Ellie scrambled to hide a small notebook in her pocket as she heard the doorknob twist. She’d been frantically struggling to write down everything that she could recall over the past several weeks. Writing helped her to purge her emotions and keep a clear head. She’d been doing it for as long as she could remember. Anytime something traumatic or even a little bit sad had happened, she’d write it down and lock it away. She’d never shared these experiences or these emotions with anyone, not even Kai, and she didn’t intend for him to find out about her journals now.
Kort stared at her for a moment as he locked the door behind him. His voice shook as he spoke, unable to forget what his brother had just told him. “He…hey, babe. How are you feeling?”
Ellie smiled, shoving the small journal further into her pocket. “I’ve actually felt great today. Even in the time you’ve been gone, I think I’ve healed quite a lot.” This wasn’t entirely untrue. She did feel a bit lighter after writing about some of the things that had happened to her. Kai didn’t need to know that she didn’t mean physically.
“That’s good,” Kort replied, trying to feign a smile.
“Is something wrong, Kai?” Ellie began to worry. He had seemed somewhat off since he’d been back and she was concerned that he’d hidden just as much from her as she had from him.
“No, no, nothing is wrong. It’s just…well, Ellie, I want to talk to you about something. It’s about Ronin.” Kort sat down on the bench in the room, motioning for her to sit next to him.
“Oh,” Ellie sounded disappointed. “What about him?” Secretly she hoped Kai would tell her that Ronin had died. If only she were so lucky.
“Ellie, is this the first time Ronin has ever hurt you?” Kort tried to search for a way to be gentle in his line of questioning. He’d wondered why Kai hadn’t already killed their brother and the only reason that he could come up with was that Ellie hadn’t ever told him. She hadn’t ever told anyone about what had happened.
“Kai, I really would rather not talk about your horrible family. I’m just glad to be here now, with you.” She cupped his face in her hand.
“You know you can tell me if he did, Ellie, right? You know you can trust me?” Kort was genuine in his concern. “Is this the first time?”
Ellie stood, staring down at Kort. Her voice shook the walls “I said that I don’t want to talk about it, Kai! Can’t you just leave it at that? Haven’t I been through enough recently?” She turned toward the bed, falling face first into the pillow.
Kort moved to rub her back, his hand gently sliding over the coarse material of her shirt. Ellie jerked away from him, turning her head toward the wall. “Okay, Ellie, I get it. I won’t ask again. I just want you to be able to talk to me, you know if you need to. I thought we shared everything.”
Ellie raised up and tossed Kai’s pillow at him. “No, Kai! We’ve never shared everything, have we? We shared happy things. We’ve shared innocuous things. We’ve shared superficial moments and they’ve managed to keep us both going, somehow. But we’ve never shared everything! How dare you pretend to have shared everything with me!”
Kort could see the rage building in her eyes. Perhaps he had gone too far. Ellie turned back toward the wall. “Just leave me.”
“Ellie, I…I’m sorry. I just…”
“I said go!” She yelled as a tear slid down her cheek.
“I don’t understand, Ellie. I’ll go, but I don’t understand.” Kort gently tossed the pillow back onto the bedding. “I’ll be back later with something to eat.” With that, he walked out of the room locking the door behind him.
Ellie’s wheels started turning the moment that “Kai” left the room. He’d been acting differently since he had returned, and she knew going Topside always changed him, altered him to some degree, but never this badly. He was locking her in the room like she was still a prisoner, being no better than Duncan or his brother Ronin. For the first time in years she wondered could she really trust him?
Ellie began rifling through her journals, skimming as quickly as she could, trying to piece together why this new version of Kai would be saying he had given her all the information that they needed to leave the planet. Kai had never shared intel with her, he had always told her it was classified.
Finally, she found something that may be of some use. There, in her journal, she found a short entry reminding her of something he had given her, but it was written in code. “Kai gave me the best present today, he found it Topside. It’s a shiny bauble that could prove useful in so many ways.”
That bauble, as she had written down, in case anyone found her journals, was a device that she had hidden beneath a loose brick in the wall. Kai had told her to hide it from everyone, even him. You couldn’t tell which one unless you knew exactly where to look. She had even put mud around it and let it dry so it looked like the others, but Ellie hadn’t hidden it from herself. She’d never been one involved nor trained in technology. She’d been a naturist. That’s why her job placement was in the greenhouse, but she thought she knew someone who could help her with it. Now the issue was just getting to the device, transferring it to her, and trusting her enough to try to figure it out.
Kai had told Ellie that it could potentially be altered to serve as a communication device between civilians and Topsiders or possibly to communicate with other humans in space, if they were still up there. Not even the devices they held on their wrists weren’t so important. The watches the Topsiders had could be used to communicate with each other, but the watches worn by civilians were only made to receive information unless the civilians who wore them happened to be affluent. She had to be careful how she went about it, but she wanted to try to reach out to the other Topsiders. “Kai” upon returning had barely mentioned his men, didn’t seem torn up at all that he had lost most of his unit, and that wasn’t normal.
Perhaps it was shell-shock, but her Kai wasn’t one to go numb after that great of a loss. He took the responsibility of the lives of his men very seriously. He cared about each and every one them. He had trained and went on missions with them, and could probably rattle off most, if not all 200 of their names.
“It has been over thirty days, Ronin, and the Prime Minister is beginning to ask questions.” Chief Atlas was looking worse for wear. The gray was more prominent in his hair, the worry lines deeper around his mouth and eyes. He seemed to stoop a little lower than his normal 6’2” frame.
“So smooth it over with him, Atlas. That part isn’t my job, is it? You do have to get your hands dirty in this too.”
“That wasn’t the arrangement, Ronin.”
“Oh, I believe it was. I have my own plate full with trying to pull information from his worthless peasant bitch, and running occasional scans Topside to make sure that he isn’t near, and oh yeah, planning the murder of my dear, dear brother.” Ronin feigned sadness, then burst out laughing.
“You’re one cold-hearted, cruel motherfucker, Ronin.” The Chief looked disapprovingly upon his political bed partner and realized that he had sold his soul to a dark force to save his own ass.
“You have no idea, Chief. Best not to ever find out just how cruel this motherfucker can be.”