4.7

Jerret paced in the dark cell. There was little else to do and he didn’t want to fall asleep again. The dream had been so vivid it was still burned into his eyelids. The vast featureless plain, the others walking away from him, the dust swirling up behind them even as he hurried to catch up. He could hear the horrible crack as the earth shattered behind him, and see the ground collapsing. He’d been unable to run fast enough, and shifted to catch up and warn the others. They didn’t notice the ground collapsing, or turn around as he called out. They only turned when he caught up and reached out to them.

A sudden wave of exhaustion hit him and he sat reluctantly, staring into the darkness. He couldn’t stop remembering the look on the girl’s face when she saw him; the soundless scream of horror as she pushed him away, over the edge of the chasm that had opened. It had taken so long to fall, as if the world had slowed in that moment so he could see her clutch at Calvin in relief. The big bad wolf was gone and she was relieved.

He shuddered as the cold air started to evaporate nightmare sweat off of him. The shirt he’d never bothered to wear was still on the floor and he put it on, just to warm up. The door opened and Jerret’s heart skipped for a second as the girl was silhouetted in the door. When his vision had adjusted to the light he could see she was looking at him with a sleepy curiosity, the corner of her blanket stuck firmly in her mouth.

“Mr. Jerret?” She mumbled, still chewing on the blanket.

“Yeah?”

“Can I sleep in here?”

Jerret sighed inwardly, he was still unsettled by the dream but that was no reason to refuse, “Something wrong?”

“I’m lonely… I can’t sleep.” She took a tiny step into the room, as if testing the waters.

“Well the other guy isn’t locked in a cell, I’m pretty sure he’d be better company.”

“He was yelling with his dad in the control room and seemed really upset… it was a little scary.”

Jerret absorbed this information with mild interest, “All right, you can sleep in here.”

“Thank you.” She tiptoed quietly over to the side of the cell and sat down next to the slot, spreading out her blanket beneath her. She produced a pillow she had hidden underneath it and curled up in a ball, facing Jerret. The door shut and the room went pitch black. Jerret just stared at the spot he knew she was, lost in thought. It wouldn’t be much longer now.

***

“No, you need to look interested, like this.” Saha gave Yik a mildly interested look and he frowned.

“That is what I was doing.”

“No you were looking obsessed, brother. Try not to make your eyes so wide.” Yik tried again, and managed to look slightly less manic.

“Are you sure we can pull this off?” Vortran tugged uncomfortably at the scarf Saha had found for her. It was the same shade of lavender as whatever the kid turned into, and Saha was hoping it would be a subconscious cue to the younger Sutro brother.

“Just remember the story and you’ll do fine. What’s your role, dear brother?” She asked, fixing his outfit again.

“I am investing in creating a fighter stable with my friend,” He gestured to Vortran, “because you insist I get a job or you will cut me off.”

“And your role?” Saha looked over at Vortran.

“I’m the one that actually knows a thing or two, and I’m so confident I want to splurge on an office pet to entertain our future investors. Something cute and small, easy to control.”

“And you’re going with a cat theme for your new stable.”

“Do we have to say that?” Yik complained.

“Yes, you do. Now go find something to do while I coach Vortran on terminology.” She shooed Yik out of the room and locked the door so they wouldn’t be disturbed.

“There’s not that much terminology to know, gassers are bad, we want humanoid for the office, possible future breeder…Uh…” Vortran backed up a little as Saha knelt down. She put a hand on either shoulder and pulled Vortran close so that their foreheads touched, “This is a bit close.”

“Why are you doing this for Mr. Mitchell?” Saha was staring almost directly into Vortran’s eyes.

“Doing what?”

“Why are you saving his child?”

Vortran tried to pull away or turn her head but Saha was surprisingly strong. “Why wouldn’t I?” She said finally.

“That is a good answer.” Saha smiled and released her, straightening up, “I’m sorry if I made you uncomfortable, but eye contact is vital in knowing if someone is telling the truth.”

“Did you think I was lying?”

“I think that if you were doing this for anything less than a good reason you might decide not to do your best. I know my brother wants to kill him but Mr. Mitchell has my utmost respect and gratitude. I don’t want anyone to stop him from finding his child.”

“I wouldn’t do that! I’m here with the same goal.”

“I see that now.” The two sat in silence for a moment, until Saha patted Vortran on the head with a laugh, “Let’s see about getting a nice dinner together. Our target will be in town tomorrow and I know my brother at least will need the energy. I know a lovely place in not far from the port that’ll bring everything to us, including drinks.”

Vortran caught herself starting to yawn, “Coffee?”

“Of course, we need you going strong tomorrow too.”

“Then I forgive you for the head thing.”

Saha laughed at this and unlocked the door. Yick was sprawled on the floor and she stepped nimbly over him, while Vortran nudged him out of the way a little roughly.

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