Since Magic closed its doors during the daytime hours, it was decided by the group that they would pay a visit to the club’s owner after Starset, giving them the entire day to themselves. Ashlan had retired to the tents, eager to catch a few hours of sleep before the evening. According to him, one never knew what could be waiting for them on the other side of the club’s curtains. But Sid knew and she had every intention of warning Serryl before the queen found out that she’d been siphoning magic right under her nose.
When she was convinced Ashlan was fast asleep, she decided to make her way to Tann’s flat, relieved she didn’t need to lie again to get away. She was even more relieved to be away from Ashlan and the confusing thoughts she had about him throughout the day. This was the wrong time to be confused. Sid still had no clues as to where the original ships might be and having feelings for some boy, a Starblade even, was not helping matters one bit.
She took one last glance at his sleeping form and frowned at the warmth spreading over her legs from just looking at him.
Stupid, dumb, Starblade!
With ardent, silent steps she pitter pattered her way out of the tent and into the confined freedom of the dome.
It took Sid the better half of an hour to find her way back to Tann’s flat. She got turned around between the shop tents so many times that she actually ended up right back where she started. Twice. Asking for directions was out of the question so she had to trust that somehow, she would figure it out on her own. Her feet had swelled to twice their size by the time she reached the flat’s door, the skin rubbing against the plastic of her boots and causing unbearable blisters to form.
Tann opened the door with a smile and stars help her, he wasn’t wearing his tunic. What was going on in this dome? Was every man in her life dead set on distracting her today?
Eyes to the floor, she pushed her way into the flat.
“You need to get me in touch with Serryl. It’s important!” She shrieked before noticing the four other people in the room.
“Important how?” The man standing in the far corner of the flat asked. He had the same dark skin and eyes as Tann though he was definitely older. Somewhere in his forties Sid reckoned.
Tann stood beside her and gestured to the man. “Sid, this is Edek, my father. Father, this is the girl I told you about. The one with magic.”
The man took a few steps forward and Sid shrank, hiding her hands in her pockets. She was furious with Tann for telling his father about her magic. It wasn’t his secret to tell and he should have asked her first. Though she was starting to think that perhaps everyone in the domes knew about her and it enraged her. First it was Abbot watching her every move, then Ashlan asking her what she’s doing each minute he was near her, now Tann disregarding her opinion about her own magic! It was as if everyone in Neostar thought they knew what was best for her even though none of them knew her at all. She was fed up with all of it.
“Why are you telling your dad and the rest of these people about my magic?” She snapped. “I never agreed to this, Tann!”
“Edek is the lead command for the Freedom Runners. He’s our leader. Mannar,” he pointed to a short, stout man with yellow eyes and a bald head, “is his second in command. The redhead on the cot is Lexia. She’s one of our top runners. And you already know Nyala. Everyone in this room is integral to our success in taking out the ring and they all knew you since you were born; whether you like it or not.”
She rolled her eyes and crossed her arms. “I don’t like it.”
“I know. But it is what it is.”
There was a long moment of silence before Edek finally spoke and Sid let out the breath she’d been holding. “So you’re Kiril and Gaya’s daughter? You’ve gotten big.”
Kiril and Gaya. The names rolled off his lips so easily that she could almost see them taking shape. Her heart felt bigger somehow just by hearing him say them out loud. Kiril and Gaya: her parents. The people who died to keep her from being chipped. Who died for her magic. She wished she could go back in time. Tell them it isn’t worth it, that their lives are not worth her magic, that she’s not worth it. Instead, she settled for the comfort of knowing their names and that they didn’t throw her away. They loved her enough to die for her and she owed it to them to at least help the people continuing to fight for their cause.
“I grew up,” she noted sternly.
“Quite the looker too, just like your mother.” Lexia sang, “She was always the prettiest girl around. Eyes just like yours, could see straight through you.” She picked up a bright green berry from a bowl and tossed it into the air, snapping her jaw shut around it as it fell.
“You helped my parents too?”
“We all did.” Mannar said, “Owe them our lives.”
“And our futures,” Edek added.
Another uncomfortable silence fell over the flat and Sid decided to break this one herself. “So you knew my parents and you know about my magic. I’m assuming Tann also filled you in on what I want in return for helping you take care of the ring?” She shot Tann a nasty glare and he looked away sheepishly.
“He did. Though I’m still not sure why you’d want to leave after we destroy the ring and free the domes.”
“Because I just do.”
“That’s not really an answer, child,” Nyala noted, speaking for the first time since Sid arrived.
“Well, it’s the only answer I’ve got. Those are my terms. Tann agreed to them and I’m hoping you will as well.”
She looked from face to face and waited for each of them to nod. “Good, So where do we start?”
“First, we need to know how much magic you have without the chip.”
“So what is it you can do?”
The stability she was just starting to gain back shattered into pieces inside her. She felt like she had swallowed a bag of broken glass. Sid had no idea what she could do, in fact, she’d spent her entire life trying not to do it at all. She knew if she was going to help the Freedom Runners, she’d have to use her magic eventually but the idea was so vague in her mind that it barely sank in. Sometime, and soon, she’d need to use her magic against anyone that tried to get in her way. The queen’s guard, the Starblades, maybe even the queen herself. Horror pinched at the lining of her stomach.
She couldn’t hurt him herself, though she imagined simply knowing that she had magic in the first place might do enough damage. For some reason unbeknownst to Sid, he seemed to trust her. The idea of breaking that trust hurt her more than she expected. There had to be a way to help the Freedom Runners and still keep him safe. Keep everyone safe that didn’t deserve it. And as far as Sid was concerned, no one deserved to be hurt. At least not by her, not by some imposter that crash landed on their star in a pathetic attempt to find Colton. A girl who had no idea what they’ve been through. A kid that spent her entire life wishing she could live in a misguided dream amongst the humans. She had no right passing judgment, she didn’t even know which side she was on.
“How much magic do you have?” Edek asked again.
She thought about his question, “You tell me.”
“You don’t know what you can do?”
“I wasn’t allowed to use my magic. Ever.”
Edek’s eyes found Nyala’s who shrugged casually. “Colton kept her in the dark about all of this. He thought he was protecting her.”
“That foolish, stubborn son of a– “
“That’s enough, father!” Tann interfered. “We’re not here to judge how Sid was raised. He kept her safe, that’s what matters.”
She whispered a quiet thank you his way and could see him nod in her peripheral.
“Fine. I’ll keep my opinions to myself but if we have any shot at winning this, we need to figure out how much she can do. And fast.”
“Well, I’m still here for a few more days at least. I can try to sneak out as much as I can and we can test me out. We’ll need to find a secluded place. Like I said before, I haven’t really used my magic so I’d want to keep a safe distance from people. Just in case.”
“In case you fry us all to bits?”
“She’d be more at risk of frying herself if she doesn’t have control over it,” Mannar said.
“What? How?” Sid’s head jerked to him in shock.
“You have to learn to control the electric current running through your body. Know how to ground it. Too much of it can burn you from the inside out. It’s kind of like our version of-”
“Amperfuge,” she whispered.
“So you do know some things about this place.”
“I kept up to date. But I knew about Amperfuge from Ash. His mom-” she stopped, eyes as wide as Jericho. “Oh, stardaughter! Ash!”
“The Starblade?” Tann asked and she tried not to smile at the bitterness in his tone.
“Yes, the Starblade! That’s why I came here in the first place! They have a lead. Someone tipped them off to Magic and they’re going to be raiding it tonight. They think they’ll find Freedom Runners there. We need to warn Serryl! Now!”
Their calm expressions confused her. Here she was, almost breathless with worry and the five of them stood around like it was any other day of the week. Was Lexia grinning? What was wrong with these people? Magic was about to get raided and they didn’t have a care in the stars!
“Did you hear me? They’re raiding the club!”
“We heard you, child.” Nyala said calmly and rested a hand on her shoulder. “I wouldn’t worry about it. Serryl has plenty of measures in place for moments just like this.”
“Of course! How do you think she’s been able to keep these places hidden from the queen for so long? The club will be fine. Serryl too.”
“I’d be more worried about your magic than hers,” Edek said.
Sid sat down on the cot, resting her chin in her hands. She started to reach for her goggles but held back, remembering what Ashlan said that morning. Don’t hide who you are. If only it was that easy! The only thing Sid knew how to do was hide. She wished she could be hiding right now instead of sitting here in the flat of a Freedom Runner about to help mastermind a plan that might get them all killed.
She ran her fingers through her short hair, hiding her face away from the group.
Hiding for just a little while longer.