2.13: The Knight

Sliding through the shadows, Stark moves closer to the warehouse on the corner. Her dark clothing aids in her vanishing acts between the street lamps. The rest of the credit goes to her water powers. When under the blaze of the street lamps, she uses liquefication to turn her face into a glassy surface. Her goal is to make it impossible for the one thousand cameras around the warehouse complex to capture her identity. Especially now that she’s so close to discovering Reddic’s big secret.

     The man led her on quite the wild goose chase. Every other city they hit, he would change cars, all in garages owned by Horse Power Auto (HPA). To keep from being found out, Stark adopted a similar idea. After Syerus recovered his boxcar, she had him search for reports of car theft. She cursed when she learned all of hers were reported, but none of Reddic’s were. Even though she always left the vehicles where they’d be found, she hated becoming a criminal to stalk someone that she wasn’t sure was.

     All the while, Warden Crata was adamant about her return. She has hundreds of calls, emails, and texts from him, but not one with a shred of evidence of her mother being in Jupiter City. Stark concluded that her mother’s ghost was not keeping her away from Four Hearts any longer. She knew the warden wouldn’t accept her reasoning, so she kept on ignoring him.

     Once Reddic led her through the cities Wavine, Bial, Waross, Anemont, Nanalar, and Zemery, she knew his path then and was confident enough that she arrived ahead of him. He was on a beeline for the border between Vanu and Ohai. Given the timeline he provided and the reputation of the Ohai border patrol stalling crossover, she knew he only had one town he could get to and from to get back to Four Hearts on time- Fraise.

     She was dismayed at the start of following him around town, his daily routine involving zero contact with anyone beyond employee-patron courtesies. However, every night, he would visit warehouse 536 for several hours. Stark never dared to enter, but she saw Reddic leave town (opposite direction of the border), and decided to take the opportunity.

     Still, she isn’t oblivious to his invisibility. As she dives between lights, she drops tiny bubbles from glowing circles on the back of her neck. Her senses are tied to them, so invisible or not, if Reddic brushes against one, she’ll know and make her escape swiftly.

     Warehouse 536 looks innocent enough with the same gray walls and dark roof as all the others. The front door is locked digitally by a pin pad, the same as the last couple she passed. While Stark did design the FHA security system from the ground up, hacking locks isn’t one of her strong suits.

     But now, grand theft auto is on my resume.

     She doesn’t bother looking at her phone when it buzzes half a dozen times, not ready to lose focus on another of Crata’s dead ends. She cuts the ringer and vibration off as she walks the perimeter of the warehouse. Three of the four walls have windows near the top that appear to be the only way inside. One after the other, she creates flat liquid plates in the air, leaping from one to the next until she finds footing on the windowsill. She traces her fingers along the frame and locates a latch on the side. It doesn’t open too wide, but enough for Stark to strip and dump her clothes inside, worm inside as liquid, and dress again. She leaves the window open in case of emergency.

     She turns around in a slow sweep, and after finding no cameras inside, makes her face solid once again, her freckles the last detail to return. There are five rows of shelves, each shelf after housing smaller boxes than the last. To her right, at the rear of the warehouse is a furry carpet beside an aquarium. At the front, three desks sit. One is covered in papers, the middle one is clear but has half a dozen closed drawers, and the last seems to have none of either.

     Why’s this place so important?

     Stark flinches when she feels one of her bubbles pop suddenly. She connects her senses to the next bubble in line and looks around the area. She worries Reddic is camouflaged in the open until she hears purring.

     Just a cat.

     Stark lowers to the floor using the liquid plates, then manipulates the spray of droplets into a sphere over her palm. She dumps the sphere into the aquarium as she studies the fish. A brief flash of the goldfish she had as a child burns her eyes. She shakes her head and leaves the aquarium, unsure of the species anyway.

     She targets the tallest boxes next. She braces for the worst, whether they contain corpses, weapons, etc. She opens one and blinks, then blinks again. Reddic has a whimsical attitude, but she never thought him to be a collector of…cardboard cutouts of celebrities. Every single tall box contains the likeness of various actors, musicians, and athletes, most of which Stark loved as a teenager.

     After closing every box, she moves to the next row. The surprise contents this time are coiled up cable tracks and motors with wheel trolleys underneath. To follow after are boxes of taxidermy mammals (squirrels, rabbits, rats, etc.), a litany of files (with redacted info), and photo binders. She opts not to be as thorough investigating the last two rows, the desks a more interesting affair.

     She freezes when another bubble bursts. After a cursory check, she hears more purring.

     That cat is getting on my nerves.

     Stark starts with the desk covered in files. The details only make the full picture of Reddic even fuzzier. Most of his shorthand is lost on her, but the concrete details include: “The Pure in JC?”, “Officers compromised?”, “Must call Lulu!” There’s a date listed beside that last detail.

     Am I the compromised officer? Who’s Lulu? Could be an alias. But what’s so special about today?

     The middle desk is next, and all the drawers are locked. Stark observes no keyholes or pin pads.

     Nice try, Reddic. Crata and Neth both use desks with trick locks, and looking at this design…Ah, yes!

     Stark flips a switch in the back left corner and all the drawers hiss as they open in unison.

     Now, this is gold!

     Stark snaps photos of everything in the drawers with crystal clear focus. There’s a myriad of IDs, deeds, and titles (she recognizes several of the license plates). She emails all of those photos to herself promptly.

     I don’t know who Reddic’s with, but his resources are enormous. I’m willing to bet this isn’t the only warehouse he owns, either. I’ll have to–

     The pin pad beeps slice her inner monologue in two. Stark shuts the drawers, dashes into the aisle nearest the window and stops behind the shelf, finding it too risky to ascend once she hears the door open. She curses that she neglected to throw a bubble under the desk in her panic.

     How’d he evade all my bubbles? They’d be practically invisible in the dark.

     She puts faith in her normal hearing, thankful the sound of their footsteps echoes. She sweats internally to hear not one, but four sets walking around near the front. However, two of the pairs seem to move irregularly…and closer to her. Stark creates a liquid plate beneath her feet and raises herself on it like an elevator to the top of the shelf. She lay on her belly and slowly crawls toward the front. As she gets nearer, the sound of metal shifting puts her on edge.

     Stay calm, Stark. Just listen.

     The officer stops before reaching the end of the shelf and flicks a tiny bubble from her index finger. She connects her senses to it as she commands it to hover directly across from Reddic and…

     Fuck me!

     The metal shifting comes from a man dressed in pristine silver armor, his helmet held under his arm. With his face clear, from his dark hair, bronze skin, and lapis eyes, the armor, and the three-foot silver sword fastened to his back, his identity is clear to Stark. Reddic’s extensive resources and loyalty are now clear. The knight of the Ohai nation, the premier warrior of all its soldiers and sole protector of the aforementioned nation’s three ruling governors. Kirby, the Thousand Slayer.

     “You were foolish to pick me up yourself, as I’ve already pointed out, but rushing this plan is even more so,” Kirby says, his tone ringing with a no-nonsense attitude. “You said she wouldn’t be ready to learn Manifestation until her senior year.”

     Reddic laughs heartily. “Ever the stickler to timelines. Something of this magnitude is always at the mercy of the variables involved. I’m telling you, she’s talented beyond belief. She hasn’t summoned her golden flames yet, but she has what she calls mezzo flames, and their propulsive force was enough to crack the glass you recommended.”

     If Kirby is surprised, his expression doesn’t betray it. “Is that so?”

     “She’s a firecracker, that one,” Reddic praises warmly, though he grows solemn a moment later. “However, she hasn’t once texted me since I left.”

     “She’s a child, Reddic. She will do as she pleases. Allow her to be a child while she can.”

     He speaks so plainly that I can’t tell if he means that.

     “If you say so.”

     “I know you won’t listen, so let’s just move on to why I accepted this meeting. How is her brother doing? Is there something wrong?”

     Aurum? Isn’t Nuria their target? Or are they both targets?

     “Why does something have to be wrong?”

     “You said “I believe Aurum has more potential than predicted” when you requested the meeting. You may handle changing situations smoother, but I refuse to let complications go unanswered. What is the complication?”

     Reddic rolls his eyes. “Fine, I’ll take the chance you say yes. I’ve learned Aurum is capable of using Manifestation. I’d like to–”

     “No,” Kirby says flatly.

     “Now, hear me out.”



     “No, Reddic. Do you understand what that means?” Kirby grabs the hilt of his silver sword. “What that means from me?”

     “It’s the ultimate Ibri power. He’ll be all the more prepared if he learns it now.”

     “You know as well as I do that he’ll have more than enough on his plate with just Bond of the Blade. I will not permit you to damage the childhood of two children.” He simmers down, but keeps his hand on his sword.

     “This is not about damaging Nuria’s childhood. On the contrary, in fact. This technique will…oh, forget it! I’ll take your undying judgment.”

     “It would die if you’d only tell me the whole truth. Erase the complications.”

     “You know that I can’t. Lady Khadijah will order you to repeat all we’ve discussed back to her, and I can’t tell her the whole truth. I know if I asked you to lie that you would, but your position is too important. I can’t risk losing her trust in you.”

     “That being said, I won’t have this position much longer.”

     Reddic’s jocund grin finally vanishes, acute shock on his face. “First I’m hearing of this. Now, who’s not telling the whole truth?”

     “I have more than one reason for that.”

     Reddic glares when he sharply turns toward the bubble. “Just be–”

     Stark’s eyes snap open when her spy bubble is popped, but that’s just the start. The one swing of Kirby’s silver sword produces a shockwave that minces the shelf to her left. Sliced cable tracks, motors, and shelf space litter the floor.


     “I’ll reimburse you after. The spy comes first.”

     Damn it! How do I escape these two? Think, Stark!

     “Fanger, hunt!” Reddic orders.

     Crap! The other footsteps!

     Stark shuffles backward at a cautious pace, hoping not to make a single noise. Since they were able to avoid and detect her bubbles in the dark and inside a well-lit warehouse, she recognizes their environmental awareness eclipses even her own. She feels the draft from the window brush her ankles. She has one chance to make a clean escape and…

     A familiar purr sounds behind her. She liquefies her face before looking over her shoulder. Between the officer and her means of escape is a full-grown leopard, its legs camouflaged into the air from its shoulders and hips down. Its purr becomes a snarl becomes a roar, its large fangs on full display.

     I really hate this cat!

     Stark rises and races toward the leopard, but it leaps aside without conflict. The officer makes the mistake of pausing to contemplate that action. Another swing from Kirby’s blade fires a shockwave that eats away at the shelf. Stark’s liquid mask glows and she leaps toward the nearest window, crashing straight through it and narrowly avoiding the knight’s attack.

     She bounces from shaky liquid plates formed in a haste. At the same time as she lands, a hole is blasted in the wall behind her. Reddic, Fanger, and Kirby stand in the opening, the threat they pose accented by the silhouettes.

     The officer turns again to flee, but she’s alarmed a great deal when Reddic grabs her arm in the blink of an eye. She turns her arm to liquid to break free from him and skips away. She finds his cocky grin absurd and grating until he raises her phone.

     “I must say, Liamria, you surprised me with your skill and your sloppiness, but it ends here,” Reddic teases. His nails sharpen and lengthen, piercing and skewering the phone. He drops the sparking corpse and stomps on it, crushing it underneath his heel. “Strike her down.”

     “My pleasure.” Kirby grabs the sword with both hands and swings.

     Stark narrows her eyes. If this doesn’t work, I’m dead!

     The shockwave this time is thrice as large as the other two, digging up the ground in its path. Stark liquefies her person at once and lets the shockwave stir and swirl her body, sacrificing her clothes to it in the process. The shockwave drags her through two consecutive warehouses, both collapsing into heaps afterward. While the slashes do nothing to harm her, the brunt of slamming through the concrete walls gives her one massive headache. She wriggles outside the rubble and maintains her liquid body, racing away in a mad haste. She can feel her morpu draining and if they catch her without the ability to liquefy, there will be nothing left of her. That aside, she can now also add disorderly conduct (streaking) to her resume.

     Please don’t let this night get any worse!


     Reddic forgets himself in his fury, gouging his flesh when he clenches his fists. Liamria knowing of his warehouses is one issue, but the mystery of her true allegiance has him worried which party- The Pure or Underworld- she’ll report it to.

     Either way, this city is no longer safe. If both, it’s not safe for anyone.

     “Did you have to destroy my other warehouses, too?” Reddic asks.

     “You know as well as I do none of these are viable anymore. Just be glad those two didn’t hold anything linked to the Silent Slayers. Burn this one to the ground once you’ve secured those links. And next chance you get, end Liamria’s life.”

     “That’s not my battle.”

     “You owe that Stark woman nothing. Your actions saved her life once, but her emotional issues shouldn’t bar you from feeding her mother to Lulu. I’m asking you in the way you won’t ask me to lie.”

     Reddic smirks broadly. “That’s the difference between us. I’ve no issue refusing you.”

     Reddic knows his best friend on a level most could never comprehend. Where most would see a stoic expression, Reddic can identify the subtle shift to the left of Kirby’s lapis eyes, the sign of his ire. Try as he might to emulate the love of his life, he is incapable of hiding his emotions entirely. Their upbringing together in Fraise was far from peaceful, and while both have found ways to curb their bloodlust, it will always be a part of them.

     “Our meeting is over,” Kirby says after looking at an alert on his phone. “Vice-Captain Venesi has just informed me of a terrorist attack at Jupiter Mall by The Pure.”

     “Venesi? Wasn’t she a charge of yours a couple of years ago? And now she’s a Vice-Captain? Interesting.”

     “That was not the salient point of what I just said. The Pure is too active too close to Four Hearts. And if there’s any merit to those notes you wrote down, it’s going to get worse sooner rather than later. You need to get back there ASAP.”

     Reddic and Fanger both growl, the former again gouging his palms. “I’m on it.” The pair start to make tracks when Kirby grips Reddic’s shoulder firmly.

     “Reddic,” Kirby says in one of the only two tones that can get him to stop. “Because of who we are, I will always have doubts, but do not lose yourself when you go back. Nuria has to know you from a distance for now. Aurum, too.”

     Reddic sighs gustily. He looks to the moon and imagines the sun in its place. Before long, the visage of a woman with long sienna hair and milk chocolate skin appears, her eyes shining like the imagined star. He peels his nails from his palm as his rage subsides.

     “For you, my love,” he whispers. “I know, I know. I have it under control,” he says normally.

     “One more thing, Reddic.” Kirby finally places his sword against his back by way of Bond of the Blade. “I need you to keep Aurum at that same distance, but keep him safe. Whatever rule you need to bend to get him in your class, just say the word.”

     Reddic laughs, his good cheer restored. “You think too straightforward. Trapping flies with honey is better than using a flyswatter. I will keep your son safe, but all I’ll need is permission to access the hills.”

     “Consider my end delivered. Make the deals you need to make now.”

     Reddic’s smirk turns sinister. He knows what the deals will cost him on his way back to FHA and he looks forward to expending his bloodlust. However, even more than that, he eagerly looks forward to reuniting with Nuria. Despite Kirby’s warning, her Manifestation training must continue.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s