Cover: Bastion

First-time criminals often suffer from greater anxiety following their first successful lawbreaking journey, typically obsessed with the thought they’ll be found out, or that they already have and law enforcement is on their way to come for them. It is during this time where criminals are truly forged. They’ll either adopt a more careful attitude about future illegal actions, convince themselves they’re invincible, and get caught soon after, or the pressure becomes too great and they stop after that first job. All this Tyra’s learned from Aranda, and now she sees herself as the criminal in her own house.

     Ever since returning home, and Aranda no doubt having relayed Nuria’s…message, her mother, nor any of the other governors have asked for her presence at dinner. She thought surely, they’d want her direct perspective of what she’s read is being called “The War of FHA”. But given their increasing silence on the matter, she feels maybe Nuria’s brash words have put her out of favor with them and they’re considering the most appropriate punishment.

     She looks to her bedroom door, her frown deepening as she thinks of leaving on her own. She’s had every meal delivered to her, and with an in-room bathroom of her own, she’s never left the safety of her four walls. She has yet to cross the one bastion between her and certain disciplinary action.

     Would Nuria vacillate this long? Who am I kidding? Of course, she wouldn’t. She’d have already made a scene by the end of day one being home. By the way, I should ask her how that’s going for her. But first…

     Tyra strips out of her pajamas, freshly showers in her in-room bathroom, dries her raven hair (she thinks of cutting it shorter now that it’s beyond her shoulder blades), and then dresses in a kimono with a dark body, white floral patterns down the sleeves, and a red sash fastened around her waist. She knots her long hair into a ponytail and knots it with a white ribbon that Nuria bought for her. She slips into a pair of sandals and stops at her bastion.

     Bastions keep you safe, not sheltered. I have to face them sooner or later, and I never should’ve made it this late to begin with.

     Tyra opens the door into a very tall corridor with beige pilasters between eggshell-colored walls. In the long corridor, her room is the only one, which leads to her surprise to see Aranda standing against the wall opposite her door.

     “Done hiding away, are you?”

     Tyra wants to rejoin her for that comment, but she can’t deny that to anyone after admitting it to herself. “I’m done with a lot of things, actually.”

     “Care to share what said things are?”

     “I will. With my mother. And the other governors. Are they at dinner now?”

     “Most likely. But they’ll be grumpy when we show up. I was sent to fetch you for breakfast this morning. I decided to wait and see how long it would take you to divine my presence outside your door.”

     “That means you haven’t eaten all day?” Tyra asks with a start.

     “I have. Tegan snuck me some food in from TBK not long ago. You didn’t smell it?”

     Tyra shakes her head. “I wasn’t smelling much aside from me until I showered. And I can’t divine well enough when my own emotions are a wreck. My own mother could’ve been waiting on me, and I wouldn’t have known.”

     “Okay, well, we’ll fix that this spring for sure. I’ll help you develop emotional control. If you’re still in it to be a politician, you’re going to need it anyway. Now, let’s go and get yelled at.”

     “I plan to yell back,” Tyra says as she takes the lead in their march.

For two years, I’ve been a liability to my fellow students, being saved left and right by Aven and Nuria. When this next year comes around, I will not be bastioned. I will be the bastion. And not just in terms of strength. FHA will not just survive this fallout, but it will thrive!

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