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layers

The night was still. Outside the hotel, streets slept as all Hadites obeyed strict curfew. Looking up at the ceiling, sleep had not come to Brenzel after the day of purity. She reached out in her mind to Komae, who was sharing the room next door with Meha. Are you awake? Brenzel reached out in her mind,

Brenzel felt her Halan friend smile.

Despite her initial drawbacks, Komae was very pleasant nowadays. As they came together as friends, she even allowed Brenzel to see some of her memories.

Komae’s mind was clean and organized, just the way someone would think it should be. In contrast, Brenzel felt like her mind ‘s was a closet that had to be kept closed for fear of something falling out if the door opened. Almost like a big sister, Komae patiently taught Brenzel to use, what the Halan said was, her natural gift.

You have the ability, Komae spoke into Brenzel’s mind, but like an unused muscle, it’s weak.

Makes sense, Brenzel thought. Then, she asked, Komae, how do you cope with seeing everything in a person?

Brenzel felt the Halan mindtalker shift her psychic weight, then she replied, You come to realize, my friend, that everyone is made up of layers. What’s happening in the present is always foremost in their minds. Then, in addition to that, there is a future they imagine, that’s usually close to the surface, too. Memories are what lie beneath.

I see, yes, I think I understand. Brenzel turned over to lay on her side, snuggling the blanket closer against the cold night.

Feeling them

Komae continued, When you enter someone’s mind, what they’re feeling right now is always the strongest. We call this “feeling them.” Unless you go deeper, this is all one usually sees. However, if you concentrate on a single feeling, what lies underneath it opens to you. That is how we access people’s pasts.

Brenzel thought about her own past. Most of it was filled with heartache, but she found some fond memories, too. Do you feel what they felt when they experienced their past? I mean, actually feel their pain, like Fey said? She held the blanket closer to her chin, fabric balled up with her clenched hands.

Yes, but only as a observer.

I don’t know if I can do that, Brenzel confessed. I always feel what others feel so strongly.

Komae said nothing, but just listened, her reassuring presence making Brenzel feel safe, understood.

Do you see what I saw today? Brenzel tentatively asked her.

Yes, came the reply.

Did you know they did that?

Komae said nothing, yet Brenzel knew she did.

I feel bad Komae, I feel…ashamed.

Why?

Because I liked it, Brenzel thought, rolling over onto her back. Then correcting herself, she said, well, part of me liked it. I liked watching them…love each other. Everything I’ve ever been taught tells me I shouldn’t but…

If she could whisper in her mind, Brenzel did now, I wanted to join them… She thought back to the women enjoying themselves wildly, without care that others saw or heard. It felt like a forbidden kingdom and she was an outsider.

Komae, am I a bad person? Brenzel asked in her thoughts.

You won’t disappoint

After a long pause, Komae spoke again in Brenzel’s mind, You won’t disappoint Joshua.

Inside, Brenzel felt startled at her friend’s piercing insight. But after coming to grips with this truth, she spilled, But I know I will, I’m just not good enough for him – not if he understood who I really am.

Komae had gently uncovered the real source of her anxiety. The truth was she didn’t feel good enough to ever be with Joshua the way her heart desired, and that made her very sad.

Brenzel, came the soft thought, Joshua says he believes in you doesn’t he?

Yes, she sniffled.

So why don’t you trust him?

But

No buts, young friend, trust is a decision. Decide to trust Joshua. If he thinks you’re worth believing in, don’t keep telling yourself you aren’t. In his eyes, you are.

Despite deep seated feelings to the contrary, Brenzel had to admit that her friend made a kind of unassailable sense. Fact was, she couldn’t remember one instance where he doubted her. All of a sudden, Brenzel realized that the Timekeeper Extraordinaire was the one person in her life who never wavered.

He does believe in me, she thought. I don’t know why, but he does.

Good night Brenzel, Komae said in her mind, remember what he always says.

Smiling and tearing up, Brenzel said out loud into the darkness, “It all works out in the end.”

***

“They sure know how to cook!” Micron said as he dished up some more food at breakfast.

Brenzel looked over at him, shocked to almost see a smile cross his wrinkled features. Had he finally decided to change his attitude?


Derek and Fallon next to her. Brenzel turned to them and asked, “Where’s Meha? I haven’t seen her all morning.”

“I’s not see’s her, either,” the big man said.

“Me neither,” Fallon agreed, stopping to look around the room, a piece of buttered bread in hand. “Hmm. That’s not like her. She’s regular as a pocket watch!”

Brenzel couldn’t feel Meha, either. It was like she was just gone. “Has anyone seen Damian?”

“Nopes.” Derek replied.

Brenzel looked at Komae across the table from her, and asked her in her mind. She shook her head.

“Do you think we should look for her?” Brenzel asked everyone.

Just then, Damian strode into the dining room, cloak over his shoulders, looking worried.

“What is it?” Brenzel asked as he reached their table.

“Meha’s been arrested. I’ve just been informed. She being held for a serious clothing infraction.”

“You’ve got to be kidding!” Brenzel said.

“I’m going to go down to detention and try to talk with them.”

Brenzel started to get up.

“Alone,” Damian said, looking at her.

“But, I want-“

“No,” he interrupted “these things are tricky. I’ll handle it.”

“Fine.” Brenzel said as she sat back down, glowering at him as he left. I really don’t like how he just commands people around, she thought.

I very much agree, Komae thought in response.

***

“Clan?” came the disinterested voice of the clothing constable.

“Tech,” Damian replied.

“Section?”

“Reclamation.”

“Purpose for being in Iron Wright territory?”

“Just passing through.”

“Sign here, and here,” the constable said, indicating on the page.

Damian picked up the pen on the desk and signed.

“Initial there.”

“What’s the infraction?” Damian said, finishing his mark.

Grunting, the man pulled some papers from a large, unkempt stack on the desk. Leafing through a few pages, he read one, “Missing earring, incorrectly laced bodice, lack of underwear.” He looked back up at Damian, boredom on his face.

“Underwear?! How’d they know that? You can’t check that on the street!”

The man just stared at him.

“I want to see her.” Damian said, his hand lifting off the desk slightly, enough to reveal coin on the counter.

The constable’s eyes looked this way and that, then he laid his clipboard over the money as Damian withdrew his hand. “Make it quick. Deportation arrives in an hour.”

***

“Meha.”

The crouching woman in the corner of the cell turned and looked up at Damian, her face shocked, then hopeful. She stood, dressed in a dirty white shirt and bib overalls.

“I’m sorry,” she said, standing and coming forward to the bars. Holding them with her hands, Meha pressed her face between them. “I was walking down to breakfast,” she said softly, “when three women stopped me. They asked me all sorts of questions about what I was doing here, who I was with, and about you!” She looked around quickly, then continued in hushed tones, “They kept checking my attire until they found something wrong.”

They say you weren’t wearing underwear. Is that true?

No! Of course I was wearing underwear, they lied.

Damian put his hand on hers, feeling how cold her fingers were, thinking hard. “Okay, sit tight,” he said after a moment, “I’ll do what I can to get you out.”

***

“No one checks underwear inside a motel, that’s ridiculous and you know it.”

“The law ‘s the law,” the constable said, obviously annoyed, “Sans underwear… deportation. No questions asked.”

“Look,” Damian said, placing his hands on the desk and leaning in towards the man, “Meha would not have been undressed like that. She’s Hammer Clan, they know the code. Something’s not right here.” He straightened his back and folded his arms, still looking intently at the constable, “Where are the women who arrested her? I’d like to talk with them.”

“They’re off duty. Won’t be in until day after tomorrow.”

“But you said she’ll be deported today!” Damian opened his arms and leaned forward again.

“Not my problem.”

Feeling a sudden urge to get physical, Damian clenched his fists, then sighed, dialing his frustration down a notch.

Standing up tall, Damian looked at the man before him. He reached up and opened the lapel on his cloak, revealing a golden oval with a shaft halfway through it, rounded end.

The man’s eyes grew wide as his whole manner changed. He stood up, knocking the chair down behind him as he did, “I’m sorry, Holy Consort, I did not know. Please forgive me.” He turned his eyes to the floor.

“You did not know? How is that? You were required to be at the Day of Purity. What’s wrong with you, constable? That’s a serious infraction.”

The man began stuttering and falling all over himself with excuses.

Damian just stared, eyes shifting over toward Meha’s cell.

Catching his drift, the man hesitated, and began wringing his hands.

“I have the High Priestess’s affections for the entire month,” Damian said, “I can speak with her this afternoon about your negligence, if you’d like.”

***

The door opened to Derek and Fallon’s room and Meha came in.

“Get your things together,” Damian said poking his head and top hat in the doorway, “we’re leaving in fifteen minutes. Make sure you dress right, I’ll check when you get downstairs,” he finished, turning to go.

“What’s wrong, sir?” Fallon asked.

Damian stopped and turned toward them, “Mission’s compromised, someone’s on to us.”

SEOIB.