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    Stellar
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental. Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 

Hidden Sunlight - 4. Illusive Intent

The GSPI data turned out to be stored in a portable micro-disk stub, a small grey rectangle of metal only an inch wide and perhaps triple that long. A connector plug was at one end and the side of the casing was covered by military-style font, the label 'COPY #2' etched heavily into the metal. Lily didn't care for the appearance of the thing, but her excitement was almost palpable as she took the tiny chunk of technology from Konstantin and connected it to her office computer.

"Honestly," she said, sounding a little out of breath, "I was worried enough about you returning that I didn't stop to think that you might actually find what I wanted. Thrilled would be a good way to describe how I feel right now."

Konstantin's lopsided smile spoke volumes, as he lowered himself wearily into one of the other office chairs, but it was his glance to me before he spoke that was more telling. When we had arrived back, he hadn't mentioned the altercation with León. It was a careful reminder not to say anything. Yeah, I get it. She doesn't need to stress about that right now. This is the Big Thing of the moment. "Rightfully so, dearest. I don't think any of us could be happier, there's much to be learned."

Nodding in response, she explored the contents of the stub as we looked on. A single archive was present, but as soon as Lily opened it, a prompt appeared on the screen.

Gillespie-Salford Data Preservation Utility v1.47
To proceed with extraction and decryption of selected data,
please first execute the primary archive labelled: "COPY #1"

The room was silent for a good ten seconds as this sank in. She turned to him, the Russian now frowning. "Dimi, please tell me you have COPY #1?"

"Well, I- I ... don't know," he tried. He looked again at me, his eyebrows knitting together in bafflement, a thick finger coming up to up to scratch his sideburns in bewildered contemplation. "We didn't find anything else. This was it. I didn't know another part was needed. Shay, did you see anything?"

I was already thinking. I hadn't seen anything in the first floor offices and the only real information I had gotten was from the computer I'd used on the second floor, the email from 'Mike'. He wrote it was upstairs in the lockers, exactly where Konstantin found it. There wasn't anything else except ... oh. Then I remembered the precise wording that he had used, all in caps and followed by a train of exclamations: keep both copies, and we had brought back only one. Ah, fuck.

"Um, I read an old email which mentioned where they left this," indicating to COPY #2 plugged into Lily's computer, "that's how I knew where you had found it. It said something else though, something important about keeping both copies? There must be another half to it."

"And of course, we don't have it." She seemed so deflated at the realisation and I instantly felt bad for her. "So what happens next?"

We both looked at Konstantin for an answer. "I don't know. We need to think about this, what to do about it I mean." He sighed, exhaling air noisily in frustration and he leaned back into the chair. "Chyort! Never as simple as it appears, eh? One thing is for sure, the thinking can wait some time. The world will not fall any further apart if we stop, and I certainly need to relax. Shay, you are, what, thirteen or fourteen? Fifteen maybe?"

"Fourteen."

"Good enough. Well, your father may not be here so I will fill his shoes. Nevermind the unfinished outcome of today, it was your motivation that got us this far, so we shall honour that."

What is he talking about? I wasn't sure where this was leading. "What do you mean?"

"The traditional method in my family of saluting courage is a toast. You are a man today." He beamed across at me unabashedly, his mood already optimistic, relegating last minute's disappointment to remaining firmly in the past. "Tell me, have you ever tasted vodka before?

Oh. So that's what he meant. This could be ... interesting.

-o-0-O-0-o-

As I wandered along the border of the estate, a pleasant breeze had picked up, blowing in from the hills. It was late afternoon and despite the unexpected downturn in fortune, Konstantin's solution seemed to have worked. Well it wasn't really a solution but it sure did work. I giggled to myself, the coolness of the air creating a lovely contrast against the delicious filling warmth of alcohol.

He had cheerily pulled me into the kitchen, splashed a portion of clear liquid from a large unmarked bottle into two little glasses and then sat me down at the counter opposite him. Then the crash course in Russian custom. An uncontrollable grin broke out on my face as I thought back to his mannerisms. The clinking of glasses, the toast (a word in Russian that sounded to me something like 'nazdrovya') and the whole glass in a single swallow, something Konstantin was insistent upon -- "No sipping! Drink in one go!" -- followed by a boisterous laugh. When I was on Earth I'd been to Europe twice, but never further east than Germany. Even experiencing Konstantin's homeland vicariously through my imagination, on another planet about as far removed as it was possible to get hadn't dulled the excitement I felt. Or maybe it's just the vodka?

My thoughts were drifting along with my meandering shoes as I walked, as wayward as my steps and with just as much abandon. There weren't any physical barriers along the fence-line, the only ones on the property were to keep the animals enclosed. The previous day, Lily had explained to me just how the security fence worked. It was marked by a series of pylons, each one a thick metallic pole covered with electronic protrusions. The pylons were placed at periodic distances and at corners where the border changed direction. Sensors in the ground would detect if a humanoid was getting too close and then would act in three stages, based on the remaining distance between the intruder and the actual line of the border. The first and second stages would release an electrical discharge from capacitors in the two nearest pylons; Lily described these respectively as 'very uncomfortable' and then 'debilitating.' The third stage was multiple capacitors at maximum power combined with a flammable gaseous spray that would incinerate and electrocute anything that did reach the border. If you somehow managed to survive the zapping, you'd be barbecued for your troubles. Now that's a real deterrent.

Then my thoughts were back to physical sensations again. Fingertips trailed through the grass and I closed my eyes, feeling the wind ruffling my hair, lightly brushing across my face. If I forget about everything that's been happening, it's almost as if I could be at home. Safe, at home. On Earth, in a field somewhere, any field, on a harmless walk by myself.

Unworried, carefree.

"Shay?"

The voice was totally unexpected and for a split second I was paralysed by shock. She was standing just outside the range of the fence's proximity detection, timidly watching me from the shadow of a young oak. How can she be here?

"Sofia?!" I croaked. "Where did you come from?"

A dozen paces separated us as I stood by the pylon and she by the tree, though her voice was as melodious and clear as the last time I'd talked with her face to face. She looked downcast, maybe even guilty as if she had done something wrong. "I'm sorry, I just wanted to see you again." She looked away, embarrassed. "I-I didn't mean- ... my father, that is. I didn't know."

Her father? The bastard that thinks it's okay to hit someone when he doesn't get his way? I had to tell her this, whether she knew it or not. "Sofia, your father HURT my friend! We didn't do anything to him. He came after us."

"I know! I'm sorry. Truly! I never knew he was really like that. I wish he hadn't." She looked up again, making eye contact with me, then quickly adding: "He doesn't know I'm here. I swear, I didn't tell anyone. I thought you were dead."

It was odd to hear that from her, especially the worry in her voice. It stirred emotions that I couldn't quite identify as good or bad. That makes me feel really weird. More to the point though, how did she find me? "How did you get here?"

"By complete accident. I was walking the day before yesterday and came across this fence. I returned today to explore, but I didn't know you were here until I saw you just now." She bit her lip, the nervousness taking hold. "I'm sorry Shay. I wish you would believe me. I don't want to see you hurt."

The look on her face is genuine. The tinge of cheer from my toast with Konstantin hadn't quite made me silly. Not to the judgement-impaired stage anyhow. The thing is, do I trust her? In some ways, I already did. When I met her, she was already different, in my eyes, from her father and cousin. So the real question then becomes: do I trust my perception of her?

Tough question.

I tried to imagine others in my situation. What would Konstantin do? He'd be suspicious probably, I don't know if he would believe her. What about Mira? Well if he could follow the conversation, he would still do whatever was instinct anyway. Only I wasn't sure what my own mind and instinct were saying. Also, they haven't met her and don't have any history with her. Fantastic. This is getting me nowhere.

I took too long debating this in my head, as next thing Sofia was talking again. "Shay?" She looked up at the sky, the relief of hills and forest. "It will be getting dark soon, I can't stay. Please, can I come back here tomorrow afternoon to see you?"

My hesitation was small. I must have already decided, since my reactions did it automatically for me. "Okay," I said, "I'll be here."

"Okay." She replied back to me, a coy smile growing, dimples appearing. "I'll talk to you then." Taking a step back, she turned and stepped behind the tree, vanishing away into the forest.

Well that was unexpected.

Heading back to the house, I wondered where Mira was. It seemed he had realised that the estate was safe enough that he didn't feel the need to follow me around everywhere. All the same, I admitted to myself that I liked it. I hadn't really noticed how much until he wasn't there. Better though that he didn't see Sofia. Who knows how that would have gone?

Yeah, Sofia. Hopefully this wouldn't turn out to be a big mistake.

-o-0-O-0-o-

After the drama of the day's events, I was sure there wouldn't be anything more following Sofia's appearance. When I saw the look on Konstantin's face as he stepped into my bedroom later that evening, I knew we were in for another one of those conversations. The sort of conversation that tended to bring up questions I was going to find difficult. It wasn't quite the second he entered though, it was when he saw what was beside the bed.

Despite Mira being given his own room, during the night he had come into mine and constructed a nest on the floor. In a pool of fabric and pillow I had found him thoroughly tangled the next morning, limbs wrapped liberally through and around the bedding in the most expert of knots. It was those blankets that Konstantin noticed on his entrance.

"He was sleeping on the floor?" He asked, as he sat on the foot of the bed.

"Uh-huh." I nodded. Eyes wide, I stayed still, suddenly anxious and probably acting the part. Konstantin snorted softly. He can tell easily I'm sure.

"You know," he said, then pausing steadily for a dozen seconds, mustering the right words to go on, "not much was said about him in the start. I can see you aren't telling me everything." A lump of fear formed in my throat. Oh, boy. "Do not worry, I am not going to force answers from you. I would like to know why he is so different." Then a moment of thought, giving me a chance to respond.

I said nothing.

"He is very different too," he continued, the humour quickly shining through as he spoke. It was Konstantin's essence, a trademark of his. The inspiration of others to joy, his perennial happiness that burst out at random times, always managing to make me feel it. "The psychology of being a human is just as important to me as the biology, in many ways. How he acts? It seems like trauma maybe. Something very significant in his life. Am I close?"

Significant? Yeah, I'd say becoming a human was fairly significant. Still, no comment. Instead I averted my eyes, just a bit. Feels weird to hold eye contact when he knows there is something else going on.

"It's okay, I said I wasn't going to force answers. I haven't heard him speak a single word, of any language and his social skills seem closer to a young child than one your age. There are too many horrible things on Lucere that could destroy the minds of grown men, let alone someone as young as Mira. Yet," he mused, "I'm not even sure he's 'damaged' in any sense of the word. He seems quite sane and well-balanced to me, so whatever his history, it is either less remarkable than I suspect or well repressed. Do you want to hear my insight on how to deal with him?"

He knows I'm hiding something from him but still wants to offer advice. Without pressure. Right then I felt humbled that he could be so fair to me, so generous and understanding. Touched, I tried not to let the gratitude push me to cry, to keep up the veneer. "I want to," I said, hoarsely, clearing my throat;"um, I mean I do want to hear. Please."

"He forms strong bonds with people he builds a trust with, and this might be a very exclusive thing. In fact, unless his personality opens up and he talks, I very much doubt he will treat any others the way I have seen him treat you. To him, you hold a special place. Shay, that is important, but more so this next part." His smile flattened, becoming more somber. "Mira's interpretation of the world is physical. He will learn and understand it through his senses, and that exploration will be closely tied to his relationship to you. He will want to share that with you, I think; the joy and wonder and touch and sound. All the little things that make up his reawakening to being a normal person, he will want to involve you in any way he can. Do you see it?"

I nodded, dumbly. I ... never even thought of him like that. Maybe Konstantin doesn't know the full truth, but I think he's right. Oh wow, he is really perceptive. It was going to be hard to be dishonest with him after this, but I still had to protect myself. Have to keep some secrets, no matter how good they are to me.

"I hope you do, Mr Andersen." The smile was back. "You are his point of vulnerability. It would not take much for you to hurt Mira, but I do not think so. You will do right by him."

Unidentified feelings clawed inside me, the confusing intensity seeming to wrap itself in knots around my stomach and muscles, almost to the point of being sick. This is harder than I expected, stranger than what I thought he was going to say. I was saved though from having to reply to him because right then, Mira padded through the door. He walked straight over to his nest and sat down on it, pulling the top blanket up over his shoulders, then looking up at me, unassuming and childlike.

"Speak of the devil," he chuckled, standing and patting me firmly on the back. "I will let you get some rest. Goodnight to the both of you."

"Goodnight." I told him. "And, uh, thank you, for your advice."

"You are welcome," he rumbled, and before switching off the light. "Come to me any time, if you need to. I mean that."

Then Konstantin was gone. There was the sound of Mira's bedding rustling as he became comfortable. Finally, in the darkness, only the obstinate, persistent, incessant clamour of my own freshly engaged thoughts as I came to realise that just maybe, he was depending on me as much as I already depended on him.

-o-0-O-0-o-

Going back to where I had met Sofia the previous day, I was now mentally prepared to see her. Yesterday's chance meeting had caught me off guard, but now I felt like I was in the right frame of mind to deal with it. Maybe she could tell me what he's up to, if anything. I didn't really want to think of her as any kind of tool to get at her father, but if she could actually help me avoid any more situations like the one at the GSPI, then so much the better.

However this thought was put on hold as soon as I heard the voices. Walking along the exterior side of the fence, it was the low pitched but urgent cadence of two people arguing passionately whilst trying not to make too much noise. It would have been comical, if not for one of speakers being someone else I did not particularly wish to see, or hear, again.

Carlos?! I thought she said she didn't tell anyone. Ducking close to the nearest tree, I stopped to listen to what they were saying. The speech was quick, but I was concentrating fully on listening to the exchange, to sift it for meaning and recognisable words.

"Estas tomando un riesgo peligroso. Lo vas a lastimar." He sounded as angry as he had when I met him.

Sofia's response was just as defiant also, mirroring the first conversation I had witnessed between them. "Que tal si es inmune, como el padre dice?" Meaningless to me so far, but a few I caught. Inmune? Padre? Are they talking about me? Does León think I'm immune?

"No hay prueba de nada de eso! Que es lo que en verdad sabe 'el padre'?"

"El sabe que hay otro niño que es libre, que ambos no tienen marcas. El vio sus palmas, están limpias. Los Rusos saben! El le disparo a Luis por eso!"

Otro, niño, libre. Another boy ... free? Free from what? Does she mean Mira?

Carlos was very indignant. He grunted derisively; and though I couldn't see either of them from here, I could visualise him shaking his head in impatient peevishness. "Eso no es prueba! No crees que a lo major los protege por otra razón?" Protege, otra razón? Uh, something for another reason? Pass on that one.

Then it was her turn to be irate. "Hablare con el de cualquier modo, no importa que me lo prohíbas," she huffed. "Eres un estúpido si crees que esto terminara." Some of that I did understand. He was telling her not to talk with me, I think? Also, she thinks he's stupid. Yeah, way ahead of you on that one.

"Me haces enojar! De verdad vas a seguir con esto? Como tu quieras." Then footsteps and movement, him pushing fractiously away through the trees. The conversation was seemingly over and the tumult of his movement died away as he gained distance. Wow, he was pissed. I wish I knew what they were saying in more detail though. Didn't tell me all that much. Waiting a couple of minutes to ease any suspicion, I resumed my original heading. That was all a bit inconclusive really.

"Shay! You came!" A sparkling smile, and only momentary hesitation before lunging forward to hug me. I wasn't used to being hugged, definitely not spontaneously, and the feeling was actually very comfortable. More comfortable than I'd expect. She smelled like soap and something floral.

"Of course I did," I told her. "I said so, didn't I?"

That same look, the one of shameful remorse. "I wasn't sure if you would. After what he did."

"I won't lie, I don't feel completely comfortable because he is your father and, um, well, Sofia?" She watched me, mild inquiry written all across her face, awaiting me to continue. "Well, what was he doing there? It seems like more than coincidence that we met again so far away."

"Oh, um, nothing much," she shrugged, disinterested. "Searching for anything to salvage. Materials, tools or weapons. We heard there was maybe something left there, things we can make good use of. What about you? It's a long way for anyone from here."

Do I tell her or make something up? It probably wouldn't be much different either way, so I settled for honest but vague. "We were looking for computer hardware, but we didn't really find what we needed."

"Computer hardware? Do you mean some kind of electronics?" Sofia scrunched up her nose, thinking. "Most of the stuff was junk, but they did bring back something like that. It is this little metal block with some pins on the end and writing cut into the side. I don't know what it is for, but he thinks it's valuable."

Wait ... WHAT? A little metal block with writing on it?! My heartrate picked up immediately. If this is what I think it is. "Uh, this metal thing, what was the writing on it?"

"The writing? Oh," she hesitated, recalling. "I'm not sure- ... no, wait! It was, um, beginning with letters 'co'. I don't remember the whole word. Why?"

Right then, the solution to the other half of the problem clicked neatly into place. It had practically dropped into my lap. León has COPY #1. Holy shit. What if Sofia will get it for me? "Well, that little metal thing is part of what we were after."

"Oh." She pouted at the thought. "I suppose you want me to steal it for you now, right?"

My heart sank. Okay so that idea is pointless. Don't think she wants to help. Best to try f-

"I will, on one condition."

... wait, what did she just say?

"You're going to think I'm silly," she murmured, looking down at her hands clasped timidly together. Then even softer: "It's just that, I never get to do anything normal. You know, like children would before all this happened. I dream sometimes about doing stupid ordinary harmless stuff, it's my own fairytale. That's why all I want is to go on a picnic. I know a place, not far from here, up in the hills a bit. It's beautiful." She stopped, the self doubt getting the better of her. "That must seem so silly to you."

It didn't.

The idea of a girl like her living a life that was a struggle for survival, in a world full of monsters and insanity; yearning for something better, something free? I knew how that felt. My life had been a struggle. What I was struggling against might have changed, but the endless barrage of problems kept up. The battle with the thoroughly indifferent forces of nature and the universe; the hope that one day that contest would be behind me for good was one of the few things worth holding on to. She feels this too. There isn't any shame in that. Not really.

"It's not stupid at all. Sofia, it's very, uh," I stopped, no idea what I was about to say, and instead just smiled like a fool at her. "It's a great idea. Okay, let's do it."

She gasped and stared at me like I'd slapped her. "Really?! You will?" Shocked much? Not expecting me to be quite so agreeable, I bet. "Ay dios mío! Shay, thank you!" Then impulsively, she jumped forward, embracing me again, her slight figure pressing against me. I hugged her back this time, feeling more at ease and less concerned. If it made her happy and it got me the other half of the GSPI data at the same time, so much the better.

Not to mention that, secretly, the idea of a picnic actually sounded like a lot of fun.

-o-0-O-0-o-

It wasn't hard to slip off the property the next day without being noticed by anyone. Konstantin and Lily didn't mind if I wandered the estate and had never bothered to watch where I went, trusting that I wasn't about to endanger myself through stupidity. Mira too seemed to have accepted my midday excursions as the status quo, and would leave me be whenever I went out of sight of the house. Though it was a point of interest for me that I never found out what he was up to during those times either. He seemed to grow bored and cagey if stuck inside for too long and I knew there was a constant yearning for something else, a concentrated energy of some kind compelling him to action.

As I followed Sofia, climbing the sloping land in a vaguely northwest direction, I kept thinking about him, and about what Konstantin had told me. The admission that the big Russian was uncannily accurate about most of his observations was making me think a lot, maybe even too much, about the duty I felt towards Mira; for me to be faithful to the 'special' bond that Konstantin described. More so, it was that I really did want to do right by him.

It was an unfamiliar experience. Even back on Earth, I hadn't many friends at school, one of the myriad disadvantages of constantly being 'that sick kid.' When I was well enough to attend, I was largely ignored or treated as an object of pity, and occasionally scorn. No one had really stood out, boy or girl, as someone I actually wanted to get to know. They were the normal teenagers, untroubled by fucked-up DNA, dysfunctional internal organs, and insubordinate muscles. Now here I was on an alien planet, civilisation collapsed, disease and death rampant across the globe and not only was I healthy, but I had finally found someone I wanted to make an effort with.

Irony isn't a strong enough word for this situation. Something like 'divine satire' is probably closer. So, if I ever meet God on the road, I think I'm going to punch him in the face.

The forest was much the same as what I'd walked with Mira before we met Konstantin, although here it was more closed in, the oaks less common than tall, straight firs. What they lacked in bulk like the former, they made up for in sheer height; the ground was littered with a matting of needles, the roughage of discarded bark and many cones. The journey's end was up a precipitous escarpment to the base of rocky cliffs, marking the beginning of the barely accessible highland part of this landscape. At the top of the slope, there was, to my amazement, an opening into the rock.

"A cave?" I asked, incredulously, still puffing from the climb.

Sofia smiled sweetly, beckoning me. It led through two chambers the size of small rooms, connected by natural passageways in the rock and barely illuminated by cracks and chinks that allowed light from the outside. Wildflowers and weeds grew in random spots on the floor, eking out an existence in the shelter provided by rock. Someone had been here before though, quite a long time in the past. There were disused torch brackets on the walls and planks fixed across the bigger hollows in the ground beneath, so it wasn't quite so treacherously uneven.

I followed her through the second chamber and into the passage beyond. Rounding a corner, we were back in daylight again. When my eyes adjusted to the renewed intensity, I took in a sharp breath of pure awe, as a magnificent view appeared before me.

The land descended into a valley in front of us, the decline eventually tailing off into plains; all of it covered by forest, stretching away in a vast unbroken awning of trees. A lip of rock cut off the view to the right, from where we had come; to the left ran a forbidding impassable wall of stark angular slate and bursts of crumbling shale. The cliff-line continued around to the left, curving away and out of view; in the extreme distance, a line of jagged peaks arose, snow visible on their clutching summits. Above, the formless clouds of Lucere's sky lay adrift and swirling with majestic lethargy, alive with that famous and misunderstood otherworldly light.

"It's beautiful." I stared in wonder. Sofia did not say anything in reply, and we both simply stood for a minute, absorbing the exquisite vista. Then, pulling a blanket from her backpack, she spread it on the ground and we sat. As the food came out, she caught my eye again, smiling shyly as she placed the items on the blanket between us. "I am glad you are here with me, Shay."

I am too. This view is worth it by itself. For a moment though, I thought I felt a touch of sadness, a mournful sort of sorrow from her. Then I considered that I'd probably feel the same if I had witnessed the deaths of so many. Knowing those people might never get to experience the perfection of nature, that there aren't many around to appreciate it? That is saddening.

There was bread, fresher and softer than the stuff I'd had on the road with them, a little jar of honey, two apples, two peaches, two cobs of fresh corn, and some portions of spiced minced meat, which was tangy and very strong flavoured but no less enjoyable. Before we touched anything, she apologised to me, telling me how little there was. My assurance was to the opposite; in my eyes it was a feast. The picnic looked and tasted delicious, and we made small talk as we ate. The best was saved for last, however, as Sofia produced two cups and a little glass bottle with a pale rosy liquid in it. Is that alcohol?!

Reading my expression, she nodded. "It's a wine one of the men at our camp makes from white plums. It's very sweet and if Federico is to be believed, good for the body and soul." She poured it and handed me one. The smell alone was fragrant, and as I sipped it. Yeah, very sweet. A giggle escaped her. "It won't hurt you. Drink! It's delicious." Well, why not? I took a good mouthful and swallowed; it was rich, fruity, heady and a spreading warmth. Konstantin's vodka had been like a mouthful of burning cheer, rough and hot, a brotherly thump on the back, perfect for warding off the winter cold. This though, was the opposite, much smoother and friendlier, a velvet summer drink. The two couldn't be more different. I wonder why it is that everyone is offering me booze these last couple days?

Her face already had that slight haze around it as I nodded back at her. Wow I'm feeling something already. This must be stronger stuff than I thought. She tucked a strand of hair behind her ear, then wordlessly leaned forward. At first I thought she was reaching for the backpack, but then, closer and closer and before I knew what was happening ...

... her lips were on mine.

So soft and yielding, moving gently against me, parting slightly. Then reluctantly pulling back, before I could respond in any way. She ... kissed me? She kissed me!

"Sofia, I- I ... um ... "

"Sssh." A finger came to my lips, hushing me. "I'm not expecting you to do anything. Just relax. It's okay." My cheeks flooded with heat, and I wasn't sure whether it was the wine or the kiss. Swallowing nervously, I tried to think what to say but the second I looked away from her face, the motion of just moving my head made me dizzy. Whoa. Must be potent stuff alright. Then vision tilted down to avoid the weird motion sickness effect, eyes firmly on the blanket. Her cup was right next to her hand. It was empty, dry. She hadn't poured herself anything. Just some, for me.

Right then, in the back of my sluggish substance-encumbered brain, I realised I had made a big mistake.

Oh god.

Tried to focus, to move and speak but I could barely look around without being overwhelmed, the world wavering back and forth wildly with every minute dip and pitch of the body. It was like my brain was full of cotton wool. Words came out slurred and prolonged, and I drawled, hardly able to finish a phrase. "Sssofiaa ... whaaat did you ... dooo ... tooo me?"

Her voice came from a distance, a million miles away, an omnipotent goddess commanding me from the heavens. "It's easier this way. Just go with it, I promise it won't hurt." Hurt? What ... hurt? Hand slid around wrist, I pushed her away weakly. Didn't matter, she ignored it. Eased me backward. I flopped onto the blanket. She was lying across my chest. Can't move. "Go with it. Okay?" A whisper, a sweet sinister whisper as loud as a cannon next to my ear. Don't ... do ... it. Stay ... awake. Eyes open. My body wouldn't obey. I fought against it. Not sleeping. Don't ... give in. Cunning ... bitch. Can't let her ... win ...

Only, I no longer had a choice.

-o-0-O-0-o-

Clouds were gathering overhead, the brightness of the earlier day stifled beneath thickening cumulus. Along the border of the Andropov property, the boy paced. He was doing a circuit of the lower end of the grounds, the more isolated forested side, for around half an hour. The scent of rain was on the breeze and the temperature in the air had dropped lower. He paid no attention to this. His mind flitted from possibility to possibility as his body moved in distraction; a semblance of places, sensations, emotions; unexplained and unlabelled in his consciousness, a kaleidoscope of mental imagery.

All of it was centred around the other boy. Something was not quite right and he knew it, but he could not tell what. It ate at him and it weighed on him. So he paced and tried his skill at the abstraction of prediction; but each attempt building a detailed construct of outcomes was doomed to failure. Such human thinking was too much too soon, and all his effort was fruitless, complex in a way that made it too alien for him to succeed. All it served was to intensify his concern. Obsessively, he followed the groove his senses had aligned to, step after step on the grass and dirt.

The speech of someone else unsettled him from this routine and he baulked. Beyond the border was another boy. Older, darker hair and tall, broad. He was spooked, and his countenance was conflicted. A struggle was going on and Mira could see this in the way he stood, the muscles in his shoulders tensed, the eyes wracked with indecision.

"Hey! You there!" He called. The same strain was in his voice, but better hidden. "I'm Carlos. I need to tell you, your friend, he is in trouble. I can't stand by and let her do this. I- ... I'm not heartless, and it's just wrong. That whore, I don't know what will happen when she is done."

Words floated past Mira. It was a mess of anger, apology, pressure and hope. Emotions were obvious and his senses told him it was all about Shay. Yet, the sound was no more his language than the buzzing of insects, the swish of grass.

"Do you understand me?" His frustration was undeniable. "If my uncle- ... if León finds him, he might seriously hurt him, if she hasn't already. They're out there, I know she took him with her. She made no secret. We need to find them. To help him!"

The worlds of human communication and basic sensory perception did not conjoin. Carlos screwed up his face in blatant temper, Mira only watching, the monologue unable to expand and include him. "What is wrong with you? Can you even talk? She will hurt him. Shay! Out there!" He pointed emphatically in the rough direction he knew she was going.

Shay. Shay was out there.

That name he knew. The only word that crossed the divide. Mira, the self. Shay, the other. The finger was a metaphorical and literal signpost, pointing the way and speaking everything it needed to. All was forgotten barring the name Carlos had said. The hunter within Mira was awake and his view was only a highlighting of tiny invisible symbols in the air and the trees, and gleaned from his determined focus upon the environment as he ran. He shot across the border, and Carlos had a second to catch on and follow before he was nearly gone through the trees.

He was fit and fast and he knew it, yet the boy he followed was a flash, an unerring tracker that flew like an arrow loosed from the most dextrous and skilled archer. Mira stayed yards ahead and the distance grew; first it was dozen metres apart, then two dozen. The ground was a constant undulation, his chest heaving as they tore frantically up the hillside. Then the forest cleared, but Carlos was finally out of sight of the single-minded dedication that he followed. He clambered up the steep dirt slope, the cave entrance now plain. Mira must have gone in already, he thought. There was no point in waiting, he might need help with that bitch.

He stepped into the entrance and in that instant, from the recesses of the first chamber right next to him, a solid wooden plank swung from the darkness and struck him squarely in the face. Dumping the plank back to the floor, she bound her cousin's hands together as he lay out cold, then looked up, surveying the outside. No one else was with him. The dumb fuck shouldn't have tried to interfere. Her father was going to give him a very painful lesson when he got here. Pulling him fully inside the cave, she gave one last glance at the forest before deciding it was safe to retreat inside.

From behind the rotting trunk of a dead fir, Mira rose, flawlessly silent, and entered the cave.

-o-0-O-0-o-

I awoke to movement. Just a swaying movement. I didn't know what was happening or where I was, just that it was light and I was outside.

What's going on?

Disoriented, drugged, my mind tried to work but all that came was a dizzying sequence of surreal images. Barely conscious, awake, then not awake, awake again. Her face, her voice.

Her voice; surprised, and broken by lapses. "Don't know- ... -can still be awake- ... -more than enough." A needle injecting, only a pinprick in my arm. Another, in hers. "-won't matter, after this, Shay." Those warm brown eyes, now so cold. Hand, undoing my pants, pulling them down. An artificial heat growing in my groin. I remembered. Oh god. Motionless fear as I moaned in abhorrence, the horror at my unwanted forced arousal as the chemicals did their job. No no no no no! I don't want to remember that. I didn't! NO!

My head lolled, my hands shaking against my stomach. No memories. Not like that. Here and now. What is here. What is now. Clouds of fuzz were still settled in my thoughts, moving like treacle. Movement. Someone was carrying me.

Who is holding me? Arms gripping under my knees, my back. Head laying on chest. I cracked my eyelids, grey light above bouncing as I stared woozily. Need to know. The strength of my sedation was beckoning me again. Can't keep this up long. I didn't need to though. Through blurry streaky vision, I could see the graceful curve of Mira's shoulders, his neck, his hair, doggedly holding my weight, little less than his own, as he carried me through Lucere's woods.

He came for me. He found me.

As I once more lost my grasp on reality, it didn't matter. I knew all I needed to know.

Only a couple of things to note here: a] Sofia's acting ability is Oscar-worthy. b] a world destroying cataclysm cannot stop a true Russian from brewing his own vodka. c] Mira really can track someone *and* run at full speed simultaneously. Yikes. Don't challenge him to Hide-and-Seek.

Oh Shay :( Just can't win a break, can you? Frying pan -> Fire. Stay tuned, the action continues in the next chapter!

Copyright © 2013 Stellar; All Rights Reserved.
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental. Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 

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Wooooooooop

I have waited patiently for this instalment of this amazing story with ants in my pants I promise you Stellar, and boy I wasn't disappointed.

My heart was in my mouth when I realised that Sofia had drugged him. I felt ill. Thank god Mira can track while moving a dozen miles an hour! :P

Also, your description of the alcohol? Pure genius mate. Your writing is amazing, and this story is really well put together. I'm soooo looking forward to more. :D

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Stellar another chapter own and another fantastic one at that. Please keep it coming. U ever get over here we will share a Russian Toast... :)

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It's his own fault. You really can't trust anyone. Hopefully Mira kicks that bitch's head in.

 

It seems that they want to figure out how to use Shay to find a cure. I hope Konstantine comes to save the day and kills them all.

 

Great chapter, and if you haven't noticed yet I'm feeling bloodthirsty against everyone who's giving Shay a hard time.

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Another riveting chapter...you've given us even more to worry over!

I hope Shay learns to stop being so gullible soon, before someone

or something kills him. I read the whole picnic trap part with my

teeth clenched! Shay will have to open up some now, -only to

the right people this time.

 

There's so much mystery, and I'm really enjoying this story.

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On 07/12/2012 03:11 AM, Yettie One said:
Wooooooooop

I have waited patiently for this instalment of this amazing story with ants in my pants I promise you Stellar, and boy I wasn't disappointed.

My heart was in my mouth when I realised that Sofia had drugged him. I felt ill. Thank god Mira can track while moving a dozen miles an hour! :P

Also, your description of the alcohol? Pure genius mate. Your writing is amazing, and this story is really well put together. I'm soooo looking forward to more. :D

thank you. I do imagine alcohol that way! Each seems to have its own personality, not only from the taste and texture but even the cultural inclinations of the folks that make it. Yeah, gives a rather human spin on what is basically a substance, but hey .. can't restrain the imagination right?
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On 07/12/2012 04:31 AM, Kiltie69 said:
Stellar another chapter own and another fantastic one at that. Please keep it coming. U ever get over here we will share a Russian Toast... :)
Thank you mate. I'm doing my best. :) I will hold you to that. ^^
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On 07/12/2012 07:44 AM, Rebelghost85 said:
It's his own fault. You really can't trust anyone. Hopefully Mira kicks that bitch's head in.

 

It seems that they want to figure out how to use Shay to find a cure. I hope Konstantine comes to save the day and kills them all.

 

Great chapter, and if you haven't noticed yet I'm feeling bloodthirsty against everyone who's giving Shay a hard time.

Sofia's manipulation was very well engineered in that it was designed to appeal to the exact emotions she thought would make Shay trust her. She nailed it too and that makes her just as psychopathic (to me) as her father, perhaps more so because it was all mental deception and required no physical violence to get there (other than smacking Carlos in the face with a 2x4 but that's another story :D ).
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On 07/12/2012 08:10 AM, Stephen said:
Another riveting chapter...you've given us even more to worry over!

I hope Shay learns to stop being so gullible soon, before someone

or something kills him. I read the whole picnic trap part with my

teeth clenched! Shay will have to open up some now, -only to

the right people this time.

 

There's so much mystery, and I'm really enjoying this story.

I don't actually consider him gullible at all, in fact I think this is the first real mistake he has made - it just happens to be a rather major one. HOWEVER! I am the author and my viewpoint is biased because of this, so I naturally expect readers to see him differently.

 

Thanks for your comments :)

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So Sofia is a real psychopathic bitch who masterfully played Shay. I agree that this is really the first major mistake that he could have avoided if he listened to his intuition. I'm wondering if the change he went through has created or increased his empathic (telepathic) abilities. I do wonder why he did not let Konstantin know about the picnic, except that perhaps it was his intuition working again -- plus we would not have the excitement and, I hope, learned lessons from this chapter.

The other major surprise was Carlos: I was not expecting him to try to help. Now, according to Sofia, he is to be taught a painful lesson by Leon -- not a pretty thought. Perhaps Mira will be able to communicate the help he gave before Carlos is destroyed.

So many questions and so much to look forward to in the coming chapters... WRITE ON!

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On 07/14/2012 02:13 AM, Daddydavek said:
So many questions and so few answers.
The way you phrase that, I'm not sure whether you think it's a good thing or a bad thing! xD The phase the story is entering now will begin to see *some* answered.
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On 07/12/2012 08:45 PM, hillj69 said:
So Sofia is a real psychopathic bitch who masterfully played Shay. I agree that this is really the first major mistake that he could have avoided if he listened to his intuition. I'm wondering if the change he went through has created or increased his empathic (telepathic) abilities. I do wonder why he did not let Konstantin know about the picnic, except that perhaps it was his intuition working again -- plus we would not have the excitement and, I hope, learned lessons from this chapter.

The other major surprise was Carlos: I was not expecting him to try to help. Now, according to Sofia, he is to be taught a painful lesson by Leon -- not a pretty thought. Perhaps Mira will be able to communicate the help he gave before Carlos is destroyed.

So many questions and so much to look forward to in the coming chapters... WRITE ON!

Shay's intuition telling him to be secretive is what I think worked against him here; as you've noted he might not have been in so much trouble had he told Konstantin about it.

 

Both Carlos and Sofia were not what they appeared. It was fun to write them that way, knowing how they would turn out.

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Interesting, but the questions are starting to pile up.

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Poor Shay. I have to admit that I was tutting at him from the moment he spoke to Sofia the first time. I have to admit I thought she was baiting a trap for Leon but I knew it wasn't going to end well. It never was going to in these circumstances.

Your story has plenty of twists and turns to keep us interested and interested I am. Moving on

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What. A. Bitch.

I never trusted Sofia this chapter, but still hoped that somehow I was wrong. I can't speak Spanish either, but after hearing an argument like that, there is no way I would go anywhere with her. Shay seemed smarter than that, but I guess our own desires can blind us to things. Interesting to see what she had planned...maybe wanted to see if there was somehow a way to create a human that had Shay's resistance to the disease.

Anyhow, I am glad Mira saved the day (wonder what he did to her sad.png ) even though Carlos had to point him in the right direction.

Don't trust him either though.

I wonder if his "rough treatment" of Shay in the beginning was to give Sofia an opening to build trust...hmm. Very interesting.

Looking forward to seeing what comes next!

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On 08/25/2012 01:18 PM, CassieQ said:
What. A. Bitch.

I never trusted Sofia this chapter, but still hoped that somehow I was wrong. I can't speak Spanish either, but after hearing an argument like that, there is no way I would go anywhere with her. Shay seemed smarter than that, but I guess our own desires can blind us to things. Interesting to see what she had planned...maybe wanted to see if there was somehow a way to create a human that had Shay's resistance to the disease.

Anyhow, I am glad Mira saved the day (wonder what he did to her sad.png ) even though Carlos had to point him in the right direction.

Don't trust him either though.

I wonder if his "rough treatment" of Shay in the beginning was to give Sofia an opening to build trust...hmm. Very interesting.

Looking forward to seeing what comes next!

Part of what I enjoyed about Sofia is that she wasn't completely acting with all her interactions with Shay - some of it was genuine emotion and truth; convenient for her that it matched the end goal, but true nonetheless.
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I never fully trusted sofia she just seemed to sweet to be real. If you live off the land wouldn't someone want something different like say a restaurant meal definitely not a picnic in a cave. om the bits and peices he remembers I don't think he is going to want to remember fully what happened. I'm glad Mira found him and that Shay feels safe with him. Nowmy question is was Carlos trying to save Shah or get Mira there to trap him as well.

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On 05/20/2013 08:53 AM, Daithi said:
I never fully trusted sofia she just seemed to sweet to be real. If you live off the land wouldn't someone want something different like say a restaurant meal definitely not a picnic in a cave. om the bits and peices he remembers I don't think he is going to want to remember fully what happened. I'm glad Mira found him and that Shay feels safe with him. Nowmy question is was Carlos trying to save Shah or get Mira there to trap him as well.
Restaurant meal, huh? Well considering the state of Palatus, I really don't think there'd be anything around of the same calibre as a gourmet chef ;)
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I guess she really is a chip off the old block. Carlos I have to figure out. Mira saves the day, what happened to Carlos, where is copy #1 now. Great chapter, thank you.

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hahaha! yeppers! i am seriously getting the feeling of a basic ESP here :D

I wonder if Carlos was really on his Side or if he was playing a similar gay as the girl.

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On 04/14/2015 07:36 PM, Celethiel said:
hahaha! yeppers! i am seriously getting the feeling of a basic ESP here :D

I wonder if Carlos was really on his Side or if he was playing a similar gay as the girl.

Carlos is very much an enigma!
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On 08/28/2013 02:49 AM, sandrewn said:
I guess she really is a chip off the old block. Carlos I have to figure out. Mira saves the day, what happened to Carlos, where is copy #1 now. Great chapter, thank you.
yes, chip off that very unfortunate block.
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Well that was a nasty surprise! I hope Mira did something bad yep to that evil bitch!

Edited by Albert1434
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