Printed from https://shop.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/2314039-Melihra-Project-Graduation
Rated: 13+ · Fiction · Sci-fi · #2314039
Scarlett confronts a dangerous woman

Marcon and Ginn turned their backs and they ran. Their proud, silvery Indur uniforms dripped with the blood of friend and foe.

Victory flooded Melihra, raising her shoulders, and her uniform tugged on the open wound. Brilliant flashes of pain shot across her back. "Scarlett, have the men evacuated? Both sides?"

Scarlett looked over her shoulder, eyes blushing purple-black. "They're on the move. Apione is holding our car."

Melihra, trusting Scarlett and Apione, turned her back on the battlefield. She took a flying leap into the open door of the hovering vehicle, yelling "Scarlett! Move!" She pivoted and landed hard in the seat.

Scarlett spun on her toes and sprinted after Melihra.

Three flashes hit the car.

Scarlett zigged to block Melihra's line of sight.

Typical. Grateful, but wishing to return fire, Melihra frowned as Apione brought the door down in front of Scarlett.

Scarlett dove under the door, pirouetted and seemed poised to land on Melihra.

Apione jerked the car into motion, pulling Melihra out of the way.

Scarlett touched down in her seat as if she had planned it all as the door clicked.

"Not worth a nanocredit," Apione fumed, dodging a pedestrian.

Apione's grumpy solidarity warmed Melihra. "Give them time." She caught Scarlett's eyes, asking for validation.

Scarlett nodded, green eyes flashing toward purple, as she offered a hint of approving smile.

The sweetness from this almost-human slave warmed Melihra in ways she could not put words to, far more than mindwitch powers should be able to enforce. Satisfied that the worst of the violence had passed, Melihra holstered her pistol and laid back in her seat, looking out the rear display.

Nobody followed.

Good. It had likely been a shot of opportunity, a disciplinary fault that Marcon would have to deal with. Meihra took Scarlett's hand and squeezed, feeling the sweetness she saw in Scarlett's eyes.

"Don't go making goo goo eyes yet." Apione growled and steered around a pedestrian.

Melihra stiffened at the thought of being shot in the back by an ambitious ally. Friend or foe, if one of the soldiers detected weakness, they wouldn't hesitate to cut her career short–ruining what she had started today in Marcon's organization. "I'm going right to my dressing room. Nobody is to come with us."

Scarlett's green eyes turned blue and her nose wrinkled.

Good. The message got through. She trusted Scarlett better to read her mind, and the minds of those around her, than her own reading. That's how she knew Apione could be trusted, knew that Marcon would not be so ready to exploit her mercy. Deeper, it's how she knew that she wanted something better than the cycle of ambition and death. With Scarlett's help, she might one day turn this ruined world into the proper kingdom it had been, before the Obsolete had sent civilization fleeing to the stars. Today, to present a strong front, she had to get in and change her uniform before addressing the soldiers.

Apione pulled in front of the two giant Eradis robots that stood guard over the door to her complex. The two elegant, silver warrior bots stood guard, towering above the car, wielding cannons larger than two men.

Eradis. The perfect symbol of Indur vigilance, the unrelenting standard of law, everything that she had been taught to love. A hard place formed in her throat at the thought of how many friends her own Eradis had slain, before the strange little man had sold her Scarlett's slavemaker ring. She fingered its grooves, thinking not for the first time, that Scarlett should be the master, able to bring the pain to the foolish Indur captain, Melihra, to whom it made sense to own another person.

Scarlett caressed Melihra in the small of her back, gently thanking the woman for the thoughts she silently offered.

Apione threw the car into park and triggered the door to open. Melihra steeled her face, masking her pain as she ran into the building, moving deep into the center, into a closet.

Apione slapped the doorway closed behind her. As the panels came together, she said, "I'll keep them away. Get her cleaned up."

Melihra sat down on the stool and pulled away her jacket.

Scarlett whined as she first saw the wound and gently brushed her fingers against Melihra's face.

A cooling sensation flowed over her. Melihra let out a satisfied groan at the relief and pulled out her pistol, programming it to clean the wound before handing it to Scarlett.

"Are you sure?"

Melihra chuckled. "Unless you've got a doctor bot in your pocket."

"Are the settings right?"

Naturally, Scarlett worried; her pistols shouldn't be able to hit without killing, let alone clean a wound like a medical gun. Scarlett wasn't the only one who could turn a tool of violence to higher purpose. Melihra craned her neck. "You can read that."

Scarlett tapped at Melihra's face like a keyboard, and relaxed. "I see," she breathed, and blasted away the dirt and contaminated cloth.

As the burn sharpened her, precious seconds passed with her compromised. Would Apione really keep the men away? Melihra took off her shirt and grabbed a new one, zipping it into place. "We did it, though." She took a moment in the mirror to check her poise and face.

Scarlett nodded and proffered a fresh uniform jacket, complete with Melihra's insignia of rank. "Yes, that we did."

Melihra slipped into it, hardly even bracing as the unbandaged wound rubbed against the coarse fabric. This was the moment, the first real step in their plan, and she cared only for the victory–yes, of surviving, but also the other, moral victory. "Did you see their faces? I'll catch flack for our mercy, but in my heart, I know. We did right for our crew."

Scarlett's eyebrow ridges rose in the middle as she met Melirha's gaze in the mirror.

That Scarlett, judging, always, however gently and quietly. Melihra's fellow Indur only measured each other by the dazzle of their exploits or the press of her luck. For them, being alive counted as enough, but for Scarlett? Would she ever measure up?

Her purple eyes glistened. "That's why I chose you. You always knew better."

Side-eyed, Melihra smiled back at Scarlett. Yeah, maybe she had always wanted to be better, but had surely never known she would. "The Ovens I did." Waiting for Scarlett's words, she buttoned her collar and jacket.

Scarlett evaded her eyes.

Thinking of the good she could do with Scarlett by her side, Melihra adjusted her rank insignia and puffed out. "More than ever, I'm going to be relying on you."

Pain flashed over Scarlett's face and she paused a second to breathe. Scrunching her eyebrow ridges together she sharply said, "You're not a little girl and I am not your mother."

How dare she talk to me like that? The way Scarlett took her trust and turned it into a weakness burned at her stomach. This had to be ended, by any means. Yet, Melihra stopped her hand halfway to her pistol.

Scarlett looked at her hand and nodded, almost in approval, then hissed, "Go ahead. If you can't forgo vengeance, then I am soiled by our time together."

Melihra's face burned. This could be the end of everything she had built, not to mention her own end. "I cannot let such disrespect stand."

"Then prove me wrong." Scarlett stepped in front of Melihra and stood, nose to nose, in that awkward space.

Wrong. Wrong for serving her; wrong for believing in her. No, it could not be. Scarlett had to be right, no matter what it cost.

Scarlett snarled. "Strike me dead. Show me the animal you are."

I thought I proved my heart.{/} Melihra's eyes watered. "I can't believe…"

Scarlett's eyes blushed loving purple but her face remained hard, her voice mocking. "The great Melihra, vested actionate of the Indur Supremacy, finds insolence hard to believe."

Melihra shook her head, and gripped her pistol. Indur only knew one way to deal with challenges like this; the law of Larrikesh resided in her holster. "Everything my family taught me…."

"A coward, afraid to kill an unarmed vassal. You are pathetic." Her voice softened, "Will they say that, or will they be right?"

The softening voice sent her spirits soaring in relief for a flicker as Melihra looked down and whispered, "They will say I should have killed you."

"If that's all you are, then…"

Melihra glared, biting back every instinct bred into her by father, and cousins that had died by the trigger fingers of far more respectful soldiers.

"...then, I guess they're right. The code is clear. "

She searched her feelings. Something wasn't right. She knew Scarlett better. "No. You swore fealty."

Melihra wiped the tears away and pointed at Scarlett. Her voice wavered. "You owe me." She had never let anyone see her cry and live to tell the tale.

Scarlett's own tears, stained purple-black with admiration and love, dripped freely. "I can't. I've nothing more to give you."

It made no sense. Scarlett had become ever more valuable with each passing day. "The Ovens with that! I need you."

"I am leaving. Decide." Scarlett's eyes turned purple black.

Her eyes betrayed a love buried under these insane ravings. Melihra's throat closed, stopping her breath.

Scarlett continued. "Dead or alive–and before this building points to the sun."

"OK, you don't care about me. I can take that." Melihra straightened her jacket.

Scarlett remained cold faced as an Eradis drone.

Melihra opened her palms and pleaded. "But, what about my people? You profess to love them, too."

"I hoped to give them the leader they deserved." Scarlett bit her lip. "Was I wrong?"

"No, no. I see it in your eyes." She stared into Scarlett's eyes. "You love me."


Melihra might as well be begging a statue. "I don't know what kind of game you're playing."

Scarlett pulled the slavemaker core from her pocket. The metal card blossomed into a small hemisphere with holes for her hand and the master's thumb. "You know what to do."

She was leaving, taking her ring and abandoning Melihra's people. Melihra could not allow that. "Can't make me. I can force you to stay. I can hit the pain." Melihra's finger hovered over the button on the thumb ring.

Scarlett looked at the ring, ultimately the nastiest weapon Melihra had ever seen, with the same face that Melihra strove to look down the barrel of a pistol. "Either way, it's time." She pushed the button on the slavemaker, loosening the ring around her thumb and lighting it up.

Rage flared and faded away from Melihra. Though her finger hovered over the slavemaker's pain trigger, she could not punish her friend. Scarlett had rights, rights that soared beyond what Melirha–what any Indur would dare claim for themselves. Ultimately, she bowed her head and twisted the ring.

Scarlett waited.

As the ring slipped from Melihra's thumb it left a red welt and fell into Scarlett's device. Disgust and despair tried to reach up but could not reach her. Numbly, Melihra quipped, "Like that, is it?"

"I know, Melihra, but…"

Lingering seconds passed as Melihra waited for Scarlett to find the words.

"You are ready. Therefore, no longer worthy of my time."

Apione stood in the doorway, her mouth agape.

"I swear, if you breathe a word of this," Melihra aimed her weapon at Apione, "I shall keep you alive as a trophy."

Scarlett's eyes burned, turning that hateful color of ice blue.

"I…" Melihra caught that. She never wanted to be the thing that put hate in Scarlett's eyes, even if the woman's sweet love cost her life. She sighed and holstered her weapon. "...must swear you to secrecy."

Apione grabbed Melihra by the shoulder in a rare, antiquated sign of respect. "My heart's silence is forever yours." The Lieutenant nodded, her hand flashing the sign of the oath.

Scarlett's eyes turned green.

"Scarlet leaves." Melihra put her hand on her lieutenant's shoulder, inappropriately matching Apione's gesture with equal respect. "With my blessing. Only."

Apione paused a moment, a look of disgust on her face, and slowly nodded. "It can be no other way."

Scarlett walked out the door, past the Eradis, and into the green sunshine.

Only then did it occur to Melihra that Scarlett had just tested her. This had not been an abandonment, but a graduation. One that Scarlett evidently planned from the beginning. One she hoped she would live to prove worthwhile.

"They're right, you know," Apione said. "You'll never get away with this."

"She's going to do it again, Apione." Melihra opened her arms. "I can't do it alone. We can't do it alone."

"That's why…"

"Don't you see? I don't need another agent, not when she can build another entire organization."

"I can still kill her, you know."

"Do nothing of the sort. Nobody in my organization does anything against Scarlett."

"What shall I tell the men?"

"The less the better." Melihra fiddled with her collar, never quite comfortable with the fit. "Leave it to me."

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