“What are you looking at, Nicole?” a producer on the other side of the parking lot asked the statuesque and very thin woman with stringy, auburn hair and an elegant skirt-suit who stood before us. I grew so irate that it rendered me unable to move or speak! I couldn’t believe we went through all that effort only to get discovered right afterwards! Birsha’s thugs in the nursing department failed to destroy us, but they may have gotten their way anyhow!
“I… Uh…” Nicole glanced over at us, and then she answered the producer, “I thought I saw a stray cat in here, but it was just a squirrel!” A jolt of shock coursed throughout my veins! I felt certain that she would bring our hiding spot to everyone’s attention so that they could get the full story of what happened in the ICU, so it flabbergasted me that she would keep our location clandestine like that! She told her producer, “I’m gonna contact my sources real quick before we go live. I’ll be right there!” Violet turned back to me with a look of confusion on her face, and she wordlessly questioned me on what we should do. I couldn’t give her a response since I didn’t even know what was happening! At least, I didn’t until Nicole put her watch up to her chin as if she were speaking on the phone, and she covertly inquired to us, “So, why are you two sneaking around like this?”
It was hard to tell if she aimed to assist us or if she simply wanted to get an exclusive scoop on the event that unfolded earlier. I wasn’t sure if I could trust her; after hearing her talk a little more, I identified her as the same reporter who accosted Violet and me before the trial, and she didn’t exactly present a chord of friendliness to us then! If we gave her too much information, she could potentially use it to double-cross us! However, if we didn’t indulge her at all, she could call us out and bring the entire media over to corner us! We had to placate her a tiny bit, so I decided to give her the truth, well, some of it. “We’re in danger! We need to get out of here without being seen!”
Nicole probed, “Danger from who? Birsha’s army?”
“This is off the record, isn’t it?” Violet posed to her.
“Of course!” Nicole assured us. “Are you kidding? I don’t want them to have even more of a cause to follow me around!”
Violet and I got another flash of surprise from her when she revealed that tidbit, and Violet queried, “Birsha’s Army is after you too?”
With a bitter tone, Nicole stated, “If I said they’re after me, that would imply that I’m ahead of them! Birsha’s Army has a heavy presence at our station, and they control everything we do. I don’t get to choose the stories Jeremy and I cover during our broadcast, and when I’m out in the field, I gotta go with the angles they choose for me! I didn’t spend six years in college to become someone’s puppet, but here we are!”
“Then why do you do it?” I pried. “Why don’t you go somewhere that she doesn’t control? She can’t have taken over every news outlet!” I paused and then added, “Can she?”
“There’s a couple of small magazines that are outside of her dominion, but no one takes them seriously. I dunno, I guess I stay ‘cause I’m waiting for the one chance I’ll get someday of showing the world the actual facts of what’s going on. Plus, if I left, I could only imagine what would happen to the BBN without a good person’s input! I’ve convinced them to scrap some of their most ludicrous propaganda, so I suppose my presence has had a small impact!” Nicole sighed.
Violet petitioned her, “How did you find out about Birsha? Did they actually say her name to you?”
Nicole explained, “Oh, no! Most of the staff thinks they’re just really controlling executives, but my instincts led me to the conclusion that their stronghold over us stemmed from something bigger than a need for power over a television station! It seemed odd that they dictated what messages got broadcasted, so I did what any good journalist would do- I investigated them! One day, I followed a couple of them out the door, and I heard them mentioning it. I wish I could tell the world what I know, but how? Birsha’s influence reaches the entire planet, so it’s not like I could go anywhere with this knowledge! I could slip it into our show, but nobody would buy it! Birsha has everyone convinced that she’s innocent, so everybody would wind up thinking I’ve gone crazy! And then her Army would have me killed, and the truth would die with me! Then if I ever did share this with the world, would anyone do anything with it? Most of society is happy with the way their lives are, or they’re under the delusion that they’re satisfied, so if I did leak this secret, would any person actually care?”
“We care!” I asserted. “I’ve never enjoyed the way everything got ran! They don’t keep us safe from natural disasters, and they’re definitely not treating everyday citizens with dignity in the name of the law! The earth is suffering, and it’s a wrong that shouldn’t last any longer!”
“I know,” Nicole acknowledged the honesty of my statement. “When I saw you going into the courthouse, you had this look of righteousness about you, and so I wondered if there was more to the Violet Harlow saga then merely a spoiled brat running away from punishment. Then when you attributed the Cassiel murder to her, I figured that her Army would hunt you down! I never bought their claim of an unlawful killing and attempted murder on those guys in that arbitration room! You got a mistrial, you were essentially free from prison, so why would you put yourself in more legal jeopardy? But you never gave me a real reply to my original question- what are you guys doing here?”
She seemed sincere, and I truly pitied her for her desire to act with veracity in her field getting squashed like that! I did not hold the belief that she would betray us anymore, but we had another problem… If we went into detail about our mission to find the Arch Deity, we would evoke the possibility of the cameras or even the police catching us, so we really didn’t have any spare minutes to give her the details that she craved. It felt like a shame to dismiss a potential ally in this battle for the soul of humanity, but as far as we could see, Violet and I were the only ones taking action to thwart Birsha’s evil regime, so it was imperative that we keep moving! Quite regretfully, I relayed to her, “We can’t discuss this right now! We gotta get out of here immediately!”
I prayed that her immersion into Birsha’s reach would compel her to understand the urgency of our need to escape, but to my disappointment, she protested, “Oh, please don’t go! We’ve barely scratched the surface of this issue! Are you just running from her, or do you have plans to stop her? If it’s the latter, how do you intend to do it? What’s going on? Please! I’ve never been this close to knowing the full scope of it all! People need to know what’s occurring! I’m not sure what I would do with this info yet, but if I had it documented, then history would-.”
“Hey, Nicole! Get over here! We’re ready to go live!” The producer motioned for her to join him.
“Oh! Please, stay here so we can keep talking after this segment!” Nicole pleaded with us. She hurried over to where her colleagues were stationed with quite the distressed expression, and Violet gazed back at me for cues on whether or not we should continue with our getaway. I was slightly torn; Nicole did have a point on the significance of putting the background of our operation onto some kind of recording, and I did feel guilty for not being able to aid her when she pined for it so badly, but on the same token, we obviously couldn’t give her anything if we didn’t live long enough to narrate our chronicles! With that in mind, I gave Violet a nod, and we resumed our trek out of this vicinity.
We ran through the rear parking lot with our heads looking over our shoulders and our fingers crossed that nobody would emerge from this side of the hospital or the vehicles in this section so that we could finally vacate the premises! Fortunately, no one did! We found a group of trees next to the freeway behind the property, and while the cars that utilized this road hovered high enough where their drivers were highly unlikely to notice any of our specific features, it was still nerve-wracking for us to traverse a channel so close to a densely populated quarter! We did our utmost to remain unseen by concealing ourselves with the plants we encountered, but I remained worried that someone would spot us, view our behavior as suspicious, and turn us in! In addition to fretting over the passersby, I got filled with anxiety that Nicole would figure out the path we took and drag us back to Saint Cyprian’s! To our relief, we reached the outer territory of Sylph’s Hollow, and once we entered into that terrain, our tension finally started to ease a little!
After travelling into the thick of the forest, we slowed down our gait to some degree. I pondered what the ideal site to rest and recoup would be for us, and my puzzlement got resolved when Violet exclaimed, “Oh good! There’s some chamomiles down there!”
We went down a small incline where a narrow brook steadily babbled, and she settled herself down amongst a patch of daisy-like flowers. The scene was picturesque, but my curiosity peaked as to why she had chosen this plot to situate ourselves at, so I asked her, “Is Birsha allergic to these things or something?”
“I wish!” she answered with a giggle. “No, these things will help us with our pain.”
“What pain?” Right after those words had left my mouth, my sedentary stance invited the aches I incurred during our confrontation with the Fallens began to set in. I groaned slightly, and Violet gave me an I-Told-You-So look, so I rectified my previous sentence, “Oh, I see!” She smirked as she commenced in gathering this peculiar supply for us, and it heartened me to see her grin after all we went through that day! She had such an enchanting smile, and I thought it was a shame that she had frowned so much during her days as a celebrity icon! Her happy image might have sold so much more merchandise than her constant scowl, it was very alluring! She glanced up at me, and I realized that not only had I been staring at her, but I had been enjoying her beauty more thoroughly than I should have! I didn’t comprehend why I had let myself get hypnotized in that manner, but it embarrassed me to have created an awkward moment between the two of us! The last thing I needed was for her to grow uncomfortable from my lack of grace and leave! She was a valuable partner in this quest, and I would have never forgiven myself if I drove her away! It was horrifying to picture the world getting doomed over an entirely avoidable complication, so I cleared my throat and switched my focus to a more viable matter, “So, what? We rub these plants on us and get rid of our sore muscles?”
She corrected my conjecture, “No, we have to consume them. And since we don’t have the time or the means to steep them and turn them into tea, we’re gonna have to eat them!”
I laughed due to my impression that she had made a joke, but when she maintained a serious face, I grew somewhat frazzled. “You want us to swallow these things?”
“They’re not poisonous,” she argued.
“Yeah, but they’re not clean!” I countered, and when I eyeballed the water next to us, I instantly knew I lost that debate! “Alright, fine! You win!”
As she handed me some chamomiles, she chuckled, “No, we both did! You’ll feel loads better after these kick in, and you’ll be in strong enough shape to fight off the next set of evil Deities we come across!”
I wanted to dive more into this material, but after I had washed my bouquet, I couldn’t concentrate on anything else but eating this greenery! I took nasty medicine earlier in my life, but it was a much more achievable feat since that remedy came in an easy to choke down pill! I didn’t relish the concept of chewing this stuff, but since I didn’t have any other options in this juncture, I forced myself to man up and do it! I bit off a piece and… It didn’t taste as acrid as I feared they would! I meant to convey to her my shifted views on her suggestion, but when I beheld her gnawing on some too, an eighties’ tune popped into my head and I chortled. When she reacted in befuddlement, I clarified my action, “Sorry, it just reminded me of this song by PowerFlite called ‘Millionaire Dreaming.’ They were comparing their old lives with what they-.”
“I don’t wanna eat no grass!/ Gimme some steak and a champagne glass!” she sang out loud, which totally floored me! Nobody else my age knew the lyrics to the classic hits I listened to! “I used to watch old music videos for inspiration for my designs.”
“You did?” I was so stunned to hear this that I needed further confirmation of it!
She expounded on that, “Yeah. They used such interesting shapes and colors in their fashion! Plus, it was fun to listen to some upbeat melodies while I worked!” My heart pounded wildly to learn that she had the same passion for this genre as me! It was an incredibly rare find! She then jested to me, “Evidently, you never shopped in my boutiques or else you would have known that already!”
I shrugged. “I couldn’t afford it! Unless one of your pieces happened to end up in a thrift store!” I tittered at my rejoinder, and she found it comical too. As we partook in the same laughter, my spirits elated! I was dumbfounded that this woman wasn’t merely gorgeous, but she had a pure soul that did so much to benefit so many people in need and a fun, adventurous personality too! She was the perfect person, and all of a sudden, I realized that I was beginning to feel more than respect or friendship for her! I inwardly cringed at the notion of harboring romantic sentiments for someone I counted on to help me save the planet, it was a potential hazard to the cause! I knocked on wood that my fancy would pass so that my inconvenient emotions wouldn’t complicate our relationship and ruin everything for the future of humankind! I uncomfortably fidgeted with the flora in my hand, and I took a shot at getting my wits back in order by enquiring to her, “Okay… So, where else can we go to find the Arch Deity?”