Chapter Four

“Thank you for understanding,” Septi said politely into her phone. “Uh-huh, uh-huh. Thanks. Alright, bye.” She hit the little red button on her phone and ended the call. She sighed, and looked down at the little phone she was holding.
“Well, that takes care of my classes,” she murmured. “Now I just have to call Nito, Jade, and mum.” With hesitant fingers, she dialed her home number. The phone rang three times before her mother picked up.
“Hello?”
“Hi, mum?”
“Yes? Renee, are you alright? When you didn’t come home on time, I was extremely worried. Did something go wrong at… work?” Mrs. Carl hesitated a little before saying the last word.
“That would be putting it mildly,” Septi said. “Mom, I’m kind of tied up at the moment. I battled Steppe and lost, last night. The thing is, though, that I won’t be home for I don’t know how long.”
“Renee,” the tone of worry in her mother’s voice could not be missed. “What’s this? You’re imprisoned? What happened?”
“Yes, I am imprisoned. Don’t worry, though,” Septi said, trying to calm her mother. “I’ll be fine. And I lost a fight with Steppe. I think I already said that.”
“Is there anything I can do?”
“Nothing. And if you tried, Steppe’s hatred of non-mutants is extreme enough that you would die trying.”
“It’s so sweet of you to worry about me, Renee, but I’m not all you have left. You still have friends, correct?”
“Oui, but-“
“And that young man who took you out a couple of nights ago… oh, what was his name? He’s called here several times for you.”
“He’s called?” Septi asked. “Did he leave any messages?”
“He said that he was wondering if you would want to go out with him again, and if you could call him when you get the chance.” Septi’s fingers tightened momentarily around her phone.
“He wants to go out with me?” Septi repeated, feeling like an echo. “Alright, thanks, mom. Um, I should probably go-” she said, trailing off.
“Alright,” Mrs. Carl said with a sigh, and spoke quickly and quietly in rapid French. “Be careful, Renee. Don’t take unnecessary risks, and I will be praying for you.”
“I won’t, and thanks,” Septi said. “Au revoir.”
“Au revoir.” With that Septi hung up.
“Pourquoi? Pourquoi a present? (Why? Why now?)” Septi murmured, scrolling through her contacts list. Finding Nito’s number, she quickly texted him: Won’t be in class. Busy with my job. A couple minutes later he texted back: Why? You prefer your job over me? Rolling her eyes, she responded: No, but my job pays. You don’t. I’ll be out of school for a while. TTYL.
“Septi, sleep!” Ryan, the VI4C’s guard, snapped. Glancing at her with something close to pity in his weird amber colored eyes, he added, “Your torture will begin in the morning.” Septi stuck her tongue out at him.
“I’ll sleep when I feel like it,” she retorted, closing her phone and slipping it into the bag attached to her belt. Ryan shrugged and left her alone. Septi stood and stretched, yawning slightly. “I guess this’ll be it for the night anyways.”

“Steppe is angry,” Oracle murmured. “There are whispers of a rebellion. Mutants who fled his reign are banding together for an attack, possibly. I say we need not worry too much. Their organization is lacking.”
“But we are lacking in people, as well,” Septi protested. “Steppe has killed so many!” Oracle dipped his head in acknowledgment.
“I’ll admit, there are many innocents that have been slain on false charges.”
“False and out of the blue,” Septi snapped. “One minute you’re a loyal subject, then the next- dead! Deader than the spider that built it’s web in your room.”
“Spider?” he asked, paling even more than usual, and choking on his words. Septi smirked slightly.
“Gotcha,” she said, stifling giggles. Oracle glared at her, which was a rather frightening sight, but she refused to look even slightly ashamed.
“Anyways,” he said, a little sourly. “Everything you say is true-“
“And it might be worth your time to consider worrying about,” Septi finished for him. “Oracle, Steppe’s made such a mess of things. This rebellion, well, it could be the key to the end of Steppe.” Oracle shook his head.
“Septi, there’s more to life than defeating Steppe,” he said firmly.
“What life?” Septi retorted. “Imprisonment and death is hardly what I’d call life.” Oracle opened and shut his mouth. “See, you can’t deny a thing I’ve said. Steppe must die.”
“Septi, who are you?” Oracle asked her sadly. “All you care about now is killing Steppe. You’re not the person I thought I knew.”
“I’m still the same underneath,” Septi replied, quietly, after a moment’s thought. “I just have a mission now.”
“This doesn’t have to be your war, though.”
“I know, but who else do you see? Like you said, the loners with enough motivation to kill him aren’t organized enough to do it. And I notice that you’re not willing to do it. So who will, if I don’t?” Oracle shook his head and abruptly the dream faded into blackness; a long deep sleep.

Septi groaned and opened her eyes, feeling as though she had gotten no sleep. A little light trickled into her cell, and she vaguely wondered what time it was. Rubbing her eyes she sat up, groaning again as her back cracked. Just then heavy footsteps broke the silence, and she scrambled to her feet. Then Ryan walked in, staring at her in silence.
“What are you going to do to me?” she asked, slightly hoarse.
“Bind you. Then Steppe ordered Fararam to disillusion you so that every foul, loathsome thing in this earth would torture you.”
“He’s using Raram?” She asked, feeling sick. Ryan nodded. “She should be in school! And who does he think he is, to use my friends in this way?!”
“He thinks he can and so he does,” Ryan responded quietly. Septi ground her teeth, and spun suddenly, lunging for Ryan. He reacted equally as fast. She feel to the ground in a full body bind. She tried to open her mouth to scream her rage, but she couldn’t. “It’s no use, Septi. None.” A silent tear slipped free of her eye, as she lay awkwardly on the concrete floor.
“I’m not-!” Raram’s voice reached Septi’s ears. A scuffling sound came from the hall outside. “You can’t make me!”
“Au contraire,” Steppe’s voice floated in, sounding silky ans smooth. “I think you’ll find that I can. Oracle?” More scuffling sounds filled the hall, then dead silence.
A moment later the door opened up and Raram’s purple converse and black, holey skinny jeans appeared in Septi’s line of vision. Septi fought Ryan’s body bind frantically, as Raram was forced to kneel beside her, so Septi could see her torturer.
“I’m so sorry, Septi,” Raram said, uncried tears in her eyes. She had a split lip, and little streams of mascara had dried on her cheeks. Septi stopped fighting Ryan’s bind and tensed as Raram closed her eyes, looking pained.
The wavered, then the scene was replaced by a dark alley. Septi was standing still, her back pressed against the wall of some building. There were huge dark forms surrounding her, but she had no where to go. Instinctively, she reached for her weapons, but there were none. She tried to shapeshift, but could not.
The first form had reached her, and shoved her against the wall roughly. Septi tried to fight back, but he kept attacking her. She screamed a long, piercing shriek, then it all faded, allowing her to collapse to her knees.
Panting, she stopped screaming. She was on all fours, though not for long. Her arms gave away, and she landed on her side, laying there for a couple of seconds, curled into a tiny ball. When she looked up again, she saw a figure walking toward her. All of a sudden, she was in France again.
Shakily, she rose to her feet. When the figure was about eighteen yards away, she recognized him. At first she couldn’t believe her eyes.
‘He’s dead… isn’t he?’ she thought, watching his approach. Then she spoke.
“Daddy?” she whispered. As he continued to get nearer, she saw that there was no doubt abnout it. “Daddy!” she ran to meet him. Hugging him fiercly, he smelled just as she had remembered him; like sawdust with a hint of paint.
“My, my, Renee, how you’ve grown!” he exclaimed, speaking in their native tongue, holding her out to examine her. “And so beautiful too. It’s a pity…” she stared at him, slightly confused and suspicious.
“Daddy, how can it be? You died, sixteen years ago. How are you here? You simply can’t be real,” she said, also in French.
“I’m no ghost, Renee,” he said quietly. “Your mother and I are so thrilled that you’re such a wonderful young woman.” Septi looked at him, her eyes wide.
“Daddy, something’s not right,” she said, feeling more than a little uneasy.
“Of course it’s not,” he responded. “Your mother isn’t here yet. She said she would be out as soon as she finished the laundry.” Just then Septi’s mother walked out of one of the nearby houses. Septi turned to her, seeking an answer.
“Mom, what are we doing here?” she asked in English. “We left France four years ago. And dad’s been dead for a long time.”
“Honey, your father is right here,” Desiree Carl replied in English. “He’s completely alive and well.”
“Something’s not right,” Septi said again. She glanced around, back to her dad. He was holding a gun, pointed directly at her. A sudden movement made her look over to her mother, who also had a gun aimed at her. “What is going on?”
“It’s such a pity that you had to be a mutant,” her mother said, speaking French once again. Septi sighed, outwardly looking bored, inwardly crying. “You’re so pretty, and determined, and soon to be dead.”
“I beg you,” Septi said, also reverting to French. “If this is truely happening, then end it.” Her mother smiled and ugly smile, her face twisted with hate.
“Because you asked so nicely, I think not!” As she said the last word, she threw the gun and the scene changed again. The gun vanished, along with Septi’s mom and dad. Septi blinked, and stared. Nito and Jade now stood in their place. Septi smiled and rolled her eyes.
“Thank you, Raram, for making this so unrealistic,” she whispered.
“Why didn’t you tell me what you are?” Nito yelled at her. His perfect looks made Septi feel slight faint. “You lied to me!”
“So what if I did?” Septi crossed her arms and stared the illusion Nito down.
“I can’t date a liar,” he said, staring back.
“Do you think that there is a single girl in this world who doesn’t lie about anything?” Septi asked him coolly. Nito blinked, looking sliightly taken aback. “Seriously. Let me know if you find that girl.”
“Renee, you’re not the person I thought you were,” Nito said. “You’re nothing but a monster.” Tears srang to Septi’s eyes, but she blinked tham back.
“I am that… monster… too,” Septi said, fighting to keep her voice calm. “But there’s so much more to me than you’ll ever know.”
“I don’t really want to find out, either,” Nito said. His one arm snaked around Jade’s waist. “I’ve found the perfect, human girl.” He leaned down and kissed Jade on the lips passionately. Jade responded just as eagerly to his touch.
“Technically, I am human,” Septi said, a new loathing racing through her veins, mixed with hurt and anger. She turned she gaze to Jade when they finally broke apart. “You said he was an ane. You acted like you hated him. What happened?”
“He saw through the lies you told him.”
“I told him no lies! I said nothing about me being anything but who I am!”
“How you’re a tramp?” Nito siad. A slight flush rose in Septi’s cheeks. “That’s right, a tramp. You aren’t trustworthy. Get lost, monster.”
“I’m no monster,” she snarled, subconiously gripping the handle of her throwing knives. “And I’m not the one making out with my best friend’s boyfriend, Jade. I’m not the one who hurt my would be girlfriend, Nito.” She took a deep breath, trembling with rage. “You’re right, Jade. He’s not worth my time, energy, or tears.” With that she drew her daggers, then threw one in a smooth fluid motion.
It sank into the illusion Nito’s chest, and he exploded. The illusion Jade screamed, then Septi turned on her, the other dagger in her hand.
“And to think I trusted you. I knew that there was more to it than what you said.”
“He’s right, you are -” that was as far as she got. Septi’s other throwing dagger had sunk into her stomach. Just like with Nito, the illusion Jade exploded.
“I may be a monster,” she said, retrieving her daggers. “But you knew what I was and didn’t care. Besides, this is just a nightmare. A waking nightmare.” The illusion faded, and the cell reappeared. Raram was still kneeling, gasping and trembeling. Ryan was no where to be seen, and Steppe was standing by the door. Oracle was still standing behind Raram, but he was no longer forcing her to stay put. Raram slowly raised her head and whispered to Septi, with a look of sorrow and horror on her face.
“I’m so sorry,” she whipsered, tears and sweat mixing on her face. “I’m so sorry. I don’t want to-” Septi nodded, discovering that she could move again. There were tears on her face as well, and as soon as she realized that, she blushed and raised a trembling hand to dry her face.
“I understand,” she croaked. “I understand. It’s alright.” Raram tried to stand, but her legs gave out. Oracle caught her, and held her upright.
“Thank you,” she whispered faintly, leaning against him. “But I’ll be okay in a couple minutes.” He shrugged and continued to let her lean against him.
“Sure you will,” he said quietly. Septi also stood shakily.
“What next Steppe?” she demanded hoarsely. “What can you do to me? How will you try to break me?”
“That’s for me to know, and you to find out,” he snapped. Septi leaned against the wall, grabbing at it’s rough surface.
“I blinded you Steppe. I’m strong enough to take whatever you give me, along with one of your other senses.” She was forcing herself to stay upright. Her knees were trembeling slightly, and she felt drained. Little black dots started to appear in her vision, and she was sweating slightly.
“You were strong enough,” Steppe said, emphasizing the past tense. “But you’re weak now.” He snapped his fingers and Ryan stepped back into the room. “Besides, there are ways to keep you from fighting.” Septi allowed herself to lean against the wall, sliding down into a sitting position slowly.
“I will be strong again,” she said. “I will defeat you, Steppe.” He laughed, an eary, bitter laugh.
Oracle, guide me back to my room!” he snapped, his manner changing. Septi smirked, revelling that she had managed to take away something so vital from Steppe. Oracle gently lowered Raram to the ground, then slipped over to where Steppe was waiting. As they exited the room, Oracle glanced back over his shoulder to where Raram was.
“How’d you know what my dad was like? And about Nito and Jade?” Septi asked Raram quietly.
“I’ve been over to your place,” Raram said, shrugging slightly. “Your mom was talking about your dad and how life back in France was, and showing me pictures.”
“But how did you know about Nito and Jade?” Septi asked persistantly.
“I overheard you and Mes talking in the bathroom yesterday,” she said. Septi wrinkled her nose, then smiled and laughed sadly.
“I’ve found eavesdropping useful myself, so I can’t exactly scold you for it,” Septi said, shaking her head slightly. “Though why I didn’t see you in the hall when I was chasing Mes is beyond me.”
“I didn’t want to be seen,” Raram said. “I illused myself out of the scene.”
“Have I ever mentioned how cool your talent is?”
“Even when it’s used against you?”
“Even then it’s still intriguing.”
“It can be such a burden,” Raram sighed, closing her eyes and resting her head against the wall. “Steppe is able to use me for his perverted purposes.”
“Yeah, well, who here can’t he use?”
“You. You’ve got your own mind. You’ve got a strong will. I wish I could-” Raram broke off.
“Be half as stubborn as I am?” Septi asked, raising her eyebrows. “No you don’t. It gets you into so much trouble.” Raram laughed slightly.
“Hey, Septi,” Raram started. “what do you think about Oracle?”
“Well,” Septi said, carefully, looking at her friend thoughtfully. “He’s a great guy, and a good friend. And it would seem that he likes you-“
“Okay, so I wasn’t the only one to pick up on that extremely creepy fact,” Raram said, cutting Septi off, an uncertain smile on her face. “He’s far too old for me, though!”
“It’s not creepy, it’s also freaky and scary,” Septi said blithely. “He’s a nice enough guy. But he’s not the type of guy that one would like that way.” Raram nodded her whole hearted agreement.
“He was just too eager to help me,” she said, stiffeling a yawn. “Besides, he’s not really my type. Now, that Nito guy you like, he’s cute.” Septi glared at her. “What? He is!”
“He’s mine, Raram,” Septi said, a warning tone in her voice. “Stay away.”
“You just get so possessive about guys, Septi,” Raram said. “Ever noticed that? I mean, you’re not even officially seeing this guy. Chillax, girl.” Septi bit her lip, slightly embaressed.
“Do you think that the after effects of your illusion will have worn off by now?” Septi asked, frantic to change the topic.
“Off of you, yeah. I’ll be out of it for a while longer.” Septi sighed, and pushed herself to her feet. She still felt a little dizzy, but otherwise she was just fine. Oracle returned and offered Raram a hand Raram pulled herself up, and leaned against him. “Septi, please, think about what I’ve said.” Septi nodded, watching as Oracle helped Raram out of the cell.
“Alone again,” she murmured as their footsteps faded. She collapsed on the floor, and closed her eyes.

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