Kuebiko: Depayse et la Ambedo de Mort
Posted February 14th, 2017 by Zelda
in a perpetual predicament
A/N: First of all, i'm sorry for the long wait. i'm lazy.
Second of all, i'm sorry for what happens in this chapter.
Third of all; Gore Warning: Don't read if you don't like blood and/or have a really sensitive stomach.
Depayse et la Ambedo de Mort
The meeting is in Jihad's office. There's five minutes before we have to be there, and i'm convinced that Zaya is avoiding me. Not that I blame her, i'm just wondering how she's pulling it off. I've been trying to catch up with her for a majority of the morning and you would think I have the advantage here, but it's not working out like that.
Currently she and Raleigh are around the corner and down the hall. They haven't moved for at least ten minutes. The only thing keeping me from zipping about the corner is the knowledge that they have to come this direction soon if they want to make it to our meeting. I open my eyes and pull at face at Mercer for about the billionth time. He's too busy picking his fingernails to notice. We're unsurreptiously stationed twenty feet away from Jihad's office. Oddly, he isn't in there. I checked. Which begs the question; where is he?
My eyes rove, I drum my fingers on the stone wall. There's a clink from the direction of the main entrance. I glance over expecting to see a look-out coming to report some anomaly or another, instead I see Jihad sneaking out of...the wall? Puzzled, I check the map and find a door marked in that spot along the wall. Why haven't I noticed that before?
Disturbed, I turn away before he can spot me staring. On the map there's te office, the infirmary, the barrack, and the mess hall and rec room. Then there's a slew of tangled tunnels and rooms that i've noticed, but never questioned. Now that i'm paying more attention, those tunnels seem wrong. I can't place my finger on what makes them that way, but u'll bet it has something to do with the door Jihad just snuck out of. I watch his blip travel to his office door. Mercer lifts his hand in greet and I dig my elbow into his ribs. I don't like what that door might mean, and there's a good chance we're not supposed to be here right now. Mercer grunts at the impact and turns to scowl confusedly. I hold a finger to my lips in the universal shush-ing gesture, which only serves to deepen his confusion.
"I'l explain later." I whisper. Jihad has vanished into his office. Meanwhile, Zaya's blip is on the move. Raleigh's is too, but she's headed away from us, in the direction of the infirmary. I jump from the wall as Zaya rounds the corner. "We need to talk." I blurt.
She stares past me, like i'm not even there. Man, I messed up big time earlier.
"We're going to be late." She mutters. Her fingers are hooked around her sash. I block her path.
"No, listen, I have to apologize for what happened at breakfast."
She stops just short of ramming into me, her gaze finally meets mine.
"Go on, then." She says tiredly.
"Ok, I was a massive jerk and I shouldn't have said what I said, and i'm extremely sorry, you have every right to stay angry with me." I repeat the line i've been rehearsing in my head all morning.
"I'm sorry too,'" Mercer joins me, "I knew something like that would happen and I still let him have Hiller's. You should be mad at us both, but--" He holds up a finger, "It would be better for everyone if you weren't."
"I'm not angry at either of you right now." She says. Relief washed through me. "That can wait until after we get Acid back."
I step to the side, simultaneously turning on my heel. We walk as a group down the hall.
"Where's Raleigh?" I ask, I need to apologize to her too.
"She opted to go to the infirmary and check on Abu and Salome. She needed a break." Zaya answers.
Poor kid. When I was her age, my biggest worry was getting a cup of water thrown in my face at school. And here Raleigh is, surrounded by doom and violence every waking minute. That can't be healthy.
We enter Jihad's office. His weather face is solemn, and he gives no hint that he suspects I saw him sneak out of the wall.
"Have a seat." Jihad gestures. There are four chairs positioned aoround his desk, he is seated in a fifth chair. The top of the desk has been cleared, and a map is pinned over it. I sat, and leaned down to examine the map more closely. It is a map of NSE, that much is obvious. I recognize some of the sectors. The waste depository is near Jihad, and I locate Calixa Majoris much farther in.
"We think the best course of action would be to wait." Jihad's low voice rumbles.
"Wait?" Zaya asks, a hint of incredulousness trills her questions. I glance up from the map, She looks anxious, her mouth is drawn down.
"Yes," Jihad presses a finger to a building marked on the map. It rests there for a momnt before jumping to another building. "There are five possible buildings in this area alone that Acid could be held in." He taps three more places consecutively. They are all well within range of the area where Acid was captred.
"We don't have the resources to infiltrate all five at once, and if we take them one or two at a time, the others will catch wind and clam up."
"If we wait," This time i'm the one who reaches across and circles a large, empty square of map, where several roads intersect. "There will only be one place that needs infiltrating."
It's a solid plan. Public punishments are normally held in the largest available outdoor space, so that as many people as possible can watch. Security is low, there are a handful of Stiffs for intimidation purposes, and the Executioner. Occasionally there's an assistant too. It would be simple enough to slip in, grab Acid, and escape into the crowd. The only puzzle piece missing is, when will Acid be in that square?
Jihad and Zaya agree on posting spies in the lobbies of each of the five buildings to keep an eye on when his Breaking will be. The plan is set, and Jihad has a sign-up sheet drawn up for rotations at each of the five government buldings. Zaya is the first to scratch her name onto the sheet, Mercer follows closely, but when I go to write my name Jihad stops me. His fingers wrap around my wrist, preventing me from putting pen to paper. My heart skips a beat and I know with gripping certainty that i'm about to get in trouble for spying him creeping out of the wall-door.
"If you don't mind, I was hoping you would stay at the base and practice your, er, power." He says. For the second time today, relief calms my pulse.
"How do you mean?" I ask, retracting my hand. His skin is cold and smooth, like marble, it feels unnatural to touch. He releases my wrist and spins his hand nonchalantly.
"You could test your limits, try new things, and we could learn more about what it is you do." He explains. He has a strangely soft tone for someone so imposing. He flashes a quick, white smile.
"Um, yeah sure, I guess." I shrug, then rub at the goosebumps that spread up my arms. It's cold in here, or maybe Jihad's chilled skin is infectious.
"Excellent." Jihad snatches up the paper, "Now, you all should head out. Spread the plan, and get as much training done as you can." With that, he sends us out the door.
The moment we're around the corner, Zaya sighs.
"Mm?" Mercer tilts his head questioningly.
"Waiting feels wrong." She says in reply. I understand what she means.
"The Stiffs won't do anything until his assignment date." I assure in the best way I know how, "They aren't allowed to."
"Still, waiting makes me antsy." She admits, "But i'll keep that in mind."
We come to the rec room doors and I brace myself for the flood of of blips before we head inside.
All the sounds of the rec room fill the air. The echoes of flesh hitting flesh is people fight, the thumps of people landing on the floor from the beam, and the creaks of the bars. Above all, voices bounce off the stone walls and metal raftesr. THere are tons of people here, so I duck my head an train my eyes on the ground. Mercer takes my hand wen he sees me staring at my feet. With him leading me, I let my eyes unfocus, it's easier on my brain.
We wind around person after pesron, all the way to the other side of the cavernous space. When we come to a stop, and Mercer squeezes my hand to let me know weare where we're supposed to be, I re-focus my vision and lift my head.
We're at the climbing wall that stretches along the entire back of the rec roo. Few people are using the wall. Two people in particular are preparing to climb. Or rather, three people. Raleigh's face is lit up with a smile, she's talking animatedly with a certain pair of conjoined twins. Abu and Salome have bruises of exhaustion encricling their eyes, their matter black hair hangs limp, it's grown in the week since we last saw them. An overlarge sweater with holes cut crudely in the middle hangs off their scrawny shoulders. It's clearly huge on them, but I assume a normal sweater would be a little tight around the torso.
"Hey guys!" Zaya waves cheerily. The twins wave back, one with either free ahnd. "It's good to see you up and about."
"Good to be up." Abu replies.
"Way way up." Salome points to the rood, "Lee-lee's takin' us climbing!" he beams. He's missing three of his baby teeth.
"Lee-lee?" I raise an eyebrow at Raleigh. She opens her mouth to answer, then snaps it shut and scowls at me. Right, I haven't apologized to her yet. And I don't get a chance to, an instructer keeping an eye on the wall interrupts to fit a harness on Raleigh. When the instructer turns to the twins, Abu shakes his head.
"No harness." He says.
"Kid-- er, kids, you gotta wear a harness on this thing." The instructer insists.
"No." Abu states again.
"The harness might press on your stitches." Salome elaborates, rubbing his belly. "It's ok, we're great climbers." He promises the instrucer in his silvery child's voice. The instructer looks a far cry from convinced, until Zaya steps in.
"It's ok, they know what they're doing." She says, tipping her head in the twins' direction. They both nod vigorously. The instructer sighs, but gives the go-ahead. Salome and Abu let out overjoyed shrieks and rac over to where Raleigh is waiting by the wall. Their happiness is contagious, and I catch myself grinning along.
"This is exactly the break we needed." Mercer comments. I glance questioningly at him, and he tips his head subtley at Zaya. She's laughing atsomething the twins have done, and Raleigh is practically glowing with happy light. Who knew a pair of ten-year-olds could spread this much joy? It looks like climbing isn't their only talent. Speaking of climbing...
The twins have slipped their other arms through the holes in the front og their sweater, and are perched with one leg each on the wall. The moment Raleigh's harness buddy flashes a thumbs-up, Salome and Abu shoot up the cimbing wall. They're ten feet up before anyone can bat and eyelash.
"Hurry up, slowpoke!" Abu calls down to Raleigh, who is clambering at a pretty good clip. They really can climb like spiders. When they reach a slanted section about twenty feet up, it becomes obvious how they're so good; they support each other, literally. While one twin stretches and wriggles for handholds, the other holds steady, like an anchor. THey works so well at it that without the slant forcing them to slow their pace, I would never have even noticed.
"Those two are incredible." I grin, looking over at Mercer.
"Yeah." He replies.
Suddenly there comes a sharp cry from far above us. My head snaps towards the sound, and I see a terrifying scene.
Salome is clinging to the peak of the slant for dear life. His twin, Abu, sages, hands limp and his side and head flopped to one side. It looks like he's unconscious.
Salome yelps again, his hands are slipping, his brother's body weighs him down. Raleigh scrambles towards them, shouting for Salome to hold on. An instructer is climbing rapidly up the same path they took, but both Raleigh and the instructer are too far below the to reach the twins' in time. Salome loses his grasp on the wall and plummets. Milliseconds pass, barely enough time for me to lurch forward with the ridiculously impossible notion of catching them. They hit the stone floor with a wet crunch, Salome's agonized scream silences the rec room.
Momentum carries me, and I end up the first person at their side. The sight is horrifice. Abu is crumpled slightly under Salome, clearly to one who took the brunt of the fall. Blood is everywhere. Soaking the sweat, pooling in a rapidly growing puddle around them, it paints Abu's entire left side. it's too much, there's too much blood. Salome screams again.
Rebels are crowding around us, murmuring incessantly, a few are shouting commands to get medical, and to stay back. Zaya appears kneeling at Salome's head. She takes both hands and holds his head in place, her fingers lace through his hair gently, calmingly. Tears stream down his temples, blood streams down his chin.
"Mera bhai, mera bhai." He cries again and again. "Mera bhai." My brother, my brother.
His left arm is pinned under Abu, broken. Abu's eyes are closed, but the sweater is too loose for me to tell if he's breathing. I decide to take a chance and at least shift him enough that they aren't both lying on his side. His arm is snapped at the shoulder and bent back underneath him. I rach out and gently lift his head, hoping to find a way to leverage his arm out from under them. Instead, I find proof that nothing will help Abu now. His skull is crushed, grey bits of brain and white shards of bone cling to the center of the massive dent, pinkish fluid leaks out, turning his hair into slimy strings. Abu is dead.
I let his ruined head fall back into place, stomach turning. Salome's screaming escalates, his exclaimations morph into shrieks in dialects that switch every other word.
The medics come bursting through the crowd. One pulls me away from Abu's side, another takes Zaya's place by Salome. The world take on an ethereal quality as the twins are taken away on a stretcher for the second time since I met them. The only difference that Abu is dead, and there's no way-- there's too much blood, there's no way Salome will survive. I stare at the lake of blood on the floor at my feet, fixated.
Numb, i'm numb. I'm frozen in place, oblivious to the crowd, and I am numb. Mercer's touch on my arm spurs me into motion. I turn, and walk straight into the crowd of rebebls, ignoring the bodies, ignoring the explosion of blips. I make it to the door and escape into the hall. Not good enough, more people than usual are occupying the corridor. I weave my way past all of them. Shuffle past the barracks, all full of people buzzing with the latest news of the accident in the rec room, word travels fast down here.
My exterior does not match my interior. I feel strangely detached from my body. I've never seen someone die before.
I make it to the bathroom, and stumble inside a stall in time to puke my guts into a toilet bowl. When dry-heaving has reduced my body to tremors, I collapse beside the toilet, resting my cheek on the cool plastic seat. Tears burn my eyes and wash down my face, pooling on the toilet rim. My head pounds with a colossal headahce, the taste of vomit pervades everything, and my body jerks with sobs that are fighting to escape but can't seem to find the exit. I stay there for ages, unable to move, caught replay Salome's screams for Abu.
My brother, my brother.
Eventually, the beaded curtain clatters, and Mercer's voice calls,
"Z, you in here?"
I'm too drained to answer. He finds me anyways, and his eyes, red-rimmed, widen when he does. I can only imagine how I look, curled beside a stinking toilet, covered in drying blood. Oh, stars, the blood. There's too much. I open my mouth to say something, my lip shakes, my hands shake, my body shakes, and nothing comes out. Mercer kneels beside my. He grabs fistfuls of my dirty shirt and pulls me to him in a hug. I find the strength to wrap my arms around him too, and all at once, all the sobs finally break free of their cage. I choke on tears and snot, my shoulders and chest heave, and i'm not numb anymore, but I wish I was because this hurts.
"I know, I know." Mercer whispers. His voice cracks, he sniffles.
I want him to keep talking. I want to scream, I want to be thrown in the shower and to let the thunderous rushing water drown out all other sound. Because all I can hear is,
My brother, my brother.
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