“Tyr! … Tyr!” The whispered name was followed by two hands on his shoulders shaking him awake.
Soul Whitefeather blinked open his eyes and looked up into Vali’s tense face. It was light in the room, but with Horlus I’s short day-night cycles he wasn’t sure how long he had slept. On the upside, he no longer felt the bone deep exhaustion he had experienced right after the fight, but his right shoulder and the stump of his arm—another word that had come back to him—was killing him. His shoulder and chest muscles screamed in protest from the unaccustomed exertion of wielding a weapon with less than a quarter of the leverage they were used to and although the weapon had helped to deflect Thor’s attacks, it has also attracted his opponent to target his stump directly; mostly glancing blows that the padded and reinforced leather vest had deflected well enough, but in one instance the tip of Thor’s hanbo had hit him squarely against the end of his stump, sending him to his knees in agony.
Flavia had called a timeout for him to recover, but the fight hadn’t been over until one of the opponents had been bested. It had been Soul’s good fortune that not too long after his near knockout, a faint with the hanbo and a close range punch against Thor’s temple, had dropped the bigger man out cold. And not too soon; Soul had been near collapse from exhaustion himself.
Soul knew that if he lost a few fights too many and the entertainment value of watching a one-armed man fight a bear had exhausted Flavia’s limited reservoir of patience, his lifespan would be measurable in days rather than years, if that. Was Vali here to drag him back into the ring already? Without a doubt, if he had to fight now, he wouldn’t stand a chance. He sat up cradling his aching stump. “What’s up?”
Vali put a finger to his lips, straightened up and motioned inconspicuously for Soul to follow him.
Curiosity won out. Soul glanced around, but neither Rag nor Baldr, his constant shadows so far, were around. He grabbed the black silk robe from the foot-end of his bed and followed Vali’s retreating form. The cool, soft silk felt soothing on his battered arm and sore chest and back and for a moment Soul allowed himself to revel in the luxury of the sensation.
He followed Vali through the gym into the adjacent spa area, where the other man shed his clothes and entered the steam room. After a moment’s hesitation, Soul did the same. It was a fairly large room and through the dense, swirling fog, Soul could just make out Vali sitting on the second level of the three tiers of dark, polished stone benches that ran the length of the back wall and one side of the room. Except for the sound of dripping water and faint grey noise it was eerily quiet. Vali patted the bench to his right. “Join me. Thought this might help you relax and recover.”
Soul hesitated for a moment then did as asked; intrigued by the other man’s behavior. Though attuned to emotional undercurrents, he hadn’t detected any sign of danger or malice and his instinct nudged him on.
He sat near Vali and when he looked at the bench between them he could read words the other had drawn in the dew on the stone: DONT SPEAK. BUGS EVERYWHERE
Soul smiled at the ingenuity. AND HERE? He wrote.
Vali waved a hand through the undulating, hot fog, a smirk on his face. Then he wrote over the previous text; Soul observing each letter as it was drawn in the same spot: EVEN IR CAMS USELESS, ONLY AUDIO
WHERE RAG + BALDR?
WITH FLAVIA WE HAVE AT LEAST 30 MIN
WHO R U?
FRIEND Soul watched as Vali drew a circle around a three-pointed star—the symbol of the Horlus III police force—followed by the letters SI. Special Investigator. He nodded in acknowledgement. Weighing up his options of how much to reveal at this point, Soul opted for caution: I DONT REMEMBER ANYTHING
U CAPT 1 SOUL WHITEFEATHER WITH H3 MIL RECON – UR TEAM AMBUSHED – ALL DEAD EX U + COMMANDER
Bits and pieces of memories where falling into place, some of them leaving him shaken. If Soul hadn’t already been sweating profusely from the steam, the emotional strain would have done just that. Again he admired Vali’s wits for taking him here where none of his reactions would give him away, as long as he kept his mouth shut. Garran—the name he hadn’t been able to place—Garran was the Commander. He asked to confirm: COMMANDER = GARRAN?
YES GARRAN RAULSTEN HE MAY NOT KNOW U ALIVE
INCOMPLETE INTEL – SOLD BEFORE FLAVIA COULD GET HIM
SLAVE LIKE US – BUT HE NO LONGER ON H1
A few more puzzle pieces added to the picture in Soul’s mind. So Garran had managed to escape somehow, but the best bet for Soul’s own rescue and survival would still be to get in touch with unit commader. His memory was still little more than patchy, but if he knew one thing, it was that he trusted Garran unconditionally—except he might not be in any condition to render assistance. GARRAN PARALYZED?
Vali looked at him in surprise and nodded. YES – 1 OF FLAVIAS SICK JOKES He hesitated for a moment his hand still hovering over the bench and frowned. Then he carried on writing: LIKE UR ARM – AMP UNNECESSARY – U KNOW?
Soul nodded and exhaled a long breath. For a moment he watched the swirls of fog his breath propelled about then he raised his shortened arm towards his face and studied the deep purple bruising at its end for a moment, feeling the soreness, but at the same time a strange emotional numbness while looking at his truncated limb. Only the callousness Flavia had exhibited surprised him.
“Sore?” Vali asked.
Soul nodded again and blinked. Vali moved places to sit on his right and suddenly Soul felt Vali’s hands on his shoulder and digging into his traps. He closed his eyes, sighing at the comfort the large, strong hands offered. They moved down his arm, kneading first his deltoids and then with gentle, upward strokes his reconfigured bi- and triceps. Despite the bad bruising, the relief the massage provided was stronger than the pain and a feeling of gratitude swept through Soul. Amazed at the other man’s willingness to touch the stump, Soul dropped his head and relaxed his neck.
After a while, Vali returned to the other side and resumed his writing. BETTER?
Soul nodded again. THANX
Soul brought the discussion back to the matter at hand: GARRAN LEFT WHEN?
ABOUT 1 WEEK
IN TRANSIT – NOTHING CLOSE Horlus II was currently on the opposite side of the sun while Horlus III was the closest; reachable within 10 to 20 days depending on the craft. Reasonable to assume he would be on his way there. WAY 2 SEND ENCRYPTED MESSAGE WITHOUT ANY1 NOTICING?
Vali didn’t respond for so long that Soul thought he had missed the question, but then, just as he was about to ask again, Vali wrote: IF THEY COME 2 GET U I WANT OUT 2
Soul frowned, unsure of how to respond. Despite the fact that he didn’t get a sense of duplicity, could he trust Vali enough to bring him along? Could it be a ploy to get to Garran? Soul played for time. WHAT?
I WANT 2 LEAVE WITH U – FLAVIA GROWING SUSPICIOUS – MATTER OF TIME UNTIL U + ME R DEAD – TRAITOR IN H3 GOVERNMENT – IM OFF RECORD – NO1 WILL COME 4 ME
Soul made up his mind and nodded. He had to take the risk. If Vali was telling the truth he was in as desperate a situation as he. If not, then he would have to improvise, but passing up this opportunity was not an option. OK – MESSAGE HOW?
HACK ENVIRONMENT CONTROL SERVER – AXESS THROUGH PANEL IN UTIL CLOSET NEXT 2 GYM DOOR – BEWARE CAMERAS/PRYING EYES – HAVE MESSAGE READY – WILL GET U ADMIN ID CHIP L8R TODAY + CRE8 DIVERSION – U FOLLOW?
YES – MEET HERE 4 CHIP?
A smirk appeared on Vali’s face even though he shook his head. NO – KISS ME
Then he got up and walked to the door of the steam room. Before opening it he turned back to Soul. “I’m going for a swim, Tyr. You should give it a try.”
Aurora - Part 21
Aurora - Part 21