Vines drummed his fingers on the table for a few moments then hit play, again. They had watched the recording five times already, but the silence was unbearable. To his right Master Niland picked up his tea and held it in his hands. Behind him, sitting across the square conference table, Master Lebow shifted.
The recording picked up right when the human Immortal appeared. Her dark red uniform marked her as a Tonaukian. The lack of rank on her collar said she’d just graduated training and hadn’t had the time required to gain more.
Vines shifted, making a mental note to find out how Tonaukian Immortals were promoted. Exactly under what circumstances. It seemed to be a combination of time, experience, and something else. The something else, the not knowing, mocked him.
The human Immortal dropped the Quissm casually, and it vanished before hitting the ground.
Vines brought his claws to his face and tapped his chin. She had barrowed the Quissm. That had to be the only explanation about why it vanished. And explained what was going to happen after it was over. Further she barrowed it without asking. A thief. Vines grimaced. Quissms couldn’t be stolen from their rightful owner. She’d made a calculated move.
The woman she turned her back on the camera, obstructing her face.
Before her, before the other Gersemi Immortals the wave swept forward, destroying everything in its path. Vines rubbed the back of his neck. Still feeling the terror of watching that wave descend and not being about to do anything about it. The wind had been a surprise. He hadn’t been expecting that. He couldn’t shake the feeling that he, as well as the others in this room, had been fated to die yesterday.
That this woman, whoever she really was, had intervened on their behalf and changed their fates. Master Lebow would say she’s changed the flow of energy, altered it just enough to get what she wanted.
Lifting her hand, she placed it on Master Niland’s shoulder. In the recording, Master Niland gasped as she seized control of the flow of energy, adding her own to it as she did.
Vines couldn’t see the weaves of Immortality she was using but the wave shattered. Literally. Like glass.
Next to Vines, Master Niland said, “I didn’t even know what she did was possible.” Master Niland shook his head. “Even after seeing it with my own eyes I don’t believe.”
Vines shifted again, but held his tongue. To him, the interesting part was what came after.
In the recording Master Niland turned and stared at the woman. The unbelief in his eyes was reflected in the way he held his body, in the way his large hourglass pupils were focused on the woman.
Vines knew this was the moment she’d released them from the link.
Another human immortal appeared next to the woman, grabbed her arm, and they both vanished.
The video version of Master Niland blinked and turned his eyes to where they had gone. Sensing, even at their distance, where she’d been taken.
The camera panned. High on the ridge overlooking the city a small tent came into sharp focus. It showed enough detail for Vines to clearly see the rank of Master on the man’s collar and the woman’s lack of rank on hers. The contrast between the two was interesting.
The male Immortal leaned forward, his face red with rage. One hand still on the woman’s arm. He topped her by more than a foot. But for some reason Vines felt that she was the one in control. Despite, or perhaps in spite of the rank difference.
The woman ripped her arm from his grasp but stayed where she was holding her ground under his shouts. Slowly, as if her anger were building, her hands balled into fists.
As the man was still yelling the woman opened her mouth and said a single word. Silencing him.
What the word was Vines did not know, but it cut the man’s anger down to nothing.
Vines decided he would give all his worldly possessions to know what she’d said, to hear this conversation.
The woman gestured to the town, then put her hands on her hips. The act seemed to have some significance because the man stepped back as if slapped.
The woman spoke again.
The man turned, seeming to be enraged, but there was a gleam in his eyes that spoke of pride.
The video paused.
Silence impregnated the room. Vines stared at the woman. There was a light in her eyes that spoke of movement, of power, of compassion.
Tapping his fingers on his arm rest he tried again to answer the question he’d thus far been unable to grasp. The town was Gersemi owned. A strong foothold for them, a resupply station, heavily guarded. Why had she risked her life, stepped from the safety of her Master to save people she didn’t know. And why had she released the Immortals she had captured.
With them linked she could have bent them to her will. Destroyed their minds. Then used the power left in them as a battering ram in battle. Instead, she’d released them. Shown mercy. Very unlike any human he’d ever heard tales of. They were cruel, and mean, and monstrous. They lacked the smallest shred of mercy, known to kill anyone who got in their way. Even children. They were ruthless.
The reason Vines didn’t enjoy linking with other Immortals was because the head of the link was the only one who could release those who were bound. And once the link was established anyone could step up and do exactly what this human had done, take control. But few were stronger than Master Niland.
Vines shook his head and swiveled his chair to face the other two. There were too many unanswered questions for his liking. Too many variables they didn’t understand.
Master Niland took a sip from his tea. “She’s powerful.” He was staring into his tea as if the answers they sought could be found there. “And she isn’t done growing yet.”
Across the table Master Lebow rolled his broad and strong shoulders from side to side.
Vines admired the orange swirls that spanned his skin, and the cut of his jaw. Master Lebow was the strong silent type. Speaking rarely, and he offered his opinion only when asked. Vines wasn’t sure how he knew, but suddenly he felt Master Lebow looking at him through his large, mirrored eyes. Pulling his hands from the table, Vines rubbed his sweaty palms on his thighs.
The silence in the room stretched. This new Immortal was powerful, if Master Niland’s report on her strength was even half accurate she could have ripped the city apart with her mind. Left it a smoldering pile of ash and stone. Vines assumed that’s why the Tonaukian Immortals were there. To snuff the foothold the Gersemi had over this city.
Quietly, as if he were afraid to disturb the musing of the others in the room Master Niland said, “We should recruit her.” Master Niland paused, lifting his gaze to stare at the female human still on the screen. “And if we can’t flip her, we have to kill her.”
Master Vines turns to look at him. Confused. No Immortal from there side has ever been recruited, it had never been done. It was one side, or the other. To them, it was clear cut. No human immortal has even been captured. And the Gersemi didn’t issue kill orders. It wasn’t their way.
He opened his mouth to say as much.
“Master Niland.” Master Lebow paused waiting for the eyes of the other two to turn to him before he continued. “A kill order goes against our way.”
Vines adjusted his robe as he realized what his eyes had been seeing that his mind had been ignoring. Master Niland’s hands were shaking and the fur on Master Niland’s neck was raised. It was fear. Master Niland was afraid.
Master Niland nodded his head. “Yes, it is.” He looked at Master Lebow. “But if she won’t join us, I fear we may lose this war. If we let these humans continue, they’ll destroy us all.”
The realization made Vines break out in a cold sweat. Master Niland was old, ancient. As far as Vines knew he was one of the oldest Immortals around. He’d helped build the treaties and pacts holding the three civilizations together and keeping the peace. He was the first to stand and fight back against the Tonauk. He’d been alive before Vines’ mother every saw his father. The man had seen everything there was to see, nothing shook his rock steady foundation. But this woman, with a single action, had terrified him.
Vines swallowed. If Master Niland was worried, things were about to get very bad.