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Cause [2.1.4]

The call had finished several minutes ago, but Vasa and Joseph were still excitedly discussing their findings. There was a gleam in Vasa’s eyes which had been dimmed since he’d seen Raziel die; he spoke with confidence and flair now. History and research was his forte, and it was showing.

“Finally, we know what we’re doing. And we managed it! We managed to convince the Officials to go along with it! Oh my goodness, I’m so pleased…”

Joseph grinned at him. “Congratulations. That discovery was all you, you deserve this.”

“Are you joking?” Vasa exclaimed, wringing his arms wildly. “You opened my eyes! I almost want to hug you right now, but we have not known each other long enough for that to be normal.”

“I don’t mind.” Joseph replied with a smile. “Come here, bro.”

They embraced briefly, and Vasa exhaled with a satisfied sigh. “Finally. I suppose I can get some sleep now without feeling so… empty.”

With an awkward jerk, Joseph realised he was keeping Vasa up. “Sorry, sorry, I’ll go now.”

“I need my sleep, that’s all, I’m not kicking you out for anything else.” Vasa replied. “You get some rest too. See you bright and early tomorrow!”

Joseph raised a hand in reply and exited Vasa’s room, walking over to the sofa in the hub room and wondering idly what to do. He didn’t feel tired at all; he had recovered from the training during the day, and the excitement of the video call into the Reaches had woken him right up. The front door drew his eye, and he wondered if he could get away with wandering around Zion during the night.

Looking around, Joseph saw a helmet of ornate design and a golden sheen under the coffee table. He was sure it hadn’t been there when he’d first arrived on Zion.

I’ll borrow it; wearing that, I won’t look too out of place, and I can look around to my heart’s content… or until I get tired.

He picked it up and put it on his head. It was surprisingly lightweight and fitted quite snugly. Ready to go, Joseph opened the door and walked out into the dark streets of Zion. There was barely any light in the sky now, and a blanket of darkness had draped itself over the dimension.

There was nowhere that he was really intending to go. Choosing a direction at random, he began to wander through virtually silent streets. One or two Zionids were doing their business at this hour, but it was almost as quiet as the grave.

Regardless of the stories Ephra had told him about criminals and the King’s Shadows, Joseph still thought Zion was quite beautiful. Apartments of gold and white reared up out of the ground, decorated with designs that he couldn’t quite see in the darkness. The streets were paved with simple square stones and bricks, all immaculately kept. Zion was, in a word, clean. Almost to the point of being clinical.

Down some side streets, Joseph thought he saw shapes moving in the darkness, but it was never too clear what was happening, and he was not too curious to find out. There was a sense of danger about those shadowy alleys.

The helmet began to shift uncomfortably. Wondering whose helmet it was that he was borrowing, he pressed his fingertips into it and focussed his power. He felt a surge of energy, far stronger than he had been expecting, and instead of snippets of information, an entire memory resurfaced…

 




 

“Hey, Raz, what’s that?”

Raziel held up a helmet. “Latest design of the Stargreave helmet! I borrowed it for you, man, I know you love the Stargreave line of helmets.”

Vasa walked over and took the helmet, almost reverently. “I… thank you, Raziel. Thank you so much.”

“Well, after Cassil decided to get me a new helmet, I decided that she should’ve got you one too. So I did!”

“Hey, don’t sass me!” Cassil replied from the sofa that she and Ephra were lounging on. “I could only get the one, you know, they don’t grow on trees.”

Vasa tilted his head. He realised that Raziel still hadn’t a clue why Cassil went to such lengths for him and nobody else.

“I… yeah. Thanks, really.”

“No problem. Now then, Cassil, shall we go try out that freerunning club already?”

“Oh, that’s today, isn’t it?” Cassil said. “Yeah, let’s get going.”

Moments later, they were out of the door. Vasa sat in the armchair, holding the new helmet to his chest like a child. Ephra smirked.

“‘Wouldn’t it be so easy if Cassil wasn’t around?’ Do you ever think that?”

“No.” Vasa replied with a defeated sigh. “I… Raziel doesn’t swing my way. There’s nothing I can do about that.”

“True. Still, I’m sorry.” Ephra replied.

“Don’t worry. It’s not like there’s anything to do but try and move on from him.”

“That’s a good way to look at it.”

Vasa looked directly at Ephra. “I always feel like I end up pouring my heart out to you. You know you can talk to me about any problems you have, right?”

“I know.” Ephra replied. “Anyway. Try that helmet on already. What do you want to watch?”

“Anything but Earth. Let’s do a randomised search and see what we find.” Vasa replied, slipping the helmet onto his head. “…Goodness, this is a nice helmet.”

Ephra smiled at him as she pressed buttons on the remote and the viewport began to show a new and mysterious planet for them to watch.

 




 

Joseph came out of his reverie with a startled jerk. Not wanting to draw any attention, he smoothed down his blazer and began walking back the way he had come, hoping that he would recognise the apartment building when he saw it.

Inside, he was filled with a strange sense of calm. So… Vasa’s in the exact same boat as me? I didn’t consider that he might’ve had feelings for Raziel too. No wonder he took his death as hard as Cassil.

By the time he had wandered through side streets and turned back on his route enough to remember where the apartment was, he was tired out. Removing the helmet and his blazer, he ended up asleep within minutes.

The hub room was quiet for a few moments, and then a door opened and Ephra padded out, wearing a nightdress and white slippers. She looked worn out. Silently, she crossed the room and entered the kitchen, and left moments later with a glass of warm milk; as she returned to her room, she looked around furtively to ensure that nobody had seen her. Her eyes alighted on the sleeping Joseph.

He looked… peaceful. Ephra felt a pang of guilt as she thought about what he must be going through. Abandoning his family, friends and his entire life, to be the lapdog for a group of alien beings wanting him to fight a mighty king three times his size.

Zionids and Voidians were combat-centric races. They’d retained their weapons of war as they’d watch Earth’s society move on, and whilst they were modern, they still had duels and battles, and a whole fighting competition every few months. Humans, though, were not combative these days. Joseph was being primed for a role his race was not now built for.

He had a real interest in history. But did he want to live it?

Ephra shook her head, and turned to go into her room. He found the spirit link, and came to Zion of his own volition. That was enough for her. The guilty feeling subsided, and she sipped her milk as she walked to her bed.

Time to try going to sleep again.

Her eyes closed, and her breathing slowed, and sleep overcame her.

Cause [2.1.3]
Cause [2.1.5]

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