Summary: Vinyaya's life is hectic enough with keeping peace in Haven. But when fate drops an unwanted burden in her lap, Vinyaya must learn where to draw the line between friends and family, when to hold on, and when to let go. -between TLC & TTP-
Chapters: 1 2 3 4 5 6
This chapter is a little longer than the others, but justly so. Here begins the action. Foaly’s quote (which I will repeat later) is not mine, but Blackadder’s. Forgive any formatting errors; I’m rushing to put this up online before our family goes to the zoo (we’re out of town and I’m using my aunt’s laptop) Enjoy!Chapter Four: EscapeSoundtrack: Carol of the Bells (by Germanseabass) .com/watch?v=nrSgjgZzlLs
Chateau Paradizo, France Spiro’s hands flew across a keyboard, destroying firewalls like a child would knock down the walls of a sandcastle. The Fowl incident had cost him his sanity, but not his intellect. If anything, it was sharper than ever. Spiro’s hunger for revenge had honed it to a fine, lethal point. Fowl broke the rules of nature. So Spiro would break all of his own rules. It was shoot to kill.
Billy Kong leaned over Spiro’s shoulder. “This was all I managed to suck off the Paradizo girl’s computer before I was locked out.” He angled himself to the screen so he could see his reflection and began teasing his hair into spikes. “Can you get anything else?”
Spiro snorted. “Easy. After I finish off these last few firewalls we’ll have all of the little brat’s software. I can stall the data charge for maybe five minutes. Plenty of time to get the files somewhere safe.”
Carla was antsy, which was something that didn’t happen often. She could see what had happened to Jon Spiro when he had gone toe-to-toe with some kid genius, and she hardly wanted to muck about in the affairs of another one. “As much as I love listening to tech jargon, we’ve got a timetable. So let’s just get the files and go.” The Paradizo family was currently at a parent-teacher conference. No doubt that the smarmy Minerva was doing most of the lecturing.
Spiro cackled. “What, Carla, scared of a little Frenchie?”
She nearly whipped off a smart reply, but bit it back at the last second. Don’t shoot someone if you’d pay more for them than for the bullet you’d use, her godfather would say. As of now, Spiro’s technical skills and vast cash stores were paying the checks his mouth was writing. However, his insanity was becoming more and more of an issue.
After a few minutes of tense silence, Spiro leaned back, sliding a cigar tin out of his lapel pocket. “Good news and bad news.”
Kong growled. Spiro ignored him. “Good news, we got about ten gigs of files. Bad news, there’s another twenty that I can’t touch from here. Remote firewall. I need to get to a secure location where I can spend a couple of hours, dismantle the hardware itself.” He lit the cigar with a lighter disguised as a Bic pen. “Your turn, Billy boy.”
Kong was too taken with the data scrolling across the screen to notice the jibe. “I think we’ve got some interesting reading to do tonight.”
The Bunker, Haven
Trouble Kelp had been pampered from the day of his birth, along with his brother Grub. Mama Kelp had made sure that neither one of her boys was ever in need. Trouble, the more headstrong and independent of the duo, had been chafing under his mother’s authority since he was in grade school. Grub, on the other hand, still called Mom on regular occasion, often on the job. It had earned him more than one formal reprimand and a few not-so-formal chew-outs when the two were off-duty.
Trouble had a fairly easy time adjusting to life on his own. His mother would hardly approve of the state of his apartment, which looked like a troll had been bunking there, but that wasn’t her concern anymore. The one thing that Trouble Kelp had never quite gotten the hang of was cooking. Anything with more than five ingredients was officially off the menu. Trouble Kelp had lived off protein shakes, Ramen noodles, takeout, and Lucky Charms for years. So when Vinyáya called him up and invited him for dinner and chat (Trouble could only guess what about), he had jumped at the opportunity.
The duo were dining at The Bunker, a popular bistro in Haven. Trouble Kelp was halfway into his burger when Vinyáya finally set aside her soda and fixed him with a mischievous look. She looks a little like Holly Short when she does that, Trouble noted.
“I know you’re dying to ask questions, so go for it.”
Trouble laid down his burger. “Foaly briefed me earlier.” He unconsciously leaned across the table, lowering his voice. “So… is she actually showing signs off…”
Vinyáya sighed. “I don’t know. She’s a musical genius, no doubt. But we don’t know enough about the demon brain to conclude a hundred percent that she has a magical gift.”
Kelp quirked a brow. “At this point, do we really need to be one hundred percent sure? If she is a warlock–”
“Sorceress,” Trouble amended. “If she is a sorceress, this could be a huge break.” The major paused. “The question is what exactly would get broken.”
Vinyáya said nothing. There was no one to train Tieve in the art of demon magic. Secretly, Vinyáya had no doubt that the demoness had a magical gift. But this painted a target on her head for not only fairies with evil intent, but also the LEP and Ark Sool. If Tieve couldn’t control herself, there was the possibility that she could hurt someone. Magic was a wild force and it had to be tamed in order to be an asset, and there was no one that could accurately teach Tieve that control.
Vinyáya noticed an odd expression on Kelp’s face. Her eyes narrowed. “Trouble, what aren’t you telling me?”
He opened his mouth, then closed it again, thinking. After a few moments, he glanced at the security camera out of the corner of his eye. “Um…”
Vinyáya caught his gaze. She tapped a small button on her lapel. “It’s whiteout. Any cameras or microphones within ten yards are going to be mysteriously malfunctioning. Anyone asks and I forgot to turn it off after work today.” Her brow creased. “Why exactly would we be concerned with surveillance, Major Kelp? We’re not doing anything illegal.”
Trouble ran a hand through his hair. “Sool sent out a memo about the demoness.”
“I didn’t get anything.”
“Neither did I,” Trouble said. “But I was working a shift with Chix and I saw it in his inbox.” He leaned forward. “Sool is looking for any excuse to lock her up and throw away the key. If there is an incident, this girl is going to be shut up in prison for at least half a decade until the bureaucrats sort it out. He instructed any officer with information about the girl to come forward.”
Vinyáya tried to keep her expression under control. “Sool can’t do that. He doesn’t have the justification–”
Kelp snorted. “Justification? If there’s any sort of damage, he’ll skip the red tape. The Council will take another vote and she’ll get yanked out of your care and thrown into someplace more secure. Police Plaza if she’s lucky, Howler’s Peak if she’s not.”
“She’s a little girl!”
“They won’t care. Not if another fairy gets hurt.” Trouble paused, gathering his thoughts. “If she can’t keep her magic under control, then Sool will tuck her away in some dark corner and pretend like she doesn’t exist.”
Vinyáya gripped the edge of the table. She’d known that it would come to this, but had desperately been trying to avoid the inevitable. Section Eight was no longer a safe haven of the LEP—it was trapped under Sool’s iron fist. She felt Trouble’s stare and lifted her eyes. “What will you do?” Kelp asked.
She was silent for a long while. “Why did you join the LEP, Trouble?” she asked.
He raised an eyebrow, curious. “I wanted to protect the People.”
“That was my reason too.” Vinyáya said, locking eyes with the major. “So if worse comes to worse, then I’ll do what protects the People.”
Trouble couldn’t help but grin. “You sound like Holly.”
“I’ll take that as a compliment.”
“Don’t worry, it was.”
Vinyáya smiled back, and then was serious once more. “Do I have your support? If something happens?”
Kelp nodded. “I’m behind you all the way.” He picked up his burger again and took a bite. “So where is she now?”
Vinyáya unconsciously tucked her hair behind her ear. “With Foaly. I’m leaving her there tomorrow again while I work my shift.”
“He and Caballine set a hitching date yet?”
Vinyáya shrugged. “Not yet. Foaly has been whining to me about how all the extra work is cutting into his jogging time with her.”
Trouble rolled his eyes. “I never thought I’d hear that Foaly was complaining about not being able to jog.”
“No kidding.” Vinyáya looked at her watch. “I’d better go. I think he’s had enough fatherhood training for the day.”
Vinyáya waved goodbye and exited the restaurant, hailing a cab. Trouble watched her go, then groaned aloud. She had stuck him with the tab again.
Vinyáya’s Flat, Haven
After picking up Tieve from a bemused Foaly (“She hardly talks at all!” he had whinnied), the pair trudged back home to a well-deserved rest. Vinyáya could vaguely remember tossing her helmet onto the floor, then she must have fallen into bed. And slept like a rock, she noted, looking at her face in the mirror. Artificial sunlight streamed through the window, throwing all of her bed hair into glorious display. Grabbing a brush, Vinyáya began yanking it through her silvery mane. She was due at Police Plaza in an hour, with orders to “pick up the slack.” Which meant that she would be lucky to get off before midnight. Another long, tedious day loomed ahead.
But Vinyáya had not become a commander by loathing a challenge. Julius had been the same way. “The bigger the challenge, the better it is when you grind its pasty face in the dirt and laugh at it,” he would bark. Not that he would actually laugh—Root preferred the face-grinding. Typical man behavior.
Vinyáya heard Tieve at the piano, humming something to herself. She walked into the living room, twisting up her long hair into a messy knot to fit under her helmet. “That’s pretty,” Vinyáya complimented.
Tieve looked up and smiled. “I’m writing a song. Foaly said that I should try.”
“I see.” The last thing under the world that Vinyáya wanted was Foaly mucking about with Tieve to confirm some magical theory, but the damage was done. Vinyáya tried to squelch the growing uneasiness in the pit of her stomach, choosing instead to grab a protein shake from the pantry for her and a miniature box of dry cereal for Tieve. “Okay, Tieve. You remember what we’re going to do today?”
Tieve nodded. “You’re going to go to work and I’m going to stay with the horse.”
Vinyáya almost choked on her protein shake, trying not to laugh. “Foaly’s not a horse, Tieve. He’s a centaur.”
“Oh.” Tieve caught Vinyáya’s muffled laughter and pulled a face. “Well, he looks like a horse.”
“I know,” Vinyáya said, chuckling. “But let’s keep that between us, okay?”
Vinyáya had barely dropped the demoness off to her impromptu babysitter when police chatter suddenly invaded her helmet. She could make out the terse voice of the traffic captain over the hubbub of chatter. “I repeat, we need backup. Subject is moving at a high rate of speed north-northwest, heading for the chutes. Personnel near the vehicle cages, please page your availability now, I repeat–”
Vinyáya quickly patched into his frequency. “Wing Commander Vinyáya, Lieutenant. I’m en route.”
“Roger, Commander. Corporal Kelp, drop out when the commander is within a klick’s range.”
Vinyáya couldn’t help but grin. She couldn’t imagine Grub Kelp being much help in a high-speed pursuit.
She slid into the seat and expertly loaded the starter chip, pressing buttons and flicking switches. “Requesting green card,” Vinyáya enunciated into her helmet. A green card wasn’t actually a card—it was a code that overrode the magna strip and the car’s internal speedometer, allowing police cruisers to speed and leave the strip without losing power. The cards had originally been carried by officers, but were eventually digitized and protected to prevent any felons or corrupt officers from stealing the cars to make a hasty getaway.
Vinyáya pulled onto the magna strip and turned on her sirens. The purr of the engine stirred up the adrenaline racing through her veins, and she grinned. High speed was what Vinyáya lived for—shuttles, cruisers, pods, it didn’t matter. She flexed her slim fingers and wrapped them around the wheel, slamming the pedal to the floor and expertly laying a strip of rubber in the police garage. The janitors would not be happy about that.
Vinyáya heard the sirens long before she saw the parade of cruisers, one breaking off and slowing. Grub Kelp, presumably. She took his position and observed the scene before her. Five or six squad cars were following another vehicle in tight formation, trying to force it onto the shoulder. The car itself was an autoshuttle—a real-life equivalent of human Transformer toys. The cars could ‘transform’ into low-power shuttles, making travel much easier. However, auto junkies had quickly adapted it to their own means, souping up the engine until it reached ridiculous power. The autoshuttle’s darkly-tinted windows and flashy paint job suggested that the driver was probably involved in some kind of illegal street racing racket.
“Subject is continuing northbound, headed towards the Atlantica chutes. Stop sticks are having no effect.”
Vinyáya’s brows knit together in worry. The Atlantica chutes were steeply sloping roads that were famous for illegal autoshuttle takeoffs. If the suspect reached the chutes, they would be extremely difficult to apprehend. “Roger that. Squadron, reformat into a supportive formation around me.”
The leading lieutenant nearly contradicted her, but bit his tongue at the last second. “Roger that.”
Vinyáya glanced irately at her dash screen. Her green card hadn’t cleared yet, which meant she was stuck at the speed limit—unlike the autoshuttle, which was illegally wired and racing along and nearly seventy klicks. Sirens were wailing around her, clashing with police babble and honking car horns. The road was a blur, and Vinyáya focused all of her energy on staying in pursuit. She was falling behind, however—the customized autoshuttle outranked her in power and speed. I don’t think so, Vinyáya thought grimly. She may be outgunned, but not outwitted.
The commander pulled onto the shoulder, bypassing a slow-moving semi. She raced past traffic, craning her neck to keep the autoshuttle in view. Sure enough, he had been boxed into a middle lane and was getting slowed down by the heavy traffic. Vinyáya swerved off the shoulder the same time as the suspect squeezed between two cars and into another lane. She pulled up right behind him, keeping her foot to the floor. Pieces of his right rear tire were flying into her windshield, his rims shooting up sparks.
The sparks skittered dangerously on the magna strip before winking out. “All right, this suspect has officially become a serious danger to the road,” she spoke into her mic. “I am about to attempt a PIT maneuver; all cars ready to backup.”
The PIT maneuver was a longtime standby for both faeries and humans. The police would pull up behind the subject and tap one side of the rear bumper, spinning out the subject and forcing a stop. The maneuver was tricky, though, and had to be performed with perfect timing and aim.
Vinyáya waited for a gap in traffic, then pulled up inches away from the autoshuttle. She could see the driver glance into his rearview mirror, fragments of realization making its way into his eyes at what Vinyáya was about to do—
Before he could make a move, Vinyáya veered sharply, crashing into his bumper and sending shards of metal flying into the air. The autoshuttle was thrown across the road, its tires squealing in protest. Before the driver could turn the car around, the lieutenant neatly pinned him to the shoulder. Vinyáya unstrapped her seatbelt and threw open her door, her face flushed with the thrill of victory.
The suspect was already in plastic zipper cuffs by the time that Vinyáya had contained the scene, setting up police barriers to shield the group from curious civilians. The autoshuttle’s passenger side was a mass of crumpled metal, with the side mirror snapped off. However, the driver’s side was still completely intact.
“Nice PIT, Commander,” the lieutenant complimented. “Textbook.”
Vinyáya pulled off her helmet, brushing sweat-slicked hair from her forehead. “Has the tow shuttle been called in yet?”
“Already on the way. They’ll impound it in the higher-security lot.”
Vinyáya was about to ask another question when her helmet buzzed in her hand.
Operations Booth, Police Plaza, Ten Minutes Earlier
Tieve’s hands moved gracefully over the piano, playing something that Foaly didn’t recognize. It was something in minor, tinkling like a million tiny bells. Much different than the Riverdance dirges Foaly was used to hearing, in any case. Even though her playing made it slightly difficult to concentrate, Foaly preferred the music to the awkward silence of yesterday. The demoness hadn’t said a word all day—just started the floor and played with her hair.
He sneaked another glance out of the corner of his eye, marveling. She was like Beethoven—not just gifted in music, but a protégé of the rarest kind. The demoness swayed with the music, the fluorescent lights bouncing off her dark hair. Foaly turned back to his keyboard, forcing himself to focus. There were equations to be worked out, demons to be saved.
Gnommish flashed across the screen, and Foaly tapped his hoof against the floor, his tail swooshing thoughtfully. He had the decay rate figured out, at least for the moment. Now what he had to figure out was the when and where—when they would return, and where that would be. Artemis would probably be in charge of the when—out of the group, he had the shortest lifespan and therefore the smallest range of time that he could remember and bring them back to.
Foaly decided to take on the Mud Boy’s brain another day and instead focused on Holly—the where. Holly was an aboveground fairy, simple as that. There were thousands of locations that she could pick.
But not that she would pick, Foaly reminded himself. Holly was a smart elf—she’d land somewhere that humans hadn’t populated. He tapped in some keys, blacking out the areas of an onscreen world map with a population density of over two. That narrowed the field a bit, not accounting for her range of error—
Tieve’s playing pulled him out of his thoughts. Foaly took a breath to speak, then stopped short. He wasn’t a magical creature, surely, but he had been working with magical beings all his life. And so he knew without a fragment of a doubt that what he was feeling in the air was just that.
It was heavy in the air, nearly visible but not quite. Like a cloud of gasoline fumes, just waiting for an open flame to explode. Foaly wheeled around and saw Tieve, oblivious to the world, her hands flying over the keys. She’s doing it unconsciously, he thought frantically. There was no way to stop it, nothing that could be done—
Foaly dived underneath the table and covered his ears. A split second later there was a gigantic CRACK and then a force drove him against the wall, flattening him there like a giant’s hand, shattering every single bulletproof window of the Operations Booth and sending shards of glass flying in all directions. The noise blew his eardrums and for a moment everything was pin quiet in the eerie silence after an explosion. Debris started to settle onto the floor.
Tieve was crouched down, her eyes wide with shock, fear, and wild elation. They met Foaly’s own for a moment. Then she exploded onto her feet, throwing open the door to a storage closet and locking herself in.
Foaly levered himself up off the floor, surveying the damage. Pieces of glass and metal were strewn everywhere. Nothing was left of the windows. The computer was making an odd noise, beeping so fast it was almost a continuous whine. He could hear several LEP shouting into mikes and the sound of feet crunching over pieces of glass and metal. Tieve was locked in a closet and Foaly guessed that the key had been launched several klicks away in the blast.
It was then that Foaly grabbed a headset and dialed Vinyáya.
“Foaly?” Vinyáya asked, fiddling with her helmet mic. “Is that you? Is everything all right?”
Foaly was nearly screaming into the speakers. “All right? No, everything is not all right! She exploded the entire Ops booth, Vinyáya! D’arvit—I just stepped on a shard of glass—my new gas screens, Vinyáya! And they won’t pay for it either, no, I’ll have to cut it out of my budget!”
“D’arvit, Vinyáya. She’s locked herself in a closet and the keys probably on top of Spud’s Spud Emporium by now, for Frond’s sake. Sool’s going to flay us alive. He’s going to kill us, bring us back, and then kill us again. And then he’ll really start!” Foaly’s incoherent babbling was only sending Vinyáya into more of a panic. “Caballine! –the ring was here somewhere–”
“Foaly!” Vinyáya shouted. “Stop! You’re not making any sense! What exploded? Is she all right?”
“I think, she ran away–” Foaly stopped suddenly. “D’arvit,” he breathed. “Sool. I have to stall. Get over here now.”
Foaly hung up, leaving Vinyáya alone with her complete and utter panic. But she squelched it quickly—now was not a time for hysterics. She grabbed her squad car and put it into gear, peeling out for the second time that day.
Fifteen minutes later, Vinyáya burst into the Operations Booth. She stopped dead in the doorway, taking it all in. Pieces of glass and metal were strewn everywhere like confetti and Silly String. Fairies were crowded everywhere, bustling about with technical equipment. They obviously didn’t know whether to clean up the mess or wait to analyze it. A large group was gathered around a supply closet—even Foaly was shuffling anxiously next to the door. To her relief, Ark Sool was nowhere in sight.
Vinyáya strode up to the closet. “What’s happening?” she asked, instantly taking control of the situation.
Foaly glanced up at her, relief etched all over his horsy face. “Thank Frond. The demoness has locked herself in the closet. She won’t come out for anyone.” He paused, his face growing even paler. “Sool’s on his way.”
“Oh,” Vinyáya said. “That’s a little bit of a problem.”
Foaly’s jaw dropped. “A little bit of a problem? This isn’t a problem. This is a crisis. A large crisis. In fact, if you’ve got a moment, it’s a twelve-story crisis with a magnificent entrance hall, carpeting throughout, 24-hour porterage and an enormous sign on the roof saying ‘This Is a Large Crisis!” His voice had risen so that he was practically screaming the last sentence.
Vinyáya scowled. “Your yelling isn’t helping.” She knelt next to the door before Foaly could reply, and she heard him taking deep, calming breaths. “Tieve?” she called softly. “It’s Vinyáya.”
There was no reply. She sighed, letting her forehead fall against the door. “Tieve, it’s going to be okay. I’m not going to let anyone hurt you, okay? You can come out. I’m right here.”
There was silence for the longest time. A techie was about to speak when the doorknob turned slowly. Vinyáya caught the demoness in her arms before anyone else could get their hands on her. “You scared me,” she said, surprised to find that she actually meant it.
Tieve mumbled something along the lines of an apology into Vinyáya’s silvery hair. The girl’s scrawny arms were locked around the commander’s neck, taut with fear and exhaustion. “What happened?” Vinyáya whispered into her ear. Tieve just shook her head and tightened her grip.
Vinyáya looked at Foaly, at a loss. Foaly wasn’t angry anymore—he was at that point where panic gives way to despondance. “Sool’s going to be here any minute,” he said in a flat voice.
Vinyáya felt icy fear grip her stomach, glancing down involuntarily at the girl cradled in her arms. Sool would show no mercy—she would get thrown into some hellhole with maximum security. Her mind was whirling, and Vinyáya felt like she was on the verge of a panic attack, a nervous breakdown, or just sobbing for a few minutes. Vinyáya shut her eyes tightly for a moment. What would Julius do?
Julius would protect the People.
“Vinyáya?” Foaly said, jerking her out of her reverie. The rest of the fairies had dissipated, presumably on orders from Foaly. For a civilian he sure has a lot of clout, Vinyáya thought off-handedly. “What are you going to do?” he asked.
Vinyáya stood up, feeling her knees creak. “Nothing. As far as you know, I just walked away to check something and I didn’t come back. So I definitely do not need you to stall for me, to delay Sool, or to mysteriously find bugs in your surveillance software.”
Foaly nodded, resigned. “Right. Good thing you don’t need me to do any of those things while you’re off checking. You know I really hate to break the rules.”
The remark coaxed a grin out of the exhausted commander. “Right.” She mouthed a thank you, slipping out the back door.
Tieve was still clinging to Vinyáya. The commander pried the girl off gently, yanking open the passenger side door of her cruiser. The reality of their situation was setting in, and Vinyáya could see the shock beginning to fade from Tieve’s eyes to be replaced with fear. The girl was mute as Vinyáya slid into the driver’s seat, pulling on her seatbelt and adjusting the mirror even though she could see fine. It was a comfort thing. “Tieve? You need to strap in.”
The demoness didn’t move. “Vinyáya… why are you running away?”
“Because they’re going to chase us,” she said absently, checking out the car’s vitals. Plenty of power to get them to the launch pad.
Tieve turned to face Vinyáya, silently demanding her full attention. “They’re chasing me. Not us.” She suddenly looked much older, with weary eyes. “You should leave.”
Vinyáya shoved the car into gear, glancing at the car’s LCD screen. Activate green card? it asked, the words pulsing gently. Her request had finally cleared, and Vinyáya couldn’t have timed it better. She pressed the “YES” button and felt the car hum under her heavy boots. “I’m your guardian. So if they chase you, then that means that they also chase me.” She winked at Tieve, which seemed an unnatural display of cheerfulness at such a dire time. “We’re a unit now. An us. Wherever you go, I follow.” She paused. “Well, except for the bathroom. You’re on your own then.”
Tieve let out a breath, trying to hide her grin. “Better strap in that seatbelt, Tieve,” Vinyáya instructed. “This might be a bumpy ride.”
Her first thought after she said this was, I have to stop with these clichés. The second was, I wonder how fast this car can go with a green card.
No better time to find out than the present. Rules were thrown out the window now. Vinyáya slammed down on the gas pedal and the car shot out of the garage like the cork out of a wine bottle, nearly clipping off the left side window. Vinyáya heard Tieve gasp sharply, her hands flying out instinctively to grasp the seat.
Vinyáya pulled a U-turn and poured on the speed, her velocity quickly climbing. Lights were a blur, streaking together in the morbidly beautiful way that everything does when you’re trying to escape death. The car crashed over a median, sending a few sparks ricocheting onto the magna strip. Vinyáya yanked the wheel sharply, spinning into a sharp right turn onto a set of stairs. The car groaned in protest, but she forced the car down the stone steps, focused on getting to her destination before Sool could call in the alert.
After about ten minutes, a large LEP logo came into view—the pod launching point. This was where officers could “ride the hotshots” when shuttles couldn’t get you to the surface fast enough. Vinyáya didn’t bother to park—she didn’t even bother to fully stop before unstrapping her seatbelt and jumping out of the car, leaving Tieve scurrying to catch up behind her.
Vinyáya burst through the glass double doors, shouting into her helmet mic, which was actually off. But no one else knew that. “Roger, I have the rouge troll on sonar and am en route. I’m boarding a pod as we speak.”
The bemused secretary looked the pair over, her eyes flickering a bit in fear as she saw Tieve. “Ma’am? I’m sorry, but I can’t allow you to take–”
“Don’t care. I can override any of the rules here. I wrote them.”
“There’s an angry troll aboveground, ma’am. This girl is helping me track it down. So shut up and get her a helmet and mouth guard.” Rude, yes. But it was effective. The duo dashed through the hallway, and Vinyáya quickly keyed in her police access code and opened the pod bay doors. The titanium egg stood before them, humming quietly. It was in mediocre shape, with many dings and dents. “Get in and put these on,” she instructed Tieve, shoving a helmet and a mouth guard into the girl’s hands. She flicked down her helmet visor and climbed into the small cockpit, turning dials and switching switches.
The secretary hurried into the room. “Commander, ma’am, clearance from Police Plaza hasn’t arrived and–”
Vinyáya didn’t hear the rest, as she had already slammed shut the door and pulled Tieve into her lap. The girl was scared stiff, gripping the leather upholstery tightly. There was no time for that—Sool had arrived at Police Plaza. She could hear his voice through her helmet radio, barking orders in a frenzy. A countdown appeared on the dashboard, and Vinyáya slipped in her mouth guard. Launch in five… for… three… two… one… initiate.
And with that, the pod was catapulted into the yawing maw of the chute. Vinyáya could feel the G-force pulling at her face, and glanced over at Tieve. Her face was a mask of horror and Vinyáya was sure that if she didn’t have the mouth guard, she would be screaming her demoness lungs out. Then, Vinyáya heard the familiar rumble, and felt the wave of dry heat, and tasted the heaviness in the air. She’d felt the same thing thousands of times at the Academy, both as pupil and teacher. But her awe of nature never wore off.
The flare engulfed their tiny pod, spinning them like socks on a washing machine. Then the fins caught, leveling them upright as they shot upwards at thousands of klicks per hour. Vinyáya expertly maneuvered the craft through the chute. The heat was intensifying, and beads of sweat rolled down her forehead, her hair sticking to her face. Vinyáya could only imagine what this felt like to Tieve. The pressure squeezed at them, magma straining the rivets and bolts of the pod—
Then with a whoosh, they were out. The heat quickly receded, the entire pod shuddering as the hot metal began to contract as it came in contact with the cool air. The commander steered the craft as easily as a toddler would steer a tricycle, making a perfect landing. She yanked off her helmet, taking deep gulps of fresh, cool air. Tieve was on her knees beside Vinyáya, and it looked like she was kissing the ground.
She crossed to the LEP equipment locker and pulled out three items—an obscenely heavy jacket, a wing rig, and several sheets of cam foil. The jacket was lined with lead and blocked out all communications, which was extremely useful when you were trying to escape from an angry police force. Sool had discovered their absence, and Vinyáya could hear him dispatching officers up the chutes to flush the pair out.
Vinyáya strapped on the Koboi Doubledex and hauled Tieve to her feet. “Almost there, honey,” she whispered. “Wrap yourself up in this.”
Tieve wound the sheets of foil around herself like a mummy. “I’m invisible!” she said in astonishment, looking down at where her hand should have been. “Wow.”
Vinyáya was not exactly in the mood to fawn over Foaly’s technology, especially if he was still listening in to her frequency. His head was swelled enough as it was. “Right. Hold onto me, all right?”
Tieve obliged, wrapping her twiggy frame around Vinyáya like a monkey clinging to its mother. The commander fired up the Doubledex, bringing up her helmet map. They’d surfaced near the city of Beja, in southern Portugal. They needed to get somewhere safe, and that somewhere had to be close enough that she could fly there in her wing rig. Suddenly, Vinyáya groaned aloud. Of course.
Tieve looked up at her curiously, peeking through the foil. “What’s wrong?” she asked.
“Well, I figured out where we’re going to go,” Vinyáya replied, “but I don’t like it.” She was exhausted, and every limb screamed in protest as she draped the lead coat over herself, blocking out her LEP communications and surveillance. “Hang on. I’d rather not have you splat onto the Pyrenees.”
And with those elegant parting words, Vinyáya blasted them off into the starry Portuguese night.
Lots of chasing going on– but where could Vinyáya and Tieve be heading? There is a bit of foreshadowing in that last bit, if you catch it. Foaly’s quote was “This is a crisis. A large crisis. In fact, if you’ve got a moment, it’s a twelve-story crisis with a magnificent entrance hall, carpeting throughout, 24-hour porterage and an enormous sign on the roof saying ‘This Is a Large Crisis.'” Reviews make me dance!
Chapters: 1 2 3 4 5 6
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