CHAPTER SIX

part II

A cave?

“Yes,” Ari said, her eyes looking around anxiously in reaction to Roe’s skeptical tone.

“Why?”

Ari tried to politely motion toward Ilona, “Can we discuss this--”

“--She doesn’t care,” Roe shrugged, “Do you, Ilona?”

Ilona didn’t skip a beat, as she rolled out fresh sheets of dough, “Care about what?”

“See?” Roe boasted, “So why, why do we have to go to some cave?”

Ari let out a small sigh, steeling her composure, before replying. “They’re sending a team to investigate a--umm...” She looked around and lowered her voice, “An anomaly. And Carter wants us to meet him there.”

Roe bristled, “You talked to him? Just now?”

“No, we--don’t have normal communicators,” she motioned towards Roe’s multi-tool, “Like you do. We spoke through a--proxy of sorts.”

Roe’s eyes narrowed a bit and didn’t respond immediately. “What do you think, Ilona?”

Feigning as if she wasn’t listening, Ilona looked up from her work, “Hmm?”

“Does all that sound plausible or is this whole thing just some ruse to get me to a cave in the middle of nowhere--I’m just assuming it’s in the middle of nowhere--to kill me?”

Ari scoffed, but Ilona quickly replied as she handed a customer a box of buns. “Eh, I’m sure she would’ve just let those guys kill you the other day if she wanted you dead.”

Wide-eyed with a nervous grin, the customer handed her some change and cautiously backed away.

“Exactly!” Ari exclaimed before catching on, “Wait--how did you--”

Roe sighed, “She knows...”

“You told--”

“What was I supposed to say? She’s basically my only friend, so just--don’t wipe her mind, okay?”

Ilona shot Ari a pained grin, and Ari smiled sheepishly. “I won’t--that’s not something I just always--never mind. Look--” she grabbed Roe’s arm, pulling her toward the street out of earshot of the food cart, “You can’t just go around telling everyone, okay?”

“I don’t have anyone else to tell,” Roe said defensively.

“I’m serious, Roe. There’s--we have to be careful about this stuff, okay? You never know who’s listening.”

“Nobody cares about some ‘magic cave,’ Ari,” she looked out over the busy street, “They have bigger concerns--”

Ari pulled her in closer, “Nothing is bigger than what is coming, you understand?”

Roe suddenly felt an odd warming sensation coming from Ari’s grip that quickly began to burn. She snatched her arm from her grasp, “Gah! Okay, fine, I’m sorry, you don’t have to burn me.”

“I--” Ari immediately flushed red and quickly closed her fist, “I’m sorry.”

But Roe had already seen the red glow fading between her fingers.

“It--was an accident. I--”

“It’s okay, I’m fine,” Roe assured her, seeing how distressed she was, “Really. And I won’t tell anyone else. Promise.”

Ari nervously rubbed her inert, gloved right hand and took in a short, calming breath, “Okay. Thank you.”

Roe nodded, “Sure.”

A small moment passed, as horns honked and the high sun glowed from behind the high, thin clouds, relieving the tension, before a rapid squawk sounded behind them.

They turned to find a flapping W0RM perched on the edge of the food cart. Ilona shook her head, confused, “What wrong with him?”

“W0RM, settle down,” Roe rolled her eyes.

Ari’s eyes widened, “What time is it?

Nonplussed, Roe glanced at her multi-tool, “Uh, 12:12, why?”

“Crap!” Ari took off toward the cart, grabbing their bags resting behind it.

“What?”

“We’re going to miss our train!”

Train?


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