I am

"She was made out of pure spirit and life. A star on earth. Yet a hurricane in space. Cassiopeia Turow was different."
I am a girl who dared to dream. I am someone who sought adventure. I am a person who will learn and thrive and satisfy curiosity. These are all qualities most people share. But most people can't say that they overthrew a monarchy or helped burn down the world.


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35. "Anything is better than nothing."

 

THIRTY TWO

“When the air had cleared they could finally see the light. The light was murky but that was enough.”

“Anything is better than nothing.”

 

One week ago

Queens, Irille.

 

They found out that the Siege had been lifted when Avery’s father entered the house. Avery could pick out that voice from anywhere and that was the problem. They had slept in Avery’s old room that night and it had remained the same, from the posters on the wall, to the carving in his door which promptly said; “Let me escape this madness.”

Just entering the room caused some heavy flashbacks to creep up on him. Tommen was overjoyed that they had been put into this room, he had been fascinated with the drawings and photographs of a teenage Avery.

At present the younger boy was still asleep, curled up on his side of the double bed. It had been the first time that he had slept in cotton sheets in a long while and so Avery had allowed him to sleep.

It was his father’s voice that had awoken Avery to start with, his called greeting to his wife making the blood freeze in Avery’s veins. He waited tensely for a while to give his mother time to explain the situation to his father.

Avery didn’t want to go down there and felt like he was seventeen once more.

Man up, you’re forty for god’s sake, you should be better than this. He’s nothing to be scared of, you’re a forty year old man and you are not scared of anything.

He waited anxiously and he counted until an hour was up before he removed himself from the bed. Tommen was still stuck in dreamland and he deserved to be there for as long as he needed to be. Dreams were better than facing Avery’s father.

He left his shirt off, it seemed easier to be intimidating that way since some of his scars were displayed. He descended the stairs with bare feet and tried not to shake.

This is just your father, he can’t do anything to hurt you anymore.

Avery found his parents in the dining room sitting on opposite ends of the table. From his entry point Avery would be at the back of his father and his mother saw him first when he walked in.  He could hear her sudden intake of breath and his father turned around.

“Hello Father,” Avery began and had to stop himself from choking at the first word.

“Son,” his father sounded shocked, uncertain on what to say, “H-how are you doing?”

“A life at sea isn’t always easy but it’s rewarding,” Avery replied struggling how to answer. He could see his parents eyes sweep across his chest, searching out each scar on display. “How’s the bank?”

“It’s o-okay, I’ve hired an apprentice.” His father stammered and Avery knew that wouldn’t have been easy for his father to do and admit to. His mother shot her husband a glance then, almost a worried one and his father had to open his mouth once again, “I-I’m sorry for how things turned out between us.”

Avery was touched by the apology but he knew that his father didn’t truly mean it, his image of a perfect family was shattered by Avery’s actions. It was Avery’s fault for what had happened.

Avery sat down at the table and his father talked to him for the first time in twenty odd years. They discussed how Avery was unhappy with his life at the time and how he had felt pressured by his father. His father had not raised his voice when he said that he wanted their reputations and family to stay perfect. It was a tense conversation which ended in both men apologizing for what had happened.

Twenty three years had passed and even though Avery would nearly always feel resentment towards his father at least he could go back to his ship and say that he had faced him.

His mother had kept quiet until she prompted her husband to ask about Tommen, and the tension eased just a little.

“He’s an excellent boy, I’m training him to be my right hand at the Night Thief, and he’s a quick learner.”  Avery caught his father’s grimace because he had something with his own son that his father never had with Avery. “I don’t speak to his mother, she was after all my first love and that’s always painful.” His mother looked ready to speak but Tommen coming down the stairs made her snap her mouth shut.

He was rubbing his eyes and yawning, his jaw popping at the force of it. The boy was really tired and Avery could not help the fond smirk that came over his face. His son – and that was weird to say even still – had went sans a shirt as well so the one scar across his stomach was visible.

“You know I hate when you talk about me behind my back,” Tommen whined and collapsed into the wooden chair. Avery ruffled his hair and ignored the glare that Tommen shot towards him. His son had pillowed his head on his arms as they rested on the table. “What is that bed made out of it’s like it was a gift from the gods or something?” Tommen moaned.

His parents laughed, “Just normal cotton and feathers honey,” his mother laughed.

“It’s way better than the hammock on the ship.” Tommen groaned and then perked up at the smell of breakfast wafting from the kitchen. “I smell bacon,” he said and suddenly he was awake and putting up a plate for both him and his father. Avery was only grateful because the stress of meeting his father had distracted him from his hunger.

His mother waited until they were both eating before she approached the next subject, “How did you get all of your scars,” she enquired to the both of them.

Avery told her that his was mostly from battles and skirmishes with other ships. Being the Captain of a ship was not an easy job when other pirates wanted to take that ship for themselves.

Tommen had to stop eating to answer and did not seem bothered at the bit of sauce stuck to his lip. “Mines less serious than that, I had to get my appendix taken out.”

His mother seemed somewhat relieved with that answer.

Avery remembered the day when Tommen had gotten violently ill for a couple of days, luckily they had had a doctor on board (they had been travelling him between countries at the time) and they had performed surgery on the ship in the middle of the open expanse of the sea. It was a harrowing time and Avery was incredibly grateful that his son had survived through it.

His father cleared his throat, “They are holding a public meeting today at noon, I thought that would interest the both of you.”

“Would it ever Mr. Bane!” Tommen cried and jumped up, swallowing the last bite of bacon and ketchup, “You can use some of Avery’s old clothes, how old are you Tommen?” His mother asked grinning at them both but more at the younger boy. Avery thought that it was because Tommen would remind her of a younger him and therefore the awkwardness had all gone.

“Nineteen Annabeth and still looking dashing compared to that old man next to me,” Tommen laughed and darted out of the way of Avery’s fond cuff to the head.

The whole table laughed and they were finally getting somewhere, hopefully Cassiopeia would be alright and then the day would be complete.

Cassiopeia woke with a head full of cotton. Disorientation robbed her of her senses and for a moment she didn’t know where she was or why she was there. There was a banging somewhere near her, on a door maybe? There were tiles underneath her and they were cool underneath her cheek. Her body felt like it was on fire, the flames swallowing her whole.

The world span and when it finally stopped she noticed that she was in the bathroom, her feet against the toilet. Someone was knocking furiously on the door, their fists banging against the wood. The door was only there for privacy and since she wasn’t opening it they would have thought that she was escaping. They never locked it but this was a warning. The door was opening and the wood hit her legs, she groaned as her dress shifted further up her thighs. 

She couldn’t feel the pain of the door hitting her as the headache made her feel nothing else. Her head was turned away from the door, angled towards the wall of the bathroom so she couldn’t see the guard’s expressions when they saw her on the floor.

One of them swore, she heard the venom in the words. Hands were on her arms dragging her up and they were speaking to her but she felt as though she was underwater. The world shifted and her head lolled towards her chest as they picked her up.

The orange dress she had worn at the festival was now dirty, more of a burnt orange than the vibrant colour it had once been. It slipped off her shoulders as they jostled her and she begged herself to pay attention to her surroundings. The Guards dragged her back to her room, the orange lights swaying past her as her eyes tried to keep up with where she was going.

The door at the end of the corridor was open and that was a point of significance. It had never been open in the time she had spent there. Light was pouring from where it was propped open, a breeze blew through. Could that be the outside? Or near actual light? She had to feel sunlight on her face again. She had to try and escape but she didn’t have the energy to do so. They picked her up like a rag doll and carried her into her cell – it wasn’t even her room anymore. Amber wasn’t in her room, she hadn’t been for a while now.

Cassiopeia wondered if the other girl had died or if she was still in the experimentation chamber. Cassiopeia hadn’t been injected with anything else for a while. So why had she collapsed? Cassiopeia didn’t understand.

It was only when they slotted through her food that a lightbulb went off in her head. There was something in the food, something that made her woozy, maybe there was SIE in there too.

She couldn’t trust these people as far as she could throw them.

She had to get out of there and not eating the food was the first step in that. She had to have the energy to get to that door.

The public meeting was issued from the balcony of the palace where Hadrian usually commenced his speeches. In the last couple of days when the siege had been implemented the palace had looked barren due to its locked down status. Hadrian had miniscule grains of power within those first few days but through many negotiations and bribery he managed to cling on to the previous position and claw his way back.

Hadrian was nervous pulling at the tie that had been put around his neck. Nox had said that it would be different to the usual royal garb signifying change, but it would also look classy. Classy is what they needed right now.

“Why am I so nervous right now?” Hadrian mumbled under his breath, huffing as he forced his hands away from his tie.

“Because it means something to you,” Nox chuckled and moved to straighten the tie once more. He pushed a note into the other man’s and made sure to look into Hadrian’s eyes. “You’ll be fine, we’ve practiced this remember?”

That was what worried Hadrian. They had practiced the speech that much that it tasted like sand paper in his mouth and he worried that he would appear too brash and wrong in front of the crowd. The public would see through this, they would see the fragility of Irille and the fragility of Hadrian.

Hadrian sighed and nodded. He couldn’t convince Nox that they could postpone the meeting even if he knew himself that he was technically the King still.

Nox frowned at him. Hadrian pretended not to see it.

Hadrian unhooked Nox’s hands from his person and moved to the curtains. There was such a crowd out there and it looked daunting. The streets were filled with people desperate to know what was going on. Hadrian felt sick.

This would have never happened under his father’s rule. But maybe that was the point.

 

Tommen was apprehensive, Irille was a new zone for him. His tanned skin and dark hair mainly stuck out but since Queens was a docking capital there were some people who shared his tanned tone. The crowd was a nervous wreck of people shifting and trying to edge closer to the balcony. He didn’t know what to make of Irille yet but he was sure that it would grow on him like it had with Cassiopeia. He watched as the King strode onto the balcony, his hands clenched at his sides and his eyes cold. Growing blond hair was slicked back with gel, the tattoos on his forehead stark and foreboding. This was King Hadrian and he looked different to the image Tommen had had in his head. But to be honest he didn’t know what the king would look like, he hadn’t seen royalty before.

The King cleared his throat and placed his clenched fists on the balcony railing.

“The Siege was called because an organization named the Sect took over the government under the rights that it would solve the corruption within. I agreed that Irille needed to be the proud nation that we preach, the nation that values all nevertheless the gender or colour of its people. I realise that  Irille was not the one that I was ruling over before the Siege. I agree with the Sect that they are a necessary power within the government and therefore some changes have been implemented. Fifty three of their members now hold a seat in the election chamber with seven more being delegates nationally and internationally when it comes to foreign affairs. Two more of them are then personal advisors and adversaries when it comes to the decisions of myself. What has not changed however, is that I am still your King. The Wyrick’s still hold the parliamentary ruling over Irille and they will until they are unable to do so anymore.”

The King paused. A cheer ripped itself through the crowd, tension bled from their shoulders as they visibly relaxed. The ruling of the country didn’t matter to Tommen and his eyes searched instead for the familiar dark skin. The crowd was too dense and immense to see it from his position and his eyes strained in his effort.

Avery put a hand on his son’s shoulder and shook his head at him. This was the sign to stop trying and Tommen tried, he did, but his eyes kept wavering back to searching the crowd.

“The lockdown was called for your own safety as the government reshuffled and re-established itself. I felt that it was best that you were kept inside and prevented from coming to the palace where the commotion dominated.

Now for the first order of business under this new government; stamping down on the SIE infestation. The Siege appeared at a time when a man under the SIE influence attacked the Founders celebration. It has come to light that SIE is more rampant than it has ever been before and it has now been made as the number one priority of this government. Irille needs to be safe. It cannot be safe when the SIE operatives are damaging this country. They took it too far when they kidnapped a woman dear to the palace, a young girl who was innocent and a known friend of myself. Cassiopeia Turow deserves to be found and justice needs to be served.”

Tommen felt the world disappear into a constant ringing noise. His eyes fell to the floor. Cassiopeia had been kidnapped. His mind would not stop playing the possibilities of that outcome. Her body being dragged. Being interrogated. Being tortured.

Tommen had to drag himself away from the crowd, stumbling to avoid people, to get out of the horde. People jostled him and threw him looks. He didn’t care. He leaned against a wall, his stabilizer. Bile rushed into his mouth and he leaned to the side and spat onto the ground. He felt weak, dizzy.

Avery rushed after his son and took him into his arms.

“…more information will be said in the palace and any questions will be answered by the line of people behind me,” Hadrian gestured to the men in robes behind him, clear Sect members, “or myself. Thank you for your peace and resilience. Thank you for being yourselves in this troubling time.” Hadrian smiled and retreated back to the room, the line of people following him. The door shut. The crowd moved and rushed from the side of the palace to the door, eager for their questions to be answered.

Avery was saying something but Tommen didn’t register it. He felt underwater, trapped in a nightmare.

Cassiopeia was gone, kidnapped. Anything could be happening to her.

“We have to go,” Avery was saying as the world returned back to Tommen. His father was holding him up, his arms underneath his armpits and he was dragging him in the direction of the crowd. “The only way we can get answers is to talk to him.”

His grandparents were behind him, following Tommen and his father. Tommen couldn’t form words, his brain was not online yet.

They fought against the crowd, Tommen boneless in his father’s arms. The crowd had formed into lines in front of the ten men who had been behind the King. The King was currently behind those lines of men, shielded by them as he spoke to a couple near his throne.

Questions were like birds in flights as they demanded to be answered. There were a lot of general questions, things which were concerned and desperate. Tommen did not hear Cassiopeia’s name be mentioned in any conversations that they past. He fought against his father, wiggling and jamming an elbow into his solar plexus to be let go. He got the results he wanted as Avery let go and curled to shield himself. Tommen rushed against the crowd.

“But what about Cassiopeia?” He shouted and the crowd turned to face him. They must have thought he was crazy. He was not crazy. He was being perfectly rational.

The King turned, halting his conversation to see what was going on. Tommen got intercepted by the row of ten and they stopped their own answers to prevent him from passing. The men held their arms out and stopped Tommen in his tracks, holding him with strong arms and well-toned muscles. This did not stop Tommen from shouting out his question, he was desperate for it to be answer.

The King took several steps forward to hear his question more clearly. He walked to the row of ten men and said quietly and calmly, “Let him through.”

The men let him go and Tommen fell towards the King who simply took a step back. Avery was quick to follow his son, leaving his parents behind the crowd as he simply uttered “I’m with him,” and pushed through the row of ten men. He was not letting his boy face the King alone and he wanted the answer to the same question.

“You know Cassiopeia?” The King asked the both of them as they stood in front of him. He looked even more like a King up close, especially with his arms crossed against his chest.

“She was on the ship with us before she came here, I’m her Captain,” Avery said at the same time that Tommen spoke.

“I was – I am her best friend,” Tommen said his voice cracking half way through and then recovering. The King nodded and looked back at the couple behind him.

“These are Cassiopeia’s guardians, the people she’s been staying with while she’s been in Irille, Lisa and Bruce,” the pair said their names in turn and the air grew stale for a few moments.

The King sighed, “Come into the back with me and we’ll tell you everything we know,” and they didn’t have to be told to follow him.

The room they were took in was a small one, with a big table in the center and a map spread over it. There was a man leaning over the map, his dark hair sweeping down into his eyes.

“Nox,” the lady said, Lisa Tommen reminded himself.

“Ma’am we’ll find Cassiopeia,” Nox said suddenly looking nervous in front of the other woman.

“You better,” Lisa grumbled and the man beside her, Bruce, look exasperated.

“Who are these extra people?” Nox asked looking at them and before the King could speak Avery and Tommen were giving a short explanation on how they knew Cassiopeia. They left most details out but the people in room got the general picture. Tommen smiled as he remembered the experiences and then he grimaced, god what was happening to her right now?

“Cassie has worked in our tavern for the last couple of months,” Lisa began looking at the pair, “She is truly a wonder to work with,” her hand was on her chest and it looked like the words pained her even though they made her happy.

Tommen didn’t know how to reply to her so he just nodded.

Nox cleared his throat and Tommen almost laughed as Lisa threw him an affronted look. “This is what we know so far,” he pointed to an area on the map just off the labelled Main Plaza, “Cassiopeia was took just after nine here, there’s no marks of struggle or being dragged and there were no vehicles allowed. This means that they would have either snuck out of the plaza in the confusion or hid her somewhere there and there’s only a bookstore there. We searched the bookshop a couple of days ago but nothing was found, the owner is in interrogation and his financial records are being sifted through so hopefully we get something.”

“The search for Cassiopeia has been ongoing since the Siege even though all of the other shit has been going on as well,” The King looked at the others and Tommen found that the King was easy going and this was not what he would have originally thought.

Lisa and Bruce chuckled. Avery leaned over the map, “It would make sense to go underground, to go somewhere people don’t inhabit. Irille is quite a populated country, do you think they may have taken her out of Queens?”

Nox shook his head, “Queens is where SIE is based in Irille, they wouldn’t take her out of the place where they can barter her life to the King,”

Everyone grimaced. Nox shrugged his shoulders, “It’s the logical explanation for why they nabbed her, it’s either that or experimental trials.”

The King cursed, trying to keep it under his breath and failing. “Nox have a little tact,” he huffed under his breath and Nox looked up.

“What?” he questioned even though he heard the King just fine. Tommen shook his head. “Either way we’ll find her, there’s some warehouses that lead to underground spots that the Sect are going to check, they go on the ground in about two and a half hours.”

Nox looked back at the map and the concentration in his face was evident. They all had the same goal in mind and although they came from different backgrounds they were all united in this.

“We will find her,” Avery said looking at his son and clapping him on the shoulder, “Come hell or high tide.”

“Come hell or high tide,” Tommen agreed and he hoped that they would find her. It would only be then that the pain in his stomach, the knot that had tightened so badly, would dissipate.

Cassiopeia felt tired, weighed down by invisible stones attached to her ankles. She could feel the phantom clanging behind her as they knocked into one another and scraped across the floor. She was exhausted yet her resolve had not yet cracked. Her captors fed her three meals a day, all the same sludge but with different colours.

The first one was a white sludge.

The second one grey.

The third a grainy, speckled black. They all tasted the same except the textures got crunchier each time. Sometimes they gave her a small pot of honey to sweeten the taste, the next they gave her a piece of fruit. A serving woman once gave her a piece of chocolate. She knew that there was nothing in these small peace offerings. She began to hoard them as she slowly began to empty the different sludge’s into the toilet after every meal. The water wasn’t tainted either, it was too crisp and clear. She knew that it would be murky or streaky if they had managed to slip some concoction in.

Cassiopeia had learned to ignore the rumbling of her stomach as it got angry with her. She learned how to ration her food and hide it from the guards. She felt herself become thinner and weaker but not weak enough. She began testing her muscles, doing small exercises to keep her awake.

She didn’t know what day it was or what time it was. She couldn’t dwell on it.

 

On one such day where she sweated and pushed her tired muscles as far as they would take her, Amber made a reappearance. She was dragged in by the guards and pushed onto the floor. She was unresponsive to Cassiopeia’s concerned whispers, mumbling incoherently to herself and rocking to and fro.

On the next day a guard came in and pulled Amber back out once more. She was only gone for a short while, Cassiopeia was counting in her head. They dragged her back and this time Amber was screaming, pleading with a haunted voice.

A guard, one that Cassiopeia had only saw when Amber was concerned, pulled out a gun. Cassiopeia froze, one eye trained through the corner of the grate she was looking through. One small hand gripped a bar loosely, making sure not to attract attention from down below. The click of the safety made Cassiopeia stop breathing.

Time slowed.

“Project terminated,” the guard gritted out, his tongue stuck to his teeth as the air escaped his bearded mouth.

Amber screamed, a high pitch sound, a cry of the words no please. It was desperate, yet frail, Cassiopeia knew that they wouldn’t matter.

They didn’t.

The trigger was pushed, Cassiopeia watched the man’s tattooed finger as it moved. She watched as a bullet flung itself out of the chamber. She watched as Amber tried to duck closer to the ground, sink into it if she could, and scuttle backwards trying to avoid death. Her attempts failed. The bullet struck.

It was the noise that struck Cassiopeia. The bullet made the sound of an explosion, something eager to erupt and destroy its surroundings. It connected with Amber’s head, a third eye forming between her eyebrows and her eyes lost its panicked hysteria. The head snapped back, because Amber wasn’t alive anymore and so she wasn’t a she, she was a ‘the’. The thud as the bullet met the skull and sunk in, deepening like an animal burrowing itself away from the wind and rain. The body fell, lost in momentum, and met the floor with a deeper thud.

The eyes went empty, peaceful and dead.

The man clicked the safety back on and blew on the chamber in a comical gesture. He laughed, a deep rich laugh, and turned to look up.

His eyes, his black, dark eyes met Cassiopeia’s. Cassiopeia didn’t dare to breath. She didn’t dare to unfreeze.

“Project Confirmed,” his lips met in a wide smile, showing gold teeth. Cassiopeia didn’t breathe. The man chuckled and his deep voice fell into a whistle as he pocketed the gun and exited.

The body lay on the floor, blood pooling around the wound in the head and falling to the floor. The red liquid collected there and Cassiopeia watched as it dripped and collated. She breathed because she knew that her breaths were limited now. She knew that each inhale of air was precious, like each grain of sand falling in an hour glass.

 

The body had been removed the next morning before the smell could become sickening. Cassiopeia was glad of that since she hadn’t slept since Amber had been killed. That was what was going to happen to her once they were done with her. She didn’t want it to happen and when the body was removed she started to formulate her escape plan. She had to get to that door.

Even with the harrowing words that the guard had spoken, she was left alone for a few more days. They came in and gave her the food, and they tested her heart rate, her blood pressure and took her blood. The guards that came in her room had a belt around their waist complete with a Taser and a baton. If she could just grab on of these and hide it she would be ready to attack and go from there. They were only held to the waist by a thin leather strap, it was easy to pull out if she got the guard distracted.

Cassiopeia remembered something that Avery was fond of saying, his jig that he would sing when he was in a good mood: “Come hell or high tide we will sail on. Through rough storms and seas, through grimy pirates and despicable thieves we will sail on. Through lands aplenty and good company, through nightmares and wars we will sail on. Come hell or high tide we will sail on because this ship is mine and I say so.”

Through hell or high tide she would do this.

She would escape, there was not another option.

Two days after Amber’s death a nurse and a guard came to take her blood once more. Yesterday they had come in three times to take it and test her vitals. When she went to the bathroom the door was always open, never chained, or slightly ajar. The light coming from it, white blissful light, was promising and she couldn’t wait to get to it.

Night was when it was the most peaceful, the guard did their shifts but they were the only ones that walked past her room and to the door. There was always a last blood test before her last meal was handed to her for the night.

On the second visit from the nurse and guard Cassiopeia thrashed and yelled to get away from the needle. The guard lunged for her, grabbing for her flailing hands as the nurse looked worried and panicked. Cassiopeia’s legs kicked out at the guard and he went down his anger bubbling to a peak. Cassiopeia took her chance and while the guard was grabbing for her again one hand darted for the belt and for the Taser. The Taser was more compact and small, it would easily hide in the pocket of her dirty dress, and it was also the most damaging. It would only do one charge but she would take the time to attack if she needed to. Plus she could always grab the baton if she had time during a fight. The Taser came out easily from the leather strap and she hurried to button it into a pocket. It weighed against her leg and she was pleased that the guard grabbed her waist to calm her.

“Be still,” he gritted out, “Otherwise I’ll beat you quiet,” his hand went to his baton and Cassiopeia was glad that she hadn’t grabbed it. She stilled quickly and allowed the nurse to take her blood.

It was better to appear compliant than to act suspicious. She had to avoid suspicion now more than ever.

The third visit from the nurse she was still and quiet, acting pitiful and she even got a saddened look from the nurse. Her food was then handed to her, the black sludge and a jug of water. The nurse left and it was time for the plan to commence.

Cassiopeia ate half of the sludge, her taste buds killed off by the awful taste of it. She made herself swallow it, it would suspicious if she didn’t eat some of it. She drank her water to dull the taste but it only did so much. She waited until the guards rounds got thinner and thinner until there was only two guards that patrolled past her room. Then she was jumping up and banging on her door, “Bathroom! Bathroom!” she yelled at the top of her voice, eating a spoonful more of the sludge and drinking the last of the water. She yelled her request loudly for a few minutes until someone came to her door with a jangle of keys.

“Alright, calm your tits,” the guard mumbled as he unlocked her door and grabbed her wrist as he entered. She grabbed her bowl shoveling another spoonful into her mouth as she followed the guard. It wasn’t a weird sight to see her with the bowl and as long as she ate some of it on the way they wouldn’t be suspicious. Normally she would have said something for that remark but she knew that the time didn’t call for it. This guard was not the one who she had nicknamed, the Death Guard, he was a lower ranking one. He hauled her to the bathroom and she caught sight of another guard going in the other direction. She could take down two, even in her weakened state.

“Five minutes,” the guard rumbled as he ushered her into the bathroom and closed the door behind her. She relieved herself first since she didn’t need a full bladder to be a problem when she was escaping. Then she scooped the rest of her meal into the toilet and flushed. She turned the tap on to make it sound like she was washing her hands. The spurting water was only enough to do that, not to wash her body or anything. She took a single glance at the dots on the back of her hand, they were in a triangular pattern because they preferred to use only three points of entry when they took her blood. She took the Taser out of her pocket and charged it, all she had to do was point and trigger it.

She took a deep breath. She was ready for this. She had no choice. She was not going to die here if she could help it.

“Done,” she said and faced the door. The guard swung open the door. Cassiopeia pointed the Taser and let it do its job. He went down like a sack of bricks jittering and shaking, his mouth struggling to open to yell. She stepped over his body quickly avoiding any limbs that tried to grab her and stop her. She ran at full pelt, her steps causing a guard to turn from where he was looping back in his round. He yelled and Cassiopeia panicked, punching out with her fist to his lips. It connected but the man did not go down. He went for his baton. Cassiopeia did too. She swiped at his legs and he tripped. In his fall she swiped his baton and swiftly brought it down on his head twice, three times. He moaned and gurgled and his eyes rolled back in his head.

She looked back. The hall was clear. But she had to be quick. There was no room for error here. Not now. Cassiopeia ran towards the door and the chains were unlocked and unbound from the metal. It was ajar, a slither of hope. With the baton in one hand she used all her remaining strength to push at it, more white light flooding in front of her.

She felt hope light a spark within her chest. This was it. She was getting out. More guards would be coming any minute, she couldn’t stay here long. The more she pushed the lighter it became around her. This was it.

When it was a big enough gap to fit through she pushed herself through.

The light was bright here but it was not natural light. It was white lanterns placed everywhere around the room. She was in a board room, a round glass table in the center with a dozen chairs placed around it. There was a man in the seat farthest away from her sat facing the door. There was no door behind him or anywhere else in the room. She was trapped. The only way she could escape was by going back and more guards would be coming. This was not it. She felt panic rising in her chest, putting out the feeble flame of hope.

She recognized the man in the chair, she had seen him plenty of times before. He was someone that she had never expected, a man that people had seen on many streets. He did not wear the royal insignia at the moment but he would’ve. His long blond hair was undone from its usual hair tie and it flopped around his face. He looked relaxed as he poured over some papers on the table. He had looked up as she had entered and their eyes met.

“Lucian.” She gasped and she felt sick. How could she have been so stupid, so blind, so ignorant?

“Cassiopeia I’ve been waiting for you,” he smiled and beckoned for her to sit in a chair.

A guard came rushing up to the room, shouldering through the door and up to her. Lucian waved a hand at him. She was blocked in and utterly, utterly screwed.

Fuck.

 

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