Saturday, May 26, 2012

The Mission Before Everything Changed

"Move! Move move move!" The shouts echoed down the corridor as the sudden flash was followed by smoke and a loud bang.

"Go! Enide! Take out the weapons." This is me. Taking out the weapons.

By weapons she means the guards who are supposed to prevent any thieves from getting into the vault. Thieves like us. Not that we're really thieves. But they won't see it that way so there's no time to talk it over. I move fast, my arm cracks like a whip, and the sound that his jaw makes provides the perfect accompaniment. It only takes a second before the other one is on the floor too. I'm not even breathing hard yet. 

This is me. 

"Hurry up, Enide!" And that is her. Gwen.

She trots by me and leaps over the unconscious guards on the floor. She'd be graceful, almost dainty, if it weren't for the guard who lumbers up and brings his heavy baton down. She sidesteps and brings her own elbow down hard on the back of his head. He crumples to the floor. I taught her to do that.

"Come on!" I follow. 

I love vaults. Each one is different. You never know what people will put inside. Some are bare, lackluster, and grey. Six slabs of concrete. And a pile of something in the center. Others are posh enough you'd be able to live in them. Comfortably. Painted, carpeted, with a pedestal and glass cover. But they all have one thing in common. They all have something that their owners think is irreplaceable. But after we're gone, they always somehow manage to replace it. Always.

"What's wrong with you tonight?" She trots up and snaps a recalcitrant red curl back into its place in the ponytail. The back of her ponytail is an explosion of unruly curly hair. She is concerned, but her sharp blue eyes also ask if we can't talk about whatever I'm thinking about later. Which is fine by me. I don't like talking. Bloody waste of time. I nod. She smiles. We're off again.

Its just a small piece of metal with some numbers on it. But its worth a small fortune to someone. Our special brand of services don't come cheap. Individually we're all worth our weight in gold. I can take out any guard and not break a sweat. Lionel is one of the best pilots, when he can be made to stay seated long enough to fly. And Gwen. Well she's something entirely different. She flips the tablet over. And then she does it. It scares me when she does it. I have to hold my breath. I don't know why but I do. I guess I'm scared I'll distract her. Break her concentration. If it had been me, I wouldn't have known what to make of the waving lines etched on the back of the metal plate. 

But she. She takes them and using those brilliant sapphire blue eyes and her amazing mind, transforms them. And she begins to do it. She begins to read. And it sends shivers down my spine. I can't imagine anyone being able to do that. Change something without changing it. Locking meaning and thoughts inside of lines. I'd say its magic if I didn't know better. Her soft, pink lips move in whispered tones as the meaning starts to surface. 

"Interesting." She breathes as she pick it up and hands it to me. "Makes sense why he'd want us to steal it. I'm almost tempted to just keep it."

"If you do we won't get the payment. Or the reward." Her eyes don't leave it until I say, "And we won't get the Guildhouse points."

"You're right, of course." She puts it back in my sachel with a sigh of regret, "Its a pity. But we can't risk losing our position. He's so close behind us!"

I don't have to ask who he is. He is the boy. The one who we've been neck in neck with. The one who has risen so quickly it scares all of us. We make up excuses. We say its because he's getting preferential treatment. All because of who his daddy was. But we know its not true. He has to be good if he's completing the missions that fast. Really good. 

"Well hopefully this will put us well ahead of him." She clenches her teeth. This isn't the way its supposed to be. I'm supposed to be the angry quiet one. She's supposed to be the one talking. She can't expect me to talk. The silence becomes thick. As we make our way back through the gaping hole she still doesn't say anything but her cheeks are flushing red and her teeth are clenched. 

I walk behind her, absentmindedly kicking a guard trying to rise up. We reach the access hatch and she grabs hold of the rope and vigorously starts to hoist herself up, as if the rope were his neck. She really hates him. As I grab the rough fibers, I look up at her form flowing up the rope towards where Lionel and Bedivere would be waiting. We don't get a lot of missions alone anymore. Things are too complex and take too many other players when you're this close to the top. 

As she disappears up the hatch I start to climb up. I hoist myself going slowly at first when I feel it. The hand wrapping around my ankle with a vice-like. I think to myself, what an idiot, as I prepare to kick with the other foot. But instead of the satisfying crunch of face, I feel the nerves and bones in my foot ring as it makes contact with the metal surface. I look down and see the scanner on the robot's face. 

"Intruder will halt." 

I don't think so. I strain and pull, raising the entire thing up with me. I silently thank my father for all the squats he made me do. This is where it shows. As the thing leaves the ground I grit my teeth and angle it towards the rebar that sticks out of the opening we made earlier. One quick push in the right spot and I'd be free. And somehow as I'm thinking of how I should have made another check before grabbing the rope and how I should have looked before I kicked and possibly broke a toe or two, I also start to think. To think how I should have taken this chance. This chance when it was just the two of us. When she asked me what was wrong. I should have told her. But I didn't. I never do. 

There is a sudden sound of metal meeting metal and the thing falls off. But as I look I don't see rebar but instead its a thick titanium axe sticking out of its sensorboard as it falls. I look up and see Bedivere's scruffy face. He always has our backs. We'd have never made it this far if it weren't for him. Especially me. He's the only one I told. Because I didn't have to. Because he already knew. 

He's hoisting me up now, probably because he thinks I broke my foot when I kicked it. I probably did if he thinks so. But his hoisting is something else. Its a message. You have to be faster, he says as he pulls on the rope. You have to draw closer and open up, or soon it will be too late. I wonder what he would mean by hoisting like that. But I don't ask. I won't and he knows. 

"Thanks." I mutter as I meet his same blue eyes for a moment. 

They ask me if I understand. I look down and mine say no. 

"Well next time don't be so goddamn reckless!" He shouts as he stomps away, which means, yes I do understand. 

And as the ship speeds off and Gwen tells the details to Lionel of what the back of the tablet says and Bedivere has to wrestle Lionel back into the pilot seat he's getting so excited. As all this happens I look out at the planet far below and wonder if he is right and if I do understand. I know it has something to do with the next mission. About stealing the sphere from the boys team. But more than that, I know it has something to do with the boy himself. No, I guess I should start calling him the man. After all, he'll eventually be a man, won't he. And when he is, when I see him as that, when Gwen sees him as that, how will things change. Maybe that's what Bedivere means. Maybe that's why I have to hurry. But deep down something wet and dark and lonesome whispers, what if its too late already. I look at that red head of exploding curls and hear that laugh and ache and curse the starts I were born under. 

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