Previous Chapter: 1.9 – Oranges
The next day, Ace brought Sledg and me up to the roof – all three of us jumped off. Sledg changed into crow form and took off towards the trading union while I crossed my fingers, waiting for Ace to catch us on his cloud. We soon landed on the dense air and sped towards Shannon.
This was my first time on an extended flight with his cloud and it was both terrifying and exhilarating. If there was anything solid to hold on to, my knuckles would have been white. A few minutes into the trip, we descended and landed on the abandoned barn in which we were supposed to be meeting. Shannon and Rella were already talking amongst themselves inside. Ace led me to a hole in the roof and I was thrilled to make such a grand entrance. Hopefully, Rella would relay how impressive it was to Shannon. I even got a new haircut for Shannon to feel.
The King and I dropped down from the ceiling, Ace softening our impact. We landed behind the two girls, leading Rella to squeak and almost fall over; Shannon just turned around.
To Rella’s credit, she recovered almost instantaneously. “Ah, the boy came through after all,” she said to Shannon.
“Was that ever in doubt?” I asked incredulously.
“Not to me …” Shannon said.
“Well, thank you, Shannon,” I feigned a look of disapproval in Rella’s direction and I saw Ace’s scepter twitch and Rella actually hit the ground this time. “Is something wrong, Rella?” She shot an actual look of disapproval at me. I’d have to thank Ace for the liberal use of his wind later.
“Anyway,” Ace said, “Jochro tells me you have something to offer us?”
“Yes,” Shannon took a step forward, “I’m sure he mentioned who I am.”
“Well, then I offer all the inside information I currently have as well as a spot at certain nobleman gatherings for a male of your choosing.”
“Sounds good,” Ace said without hesitation, “When’s the next one?”
“Tomorrow actually,” Shannon replied holding out her hand.
Ace shook it, “Where shall I have my representative meet you?”
Rella whispered into Shannon’s ear. “The castle,” Shannon said.
“Perfect, if there’s nothing else, Jochro – would you be so kind?” He looked at me expectantly.
“What?” was all I could muster.
“Time to go…” Ace winked, “unless you want to walk home?”
“Oh, sorry, I didn’t realize you were done,” I attempted to recover. Not knowing what would make it more believable, I bent down and patted the ground twice. Ace’s scepter wiggled again and we were off, flying through the ceiling on a cloud.
As soon as we cleared the roof, I turned to Ace-
“Yes,” he cut me off before I could begin.
“Really?” I asked.
“Yes, of course. Who am I to come in between young love?” he replied.
I was unable to keep the elation from my face as I did a little jig. “Thanks for the cloud thing, although now Shannon might expect me to carry her to the event on one…”
“We’ll figure something out after we finish part two of our plan tonight.”
I had completely forgotten we weren’t done for the night. Now, we had to begin spreading our informants’ information through the general public. I pushed the celebration from my mind as I tried to determine where Ace was flying us. Would marrying Shannon even be feasible- I caught myself thinking about her, distracted once again. I shook my head in an attempt to clear my thoughts. Ace just chuckled as he put the cloud down in front of the castle. I hadn’t even noticed us getting close.
Once on the ground, I recognized a few men coming outside to join us. They were the guys who had helped push the cart into the outpost. If we were to convince the general public, it would be a good idea to have regular guys supporting the cause.
We began walking to the nearest neighborhood which housed a majority of the more fortunate lower class and rentals. It brought back memories of my days with the Trading Union, but memories that seemed older than the two months they actually were. Many individuals in dirty Trading Union uniforms were in the streets, attempting to sleep or entertain themselves when we arrived. We walked by and I wished I had something to offer them. I looked to Ace, wondering how he was taking it all in.
“Have you been through here before?”
“Not in a while,” he fabricated a smile and shook his head.
We continued on in silence until we reached the first meeting location. It was a decrepit place. I couldn’t determine what the structure was used for in the past, but it looked to be on its last leg. Ace and I made our way to the front of the building and entered, taking a look around at the ragtag group of individuals. They looked eternally tired. as we entered. A majority of them wore Trading Union uniforms and the sight of their conditions began to fill me with fury. I had trouble thinking back to a time when I was one of them, when I was indifferent to the oppression.
As Ace and I stepped on the stage accompanied by the wagon-pushers, the king turned to me and said, “I’m gonna need your help here, bud.”
Not exactly knowing what he meant, I nodded. He didn’t give me time to reply before he addressed the crowd.
“People of Ikalga! I know it must be odd to see your king here, but I am here for you as support for the people. Through legislation, force, or whatever means you all need to live improved lives, I am here accompanied by the face of the Night Shift. He represents a group of individuals dedicated to keeping the police, the noblemen and the Trading Union especially, in line and out of your hair.” He paused and looked at me.
I gathered my courage and spoke in my best “head of the resistance” voice. “We have gathered intel and are here to share it with you. We have hit two outposts with just a fraction of our might. By we, I am hoping that you are willing to let me include you in that success. I’ve already had help from these brave citizens,” gesturing toward the wagon-pushers, “I was just like you, until I was saved – working day in and day out by orders of the Trading Union, working for unappreciative upper class. I am here to show you that it is possible to leave this. I’ve experienced more in life in the past two months with the Night Shift than I ever did as a slave over the previous six years. And yes, I say slave because that’s what I was; what you are. People are not to be rented!” I paused and a gust of wind swept through the room. It blew papers and trash in a series of miniature twisters, causing the people to look between themselves in surprise.
I continued, “These men will have your assignments. Some of you will be assigned to spread the information we have on the upper class while some of you will counter Trading Union propaganda and let people know that they have a choice. When the time comes, all of you will stand with me against the police!” I pumped my fist in the air and a majority of the crowd cheered along with me. I nodded to the wagon-pushers, signaling them to stay behind and organize. Before I left, I turned and clapped my hands three times – Ace’s cloud formed in front on me and we were off through the front entryway.
“The clapping was definitely an improvement from floor smacking,” Ace said as we floated over the city. “But either way, that was inspiring – you continue to surprise me. Two months and you truly are a different person.” He smiled and turned forward, steering the cloud home.