Chapter 86:

Chapter 86 - Separate Ways


“I hate him!!”

“Shut up, no you don’t.”

“I do! I hate, hate, hate HATE him!!!”

“Will you stop kicking the control panel?! There are delicate instruments in here!”

Berry acquiesced with a scowl and made a noise, deep in her throat, that resembled the sound a housecat made when you pet it too much. She pressed her back to the dashboard and slumped to the ground, assuming a splay-legged posture sloppy enough to crowd the space Mimi was standing in.

“If you can’t behave yourself,” she warned, “I’m going to send you down to stoke the furnace again.” Mimi couldn’t help but cringe as the words passed her lips.

Wizards below… I sound just like my mother!

Beretta wiggled around resentfully until her back met the floor. Then she just lay there, sulkily, waiting for Mimi to lose patience with her again. When that moment didn’t come, she started making noises.


Mimi wasn’t there. She was miles away, enjoying a grenadine cocktail on the beach.


The waves lapped languidly at the shore, drawing her attention away from the steamy romance novel she was reading.


Maybe I’ll go for a swim later, she thought. After all, it’s such a beautiful da–


“Beretta, ENOUGH.”

“I hate this! I hate it here!!” the little girl whined, pounding her heels and fists on the floor. “I do not want to go to Trigger City! I want to stay with Father and Roulette!”

“Yeah, well, tough,” Mimi replied, gingerly shifting the girl aside with her foot. “Marka decided it was too dangerous for you out on the range, so I’m afraid you’re stuck with me.”


“Oh, don’t start that again!” she chided. “I swear, I used to think you were a pretty charming, well-behaved kid. But it turns out neither you or your dad are much fun to be around when you don’t get your way.”

Beretta made the cat noise again and banged her fist on Mimi’s foreleg. “Do not say bad things about Father!”

“Make up your mind!” Mimi snapped. “You said you hated him, remember?”

“I hate him because he won’t let me fight!” she clarified. “I do not hate him all the time…”

Mimi sighed to herself. She could see where Berry was coming from, but there was no going back now. They’d already stopped to fuel up in some nothing town along the coast, and, assuming she didn’t allow Berry’s tantrums to disrupt her flying, the Skywind would probably make Trigger City by sundown.

Still, it was difficult not to sympathize with the little gremlin. Mimi understood better than anyone that sometimes you just wanted to be angry, even–and, perhaps, especially–when it was impossible to have things go your way.

“Your dad loves you a lot, Berry,” she said at length. “He’s just doing what he thinks is right. Bringing you along with us to Wesson was a big deal for him, and I don’t think even he fully understood what the situation would look like when we got here.”

Beretta sniffed a little and, mercifully, rose back up into a sitting position. “He did not have to send me away,” she insisted, hugging her knees to her chest. “Nobody ever wants me around. Like when Roulette told me to wait in the safe; I wanted to help catch Bubba Lee, but she told me no! Even though we did all that training together…”

Mimi stared wistfully at the clouds as they passed, thinking back to her own childhood. “No one takes you seriously when you’re a kid,” she agreed. “Everybody just wants to protect you all the time. But, sometimes, it’s not really about you; it’s about them, and how they couldn’t live with themselves if they allowed you to get hurt.”

She chewed on her lip, lost in thought. “I think they forget that getting hurt… Is just another part of life.”

Beretta rose defiantly to her feet, hands flying to her hips. “Well, I am not afraid of getting hurt!” she proclaimed. “Not if it can help me protect someone else!”

Mimi smirked down at the girl for a moment, all ready to respond with a tinkling laugh… Until she realized she was serious.

“You know, I’m starting to think your dad really did make a mistake when he sent you away,” she said, her smirk widening into a genuine smile. “I think you just might be the strongest one of us all.

“...Apart from me, of course.”


Marka trailed along behind his companions as they crossed an endless plane of dry, cracked earth. He’d spent countless days roaming the Diflagrati as a teen, and he’d found it to be a lonely, unforgiving place… Yet somehow, the badlands of Wesson struck him as being even more inhospitable. At least the deserts in Truvelo had some history to them; the dunes hid all manner of relics and old, arcan-lined ruins to entertain the casual explorer.

The wastes they traveled now, though, were as flat, empty, and hopeless as his own inner landscape.

Ever since his violent overreaction back in Toothless, Marka had been plagued with thoughts of his homeland. Before leaving Truvelo, he’d never realized how vital his daughter, his people, and his culture had been to his personal growth. The idle, vicious criminal he’d been for so many years seemed closer to the surface than ever, threatening to undo all the recent progress he’d made as a friend. As a father.

As a man.

Now that he’d sent Beretta away, there wasn’t a crutch left to lean on. He felt like he was falling. Without someone to care for or a place to call home, who was he, really?

Perhaps his new friends would be able to reassure him?

“Have I made a mistake?” he asked, keeping his gaze locked on the broken ground beneath his feet. “Was I wrong to send her along with Mimi?”

“Well, let’s see,” Morgan replied. “You left our only medic in the care of the most evil, unpleasant she-devil this side of Cal Vontra while she roots around in around the dark corners of the world’s largest urban center lookin’ for some way to turn her big, shiny rock into somethin’ worth a damn.

“I admit, I’m not exactly an expert on parentin’, but in my personal opinion I’d say you fu–”

Roulette drew a sharp intake of breath and punched him squarely in the arm. “You’re right, you’re not an expert on parentin’,” she hissed. Then the girl cast an apologetic glance over her shoulder, her eyes conveying more grace than Marka felt he deserved. “Don’t mind him. He’s still sour about the whole Toothless debacle–you had every right to decide what’s best for Berry, and it ain’t our place to say whether you were right or wrong.”

“I appreciate you saying that,” Marka said, “but I wish you would speak freely. Did I make the right choice?”

Roulette stopped to think for a moment, as if she were weighing the options in her mind. “It’s not what I would’ve done,” she eventually answered. “I know a bit about daddies and their daughters, though. As a daughter myself, I recall I’d get treated like glass every now and then. It’s cute, really. Touchin’ even.”

She paused, then. Marka couldn’t tell whether she was trying to withhold a grimace or a sorrowful smile.

“...Except when it’s annoyin’,” she finished.

He couldn’t help but groan. “I knew it. I am too overprotective!”

“Ahh, cheer up Marka,” Morgan drawled. “Don’t know what’s drivin’ me to be so nice to someone who throttled me within an inch of my life less than an hour ago, but I’ll just go ahead and say it: a mistake made out of love is the best kind of mistake there is. Besides, Berry’s a good kid. If she hasn’t forgiven you by now I’ll eat a hat.”

“Is that right?” Roulette asked innocently. “Y’know, I’d pay to see that. And I happen to have one available…”

Morgan reacted with a snort. “That little thing?” he scoffed, tilting his chin up at the tiny tophat riding her curls. “It’d barely rate as an appetizer. If I’m goin’ to eat a hat, it’d sure as hell better be a big one…”

Marka withdrew back into himself and let them go on with their banter. Even that brief exchange had given him a lot to meditate on–mainly regrets, but also a hint of what he could do better. And, as they trekked across the dusty flatland toward whatever destiny awaited them, he silently resolved to do just that.

He did, however, take solace in one thing: from what he’d seen of the range so far, it was even more dangerous than he’d imagined. Beretta might begrudge him for indulging his fatherly instincts, but at the end of the day, Trigger City–the world-renowned, cosmopolitan heart of Wesson–was surely the safest place for her.

If he could be certain of anything, he could be certain of that.

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