Characters: Ryath Oaks, Peter Carlacci
Ryath negotiated the narrow streets, now almost completely empty. The tall tower of the Ministry of Information guiding her way, Ryath soon swept down to the street below. Dissolving the platform, her eyes still covered with the night vision film, she saw him standing at the edge of the park. His hair had come down a little –obviously he was either nervous, or Fed hadn’t been completely honest about that goo!
Casually she walked over to him. “Darling!” she whispered, and took hold of his hand, kissing the back of it.
“Hi,” he said softly. “What happened to you?”
“Oh. I was just hanging around. Checking the dregs of society,” she replied offhand. “So you found what you were looking for?” Her eyes scanning the area around them, looking for any movement. “And are we off to go and get your prize?” she asked, completing her scan of the park without a sign of anyone.
“After I see what happened to your leg,” he said quietly.
“Oh, it’s nothing. A flesh wound,” she said lightly, waving her hand as though to brush away the injury. Seeing that he was still determined to check her leg she said forcefully, “Don’t waste time. We can’t afford to wait any longer. Have you found her or not?”
“I have, and I still want to look at that leg. The whole side of your skirt is covered in blood, and I won’t have you slowing us down by trying to ignore it.” His voice was still quiet and controlled, but the determination in it was clear. “You want to prove how macho you are, go to Pamplona. This isn’t the place.”
She grabbed both his arms just above the elbows and pulled him to her so their noses were nearly touching. “Peter. If I thought it would slow me down I would have dealt with it already, but if you insist!” she growled.
Quickly releasing him, she bent down, lifted her skirt above her knee and forced her index finger and thumb deep into the wound. They both heard the squelching noise, after a few seconds, she withdrew her finger and thumb holding a shard of stone. She dropped her skirt, grabbed his left wrist, and dropped the blood-covered shard into his palm. At the same time she sent more organelles to heal the wound.
“Now let’s go!”
He looked at the shard of brick thoughtfully for a moment before slipping it into his pocket. “I imagine your magic gizmos will have a much easier job healing the wound up without having to work around that,” he said mildly, as he pulled a datapad from his other pocket and consulted it.
As he set off at a brisk walk southwest across the park, he said, “You’ve gone to an awful lot of trouble, just to create a distraction on my behalf.”
She stared at his back for a moment, wiping her hand on her dress and smiling. Then set off after him. “Yes. But then I do believe in doing a job thoroughly.” Her voice was back to its playful tone. “Now. Where are we off to? Or do I have to use my magic to divine that information?” She was limping just a little, with every other step, as the organelles stemmed blood flow and allowed a little nerve activity to register.
He paused to let her catch up, features knotted as if he was contemplating a difficult problem. As she reached his side, he apparently had come to a decision, for he smiled and tossed the datapad lightly in her direction before starting off again at the same brisk pace.
Walking next to him, she glanced at the information on the datapad. “Oh! Ah….well. I suppose I can go back there.” She handed the datapad back to him. “After all, I didn’t leave too much of a mess!” Her tone was light and almost matter of fact.
“You were at the city prison,” he said, not a question. There was no anger in his tone, only resignation. “Ryath. Why’d you go there? You’re not stupid — you knew we might have to go there after Mira, so you had to have gone for some reason of your own. May I ask you, one last time, to play straight with me?”
She walked a little way without answering, and he seemed patient enough to wait for her reply. Finally she nodded, having been debating the pros and cons of telling him with herself.
“Peter. You were there on Abbai. You saw what happened to me. The Being, for he was not one thing or another but a mix of two races, that did that…he left me with some memories.” She paused, letting this sink in. They were close to the prison. It was just around the next corner. She put a hand on him to stop him. Now that she was telling him, she was determined to finish.
“He was Centauri. His family were deemed traitors by Cartagia, and sent to this prison to die.” She sighed heavily. “The Shadows and their servants were looking for volunteers to experiment on. This Centauri was picked to volunteer. He agreed, but only if his family were freed.”
She looked at him, waiting to hear his answer. She felt nothing but the feeling of being coiled like a snake ready to strike, and wasn’t sure if that was her or him feeling it.
“Sounds like you were trying to make sense of all the memories dumped in your head,” Peter said thoughtfully. “Nothing wrong with that. I take it,” and here his handsome features twisted into an expression of disgust, “that you found his family were not freed?”
“I have his memories, and I had a desire to find out what happened to his family. I didn’t know at first why I must come to Centauri Prime. But when I saw the prison I knew. I knew this wasn’t my mission. It was his; I was simply finishing what he couldn’t.”
She smiled weakly at Peter. “And now I grieve for more than my Mentor. His family were killed after they took him away. And I feel like they were my family.” She gave a slight shudder at the thought of her real family being killed. “A promise broken. A life ruined. And another in tatters.” This last was whispered, almost to herself.
She felt awful, like a rock had wedged itself in her stomach. She wanted to lose this feeling, knowing for certain it was all hers. She looked back to the road leading to the prison and walked off toward it, leaving Peter momentarily alone.
Carlacci let her go, watching her as he thought. More lost to Cartagia’s madness. He tried to let the guilt pass through him –he couldn’t have known, until Ryath told her secret. But it explained a lot about her behavior. He just wished he knew how to help her –and Mira —
Yes, he thought. Mira’s family. That was it.
He caught up to her, hesitating before putting one hand very lightly on her shoulder, ready to remove it if she wished. “I’m so sorry, Ryath,” he said. “Cartagia was more kinds of evil than anybody ever knew. He … it was thanks to him that Mira’s family was torn apart, broken … almost destroyed.”
She had stopped at his touch. Listening to him tell of Mira’s family made her realise that all those Centauri in the prison were there for similar reasons. She stiffened with anger. She immediately knew she was allowing the memories of the Centauri to influence her, but she didn’t care right now.
Right now she wanted to release the prisoners. It would certainly give her, Peter and Mira enough time to escape if the guards were rounding up other escaped prisoners; but it would also draw attention to them. If I were here alone I would do it, she thought angrily. Her anger directed at the situation, not Peter.
She sighed, and shrugged his hand from her shoulder. “Yes.” Her voice softened with sadness. “Many have suffered at the hands of that madman.”
She moved on in silence, toward the still sleeping forms of the guards. Now she was on full alert. She wouldn’t let anything slip by; Peter’s life depended on it.
A step behind, Carlacci too was now fully alert, focused on the situation and task that stood in front of him. “Not too bad from out here,” he said quietly, voice pitched to carry to her ears and no farther. “I had time to study the plans. I’m pretty sure I know exactly where they’re keeping her. Be all right with you if I take point?”
She nodded, “I will stay just within the prison. Stop anyone coming in after you.” She allowed him to pass her just before they stepped into the darkness of the prison.
Copyright (c) Niki Hipwood and Jamie Lawson. All rights reserved.