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Plink. Plink...Plink...Plink. Plink. Slowly, Libré sat up and wiped her brow, tucking her curly brown hair behind her ear. The hand that held the tweezers shook a little, and she sighed.
There were numerous bandages all over Rufus' body, some merely staunching the blood of recently cleaned wounds, whilst others were wrapped precariously around both wound and shrapnel piece for the time being. Gods knew; if she took all the shrapnel immediately, Rufus would almost die immediately from blood loss. It'd happened before, after all.
She hunched over her work once again, her sharp, lilac eyes focused intently on the minute pieces of tin and copper still embedded in Rufus' wounds. She was a fast worker, but stuff like this needed her concentration; it would be far too easy for any wound to go sceptic, especially in the conditions they lived in. And to be honest, she was proud that she was able to help like this. She wasn't, of course, actually a healer in practise, but one of the twelve Queens of Aeromyth. And she wasn't even a Marinére Queen! As an Aviat, her speciality was creativity and justice, not healing. 'But' the queen thought smugly as she bandaged up the wound, admiring her handiwork before moving to the next, 'I can happily say I've done a tip-top job trying.'
Behind her, Starius pored over the various profiles he had pinned up about his 'office'; the names and faces of the people who had died before them in this mirror-verse. He stared up at two faces, labelled Libby Keecham and Alistair Wilde. Alistair had short, corn blonde hair, whilst Starius had always worn his long. Otherwise, the two were completely identical. It was the same for Libby and Libré – once they'd arrived in this strange world six years ago, Libré had suddenly lost her iridescent lilac glow that symbolised her queendom, and now she resembled a normal human. In order to fit in, Starius had removed his own mechanical wings from his shoulders. The two looked completely unremarkable – completely human. But, obviously, they weren't.
They had been the first to arrive. They'd gone into hiding quickly, as Starius' wings had caught too much attention. After someone mistook Libré for Libby, the two knew something was up. Turns out that both Alistair and Libby were part of an elite and now extinct rebel group, with only 8 members. All eight were dead, but it looked like some outside force was re-establishing the group, using the mirror versions of alternate realities. At least, that's what they thought after 2 teenagers appeared on their metaphorical doorstep.
Both were the splitting image of another pair in the organisation; Madeline Vincent and Theodore Pierce. That had been their first lead. Starius frowned, his eyes turning to the profiles in question. Theodore, otherwise known as 'Ted', had been a genius mechanic, but unfortunately, during a mission, the enemy had known exactly where Ted was and what he was doing. They'd planted a bomb on the train Ted had been using. It killed ninety people, including Theodore Pierce. Madeleine hadn't been fully there, according to her bio. After her fiancé had died in 'The Last War', which led to this oppression, Madeleine had become an empty soul. She used her hacker skills to her best, but in the end committed suicide.
Looking at Teddy and Maggie in his own team, Starius was at a loss. Firstly, Teddy was a crap engineer, despite his best attempts. And secondly, Maggie would only ever contemplate suicide when hell itself froze over.
It was the same for Libré and Libby; according to her bio, Libby was a woman as hard as iron nails and as stubborn as a mule – she sounded a lot like Queen Caprica back in Aeromyth; the exact opposite of Queen Libré, who was liable to float around her palace singing if she fancied. Even now, Starius could vaguely hear her humming as she worked on Rufus' wounds. And even Alistair, who was Starius' own mirror image, was obvious quite laidback and easy going in character, merely by looking at his 'filing system' (if you could call it that.) Alistair had certainly been an unconventional rebel leader, but maybe that was because he'd never known anything like it. He'd not known what to do.
Starius, however, had spent the last 14 years of his life fighting in a rebellion. As such, he was a bit more clued in – that, and his team seemed a bit more comfortable in their expertise... except Teddy. But bless him, he was trying.
Speaking of which, where was the mouthy Irishman anyway?
"Fer God's sake, will yah stop diggin' yah nails in like that?!"
Ah. Speak of the devil.
Both Libré and Starius turned to where the loud commotion was coming from, and were startled to find their comrade was being ridden piggy-back by a young girl... who looked about as angry as a pissed off racoon.
"If you didn't bloody sway as much when you walk, I wouldn't have to!" she spat back, squeezing his shoulders for emphasis.
"Ey Woman!! Dat fuckin' hurts, yah know!"
"So did that time when you cracked my head on the ceiling!"
"Well, if yah won't be doing what I told yah to do-"
"And what exactly did you tell me to do?"
"I told yah ter duck!"
She poked him sharply in the face. "You did not! You just walked straight on and ducked your own head, just to let me smash mine into it!"
"I did say dat I were sorry!"
The commotion from the new arrivals had disturbed Maggie and Zachary, who had each been in their respective rooms sleeping. (Well, Maggie had been sleeping. Arlen... not so much. But Libré had shooed him away from Rufus' side, saying he was getting in the way).
"Care to tell me what the hell is going on?" snarled Maggie, who obviously didn't appreciate the early wake up call.
Arlen stared impassively at the newcomer, unimpressed. Why, exactly, had Teddy brought home a new stray – a loud stray, when Teddy himself claimed to have a girl to win 'back home'? The mysteries of an adolescent's mind. Although it appeared that even his friend Maggie seemed at a loss.
"Who is this?" she snapped, pointing at Kestrel.
"Watch where you're pointing that, or I'll bite it off." Kestrel rebuffed, sweetly.
"She's one of us, I tink." Teddy replied, shifting his weight a little to make the lichen on his back sit more comfortably.
Starius stood from his desk, suddenly towering over all of them at 6ft 7.  "What makes you say that?" he asked, his violet eyes trained solely on the newcomer. Kestrel gulped – this guy was even taller than Gal.
"Well, when I bumped into dem in te sewers, dey-"
"Wait wait wait." Maggie steamrollered through his sentence. "Exactly why were you in the sewers?"
Teddy shrugged, simultaneously letting Kestrel slide off his back and onto the hard bed beneath her. She winced as her ankle collided with the solid mattress. Teddy didn't seem to notice. "I need ter get metal from somewhere, yah know."
"To make more shrapnel bombs?"
"Exactly!" Teddy chimed with a grin.
Zachary suddenly stiffened, his dark gaze set on Teddy alone. "That reminds me Teddy, when you can, I suggest you find me so we can have...a small chat about those shrapnel bombs of yours."
Teddy beamed, oblivious. "Sure ting! I tink I gave one ter Rufus before yah left. Did yah use it at all?"
Zachary's smile tautened a little. "Oh yes. Rufus used it, at your discretion."
Teddy rubbed the back of his head, chuckling "I hope he was careful, like I told him. Put some proper distance between him and dat ting."
"No." Zachary replied shortly. It was only then that Teddy noticed who Libré was plying antiseptic to, and that Rufus' burnt face was still peppered with tiny shards of ashen rust. Oh, and he was unconscious. Just to put icing on the cake. It was then that Zachary's words truly sunk in.
"Oh." Squeaked Teddy. In that moment, Kestrel felt very sorry for her Irish saviour. This new guy was another kind of scary.
Starius stepped in with calm demeanour. "Your argument can wait, gentlemen. Excuse me." He turned to look at Kestrel again. "What is your name?"
Kestrel, for her part, glared at him. "Exactly why do I need to tell you? Apparently everyone knows already! Including those jumpsuit freaks from before!"
Starius glanced at Zachary. "Jump...suit freaks?" Zachary just gave a small, nonchalant shrug, equally confused.
"The Vanguard" Maggie supplied helpfully. Teddy cleared his throat. "As I was sayin', when I was down the sewers, dese two were runnin' from ta Vees." He crossed his arms. "Te Vees only take real interest in ta rebellion, which is us."
"Wait. Two?"  Zachary's eyebrow rose quizzically.
"Yup. Ay, show dem how dat fancy locket of yers works." Teddy instructed, flapping his hands in Kestrel's direction. She gave him the stink-eye. It was for Gal's own good that she had closed the locket; the idiot had tried insisting that he accompany her to their destination, obviously not trusting their guide at all. But he was badly injured, and the putrid water was not doing his shot leg any good, so as surreptitiously as possible, she'd closed the locket, letting Gal get some well deserved rest.
She'd misjudged the oversized leprechaun. He had, of course, noticed; both her movement in closing the locket, and Gal flickering out of existence. He'd been gushing about it all the way back, hence why he'd forgotten to tell her to duck. Idiot.
And now he'd gone and basically told everyone that she had a magic locket. Terrific. She glowered at him furiously, in an as-soon-as-I-can-walk-I-will-kill-you-in-your-sleep kind of way. Teddy, for his part, seemed nonplussed. In fact, he seemed to take it in his stride. Kestrel bit her lip. Maybe she could distract them?
"Kestrel McBurney." She grit out of her teeth. "That's my name."
Starius didn't blink, nor did his gaze on Kestrel waver as he spoke out. "Maggie."
"On it." And she was; she moved with silent grace to a monitor, which started to whir and buzz into life as her fingers danced at the keyboard, moving in a wild flurry of speed as she typed in the commands. Enter search: Kilo-Echo-Sierra-Tango-Romeo-Echo-Lemur. Pending... Pending... Search complete. Files found: 3.
Maggie's eyes narrowed; all three files were in relation to one person, and all three were profiles on different people. Maggie cleared her throat. "I have a Kelsie Haddley here, maiden name Burns. Part of rebellion for five years, until she and her husband were expecting. They went into hiding, but were killed three years later." She spoke evenly, reading from the database. It wasn't new to any of the rebellion's members that their mirror-lives in this world had faced a tragic, gory fate. But it was to Kestrel. She stared, disgusted, at Maggie, as the young girl calmly continued to read. "The other two are on her family; Galvin Haddley, also a member – Black Ops training in the Army." Kestrel's ears pricked. Galvin?
"Their daughter, Robyn, lived to see the age of two before the family were found by the Vanguard. I'll bring up the most update image now." And with that, Maggie tapped at numerous keys, and an image loaded onto her screen.
Despite leaving the rebels, the Haddleys had obviously kept in touch. A family photo now smiled out hauntingly at the mirror-lives of the now dead rebels, and Kestrel had to bite back a gasp of horror. In the picture, an older version of herself held a pretty little girl with curly blonde hair in her arms, grinning broadly at the camera. The spitting image of Gal had his arm wrapped around her shoulder, seemingly smiling with the same happiness, but it didn't quite reach his eyes. He'd seen terrible things with these eyes, most likely. And he knew they were being hunted down.
Kestrel hadn't seen that emotion in Gal's eyes before. It was fear.
Someone coughed into the silence. Starius sighed, pushing his long hair behind his ear. "Well, Kestrel, it seems you are one of us." He held out his hand as a mean of a handshake. "Welcome to the team."
Kestrel took one look at the offered hand, then slowly swept her gaze at her 'teammates' around the room, each looking as sallow and sunken in the face as the next, until her gaze lingered on the unconscious man with rusted debris still clinging to his face. Then back to the offered hand.
"Who are you people?" she asked incredulously.

~ Code Breaker ~

A short shot this time round; next will be longer, I guarantee it ;)
2nd instalment of 'Codebreaker'; a smaller hunk of story than I would normally give, but trust me when I say next week's instalment is well worth it!

Starius, Libré, Teddy & Maggie © Me
Rufus, Zachary, Kestrel and Gal © M Vaughan

Next Chapter: [link]
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