Chapter 41:

Moment of Respite

Code: Zero Defect

"Just what the hell are you doing?" I asked, making it painfully obvious that I was unamused.

"What?" Astrid grumbled.

I walked in on her face-planting onto her monitor. It looked like she was watching a cooking video. The moment she saw me, an awkward silence fell between us.

"You look dumb," I sighed.

"Hey, man, I'm still trying to recover from using my code," she said. "Had to pull it off to save your ass. You should be grateful."

"And I am, but what does that have to do with shoving your face into the screen?"

"Blue light makes my optical lenses feel better."

That didn't make much sense to me. As far as I remember, blue light kills the human eye over time, but hey. What do I know? I'm just a pure human. Maybe those augmented eyes really do get better when exposed to blue light.

"Anyway, here," I said as I handed her a small device.

"What is it?" Astrid asked.

"Dunno. Minerva wanted me to deliver it to you, so here I am. Said it would make you feel better."

She took it and accessed it for a moment. "What's that beeping?"

"You hear it, too, right? I'm not sure either."

"Huh... Well, thanks. If you see her again, tell her-"

"Solaaas!" a voice cried from outside.

I turned around, only to be tackled down by Minerva when she entered the office. She landed on top of me, which wasn't exactly the ideal position, especially when Astrid was sitting right there. Her head perked up with a look of distress.

"Solas!" she shouted. "Where is it?!"

"W-where is what...?" I gulped.

"The thing I just gave you! Where is it?!"

"You mean this?" Astrid asked, holding out of the device.


Minerva quickly grabbed it and rushed to a nearby closet. She then pulled her arm back, threw it in, and slammed the door shut. Seconds later, a very brief but sharp explosion rang from within. No words could describe my astonishment, as I'm sure it was for Astrid as well.

"Phew!" Minerva turned around with a huge grin. "Good job, guys! Crisis averted!"

"Crisis... averted...?" Astrid growled.

"Uh... Y-yeah! Cuz... y'know... we got the... b-bomb... before it... went... off..."

"... Bomb...?" I repeated in disbelief.

"And why the hell was I holding a bomb in the first place?!" Astrid screamed.

"Eek!" Minerva squirmed before she fell on both her knees, continuously throwing her head up and down so far that she may have as well been smacking it against the ground. "I'm sorry! I'm sorry! I gave it to Solas without thinking! I got distracted! I'm sorry!"

"You're about to be!"

Astrid jumped off of her seat and held Minerva in a chokehold.

"Ack!" A-Astrid!" Minerva grunted. "I'm... dying..."

"Oho, you are?" Astrid smirked as she tightened her grip. "Well, good! Cuz that's what I would've been had I held onto that thing for a second longer!"

They continued to roll across the ground with Astrid maintaining the upper hand for quite some time. All the while, I stood there and watched, until Zephyr poked her head through the office doors.

"What the..." she muttered. "What happened here?"

I pointed at the closet door with a hole busted dead in the center. "Minerva had me deliver Astrid some 'medicine.' Turns out, it was a bomb."

"... How the hell does that even happen?"

"You're asking me."

Loki then followed behind Zephyr. "Oh~! Is something interesting happening?"

"Yup," I sighed.

"Yeah," Zephyr agreed.

We both turned ours to look at Loki, who was more or less clueless about our gaze. She let out a chuckle before turning her attention to us, and as soon as our eyes met, she began inching away with the guiltiest smile.

"The hell are you doing out of bed?!" Zephyr chided.

"Eep!" Loki yelped. "H-hey, man. I... uh... I got tired of staring at the ceiling fan, so I came to take a walk. Yeah, that's it."

Zephyr forcefully yanked on Loki's collar before dragging her off.

"Ah! Solly! Save meee!" she shouted as her voice faded in the traffic of the camp.

"What am I supposed to do about that?" I sighed.

I took one last glance at Minerva and Astrid still pulling on each other's hair before walking away. Yup, this is the legendary Calypso squad.

Eventually, I stumbled upon Holiday handing out medicinal devices to a group of refugees. Her face remained unchanged even when bombarded with praise.

The moment she saw me, she handed the rest of the devices to a man and asked him to continue distributing them.

"Everything alright?" she asked as she approached me.

"Yeah," I replied. "Guess who we caught snooping around when she should be in bed?"

"Loki... Orders aren't orders when they come from me, I suppose."

"Relax. She's probably just itching to move around again."

"I'm sure."

"Get the fuck back here!" shouted Astrid's voice in the distance.

Holiday and I turned our heads to see Minerva being chased with the most frightful expression.

"A-Astrid, please, it was an accident!" she cried.

They ran and ran until they disappeared into the crowd.

"Suddenly, that explosion I heard earlier is starting to make sense," Holiday muttered.

"Minerva's forgetfulness is dangerous," I said. "I don't know how she confused the two, but that's what happened."

"Haaa... One day, this squad will be the death of me."

I let out a chuckle. "They're not that bad. I find their chemistry kinda refreshing. I used to banter with Nelia all the time when we were kids."

"She never gave you something that turned out to be a bomb of all things, did she?"

"Uh... Well, technically, she did just now."

Holiday shot me an unamused glare.

“I... I’m joking...” I said sheepishly.

"Trust me, Solas. What you've seen from them doesn't hold a candle to all the dumb shit we did in the past. Loki rode on top of an eidolon before."

I tried to picture a young Loki doing that, and for some reason, it didn't sound that unbelievable.

"Alright," I said as I threw my arms into the air. "I should head back now. My mother is probably up and waiting for me."

Holiday nodded her head. "Understood. Stay safe."

"You, too."

With that, I left the ruined mall in haste. Through the busy nightlife, I traversed the undercity inconspicuously. Ever since our raid on the Spire, security has tightened up immensely. You can't go a block without seeing a pair of coatsmen eyeballing everyone who passed them by.

Eventually, I made it back up to the Golden District. Normally, I'd take the train, but that was when I wasn't as infamous as I am now. Even though I can easily take off my disguise, I can't risk the possibility of getting caught.

Within an empty alleyway, I poked my head out to scan the surrounding area. No one in sight. Perfect.

I sprinted through the snaking path until I reached my house. Carefully, I snuck in through the backdoor, which has been left unlocked ever since Mother found out about my secret identity. We sort of agreed to leave like that. Makes it easier for me to get home.

When I walked in, it was still dark. Strange. I looked at the clock to see that it was currently a quarter past seven. Mother should be up and about around this time. Perhaps she's still asleep.

The television was left on, as it was playing some random news channel. Even stranger. She rarely watches television, and when she does, she always makes sure to turn it off. That's the kind of person she is.

"Mother, I'm home," I said.

No response. Not the slightest sound except for the television. After poking around on the first floor, I began walking upstairs. The first room I checked was obviously her room, which seemed as though nothing had changed. Her bed was neatly made as she does every morning. Nothing stood out except for the fact that I couldn't find her there.

"Mother?" I called out once more.

Still, no response. Did she head out? It's the weekend, so maybe she went over to the Golden District before the morning traffic. Even then, she would've left me a note.

I skipped back downstairs and looked around. The kitchen counter is normally the place she'd leave a note, but there was nothing there.

Suddenly, my ears perked up.

"Breaking news," said the news anchor. "The GD Coatsmen have just arrested a defect with possible ties to the defect known as Strider, a now-notorious defect who became known for invading the Spire just three weeks ago."

I rushed into the living room and looked at the television. My eyes sprung wide open as an image appeared next to the anchor. It... It was Mother... and she was in cuffs.

"Video proof and several eyewitness testimonies have placed Erianna De Leux under heavy scrutiny," the anchor continued. "She was seen and captured by cameras leading Strider into her household, which if proven to yield no tampering of any kind, would mark Lady De Leux herself as a defect."

No... Mother...

"Of course, Lady De Leux is the wife of General Archontas, the hero of the Reclamation. If she..."

His voice began to blur out, and I suddenly lost focus. The only thing I could think about was Mother. She got caught. Because of me, she got caught, and now... she might...

I pulled off my jacket and rushed out of the house. I ran and ran, faster than I ever had in my entire life.

Since I could remember, there was nothing in the world that I feared more than disappointing my mother. However, that was easily replaced by the fear of losing her.

I never thought this would ever happen. It never once crossed my mind. I was careless.

Through the busy streets of the Golden District, I sprinted without stopping a single time. Even the morning traffic was just a minor obstacle. There was not a single thing in my mind except for my mother.

Please, let me make it in time!


Code: Zero Defect