VI.

“Kennedy,” she said with relief when she walked through the door. “Thank God.”

            Misha almost snorted. Spice didn’t believe in any God.

            “What happened?” her friend asked, taking the opposite chair. Misha only looked at her. “I know why you don’t want to talk to Aaron,” she said. “But, please, you have to tell me what happened.”

            Misha stared at the table. Then weighed her chances and decided to give her best friend a shot. She told the story to Spice. Spice rejected it.

            “Kennedy,” she said with fresh worry. “You don’t need to take any blame — no one holds you responsible.”

            “Iamresponsible.”

            “Kennedy —”

            “I went with him,” she interrupted. “I chose to.”

            Spice seemed to understand she wasn’t going to accomplish anything, so she switched subjects. “How did you manage to escape?”

            Misha held her silence.

            “Kennedy,that mangot in somehow and we need to know how, in order to protect the city.” Spice stared back, appealing to her sense of duty. “How’d he do it?”

            When Misha still said nothing, Spice narrowed her eyes. Misha saw the smallest sliver of doubt in her eyes. She fought it. Standing, Spice nodded. “Maybe later then,” she said. “That manmentioned you haven’t eaten anything in a few days. He has been very persistent. Is that true?”

            Misha nodded — there was no point in lying over food.

            “I’ll have something made for you.”

            “Don’t bother,” Misha told her.

            “You’ve got to eat something.”

            Misha shook her head.

            “Kennedy,” Spice began, but Misha interrupted.

            “I will eat it if Roman brings it to me.”          

            Spice blinked at her friend. “I don’t understand you,” she said. “That manabducted you and you —”

            “For the last time,Romandidn’t abduct me. I left of my own accord.” She shook her head at her friend. “You act like they are all ruthless killers who just as soon maul you as look at you.”

            “They’re monsters, Ken.”

            “They aren’t,” she replied, shaking her head. “And they aren’t scary. They are just different.” She looked at her friend hard. “But you know that, don’t you? You found Roman and you disobeyed orders.”

            Spice’s face tightened. “That doesn’t change anything.”

            “No,” Misha agreed. “But it does mean something.”

            Spice looked back at her for a moment. “I’ll see what I can do about that food.”

            “Thank you.” Misha was genuine.

            Twenty minutes later, Roman stepped inside with a silver tray. Aaron held the door open and glared. Roman kept his expression neutral until he reached the table. Misha, who had cast her eyes down when he entered the room, met his gaze. The blue in his eyes was blazing. Misha’s brown eyes pleaded with him to take the option she had granted him.

            His steely gaze never left hers. “Eat,” he commanded.

            Keeping his eyes, Misha picked up the fork. When she had finished the plate, Roman nodded and took the tray and left.

            Misha sat back in her chair and waited.

            It was the General who came in next. Misha smiled sweetly — knowing her plan had worked. If the General’s expression was any indication, he knew it was her plan, too. His glare was unyielding.

            “Thirteen minutes ago, Roman escaped.”

            Misha couldn’t bite back her smile.

            “I guess I don’t need to ask if you played a role in it.”

            While she had given Roman the opportunity to get away, she really couldn’t accept credit for his escape. He shocked even her with his disappearances.

            “Kennedy, there are.....more militaristic ways to ensure your cooperation.”

            “General, I know every method you’ve got — and I am telling you none of them will work.”

            The man looked disgusted. “You’d fight so hard for an enemy you barely know? To save a race of goblins and murders?”

            “No,” Misha said with a head shake. “But I would fight this hard against a city that blindly hates what it does not know.”

            The General leaned forward. “Do you know the story of Nivah Giardia?”

            Misha closed her eyes. “Of course I do.”

            “She was only six years old when she was stolen from her backyard. The police searched for weeks, but it was a group of hikers that found her body in the woods. Her throat had been slashed. When authorities tried to move the body, the goblins attacked —”

            “That’s how they bury them!”

            “She wasn’t theirs! She wassixyears old —”

            “I am so sick of that excuse! Especially from you.  Maybe’s it’s valid with anyone else, but I’ve been to the Stone City and I have seen their dead. And you know what, sir? They are unarmed. There are women and children among them. They are not barbarians, General. They have a history and a culture. And, no matter what you think, they have a moral code. The attack of Nivah was the work of rogues. Now, a military-grade bullet between the eyes of a child — that’s not an accident.” She stood. “You authorized the killing of children. They’ve never done that.”

            The man opened his mouth but Misha cut him off. “There is no argument, sir. Now, I am going to leave this base and I am never coming back.”

            She didn’t wait for an answer. She left the cell and walked down the hallway to the exit. Aaron stood between her and the Nivah Gates.

            “You’re going back?”

            “You don’t seem surprised.”

            Aaron shook his head. “I’m not.” He sighed and pushed himself off the wall he’d been leaning against. “About him.....” Misha cast a look at her former fiancé. “He was very worried about you. He wouldn’t say anything until we mentioned you.”

            “You told him you were going to —”

            Aaron held his hands in front of him. “We just threatened to see what would happen. And he reacted very well.” Aaron looked down. “He, uh, he doesn’t seem like a bad guy.”

            “He’s not.”

            “Of course. Uh, I was, uh, wondering if you wouldn’t mind apologizing to him for me? About his guard?”

            “About Dag?”

            “Yes, about Dag.”

            Misha smiled. “Yes, I can do that.”’

            Aaron nodded.

            “So long as you can tell your General something for me?”

            “Of course.”

            “Tell him he can come after us if he wants, but they’ve been holding back. And if you continue to threaten us, I won’t let them anymore. If he wants to end to this with blood, he can — but he’d better be ready.”

            Aaron nodded again, some of the relief in his face gone. She nodded back.

            “Goodbye, Aaron Levy.”

            “Goodbye, Misha Kennedy.” 

The End

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