Chapter 10:

A Diner and a Reprieve

The Artificial Lights of R'veno

The three of them managed to make it safely out of the vent and landed outside of the building in an unfamiliar darkness. Rei winced as her feet hit the pavement, and gingerly pressed her hand against her bleeding shoulder.

“Aight, well, I don’t know about you guys, but ciao!” Aries raised a hand, and began heading down the street.

“Where are you going?” Calix called.

“Just somewhere. Anywhere!”

His voice echoed from wall to wall but quickly dissipated in the rush of chaos around them, and Rei suddenly felt very lost. She had no gun, no bike, and on top of that, there were no lights, and…

“Let’s not stay here,” Calix said from beside her. “Let’s find somewhere that’s lit, shall we?”

They headed down the street, turned the corner, and kept on walking, until they had left the district, and the street lights and the signs began reappearing, their artificial hum lingering in the air. There was a diner up ahead, and they decided to take a break before deciding what to do next.

The bell above the door jingled as they entered, and the waitress eyed them with an unsavory glance before seating them. Was it the blood? Probably the blood.

“What’ll it be tonight, dears?” she asked, activating the menu screens embedded in the table.

Calix glanced at Rei, but she shrugged. “Just two coffees tonight.”

“Anything else?”

“A waffle,” Rei said. “And bandages, if you have any.”

“Coming right up.”

Rei let out a long sigh, closing her eyes, trying to recall the faint buzz of alcohol from earlier. Were there any traces left? Probably, numbing the pain around her wounds.

“So what now?” Calix asked.

“I dunno,” Rei replied. “Boston has the map, doesn’t he? And the lights are still going out…”

“They actually stayed out, for once,” Calix agreed. “Must be getting better at it.”

“And that just means we have less time.” Rei groaned, and opened one eye as the waitress set down two black coffees in front of them. “What, do you have any ideas?”

Calix took a long sip out of his mug, staring out of the window. Rei turned to see what he was looking at, but only saw the blurry glows of distant lights, muddied by the condensation on the glass.

“Well…it seems that so far the night has been working against us, and that Fate has had a hand in every card we’ve played. So why don’t we wait, and see where Fate takes us?”

“And what if we go nowhere? What then?” Rei took a gulp of her own coffee, wincing at the heat and the bitterness. “And then we’ll have failed, and then…”

“And then money won’t matter anymore.” Calix set his mug down. “Then we’ll have to figure out what to do in the ruins of this city, whatever there may be left of it. For now, let’s relax, take a break. We’ve been through a lot tonight already.”

Calix was right. Rei could feel that her energy was completely depleted after that last fight, and she could use a long sleep. The waitress brought her waffle and some bandages, and she unzipped her jacket to tend to her bleeding shoulder.

“That looks pretty cool,” Calix commented, picking a little piece of waffle off and dipping it in syrup. “Cyborg?”

Rei shifted her jacket over her metal arm, covering it. “Guess you could say that,” she muttered.

“You need a hand?”

“Piss off.”

“How’d it happen?”

“Burned straight to ashes.” Rei found that trying to bandage herself with only one arm was pretty difficult, so she allowed Calix to help her, and took a piece of the waffle for herself.

“Dang.” Calix let out a long whistle. “Pretty nice functionality though. Seemed to work real well in the ring.”

“Yeah, well…” Rei felt a twinge of embarrassment. “What about you? Got any past trauma you’d like to reveal now?”

“Mm…I mean, my brother disappeared, years ago. Pretty sure he’s dead. Went out to work one day and never came back.”

“Dang, I’m sorry.”

“Eh, it’s not your fault. But if I meet him again, well…” Calix licked the last of the syrup off his fingers. “I sure have a lot of questions to ask him.”

“Have you looked?”

Calix smiled. “I’ve tried, but I can’t spend all my funds on info brokers, can I? Gotta make a living too. Take care of myself, since he isn’t anymore.”

Rei found nothing to say to that, so she returned to staring out of the window, and Calix traced his finger over the condensation, drawing a little smiley face. “The lights are pretty.”

“I suppose they are.”

She had never really thought of them before. Not until now. Not until tonight.

“We still have a little time before they kick us out,” Calix said softly. “Before the coffee turns cold.”

Who was Calix, that he was this gentle, this optimistic, this helpful around her?

“Don’t you dare pay.”

“Hey, I never said I would.”

She rested her head on the table, wanting to nap, just for a little bit. Just to close her eyes and regain a little stamina left, to recharge, to…

Maybe in another life, she was in the country, a fresh breeze on her skin, the sweet scent of flowers in the air instead of the revolting smell of blood. And the lights here, they were real, they were bright, they promised to never go out…

Was such a life real? She felt like she had experienced it once, when she was very young, or in a dream, or somewhere far away from here. In another life, where this city called R’veno didn’t exist…

Had it been a good dream?

The bell above the door rang again, and she opened her eyes in annoyance, then felt her heart clench. Calix’s head turned just barely, and his hand still remained poised, holding the mug of coffee to his lips.

Well, if this wasn’t just perfect…

The masked face of Boston and several members of his Sunset Eyes.

Steward McOy
Miao Miao