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Meeting the team

Another meeting? So much talking! Komae thought, exhausted by it all. Looking around at those sitting on chairs, shielding their thoughts from intruding-it was a full time job. She’d been in enough of the locals minds, discreetly of course, to know that the situation for most was grim. Outcasts from every clan gathered here, or they died. After a while, she’d had enough of it, shutting everyone out.

Brenzel sat, her feet out, ankles crossed together, leaning back, seeming to only pay half attention to the details of what Tane said. Seraph or not, she was still merely a child, gifted with greatness, sure, but prone to distraction. Komae shook her head.

Fallon, as always, held Derek’s arm as they both listened intently. She liked Fallon.

Meha, sitting behind them, was, as usual, alert and watching everything.

She couldn’t read Damian at all. That bothered her intensely. He distinctly hated her, that much was obvious from just his body language, tensing every time she was present. He wore that mind shield all the time, making him as opaque to her as a Halan dawn. Of all those present, he alone seemed to understand that Halans were mind readers and not just mind talkers.

A window to the world

It was true. Unless she blocked people’s thoughts, they just flowed into her head like a breeze through an open window, filling her mind with everything they were thinking as easily as listening to a conversation. Though she could, of course, force her way into anyone’s mind if she wanted to know things, listening was less effort. The nearer a person was, the clearer their thoughts were to her. But if she desired, she could focus and know the thoughts of others from quite some distance away.

So what are you hiding? Komae wondered, narrowing her eyes as she watched Damian.

Yesterday, he hadn’t hidden anything. As they had crossed paths in a hallway, he had said clearly, “I don’t approve of you being here at all. I think you’re a mistake. To me, your just a pointy-eared devil who’s a security risk to everyone, every moment you’re around. If it were not Tane, who vouched for you, you’d be on the first transport back to your beloved forests.”

Looking at him coolly, she had replied, “Thanks for sharing.”

His words had made her feel badly the rest of the day, but finally she decided that she’d thought worse about his people. It’s hard to be different, she concluded.

Steam City

Today, at the noon meeting, Tane said, “You will leave for Steam City tomorrow before first dawn. Get some rest this evening, you’ll be on the move from now until the mission is over.”

He had just confirmed what Komae already knew.

Tane gave way to Damian, who got up, looked around the room and, taking the pointing stick from the the captain’s hand, then tapped the map. “We are here, at the Outers. We are heading for this region,” he led the stick down toward the bottom of the map, “which is nearly to the South Pole. Between here and there, there are four clans. We will have to obtain permission to pass through each of their territories. We can manage the first three easily, but the last, well, they consider it a great honor to eat their enemies.” Pausing, looking around at everyone, Damian said, “They believe everyone is their enemy.”

Komae watched Fallon and Meha look at each other with wide eyes. Fallon reached behind her and held Meha’s hand.

“Tane and his crew have agreed to stay here and manage our work while I guide the team through the clans and hopefully, by whatever gods might prevail, to the southern region. Once we get there, Brenzel will lead the way and hopefully locate the Tech Wizard’s lair. Our mission is only to find where he’s at and that’s all. Let’s be clear on that point.”

The Halan

After a few more minor points Damian finished with, “That is our mission. Myself, Brenzel, Derek, Fallon, Meha, Micron, and the Halan will comprise the team. Any questions?”

The Halan?

“How will we get back out?” Micron asked point blank.

“There is an exit strategy, but only I know that information now, just in case anyone of us is captured.”

“And tortured,” Micron added.

“Let’s be clear, everyone, the Tech Wizard is a nasty piece of work, and if any of us are captured, physical pain will be the least of our worries.”

Damian looked around, eyes staring directly at Komae for a moment.

Are you taunting me with your fancy tech? She thought. I really don’t like you at all.

Tane, clearing his throat, stood, asking for a moment, to which Damian agreed, stepping aside.

“Look, everyone here. . . well except for Micron,” he said, “has a choice whether or not to be part of this mission. Damian volunteered for it. Alethea asked everyone else. However, if you don’t want to do this, say it now. Once we start, they’ll be no turning back.”

Reading the fear in her mind, Komae was surprised that Meha didn’t elect out.

Brenzel sat up straight, raising her hand.

“Yes, Brenzel?”

“Um, I just want to say, that I believe that if we all pull together – all of us including Micron – that we’ll be okay.”

Tane just looked at her for a moment, waiting. Finally he said, “Okay, it’s settled then. You’ll be fitted for the expedition in Steam City, then head south.” Looking at Damian, he said, “hopefully you’ll have the passage worked out through the first clan by then.”

Damian nodded.

“Okay, everyone rest up and. . . safe journey.” He looked around the room. “Dismissed.”

As Komae filed out with the others, she thought, what about this did I think was a good idea?

Gotta Let It God by MercyMe