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Hi all,

We're aware of a peculiar forum glitch that's causing some subforums to be locked.

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Infinity's Row - Caliber

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Re: Infinity's Row - Caliber

Post by WritingBookworm on Wed Nov 12, 2014 12:51 pm

Thanks guys! Very Happy



   “You genuinely don’t know of anything that the instigator could be seeking?”

   “I don’t,” I insist. “Maybe they were after money? We sure have a lot of that.”

   “Highly doubtful. They could have simply gone to a bank rather than go through with all of the trouble of infiltrating your home.”

  I sigh. “I know. But it’s not like I have any better ideas.”

   My hand glides up the metal rail as I walk up the stairs. I notice that Elias has reached the top of the staircase, and I hurry my pace so I can join him.

  “What about you?” I say once I’ve finished going up the staircase. We walk down the hall, where room 209 shortly awaits. “You’re the smart guy. Any ideas?”

   “They may have been after the company itself.”
 
I think about it. It’s possible. They would probably gain more from that rather than simply robbing our bank account, and it would explain why they were after my parents during the attack’ the attackers may have wanted to try and force them to sign a document that would officially hand over the whole of Yate Enterprises.

  But one of the things I’ve learned from Elias is that it’s bad to jump to conclusions. “Okay, what else do you think--”

  I stop when I see the man right outside of our door.

  Both Elias and I take him in--the graying blonde hair, the slight potbelly, and the handsome tuxedo he’s dressed in. The man registers our arrival a second later, his face lighting up when he sees us.

  “A butler,” Elias mutters. Then he says, louder, “On whose behalf are you here?”

   The man ignores him and looks straight at me. “You are Miss Gentry Yate, yes?”

   I exchange a wary glance with Elias.

   Be on guard.

   “I am,” I say carefully. I examine him, trying to discern his intentions, but nothing gives. “Why are you here?”

   “Ah, yes, that.” He reaches in his coat and withdraws a crisp, stainless envelope and presents it to me. “It is a . . . request. . . from High General Silvia Zahn.”

  That politician we saw on TV? I take the envelope and attempt to open it neatly, but all I end up doing is jaggedly tear along the top. I wiggle the contents out and glance down at the cursive handwriting, so small and fine that I have to squint in order to read it. Scrawled at the bottom is Zahn’s signature, alongside a scarlet seal.

   “The High General requests to meet with you,” the butler says a second after I begin to make out Zahn’s handwriting. “At the Ald Ruhn Tower, as soon as you possibly can.”

  As soon as I possibly can?

   “For what purpose?” Elias looks up after reading Zahn’s invitation as well and poses the question as casually as he can. “Enlighten us--why would one as esteemed as the High General herself wish to meet with Gentry?”

   “She actually didn’t inform me of that,” the butler says with a shrug. “She just said ‘she anxiously anticipates Miss Yate’s arrival’.”

   I just stare down at the invitation, drowning the rest of the world out.

   Was Zahn the one who. . .

   I guess I’m going to find out.

   I look back up at the butler with a smile. “Tell the High General we’ll be there as soon as we finish packing.”

~  ~  ~


   "I feel really uneasy about this."

Almost an hour has passed ever since we talked with Silvia Zahn's butler. I managed to get the rest of my stuff packed and, before long, we checked out of the hotel. Now we're walking through the cobblestone streets of Ald Ruhn, passing by quaint white houses and looming domed buildings alike, all protected by its Great Wall that surrounds the entire city. Overlooking it all is the Generator floating in the boundless sky, thriving in its pulsing energy once more.

Normally, I’d appreciate all that the sighs of Ald Ruhn has to offer. But it is really hard to focus on that while Elias and I are walking toward our meeting with Silvia Zahn.

“I mean, I get word about the attack, and then right after that some politician ‘wishes to meet with me’? As soon as I possibly can, for undisclosed reasons?” I roll my eyes. “Please tell me how that doesn’t seem suspicious.”

“It is suspicious,” Elias agrees. “Which is why you have all the more reason to accept her invitation. Perhaps you may glean something about her intentions from it.”

“What if she tries to attack?”    

"Then you’ll know what to do. If it’s necessary, you may always request backup from me.”

I sigh. “I know. I guess it’s just like I said--I’m nervous.”

It doesn’t take us long to arrive to our destination. The Ald Ruhn Tower stretches out toward the sky, its sturdy stone walls fine with age. Windows spiral all around its perimeter, and a few stairs lead to the main doors. There, standing with two bodyguards flanking either side of her and her back to us, is none other than Silvia Zahn.

Zahn turns her head to the side, her glance happening to come across us. She faces us, her slender lips shaping a smile.

“Ah, Gentry Yate.” She steps down the stairs, her hands clasped in front of her. A ceremonial rapier hanging at her side bounces slightly. “I was certainly hoping you would arrive.”

She walks over to me and holds out her hand. “It is truly an honor to meet someone of the prestigious Yate Family.”

I wonder just how much you’ve ‘met’ the other members. Still I offer a winning smile and shake her hand. “It’s a privilege to meet you too, General Zahn. I actually saw a bit of your press conference on the news this morning. I was really impressed.”

“Oh, you flatter me.” Zahn releases my hand and smiles kindly. “Though, I did mean what I said. I will do anything to protect N’al Ren.”

She turns to Elias, her face alight with recognition. “Ah, and isn’t it Elias Carstairs? I didn’t expect to see you as well.”

Wait, Zahn recognizes him?

I shoot Elias a look, but he only regards the High General. He gives a proper, courteous bow. “High General. A pleasure.”

Zahn’s long blonde hair ripples past her shoulders as she tilts her head to the side in an almost motherly way. “If you wouldn’t mind, Mr. Carstairs, would you care to wait outside as I speak with Miss Yate? I imagined it to be a more private affair.”

Now Elias looks to me. He raises an eyebrow.

I nod ever-so-slightly.

“Of course, High General,” he says. “It shall be as you wish.”

~  ~  ~


“This is a nice little place,” I comment.

And I really mean it. The dark wooden floor shines, free of any dirt. A handsome, slim white couch is placed in front of a black coffee table. One panel of the wall is made entirely of glass, allowing for a majestic view of the morning light touching the rooftops of Ald Ruhn.

“Quite,” Zahn agrees. “The view is my favorite. Sometimes, it reminds me that the world is worth fighting for.”

She turns to me with a small smile. For the first time, a small seedling of doubt emerges. Silvia seems to truly care about N’al Ren--she seems to care about the people within. Could Elias and I be wrong?

"Please," Zahn says, gesturing over to the couch, "have a seat."

I sit down. The couch is even softer than I expected.

"I would not have guessed that you and Mr. Carstairs would be traveling together," Silvia remarks from the opposite side of the coffee table. "With the fame surrounding both of you, I would have expected word to reach me."

I furrow my eyebrows. "Wait, Elias is famous?" I guess that would explain how she recognized him.

"Well--" Zahn clasps her hands behind her back, "it is not so much him as it is his family. Did you know that his stepfather, Richard Hunter, was also a member of Runite's Row?"

"I--I didn't." Had Elias ever told me that? I desperately dig through my mind for a memory that can assure me, but it doesn't take long to realize that as little as he speaks about himself, he speaks even less about his family.

Zahn, either not sensing my discomfort or ignoring it, continues. "I am the daughter of a doctor, Miss Yate. Initially I planned to follow in his footsteps, but dear Richard invited me to apply for Runite's Row with him, and it wound up being one of the best decisions I have ever made."

I stare into the ground, mulling over her words.

She'd been expected to follow one path, but eventually chose another. Sounds a little familiar.

"We were placed on the same squad," she says, "and together we prospered like no other. One day, the current President of N'al Ren made a public appearance, addressing the populace. But an awful terrorist group attempted to assassinate him during his speech. The only reason they failed is thanks to Richard Hunter--he saved the President's life. Unfortunately, he was severely injured in the process, so he could no longer take an active role in Runite's Row. Richard was discharged with honors, and forever commemorated as a hero."

Zahn paces across her side of the table slowly and deliberately. "Then comes Nora Carstairs. Oh, what a prodigy! She received top marks in her assessments, completed more missions than any other recruit, and continually led her squad to sure victory. Some awarded her the moniker 'the Shieldmaiden of N'al Ren' and she was offered a high leadership position weeks before her untimely demise."

Zahn takes a deep breath. "And then there's Elias."

She stops and clasps her hands  behind her. "He isn't a terrible recruit. His intelligence is certainly an asset to Runite's Row. But at the end of the day, coming from a line of heroes and prodigies . . . Well, he just doesn't quite measure up, now does he?"

My stomach clenches tightly, like it's forming a fist.

"Just wait and see," I say. "He'll be one of the greatest Row recruits to have lived."

"I sure hope so," says Zahn, unfazed. "He'll have to be if he wishes to live up to his family name."

She stops and turns to me with a smile. "But we are not here to discuss young Carstairs. We're here to discuss you."

Zahn takes a seat in the armchair, her smile beginning to fade.

"I have received word that your parents have mysteriously disappeared," she says. "I'm terribly sorry, Miss Yate. I can't imagine how this must feel, not knowing whether or not your parents are alive and well."

I avert my eyes and nod along with a timed gulp, trying to look like I really didn't know that they were safe. "Thanks."

She stands up and crosses over to me to rest a hand on my shoulder. I look up, meeting her eyes so filled with concern.

"If there's anything I can do for you, by all means, do not hesitate to let me know," Zahn says.

I offer a small smile. "Thank you."

Zahn lets her hand fall off of my shoulder. "Do you have any idea what may have happened? I mean to protect N'al Ren and all of its citizens, Miss Yate, your mother and father being among them. If you can give me any sort of lead, perhaps it may help me ensure their safety."

I pause, inwardly debating on how to proceed. Should I reveal what I know, or pretend to be ignorant?

"I actually do," I say finally. "I heard that they were attacked and had to flee."

Zahn knits her eyebrows. "Really, now? By whom?"

"I'm not completely sure. I'm trying to figure it out."

"You're not 'completely' sure? Do you have a good idea of the perpetrator, then?"

I feel sweat growing on my palms.

"Silverbane," I say quickly. "I mean, he attacked us once, didn't he? I don't see why he couldn't do it again."

Zahn rests her head in her chin, appearing to contemplate the possibility.

"Yes, I believe that is our best guess, isn't it?" she muses.

"But it still doesn't really make sense," I say. "I mean, there's just not much of a reason for him to do it."

"So you believe it's someone else. Who?"

My tongue becomes thick. My body is completely stiff, but my mind is frantic.

"I-It's really not a good guess," I say. What is a random name I can think of? "But maybe--"

"You think it's me."

A deathly silence pierces into the room.

My heart punches against my chest. Zahn is utterly still, her back to me.

I stand up sharply when she draws her rapier and aims it directly at my throat.

"I really did hope we could be friends, Miss Yate." She closes her eyes and pushes up her glasses with her free hand.

And when her eyes reopen, they're darker and colder than ever before.

"But I hardly doubt I'll be able to convince you of my innocence. So this is the way things must be."

_________________
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[Infinity's Row: Interlude l Anaphora: Pariah l Infinity's Row: Uncontrollable l Anaphora: Vengeance]
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Re: Infinity's Row - Caliber

Post by WritingBookworm on Wed Nov 12, 2014 11:11 pm

Just going to bump this again. ^.^

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Re: Infinity's Row - Caliber

Post by boyhoy on Fri Nov 14, 2014 5:26 pm

I FINALLY READ ALL OF THIS!!!! It's so amazing!! I love it so far :DDD

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Re: Infinity's Row - Caliber

Post by WritingBookworm on Sun Nov 16, 2014 1:55 am

“I knew it,” I snarl, ignoring her sword. “So you were behind the attack. Why?”

“I told you I would do anything to protect N’al Ren, Miss Yate,” Zahn says. “And I meant it.”

Zahn sure was hypocritical. “In case you’d forgotten, my parents sure happen to be citizens of N’al Ren. Please, do tell me how attacking them is the same thing as protecting them.”

Zahn narrows her eyes. “Do you believe that I wanted to resort to this? Wesley and Matilda Yate can be good people at heart. But they are standing in the way of what could very well allow N’al Ren to be protected for good.”

I look at her in disbelief. “High General, we already have that. Just take a look at Runite’s Row and the Ald Ruhn Knights! We even stopped Arker--”

“But you didn’t prevent him from rising in the first place, did you now?”

I snort. “Like you can talk when you’re the High General--”

The tip of her sword digs that much deeper into my throat.

“I realize that,” she says as I inch my hand toward my communicator. “But now I am attempting to rectify that. I will not make that same mistake again.”

I subtly press the ‘ON’ button on my communicator, activating a line with Elias.

“But the lengths that you’re going to in order to do that?” My voice is just a little louder than before. “Couldn’t you have at least tried something else first? What is it that you even want? Maybe I can get it to you.”

Silvia briefly flicks her gaze down, pursing her lips.

To my surprise, she tells me. “I must obtain a certain code.”

“Code. Okay. Got it.” I look through my mind as though I’m looking inside an actual room, sorting through my memories and discarding the ones that don’t help. “I don’t think I really kno--”

I stop talking when I remember the last time I’d talked to my father.

My face changes with the dawn of a revelation.

Zahn notices this dawn.

“So you do know it,” she says. “I had had my doubts, but perhaps that was a wrong move of mine.”

“I don’t--” I close my close my eyes when I see the hopelessness of the situation. “What’s this code even for?”

“That is not for me to disclose.”

My surroundings suddenly become sharper, now on high alert.

“And why wouldn’t you?” I say carefully. A chill crawls down my spine. “Unless. . .”

Unless it was something she didn’t want me to know about.

Something utterly horrible.

I know that she apparently wants to protect N’al Ren. That’s been made pretty clear to me. That intention is honest enough--but how is she planning to carry it out?

“Unless?” Zahn prods.

I press my thumb and fingers on the flat of the rapier and move it away from me. She doesn’t move it back.

I narrow my eyes.

“I’m not helping you,” I say. “You attacked my parents--I’m not helping you with anything.”

Zahn tilts her head. “And why would you care about that, Miss Yate?”

“E-Excuse me?”

“Oh, Miss Yate, I know.” The ice in her eyes begin to melt. “I know that your parents never had time for you, that they were too busy being businessmen to be parents.”

I instinctively take a step back. Then I correct myself and put it back where it once was. “How did you know? What does that even have to do anything?”

“Do not suppose I haven’t done my research. Thanks to your mother and father, you felt worthless, constantly trying to perform a part you were never meant to play.”

“Shut up,” I whisper.

“Thanks to them, you spent the majority of your life alone, isolated from those who could have been your friends.”

Something inside me hardens. “Shut up,” I say again, stronger this time.

“Thanks to them, you were completely shut out from the world.”

“Shut. Up.”

“Thanks to them, you spent the majority of your life in darkness and fear, never truly knowing if you would ever be good enou--”

I whip out my pistols and aim them right at her face. “SHUT UP!”

I expect her to look triumphant that she got me to snap, or perhaps see a slight twinge of fear at my outburst. But Zahn shows neither triumph nor fear.

All I can see on her face is soft pity.

“Tell me, Gentry Yate,” she says, “do you truly owe them any loyalty?”

I grit my teeth. My hands begin to shake so badly that I would miss even if I tried to fire at her.

“It doesn’t matter,” I say as firmly as I can. “This goes beyond my parents. Now tell me--what are you planning?”

“I believe I’ve already told you that that is classified.”

I bare my teeth in a snarl. If she wasn’t going to tell me, then I would make her tell me.

So I shoot at her shoulder.

Zahn neatly dodges it, and instead the bullet pierces the window. I fire again and again, but each time Zahn neatly avoids each one, coming out without a scratch. She slices at me with her rapier in retaliation, and this time it’s my turn to duck.

“Gentry.” I hear Elias’s voice come from the communicator. “Gentry, which floor are you on?”

“13th,” I say as I block the flat of the blade with my pistol. I aim with my other gun and fire almost blindly before leaping behind the couch. “Where are you?”

“Look out of the window. You’ll find out soon enough.”

I look over to the couch and to the window. I peer closer. What did he. . .

“Fighting isn’t necessary.”

I half-jump when Zahn speaks and whip my head toward her. She’s lowered her rapier and holds up a placating hand.

“You’re right, High General.” I stand up, looking her right into her gray eyes. “Fighting isn’t necessary. Just tell me what you’re trying to do--maybe something can be worked out.”

But I know what she’s going to say even before I finish the sentence. “That cannot be done, Miss Yate.”

I set my jaw. “And I’m not going to sit by, either.”

That’s when I run.

I run around the couch and the coffee table, reaching the window within a second. I look down at the other wide windows below and the cement street--

It doesn’t take me long to see it.

So that’s what Elias meant.

I take a step back and point both of my guns at the window. I shoot at it several times in a circular pattern, and then deliver one, two, three strong and swift kicks to the glass. The glass explodes in a shower of shards, creating a crude opening just big enough for me to jump through.

I take a step forward--

“Hold,” Zahn barks.

I throw my head over my shoulder to see Zahn. Any trace of care she could have had toward me is gone, and the way she regards me as though I’m nothing but dirt tells me that there is no more chance for any sort of peaceful negotiations.

“By becoming my enemy,” she says, “you become an enemy of the government. You become an enemy of N’al Ren.”

Neither of us move. The howling wind trickles into the room, and it becomes colder than ever.

I turn around and leap out of the window.

For a few very scary seconds, I’m completely weightless before the entire sprawling landscape of Ald Ruhn, with nothing to anchor me to anything.

Then I’m falling, falling, falling falling falling--

A brief pain jolts through my ankles when my feet smash into the hoverboard.

I gasp for a moment, then regain my bearings. Elias, with his feet firmly planted into the black hoverboard, looks over his shoulder to see me.

I give a nervous and short chuckle. “So this is what you meant, huh? Where’d you even--”

“It was parked in front of a nearby building. I’ll see to returning it once this calamity has been resolved.”

Below us, the main doors to the Ald Ruhn Tower slam open, and several Ald Ruhn Knights come pouring out, armed with a variety of weapons. A few of them look around in confusion before they spot us in the air.

“So we really are becoming enemies of N’al Ren, aren’t we?” I grit my teeth. “Great.”

I look over to Elias. “We need somewhere to hide, somewhere safe, until we can regain our bear--”

“I’m aware.” Elias adjusts his glasses, assessing the number of Ald Ruhn Knights. “And I do have a safe destination in mind. But until then, I require you to hold them off while I get us there. Understood?”

I nod.

Elias faces the city ahead, and my stomach lurches forward as the hoverboard races off. I clench a side of the hoverboard with one hand, hanging on for dear life as the wind slams into my face, while my other hand is tightly wrapped around one of my pistols, prepared to shoot. I’d rather not; firing at them could just make things even worse right now. But if it really comes down to attacking them. . .

Some of the Knights cry out, and they run forward while drawing their weapons. A few bullets come for us, and I yelp as one pierces the side of the hoverboard.
The hoverboard flies even faster.

They sprint as we fly ahead, both of us picking speed the farther we go. I risk a look down to see the number of Knights--

I quickly duck when a bullet flies straight over my head.

That was it. With a shaking hand, I aim down to the ground and fired--not at them, just at the ground, to startle them. Sure enough, most of them instinctively scamper back, if only for a half-second.

But that half-second is all we need to put distance between us. The hoverboard accelerates, taking off like a bullet--

The sudden increase of speed throws my body to the side and my sweaty grip just can’t take it anymore and I’ve completely slipped off of the hoverboard--

I reflexively reach out and catch the edge of the hoverboard again not a second too late.

I heave in a breath, dangling from the hoverboard. That was. . . way too close. . .

“Gentry!”

Snapping my head up, I see Elias with his hand outstretched. I take it, and soon I’m back on the hoverboard.

“Thanks,” I say, out of breath. I want to collapse of relief right then and there, but there’s no rest to be had right now.

We look below us--

The Knights are gaining again.

“They’re not going to quit,” I say over the wind. “We need to lose them, once and for all!”

Elias nods. He closes his eyes, and I can see that he’s thinking, thinking, thinking--

His eyes reopen with the light of an idea.

“You’ll need to trust me, Gentry,” he says. “Do you vow to do exactly what I say?”

Uh oh.

He must have noticed my face change, because he adds, “Don’t worry. I know what I’m doing.”

He turns and accelerates the hoverboard again. The Knights become smaller and smaller in the distance, and I look back around to see that we’re approaching a turn.

The hoverboard descends a few feet. Elias glances back at me and holds out his hand. “When I give the word, we dive off of the hoverboard.”

Now I see what he’s doing.

I take his hand and firmly wrap my fingers around it. “Right.”

The hoverboard sharply races around the turn--

“Now!”

We bend our knees and launch ourselves off of the hoverboard.

We hit the ground before we know it. I feel my side slam into something rough, and the ground bites into my skin as I uncontrollably roll to a stop.

I groan. Oh, I was going to have a bunch of bruises from this.  

I gradually lift myself off of the ground and stand up. The hoverboard, caught up in its own momentum, rushes past us, temporarily giving the Ald Ruhn Knights something to follow while we make our escape.

“Well,” I say as Elias gets back up to his feet, “so much for returning the hoverboard.”

I hear shouts in the distance.

“Come on.” Elias grabs my wrist and leads me down between two small stores. He doesn’t release it until we’ve turned a corner in the long, winding alley. “It won’t be long before the Knights notice, we must put as much distance between us and them as possible.”

“Where . . . are we going?” I say, panting as I try to keep up with Elias’s burst of speed.

“There’s no time to explain.” He briefly stops when we arrive at a fork, then decides on the left. “But this is a shortcut that leads down to it. You’ll see soon.”

And so we run, run, run, and keep on running, passing through the backs of brick and and stone buildings alike, stepping through an occasional puddle, and I constantly look back over my shoulder with two loaded pistols, ready to fire at a moment’s notice.

Elias leads me out of the alley and slows to a stop when we arrive at a small neighborhood. Each of the houses are small, composed of a basic one-story structure, most of them with a worn and faded paintjob that suggest that these houses have been around for decades.

I knit my eyebrows, taking it in as best as I can while trying to catch my breath. I’d never  been to this part of Ald Ruhn before. . .

I follow Elias as he approaches a nearby gray house and walks through its neat lawn over to the porch. The porch is completely undecorated save a NO SMOKING and a NO SOLICITING sign both next to the white door.

Elias grasps a golden door knocker and pounds on the door three times as slowly, it comes to me.

This house. . .

I turn to him. “Is this. . .”

“Indeed.”

A few seconds of silence pass. Then the door opens, revealing an older woman with dark hair reaching to not quite her shoulders. Her deep, almond-shaped blue eyes inspect me curiously, and it takes me a second to realize that I’m inspecting her back.

It’s surprising, how much she looks like him.

Her eyes soften when she sees Elias, and her lips pull into a warm smile. “Elias. What a surprise.”

“Hello, Mother.” Elias looks over his shoulder, and then back to his mom. He takes a deep breath. “It’s. . . been an interesting day. May we come in?”

_________________
Credit to Hime for the drawing!





[Infinity's Row: Interlude l Anaphora: Pariah l Infinity's Row: Uncontrollable l Anaphora: Vengeance]
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Re: Infinity's Row - Caliber

Post by boyhoy on Sun Nov 16, 2014 2:10 am

Great chapter, as always Writing!! Love that we get to see more deeply into Gentry's character and I'm excited to see more of Elias's family!

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Re: Infinity's Row - Caliber

Post by WritingBookworm on Sat Nov 22, 2014 12:57 pm

Elias's mom seemed pretty welcoming enough. She invited us both in the house and led us to a small living room joined to a kitchen. In the living room area is a winding leather couch placed on a tan carpet with a hand-knit rug in the middle of the room. Across from us is a moderately-sized television, and the walls are painted a dark olive green. It's honestly still a bit of a shock going into a house as small as this when a grand manor is all you've ever known.

"And you are?" Mrs. Carstairs asks me as she hands both of us a cup of warm tea.

"Gentry," I say. "I'm Elias's friend." I extend a hand from the couch I sit on toward Elias's mom. "It's a pleasure to meet you, Mrs. Car--"

"Hunter," Elias instantly corrects.

I look away from Elias's mom and to him for a short second. "Hunter? But your last name is Carstairs, isn't it?"

"Mine is. Her's isn't."

"I remarried, you see," Mrs. Ca--no, Mrs. Hunter--explains with a shake of the hand. "So I changed my surname, but both Elias and his sister chose to keep theirs."

Elias's lips tighten. He sets down his cup on the floor next to his feet. "As enlightening as this topic is, would you please be so kind as to bring stepfather over here?"

Mrs. Hunter raises an eyebrow. "I think I sense a little bit of hostility there, Elias."

Elias glares at her. She glares right back.

Then he looks away with a sigh. "Could I please see my stepfather?"

Mrs. Hunter smirks. "Better." She crosses out of the living room, through the kitchen, and into the hallway.

I chuckle once she's out of earshot. "You know, if I hadn't known that was your mother before, I definitely would now."

"May we please stop talking about any subject that pertains to my family?"

"Nope! What's your mom's name? She seems nice."

"Her name is Kristen Hunter. Before I was eight, it was Kristen Carstairs, and her maiden name was Rowell. And--" Elias arches an eyebrow, "--if that is truly your belief, you have sorely miscalculated."

"Well yeah, I bet all moms need to be stern with their kids--"

"That isn't what I'm referring to."

"Oh really? Then what is it?"

It's then I see it--something in Elias's eyes become strange, like he's disconnected from reality. He's even more still than normal.

"Something else," he says finally.

I open my mouth to demand what exactly he meant from that, but I hear a new voice come in.

"You're back."

I turn my head around to see a sandy-haired man with a cane crossing into the kitchen. The cane clicks every time it hits the floor, and his brown eyes move to me as he comes to the living room. "And you . . . have someone with you, I take it?"

Elias stands up and dips his head in acknowledgement. "Hello, stepfather. Allow me to introduce--"

"There is no need, young man."

Richard Hunter stops when he's entered the living room and analyzes me. "Yes . . . I recognize you. You are Gentry, daughter of the Yate Family."

I stare at him. "Um, how did you--"

"You're well known, Miss Yate." Mr. Hunter lifts his chin. "Quite frankly, I cannot fathom why you are so surprised."

Dang. Maybe they're not strictly blood relatives, but now I know where Elias got his joyful personality. Mr. Hunter has that same stare, too--like he's trying to dissect you with his eyes.

"You know, you're kinda famous too," I say to Elias's stepdad. "I heard about what you did in the past--about how you were in Runite's Row and saved the President and everything."

Mr. Hunter seems to consider this. "Yes, that is accurate."

"And I'm also guessing that's where you got your limp, ri--"
   
A cold glare from Mr. Hunter strongly suggests that it’s time to shut up.
   
“Out of curiosity,” he says, “where did you hear this from?”    
   
“Silvia Zahn. The High General. She told me a bit about the Carstairs history, before. . .”
 
Mr. Hunter lifts his eyebrows, urging me to go on. “Before what, Miss Yate?”
 
“Before she revealed that she attacked Gentry’s parents and proceeded to deem us enemies of the government because we would not let her do as she wishes,” Elias says with a touch of bitterness.
 
Mr. Hunter looks over at Elias for a moment. He cocks his head inquisitively . . . like he’s noting something. For someone who was just told that his son just became a wanted criminal, he sure is being quite calm about this. I guess I shouldn’t really be surprised--after all, he lives in the same house as Elias.

“Do tell, young man,” Mr. Hunter says, “what in the name of N’al Ren would have caused the esteemed High General to take such a course of action?”
   
Elias takes it from there, proceeding to explain everything from when I received word of the attack, to my meeting with High General Zahn, and finally to our getaway and our ultimate arrival here.
   
“I have been attempting to come up with an answer to my question--just how is Zahn intending to give N’al Ren protection?” Elias says. “I know that it must be something illegal, otherwise there would be no need to go about her business discreetly.”
   
“Well, we know that it has to do with a code,” I point out. “Codes can unlock something, or maybe have a message hidden inside it, right?”
   
“And given that she’s concerned with N’al Ren’s security,” he muses, “it could be a code to activate a weapon.” Then he says, firmer this time, “It likely is a weapon of some sort.”
   
“But what?”
   
“Shouldn’t you know the answer to that question, Miss Yate?” Mr. Hunter interrupts.
   
I turn to him, and he continues when he correctly concludes that I’m not going to respond anytime soon.

“After all, you are the blood daughter of the honorable Yates. They are the ones that hold the key to what Zahn seeks. Surely you must have some semblance of an answer.”
   
I shake my head. “I’ve never gotten involved in their business affairs.”
   
Mr. Hunter wrinkles his nose like he’s smelling something foul. “Then that is a poor decision you have made.”
   
I clench my fist.
 
“With all due respect, Mr. Hunter,” I say through gritted teeth, “I’m a teenager. I’m still young, I still want to experience things a normal kid my age would experience, so I hope you can see why I wouldn’t want to constantly immerse myself in my parents’ business ventures.”
   
“Do not pity yourself, Miss Yate,” Mr. Hunter lifts his chin. “You were not born as normal child, and therefore it is a drastically unwise philosophy of yours to simply believe that you can live as such. You should have paid careful attention to what they were doing so that one day you could become the head of the company yourself.”
   
“Stepfather,” Elias warns.
   
But now that Elias’s fun stepdad has gone this far, I’m going to be more than happy to settle this myself. “Are you seriously trying to tell me how to live my life? Daughter of the Yates or not, I'm not good with business at all. Surely you know that it would be illogical to hand over one of the most influential businesses in the entire freaking continent to someone who can't even run it."
   
"But that is precisely one of the primary points I wish to make. They named you as their heir, did they not?”

"Ye-Yeah. Why?"

"Well, you said it yourself, Miss Yate." Mr. Hunter walks over to the leather armchair and seats himself, putting his cane aside. "Yate Enterprises is one of the largest companies known to N'al Ren. It holds is fair share of influence over governments and common citizens alike. Surely your parents know this. Now, if they named you their heir . . . that would be a good thing."

"It isn't when that's the ONLY thing they see me as," I say with a growl. The fact that they did that is exactly the problem--they saw me as an heir that they had to keep under lock and key rather than a living, breathing person.

"I wouldn't quite say that." Mr. Hunter crosses his legs, placing an ankle on a knee. "Consider this--handing a company like that over is no small feat. They would have to give it to someone they truly trusted, someone in whom they honestly believed could pave its road toward success. To name you of all people the heir . . . that would warrant a great deal of faith and trust, wouldn't you say? From what I have observed, you like to make yourself believe that they hated you, but it actually appears as though it is the exact opposite."

"Wh-What? I . . . I . . ." I stop myself when I realize that I can't even speak coherently.

"It doesn't matter," I finally say gruffly. "I'm going to do what I want with my life, not what my parents want, and I've made that loud and clear to them."

Mr. Hunter narrows his eyes. "I see. You are extraordinarily selfish and ungrateful, Miss Yate. You have utterly failed your parents."

Elias pushes himself off of the couch and fires a blazing glare at him. "That is ENOUGH, stepfather."

Mr. Hunter lifts his eyebrows. He studies Elias closely.

"I see," Mr. Hunter says to himself.

Elias looks over his shoulder to see me, but I'm already standing up.

"Gentry," says Elias, almost like a warning.

But I don't listen to him. I keep my eyes pinned strictly ahead as I walk out of the living room, through the kitchen, and finish off my journey by walking out and yanking the door closed.


~   ~   ~


The time I spend sitting alone at the porch feels endless. The world keeps on turning, but I feel as though I am in my own bubble of my own chilly silence.

I hear the door open and close. Heavy footsteps clunk across the porch, drawing nearer until they're right behind me.

"It has been nearly an hour," Elias says. "We strayed quite far from the initial topic and it is imperative that we discuss it further. Come inside, if you would."

I don't. The wind howls and jostles my strands of brown around.

Elias sighs. "You must disregard what my stepfather said. One of his key flaws is that he oftentimes sees only the worst in others."

I speak up. "But it's still true, isn't it?"

Watching the lawn's stands of green grass bend to the side under the wind's power, I continue, "All this time . . . they've had high hopes for me, truly thought I had it in me to do great things. But then I turn around and join the Row with no thought as to how this could affect the company. Maybe they can always name someone else their heir, but the fact remains that they trusted me with something great and important, and I betrayed that trust. Maybe your stepdad's right. I'm selfish. Ungrateful. A failure."

"Do not waste your time lying to yourself, Gentry. You are not any of the above."

"But--"

"Tell me, did you at least attempt to become a qualified heir?"

I nodded. "All of the lessons I had were geared toward that. I did my best, but I never really got the hang of it. Then my cousin introduced me to shooting, and for once there was something I was actually good at."

"Well, if you genuinely tried . . ." Elias sits down next to me, "then I would not go as far as to say you are a failure. Neither would your parents. So do not think of yourself as such."

"Maybe," I say halfheartedly. Why did he sound strangely passionate about this . . . and then there was what Zahn said about him having to live up to his family name . . .

I then my head to Elias. A new realization slowly awakens inside me.

"You . . . you have undergone the same thing I did, didn't you?" I say quietly. "While I was being groomed to run a company, your stepdad rigorously trained you and your sister for the Row, whether you wanted to join or not."

Elias's blue eyes slant, observing me. Then he directs it just a little ways away.

"That is accurate."

It's then that I can see it--Elias practically killing himself as he was pushed to the limits both mentally and physically while preparing for the Row, with ridiculously high standards to live up to and ultimately having to take a path that he never would have chosen.

Maybe we aren't as dissimilar as I thought. One of the only differences is that I ultimately got to do what I want; Elias didn't.

"Your stepfather . . ." I shake my head. "Seriously. You spent every day training with him for eight years . . . How is it that you've been able to put up with him for so long?"

"That would depend, Gentry. However have you managed to put up with ME for this long?"

I chuckle a little before it fades.

"Do you ever . . . regret it?" I ask. "Joining Runite's Row?"

He has to think about that. His face contorts and shifts, unable to decide on an expression.

"That has yet to be seen," he says after a while. "But whether I will or will not, it did have it's advantage--it did lead me to meeting you, and that it is something I will never regret."

All words elude me. My heart feels as warm as a perfect cup of hot chocolate, and for the first time since coming here, I manage to smile. I stare at him and thoroughly relish each and every detail, from his rich blue-black hair, his fine jaw, and the way the corners of his eyes crinkle whenever he's analyzing something . . .

It takes me a second to realize that my heart is beating a lot faster than before.

I quickly tear my eyes away, strangely confused. Why is it racing? And it's not in the way it does when I'm in a stressful situation, like it's running for its life. More like . . . joyfully skipping whenever he comes to mind.

What's going on?

I look around, anxious to look anywhere except at Elias--

I freeze when I see it.

It all happens so fast--I shout and leap up to my feet when I see the sniper crouching on the rooftop of the house across from us and Elias and I both whip out our weapons but it's too late because the sniper already has the barrel trained on--

Bang!

Completely tense, I wait for the onslaught of pain . . .

I don't feel anything.

I reluctantly open my eyes . . .

And see the red that begins to pool and soaks Elias's shirt.

_________________
Credit to Hime for the drawing!





[Infinity's Row: Interlude l Anaphora: Pariah l Infinity's Row: Uncontrollable l Anaphora: Vengeance]
Currently Reading: The Fallen by Thomas E. Sniegoski and the Emperor's Soul by Brandon Sanderson
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Re: Infinity's Row - Caliber

Post by Sentinel on Sat Nov 22, 2014 1:33 pm

OH NO!
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Re: Infinity's Row - Caliber

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