"Clouds of Tyranny"

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Prayer and Peraration

Tara walked through the grassy green plains surrounding the wayfarer’s wall holding hands with Lars. The sun was bright and warm against her smooth skin as her and Lars were blissful in their time together alone in the tranquility of the beautiful day that befell them. Lars pulled her close as they shared a sensual kiss in the warm breeze. Above them clouds began to gather, black clouds that blotted out the sun. It was pitch black around them, as the air got colder blistering her skin. The grass died beneath them and shadows began to surround them getting bigger and bigger until thousands of figures fell from the sky around them. Tara tried to get closer to Lars for protection, but he was pulled from her by several dark hooded figures with no faces; just white sharp eyes glowed from inside their hoods. Their gloved hands blanketed his head and pulled it from his body; a waterfall of blood flowed down the front of his body as his body faded away and the figures crept slowly towards her as she was frozen in fear with tears flowing down her face. “No!” screamed Tara. She sat in her bed with her face drenched in tears and sweat; she was back in the dorm. She breathed painfully as she looked around the room to see no one else was awake.

“Ter?”

Tara’s head jerked over to Ruthie’s bed, who was awake.

“Are you okay?” asked Ruthie, “Did I wake you? I’m sorry.”

“No, I was already awake.”

“Good.”

Tara wiped her face dry.

“What was it about?”

“It was awful, Lars died.”

“It was just a dream, Ter.”

Lock’s eyes popped open and he saw that Alex was still in his bed turned away from him with the sheets down to her waist. He lay there looking at the indent on her side making her body resemble an hourglass crafted by the finest craftsman. Lock rolled over to put his arm around her waist and felt his sore muscles ache; penance for the night before. His hand slid over her side and across her stomach. She smiled and placed her hand atop his and pushed her body back to press against his.

“Mmm, morning baby,” she said grinning like a lovesick schoolgirl.

“Mornin’ you were incredible,” said Lock kissing her shoulder, “How was I?”

“Eh,” shrugged Alex.

After a brief silence she laughed and turned to face him.

“Kidding, you were wonderful,” laughed Alex kissing him as he smiled at her.

“I’m gonna get up,” said Lock slipping out from the sheets and planting his feet on the cold floor.

Alex lifted head and placed it in her palm with her elbow planted against the bed as she admired Lock’s naked body.

“You wouldn’t wanna stick around for another session, would you?” Alex smiled evilly at Lock.

“Sorry, got work to do,” said Lock pulling on his pants.

“Work? What kind of work?” inquired Alex, feeling that she would most likely have work to do as well.

Lock sat in his chair as he slipped on his boots and laced them up.

“Well, since we have to leave tomorrow night I’m going to instruct everyone to stay awake till tomorrow morning, sleep during the day, and awaken before we set out at dusk. Need them to be fresh for the battle in the morning.”

Lock stood up and put on a sleeveless shirt. He leaned over Alex and gave her a kiss, then left the room. Outside the room Lock saw Pearl emerging from her room looking refreshed.

“Mornin’” said Lock still smiling from the previous night’s activities.

“Morning Casanova.”

“I’m sorry?”

She laughed and walked past Lock. Lock sighed and ran to catch up with her.

“Ready for Harmon?”

“Yes, going to instruct the soldiers of our standard ‘sleep during the day, travel at night’ policy.”

“I was thinking the same thing actually.”

When Lock and Pearl made it into the dining area breakfast was already being served due to the fact that sleep would come quicker today. The Velxeer archers were sitting at their table eating breakfast. Ruthie, Tara, Eve, Clyde, Lars, Ray, and Julius were sitting at the Returner’s table; Lars and Julius were as far from each other as they could get. Lock was surprised at the segregation of Lars and Julius, wondering what had transpired the night before; anything to get his mind off of his night. Pearl headed over to the Velxeer table to explain their sleep policy while Lock made his way over to the Returners’ table and sat across from Julius.

“How you doin’?” asked Lock to Julius.

“Uncomfortable,” grunted Julius, “Don’t think my ‘roommate’ much cares for me.”

“Different beliefs? View?” Julius glared at Lock and began rubbing two fingers along his own arm declaring it as a skin color issue.

“Really?” said Lock in amazement as a young girl placed a plate in front of him consisting of fried potatoes, yolky eggs, and dry bread.

“Yeah,” nodded Julius, “He seemed uncomfortable in my presence. Wouldn’t even shake my hand or put his lips to the same bottle as me. Hell I tried, right?”

“That’s all you can do, I guess,” shrugged Lock as he looked at his plate and began separating the burned potatoes from the edible ones.

Over at the other end of the table Tara, Ruthie, Eve, and Lars were engaged in conversation.

“Really, all girls?” asked Ruthie inquiring about the population of Eve’s underground Returner’s lair in the east. “Yes, of course. Though, I do allow them three days a month to leave so they can experience the sunlight, men, or women; if that’s their pleasure,” explained Eve.

“Do a lot of girls there lean towards same sex relationships?” inquired Tara.

“About two-thirds, I suppose. But that’s just cuz it’s convenient,” answered Eve eating her eggs that were blanketed in salt; it made Lars cringe every time she took a bite.

Alex walked out the ‘Returners’ door and into the dining area halted their conversation; Alex was dressed in her black fatigues and long sleeved mesh shirt that she took to Lock’s room with her the night before, which made Lock realize that the whole thing was planned. Alex waved across the room in the direction of the Velxeer archers who all stood stoic except for Ten who raised a palm halfway into the air.

“Ten!” yelled Reuben in anger of her insubordination.

“Sorry captain,” said Ten as she hung her head in shame.

It took all of Alex’s self-control not to run over to captain Antleon and teach him some compassion by way of her fists. Alex walked over to the Returner’s table and nodded a ‘hello’ at everyone.

“Your bed was made when I woke up. Get up early to talk with Smith?” asked Ruthie.

Alex stood there quietly thinking of a viable excuse.

“She was with me last night,” spoke up Lock confidently.

Tara’s jaw dropped in surprise at the turn of events.

“Doing what?” asked Tara without thinking.

Everyone looked to Tara wondering why she cared; Lars looked as if his heart had been shattered, though he looked angry as well at the thought of Lock sleeping with yet another inhabitant of the lair. Tara put her hand over her mouth wishing she hadn’t said anything, but her words shot out of her brain and through her mouth with nothing to stop them.

“That’s all I’m gonna say about it,” said Lock angrily, “The rest is our business.”

Alex sat next to Lock and kissed his cheek in appreciation. Everyone was quiet at Lock’s openness to bring their relationship to light. Lock half smiled and looked back to his Returners, out of the corner of his eye he saw Bridget across the room nodding her head in disapproval.

“Alright!” said Lock loudly so the entire table could hear, “In preparation for Harmon I want you all to stay awake through the night and sleep in the afternoon, so your refreshed for the trip to Harmon tomorrow evening. No drinking!”

They all nodded in concurrence with Lock’s suggestion. Smith came through the ‘Returners’ door as Lock finished his speech and looked towards the Velxeer archers where they were nodding at Pearl who no doubt was telling them the same thing. Smith made his way to the center of the room and stopped, looking around at his people.

“Attention!” he said in a loud stern voice.

Everyone looked to Smith who was fixing to say something; the room was quiet as he spoke.

“After breakfast we will be having a service with the Rev for whomever requires it. Singers are welcome to join the choir girls.”

Smith went over to his usual spot and began to eat his breakfast. Lock picked up his now half empty plate and placed it on the floor hard enough to make a clanging sound. Hans jumped up from his lying position and ran over to Lock’s plate to enjoy the scraps. Within fifteen seconds, the plate looked brand new as the large black dog licked it clean.

After the dishes were picked up from the various tables, the majority of the occupants ran to their beds to retrieve their rosaries, books, and various religious peripherals and returned to the dining area. After a short time the Rev and eight young girls in white robes holding candles entered the dining area and settled in the center of the room. Lock felt this was the time to leave the room. He stood and began walking to his room.

“You’re not staying?” asked Alex.

“It’s not for me?” said Lock walking to his room.

“Let’s pray,” said the Rev bowing his head, as did the rest of the room along with folding their hands on the table, “Lord Jehovah, we pray for your guidance and your mercy. Protect these young men and women in their attempts to deliver us from the evil that hangs over our land. Place a shield around them as they fight to deliver us from the evil malice of Lucifer instilled in the imperial force that threatens our lives. I the lord’s name we pray. Amen.”

“Amen!” repeated the entire room.

“Now,” continued the Rev, “I hand the floor to the ‘Canary Choir’ for a hymn.”

The Rev walked to a table and sat facing the choirgirls as they began to sing:

“Why are the nations in uproar,

And the people devising a vain thing?

The kings of the earth take their stand,

And the rulers take counsel together

Against the Lord and against His anointed:

“Let us tear fetters apart,

And cast away their cords from us!”

He who sits in the heavens laughs,

The Lord scoffs at them.

Then he will speak to them in His anger

And terrify them in His fury-“

Lock listened from his room at the hymn taken straight from the third Psalm of the bible; it’s a good message for what they soon face. He sat there thinking about the day he stopped speaking to God when Alisa became nothing, why should I praise someone that took her from me? He heard a gentle knocking on his opened door; he looked up and saw Bridget.

“Hey,” she said smiling.

“Hey,” responded Lock.

She let herself in and sat behind him.

“You still can’t let her go can you?” asked Bridget rhetorically.

Lock shook his head from side to side in confirmation as his tear ducts were haunted by the memory of his dead love.

“Lock, you need to let Alisa go. She’s gone.”

“I can’t,” said Lock holding back his tears and she put her arm around him.

“God can help.”

Lock picked his head up from staring at the floor.

“Why are you here?”

“Just because we’re no longer together, it doesn’t mean I don’t value your life or care about your well-being,” said Bridget as she kissed him on the forehead, then stood up to leave, “Please be safe.”

Lock sat in his room for several minutes till he saw Pearl enter.

“It’s over,” said Pearl standing in the doorway, referring to the religious service. Lock stood up and went with her into the dining area where Lars and Tara were hugging.

“Please be careful,” said Tara as she held Lars tight who stood next to a wheeled box with metal rods, gears, and tools protruding out of it sloppily.

“I’ll see you in less than a day and a half,” he promised.

She released him and they kissed gently. He walked over to Lock dragging the cart of metal parts.

“See you soon. The civilians will be underground prior to your arrival. I will see you at the west entrance at dawn,” he said at Lock.

Lock extended his hand and Lars shook it after a short hesitation, so the others would think he is a team player, though he never really cared for Lock as a person.

“Don’t go jumping at shadows; that’s just Retriever,” said Lock. Lars nodded annoyingly and headed through the tunnel where a horse awaited for him outside.

“You gonna be alright?” asked Lock to Tara.

“I’m just worried, that’s all,” she said looking at the tunnel Lars disappeared into.

Alex went into the training room with Pearl where Ray, Tara, Ruthie, Eve, and Clyde were doing various activities. Clyde was stretching his muscles, as he was feeling stiff from his injuries (like a statue brought to life), Ray was shooting arrows at targets as he adjusted it for a more precise aim, Ruthie and Eve practicing their martial arts and various flips together as a team.

Alex unsheathed her dragon blade and began a series of thrusts, swipes, and parries to warm up for the next day’s events that were most assuredly going to test her abilities against her former employers. Pearl pulled out her weapon of choice, a twelve foot long cord consisting of a series of tiny metal plates that made it bend much like a vinyl rope, only more durable; at one end a serrated spearhead and the other end had a looped noose-like end that acted as a handle. They practiced for several hours; Tara did not show herself this time.

“Interesting choice, Pearl,” said Alex admiring Pearl’s weapon, “What’s it called?”

“I made this when I saw a similar weapon in a book. But, in the book it consisted of human hair rather than this metal cord I made. I call it ‘The Stinger’. Ya know, kind of like that of a scorpion’s. Ruthie told me that you made yours as well.”

Alex beamed at Pearl’s attempt to take an interest in her like she was actually a real Returner.

“I didn’t actually invent it like you. When I was a child, I learned how to smith arms so it was quite simple. But, I did do the painting of the pearl dragon myself.”

“That’s ironic,” laughed Pearl.

Alex looked at her cockeyed.

“What is?”

“I carry a stinger and you’re a swift warrior, like a scorpion. And you carry the PEARL dragon.”

Alex giggled at Pearl’s pathetic joke.

As Eve and Ruthie practiced together, it appeared as if Ruthie were practicing in front of a mirror that showed her as an older version of herself; they were equally matched both in speed and ability. Eve flipped over Ruthie’s head and when her feet hit the padded training room floor, they were met with leg sweep from Ruthie, dropping her on her behind on the floor. Ruthie saluted herself and sat down next to Eve. Eve ruffled Ruthie’s hair with her left hand in congratulatory playfulness.

“Did you sneak into Ray’s room last night after lights out?” asked Ruthie winking at Eve implying sexual activity.

Eve’s smile faded away as she thought of the negative repercussions of that decision.

“No. I wanted to…more than anything. But, Ray isn’t a man I can just ‘be’ with and not ‘BE’ with, you know what I mean, mouse?”

Ruthie frowned for two reasons; one being that she knew exactly what she meant and the other being that she hated that nickname.

“No mouse, I’m an adult now,” urged Ruthie.

“Fifteen is adult now? I don’t think so, Ruthie.”

“Hey! Fifteen years and three hundred and fifty days, thank you very much,” confirmed Ruthie.

Ruthie definitely wasn’t an adult in a measure of years or maturity, but if you go by her experience and the events in her life; she was well into adulthood.

“Anyway,” said Ruthie straightening her gaze on Eve, “You think that you’ll fall for him again if you sleep with him?”

“Absolutely. I’ve never gotten over him. I still love him with all my heart. He’s the only thing I think about all day and every day I live,” said Eve chokingly as she looked at Ray on the other end of the training room sitting in a chair, adjusting his arm bow with a flathead screwdriver.

“Are you serious?” said Ruthie, not knowing of this until now, “I thought you guys had a clean break up.”

“We did, but I only pretended not to let it bother me. When he left to join HQ, I cried for a week. I wouldn’t get out of bed or eat. Even sex with another didn’t help.”

“I’m so sorry Evelyn,” said Ruthie putting her arm around her, “I didn’t know. You could just stay here.”

“Right,” scoffed Eve knowing that she could never abandon her soldiers for her own petty feelings for a man.

Smith wanted some alone time with Tara so he led her through the entrance tunnel and out to the plains surrounding the wayfarer’s wall. Tara had reservations about stepping foot outside; her dream felt like a futuristic reality.

“Tara, let’s go,” ordered Smith waving her out to where he was.

She looked up into the sky for cloaked figures, but only saw fluffy white clouds and blue blanket of oxygen. She walked out to Smith as he looked up at the clouds.

“What are we doing out here? Shouldn’t I be training?” asked Tara still scanning the area for threats.

“I wanted to give you more room to test your true abilities…what are you looking for?” asked Smith bewildered by her behavior.

Her head snapped to his direction.

“N-n-nothing.”

He gave her a confused look as he pushed it out of his brain.

“Okay, you see those clouds up there?”

“Yeah?” said Tara questionably as she looked at the white clouds.

“I want you to channel all your energy through your hands like I taught you and imagine those clouds black with dirty rainwater,” said Smith mimicking the hand motions he wished her to use.

She placed her right hand in the air and squinted her eyes in order to distort the clouds so they’d appear darker. Her hand strained with intensity and her knuckles vibrated as she concentrated. The clouds began to shift slightly settling above them. Smith could see it in her body language; she wasn’t confident she could pull this off.

“Concentrate!” yelled Smith trying to rev her up.

She may have been moving the clouds but they weren’t changing hue or consistency. Smith sighed and took a step back so Tara would be unable to see him out of his peripheral vision and motioned with his hands the same she way she was. Tara concentrated harder and harder until she felt her forehead begin to get rained on. Tara opened her eyes and say that it was raining around her and she threw up her hands in confidence of what she had accomplished; or so she thought. Smith quickly dropped his hands to his sides as the rain began to fall.

“Good work, Tara,” said Smith half-heartedly as he put a hand on her back as he pushed her towards the entrance.

Ray and Lock were in the dining room, Lock had all his knives on the table in front of him and Ray had a few wrenches and screwdrivers using them to adjusting his arm bow. When Smith and Tara walked in they looked up as they did whenever anyone entered HQ; out of instinct.

“Why are you wet?” asked Ray confused, “Is it raining? This time of year?”

“It is now,” smiled Smith patting Tara on the back.

Lock looked at Smith and gave him a disagreeing nod knowing what he had done. Tara sat down and began regaling them with her newfound ability to alter weather patterns as Smith retired to his room.

“It’s amazing that if I will it, plants will never die,” said Tara gleefully.

“I’ll be back,” said Lock getting up from his seat.

Lock did a jog for the ‘Returners’ door and slammed it open and chased after Smith.

“What’s with him?” asked Tara.

“He’s Lock,” shrugged Ray, “So, I heard you flew in Sandria.”

“Hold on, YOU!” yelled Lock down the hall at Smith.

Smith stopped dead in his tracks knowing what was to come.

“What is it Lock?”

Lock ran past him and turned around to face him with an angry stare.

“Where do you get off using your powers and trying to pass them off as hers?”

“She needs the confidence. She has the ability, but lacks the esteem. If she believes, she achieves,” said Smith like he was giving a sermon.

Lock began clapping sarcastically at Smith’s words.

“Nice one. You know who you sound like? Luther! Words with no meaning from a mouth of lies! You’re giving her a false ego.”

Lock stormed back down the hall as Smith went into is room, he cringed at the realization that this wasn’t the end of this conversation or the end of their war with each other; good thing they’re on the same side.

When Lock walked into the dining area, his face was red with anger as he seethed over the words with Smith. Tara was examining one of his knives when he walked back over to his seat and sat down, she was mimicking a throwing motion, wondering how Lock did what he does. Lock looked into Tara’s eyes and couldn’t bear to tell her the truth about the rain.

“So, the skills are improving?”

“Yeah, but…”

“But what?” inquired Lock.

“How am I going to fight if I have to concentrate so hard?” asked Tara seeming a bit flustered at the idea of being killed while she focused on a fire spell.

“He’s trying to turn you into a sorceress when you should be concentrating on the small stuff,” said Lock trying to calm himself.

“Like what?” asked Tara listening intently.

“How about the ‘pull’ trick?” suggested Ray tightening a screw on his arm bow.

”‘Pull’?” asked Tara.

“Yeah,” said Lock taking the knife from her hand and standing up, “Take it.”

Lock placed the dagger on his open palm with its handle pointing towards Tara.

“I’m sorry?” said Tara raising an eyebrow.

Lock took five steps back.

“Use your power to disarm me. Open your hand and ‘pull’ the blade from my hand with your mind.”

Tara looked at Ray who had stopped what he was doing, then looked back at Lock. She exhaled and pointed her open hand in his direction like she was about to catch a ball. The knife flew from Lock’s grasp and twirled through the air towards her hand.

“OWW!” screamed Tara as the blade fell on the tabletop.

She closed her hand as blood ran from her palm out through her fingers, she then realized she was only concentrating on ‘pulling’ the dagger and not ‘pulling it straight’. Tara’s teeth and lips pressed together hard out of pain.

“Maybe I should start with something soft,” said Tara looking at her bloody hand.

“Good idea,” said Lock feeling bad, “Go see the Doc for some ointment.”

Tara nodded and walked toward the infirmary not picking her head up from her bloody hand. Lock watched Tara walk into the infirmary door and felt bad, but it needed to be taught.

“Nice work Lock,” chuckled Ray, “Don’t give me any advice okay?”

“Not like you’d take it,” said Lock as his eyes shifted to Ruthie, Eve, and Alex walking into the dining area from the women’s dorm.

“Ah!” screamed Tara at the sting of the aqua colored paste as the Doc rubbed it on her cut.

“Just be glad you don’t need stitches,” said the Doc holding her hand with his left palm, “And that it was reasonably dull.”

He extended his right hand to Bridget who was handing him a roll of white gauze. Bridget was of the same body type as Tara with short cropped blonde hair, narrow eyes, and full lips.

“Do stitches hurt?” asked Tara.

“Only going in. Unless they get yanked out by accident,” answered the Doc as he pulled the gauze around her palm very tight.

“I had stitches once,” said the Latin accent of Helena, “I was so paranoid, I didn’t open my hand till it was time to have them removed.”

Helena was a short husky girl with auburn hair and chubby cheeks. The Doc pinned the gauze in place and stood up.

“Helena, bring the pills. We’ll go distribute them among the soldiers now. Bridget, get the supplies together.”

Helena and the Doc left the room with two large bottles of oval pills.

“Nervous?” asked Bridget at Tara.

“A little. Are you going?”

“I have to, Doc needs me and Helena.”

“Is it true you used to date Lock?”

“Yes, but it didn’t work out like I had hoped. But, we’re still friends.”

“He’s with that new girl now.”

“What girl?”

“Alex, the horse trainer from Pan’dier.”

“Oh, the redhead. Not exactly his type, but whatever.”

“What do you mean? What’s his type?”

“You know, like us. Not fat, but not all skin and bones either. You know…healthy.”

“Oh,” said Tara blushing at the fact that she could have had Lock or WILL.

Lock stared at Ruthie from the table waiting for her to notice him looking at her, she caught him looking and could tell by the look on his face that he had something to say to her.

“I’ll be right back,” said Ruthie to Eve and Alex and walked over to where Lock was standing.

“Ready for the trip,” asked Ruthie with a huge smile on her face, obviously ready for this battle.

“Can we talk?” asked Lock seriously.

“Sure,” bubbled Ruthie.

Lock looked over to the kitchen that was now empty of any cooks or cleaners.

“Over there…in private,” he said pointing.

Ruthie did a half frown and followed Lock over to the kitchen as Eve, Ray, and Alex watched.

“What’s going on, Ray?” asked Alex referring to Lock.

“Don’t know.”

“Ruthie?” asked Lock looking into her eyes.

“What’s wrong, Lock? You look upset.”

“I don’t want you to go.”

“Huh?”

“I want you to stay behind for this one.”

“No, Lock. Don’t even try. I’m going. How am I supposed to prove myself as a Returner and get my own room if I don’t go on this one?”

“I have a bad feeling.”

“Oh really? Err! I knew you’d do this,” scoffed Ruthie as she turned to face the dining room and yelled, “Hey everyone! Abort the mission! Lock’s got a feeling!”

She turned back to and gave him a nasty look.

“Ruthie, that’s an order. You’ll stay behind and wait for survivors.”

“That’s bullshit! I don’t answer to you! You think you’re my father all of a sudden?”

“You may not be my child, but I am your dad.”

“Errr! I’m not seven anymore Lock! I’m a young woman now, I can make my own choices.”

“Even if they’re the wrong ones?”

“That’s right, you bastard, even if they’re wrong! That’s how people learn.”

Ruthie pulled her own hair and began to turn his back to him. He grabbed her by the arm before she could get away and jerked her back.

“That’s how you DIE!” he yelled.

She slapped him on his left cheek as hard as she could, so hard her fingers stung and his face had a red mark above the beard line. She was shocked at her own action, but did not show it. He glared at her in anger so fiercely that she thought he was going to hit her back.

“You ARE still a child.”

“I have killed, had sex, and traveled thousands of miles.”

“You think that makes you an adult, Ruthie?” said Lock laughing at her ignorance.

She scoffed and turned and began walking away.

“Ruth-Angela, please,” said Lock in a monotone voice begging without using body language.

She turned just her head to look at him remember the last time he called her by her real name; she was nine.

“I love you more than I could ever love my own child, or a lover, or the Returners even.”

Her eyes began to moisten with forming tears.

“I’m sorry,” said Ruthie apologetically knowing that this was something she had to do.

He watched his Ruth Angel run through the dining area and back toward the dorm for a good cry. Lock walked back to the table and gathered his cleaned daggers.

“Are you okay?” asked Alex who was now standing behind him.

He didn’t look to her as he packed up his weaponry.

“She doesn’t slap very hard.”

“That’s not what I meant.” He picked up his rollaway knife holder and turned to her, “Let’s talk in my room.”

Lock walked into his room followed by Alex in tow. She shut the door slowly and looked to Lock for some sort of explanation. Lock turned to look at her as she sat on his bed with her hands folded in her lap. He pointed at the wall.

“I remember when she was a year old and took her first steps with me guiding her. The first time she said ‘I love you’ to me. When she was six and we left Listka and all we had were each other. Pneumonia when she was nine. We joined the Returners together, and now she won’t do one little thing for me.”

“What did you ask her to do?” asked Alex.

“For her to skip this battle.”

“What?”

“I have a feeling that something bad is gonna happen and even if it doesn’t she shouldn’t be exposed to the blood shed that is likely to happen. I don’t think she can handle seeing her friends be killed before her eyes.”

“You actually think she hasn’t thought about that?” said Alex standing up from the bed, “That’s WHY she wants to go, Lock. She’s a young woman that needs to experience this. Ruthie craves power and a big victory will give her that power; it’ll make her feel strong.”

“She’s only fifteen. She’s still a child,” sighed Lock.

“Only to you. When I look at her, I see a strong dangerous woman capable of anything. When you look at her, you see that little toddler holding your hand as she took her first steps.”

“Maybe your right. Damn, twenty-seven and I have a fifteen year old daughter.”

“If it helps, you look older with the beard,” flirted Alex approaching him and putting her hands on his chest.

Lock smiled as he looked into her eyes.

“What a couple: I look thirty-five and you look twenty-two.”

She moved her mouth close to his till he could feel her breath as she whispered.

“When I’m actually older than you,” she smiled.

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