With a jolt, Cyrus snapped his eyes open, exhaled, and sat up sharply. He had no idea where he was: all he could see was darkness, blurred in the corners of his vision. He felt cold concrete beneath his palms. There was a light, natural light, from somewhere up above. It was so blurry. His desperate breaths echoed through what sounded like a small room, but there were no other sounds. Why was everything so blurry? What had happened? Where was he? Where was Addy? He blinked furiously to no effect. What the–
Finally, he put his hands to his face, feeling his nose, his jaw, his forehead to make sure everything was in place, intact. Everything wasn’t. Where his fingers should have met the metal wiring of his glasses, they touched only skin.
Cyrus sighed heavily. “Shit.”
Besides his missing glasses, he seemed to be in pretty good shape. Whatever had happened when that gas that had knocked him out in the library, it hadn’t done much damage. His head ached dully as he crawled onto his hands and knees and started patting down the floor around him and he felt a little woozy, but not well and truly injured, thank the gods. Just, well…blind.
He was hoping that his glasses were somewhere around here, that whoever had gassed him and thrown him onto the ground, had just knocked them off onto the floor and he would be able to find them. The first thing his ungraceful exploration stumbled across, though, wasn’t glasses, it was something better. Fabric. And a warm body beneath it.
“Addy?” he asked, gripping onto her arm. There was no response. “Addy! Adds, wake up!” He shook her gently and his heart skipped a beat as she stirred. Cyrus leaned over to take her other arm and tried to lift her limp torso off of the floor. “Talk to me, are you okay?”
She mumbled something unintelligible and tried to squirm out of his hold in a way she had many a time before. Cyrus groaned and pulled her up again. “Adds, you gotta wake up,” he insisted.
“Few more minutes…” she muttered under her breath, pouting.
“Adrasteia,” Cyrus said sternly, not letting her go. “We’ve been kidnapped or–captured–locked up, something. Wake up.”
“What?” She sounded disoriented, but only for a moment. “Cy–what–” Addy ripped her arms away from him and he could vaguely see her silhouette stumble to its feet. “Where are we? What happened? We were in that library and then–”
“That’s about as much as I know, yeah,” Cyrus agreed, flailing his arm in her direction until he caught hold of something well enough to help him to a stand.
“We need to get out of here,” was her immediate conclusion, to which he couldn’t agree more. But first.
“Do you see my glasses anywhere? I’m not much use blind…”
Addy held out her forearm for him to hang onto as she looked around the room. “We really need to get you contacts. Or surgery, don’t know why you’re so afraid of that.”
“Would you want people cutting into your eyeballs?” Cyrus shot back, clinging to her.
He felt her shrug as she mumbled, “I think it’s lasers or something…I don’t see ‘em, Cy. This place is empty. Just four walls, a window and a door.” She gently slipped away from him and seconds later he heard the pathetic shaking of a locked door handle. “I guess that was too much to hope for.”
“The window?” Cyrus suggested, turning towards the splotch of light.
“Even if it wasn’t so high up, it’s barred,” Addy sighed. “We must be underground. It looks like a basement. Just — a regular concrete basement. There’s even a water regulator in the corner.”
Cyrus held out his hand. “Point me in the right direction and give me something to smash it with.”
Before Addy had a chance to follow his instructions, there was a click from the direction of the door and another source of light streamed into the room. Cyrus blinked helplessly, trying to get a better glimpse at the silhouette that stood in the center of it, but he didn’t need to. He knew the voice as soon as it spoke.
“Ah good, you’re awake.” The man who’d spoken to them about the Transmitter in the library. It would be fine, he wouldn’t do anything, Addy had said. Libraries are perfectly safe, she’d insisted. So much for that.
“So sorry about all that business with the knockout gas,” the man went on, stepping further into the room and shutting the door behind him. “Unpleasant stuff, that. Hope you weren’t banged up too much.”
“We’re …. fine,” Addy muttered, hesitant. “Why are you keeping us here?”
“Oh, we just couldn’t have you snooping around anymore,” the man explained as if that answered everything.
“But–we weren’t,” Cyrus defended, hoping he’d learned to lie a little better these days. At least enough to convince this one man. “We were just curious, we heard the legend and wanted to see if we could find anything, that’s all. We weren’t looking to make trouble or–”
The man just laughed, far too friendly Cyrus thought, considering he was their captor. “Oh come on now, we all know that’s not true. No one who’s ‘just curious’ would spend that many hours on that much reading. You two aren’t just normal tourists. You know something.”
Addy’s blurry shape stepped in front of him. “But we were going to leave. You told us there was nothing in the library to help.”
“And you knew I was lying,” the man pointed out helpfully. “You weren’t going anywhere.”
“So you kidnapped us.” Cyrus blanched. “Now we’re definitely not going anywhere.”
The man leaned against the door and let out a sigh. “Like I said, sorry about all this. It’s not the way I’d like to do things. But we need to ensure that the information you have stays contained.”
“We don’t even have any,” Addy insisted. “We know there’s a thing called the Transmitter and some clues pointed us here. That’s it. We don’t know where it is, what it does, we don’t even know if it really exists.”
“Though I’m guessing by your reaction, it does,” Cyrus grumbled and then felt the sharp jab of Addy’s elbow in his ribs.
“We know nothing of value and we’re certainly not going to tell anyone else. We just want to make sure it’s safe from the Society, that’s all.”
The man-shape appeared to be nodding. “We have some similar goals then. You don’t have to worry about that. The Society will never have it.” He paused for a moment before asking, “You really don’t know anything?”
“Nothing,” Addy assured him.
“And if you’re sure it’s safe, we won’t need to look into it any further,” Cyrus added.
He was still nodding, and Cyrus could sense the atmosphere getting a little more friendly. Obviously this was just some huge misunderstanding. But they weren’t threats. Hell, Cyrus didn’t even care about this thing. In a few minutes, they’d be heading back to the ship and telling Corra to forget the whole thing. The Transmitter was fine, protected by–well, some random guy they met in a library–but it was fine. All fine. Time to move on.
“Well, that’s great,” he said and Cyrus felt the relief he’d been waiting for. “That’s really great.” But the man turned towards the door, opened it and began to leave.
“Wait–can we…go?” Cyrus ventured, taking a step forward.
The man watched him for a long moment and then laughed cheerfully. Oh of course, sorry, my bad, Cyrus wanted him to say. But when did Cyrus ever get what he wanted?
“Oh no! Origin, no. It’s just great that you probably haven’t told anything to anybody else. But we definitely can’t let you go now, you’ve seen too much.” Even Cyrus’ bad vision could see the grin that spread over his face. “We’ll have to execute you I’m afraid.”
Addy and Cyrus had exclaimed it in unison, but it was Addy who jumped in immediately after. “But–we don’t know anything!”
“About the Transmitter, no, but now you know about us,” the man said, definitely far too cheerful now.
“Who the hell is ‘us’?” Cyrus demanded.
“The Gatekeepers of the Holy Origin,” the man told them proudly. “Don’t worry, you’ll meet us all soon.” And without another word, he slipped out the door and closed it behind them. Cyrus and Addy both stood in shock as the lock clicked into place.
The silence spread out for what seemed like hours. Cyrus’ head was spinning and try as he might to grasp onto a single thought, he couldn’t manage. Too much was happening. The library, the gas, the basement, the blindness, the–gods, the fucking murderous cult?! Could his luck possibly be any worse? How had he even ended up in this situation?
“I can’t believe…we’re going to be killed…by a bunch of crazies,” Addy breathed beside him, breaking the long silence and inadvertently answering his question.
The anger that surged through him wasn’t something he could contain. It rose up like a fire inside his veins and overrode every sense of logic and reason in his mind. He turned on her, his hands balled into fists at his side. “Well I hope you’re fucking happy.”
Addy looked at him and, shapeless as she was, she was obviously taken aback. “What?”
“This is what you wanted isn’t it?” Cyrus growled. “An adventure. Excitement. Well.” He spread his arms dramatically. “Here it is. You found it.”
Her tone was warning. “Cy–”
“Did you really think something like this wouldn’t happen?” Cyrus demanded. “When does this not happen? This is what always happens when you mess with things. You get caught. And killed. All because you were bored.”
“You just love putting all the blame on me, don’t you?”
“This whole ordeal sure as hell wasn’t my idea.”
Addy crossed her arms over her chest and scoffed. “So that’s how it’s gonna be, is it? Just blame, blame, blame instead of actually helping.”
“Help?” Cyrus demanded, throwing his arms in the air. “We’re locked in a basement with no exit and I’m blind. How the hell can I help?”
“Not like you would anyway,” Addy shot back. “You never do. Things go bad and you’d much rather puff out your chest, say ‘told you so’ and make everyone else look bad than actually do anything to mend the situation.”
“How about because if people just listened to me to begin with, we would never be in a situation like this?”
“Right, sure.” Addy grinned an entirely humorless grin. “You’d much prefer we just sit very still and waste away instead of ever taking a chance.”
“Yeah, I would! Chances that lead to death anyway.”
“It was a library, Cyrus!”
“A library full of crazy people, Adds! In which we were searching for mythical ancient devices the Society is hunting for to pair up with another ancient device that Corra stole off the body of an evil awful ally trader!” He spread his hands to his sides. “How is that not a bad idea?”
Addy released a desperate one-note laugh. “You agreed to it!”
“Because I wanted to make you happy!” Cyrus defended. “Which is all I ever try to do but it either doesn’t work at all or ends up like this so clearly I’m just really shit at it. Or you’re just impossible to please.”
“Me?” Her laugh was even more desperate now. “Me?! I’m impossible to please? That’s hilarious, coming from you. When are you not miserable? I have sacrificed nearly everything to try and give you the life you want, but it’s never enough with you. You’re unhappy on a ship, you’re unhappy on the ground, you’re unhappy engineering, you’re unhappy on Archeti, you’re unhappy on Vescent, you’re unhappy on the CORS, at this point I’m on the verge of just giving up and accepting that no matter what I do, you’re just an unhappy person.”
“What?! I’m not an unhappy person,” Cyrus argued at once.
Cyrus heard Addy drop her hands to her sides in exasperation. “Seriously?”
“Well what about you? I try so damn hard to build a life for our family that’s stable and safe and ensures our daughter will grow up as best she can, but all the while you act like it’s a cage and I’m oppressing you and keeping you from some bigger purpose.”
“Because stable and safe isn’t always best!” Addy snapped. “The Span isn’t stable and safe, if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that. What are we teaching her by trying to shelter her from everything that’s going on?”
“So what, you’d rather bring her into things like this?!” He waved vaguely at the locked door. “You’d rather we just say ‘screw it, she needs to learn!’ and put her in harm’s way.”
“Of course not! But I don’t want her to learn that we’re cowards who just hide from all the Span’s problems either. Not while everyone else in her life is out trying to solve them. I don’t want her growing up to think it’s every person for themselves. To see her parents run away instead of standing to fight.”
“Well, we won’t have to worry about that,” Cyrus began, knowing he was going too far before the words even tumbled out of his mouth, “Since in an hour she won’t even have parents anymore.”