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The veins above his temple throbbed painfully even as the soft sound, now long past, echoed wanton within his mind.

His hand covering his eyes, the Interlocutor felt lukewarm liquids sliding down his face. The singing had already faded into the noise, and yet even amidst the loud play of crashing waves, he heard the sharp anomaly. In his mind’s eye, he could see the small body falling down the sheer cliff face.

Adair had followed the boys’ footsteps with his ears. When he heard the extra splash, he knew the boy was dead.

He could care less though he felt something akin to piercing cold against his heart. His tears seemed to drain the heat out of him and soon his hands were cold.

Why is he crying? Does he indeed miss human company that much? Or does he miss Beatrice, that even the departure of her protégé with traces of her characteristic could fill him with such a sense of regret?

No matter, he must go now, Adair concluded. He “must” know what Beatrice was doing, what was her plan, her secret and how does this all tie in with Seigneur Jasunros’. He must tell her before its too late. To do that, he would be breaching his oath, but that was irrelevant now, he owed Beatrice his loyalty. She should be happy to see him. He needed to see her.

A sudden draft through the clerestory awakened him from this reverie.

He would leave. Leave this place, this part prison, part fantasy- land he devised. He wanted to laugh aloud when he said that, savoring the words and the sensation. As hackneyed as he know it was, but then, what wasn’t?

How long he had prepared for this he no longer knows. The moment he decided, he realized, somewhere, deep in his subconscious, he must have realized it. It seemed like the release of fresh air. This would be too easy, even only if he could break that final barrier. Constant occupation he told himself. He moved quickly in his huge house, lingering rather than taking. It had been so long, this would be fun. He must not stop, and he must not forget.

Finally he brushed by the dusty head of Seneca and went above the room using the alabaster staircase. There was his mirror world. All silvery and white surfaces, it gleamed eerily under the feeble light he allowed. Artfully contrived by one of the most brilliant architects at the time, the different shaped mirror, irregular and almost contorted in some places, formed a maze in the large thirteen square meter room and beyond.

He must tread carefully now.

The windows blend into the mirrors and the reflections were planned, this provide a way that would lead him to the other end of the island without anyone noticing. He had never tried it, but the builder had been reassuring. He had not entered the room ever since Beatrice eluded him with this. Pushing a small lever on the side of the wall, the mirrors moved eerily silently and soon he could not see where the walls and the glass ended. What is real and what is not.

The twin Swiss Guards would be guarding the southeast corner today, the first gate at least, Nick Adair reminded himself, already feeling an excitement building inside of him, wishing to soar. With his customary smile, Adair managed to maneuver himself properly through the maze, closing his eyes and allowing his hands to guide him. He had opened his eyes when he felt the sea spray beating against him and the cool glass beneath his hands vibrate, one brief glimpse nearly sent him falling headlong into the water. He must close his eyes, the hand gripes along the wall guided him until he felt stone beneath his palm, once again, he mouthed to himself.

He stood right before one of the twins, Giotto Pelletier. But the guard could not see him. Looking up, on slightly higher ground with a gun in his hand was the other one, in identical finery that had merely toned down through the centuries was Luigi, lighter in build than his brother. Nick took a cautious step sideways into a crevasse, the sound of gravel contained inside the arch of his shoes, where the mirrors conveniently ended. He aimed, and fired. Almost instantly, Luigi fell headlong forward, his checkered uniform seeping with blood. As Giotto searched for the killer, running toward his brother, Adair stepped out of his hiding place.

Tight lipped, his eyes narrowed briefly as the heat seeking bullet grasped Giotto’s disbelieving face, sinking in, dissolving what once was perfect regular features into a hapless mass. Something yellow and shiny soon emerged from the blood and Adair reached out an unhesitant hand and took it, ignoring the fragments of cartridge and bone along the way. It was the key after all, to the next gate.

He could always ignore the gate, and go to the third one from underneath where the old bunker use to rest. Nevertheless, that would be four less than what he needed, a voice in his mind said. He chose the western route, which ends in one single guarded port and less than score of sentinels along the way. Spanish and the Swiss mainly, children and highly trained students rather than soldiers, they were the ones that trusted him, and his vow, unwaveringly. You do not care, the voice in his head told him, you are leaving.

Move, he told himself, trying to tear his eyes from his bloodied hand and the crimson cuffs of his shirt. It does not exist; go self, he repeated, bloodstains wash off easily, as long you do not let it dry.

Grim faces surrounded them. Beneath their booted feet, the vivid uniforms and pale faces of their enemies soaked in blood. Blood flowing in rivlutes, small and large marked the ground and his forehead, and screams, high and piercing, filled their senses and for a while, they stood there, still waiting for the imminent release under the darkened indigo sky.

His gaze hard, he stepped over the body of the dead Pelletiers, they do not exist, never had.

Taking the gold tooth into his mouth, he could taste the metallic blood, however, the gate swung open, recognizing the fine etchings that irritated Adair’s tongue.

The keys are always in their faces, Adair reminded himself, aim for the face, you don’t want to sift through their bones for no reason. I must maintain my consciousness, though it does get to feel like a dream now, he thought, each step as if he tread on clouds instead of firm granite rock. Adair glanced at his watch, looking through the now pink quartz face, time is 12 o’clock, but they revolve in shifts. Guillaime Gibralti and Josefa Tintorreto would be guarding right now. Police inspector’s sons, poor young fools both, three days on the island, unfamiliar with the routines.

Walking briskly through the red tungsten gates and continuing along the paved path, loaded with sensors, it was not long before he heard an electronic voice.

“Halt.” It said. And instantly, the two guards immerged from their bunker, theirs guns across their chests.

“Interlocutor.” The two men bowed deeply. Josefa noticed the trace of blood on Adair’s coat, but before he could react, the blackness overwhelmed him and his companion.

Truly, it felt too much like an execution. It is an execution, isn’t it? But what had these children done? Suddenly Adair felt sickened by the sight in front of him. He knew the cameras never saw it, more mirrors had done the trick yet there they were, humans, like him. The full force of his actions deluged his thoughts. He had never been free after all, he thought, as he inserted a thumb and a finger to take out the steel graft from what was Josefa’s forehead. A childhood cricket accident, the thought came unbidden. Absolutely disgusted with himself and yet secretly gleeful, Nick Adair forced himself to remember.

Seven stones, nine marble plates across, carefully, he kneeled down brushed the dust away and a small patterned circle became visible. He wiped the metal on the dew laden grass beside him and placed it on the circle. Then he sat himself down properly, cross-legged and slowly sank below the surface.

Inside the tunnel was dark. Adair’s breathing became irregular in this blackness as an overdue conversation resumed.
-You killed them.
-I know.
-No one would appreciate this.
-Except me.
-For what purpose? The world is small and trapped. You are seeking to make something out of nothing.
-But it is not nothing. It is the world and probably worlds beyond.
-Your freedom is still within this world, which you could influence even from Azores. You are telling others to forego their life for what is merely a selfish want.
-That is not true.
-But you know it is.
And he did, though the conversation continued.

The darkness, and the voice, the guilt, conscience became increasingly unbearable that he thought he would collapse from sheer exhaustion before the first feeble lights entered the view. Then it seemed that he was back again, alone and calm. Small cubbyholes lined the walls beside each flickering light. At the second to last one, he unclasped a balck cube from his belt and dropped it in, hearing the rush of air and the clanking metal sound as it bounced up the chute. A few seconds later, the tunnel rocked slightly, and then there was a roar, but by then he was near the entrance.

A fist contacted on his jaw the same moment as salty fresh air entered his lungs, and a searing pain coursed through his face.

“What?” He exclaimed, as he instinctively punched back. He did not expect the guards to respond so quickly; his weapon was knocked out from his hand and now lays several paces behind the man.

He stared at the man in front of him, bleeding through the lip. Traces of recent smoke discernable on his dark uniform. The sniper does not have his helmet, Adair noticed.

“Interlocutor, you cannot leave.” The man said; his Mediterranean brown eyes boring straight into Adair’s blue ones.

“Yes I can,” Adair replied with a somewhat childish petulance, “I have stayed long enough, too long for anyone’s good.” He remarked as an afterthought.

The soldier stood in front of him, feet apart, as if determined to plant himself there, hands reached for the blaster still at his side. Adair laughed when he saw the movement.

“I will leave, with or without your permission,” He said smiling, “You cannot harm me, indeed you are not allowed to, that would breach your very purpose would it not?” Adair saw with satisfaction the man frowning, he knew each and every one of their names, “Ronaldo , now let me pass, so it would be better for both of us. If you prefer I could knock you out and you shall be free of responsibilities. You are ordered to prevent others to come onto the island not to prevent me leaving.”

Then soldier knew the truth Adair spoke, yet he cannot let him leave, not with all the knowledge the man held. The second clause was implied. The breaking of what was thought an unbreakable oath, now? The sneer of cold command in the Interlocutor’s voice, and the frowning eye only infuriated him. What happen to the Interlocutor of the soft, if elusive, speech and gracious words? There was a mad look in his eyes, He had a duty, why hadn’t they come yet. Accursed West port, so lightly manned.

“I.” He hesitated, hearing footsteps behind him through what’s left of his helmet, but Adair took advantage of the pause and dove for the blaster at his hip, toppling him over.

Adair took it out in one smoothly motion and pulled the trigger, hearing a heavy thud beside him the same time as a sharp pain hit his left shoulder. He could see the silver hilt from the corner of his eye, the rest of the blade had disappeared in him. Poisoned most likely, he thought. However, he did not get up, hearing and feeling tremors on the sand. Grasping the weapon he dropped in one hand and Ronaldo’s in the other, he ran toward the port, where he could just see a pulse of sleek waves beginning.

Then he lay down, eyes closed. The next thing he knew, three voices were audible in front of him. Apparently, they were discussing how to move him. One tried to kick the weapons out of his right hand. Bringing his left leg up, he tripped the man and simultaneously he fired three shots using his right arm, the recoil shocking his whole body and emanating a painful excitement.

Satisfied, Adair stood up, throwing aside the man who had sprawled partly on top of him and surveyed the results. Two entered right into the heads, and the one, he noted grimly, failed; one was still breathing raggedly.

But something distracted him, a gray craft surfaced and now sped toward the cliff. Nick Adair waved at it. Suddenly it turned and headed for him, gently stopping in the firth as a hatch opened.

Just then, the man by his foot stirred, groaning. Eleven, Adair suddenly remembered, looking at the partially torn face.

“Hail Interlocutor!” Two uniformed figures immerged from the craft.

“Hail!” His companion, noticeably smaller beside him, echoed.

“Give me your gun.” Adair said to the uniformed man. He seemed surprised at first but complied.

Adair closed his eyes briefly as he heard the dead man drew his last breath, or maybe the breath, perhaps, of the bullet.

Keeping the gun, Nick Adair scrutinized the smaller of the two guards. Gently he lifted the helmet off her face, ignoring the pain in his shoulder.

“Finally.” He sighed, both from the sight of her face and the now dazed vein of thoughts in his head.

“Yes,” she said, extending her hand and he kissed it tenderly, “Welcome back husband.” She said, though her face seemed clouded. She reached for the dagger but a hand stopped her.

Nick Adair jumped aboard with the aid of his wife, slightly tottering, and soon they sped toward the Panama isthmus, destination: New Zealand.

The conscious shape reality.

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The following comments are for "Familiar Strangers VI: The Veins"
by Furius

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