Welcome back to part 2 of chapter 8! We’ll hop right in, so if you’ve already read part 1 — skip ahead! If not, now’s the time 🙂
Or, if you are new to my story, please consider starting with Chapter 1 🙂
Worlds Rising: Rebellion
Chapter 8, Part 2
There was a hissing sound and the grass right next to them turned to ashes, a roughly circular burnt spot marring the ground only a hairbreadth from Cole’s feet. Startled, he bumped into Abbida, who flopped down as told and pulled him with her before he got himself killed. Scowling, Cole hunkered next to her and put his hands on his head, still looking defiant. Under his breath he muttered, “What about Tarek and Rona?”
“I wish I knew.” Abbida licked her dry lips.
Warily, she watched the woman climb down, jump, and land on her feet as nimbly as a cat. Striding over, gun still in hand, she produced some strange looking cords from one of her many pockets. She turned to Abbida and demanded, “Bind his hands behind his back.”
“You do it!” Abbida said, defiantly.
“No problem, I’ll have to stun both of you, then.” Shrugging, she pushed a lever on her gun. “Twice in a row might be a bit much for your friend, though.”
Cole lifted his chin as if to stare her down, but underneath all the sweat, blood and grime his complexion turned paler. The woman aimed at him… her finger flexing on the trigger… Abbida bolted up and threw herself in front of him, “I’ll do it!”
A curious expression ghosted over the woman’s face as she arched her eyebrows. Wordlessly, she thrust the strange looking cords at Abbida.
The material seemed flexible and sturdy like fiber, yet it was sleek with an iridescent shimmer, more like metal. Though, obviously, it was neither. Hating herself for complying, Abbida wrapped it around Cole’s wrists and guided one end through the little hoop on the other. She tried to keep the noose somewhat loose, but the woman pushed her hands aside and pulled the bind tight, causing Cole to hiss between his teeth.
“Now you,” the woman said indifferently, motioning for Abbida to turn around.
Abbida cursed herself. She should have run when there was still time. But she must have missed the moment–whenever that might have been. Hanging her head, she let herself be bound up as well. Though the woman seemed to be a little more considerate with her than she’d been with Cole, the forced position strained her muscles. She could easily imagine her hands going numb after a while. Maybe just what the stranger intended.
“Well, then! Let’s go pick up your other friend. He should have come to by now.”
That part of the puzzle was solved, then. Stumbling back through the jungle–tied up hands making things that much more fun–Abbida hoped that Tarek might have had a chance to get away. He was their best hunter after all. But her hopes were shattered as soon as Tarek came into sight. His forehead sported a mighty bruise, not unlike Cole’s. His hands and feet were bound together, and he was laying in an awkward position. As if he’d been trying to free himself to no avail. Cursing and swearing, Tarek gave up his struggles and glared at their captor with murderous intensity.
Seeming unfazed, the woman produced something that looked like a hilt from one of her many uniform pockets. A swift movement of the hand triggered a long blade, and Tarek sucked in a startled breath.
“What…?!” Abbida gasped, but before she could ask, the woman crouched and cut Tarek’s ankle binds in one swift move. The blade glided through the material as if it were nothing, strange iridescent reflections of the afternoon sun glimmering on its surface. Tarek didn’t as much as breathe when she looked him in the eye. Only when she stood and pocketed the knife, did he trade disgusted looks with Cole.
“We’ll save introductions for later,” the woman said to Tarek. “You walk ahead. Next the other guy–Cole, was it? Then the girl.”
“I’m not a girl,” Abbida objected. “I’m a grown woman.”
Half expecting the woman to mock her for it, Abbida was surprised, when she simply nodded and said, “After you, then.”
They made their way back in silence and found the spot where Rona had planned setting up camp. By now, Abbida wasn’t surprised to find her bound up as well. As it turned out, Rona had put up the tent and refilled their water supplies as well as dug up some Taro roots. They lay tossed around in a scattered heap of watercress, yet she must have been overwhelmed before she had time to clean them or start a cooking fire.
Abbida’s stomach let out a gurgling sound at the sight. Far from being a feast, the greens might have promised an exciting complement to dried meat and pickled cabbage. She sighed.
“Well, then,” the stranger said, looking them each in the eye, “let’s try to be civil with each other. If I take off your binds–will you agree to not try and stab me in the back?”
Tarek spat on the floor. Nobody said anything.
The woman nodded, as if to herself. “You don’t seem to realize it, but I am the person Ashok was supposed to meet. And since I am the only one here who knows a comm unit from a kitchen grinder, I am taking command.”
This time it was Rona’s turn to snarl in disgust, though she did refrain from spitting. The woman let out a sigh. “My name is Huang Lian. You may call me Lian.”
A hint of recognition flickered over Cole’s and Tarek’s faces. Rona arched her eyebrows. “That… explains a lot,” she muttered.
Abbida couldn’t believe she was the only one–again!–who still didn’t have a clue.
The woman, Lian, narrowed her eyes. “Actually, where is Ashok? I’ve been asking this. So, before I cut you guys loose, you might want to start with why you’re here–and he is not.”
Still, nobody answered her. She tried staring them down, but neither Cole nor Rona yielded, and Tarek probably knew no more than Abbida. After a while, Lian clicked her tongue and folded her arms in front of her chest. “You’re a close-lipped bunch, aren’t you? What would you have me do with you, then?”
Abbida licked her lips. They felt dry and cracked. By the looks of it, this Lian woman wasn’t going to cut their throats just yet, and if what she said was true, she was their contact. They should be on the same side. But they weren’t going to get anywhere like this. Somebody needed to take the tension out of the situation, even if it was only to play for time. Until they figured something out.
And she was hungry.
Heart thumping, she turned and presented her bound up wrists. Over her shoulder, she said, “Look, we’re all tired and starved. If you cut me loose, I won’t do anything, I promise. Just let me fix some food.”
~ to be continued! ~
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Hang loose! \m/