“You underestimate the power of Birsha!” one of the security guards pronounced. “We sent your pictures to her, and she recognized you right away!”
“How long did you think we would let a couple of dissidents defile our territory with their presence?” another security guard probed.
Violet bravely retorted, “Well, you let us get pretty far into your factory! If we had wanted to do you harm, we would have done it already!”
Even in the midst of this terrifying moment, I couldn’t help but admire Violet’s refusal to kowtow to their attempts at intimidation! A part of me worried that her brassiness would garner her some sort of punishment, but considering that we were completely surrounded by a group of people who considered us as treasonous traitors, I supposed that it didn’t really matter- we were doomed even if she complied with their decrees! Really, I had no idea how we could get out of this dire situation! There was eight Fallens around us, and I assumed that all of them had a potent supply of magic. Violet’s life force was weakening, so even if she gave up the last of it to save us, I doubted that she had enough left in her to get us away from danger! Unlike at the hospital and in the alleyway, there were no convenient pieces of silver for us to reverberate their own spells back at them! The only defense I could come up with was keeping them talking as long as possible so one of us could unearth a better solution to this conundrum, but if we didn’t figure something out fast, that strategy wouldn’t prevail for long! There had to be some way out of this- I refused to accept our demise at this point!
“How lucky are we to become the ones who get to finish off Birsha’s enemies!” a third security guard maniacally rejoiced. They all raised their hands in order to strike us with a jinx, and I furiously wracked my brain in order to dig up a topic that might delay this eventuality…
“Don’t you touch them!” Nathair’s voice commanded. Violet and I grew completely confused; as much as we needed a rescuer to come to our aid right then, we so no plausible cause for him to do that for us!
The security guards seemed perplexed too, they almost didn’t clear a path for him as if they feared he had converted over to the wrong side of the battle. They reluctantly did though, and I beheld him for the first time! He was fairly tall, but his stature was hardly menacing since he had the frail stance of somebody whose malnourishment sapped the majority of his strength! If it weren’t for his wispy mustache, his face wouldn’t have had much color to it! His thin, penny-colored hair got styled in an obvious combover, and his buttoned-up polo suggested that he strove to keep up the appearance of a friendly yet firm boss, but his wrathful demeanor evaporated any chance of that happening! It was hard to believe a man like that would have any desire to show us an ounce of mercy, so my instincts instructed me not to trust him! Logically, I acknowledged that one of Birsha’s most loyal supporters was unlikely to offer us support, so I speculated that he intended to set us up for some sort of trap…
A skeptical security guard objected to this move, “But, Boss! These guys-!”
“I know who they are, and I know what they did, but why waste resources if we don’t have to?” Nathair argued. The security guards didn’t contend with that reasoning, but they obviously couldn’t fathom where he was going with this method he was in the process of enacting. Nathair draped an arm around Violet and me, and while he intended to convey an amicable gesture, his bony limbs felt more like we were getting trapped inside of a pillory! “I think we got off on the wrong foot, don’t you?” Neither Violet nor I had a response, but he didn’t need one. He suggested to us, “Come on, let’s wrap for a minute!”
“What did you have in mind?” I’m sure I radiated a total mistrust of him, but I no longer cared to feign interest in this interaction! He didn’t steer us to a safer area, so I had no reason to accept any of his forms of goodwill.
Nathair conversed, “I have in mind the same concept that you do- we wanna do what’s best for humanity! Am I right?”
Violet folded her arms and remarked, “Funny, I don’t recall seeing any evidence that Birsha had any good intentions for humanity!”
“That’s where you’re wrong!” Nathair differed. “Everything she does is for humankind’s own good!”
“People are losing everything that matters to them! Many have lost their homes, and some can hardly feed themselves! Your regime has created laws so strict that we have a record number of innocent souls in prison! You’re taking away their freedom, how is that good for anyone?” I debated.
Nathair countered with, “Have you seen what people do with absolute freedom? They lie, they cheat, they hurt each other… No one acts like an angel without consequences for their misdeeds! Human beings are wild animals at the core, and they need a tight leash to reign them in! People have to know their transgressions will get them punished or else our society will be overrun with chaos! By maintaining a strong hold over the world, Birsha is preserving a civilized society!”
I disputed that, “I’m not saying the planet shouldn’t have any rules! I’m a lawyer for God’s sake! If someone commits a crime, they deserve punishment, but what about the people who haven’t broken any rules? They don’t deserve to get damned when all they do is the right thing!”
“Human beings aren’t so blameless!” Nathair spat. “Hardly anybody is guiltfree, they all deserve to get disciplined for something! If you don’t deal them a preemptive strike, they’ll betray you! Only a fool trusts most people to act with high morals! I mean, look what’s been done already? Brisha may have come up with some of those guidelines, but she’s not the one carrying them out! See how many people are perfectly willing to stomp on one another? If you give these monsters more liberty, you’ll only create anarchy! Is that what you want?”
“You’re judging the entire human race by what a small fraction of their brethren does!” I dissented. “Humankind can’t move forward without helping each other out, just like you have assistance right now as we speak! No one can do everything alone! Most people won’t act against their own self-interest, so the majority of individuals will do the morally correct choice if given the chance! They don’t know the truth of what’s going on, so their actions stem from doing what they deem as right1 If they had a full grasp of what’s happening, they would behave very differently! You gotta give them a true opportunity to show their real nature! Human beings are worth saving, and nothing you say will convince me otherwise!”
Nathair took a second to soak in my words before responding, “Alright… Kill them!” He pushed us away from him, and the security guards sneered in a demented delight to see us in such a vulnerable position! Violet and I had no shot at mapping out any escape routes, and at first, we were totally blindsided! I didn’t know how we would get out of this still breathing!
Just as they unleashed their hexes, Violet and I ducked and rolled to the side of the ramp! Their trajectories all missed us and hit the ground, which formed a giant hole that led to the factory level. Under ordinary circumstances, I never would have even considered doing a jump from so high up, but whatever injury that occurred from such a leap seemed like a batter fate than what we might endure up there, so without giving it any more contemplation, Violet and I grabbed each other’s hand and took the plunge before any of those Fallen had an opening to strike us again!
The factory workers all stopped their activities to watch us plummet to the surface. Violet and I both landed on our feet, and the instant we made contact with the ground, I felt a shockwave of pain course throughout my legs! I could sense that something inside of me had torn or broke, but I had no time to nurse my wounds! In the seconds it had taken for us to touch down, Nathair ran to a spot overlooking these quarters and shouted, “There’s a ten-thousand-dollar reward for bringing these two murderers in, dead or alive! Get them!”
Everyone abandoned their posts to pursue us, and we had no other option but to ignore our agony and flee! A couple of the machinists hurled spells at us, but we were able to hurry swiftly enough to avoid them! We had to pause when we reached the rows of stitchers since they approached us brandishing scissors and large needles! I could see an exit behind them in the laboratory area, but I didn’t know how we could get past the sea of weaponized opponents until I pinpointed a trolley close to us. I led Violet onto the base, and after doing a running start, I hopped onto it too. Our velocity knocked down most of the people standing in our way, but a few managed to get a couple of cuts on us as we passed them. We got nearer and nearer to the exit, and right as I dared to anticipate a victory for our side…
A chemist spilled some kind of slippery substance onto the cement beneath us! Our route zigzagged around until we crashed into a table full of chemicals, and we had to jerk out of the path of vials containing strange stuff that tumbled in our direction! From his lofty position above everyone, Nathair mocked us, “Where’s your basically good humans now?” A flood of individuals marched towards us, and we could see several of them ready to use their magic against us! Violet grabbed the cart and flipped it over to shield us, and while it was effective in protecting us, it didn’t allow us to budge from this site! We only had feet between us and the exit, but if we exposed any inch of our bodies to them, we could succumb to the jinxes’ full blast! Our minds whirred at full throttle to acquire a resolution for this perilous quandary, but we fell short of materializing anything prior to the obligation to take action…
“Oh, did I forget to let you know that Birsha is arriving shortly?” Nathair taunted us. “If my crew doesn’t get you, you can bet that she will!” He emitted a maddening cackle, which would have thoroughly vexed me except that I was overcome by the gnawing sensation at the pit of my stomach! Birsha would show up in the flesh? In our prime, we likely did not have favorable odds of besting her, and in our condition at the present, only a miracle could save us!
“Hold on tight!” Violet directed me. I clutched onto the trolley, but it baffled me as to why until I saw her grab a flask of a silvery liquid. During her brief uncovering, a Fallen fired a hex at her, and she flung her flask in the same beat. Right as she crouched back down and clasped onto the trolley again, two things took place in unison: a shadow of a woman in a frilly dress loomed over us, and the silvery liquid met the Fallen’s magic…
BOOM! An explosion erupted and sent us flying through the brick wall and out into the grassy field beside the factory! We could see smoke billowing throughout the building before us, but we knew that if anyone withstood that detonation, it wouldn’t be long before they initiated a search for us! We used the last of our remaining strength to make an endeavor to reach a secure location, but it didn’t take long for our afflictions to catch up with us! We did all we could, but our anguish became too unbearable to continue! I lifted a heavy hand with the goal of signaling to the passing cars that we needed help, but ultimately, it registered to me that no one would want to tend to us, not when we had a price on our heads! My eyes got too heavy to leave them open, and when I quit resisting the urge to close them, I eked out a silhouette heading towards our proximity…
I couldn’t guess the extent of time I was unconscious, but as my wits returned to me, I found myself in a place of warmth. My immediate assumption was that Birsha captured us and started to burn our corpses, so I bolted up to do something about that! When I arose, it stunned me to behold that I was surrounded by white sheets! They gently flowed to a small gust, and their soft appearance had a very comforting effect! I then noticed that my legs and torso were cocooned in a plush cloth, and I laid on some downy cushions as well. I inhaled a soothing fragrance, and tranquil music played in the background. All of this would have been very calming if it weren’t for the fact that I had no notion of where I ended up! And something important lacked from my scope… “Violet? Violet? Where are-?”
A faint voice from behind the curtains responded, “I’m here!”
After I yanked the drapery next to me, I felt a wave of relief rush over me! It alleviated my apprehension immensely to see her beside me unharmed! Despite finding each other, we couldn’t determine how we got to this unknown locale! “Waking up in a strange scene again- déjà-vu, huh?” I aimed to quell our anxiety with humor, but it didn’t have a comical result for either of us!
“Where did we end up this time?” Violet inquired.
“I believe I can address that,” a mysterious person replied.