Go read Box: Detach instead!
I was looking down on the warehouse from the third-floor platform right outside my office when Leki came by to join me. It was ripe after sunrise, and every last Aerilosac downstairs were moving like busy ants trying to re-order everything for tomorrow. Larius is sending his thrall down to inspect the wares tomorrow, and we could not have this Compound look like a dumpster when he arrives.
Though, I suppose it would not matter at all.
"I brought you hotdogs." Leki sighed when he saw the pensive look on my face, raising a three bags of my favourite food in front of me. "It was good serving under you."
"Was it? You can always be honest with me, Leki."
"Of course it was. You are the best Commanding Officer I'd ever had the opportunity to serve under." As he said that, he handed me two bags while he chomped through the contents of the third one. I scowled at him. "What? You thought I brought all that for you? You're going to have to pay for it one of these days."
I smirked. "You are my subordinate. You must do everything I order you to do, or I will retire you to the Lyosa for discipline punishment."
"Alright, fine, but you will pay for it once. My wallet's running dry and I barely have enough money to pay for my own meals."
"You could warp back up to the Lyosa for a free meal any time you want. The gate is down there."
"I could, but I would much rather have Earth food. Either you have to raise my allowance or I will starve to death." Leki joked.
"Then perish." I pointed out absentmindedly as I heard Lyla coming up from behind me. It was more than likely that she would try to jump-scare me, so I turned around to whack her on the head before she could do so. She winced and cowered back like a scared cat, and I squinted at her pathetic attempt to elicit some guilt from me. Then, she scoffed and pouted at me.
"You're no fun. You used to always fall for the jump-scares." She complained.
"Times change, Lyla. I can learn and adapt to you no matter the situation at hand," I said.
As we said that, there was a moment of silence between all three of us. No one could see us from below, and no one else was on the third floor with us.
I could not resist giving them both a wicked grin, and they returned the favour.
Before someone could notice, I turned back to lean on the steel fencing to stare down at two Aerilosac technicians rushing through the maze of crates and boxes.
"Has my belongings vacated the office yet?" I asked. Leki nodded and stood off to my right while Lyla stood by my left. "And how about the shopping list? Has your final duty been completed yet?"
"It is done, Commanding Officer." Lyla stepped back and gave me a much too formal salute, and I laughed before pulling her closer to me by her thin arms. She yelped when I dragged her in, and she tried to wrestle away from my grasp by slapping me in the face.
At that single moment, I contemplated chucking her off the side of the fence and down into the storage area, but that would destroy the precious wares that my subordinates spent their time neatly organizing. I was not that cold hearted a person to destroy their hard-work.
Instead, I let her slap whirl me around along with the momentum, and I touched my face to swipe off the wet paper she had passed to me when my cheek was facing the hallway to my office. I quickly pocketed the slip of paper and whirled back around to lean on the fence like nothing had ever happened. She beamed at me, and my heart throbbed.
That was no persona.
"Was that exactly necessary?" I asked dubiously. Lyla shook her head happily.
"I thought so. Leki, how are the preparations?"
Leki gave me a wistful smile. "It has been done. Preparations for after you leave this Compound has all been set up. Don't worry. We'll take good care of this Division after you leave."
"I wonder if the both of you will stay as Officers, or if they will assign new ones to replace you." I mused as I tapped my foot impatiently on the metal platform. "You will have to work hard to regain their favour after they take over."
"We will. This is our oath to you." Lyla said, draping a hand over my shoulder chummily. I allowed her show of affection for once, and sighed at their easygoingness.
"Do not grow complacent," I warned.
"We know," they both said.
"Do not forget your strengths."
"Do not give each other up."
"And do your best to help the new insurgents get used to their positions, okay? Do not go against them. Fit in and do everything you can to assist them," I said as I drew out two fistfuls of Orbsic crystals, and crushed them into specks of hovering dust. "It will turn out well for everyone like that."
"Understood." Lyla and Leki stood off to the side as I jumped atop the steel fencing, balancing both my feet perpendicular to the fence. It was an easy enough feat while pushing on the Orbsic crystals I held in my hand. Even Lyla should be able to do so without much trouble.
I turned around to look at my oldest friend-slash-assistant-slash-bodyguard before I jumped down to make my announcement.
"Lyla," I said, eyes twitching at what I was about to do. This was, in some ways, more nerve-wracking than the plan that could end my life. While I may be strong, the success of this plan will depend on my ability to be trustworthy. If I cannot win that over, then I would be forced to do the brunt of the work myself, and alone. That would be the worst-case scenario, and the threat of death would be uncomfortably high. On the contrary, if I can manage to earn their trust, then my chances of success will skyrocket.
If the worst-case scenario does happen, then I needed to make sure I had something to look forward to immediately after.
I took a quick and shallow breath, and decided to just say it out loud.
"Do you want to go out on a date with me after this?"
And Lyla blinked.
There it was. The smile fading away as the fade is dropped once again. It must be tiring keeping it up.
Then, she nodded her head meekly.
Yes. I have done it. That was terrifying.
I gave her an anxious half-smile, and then I walked off the side of the fence.
I allowed myself to plummet for half a second before I pushed off of the golden specks of dust orbiting my entire body like planets to a star, which certainly garnered the attention I had wanted to get from all the Aerilosacs visible. That included the technicians, the engineers, the two medics staring at me from the second-floor platform drinking cocoa, and everyone who was busy trying to clean everything up before tomorrow arrived.
My Division, the Chicago Division, numbered in sixty-one. The middle Division in terms of numbers when compared to all five Divisions on Earth. I took a quick swiping glance of the entirety of the warehouse to see that there were about fifty or so Aerilosacs all in view. I chose the correct time to make my announcement, then. The only ones that are not here in the warehouse should only be the ones that are still locking this area down.
I could call them back.
But one way or the other, it did not really matter.
"Attention." I fanned out my right hand and spread the ground-up dust horizontally until it covered over the heads of the Aerilosacs below as a fabrication of a ceiling. Of course, I made it thin enough that they could still see my face clearly. At that instant, the spotlights hanging above next to Lyla and Leki began projecting radiant beams of light all around my hovering body, and refracted through the specks of dust like how a rainbow would be formed.
Though, it was just a single, brilliant shade of gold.
Everyone ceased their duties to look up at me.
"To the ones planning to ingratiate yourselves to Larius tomorrow night, I commend your brilliance." I did not need to shout. There was never any need for one to shout if everyone focused on listening instead of needlessly talking over each other. I raised my volume by another slight fraction when I wanted the guards at the warehouse doors to also hear me clearly. "I admit my defeat."
There was no sound. As I had expected, the insurgents would not give themselves away so easily. They were smart. They would not attack me and risk casualties if they could simply wait it out.
That was the plan, after all. I scanned the faces of the forty or so Aerilosacs on the first floor all scattered in between the crates of technology, ignoring the other ten on the second floor who were all leaning against their fences to study me.
They might even have expected me to surrender now. There was realistically no way for me to beat them. They had the wares, and if they simply held out until after I am dismissed, they can feign ignorance and retrieve the wares from the Raixiens. Surely that would earn them a higher standing.
"I have no plans to talk things out with you, whoever you are. I do not know your numbers. I do not know your extent of influence." That was not true. At the very least, I knew their influence did not reach past the border of the Americas. That was basically a given.
Insurgencies work via the element of surprise. They did manage to catch me off guard. It was only when the wares were stolen by that Raixien did I suspect anything unusual about my subordinates. When executed correctly, they can take down even the strongest of oppositions. The same goes for the Aerilosac.
"I hereby submit to you. You need not stand out now. It is none of my business, nor is it my right to know which of you sow the seeds of mutiny. Therefore, I have one final request to make of you all, not as a Commanding Officer, but as an Aerilosac with the pride and honour of such."
There were those beneath me that looked visibly shocked. Some had their mouths open. Others were indifferent, and even kept on working away without allowing one about to lose his one and only opportunity in life to express his final words.
I counted discreetly the number of Aerilosac continuing to move as if nothing ever happened, and grimaced to myself. I was sure Leki and Lyla were doing the same thing.
It was more than I had thought. Add an additional assumed number of five Aerilosacs into their ranks, and nearly all forty of the ground workers turned out to be insurgents after all. This might not turn out so well after all. I wondered whether their reasons were all the same. It was not like I did not pay attention to what my subordinates talk about me behind my back. I know full well the rumours that had been spreading on Earth ever since the Divisions were established with questionable Commanding Officers.
We children cannot lead.
To some extent, that was the truth. When our people can live up to five centuries and still retain most of our motor functions, it was difficult to imagine why mere children were given the task of running the five Divisions on Earth. We underwent the same training, the same tests, and all five of us completed it with flying scores. Yet, while we had the right to become Commanding Officers, we had not the experience to go with it. It was easy to understand why most of the older Aerilosac would be discontent with the current arrangement. They would not dare argue against Larius, so the next best thing to do was to plot an insurgency against me.
And that was the case here. The few that had given me a reaction were the younger additions to the Division. The two medics, half of the technicians, one engineer, and the guard assigned to the west-most gate. Save for Lyla and I, they were the only ones here under fifty years of age. Hopefully, they were not masking their deceit as well. It would be well and truly over for the Division if there was no one alive by tomorrow night.
I did not blame the insurgents for trying to overthrow me. There was no difference between me and them. They felt like they deserved higher positions. They did not want to be lorded over by a child.
I smirked. Was I that unbearable of a leader?
"I ask you to allow me one last trip to Twelve-Minute's Diner for my final meal as a Commanding Officer. One trip without surveillance," I said, panning my head to look at the Aerilosacs on the second-floor platform as well. "One trip without interruption, and when I return, I will personally warp up to the Lyosa to inform Larius of the chain of command. You can decide what to do while I grab myself a hotdog."
When no one said anything - either to stop me or ask questions - I continued.
"You will find that my office has been cleared out. I implore the next Commanding Officer to take care of the flooring. Water will easily rot the mahogany."
Then, I dropped myself down and landed on the hard concrete floor, and rubbed at my thighs tiredly. I ignored the wandering gazes that I felt lock onto me from nearly every direction. It hurt trying to hold myself in the air for that long. It was just hovering, and even that tired me more than I thought it would.
The wares - if their description was not high exaggerated by that cheeky scientist - suddenly piqued my interest, more so than ever before. It would give versatility to every individual Aerilosac, even the trackers who could hardly manipulate the crystals without breaking a bone like Lyla.
If it was a success, then it may even be mass cultivated, produced and distributed to all five Aerilosac warships plus the Mothership. That annoying scientist would finally get the recognition he yearned for so much.
I decided to walk out from the main entrances instead of hovering out for theatrical purposes. It was easier to see the faces of every Aerilosac that I passed by. Most of them did not give me any stray looks, completely drawn in by their work. They could barely even look me in the face, but I knew that they were smiling deep within. They had practically won.
As for the ones who did respectfully part their ways, they dipped their heads and allowed me to leave without further disturbance to me. I smiled and nodded my thanks to them, and made sure to remember each and every last one of their faces. Not that I had forgot them in the first place.
Even if some of them were lying to me, it would not matter.
I strode through the gate and into the open Chicago air, and that was when I felt the lingering stares drift away from me.
Finally. It seemed like the insurgents are allowing me a moment of reprieve. That would be their mistake again.
I pulled out the wet piece of paper Lyla smacked me with, and sighed at the unconceivable location she had scribbled onto it. Just seeing that name pop up again made my head spin around in circles. This entire ordeal was truly something stripped out of an Earth movie, with all the damnable coincidences and whatnot.
Southeast Unity Church, one enemy tracker disabled.
When I do return, I really should give her some credit for being able to tell that from such a distance. Every Aerilosac assigned in this Division has a tracker in their left forearm. The instant one is removed, a notification should have been sent to me via my phone. The fact that I had not received one also meant that one of the smiling technicians was an insurgent as well. Oh well.
Then, I pulled out the detonator in my left pocket and clicked it absentmindedly, before wondering in which direction the Southeast Unity Church was. While I had memorised this area's layout in extreme detail, it was hard to recall exactly where it was when the glass panes in the warehouse behind were shattering into a million pieces. I fanned out a wave of crystals to stop myself from being sliced, and decided to walk in one direction whether it was the right one or not.
Whether I was heading the right way, it was better than staying at a place where the walls could potentially crumbled onto me. I did not bother turning around to see the precious Chicago Division Compound burst into golden flames. I could hear the Aerilosacs scrambling around inside to try to get everything under control, judging by the heavy footsteps from within. The second-floor platform should also be burning, but the flames should not spread up to the third-floor, where my office was.
Then I cringed and whirled around when I heard a loud boom coming from above, and watched with fretful eyes at my office windows exploding outwards. I hurried away before the glass shards could rain down on me and entered into the forest path connected to the main road. I checked my phone and began to countdown from fifteen minutes. That is the maximum time I will allow myself before I had to leave for the secondary hideout.
Looking at the flames rising out from the top and sides of the warehouse, I imagine it would only take about ten minutes for the Aerilosacs to extinguish it all with no loss of life. They would spend most of that time saving the wooden crates before anything else, and that meant they would not prioritize chasing after me first. Everyone will need to pitch in in order to keep the wares safe. Perhaps they would dispatch three of four insurgents to chase after me.
I turned around and took a glance at the trees and cobblestone path behind me, littered with glass shards and spurts of golden fire. No, it did not seem like they sent anyone after me. A wise choice.
Then it was time for me to remove my tracker.
I pulled up golden crystals to form a gauntlet around my fingertips, then got to digging with any further thought. I only flinched a little when blood began to flow out from the wound, but it really did not hurt as much humans make it out to be in their movies. Within seconds, my claws made contact with the metal of the tracker, and I ripped it out without hesitation. My nerves tingled from mutilating my own forearm, but I had already known where the tracker was, right below the wrists. I did not damage any of the major arteries from the looks of it.
I palmed the circular metal and tossed it onto the floor. It would be discovered sooner or later, but it did not matter. I took out a bandage wrap and began to wrap it around my openly bleeding arm, careful not to get it tangled into the seams of my flesh. It would be an annoyance if I had to forcefully yank it out later today.
Assuming Lyla and Leki followed my orders, they should be helping the insurgents put out the fire, so I did not have to worry about those two getting killed even after I disappear for a day. If Leki makes a good enough impression, perhaps he would even keep his position as an Officer. He is an old one, after all. Besides, he would definitely vouch for Lyla, so I know that they will live at least for another day.
I emerged onto the open road and immediately saw the white church building on the far corner of the road. I decided to fully sprint through the curious onlookers staring at the ashy smoke rise beyond the trees. Ah. I also had not thought of humans calling the firefighters over. Maybe that would buy some more time for me while they try to disguise everything in urgency.
Because of that, nobody paid me any mind when I ran past them. They were all too focused on the burning warehouse in the distance.
I arrived at the doorstep to the church, and flinched the moment I set foot onto the stairs.
There was someone below me, screaming. It was faint, almost unnoticeable if one did not stick his ear to the ground, but I was aware. There had to be reason the Raixiens called the Aerilosac here. It must be a trap for him, and I suppose the screaming is currently coming from the suffering Aerilosac.
That was what the insurgents did not account for. Their plan would have been truly brilliant if they had factored in the Raixiens fighting back. They must have felt confident in their own ability to oppress them into doing their deeds if that was the case, and so, they did not think they might make a move first. They dropped their guard, only sent one lone Aerilosac to meet with the Raixiens, and now the unfortunate soldier must be being tormented downstairs.
I pushed open the door to the church.
There was no one else in the main hall. I had been in here countless numbers of times during my own free time, but never had I seen the church so devoid of life.
No, that is not true.
As I walked in, an elderly woman walked out from underneath a doorway behind the altar of fallen candles, holding a brass coin in her hand. I could see it clearly because she flipped it once in the air, caught it in between her hairs, and smirked when she peeked down at it. It was an unusual sight, but what was more unusual was when she trudged towards the left of the wooden benches and towards a wall.
I knew that it was a door contraption before she even pushed on it, and I squinted at the old woman. She had jet-black hair and was wearing a tight-fitting white jacket, along with matching white shoes that did not seem to be from the same era as everyone else on Earth. It seemed ancient, what with the brass lacings interwoven all over. It made my blood race in apprehension.
Why would that be?
And as if the woman had sensed my cautiousness, she looked over and smiled.
It was not something I had expected from a person such as her, and I took an involuntary step back.
The woman tilted her head as if in recognition of me, before she shrugged and entered into the newly appeared stairs headed downstairs.
It took me a second, but I followed her since she did not seem to care about me discovering the secret stairs anyways, and heard the screaming once again, this time from a younger boy. About my age, I presumed. It was a bloodcurdling scream that made my senses jolt up in alertness, and I hopped down the stone stairs without any worries for safety. My blood pumped in anticipation of the fight I was about to be met with, though I cared not for the fight itself.
The basement was dark, and so I could not make much out of it, but the same old woman was laying on the floor with a bloody hole in her chest, with a dark-haired boy crying over her. I sucked in a deep breath through my nostrils and glared at the golden soldier standing dead centre in the middle of the room, and he stumbled into a chair as he tried to back away from me.
I recognized him. He was one of my soldiers sent to lockdown the area.
Without any further notice, I shot up a single hand and clawed at the air. The two golden blades of crystals flying at a girl behind him - the same Raixien that I had chased yesterday - stopped, and my blood began to bubble and boil at the sight of the human woman dead on the floor.
The Aerilosac winced and leapt back, his crystals following his body as he tried to back away from me.
I was briefly aware that there was another person in the room with us, one besides the boy crying over the old woman and the slumped girl on the other end of the room. I knew he was there because it prickled at my skin, much like it did back when I was chasing the girl. Could he be on my left? Shrouded in shadow, I could not see for sure, but there definitely was another person harbouring killing intent in here with us.
"Commander," the Aerilosac said nervously as he took a step back. "I am-"
I did not care about talking.
The golden crystals that were formed in a moon-shape stopped moving. I made a fist and pushed over his control of the crystals, and yanked the blades over to me. While I had brought my own crystals for defensive purposes, I needed to strip away his methods of attack lest he harmed more innocent civilians.
It was quick and simple. I flicked my fingers at him - and subsequently, the golden blades that he had already constructed for me - before he could even try to resist against the crystals. Three blades the size of his entire body cut into him near simultaneously and passed through him. He dropped to the floor in six clean, separate pieces, and I carefully deconstructed the crystal blades and whisked them into my pockets so as to avoid harming the unconscious girl on the other side of the ride.
If it were not so dark in the room, even I might have felt disgusted by the Aerilosac's painless evisceration.
Then all was quiet. The wails had stopped sometime during my arrival, the sobbing from the boy kept muffled on the old woman's unmoving chest, and the girl continued to slump on the floor. Was she dead?
My eyes twitched when the air seemed to part ways all around me, and I snapped my bandaged hand up to catch a kitchen knife right between my fingers, the tip dangerously close to my ear.
It was a good throw full of power. And the one who threw it was another figure cloaked in the shadows with only dim purple eyes that revealed his presence. I took a step back when he charged out at me with bare fists, confused by what I was seeing.
The boy kneeling looked up at me, but that was not right. The boy was also charging at me.
I allowed the boy to duck down into a tackling position, not caring if he actually did so or not. Just before reaching me, however, the boy suddenly stopped and jumped to the side with a terrified look on his face, his jaw clenching and unclenching as he studied me from head to toe.
Why did he stop there?
"What?" He was hardly even looking at me as he said that, his eyes slowly beginning to refocus on the dead women next to him and the girl on the other side of the room. He seemed to be debating within himself - again, the room was dark. Did they turn off the lights for dramatic effects? - and not before long, he decided to rush over to the girl instead of the boy. The other one who shared his face.
He huffed and puffed as he rolled the girl over on her back, and pulled up her hand to reveal a horrifically large hole in the middle of her palm, blood leaking out of it like a faulty water-pipe. He looked around frantically for anything he could use to stop the bleeding, and not once did he address me after the initial knife throw, completely focused on trying to save the girl.
I stalked forward slowly, ignoring the boy who had now gone utterly silent now, and the boy did not care for me. He was whispering something to the girl, but I could not make out his words. There were bloody tears rolling down his cheeks, and I decided to cough. For a second, his eyes shot up to meet mine, and I froze at his instant transition from worry to ferocity.
Then he went back to gathering tools around the room, which was when I finally spoke.
"I can help her." I knelt down next to the girl and placed a finger over her neck to check for a pulse. It was weak, but she was not too far gone just yet. The boy seemingly teleported right back next to me to shove me out of the way, but I blocked his grab with an elbow and gently nudged him away, and he collapsed onto the floor, his legs giving out before his will to kill me did.
He did not try to interrupt me any further as I pulled out a large stream of crystals, twirling in the air, and condensed the stream into a hexagonal cube that fit just right into the palm of her hand, which I laid onto the floor underneath a light beam so I could get a closer look. I let go of the cube and pulled on it until it was right in the middle of the wound, before I clasped my hand together in a prayer.
The boy squinted at my peculiar gesture.
I pulled my hands apart tenderly, and the individual streams of the hexagonal cube shot outwards, piercing through the insides of her flesh to form a mesh layer of gold that filled up the hole. The girl flinched unconsciously, and I motioned for the dumfounded boy to help hold her body down.
There were still tiny shards stuck in her hand, and they were lodged quite deep inside. I had sensed it when the streams entered her hand, so I pinched two fingers together and stringed them out piece by piece as the girl continued to writhe around in agony. The boy struggled to stop her from moving around, but eventually, I removed all the remnant shards that were not part of the mesh layer of crystals.
The bleeding slowed down. To finish the bandage, I pulled out another fistful of ground up crystals and sprinkled it in between the wound, then clapped my hands together again. The dust congealed, and the bleeding stopped completely as the crystals absorbed all the blood attempting to leak out.
It was done.
The boy was still cradling her hand in complete disbelief. I stood and turned around to see that the other boy praying, his eyes clamped shut while muttering incomprehensibly fast. There was nothing I could have done for the old woman. She was pierced through the chest, and there was only so much the crystals can do for a non-Aerilosac.
I let the two conscious boys calm down for exactly thirty seconds before I knelt back down to look at the girl, whose breathing seemed to have stabilized.
"We will need to go," I said, and the boy stared at me.
"Where?" he rasped, voice hoarse and bleeding from his glistening eyes. Could that be a side effect to their ability? "Where do we go?"
"To my secondary hideout. None of the insurgents know where it is, so we will be safe there for now."
"I have to trust you," he gulped heavily.
"Yes. Yes, you do."
"You also want the crate, right? The ones we stole?"
Hm. He had asked about it right before I could.
"Yes, we will need to bring it with us," I said.
"Then let's go."
The boy stood up and quickly darted over to a box I had previously seen hiding in the corner of the room, the wooden lid unhinged and exposed to the air. Had the Aerilosac detected residual crystals in the wares and used it to break free from his bindings? Judging by the black duct tape severed neatly around the toppled chair, it seemed to be the case.
He and I dragged the crate over to the unconscious girl, and I pried open the lid fully, silently relieved that the wares within had not been tarnished or removed. The thin fabric of the yellow shirts remained neatly stacked atop each other, though the stack at the far end of one corner was slightly misplaced. That must have been where the crystals were deposited, mandatory placement for every ware that arrives to our Division Compound.
The boy and I had the exact same idea, and he pushed down on the clothes lightly to make more space while I picked up the girl from the ground - she was heavy at all, thankfully - and placed her into the box. I had to tuck in her legs so she could fit, and once I felt that she was secure and would not fall out of the box, I placed the lid over her and nailed it back shut with a few crystal shards.
While I tried to find a solid handhold onto the base of the wooden crate, the boy ran over to the second boy and whispered in his ear. Both identical twins looked at me discretely while I drew more crystals to the back of my arms to give me strength to carry the entire crate by hand. Even with the crate and the girl within, it was not too heavy. I should be able to run for at least ten minutes before tiring myself up.
"She will be discovered soon. A human, correct?" I asked to the boy next to the fallen women.
"Yes, but she won't be discovered by the police," he whispered.
"The Aerilosac will not desecrate her body. They will likely keep it and hide it away from law enforcement. Her family will look for her, but they will never find it. All hints of a death would be erased, and she will vanish from the face of this earth," I said bluntly, and the once sobbing boy nodded.
"Good. I can 'erase' their deaths, too, then."
"Yes, you can," I simply replied. I allowed the boy a final prayer for the old woman, before he got to his feet drunkenly and looked at the crate in my hand. "Follow me, and I will bring you to my hideout."
And together, as a three person group along with the unconscious girl in the crate, we left the basement of the church and back to the surface world.
We had about five more minutes before I estimated the insurgents would be able to regroup and recollect themselves. I seriously doubted anyone of them would have died in that blast, considering it was only set to distract, but it would serve me well if several insurgents had died in the process. It would not be wise to bet on them taking any longer, so I hurried the two boys across the street from the church, and with my crate in hand, we sprinted along the rather empty morning road and towards my secondary hideout.
As we ran, I eyed the two boys by my side. They both had blood dripping from their eyes - so it was not an illusion - and were breathing raggedly from their fight with the Aerilosac. Truthfully, I had not expected any of them to survive. The fact that there was only one human casualty was amazing. Though they were Raixiens, there was a reason their planet fell just like every other. Only an Aerilosac can beat another Aerilosac in a direct fight, and numbers do not mean much to us.
The insurgent that I killed back there was one of the older ones in my Division, and as such, had experience dealing with multiple enemies. He had also likely participated in one of the previous conquests of Larius, so there was no chance that the Raixiens could have beat him without a ranged weapon. Knives do not do much. That they managed to survive for who knows how long before I arrived means they were all extremely capable.
And they were still running like nothing was wrong. They hid their eyes from any civilians by periodically rubbing them whenever we got close, and I grimaced at them both. They were mostly uninjured physically, but it seemed that they were plagued with some sort of sickness. They made it a point to run at both my sides, and whenever they glanced by each other, they coughed and started to run off track as if they were shot by a tranquilizer dart.
It was not the time to be asking questions, though. The boy on my right needed to mourn, and the other needed to rest. His eyes were in far worse condition than his counterpart.
"Why are we here?" the boy on the right asked when I led them into a restaurant, the same one where I had first met the girl thief yesterday. It was still early in the morning, and so the waiters and waitresses scowled at me in recognition of the minor troubles I had caused yesterday. I ignored them all, carefully walked in between the tables without bumping anyone with the large crate I held in a bear hug, and winked to the short-haired cashier standing behind the counter.
The stout man nodded and smiled, before he raced off to the back of the restaurant to unlock the electrical room for us. The waitresses frowned when I squeezed the crate into the room, beckoned the Raixiens into the tight space, and slammed the door behind us, plunging us into darkness once again.
"What is this?" One of the boys hissed, and I did not respond. I dumped the wares over to the two of them, who fumbled at its sudden weight, and stomped the floor once. The boys yelped at the unexpected drop in altitude, the two landing on their asses while still holding onto the box tightly. I, on the other hand, walked away from my original position and towards the light switch.
I flicked it on, and the room buzzed before coming to life.
I had not been in this room for quite some time now. I do not remember using it even once in the two years I had been here, so I was glad that the elevator function in the restaurant above still operated perfectly.
Once a room where the electrical boxes hung off the wall boringly, now was a living room sized hideout where I had Leki place my sofa, desk and chair, computer, fans and two beds, along with countless other small souvenirs I had picked up here and there from my trips to Chicago. I did not really care to ask how Leki had moved the sofa into here, considering I had only asked him to do so yesterday in a hurry. Perhaps he broke in at midnight to sneak it in here.
I grabbed the lid of the crate and tore it open, knowing that staying in that box would surely not be good for her long term health, even though there were small air holes on the lid.
Then, I let the two boys take care of their own. As they moved quickly and tiredly, I walked around the hideout and let myself relax for a bit. By this time, the insurgents should have fully extinguished the flames, and is now explaining things to the firefighters that should be confused at how the many civilian reports of a fire was wrong. They would spend the next two days setting up the new hierarchy assuming they did not want Lyla and Leki to stay as Officers, but they would still continue to have a lookout for me and the Raixiens.
I trusted that Leki and Lyla would somehow earn their favour and stay alive.
If they can manage to do that, then right now, there should be a large force dedicated to searching us out.
Their plan required them to have the wares by tomorrow night when Larius sends his inspector, after all. It would not matter if they overthrew me without having the wares secured. It would mean they were unfit to lead, and would be discarded away and replaced. Thus, I did not mind letting them be leaders of the Division for a day if I could get away with the stolen wares.
That meant allying with the Raixiens. They would be in a hurry to find us before tomorrow night, so they would be hasty and desperate, or else they would at least lose their leaders. While the insurgency may not be culled even after Larius replaces the new Commanding Officer and his Officers, they would not want that to happen, either.
Because these insurgents care for one another. That much was obvious. If they do not care, then they would have directly stolen the wares and tried to overthrow me by force. No need for secrecy. They would lose a few lives, but they would eventually bring me down. However, they did not do that, and would rather minimize casualties by playing the waiting game. Which is why they will frantically search for us, and why they will be less prepared than usual.
The two boys finally pushed the girl onto one of the beds, and I noted the crystal mesh bandage that I had plugged her wound with had grown entirely crimson red. Then, one of the boys sat by the far corner of the room, tucked in between the oak cabinet, and began to sob quietly. The other boy took his seat on the girl's bed, and watched as I sat across from him in my desk chair.
After all this.
I finally got to meet a true-blooded Raixien.