Susan L Markloff
Torn Out Pages | Part III
“You guys gonna be alright?” Ar’on asked as he walked alongside Kaldok, Blaze, and Archer.
Blaze offered a nod. “Yes, I studied the map extensively. We will go clean up and then rendezvous with you and Tyron at the cafeteria.”
Giving Kaldok a knowing look, Ar’on asked, “Sure you don’t want help?”
Kaldok let out a small chuckle and whispered, “Nah. You know how Blaze is about letting other people wash her.”
“Technically, Krelien’s the only one she’s forbade from—”
“No,” Blaze cut in. “Kaldok’s assistance will be all we require.”
Ar’on held his hands up defensively. “Alright then.” He stopped and watched them go. A concerned frown came to his face and he looked down one of the side halls before he changed course. It was a little roundabout to get to the offices, but it was the only route he knew well enough to not get lost in the large building.
He tapped his radio twice. “Hey Ty.”
There was a short delay before Tyron’s voice came over the radio, “What’s up Ar’on?”
“I’m gonna check in with the principal and let him know what’s going on.”
A hum filled the radio waves. “Think we should tell him about Jen?”
“It might only worry him.”
“But she is okay,” Tyron muttered and Ar’on wondered if he’d said more to Janet than to him. “Yeah, Janet’s sure she’s fine.” His voice was hushed and then a door closed in the background. “We’re gonna head toward the cafeteria.”
“Kal and the grovix need at least ten to get washed up.”
“Yeah, I figured.” There was another pause. “How’d they look?”
“Blaze has a small limp, but seems to be healing well. She could put weight on it after a minute. Probably just a small sprain from landing wrong. Archer’s taken a hit too many, I think, but he doesn’t show it. Got some patches of fur missing from claws or teeth.”
Tyron chuckled. “You’d think he was a Beta with how well he takes hits.”
“Kal’s got some cuts but wasn’t impaired.” Ar’on sighed. “They’re hit, but they’ll be okay. We aren’t downed.”
“Not yet anyway,” Tyron mumbled. Before Ar’on could interject, the Team Leader continued, “We managed to put a dent in things I think.”
“We’ll discuss it after Jen wakes up.”
Ar’on rolled his eyes. Wasn’t his ideal, but okay.
“Meet us at the cafeteria.”
“Got it.” Ar’on tapped the radio again, returning it to the team-wide setting. He was grateful that Tyron still let them have council together on things. In a real way, Ar’on felt Tyron didn’t need such guidance anymore. The post had done him well, and the young man clearly was fit to be a leader.
However, his actions today were a little disconcerting.
The way he’d charged out of the shop this morning, and then the fact that he’d allowed Jen to change his mind on more than one matter. And then to top it off, he’d just up and thrown her through the air in the middle of the thrall. Like chucking her across the battlefield was a good tactic.
Ar’on angrily rubbed his hand through his hair. What had gotten into him? It was such a stupid move, and Tyron should’ve known better. Elders, Tyron never would’ve done something like that. The choice sent a confused worry into Ar’on’s mind. Because it was so unlike Tyron to do something like that.
Where was the younger man’s head?
Forcing that worry back, he reminded himself of where he was headed, and why.
He reached the office and was met with a few wary glances upon entering. “Just wondering if I could see Jon,” he said.
As if on cue, the principal’s head popped out of his office and he waved Ar’on back. “Don’t worry about him ladies, let him past.” Once the door was closed, Jon wheeled to Ar’on and asked, “What happened? I heard someone fell!”
“Yeah, the plan sort of worked,” Ar’on started.
Jon gave him a stern look, his jaw clenching. “What do you mean, ‘sort of’?”
“She’s going to be fine, but Jen got hit a little hard.”
The human’s jaw slacked. “What? Where is she?” He started for the door.
Ar’on grabbed his arm and gently held him in place. “That’s not a good idea.”
“She’s my res—”
“All respect intended, no she isn’t,” Ar’on gritted out. “Not today.”
Jon held his gaze for a moment, the two men daring the other to back down. By all appearances, they might’ve been evenly matched. They looked about the same age. Physically anyway.
Ar’on was grateful that Jon backed down.
“Your nurse isn’t exactly a normal human,” Ar’on said as Jon let out a heavy sigh and eased back.
Wincing in annoyance, Jon asked, “What’s that mean?”
“She’s actually Agerian.”
Jon blinked a few times and waved his hands a little. “Wait, wait, what? How would she know anything about humans if she’s from your world?” He deflated slightly. “Are you talking about Janet?”
“I am, yes.” He held his hand up to silence Jon’s questions. “All you need to know is, she’s very good at her job. She’s looked Jen over and given her a clean bill of health. Right now, Jen needs to rest. She’ll be fine. We can’t have people hovering—yourself included. She has someone watching over her, and we’ll know the moment she’s awake.”
Begrudgingly, Jon crossed his arms and leaned against his desk, looking a little childish. He glared at Ar’on. “You realize you’re basically telling me to pretend like something terrible didn’t happen.”
Ar’on didn’t reply.
The principal let out another angry sigh. “Fine,” he said with a small glare to the ceiling.
As the tension in the room ebbed away, Ar’on’s gaze fell to the floor.
Jon muttered something under his breath, still gripping his crossed arms.
Slowly, Ar’on let out a breath and chanced a guarded look to the human. “I…was wondering if you could do something for me.”
With a roll of his eyes, Jon said, “Are you seriously going to ask for a favor after keeping me from seeing Jen?” He scoffed. “You people sure know how to annoy humans.”
“This is…just for me.”
Jon squinted at him.
Shifting his weight, Ar’on said, “It seems the portal’s activation might’ve messed up the cell towers in the area.”
“Yeah, I know. Calls have been spotty and static-y all day. We’re just lucky our phones are hardwired.”
“I haven’t been able to check if this is global or not.”
A beat passed as Jon stared at Ar’on. “This has something to do with the whole—” he waved his hand aimlessly “—Jen not being the only Human-Born thing, I take it?”
The knot in Ar’on’s gut tightened. “Yeah.”
“Just so you’re aware, I still don’t fully trust you guys,” Jon said as he pushed off his desk and walked around it to access his computer.
“That’s fair,” Ar’on muttered, actively trying to ignore the tension in his body.
After a few seconds passed of Jon searching the web for news, he gently shook his head and sighed. “Well, global might be a good way to put it.”
Ar’on refused to move from his spot near the door and fisted his hands.
“There’s scattered reports. Timestamps are all over the place,” Jon whispered. He kept scrolling down the feed of articles. “All of them are labeled ‘developing stories’. One here from Japan. This one’s from Australia—oof, they got hit hard. Africa—”
Jon kept talking, but Ar’on could’ve sworn he went deaf for several seconds. The tight ball in his gut constricted into a deadweight, yanking his stomach into his feet. His heart hammered in his chest so hard it began to hurt.
He pinched his eyes shut and had to actively tell himself to keep breathing normally.
Stay calm, just. Stay. Calm.
“Why in God’s name…Antarctica’s a weird spot to—” Jon looked up and saw the distress playing on Ar’on’s features. He straightened and asked, “Hey, you okay?”
Snapping his eyes open, Ar’on nodded shakily. “Yeah…I’m…”
“You know someone in the crosshairs, don’t you?” Jon whispered.
Neither of them said anything for a moment.
Gently rubbing his forehead, Jon’s shoulders drooped. “I…might know something about how that feels.” He gave Ar’on an apologetic look. “I’m sorry.”
“Yeah, so am I,” Ar’on said quickly before he snatched the door handle and marched out of the room.