Because We Were Different – Part 26

Hey everyone! I’m finally back with the next part to my serial story! If you want to reread the last part, you can find it here, or if you’re new and want to start at the beginning, please click here, or see the category Short Stories!

Also, just as a reminder, the poll where you can vote on what book you think I should read for January is still open until tomorrow! So if you haven’t voted, please check it out here!

Part 26

I slipped the princess’ portfolio under my shirt with Raidon’s and Natalia’s — or should I say her other profile? I still could barely believe Natalia was the princess I was looking for… but there wasn’t time to dwell on the fact in shock. I had to get out of here… and I had to find Raidon and her. 

Great, when I didn’t know who she was, she was right under my nose. When I did, she was missing. What were the odds? 

I glanced over to where Cadet Harden stirred and hurried to the door. He was bound and gagged, so there was no chance of him breaking free that way, but at any time, his superior officer could return from lunch and find him… and me. I didn’t have time to stuff him in a closet besides. I just needed to get out of here and find Riadon and Natalia and figure out a way to get home. 

I peeked out the door — good, the coast was still clear. I dashed down the hallway, holding the folders close. I reached a crossroads and frowned. Which way should I go? Which way was the nearest exit? 

I turned in the right hallway and hurried down it, before skidding to a stop at a dead end. Gosh, didn’t these people have fire exits or something?!  Just as I turned around, my heart leapt into my throat. Coming towards me were two agents, dressed in the same uniform as I, and I knew they’d ask me what I was doing here. And what would I tell them? That I was new? Lost? What if Cadet Harden’s boss had returned and he’d told him about me? Maybe these agents were looking for me? And maybe they’d been sent to spy on me and see how much I knew! I pursed my lips. I wouldn’t speak a thing! 

Tilting up my chin, I started forward, holding myself confidently. I’d been trained as a spy; it would be a shame if I couldn’t even put on a little act! 

The first agent looked at me, her white hair combed into a ponytail with two long wisps hanging over her cheeks. The other agent walked closely behind her, almost as if he was trying to hide, his steps clunky and unsure. Maybe he was a newbie. Good, I didn’t want to look like the only confused one around here. It would make my escape easier if the new recruits were generally so timid. 

The girl turned her eyes on me as we passed, and I forced myself to give her a polite nod. I started to do the same to her companion when I noticed he wore a… mustache? “Raidon!” The word was out before I could stop, and he jumped, his eyes wild before they registered upon me. 

“Ainslyn! I didn’t recognize you in that uniform!” 

“I did.” 

I turned to face Natalia — no, Princess Nicolette. Well, she held herself very well for a princess — instead of rigidly regal, she seemed rigidly… militaristic. But as a princess, that meant she had to know her way around this base, at least somewhat! But how to get her to help without letting on that I knew her dark secret… that was the question.“How’d you get in here?” 

“We can small talk after we’re out of danger. We need to get out of here before anyone else recognizes you. I’m sure this place knows of your existence now.” She started forward, but I grabbed her arm and pulled her back. 

“Wait. How much of our mission do you know?” 

She raised her brows, looking offended. “What do you mean? Are you accusing me of eavesdropping on you and Remington’s conversations or something?” 

“I’m asking an honest question in hopes of an honest answer.” As if she’d give it to me if she knew my real purpose in coming here. 

“Look, I don’t know what you’re here for, I’m only here to protect both of you looneys. So let’s get out of here before we’re caught.” 

I crossed my arms. “And you know the way out?” 

She pulled a paper from her uniform pocket and held it up. “I snagged a map on the way in.” Of course she did.

I snatched it from her, turning it all around. “This is very helpful when I don’t know where we are.” 

“That’s easy. I followed the map as we walked; we’re right here.” She pointed toward the upper right of the map. 

“Good.” I noticed the laundry room where I’d entered was the nearest exit point, and I had to pick up my backpack on the way out. “We’ll leave this way, then.” 

Natalia nodded. “I propose you walk in between Raidon and I, and I’ll scout in front, and Raidon will make sure no one sneaks up behind us, that way you’ll be safe.” 

And how could I trust her not to run screaming to the nearest officer if she did know of my mission? Well, I had no choice but to trust her at this rate. If she tried anything, I might die, but I’d take her with me, and maybe Remington would free my sister on that account… though I doubted he would. 

Raidon thoroughly enjoyed our “sneak” through the building, putting on a full-blown spy act as he ducked behind walls, benches, and trashcans and peeked out with his smirky smug face. At least if they caught him, they’d think he was a harmless prankster. 

“Hey you! What are you doing there?” 

I froze, Natalia froze, and Raidon… jumped up from behind a bench, chuckling nervously as he stared at the agent in front of him. “I… was just practicing my technique sir!” 

I clenched my fists, hoping Raidon would distract the man long enough to allow me to slink to the next hallway as Natalia motioned me on, looking alert herself. 

“Hey! You two up there! Are you with him?” 

I stopped short and remained staring ahead as Natalia turned and nodded at him. “Yes. Get moving, Ben.” 

It took Raidon a couple nanoseconds to realize he was Ben and not the other man, and gave a sheepish chuckle before dashing towards us full speed. 

“What unit do you belong to?” The man grew closer. He sounded suspicious. “Who’s your commanding officer?” 

I glanced at Natalia, who only stammered. I sighed before motioning Raidon up. “We’re already late enough to our meeting as it is, thanks to Ben. We’ve got to move now, thanks!” I shoved Natalia and Raidon forward, hissing, “MOVE!” before dashing after them. 

“Wait! Stop! It’s the intruders!” 

I wouldn’t wait, and I certainly wasn’t going to stop now! I whirled down another hallway after Raidon and Natalia, my shoes squeaking on the shiny floors. 

“Did I ever tell you what wonderful people skills you have, Ainslyn Paine?” 

Though normally Natalia’s sarcasm annoyed me, I actually grinned. “No, but thanks for the compliment!” Two lasers hit the wall above my head as I turned down another hall. This one I recognized, the hallway with the storage closet my backpack was in! I sped forward, using all my energy to give myself as best a head start as I could on our pursuers. “Get to the door — I’ve got to grab my bag!” 

“Ainslyn Paine are you mad?!” 

I shoved Natalia forward as I grabbed the doorknob with the other hand and swung it open. I threw myself inside as lasers penetrated the wooden door, leaving perfect circles smoldering where they’d exited. Snatching my backpack from behind the mop bucket, I tore out of the closet, my feet flying as fast as they possibly could. A laser whizzed past my arm, burning a hole in the white shirt and singeing my skin. I bit down the pain as I turned the corner, entering the laundry room where I’d first been smuggled in. The bags of clean uniforms were all gone, and Natalia stood, holding open the door. “Come on! Hurry!” 

I dashed for it, and the door slammed behind us just in time, as two lasers pinged into it, denting it. I started down the street but groaned when I saw Raidon pushing back the manhole cover. Not again. 

“We don’t have time to smell good!” Natalia shoved me forward  — no wonder I hadn’t thought of her as a princess! What princess wouldn’t cringe at this?!

I dropped into the manhole, coughing once again as the stench overwhelmed me, and I covered my mouth, hoping I wouldn’t lose what little content my stomach still held within it. 

“Now stick close to me!” Raidon, mustache and all, flashlight ready. “I know this place like the back of my hand!” 

Oh, of course he did. After all, a sewer was just the type of place a kid like Raidon would thrive. I glared at him as I ran to keep close to him. “Look here, Raid, we’ve spent how many years in a military school, and a childhood on Kachino before then? How can you know this place like the back of your hand? Did you thoroughly explore it when I lost track of you?” I glanced back to make sure Natalia was still behind us.

Raidon frowned, then sighed, shaking his head. “Um… Ainslyn? I’ve… got to tell you something.” He looked like a little kid caught with his hand in the cookie jar. 

Now what have you done?” 

Raidon opened his mouth, then shook his head. “I’ll explain it in a minute.” He stopped before a ladder leading out of the sewer and climbed up, pushing aside the manhole cover. “Come on up now! The coast is clear! They won’t ever look for us here!” 

I grabbed ahold of the slimy bars and drew myself up, cringing at every touch. But even as climbed out of the hole, I stared at the scene before me. For before me appeared the largest pile of inspiration for inventions I’d ever seen. 

“You brought us to… the dump?” Natalia came behind me, scowling. 

I turned to her. “For a girl who doesn’t mind sewers, I’m surprised this bothers you. I’d think you’d feel right at home here.” 

“Same to you, hot shot.”

I only laughed, the sight of the so-called junk cheering me up. Why, I could use this junk and turn it into something new and useful! What about a contraption which mimics the voice of someone who speaks into it, that could be moved like a drone or robot? I picked up a cylinder tube. This could work for part of it.

“Now can I talk to you, Ainslyn?” 

I turned, mildly annoyed at the interruption to my plans. But the sight of Raidon reminded me of my mission… and Mai. “What is it?” 

“I uh… haven’t been completely honest with you since we’ve met.” 

I furrowed my brows. Raidon had a secret not even I knew of? That seemed well-nigh impossible.

He dropped his gaze, managing a little laugh. “I’m… I actually grew up here. In this landfill.” 

My brows raised, and then he spoke.

“I’m a Shiarizian.” 

2 thoughts on “Because We Were Different – Part 26

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