CHAPTER FOUR

part I

Mars. City of Aeris. 2188. 308.03.12.

Ari held Roe’s staggered gaze for what seemed like an eternity, the three unconscious criminals on the ground between them under the failing glow of twilight. Then she finally spoke. “I need you to help me drag them inside,” she said motioning to the open garage, “Then I’ll--” she broke off apprehensively. “I’ll tell you--well--what I can.”

Ari placed her bag and staff on the ground and proceeded to drag the rat-faced man, her arms hooked under his, towards the garage, as Roe, unable to respond, stared motionless. Ari heaved the man into the darkened doorway and reappeared a moment later, wiping sweat from her brow.

She looked to Roe, who finally spoke, shaking off her stupor. “I--my shoulder, I think it’s--” And, before she could finish, Ari was in front of her.

Roe watched warily, as Ari looked over her mangled shoulder. “Yeah, it’s definitely dislocated and, oh, maybe your collarbone too. Here, just--” She looked around the alley and immediately started guiding Roe towards a pile of crushed cardboard boxes shoved between two of the dead end’s dumpsters. “Just sit down over here, and, after I wipe their memories, I’ll try to mend it.”

Roe winced through her gaping, almost panicked expression, staring up at Ari, as she sat down painfully onto the boxes. “Wipe their memories?”

“Yes,” Ari grunted, as she started pulling the thief across the pavement, “Oof, this one’s heavier than he looks.” And, within a moment, she disappeared into the dark once more.

What the hell is happening? Roe thought to herself, her mind swimming, trying to process everything that had just happened. Had she hallucinated the entire thing? How hard had she hit that dumpster? Had that pulse charge ruptured her brain or something? Had she really just seen some kind of force field thing come out of Ari’s hand?

No, come on, that’s ridiculous, Roe told herself. I’m crazy. That’s it. Or I’m just dreaming. Or concussed, yeah, super concussed. The rifle to the face last night and now the pulse charge? Yeah, my brain’s done. I’m still laying unconscious over there next to that dumpster, just waiting for that asshole to kill me, yeah. I’ll be dead soon, and all this will vanish in a--

Roe flinched, as a bright light flashed from inside the garage’s open doorway. She had zoned out, and, after lowering the hand instinctively shielding her eyes, she found that the dead end was empty and that the black of night had crept in overhead.

A floodlight above the garage buzzed to life, and W0RM glided out of the darkened garage, chirping excitedly. Ari followed shortly and had apparently found the door’s controls, as it began to close behind her as she stepped out.

Roe looked between her and the garage, “So you just--”

“Yes.”

“And they--”

“Not a thing.”

Roe didn’t ask any further and gazed at Ari as she rummaged through her bag. “Now let me see what I can do about your shoulder.” Ari pulled out a small leather-bound book with a black, textless cover. Roe could see that it was very old, as Ari flicked through its stained and well-worn pages.

“Here it is,” Ari said finding what she was looking for. She quickly ran her finger down the page and nodded. “Okay,” she said looking to Roe, “I need you to straighten up a bit, yeah, just like that, and uh--” Ari’s eyes fell to the ground. “I have to use both hands for this so just--” Her cheeks flushed pink, and, with a look of practiced resolve, she pulled off the glove concealing her right hand.

The hand was charred. Inert. It was nearly black and slightly shrunken, its gnarled skin shriveled tightly around the bones of her fingers like a mummified skeleton left in the sun to burn.

Roe looked at it, her already dazed expression unchanging, as she found the charred hand no more surprising than the craziness of the evening’s events on whole.

“It’s--useless. It just--” Ari said abashedly, as she flexed its lifeless fingers with her left hand. “It just looks scary.”

Unsure of what to say, Roe simply nodded.

“Okay, I’m just going to place my hands right here,” Ari said putting one hand on each side of her mangled shoulder. “And, um, this might hurt a little.”

As a look of puzzled panic came over Roe’s face, Ari closed her eyes and muttered something under her breath, and, within a second, there was a stomach-churning crunch.

Roe’s agonizing shriek echoed off of the surrounding buildings, as she bolted to her feet and staggered forward, clutching her shoulder. She glared at Ari as if affronted, while W0RM hopped and fluttered on the ground between them. But Roe’s anger faded, as she tenderly rubbed her shoulder and began to move it unhindered. Her astonished stare returned.

Ari grinned, pulling the glove back over her charred hand. “How’s it feel? I haven’t mended bones in a couple years, so I wasn’t sure it’d work.”

Roe said nothing. Only stared into Ari’s twinkling eyes, bewildered.

Ari smirked, a little embarrassed at the silence, and returned the book to her bag before slinging it and her staff back onto her shoulders.

Then, in a hushed voice, the muted sounds of the city surrounding them, Roe finally spoke. “What are you?

“I--um...” Ari’s grin shifted toward something more serious. A look of significance. And she finished.

“I’m a sorcerer.”


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