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Chapter 22

Chapter 22: Elena

“How the hell did you do that?”

“I’m rather interested to know the answer to that question myself,”

“Would you chill out? Why does it matter so much?”

“It wouldn’t if every person in this place didn’t have some kind of fucking secret!”

“Will the lot of you shut up?!” I yell over my shoulder, sweat dripping down my brow as I attempt to triage Dante’s head wound.

I hear one of them, who I can only assume is Damien, stomp away. I brush aside Dante’s hair to reveal a two-inch gash at his hairline. It seeps blood rather profusely given the deepness of it. Dante remains in and out of consciousness, his eyes fluttering open every now and again.

I stand up and walk the room to a set of cabinets and begin to sift through them, attempting to find anything I can use as a needle and thread to suture Dante’s injury.

It wasn’t my intention to reveal myself like that. Thinking back, it’s as if I simply reacted. There was no calculation in the action, just instinct.

Do I really care about these people that much?

It’s like I’ve forgotten everything I’ve learned.

Realizing that stitching the wound is beyond my reach, I look around the room. My eyes finally settle on a nearby stapler sitting on the office desk. With a dissatisfied sigh, I lift it into my hands and walk back to Dante’s position against the wall.

“You aren’t seriously going to use that, are you?” Lauren’s annoying tone reverberates in my ears. I close my eyes, fighting back an annoyed cringe as I turn towards her.

“You have any better ideas?” I challenge.

“Plenty.”

“Then please, find the materials and put it into practice,” Lauren resigns to glaring at me.

“If all you’re going to do is back seat triage me, please go over there,”

“You do understand I’m still your superior,” Her comment finally causes my frustration to overflow.

I quickly stand up and get into Lauren’s face.

“If you knew who my superiors really were, you’d be running for the hills. I’m trying to fix your lover who is currently lying on the floor bleeding from his head. And you’re really concerned about your ego right now? In case you didn’t realize, he looks like that because of you,” Lauren gives me a shocked expression as she’s taken aback. I shake my head “The fact that you’re really surprised about that shows just how much of a heartless bitch you are. That man lying on the floor would throw himself into the fire for you, on top of everything else he’s already done to make sure you get away scot-free, knowing all of the terrible things you’ve done. I have no idea what he sees in you, I doubt anyone does. But if I were you, I’d drop the god damn act and start showing it. Because my vote is on leaving you behind right now,”

For the first time, I notice legitimate tears in Lauren’s eyes just before she covers her face and walks away from me as I end my rant.

“Jesus. And I thought I was mean,” Damien adds his input.

I glare at him causing him to put his hands up “I’ll shut up,” He says, turning away.

I return my attention to Dante, cleaning up the excess blood that’s streamed down his face. I open the stapler, pouring a bottle of vodka I found earlier over the staples, doing the same to his wound causing Dante to wince in his delirium. I place the stapler against the cut and use a hammer fist in order to give the initial staple enough force to enter his skin. I repeat the process a second time, receiving not much of a reaction from Dante. I examine him momentarily, ensuring that he’s stable before standing up to take a breather.

I walk to the far side of the room, the one that’s away from everybody else. I approach a segment of the large, wraparound windows, placing my elbows on the edge and staring out in the void. I fixate my eyes on the nearest nebula, illuminating the dark in fiery oranges and reds.

I close my eyes and place my forehead against the pane, the cooling sensation providing release to the pressure I feel in my head.

I hear footsteps “Hey…you uh…you okay?” A surprisingly timid voice speaks.

I let out a frustrated sigh “I came to this side of the room for a reason,” I dismiss him.

“I just wanted to make sure you were alright,”

I turn towards Ethan “Why are you even asking that question? Do you really think anyone here could be alright at this point in time?”

“I—jus—,”

“Just what? Thought you’d come over here? Woo me by showing you care about my feelings? Maybe I’ll throw myself into your arms. Cry on your shoulder a little bit,”

Ethan closes the distance between us and stares intently into my eyes.

“Shut up,” He says quietly as he takes my hands in his.

I look at him with a confused expression as completely sets aside my scathing words and begins to wash my hands clean of Dante’s blood with a wet rag.

“People tend to say stupid things when their stressed,” He starts, keeping his focus on my hands. “I had this instructor back in training. Said that when your squad mate acts like he hates you is when he’s really asking for help the most from you. And that the best course of action was to ignore the bitter words and show him you’re there no matter what,” He finishes, looking me in the eyes now.

I feel mine start to well with tears as I look into them. It’s the first time I’ve ever seen him take down the veil that shields the person beneath.

The feeling is overwhelming.

I can’t—no—I won’t hold myself back any longer. I wrap a hand around the back of neck, pulling him into me, kissing him deeply. It’s like an explosion of emotions as I finally allow myself to feel everything I’ve been wanting to. I can help but let the tears flow as my body tingles from lips to my toes. As the kiss releases, I feel as if I need to catch my breath. We smile at each other as we stare into each other’s eyes. Ethan retains a smirk on his face as the moment fades.

“What?” I ask.

“Thought you weren’t going to throw yourself into my arms,” He says, his smirk turning back into a smile, causing me to giggle.

“I…thank you…” Is all I can bring myself to say.

“For what?” He inquires.

“For…handling me like that,”

“If that’s what you need, then that’s what I’ll do,” His words create another smile across my lips.

“Serious question though…how did you do those things when you went in there to save Dante? Those weren’t the moves of someone who spent their career as a technician. And the comment you made to Lauren…it’s sort of obvious now,” Ethan says, trying to breach the subject gently.

I look away from him, pulling my hands away from him, receding back into myself. I step back to the window, looking out as I begin to explain.

“That story I told you about my family…it didn’t end how I said it did,”

“What happened then?”

“I escaped to the surface below. Where all the ghettos and less fortunate people were. I lived homeless for months, doing whatever I could to get by. Took up stealing pretty quickly. Got good at it too. One night, I came across a particularly valuable piece of tech I could sell for enough money to get off world. It was guarded in a store house. I managed to sneak in, make my way passed the guards. As soon as I laid hands on it though, all the lights went out and I found myself with a dozen rifles in my face. I had never been more terrified in my life. A woman came out and talked to me. Turned out the whole thing was a set up for recruiting. My options were either go back on the street and perhaps never come across an opportunity to leave again. Or go with her. I chose the latter,”

“Who were they?”

“She revealed to me once I got to their academy that I would be joining the very exclusive agency known as the Ravens,”

“You’re a…Raven Agent? I thought hey were disavowed and dismantled years ago,” Ethan points out.

“They were…unfortunately they got too big for the UEDF to simply hit the off button on. They operate independently now. They sent me here to root out the corruption and excise it. But…as you can see…that’s not going to happen on account of everything that’s happened thus far,”

Ethan stares at the floor for a moment. He nods his head a few times “Well…” My heart slightly jumps into my throat as he starts “I think that that you if you didn’t have the skill-set you do, we’d be mourning Dante instead of waiting for him to wake up,”

I can’t help but smile at his comment.

“You know Blake…I think I like you,” I state.

Ethan gives me that same smirk “That so?”

I nod my head as I lean in to kiss him again.

“Did…did I drink too much and…try to break something with my forehead again?” the groggy voice of Dante asks as he finally comes to.

We all converge on his position, standing over him. Ethan and I kneel down, followed by Lauren who moves in closer beside him, placing a hand on his face, causing Dante to fixate his eyes on her.

“Oh…hey there beautiful. Why the long face?”

I notice more tears stream down Lauren’s face as I finally see her character break into something real. She smiles as she places a kiss on Dante’s lips.

“You scared the hell out of me…I’m so sorry, this was all my fault,” She says as her countenance turns to regret.

Dante leans forward with a wince and a grunt, placing his hands on either one of Lauren’s arms.

“Don’t talk like that. Could have happened to anyone. You were in danger. You needed help. I helped you. That’s what someone who cares about someone else does,”

“I love you…you idiot,” Lauren says as she kisses Dante again.

“Alright, I’m walking away or I’m gonna throw up,” Damien says as he steps away from the situation.

“Can you stand?” Ethan asks Dante.

“Probably…but I think I’m going to hang down here for a minute,”

Ethan chuckles “Fair enough,” Ethan says as he stands back up, walking over to a desk and leaning his backside against it.

“So now that everyone is conscious, I think it might be a good time to have a conversation about where we can hole up a little more permanently,” Ethan puts out generally.

The room remains quiet as everyone thinks.

“I think…I might have a place,” Dante answers.

“What do you got?” Ethan asks.

“You never saw it because we don’t really use it anymore for anything but storage. But there’s the security watch center,” Dante explains.

“That’s…actually perfect,” Lauren comments.

“What’s that?” Ethan questions further.

“Back when this place was run as a military installation, it was used for duty personnel. It has everything we need. Bathroom, showers, separate rooms for sleeping, common area, even food and water since it’s used for storage now,”

“Yeah, that sounds a little too good to be true,” Damien inputs.

“Well I haven’t gotten to the catch now have I, big guy?”

Damien rolls his eyes.

“Catch is…it’s on the other side of the station, two levels down,”

“Sounds like a suicide mission,” Ethan points out.

“I don’t really see another option. Otherwise we can just keep going room to room here, hoping we’ll keep finding food and water and avoiding the hordes of what ever those things are out there,” I say, placing my own opinion into the mix.

“So…does everyone agree that we should just go for it?” Ethan questions.

Looking around the room I can see everyone silently agreeing with each other.

“It’s settled then. Take a breather, we’re going to need all the energy we can get. We’re going to be walking through hell and going down a couple circles to reach paradise. We’ll need to be ready to face the demons in the way,”

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