Remain. [NaNoWriMo '16]

[Sequel to NaNo '15 novel Run.] Ruling the world isn't as easy or as fun as it sounds, especially not when a group of angry angels are thrown into the mix. What's worse is that Baxel is without his right-hand man, who just so happens to be the key to everyone's plans.

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19. Eighteen: Consider it Considered

    The benefit of having the leaders of Spain order a plane was that they didn’t even question it when Matias instructed that all of the windows in the passenger section be blacked out. The lights were also turned off, and so when Taryn, Isaac, and Nemi were ready to board, it would be as close to pitch black inside as they could make it. Laurita and Matias accompanied the trio to the runway, and watched as Isaac shouldered his bag and headed to the plane without a word. 

    “Isaac, wait!” Laurita called, hurrying after him. With some reluctance, he stopped at her hand on his shoulder, urning only slightly. “We love you. Even if you’re still mad at us, we still love you. If you need anything, call us okay? We’ll see you soon.” She enveloped him in a hug that lasted a few seconds, then stepped back. 

    “Goodbye,” Isaac muttered, just loud enough for her to hear. Laurita beamed a smile laced with sadness. 

    Taryn followed Isaac onto the plane, Nemi sandwiched between them. Once they were safely on board, the door closed, shutting off the outside light and plunging them into near total darkness. Of course, not every light source could be sealed off completely, and so there was just enough to allow them to make out the faint shapes of each other’s faces. 

    “The darkness,” Nemi muttered in her wavering voice, “it hurts my eyes.”

    “They’ll adjust in a minute,” Taryn promised, taking the seat next to her. Isaac sat in the row across the aisle from Taryn, still quiet and brooding from the encounter with his parents. “It’s for your own safety,” she promised the girl. Nemi’s eyes were wide and scared in the darkness, and Taryn put a comforting hand on her arm. “Are you doing okay?” 

    “I don’t know,” Nemi replied. “Everything’s been happening so fast,” she said, suddenly squeezing her eyes shut and gripping her head with her hands. “Three days ago, I was a baby, then I was a child, and now I’m…” She pulled her hands away to try to examine them in the dark. “Who am I?”

    “You’re Rirnemis,” Taryn said, her voice gentle and patient. 

    “I don’t know how I learned to talk,” Nemi breathed, almost as if Taryn wasn’t there and she was speaking to herself. “The women at the place, they spoke another language. It was different, but I could understand it too. How?”

    “What place?” Taryn asked, trying not to sound prying, but instead comfortably inquisitive, like a therapist.

    “The place where I was born. Where I escaped from the…” she closed her eyes and shuddered. “The angels, they were everywhere. They tried to tell us things about light and Heaven and Purgatory, but… it didn’t make sense. It doesn’t make sense. I don’t know what they want from us, I don’t know what they want,” she cried, bending at the waist almost like she was in physical pain. 

    Taryn exchanged a glance with Isaac, who mouthed something she couldn’t read in the darkness. Reaching out, Taryn grabbed her hand. “It’s okay,” she soothed. “You’re safe now. We won’t let them hurt you.” After a minute, Nemi’s ragged breathing began to smooth, and she straightened a little. Taryn didn’t let go of her hand. “Who else was with you, besides the… angels?” Whether or not they were really angels, Taryn wasn’t sure, but they could figure that out later. Right now, Nemi needed to be believed.

    “My brothers and sisters,” she said. “So many of them, but they treated us all like one. They kept saying we had to train so we could fight, but I don’t want to fight. Don’t make me fight.”

    Taryn squeezed her hand. “We won’t. We won’t make you do anything you don’t want to,” she promised, and that seemed to get through to Nemi, who swallowed and nodded. Then, she closed her eyes again, a tear leaking from the corner. 

    “Who am I?” she whispered again almost like a prayer, as if asking over and over might bring her an answer.

    “You’re Ri- You’re Nemi,” Taryn amended, and this time, Nemi looked over at her. “Rirnemis is who you were born as. Rirnemis was who they wanted to use as a soldier with all the others,” Taryn told her. “But you, Nemi, are who escaped that place. Nemi is who is siting here right now. And you get to decide who you are from here on out. You get to make this life your own.”

    Nemi listened to her in rapt attention. “Nemi. I’m Nemi.”

    Taryn smiled at the wonder in her gentle voice. Everything about Nemi was gentle and bright - the farthest thing from a solider that Taryn could imagine. Her features were delicate, her limbs were thin and long. She was taller than Taryn, but no more threatening than a deer threatens a dog. Taryn didn’t know what Baxel wanted with Nemi, but she refused to let her get hurt or used as a pawn in whatever new scheme this was. She refused. 

    As the plane began to take off, the turbulence made the whole craft shudder. Nemi made a little noise of distress, and clung to Taryn’s arm. Carefully, Taryn extricated her arm from Nemi’s grasp and wrapped it around her instead, folding the arm rest between them up so that Nemi could press herself against Taryn’s side. “It’s okay,” Taryn promised in a low voice. “It’s normal. You’re safe.”

    Nemi just squeezed her eyes shut. Taryn felt a little strange holding her like this considering Nemi was a good deal taller than she was, but Taryn felt protective of her. She was new to this world, she had glimpsed some of its evils - whatever they were exactly - and she was scared. Taryn didn’t blame her. Usually, Taryn wasn’t one for physical contact, but with Nemi, it was different. Taryn wanted to wrap both arms around her and pull her tight and promise that everything was going to be okay, even if she didn’t know if that was true. 

    By the time the plane leveled out, Nemi was asleep against Taryn’s shoulder. Taryn looked down at her for a moment, hardly able to distinguish the delicate white-blonde of her hair from the pale features of her face in the darkness. 

    “You’re good with her,” Isaac commented, his voice quiet.

    “I can’t imagine how scary it would be to be thrown into the world right now,” Taryn replied. “It’s bad enough for normal people, but with no time to adjust?”

    “Yeah, I don’t get that. You really think she was born three days ago?” Isaac asked. “That seems a little… weird.”

    Taryn nodded. “To say the least. But if she was right about angels being involved, we don’t know anything about angels. Not really, anyway. Who knows?”

    “So, what, you think she’s an angel?” 

    “Your parents said that she was manipulating light,” Taryn pointed out. “It’s got to be something.”

    Isaac was quiet for a minute. “I guess we’ll find out when we hand her over to Baxel.”

    “Who says we’re going to do that?”

    “Taryn, you know we don’t have a choice.”

    “I’m not going to let him hurt her,” Taryn insisted. 

    Isaac’s sigh was barely audible. “How are you going to stop him? He’ll just command you.”

    “Not if Damian tells him not to.”

    “He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named?” Isaac asked, skepticism in his voice. 

    “You heard Baxel,” Taryn said, her voice determined and free of emotion. “Damian called him and convinced him to leave us alone. They’re in contact. Wherever Damian is, he must be involved with Baxel somehow. We just have to get to Damian first and tell him to talk to Baxel for us. After all, it’s not like he doesn’t owe me a favor or two.”

    Isaac’s hesitation was palpable. “Taryn… what if Damian’s working with Baxel? What if that’s why we couldn’t find him? Who knows how long they-“

    “Damian wouldn’t do that.”

    “You said it yourself. He’s not your brother anymore. I thought maybe you were just being paranoid, but now…”

    Taryn tried to find a way to refute that without question, but she couldn’t. Damian could be working with Baxel. He could have allowed the destruction of the world. He could’ve been hiding in Baxel’s shadow every time the GITS mutiny plans were foiled. How would she know?

    “But he made Baxel spare us,” Taryn protested. 

    “Just because he’s working with him doesn’t mean he’s forgotten entirely about you,” Isaac pointed out. “Maybe you’ll always be his soft spot.”

    Taryn’s arm tightened around Nemi almost without thinking, and when the other girl shifted a little, Taryn forced herself to relax. “Don’t say that like you’re assuming he’s bad,” she shot back to Isaac, still speaking in a whisper so as not to wake Nemi. “Innocent until proven guilty.”

    “I just want you to consider all the possibilities,” Isaac backtracked. “So there are no surprises.”

    Taryn sighed. “Consider it done.”

    Isaac snickered, and if Taryn could see better in the dark, she was sure she would catch a glimpse of his old smile. “Consider it considered?” 

    Taryn smiled back at him in the darkness before leaning back against the headrest and closing her eyes. Nemi was a warm weight against her side, and her steady breathing was a comfort. No matter what happened, at least Taryn knew she wouldn’t be alone.

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