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91 Turquoise Bulb

    --Eira POV--

    Gripping the sleepy and shell-shocked bear cub, I raise a pair of binoculars to my face, exploring the limited view the ajar door allows. Feeling someone breathing near my ear, I lower the binoculars and turn toward the culprit. Finding Eden's face only a few inches apart from my own, I look into her blue and red eyes, causing my face to turn a little hot. I adjust my grip on the binoculars and poke Eden's forehead, pushing her away with minimal effort.

    "Eden, what are you doing?"

    "Just looking," she responds with a flat expression.

    I blink a few times and swing my head waiting for her to continue. She just stares at me, so I finally ask, "That's great, Eden... but at what?"

    "You still have your earring?" Eden reaches out and squeezes the point of my sharp ears. "Could we use it to help us?"

    The stimulus makes me reflexively jerk away from Eden and take a few steps away. "Why did you do that!? Don't touch my ears! I don't like it!"

    "S-sorry, I didn't think your ears would be so ticklish," Eden says with a fascinated gaze, "but after your top-hat, I thought your earring may be invisible or something."

    "Don't lie to me." I cover my ear with the binocular and scowl. "You just wanted to touch my ear. Don't do that again, or I'll be forced to retaliate!"

    Aponi steps between us, and her eyes dart back and forth dubiously. "Will you two stop flirting. Eden, why'd you ask about Eira's earring?"

    'Flirting!? I was serious about retaliating! My ears are sensitive! Besides, Eden is too young to be flirting with anyone, especially me.' Turning toward Eden I expect her reaction to be similar but to my surprise, she seems to be having difficulty meeting Aponi's gaze. 'No, Eden, I don't think so. That better just be ordinary shyness, because you're going to be real disappointed.'

    Eden stutters out a response, "Y-yeah, I've seen her use it twice. Once to disrupt some kind of... well, I don't actually know what it disrupted, but it helped us escape a nightclub full of demons. The second time, she used it to knock out the hospital's power and undo some kind of illusion. So I was basically just curious if it would work here too."

    "Night club full of demons? Power at the hospital? Illusion?" Aponi looks at the two of us with disbelief. "How many secrets are the two of you hiding?"

    I take a deep breath and push away the earlier incident. Smiling and turning my eyes away from Aponi, I shrug. "Well, I wouldn't call them secrets. It just never came up."

    "Come to think of it, we talked about your mother a little then too," Eden adds, seemingly having only just remembered, "The woman that showed up mentioned Klena, and you called her your mother... so that must mean-"

    Like the time before, the name "Klena" makes me feel melancholic, but I shake the feeling away. Glaring at Eden suspiciously, I interrupt her, "Y'know Eden, the last time I asked you how you knew that name, you acted strangely and dodged my question. So I recommend that you stop that line of thinking immediately unless you're going to tell me your little secret."

    Eden stares at me, caught off guard while opening and closing her mouth, unsure how to respond. Meanwhile, Aponi simply looks frustrated by the things she hasn't been made privy to.

    'In truth, I'm extremely curious how Eden knows the name of the Banshee girl, but for some reason, thinking about her just makes me sad... I'll dig it out of her at a more appropriate time.'

    Raising the binoculars, I continue the search for the item supporting the ward. "The earring would work if the range isn't too large, but as of now, we don't even know where the wards are. Still, it would probably reach it if we took the time to pool enough blood, but who knows what else we might inadvertently screw up sending a mana pulse through a mysterious facility. Those logs we read talked about several projects in this facility, so cutting the power might lead to a lot of trouble. Let's stick to the safer route unless we have no other option."

    'Plus, I'm tired from almost bleeding myself dry. My body needs a break.'

    Next to me, I can hear Aponi shuffling around curiously. "Yeah, the fact this place even has power is weird enough. Just destroying a part of the facility's electrical system might cause issues... or let those experiments out if they're really still here," Aponi says.

    Nodding in agreement without removing my eyes from the binoculars, I notice an object radiating a soft turquoise glow. Adjusting the binoculars, I'm able to find it seems to be set into the ceiling and looks to be attempting to mimic a light bulb.

    'Huh. That's actually not a bad idea. Working it into the architecture like that is really clever.'

    I wave my hand and hand the binoculars to Aponi. She takes them and looks at me curiously. "Over there is a glowing turquoise light bulb," I say, pointing toward the area where the turquoise bulb is, "Shoot it."

    "A light bulb?" She puts it to her eyes, focusing on the bulb. "Is it really a light bulb that has caused all the trouble?"

    Shaking my head, I answer Aponi's question, "No, of course not. It's what's making the light bulb glow turquoise, though. Everything else is just dressing, and it can't be behind anything too protective, or it won't function very well. Still, I'm surprised they went through the trouble."

    "Maybe they were worried about the Consortium people?" Eden adjusts her position to see the bulb. "Seems like it would make sense for them to hide it in a way that they wouldn't be able to find it."

    "Yeah, your average person would probably think it's just a weird blue bulb," Aponi adds.

    "Well, it doesn't matter. All I know is it needs to be destroyed, and it's probably just one of several others."

    Aponi nods and hands me the binoculars. Raising her rifle, she focuses on the turquoise bulb but stops short of pulling the trigger. "If I shoot these, will those things get loose in the city?"

    "The palms?..." I stop for a moment thinking before responding, "According to the logs, they should stick to the facility as long as the weaker site-wide mind magic stays in effect. So I'd expect it to stay confined to the facility."

    "Are you sure about that?" Aponi questions, sternly.

    "Aponi, I don't know." I shrug and then sigh heavily. "Every time I expect something to go one way it never does, so I'm just going to say, that they should presumably, in theory, if the logs are accurate, and if all factors go unchanged-"

    Aponi groans and interrupts me, "Eira."

    Ignoring her interruption, I pick up where I left off, "-should maybe, reasonably stay within the facility... probably."

    Aponi pauses for a moment and stands unmoving with the rifle still at the ready. "Good enough," she finally replies, immediately pulling the trigger.

    **Bang!**

    Gunfire rings out, and an explosion of turquoise light causes me to look away.

    _________________________________________________

    --Kardama POV--

    I allow myself to be pulled deeper and deeper into wherever I am, waiting for my opportunity to escape or hide. Focusing my mind, I spread my consciousness to the shadows nearby allowing myself to feel the environment around me. Those of high enough skill can use the shadows as eyes, but I am not near that level of ability.

    At first, I cannot feel anything, but when the people dragging me pass through a particularly large shadow, I get a rough idea of their bodies. In front, there are three humanoids whose bodies are colder than that of your average demons, but warmer than those vampires I've come to find myself stuck with.

    'Are they just humans?'

    The shadow passes over me and I recognize my own high body heat, and an additional two shapes on either side of me, also humans, going by their body heat. Finally, one last line walks through and this one is the same as the others except this one is made up of five of them. However, it isn't the number that concerns me with these; it's the feeling of the cold metal that seems to be adhering itself to their bodies.

    'Nine humans? But those last five seem to be donning some kind of human technology. I hate that stupid human crap.'

    **Bang!**

    A loud explosion echoes down the hallways, and even through my closed eyelids, I can see a blue flash. I almost take the opportunity to attempt to escape, but I press the urge away.

    "What was that!?" a low voice shouts, "Dammit! It's probably that last **in' girl you all couldn't catch!"

    "But, Doc, she was under the effects of the mind magic."

    "So!? What if she destroys something while running around stuck within the mind magics effects!?"

    "Well, I mean, I guess, but what the hell did you want us to do? Rodriguez already tried to stop the girl. She was actually the first one we tried to catch."

    "If he tried to stop her, then why isn't she already in position!?"

    "W-well, you see..." the man hesitates before sighing and continuing, "Rodriguez jumped in front of her when she was running around deranged... Actually, I should say, even though she looks like a young girl, she definitely isn't."

    "What do you mean?"

    "She looks like she's sixteen or seventeen, maybe? I don't know; it's hard to tell sometimes. Nowadays, some college freshmen don't even look like adults to me."

    'Are they talking about Eira?'

    They pick up the pace while the person rambles on about his time in college. This goes on for a few minutes as seven of the other humans join in on the conversation. Meanwhile, I use the time to explore my surroundings with the shadows to the best of my abilities.

    'Seems like we're in a long hallway with lots of doors to either side. There are humans here and there, but most of the rooms seem empty. Is there no mind magic down here, or are these humans just using something to shrug of the effects?'

    "Bloody hell! Will you all shut up!?" the Doc groans in exasperation, "Now, what happened to Rodriguez?"

    "O-oh, yeah. Well, he jumped out in front of the young girl and even took a defensive stance in preparation to catch her..." he pauses, and a few others agree with him before he continues, "But when the two met, the girl absolutely steamrolled Rodriguez. Like we had to take him to the infirmary, and the doc says he probably has a broken pelvis and a ruptured spleen."

    The Doc in front stops, and so does everyone else following his lead. "A girl that's somewhere between fourteen and seventeen broke a full-grown man's pelvis and ruptured his spleen just by running into him? You actually expect me to believe that?"

    "Ah!" The man chuckles to himself. "I forgot the most important part. She is definitely not human. Hell, Rodriguez, didn't even slow the girl down."

    Someone grabs my horn and yanks my head upward. "Did she look like this thing?" the Doc's voice questions.

    'If this human touches me or calls me a "thing" one more time I may not be able to control myself.'

    "Nah. She looked a lot different than this guy."

    "Then, one of the other experiments escaped?"

    "Maybe? I don't know; we weren't really told about most of the other experiments going on in the facility."

    "I know that I was just thinking out loud. Anyway, why didn't you report this?"

    "Huh? Well, because we had to catch this guy." Someone pats me on the head, making me want to rip their throat out. "He wasn't easy to catch."

    "Just forget it, six of you come with me. Three in the front and three in the back. We need to check on the warehouse; it's the only thing keeping us from being overrun."

    "Alright, Doc. We've got your back."

    Hearing the footsteps disappearing, I almost want to laugh. 'I'll have to thank little miss vampire for this later.' I start manipulating the shadows nearby to prepare my escape.

    "Hey, does something feel off."

    "...Yeah, now that you mention it."

    Undoing the button to my hidden pocket, I slip my hand into the pocket and grip my push knife.

    'I won't waste your stupid mitigation spell, Gramps.'
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