Previous Chapter: 1.11 – The Beauty and Jochro
Sledg and I made our way down the nearest alley before I attempted to whip up a travel cloud. I was only able to do it without a second thought because I knew I couldn’t be the cause of Sledg’s death if he were to fall. He could just change, worse comes to worst. We hopped onto the cloud, taking a moment to get acquainted with steering. I took us up slowly, scraping against the walls of the alley as I did. Eventually, we were off, with Sledg pointing us in the right direction. I asked Sledg how long he thought it’d be until night fell.
“It doesn’t matter. Anroma is going to meet us there – she’ll give you enough of my change genes to maintain your form.”
I wondered what it’d be like to be human at night. “Who even is attacking our informant?” I asked.
“Ace thinks it’s police, probably paid off by the noblemen,” Sledg said.
That made sense; the police had no reason to go for the informant alone. She only had dirt on the noblemen.
I shakily set the cloud down behind the building that I presumed was our informant’s hideout. Sledg and I hopped off and were greeted by Ace and An.
“We’ve got a few minutes, so I can give you some of Sledg’s energy now,” she looked to Sledg, “Let me know when it’s too much.”
She placed a hand on each of our shoulders and I felt the familiar feeling of one of her energy transfers. This one wasn’t as drastic, though; it felt like she had learned to regulate her transfers to an extent. I felt the energy flow through my shoulder, gathering in my chest. I began to question if I’d even be able to transform on command, I had only done it by accident one time. Sledg held up his hand to signal An to stop. She pulled back her hands, frowning slightly as she asked how we were feeling.
“Never better,” I said, stretching my arms, doing a little jump.
“Not bad, not bad,” Sledg said.
“Okay then,” An said, placing one hand on Sledg for a brief second.
Ace spoke up. “Okay. An you’re with Jochro. Sledg, you’re with me. Sledg and I will patrol the perimeter,” he pointed at me and An, “You two will be in the room with Jaymes.”
“I thought this informant was a girl?” Sledg asked.
“She is. Come on, kid,” Ace said as he picked up his scepter, dragging Sledg away.
We walked up the stairs and through the hallway that led to a room guarded by two former Trading Union slaves. I nodded to them and walked into the informant’s room. My eyes were immediately drawn to the person sitting across the room; there wasn’t much else to look at. I first noticed her boots, black leather that came up to just below her knee. She had them propped on the only table in the room, leaning back in her seat.
“Ah, so you are my two bodyguards?” the lady said from over her shoulder.
“That’s us,” An answered.
We continued into the room and, realizing there was nowhere to sit, I began pacing.
“How long am I hanging out with you two?” Jaymes asked.
I stopped pacing briefly to respond. “Not sure, until Ace says it’s good to go.”
Jaymes leaned further back in her seat, closing her eyes and biting her nails. An was already silently sitting against the wall, doing the same. Two Anromas, great, I laughed to myself.
We waited in that room for over half an hour, An having received no mind alerts from Ace. I walked over and sat on the table, looking for anything to keep my mind occupied. Was this city just filled with Shannon’s and Jaymes’s that didn’t like to talk? What a random thought. With Sledg’s extra energy, I was feeling quite restless.
“Jaymes, right?” She nodded. “What do you do for a living?”
She let her feet drop, looking me in the eye for the first time – it was an unnerving stare. “I’m a maid,” she said as she gave a wicked smile.
“Ah, like a…”
“Yes, I make use of this,” she gestured to her body.
“Thank you,” I wasn’t sure if she could tell I was thanking her for finishing my sentence or the gesture. I could see An silently laughing and shaking her head across the room. Note to self: No Anroma nearby next time when attempting to talk with girls. “That’s cool, though,” I continued. “I can see how you’d be able to get good information.”
“Yeah, they’re scum. What about you?” she asked.
“You know that’s a good question. I was with the construction crew but now I mostly hang out with ungrateful ladies – not sure how I made the transition,” I said, mostly excited I could come up with something more than babbling. Jaymes smiled and nodded.
“Jochro, they’re coming,” An interrupted.
“How many?” I asked.
An stood up, closing her eyes. “Ace says he can take out most but some will likely seep through.” She threw me two knives she had hidden somewhere, walking over to the door with a warning for the two guards.
“Um, who is she talking to?” Jaymes asked in a loud whisper.
I turned to answer her, but a crash rang out before I could do so. I looked to the door and saw An on the ground with one of the guards over her. Had he attacked her? The answer became clear as he slashed at her again with his sword. An rolled to the side and he missed her. The other guard came into the room, heading straight for me. Weren’t these guys supposed to be guarding us? I’d love it if next time they didn’t choose guards that were so burly, especially if they were going to turn on us. I needed a new strategy so I decided to try to end my opponent early so I had less time to embarrass myself.
I withdrew my knives in time to block a swipe, pushing his blade to the side. I swept my knife forward but he dodged the strike. I backed away from him, making sure I stayed between him and Jaymes. I smiled at the notion of how I got myself into these situations day after day. It must’ve been Jaymes’s presence that got my limbs moving so quickly. The guard came forward again, hesitating for a moment before shuffling forward and attempting another jab. I easily moved to the side, shirking off the attempt with one knife before jumping forward toward him. I plunged the knife into his chest, twisting it as he fell to the ground.
I looked to the other side of the room and saw the other guard held his sword to An’s throat. Well, I guess I didn’t kill my target fast enough…
“Don’t worry, just put the knife down,” he said to me; I did.
“Sorry, man, they’ve got my family – I don’t want to have to do this,” the guard said. Then he fell to the floor, unconscious.
“Well, that works…” I said as An walked over to me. She placed her hand on my shoulder and I felt the guard’s stolen energy surge into me. “Killing two birds with one stone – I like it.”
“At this point, I’m feeling I underestimated you two a bit,” Jaymes said from behind us. I didn’t correct her.
An relayed the happening to Ace and received our orders to move Jaymes due to our compromised location. An led the way into the hallway. I noticed she seemed to be fighting her desire to clench her fists. I was reminded of her tree-destroying power and wondered if we’d need that to get Jaymes out. It was probably best she was leading, especially with that fire power. Not to mention, she could read thoughts before running into a potential foe. I followed Jaymes out of the room, stayed close behind her, both knives in hand and ears as sensitive as I could make them. We turned two corners before reaching a stairwell. An stopped and held up a hand. She came back to us and held up two fingers, motioning for us to retreat back around a corner. Once we were safely positioned, she actually called out to the guards.
Jaymes and I couldn’t help but peek around to watch her. We saw An walk a few steps away from the stairs as two men’s heads appeared.
“Hey!” one of the guards called.
Neither said another word as An turned around, kneeling down and opening her palm in their direction. What came out of her hand was hard to describe. It was a mix of black bugs surrounded by a deep red aura. The stream seemed to meld together upon launching from her palm. I wasn’t sure what consistency it was until it hit the two men. The unlucky one in front was hit directly in the chest and he flew back, filling the air with the sounds of a squishy splat and crack of bones as he hit the wall from where he came. The other man was knocked over by the first and managed to miss a majority of the beam, but still fell head over heels back down the steps. Mouth wide, I looked to An and saw she had been pushed back a few feet back due to the sheer force of her power.
“Check on her,” I told Jaymes as I ran down the steps to make sure the second guard wasn’t still a threat. I walked alongside the sizzling trench An’s power had left. It was almost as if it was eating through the floor. I eventually reached the bottom of the stairs and spotted the guard crawling away. His leg looked broken. I pulled out my knife and quickly finished him. Unfortunately, it seemed I was getting used to killing.
When I got back to the two girls, An was getting up, only looking slightly dazed.
“Maybe it’s time to practice offensive powers as well as transfers,” I smiled.
An rolled her eyes, I knew she was alright.
“Okay, where to now?” she stood unsteadily on her feet. She briefly closed her eyes. “Ace says it’s almost night, just a heads up.”
“Are you a hybrid?” I asked Jaymes. She nodded. “Okay, so I’m not usually, but apparently tonight I might be. Let’s go before it matters.” I led the two girls down the stairwell. We reached the bottom floor and hurried towards the door. I stopped long enough for An to give us the all clear. Stepping outside, I first noticed a skirmish between a couple of airborne figures and members of the police force about a block or two down the road. It was blocking the exit to our left. In the other direction, there was an alley that led to a fence – another dead end. The three of us walked toward the fence, which stood a little over my height.
“I’ll help you two get over and then I’ll see if I can force-change to fly myself over.”
I boosted Jaymes over first. She reached the top of the fence and jumped over. Next, I hoisted An over. She was still sluggish and barely able to assist me in maneuvering her up and over. Eventually, I got her most of the way up and she was able to hang onto Jaymes’s arms on the other side. I jumped, trying to get a hold of the fence but I couldn’t quite get enough of a grip to pull myself up. Just when I was about to attempt to change using Sledg’s energy, I heard a crash behind me. I turned to see Sledg, in human form, laying in a pile of garbage, a black bear approaching him.
“Once I get over the fence, follow me,” I yelled to Jaymes as I threw my knives to her, sprinting in the opposite direction toward Sledg. The bear noticed my charge and turned to face me, beginning a charge of its own. A few feet before we were set to collide, I jumped and willed myself to change. I felt my arms go first. Large feathers sprouted from my arms, and I instinctively began to flap. My body rose as the bear reached my new position, swiping at me. Its claws scraped over my still-human legs. I focused on continuing to change and staying in the air. I passed by the bear, dipping uncontrollably in flight. A couple of flaps and I was able to regain control. Now approaching Sledg, I barely had the opportunity to yell for him to force change before my mouth changed into a beak. I was now almost full bird. Sledg’s head turned slightly toward me and he quickly changed into his crow form. I swooped and clutched the limp crow in one of my talons before doing a sharp 180. I turned, continuing to gain altitude to avoid another bear swipe. I spied Jaymes holding An on the other side of the fence and sped toward them.
I cleared the fence, only slowing to hand my crow friend to Jaymes. I began flying down the alley, hoping my sense of direction would lead us home. We turned a corner and passed two homeless individuals. Down another empty alley, and I could see the castle in the distance. Unfortunately, the bear shape of a police animal also appeared. I changed back, impressing myself with how smoothly I was able to change out of my bird form. I turned to face the group and panicked for a moment, as I realized when I changed at night, I always changed back naked. Then, I remembered our new covelt outfits changed with us – I didn’t want to die in the nude.
My friends turned the corner and Jaymes quickly tossed me my knives. An was looking better, likely having absorbed the energy of something along the way. I hesitantly turned back toward the bear as it stalked toward me.
“Let him get closer,” rang through my head. I resisted taking a peek back at An. The bear continued toward me, slowly beginning a loping sprint. I heard An counting down in my head. “Fly in five… four… three… two…” I hoped I still had enough energy to change and get out of the way. “One…” I attached my knives to my belt, jumped, and changed, the transition a little smoother this time as I ascended into the air as fast as possible. Below me I saw a familiar deep red beam, almost directly hitting the bear. I came back down and landed as An scrambled to the bear to restore her energy cache.
With the bear taken care of, we three humans and unconscious crow made our way back to the castle. We reached the back entrance of the castle with no further incident. An brought Sledg to the infirmary while I led Jaymes up to the briefing room.
We walked into the empty room and sat in silence. It could have gone worse, at least everyone made it. And though I wasn’t sure about Ace just yet, I knew he would be unstoppable, or so I hoped. There was no reason to be sullen. The police were becoming more brazen but I wasn’t surprised after they had taken the city hostage. I looked over to Jaymes in an attempt to lighten the mood.
“So, where would you be without me?” I asked.
“Probably going to work now,” she winked.
Not exactly what I meant…
She continued, “But really, thanks, kid.”
That’ll do. My spirits rose as I walked to the door, hoping to find someone who could bring us food. The hall was empty, the wait would continue. I turned and walked back to the couch, noticing Jaymes for the first time in good lighting.
Once again her dirty boots were propped onto a table. But this time, I noticed her slender legs encased in gray tight pants accompanied by her black jacket. My gaze reached her face and I shook my head in an attempt to come back to reality. No more crushing on girls. Although, her midnight black hair and uneven smirk made that hard. I would focus on keeping her safe and nothing more, despite her alluring dark eyes and contrasting pale skin.
The window shook slightly and I snapped out of my thoughts. It swung open and Ace hopped down from the sill. He noticed the two of us and gave us a warm smile.
“Oh, good! You’re safe.”