"Can't she see for herself?" Robyn sighed in relief as gentle, familiar hands wrapped her in a hug. A small tear, the first since loosing her sight, rolled down her cheek.
"I don't know what happened," she whispered softly. Her voice cracking a little under all the strain of the past few days. The arms pulled her tighter.
Asheyna looked at the pair of them, feeling more upbeat than she had in days. She glanced over to Afro who was standing nervously beside her, Reeza sound asleep wrapped around his neck. She put a finger to her lips, signalling him to be quiet, and took his hand to guide him past the pair in the hallway and deeper into the Safe.
"Ash? Who is that? What have you done now?"
"Crap. Look it's no big deal he's a friend. His name is Afroferret and he wants to help." Her voice held just a touch of pleading.
The tall thin woman that had greeted them at the door turned to Afro, her eyes daring him to say one stupid thing or make a single wrong move. She walked slowly around him, her eyes taking in his afro, which was freed from it's ponytail at the moment, they lingered over his many colorful tattoos. Finally she came to a stop in front of him, nodded once and turned back to Robyn.
"I hope you know what you're getting yourself into my dear," she remarked over her shoulder.
"Uh, I think I do ma'am." He replied with a nod of his head.
"Oh not you, her." And she looked straight at Asheyna who blushed and bowed her head, hair falling down to cover her face. The black book she had picked up on the train seemed to yell and scream from her bag. For some reason she hadn't given it back yet, instead pulling it out each night, leafing through the pages and pages of beautiful art. Inevitably she wound up on the last page, her face. She would trace the tribal wings gently with her finger before shutting the book, hiding it, and going to sleep.
She took Afro by the hand again, her face still hidden behind her hair, and led him down the hall leaving Minder to take care of Robyn.
Afro looked around the room, taking in the paintings, stacks of papers, mismatched couches and loveseats littered here and there. When Asheyna had first mentioned the Safe he had pictured somewhere dark and dusty, maybe a leak or two in the ceiling. Instead, this place felt like a cozy little hideaway.
Asheyna dropped his hand and took a seat on one of the couches. He looked at her for a moment and then sat next to her.
"So this is the Sa..." he started to ask but cut himself short as he got a good look at her face. Behind her glasses her green eyes were wet with tears. "Hey hey hey, what's wrong?"
"We should not be the only ones here. Robyn and I took the long way, Dark should have beat us by at least a few days. And Gwen was supposed to be sending more people too. Where is everyone?" Her voice was soft, as if acknowledging it outloud would some how make it more real.
He looked at her, not really sure what to say. He'd been expecting more people too. Suddenly they heard a knock on the door. Asheyna jumped up to get it and then turned to look at him.
"Actually, can you get that? Call me old-fashioned but I try and get the guys to open it when they can, just in case, you know... I'll be right behind you."
"Can I help you?" he asked as he opened the door. Without warning they were invaded by two military looking men. Asheyna looked at them in fear, but they didn't look exactly like LitPol.
After a few moments one of them pulled out a radio and signalled for the rest to come inside. Indicating that Afro should lead them into the common room she trailed behind as he made the introductions.
One man, Spockeh, introduced himself as their leader. While they were talking she unobtrusively made her way over to stand near him.
"Well, all that behind us, welcome to the club."
"Yeah, welcome to the club," Asheyna whispered her dagger over his throat. Everybody froze, no one expected the little blonde to take agressive action. They had been so sure of their welcome, so cocky, playing right into it.
"Ok, did you all honestly think that if we were members of this Protagonist movement we would just let you into our Safehouse no questions asked? Firstly, if you would all be so kind as to hand Afro over there your weapons. Afro I'm sure you can help them locate any they may have forgotten about." She winked at him, smiling as he collected an impressive cache of weapons.
He found a bag of zap straps on one of them and proceeded to tie their hands behind their backs.
"Thanks hun. Alright, now that everyone is comfortable let's chat. I'd ask you how you managed to get here, but I think I've already gotten that one figured out.
"Let's see, you saw the three of us, assumed we were Protagonists for who only knows what reason, and then followed us here thinking it was some kind of safehouse?"
Spockeh merely nodded, her dagger was surprisingly well sharpened.
"Well you're right, we are Protagonists. And I'm betting you guys are that group of idiots blowing stuff up in our name without even thinking that you might be putting the rest of us in even more danger with your wannabe cowboy ways?
"Despite this little dagger, which I have already caught enough flack over, we are a non-violent movement. We fight with our minds, our intelligence. Reminding people what matters, showing them what art and beauty is," she nodded to Afro who smiled at her.
"We are not the military, we have no desire to be like them. Bland generic copies of video game characters, with no personality, no flaws, just a 'Yippee Kai Yay' approach to life... sorry we're not interested.
"You and your little buddies have caused us nothing but grief. Making things harder for us at every turn! You are not welcome, and you won't be until you truly understand who we are and what we believe in."
"Unfortunately, I really haven't the wildest idea what to do with you that doesn't involve going against my beliefs. So for now... you're just going to have to stay here."
She saw them all sit a little straighter, a relieved look in their eyes.
"Yeah, not quite like that. You seemed to have supplied me with enough zap straps to contain each and every one of you. So I'm just going to keep you behind door number one," she pointed to one of the bedrooms, "Until I've figured it out. Granted, you could probably escape. If you're working for LitPol that's exactly what I'd expect you to do and I realize that all of this has only delayed the inevitable in that case. However, if you're not, and if in spite of your redneck and some what neanderthal approach to this war, and you really would like to join us, and learn from us." She stressed while looking meaningfully into Spockeh's eyes.
"Then we can talk, we aren't going to abuse you, you'll be fed and taken care of. And when we decide we can trust you, well... then we'll trust you." She finished simply.
After securing them all and putting them into the room she had pointed to she sat back down on the couch. Her eyes finally revealing how scared she was. Afro sat next to her, this time a lot closer and he awkwardly wrapped a reassuring arm around her shoulders.
"I really hope they're not LitPol," she whispered. "If they are, we're in a lot of trouble."
"I don't think they are, they're a little bit too gung-ho about it all. I guess we'll know in the morning. If they've broken loose and we're captured, I was wrong."
She looked up at him, he was smiling. Somehow, even though she'd only known him a few days, she felt safer with him around.
"I've got a couple ideas," she started, looking away from him before he could read too much into her face.
"And I can't wait to hear them. But I think you need to relax, turn your mind off for a bit. And I need to go see what those guys are doing. See if any of them will talk." He got up and started toward the door.
"Ok, i'm coming too." He looked back at her, she was complex this one. It would be useless to argue with her so he just smiled and opened the door to what had become the holding room.