Crumbling Earth

While we all go about living our lives, a small group hold, possibly, the most important information in the world. The Earth is crumbling.

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4. Chapter 4

The door swung open with an agonizingly slow creak. Its weak hinges screeched in complaint, boasting of day after day of rotting. Kailen's face drooped into a frown as she braced herself for the intruder. One last groan peeled away from the entrance to the room and a trainer-clad foot poked around, accompanied by a disembodied whistling. Her eyes travelled up her visitor's body - a sigh of intense relief escaped her throat when she recognized their face.

 

"Grey, way to go... You scared the hell out of me," she hissed, hand over heart, as she glanced past the young man to catch a glimpse of the corridor. "Come in and close the door. You need to see this."

"What is it? If you're going to tell me you've found some dim-witted scheme to get us home, I don't want to hear it," he told her, dropping down onto the bed beside her. Kailen sent him a challenging glare.

"For once, can you just give me the benefit of the doubt? Yeah? Awesome," she said and continued before he had a chance to reply. "I was in the city library - that place is so dusty, by the way. Maybe we should tell them that it needs to be cleaned. I know, I know. You doubt they'll be bothered. Anyway, I was in there and I found this so I decided to have a closer look."

"What?!" Grey exclaimed, vision falling to the book in her lap. "You stole a book?"

"We'll it's hardly stealing. There was no one there! And I don't think those three need to read about their own history," she retorted. Grey raised an apprehensive eyebrow. "Oh, don't look so surprised. If I can't find a reason not to be a thief, I might as well have a good reason to be one."

"Whatever you say. How did you 'borrow' it, then?" he enquired, never averting his gaze.

"I was looking around and found this. Now, everything else is some shabby travel guide." Kailen paused, allowing him to process the information, "so I was going to do a bit of reading. But then that measly thing - Naid - popped up, gave me my breakfast and told me to clear out. I thought I'd bring it with me. And I'm glad I did."

"Why?" He squirmed where he sat, attention held hostage.

"Read this." She pushed the book over to him. His fingers closed around the object and he began to read the highlighted section.

 

Meanwhile, Kailen investigated the contents of the paper bag Naid had given her. She poked the rolled up substance inside, before sniffing it and deciding that it probably wouldn't incinerate her organs. "Hey, where have you been anyway?" she asked, mouth full of cold 'pancakes'. Grey remained silent for a short while, apparently engrossed, then he looked up at her. It was as though he was trying to cast away metaphorical objects, when he shook his head.

 

"Err, tour. Bernis took me on a tour," he mumbled. "This - how is this possible?"

"Exactly, it's not. Just like dogs can't give tours." She planted her hands on her hips (although, with the way she sat, it leaned more in the direction of comical than terrifying). To him, it seemed more and more like she was attempting to convince herself rather than him.

"He's a wolf," was Grey's persistent counter-argument, "and he didn't really need to say anything. I just...knew. So I prefer my question to your answer - we can't just assume it's not real, we need to know more. And I don't care if I sound like our science teacher."

"Fine then, Mister Foster. What first?" She adopted a familiar, mirthful grin. Grey nodded and scanned through the book's text before he held it out to her, with one finger beside a line.

"It says 'the capital of Mirror Universe workings'. I think it wasn't just the city or, at least, the ruins. I think there was more." He felt like an insane professor trying to sell his theory.

"And the only way you're going to prove it right, or wrong, is by getting the truth from a person," she reminded him. "So gear up, soldier."

"Wait, what? No, Kailen, I can't-" He began to object but she threw him a serious look. "I admit there's something about them that I just can't put my finger on but they make me feel welcome. Like I belong."

"Yeah, we'll you'll have to get over it. Trecia seems to know the most. And, no, I can't take your place. You're not as good at lying but I've hardly talked to them. It'd be a bit bewilderment if I just start being mega friendly," she implored him. Grey sighed. At home, he'd known he was going nowhere - accepted he was going nowhere - and he knew he was ridiculed for it. His entire 'class' were. But then he came upon Namardea. Suddenly, he felt secure. Stationary was no longer shameful, it was peaceful. And, there he was, about to take a perilous leap of faith.

"Alright"--he caved--"just let me do it my way."

Kailen grinned.

Mission accomplished.

 

 

"Trecia? Can I have a word?" Grey ceased his impatient thumb-twiddling as she pulled the door open. "I mean, if it's not too much trouble. I don't want to disturb you in your room."

"Hey, calm down. You can have a word. Question is, which one do you want?" A head framed by black locks appeared in the doorway, an unfamiliar smile making itself known. "What do you want?"

"Just a few questions about Namardea. History stuff," he explained as nerves danced about his body like a playground. Trecia stepped back and motioned for him to enter.

 

"So what did you want to know?" she asked, sitting behind the desk at the back of the room. It was sandwiched between two beds and their attached nightstands. One was slightly smaller than the other, the covers folded in a way that was only minutely less expert. Atop the desk rested an empty perfume bottle, an outlier amongst mounds of paper - old and new. It made Grey wonder why the seventeen-year-old (because it was obviously hers) hadn't thrown it away. Although, disasters made people think differently. And, for that reason, he would allow her to breathe a little.

 

"Not much. Anything," he managed to say, hopping in an awkward fashion from one foot to the other. The ball of uncertainty that he was didn't go unnoticed by the young woman but she kept her lips sealed, letting him believe that it had. She hadn't taken to his own soft approach - it would be an ideal opportunity to extract information. Right?

"Well, the thing is... I don't know much. I'm sure the library will tell you what you need to know, won't it?" Her gaze would've been condescending, for certain, had they been arguing.

Take the nice, juicy steak, she pleaded mentally. Meanwhile, Grey's mind was chugging along at high speed to find a reply to account for the sudden swerve in the conversation. He couldn't say they already had (and found exactly what was supposed to be 'hidden'). Begrudgingly, he plastered on a fake beam.

"Okay, we'll do that." He turned to leave.

"We?" Her voice stopped him in his tracks.

"Me and my friend." The teenager attempted vagueness - although, it was considerably difficult when everyone in modern education encouraged detail.

"Ah... Yeah, just take what you want, there's no need for record-keeping anymore. What's her name again? Your friend."

"Thanks. And it's Kailen. Kailen Port," Grey called over his shoulder, making his way out onto the corridor. So he didn't see the horrified expression on Trecia's features, laced with a knowing undertone. Four lethal letters told her what she needed to know.

 

Further down the corridor, Kailen rushed towards Grey. Her eyes were alert and focused, asking for answers. Grey realised the full consequences of his 'miracle save'. If he didn't usurp one woman, he'd unsettle the other. The one currently present glanced around and mouthed a question to him. When he didn't answer, she spoke louder.

"Well? Tell me what she said," she demanded.

"Only if you speak louder, I can't hear you," was his even louder reply.

"And you need to speak quieter," she uttered. "Everyone can hear you."

"Just let me get one with it, will you? Nothing. She said nothing." Grey relayed the information, a hand gliding through his hair.

"You mean she just stood there for," she checked her wrist then remembered, with a pang of regret, that her watch was still lost amongst the bed covers (hence why she found herself guessing), "five minutes? Do I even have to say 'weird' this time?"

"I mean nothing useful. She said she didn't know much but we could check the library out," he hesitated before adding, "and it isn't stealing."

Kailen smirked - it appeared to be becoming a trend.

 

"Say what you will, I still don't like the dishonesty," he frowned. The brunette rolled her eyes.

"Lighten up! What about her room? Anything interesting?" And the Port-Probe was off again.

"I don't know... Empty perfume bottle, paperwork and a bed. Happy?"

"Not quite. We need to get a look at those papers." Kailen met Grey's eyes. The look there frightened him, doing little to staunch his anger.

"Tough. Because you're gonna have to do it yourself," Grey spat. "Good. Afternoon."

And, with that, he was gone. Vanished around a corner and beyond her reach.

 

 

Upon first glance, Kailen likened the dining room to her school cafeteria. It possessed the same bare feeling that the drafty floorboards and half-painted walls at home gave off - as far as you could get without the room being an exact replica. With that thought, she found herself dwelling once again at the events of a few hours previously. Given the fruitlessness of the operation and the fact that Grey was adamant that he wasn't going to participate, she'd been forced to spend all evening poking her brains for a breakthrough. As a result she'd set a plan into motion - 'drop the façade' and see what happens.

 

At least, if I don't get any info from dinner, I can use a different kind of grub against them, she told herself. I bet the food's terrible.

Just then, her stomach choice an inopportune moment to notify her of her hunger. Oh brother.

Trecia, Xander and Naid were already seated, whispering in hushed voices. Naid and his sister both seemed to be arguing their separate points and, by his expression, she could tell that Xander was attempting to insert calm and reason into the heated debate. Much to her chagrin, the murmurs were too quiet for her to distinguish. Before she could strain her hearing any further, Xander called out to her.

 

"Kailen! Come and sit down. Grey and Bernis are just bringing the food out," he informed her cheerily.

"But isn't he a wolf or something?" she quizzed, perplexed as she began easing into a chair. Tricia poured a glass of water and pushed it into her hands.

"Yes, he is. An intelligent one, though." She turned her head and smiled at the doorway opposite the one she'd entered through. Grey held an armful of battered plates, while the creature beside him balanced a tray on his back. Reaching the table, Grey deposited his load into the centre and took the wolf's from him. Relieved of all cargo, Bernis sloped up to Xander and Trecia, settled between the two and watched the attendees with a gaze as piercing as a razor blade. As Grey followed suit and took a seat beside her, Kailen felt that pair of eyes land upon her. Nostrils flared and a disgusted growl escaped. Fear spiked a little within her.

 

"Bernis! I'm sorry, he only usually turns his nose up at thieves and traitors," Xander apologised. "He feels the need to protect us after everything that's happened."

Kailen brushed it off but her conscience had decided otherwise. Should she really do it? Did they deserve it?

"Look, Xander, it's fine. Right? I mean, you lot have always been pretty tough," Naid said. Grey and Kailen stared at him curiously - the boy gulped. "I mean.. I bet you have."

And that decided it. She had to go on. For her mother...

 

 

"Mum?" Marie Port spun to guiltily face her daughter. "You didn't tell me you were going out."

"It was a last minute decision, love," her mother replied, lifting a box into her arms. "Now, I need to be going."

And then she was gone. Kailen stared at the door as it swung to a close, knowing something wasn't quite right in the twitching of the woman's smile. If only someone could've told her it was the last time she saw her mother.

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