I watched as the explosion happened, a deep frown on my face. It wasn’t the module that exploded that I was paying attention to. I could barely make out the nearby pipe that shattered. The good news was that nothing caught fire. The bad news was that something might.
“Door,” I barked, hurrying over. People were still processing what had happened, not even getting to what I was doing, or why I felt that it was so important. “I need someone to close the door behind me!”
Aina still was in shock, but she moved instantly for the door, hands on the locking wheel. I grabbed her hand, and her frightened eyes met mine. “On my count, open.” I had to speak up so she could hear me over the alarms going off. “Close it the moment I’m in there and lock it again, alright?”
Even like this, I could tell that my pronunciation of the words were all over the place. She must have gotten the gist, though, because she nodded at me, unlocking the door and getting ready to wrench it open.
“Tobias!” I glanced over my shoulder and saw Charles hurrying over with a fire extinguisher. “Hup!” With that, he tossed it the rest of the way.
The thick metal slammed into me, but I caught it. A little pain was nothing right now, and I’d fought while hurting a lot worse. “Three!” I pulled the nozzle free from the latch. “Two!” I turned back, hunching down. “One!” I exhaled, then took a sharp inhale. “Go!”
As the gaskets on the heavy door separated, I inhaled again. No telling how much oxygen was in there, and adding more was dangerous, but I needed in there. As soon as I was through, I could hear it shut and the wheel turn to lock it again.
Unfortunately, people were crowding around the window to watch me. We’d just added a lot of oxygen to the room, and I was sure that the ventilation system wasn’t able to vent as much gas as was being put in. The burners stopped when the fuel line was cut, but there was still plenty of opportunity for the gas to ignite from almost anything. If there was an explosion, if the fireball was too big, people would die.
Not on my watch.
I hurried over to the gas tanks, looking them over. The main valve was in good condition still, but I could hear the colorless gas escaping the broken pipe at an alarming rate. No telling how much air was left in here… But I also couldn’t hold my breath forever. I put my hands on the valve before I had to let out a puff of air and suck another one in.
Bad idea. The dust mask that I wore did nothing to help the choking taste of whatever they’d added to the gas to make sure people knew if there was a leak. Behind my safety goggles, my eyes watered and burned as I fought off a coughing fit. Didn’t matter. Didn’t matter. Work to be done.
I held my breath as well as I could as I began to turn the valve. It must have been damaged in the explosion because it was far harder to shut off than it had been to turn it on. Slowly, though. Ignore the burning eyes, the screaming lungs. Pretend that if it gets too hot or makes a spark, there wouldn’t be enough time to feel my death. Just turn the valve.
My heart hammered in my chest and sweat started to bead under the plastic cap that I wore. Each forced turn made the pitch of the escaping gas elevate a little higher pitched, a little more annoying. That was good, but it also made me take another breath.
The idea for adding a disgusting scent to various forms of natural gas was a good one, allowing folks to know when their lives were in danger. But whomever had done this batch had been way too overzealous, leaving a taste in my mouth unlike anything that I could describe beyond rancid eggs mixed with vomit, but even that didn’t do it justice. It was enough to put me into another coughing fit immediately, doubling over the valve.
The worst part about the coughing fits was that it forced me to breathe even more. All that I could do was clamp my mouth shut and try to focus beyond a throat that felt like someone was clawing at it from the inside and tears that obscured my vision.
But still I forced myself to turn that wheel. A few inches at a time was all that I could manage, but each inch was better than nothing. It didn’t matter that I was getting a little woozy, it didn’t matter if I dropped dead as soon as I finished it. I just had to get the job done.
Finally, though, the wheel caught and refused to turn any more. I couldn’t hear if there was still some leaking or not. Between convulsions of my chest, I put my hand in front of the broken pipe, but didn’t feel anything.
Done. It was done. But I couldn’t let go quite just yet.
I made it two steps towards the window before another coughing fit took me, this time worse than before. With it, my balance seemed to give out on me — I didn’t so much of lean against the window as I did slam against it.
My vision was blurred and darkening, and I couldn’t breathe. The only sound was the blood rushing in my ears. I looked at the blurry images of the people on the other side of the window and flashed them a thumb’s up. They had to know that I’d done it. That all that they needed to do now was wait for the fumes to clear.
Someone, I couldn’t tell who, motioned. I tried to make out what they were doing, but another coughing fit took me. When I raised my head again, everyone was motioning, all in the same direction. No doubt screaming, too, but I couldn’t hear them through the glass or my own screaming body.
What were they motioning towards? My head turned to look, but it made my stomach churn.
Door. They wanted me to go to the door. Dangerous, but the reason why it was dangerous was beyond me. Hard to think. I didn’t want to go there, but why?
Didn’t matter. They might know something I didnt. Unsing the wall to steady myself, I began the painfully slow shuffle. Legs didn’t want to work, too light headed to focus enough to force them. One foot in front of the other. It was only three or four times my height from the window to the door. Maybe five.
I made it a little over half of that before I fell to my knees, crooping. I felt like a lung was going to come out. I began to crawl as best I could, forcing my arms a bit further, my knees to shuffle forward.
Even that stopped as another fit wracked me, making my arms give out. What a sight I must have been, my ass up, my face firmly planted into the floor, unable to even move it to the side. Oh well. It wasn’t like I could help it any.
And then there were hands on me, lifting me. They didn’t bother hauling me to my feet, they simply dragged me out as I coughed and wheezed.
When I started to regain my wits, I realized that I was on my back, and I could suck in real air. Someone, I couldn’t put together quite who, was over me, smiling worriedly.
“S’okay,” I croaked. It felt like my throat was bleeding.
“S’okay,” the man said in a heavily accented voice that I could barely make out over the sound of blood rushing in my ears. I went into another coughing fit, and when it passed, he gave me a hopeful smile. “S’allright?”
“S’allright,” I gasped, tilting my head back.
Slowly, though, more voices became apparent. Yelling. Angry. Mr. Holst’s voice. I could barely make out what he was saying in English over his accent.
“…Because of you!”
“Me?” Charles boomed. “I told you we needed better venting, a better chamber for this! You said to make do!”
“Well I did not think your design would explode like that!”
“My… Number one, it isn’t my design, you old fuckwad! Two, the simulations said that it would be-”
“I am glad that we did not rely on simulations alone, then!”
Mr. Holst, the Chief of Production, was really getting into it. I took a deep breath, fighting off another cough before trying to make my way to my feet. Keld, my immediate supervisor, tried to pull my dust mask off, but I waved him off quickly. Charles was from Twain, so I couldn’t risk it. I was safe so long as I was in my full clean suit, even if it wasn’t clean any more. Removing any of it might result in Charles figuring out who I was.
“Gentlemen.” The voice was stern and unlike I’d ever heard her talk before, but Taylor’s voice was unmistakible. I lifted my head to find her approaching Mr. Holst and Charles. “Is everything alright?”
“Yes,” Mr. Holst said, deflating a little. “Yes, thank goodness. And, thanks to the handyman that you sent us, the chance of us all dying in a fire is getting less now.”
Taylor looked to me and I gave her a weak wave. My head was still woozy, but I was getting better by the moment. Hopefully, not too many brain cells were killed off there.
“Alright, what happened.” Charles started, but she lifted a hand. When she spoke again, it was in a calming tone. “Please. Calmly. Only the facts, not what you believe.”
Mr. Holst started again. “We were performing the first deformation tests on one of the fuel tanks.”
The satellites would go from over 140 Celsius to under -170 Celsius. In order to keep the satellites from tearing themselves apart that heating and cooling cycle, the entire thing needed to be insulated. The designers at Twain, which included Charles, had decided that the fuel tanks would also have a special insulating design.
The plan had been been to do a series of cycles with the tanks pressurized with helium, then to slowly drain it out during the test to simulate the satellite using its fuel. For something designed to handle those temperature changes, it was also designed to deflate as it spent its fuel.
“Things seemed to be going rather well,” Charles said. “We were about to start the first stage of the deflation tests when the vessel… exploded.”
Mr. Holst nodded. “Pieces of metal appeared to damage the main gas line to the burners. Young Tobias was the first to notice it, and went inside to shut off the main valve. He must have been there for ten minutes.”
Nearby, Aina spoke up nervously, wringing her hands. “I say twelve at least. More, probably.”
Twelve minutes? I tried not to scoff. There was no way that I’d stay conscious through all of that if I’d been in there for twelve minutes. It felt like less than one, to be honest.
Mr. Holst turned to look at me. “He collapsed before he could make it out. I and Charles had to go in and bring him out. I will not have…” He frowned, trying to find the words in English. Suddenly, the looked back to Taylor. “Martyrs. I will not have martyrs on this project.”
Taylor looked to me sympathetically for a moment before turning back to the two men. “And then you started yelling.”
“Because his design-”
“It’s not my design ya old coot! Besides-”
“Materials,” I managed to call out, even though it was doing my throat no favors. Everyone turned to look at me. “Inferior materials quality. Manufacturing flaw. Damage taken during transport-” My words were cut off by another coughing fit.
“He’s right,” I could hear Taylor say. “There’s no point in blaming anybody yet. We’ll wait until we know that it’s safe in there, then we’ll collect everything and test it. Hopefully, this is a one-off incident.”
Charles frowned a little. “This is going to put us behind schedule.”
Mr. Holst chuckled softly. “Better to be behind schedule than to have something go wrong up there,” he said, pointing at the ceiling. “Or to have someone go down there.” He pointed towards the floor for emphasis.
“Agreed,” the man from Twain said immediately.
Taylor fixed her eyes on me, and then on Keld. I caught most of what she said in Danish — she wanted him to take me somewhere, but I didn’t know the word for where she said. It didn’t take a genius to figure it out, though.
“I’m fine,” I croaked.
“And no matter what he says,” she continued in Danish. “Or what language he says it in.”
“Of course,” Keld said with a grin. He looked down at me before helping me onto my feet. He spoke up in English, his grin only growing wider. “You are crazy.”
“I’ll take that as a compliment.”
It was a week since my the incident, my third week on the job, and I had just deposited my second paycheck. The doctor had put me on light duty for a week, making me feel absolutely useless at work. Especially since Keld had insisted on going in with me and hearing what the doctor had said.
My job itself wasn’t particularly impressive, but that was fine. I wasn’t in it for the glory of putting satellites up into space like Charles was. But I did see the necessity of my job. Making sure that everything was properly maintained mostly meant making sure that everything was lubed and greased, but it also meant some work on the facility itself — like moving the gas tanks into another room, running pipes to the heat testing room, and putting in better ventilation systems for said room.
Not glamorous, but still an important job. Without the maintenance crew like myself and Keld, things would progressively go more and more wrong until the entire production ground to a halt. We kept things running smoothly, and Mr. Holst made sure to let us know just how vital we were on a regular basis. Taylor might be Dragon’s liaison, but he was the boss, and as far as bosses went, he was a pretty good guy.
I had to admit, I was envious of some of the things that they had here. Metal 3D printing, a rather interesting aerogel production facility… Some of the equipment they had here would have gone great in Chris’ facility. Most of the equipment was made in other cities, most of them in Europe or worlds that Europe held, and I would have loved to have seen what all they had.
Fortunately, it turned out that only five of the first 40 fuel tanks had problems — one of the machines in Dracheheim wasn’t calibrated right, leading to the the explosive problem. They had identified it within hours of the room clearing of gas, and apparently Dragon had reported that she’d overseen the adjustments personally. She’d visit all the factories making the individual parts personally, making sure that everything was right down to the micrometer.
I had no idea how big a micrometer was, but it sounded pretty dang small.
But today, work was done. We all had the weekend off, as the initial tests of everything from the fuel tanks to the transmitters, the multi-layer insulation to the lenses, was complete. Monday, we’d begin building the first satellite, run it through a battery of tests, then see if we were ready for production.
Right now, I had concerns other than work. I slipped into the shop, already opening the messenger bag that I had over my shoulder.
“Tobias,” the clerk said in Danish with a wide smile. “Back again.”
“Yes,” I said bashfully as I pulled out a small heavy container. My skill at the language was getting pretty good, but there were still holes. That was natural — there were words in English that I didn’t know, so why would a foreign language be any different? The holes were filling in fast, though. Fast enough that Taylor was quite impressed.
“Hmm.” The woman smiled warmly before reaching under the counter and retrieving a small bag. “The girl is quite lucky.”
“Oh, I…” Words failed me, which earned a small giggle out of the clerk. “It’s… It’s not for anyone here. Um, back home…”
“Even luckier,” she said, her grin growing wider. “Her love thinking of her in a foreign land, ignoring the local girls when she would never find out if he romanced anyone…” As I grew more flustered, though, she backed off on the teasing, instead focusing on spreading the contents of the bag on the counter.
I opened the container, revealing the clay inside, before setting it down. Slowly, I began to pick through the baubles she’d presented. I had almost everything done, but there was still the ends left to do. The flowers were nice, but I’d already used them. I didn’t want to overdo it on them anyway.
The jeweler snapped her fingers suddenly, grinning at me. “I have an idea, if you are interested?”
Instantly, my face lit up. “Of course! You’re the expert, I’ll gladly take whatever help you can give.”
She hurried into the back, a bit of a bounce in her step. I focused on the door, hands working nervously. Jewelry didn’t really interest me, and I’d already looked around for ideas enough. There wasn’t much else to do except wait, and I couldn’t very well go through a kata or pull out a book in the middle of the store.
Fortunately, it didn’t take long for her to come back. With delicate care, she placed two small, curly pieces of metal that could easily be confused for ivy on the clay. “If you use these, you can attach the chain to the piece directly without having to worry about it sliding off. You also won’t have to worry about putting on some other fastener.”
I grinned at her. She’d been dubious at first when I’d approached her on my idea, but once we’d worked out the financial side of things, she’d warmed quickly. I couldn’t remember her name worth a crap, and I felt bad for it. With barely over two weeks until Christmas, I had to figure out some gift to thank her for her help.
“That will work perfectly. Thank you.” She moved her hands away, and I quickly pressed the metal into the clay. I’d pour wax into it later, then use the wax to make a sand mould for casting. I already had the mini-foundry made, and she was willing to rent a proper crucible for the silver to me.
Satisfied with my work, I handed the pieces back to her and paid for it. The price wasn’t much, just a couple krone, but it was enough that she wouldn’t feel that I was trying to edge into her livelihood. The peace of mind was enough to justify the cost, but her help in choosing what I should use was icing on the cake.
Her hand caught mine before I could pull it back, and she gave me a wry grin. “Tobias, come to see me after you cast it. I’ll give you some pointers on how to finish it.”
“Alright,” I said, beaming. “Thank you.” As I sealed the container and put it back in my bag, I couldn’t help but chuckle. “You know, it’d kind of funny. Everyone here seems to know my name.”
She giggled again, nodding.. “Well, there was an article in the newspaper when you first came.” My eyebrows lifted, and she instantly adopted a defensive posture. “No, no! Nothing bad! We… We don’t get many visitors from America, let alone those who wander randomly up to our gates fully armed, so it was a little newsworthy.”
That made sense.
“It was mostly just reporting that you were here, and that you were staying… You know, with them.” There was a strange emphasis there, and I was reminded of Chris back in Burlington. Taylor and Nathan worked directly with Defiant and Dragon, their faces within the city. Apparently, the two Tinkers had quietly done a lot for the European communities, which put them in a similar position.
Scandinavian communities as well, I reminded myself. I was in Scandinavia, not Europe. They got strangely testy about that, and I had to keep reminding myself of it. Geography was never my strong suit.
Defiant and Dragon seemed to be viewed with reverence, respect, but also a hint of fear. They’d virtually built the walls around the city almost overnight after the wildlings had first appeared on a trans-global scale, transporting the prefab materials, and having recently coated them with the metal. That alone had put the city in debt to them, but they’d done even more than that. They’d taught the city how to have the technological base that was enjoyed today, asking little in return other than the occasional help with their projects, and always offering something in return for that help.
The fact that they were feared like that was sad. From what I knew of how Chris was treated, it must have been lonely. At least they had each other, though, as well as people like Nathan and Taylor.
“Mostly it just said to treat you with kindness,” she continued. “To speak to you in English, and to be patient with you if you used Swedish.” I ducked my head, embarrassed. “But your Danish is very good now, so we don’t have to worry about that any more.”
I smiled a little wider. “Thank you.” I put the messenger bag back over my shoulder. “I’ll be back next week to buy the silver.”
“Alright. Have a good evening, Tobias.”
“You too.” I gave her a small wave before heading out.
I made my way out, heading back towards the house. It was a bit of a walk, almost an hour, and I’d probably be cold by the time that I got there. It was a cold winter this year, with plenty of snow. Not as bad as Copenhagen Bet, which was further East and another dimension, but enough that they had more snow than rain.
I enjoyed it, though. Especially the people who would call out “Hej!” to me as we passed, sometimes from other ends of the street. It was different from a lot of places back home; people connected more, and had more physical contact. That was something that I liked.
From what Taylor said, it was a conscious choice here. As theories became more commonly known as to how people triggered, the community banded together and decided to help prevent people from triggering by becoming more inclusive. People formed strong bonds here, openly encouraging social networks and friendships. It didn’t mean that people didn’t argue and bicker, nor that they were all friends, but it made triggering a lot less common.
But, as a sudden flare of light reminded me, not impossible.
I sprinted hard and fast towards the source, which wasn’t fading. No, it seemed to be getting brighter. Heavy trigger, probably a bad one, possibly a jumper. I had to hurry.
I cut through someone’s yard and finally saw the source; a bright globe of golden light surrounding a woman’s form. The globe was expanding, growing brighter as it did so. I could see a group of people running away. I didn’t even stop to think about what could have triggered a power like this, I just started hurrying towards the girl.
At first, I only had to wince. Before I was even in yelling range, though, it was getting hard to look directly at the silhouette of the woman. If the globe was bright, then she was absolutely radiant. Her clothes, if they still existed, were doing nothing to hamper her body’s light. A noise was coming from her like a thousand winds howling, only the hint of an endless frightened scream
“Hej,” I called out in greeting as I approached, keeping my tone light and cheerful. “Relax! Calm down! Don’t worry, you’re going to be fine.” She turned towards me, but otherwise I couldn’t see any change.
I smiled, trying to help her relax a bit. That was the key in heavy triggers like this. The powers didn’t settle right, and tended to cause even more distress in the subject. This somehow fueled the trigger even more, making it stronger, the effects more unpredictable.
I kept walking towards her, having to close my eyes except for brief moments where I cracked them open a hair to make sure I was perfectly on course. “You’re going to be fine,” I said again. “Please, try and relax. I’m coming to help you.”
As if in response, the light grew even more intense. Even with my eyes squeezed shut, It was painful. “You aren’t hurting me,” I called out as I put my arm over my eyes. It helped, but only a little bit. “It’s just a little bright, that’s all. See? I’m fine. You aren’t hurting anyone. No need to worry.”
The light seemed to be growing by the moment, enough that I could still traverse by heading towards the nexus of it. Suddenly, there was a faint pressure on my body, almost pushing me away. I must have either entered the globe of light, or it had grown enough to surround me.
My entire body began to tingle, almost feeling like it was vibrating. With every step that I took, it got more noticeable. Not necessarially more intense, but more easily defined. “Deep breaths,” I cooed. “In through your nose, out through your mouth. Inhale… Exhale. Calm, slow breaths.” It would help slow her heart rate, help to calm her down.
The light was getting more intense by the second, as was the pressure against me, slowing my progress down. It didn’t matter, though. I was going to hug her, let a physical presence who wasn’t afraid of her help. It worked, usually. If the person didn’t die in the attempt.
The light was bright enough that I could see my radius and ulma, the bones in my forearm. More specifically, I could make out my ulma bone through the radius bone. The weird sensation was increasing, making me more and more aware of my body by the moment. I could feel something strange just under my skin, feel the strange lumps clustered around individual organs, the weird lines criss-crossing over my bones, the strange pressure inside my skull, tingles inside my brain, the strange hugging around major veins.
I could feel odd lines through my body, too, different from the others. They went through flesh, through bone, following lines of muscle, creating a strange tingle where the muscle connected to my bones. I was more keenly aware of my body now than I ever had been in my entire life.
I knew, deep down, that there was a chance that I could end up looking like a Case 53 or an Endless. Heavy triggers tended to manifest strange mutations in powers, and sometimes a heavy trigger could have strange effects on people around them. Usually, the final result would only have a fraction of the strength, or would be lacking many of the effects.
It didn’t matter. Whatever her power was, it would be a welcome addition to the Wardens once it was studied and understood. I just had to make sure that she survived that long.
I could see her form through my arm now, my bones doing little to hide her physical self. So much light searing through me. She was hugging her arms close to her chest, hunched over slightly. I was close now. Oh, so close.
“It’s alright,” I said, forcing myself forward. It was like walking through liquid concrete. “I’m here.” I extended my free arm, ready to envelop her into a hug. “You’re going to be-”
Weightless. Suddenly, I was weightless, and the light was gone. I’d had a brief moment of her body seeming to fade, a sudden burst of light, and then I was weightless. I couldn’t tell up from down, couldn’t even see, my arm seemed absolutely locked over my eyes.
It ended as I hit the ground, and then there was nothing.
I opened my eyes slowly, blinking. Heavy. I felt heavy, with lights around me. It was dark outside, but I could still see. It took me a moment to make sense of it all.
I wasn’t blind, which was a good thing. I seemed to be half buried in a snowbank, with just enough snow on top of me to make it hard to make out my body. Looking around, I seemed to be close to downtown again. I wasn’t very cold, either.
I lifted my arm to look at my hand. Five digits, no more and no less. No sign of frostbite, either. I could wiggle my toes. Every part of my body seemed accountable, but I couldn’t be sure until I looked in a mirror. I dusted off my jacket a bit to find that it didn’t look charred at all. Another good sign.
With the immediate concerns out of the way, I slowly made my way to my feet and checked my watch. I should have been home an hour ago. Crap. I tugged briefly on my messenger bag to make sure it was in place, grabbed it with one hand, and began running.
“Tobias!” Taylor met me the moment that I closed the door to the mud room, Nathan following close behind. “Are you alright?”
I blinked at her a couple of times. “Why wouldn’t I be?”
“There were reports of a broken trigger.” Ugh, I hated that term. Heavy trigger was much better. “Witnesses said that someone tried approaching, and ended up launched. They couldn’t find him afterwards.”
“Huh,” I said, reaching up to scratch at my face. “Is that what that light was?”
Nathan spoke up. “You’re late. With that stunt that you pulled at the assembly plant, we thought that you might have tried approaching whoever it was that was triggering. Tried to help.”
I laughed, keeping it light and cheerful. “I suppose that does sound like me, doesn’t it?”
“Plus you missed dinner,” he added.
That gave me a moment of pause. Yes, yes I would have. Not that he ate upstairs anyway. “Okay, sure. With that, I can totally see why you’d be worried. Is there any left?”
“Yes,” he said, laying a hand on Taylor’s shoulder. “Eating in your room again tonight?”
I nodded. We all had breakfast together, but otherwise we seemed to break up for other meals. That was fine, though. I didn’t mind too much. I would have preferred to talk with them more than I did, but what little I got was nice. Plus, they’d already eaten.
“Yeah. I have a book on quantum tunneling that I picked up, and need to get some exercise in.”
“Alright. You go ahead and head up. I’ll bring it to you.”
I flashed him another smile before moving past the pair and up the stairs. I couldn’t even smell the food in the air — it must have been finished some time ago. Oh well. Cold food was still food, and I was more than happy to have anything.
It was almost ten minutes later before there was a knock on my door. I opened it to see Nathan holding a plate of roast beef and enough mashed potatoes to fill me up, slathered in butter just the way I liked it. “Thank you,” I said brightly.
I started to close the door, only for him to lay a hand on it forcefully. “Tobias,” he said in a firm tone of voice. “For future reference, you should have asked if she was okay.”
Immediately, my blood ran cold. His face was hard, his eyes accusing. Crap. He knew.
But his expression softened a little. “I can’t blame you for not wanting to worry us. I’m the same way, only complaining when something breaks down to the point that I can’t use it. I don’t want to be a bother, and neither do you. And you seem to be fine. That’s the most important thing.
“But if you’re going to lie like that, do it right. Understand?”
“Yes sir,” I whispered.
He nodded once before turning away. He’d said his peace, and didn’t feel the need to push it at all. But there was one thing…
“Hey, old man.” He paused, turning to look back at me. “Are you going to have some free time tomorrow?”
He sucked in a slow breath. “That depends. Do you need help with the forge? Or more sparring?”
“No, no.” I paused, building up my courage. “Well, I wouldn’t mind sparring, but that’s not it. I, uh… I was wondering if I could steal you for a little bit to help me take care of something. It’s, uh… Well, it’s… kind of important, and kinda personal, you know?”
Nathan’s eyes narrowed a little for a moment. “You’ve never asked for help with anything personal before.”
I hadn’t. I didn’t like to intrude, or to ask too much of them. Nathan enjoyed sparring, and so long as I didn’t go very hard, I didn’t have all that much to worry about. The fact that he really seemed to enjoy it made things easier, too. This, though, was almost as different of a beast as you could get.
“No. I… I’d rather not go into it right now. It’s complicated, but, uh… I’d really appreciate your help. Like, specifically, your help.”
Silence hung in the air for what felt like forever before he smiled a little. “Alright. I’ll put work aside for an hour or two. Then maybe do some sparring later. But I have a lot of work to get done, alright?”
“‘Kay,” I said cheerfully. “Thanks!”
Nathan shook his head a little before continuing on to the stairwell. He was like that, and didn’t mean any offense by it. It had stung at first, but I had learned to just accept it for what it was; the conversation was done, and he was moving on. Simple as that.
I closed the door and settled into my chair with my plate, but I wasn’t hungry now. A woman was dead because I couldn’t get her calm quickly enough. I’d betrayed Nathan’s trust in me by lying to him. I felt like an absolute heel, but what could I do?
But he’d taken the time to warm up the food, and the butter was almost completely melted by now. Just because I didn’t have much in the way of appetite didn’t mean that I couldn’t choke it down. Then I’d go ahead and do my katas to find some focus. For now, thorough, there was food.