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The Brutal Reality
Really? Well, damn.

Lih stared at the atharim in amazement. There was no denying it. Nox was serious about this. He watched in bemused wonder as Nox worked.

Due to his proximity to Dorian, Lih had been drafted to assist with searching. He was dutifully and seriously moving from house to house along the search perimeter, knocking on doors and asking the locals if they recognized pictures of Alistair’s face or had seen anything untoward. But that had not been fruitful, so here he was with Nox.

As the search party got ready to switch its focus, Lih caught a moment alone with his check-in, manned by one of the domovoi officers.

“Big boss says no backup,” said Viktor Lih, “don’t come after us even if we don’t come out.”

“Oh, right, yeah. Why?” asked the voice at the receiving end.

Lih recognized it instantly. The sound almost brought a spontaneous tear to his eyes: not a tear of sadness or weakness, but a sudden upwelling of emotion. To be here, so many days later, and to hear his oldest friend coming to his aid, on this very spot…

Lih did not cry. It was a design feature his new lenses did not possess.

He blinked.

Once again Lih could see him, as clear as day:

Costa was smiling his shit-eating smile, his “let’s blow the rest of the day off and go to this little bar I know” smile. His cap was on at its trademark, almost jaunty, entirely nonconformist angle.

Everything was going to be okay.

“Costa,” he breathed. He swallowed. It was very hard to stay professional.

“Viktor, can I come with you? Help you in any way?”

Lih stared at Nox, who was standing nearby. There was a great deal unspoken in the stare. Nox’s instructions were clear. They were already risking the lives of two officers, and that was two too many.

“Thank you, no. I’d like to keep you out of danger.” Lih replied. He turned and walked away briskly to continue his conversation.

“I had a horrible feeling you were going to say that,” said Costa. “Seriously, man, it’s great to get good people on your side. Something’s going on. I think I overheard something about an atharim is leading the way with your operation? Is that right? You think you can handle it?”

“I’m happy to serve. You’ll be informed any developments in due course, should they concern you. What have you figured out?”

“That Dorian has friends in high places, Viktor,” Costa mocked. “And he has friends in very low places too. How’s the atharim, this Nox?”

“Experienced. Eager to hunt. He’s—“

“What?” asked Costa.

“A good man,” Lih whispered to Costa. “He couldn’t risk putting anybody else in danger. This man is as bad as you.”

“It must be contagious,” said Costa. “A lot depends on this, Viktor, and I won’t be there to hold your hand all the way.”

“Really?” he mocked, “I don’t remember you giving birth to me, mother.” He looked down at his gloved hands, and sighed. “And you will cry like a little girl if I die, so I’ll do as Nox says and be coming back from this alive.” He looked at his wallet. It was half-to, almost. ”We have to move, anyway.”

“Right,” Costa nodded, “you’d better get moving then.”

“Don’t come after us.”

“See you later. The light protects.”

“Thanks, Costa. Lih out.”

Lih looked over his shoulder, and spotted Ivan standing with Nox, watching him from a distance. Lih began to walk towards them.

Closing in on them from this angle, he saw a strange expression on Ivan’s face. The smile didn’t make it to his eyes, as if in the extremity of the moment, a civilized veneer had become hard for Ivan to maintain.

But then again, Lih’s new lenses had been showing him an awful lot of noise. Every step he’d dismissed the images as system errors, as glitches, as optical reconciliation, as patterns of his eyes getting used to Aria’s land warriors. They weren’t as intuitive as Sage’s lenses were, and would be hard to control with any finesse on the go.

Nox was finishing repacking his bag. He was ready to go. Lih could see that Nox and Ivan were armed. Their weapons were held low but ready.

“Well, I can tell you,” said Lih, flashing a quick grin at the big officer, “that there won’t be any gatecrashers to the party. Not from our side anyway. Glad you could join us, Ivan. Nox is giving away guns like candy.”

Lih had left his automatic before leaving his flat. He reached down to where his knife was strapped to his thigh under his camo jacket.

He then drew his pistol, and checked the load. Then he holstered it and checked the charge of the small handgun from Nox that he kept in a shoulder rig under his camp jacket as a backup piece. Given the sledgehammer effect of the standard issue officer’s pistol, Lih reasoned that he might soon have need of the handgun’s finesse.

With Nova, Ivan and Lih in tow, Nox walked away in the direction of the tunnel entrance. Crossbow up and aiming, Lih came in over the threshold, hunting for a target.

They were moving, spaced out a distance from each other. He was swept up in it now, the real thing.

Though it was hard to see with the new lenses, Lih was backing up Ivan and Nox with the bow readied at his chest. Twice, he stopped and aimed it at what appeared to be movement behind them.

He raised his weapon again, but avoided loose and haphazard shooting. Besides, he wasn’t going to waste precious bolts on a target he couldn’t see.

Nox was telling him and Ivan both, that rougs look like humans, and the words had made Lih shiver in remembrance.

He flexed his thin shoulders to settle the strap of his heavy crossbow, and imagined pumping its fat bolts into another person. Headshots.

Could the other two see the fear on Lih’s face, he wondered?

Lih felt the air chill.

Putting away the bow, he reached for the reassuring grip of his pistol. It felt comfortable in his hand. He kept close to the group, and picked up his visual checking. He noticed that both Nox and Ivan were scanning the area too. They’d felt something as well, and whatever they were, both of them were fighters first. They had keen skills that could never erode.

Lih kept his hand on his gun as he let the lithe atharim guide his party into the shadows of the underground tunnels.

He sidled close to ‘big brother’ Ivan while Nox was talking to kill the tension.

“Ivan,” he hissed. (Yes, so now he’s Ivan to Lih)

“Uhm. Are you 'channeling' right now?” Lih whispered to Ivan as the atharim banged on. “Is he?”

“Any idea who's Aria?” Lih asked Ivan quietly, “I’m wearing her lenses, apparently.”

Of course, Aria might reference something that Ivan didn’t have any knowledge of. Lih should have asked Nox about Aria, but she might be very specific to his relationship with Dorian, and Lih didn’t want to piss off the atharim or his partner.

After all, Nox and Dorian had known each other for a long time. 

armed with crossbow, 2 guns, knife, curiosity

Messages In This Thread
The Brutal Reality - by Nox - 07-09-2019, 10:47 AM
RE: The Brutal Reality - by Lih - 07-11-2019, 05:38 PM
RE: The Brutal Reality - by Ivan Sarkozy - 07-12-2019, 10:56 PM
RE: The Brutal Reality - by Nox - 07-13-2019, 04:02 PM
RE: The Brutal Reality - by Lih - 07-16-2019, 01:39 AM
RE: The Brutal Reality - by Ivan Sarkozy - 07-16-2019, 08:52 PM
RE: The Brutal Reality - by Nox - 07-17-2019, 06:10 PM
RE: The Brutal Reality - by Lih - 07-18-2019, 09:20 PM
RE: The Brutal Reality - by Ivan Sarkozy - 07-20-2019, 04:50 AM
RE: The Brutal Reality - by Lih - 07-20-2019, 05:58 PM
RE: The Brutal Reality - by Nox - 07-20-2019, 07:48 PM
RE: The Brutal Reality - by Ivan Sarkozy - 07-24-2019, 04:24 PM
RE: The Brutal Reality - by Lih - 07-24-2019, 05:56 PM
RE: The Brutal Reality - by Nox - 07-24-2019, 06:29 PM
RE: The Brutal Reality - by Lih - 07-28-2019, 02:57 PM
RE: The Brutal Reality - by Ivan Sarkozy - 08-01-2019, 05:14 AM
RE: The Brutal Reality - by Nox - 08-01-2019, 10:21 AM
RE: The Brutal Reality - by Lih - 08-06-2019, 07:36 PM
RE: The Brutal Reality - by Nox - 08-06-2019, 08:42 PM
RE: The Brutal Reality - by Ivan Sarkozy - 08-09-2019, 12:19 AM
RE: The Brutal Reality - by Nox - 08-09-2019, 09:58 AM
RE: The Brutal Reality - by Ivan Sarkozy - 08-13-2019, 04:44 PM
RE: The Brutal Reality - by Lih - 08-16-2019, 02:56 PM
RE: The Brutal Reality - by Ivan Sarkozy - 08-16-2019, 08:28 PM
RE: The Brutal Reality - by Nox - 08-19-2019, 05:18 PM

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