Septi was sitting in her car in the LA Mall parking lot crying. She had managed to maintain her control through the phone call to Ferinequell asking for reinforcements, but that had been five minutes ago or so.
She wasn’t happy about what was going to happen, and she was a nervous wreck about it. The orders she had put in place earlier had been easier before these people had faces and voices. They were meant defensively, to leave no room for betrayal by any who knew about them.
“Am I becoming like Steppe?” she wondered aloud, dabbing at the tears with her tissue. “Or am I already like it and don’t know it?”
‘When Steppe sent me on assignments, I couldn’t ever look at the person’s face. I still hear the screams of some of them at night. I can’t forget what I’ve seen and done, but I’d hoped I wouldn’t have to do this again,’ she looked at her scarred hands, knowing that most of the scars were from fights or practice mishaps. ‘I hate this life. I want to change, but this is my destiny, and I can’t be anything but what I am.’ Septi dried her eyes and looked at her duffel bag, which was filled with her uniforms and weapons.
“Alright, Septi, get back to work,” she said, feeling kind of weak. “You have no choice. Be strong and do your job.” With that she began sifting through the duffel bag, leaving her weapons in her glove box.
Two hours later, she was changed and waiting at the rondezvous point for the others. Ferinequell had said that he’d organize a team to come out and do the deed, but Septi had no clue who would be on the team, or how many people would be coming.
Finally one of the VI4C’s cars pulled into the parking lot of the gas station Septi was waiting in, and Septi got out of her car. Val and Mes were in the other car, and Val rolled down her window.
“What’s up?” Mes asked cheerfully, her dark skin shining in the light of the setting sun. Beneath her cheery and happy exterior, though, Septi saw that Mes was nervous, maybe a little upset.
“How much did Ferinequell tell you?” Septi asked, speaking quickly and quietly.
“Just that they both refused to join, and needed to be silenced,” Val answered, her voice low. Septi casually leaned against the car, her arms resting on the door.
“Alright,” Septi said, leaning into one of the pockets on her belt and pulling out two pieces of paper. Carefully she unfolded the one paper, revealing a streat map of the area. “You’ll want to go from here, down this road, and park in the alley here.” Val nodded and took a highlighter from its spot in the ash tray, highlighting the route Septi had pointed out, then she handed the map and highlighter to Mes.
“Got the floor plan?” Val asked. “And a picture or description of the girl?”
“I have both,” Septi said, unfolding the second paper and catching a walet sized picture that fell loose. “This is from her school yearbook from last year. The local library had a copy of it. And this is the floorplan for the house. She’s living with her friend’s family, and I’m not sure how they have the sleeping arrangements worked out.”
“This will work well enough,” Val said, taking the picture and the floorplan. “What time do you think we should strike?”
“We need to be sure they’re asleep, so after midnight or later,” Septi said. “I didn’t get a close look, but if I were to guess they only have masterlocks on the door.” Both Septi and Val ignored the bored Mes, who was doodeling on her arm with highlighter.
“I see,” Val said, leaning back in her seat.
“You don’t happen to have a sharpie, do you?” Mes asked, eyeing her barely colored skin critically.
“Sorry, no,” Septi said, straightening up and returning to her car with no goodbye. Val and Mes sat there talking for a little while, then they drove off. Septi sighed, and leaned against her car.
‘I’m not as alright as Val seems,” Septi thought. ‘I’m never as okay with this as she’s always seemed. Does she have the doubts I do?’ With that she got into her car and drove away, up and down the streets of LA, listening to music and trying to stay calm.
Finally midnight came, and Septi made her way throug the mostly quiet streets, every so often passing a party or two or a a house that was still lit up, the unsuspecting teenaged revelers unaware of what was about to happen. Septi envied their ignorance, envied their simple dramas that were playing out now.
“Show time,” Septi said quietly as she parked her car outside of the Eastman’s darkened house. Checking her belt, she slipped out, heading to the backdoor.
Using her lock-picks she let herself in through their backdoor, silently and quickly. She paused, looking around and trying to get her bearings. In the moonlight, she could see that she was in the kitchen, and began to move to the hallway, which she had been in earlier.
Eying the stairs, she hesitated a momen, then shapeshifted into a cat, making her way up lithely. Glancing around, she slunk into the bathroom- the only open door and the only source of light. Quietly she shapeshifted back into her normal shape and began her work.
Working by nightlight, Septi brought a packet of powder out of her belt pocket, as did a small collapsable cup. Carefully she turned on the water and filled the cup partially. Then she opened the packet of powder and dumped it into the water, using the handle of one of the toothbrushes that were sitting on the counter to mix the poison, then reversing her grip on the toothbrush and dipping the bristles into it.
Rubbing the bristles to ensure that the poison was evenly distributed with her gloved fingertip, Septi caught herself breathing unevenly. Fighting to even her breathing as she set aside the first toothbrush, she became aware that there was movement, coming from elsewhere in the house. Freezing, she stood still as she listened for it to stop, for the breathing in the rest of the house to even.
Finally it did, and Septi finished her job, moving quickly and consentrating soley on the job. It was a huge shock to her when the light turned on.
Spinning around and blinking furiously while cursing her eys silently for not adjusting as fast as she wanted them to. When she finally got her sight back, she saw the last person she wanted to see- Tamwyn Grey. Tamwyn seemed to be having the exact same reaction.
“What are you doing here?” she asked angrily.
“What’s it look like?” Septi asked, dumping out the poison solution and snapping the cup flat, sliding it back into the pocket on her belt, where it belonged. Tamwyn’s hands began to exhude a purplish substance, which Septi knew was acid.
“Look, you’re stupid if you think that I’m going to use that toothbrush after this,” Tam said, her hands balling into fists at her sides. “And you’re even stupider if you think that you’ll get away with this.” Septi instinctively flicked her wrists, letting both knives out.
“I would advise you to move, now, if you don’t want to get hurt,” Septi warned, giving her surroundings a half a glance. She wouldn’t be able to move fast enough to open and get out the small window, and Tam was blocking the only door, trapping Septi.
Suddenly Tam lunged, her hands glowing, and Septi narrowly avoided being dissolved, like the wall behind her. Tam shoved off the wall and quickly smacked out in Septi’s direction, trapping Septi in the corner.
‘If I shapeshift, then Tam will be able to pick up my daggers, which I’d have to drop. But I might be able to escape out the bathroom door,’ Septi thought as Tam rammed her upper arm into Septi’s, pinning it to the wall.
“Drop the knives,” Tam said, moving her other hand closer to Septi’s neck. Septi smiled and did so as she shapeshifted into a cat’s shape, racing around Tam’s legs and out the door, pausing only to pick up one of the two daggers on her way out.
At the top of the stairs she paused and glanced back at the bathroom, where Tam was busy dissolving the toothbrushes. Then she turned and fled.
Shifting back into a human when she hit the kitchen, she let herself out, mentally cursing the fact that she had to leave one of her daggers. It was one of her favorite weapons, and it had been one of the last things Danae had made for her. If Tamwyn destroyed it…
‘Don’t think about it,’ she told herself as she got into her car. ‘Just go home and don’t think about it.’
Three weeks had passed and not another word was said about Tamwyn or Marie, though Septi had made her report honesly, making it clear that Tamwyn was still alive. Valencia, too, filed a report, but stated that Marie had been killed. Then the phone call came.
Septi had just gotten home from college and was unloading her bag when her cell phone began to ring. Quickly she answered it, wonderinf who it could be.
“Hello?” she said, thumbing through her notes.
“Hi, is Septi there?” the speaker was female, though through the phone Septi couldn’t tell how old she was.
“This is she,” Septi said, setting down the notes. “Can I ask who’s calling?”
“I think I’ll tell you after I tell you what I want to,” the speaker said. “You wanted me to join the VI4C, and told me to call you if I changed my mind. That night someone tried to kill me, and they were also from the VI4C. I don’t appreciate people people trying to kill me. So my no has changed to a never. Understand?” Septi’s mouth went dry as she realized who she was talking to.
“Marie, that was for security purposes,” she said, praying that her voice was steady enough.
“Well, why didn’t you say that?” Marie sounded irritated. “I would have kept my mouth shut if you’d told me that much.”
“Someone’s word doesn’t mean they’d do it,” Septi said. “Is that all?”
“No. I want to make a deal with you,” Marie sounded extremely frustrated now. “You don’t kill me or my friends, we don’t turn in the VI4C.”
“Fine,” Septi said.
“Buh-bye,” Marie said, hanging up. Septi tossed her phone down, then ran to the kitchen.
“Where’s Val?” she asked the empty room. Pausing and looking around, she sighed irritably. “Why is it that the one time I need to talk to her, she isn’t in the kitchen?” Still grumbling, Septi left the kitchen and made her search through the ground floor.
Finding no one, she made her way up to the offices, where she checked in each and every one. Pausing briefly in her office, she loked out the opened window, eying the lay of the land.
Moving away she sighed. The land, no matter how pretty, was just plants and nothing more, though Septi knew that the longer spring was there the grass would grow back, creating growth in the wild graveyard. ‘Like the spirits of those here still. The people look okay and seem okay, but they’ve got to be hurting too. Maybe I’m just presuming too much,’ Septi thought, making her way up the stairs two floors to the training room.
Val stood in the middle of the arena, with Kin and Kane circling around her. All three hald fake blades, and everyone of them was completely drawn into the battle. Septi paused in the doorway, watching.
Kin lunged while Val’s back was turned, but Val pivoted, dropping and using her hands to balance as she kicked, spinning still. Kane moved to attack, actually smacking Val with a blade before she’d managed to get her defense back up.
Septi leaned against the doorway and clapped, impressed by Kin and Kane’s teamwork. The three fighters looked over, startled by the noise.
“Bravo,” Septi said, feeling awkward. “Nice teamwork, Kin, Kane.”
“Thanks,” Kin said, bubbly. Kane blushed and shrugged, and Septi turned her attention to Val.
“I need to talk to you,” she said, feeling her worry slip through er mask like expression, and Val reacted instantly.
“No one’s in the control room,” Val said, handing her blades to Kin. “We can talk there.”
“Sure,” Septi said, glancing at Kin and Kane, who were preparing to go through a drill. Quickly Septi and Val made their way into the control room, turning on the light and shutting the door. “Is the microphone off?”
“It should be,” Val said, checking it. “It is. Why do you ask?”
“I just got a call from Marie,” Septi said. Val’s brow wrinkled as she tried to place the name.
“Your target,” Septi said bluntly. “You said you’d killed her.”
“I did! Or, I thought I did,” Val said, leaning against the desk.
“Funny thing,” Septi siad sarcastically. “This girl called me. As of right now we have a verbal agreement that she won’t turn us in if we don’t try to kill her, but I don’t know what to do.”
“Don’t tell Ferinequell, please?” Val said pleadingly. “Or Ryan?”
“Look, Val, I want you to fix the report,” Septi said. “I have no plans to tell either Ferinequell or Ryan, but it’s up to you what you do. I guess we’ll ahve to tell them eventually, and cook up a plan in defense, but I’m sick of following Steppe’s rules and habits. I don’t want to kill anymore!” Septi realized that Val was looking at her oddly, and she rubbed her eyes with her thumb and pointer finger.
“You’ve gotten yourself into this mess,” Val said. “Is there anyway you can change it now?”
“So I should just give up now?” Septi asked, incenced. “I don’t think so.I know that Steppe’s rules are amazing and all that, but there has to be something different. We’ve argued about the rules before, and we changed some of them, but I can’t stand this killing. There’s got to be some way to give mutant kids a chance without endangering the VI4C or going outside of the laws when they refuse.”
“Well, let me know when you figure that one out,” Val said, straightening and heading for the door. “I’ve got a report to fix, apparently.”
“Yeah, you do,” Septi said, following her out of the control room. “And I have homework to be doing.”
“That’s why I chose not to go to college,” Val said with a grimace.
“Sure,” Septi said, in no mood to fight. “Whatever you say.”
“I say you’re crazy,” Val said teasingly.
“Except that,” Septi ammended.
“Kill joy,” Val pouted, continueing down the stairs.
“That’s what you think,” Septi retorted, pausing and looking down the stairs after Val.
“That’s what I know,” Val called back up.
“As if,” Septi said. ‘I hope not,’ she added silently. ‘Oh, cheer up. You take everything too seriously. You need to-‘
“Hey, Septi, can you help me?” a guy called, and Septi turned to see Ferinequell coming up the staps with a load of paperwork.
“Sure,” she saud, moving to take some of his stack from him. “Where’s it go?”
“Your office,” he said. “Some of these are bills, some schedules, some articals I found that you need to read-”
“I got it,” Septi said, smiling so hard it hurt, despite her less than kind feelings toward Ferinequell at the moment. “What about the books?”
“My office,” he said. “Need to do some research.”
“On what?” Septi asked curiously as she started back up the stairs.
“My job,” Ferinequell said, juggling the papers and books as he tried to open his office door.
“But you’re already the best information gatherer we have,” Septi said, passing him and pushing her office door open the rest of the way, setting the paperwork on her desk and then returning to the hall so she could talk to Ferinequell. “Why do you need books for it?”
“No, my other job,” Ferinequell said, putting some papers into his desk.”The one I go to while you all are in school.”
“I don’t think you’ve talked about it at all to me since you were hired,” Septi said. “What do you do, even?”
“I’m an attourney,” he said, glancing up at her.
“Ah,” Septi said. “So that’s why you went to night school a couple of years ago.”
“Yes, it is,” he said. “It’s also part of why Steppe didn’t completely drain the VI4C bank account, and why it’s holding it’s numbers now.”
“You put money into that account?” Septi asked, surprised. “I didn’t know that that was where the money was coming from.”
“I do,” Ferinequell said. “When I first got my job, I saw how fast Steppe was spending and i began to try to replace it. I realized that I couldn’t keep up with the debt, but I still replaced what I could. Since we’ve only been taking what we need, I’ve been keeping us from losing too much. I view it as my payments for the room and board I get here.”
“That makes sense,” Septi said.
“That’s one of the only things that does in this world,” Ferinequell responded.
“Unfortunately, that’s so true,” Septi said.