Saturday, June 11, 2011

Disperse (Friday Fiction [part 4])

This week's Friday Fiction is hosted by Yvonne "Vonnie" Blake @ her blog, My Back Door Ministry. Click here to read and share more great fiction!


Author's Ramblings: Well, I'm posting Friday fiction on an...un-friday. LOL. Sorry about that! It seems my life just gets crazier the moment I think I have enough free time to balance out everything. Oh well--at least I was able to spend more time on this installment than I did last week, so hopefully that will make up for this mismatched post. I had fun explaining a bit of Ebony this week and of course, we get to see a little more of the mysterious duo. Enjoy the read and happy weekend! (Don't forget to leave a comment, I am actively using all suggestions/feedback in this serial)

RECAP: Othello and Brin have finally decided to let the cube be--including leaving Ebony to their client and moving onto the next mission. Ebony is captured by a gum-chewing man with less than honorable intentions and taken to a new location. 


“Well?” Othello sat atop the car hood, the laptop on his lap, his fingers flying over the keys. “Did you find anything out?” The question was spoken with something of an absent air as the man in white remained entirely engaged in his work, in spite of the odd location. He’d pulled off to the side of the lonely road, a corner turnoff leading up to a cliff overlooking the swirling waters below. 

Brin had finally caught up to him as the afternoon had begun to fade to night. “She was awake the whole time you know.” He took up a position near the side mirror, leaning against his friend’s car, hands in his pockets. “And there’s virtually nothing on her, meaning that she must be something.” He shrugged. “I suppose anything could qualify as something.”

“…meaning?”

“Meaning that she must be something important, only someone with the kind of clearance we shouldn’t be involved with, would have the kind of pull to black out chunks of history like that.” Brin sighed. “I did the usual round of investigations and some digging on my own. Nothing turned up. Whoever she is and wherever she’s come from—the best way to know would be to ask her outright.”

“Not happening.” Othello grunted. “And that’s impossible. We’re information brokers, we don’t just run into blank spaces and leave them. We fill in the missing spaces, we don’t”

“You’re the broker, I’m just the handy gofer.” The warm breeze blew upwards, ruffing Brin’s hair and bringing the familiar flicker of jade back to his pale-grey eyes. He took a deep, cleansing breath of the sea-swept air, the tension draining away from him as the jade hue completely replaced all traces of the grey in his eyes. “There are a few other places I could check, I guess.” He shrugged. “But you can’t afford them.”

“Then treat me this time.” Othello’s fingers continued to fly across the keyboard, maintaining a steady, clacking rhythm of the keys as he sifted through screens filled with various information. “Make it a birthday present.”

“Repairs to this-” Brin kicked the front tire lightly with one heel “-was your birthday present. That’s not the kind of favor I can pull out of nothing, El, it’s dangerous to get involved with that.”

“And everything else we do isn’t?” Othello wrinkled his nose. “Please don’t kick my car.”

“Okay, rephrase.” Brin rolled his eyes, hands sliding out from his pockets as he reached upwards to brush the blond strands away from his face. “It’s the kind of dangerous I’m talking about—and you abuse this car more than anything else you own, I don’t want to hear that from you.”

“It’s my car.”

“It was a present.”

“You always give nice presents, now hurry up and give me another one.” The fingers slowed in their work across the keyboard and the soft sound of a muffled snort left his lips. “This kind of dangerous?”

Brin leaned backwards, bracing with one elbow on Othello’s shoulder so he could see the screen. The jade immediately fizzled out of his eyes, returning them to the icy, grey orbs as his eyes narrowed. “This isn’t a game, El.”

“Sure it is.” The fingers began to move again, pulling up a cross-reference and meshing several other documents together to form a key for another coded file. “The third round’s just starting.”

“And the consolation prize?” Brin pushed away, standing with his arms crossed, head bowed in thought. “That kind of blank is characteristic of family.”

“Sky won’t fall if you say mafia.” Othello mumbled. “And if she’s a mafia kid, then the question becomes which family she belongs to.” He frowned, tapping a few keys a little harder than before. “Consolation prize means we don’t die in the bonus round—it’ll take more than luck to last that long.”

“You mean whether she belongs to the five or the gutters?” Brin scratched his head, thinking to the current state of affairs and the amount of control afforded to the common people. The government had its way in some places, but it was common knowledge of the top five noble families and their relation to the mafia. All central power came from the five and an elaborate ranking system kept the unruliness of such dark affairs in order.

Othello shuddered. “Let’s hope it’s the gutters.” He snapped the laptop shut, sliding off the car hood.

The flicker of movement caused Brin to sidestep as the man in white stood on his own two feet, brow creased in worry, trademark laptop tucked under one arm. “Finished already?”

There was an answering grunt.

Brin chuckled. “So, new assignment or are we doing to rescue the damsel in distress?”

“Distress…” Othello muttered. “She’s smart enough not to put herself into that kind of situation.”

“Oh, really?” Brin trotted around to the passenger side of the car, climbing in as the locks clicked open.

“You’re not blind, Brin. She’s too calm, too empty-headed and too relaxed.” He ignored Brin’s laughter. “You wouldn’t act like that unless you knew you could easily change your current circumstances—and to make the kind of changes she’d need to, it’d take-” He swallowed.

“Mad power.” Brin finished, taking the proffered laptop as Othello fumbled with the seatbelt and the temperature controls. He could read the movements for what they were, his friend was finally thinking. That was good. That was better than good. He almost smiled, but instead, settled into his seat, the earlier smirk returning. There was enough mystery surrounding the girl in a way that he knew would mean changes for their current way of life. He’d lived long enough in a sense to know it when such people came along—Othello simply had a knack for such encounters. From the scowl on his friend’s face though, the blond couldn’t help teasing. “Think she’s expecting us?”

“She’d better not.” Othello growled, shifting into gear. “Or else I’m going to-” Brin’s laughter drowned him out.

~*~*~*~*~*~

For the second time that week, Ebony woke to find strange faces hovering over her. She studied them in silent regard until it seemed to register among them that she was awake. She was roughly jerked upright and into a sitting position, a pair of handcuffs slapped over her wrists and a menacing figure in black standing at the foot of the hotel bed.

“Where are your partners?”

Ebony blinked. She stared at him for a moment longer, drawing out the tension in the room with the simple pause as her eyes flickered around, taking in each figure and then her new surroundings. She hadn’t intended to fall asleep after Brin had left, but she’d been so tired, it couldn’t have been helped.

Rolling her shoulders slightly, she tilted her neck to the side. A yawn escaped now as she was shaken by one of the men holding her upright. That was annoying enough for her voice to find its way out through her mouth. “Ow! Hey, watch it, would you?” The touch of irritation didn’t improve the situation at all as she turned to frown at him.

A fat, gloved hand grabbed her chin, jerking her head around to face the speaker. “Look at me when I’m talking to you, brat!” He growled. “The two men, one in white and the one with girly hair—where are they?” Beady eyes narrowed to slits. “Or did they abandon such a pretty little thing like you?”

Ebony sneezed, her hands halfway to cover her mouth. She shrank back from the hand that grabbed her shirt collar jerking her close to the darkened, angry face. A faint, pale touch of pink was beginning to color her creamy cheeks, the first hint of any reaction since she’d woken. Her hands fell back to her lap, the clink of the handcuffs seeming louder than the rapid breathing of the man in front of her face. For a moment, her dark eyes seemed to have a sliver of blueness in them, before she leaned away from the pressing group.

He shook her—hard—before his free hand reached upwards, grabbing her jaw and pressing in the right points to force her mouth open. “Well, you can still speak it seems—I don’t suppose you have anything to say before I remedy that?”

She twitched, faintly. “Not my…friends.”

“Really?” The cruel hands released her and she was roughly pushed back to the bed, to be caught by another pair of hands. “You’re a weird one—most smart girls would be screaming their heads off about now.” He chuckled. “A man in white and one with a ponytail—they’re not your friends?” He took a step away from the bed, fumbling in a shirt pocket to draw out a plastic tub of chewing gum.

Dark eyes glared at him in answer. “What do want from me?”

“Figures, they’re not the kind to work well with others—my apologies, little missy.” He smirked, popping a few chunks of chewing gum in his mouth. “They owe me something, perhaps you know about it—a little clear cube, looks kind of like that candy, kids like you are popping all over the place.” He held up one hand to show the shape, stuffing the gum back in his pocket. “About that size, know where it is? Think carefully, it might mean your freedom.”

~*~*~*~*~*~

“You didn’t tell them where it was, did you?” Brin flipped open the precious laptop, skimming over the files on the screen and beginning to add his own information to one report.

“They didn’t tell me to deliver it in a jewelry box, just to get it. I did.” The man in white groused, his hands tightening on the steering wheel. “There was nothing else in the contract.”

“Ah, of course. Perish the thought that we should do anything that we aren’t paid for.” Brin snorted. “Your nightlife reports are off about three numbers in the coding sequence, were you half-asleep?”

“If it’s that bad, then shut up and fix it.”

“I already am, fixing your mistakes is a habit I can’t grow out of.” There was a sigh. “Did you see what card she put down?”

“In the bar? No, too far away…wasn’t paying attention. Did you?”

“No, I was finishing the locking sequence on the stupid cube.” He scowled. “But she used the cards.”

Othello stiffened as best as he could in the driver’s seat, his right eye twitching faintly. “Which means she is at least from one of the twenty nobles.”

“And having some sort of powerful energy at her fingertips narrows it down to about oh, eight of the families.” Brin began to mentally tick the names off in his head. “That would explain why she—El, that would mean she knew what we were or could guess well enough to know what we are. You don’t think she’s from that kind of family, do you?”

Othello shrugged. “Hard to say, it’s common practice, though usually they give me some sort of warning as a courtesy.”

“True.” The blond allowed. “But they aren’t required to and we’ve never had dealings with the upper five before—they would be the most likely ones to send in an agent.”

“It would make some sense, but it wouldn’t explain her away. I doubt they’d send some girl as a checking agent.”

“If we get involved-” Brin began.

“Consolation prize.” Othello interrupted, shifting gears. “and we’re gonna need it.” The car revved and sped around the next corner and he pulled off onto a short shoulder road, clicking the door locks open. “Get out.”

Brin’s eyebrows danced upwards, but he shut the laptop, clicked the seatbelt open and willingly slid out of the car to stand on the dusty patch of ground. They were still cliffside, able to see the blueness of the water from the vantage point and the thick guard rail warning against the steep drop below. “I take it, I’m being abandoned?” He said, wryly, as the car window cruised down.

Pale-golden eyes glowered back at him in response. “Deal with it. I don’t care what you have to promise them, make a deal and I’ll pay it.” Othello scowled. “Whatever it is, I’ll find a way to pay it.”

There was another chuckle from the faintly smiling blond as he moved to the guardrail and quickly hopped over to stand on the teetering edge. “I’ll see what I can do.” He called over his shoulder—and effortlessly threw himself over the edge.

Othello felt his right eye twitch again, his scowl deepened, annoyed as he pulled off the shoulder road and back onto the main drive. He could easily read the message that his friend had kindly left unsaid. Even if he was willing to sell his soul for information, Brin would never offer it as payment. “Idiot…” He muttered.

~*~*~*~*~*~

Ebony found herself in a warehouse next.

The conversation that had transpired between the thugs and her only served to complicate matters to a point where the teenaged girl was beginning to second-guess herself. She was tired of being tied up and handcuffed to a chair, listening to the chewing gum man spew and rant every threat he could come up with.

It was really starting to bug her.

She could see them with her elemental eyes, using the gift of water to check their actual water content. Viewing them through aqua-infused eyes, showed her a completely different picture than their physical selves. On that level, Ebony could easily and accurately read their personality and whether they posed a threat to her or not. Yet, it didn’t take a trick like that for her to read the potential dangers lined up for her.

Using her gift to view them in that light only served to confirm her earlier deductions and impressions. They were filthy. Instead of a general view of clearness, blueness or some other shade of teal, there was a swirling brown and mucky green filling the figured outlines. Ebony swallowed hard as she searched deeper into the forms, drawing on her powers to do so and seeing bits and pieces of things floating through the murky bodies. 

A shudder ran through her. She didn’t like that at all. It was one thing to be what they were and another thing entirely for it to scare her. With a nearly superhuman effort, the teen girl deliberately slowed her breathing, forcibly relaxing her body. It was always bad to show fear, even worse when the fear was acknowledged, she knew that much. It had been ingrained into her since birth.

What she was doing required a significant amount of concentration and effort, but it was also nearly as practiced as tying her own shoelaces. She knew it would be a personal struggle to achieve the necessary state she desired and accepted the weakness for what it was, choosing instead to focus on the realities of the moment.

Faint threads of perspiration trickled down her neck, running down her back, her eyes cast at the floor to hide the level of concentration she was summoning to the forefront. It didn’t help that the warehouse was so hot or that the conversations spinning out of control around her were beginning to change the atmosphere.

It took a few minutes, but the desired state was finally achieved and Ebony lifted her head, casting her gaze quickly about the warehouse, taking in the changes in expression and mentally cataloguing whose voice belonged to whom as she returned her eyes to staring at the tips of her bare feet. The nails were a faint pink and unpolished—she hadn’t had the time to spare for the luxury of a pedicure—and they’d taken her socks too.

That was an annoyance—she’d liked those shoes.

A rueful grin spread across her face and the last tendrils of any possible tension melted away as the spark of humor washed over it, returning the feeling of control to the young elemental holder.

Ebony didn’t like where these conversations were going now. She was able to keep up and read between the lines, her bloodline showing in the moments as she began the tedious task of mapping out a suitable escape and destroy plan. She would have to escape, there were no other options that she cared to favor—not after viewing such disgusting aqua-avatar-selves for her captors.

When the escaping part of things was over, then she’d have to continue to the second phase of her plan. The thought settled grimly, but firmly in the center of her mind. Her stomach burned, pleasantly, and she caught hold of the sensation in her mind, squashing it mentally. She didn’t need those kind of distractions right now.

Her mind flared to life, beginning to assemble and calculate things based off of the junk she’d seen lying about the warehouse and taking into consideration the number of people present as well as their possible skill levels.

She would have to be very careful about this.

“…well, if he comes, I don’t aim to pay. He hasn’t filled his end of the bargain.”

“He gave us the girl.”

“I didn’t ask for a girl! I asked for a cube with information on one of the five.” There was a soft popping sound before loud chewing filled the air again “one of The Five.”

“It’s prolly best then. If you’d seen anything there, they’d have to kill ya.”

“and if I’d seen it, I coulda killed ‘em, cuts both ways, idiot.”

“…cuts deep either way.”

“You scared? Then say it to my face! Quit hidin’ behind-”

“They’ll trace the leak.”

“He’s a legit source.” The gum snapped again.

“They’ll hunt ‘im.”

“Let ‘em.”

“He’ll squeak.”

“He’s a pro.”

“He’ll squeak.”

“What are you tryin’ to say?”

“They’ll hunt him. The Five will hunt him. They move like a hive mind—you know that. He’s got some cred with them, but not enough to stay put. He’ll have to run.”

“So?”

“They won’t care if he’s pro.”

“Then…”

“Then what?”

“Then we’ll hunt him first.”

“And when we find him?” The skinny man taunted. “Then what?”

“Then we…kill him.”

“Just like ordering Chinese, eh?”

“And his creepy aqualad friend.” The man spat the wad of gum on the floor beside his feet, glaring at the white blob. “Both of them. Find them and get rid of them—be careful how you do it. They’ll have expected it, at most.”

“And the girl?”

“What about her?”

“If she’s really got the cube on her…”

“Quit playing games you, lousy-!”

“It’s easier to search a dead body.”

“Huh. Well doesn’t that just solve all of your problems?”

“Your problems are mine, Gregory.”

There was a loud slap, followed immediately by a perfect gap of silence. The chewing gum man broke it, his voice like iron. “Don’t. I won’t warn you again.”

“Of course.” But the faintest tinge of laughter betrayed the lack of a grudge. “I would never, ever-”

“Shut up, J.”

The laughter died instantly.

Ebony let her head fall forward, chin resting on her chest. She hated hearing conversations like that. It never sat well with her, especially when she’d had a chance to view the other party in question. Her mind flickered back to the interesting duo. The man in white was funny and the strange blond bodyguard had been pretty interesting too, but she’d probably never set eyes on them again.

Wriggling in the chair, she tested the bonds again and stifled the urge to sigh, gently returning her thoughts along their earlier train of thought. That was fine with her, it was rare to run into the same people twice, so she often made an effort to be sure her first impression was more like her everyday self—pretending took too much energy.

The sigh died out somewhere in her throat as Ebony realized she’d been right to begin with.

She’d have to be very, very careful.

© Sara Harricharan

1 comments:

Anonymous said...

ooo, tense. Good dialogue.
Hurry up with the next
installment!
Hugs!
Sunny