When I wake, my eyes settle on Kane, who apparently does not notice that I am awake. He sits close by, tinkering with a small machine in his hands. He releases it, and my breath catches as it rises into the air, little wings whirring. It makes it halfway across the room, before crashing to the ground.
“That thing flew,” I whisper. “It’s made of metal and it flew!” my voice rises with excitement. “That could be revolutionary.”
Kane looks up, to see me looking at him in awe. He shakes his head. “A piece of junk. It didn’t even make it that far.”
“That’s not the point!” I insist. “That was amazing, Kane! No wonder the Queen wants you-” I stop quickly as his expression darkens.
“Yes, the Queen. Your employer. She knows I’d never sell myself into slavery. So she sends girls like you to destroy me. To hunt me. To hound me. To drive me mad!” he shakes his head, and the anger in his eyes subsides into great exhaustion. “You gave me a dilemma, you know.”
“I can’t let you go, because you’ll drag me back to the Queen. And I can’t kill you. I just… can’t. I can’t keep you here forever either. So what do I do?”
“Let me go,” I whisper softly. “Kane, please. I owe you my life. I can tell her a lie. I can tell her you… you committed suicide, rather than serve her. That you’re dead.”
“You would do that?” he whispers. A light glimmers in his eyes. I see my chance, and seize it with eagerness.
“Yes. Of course I would, Kane! I owe you my life. If the Queen thought you were dead, she would never send anyone else after you. You’d be free. You wouldn’t have to hide. I could even bring back one of your machines to show her, then she’d believe me. But you have to let me go. Or in a few weeks, someone else is going to come. Another death on your conscience.”
He pauses, and I keep going.
“Kane, I can tell you’re tired. You’re exhausted from running away. Running and running, always being chased. I could fix all of that. But you have to trust me. You have to let me go. Or nothing changes. You’ll be a slave of your own device forever. Can you believe me? Can you give me that much trust?”
Kane sighs, leaning his head back against the wall behind him. “No…” he says eventually. “I cannot give that much trust to an agent of the Queen. I’m sorry. But I won’t throw my life away.”
“It’s not throwing your life away,” I whisper softly. “Not if you could save many others. Please Kane. Consider it. Think of all the people that you could save if you wished to. All you have to do is set me free, and let me go on my way.”
He sighs. “I can’t… I can’t trust you. You’re an agent of the Queen. You could be tricking me. You could be lying to me.”
“In case you haven’t noticed,” I point out, letting a bit of a sarcastic drawl into my voice, “I’m the one who’s bound and helpless here. You’ve obviously disarmed me,” I jerk my head towards a pile of weapons that must be mine, “so I don’t have any way of getting free.” Not necessarily true. But I’m not going to tell him that. I have to get him to set me free on his own. It will make things much easier, in the long run.
Kane pauses, and I can see the longing in his eyes. He doesn’t want to be trapped here. He wants freedom. He longs for it. And he knows that I could set him free. He knows it.
“I give my word,” I continue hurriedly. “As an agent of the Queen. An agent of the law. If you release me, I’ll see to it that you are given justice.”
He studies me, his expression intense, and almost desperate. “You have no idea what it’s like, do you?” he whispers. “Trapped. Never able to leave. Stuck in one place, while the wolves close in. And one day, you know they’ll take you. They’ll take you, and drag you back to their Alpha. And then, your life is over.”
“It doesn’t have to be that way,” I insist.
“Yes, you said that… you’re strange, for a Devia. You offer me a way out. You’re almost…. Almost kind.”
“Do you trust me?” I ask softly.
He pauses. “I… I think I do.”
He stands and walks over to one of the tables, coming back with a strange device that looks nothing like a key. It appears to be made of overlapping metal squares, arranged into a strange looking pattern. He then approaches me, and inserts one side of the metal contraption into a groove that I had not seen before. He pushes down, and the device clicks in. Slowly, he turns it once, then twice, then halfway in the opposite direction. He pulls it out again, and the metal cuffs fall open.
I rub my wrists, and slowly get to my feet, surveying the room with awe.
Now that I am not half conscious and lying on the floor, I see that there are several more tunnels, leading off to other caves. The one that I am in is obviously a workroom of some kind. Tools and odd scraps of metal litter every available surface. Where has he gotten so much metal? And these designs… no one, not even a master crafter with full craftcant to back them up could do this. It’s impossible.
I turn back to Kane. “Thank you.”
His eyes drop from mine. “You are welcome. I hold you to your deal, agent of the Queen.”
“Just call me Natalia,” I sigh. “That ‘agent of the Queen’ business is so formal.”
“Natalia it is then. And your promise?”
I smile, approaching him, and laying a hand on his shoulder. I feel him shudder, and he pulls away. Another startling realization- I am taller than him, and I am small and slight for a girl of my age. “Yes, of course. I gave my word.”
He relaxes slightly. And that’s when my first blow takes him in the chin. His head snaps back, and he crashes to the ground, completely unconscious.
I kneel next to him. “I gave my word,” I repeat, “and as a Devia of the Queen, my word means absolutely nothing.”
I take the metal cuffs that he had used to bind me, and lock them around his wrists instead. Then I step back, and wait for him to come to.
It doesn’t take long. After a couple minutes he groans, and tries to sit up. Before he can, I haul him to his feet.
He looks me in the eyes, and I can see that he knows exactly what I am about to say to him. I say it anyways.
“Kane, by order of the Queen, you are officially under arrest, and will return to the palace with me.” I add, quietly, “Don’t bother struggling. It won’t get you anywhere.”
“Demons take you,” he hisses. “You promised!”
“A promise from an agent of the Queen means nothing,” I reply. “Face it, Kane. You’re just a piece on the board, waiting to be used. Someone as brilliant as you? No one is going to let you hide away. The rumors will start again. You’ll always be hounded. You can’t trust anybody. They all will betray you for one reason or another. You’re just profit, Kane. Profit, and a pawn for larger players. That’s all you’ll ever be.”
Tears slip from his eyes now, but I am completely pitiless. My goal has been completed. I have found and captured Kane. No more lives will be lost. The other Devias will be safe. We have won.
“Don’t cry,” I roll my eyes, “The Queen isn’t the worst person you could serve. Do what she likes, and she’ll leave you alone. In the palace, no one will be able to hunt you. No one will pursue you. You’ll be safe.”
“I’ll be imprisoned!” he snarls. “A slave to that monster’s whims- until she decides that I am of no more use to her. And then she will kill me.”
“Then I advise you to stay useful.”
He snarls again at me, but his anger is weak, with no strength behind it. He’s too tired for that. The world’s worn him down. I can see that easily enough.
For a moment, I feel a flash of pity for him. I dismiss it quickly, reminding myself that this is no more than he deserves. For all the other Devias that he left to a death sentence.