“You don’t want me to go. I’m the most enhanced person here.” Gulla’s hand rested on a cocked hip.
Harl whipped around. “You are a child. A well trained, tough child, but one nonetheless. Do you think your parents would be glad if I risked your life?”
“They’re dead.” Her nonchalant delivery fell flat. Pain welled up in her eyes for a moment. She banished it with a snide smile.
Harl’s arm muscles tightened through his form fitting shirt. “I am aware. But, I knew them. They would want you to live. I have already failed them by not finding you. Do you want me to fail them again by taking you into this situation and putting your life at risk?”
Her face flushed a deep crimson as her small fists curled. “I don’t care. You know who killed them? Those self- absorbed, meaninglessly, prattling nobles. I have the strength, the endurance, and the power to stop them.” She spat at his feet. “I’m sixteen cycles. I’m not a child.”
“You are emotional. As you have just proved.” Harl roared back. “I don’t know you. What if you choose revenge over the lives of your comrades. What if you lose your cool and rush into a dangerous situation. I know nothing about you, and how you operate. I am not going to take you on such a risky mission to satisfy your bloodlust.”
Before anyone else could escalate this argument any further, I put my hands on them pushing them apart. “Enough!” My voice raised with aggravation. “Both of you are being stupid. She isn’t a baby, Harl. And, you just joined. You can’t expect us to immediately take you. Ko!” I cursed giving them a final shove.
Gulla shoved back knocking me off my feet and onto my ass with bruising force. “Fine!” She stomped off.
“Brat,” Harl started to wind up for a rant
“Don’t start.” I pulled myself up. “I’ll see you tonight. By then, I hope you would have cooled off.”
The ride out of the faculty was uneventful. I’d taken Bara and Celi for my crew. I didn’t recognize Amaria’s people, but her group was the most secretive. The main sewerage tunnel was as gross as you could imagine. Slimy, reeking with dim light from our guns, and so cold, it made me thankful for my heavy combat gear. Amaria seemed to be the only one not affected. Her calm dignity intact as she got covered in unmentionable goo.
The light caught Harl making the motion to stop. I heard the scraping sound of someone removing the grate. This, for me, had always been the worst part of any mission. The quiet tension gnawed at my worries. I’d rather be shot at any day. Harl’s deep voice seemed to boom, even though I knew he was quiet. “We’ll go as a team, my people first, Amaria’s to scout, and Hallen’s to provide range support. I don’t know what’s in here, so we have to be careful.”
For an agonizing minute, the group slipped out of the grate. I got out last, pulling out my gun in one smooth motion. A quick glance told me Amaria’s people were already scouting. “Bara, Celi. What in the Ko are you doing? Get your guns out.” I put a considerable bite into my words.
Bara ducked his head. “Sorry, Sir. I thought I heard something. I was talking it over with Celi. She said she can’t hear it.”
“Your weapon has to be out in a hot zone. Be vigilant.” One thing I agreed with Gulla on was how amateurish our whole operation seemed. We never had enough time to train, and most of them weren’t really battle-ready. The only thing our army had going for it was everyone had nothing to lose. A dubious quality to build a rebellion on.
“Harl! Vallen!” It took me a moment to recognize Amaria’s voice. She had never yelled before. A stutter of gunfire filled the air as a scream was abruptly cut off.
“Get in defensive posture. Defend us with long range.” I signaled my people as weapons came up firing in short bursts.
Amaria appeared out of thin air. “There is too many, Harl. We need to move.”
“Your people?” Harl pulled out a map.
“Gone.” The sorrow in that one word stopped my breathing. One always forgot that underneath Amaria’s cool, reserved exterior beat a sensitive heart. “Harl, we do not have time for this. Abort the mission. We must go.”