried under the table.

Mari shivered against the chill of the hallway as she listened to Cael and Ilya whisper to each other.  Was she telling him about her?  He yipped as she obviously nicked the skin and she cooed a nervous apology.

Alberich sighed and propped his elbows on the metal table.  He squinted into the blue lamp and yellow emergency light.

“So, I assume you are a friend?”  His round face was young and his accent was weird but something seemed anachronistic about it as well; something old timey.

Mari leaned against the doorway, propping the lamp on her hip.

“I could be.”

They were interrupted by Ilya’s sobbing from under the table.

“Ilya, hold on, let me get out first.”  Cael’s voice came muffled as he could be heard struggling.  Soon, a disheveled blond head could be seen, followed by shoulders in a dirty, brown jacket.  Cael only just managed to pull himself up to the squeaky metal chair when Ilya crawled up to his lap and continued to release her pent up hysteria.

“Ah, Ilya!  It’s, it’s okay.”  He looked up, squinting into the light of the doorway and switched to commons speech.  “Um… sorry about that, I um, uh….”  His mouth hung open, dumbstruck, and Mari waited.   His expression dropped from surprise to suspicion.  “What are you doing here?”

Mari pressed a small grin and nodded.  “It’s good to see you, too.”

Post 23:”What, like a lead shooter?”-“Yeah, but like a big one.”

Mari groaned to her feet and staggered to the once again open doorway.

“Oh my god, my head.”  She leaned into the hallway and looked around.  “So what’s the plan?”

Sieffre appeared before her, hands in pocket.

“This way.”

“What are you all dressed up for?”

He looked down at his button-up shirt and trousers.  “Oh!  I just… um, got inspired.”  He slid past her vision as she made her way down the hall.

“Did you, now?”

His image, only seen by her eyes, allowed him to talk freely while she continued to push thoughts at their connection.  She stopped short of the pool of light at the intersection, and Sieffre appeared again further down the hall. His figure appeared to glow, unaffected by the deep shadow around him.

“Mari, come on.  We need to pick up the pace.”

“Hold on.”  She stretched for the ceiling and straightened her back in an extravagant series of muted pops.  Somewhere down the hall to the left was a real party, or a skirmish.  It was too far off to be of concern, though.

“You good now?”

“Oh god, yeah.”

“Can we keep moving then?”

“Did you hear that?”

“Did I hear what?”

“That was all spine.”

“Amazing.”

When Mari peered around the corner, Sieffre was standing at the double doors in the distance.

“Are you ready to use that spine?”  His voice was a whisper in her ear.

She wriggled her shoulders and pushed forward.   “So what are we dealing with?”

“Six men, five have darts gun, another has a small cannon.”

“What, like a lead shooter?”

“Yes, but like a big one.”

“Didn’t think you could get that on Kennet.”

“I think that’s why it ended up in the jail, here.”

Mari reached the double doors and was face to face with Sieffre.

“Oh, and I exploded all the lights and there is glass… everywhere.”

Her eyes bulged and mouth pinched.

“Damn it, Sieffre!  I’m in bare feet, here!”

“Don’t get mad at me.  You were out and I had to improvise.”

She took a deep breath and shrugged off her puffy long coat.

“Well, I guess I’ll just have to improvise, too.”

“That’s my girl.  Good fight.”  He bowed his head forward and Mari’s forehead tingled where it expected a touch.

“Thanks, my boy.”  She gave him once last glance before she pulled at one of the doors open enough to peak through.

Two dark silhouettes stood indecisively at the other end where the hall split ways.  Confused shouting and yelps could be heard from around the corner.  Their lamps, blue cylinders of light with metallic handles at either end, were held up to illuminate the other room so they didn’t notice her quietly slip in.

In fact, they were so distracted by the antics in the other room that she was able to walk right up and pop a lantern out of the closest man’s grasp.  She flipped the lantern in her hands, and before they had a chance to react, cracked the unarmed man in the face and smashed the other across the temple.  Mari quickly snuffed the lamps before approaching the locker room.

“She can’ have just disappear!  She in here somewhere!”

The four remaining men were still trying to affect a search, but self-preservation had locked up their legs.  The each stood in a wide leg stance on the balls or sides of their feet with toes curled up.  Mari watched in the safety of darkness, sizing up her game.  They wore dingy miner’s jumpsuits, they reflector patches flaring up each time a lamplight passed over the fabric.  The two in her line of sight had dark skin, one with dreadlocked hair.  Miner getup plus dark skin plus that accent equaled the Moungren; definitely not the Manana bureaucrats.  The larger man just at the end of the freestanding wall of lockers had a very deep voice and held what Sieffre was correct in calling a small cannon.

The smaller man closer to Mari almost lost his balance and had to take a step into a fresh batch of broken glass.

“Gah! How do you expec’ us ta look through all of dis?  I can’ walk around in all dis shit!”

“Yeah, man,” came a voice from over the wall.  “How did she do that?”

“It weren’t her, you embsil!  It was a power surge.  Probably da same ting that knocked out power in da firs’ place.”  The deep voiced man was definitely the leader of this bunch.

“What a little girl doing in jail, anyway?  I tell you, something is not right!”

“I tol’ you to shut up dat shit!”

Mari’s voice floated in from the darkness.  “You have no idea.”

The two men snapped in her direction.  The large man aiming his cannon, the smaller nearly falling over again as he tried to turn around.

“Who are you!”  Boomed the larger man.  “Show yourself!”

“She’s dead.”

“What?”  The smaller man squinted, his darts gun gripped tightly at his side.

“But then, you’re all dead.”

“What is she talking about?”  Came a panicked voice from over the wall.

“She a ghost!”

“SHUT!  UP!  Show yourself or I start shooting.”

Mari sucked at her teeth, “Oh, I wouldn’t want you to waste your ammo.”

A dark figure lurched from the darkness, and both men unloaded a couple shots before realizing it was one of their companions falling to the floor.

Mari leapt from the doorway, landed on the downed man and used him as a spring board to launch herself at the smaller man.  She was just able to slap the darts gun away as he pulled the trigger and wrapped her limbs around him like a spider as he struggled to keep his footing.

“WELLER!  HELP! GET HER OFF!”

The large man aimed the small cannon at her but hesitated as the smaller man’s back blocked most of his shot.  Mari wrenched the man’s head back by the dreads and locked eyes with the leader.

“Yeah, come on, Weller!”

“What’s going on??”  The other two men could be heard shuffling back through the glass toward them.

“Man, just fall on top of her!”

The smaller man tried to fall forward but Mari kicked a leg out against the lockers so that he only managed to fall to his knees.  As he cried out in pain, she kicked again so that he fell backward, giving her another spring board to leap up to the top of free standing wall; just dodging a booming shot from the cannon.  He shot again as she scurried along the wall.  Hopefully, Ilya hadn’t been in those particular lockers.  Fortunately for her, the other two men were too busy looking down at their path to notice her.  Another shot and Mari was forced roll off the wall.

“Woop!”  She dove into one of the other men.  He screamed in surprise and fell backward against another other wall of lockers as Mari clawed at his jumpsuit to avoid touching the floor.

She noticed his companion aim with a darts gun just in time to pull up her man’s arm to block a shot.

“You shot me!”

“Don’ move!”

His companion aimed again as Mari whipped out her spare lantern from the belly pocket of her jumpsuit and chucked it at the man’s head.  By luck, it clipped him in the eye, knocking his head back.

“Agh!”

“Oh!  Uh!  Head’s up!”  She was squatting on the torso of her now stunned man, and managed to wrench a darts gun from his hand.  She shot two darts into the companion’s chest as soon as her arm was raised.

Breathing hard, Mari waited to see the leader round the corner.  When that didn’t happen, she waited to hear the glassy shuffle of his movements; but all she could hear was her own heavy breathing.

“Hello?”  Then silently, “Is he still here?”

Sieffre ducked his head in from around the corner before casually walking to her, hands in pocket, his leather shoes silently passing over the glass

“He used his friends as stepping stones and ran out the second you rolled over the wall.  Well, as well as you can run with that much glass in your feet.”

Mari let out a deep sigh of relief.

“Oh! And he took your coat.”

“Damn it!”