Chapter 116: Kailani
When the pen in our hands and our best laid plans
Will stand alone on our side
I wanted to have this under control
The story told
You came and rewrote it

Friday night, the entire crew was bouncing around, excited about the cy’ree challenge the next day. The suite was a mixed bag of cy’rees: Conrad and Vlad were cy’Luca, Mabina-and-Cassidy cy’Solomon, ‘Lisha cy’Valerian, leaving Kai and Taro for the Misfits. Somehow, despite everyone’s excitement and nerves, they were all still getting along. Even ‘Lisha was in a good mood, sitting on the arm of the chair feeding Vlad snacks.

Despite the rather engrossing task of tutoring Taro in math, Kai couldn’t hide her anxiety. Renata was such a wild card, and so much of the plan rested on her being willing to throw the contest. What if she changed her mind at the last moment? What if she, or one of the others, decided to tell their Mentor, or, worse yet, Kai’s mentor, what they were doing? What if Mabina figured it out? Somehow, Kai was sure that ‘Bina would disapprove. She seemed to dislike everything Kai did. What if someone’s Keeper twigged to the plan and decided to accuse Kai of… something?

Finally, she couldn’t stand the tension anymore. “I have to go get some notes from my… my other room,” she announced, bouncing to her feet. Surprising, she supposed, that she hadn’t gotten any flack yet for keeping her old room.

Conrad looked up from his discussion with Vlad. “You want some company?”

“No, I’m fine,” she answered, remembering to smile so she didn’t sound like she was snapping at him. “Some air will do me good.”

“Okay,” he smiled back. “If you’re not back soon, we’ll send the search party,” he joked.

She leaned down for a kiss. “I shouldn’t be gone long enough for you to notice,” she reassured him.

It seemed like everyone was in their rooms preparing; the halls were nearly empty. She passed Nenica cy’Valerian, who was lugging a heavy stack of books and seemed lost in her own world. She wondered, briefly, if the other girl was any relation to Shiva, with those tufted cat ears. Did those things run in families like that? Regine didn’t have any obvious Changes at all; what did that mean for Kai?

Was she going to Change at all? What if she was defective? Would they send her home? What would happen, then, if she showed up on her mother’s doorstep pregnant with twins from two different men? She was lost enough in musing that she almost ran into Shahin, dodging at the last moment; the other girl also looked lost in thought.

“Well hello,” Shahin greeted her. “Fancy running into you here.”

“We didn’t run… ah.” She smiled nervously. “I was just thinking about the cy’ree challenge.” And wondering about genetics, but Conrad’s the only one who hasn’t thought you were a freak for that, mm?

“Ah, yes. A unique opportunity, isn’t it?” There was something else there, a deeper question, but it was hard for Kailani to see it. She analyzed the words carefully.

“I think it could be,” she answered slowly. “My room is right here…” she gestured at the door, “if you’d like to talk about it?”

“An excellent idea,” Shahin smiled. Yes, she was clearly up to something. Kai opened the door and invited her in, closing the door with perhaps more care than she really needed.

“I thought it would be nice…” she started, once they were safely in her unused room, and then hesitated. What if Shahin thought it was a really stupid idea?

“Nice...?” Shahin encouraged her, rolling a hand in the air slowly.

She frowned nervously. “To get the bad Keepers away from their Kept for a while?” she whispered.

Shahin was quiet for a moment, just watching her, and she began to fidget, wondering if she’d made a horrible mistake. Just as she was about to speak, to try and fix it, to do something, Shahin opened her mouth.

“The idea has merit.”

“Yeah?” she squeaked, relieved and yet somehow more nervous.

A slow smile spread across the other girl’s face. “Yeah. In fact, it’s possible that you aren’t the only person to have thought of something like that.”

“Oh, good,” she smiled, flopping on her bed. “I thought, if we got the Keepers who were really bad away from the school for a little bit…”

“Send the Kept away,” Shahin nodded, clearly not having quite heard her.

“Send the Keepers away,” she repeated.

Shahin paused again, and made a small, thoughtful noise. “Well. We may have a bit of an issue, here.”

Kai blanched. “Oh, dear.” She looked nervous. “You were planning…”

“To rig the competition, just a little bit,” Shahin nodded. “And it sounds like you were having similar ideas. You’re setting up specific teams to advance?”

She nodded. “Cy’Linden and cy’Solomon. Agatha, Ib…”

The other girl cut her off with a wave of her hand. “Yes, yes. We had... other ideas.”

“Okay…?” she asked, trying not to be offended by Shahin’s brusque manner.

“But, it seems as if all our planning - both of us - may be for naught if we can’t get our people coordinated. I won’t even see my cy’ree again until the challenge starts. I assume you don’t have a last-second meeting either?”

She shook her head. “I don’t. But I could visit most of them easily enough, except Nydia… What was your plan?”

“Vacation for the Kept. The same idea, only getting the victims out, rather than the culprits.”

“Oh.” She blinked, thinking about Renata’s “don’t I deserve a vacation?” “That’s not a bad idea. Who did you have picked to win?”

“Us, actually. Not for that reason,” she added quickly, “but for the others.”

Kai thought about what she knew of Shahin’s cy’ree. “Kendra, Callista…?”

Shahin nodded. “And the rest could all use the break, too.”

“We don’t… well, I don’t have it that badly off. Or most of the Misfit team. Not like some of the really bad cases, not like Bowen.”

“Somehow I don’t think sending cy’Fridmar is really going to promote the idea of helping the abused. Bowen aside, take a look at the rest of them.”

“Rozen’s…” Really. Not all that bad? Can you say that with a straight face? “…not Keeping anyone right now.”

“And Baram never has as far as I know, but that doesn’t make him any better. Phelen...” She sighed, shaking her head, and Kailani wondered what she was missing. “Could be worse. But still.”

“Okay, so not cy’Fridmar. If cy’Linden goes, it gets Agatha out of the way for a while.”

“That’s true, and I’m not denying he’s in a bad place, but we can’t help everyone. Not yet, at least.”

“So we get the biggest number of people out of bad for the longest period of time?” Doing it mathematically seemed reasonable.

“Something like that, yeah. It’ll work out. Assuming, of course, that we can do it at all.”

“Well, it’s not going to be easy, but I think we stand a chance if we pay attention.” Kai set her hand on her flat stomach thoughtfully. “What about Emrys? What about Conrad?”

“They’re big boys. They went a whole year without us; it won’t kill them.”

“I suppose.” She chewed on her lip. “Renata and Caity will be happy.”

“So are you changing your plans, then?”

“I think I have more chance of talking to my cy’ree, and… well, I like your plan better,” she admitted.

“All right, then. If you get the chance. Of course, we’ll all have to play well anyway; there’s some tough competition.”

“There is.” She looked thoughtful. “Seems as if cy’Linden and cy’Solomon will be the hardest to beat.”

“Yeah, your plan was kind of convenient in that regard.”

“It was. But I think yours might end up helping more people. Although I wish there was some way we could help Bowen.” She hesitated, and then changed the subject. “Do you think Jamian might help throw the cy’Linden contest?”

Shahin frowned pensively. “That’s tricky. He might. It’d be hard for him not to get caught though.”

“I don’t want him to get in trouble – any more trouble, I mean.” A worrisome thought occurred to her; they’d been talking about bad Keepers… “Do you think he’s okay?”

“He’ll be fine, I’m sure. You’re right though; better if we leave him out of this.”

She nodded. “I should probably go talk to the rest of the Misfits, then, if I can get them away from their crews.”

“Maybe better not to arouse so much suspicion tonight.”

“I’ll talk to Wren, then, that much is safe.”

“All right. And speaking of not arousing suspicion, we should both be about our business. Good luck.”

“Good luck,” she echoed, and headed out to visit Wren’s nest.


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