Of Visions Unknown

This is a little story that was inspired by a word prompt from the WriYe DreamWidth: Sixth Sense.  I wonder what would have changed if Ilya had gone with Felicja to that appointment.  (Felicja’s the one with the sixth sense, although… maybe Ilya has a bit of it too.)

**

Ilya knew that the war would be over soon. He wondered what would happen when the day came. His superiors had never imagined that he would be successful. They’d thought he’d be discovered – that he’d be killed. He was expendable to them. A part of him hoped that meant they’d leave him alone when the war ended. Would it really be so bad to live out his days as Eliasz Braginski?

Behind him, Felicja cried out in her sleep. He frowned slightly and moved over to the bed. “You’re just dreaming,” he said, his voice soft. He kissed her brow gently.

“Ilya, no,” Felicja breathed, tossing her head fitfully.

His brows furrowed and he drew back from his young wife. He bit his lip. He had to have misheard her words. She didn’t know his true identity. There was no reason for him to call him that name then. Shaking the thought away, he shook her gently.

In an instant, her vibrant green eyes were locked on his face. “Eliasz,” she breathed. She kissed him warmly. Then, she threw back the blankets and slipped off the bed. “I had this terrible nightmare, but… I can’t remember it now.”

“It’s fine,” Ilya said, as he followed her into the kitchen of the little apartment they shared. He poured himself a cup of coffee, but she shook her head when he silently offered to do the same for her. “What’s wrong, Felicja?”

She shrugged. “I’ve been feeling out of sorts for a couple days now,” she said, shaking her head. “Maybe I caught a stomach bug. I don’t know. Anyway, I’m going to the doctor today.”

Ilya nodded. “Would you like for me to go with you?” he asked.

Felicja hesitated, a strange look on her face. Then, she shook herself and gave a nervous sort of laugh. “I’m sure it’s nothing serious,” she said. She shrugged. “You’ve got work, right? I’ll call you later and tell you how I make out.”

“All right,” Ilya said, his voice soft. He wondered, though, if he shouldn’t go with her. Didn’t husbands go with their wives to doctor appointments? His father had usually gone with his mother, he remembered. In a softer voice, he added, “If you’re sure.”

Felicja had already moved on to the next topic, though. She was planning their weekend. It was, she said, past time that he met her parents. They were married now – had been for over a month – and he still hadn’t met them. Ilya sighed and sipped at his coffee as he listened to Felicja chatter. It didn’t matter what she said. He’d agree to anything she wanted. He loved her too much to deny her requests.

Field of Dreams

I wrote this late yesterday, but I wasn’t able to post it until now.  It’s based on a photo prompt from WriYe DreamWidth.

**

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Wolfgang sat in the middle of the field, has gaze on the swaying lavender. He’d never seen – or smelled – anything like it. When he’d first arrived, he wondered about it. Why would anyone plant so much lavender? It wasn’t as though it was a grain that you could make bread out of. He wasn’t sure you could really eat it at all. He knew you could make tea out of it.

Then, he’d set the chair out in the field and it didn’t matter anymore why they grew so much lavender. He inhaled the sweet fragrance and closed his eyes. For the first time in what seemed like years, his head didn’t hurt – not even a bit.

“Wolfie,” a voice called.

Sighing, Wolfgang opened his eyes and gave Mikas a crooked smile. “Hey,” he said, standing. He hurried through the swaying lavender until he was beside the smaller man. “What’s up?”

“Your brother was looking for you,” Mikas said, rolling his eyes. He shook his head. “Something about missing ducks.”

Wolfgang grimaced and then started inside.

Mikas fell into step beside him, easily keeping pace in spite of his smaller stature. “Aren’t you going to put the chair back where you found it?” he asked.

“I’m probably going to need it again,” Wolfgang said, shrugging. Depending on how things went with Gilbert, he might need to sleep out in the field of lavender.

At the Intersection of Hopes and Dreams

This story was inspired by a picture prompt from the WriYe DreamWidth.  It took me a while to figure out what to do with it, but… when I wrote the title, I knew exactly what to write.

Lessons-about-Learning-and-Self-Motivation-from-Five-Inspirational-Greats-300x199

Natalia looked at the newspaper with wide eyes.  She could hardly believe what she was seeing.  She’d known the day would come.  After all, that had been the entire point of starting a class newspaper.  Hadn’t it?

At the same time, seeing the words written on the page was thrilling somehow.  It wasn’t even just that she had an article.  She had expected that.  Her excitement and joy came from the fact that Peter, Lily and Ellie hadn’t made it simply an article.

“I have my own column,” she breathed, as she looked across the table at Gretchen.  She could tell from the look on Gretchen’s face that her friend didn’t understand what was so special about that.  She needed to have it terms she was familiar with.  “It’s like… if the teacher told you it was your job to give morning announcements each day,” she said.

That did it.  Gretchen’s face lit up.  “Natalia,” she squealed.  “I am so happy for you!”

Erik hurried over to them as Gretchen hugged her.  “Congratulations, Natalia,” he said, waving his copy of the newspaper at her.  “Your own regular column!  It’ll be a lot of work, but I’m sure you’ll do just great!”

“Thanks, Erik,” Natalia said, grinning.  She looked down at the newspaper again.  She gave into the temptation to run her fingers over the words.  “Reviews by Natalia,” it read.  In smaller print, underneath, was her name: Natalia Dziedzic.  “They even spelled it correctly,” she said, her voice soft.

The Beginning

This is my story for the Genre Stretch for August.  The genre for the month was Prehistoric Fiction.  This story is set in the early Iron Age of the world where the other stories in this series are set.  So… even though none of the usual Genre Stretch characters appear, this is still in that universe.

**

It started off as nothing more than a thought.  He woke up one morning to the sounds of the people around him.  They had been together as a group for generations.  Some were kin, but others had simply joined the group as a way to survive.  Everyone knew it was safer in numbers.  The wild animals that hunted in the dark didn’t attack them when they were many.

That was simply how it was for years.  That morning was different somehow.  He woke up to the sounds of those people and realized that they weren’t simply people who lived together in a group for safety’s sake.  They were a People.  The people were his people.

Henryk sat up on his cot with a soft gasp.  It was as if, with that realization, something had change inside him.  He dressed himself and then slipped out of the roundhouse.  He looked at the man he’d always called “father” – the leader of the people.

“Do I seem different?” he asked, as he looked up at the older man.

Father looked at him critically and then nodded.  “You do,” he said.  He crouched lower, so that they were looking eye to eye.  Nodding again, he said, “Speak with the elders, Henryk.  One may know what this change means.”

Henryk nodded.  He headed through the gathering of roundhouses to where the elders made their home.  He felt a tremor of fear as he peered inside.  What if the change he felt was wrong?  What if they cast him out of the group?  He couldn’t live without these people – his people.  Of that, he was certain.

Lukasz spotted him immediately and moved to his feet.  “Henryk,” he said, waving him into the roundhouse.  “I might have guessed it would be you.”

“You do know what this means?”

When he nodded, Henryk stepped over to him.  He tensed when the old man touched his chin, forcing his gaze upward.  However, Lukasz smiled.  “It means that you are special, Henryk,” he said.  “From this moment on, we are one people: your people.  You will be called upon to unite and protect us from this day forth.”

A faint smile touched Henryk’s lips.  He didn’t feel special.  He felt strange.  He was glad, though, that they wouldn’t be casting him out of the settlement.  His brows furrowed.  “Is there anyone else like me?” he asked.

“Many others,” Lukasz said.  He shrugged.  “Perhaps, if you are fortunate, you meet one.”

An Announcement

This story was inspired by a word prompt (announcement) from the WriYe DreamWidth.  It’s also an excerpt from “Music of the Night”, which is a short story that I wrote in August, soon to be published in the upcoming edition of Milestones.

**

Miss Kozlowski stepped up to the front of the classroom.  They hadn’t used this room since the first day of class.  Normally, the class was broken up into smaller groups.  Today, however, was special.

“Good morning,” she said, as she glanced around at the gathering students.  “Today, I have some people that I’d like all of you to meet.”

She waved at the three juniors who were standing in the front of the room.  “This is Peter McLaine, Lily Buckley and Ellie Rainer.  They’ve agreed to be editors for our class newspaper.”

She paused as applause and a few cheers sounded from the gathered students.  She nodded slightly.  “While Group C will be doing most of the writing, I want you all to remember that this is our paper, not theirs.  If there’s something that you want the class to know, you are welcome to write an article about it.”

“All articles need to be submitted by the twenty-first,” Lily added.  “That’ll give us enough time to read over them and get any necessary edits made, before the newspaper is published on the first of the month.”

Peter spoke up next.  “If it looks like we’re going to have a lot of articles, we’ll consider going bi-weekly or even weekly,” he said.  “We’ll just stick with a monthly publication for now.”

“We look forward to working with each of you,” Ellie added, smiling warmly.  “We’d also like to thank Natalia Dziedzic for asking us to help out with this.  None of this would have been possible without her determination.”

Nodding, Miss Kozlowski said, “So, that concludes our class meeting.  We’ve got two weeks until the first deadline and I know I’m looking forward to our first issue.  For now, you’re all dismissed for the day.”

There was general excitement as the students headed out of the room.  A few approached the three upperclassmen to introduce themselves.  Others congratulated or thanked Natalia for her work in getting the whole thing together.

“I don’t know who’s more excited,” Peter said, after the last first year student had left, “Ellie or the kids.”  He laughed, then and added, “Maybe it’s me?”

“They’re all so enthusiastic about the whole thing,” Ellie said, looking to Miss Kozlowski.

Nodding, she said, “I just hope that enthusiasm doesn’t fade when they realize how much work something like this will take.”

“I don’t think it will,” Lily said, shaking her head.  As the three upperclassmen also headed off, Miss Kozlowski could only pray that they weren’t mistaken.

Lost in Dreams

This story is based on a prompt from WriYe DreamWidth.  The word was lost and this is what I came up with.  It’s the third story in a series with Mikas/Nicholai dreaming.

**

Mikas knew he was dreaming again.  There was no other explanation for what was happening.  He made his way down the street, looking for some clue as to where he was.  Nothing looked familiar.  Worse, the writing on the street signs made no sense to him.  Either he’d suddenly lost the ability to read or they were written in some impossible language or… it was a dream.

He continued down the street, looking around for something that wasn’t utterly foreign to him.  Then, he spotted it: it was the same house he’d seen in his dreams before.  He knew what was in there.  He’d been in there last time.

“No,” he said, taking a step back.

The house seemed to move closer to him.  He turned and ran back the way he’d come.  It was as if the house itself was chasing him.  His heart hammered in his chest as he ran blindly down the street.

He ducked around a corner and flung opened the first door he found.  Instantly, he was inside the very house he’d tried to flee.  In the center of the darkened room, he could see the lantern.  He knew what was inside it without looking.

Turning back to the door, he found that it was gone.  He was trapped in the room.  He felt for a door or window, but he couldn’t find anything.  Then, faintly at first, he could hear a bell ringing.  The sound became louder and louder.

Gasping, Mikas woke.  He lay there for a moment, panting as his heart continued to hammer in his chest.  Then, he sighed.  He reached over and hit the button to turn off the alarm clock.  He’d never been so happy to wake up in all his life!

Sing Me to Sleep – Part 3

Here is another part of my story, “Sing Me to Sleep”.  As with the other sections that I’ve posted, this was inspired by a prompt from the WriYe DreamWidth, a picture prompt this time.

**

Fievel stared out the window at the busy street.  It was a beautiful day.  The sun was shining and the birds were singing in the trees.  There was a sort of crispness in the air that came with early autumn days.  He wanted to go out and enjoy the day.  Instead, he was sitting in the café waiting for his contact to arrive.

tumblr_mifurhrq841r2xt2oo1_500His brows furrowed and he looked down at the coffee cup on the counter in front of him.  It seemed odd that it reflected the building across the street.  The image was upside-down and backwards.  It seemed to him that life was presenting him with a metaphor.  Everything had been this way for the last few weeks.

He shivered and shook his head.  Tugging the cup away from the window stirred the beverage, shattering the image.  He lifted the cup to sip at the coffee, raising his gaze to the street at the same time.  He tensed as he saw his contact.

The woman paused outside the window and he knew she was looking at her own reflection and not him.  She smoothed her dark hair and brushed the folds out of her dress.  Then, she turned away to continue inside.

Releasing a breath, Fievel set his cup down on the counter.  He glanced to the side as she sat next to him.  “Liliya,” he said, his voice soft.  “You are looking well.”

She smiled faintly.  “As are you, Fievel,” she said.  Her eyes narrowed.  “Surprisingly well, in fact, considering that word reached us that you and Anton had been captured.  Tell me: how is Anton?”

Fievel swallowed the lump in his throat.  “I don’t know,” he admitted.  He shivered when she set a hand on his wrist.  He forced himself to push aside his fear and glare at her.  “Did it occur to no one that – that I was biding my time?”

“Were you?”

Nodding, Fievel said, “I played along with those Agency morons – agreed to give them secrets and where am I?  I’m free and able to continue my work.”  He pulled his wrist away and sipped at his coffee.  “Meanwhile, Anton is in prison.  What good is he to our cause there?”

“It’s those secrets that concern our superiors,” Liliya said, her voice low.  “Do you know of recent events, Fievel?”

“Only what little my handler deems fit to tell me,” he admitted.  He looked away from her and took a steadying breath.  Did she believe him?  His very life depended on convincing her that his defection had been false.  Otherwise, she’d take the first opportunity to bring him back to Veligrad to face the firing squad.

Sing Me to Sleep – 2

This is another part of “Sing Me to Sleep”, which answers another WriYe DreamWidth Prompt, but there’s a gap between this section and the previous one.  The prompt answered was the word, Jewel.

**

Gilbert stopped and picked up a large white stone that was carved in the shape of a bear.  He held it out to Taurys.  “This is a bit harder than the stones we were using last time,” he said.  “It should be harder to crush.”

“That’s… a symbol of the Snow Father, Gilbert,” Taurys said, hesitant to take the stone bear from him.  He didn’t want to break a religious symbol.  That was so much worse than crushing simple garden stones.

A faint smile touched Gilbert’s lips.  “Think of it as added incentive,” he said, shrugging.  He nodded when Taurys held out his hand, palm up.  He set the stone bear in Taurys’s hand.

At first, Taurys simply let the bear rest on his palm.  Then, after a bit of coaxing from Gilbert, he began turning it over in his hand.  He blinked as he managed to hold it with just enough force to keep from dropping it, without breaking it.  “I’m doing it,” he breathed, tears welling in his eyes.

“How are you feeling right now?” Gilbert asked, his voice soft.

Taurys blinked and wiped away a tear from his eye.  “Happy,” he said, shrugging.  “Surprised.  Why?”

“Part of getting a handle on your emotions is identifying them,” Gilbert said.  He leaned down to look into Taurys’s eyes.  “Take a deep breath and let it out slowly.  It’s all right to be happy and surprised, but… you don’t want to cry about it.  Right?”

“Right,” Taurys said.  He took a few deep breaths and, after a few moments, he felt calmer.  He was still happy that he could hold the stone bear without crushing it.  He didn’t feel the pricking of tears at his eyelids anymore.

Gilbert smiled at him.  “If you start to feel your emotions overwhelm you, take a moment to think about why you’re feeling that way,” he said.  “Take a breath and try to relax.  It’ll take time, but you’ll get there.”

“Thank you,” Taurys said.  He set the stone bear back in its place in the garden.  Then, he brushed off his hands.  “Do you have any more of those stones with words on them?”

“I’ve got little ornamental jewels inside,” Gilbert said.  As they headed back inside, he said, “While you practice picking them up and holding them – roll them over in your hands, switch them from one hand to the other – I’ll boil some eggs for our lunch.”

“Hard boiled eggs should be easier than raw ones,” Taurys said, nodding.  He grimaced.  “I need to stop at the market on the way home to get more eggs.  I had a disaster preparing breakfast.”

Gilbert chuckled softly.  “When we’re making lunch, the trick will be to break the eggs without crushing them,” he said, nodding.

Taurys sat down at the dining room table.  As he began playing with the jewels that were in the bowl, making up the centerpiece, Gilbert headed into the kitchen to boil some eggs.  “Why did you make this body so strong?” he asked.

Shrugging, Gilbert said, “I was ordered to – so that they could use you as a field agent.”  He heaved a sigh and shook his head.  “People keep saying they want peace, but… that’s not going to happen until we stop thinking in terms of making better weapons than our enemies.”

“So, that’s all I am to them?” Taurys said, frowning.  “A weapon?”  He felt the jewel in his hand crack and took a steadying breath.  As he released the frustration that had been growing, it was easier to grip the jewel without breaking it further.

Gilbert shrugged.  “To them, maybe,” he said.  Then, he gave Taurys a weak smile.  “To me, you’re a person and a friend.  You’re a father to Milda and a husband to Daina.  You are so much more than just a weapon, Taurys.  Keep that in mind.”

Sighing, Taurys nodded.  “I will,” he said.  By the time lunch was ready, Taurys could manage to hold the jewels without crushing them.  Gilbert had been exactly right when he said it would be tricky to break the eggs without crushing them.

He made a mess of the first two eggs he tried to peal.  By the third, he’d figured out how much force it took to break the shell without ruining the egg inside.  When the girls came inside, he was happily breaking the shells off the eggs, while Gilbert mixed them into a salad.

“Do you want help, Papa?” Gretchen asked, as she went to the sink to wash her hands.

Gilbert smiled faintly.  “Why don’t you make some toast and then set the table?” he asked.  “This is part of Taurys’s therapy.”

“Therapy?” Milda repeated.

Nodding, Gilbert said, “That’s what they call it when someone has to re-learn different life skills, Milda.  Your father is learning how to break eggshells without destroying the egg.”

“That makes sense,” Milda said, then, she washed her own hands and began helping Gretchen with the bread.

Sing Me to Sleep – 1

This is the beginning of my second August NaNo project.  It also answers two of the prompts from WriYe’s DreamWidth.  One is a picture prompt and the other is a word prompt: Tissue.

**

Inspirational-Words-of-Wisdom-211It was a beautiful day in Berlyn.  The sun was shining and birds were singing in the trees.  The air was becoming crisp as the season turned from summer to autumn.  Taurys sighed softly as he glanced around the field.  He couldn’t help but smile when he saw his daughter.  There was a time he’d feared that he might never see her again.

She plucked a fluffy blowball out of the grass and blew against it.  In an instant, the tiny white fluffs flew away, carrying the seeds of the dandelion.  Milda giggled and watched the seeds, turning in place to follow them as they swirled around her, carried by the wind.  As soon as she spotted Taurys, a sunny smile touched her features.  “Papa,” Milda said, bouncing forward.  She threw her arms around Taurys’s waist.

Chuckling, Taurys wrapped his arms around her.  “Hello, Daughter,” he said.  He blinked when she pulled away.  “Milda?” he said, blinking.

“That hurt,” she said, tears coming to her eyes.  She rubbed at her arm and shook her head.  “Why did you hurt me?”

Scowling, Taurys crouched down and looked at her arm.  There was a mark, the shape of his hand there.  He gasped and looked down at his hands.  He was so much stronger now, he had trouble controlling it.  “I’m sorry, Milda,” he said, reaching out to her.

Milda pulled away from him.  “No,” she said, her voice firm.  “You’re not my papa.  I don’t know what you are, but Papa would never hurt me.”

Taurys felt as though something in his chest snapped.  He stood, watching in sadness as Milda ran across the field, away from him.  Then, his gaze was drawn upward, beyond her.  Petrov was smiling, holding his arms out to Milda.  “No,” Taurys cried, “get away from her!”

“Taurys,” a voice called.  Daina’s voice!

Gasping, Taurys turned and the scene faded.  He was standing in the middle of his dimly lit bedroom.  Daina was sitting on the bed, frowning at him.  “Daina?” he said, blinking.  He looked around.  “I – I was in a field,” he said, trying to make sense of what was going on.

“It was a dream, Taurys,” Daina said, her tone gentle.  She held up the blankets and smiled.  “Come back to bed, Taurys.  It’s all right.”

Taurys shivered and nodded.  “I just… I’ll check on Milda,” he said.  He stepped over to Daina and kissed her mouth lightly.  “I’ll be right back.”

Daina nodded and then leaned back against the pillows.  “When you get back, you’ll tell me what you were dreaming?” she said.

“I will,” Taurys assured her.  Then, he pulled on his robe and padded out of the room.  Milda’s bedroom was just down the corridor from theirs.  He eased the door opened and sighed.  Milda was curled up under her blankets, looking as sweet and peaceful as he remembered.

He tugged the door closed, being careful not to pull too hard.  Then, he returned to the room he shared with Daina.  He slipped under the blankets and stretched out beside her.  As she curled against him, he wrapped an arm around her shoulder.  “I can crush rocks with these hands,” he whispered.

“Is that what you were dreaming about?” Daina asked.

Taurys shook his head.  “I dreamed that… I hugged Milda and accidentally hurt her,” he said.  Tears welled in his eyes, because he knew that was possible.  He still wasn’t quite used to how strong he was now.  “She… ran away from me – to Petrov.”  His heart clenched at the memory and he released a shuddering breath.

Daina kissed him lightly.  “That would never happen, Taurys,” she said, her voice soft.  “If our Milda ever ran from you, she’d run to me.  You know that.”

Sniffling, Taurys nodded.  “I don’t want her to run from me,” he breathed.  “I don’t want to hurt her, ever – not even emotionally.”

“Sweet husband,” Daina said, sitting up to look into his eyes.  She kissed his eyelids and then nodded.  “That’s what makes me so certain it’s you in there.”  She patted his cheek.  “Such the worrier.”

She rolled away from him then and tugged a tissue free of the box on the nightstand.  Handing it to him, she said, “Dry your eyes, Taurys.  Then, drink some water to replace the fluids you’re losing.”

Taurys took the tissues and did as she’d said.  Then, he reached over to the nightstand on his side and lifted the water glass to his lips.  He took a sip and set the glass back.  “I should talk to Gilbert about… my strength.  Yeah?”

“You should practice the exercises he gave you until they become second nature,” Daina said, shaking her head.  She frowned and brushed tears from his eyes.  “I’ll have a word with him about this,” she said.  “I think he’s gone a bit overboard with how real things are.  You never used to cry so easily and you’ve never sleepwalked before.”

Taurys chuckled and wiped away the last of his tears.  “I’m just having trouble adjusting,” he said, shaking his head.  “Everything is about learning control.  It’s like… when someone comes out of a coma.  They have to learn how to control their emotions, yeah?”

Daina looked thoughtful for a moment.  Then, she nodded.  “I will have a word with him about the sleepwalking, though,” she said, her tone one of determination.  Then, she kissed his cheek again and said, “Now, try to go back to sleep.”

“Yes, dear,” Taurys said, as he lay back down.  He curled on his side, gently drawing Daina close.  As she snuggled into his embrace, he closed his eyes.  He was determined to learn better control, now.  It wasn’t just about what Gilbert wanted or being embarrassed about destroying the stones.  Now, it was about his family.

In a Mirror, Dimly

I lied… this is really the last part of “The Stars Say Goodnight”.  In case anyone is wondering what the title means: I just like the sound of it.

**

As an auxiliary agent, Mikas was different from most other agents in Obrian Intelligence.  They had jobs that changed, depending on what was required of them.  Even those like Andrien, classified as investigators, had new assignments regularly.  As they completed one investigation, they were assigned a new one.

Auxiliary agents were given a single task and expected to perform that duty every day.  They were seldom re-assigned.  Mikas’s assigned duty was that of a bodyguard to Andrien.  That was how they explained it to him, anyway.  He glanced at his reflection in the mirror and hid a smile.  He was dressed in black and gray, the colors of the Service.  “I look pretty good,” he said, brushing lint from his shoulder.

“You’d look better if you cut that hair,” Nicholai quipped.

Ignoring him, Mikas looked down at his new badge.  It had his codename written under the Reindeer seal of the Service.  His deer had six points, a nod to his years of experience with Veligradian Intelligence.  “Legion,” he said, touching the letters.  He wasn’t sure how he felt as that for a codename.  It was fitting, but it bothered him.

Shaking his head, he tucked the badge away and headed out of the dressing room.  Then, he headed down the corridor towards where the healers and councilors worked.  He’d seen Andrien safely to his office.  He was on his own time, for the moment.

He peered into one office and felt his cheeks warm.  He’d never seen anyone for help with this, but he needed to understand what was happening, especially with the knowledge that one of his alters frightened him.

Straightening, he stepped into the room.  A young man was seated at the desk in the reception area.  “I was told that… I should speak with a councilor,” he said, his voice soft.

“Told by whom?”

“Chief Rail,” Mikas said, flushing.  He stepped closer to the desk and added, “I’m… do I use my actual name or my codename?”  It was an odd question, but all of this was new to him.

“Either is fine,” the young man replied, shaking his head.  “We’ll need both names eventually, anyway.”

“Auxiliary Agent Legion,” Mikas said, shrugging.  “Mikolojus Grigoravicius.  I have… friends inside my head?”

The young man blinked at him and then nodded once.  “I’ll see if I can get you in with Master Lark right away,” he said.  He stepped away and ducked into an office.

Mikas shivered and glanced out through a nearby window.  He sounded insane just trying to explain why he was there.  How come Rail was so certain that he wasn’t?

“He said that… if it bothers you, that’s a sign you aren’t mad,” Dmitri said, his tone gentle.  “If you thought it was normal for us to be here, that would be a sign of madness.”

Sighing, Mikas nodded.  He whirled around when he heard a door open.  The young man had returned to his desk.  He met Mikas’s eyes and nodded.  “Go right in,” he said.

“Thank you,” Mikas said, nodding.  He slipped passed the desk and moved to the open door of the office beyond it.  Peering inside, he found a young woman seated at the desk inside.  “Master Lark?” he said, blinking.

She looked up at him and smiled.  Tucking a lock of brown hair behind one ear, she moved to her feet.  “Hello, Legion,” she said, waving him inside.  “Would you prefer that I use your name?”

“Mikas,” he said, nodding.  He stepped inside and touched the door.  At her nod, he eased it closed.  He followed her with his eyes as she moved over to a comfortable chair near the window.  “I’ve never… done anything like this,” he admitted.

She smiled.  “Come and sit,” she invited, waving at a chair that was adjacent to her own.  As he joined her, she met his gaze.  “Brook said that you have… friends?”

Mikas flushed and touched his temple lightly.  “They sort of live in here,” he said.  He shrugged.  “Chief Rail called it something, I think, but I wasn’t there and Nicholai doesn’t remember what he said.”

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