Chapter 165: Jamian
Why don't you stand up, be a man about it
Fight with your bare hands about it

Jamian felt a bit like a hypocrite. All the warning Kailani to be careful about Bowen that he and Shahin had been doing, and he'd set up a - not a date, no. - a time to meet up with Kendra. They'd struck up a conversation casually enough, in their Biology class that afternoon, but the demands of learning had interrupted, so they'd arranged to talk more later. That was all. Nothing fishy about it. Of course.

The class itself had been fishier, with the strange guest sitting in the back, studying them, making Professor Pelletier tense and angry. He'd asked about her in the locker room, next period, and received similar reports from others; apparently the woman, whoever she was, had been silently auditing classes all day. And none of the teachers seemed pleased with it - except, oddly, Professor Valerian.

Maybe he'd ask Kendra about it; she should be here any minute. He looked around the lounge nervously. They could claim to have met by accident, here, but if they were seen, they couldn't really stop and talk. There wasn't really anyone about the lounges at this time of day, though; it should be clear. There was Kendra, in fact, trying to move quickly while appearing nonchalant. The quick, furtive motion was down pat; the nonchalance could use some work. She looked like a mouse hiding from a snake.

"Hey," he called to her, as gently as he could.

"Oh! Hi," she said quickly, scurrying to sit down.

Jamian flopped down nearby. "What's up? Any idea what that lady was doing in our classes?"

"The strange woman who was watching us? No, I have no clue, but I do know that's what she was doing. Watching the students, not paying attention to the class."

"Us?" He frowned. "Why would she be watching us?"

"Why does anything happen around here? But it's a new person, so we should be wary."

He smiled gently at her. "We should always be careful. Of pretty much everyone except our friends."

"Except our friends," Kendra echoed hollowly as she nodded.

He frowned. Stupid. Does she even have any friends? Besides me? "You have your cy'ree," he offered gently. "And me."

"I suppose so. Can I really trust them?"

"Cy'Pelletier? If I was going to trust any cy'ree here, it would be them," he assured her.

"If you were going to," she said with a tiny smile.

"Well, I trust Shahin and Kai. But they're not really a cy'ree." He patted her shoulder awkwardly. "You'll be okay."

She opened her mouth, but no sound came out as her eyes widened. Instead, he heard another voice call out stridently from behind him.

"Get your hands off my Kept!"

Shit. He lifted both hands up, looking as innocent and non-threatening as he could. Ofir was literally glowing with his anger as he stepped into view, a surreal golden corona emanating from his body.

"Jamian," he sneered. "Why am I not surprised? You think you can whisk her away for a little tryst, is that it?"

Kendra cut in, or attempted to at least. "We're not..."

"Shut up!" Ofir yelled. "I'll deal with you later."

Kendra shrank back fearfully, clearly having some idea what that might entail.

Shit, shit, shit. He didn't want to get her in trouble. "We weren't doing anything," he answered, backing up slowly.

"Not since I got here," Ofir declared, advancing on Jamian menacingly. "Now what are you gonna do, Fifthie?"

What could he do? Ofir was spoiling for a fight, and if he didn't give him one, he'd probably take it out on Kendra.

Jamian looked him over, and sneered. "What am I going to do? What are you gonna do?" Chances were, he was all talk and no action, like bullies everywhere.

"You're not Kept very well, are you? Maybe I'll just put you in your place myself." He shoved Jamian's shoulder, hard, causing him to stumble back a step.

"How Ty Keeps me is none of your business!" He'd never been all that good at fighting, but he was good enough to throw a punch at a twit like this.

Ofir caught it on his forearm, but he was clearly no boxer; this wasn't like going up against Rozen or Ardell, Jamian reminded himself. Ofir was just another scrawny kid, even if he was a bit older.

Ofir stepped back, clearly not having expected real resistance, and kicked at Jamian. Kicks, he had lots of practice dodging, and just as much practice dishing out, so he did both. That connected more solidly, and he was pleased with himself until Ofir drove a fist into his sternum with a grunt. Jamian circled as he struggled to catch his breath, but Ofir was guarding himself rather than following up the momentary advantage.

He'd taken harder hits than this. If this was all Ofir had to dish out, he'd be fine. And he wasn't doing anything Ty would disapprove of… so he wasn't going to get in trouble for this. Would he? Well, in for a penny, in for a pound. He struck again, punching under Ofir's guard, and followed up with a hook that bloodied the boy's nose. Ofir's glow intensified, and it became difficult to look directly at him; a fact that clearly wasn't lost on him, as a feint turned into a solid jab to Jamian's shoulder.

So his stupid glow-worm power had a use after all. Jamian had been beginning to think it was all for show, that some people just got the bad end of the stick. Well, two could play at that game. He extended his senses, and when he felt the triumphant anticipation that heralded Ofir's next strike, he was ready for it, blocking and countering with a quick series that staggered the older boy momentarily.

Neat! He grinned wildly. And this wasn't even covered in the "don't be evil unless you have to" cy'Linden primer.

Ofir was far from done, though. He launched himself off the wall in a furious assault, and for a minute it was all Jamian could do to keep blocking him. The shining radiance was distracting and made fighting difficult, but Jamian's empathy telegraphed Ofir's moves almost as well as vision. Of course, he did have to weed Ofir's feelings out from Kendra's stupefied terror - and something else? For a moment, he caught the faintest whiff of another emotional resonance, a certain amusement, even glee at the suffering of others, which he was sure wasn't coming from any of the three of them.

He backed towards an exit. He wasn't going to get out of this unscathed, but he wanted to get out of it still walking. Ofir was flagging, he could tell; the boy had burned through most of his energy in that attack, while inflicting very little damage on Jamian, who had already bloodied him in return. There wouldn't be any pursuit, he didn't think.

Suddenly, something struck him from behind, shoving him farther into the room, past Ofir. He turned quickly, but there was nothing; his opponent seemed equally surprised, and failed to capitalize on the moment.

That fourth spike of emotion? Someone wanting to cause a little mischief? He whirled, looking for a wall to put his back to. There, near where Kendra was cowering in the corner. Ofir must have seen him look, because his attention was brought back to her.

"Kendra! Grab him and hold him still."

Shit, shit. He didn't want to make her fight an order, but this was going to hurt like hell if they managed to get him pinned down. Ofir couldn't have much left in the tank though. If he could make him retreat while avoiding Kendra... Jamian found his body already in motion as the thought completed. Kendra's clumsily grasping hands closed on empty air. Ofir was stepping forward with a victorious swagger, and Jamian's fist caught him squarely on the chin and sent him toppling backwards. Before he could exult, though, another invisible shove pressed against his chest, taking his own feet out from under him.

That was just cheating! He oofed angrily as he fell. Kendra tried to cover him, but he gently twisted away as he rose to his knees. Ofir was conscious, but he wasn't going anywhere; Jamian had a few moments to figure out what was going on. Someone else was here, if he could pinpoint where. He strained to feel them, opening his senses...

An ear-splitting keening drove him back to the ground. He clapped his hands over his ears, but to no avail, as the pitch and volume intensified. Ofir was staying down, and Kendra cried out in pain; judging by their emotions, though, neither of them were being hit nearly as hard as he was by the unearthly screech that threatened to shatter his eardrums. Coherent thought was lost, and he let out an involuntary whimper; there was nothing he could do to defend himself from the sonic attack that overwhelmed him. As his vision faded, one last image burned itself into his mind. A pale, demonic shape hunched over him, wiry and sinewy, with terrible horns and wings and claws. Its mouth gaped open, emitting the terrible din that had incapacitated him. Only having seen him at the dances allowed Jamian to recognize Ib's unmasked form before he lost consciousness.


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