Kaleth stared out the window into the dark empty street as Rayni continued talking about… Actually, he wasn’t sure anymore. He had been doing paperwork when his co-worker walked into his office and dragged him away to get some coffee. Apparently, he had looked like he needed it, and he couldn’t really say that he didn’t enjoy the coffee, despite it being way too late for anything with caffeine in it, but he still had work to do. Work which he could be doing while drinking the beverage.
Rayni didn’t agree with him about that.
“You’re not listening to me, are you?” she asked, her eyebrows forming a worried frown as she snapped her fingers in front of Kaleth’s eyes. He blinked and focused on Rayni again. She had almost finished her sundae already, but that wasn’t really surprising since she ate twice as fast a regular person.
“Apologies, what were you saying?” Kaleth asked, taking another sip of his coffee. It was the strongest kind they had in this café, but it wasn’t really helping him become more alert. At least it had only cost him five Aurens, and it was drinkable. He was used to paying about four times as much.
Rayni pointed a finger at him. “See? You have trouble concentrating. You obviously need to get some sleep.”
“I sleep twice a week, just like it’s recommended for us.” Kaleth made sure to lower his voice even though there wasn’t anyone there to overhear them. The only other person in the café was a barista who had headphones over her ears.
“It doesn’t count if you only get four hours of sleep in total!” Rayni protested loudly through a mouthful of thawing ice cream, and Kaleth cringed.
Since she wasn’t wrong and Kaleth was too tired for this, he just stayed silent and gave her an exasperated look.
“Don’t look at me like that.” She tried to look stern, but since she kept eating the sundae, it couldn’t be taken seriously. Kaleth almost started laughing but managed to disguise it as a cough.
Maybe he really was exhausted if something like this was so funny to him.
“Well, it’s been a few months already, and I’m perfectly alright,” Kaleth said. Rayni scoffed, clearly not agreeing with that, so Kaleth continued. “I’m not tired. I just have a lot on my mind. Besides, Relioth told me it was possible for us to go without sleep altogether.”
Rayni’s frown turned angry at the mention of the politician’s name, which was a rare enough sight that it shut Kaleth up. He knew Rayni didn’t like Relioth, but he hadn’t thought she disliked him as much as her expression suggested.
“Yeah, I talked to Kara and Al about that,” she said. Kaleth scowled, wondering what Rayni was talking about. “We don’t think you should listen to that guy. There’s something…off about him. I mean, how come he knows so much? And he always looks at me funny. Like he knows something I don’t, and he’s really happy about it. It creeps me out.”
Kaleth sighed and finished his coffee. He’d known that Rayni didn’t like Relioth very much, but she hadn’t voiced her opinion before – at least not to him. “I highly doubt he has any ill intentions. Besides, he’s mostly the reason why we’re still getting funding from the government, so I wouldn’t…”
Kaleth trailed off as he noticed a man walking out of the hardware store that was opposite the café and pulling a hood over his head. That in itself wouldn’t be that strange, but the man kept looking around nervously, while trying to look inconspicuous and failing miserably.
Kaleth focused on him, trying to reach his mind to see if he was up to something. Kaleth couldn’t read minds exactly, but he could usually read feelings, which was useful in determining if someone was lying or had bad intentions.
This man however was giving off absolutely nothing. Kaleth’s mouth formed a thin line.
“What’s up?” asked Rayni, trying to see what Kaleth was looking at.
“What, out there? What would one of them want here?”
That was a good question given that they were at the very edge of Enbrant. Not many people lived here, so it would hardly be a good place to attack.
However, Kaleth didn’t really care about the details. Whoever it was, the man was definitely an Umbra. They were the only people who used this kind of cloaking technology, and if he was here, it meant something bad was going to happen. At least they always worked alone, so Kaleth wouldn’t have to worry about being attacked from behind.
Kaleth didn’t waste any time and walked out of the café with Rayni right behind him. She had already drawn her gun and was following the hooded man with her eyes, clearly having noticed the cloaking as well.
Kaleth pulled his own weapon from the inside pocket of his suit and started following the Umbra. It could be useful to see where he was going and why he was going there, but Kaleth doubted it was worth it. If they didn’t catch him immediately, he might manage to complete whatever mission he had, and that would lead to unnecessary death.
They kept their distance and avoided walking directly under street lights, which seemed to be working because the Umbra hadn’t started running yet. It made Kaleth suspicious, though, because he must have noticed him and Rayni already. There weren’t any other people outside in the area right now. Maybe the Umbra thought they were civilians, and therefore nothing to be concerned about.
Finally, an opportunity presented itself as the Umbra turned right into a small alley, which was barely lit. Good, they didn’t need any witnesses – especially not if the Umbra refused to cooperate and they would have to shoot. Something as loud as a gunshot was bound to draw attention, and Kaleth didn’t exactly carry around a silencer in his suit.
Rayni, being faster because unlike Kaleth she wasn’t wearing dress shoes, ran further down the street, so she could run around the block and intercept the Umbra from the other side. Kaleth had no idea how she was so certain there wouldn’t be a wall or something in her way, but since she had picked the café, maybe she visited this part of the city sometimes.
Kaleth continued following the Umbra, but he had increased his speed a bit so he wouldn’t lose sight of him. Thankfully, it seemed that the man had slowed down now that he was in the dark alley, which was a bit odd, but Kaleth didn’t think about it too hard.
Suddenly the man turned around, finally noticing Kaleth, who raised his gun and aimed at the Umbra’s head. The man froze, and Kaleth expected him to try to make a run for it, but before he could Rayni appeared on the other side of the alley, pointing her own gun at the Umbra as well.
Realizing that there was nowhere to go, the man slowly put his hands in the air and hung his head. Kaleth scowled at the plastic bag the Umbra was holding and went closer.
“Take off the hood,” Kaleth ordered quietly, not bothering trying to be intimidating because the Umbra seemed scared enough as it was, judging by how much his hands shook. Kaleth really had thought that it was all an act until the man did as he was told and revealed his face.
The Umbra looked about twenty years old, but they aged slowly, so that didn’t really tell Kaleth much. Messy black hair fell into the man’s ember eyes, but the terror in them was still clearly visible, even though he did his best to avoid eye contact. But there was something else there, too – resignation maybe.
Kaleth felt like he understood the situation less with each passing second. Could this be a deserter? Kaleth had been fighting the Umbra for over a decade and he had never come across anything like that, but of course, that didn’t have to mean it wasn’t possible. Still, he was having a hard time believing it.
“What’s in the bag?”
“J-just some parts I bought to fix my TV,” he whispered and flinched when Kaleth took the bag from him.
He scowled at the contents, wishing that there was more light, but it seemed the Umbra wasn’t lying. There were a couple of wires, a really old-looking circuit board and a couple AAA batteries. How old was his TV exactly?
Rayni walked over to them and looked at Kaleth with a raised eyebrow, silently asking if what the Umbra had said was true. Kaleth nodded at her, and she narrowed her eyes.
“And you just happen to go looking for that at one in the morning?”
The Umbra lowered his eyes. “I was afraid a Luxarx agent would find me if I went out during the day.”
Kaleth swallowed in discomfort and put his gun away. “I wouldn’t have found you if you weren’t cloaking yourself.”
“I don’t want the other Umbra to recognize me,” the Umbra replied, lowering his arms a bit.
“Why?” Rayni asked, her tone incredibly distrustful. Clearly, she didn’t believe a word the Umbra was saying, but Kaleth didn’t think he was a good enough liar to pull this off. He was about to say as much, but then the Umbra spoke again.
“Raynimara?” he breathed, staring at Rayni with a mix of shock and horror. Kaleth blinked in surprise, but as soon as he got over it he used this moment to put his phone into the Umbra’s bag.
“What did you just call me?” Rayni asked, her expression suddenly confused. How could the Umbra know Rayni’s full name? If Kaleth hadn’t been involved with the leadership of Luxarx, he probably wouldn’t even know it himself. Luxarx agents were encouraged not to share personal information with their colleagues, though some of them ignored that – especially Rayni, who sometimes shared a bit too much. Except for her name, that is.
“I-I’m sorry, I thought you were…” The Umbra shook his head. “It doesn’t matter. I was wrong.”
Rayni raised her gun a little higher, pointing at the Umbra’s forehead. The Umbra looked somehow even more terrified now and took a small step back away from Rayni. “What did you think?”
Kaleth didn’t think he’d ever seen Rayni like this. She wasn’t really a fan of this kind of interrogation, or any interrogation, for that matter. Concerned that she might actually pull the trigger, Kaleth decided it was time to step in.
“Put the gun down,” he said, but Rayni ignored him.
“I-I thought you were someone I knew,” the Umbra whimpered, his terror slowly turning into sadness, and he lowered his gaze. “But she’s dead. And besides, she’d never join Luxarx.”
Kaleth bristled at how hostile that last part had sounded, but he decided to ignore it for now along with the many questions he had right now. Instead he turned to Rayni, whose eyes had started to glow with a blueish purple light.
“Put the gun down,” he repeated, this time a little more loudly. He didn’t like yelling, but he was prepared to do so if she didn’t listen to him a second time.
“Are you serious?” she asked incredulously, finally looking at him, the light in her eyes losing its intensity. Kaleth didn’t reply, just narrowed his eyes, but it was enough to make Rayni follow the order. Before she could start protesting, Kaleth gave the Umbra the plastic bag back, and jerked his head towards the end of the alley.
Both the Umbra and Rayni stared at him in shock, but with one last grateful look the Umbra was running away before Rayni could do anything to stop him. Kaleth watched him go for a few seconds, feeling a little less like a jerk.
“What the hell, dude?” asked Rayni, sounding like she couldn’t believe he had just let the Umbra go. If he even was an Umbra. He had called the rest of them ‘the other Umbra’, though, which suggested he considered himself one of them, but then why would he want to hide from them? Not to mention he had apparently mistaken Rayni for someone with the same name. That couldn’t be a coincidence.
“That was an Umbra,” she reminded him harshly. “We catch those, remember? I know we haven’t done that in a while, but they are still a problem. Now he’s gonna hurt someone.”
“I highly doubt he will. He was terrified of us.” Kaleth said, frowning. “If you want to know where he is going, track my phone.”
Rayni raised her eyebrows, but she still looked pissed. “You put your phone in his bag? Well, then at least I’ll be able to find him and ask just how he knows my name.”
Kaleth wasn’t confident that it was a good question to ask considering how furious Rayni had been a moment ago. “Why did you react so strongly to him knowing it?”
Rayni blinked as if she didn’t understand what he was talking about.
Kaleth raised an eyebrow at her and looked pointedly at the gun she was still holding in her hand. Rayni stared at the weapon for a moment, first with realization, then horror. She quickly hid the gun and ran a hand through her hair.
“I…I almost shot him, didn’t I?” she whispered with disbelief, her rage completely forgotten. “When he said my name, I got so angry. I have no idea why…” She shrugged helplessly. “And I didn’t even think it was weird until you pointed it out. What the hell is going on?”
Kaleth rubbed a hand over his mouth and sighed. Whatever was going on, he doubted it was anything good.3 Comments March 19, 2018, 2:22 p.m. Report Embed 2
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