Coming Up Short
I flex a cramp out of my leg for the umpteenth time tonight, making kicking motions as I flip through pages and pages and pages.
Even though my head is pounding incessantly and my eyes are bloodshot to the tenth degree, I couldn’t suppress the urge—the need—to come back to the Creation Library to look for her.
Eleven days later and I still can’t make fucking sense of anything; not the Atlantic, not the hotspots, not the wine incident…and especially not her.
A long, tired sigh escapes me, and my shoulders slouch in silent resignation.
And for the umpteenth time, I recount every event that’s passed in the last week and half:
The days following the relief effort at the Atlantic had been hectic, to say the least. In fact, that’s probably the understatement of the millennium.
I’d been over at the Konsortium, underground in one of the three main Holding Chambers, interrogating captives that Febe and Heike had come upon during their investigation in Ukraine.
All the progress we have to show for the last several days are four outlaws who know as much as we do about the shift; a bunch of rogue Silver Metalli who’ve been causing havoc in the physical realm where they had the ability to exercise their newfound, supposedly stolen alchemy with more freedom than they would in the spirit realm—and without nearly as much worry of getting caught by a Reaper.
They obviously weren’t counting on Febe to sniff them out in Odessa like a shark does blood.
And they call me the shark.
In any case, they’re official captives of the Reaper Army now; prime suspects caught in undoubtedly wrongful action.
There’s always the possibility they could be lying—though I highly doubt it after the kind of interrogation I put them through – but it can’t be discounted entirely.
At the same time, we still have no way knowing for sure; we can’t verify that they’re the perpetrators who actually caused the shift. We honestly can’t prove shit, but that doesn’t matter to Rabab. He wants—needs—someone to blame, to martyr, and these rogues conveniently fit that bill at the moment.
Sure, they’re criminals, and they were caught red-handed in their wrongdoings. But they’re going to be punished severely for a crime they most likely didn’t commit.
I don’t feel bad for them, per se. They did break some serious laws, after all. They each knew the potential repercussions for doing so, and chose to do it anyway. But the Metalli in our custody are merely scapegoats. I know that, and Rabab knows it, too, but he clearly doesn’t give a damn. He just wants to make an example out of them, using them as sacrificial proxies in his obsessive, political quest to “restore order”. He’s trying to get a point across at their expense, and, criminals or not, they’re still Metalli civilians.
I’d regarded the four captives in their holding chambers; their eyes filled with fear, their energies drenched in dread, no doubt pondering their fates. I don’t condone their misuse and malpractice of Metalchemy, but there’s no way they started all the turmoil that’s been going on for the last week and a half.
They’re opportunists at best; obvious amateurs taking advantage of an anomaly that had presented itself, something plenty of other Metalli and Reapers have done as well.
But the Head Elder insists on highlighting these unfortunate ones; those who just happened to get caught because they were at the wrong place, at the wrong time, doing the wrong thing.
And he wants them punished.
And that’s where I have a problem.
To think he would even consider doing something so abhorrent, so grotesque and merciless to fucking civilians without so much as batting an eye just so he can instill fear and rule by an iron fist in the name of order and harmony just makes me want to explode.
And to publicize it no less…
I can’t even say it out loud.
Even after all this time, the word is still heavy on my tongue. Memories I desperately want to forget continue to haunt me.
Guilt that should be long gone by now still plagues me, ever-present and weighing heavily on my mind, and the nightmare is still as powerful as it was all those decades ago the first time it hijacked my sleep. When I could finally sleep again.
I feel my whole body go tense, my muscles turning rigid, losing all their flexibility.
Decimation. Decimation. Decimation. Decimation. Decimation. Decimation…
My eyes burn at the unforgettable memory; a thousand horrific, all too familiar images flashing before me, making my head spin. Nausea and immeasurable shame wash over me and, suddenly, the weight of my heart is too great for my body to bear.
Waves of immense guilt, regret, remorse, and disgust fill me; all emotions I’ve come to expect, tormenting me like they do every single day ever since that damned night…
“I will have words with the Primus concerning the matter first thing in the morning,” I’d told Rabab after he’d so heartily shared his plans of public Metalli execution, doing little to hide my anger and disdain for his decision.
I need to talk to Bestu—someone with actual authority and a functioning brain—and have him negate this Decimation nonsense Rabab is so casually spewing.
And then there’s Mikailiel.
God, the look on his face when I had to tell him about Soorah…
It’s been a really long time since I’ve seen another Reaper’s eyes look so empty.