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by Libby

(This story will be completed in a series of installments)

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Chapter 7

The following morning, the ramifications of the previous afternoon were still bouncing crazily off the walls of Kyra's mind. Following their return to the apartment, they had picked over the details of the attack, but succeeded in merely unravelling things further.

Preston had brooded over Freimann's death before storming off to call the Free Cleric to an emergency meeting. Kyra knew he would have to reinstate some of the more unpopular regimens from their Tetragrammaton training, but desperate times and all that…

In the end, neither she nor Preston had slept more than a few hours and that sleep was born of exhaustion and gave no measurable respite. She was frustrated by the reports from the Medical teams on the bedraggled survivors of the Station massacre.  Levels of 'Magic' in their bloodstreams were astronomical, causing hallucinations and problems with mental and physical co-ordination, not to mention the possibility of major organ failure. Not one of them could give a coherent account. An involuntary shudder passed through her body as Kyra accepted she would have to use…other…methods to extract necessary information from unwilling minds.

Getting dressed had taken all her concentration and now preparing a simple breakfast was proving almost too much for her tired brain to coordinate, especially with the added dimension of a drooling dog snuffling around her legs.

Consequently, she paid scant attention as Robbie walked slowly into the kitchen area and completely failed to notice his dark, vengeful eyes following her every move. Her own eyes were still a little unfocused and her head throbbed slightly. She pushed a metal canister across the work surface and winced as it clanged against one of the bowls and noisily scattered the spoons.

'Robbie, please would you put these on the table?'

Although she knew the boy wouldn't dare refuse, Kyra steeled herself against the expected snide retort.

It never came.

'Of course, Kyra,' Robbie replied evenly. Far too evenly.

Kyra's eyes snapped into focus and her suspicion sat up.

What's he up to?

'Thank you, Robbie,' she said quietly.

'No problem.'

Just then, John padded into the room trying to stifle a yawn and push his hair into place at the same time. He succeeded in neither task and so shrugged his shoulders and smiled hopefully at Kyra.

'Any tea? My mouth tastes like I've been chewing Beethoven's blanket.' 

Kyra chuckled and placed a steaming cup into his hands.

'Can't vouch for the quality, but it's fresh and hot.'

Robbie had finished setting the table when Lisa yelled from the corridor.

'Anyone seen my schoolbag?'

'No!' chorused Preston and Kyra.

'It's in here,' advised Robbie, an odd smile tugging at the corners of his mouth.

Lisa scooted happily into the room.

Kyra froze in shock.

John's cup impacted with the floor and shattered into pieces.

Lisa stopped short in surprise.

Robbie's smile vanished.

'Lisa…where did you get that?' John asked hoarsely.

Lisa's right hand flew to the bright red ribbon, fashioned into a neat little bow and pinned to her ponytail. Her face registered confusion and panic whilst tearful eyes darted between her father and her brother. Robbie swallowed hard and faced his father.

'Dad…don't blame Lisa…it's all my fault. I thought you'd be pleased. I only meant to…'

Unfathomable eyes turned towards the boy.

'I'll ask you just once. Where…did you get it?'

Preston had retreated into full Cleric mode and his voice was low and dangerous. Beethoven whimpered and hid under the table. Robbie understood that he had made a very serious error – although he had no comprehension of what that might be - and that the only recourse was to tell the truth…well, as far as was necessary…

He swallowed again.

'I was looking for socks. I thought some of mine had got mixed up with yours or… so I checked the drawers. The...the… ribbon was at the back and I thought…well…wouldn't it be nice if Lisa wore it…something of Mom's to remind her, you know. It was supposed to be a surprise. I'm sorry…I didn't think you'd be angry…'

Robbie started to shake. His sister had run to Kyra and was sobbing quietly in her arms. She had torn the ribbon from her hair. This wasn't how it was supposed to have been. He really didn't understand.

When Preston spoke again, his voice was softer and there was no trace of the Cleric.

'It's ok, Robbie. I understand. It was just…unexpected, that's all. And it's complicated. Maybe later, we can…we can talk about it. Ok?'

'Ok, Dad…and I'm sorry.'

'I know. Now you and Lisa get yourselves ready for school and we'll say no more about it.'

As Robbie turned to go back to his room, he glanced across at Kyra, who was still hugging Lisa. Their eyes met and in that instant he realised that she knew exactly what he had planned, how he had intended to use Viviana's ribbon to drive a wedge between her and his father, by resurrecting the ghost of his mother.  Yet he also saw that Kyra understood much more…the true reason behind his father's reaction…and that it was something he would probably never know.

Totally unaware of her brother's ulterior motive, Lisa finally extricated herself from Kyra's embrace, still too upset to speak. Head lowered, she walked slowly towards John and bravely placed the tear-stained ribbon in his hand. She started to move away, but found her own hand held firmly. Hardly daring to breathe, she looked up at her father, who very gently reached down to brush away a few errant tears which had trickled down her cheek. He smiled and softly kissed the top of her head. Lisa shuddered, then hugged him tightly.

'I love you, Dad,' she whispered and ran back to her room.

Kyra stood motionless in the kitchen. Bitterly, she acknowledged that regardless of his understanding of the situation, Robbie had probably accomplished exactly what he had set out to do…and more thoroughly than he could ever have imagined. She had clearly seen the way John's fingers had almost convulsively gripped the treacherous satin. Her throat closed, her skin felt cold and she thought she could still detect the cloying fragrance sprayed on the ribbon.

Sometimes, nestled against him in the warmth of their bed, she had wondered if John still dreamed of crimson and flames.

Now she was sure of it.

Whilst the children had readied themselves for school, Preston methodically checked, stripped and cleaned both his and Kyra's sidearms. He examined his sleeve holsters, replaced the polycarbonate release clips and tested the retractable grip. Kyra unplugged the notebooks from their charge stands and fastened them securely in their protective cases.

Neither of them met the other's eyes.

Robbie and Lisa left with their security detail and shortly after, Preston and Kyra did the same. Kyra tried to initiate a dialogue, but John simply raised his hands in a blocking motion that brooked any further discussion.

Their journey to FLS HQ passed in silence.

Kyra fought to bring some semblance of order to her mind, which was skittering about like gnats in warm weather.

Robbie's explanation of missing socks wouldn't stand up to much scrutiny, since Kyra knew exactly in which drawer the ribbon had been secreted and it certainly wasn't one that John would have opened. No…she knew exactly what had happened and how Robbie had taken advantage.


Kyra cursed her decision to rescue the thing from the floor of DuPont's office, in some obviously misguided belief that eventually the shadow of Mary O'Brien would be chased away permanently. She had kept it in her apartment after everything hit the fan, waiting for the right time to give it back to John.

Then things got really complicated really fast. Weeks passed, that 'right time' never came and Kyra eventually forgot all about the little box she had found, covered in dust, jammed between the wall and the clothes cupboard in the bedroom.

The irony of placing Mary's ribbon in a box that had obviously belonged to Viviana was not lost on Kyra, but she never considered that Lisa might go mooching amongst her things.

Not the brightest decision you ever made, was it?

Well, the damage was done and at least Kyra knew where she stood, her tentative dreams and plans shattered like the pieces of John's cup she had tossed in the recycling. She turned her head and looked out of the car window as it cruised past the masses of Free Librian citizens.

For his part, Preston had simply shut down. The seismic shock to his system of seeing the scrap of fabric and inhaling the scent was so huge that he could not and would not process it. He had considered it all in the past; that he would never again have to experience such lack of control, such utter helplessness. Not so. He recognised that he hadn't really dealt at all with his emotional response to those five days after the death of Partridge…

There you go again, placing a level of detachment between yourself and your actions.

…after he had killed Partridge.

…after he had killed his friend.

Kyra had been like a rock, anchoring him to the new reality of life without the rule of the Tetragrammaton. She had asked no searching questions, although he had learned from Jurgen that she had tried to rescue…

The name refused to form.

And so they had fallen back into their old ways for a short while, the Cleric and his Administrator, until the shift in their relationship became both impossible to ignore and necessary for them to act upon. Very soon after, stretched security resources and frustration with a lack of privacy dictated the most logical course of action and Kyra transferred to his quarters, much to Lisa's, though unfortunately not Robbie's, delight.

And now this.

His mind whirled with questions without any hope of answers, because they could not be asked.

I can't and won't deal with this now. It isn't the right time.

Preston turned his head and looked out of the other window.

Chapter 8  - Coming Soon

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