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

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Own or Borrow? (BBT)

btt button
All things being equal (money, space, etc), would you rather own copies of the books you read? Or borrow them?
 Own! There is something deliciously satisfying about owning the books I read, plan to read or are reading at the moment. It is also quite a wonderful feeling to take a look at the stacks of bookshelves, brimming with amazing books that I've already read. I guess it is one quirk on my behalf that I hate to borrow a book that is poorly treated, I'd rather buy the book myself and take the very best care of it. ^_^

Happy Thursday!


Friday, June 3, 2011

1000 Stories (update)


The current running total is 82 short stories, counting the new summer serial, Disperse, as a single piece. It's been fun and enjoyable to see the number steadily growing towards the first hundred.

Recent pieces include Faithwriter Challenge pieces, such as:

Almost Dreams
A young girl whose dreams may come through, if she can stand the pressure and responsibilities forced upon her young shoulders.

and

Sack of Skittles
Jared's friend Yasmine decides to do something in reward for his always standing up for her--but it's going to cost her a few bags of candy, Skittles to be exact.

Thanks to everyone who keeps on reading, commenting and critiquing--it is very much appreciated!



B is for Butter!

B is for Butter--I wonder, did you see that one coming? I hope not, or else I'm losing my claimed fame to occasional bouts of randomness. This is for the second letter in the wonderful bloggy meme of a2z4u&me, click here to read more about it!

If you've read my bio, then you know I'm vegetarian/vegan, depending on if there is chocolate involved. I don't quite care for certain dairy products, but in certain cases I make an exception. Butter is not one of them. :P

Like most people who use butter, it's in pretty much everything and my occasional urge to bake usually means that butter will be involved. I don't like the taste of real butter, much less using real butter in recipes, so of course, I use a 'butter' substitute.

Most folks these days use some form of 'fake butter' as I tend to call it and there's quite a few brands and types out there. My favorite is Earth Balance, a 100% vegan, vegetable oil spread that melts and tastes quite nicely.

I use it on everything from garlic toast to cake, muffins and baked plantains. There's different kinds, a soy-free formula, a whipped version (which makes really good biscuits and popcorn!) and a few other kinds, which I haven't tried. Anyway, I hope that made you smile in some way or another. Granted, butter is not the first thing to pop into your head when you think of the letter, B--at least, I don't think it is, my brain just likes to think in different directions.

Happy weekend! (and I'll C you when C comes along...er, right, that was bad... :-P )

A is for Anime!

I'm behind in the wonderful bloggy meme a2z4u&me. Click here to read more about it and join in the fun!

I couldn't resist picking Anime as my word for A, mostly because it's fun and it has been my newest 'obsession' for this past year. Anime is the name for Japanese animated cartoons--a world of wonderful animations, music, voices and storylines.

As a fan of cartoons and animated things in general, the world of Anime is a complete treasure trove for me. There is pretty much a show for everything in nearly every genre, ranging from comedy, romance, mystery and so forth. I've enjoyed watching some amazing shows in the past few months, stories with more than just a hero-villain plot and with some pretty decent art styles and music.

My current favorite show at the moment, is Saiunkoku Monogatari, a Japanese-era style story of a girl working on becoming a government official at a time when only men are permitted to take the entrance test. It's a fun tale, with a touch of mystery and slice of life themes as she grows up and perseveres in spite of all the difficulties around her. You learn a bit about running a country and life while you watch Shurrei learn about hers.

While the classics of Bleach, Naruto and One Piece are pretty much known everywhere, Bleach for being a show dealing with ghosts, Naruto dealing with Ninjas, One Piece deals with Pirates and though I didn't think I'd get into it at first, I'm happily addicted and eagerly awaiting on new episodes. It follows the story of a young boy, Monkey D. Luffy, who wears a special straw hat who decides to find the ultimate pirate treasure and thus become the famous pirate king. He puts together a crew and goes off sailing. For me, I enjoy the show because of Luffy's character and the ridiculous things that happen to him. There's a fair amount of comedy, but also a decent chunk of heart. Luffy cares for his crew and doesn't tolerate injustice, bullying and prejudice. He fights for his friends, family and simply has an outlook on life that's hard to ignore--living for a dream with all that he has and running towards it in the company of his friends. It's a show I enjoy watching very much.

My favorite anime of all time is Ayatsuri Sakon, a story of a boy Sakon, with his special puppet Ukon. If you know my penchant for mysteries, then this makes perfect sense. It's a story in which Sakon plays two personalities, his own shy self, and Ukon--his puppet's more confident and outgoing side, which helps him to blend together in the situations that he encounters. Situations usually turning into mysteries with an Agatha-Christie turned Sherlock-Holmes kind of twist. I enjoy the complicated plots, characters and the way that Sakon works his reasoning, because it's the just the right blend of suspense and mystery for me, not to mention the art and music styles are quite lovely to boot.

Ayatsuri Sakon, featuring Sakon and his puppet Ukon

Ah, but I'm rambling again and I could go on for quite awhile. Thanks for reading my thoughts on "Anime" and if you've ever the time to explore the world of international cartoons, I hope you find something you like. (psst, try One Piece!)


Disperse (Friday Fiction [part 3])

This week's Friday Fiction is hosted by the wonderfully talented Rick Higginson over at his blog, Pod Tales and Ponderings. Click here to read and share more great fiction!


Author's Ramblings: I almost didn't get to post this today--things have been ridiculously busy and a recent lack of dependable internet has given me a new headache. But, I've made it, just barely, and hopefully this post will go through. I've had some fun with these new characters and I hope the story is not too crazy to follow. To find the first two installments of this summer serial, please click on the tag "Disperse Serial"  :) Thanks for dropping by! Enjoy the read and happy weekend.


RECAP: Ebony is a teenage girl with elemental powers who accidentally swallowed a clear white cube belonging to a man dressed in white by the name of Othello and his herbalist friend, Brin. Currently, the cube is an object of interest and Othello and Brin will do anything to get it out of Ebony's stomach...regardless of whether she'll agree or not. 


“That was absolutely disgusting.” Ebony shuddered. “What was in that?” 

“I agree.” Brin sighed. “I guess we’ll have to try a different option.” There was a knock on the room door and Othello stuck his head in.

“Did it work?”

“No.” The pale eyebrows seemed to darken a few shades.

Ebony blinked to be sure she wasn’t seeing things. It didn’t help. “I could’ve told you that.” She began to rub her stomach in light, circular motions. “Look, whatever it was that you had on there, I’m really, really sorry, but you’re not going to get it back. When things go in my stomach, they don’t usually come out and there really isn’t-”

“Stomach pump?” Othello suggested.

Brin shrugged. “If you like. What I have on hand right now would most likely kill her.”

The man in white grimaced. “That’s no good. It would take forever to get rid of a body in this town and we’d never get out of here with it.” He looked over Brin’s shoulder. “You know anyone around here?”

“I could make a few calls.”

“Make as many as you need. I want that cube.”

“Hell-o?” Ebony rolled her eyes. “I can hear you, you know.”

“Be quiet.” Both men chorused.

The teen stared at them and then her dark eyes narrowed to half-slits. “We’re not getting my stomach pumped.” She said, flatly. “Try another stupid option.”

“We?” Brin’s scowl matched Othello’s.

“Okay, I.” Ebony slid off the bed, testing her weight on her feet. “I am not having my stomach pumped and you can’t make me, so there.” She wobbled, faintly, one hand going to her head, eyes squinting again. “Ugh…seriously…what did you make me drink?”

Brin sighed. “I’ll make the calls. We’ll need to clear out of here though. We can move her across the state border, I’ll cover that, but nothing beyond it.”

“Border?” Ebony weakly sat on the edge of the bed. The room seemed to be spinning no matter how many times she closed and opened her eyes. It was a kind of dizziness that clung to her in layers, stubbornly refusing to be peeled away and cast aside. “You—can’t—take me anywhere.”

“You know, you really should be more careful of strangers.” Brin said, smoothly. “and you might want to lie down now.”

Her answer was a cross between a moan and a groan, before she fainted in a heap at the foot of the bed.

~*~*~*~*~*~

Ebony drew heavily on her inner strength and mental energies to coax herself into a barely conscious state, maintaining reduced sensory perception and calming her mind to focus on the use of her powers. Her elemental powers flared and hummed to life as she drew on the thread of water.

She was aware when her body was moved and placed in a corner somewhere of a moving vehicle. She counted the passage of time as morning turning to night and then to morning again. Her mind kicked into gear and she used the gift of water to isolate the foreign particles in tiny, microscopic bubbles, willing her body to sweat it out.

The men kept the vehicle fairly cool, so the chilled air eased some of the discomfort and Ebony began to alter her energy cycle with bouts of her air elemental energy. She would convert the water to air and reject it from her body, pulling fresh air in from the air vents to counter and replace it.

Control and relief circulated through her as the strange tea Brin had given her was masterfully removed from her system, her mental and motor faculties returning to her in full as she felt the vehicle roll to a stop. It took a bit more concentration to heighten her level of awareness and Ebony soon figured they were riding in a car.

A two-door sports car belonging to Othello, who was arguing with Brin about negotiating with the buyers for the information cube.

Ebony tucked that information away for later thought and began to sift through the flashes and bursts of sensory information she’d gathered while in her purification state. She was able to piece together the majority of her journey from leaving the hotel, to the car and then to their current position. Brin had been the one to carry her and he had graciously put in a vote not to pump her stomach.
 
However, his suggestion wasn’t any more appealing than Othello’s and Ebony wondered what exactly the mysterious duo was supposed to be. She could give a few guesses as to their professions and quite frankly, didn’t want any of them to be correct. Sleep tugged at her body, begging for acknowledgement due to the use of her powers for such a meticulously controlled process.

Dividing her consciousness once more, Ebony allowed the faintest tendrils of weariness to overtake her, drifting into a strange, sea-like state of awareness.

~*~*~*~*~*~
“You’re too soft, Brin.” Othello growled, yanking open the car door and shoving the seat forward. “It’s just unnecessary. Besides, it wasn’t in the contract to begin with and I see no reason for this to become more than it needs to be.”

“So you’re just going to sell her out? Just like that?”

“I have nothing to do with her and we mean absolutely nothing to each other.” He glared at the other man. “It is nothing.”

“Nothing. Of course.” Brin sighed. “As you say.”

“It’s just business.” Othello reached in, lifting out the limp body and handing it over to his friend’s capable hands. “Why are you so concerned, anyway?”

“No reason.” Brin accepted the armful, shifting to hold her carefully. “But she is interesting, isn’t she?”

“In what way?” The car door slammed as the trunk popped open and Othello retrieved his laptop bag. “She’s the most annoying little brat I’ve had to-”

“Your cellphone is ringing again.” Brin said, helpfully. “Can you manage all of that?”

“Shut up!”

 ~*~*~*~*~*~

In the quietness of the hotel room, the two men busied themselves. Othello pacing the length of the window on the far wall while Brin tucked the sheets carefully around the sleeping girl's neck, his expression neutral as he checked her pulse and temperature. “I’m impressed.” He muttered. “She has a pretty strong stomach.” 

“And your point is?” Othello had stopped pacing and was now repacking his laptop again.

Out of the corner of his eye, Brin watched the repetitive, calming motions. His friend seemed to be thinking in the usual way that required his hands to be busy doing something with his everpresent computer. “That was a fairly strong poison I gave her, one to-”

“I know. I saw the measurements…what were you thinking? If you kill her-”

“I’ve never lost a patient in my life.” Brin interrupted. “And you’ve already mentioned the difficulties in regards to a body, so can we please move past that. We can’t keep making excuses forever.”

“Correction, I’m not making excuses forever. If they come for her, they can have her. My end of the bargain will be complete and we can take the next commission.”

“You aren’t serious, El.”

“I’m not?”

“She’s just a girl!”

“Precisely why it isn’t an issue.” Othello sighed. “I’m going out. We’ll leave her here and whatever happens, happens.” He started for the door and paused. “You are coming?”

A faint flicker of jade fire seemed to flare in the other man’s eyes before he turned his head to the side. “I’ll catch up with you later.”

“She brought it on herself.”

“And if she didn’t know?”

“Who is stupid enough these days to swallow something they pick up on the street without trying to sell it first? No matter which way you look at it, she's not as innocent as she may seem and even if she is, she’s old enough to be responsible.” The door clicked shut behind him.

Brin cast a last glance at the seemingly sleeping girl. “I hope you heard that.” He said, softly. “Because I can’t help you even if I want to.” Crossing to stand in front of the window, he waited until he saw Othello exit the hotel and climb into the red sports car. He watched as his friend drove out of the parking lot and onto the road, until he couldn’t see the car any more.

Then he opened the window and climbed up to brace on the frame, poised to jump. A smirk registered as he turned for one last look at the mysterious girl. He didn’t even know her name. How curious.

He jumped.

© Sara Harricharan