My feet hurt. My back hurts. My legs feel like lead, and the shield pulls at my shoulder in a very uncomfortable manner. I feel a blister on my hand from the new deerjay I had the tinker build for me. The grip wears in my hand in a different place, and I am pretty sure I will have to re-wrap the hilt. My mask chafes my nose a bit today.
These are the thoughts that flit through my mind, like little gnats, trying to break my concentration. Morons standing near me keep walking in front of my sight lines, make noise, and in general act like I expected a bunch of psions to act. Children. Children with fire in their brains.
I hear a stick crack, and my head swivels just enough to take it in as I grip my weapon tighter. More of the children, deciding they are going to start cracking sticks and playing war. Two of them face off and draw weapons, playing a game of vegasian tag. I shake my head and go back to what I was doing. Waiting. Waiting. A small sound of pain as someone gets stuck. Waiting. Waiting. Waiting for her to come.
I see members of the MC there. They aren’t there for the meeting, however. I think they are there to support Slink, who is there to support Ash. But there’s John Henry Liberty, who seems like a good sort to me. I hear he hits like a ton of bricks. That will be me some day.
Why the hell am I even here? I am not even getting any damn brass. But when your bunk mates say they have a friend’s back, sometimes it’s good enough. A little good will goes a long way, and Brass knows, rotters like me can use all the good will we can get, it’s At least I have some Steel in my hand. One out of two gods isn’t bad.
So I took the job. Brass or not, I take a job, and it’s a pact with myself. No betrayal, no bribes, my life before the clients. They asked me to watch over Ash. I took the job. Later they tell me the other psions are my secondary concern. Dakota will be there, as she’s the one who “hired” me, and Angus will be there. He’s the reason I have a bunk this trade weekend.
She’s late. It’s growing dark. People are getting noisier with impatience. The large psion is huffing and stomping a little with impatience. The cute rover girl is laughing off to the side. The other rotter sits, I think, making deals with some of the others. But it’s not my job to care about patience, or what they do. I will wait as long as my employer needs me to. Ash seems patient. She answers questions. She deals with issues. She quiets people from time to time.
I hear one psion and my teeth grate. “Hey, I need some training. I am getting better, but I want to learn to reach into someone’s mind and shadow my words.” Listening to him talk about twisting someone’s mind, I want to beat him to death right then and there. I remember his face, but I purposefully forget his name. Ash is public, but I do not know who else is, and when I am on the job, secrets are secrets. I don’t see shit.
But I will remember him. No one says I have to like the people I guard. Or that I can’t prepare. After all, once my contract is over, if he tries to twist my mind, I want to be ready.
An hour passes, and it’s dark now. I see the lights bobbing through darkness, and the weight of her coming near becomes palpable. I feel the pressure on the doors of my mind, and the nails of her presence clawing outside. I know, suddenly, if the door opens, I will be little more than a drooling animal playing with a sword.
“She’s coming. And she brought friends.”
The pressure lets up, and I take a deep breath. Ash begins to move towards the crater. I follow, not far from her.
They begin to talk as I walk the perimeter. Dakota is not in sight. Neither is Angus. I tense, but I cannot let down my guard. My nerves are tingling as I step lighter, ready to run to protect my charge if need be.
I hear fragments. Fragments that scare the shit out of me.
“Mustang is coming…”
“...is no longer with us. He was hollowed out from inside…”
“...need to do something…”
“... can’t trust anyone but our own…”
You can trust me. I stay sold when I am bought.
“... not true. There are people in Bravo who care…”
“...the Bravo Fallows are with us…”
“...they will turn on us…”
Not me. I don’t care about you. I care about my word.
“...pool our abilities. It will be a well of power…”
WHAT?!? I notice that the guest, and her companions bleed from their noses. I listen a little more intently as I walk around. Dakota is back. She nods to me. A few moments later, I see Angus. He is on the other side of the camp, watching another approach.
“The ritual will bind us, and pour our power into a well, and anyone can pull from it.”
Like I said. Children. It’s something we learn as children in Vegasia, that they do not seem to learn in Bravo. If anyone who puts in can pull from it, someone will pull it all. Someone always does. And what if one of those Hollow Psions can do it for them?
Not my business, though, until they start immolating me and mine. Fuck. Fuck. A part of me wishes there would be an attack so I was not tempted to hit them myself. Damn witches.
Angus and Dakota come closer, and I fill them in on what I’ve seen and a little of what I heard. We split back up so we can watch the approaches. When I get back, the psions have split into groups. The visitor and the companions, and all the Bravo people. I can hear them discussing… Some of them will go through with it. Some will not. It’s a test.
Yeah. That will work. I am just saying, if I was an evil overlord, I’d let everything be nice and okay until I honey trapped as many as I could. Then I’d eat their souls. Good thing I am not a psion, I suppose.
It does not take them too long, which is good, because I’m on edge. This would be the time in some brass novel that the bad guys would attack. Or the good guys. I can’t decide. Ash I like. She seems to be all about making sure the others are okay. But some of the others… well, I know I don’t like them.
I keep my patrol, however, and soon, I hear chanting. Everytime I look back, however, those lights in the visitors hair blind me. It kills my night sight. I have to alternate my eyes so I can keep a watch on both the outside and the inside. And then a scream from everyone in the ritual.
I rush in as Dakota and Angus turn and start heading up. I see them all gripping their heads, and blood flowing from their noses and over their lips. As one, they stand, all shaking and trembling…. but they seem to get stronger before my eyes. There is a glow coming from some of their eyes. And the whispers… oh fuck, for a moment, I can hear what they say in a double echo… out loud, and in my head.
“I can feel them all…”
“This is great. I feel perfect…”
There goes the neighborhood.