Riselle woke early from her sleep and spent half an hour exploring the house. It was a three-story structure, tall and thin. The ground floor held a small kitchen, a rather large common room that was filled with ratty old couches and chairs, Marin's bedroom, as well as a room that was locked. Riselle was curious as to what was behind it, but was unable to find a means to open it. The second story contained six small bedrooms and this was where Ticor, Fay, Jaday, Pelia, Sava, and Del stayed. The top floor was smaller than the two other floors, containing only her bedroom, Ryken's, and a small bathroom. There wasn't much to the place, as it was only temporary, according to Marin. In a few weeks, this house would be empty. The question now was would Riselle go with them, or stay on Wess? She didn't know.
She ate a cold breakfast with Pelia, who was going to be training her at the office. The young girl was a little shy at first, but gradually warmed up to the former Princess. She explained that mostly everyone worked at the Immigration Office. She didn't know how Marin and Kal had worked that out, but it was mostly Talents that worked there, along with the occasional normal citizen or two. There were two shifts that were worked, 8-12 or 12-4. No ships would ever arrive in the spaceport outside of those hours. Riselle's duties while she was being trained would strictly be data input and filing. Pelia said that if they were staying any longer, she probably would have been moved up to a different position, but it didn't matter.
"Why work then?" Riselle asked.
"So you don't stick out. If you didn't work, yet people saw the house you live in, it would raise some eyebrows."
"Maybe I have rich parents." She countered.
Pelia half smiled. "No one is rich here."
The small girl also gave Riselle the rundown on her new housemates. Marin Carcharis was born on the Free Planet of Pantaleo, which also happened to be the capital. Her father was an elected leader on the Board, which was the governing force of the Free Planets. Every leader was elected and had to be re-elected every two years. There was a representative from each of the Free Planets. Marin joined his campaign at the age of 16 and was now well on her way to sitting on the Board herself. She didn't like politics however, and joined the Legion, a special branch of the military that took the most dangerous assignments and made them happen. That explained her presence on Wess.
Dack Sokalimar, or Kal, was a Master weaponist, trained to be precise in almost every weapon known to the populace. He was born on Ransour, but left to study on Harnos at the age of 8. He joined the Legion at the age of 18, one of the youngest ever to be accepted. He and Marin were often paired together on assignments as they had different viewpoints and tended to balance each other out.
Ryken Sokalimar was the nephew of Kal, grew up on Kolaw, one of the poorest planets in the Thirteen. When his mother died when he was eight, Kal and his grandfather, Artis Sokalimar, staged a rescue mission to free Ryken and his brother from his other grandparents, and brought them to Ransour. Ryken trained with Kal whenever he was home from missions, and now accompanies him on some, which is why Ryken came to Wess.
She herself was a poor girl from the planet of Kalern in the Thirteen. She was sent to Wess for stealing food in order to keep herself from starving. No one in her city would give her a job because she was so young and so small. She had been recruited by Marin about a month ago after she had been on Wess for a few weeks. Marin spotted her as she healed a small sand lizard that had been hit by a hovercar.
Ticor Kircino had been born on the Free Planet of Quentos, a planet with more ocean than land. When he found out he had the ability to fly, he traveled to Pantaleo to join the School for the Talented. Even though he's small, he's nineteen years old and is a part of the Legion.
Fay Charthrop is a distant relative of one of the three major houses in the Thirteen, the Charthrops of Section 2. Her parents had left the Thirteen when she was only three. She had an older brother and two younger sisters. She was nineteen and a part of the Legion as well.
Pelia knew the least about Jaday Sanger. He was from Dekkowicor, a scarcely populated planet in the Thirteen, known for its harsh desert conditions. No one lived there if they could help it. Jaday had been part of an outlaw gang that was pretty extreme. He was caught and given the option of death or Wess. And so here he was.
"I don't think healing is your only Talent." Riselle said when the girl had finished. "You've only been here a month and you already know so much about these people."
Pelia blushed. "I just know how to listen." She said softly.
"Well, what do you know about me?"
The girl hesitated, but at Riselle's urging, she spilled. "You just turned sixteen a few weeks ago and were supposed to enter into betrothal with Greye Hadet, but you freaked out and set the Queen's dress on fire. She sent you away to save face. And now you're here."
Riselle smiled sadly. "You got it, kid."
"And you aren't sure whether or not you're going to join us or turn us in."
Riselle rocked back in her seat at this assertion. She thought she had been doing a great job of hiding her intentions. Apparently Pelia had a sixth sense, or seventh if you counted the healing.
"You don't have to deny it, Riz. I already know it's true. I haven't told anyone else though."
Riselle looked up at her. "Why not?"
"Because I don't think you'll turn us in. You have nothing to gain by doing so."
"I have everything to gain. My mother might let me go home."
Pelia scoffed. "Turning us in doesn't change the fact that you're a witch and an embarrassment to the Crown. Valya would pat you on the head and then go on her way. You will never be allowed to return to Luminaria, not while she's alive. And we would all be killed."
Her words stung, but Riselle couldn't deny the truth. The small girl had brought to light the fact that Riselle was never going home. It didn't matter what she did, her mother would never deem her acceptable enough to return to the palace.
"Just think about it." Pelia said as she stood from the table and cleared her dishes. "If you don't want to join, you could just stay here and not say anything."
"You're right." She admitted. "But I can't stay here. I hate it here."
Pelia just looked at her. "Then you can come with us and join the Talents. Otherwise you're stuck here for the rest of your life."
"But she's my mother."
"Valya doesn't love you." The girl deadpanned. "The most she ever did was tolerate you. She jumped at the first chance to get rid of you and just keep your sister. Why do you not see this?"
"I don't want to talk about this anymore." Riselle said defensively.
Pelia shrugged. "It's just the truth."
Riselle felt tears begin to rise in her eyes, but she furiously blinked them back. She was not a sniveling idiot anymore, but she was still furious. She stood abruptly and marched out of the kitchen, her anger building like a storm. Valya doesn't love you, the most she ever did was tolerate you. Those words repeated in her head as she climbed the stairs to her room. She passed Sava and Del on the first flight of stairs, and Ryken on the second flight as if they weren't even there. Finally she made it to her room and unleashed her anger.
Flames shot out of her hands, sputtering and weak at first, but then growing stronger. She aimed them at the brown stone walls, charring them black. She moved her hand sideways and the black mark moved with it. The smell of sulfur filled the air, but Riselle didn't notice. It felt so amazingly good! She was filled with a sense of elation as the flames burst from her palms. It bubbled up until she realized she was laughing.
Her hands were suddenly encased in blocks of ice, so cold after the warmth of the flames. She spun around to see Kal and Ryken standing her doorway, identical looks of anger on their faces.
"I…I'm sorry." She lied. "I don't know what came over me."
"Don't do it again." Kal said crisply. "Next time I'll put your whole body in ice and you'll have to wait for it to thaw." He turned and walked out, satisfied that the situation had been handled. The ice dissolved from her hands, leaving them red and angry. She crossed them over her chest and stared at Ryken.
"Do you ever wear a shirt?" She asked, trying to deflect attention away from what she just did. The boy stood bare chested in her doorway, just staring at her. He seemed to snap back after a moment.
"Only when it's cold out." He smirked. Riselle's annoyance went up a notch. It was never cold on Wess. "Why do you care? You checking me out?"
Riselle rolled her eyes. "I was surrounded by guys who looked like you all day every day at the palace. Why would I check you out?"
He laughed. "Please. I'm way better looking than those pretty boys. These muscles are all natural." He stuck a pose and Riselle was stuck by the fact that he was very good looking. She resolved to never tell him that. It would boost his already significant ego.
She just cocked an eyebrow. "I've seen better."
He smirked right back at her. "I doubt it. Now why are trying to burn down the house, Princess?"
"None of your business." She turned around and started pulling clothes out of her dresser.
"You miss your boyfriend?"
Riselle glared at him over her shoulder. "I told you, he's not my boyfriend. I've known him since I was three."
"You miss your sister?"
"No. Now go away."
"You miss your mother?"
Riselle spun around. "No, I do not miss a woman who sent me away from my home the second I showed any sign of being different! If you don't leave, I'm going to fry you!"
Ryken just crossed his arms. "Temper, temper. That's not very becoming of a lady. Just what would your mother think?"
He was long gone before the flames singed the doorway, his laughter echoing behind him.
Riselle yawned as she made her way into the house. The shift at the office had been long and boring, and she was ready for a nap. Plus all the flame throwing this morning had really exhausted her. She was almost to the stairs when she heard voices arguing behind the locked door. Ever curious, she quietly approached the door and pressed her ear up against it.
"It's orders, Marin. We have to follow them." The deep voice of Kal was distinct.
"I just need a little more time! We have two coming in on the next ship in a week, and three more the week after that! Five more Talents!"
"Dashall doesn't care. We have Riselle now and the risk that she could be discovered is too great. If she were to be kidnapped or killed, we could lose a lot of momentum. He wants her on Pantaleo where it's safe."
"Riz is one person. It shouldn't matter that she's the daughter of Valya."
"Marin, that's the only thing that does matter."
"It didn't matter before we knew about her abilities. It shouldn't now."
"It matters because she's a symbol. A beacon. If Valya's daughter is speaking out against the atrocities her mother is committing in the name of the crown, it will make people open their eyes and think. This campaign needs her."
"It needs all of us, Kal. And five more Talents could make or break a battle."
"I realize that, but it's not up to me." He sounded frustrated. "We have to follow orders. And Dashall's orders are that the extraction is happening in two days."
Riselle heard Marin sigh, defeated. "I know we do. It's just that we know they're coming and that they're going to have a terrible life here, but we're leaving anyways."
"There's nothing we can do about it, Mare." Kal said softly. "These people will survive."
Riselle slowly crept away from the door until she was certain they wouldn't hear her. She walked up the stairs towards her room, trying to digest what she just heard. Not the part about being a symbol now, because that had made complete sense to her. But the part where they were going to just leave five other people because of her. Five people who thought their lives weren't worth a cent because they had abilities most didn't. Five people who would have some of the roughest lives in the galaxy. Five people who would never know how close they came to being saved. Laying on her bed, thinking about these people, Riselle made up her mind.
Of course Ryken chose that moment to poke his head into her room. "Hey there Princess, let's go. We have training to do." He turned to leave.
"I'm not going."
He slowly turned back around. "What do you mean?"
"I'm not going to training until I've talked to Marin and Kal."
His eyebrow popped. "About what?"
"None of your business." Riselle sat up.
"Don't tell me you're going to leave now, right when the extraction is going to take place."
"You know about that?"
"Yeah, Kal is my uncle." Ryken said as though Riselle should have known that he would tell him. "So you just stayed here to get free room and board? Is that it?"
"What? No!" Riselle stood, fury clouding her thoughts. "Get the hell out of my room Ryken!"
His blue eyes flashed with anger. "Are you coming with us in two days when we leave, yes or no?"
"No, I am not, not that it's any of your business!"
Ryken's voice lowered and his face was terrifying. "You will be on that ship. We have all risked our necks for you. You were given a job and food and a place to live."
She wasn't fazed. "I will not be on that ship. I am not going to leave without the others."
His head cocked slightly. She had noticed he tended to that when he was confused. "What others."
"The five other Talents that will be arriving on Weiss within two weeks. The five that we know about, but are not going to wait for because of me. I am not leaving without them."
"Wait, what?" He shook his head. "What are you talking about?"
Riselle rolled her eyes, impatient. "I just overheard Marin and Kal talking and-"
"Overheard?" He interrupted, smirking.
"Alright, I was eavesdropping! Now will you shut up and let me finish?"
"Be my guest."
"They know about five other people who are going to be arriving, two in a week and three the next week. But they don't care. Some guy called Dashall wants me on Pantaleo as soon as possible."
"So they ordered this extraction knowing that there are five other people who need to be rescued? And they're just going to leave them?"
"That's what I heard." Riselle retorted, crossing her arms. "And I'm not leaving without them. So either you all leave without me, which defeats the purpose, or we wait."
"I won't leave without them either." He said. "Now come on, let's go tell them."
Riselle rose from the bed and followed him downstairs. Kal and Marin were still behind the locked door, so Ryken knocked rapped on it hard. His uncle opened the door and scowled when he saw her next to his nephew.
"Can I help you?" He asked.
"You planned the extraction early knowing full well that five more Talents will be arriving shortly?" Ryken cut straight to the point, his voice sharp as a knife.
Kal's eyebrows rose slightly. "I don't recall discussing this with you."
"That doesn't matter, the point is that I know about it. And we aren't leaving without them."
Marin joined her counterpart in the doorway. "We have to, Ryken. We don't have a choice in the matter."
Riselle watched as he lifted his chin. "Oh yeah? Well Riselle isn't going either unless they're on board."
Kal turned his gaze on her. "Are you going to hold her hostage?" He asked his nephew.
She snorted. "As if he could." Ryken glared at her, but she ignored him. "I'm not going to go with you, not if it means leaving those people. You have no idea what it feels like to come here as a witch. You feel so worthless and alone. These people that you're abandoning will go through their lives believing that and that's too awful to think about."
Kal ground his teeth. "We don't have a choice and I will encase you both in a block of ice and haul you aboard that ship if need be."
"If you make me leave without them, I will not make any of the speeches or any other of the things Dashall wants."
"You were listening at the door," Marin accused, her voice cold.
"I told you we should have talked about it somewhere else," Kal said through clenched teeth.
"Not now." She snapped at him. She turned back to Riselle. "We have our orders."
"Orders that never would have come through if not for me," She shot back. "You need me and everything is destroyed if I don't go with you or do the things you want. It's your choice, but is all this trouble really worth it for two more weeks here?"
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