The Melancholy of a Whimsical Half-Elph
“Hey,” Salem said. “We’re right here.”
“How do you know he ain’t gonna turn us in?” Alejandro asked. “How do you know him?”
“What? Suddenly you wanna ask questions?”
“You seem to trust him, but how do you know where his allegiances lie?”
“Why do I get the impression you don’t go out—Nevermind, you’re a wanderer. Let’s get inside before you pass out.”
Salem knocked on the door rhythmically as though playing a song. Alejandro glanced over when he recognized the distinct code. Salem waited, looking slightly in the wanderer’s direction as he approached.
“What’s that face?” she asked, taking a step away.
“Is it—” Alejandro was interrupted by a man with a hefty Caribbean accent. Through the small slide, their eyes met. He, too, was a wanderer. “Extendo?”
“Am I seeing the ghost of Frederick’s past?” Extendo replied. His tone was upbeat and inviting. He swung the door open. “Al, is that really you?”
Extendo stood slightly taller than Alejandro. The overcoat fit snuggly against his thin frame. His dreads were as pristine as the wanderer remembered. And he still wore his sunglasses at night.
“Wait,” Salem winced. “You know each other?”
“Of course we do,” Extendo replied. “It’s been so long, old friend… Eh, you are looking a little pale these days.”
Alejandro rolled his eyes.
“Actually, why were you at the door?” Salem asked. “Don’t you have people that can do that?”
“Lots of action,” he grinned. “It’s hard for me to just sit around. Who knows who might want to capitalize off this chaos.”
“Typical Extendo,” Alejandro muttered. “You haven’t touched grass much these days, I see.”
“What’cha mean? Have you forgotten who I am? I’m—”
“Nobody cares,” Salem interrupted. “Now, will you let us in already?”
Extendo ushered them through the door, having closed it right as armed bandits patrolled the other end. Alejandro absorbed the strange place he found himself. It was a sizeable storage room with aisles of cluttered shelves. Radios blared from different corners, all the being music. Some were working on tattoos and others implants of various kinds. The rare sight of a human willingly accepting a foreign agent into their bodies was odd. Healed arm stubs had mechanical arms attached. Once attached, the synthetic skin began grafting over. Another had a false eye placed into the eye socket. Extendo noticed Alejandro’s curiosity.
“That one is here for an upgrade,” he said while guiding them to a freight elevator.
“It’s—more accepted?” Alejandro replied.
“Us humans are behind with the times. Even the rebels knew when to capitalize off the tech.”
“You’re still dealing with them?”
“They make good business. That young man has a lot on his shoulders going against a big ol’ war machine. He thinks he can bring back that little victory his uncle did so many years ago. But times have changed. His way of thinking is too pure for this world.”
Reminds me of a little someone, Alejandro thought.
“Look,” Salem finally spoke. “We need to get out of here. I have Janus’s goons on me.”
“What did you do to get him to do that?” he asked. His eyes shot toward Alejandro. “And how did you get caught up in this?”
“I—just stumbled upon her on my way to Janus,” Alejandro replied. Extendo took a few steps toward him with a smile. The doors finally opened. “What?”
“What is it with you being the one to throw everything into disarray?”
“I never meant to.”
“Hey, hey,” Salem interrupted. “Let’s stay on point here. Can you or can you not?”
Extendo tapped the button to call the elevator. He glanced over with raised eyebrows.
“Sure,” Extendo replied. His eyes fixated on Alejandro. “I don’t know how they’ll feel about you—”
“It doesn’t matter,” he muttered. “I’m running out of time.”
“What are you talking about? You mean…”
Alejandro nodded, and Extendo didn’t question. Salem saw the expression Alejandro wore: Tired yet determined. From how Extendo described him, the wanderer sounded like a parallel to Enne. Though he was along for the ride, it became apparent it may have been intentional. Salem walked past them before the door closed.
The rusted grind of the mechanism’s gears rattled the elevator every so often. As they descended, Alejandro’s mind doted on where Enne was. He wondered if she had finally left him. The worse his condition became, the more irritable he was. Every time he got angry, he felt regret minutes later. He was on edge, not knowing when he’d deteriorate further. It was sheer reflex alone that pulled him through the alley fight. Extendo wanted to ease the tension with Alejandro by breaking the ice.
“What brings you back here?” he asked. Alejandro held an unfocused gaze. “To be honest, I never thought you’d come back.”
“Sometimes I wonder,” he replied. Extendo scoffed. “It’s like everything I’ve done thus far brings me back to where t all began.”
“Come on, man. It’s never that complicated. I haven’t heard from you in centuries.”
“Don’t flatter yourself. I’m not here by choice.”
“Jeez,” Salem uttered. “Talk about rude.”
“You should be one to talk,” Alejandro replied as the doors opened. “You’ve been rude this whole time.”
“Al,” Extendo said when they settled down. “The universe speaks in funny ways. You may not think you’re here because you don’t want to. Your subconscious says otherwise.”
Alejandro held his breath, tightening his lips before letting out a burst of laughter.
“You definitely haven’t changed.”
“The only thing that changes is my inventory. Welcome to my little playground!”
Alejandro and Salem followed Extendo to the platform edge. The wanderer couldn’t imagine a large operation existing beneath the city. The large chamber expanded far into the distance. Weapons were created, sorted, and inspected. Some armaments were changed for different reasons, ranging from surveillance and stealth to retrofitted legs for better terrain maneuverability. Alejandro shuffled over in awe at the operation.
“But, how?” he asked.
“They don’t call me the Noriega of the Outliers for nothing,” Extendo smiled.
“You’re the bookworm over here, aren’t ya? Manuel Noriega! Backed by a world power while pushing the drug trade in Latin America before the Collapse.”
“The powers that be turned a blind eye. He was doing their bidding, going as far as using their assets for some of his own operations. Is that what’s going on here? You’re playing both sides.”
Extendo shook his head. He leaned against the railing: “Janus thinks he has the power to maintain. But ya can’t have power without good firepower. This equilibrium he likes to speak of is nothing but bullshit. It’s more like… a wheel. If you only knew who was involved, no one can touch me unless they got a death wish.”
“Who is it?”
“I think you’ll find out soon enough. There are a lot of factions in Ethoxian government that want to guide destiny.”
Alejandro exchanged glances with Salem.
“Do the rebels know about it?” he asked.
“I’m sure they do,” Extendo replied.
“You used to work with us.”
“Oh? Don’t give me that! You got betrayed us and nearly killed the revolution on your own.”
“I didn’t have a choice—”
“Coming from someone who always told me I had a choice? That’s a little hypocritical.”
“There’s a lot you don’t know, Extendo. I…”
“The world ain’t the same since you left. Those old ideals you led by don’t work. It just makes you a weak link.”
“Yeah. I know.”
“Yet, you’re back. Yet you’ve said little. I really do wonder how they’d receive you, especially Raquel. That poor woman’s been hurt.”
“Raquel? So, she really is here?”
The wanderer’s voice softened, something Salem and Extendo noticed. Alejandro’s head shifted slightly to the thought. Their last moments were spent unraveling everything they built. If she had any ill-will against him, it wasn’t without merit.
“So, Extendo,” Salem eased her way into the conversation. “How soon can we leave?”
“In a few hours,” he replied. “We’re finishing a shipment going to them in their base.”
The wanderers exchanged glances at one another. Alejandro sighed: “It’ll be one big happy-ass reunion then?”
Extendo revealed his holstered desert eagles with a smile.
“And I’m coming packin’ heat!” he said. Salem grimaced.
“He said a reunion, not a fuckin’ shootout, moron,” she uttered.
This was a much shorter chapter than usual, but straight to the point. Quality over quantity, no? Leave a like, comments and feedback are always appreciated! And thank you for reading! :3