6: Further Research
The night of their arrival into Lantern's Gale had been uneventful. The walk from the airship was crowded but uneventful, at least he had avoided the barrage of elbows. He had waved goodbye to Peppy as he left, though Glynda mentioned if their visit wasn’t delayed, they’d be seeing the captain and his ship for the ride home. From there it was a comfortable cab ride to their hotel, which Axel noticed was rather close to the town hall. No doubt it was because the two Hunters he was with had serious business to attend to, something concerning heroism, great battles, political intrigue, the usual affair. Though for the entire evening and morning, his mom looked ready to kill Glynda in a moment’s notice. Axel didn’t understand the reason for that, nor did he possess the motivation to find out. He was just happy to get out of the house.
Though the tension in the air made for an awkward breakfast.
For Axel it was miraculous to see his mom and Glynda sharing a hotel room without demolishing it come morning tea. While he had been quietly sipping and chomping on muffins and eggs, the two Hunters had been having a heated conversation. Not with their mouths though, Axel had learned that entire debates could occur between women without a single word being exchanged.
It was quite fascinating really, to see them talk solely through the language of stares and facial twitches. It could easily be mistaken for a unique form of sign language, if there was a single person brave enough to try learning it. Axel sincerely doubted that, considering either one of these two would and in fact could snap at the slightest provocation. But somehow the two of them maintained a semblance of civility, if that was the word for it. To him it felt like someone had drenched the room in gasoline and given each of these two women a single match, and they were both waiting for the other to start the blaze..
Axel felt as if he was walking on eggshells. Eggshells that were made entirely out of plastic explosives. He had quietly arranged his things together, including his weapons. His mother didn’t approve of him carrying them around or wearing them, but one look from Glynda had silenced her protests. He was quick to slip them under his sleeves. He even packed the pistols his father gave him, the prototype Tod Gluhens, and was careful to conceal them in his jacket.
Thankfully his mother didn’t have time to check him over, as she and Glynda needed to rush out for a “business meeting.”
“When will you guys be back?” he had asked, earning a shrug from Glynda.
“I do not know. The person we’re meeting has a tendency to ramble on, much like the Lieutenant you met on the ship.” Glynda slung on a pitch-black coat in place of her normal cape, a coat that bared her purple crown symbol on the upper arms, while Katherine wore an identical coat with her own sapphire eye symbols. They only wore those coats on special occasions, so whatever they were up to was important. He didn’t push it though. Some information was just classified, even to him, and he didn’t really want to provoke his mothers foul mood anyway.
“Wait, so what am I going to do?” He asked with a whisper. “I don’t want to stay in here the whole week or I’ll go mad auntie. I get mom that is annoyed, but I-” Glynda silenced him, pulling him in closer with a hush.
“Your mother’s foul mood is not your fault Axel. She’s just a bit anxious with this trip.”
“But you can’t tell me why because it’s classified?”
“Essentially.” she nodded. Axel sighed. “You won’t be here all week though. I’ve brought a tour guide with us, and she’ll be giving you a tour of the city.” Axel remembered that his jaw had dropped. Glynda was acting more and more out of character by the second. He didn’t inquire any more after that.After that they had left for whatever it is Hunters did in a mayor’s office.
So he now found himself alone in an entire hotel room. Well, there were worse places to be alone for certain He was still a bit drowsy and needed his second cup of tea. Delicious caffeine that soothed his nerves and readied him for another day. Another crazy, chaotic, episode-laden day no doubt. At least breakfast was enjoyable for him, it was just peace and quiet in a hotel room all to himself. Only him, a cup of tea, the Lieutenant, and his-
Wait, the Lieutenant?
“Woah!” Once again he found himself making an intimately friendly greeting with the hard floor when he saw the squeaky Lieutenant sitting right beside him. He vision went fuzzy in that brain-damaging way, and with a groan he realized he’d spilled the damn tea. His head was sore, and not in the typical concussion sort of way. His eyes were stinging with the prickles of hot needles.
“When, when did you get in here?” He grumbled out from his spot the floor.
“I entered your registered room exactly six minutes and seventeen seconds ago.” she chirped, apparently unaware or uncaring of the boy who had slammed his entire body into the floor. From his spot, Axel saw she was merrily typing away on her pad, yet somehow kept her yellow, slit eyes trained on him the whole time.
“Well, okay. That’s good to hear I suppose.” Axel rose from his impromptu declining, stumbling back into the chair next to her. His vision was still blurry, and that tinge of his usual pain continued in his skull.
“Are you well Axel Krieger?” The Lieutenant spoke.
“It’s nothing, just a tinge of my-”
“Your ‘episodes,’ a condition brought about by some unknown stimulant in your cybernetic implants that cause pain throughout your body.” She finished that all in just under four seconds, somehow.
She had summed up his condition, the whole years he’d spent going through meditation and pain, all in the span of under four seconds. How remarkable. If Axel was displeased, it certainly showed on his face, because the Lieutenant ducked her head slightly, and her lips pursed.
“My apologies. I did not intend to offend you.”
Axel shrugged as he rubbed his eyes. “It’s okay. I just get a little cranky when this happens.” He snatched a large glass of water from the counter, chugging it for all his worth like a man stranded in the hot, dusty desert.
“Interesting. Does intake of water help alleviate your symptoms? Perhaps the oxygen-”
“What, this?” Axel pointed at his glass. “No I’m just thirsty.” At this the Lieutenant looked confused, and at the same time intrigued. Getting just a bit too close for comfort as her yellow eyes looked deep into his own aqua green ones. She examined him with cat-like gaze, at once both curious and suspicious of them.
“These eyes. Is there any cure for the episodes?”
“Not one that I’ve found. Only thing that works even slightly is intense meditation, or…” Axel’s gaze drifted to the side. He still didn’t understand how thinking about...Her helped him deal with his attacks, it just didn’t make any sense at all.
“I apologize, but do you have a speech impediment? You seemed to have paused.”
“It’s nothing.” he sighed, rising from his seat with a yawn. “I don’t know of a cure honestly. My dad ran tests, my mom and Glynda tried magic, the works.” Axel turned on the sink, washing out his mug while being only half focused on the task. He couldn’t really muster up the energy for it anyhow.
“So no offense to you Lieutenant, but if you’re only here to talk about my eyes this is going to be a dull week for us both. My eyes are high-tech cybernetics built by my dad after I lost my first in the fall, which you’ve no doubt heard of.” Axel slid the mug back into place on the counter, still feeling a faint tinge in his eyes. "My childhood friend almost slipped on a wet rooftop and I tried to get her out of the way so she wouldn't fall. Then I fell myself and landed on a pile of rusted metal, rebar I think. My eyes were damaged to the point where dad had to remove them and replace them with cybernetics. I can see better than a normal human, but I experience these attacks at random intervals, and that’s it. That’s basically the whole story. There are episodes, I go through them, and I wait for the next one. The end. Satisfied?” He whipped around to look back at the Lieutenant, and noticed she wore a very cuboidal sort of military hat.
“Wait...I thought you were supposed to be back on the airship. Aren’t you Captain Peppy’s first mate?” To this the Lieutenant let out a small chuckle, which somehow ran its course faster than Axel’s senses could register that she had even vocalized.
“Oh, I am not his lieutenant. No, to be more precise I am in fact Glynda Goodwitch’s secretary. I’m only called Lieutenant because I once served in the Vale military and reached the rank at an unprecedented nineteen years of age for my strategies in dealing with Grimm attacks. I received four purple hearts, three bronze stars, two silver stars, two gold stars, and the medal of honor in my service before I left.”
Axel felt his brain pause. So many medals on one person didn’t seem possible. Surely all that medal on one side of a uniform would make the wearer fall over, wouldn’t it?
“That is...Quite impressive Lieutenant. Wait, hold on a minute. With a military record like that you should be a commander by now. What changed? Why become a secretary to Auntie Glynda?”
To this the Lieutenant’s eyes flashed with a faint light. It was as if some fire was kindled deep within her. It was somewhat marred by the Lieutenant standing up at the speed of light, still somehow typing merrily away on her pad.
“To put it simply, I found more purpose working under Goodwitch, a Hunter not marred by black ink and politics, than in serving an organization such as the military.”
Axel only just noticed that the woman’s voice slowed to an almost normal speed, a gesture that gave her words incredible weight. He could see that despite her outward bubbly persona, there was much more to this woman than he’d given her credit for.
“How has that been for you? Is it...Fulfilling?” The Lieutenant nodded.
“I have never once regretted my choice Axel Krieger.” Then, just as quickly as it appeared, the fire in the Lieutenant’s eyes disappeared to be replaced by her now typical cheerful demeanor, and she looked at him with a wide and friendly smile.
“Well, now that we have exchanged pleasantries. My other, temporary duty is to serve as, how did Goodwitch put it? Ah yes, ‘my eyes and ears on Axel’s movements,’ that was the exact phrasing in which she described it.”
“Wait so...Did Aunt Glynda assign you to babysit me?”
“Yes. Specifically I am to escort you to any areas of the city available to us.” Axel’s head tilted as the realization dawned on him. Katherine leaving him alone in a hotel room while Glynda assigned a well-decorated former officer of the military solely to keep an eye on him, an innocent young boy without a single mischievous thought in his entire body.
“Well. Does that mean we can go out right now?” he asked, daring to hope of getting some damn sunlight for once in his life.
“Of course. In fact I organized a list of locations you’ll find enjoyable.”
Axel felt a smile forming on his lips. Maybe this weird and horribly confusing vacation would have a few upsides to it. With nary a word passed between them, Axel followed the Lieutenant out of the hotel. He had his backpack, his weapons, his new green shades, he was ready for a good old week on the town.
“I’d like to see the military hanger first if we can? I’ve heard the engineers here have been working on some experimental aircraft that use liquid dust engines. After that we can check out the power plant, then the underground irrigation system, and then the city walls and turrets last.”
“Why yes we can. In fact we can use a private hover car to get there.”
“You mean a mark six strider-bug class hover car?” Axel almost squealed in delight. “Oh this is going to be amazing! I can’t wait to get my hand on those turrets, and you better have earplugs because I might end talking your ears off miss-” Axel paused, looking at the Lieutenant. “I’m sorry, I don’t know your name.”
“I am former Lieutenant Bastet Lynx, at your service.” Her golden eyes flashed with glowing pride and she grinned to show off her large canine teeth, looking at him like a devious alley cat.
Axel felt his heart skip a beat, unsure of whether to feel scared, surprised, or confused, or all three at the same time. For some reason he felt more comfortable going with the last option.