13

A quick call to her mobile indicates that it’s off, I ring off and call Pat to see where he was going, his mobile is off as well. I call over to IA Comcen and place a trace on the pair of them, a half second later, Pat answers the phone.

“Rio.” He sounds a little stressed.

“Pat, where are you?”

“In my office, why?”

“Didn’t you call Eve an hour ago?”

“No, I had that meeting with S1 this morning and then I came back here to sort out some paper work.”

“So you’ve been in the whole time and not called anyone?”

He sighs .“Yep, that’s what I’m saying, what’s the problem?”

“Eve got a call from you a short while back, telling her to meet you somewhere.”

“Where?”

“I didn’t ask, figured you’d fill me in later.”

“Nah, no such, have we got a call out on her?”

“Yeah, we should get the results back in a few minutes.”

“Okay, I’ll see I can speed things up a little, did you find Serena?”

“Yeah.”

“What’s the word, is she okay?”

“Only on video old friend, only on video”

I can hear him sigh softly, I get the feeling that they were more than friends at one time.

"Understood,” he murmurs, “I’ll get a team down there to take care of it, let me know if there’s anything you need down there.”

“Will do, Rio out.”

I expect that they’ll quickly triangulate Eve’s position, all IA agents carry phones that can be located no matter whether they’re on or off. It’s one of the various precautions that we take to make sure that our people are safe, there’s a lot of people out there with unfounded grudges against us, and it doesn’t do to take chances.

That said, an hour later, I’m still waiting for some type of affirmation that she’s still around, there’s no point sitting around waiting for it. There’s nothing I can do to help, and it’s getting dark (er) down here, so I head back to my place to pick something up, then over to Mina’s place. For those of you wondering why I’m not out there looking, it’s simple logic, you remember all those films where the heroine gets lost and the hero goes out and finds her?

Well, here’s another quick lesson, there’s one of me, I can see a hundred meters in good light (which it isn’t, and I can cover a mile in quarter of an hour if I’m only skim looking. DownTown and Lower DownTown cover almost three hundred thousand square miles between them, now, I know that you might have to consult your bookie to get the odds on that, but even a man with but a single uni could get rich on the odds you’ll get there.

Allow me to put you right on a few more things, even if I do find her, I can’t get backup out there, not at night. There’re things out there that the shivers won’t come out for, and we don’t have enough active IA units to mount a rescue in this area. In all things however, there’s a ray of light, Eve is covered by full departmental LAD, which will attempt a rescue absolutely anywhere within the whole of mort, no matter the area, no matter the distance, no matter the danger, so I’m not that worried about her.

Mina already has a meal sorted out for me when I arrive, I smell the strong gravy that she’s covered the meal with and realise that she must have cooked it herself, as Elise (the cook that she employs) isn’t that skilled. One of her girls drops by the table and tells me that Mina will be with me later, I shrug, must be something important if she’s not down to see me in the first five minutes of my arrival.

One half-hour later, I’m a little concerned, she’s never taken this long to be here. Normally, it wouldn’t be a concern, but with the other things that have gone on today, I’m just a little on edge, and if anything, I really could do with someone to talk to. I wait there five more minutes then glance around, over at the bar, mel gestures for me to go upstairs. I nod silently and pad up the stairs to mina’s room.

I get two steps into the room and hit the floor with a crunch as Mina lands on top of me. There’s a bloodcurdling scream from behind me and I hear a ripping sound as she shreds my jacket. Bugger, this came early this month. I should explain a little really, y’see, just like you have to watch out for human women once a month, you really have to watch out for wraith women once a month.

What’s the difference?

Wraith are a predatory species by nature, human women bleed once a month, wraith women need to make something bleed once a month, it’s a similar thing, but I’ve seen it cost one or two men dear over the years.

I roll to the side and drive my elbow into her left arm, numbing it, then slip her next hit, and flip her over, rolling to land on the back of her. A snarl escapes from her lips and I feel her legs bunch to get away, can’t be doing with this right now, so I clamp my teeth onto the back of her neck, Hard.

Her legs fail underneath her as I press down and I feel her shake underneath me for a second, then she goes limp.

“Okay,” she whispers “it’s okay.”

You’ve got to know a few tricks of the trade if you’re ever going to make it around the block more than once, one of them is that being a predator species, they instinctively know if they’re predator or prey. All you have to do is impress upon them that you’re a better predator, and the neck bite tends to do it fairly well. I leave my teeth there for a second until she reaches up with her hand, claws retracted, and strokes my hair. I disengage the bite and let her down gently, which is the other bit that people don’t understand, you have to maintain that position of power for a few seconds after they’ve submitted or they might think that they got away with it.

She rolls to her back and looks up at me as the girls burst in through the door wielding pans. I look up at them with an expression of mock horror and I hear mina giggle from down on the floor. Mel looks down at me with mild exasperation and taps me on the head with the frying pan.

“Can’t you ever do anything quietly?” she complains I grin at her and hop to my feet “Some things……………” She smiles and swats at me with the pan again.

Two minutes later, I’m sat on the bed next to Mina, explaining what’s gone on in the day. She seems a little distracted as I keep talking, so I stop.

“Problem?”

“I…….you thought of me when they said partner?”

“Was there ever any doubt?”

Her eyes are tearful and she puts her hands over her mouth, I don’t know if it’s just because she’s highly strung, but sometimes, women have such an absolute lack of respect for themselves that it’s scary. I don’t know if it’s just because she’s young, I mean, technically (if you do comparative ages) we’re the same age. However if you look at it accurately, I’ve got the best part of twenty years on her, and no matter what they say about subjective time, sometimes only hard time is the way to count experience.

She’s getting tearful again, I know it’s the time of the month, but sometimes it’s all I can do not to yell at her not to be silly. It doesn’t matter to me what race she was originally, it doesn’t matter that she’s a freak in the eyes of all other people, it doesn’t matter to me that she can’t interact with people because she can’t see that they’re trying to do good.

But just once in a while, I would like all the times I’ve whispered to her, all the times I’ve sat there and stroked her hair for her and told her that it’ll be alright, just once I’d like that to count.

Right now, it doesn’t feel like it is doing. How can you tell people that your eyes see things differently to everyone else, that you can see through all the lies and deceits and hurts that the world inflicts, that all the evil in the world will never change how you see things?

Answer?

You can’t say it with words. I was going to save this for later, but I think that we could both do with the tension release. I reach behind me to my back pocket and take out the small box that I’ve got there. It took me six weeks to speak to the council on Polo, and a further four months to sort out permission for what I’m about to do, they're a bit xenophobic when it comes to mixed race life commitments, but they eventually granted it, and Pat secured this thing for me using his clearance code.

The tradition is that when Two Wraiths want to be together, they tell each other how long they will survive, this may seem a little strange, so bear with me. With the Wraith habitat being what it is, health and long life are not a given certainty, so when you pledge time from your life, you’re giving the other person a guarantee that you’ll survive that long and honour your promise to them. All too often, something happens and the vow can’t be fulfilled, but it’s the deepest commitment that any wraith can show to another.

I kneel down, holding the box cupped in my hands, close my eyes for a second and pray for a steady voice. I clear my throat and look up at her eyes, speaking in perfect Wraith.

“Forever.”