Monday, December 19, 2016

Lege Teneri

     The tears wouldn’t stop flowing. She’d ravaged her swollen eyes and raw nose with half a roll of toilet paper, but still, the damnable salt water and mucus trickled down her face. Her ass hurt from prolonged sitting, the ceramic toilet seat offered her no comfort. Her temples throbbed; each beat sent a shockwave through her nervous system. Holding onto the bathroom wall, to keep from falling off the toilet, she sunk into the cold tiles. The position was awkward, but the cool tiles soothed her burning skin. When the urge to vomit finally passed, Tokus Cassius, Mercury’s Messenger, climbed off the toilet. She slowly navigated the bathroom to the sink, where she turned the cold water tap on and began a two handed shoveling maneuver, slapping her face with the ice water. She gave no thought to the water that jumped over her shoulders to land on her back. Right when she was starting to feel like a functional human being, her stomach flipped. She lunged back to the toilet, where she barely made it before—Oh, sweet mother of Mercury! That’s disgusting!—hugging the porcelain goddess. In her painful state, she did not hear the thrice knock of the Mercury’s Elite Guard.
     “Messenger?” the concerned Merc called from the bathroom doorway.
     Not bothering to answer, Cassie held her pounding head over the gaping hole with the floating acidic remnants of her stomach. Her eyes were tightly shut as she focused her energies on making the world stop spinning.
     “Messenger?” the Merc asked from directly behind her.
     “I’m…” Cassie waved an arm behind her, the hand flapping in that ‘go away’ manner, “…busy,” she choked out before resuming her efforts at becoming the world’s leading projectile vomiter.
     It matters not whether the knowledge, the sound, or the stench caused the Merc’s reaction, but the poor guard rushed to the sink where he promptly copied Cassie. For the next five minutes they alternated vomity verses in a cappella.  
     “Do you see it?” Gabriel Seagrass asked Clara ‘Tampon Lady’ Darin who leaned closer to the window straining to see.
     “No. I don’t.”
     Pointing to the corner of the giant bay window of Chang’s Bazaar, Gab said, “the green eyed flyer. Right there,” he tapped the window.
     “Eye flyer?”
     “The eye with wings…just there,” he tapped the glass again.
     “Why’s it so small?” she asked with her face in the corner.
     “Don’t want it to be obvious, now do we?” he asked.
     “Well, I guess that’s true,” she answered.
     “Damn right it’s true,” a female said from behind them.
     Uncertain of the newcomer, Clara slid a hand to her knife, clicked the snap, and started to pull the blade from the sheath.
     “Mom!” Gab exclaimed, “you made it.”
     She bent down kissed her son’s cheek and said, “of course, love.” She looked Clara over, before saying to her son, “well, boy, open the door already. Never know who’s watching, do we?”
     “No, ma’am,” he said as he took the key fob out of his pocket, waved it in front of the receiver, and waited for the tell-tale click of the deadbolt. Once he’d opened the door, he held it for the two ladies and he suspiciously looked up and down the street before he followed them inside. Upon closing and locking the door behind them, he turned around to find his mother being held at knife point by the Tampon Lady. “Hey!” he exclaimed with indignation, “what are you doing? Get that knife off my momma!”
     Without moving, Clara scanned the mother-son pair searching for any sign that they might be lying to her. She sighed as she lowered her knife, “you’re his mother?”
     “That’s what the doctors tell me,” Kate answered.
     Without humor, Clara stared at the duo. She contemplated slitting both their throats, but decided to take a chance. She glared at Gab. When he was sufficiently squeamish, she said, “how can you help me?”
     The young man glanced at his mother prior to meeting Clara’s menacing stare. When it became apparent that his mother was not going to jump in, he said, “follow me.” He quickly turned back to the door, pulled on it, and then twisted the deadbolt into place. Satisfied that no one would enter while he was away from the counter, he led the two women through Chang’s Bazaar beyond a door marked, ‘Employees Only,’ and into the employee break area of the warehouse. Once he’d taken them to the break room, he poured himself a cup of cold, stale coffee, mixed in two heaping spoonfuls of sugar, and braced for whatever was bound to come next. “Mom?” he asked a lot in that single word.
     Standing in the doorway between her son wielding craptastic coffee and the stranger, she had the positioning to keep both in her line of sight. For a solid minute she kept silent, watching the two with the suspicion borne of experience. Finally, she said, “so, you’re new here?”
     “Stating the obvious, now aren’t we, deary?” Clara asked without humor.
     Quietly, Kate crossed the room to the counter with the coffee supplies. She pulled a disposable cup from the stack, dropped in a spoonful of sugar and two powdered creamer packages. When she’d thoroughly mixed the powders, she took the red-brown stained coffee pot, and carefully poured the viscous java into her cup. She was somewhat surprised that the coffee wasn’t grainy. Sipping the potent beverage, she turned to face Clara. Certain that she had the other woman’s full attention, she said, “we don’t get many strangers around here.”
     “No?” Clara asked innocently.
     “No,” Kate stated absolutely.
     “Pity. It’s a beautiful area. And, I’ve had the misfortune of seeing some real shitholes,” Clara confided.
     “How long were you in the U.G.?” Kate asked suddenly.
     Clara did not respond at first, rather she stared at Kate while debating whether or not she was a threat. After a moment, she said, “long enough to know some questions should never be answered.”
     “True dat,” Gab laughed.
     Kate shot him a dirty look, but ignored his comment to say, “we’ll have to get you fitted.”
     “Fitted?” Clara asked nervously.
     “Fitted,” Kate answered, “with a temp chip. It’s not a long term solution. You’ll only be able to use it once or twice. But, at least you’ll draw less suspicion when you’re shopping.”
     “So, why would you…?”
     “Help you?” Gab asked.
     “Exactly,” Clara said.
     “It’s what we do,” Kate answered.
     “Would you ask a fish why it needs water?” Kate asked.
     “I wouldn’t ask a fucking fish anything,” Clara spit.
     “Fine. Our reasons are our own. We help those in need. You’re one of those. You can either accept our help or you can…” A piercing electronic shriek interrupted Kate. She spun towards Gabriel, hissing, “didn’t you lock up?”
     “You know I did!” he barely withheld the shout that rose to his lips.
     “Well, it won’t do for me to go see,” Kate said as she pushed her son toward the break room door. “Go on!”
     “I’m going, quit pushing,” Gab mumbled. After disappearing through the door, he popped his head back into the room and said, “get her out of here, Momma.”
     Standing next to the Overseer’s lectern inside the courtroom of the Antigone Courts, Justice Moira Thibodeaux hesitantly placed her right hand on top of the Scrolls of Peter. She eyeballed each of the remaining justices, before she swallowed. Her parched throat was the least of her worries. She’d never dreamed of becoming Chief Justice of the Antigone Courts, but with Adonis’ betrayal and Bayleaf’s subsequent disappearance, she’d been unanimously voted in. Well, almost unanimously, she’d actually voted for Travis Scott. She’d initially contemplated voting for herself, but at the last minute decided that Scott had the wherewithal to handle the position better. An opinion he seemed to reciprocate in his vote for her.
     “Repeat after me,” Seeley Songtree read from the card in her hand, “I, state your name, do solemnly swear that I accept the role of Chief Justice of the Antigone Courts …”
     “I, Moira Irene Thibodeaux, do solemnly swear that I accept the role of Chief Justice of the Antigone Courts…”
     “…in which capacity I will administer justice in accordance with the Regius Quidnunc…”
     “…in which capacity I will administer justice in accordance with the Regius Quidnunc…”
     “…without regard to the financial capacities of those brought before me.”
     “…without regard to the financial capacities of those brought before me.”
     “Furthermore, I, state your name, certify that I freely accept this role and its incumbent duties, which include defending the Scrolls of Peter against all enemies.”
     “Furthermore, I, Moira Irene Thibodeaux, certify that I freely accept this role and its incumbent duties, which include defending the Scrolls of Peter against all enemies.”
     Handing over the Fasces of Antigone, Seeley Songtree finished the ceremony with, “so help me Mercury.”
     “So help me Mercury,” Moira said while attempting to position the bundle with the axe blade away from her face. The other justices, the only witnesses to the Antigone Oath, took a moment to clap for Chief Justice Moira I. Thibodeaux, who stood silently contemplating the strange turn of events. She couldn’t help but wonder what had happened to Justice Levi Bayleaf. No one had seen him since they’d debarked from the militia bus on the night of the Kaiser’s funeral. Though the Antigone made up a small community, it was not free of the gossip mill which had determined that Bayleaf was complicit with the Oathbreaker and regicide Adonis. The thought sat heavily in her stomach, she couldn’t see it. Not Bayleaf. Though there were many areas of contention between them, he had never struck her as the type. Adonis’ complicity, however, had not been any shock to her.
     “Chief Justice Moira Thibodeaux,” Justice Frederick Mayfield stuck out his hand, “just trying it out. How does it sound?”
     “Surreal,” she grunted.
     “You sound less than thrilled,” Justice Jo Casta stated as she placed a hand on Moira’s shoulder.
     The newly sworn in Chief Justice turned a tired smile toward Jo, “whatever joy that I might have had with accepting the position has been lost in the reality of why it is necessary.” She absently patted Jo’s hand. “I’m quite exhausted. And, I have no idea as to the condition of my new chambers.” Though few spoke about it, anyone familiar with the Templus de Ambros also knew that the Chief Justice’s quarters were significantly larger than Kaiser’s; a fact that Moira Thibodeaux couldn’t care less about. Though, she really should have cared since her main concern was in finding the location of the Antigone Passdown Log which was rumored to contain court secrets dating all the way back to the 1st Chief Justice, Brandon Boreas.
     The moment she stepped outside of the courtroom with her oversized bundle, an eager young ginger Merc bowed, “Chief Justice.” He put out his arms in offering and she quickly dumped the heavy Fasces into them.
     Without another word, Moira and Osborne traveled through the tunnels under the Templus de Ambros until they reached the not-so-secret secret entrance to the Chief Justice’s chambers. At the top of the stairs, Moira paused, everything in her screamed for her to run as far away from there as possible. She thought of her house right outside of town and her small petting zoo. For a moment she contemplated running back down the stairs.
     Seeing her hesitancy, Ensign Osborne sat the Fasces down a few stairs from the top, before he squeezed passed her. Prior to touching the door, he said, “if you don’t mind, I think I’ll have a look around first.” He didn’t wait for her response, rather he opened the door, glanced over his shoulder and said, “if you hear me scream—run.” Meant as a joke, he smiled at the all too serious Chief Justice, “I’ll be back in a minute.”

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