Authors: G. X. Knight
Later that afternoon the
sailed into some storm clouds. It was nothing major, just a few low rumbling blankets of overcast cover, but it did bring Sway back from the main pool, and judging by the commotion I heard in the hall upon her return, she had been followed. Who besides me wouldn’t follow her around like a drooling idiot?
She promised her fans she would see them later as the valets escorted everyone away. Technically we were the only ones who were supposed to be on that floor. Since Sway did not invite anyone in, the crew had her followers scattered immediately. I guess if she had brought them in for an Elven-Kegger there was nothing the crew could have done about it. No doubt she had teased the possibility. Sway did enjoy messing with the mind. I wondered if maybe I hadn’t been one of her victims. Did she really like me, or was she just a tease? I wasn’t sure.
I refused to acknowledge her until she put some clothes on. Still, when she returned from her room barefoot, rocking a black cutoff button-down and plaid miniskirt, it was better, but not great. I found myself fighting to watch her as I peeked over the top of my forgotten paper from earlier when I thought she wasn’t looking. I had dropped a rope to my waning conscience. That poor, broken bastard whispered, “Keep your eyes on the paper this time you idiot.” Not wanting another pool incident, I gritted my teeth and did so.
“Did you know,” I hoped talking would keep me distracted from running a curious eye from one end of her to the other as she laid on the couch and apathetically held one of the information packets in front of her face, “that the mines of Frotwick are built on an active volcano, and there’s a special machine used to keep the volcano from erupting?”
“Mmm-Hmm,” Sway said, “My parent’s company made the thing.”
“Your parents? Is that where you get your techno-savviness?”
“More or less.” She sighed, her voice lowered as if she were lost deep in a memory. Not a sad one, but one that did not make her smile, “Learning the sciences was how Kata and I coped.”
“Coped with what?”
I put the paper to the side and searched to make eye contact. She still absently studied her own trip brochure, answering me as though my face was printed on the sheet in her hand, “As I’m sure you’ve noticed, Kata and I are a little different.”
“Yeah, she’s nice. You’re not.” I said without thinking.
Sway finally looked over to me. She offered an un-argumentative smile. Probably because she of all people knew it was true. She rolled up from her lying position and turned to sit so she could work on a half-downed glass of rum on the table in front of her. “There is that, but I’m talking about the
“Well, I figured all you Elves had some kind of elemental shtick you rocked. It wasn’t hard to tell which end of the thermometer each of you land.”
She shook her head. “I suppose in other parts of the world there are those Elves who might. They are few and far between. Ninety-nine-point-nine percent of us still able to trace our Elvish roots are born Fire-Wielders. Kata is a genetic anomaly that happens once every couple of generations. She’s an outcast from our people. If our parents hadn’t been so high up on the Fire Elf food chain, she would have been abandoned, or killed, when it was discovered that she was an Iceling. Because our parents are big-shots in the Amalgam technological world, she was allowed to remain, in solitude.
“It was hard for her. She was constantly picked on and made fun of. She was never allowed to be a part of anything outside basic studies. People treated her like a plague carrier. Despite her aptitude that helps make things like you possible, she was constantly ridiculed.”
My head dropped, heavy with sickening realization, “And I acted just like her tormentors back in the training studio the other night.” My hand covered my mouth as I thought about what a jerk I had been, “I didn’t know.”
Sway thought it was funny, “Oh, don’t worry. She’s tough. She’ll likely be over it by the time we get back, but you hit a little too close to home. I think she was just surprised. She sees you as someone safe to be around. I guess she’s getting attached to the idea of having you with us… especially after Maeve ditched out. She’s got this
idea that we’re kind of becoming like a big family, and you just gave her a small reason to doubt that.
“If I were you, I would pick out a damn good apology gift. She’s a sucker for presents. You probably won’t have to worry about reprisal, but then again, you may want to check your underwear drawer for rhino-crabs… And those aren’t found on the beach, by the way.”
I shuttered, and made a
mental note to do laundry… with fire… when we got back. “And so that’s how you two became joined at the hip. I had wondered.”
She nodded, “That’s a long story by itself. We both helped each other make it through some rough times. But yeah, we were all the other had. Our parents were way too busy running the Marauder-Isota Tech Empire to be worth a damn to us. Plus, her parents were completely ashamed of her, and after I started spending time with her, mine began feeling the same way about me. They still loved us, but when we decided to leave, both sets were more than happy to let us go. Now, they just send us whatever we want so that we’ll stay away, and trust me when I say, we take full advantage of their shame.”
“Well, that sucks.”
“Don’t worry, it works for us.”
That explained a lot about the girls. I had envied them since we first met. They had anything and everything they wanted, and to excess. Now, I wasn’t so sure all the money, clothes, toys, and gadgets would be worth the price. It was no surprise to me either that Largo had taken on something of a parenting role for us all. Their parents were ashamed of them, Maeve’s dad was a complete douchenozzle, and mine was dead. I tried to imagine what it would be like for us now, in light of the growing knowledge of our jacked-up backgrounds, without Largo. Things would now have turned out so well. I guess even the supernatural still can’t magic-up a good home life. The more I learned of the Amalgam world, the more I realized it was eerily just like the Slate.
I said, “I’m sorry,” but the response felt too small.
Sway put her drink down, stood, and straightened the short skirt that still landed about a thousand yards from her knee. She looked at me with her Elven Fire-Wielding gaze, “This will be the last we speak of this, ever. Neither, will you will bring it up to Kata when we get back, or the next time you sleep, I will play Repo-Sway with those shiny metal parts I gave you, and you’ll wake up with termite-infested wicker for appendages. And I mean
I gave her a salute. “You’re the boss.” She was scary.
Thankfully, before she could threaten any more of my appendages, my phone on the table started blaring
Sweet Home Alabama
. Amalgam phones were cool, they got reception almost anywhere.
I tapped the answer button and put it on speaker. Largo’s voice crackled through, “Hey kiddos, having fun?”
“The help is rude, the facilities are substandard, and judging by the weather our Captain’s taking us through, we’re lucky to still be alive with such
at the helm.”
“So everything’s great?” Largo said ignoring Sway’s complaints.
“It’s perfect, though if you could find out what
means I’d be grateful.” I reassured him, and tossed Sway an eye roll. She returned the finger. “What’s up?”
“Well, we’ve got a problem, kids. It seems last night the prisons of Frostwick got an unexpected hostile visitor. None of the guards survived, so there are no descriptions of the intruder. This mystery person escaped before they got a chance to make off with who, or what, they were after, so it’s possible they might come back. It’s not the greatest intel to start you off, but I need you to get there. I’ve already talked to the
’s captain. You’re about half a day away from Frostwick. That’s not going to be good enough, so a speedboat is coming from the island to pick you up and take you there now.”
“Why the rush?” Sway asked wearing her business face I had seen so many nights back when she was fixing me. It was hard to imagine her taking anything seriously, but as I was learning, there was much more to Sway than being some bad-attitude-quasi-goth-party-Elf. I definitely was interested in learning more about her. “Those vile Veil Rippers have always had good enough protection for themselves. They don’t need us. What else is happening?”
There was a pause before Largo answered, “Last night during the fight, they damaged the Magma Pressure Inhibitors. The machinery has been fixed, but they can’t get the protocols operational. It’s got something to do with buffer alignment.”
Sway’s face paled, all but her cheeks, those reddened. “And I’m learning about this, now?”
“They have a technician,” Largo explained, “but he hasn’t been able to get them back on line.”
“It’s close to critical?” Sway asked.
“Yes, and Sway, you’re the closest person who would have advanced M-I Tech know-how.”
Sway ran to her room in a flight born of wings feathered in purpose and intent. She disappeared but called back out to us, “Have them here to pick us up in an hour, Largo.”
“They should be there in less than thirty minutes.” He wished us well, and promised to be in touch if anything new developed.
I threw on some torn jeans, which probably cost extra
they came with holes, and my standard black and green jacket, gloves, and sunglasses disguise. I met Sway who had morphed from school girl into a superhero. Had I been in a naming mood, I would have called her…
The Repair Kit.
She wore thick, black knee-high boots that had about ten buckles on each side of the shoe. Tucked into them were various handles of different gadgets. Her legs were hugged with black leather tights that were surrounded by a metal holster rig which held various silver tools around her waist and legs. She also wore a simple black long sleeved top, but each sleeve was covered by leather, fingerless forearm computer-gloves that housed a couple of touch diagnostic screens. She snapped on a voice radio band around her neck, and her hair was pulled back in a black and purple ponytail, complete with her signature silver chopsticks. She finished dressing by strapping on a set of purple shaded goggles that rest on her forehead.
I was doing that jaw-drop thing I did earlier back at the pool. I bet you’ve never met a Cyborg with tech-envy? Well you have now. She had more – and cooler I might add – gear than I did. I wanted some touchscreen computer gloves. Instead all I got was some glowing rocks and an irradiated varicose condition. What’s up with that?
I shook my head in disbelief, “Do you make all this yourself?”
Sway winked at me, “Hell no. Bane-Tech-dot-com, baby. It’s where all the hot Elf chicks go to find their swag. Little known fact, half of you came from their clearance area. Never say I’m not thrifty.”
This was one of those times I couldn’t tell if she was being serious.
We were getting ready to leave, but we both were stopped in our tracks when there was a sudden and emphatic banging on our door. The odd part was what followed. We heard our concierge bark an order to stop. That was proceeded by the sound of a scuffle, our concierge gasping for air, and then him tumbling to the floor with a thud. A second later there was more vigorous knocking.
“I don’t think that’s our boatman,” I observed.
Sway gave me a sarcastic “You think?” head tilt.
The person at the door knocked again. I made a curious glance to Sway, but she just shooed me toward the door like I was supposed to handle it. I balled up a fist and opened the door ready to strike. Standing there was a heavy-breathed tattooed Islander. I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to hit him, or offer him something to drink.
That tattoo ink he wore was something I had never seen before. It caught what little light there was in our darkened cabin and flecked waves of minuscule reflections like a microscopic army of roiling prisms. Countless beads of the oil-like liquid were free to roll inside the boundaries of the tattooed patterns. There definitely was some major Amalgam mojo going on there.
Sway shrieked and backed away, “Get back, Scion. He’s a Veil Ripper!”
The guy with the old torn clothes and braided dreads had a deep gruff voice, “Fire Elf. I should have known. Your ash can be smelled from a mile away.”
He stepped in past me as if I wasn’t even there and looked around the room. “Where’s Maeve Valera?” He demanded.