Old Faces, No Faces

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Kai saw more old faces about him in the 'cafeteria,' or rather the big, cement room with no windows, three doors, a ceiling only a few feet above their own, and no furniture. There was a sort of school-lunch-room window where one could drop by to pick up their bowl of food from whoever had been assigned to work the kitchen, but other than that they all sat on the floor and ate their food in quiet. Occasionally the soft murmur of voices would rise to bounce about in the empty, man-made cavern, but there didn't seem to be much to talk about. There were almost thirty of them, though Kai had stopped counting when his eyes had fallen upon a familiar shock of bright red hair.

Tala saw him at the same time that Kai found him. Without waiting another second, Tala stood from his corner with his bowl and stepped about others to Kai's side, which was devoid of other bodies. Even after the Abbey, no one was keen on being friends with Kai, if there were friends at all among such a collection. Or it could have been the fact that his baby blue hospital gown stood out like a siren among all the black.

"I'm surprised you got away for so long," said Tala quietly. "You're not exactly hiding, if you can do that with...a team like that. Nice outfit."

Kai gave his usual 'hn.' He didn't feel up to talking, even though he had plenty of questions he wanted the answers to. He knew that if he opened his mouth, something unplanned and possibly cowardly would come out.

"Bryan and Spencer are dead," said Tala, voice low enough to hide any feeling he didn't want Kai to hear. "Cain killed them like picking apples at a store."

"You?" Kai managed to grunt. He felt he should give some sort of thoughtful consideration for Tala's loss, but found the broad buzz of everything fighting to be heard at once in his head taking too much space for much of anything else. The guy had just lost his only connection to humanity, and Kai still couldn't figure out whether he wanted to laugh, start punching people, or run through the whole seemingly underground compound till he found Ayah. Besides, it was just one more reason to kill Cain.

Tala said nothing. And Kai didn't care enough to press it. What mattered was that Tala was here, and that he had at least one ally he could trust.

The same must have been going through Tala's head, for he said nothing more as they finished their bland meal of a spiceless chili. At some point, Cain stepped out with a stack of papers in hand from one of the doors that didn't open up into the hallway that Kai had come down. Any muttered conversations went dead.

"I don't repeat myself, so if you got questions, ask someone next to you." He brought out his stack of papers, feathers rustling. "Petrov."

A girl with boy cut hair jumped up and quickly made her way to Cain, who handed her the paper as he called out a second name.

"Tala," Kai said.

"Missions," replied Tala. "Get the kill done in the designated time. Don't fulfill the mission, you die."

"Nice he keeps things simple."


"That's what he said."

Cain looked up sharply, his dark eyes landing on Kai. "Shut up!"

Kai and Tala didn't need more than that.

Eventually, Kai also was called up to accept the paper, which turned out to be the last in Cain's hand. Cain didn't pay him a second thought before dismissing them and retreating back from the doorway in which he came. Kai thought he could see something like a curtain behind him before the door was shut. Only then did he look down at the paper.

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