After the Tilt: Book 2

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Chapter 25: Revenge

There is something unnerving about waking up in an unfamiliar place. I opened my eyes and for a moment, had no idea where I was. Instinctively, I pulled the blanket up and covered my face. I reviewed the events of the past weeks, trying to make sense of where I had been and where I presently found myself. Inside the tent, everything was quiet. Outside, I could hear the crackling snow under the footsteps of those walking by.

How many days had it been since I had arrived in Centrum Agricultio? Four, I think. I had lost all sense of time. I got up and quickly got dressed. The cold was biting again today. I opened the door and stepped outside.

Since our arrival, we had been left to ourselves. Fiori, Eli and Yuki spent most of their time eating or training. I hadn’t seen much of Arno or Doran; they came in for their meals but quickly disappeared thereafter. Ashe, who according to herself, had ten years worth of sleep to catch up on, had been solely enjoying the comforts of her bed, while Meyer was no where to be found.

I shouldn’t have been surprised by that, really. I mean his father was, after all, the headmaster of the orphanage. How great it must have been for Meyer to be reunited with his dad. I envied him but didn’t allow that feeling to get a grip on me. Instead, I tried to be happy for him. This is what a friend would do…

But then again, I was the kind of person who would send his friends to their death.

I’m a bad person.

Why did I pick him?

Why couldn’t I have had picked Fiori?

I reached the main hall. The warm air hit me in the face. I took off my jacket and hung it on the wall. Eli’s laughter was filling the room. I made my way toward her. She was sitting in the corner by the wood burning stove, holding a steaming cup of tea. Fiori was leaning against the wall, enthralled by the conversation. Sitting on the bench, across from Eli, were Yuki and Meyer.

The sight of Meyer made me glad. It felt good to be together again. I pulled a chair and joined them. Fiori handed me a cup of tea. Yuki was mid-story, recalling the time they had tricked an entire group of recruits into believing Fiori could read their minds. It was the first time ever, that I had heard them talk so freely about their military past. I listened half asleep, taking in the heart-warming feeling of being surrounded by my friends; safe, free…

Far, at the back of my mind, was the discussion that I had overheard on the night of our arrival.

I looked around; they all had a smile on their face. I smiled too. It came naturally. I took a sip of my tea. It was nice and warm. I closed my eyes and tried to hang on to the moment, but unexpectedly, all I could see was Lianna’s face, tortured by pain. I quickly reopened my eyes, trying to chase away the image. It was too late. The wound on my heart had been reopened. I focused on the people around me. I held on with great effort to the peacefulness surrounding me; fighting the abyss trying to pull me down into its depths.

“Are you ok Fenn?”

Fiori had noticed.

“Yeah, it’s nothing,” I lied.

I reassured everyone with a smile.

Yuki resumed their story.

I had another sip of my tea and let the warm liquid gently coat my throat. I took a deep breath and concentrated on Yuki’s voice, but Lianna’s face wouldn’t leave my thoughts. She stood there, in perfect stillness, before my eyes.

Just then it occurred to me, since the day of the explosion, the music had never returned. My heart bled a little more.

Yuki was done telling their story. Eli was now chatting with Meyer. Fiori was finishing his coffee and Yuki was getting ready to go join Doran for training. Fiori would probably go and watch them but wouldn’t take part. The burns covering his body were still healing. He hadn’t regained a full range of motion yet. I also suspected that the smile on his face was his way of hiding the pain he still felt.

Eli had told me that upon their arrival, the onsite doctor had been surprised to find him in such a mangled state; surprised that he had survived at all.

How strong do you have to be to survive an explosion, then get back up and lead your friends to safety.

I could only hope, one day, to be as strong and as dedicated as he was. Until then, I made it my duty to watch and learn from him as much as I could. But since my arrival here, I had done nothing at all.

I am nothing.

Again today, I was idle. I didn’t feel like training. My presence wasn’t requested anywhere. So, I would probably sit in the main hall or lay on my cot reading Hana’s letter… again. Most of the time, I roamed the camp aimlessly in search of something… anything that would bring back the music.

People started leaving; everyone but Meyer. The smile he had on vanished quickly. We both sat there staring at our tea, absorbed in our inner hell. The reality within; made from our angst, our past experiences and our locked-up emotions. It was easy to get lost in that space. I had to be careful.

“I’m sorry for your sister,” he said in an oddly monotonous voice.

I looked up, unsure of the expected response.

“I should be the one sorry for you. In the end, you knew her better than I did.”

It was hard not to let the jealousy color my voice.

“Still…she was your family. I can only imagine how… painful it must have been to find out… too late...”

Insensitive, I thought. Meyer the genius, has no filter.

I didn’t answer.

“…well, at the very least, you now have a brother. I guess that counts for something.”

I winced.

Perhaps it did. But it didn’t feel like it. I had lost more than I had gained. I would have gladly kept my sister over my brother, especially if it meant I’d never have to see Evian again. Maybe I was being too harsh. Maybe it was unfair of me to think this way. But my feelings were strong. I couldn’t just ignore them.

“I have a brother,” I mumbled to myself. “A little brother…”

“He’s something, isn’t he.”

I was surprised by that statement. It was a strong one to make this early in the game. There was admiration in his voice. It reminded me of how precarious my situation was. It reminded me that I didn’t really know who these people were. What they wanted? For all I knew, Meyer had probably been a spy for Evian.

It was best to change the subject.

“It must be nice to be reunited with your father!”

A flash of anger appeared on his face. He hid it well, but not well enough.

“My… father. He is not my father. Please don’t ever call him that. Not ever again.”

It was cut and dry. I had inadvertently hit a nerve. It spiked my curiosity. Would a good friend poke around? Probably not. But I was not a good friend. I was just someone trying to navigate this cruel world.

“For some reason I was sure he was your father… something he said… unless I remember wrong.” I watched him carefully as I spoke. Studying his movements, his every muscle twitch.

“We might be blood relatives but by no means does that make him a father.”

I didn’t have time to respond before he added: “Would a father abandon his only child?”

It was rhetorical, but I had to bite my tongue not to answer… after all, Lianna, Evian and I had all been failed by our own father. Meyer’s circumstances seemed trivial compared to ours. I had no sympathy to give him.

My tea was getting cold. I drank it anyway.

He did the same.

“I’m sorry,” was all I could come up with. Not that I was sorry. I wasn’t. But it was the only acceptable thing I could say at this point.

“I guess that makes us both sorry.” It was his unconvincing effort at returning the civility.

I changed the subject again.

“How long have you known Evian?” I casually asked.

He smirked. “You really are out to get me, aren’t you!”

“Between friends… tell me… you were a spy, weren’t you?” I gave him an obscenely obvious wink.

He laughed.

“So, you do consider me a friend after all. I’m touched. But I am sorry to disappoint you, I wasn’t a spy for Evian. I wasn’t a spy for anyone.”

“But you knew my brother. Your father…”

He frowned. I pretended not to notice.

“…Hardi, works with Evian. The day of the meeting, when the helicopter showed up, you dashed before they arrived. You knew that was an attempt to kidnap me. You knew Evian wasn’t going to be there. The information you were hacking into was being fed to you by Evian wasn’t it? If you want me to still consider you my friend, you need to start telling me what you know.”

I loudly set my cup on the table and crossed my arms. I straightened my back and took a stand. I wasn’t going to let him get away without giving me some answers.

“I worked for your sister and your sister only. Her interests were the only ones that mattered to me. You’re right, I’ve known Evian for quite sometime; he and I met as kids. Years ago, our paths crossed while he toured Senex Centralis with his dad, your father. Did Hana say anything to you about me?”

It was his turn to be curious. Words can be a powerful weapon. Say too much and you risk exposing all your cards, say too little and you risk losing grip on your adversary. Out off spite, I wanted to withhold any information he didn’t have, but deep down I believed in our friendship. Hana had expressively demanded I do everything in my power to protect him. She suspected he was a spy, yet, she wanted him kept safe.

“Hana thought you might have been a spy for Evian.”

“She did? Hmm… that would make sense.”

“She thought you might have been a spy, yet she was adamant that I would keep you safe, that I would protect you. Why is that?”

His face tensed up, not in anger, not in pain. It was the face of someone who had just heard something upsetting; the face of someone who was guilty.

“She cared for you,” I added, seizing the opportunity.

He lowered his head.

I relaxed my arms and let them drop to my side.

“Meyer,” I calmly said. “You worked for Evian, didn’t you?”

“I wasn’t a spy for him. I didn’t work for him. I worked with him. I worked with him at protecting Hana. I worked with him at helping Hana. I worked with him at finding you, at keeping you safe. Hana would never have accepted his help. She hated him. Evian and Hana both had the same list of names. I was on both of their lists. Evian found me well before she did. After our first encounter, he always kept in contact with me. He knew, sooner or later Hana would come for me. He knew sooner or later she would rescue me. And eventually, she did. Evian promised me he’d keep Hardi safe if I helped him keep his sister safe. It seemed like a fair deal.”

“Your father? You did that to protect your father?”

“He’s not my father. He was never a father to me. But he is still my relative. My only living relative. He might have failed me, but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t protect him. I am better than him. Better than this. And I hope he lives a long life, so everyday he can see just how well I did without him! I don’t need him. He needs me. That is my revenge.”

“Your father doesn’t want us here.”

“I know. I heard them too. But you don’t have anything to worry about. Evian’s got connections. He’s got our back. He gave Arno the task of keeping an eye on Hardi, to make sure he doesn’t do anything rash. Doran too. And with Fiori and Yuki here, nothing bad will happen!”

“So, everyone knows?”

“It was to be expected. We were not going to blindly trust a government representative. We know better than …”

The roaring sound of a low flying plane covered the end of his sentence. We both rushed to the window just in time to see two fighter jets pass by in the distance.

“They know we’re here?” said Meyer in a panic. “Shit this is bad!”

“Are those… planes? Here?”

“Shit! We need to find Fiori!”

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