Kartega

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Chapter 9

“I’m so sorry!” Sid squealed, scrambling to her feet. “It was an accident, I swear! I’ll pay for the damages!”

The Starblade jumped to his feet effortlessly, dusting off the back of his perfectly fit suit. He was taller than Sid originally thought, though she couldn’t tell much of anything with her chest pressed awkwardly against his moments ago. Taller and a touch more attractive than she would have liked. She bunted her goggles up, straining to look up at him. The Starblade fixed his sky-blue eyes on her and she rapidly looked down at her filthy boots, hiding her flushed cheeks. He felt familiar to her somehow and she got the sense that if their eyes were locked for much longer, she would be in serious trouble.

“Pay for it? With what? Your little Domer dockets? We both know those are useless in the city,” he scoffed.

So much for being attractive, Sid thought. This man is a stardamned fool!

“I’m not a Domer, you imbecile!” She roared, raising her fist as if to strike him.

The Starblade pointed a blue-gloved finger at her face. “You sure about that?”

“What in the stardamned sky are you talking about?” Sid was furious. Who did this kid think he was to go around pointing fingers and assuming she was some sad, little worker? Wait ’til Colton hears about this, he’s going to rip you into pieces!

“Oh, my. That’s quite some mouth you’ve got there,” the Starblade chuckled, “I meant your eyes. They’re, you know, different.”

Of course. Sid had forgotten that without her goggles, the only feature that differentiated her from Colton’s people was out there for anyone to see. When she first realized that every native of Neostar had the same, dreadful feature, she cried for days. Colton tried to console her, telling her she wasn’t like any of the Domers, that she was special. But she didn’t care for his words. She didn’t want to be special. She wanted to be just like him and his people. Just like Queen Leona and this insufferable Starblade that was standing in front her, judging who she was based on a set of eyes. Colton was wrong, she wasn’t special. She didn’t want to be anything of the sort. Didn’t want the Starblade to look at her like she belonged on that worker train. Didn’t want him pointing out that she will never be like him.

“You’re either a Citizen or a Domer. Can’t really be anything else,” the Starblade smirked.

Sid’s mind played out a dozen scenarios all ending with him slumped on the floor with a bloody nose from her angered blows. Instead, she snapped the goggles back over her eyes. “Right,” she whispered because he was right. There was nothing else for her to be down here.

“So, what are you?”

“Someone who’s going to help you fix your stupid blade!” She howled and kicked the remnants of the weapon on the ground.

“And how do you plan to do that exactly?” He smirked.

Sid was getting quite tired of this fool’s constant smiling. If she saw any more of his teeth, she’d be tempted to knock them right out of his perfectly shaped skull. She picked up the two pieces of the blade, studying the torn edges where it snapped. “I just need replacement wiring and a soldering gun,” she finally said through gritted teeth.

“Impressive,” the Starblade smiled, “you some kind of mechanic or something?”

“Or something.”

“Well, that’s not saying much, is it?”

She rolled her eyes, “I’m not here for the conversation. There’s somewhere I need to be so either you want your dumb blade fixed or not. Your call.”

The Starblade raised his hands in defeat, “You’re really feisty for someone who just broke NSO law.”

“Wait, what?” Sid’s eyebrows raised so high you could almost see them over the rim of her goggles. “What law?”

“I mean, you technically attacked an officer of the queen’s guard. And broke his weapon. Sounds like an act of rebellion to me.”

“Attacked? What are you even talking about? You were in my way! And I didn’t break anything. I’m trying to help you fix it, mister officer of the guard!” She hissed. Annoyed that a mere Starblade would dare consider himself a member of the queen’s own guard. Starblades were the last on the chain of command. Well under the guards that held such high status in the NSO regimen.

The Starblade crossed his arms and Sid tried not to be impressed by the bulge of muscle tightening against his suit. “I’m just saying that you could probably stand to be a little nicer to me. Considering the fact that I haven’t had you detained yet.”

“Yet?”

“Exactly,” he smiled forcibly, “I’m not having the best week here so my judgement is likely not great.”

“Oh, what happened? Your perfect little life giving you trouble?” Sid offered sarcastically, “I don’t have time for this! Either take me in or get out of my way.”

“Well, that’s one way to make friends, I guess.” The Starblade grabbed for his blade, yanking it out of her hands abruptly.

“I’m not trying to make friends,” Sid said defensively.

“Yeah, no kidding. What’s your business in the city again?”

Muck.

Sid had to come up with a story, something believable and simple. She couldn’t very well ask where Colton is; the Starblade assumed she was a Domer and a Domer would have no business with the NSO general. She could tell him she’s there to see the queen, perhaps pretend she’s an apprenticing Magistra; she could be a lady in waiting, right? Sid looked down at her dirt stained boots and fingernails blackened by motor oil. Well, that won’t work.

The Starblade cleared his throat, jerking Sid’s attention back to him. Muck, muck, muck! How long has she been quiet for? Long enough to look suspicious, she reckoned.

“I’m here because…” Sid felt the tip of the screwdriver in her pocket, wishing she could stab the pointy end into the Starblade’s broad shoulder and make a run for it.

“Because?”

Her fingers tightened as her thoughts rushed to formulate a lie. “The droids!” She yelled suddenly, loud enough to cause a commotion in a group of workers ahead of them. Some turned to see who the high-pitched wail belonged to, losing their interest quickly once their eyes found Sid. “I was asked to check the droids.’

“You?” The Starblade ran his gaze up and down her small build, “Really?”

“Yes, me, really! I happen to be a very skilled technician. Those droids will never know what hit them when I get over there!” She raised the screwdriver in the air, “I will fix them so good they’ll be begging me to move in!”

The Starblade pressed his hand to her forearm and slowly lowered it down, “Alright, alright, let’s not be pointing sharp things around a dozen armed guards. Not unless you’re looking to get fried.”

Sid blushed and tucked the tool back into her suit. “Not like you could fry me with that bent little stick of yours,” she muttered under her breath.

“Let me guess, it’s your first time in the city.”

She said nothing, instead taking the chance to grunt annoyingly and roll her eyes away from the Starblade. She was growing tired of his incessant questions and pointless attempts at conversation. It was like he was purposefully trying to prevent her from finding Colton.

“I’ll take that as a yes.”

“Look, no offense but I really need to get going.” Sid eyed the group of workers that was almost at the end of the bridge now. She couldn’t miss her shot at getting into Tower City, especially not for some junior blade that wanted to waste her time talking.

“Do you even know where you’re going? That place is a maze, unless you have someone to show you around, you’ll never figure it out.” He pointed to the retreating group of workers in the distance, their backs a wall of stone-grey tunics. “Doesn’t look like you have a lot of friends in there.”

Sid wanted to punch his teeth out. The nerve of the mucking fool! She looked in the direction of the group and slumped her shoulders, he wasn’t exactly wrong. Whatever she’d seen of Tower City, it was the kind of place she did not want to get lost in. Not that she had many options at the moment. She looked back at the Starblade but said nothing. Starspitting jerk.

“How about I make you a deal? You fix my blade and I’ll take you to the droid station,” he said and straightened his stance.

Great, Sid thought. He’s even taller now. “Why can’t you just take it in for repairs?”

“And risk the ridicule of having to explain that I let the star’s smallest Domer run me down? No, thank you!”

“Hey! Watch it!”

“What?” He scratched his head and looked at her alarmingly.

“I’m not that small!”

“Sure, you’re huge. Anyway, what do you say? You help me and I help you. Sound good?”

Nothing about this sounded good. Colton told her it’s not safe and here she was, heading into Tower City with a fake identity and a Starblade as her escort. The amount of trouble she was going to be in when she finds him was not something she wanted to even think about right now. She should say no, take her chances in the city without the Starblade. She shouldn’t risk any more than she had to. On the other hand, she had a much better chance of blending in with him by her side. And if she played her cards right, she could even get him to tell her where Colton is without having to scurry in the shadows of the city.

“I fix the blade and you take me to the droids?” She confirmed, knowing full well she’d be gone long before they got anywhere near the droid station.

“That’s the deal,” he reached a hand towards her and she cringed at the irritating strength of his handshake. “I’m Ashlan, by the way. And you are?”

She hesitated, briefly considering giving him a fake name but decided against it. More lies were not going to help the situation. “Sid,” she said defiantly, squeezing his hand firmer.

“Sid. I like it, it suits you. Short and odd,” he chuckled.

“It’s a nickname so you can shut up now.”

“Oh?” Ashlan raised an eyebrow, “What’s your full name?”

“Sidarius,” she scoffed. “Long and complicated. Happy now?”

She started to walk but Ashlan stopped short behind her. “Hmm.”

“Hmm, what?” She asked, gesturing for him to move.

“Nothing, I guess,” he smiled. “That was my grandpa’s name too. Kind of a weird name for a girl. And a Domer.”

“Not as weird as Ashlan,” she bellowed and stuck out her tongue. “We going to walk or do I have to break something else?”

“Whoa! You sure you’re a girl? You don’t act like any other girls I know,” Ashlan said.

Sid looked him up and down. If she moved quick enough, she could probably run a jolt of electricity through thick skull without anyone noticing. Sid growled and let the magic reach just below the surface of her skin. Not so tough without your stupid blade, are you?

“Relax, I’m just kidding.” He motioned her toward the gates, “Welcome to Tower City, Sid. Try to keep up!”

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