Nadalia was rudely awoken the next morning by having a cushion dropped on her.
“Come on you two, you can’t sleep all day,” Levon said as he threw another cushion at Nazar. “We’ve got a meeting to get to, remember?”
Nazar groaned. “Why did I drink that stuff last night?”
Nadalia sat up and stretched. “Because it was the only alcohol you could find? What was in it anyway, do you know?” she asked.
“I have no idea, but I feel like death. You mind if I stay here? I’d probably only do something stupid if I went to the meeting in this state,” he asked.
Levon looked over at his twin. “Sure, just make sure you hide the transmitter if you hear anyone coming. Nads, we’d better get to the transport station if we’re going to get there on time.”
“Alright, just let me have a quick splash of water before we go.”
Levon and Nadalia managed to catch a public transport into Region Three and arrived a few minutes early. They found the café they were supposed to be meeting at, and found the two Disciples from the last meeting already waiting. They’d picked a discreet table in a corner, and waved Nadalia and Levon over.
“This table should be safe. I know the Rowsers say one of their people runs this place, but there’s still several other people about. Anyone could be listening in,” said Eznik once they had sat down. “We’re expecting another member of our group to arrive, she won’t be here for a while though. She’s the one who wants to look at the books and writing you found.”
Rehan arrived just after Nadalia and Levon, along with two other members of the Rowsers. “Hey you guys, this is Ziazan and Drystan. They’re part of our group,” she said, introducing the gorilla and cetacean with her.
Levon spoke first. “Before we get interrupted and have to run again, I’ve got the personal communicators here.” He handed two to the Disciples and two to the Rowsers. “You know how to use them, yes?”
Everyone nodded in affirmation as a waitress came over to take their orders. “Hi, I’m Araksi, how is everyone today? Don’t worry about any secrets you might be trading, by the way. I’m with the Rabble Rowsers,” she whispered. “So, what would you all like?”
They all ordered drinks and waited for them to arrive before continuing. “So, what’s this other stuff you mentioned finding in the caves, Thirteen?” Yeranos asked.
“Well, we think we’ve found a whole stash of ancient hemsepans artefacts,” Nadalia said. “There’s a massive cavern full of books, and another one full of old storage discs.”
“There was also a few smaller areas with odd looking models and pictures in,” Levon interpolated. “Nazar found this one, he wondered if any of you knew what it is.” He showed them the bizarre picture Nazar had found the day before.
Eznik peered closely at the image. “I believe it’s a picture of a wet dog,” he said. “Canines were among the first few species that died alongside the hemsepans, so you may be right in supposing the objects are ancient relics.”
“What’s this about ancient relics?” the Disciples’ third member had arrived. “Hi, I’m Ovsanna. You’re Nadalia, right? I’m not sure who everyone else is though,” she said, initiating several introductions around the table.
“Weren’t you the bass player in Black Kat?” Ziazan asked once Ovsanna had sat down.
“Yep. Technically I still am, but the band is on hiatus again since all the other members are either dead or on the run,” she replied. “Did you guys hear about Aleyn escaping a while back?”
“This isn’t the time to gossip,” Yeranos cut in. “Can you take a look at this writing, see if you can translate any of it for Nadalia and Levon?” he asked.
Ovsanna took the books and copy of the writing on the crates. “Well I can tell you what this says straight away, though it doesn’t make any sense,” she said, handing the copied crate writing back to Levon. “It says ‘Fire Works’. I’ll look through these books, and see if I can make a start on translations. If it’s okay, can I come back with you two and see the rest of them?” she asked Nadalia.
“Sure,” Nadalia answered. “There’s a lot to go through though, it’ll probably take you a while.”
“That’s fine, I’m sure the group can survive without me for a while,” Ovsanna said as she opened the first book. “Yeranos can take these back to Mihran when everyone’s done here.” She settled down to read while the others carried on discussing the other artefacts.
“I wouldn’t mind examining some of the other things you found myself,” Eznik was saying. “I have a special interest in ancient history.”
Drystan spoke for the first time since arriving. “One of our group is into history as well, he’d probably want to have a look too. His name’s Loras,” he said to Levon.
Levon and Drystan arranged a time and place for someone to meet Loras, and Eznik asked if he could meet up there as well. With the meeting arranged, Nadalia asked Levon quietly if they should mention the remains they had found in the deepest cave.
“They’ll find it for themselves if they go down there,” Levon said.
“I guess. But it’s really creepy if you just walk into it. I think we should tell them.” Raising her voice slightly so the others could hear her, she continued. “Guys, there was something else we found. It’s not exactly relevant, but if you’re interested…”
Saphrax wasn’t sure about the latest information. Rebel groups meeting up at night, in an abandoned storage building, he could visualise. But rebel groups meeting in a public café, in the middle of the day? It seemed a bit strange, and he said as much to his informer.
“I know it seems strange, that’s why they’re doing it,” explained Vasag. “See, their thinking is that no-one would expect rebels to meet in public during the day, so no-one will be looking out for them. Luckily, you’ve got me to pass you inside information,” he told Saphrax.
“That does make some kind of sense. Alright, you’ve given me good information so far. Even though we didn’t get anything from the first meeting they had, you still gave me the right location and time. It’s not your fault that Valamir and his crew messed up the raid,” Saphrax said. “So exactly where is this meeting, and when?”
“It’s happening today, probably about now,” Vasag said. “Central district of Region Three. There’s a small café near Korian’s old house, they’re meeting there. I would have told you sooner, but I couldn’t get away from the Disciples’hideout until early this morning.”
“That’s fine, I can get some enforcers there fairly quickly.” Saphrax said as he fiddled with some buttons on a panel in his desk. “Can you tell me anything else, Vasag?”
“There are a few things I’ve found out recently. The Thirteenth Kat has acquired two friends, twin brothers, apparently. They’re all hiding together. And she seems to have found a cave system near her hiding place, or possibly she’s hiding in the caves, and a large stash of ancient weapons and hemsepans relics. She has asked my group if they can translate some ancient writing, though I’m not certain what for,” he said.
“Alright. Thank you for the information,” Saphrax said as things started beeping on the panel. “Looks like my enforcers are on their way to catch some rebels.”
“That’s impossible!” Rehan and Ziazan cried simultaneously. “The fools died out on the surface, thousands of years ago, how could their remains be in a deep cave?”
Nadalia was about to respond when Eznik answered the question for her. “Actually, it could be possible. Some accounts suggest that a few hemsepans did attempt to hide themselves in deep caves, believing it would protect them from the fatal effects of their sun weapons. Nadalia and Nazar may have found one such refuge. If that is the case, I would certainly be interested in examining these caves some time,” he said to Nadalia.
With most important subjects covered, the group began discussing other topics. Levon began a heated religious debate with Yeranos and Eznik, while Ovsanna finally got her head out of the books and chatted with Ziazan about music.
“Nadalia?” Drystan had moved his chair around the table so he was next to her. “You were Korian’s partner, right?” he asked, almost shyly.
“Yes, we were supposed to be joined the day he was killed. Did you know him too?” she asked.
“He was my uncle. You were talking to my mum at the ceremony,” he answered. “Did you really save him from an assassin?”
Nadalia nodded. “I did, that’s how we met.”
“Awesome. You know, he talked about you a lot. He told me once that meeting you was the best thing that ever happened to him, and not just because you saved his life,” Drystan told her. “I was going to go over to his old house when everyone’s done here, do you want to come with?”
“Sure. We could probably go now, I don’t think they’ll miss us,” Nadalia said, as Levon and the Disciples’ debate continued, and Rehan joined the music discussion. The two of them wandered out of the café and across to Korian’s old house. It had been left empty, since nobody was permitted to live in the central districts any more. The place looked unguarded, and there were no enforcers around, so Nadalia and Drystan crept up to the front door and went inside.
They wandered around the house for a while, generally reminiscing and swapping stories about the old leader. They reached his study, and decided to poke around to see if there was anything left that might help them find out what Saphrax was planning.
“Hey Nads, look at all this,” Drystan called. “Looks like uncle was investigating Saphrax before he died.” He had found a bundle of papers, some copies of ancient writing, some translation notes.
Before Nadalia could reply, they heard a commotion outside, and ran to the window. The café they had held the meeting at had been invaded by what looked like a small army of enforcers. Nadalia dashed outside, closely followed by Drystan. They could see Rehan and Ziazan running away from the scene, apparently not pursued. Eznik was in the crowd, attempting to look inconspicuous, but Levon, Ovsanna and Yeranos were nowhere to be seen. They edged closer to the crowds, hoping to find out what was happening without attracting attention to themselves.
“Eznik, what’s happening?” Drystan asked as they got to the edge of the crowd where Eznik was standing. “Did someone spill about the meeting?”
“Obviously they did,” Eznik replied. “Yeranos has been taken, Levon and Ovsanna are still inside. Where did you two get to anyway?” he asked.
“We went to visit my uncle’s house,” Drystan said. As he spoke, Levon came running out of the café, pulling Ovsanna behind him. He ran straight through the crowd, enforcers chasing after, and went down a narrow passageway. “I know where that leads, come on,” he told Eznik and Nadalia, and the three of them headed off down a side street.
They came out near a public pool, which seemed to be unusually deserted. Drystan jumped straight in, and Nadalia was about to follow when she remembered Eznik. Being a non-aquatic lizard, he wouldn’t be able to hold his breath for long enough to get through one of the connecting passages between pools.
“Don’t worry about me, I’ll just head back to the rest of the group. You follow him, I’ll be in touch later on the communicator.” With that, Eznik turned round and headed back the way they’d come.
Nadalia dived into the pool and caught up with Drystan. They surfaced in a pool near the transport station, and saw Levon and Ovsanna emerging from an alleyway. They jumped out of the pool and caught up with the other two as they ran past.
“Back to the base?” Nadalia enquired as they ran towards the nearest transport.
“That’s the plan,” Levon panted. “Drystan coming with us, is he?”
Nadalia looked at Drystan, who was still beside her. “Sure, why not?” he said as they leapt on the vehicle just before it moved off.