The city was just like it had always been. The people were going about their business like they always had. What in the world… how could it all be so regular, so everyday? Her right hand balled into as much of a fist as it could around the haft of her weapon, letting one nail bite into the heel of her palm. A tiny pulse of pain, fleeting as a summer breeze, but enough to remind her yet again that everything – everything – was different.
But why should they know, or care? They didn’t know her, they didn’t know that things were different. They were what she had been scant hours ago, and… and she’d been just as oblivious. Even when confronted by the reality of people being stuck here, making this game their reality, she had only half-believed. How could she expect them to care or change their routines for her concern?
Wrapped up in self pity so thick she would have hated herself if she’d been able to see it objectively, she’s done her normal routine in Mac Anu – headed straight for the canal. Well, it wasn’t quite as usual. She’d had an encounter with an old friend – brief but unsettling. But now she was perched at the edge of the water, watching the different people in their brilliant array of clothing and looks, walking along the canal on the far side. Their reflections made a blurred mosaic of color along the water’s surface, broken up by the ripples from the boats that rode back and forth. She remembered falling into the canal once. Would it now be possible to drown in there?
Terrible thought. Senna hated the idea of drowning. She’d resisted learning how to swim until she was twelve, ands then only learned because the pool they were using was four feet deep and she could stand up if things went awry. She couldn’t think of a worse way to die.
These morbid thoughts were startled away like a flock of pigeons by a chime, letting her know she had new Flashmail. She opened it and was surprised to find it was a brief missive from Canti.
She read it through a couple times and frowned. Great. She hadn’t meant to make him worry, but now that she was thinking about it objectively, how could she NOT have anticipated that as a possible consequence? He gets the message, isn’t the first and most natural reaction to look around for the person? And when she proved not to be in the place, she could either be dismissed, or he could be worried.TO: Senna
Where are you? You can't be out here like this.
Though really, she thought, was it anything to be THAT Worried over? She was just spending time in Mac Anu, not running off like a vigilante to draw attention to herself. And if they were going to be watched no matter where they went, why not be watched while not being a threat? Give people no reason to come after her. It seemed smarter, safer, than going into the lion’s den, no matter how many of them there were. And she hated to think how many spells and potions had been wasted on keeping her sorry Long Arm but from staying a permanent ghost. No group doing serious work needed a resource drain like that. Simple economics. Maybe later, when she was stronger and more able to make a real contribution to the group, then she could come back. But for now…TO: Canti
Don’t worry. I’ll be around. Good luck with the next leg of the Freedom Fighters’ quest.
For now what? She realized with a little twinge she’d been feeling HEAVILY sorry for herself with no cause. This was her own fault. She shook her head, as though she could physically force the thoughts from her mind. Think. For now she’d worry about now, she decided. Sort things out, and then make a decision. A person who was thinking rationally would have a much more difficult time descending into self-pity. She could go back, she guessed, and keep fighting with that group, but one big thing was keeping her from that course.
She was scared.
She was sure the others were afraid too, and that they pushed past that fear to engage in battle. But she could feel that doubt in her mind that might lead to her freezing again, as she’d done against Primal. This had become deadly serious, and she felt she lacked the courage to face down that fear. That would help no one, and be unfair to the others.
The sounds of people making their way through the city were familiar and tuned out, so she didn’t hear as Canti jumped down the stairs, but her attention was caught when she heard her voice.
"Senna, what're you doing here?"
She looked up, startled at hearing her own name. He was here? What in the world was he doing? Hadn’t he gotten her message? To her eyes, he looked a bit worried, and she found herself feeling a little guilty. Maybe he heard something, some danger that was in the city?
“What... what's wrong? And what were you talking about in your Flashmail?"
He walked over, saying, "You can't just go out like that, not anymore. We have a hideout for a reason. Every moment we're exposed, there's real danger."
Danger? It was like his thoughts were mirroring her own, but coming up with a completely different result. He saw being out here as the danger, while she saw being with the others in the same light. He seemed comfortable with fighting as part of that group. He should go back. He could help them. They needed all the help they could get, if Primal were an example of the sorts of things they faced.
Still sitting, she looked up and said quietly, "If you're worried, go back. But you know, that group, THAT'S The real danger. Searching out ways to let people who can manipulate lives and then going to them?" She dropped her eyes. "Madness."
"Whoa whoa whoa... We weren't looking for that guy. He found us! And if you think that's dangerous, then try to remember how we got in this mess!" He leaned in closer to keep the words more privately between them. "We fought the Elites right here in Mac Anu. It was a warzone and I KNOW it's still being observed. I'm not leaving until I know you're safe, and the only safe place I know is back at the hideout!"
Senna winced at the second part of this and her eyes swept the opposite side of the canal. THEY were the ones who’d trashed the city? She tried to come to grips with that for a moment before looking back to Canti. She almost asked about that, but in the end it was the first part of his comments that she addressed.
"You mean your group wasn't at that field to try to scramble a hub being controlled by these... what did you call them? Or that none of you thought they might notice someone running their gauntlet? And that they're not planning on doing it again, even though those enemies have to know they'll try?"
It seemed obvious to her, but then, she read a LOT, and figuring out the politics and between-the-lines reasoning and commentary were part of that. Marionette claimed not to be one of the Elites, whatever THEY were, but even if that were true, surely those Elites would be guarding the remaining hubs far more carefully since they’d messed up the first one.
"We were looking for the Hub, and it was definitely to put a dent in the Elites, but the guy who caused all that trouble for us wasn't one of them. I don't have all the answers, but I don't think it's the people who owned the place. Now, what're you gonna do? Wander the system until you get caught? You're in a coma now... There's nothing you can do about that, except help us take out the guys that did it so we can get out."
Senna glanced around again, then said, "Want to talk about this somewhere less central?"
Canti sighed. "Like where?"
She shrugged. "I’m not worried if you're not. But as for what you just said, I'd like to stay alive, in here or whatever. And I don't think I can do that as part of a group that goes looking for trouble."
The response she got was a little more energetic than she’d expected. "But what sort of a chance do you have all alone? They'll seek you out and kill you for sure, or make you a slave like Nighthand said."
Now, this was just getting ridiculous. She was starting to wonder how much control this Nall and Nighthand had over their little group. It might be true, it might not, but Senna always preferred acting on known dangers than guessed ones. And if this Marionette was going to keep following the group… that was worse.
She arched a brow at Canti. "How do you know that. Has it happened to someone? Sounds like a wive's tale. And it's fine for you guys. You're strong enough to want to fight things. I don't. I can't."
Finally she stood and started walking, tilting her head in an invitation for Canti to join her. If they were going to continue having this conversation, it made sense to keep moving, so no casual person just lounging around would overhear enough to start wondering what they were really talking about.