No Reasonable Choice

This little story was inspired by a prompt from Tomi Adeyemi’s site.  This story… is kind of an alternate universe of the world with the Cross families.

**

Konrad skidded to a stop as he came around the corner.  He could see a figure in front of him, but he couldn’t make out who it was.  It was simply too bright him to make out those kinds of details.  He held his breath, waiting for some hint as to who he was facing: friend or foe?

“I’m sorry, Konrad,” a soft, familiar voice said.  “I can’t let you get away.”

He released a shuddering breath and shook his head.  “Miriam?” he said, his voice cracking.  She stepped closer to him, moving into shadows deep enough for him to see better.  She was holding a rifle in both hands, pointing it at him.  He stared at the barrel of her gun as he fell to his knees.  “You don’t have to do this.”

Tears stung her eyes.  She breathed deeply, aiming the rifle at his skull.  “I wish that were true.”

Konrad squeezed his eyes closed and bit his lip, bracing for the sound of the gunshot.  Would he feel it when she shot him?  He wasn’t certain.  Actually, he wasn’t even sure he would hear the gun go off.  It might be so quick that he wouldn’t have time to register sound. He released a shaky breath when she called for the others, rather than shooting him.

In moments, he could hear other people arriving on the scene.  A part of him was relieved, but he was also frustrated and angry.  He felt someone set a hand on his shoulder.  “Get on your feet, Konrad,” Henry said, his voice gentle.

“Teva, please,” Konrad said, his voice cracking.

Henry sighed and then strong arms were pulling Konrad to his feet.  He didn’t struggle as he was guided back towards the holding area.  He stumbled when he was pushed through the doors of the cell and into the stone room he’d so recently escaped.  The door closed with an ominous sound.  His fear gone, Konrad whirled around.

“This isn’t right,” he protested.  “Teva, you know this is wrong!  I haven’t committed any crime or broken any laws!”  In a softer voice, he added, “None of us have.”

“Give it time, Konrad,” Henry said, his voice so faint that Konrad could hardly hear him.  The problem was, they didn’t have a lot of time.  Konrad could feel it: Johannes needed him.  He was alone out there, without his defenders to protect him and Singers chasing him.

Konrad cursed softly and sat down on the ground, not caring if he got his clothing dirty at that point.  What did it matter? He was already covered in dirt and dust.  “Locking us up won’t stop them,” he said, his voice cracking.  “We’re the only ones that can stop them and we can’t do that from in here!”

He cursed again when no one answered him.  He squinted through the bars of the cell where he was being held.  At least it was dim enough here for him to see fairly well.  Petras was in the cell across from his.  From what he could tell, his elder cousin was still unconscious from when he’d been captured.

Konrad was about to stand and try to see if he could tell who was being held in the other cells when he heard someone call him.  He turned towards the window and squinted at the brightness.  “Who’s there?” he whispered.

“Mykolas,” a faint voice replied.  “Hansel’s here with me.  Are you hurt?”

Shaking his head, Konrad released a wry laugh.  “No,” he said.  He should have guessed that at least two of the Crosses would come to the very place where no one expected them to turn up.  He realized now that they probably weren’t the only ones.  If Mummomad couldn’t come to the mountain, the mountain would come to him.  The connection between Cross and Defenders would draw the Crosses to the detention facility like flies to honey.  “I was worried about you two.  Are you hurt?”

“We’re all right,” Mykolas said, sounding a little nervous.  He released a shaky breath that might have been a laugh.  “We’ve got our rings, at least.  We’ve ben gathering as many Crosses as we could find and getting them under cover at the Haven.”

“What are you doing here?” Konrad breathed, shaking his head in confusion.

This time, it was Johannes that answered and Konrad almost sobbed in relief to hear his voice.  “We came to spring our defenders, of course,” he said, his voice carrying a tone of self-assured calm mixed with annoyance.  “I can’t believe they were so stupid!  If all the defenders are under lock and key, the Singers will kill the Crosses and leave us alone.  Do they really believe that?”

“The people in charge do,” Konrad said, shrugging.  Everyone else – including Henry – were just going along with it because they had no choice.

Actually, that wasn’t completely true: there was always a choice.  The reason that Henry was going along with it was because it was the only way he could see to keep them safe.  After all, the original idea had been to kill all the defenders.  That had been changed when Lorenzi had pointed out that the gifts would simply awaken in another family member.  Did they really intend to slaughter entire families, including small children? No one could justify that, so the holding facility was created.

“How are you planning on getting us out?” Konrad asked, frowning.

Johannes sighed.  “We were kind of hoping that you’d have an idea,” he admitted.  He shook his head and added, “Whatever we do, we have to do it quickly.  We’re about to have company.”

“Singers,” Mykolas added, dread filling his tone.  “Konrad, what do we do?”

“Can you get into the cell with me?” he asked.  He smiled when he saw the faint blue glow that showed that one of them was using their rings. A moment later, a little hand was clutching his jacket. Konrad let his eyes close.

He opened them when he heard the steady, shuffling steps of the Singers approaching.  Thusting out his left hand, he summoned his weapon.  In an instant, he could see perfectly, or as perfectly as he ever saw.  A part of him knew that he wasn’t seeing the way normal people saw.  It hardly mattered.  The two Crosses seemed to glow.  Both were behind him.  In front of him, approaching the window of his cell were the shadowy figures of Singers.

“Mykolas,” he said, his voice calm.  “Get the others.  Johannes, you need to start singing.”

Both Crosses moved to action.  Mykolas dashed to the door of Konrad’s cell, using his ring to break through it.  Johannes began singing the song that countered the dark melody of the demons.  Konrad wanted to charge the foes, but he knew that he needed to guard Johannes.  He couldn’t fight while he was singing, after all.

Konrad began cutting down Singers the moment they were in reach.  The demons were quick, but he’d become accustomed to how they moved.  On top of that, crawling into the cell through the small window was slowing them down.

A smile touched Konrad’s lips as other defenders joined him in protecting the two Crosses that had come to rescue him.  Johannes was still singing the countermelody, but Mykolas was singing as well now. He was singing the purification song.  All around, fallen Singers were vanishing in showers of pure white light.

As he cut down the last Singer and Mykolas purified it, he spun around to see the dim forms of normal people standing in the hall outside his cell.  He banished his sword and his vision returned to the blurred dimness to which he was accustomed.  Among the people, he recognized Henry and smiled.

Johannes stepped forward, along with Mykolas.  “Locking up our defenders won’t stop the Singers from hurting people,” he said, his voice soft.  “Letting them attack us won’t keep innocent people from being killed.  They don’t want to kill us.  They want to corrupt us!”

 

“Locking up our defenders leaves us without protection,” Mykolas said.  “It makes their job easier.  Do you really want to help demons take over your world – our world?”

“Defenders don’t just protect our Crosses,” Konrad added, realizing that he wasn’t just speaking to the people outside the cell.  Someone had a video camera.  He could see the little blinking light.  “By defending them, we’re protecting the whole world: all of you.  You should be helping us, not locking us up.”

Henry sighed and caught Johannes, hugging him close.  “I’m glad you’re safe,” he breathed.

“Me too,” Johannes murmured.  He heaved a sigh and looked over at Konrad.  “I’m just glad we got here in time.”

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