Closing the book with a sigh Asheyna made her way back through the swaying train to where they'd left Robyn. Afro as already there, he seemed to be in kind of a daze. When she'd hugged him she could feel him tense for a moment, as though he wasn't sure what to do. She watched him idly trace his tattoos and she watched him, wondering at the story behind each one.
They were nearing their destination, she was going to have to make a decision soon. Minder hated it when she brought in new Protagonists without any warning. It was something she hadn't had to do often, but she trusted her instincts, and every one of them told her that Afro could be trusted.
If Gwen was here she'd shake her head and make some smart remark about how Ash was always far more inclined to trust tattooed artists than clean cut men in suits.
It had always been that way. Once she graduated from her fairly normal and boring high school Asheyna was determined to take the world by storm with her art. She lived to move a pen across paper, the stories would flow from her mind and she had very little control over what happened.
During the few hours of the day where she wasn't living in some world of her own creation she was singing, painting, creating in any way she could.
She'd been an active member of Protagonize, the site from which the movement took its name. It drew authors from all over the world and introduced them to each other, the result was almost magic. Nick, their creator, had carefully constructed one of the greatest online communities. Sure, they'd had their tiffs, little spats would break out but it was almost exclusively a place where creative minds could find rest and appreciation.
When the new government had taken power she'd hardly paid attention. Politics meant nothing to a creative soul, let them squabble over policy and legislation... they had nothing to do with her.
Ash choked back tears when she realized how naive they'd all been. It wasn't a memory she could dwell on for any length of time without being over run by the emotion of it.
The first series of laws slipped so far under the radar of public notice the ink was dry before anyone managed to even find a piece, let alone put them together.
According to certain scientists, the creation of art required the use of a different half of one's brain than every day tasks. Those who immersed themselves in art slowly lost some of the finer skills of the other way of thinking. What had begun as a laughable stereotype "the scatter brained artist" or "the absent minded professor" soon became a word of caution.
"They don't think like us," she'd overheard some people commenting as they walked past a street art exhibition shortly before the government had outlawed them.
The once flourishing society of authors began to dwindle. Several of the more noticeable writers stopped posting, some without even a word of goodbye. The site itself became harder and harder to access, but they'd adapted.
On the last day that Protagonize had been accessible via the public internet she'd received a message from her oldest friend on the site, darkliquid. His wife had become a LitPol agent.
With Dru's defection into their ranks the Literary Police became a reality for Asheyna. Dark had fled the country and sought haven in Vancouver with Ash, Nick, and many of the other Protagonists. They'd created safehouses and havens all over Canada, with the biggest being The Safe. That's where they were headed now.
Minder would be less than pleased to see Afro, but Asheyna hoped it wouldn't be an issue. If Robyn had any comments she kept them to herself as they made their way cautiously through the city.
Ash took a deep breath and opened the door to the Safe, here goes nothing.