Eve of DepatureMature

Getting back into his apartment was no easy task.

The rain slicked roads of Silestra were now flooded with officers, lanterns and Lore Stones waving wildly. Frederick withdrew to a nearby alleyway, watching the officers descend on the corpse of Wilson like black hornets.

Frederick raced back onto the boulevard, the street now abandoned. Even the steam trolleys were empty, their engines still running and humming in place. He saw the glow of lanterns emerge from the shadows and bent low to hide behind carts and steam trolleys as he sprinted back to his street.

Every minute passed like an eternity, Frederick's heart racing as he knew this all too familiar feeling. His hand instinctively went for his hip, but upon realizing nothing was there, he instead gripped his vest pocket like a life preserver.

He made it back to his apartment complex, Frederick's stomach sinking when he realized the truth. Its' deceptive calm only made his stomach knot. He carefully crossed the street in the cover of night, running down the side of the apartment complex as he tried to form a plan. He looked up at the height of the building and swore to himself, his eyes catching the fire escape ladder.

He squatted down, his arms tense as he counted to himself. He leapt into the air, hands just grasping the final rung as his legs swung back and forth. Frederick tried to hang onto the iron rung but the rain made it slippery and with the final finger lost, he fell against the hard ground.

Frederick rolled off and onto his back, picking himself up while cradling his stomach. A small door a few feet down from him suddenly opened, lamplight and steam spilling out from the top. Frederick froze, his body stiff as a short, stooping figure appeared.

"Meester Lionhart?" asked a familiar voice, his bushy brows coming into light.

"{Kokalai! I need your help!}"

The elevator attendant rushed out of the shadows, a dirty lounge coat covering his balding head as he looked down at the scene before him.

"{They will be coming for you!}" he hissed, motioning Frederick to follow him, "{Hurry!}"

They filed into the smaller door, landing in the boiler room of the apartment. Growling iron beasts glowered with molten coals, tendrils of steam escaping between nut and bolt. An attendant would occasionally walk by, shoveling in a scoop of coal here and there.

"{I need to get out of the city.}"

"{There's little chance of that. The teletype has been spewing out emergency headlines for the past hour. They've called a city-wide curfew and barricaded all entrances and exits to the city.}" Kokalai looked at Frederick with a searching gaze, Frederick looking away.

"{Promise me you keep safe.}" Kokalai's eyes were visible now beneath the owl-like eyebrows, the gold in his eyes faded like a tarnished bronze.

Frederick was taken aback by Kokalai's sudden request, blinking once or twice to register it before he nodded absent-mindedly. Kokalai took a peek around the lip of a broiler before darting into the maze of machinery, Frederick close behind. From the boiling darkness, they were momentarily blinded by the bright white lights of the laundry and folding rooms.

A smaller, more rickety elevator was tucked away outside of the laundry room, the two of them squeezing tightly into the narrow space as Kokalai yanked the lever back. The elevator jarred to life, clambering up the levels like a lazy cicada.

Upon reaching the sixth floor, Frederick gripped Kokalai's hand tightly. Kokalai's eyes widened as he felt the slip of paper crinkle in his hands.

"{Take it. Your family needs it.}" Frederick said earnestly.

Kokalai shook his head, his eyebrows waving.

"{No, you will need it more than I.}" He forced Frederick's hand closed with the wad of bills clenched tightly, "{Now go, I doubt the police will loiter much longer before finding you.}"

"{May we meet again.}" Frederick squeezed both of Kokalai's hands.

"Iigah shaa manah." Kokalai responded, a warm smile creasing his ancient features.

He pulled the gate open, Frederick creeping out and sneaking back to his apartment door. He fumbled with his keys, hands shaking before he closed his eyes and exhaled. He slipped the key into the lock, the door swinging open as he took no time delaying.

He swept past the foyer, an odd ticking noise coming from within the wall. He gently beat his fist against the wood paneling, swinging open to reveal a telegraph spewing out ticker tape. The coil of paper sprang out and plopped on the floor like a snake, Frederick ignoring it as he swept into his bedroom.

Frederick went to his smaller chest, flinging open the lid as he swallowed. He pulled out his large leather rucksack, putting it to the side as he checked his medic satchel. Everything was up to date and in place, buckling the satchel and placing it next to the rucksack. He pulled out his hobnailed boots, yanking off his pedestrian shoes as he expertly tied them. He then dug out his holster and box of brass casings. He popped out the cylinder, eying the six rotating chambers before digging into the box and pulling out a speedloader. He slipped the six rounds into the cylinder, twisting them out and clicking it back into the frame.

He shoved his firearm back into his holster, buckling the belt around his waist. He dug through the box and pulled out his old uniform, his thumb brushing over the patch that marked him as a Major. Rummaging through the breast pocket, he found a thin case with the EAF insignia embossed on the leather. He unclasped the lid to find three shining golden hearts pinned to deep red velvet.

He snapped the case shut and replaced it in the uniform, tucking it neatly into his rucksack. Scraping the bottom of the chest, he found a cigar box. He popped open the lid, seeing the wads of saved bills neatly folded and packed away. He stuffed it into his rucksack, pulling the leather string tightly before slinging his medical satchel on.

He walked back out into his living room, his heart beating fast as he surveyed the area one last time. A corner of brown paper caught his eye, and he dug out the parcel he opened before. He looked at the feather hairpin once again, turning it over in his hand before he tied up the entire package, sticking it into his rucksack.

He went to the foyer, scooping up the ticker tape and scanning the message. His legs went numb.

"Citizens of Silestra: WARNING. THIS IS NOT A DRILL. Downtown has been sealed off due to a violent disturbance of supernatural origin. Mystic involvement is highly suspected. If any non-banded Mystic is spotted, they shall be arrested immediately. If anyone is harboring non-banded Mystics, they shall be arrested immediately. If anyone sees suspicious activity, report immediately. Thank you for your cooperation."

A sudden, harsh bang came to his door, making him drop the tape.

"Frederick Lionhart? This is the police!"

The End

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