Chapter Eighty Four
Pilot, Eden, Atlas; by rhetoric
Word Count: 1,343
Melody had done a double take, her suspicion tossed at Pilot on her way passed, but hadn’t said anything. Uncertainty wafted after her like a perfume trail, and Pilot held back a laugh.
Pilot had been looking forward to this for days. He and Eden had discussed it, almost ceaselessly, to an absurd extent. The discussion did nothing to dwindle his joy.
Elseron had a shock coming, and Pilot was all too happy to be the one delivering it to him. The old Guardian needed a system shock. He had grown too comfortable in his uncanny ability to know everything, all the time.
She held his hand as he led her down the hall to the section of rooms the Atlantean group had blocked off. It didn’t take long to sniff the air until he found the room Elseron was in. Poor Arisa was in the room with him, but it was irrelevant. Eden squeezed his fingers once, nervously, and gathered herself in a single, focused breath.
She stepped to the side, just out of sight of the peephole, and Pilot knocked on the door.
“Pilot,” Elseron said, swinging the door open. “How polite of you to use a door this time.”
Pilot smiled the same snarky smile he always used, and shrugged; the gesture was casual and easy, but the glint in his eyes said he had something in store for the Guardian and he was about to enjoy himself immensely. “I have a guest,” he said, the giddiness bubbling up into his speech, and gestured to Eden, “Elseron,” he said slowly, “I would like for you to meet my wife.” Hidden in his words, unspoken, was a reminder of the threat Elseron had presented Pilot with less than a week before.
Time came, abruptly, to a screeching halt.
There he was, stood before her in all his Atlantean glory.
The first Atlantean she had seen since she had been taken from her home world. He was everything she had always expected. He was huge – a beast of a man, roughly six foot tall, with all the regal demand for respect that the Stalwart Shield was supposed to have. He had a neatly trimmed beard, and it looked right on him – though, the last she had seen him, he had been much younger and he’d kept his facial hair as scruff rather than a beard. And the braid was new, she mused; he almost looked tribal with it – perhaps an albino version of a Native American.
She watched the achingly slow turn of Elseron’s head to face her; and the moment his cold blue eyes landed on her, the stillness shattered. As if time were catching up, everything seemed to speed up before her very eyes – she could see the gears turning in his mind, the ponderous, silent, study of her face.
Her tattoos began to buzz with the ethereal magic of Atlantean blood and it was the first she had seen them glow with the pale blue light since she was very young. She hardly remembered her old life; the memories were foggy and abstract – they came in fragments and shards, segments of wholes which she would never truly know.
He was trying to piece everything together, trying to explain away the kinks in the story, trying to come to terms with the woman he saw standing before him.
With him looking right at her, she smiled and the easy twist of her mauve lips took over her features – lighting up the sunshine pools of her eyes with an unnatural glow. “Elseron,” she said, and her voice shook with the delicate tremble she tried to hide, “My name is Eden.”
His voice was breathy, stunned and full to the brim of all his unexplained thoughts, when he said, “I know.”
Just then, the adjoining door behind him opened.
Eden knew who was coming through the doorway even before she heard the voice.
What was all the tension about?
Atlas rose from her seat and made her way over to the adjoining door. The room next door was filled with a thick kind of tense static that had begun to distract her from her research. She knew Arisa was next door, and Elseron had gone to talk with her, but she could not figure out what on Earth the two of them could be so contentious about.
She opened the door, saying, “Elseron what’s going on in here?”
By the time the door was entirely opened, she did not need him to answer her.
Arisa sat in one of the plush seats, a drawing pad in her hands – sketches of outfits littered the page – but her small hands didn’t move the pencil across the page. Instead, she stared, openly, at the open doorway across from her. Atlas followed her gaze and met something she had never expected.
She could have been looking into a mirror. Just beyond Elseron, standing proudly beside Pilot, his emerald eyes burning holes into Atlas’ face as he absorbed her reaction before the others’, was a woman Atlas had simultaneously never seen in her life and every day of her life.
Honey eyes moved swiftly to meet hers and her heart stopped beating for a full minute.
Her curls were the same length, had the same glossy sheen, and even fell over her shoulders the same way; the only difference was the woman across from her was a brunette, and Atlas’ long tendrils were a glorious silver-white. The stranger was striking, and well-groomed; her brilliant white jacket, the buttons undone, was a strangely lovely sight against the cerulean blue silk of her fitted, knee length gown.
Atlas tore her gaze away from her unfamiliar reflection and studied Elseron’s profile.
She suddenly realized something but the vastness of the understanding was drowned out by the haunting desperation she could hear in her Guardian’s head. He was reeling.
She’d never seen Elseron at a loss before. She turned her attention back to those familiar eyes.
The woman smiled, and Atlas could feel the first inklings of her individual thoughts as they floated across the distance.
“You look like I always imagined her to look,” Atlas said, her voice cracking through the room like a roll of thunder in an open field. Flickering images had begun to filter into her mind – fractions of memories she knew did not belong to her.
“You don’t look like our father at all,” the woman answered, her tone suggesting there was more that Atlas would discover. It spoke to a quiet inconsistency she had always struggled with; it awakened the forbidden curiosity – enticing it from within her bones to the forefront of her thoughts.
Pilot looked from Atlas to the woman at his side, an uncontrollable grin of joy spread across his features – it lit up the stoic sharpness in a new way, lightening the burdens of his eyes she hadn’t realized were there until they went missing. He looked younger, somehow more alive.
He said, “Atlas, I would like to introduce you to my wife.” He stepped around Elseron, pulling the woman with chocolate curls into the hotel room, closer and closer to Atlas.
He stopped a few feet away and gently pulled her in front of him, raising his hand up above her head and letting her momentum spin her around. She laughed as she spun, and the sound was like forgotten magic being released into the air, settling onto her heels as her eyes met Atlas’.
She didn’t even have to think; Elseron had the door closed and was beside her before she could convince her body that breathing was necessary. She stretched her hand to the side and entwined their fingers; terrified and unsure and wild with curiosity, she wanted her anchor at her side, and no one else would do.
“This,” Pilot said, all pride and elation; Atlas thought she caught sight of a dimple as he continued, “is Eden.”
Up close, Atlas could make out the faintly luminescent lines of blue ink on Eden’s skin.