Kartega

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Chapter 53

“I’m going to kill her!” Sid roared, ripping through the telebox to get past them. “I’m going to burn her where she stands! Sits. Whatever!”

She tore past Ashlan and Tann. A shock of magic escaped her when she passed and Tann jumped back from the burn, rubbing his arm repeatedly to alleviate the pain. Her feet clanked on the floor as she walked and sent echoes of angered steps down the corridor leading away from the telebox. The emergency lights were still on in some sections of the tower and she was pleasantly surprised to see how far her power could reach. Maybe she didn’t need to even get close to Leona? Maybe she could shut her down from right where she stood? No, that wouldn’t do. She needed to be there. Wanted to be there. She wanted to see the look on her face when her power grabbed hold of her neck and squeezed. Wanted to smell the sour scent of her flesh as it burned under her hold.

She will end her.

The faster she walked, the louder her anger became, until the only thing left in her vision was the goal of killing the queen before she did any more damage. Choking the life right out of her before she undid everything Sid had fought so hard to accomplish. She could see it so clearly, could almost touch it with her fingers. Dangling right in front of her like a trail of light left by a dying star.

“Where are you going?” Ashlan yelled, running after her. She could hear more hurried steps behind him, the rest of their group struggling to catch up.

They kept a good distance and as she caught glimpses of her reflection walking past the red-lit glass of the corridors, she understood why. She could barely see herself under the blanket of magic she had become cocooned in. It was like Sid was gone and the only thing left was an aura of lighting and electricity swirling madly around. If it wasn’t for her goggles sitting prominently on her head, she never would have recognized herself.

“I’m going to find that monster!” She yelled back and stomped forward. “You saw the screen, she’s in a bedroom. Probably her own. The coward!”

“Sid!” He ran next to her and tried to grab her arm but yanked it back with a shriek as his skin collided with her magic. “Ouch! Sid! Stop!”

Her body vibrated and she dug her heels into the floor. Her face swung around, turning to face him, eyes a pure white. “Why, Ash? Why should I stop? She’s ruining everything!”

“Fine but please just listen to me for a minute,” he sighed. “I just want to talk to you.”

“You have two minutes. Then she’s dead.”

Ashlan took in a breath and glanced at Tann for assurance. When did they get this close? Was this a thing now? If it was, Sid hated it. She didn’t want more people teaming up against her. Every time things became difficult or unbearable, they ran to her for answers. Pushed her to make decisions and basically begged her to choose for them. And now what? She was finally taking a stand against the queen and they simply couldn’t let her go? Didn’t they see she was doing this for them? Everything was for them!

She stared at Ashlan, annoyed.

“First of all, the new look,” he waved a hand over her, “it’s unnerving. Second of all, running off to kill the queen is probably the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard you say. And you’ve said some pretty garbage things before.”

“If this is supposed to make me change my mind, it’s not working.” She rolled her eyes and turned.

“What exactly are you hoping to accomplish by killing her?”

“Uhm, I’m hoping to make her dead. I thought that was obvious.”

The others had caught up with them and she could hear a few whispers pass their lips. They kept a good enough distance and she wondered if they were afraid that she might get mad enough to explode. She certainly looked like an oxidizer shaped like a girl; one wrong move and she could go boom without thinking.

“And what’s going to happen when you get there and she’s hiding behind armed Citizens? You going to kill them too?”

Sid turned back slowly. Would I?

“Haven’t thought about that, have you?”

She shook her head. “She needs to be stopped, Ash.”

“Sure, tell me this though,” he quizzed, “what happens if you get there and things don’t go your way?”

“What do you mean?” She asked. She was genuinely interested and she could see the rest of the group was starting to lean in, eager to see her response. They seemed just as interested as her.

“I mean, what happens if you don’t kill her?”

“That’s not possible,” she said with assurance.

“Look at yourself, Sid! Anything is possible.”

“Fine, so I don’t kill her. I’ll figure something out.”

He shifted his weight form foot to foot. “Right. And if she gets hold of you before you do figure something out?

“I’m not afraid to die, Ash.”

“You really are dumb sometimes, aren’t you?” He raised his voice. “I thought my dad taught you better!”

Her body convulsed and the bolts of magic sparked. “Excuse me?” She yelled back.

“If you die, she gets the chips!” He shouted in her face, spraying stray spit across her cheeks. “She gets the ring, Sid! She gets all of it!”

Well, he’s not wrong.

The whispers behind them quieted but she could still feel all eyes on her. The way they watched her made her feel uncomfortable, like she was a creature on display. Sid thought back to her first day in this tower with Ashlan, of the way she felt looking at the portrait of the queen’s mother. Stardaughter! I’m the painting now, aren’t I?

Her hand reached for the back of her neck instinctively, to check if the chips were still there. She wondered if this is what it felt like for the Domers that got chipped first. To constantly be checking themselves, making sure they were still chipped. Fondling their skin to see if they were still someone other than who they were meant to be. Some halfway version of themselves; free to breathe and live but not really free. It’s how she felt right now, standing in the corridor with her magic so exposed. Like she didn’t have a choice at all. If only Ashlan and the rest of them could understand it. Getting fitted with the chips didn’t mean she was stronger now, it only meant that she was trapped. There was nowhere she could go that didn’t put her in danger, not until the source of the danger was wiped off the star.

She bit her lower lip and turned from him.

“Sid!” Ashlan yelled after her, “Stop!”

“No!”

“What if you die, Sid?” He shouted.

“Guess I’ll have to try not to!”

She picked up her pace, running through the corridor and trying to get as far away from him and the guilt that was crawling under her skin. If she could just round the corner fast enough, she might have a shot at losing him. She could still hear his steps behind her, keeping in sync with her own. “Stay back, Ash!” She yelled and let a burst of lighting shoot behind her. She heard his steps falter and turned to see he swerved to avoid the hit, running faster now to make up for the distance between them. “I mean it!”

Another bolt of lightning burst through the air and catapulted past Ashlan’s shoulder. He was quick but she was quicker, her magic grazing his skin just enough to hurt but not enough to cause any real damage. It pushed him hard, faltering his run and knocking him to the floor.

Ashlan cursed under his breath and stumbled to get back on his feet.

Relief washed over her and she realized that this was her only chance to get away. She pumped her legs, tearing the muscle in them with each accelerated jump. Her reflection blurred until she looked like nothing but a blue and yellow streak of light across the corridor. Sid rounded the next corner, skidding across the floor to make the turn. Her eyes looked ahead and she dug her heels in.

It was too late.

A blade whirled through the air, twisting as it picked up speed mid-flight. Its sharp, electrified tip pointed directly at her chest.

Sid tried to swerve out of the way but she wasn’t quick enough and the blade hit her square in the shoulder and pushed her back. She screamed, one hand outstretched forward as she flew back and one clutching the blade that protruded from her skin. Her eyes fluttered and she was sure she was about to throw up.

Her back hit the floor first, followed by her arm. When her shoulder collided with the floor, she screamed again, rolling over to the side to mask the pain. Tears welled in her eyes and her mouth felt so dry that she couldn’t close it. She could barely breathe.

Something like footsteps and voices approached her but she couldn’t pick out one sound from another. The room faded to a buzzing around her and she let herself go, surrendering to the dark.

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