Chapter 8: Strike Team

June’s insides tensed as Master Hadrian vanished. Over the last three months she had spent very little time outside his company. He’d been the first face she’d seen upon waking and the last before sleep. The sudden realization that he was gone, and she probably wouldn’t see him again left her empty inside. 

He hadn’t even said goodbye. 

Swallowing hard she blinked to clear her vision. Kicked herself for not being bold enough to tell him how she felt. But, every time she opened her mouth to do so he either turned those beautiful eyes on her or she chickened out. 

Even with all her power she was still a coward. 

Looking over the city she saved she let her shoulders fall. It had never been the lack of power that stopped her from helping, it had been her own weakness. 

Gerkin laughed. 

The sound of it made her jump and reach out to Immortality. She paused halfway there, as she realized what she was doing. 

June turned. He was still sitting where she’d last seen him, his head thrown back.  

“I have never seen anyone stand up to Master Hadrian the way you do.” Gerkin wiped water from his eyes. Standing he walked over to her and put a hand on her shoulder, looking her in the eyes. “That human even intimidates the other Masters. No one stands up to him.” 

June found herself looking into his red hourglass pupils wondering if he was going to bite her. 

“We are going to be really good friends.” 

Of all the things he could have said this was the least expected. 

Gerkin pulled his hand away suddenly and motioned to the city below them. “You should be proud of what you just did.” He was eyeing her. “I’ve heard of what you just did but haven’t met anyone strong enough to pull it off.” Gerkin paused, waiting for her to say something. 

Uncomfortable, June shrugged. “It wasn’t just me. I joined with the Gersmi to get it done.” 

Gerkin shook his head. “And you stepped into their circle and took over.” He shook his head again. “Tore control away from them like it was nothing.” 

June took a step back when he turned back to face her. His teeth were sharp and pointed. Not as terrifying as an Ifrianian, but they were one the same scale. June realized he was grinning, or trying to be friendly. June’s mouth had less moisture than overbaked bread, and she found she was afraid to move, afraid to run. But that’s all she wanted to do. 

Gerkin blinked, and took a step back, a frown pulling at his face. “I’m… sorry.” His eyes flicked up and down her body. Then he took another step back. “I sometimes forget myself.” Then he smiled again, this time his lips stayed pressed together. 

Heat rushed to June’s face. She didn’t think she was that easy to read. But fear was easy to spot, and he could probably smell it on her, floating through her blood. 

“You have experience with humans.” 

The smile was still in Gerkins eyes. “I used to be on a team that recruited human Immortals. But, after a few… hummm… mishaps it was decided that only humans should recruit humans.” 

June forced herself to relax, she knew it wasn’t the way, that relaxation had to come on its own to be real and true or she would just create anxiety. But she did it anyway. Then she forced herself to smile as she crinkled the corners of her eyes. 

Sticking out her hand she said, “I’m June.” 

Gerkin stared at her outstretched arm then looked up to her face. “I see Master Hadrian failed to teach you our customary greeting.” His voice was as flat as the expression on his face. 

Again, heat flushed June’s face, and she dropped her arm. 

Gerkin laughed suddenly and slapped her on the shoulder, nearly knocking her off balance. “I’m sorry, it’s just so easy to get the new Immortals.” 

His eyes flickered to the city. She saw a spark of worry as he stared out over it for a few moments. 

She followed his gaze. The ocean water was everywhere, and the flooding would be extreme. But, they would rebuild. Something shiny glinted in the sun, a piece of metal or a very large gem. 

Gerkin put a hand on her shoulder. “It’s a safe bet that they know where we are.” His voice was grim. “It took me three days to get set up. Now we have to leave.” There was no regret in his voice, only a practicality that June appreciated. 

Immortality sung through Gerkin. 

The tent behind him erupted in purple flames. 

The heat of it made sweat break out on her face and neck. 

Gerkin stepped closer to her. “Nothing in there worth saving anyway.” 

The familiar sensation of traveling pulled at June’s core. Instinctively she closed her eyes. When she opened them, they were standing in a black room, seemingly carved from one piece. 

Gerkin stepped away, his Immortality growing quiet as he did. “This is where we get our orders, where we can fallback if we need to.” 

The objects in the room jumped into focus. It was a medium sized room. To the right there was a black stone bedframe and a stone reading chair. To her left was another stone bed and another reading chair. June turned. A stone table, just large enough for two took up the remained for the room’s space. 

“Where?” June swept her eyes over the space. “Where are we?” 

“The first rule of being on a strike team is never going back to home base. Never run to the Tonuak for help. Anyone could have put a tracker on you. If they did this is where we want them to come.” Gerkin strode forward and turned around the corner. 

June blinked. She hadn’t even realized there was more. Then she grinned. That was probably the point of the design. Unless you knew it was there it wouldn’t be seen. It was all very Labyrinth. 

June wondered, not for the first time, if the Immortals were the source of all those stories of Gods, Fay, and wizards. A lot of the myths and legends echoed the things she could do. 

With hesitant steps June followed Gerkin. 

He showed her the kitchen, the bathroom, and a separate room where she could shower. Then he showed her they gym, the practice room, a small library, and the communications room. They ended back where they had started. 

Gerkin took a seat at the small table. “What do you think?” 

Frowning, June took the seat across from him. The rooms were nicely finished, with exactly what they needed to survive. “I think there’s no exit.” 

Gerkin nodded. “Yeah, the atmosphere outside is toxic. No need for a door.” 

In order to use a Quissm you had to know where you wanted to go in relation to where you were. If you didn’t know that you couldn’t go there. Distance didn’t matter, as long as you knew how to get there. Without Gerkin she wouldn’t be able to leave this place. 

June sat back in her chair. The place that only a few moments ago suddenly felt like a prison. She’d thought that once her training had ended, she would get more freedom. 

“When do I get my own Quissm?” June tried to keep her voice casual, as if the answer didn’t matter to her at all.

Gerkin’s smile was less than comforting. “When you prove you deserve one.” The words were spoken simply and they hadn’t been designed to be an insult but June couldn’t help but feel that they were. 

Setting her jaw June tired not to glare. “And, how do I do that?” 

Gerkin sat across from her. His smile replaced by a grim expression. “We rescue one of our own from a Gersemi prison.” 

June didn’t let her face respond. But she felt her mouth wanted to drop open. 

“That’s suicide,” She said, letting him know by her tone that she believed what she was saying. 

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