Chapter 93: Jamian
Trying to keep up with you
And I don't know if I can do it
Oh no I've said too much
I haven't said enough

The mood in the room had been strange from the moment she walked in. There was a strange mix of camaraderie and tension, as if everyone was trying very hard to be friendly while disagreeing. Considering what had happened between Emrys’ crew and Kai recently, it was no surprise, but it did make it strange that Kai’d been talking about their plans with them, strange enough that Jaya felt like she had to remind her friend that this was supposed to be a secret project.

The chagrin washing off of the other girl told her she’d been right to bring it up. She dipped hurriedly into the emotions of the others, wondering if they had a catastrophe on her hands. Conrad was worried and protective, but less cranky than he’d been lately – that was a good sign. Emrys was intrigued, amorphously concerned, and on edge. Jaya frowned a bit, remembering what she’d heard of this man on edge. People tended to light on fire when Emrys was having a bad day, didn’t they?

And Shahin… her frown deepened. There was nothing at all there, nothing but ice. She looked twice, to be sure the petite girl was actually standing in front of her. She looked like she was, but Jaya’s deeper senses denied the evidence of her eyes. “Are you there?” she asked, before she realized she’d said it, and reached out to touch a black-clad shoulder.

Emrys’s gaze snapped disapprovingly to Jaya’s hand, but Shahin barely seemed to react. She looked at Jaya’s hand incuriously. “Here?” she asked.

“As opposed to where?” Emrys rumbled.

Jaya flinched, but she couldn’t very well back out now, and if something was wrong with Shahin, Emrys ought to know. She forced herself to stay female – she’d picked this form for a reason, after all – and answered. “She doesn’t register emotionally at all.”

“Oh,” Emrys said, relaxing a little. Oh? Really? Like that was normal, or healthy? Jaya frowned at him.

“Working with us,” Kai intruded, speaking carefully, “we hadn’t really gotten to anything that required ‘help,’ per se, yet.”

“I hear you have some lofty plans,” Emrys said with a faint smile. Even reading his emotions, it was hard to tell what he was up to; was his concern for them, or for his crew?

“Technically you extrapolated that,” Kai inserted nervously. Jaya took over before she made a mess of things.

“Nothing really lofty, anyway. Unless asking questions is lofty around here?”

“It’s unusual, anyway, depending on the questions.” His edginess was fading slowly, replaced with a casual familiarity as he bantered. That was okay. Jaya could deal with that.

“Unusual, yeah,” she agreed. “Discouraged. Often thwarted. But not actually against any rules, as far as I can tell.” She smirked. “And besides, it’s kind of fun. Like jigsaw puzzles.” More fun for having Kai on her side, but she didn’t need to say that part yet.

“Jigsaw puzzles,” Emrys repeated, shaking his head. “Not against the rules, no, but it’s a dangerous game you’re playing.”

“Not knowing anything seems to have been pretty dangerous,” Kailani retorted angrily. Jaya flinched and looked over the redhead’s shoulder at Conrad: can you calm her down before she gets us all in trouble?

Conrad set a hand on her shoulder, perhaps reassuring, perhaps restraining. “It’s a good point, though,” he said quietly. “We should all be careful who we discuss certain things in front of.”

“I know,” she answered, leaking frustration in waves. “I know, and I know I wasn’t thinking.” She bit her lip and looked back at Jaya, almost pleading, and then at Shahin and Emrys, clearly having something she wanted to say.

Shahin looked between the two of them and her boyfriend, thoughtful-seeming, as much as you could tell. “And we’re not the people you should be talking about this with,” she concluded coolly.

Jaya frowned and tried to repair the damage quickly; the truth was, they really did want Shahin on their side. “It’s not that. It’s that the geasa on the upperclassmen make talking to them about anything a dangerous proposition, when we’re trying for some level of secrecy.”

“I don’t think that’s the danger you should be watching for,” Emrys noted cryptically.

Shit, he’s in Agatha’s crew, isn’t he? What has Kai been saying?

“Emrys,” Shahin murmured. Jaya thought there might be the slightest note of chiding there.

“What?” he asked, but he was smiling, just a little. Was he playing with them?

The girl looked at Jaya for a moment, and then back to her boyfriend. “Even by Agatha’s standards, neither of them have said anything actionable, have they?”

“Aggie has standards?” he chuckled. “More like whimsy.”

Jaya cringed. What had Kaia been doing? And she was getting angry, too, but Emrys wasn’t; he was relaxing. Playing.

“Of course she has standards,” Shahin answered lightly. “Her crew.” She kissed Emrys’ cheek.

“Well yes,” he grumbled a little. “I meant of expected behavior, like you did.”

“I know. But Kailani was going to have a heart attack if you kept taunting her.”

“I…” Kai protested ineffectually.

“Who said anything about Aggie?” Jaya interjected quickly, looking as innocent as she could. “We were talking about Kennie, mostly.” God, Kai, go along with it. Please? ”I mean, everyone’s been really clear that the Second Cohort are out of our range, right?”

“Right,” Emrys chuckled with a knowing smile.

She smiled back at him innocently, and kept on. “It’s true. I,” she sighed, “I’ve had a crush on Kennie since I met her. But, you know, Ty... and now it seems like Ofir caught Kendra, and I don’t think she’s happy there.”

“Yeah,” she sighed. ”Apparently once Mark stopped him from beating one girlfriend, he had to go outside his crew to find another one - either that or Shera’s just not his type. But he’s got Kendra now.” She’d found that Ty’s crew was a great source for gossip over meals. They seemed to make a hobby of keeping track of this sort of thing.

She glanced at Kai, who was listening thoughtfully, almost as if she wanted to take notes. Good enough. It wasn’t as if anything she was saying was untrue; she just hadn’t brought it up yet.

“Sucks to be her,” Emrys shrugged, projecting a blasé façade that made her wonder how deep it ran. “Wasn’t she watching with Renata?”

Jaya wasn’t sure where to go from here; he wasn’t being antagonistic, but neither was he being very reassuring. “I don’t know,” she sighed. “But I can worry. I mean, I know I got lucky, with Ty. It’s hard to see how bad other people have it.”

“Renata’s friends don’t really get it, and they were right there. So I can’t imagine people outside of the circle would understand, especially if they don’t have sympathetic upperclassmen to explain things to them,” Kai pointed out. “It’s like I was saying, though: the enforced ignorance means people get into situations they don’t understand, and then they’re stuck there.” The flash of chagrin from her surprised Jaya, until she saw the way the girl looked at Conrad. So, not everything was all better yet. “And it may be a little bit late, but correcting that ignorance seems reasonable,” she continued.

“Lot of people aren’t going to like that,” Emrys said, pursing his lips. “You’ll be making powerful enemies. And for what? Most of the Fifth know the score by now, one way or another.”

“Well, if they already know it all, there’s nothing to be upset about,” Kai pointed out reasonably.

“Ha, you’d like to think that,” he snorted. “Anyway, you were talking about ‘rescuing’ people, too?”

“Rescuing is different from poaching,” Jaya pointed out blandly.

“Oh, it certainly is,” Emrys nodded. “Poaching is distasteful, uncivilized, but lawful.”

Jaya hoped Kai would forgive her for the next one. “Oh, were you under the impression we were trying to do something unlawful? I’m sorry, Kai gets a little carried away sometimes and doesn’t always explain things as well as she should.”

Kai flinched, as Jaya’d known she would, self-recrimination coming off her in waves.

“Maybe you’ll indulge me and explain, then,” Emrys smiled genially, folding his arms.

“Of course,” she smiled. “I’d love to indulge you. But, considering all the geasa on upperclassmen – would you be willing to promise not to reveal to anyone what we tell you, here today?”

“Without knowing what it’s going to be, that wouldn’t be particularly wise of me, would it?”

“Without knowing you won’t tell others, it wouldn’t be very wise of us to tell you our plans, would it?” she countered, and then relented, minutely. “You can have my word – or Kai’s, which is more useful – that what we have in mind isn’t against the law, and that it won’t directly harm any of the people here today, or their crews.”

“Directly,” Emrys smirked. “It doesn’t take a cy’Drake to see the holes in that one. We may be able to work something out, though. Are there specific people you’re concerned with?”

“People who don’t want the status quo to change.” She hesitated, looking at Kai, who was wearing her I-gave-too-much-away guilty face still, and decided to go for it. “The Administration, of course. Ofir.” Ofir Owned Kendra, who was top on her list to save. “Ardell’s crew.” She watched his emotions carefully as she continued. “Agatha, who’s made her opinions towards Kai very clear.”

Emrys nodded slowly as she listed them, clearly guarding his thoughts, but he didn’t seem to disapprove, and he began his own statement with crisp, precise words. “If you explain the aforementioned plans to me here, now, honestly and in their entirety, I promise not to intentionally reveal, or cause to be revealed, said plans to Agatha, Ofir, any member of Ardell’s crew, or any member of Addergoole Administration.”

Jaya caught Kailani’s eye, and nodded. “So agreed,” the redhead said shakily. She twisted to look at Conrad, a little apologetically. “Don’t you tell anyone, either.”


Copyright © 2009-2011 Lyn Thorne-Alder with Elasmo. All rights reserved.
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