Kuebiko; Nodus Tollens
Posted June 5th, 2017 by Zelda
in a perpetual predicament
A/N: ahaha, this is a week late. but it is also 18 notebook pages long, which is nearly twice my average, so there.
I have a question: how do you all feel about Isaiah and Acid character-development-wise? I was re-reading some *ahem* all, of Kuebiko and I thought that there was a lack of development. Do you think I should add more, or...?
Definition: Nodus Tollens; the realization that the plot of your life does not make sense any more.
Thank you for taking the time to read Kuebiko!
The next day we get news on Acid. I'm working with Jedediah on finding people without pictures when a tall, lithe man bursts into the mess hall. Sweat is thick on his bald head, it drips down his hooked nose. I recognize him almost immediately as Mahalalel. Jedediah often has me search for him, there hasn't been a lesson yet that I haven't been told to locate him by staring at a sketch of his face, or a visualization in my own head. Despite finding his blip frequently, the blue dot fades as quickly as those of the rebels I pass in the hall.
"We found Acid." He gasps.
All at once every person in the mess hall surrounds him like a flash flood, Jedediah and I are among them. We all want to know where Acid is, and how we're getting him back. Mahalalel holds up his hands. "Jihad is coming up with a plan now, that's all I know. I need Jedediah, is he in here?"
"I'm here." Jedediah calls. He shoulders through the crowd, as he does he announces, "The rest of you stay put, I or Jihad will come back to tell you what's happening."
There are mild protests from some, but for the most part we are too excited by the news to resist.
I return to the table I had been sitting at before and sit. The room is abuzz, and so is my head. I squeeze my eyes shut and try to block out the blips. That's another thing Jedediah and I have been working on. When I told him that accumulating too many dots gave me headaches, he immediately had me start trying different ways to remove dots. The best solution we've found so far is for me to concentrate on a single blip, and simply will it to fade faster. Unfortunately, that route takes a long time, and by the time I finish fading all the blips, I already have a headache. I pinch my nose briefly and finish erasing a handful of blips. I won't waste time removing them all, just enough to dim the map to a managable level.
When I open my eyes again, I find the crowd has dispersed somewhat. A few rebels make their way back to the kitchen to resume cooking, while the others spread out throughout the room. The air is abuzz with chatter. I wonder if Isaiah and the others have heard the news yet, all three of them are posted out at the buildings today. Mercer's shift wasn't supposed to be until later, but the rebel who was signed up for this morning is badly concussed and hobbling on a sprained ankle, so Mercer agreed to fill both watches.
The table rattles, alerting me to the presence of another rebel. I glance up to see a stocky guy sitting two seats down, standing beside him is a girl with long, braided hair. They both look strikingly familiar.
"Hey, it's Zyair, right?" The guy says.
"Uh, yeah." I answer, still trying to place them. He flashes a smile full of crooked teeth.
That jogs my memory. A disbelievingin works it's way up my face.
"No kidding." I say, "You must be Yvonne then," I turn to the girl, "Sorry I didn't recognize you."
Ryan and Yvonne; these guys are Calixa students. What are they doing here? Besides the obvious. How did they get here?
"You're hardly recognizable yourself," Yvonne replies. Her voice is soft and her tone is light and lilting as if she's joking, but she's telling the truth. "You know, I never got the chance to say how sorry I am about your mom and sister." Yvonne brushes her dark hair out of her eyes, her mouth is shaped like a rose petal, spilling deceptively chilling sentences. Her words hit me like a glacier to the chest. It's like my last day at Calixa all over again. Mina and Mama. I'm never going to see them again.
"Oh, I'm so sorry, I didn't meant to bring that up, it just sort of bumbled out." Yvonne rushes to apologize. I want to tell her it's fine, that I understand. But I can't. I bite my lip to keep tears from spilling down my face and lower my head to stare at my lap. I need a minute to get a grip, that's all.
"Crazy meeting you here, ny?" Ryan changes the subject. He gestures to the knots of rebels clustered around the room. "Especially at a time like this."
"Aye." I agree.
"Do you know the guy they're talking about rescuing?" He asks. I grimace.
"Aye," I say again, "Acid's on my team."
"Wow." Ryan whistles. one look at Yvonne's crumpled brow and it's obvious they're both thinking the same thing: This guy cannot catch a break. But Zaya and Raleigh are way worse off than me on this one. Acid was their friend long before he was mine.
"When did you two get here?" I ask, changing the subject again.
"Oh, just yesterday night." Yvonne says. That explains why I haven't seen either of them around the base.
"Is Mercer here too? You and him vanished at the same time." Ryan said, craning his neck to search the cafeteria. Yvonee scrunches her nose.
"The whole school kind of assumed you had run off and Mercer went with, you know." She says. I nod. It makes sense for people to think that, after all, it's pretty much what happened.
"Merc's here too, he's out doing a job right now."
"Ah, see." She elbows Ryan, "told you." Ryan sighs and runs his fingers through his short brown hair.
"She bet me five beads you two would be in the same place if we ever saw you again." He says with a little shake of his head. "I should have known better than to bet against you." He says to Yvonne. She smirks triumphantly.
We lapse into silence after that. I finger the bracelet I found in the storage room. It's leather is smooth and the know acts as a good bit to fiddle with. I still think there should be a trinket or something hanging of the knot.
"There have been a lot of fires." Yvonne says out of nowhere. She has moved to perch on the edge of the table. The cloth pants she's wearing swish around her ankles. She picks at a strand of hair that has escaped the braid draped over her shoulder. "Since you two left, three more buildings in the Calixa district burned." Her gaze is distant. I haven't been gone that long. Those three plus my apartment building makes four in the past two weeks, we normay have as many in a two month period.
"The stiffs finally started looking into the fires when the third building burned down. They found residues or something at the scene." Ryan explains.
"Perchloric acid." Yvonne fills in, "All around the breakers. They checked and found te same thing at two other sites," She pauses as if weighing her words.ip of her tongue rests on her upper lip. "One of them was your apartment."
It was deliberate, then.
"So there's an arsonist on the loose." I muse, keeping as neutral a face as possible. Out of the blue, Rico's warning returns to me.
Don't trust the rebellion.
"Seems so." Ryan nods. I thumb my bracelet uneasily.
"Well, it was bound to happen eventually." I say with a forced laugh. Yvonne ad Ryan throw in their own weak chuckles. Thankfully, we're all saved from making more awkward conversation when Jihad comes barging into the mess hall. He is followed closely by Mahahalel and Jedediah. The rebels quickly fall silent as the sight of their leader. Jihad comes to a table at the center of the room, the rebels gather around him. He takes a moment to cast a sweeping glance at all of us. His hands rest on the table.
"Okay, rebels, here's what's happening."
Acid's punishment is being carried out in the square that connects all five of the building, it is public breaking. A select few volunteers, including all of our team, have been told the plan. We can't have too many people, Jihad says, we can't take any chances on raising suspicion and scaring the executioners off before we can get to Acid. As it is, there will be eight of us. Yvonne volunteered right away, Ryan followed with less enthusiasm. I think that's just his overall personality tough; not excited, but not opposed either. The other two rebels are a pair of sisters, both with skin almost as dark as Jedediah's. The older has smooth black hair and full lips that rarely part, her name is Kali. The younger, Tula, is taller than her sister, and smiles more. They've been with the rebellion for nearly as long as Isaiah, they look formidable together.
"Ready, Z?" Mercer asks. He sits on his bunk, slouched over in an attempt to look casual. The way he clutches the edge of the cot betrays him.
"Scooch over." I say, hopping down the ladder that connects our bunks. He does so, and I plunk down next to him. There are marks under his eyeslike he got double-punched in the face, his hair is a constant bedhead, and he is paler than usual. "How much sleep did you get last night?"
A frown automatically tugs on the corners of his mouth. He turns to me, exhaustion smeared across his face.
"I don't want to talk about it."
That's not the answer I want, but I won't push him right now.
"Okay." I sigh. He leans to rest his head on my shoulder. I take him by the arm and move him so he's draped over my lap. His hair falls all over his face, and I begin to comb it with my fingers. "Have you had any more terrors?" I work at a particularly stubborn knot.
"No." He says, but I know he's lying. My fingers still, and I let the silence drag on until he finally cracks, "One." He admits, "It wasn't bad. Once all this stress over Acid is finished I'll be fine."
"Are you sure?" I lean over to get a good look at his face.
"Positive." He answers. He sounds sure enough, and there's a brightness in his eyes despite the raccoon mask. I don't want to mention it, but I don't think things will get less stressful after we get Acid back. I think this is it, this is the normal for rebels.
Zaya walks in as I'm leaning back. She glances at us, snuggled on the bed, and I pat the free space beside me. She checks the beaten black watch on her wrists, decides she has enough time, and comes to sit. She crosses her legs, careful no to bump Mercer's head, and sags against the concrete wall.
"Hi, Zaya." Mercer says. His breathing has gotten deeper, his words are slower.
"Hey." she says, "Tired?"
She and I exchange glances. She raises her eyebrows, I shrug in response.
"I felt that," Mercer grumbles, "Cut it out you two."
"Cut what out?" I put on a fake-innocent voice, complete with a higher pitch.
"Plotting against me."
Zaya laughs. I pat his shoulder a touch too hard to be gentle.
"I love you too much to stop." I crow, doing the same to his head. He swats my hand away.
"Ouch, hurtful." I bop his head again.
"Are you two always like this?" Zaya asks from her corner of the bunk. I flash her a grin, at the same time Mercer mutters something like 'yes', or 'only when Zyair is being a butt', but it comes out muffled because I squish a pillow into his face. He fights briefly, half-heartedly, it isn't long before he gives up and releases a groan akin to that of a whale into the pillow. Behind me, Zaya finally caves to the laughter she's been suppressing.
Spurred by a burst of chldishness, I snatch the pillow from Mercer's head and pummel Zaya with it. She shrieks, then immediately clamps her hand over her mouth. There is a sudden lack of warmth on my lap as Mercer rolls off the bunk and out of the danger zone. Zaya narrows her eyes at me over her hand, the pillow held enough static to frizz up any strands of hair that escaped her pony tail, giving her a slightly unhinged look. I snicker, and hit her with the pillow again. Seh grabs the pillow and swings it right back at me. The semi-soft slab cathes me off-guard, knocking me over. Less than a second later a second pillow smushes me.
"Hey!" I stab Zaya's thigh with my toes in retaliation.
"That was Mercer," she swats me foot away. I twist to glare at Mercer, who is conveniently out of reach on the other side of the barracks. He blows me a kiss.
"Help me get him." I hand a pillow to Zaya and hop off the bunk without checking to see if she's following. I stalk towards Mercer. Out of the corner of my eyes I catch sight of Zaya, also stalking towards him. He suddenly looks worried.
"Woah, hey, no hard feelings?" He holds his hands up in surrender. He backs up, only to hit a wall. "Z..."
"Attack!" I shout. Zaya and I lunge at the same time, raining pillows down on him from both sides. He sheilds his head with his arms, uttering muffled protestations.
"This is madness. This is-- !" He gets a pillow to the face. He drops to his knees, still attempting to fend us off with his arms.
"Hold him there." Zaya calls. Out of the blue, there's a gap where she once was. Mercer looks hopeful for a moment, he shouldn't. I dial up the pillow-beating to make up for my mising partner.
"You're such an-- "
I pillow-slap him. He glowers, so I do it again, and again. The third time I pull a face, and that makes him snort.
Zaya reapears with a hulking armful of pillows and I step back to give her room. With one fell swoop she dumps the pillows on Mercer. He let's out an undignified squawk before he is completely buried. Zaya and I high-five, we miss twice because we're both laughing too hard. The pillow mound squirms, and as if we're in sync, Zaya and I both plunk down on the edges and sprawl back on the mound. Zaya flips back the pillow on Mercer's head. The first breath he gets he says,
"You guys are a--"
"Mazing at pillow fights." Zaya finishes for him, beaming like a kid.
"That's not what I was going to say." He grumbles. He tips his chin, but that fails to hide the smile that's crept onto his face. I ruffle his freshly-combed hair, mussing it up.
"Love ya." I say, adding in an extra muss because I know he can't do anything about it. Not that he actually cares how messy his hair is.
"Yeah, I love you too," He sighs, as if reluctant to admit it. "Can you get off me now?"
I plan to stay put while he wriggles, but Zaya stands abruptly, giving him an out. He dumps me on my butt and jumps up, punching the air as if to cheer, then runs his hand through his hair, smoothing it down marginally. Ahead of him, facing away from us, Isaiah unloops her scarlet sash from her waist and folds it carefully in her hands.
"What're you doing?" I ask, jumping to my feet. The playful air has dropped out of the air, we're back to being rebels. When the sash is a compact square in her palm, she tucks it into her back pocket.
"The sash is getting too recognizable. It's fine on most missions, I just don't want to take any unnecessary risks." She explains. She turns to face us, and though she's trying to act brave, her mask doesn't quite smooth away all the lines around her eyes.
"It will be alright." I say. I reach out and pat her shoulder gently. Her mask shakes minutely, until she clears her throat and shoves her hands in her pockets.
"Of course it will." She says, summoning a weak smile, "Raleigh should be waiting by now, are you two ready to go?" She looks us over even as she's asking. "Do you want knives?"
I grimace. I glance to Mercer, and he looks equally as uncomfortable as I feel.
"I think we're good." I say. I've discovered since joining the rebels that I much prefer other people to have the weapons. And Mercer just isn't fond of blades.
Isaiah walks past, to the door, "Let's go then."
We meet in the stairwell and leave in pairs. Mercer and Raleigh go first, then Isaiah and me. When we've been out of sight for half an hour, Kali and Ryan will go, and finally Tula and Yvonne. The idea is to have two rings of four people. The first ring, the one I'm in, will be closest to where Acid is. Our job is to get Acid out of immediate danger. The people in the second ring are responsible for clearing a path for escape through the crowd.
Mercer, Raleigh, Isaiah, and I arrive early. The setting sun is low in the sky, casting eerie shadows over the vast square. A smaller white chalk square is scrubbed into the center of the space, the thing dusty lines mark out the place where an executioner will snap Acid's bones.
There are a handful of homeless drifting around the wide open space, I try not to look at them, I want to be able to keep track of all the rebels on this mission. I won't let there be any more losses, not now. We're getting Acid back, and we are all leaving this square alive.
"You look a little tense." Zaya comments. She runs her hand over her bare shoulder and squints at the semi-circle of sun peeking over the tops oft he western buildings. Mercer and Raleigh are opposite us across the square.
"You're one to talk." I say with a light tone. This isn't the time to joke, but it takes a smidge of pressure of my chest. My gaze filts over the tops of all the buildings almost instinctively, the hair on the back of my neck prickle, and goosebumps that aren't from the chill flush up my arms. "Are you...worried?" I ask, gnawing the inside of my lip. Zaya's expression hardens, her fists clench at her hips.
"I'm angry." She growls through a wall of clenched teeth, "The Stiffs think they can get away with this, and they are wrong."
"They won't do anything." I assure her, fighting the urge to take a step away from her. This side of Zaya is one I've never seen. Sure, she's been worked up, pacing the floor, ranting about the corruptedness of NSE's government. This is different. This is no longer embers in her eyes, this is sparks jumping from her tongue, ready to catch on the dry-kindling buildings. This is her ready to raze the city to get back the man who has become her brother. I never want to be on the recieving end of this version of Isaiah. She pinches the bridge of her nose and forces a calming breath through her locked jaw.
"I'm sorry," she wipes her forehead with the back of her hand, "I'm just, yeah, I'm scared and that's not a feeling I'm used to."
"Me too." I say. She looks up, our gaze meet and hold for a moment. She flashes a brief smile before breaking eye contact.
"Thanks." She murmurs. I'm not entirely sure what she's thanking me for, but at least her fists aren't clenched any more.
More homeless have flocked to the square, it's getting crowded. In roughly ten more minutes the execution will begin. On the map, everyon'e blips are in place. I take a couple minutes to fade out a bunch of homeless blips. The light isn't as bad as I thought it would be, which is good.
Beside me, Zaya lurches out of the way of a flailing homeless guy. At her hip, a few vials exactly like the ones she had the day we went to see Rico are fastened to a belt.
"Is there acid in those?" I ask, pointing to the vials.
"Shh." She makes a shushing motion. A nearby woman with greasy cornrows eyes us suspiciously. A glare from Zaya sends the woman on her way. When the woman is out of earshot, Zaya taps one of the vials gently. "Yes, it's perchloric acid, Ibn leaks it from his palms, you've seen him." She says, referring to the day I ticked Acid off.
"Perchloric, huh." I mumble, a cold lump, like the dried-up pit of a fruit, settles in my stomach.
"That's right. Jihad had these barrels and vials made of a material that the acid can't eat through right away, so Acid has somewhere to put it when there's too much in his system, or when he gets angry and starts leaking everywhere."
"Who has access to the barrels?" I ask. Zaya lifts and drops a shoulder absently.
"Anyone with a key to the storage room it's locked in. Acid carries one all the time, so do I, and Jihad has a set of keys to every lockable room in the base. There are others too, but I couldn't tell you who."
"Oh," before I can ask anything more, a shrill whistle splits the air.
"Party's here." Zaya comments, mostly to herself. The crowd starts to shift, and she shifts with it, stepping forward and allowing the teeming mass to swallow her. On the map, Raleigh's blip moves away from Mercer's. From the north, the crowd splits, and from my place at the edge of the chalk square I can see the executioner's procession.
The executioner is a hulking man with a bald head and a squashed nose. He's all muscle, he has to be, bones can be difficult things to break. A formless black cloak drapes over his body and swishes around his boot-clad feet. Marching close behind him is an assistnat dressed in green and guiding along a metal gurney. That's not right. I've seen public breakings before and the captured citizen always walks to their punishment. I crane my neck to see the other side of the gurney. Another assistant pushes the back of the gurney, beyond her the wall of observers closes up. There is definietly a person on the metal table they are wheeling.
The procession enters the empty white square, and as the assistants roll the gurney to the center, my heart sinks. We were banking on the time it takes them to strap the citizen down, but it seems they've skipped that step. Thick leather binds Acid's head, shoulders, waist, and knees. His wrists and ankles are bound by rusted metal shackles. The assistants kick out the gurney's legs, dropping Acid's feet with a clatter. He grunts, the sound is muffled by the gag fastened over his mouth.
The crowd as a collective steps back in surprise when his damaged face comes into full view. Shocked gasps ripple through the throngs of people. I, accustomed to Acid's scars, fail to catch the crowd's movement. The delay leaves me momentarily stranded in the newly empty space between the chalk square and the people. I recover momentarily, and step back into the crowd. I was out of line just long enough for Acid to spot me, his single-eyed glare remains pinned on me, confusion clear in the way his forehead scrunches. The executioner noticed me too, his beady eyes are narrowed, skimming the place where I was moments earlier. A nervous sweat slicks the back of my neck and I squeeze behind a pair of taller homeless girls, hoping to obscure myself from view. The homeless girls give off a sour odor.
the executioner holds a single hand, palm flat, up. Silence drops, an anvil, at his signal. He is about to commence the breaking, whatever small window we had is gone. The plan has gone out the window, the public breaking is happening. Panic grips me. I close my eyes to search for the others in hopes that at least Isaiah will know what to do.
Isaiah's blip has indeed moved, and is continuing to move rapidly along the eastern edge of the inner square. Two other blips are moving as well. I do an internal double take and see that the blips that I'm pretty sure represent Kali and Tula are both moving inwards. Their blips are buffeted by a swarm of dimmer blips, yet their progress is quick. What are they doing?
A hollow, resounding snap breaks my concentration. My eyes fly open and I peer through a gap between the two homeless girls. Nausea makes my stomach roll. The execution looms over Acid's left side, his meaty fingers clutch a small pair of metal pliers, already he's bending another one of Acid's fingers. We're too late. They won't kill him. Won't break his spine, won't crack his skull, and the executioner is trained to keep the fracture's clean. But on the streets there's no real medical help. Bones knit back together not quite right. People end up crippled, constantly in pain, and their minds aren't ever totally solid again. The executioner finishes with Acid's fingers and moves on to the wrist. Acid hasn't screamed yet, though the gag that was over his mouth is gone now. Barely controlled flashes of pain tramp over his face every time a bone gives out.
"This man," one of the assistants, a girl with bushy eyebrows, announces, "who refuses to be known by any other name than Acid, committed the crime of breaking curfew--"
I don't hear the rest, a hot hand grips my shoulder and a damp cloth is clamped over my nose and mouth. A sickly sweet odor invade my sense. I choke, but the lack of air cuts me off. Instinctively, I ram my elbow back into whatever is directly behind me. Flesh that isn't nearly as soft as I expect gives, and there's a grunt as the cloth frops. I jump forward, bumping between the two homeless girls. They yelp, surprised and disgruntled. The sound bounces off my ears, disjointed. Whatever was on that cloth is making my head fuzzy. I stumble out of the crowd and into the chalk ring. The assistant announcing Acid's punishment stops sharply. The sudden silence is punctuated by a loud, sick crack and the clattering of a struggle. Acid's right knuckles grip the side of the gurney so hard they're a bloodless white. His good eye is trained on me.
"What the hell are you doing." He growls. The remains of a bruise discolor his cheek bordering his scar. The executioner turns to see what the commotion is. It's doesn't take much more than a millisecond for him to zero in on me. His beady snake eyes narrow, the corners of his wide mouth curve down in severe disgust. He's a good foot taller than me and definitely twice my weight.
"Zyair, get out." Acid hisses. I glance from him to the executioner, who is lumbering towards me. I could swear someone somewhere is riling the crowd, there's muffled shouting but with the static in my head it's hard to tell where it's coming, or even if it's real.
'Um, maybe in a minute." I say to Acid. The plan has gone to hell, there's a massive executioner coming at me, and whatever was on that cloth not only made my head feel like a pillow stuffed too full, but also screwed with my map. Everything is too blurry for me to see where anyone is on it.
The executioner is within arm's reach and still coming. The glare on his wide face says he's not planning on giving me a stern talking-too. The anxious crowd once again presses the chalk boundaries, skuffing away the line with their bare feet. I have to buy some time, at least enough for my map to start working again, so I do the first thing that pops into my mind. The executioner opens his mouth to say something; what, I'll never know, because right at that moment I clock him in the jaw.
Oh, I hope he's easier to fight than Raleigh
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