48 - Ties

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"First, let me give you a proper introduction to these people, as they should not be feared by you," Diane says to me as she motions toward the two siblings.

I do not fear them. I fear no one.

"These are the Malone's. Would you mind sharing your first names?" she asks them.

The guy speaks for both of them. "I'm Tyson. That's my sister Jada. We're sorry we were rough on you."

"Yeah you better be s--" I start, but Travis squeezes my hand and gives me a look like it's okay. "Well, you guys can call me Number Five."

Diane scoffs. "Aurora, don't be--"

"I don't know who you think you are, Diane, but you can stop trying to tell me what to do. I don't care how you know my name. You no longer will be calling me by it. Are we clear?"

She rolls her eyes.

"I said, are we clear?"

"Moving on," she says.

"Whatever, I'm out," Jada pipes up, and her and her brother step out of the room. I can't say I'm not happy for them to finally be out of my sight. They put me on edge.

"Well that wasn't very nice," Diane comments.

I know what I said and I don't regret it. I'm not giving anyone here any respect or kindness until I've been shown some. "Give me some answers."

She nods to me, gives Travis a funny look, and then heads to the doorway. I check Travis's face before following her out, keeping his hand firmly in mine.

The hallway is short, so we reach another room in no time. It's just as grungy and as the other but it's veiled with much more natural light. There's a fridge, a rusty stove, and some counter space along one wall and in the middle of the room, sits a table with five mismatching chairs around it. I glance around, noting the other doors lining the walls and wonder where they lead. More bedrooms, I assume. Overall, the place feels tight, small in size with low ceilings. There's no second floor from what I can tell, and if there is, I wouldn't dare the stairs.

How could this place even exist next to it's high-tech neighbor--the HQ?

"Have a seat," Diane says. motioning to the table.

I find an unpromising squeaky chair to sit on. As Travis pulls one out next to me, Diane interrupts him. "You can go if you want."

His eyes flash to mine.

"He's not going anywhere," I counter.

Diane crosses her arms. "He's already heard--"

"He's not leaving. Sit down, Travis," I say, and finish scooting the chair out for him.

Diane goes to the fridge and retrieves some kind of drink as we settle. "Would you like something to eat or drink, honey?"

I'm not a fan of her pet names for me. "Did you ask Travis if he wanted anything?"

Travis nudges me with his elbow. "Yes, she did," he murmurs.

Diane chooses to elaborate on Travis's quick answer. "I've already made it very clear that he can get whatever he wants, any time he'd like. That okay with you?" Her tone is sharp.

"Yeah. I'm fine by the way."

She shrugs. "Alright, stay a skinny twig."

Travis chuckles at my side, and now it's my turn to elbow him. Honestly, I don't know what would happen to my body if I ingested real food or liquids. I've had health supplements for months now as my primary nutrition. I'd probably hack up whatever she has to offer.

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