With his ears now free to hear, and the room opened wide, it quickly became clear the base was indeed under attack.
“It took you a long time,” he told the young man, who was looking around the corridor, and nervously at that.
“Dunno anything about that, ‘m just an apprentice.”
“Master Byrnes. Come now, sir, I need you to take you to her.”
If she was behind the attack, did that mean she really wasn’t the one tied to the Tech Guild? Although if she were, she would be the one most willing to get there first so to guarantee Griffs’ escape. And she would know where they were.
The young man led him through the halls, visibly stressed about the fact the Falk refused to properly rush out of the scene of battle. As usual, he but walked at a brisk busy pace.
Rushing was undignified.
The base now found itself duly occupied. Voices trailed the halls as weapons were used abound. Bullets vs. flames. He saw remnants of fighting, the bodies of men and women who had already passed away. Some burnt, others shot. The walls were singed and darkened from the use of flamethrowers, Byrnes’s choice of weaponry, but also riddled with bullet holes at some choice places where the members of the Tech Guild had fought back.
Griff really had emptied the base, or at least part of it, for the sake of fooling Falk into lowering his guard. But they had all been back during this defense.
Falk was taken to a hangar, a different one from that which he had seen beforehand. It was bigger and with an exit to the outside, which was open. He saw a sight for sore eyes then: airplanes. The sight of that mechanical marvel raised his mood considerably.
The fly boys were each in the pilot seat of their respective airplane, all three of them. They were just then leaving the hangar to lift off. Ten soldiers stood guard, looking him over as he approached Amanda.
She was waving the fly bows away, her back had a drawing of a tree on fire, drawn over her leather jacket which was a bit large on her. Her straight red hair fell down into the drawing, mixing oddly with the flaming colors.
She looked back in reaction, with a cocky smile on her face. “Well we–” It dropped immediately. “Falk! Your face!”
“It’s not any different than usual, I assure you,” he told her. “Moreover, it sure took you long enough.”
She arched her arms, putting her hands on her waist. Her jacket was left opened to show a black T-Shirt. As usual, she wore no bra. Not that he paid that much attention to something like that or her skin-tight jeans. She was also wearing a purse, her sense of style was as confused as it had ever been.
“The fly boys were stationed in Neyerk, I didn’t want to come without them.”
“In Neyerk?” His mind jolted, adapting his plan. “I see.”
“So what’ve you gotten yourself into? Why haven’t you contacted us? It’s been a while since Mohini died? Who are these people?”
Mohini, also known as The Eye. She had perished due a fault in his temperament, but not for nothing. He didn’t really regret getting her killed, demonstrating to the beasts the enemy they had made had been imperative.
Falk eyed her, unfortunately not behind the cover of his ocular apparatus. Seems genuine.
“That’s what I sought to find out.”
“And did you?”
He opened his mouth to talk but she looked aside, interrupting the question herself. “Well, it doesn’t matter, we’ll find out before we burn the place.”
“Not taking it over?”
“’Course not. We can’t just hold a base like this, especially one they know about.” She looked back at him, “come here.”
She took out some bandages from the purse, because of course she would have them, and stepped into his personal space. He hadn’t moved or in any way indicated she we welcome to do that, but then she wouldn’t notice a detail like that.
“Lemme take care of your fa–” he grabbed her hand with his flesh one, hand over the bandages.
“Gratitude,” he grasped the bandages off her hand and pulled a strip from it.
“Oh, Falk, your aversion to displays of affection can be so adorable.”
He rolled his eyes at her, angry, and started bandaging the ruined lump of flesh that was his face.
“I’m still surprised you were the one to show up.” His skin protested, hurt, but at the same time, relieved from being out of contact with the open air and all its different particles.
“Who’d you expect?”
“Not you,” he told her, managing to keep his tone of voice stable despite the mild yet noticeable stabs of pain. “The Fire Hazards at this frozen popsicle?”
“Fire spreads wherever it wants,” she grinned, “it melts ice, not the other way around.”
Amanda Byrnes was the leader of a gang called the Fire Hazards, a road-specific nomadic group who worshiped fire like the true pyromaniacs that they were. She had a considerable intellect as far as interpersonal relationships were concerned, but not the slightest of interests in creating anything that isn’t meant to burn down something else.
If she weren’t such a good cook, their relationship would have been much briefer.
He bit down on the bandage roll and pulled it free.
“I am afraid, my dear, that this will have been proven to be a mistake on your part.” He handed the bandages to her.
“Really?” She raised an eyebrow, actually curious. “How so?”
“Am I correct in assuming that Led by Anarchy has organized all its members?”
“I know you don’t approve of the whole group thing, but it’s for a worthwhile cause.”
“Aiding the invading beasts in their quest to destroy humanity?”
“Yeah?” She didn’t flinch or hesitate. Instead, she smiled warmly, “I figured you’d be excited to join in.”
“Uhm, yes, I conjectured as much. I will have to disappoint you, my dear. You see, the beasts have slighted me in the worst of ways, and they must thus pay first of all. If I were to aid them, the chance to exact such retribution would then be beyond even me.”
“Slighted you?” She smirked, still not aware of the situation. “Darling Falk, they seek to do our work for us, what could they possibly–”
“They called me obsolete.” He almost choked on the word. “I will teach them otherwise.”
“Come darling, what do you care what beasts have to say? They only know destruction, and that’s the only thing that matters.”
“You haven’t talked to them,” he frowned, “they declared us inferior. Me! Inferior!”
“I will teach them otherwise.”
She smiled warmly, biting her lower lip as she gazed at him suggestively. It made him feel uncomfortable, although he’d never show it. It was harder to hide, however, with his eyes in the open.
He looked aside in anger instead.
“Where are my special spectacles?!”
“Falk…you know how deeply my passion runs for you, and how I love every angry syllable that comes out of your superior mouth.”
“Amanda, please.” He found himself surrounded by too many people, at least three were watching them, not that Amanda ever seemed to care.
“But we are one in this decision. For once in your life, don’t be so stubborn.”
He eyed her, back fully returned to his disposition of power and defiance.
“You command me?”
“No…” she allowed the word to play through pouty lips. “I suggest. I have to take you to meet the rest in any case so before you talk to them, I suggest…you rethink your priorities.”
“Hmpf,” he would rethink nothing. “I want my spectacles.”
They climbed onto steamboats, modified for greater speed, of course, and evacuated the island along with everything else. She lit a cigarette with about the same timing with which the island suffered a row of explosions.
She puffed pleasurably while she watched the explosions die away, to give way to the flames. They flickered in the distance, dancing lighthouses towards which she gazed, thoroughly amazed.
“It never ceases to impress me.”
“Oh, please,” she retrieved a second cigar and offered it to him.
“Want one, darling?”
“No,” he looked away from the flames, “I have burned myself enough for one day.”
“Ha,” she put it away, “you can be so sensitive, Falk, it’s so adorable.”
“I know you only say those things to get a rise out of me,” he protested, “you can stop.”
“Well, seeing you flustered is also adorable.” She wasn’t looking at him. She couldn’t turn away from the sight of flames.
“Of course, it’s not death. And you know that.”
“Nothing is as alive as when they are burning up,” he recounted, “I remember.”
“Glorious perspective,” she agreed, “I’m sorry you don’t have it.”
“It’s absolutely beautiful. I only realized that was the reason years after I saw it. The base of it all is, simply, it really is a magnificent visage. That’s fire for you. Undefined. Unlabeled.
“It is not undefined.”
“Unknown is not a definition,” she chuckled.
“It is not unknown. It’s what we see when particles are combusting, a perfectly understandable chemical reaction and transformation.”
“Yes, a transition. Fire isn’t anything, it’s a state. A state of release.”
“Sure,” she tapped her cigar, dropping cinders onto the cold waters, “but then, you are very much a fan of that, aren’t you, my dear?”
“There is a reason we associate,” he concurred, “but I would never pretend to pass it on as something positive.”
“But it is.”
“No, it is negative. It is definitely bad, that is why I am…a fan of it,” he grinned.
“Perspectives,” she again said, “it’s always about perspectives.”
He still wasn’t sure whether she was, or not, the one who had sold out his secrets. He wasn’t about to get chummy with her, and all was well since she wouldn’t think it odd. After all, he had just been humiliated and kept captive, it would be a wonder to anyone that he hadn’t killed someone yet just to retain some ego – he sure was – let alone that he’d be in a foul mood.
They disembarked on the shores of Norwayaka, and he rode shotgun on the five manned road vehicle that drove them to some village. There, he walked with Amanda towards the town hall, and once there, was taken to the village leader’s main dining hall.
Not all the members of LBA were there, of course, not even all of the most favored ones. He imagined the others were busy carrying out errands and tasks, the thought made him feel sick. How could the LBA have just…turned into an organization?
Amanda walked briskly and unworried towards one of the chairs and pulled it for him.
“Sir, if you please!”
There was a lack of armed guards inside which greatly benefited him. Not if there were conflict, he wouldn’t do that, but it would increase the tension for the others to think he would. At the moment, they clearly didn’t expect any problems.
He took a seat, allowing Amanda do push the chair into place as if a servant sitting a dignitary. She was casual about it, however, not to say playful. She took another chair.
Around the larger-than-necessary dinner table sat two high valued members of the LBA, and a third pretty new one.
The Magnificent Magician had a scowl on her face, but then what else was new? She apparently felt extremely cheated, for some reason, but a woman like her usually did. She thought herself superior to everyone else, deserving of every laurel and success, held back on it all by the mere fact she was a woman. If ever she revealed those sentiments to be true, he’d have to educate her on how superior she really wasn’t.
Especially not wearing that silly show get up, he had to fight the urge to laugh every time he landed eyes on that bright red cape and that tall top hat.
“Don’t mind her, Falk,” one of the others said, in the tone of voice mostly affiliated with the sight of dirt and rubble that permanently permeated the Mole’s very being. Every time he spoke, he seemed to be shrugging, even if he rarely did. “She had a freaky experience.”
“Well aren’t you a riot, burrower,” the Magician squinted her eyes.
“You say that like it’s an insult,” she raised an eyebrow and, once again, one would have to look closely to realize he wasn’t, indeed, shrugging.
Falk recalled what mission the Circus Freak had received. It seemed he had been successful. How those people ever imagined the girl would trump that freak of nature was beyond him.
Besides the Mole stood, in contrast, a well-dressed man. As in he was wearing a tie which was probably more expensive than the whole village they were sitting in, never mind the rest of his business suit. He wouldn’t be surprised if he had bought the village just to guarantee some peace and good service at the village’s best dining hall, that of its leader.
“Pesach,” Falk greeted, and the man opened his eyes somberly, showing he hadn’t been sleeping, just bored into half-slumber.
“Ah, Falk has arrived. Good.”
Pesach was The Architect. A true genius when it came to, well, architecture. He could look at a building and know which inch to spit on to cause a collapse. He could find hidden passages from just looking at one.
Much like every other member of the LBA to participate in the Shadow Conclave, his skills weren’t very tailored to doing well in the competition. Of course, that was an excuse Falk did not accept, much like any excuse. That was the nature of the word excuse: lie to justify. He had just engineered what he needed, and he would have won if it had not been for the invasion.
“So why am I here?”
“We have been busy, Falk,” Mole said, and he had to look at the Mole to make sure he wasn’t being condescending, “doing anarchy work. Why have you not answered our contacts?”
“I was otherwise preoccupied.” He had his ocular enhancements back, so once again, he could hide any involuntary expressions. “Since when do you care if I answer or not?”
“Since we became organized, of course.” The Architect had leaned forward, putting his elbows on the table. He was, at first glance, a portly man. It wasn’t until he flexed that one found there was more to his mass than fat.
“It has always been our goal to see the world crumbling down, has it not? The beasts present a great opportunity. We have sought you, eagerly, because we have a great wish to see you perform acts of destruction and mayhem.”
“Oh, I will certainly be doing a lot of that. I will bring great obliteration, of the likes no one has ever seen,” falk proclaimed, hand raised and amid a big crazy grin…which suddenly subsided into a cunning smirk. “Mostly, however, upon the beasts.”
He delighted in their looks of surprise.