I met Turgay and Pigeon outside of the dorm, in the small alley that separated it from the next ‘scraper. The crow was looking better; apparently his King had gotten him some help. Maybe he had even been thrown into the toy box itself for healing, who knew.
“Thanks for meeting us,” Turgay said earnestly. “I know we’ve caused trouble for you the past few days.”
“Can we talk about this somewhere else?” I glanced at the maintenance man installing some speakers at the corner. “I don’t want to be overheard.”
He nodded. “Of course. This way.” They headed deeper down the alley, presumably the direction they had come from, and I followed. Aves were still rare, and Soaring Eagle’s actions had made them mistrusted. It was best to keep them out of sight.
Once we determined we were far enough away, I sat on a dumpster and started my interrogation. “How’s the toy box?”
He winced a little at my tone, but kept strong. “Fine. Thanks for asking. Sele is keeping it under wraps, as you might expect, so I don’t really know what they’re doing with it.”
I frowned. “Sele?”
He smiled a little. “Short for Selenium.” At my blank look, he continued. “It’s atomic symbol is ‘Se.’ Cuz, uh…Soaring Eagle is a bit of a mouthful.”
I shook my head. Never let geeks out of the lab, seriously. They come up with stuff like that. “Whatever. And you’re sure she’s using the box to advance wing research, not create super viruses or anything?”
Pig bobbed his head excitedly. “Definitely, definitely. I’m in the first wing trials, once they get a basic design made.”
“They’ll probably be non-functional,” Turgay grunted. “There just isn’t any real research into wings, since everyone has known for so long that its going to be very, very hard. I really doubt they’ll even get the first batch to flap.”
“I just hope it was worth stealing the stupid thing,” I spat with more anger than I intended. “You brought a lot of people into this scheme of yours. We all go down if Butler isn’t feeling merciful.”
The eagle’s shoulders sagged. “I know Ling, I know. But Soaring Eagle…she’s offering a lot. Giving our culture a chance to actually thrive.”
He looked away. “Well, yes. But its the only way that has a chance at working.”
I shook my head. I should be at NHQ, flirting with Derek, not dealing with this. Then again…
I wasn’t really sure what to make of our fight the other day. I had always known, intellectually, that Derek spent most of his time wrestling monsters. I knew that he could kill me, and I wouldn’t be able to do anything to stop him. But knowing a truth and having it throw you against a wall are two very different things.
I was out of line, of course. It was common courtesy to let someone know you couldn’t make a meeting, and required when it was a life or death situation. My little rant about not being a soldier, while true, didn’t really apply to the situation.
But I don’t approve of solving problems with violence. That was one of the reasons I was still leery about our little alliance with Necessarius; Butler had a very…ballistic solution to most difficulty. If I was completely honest, I had always agreed with the succubi and the daevas: If a problem couldn’t be solved with sex, it wasn’t worth paying attention to. But saying that within a thousand feet of Lily, or even Derek and Akane, would likely get me killed.
Oh sure, we were fighting the screamers, but that was more like weeding the garden. They weren’t people any more. Laura and Doctor Clarke were trying their best, sure, but I knew in my heart they wouldn’t have any luck finding a cure. In all likelihood, anything they came up with would just make things worse.
I should probably talk to Derek about it. I’m sure he felt worse about it than I did. I had half expected him to call and apologize, but no such luck.
“Ling?” Turgay asked slowly. “You still with us?”
I blinked, clearing my head. “What? Yes, yes, sorry, my mind wandered. What was the question?”
“I just wanted to know if you had a better idea to advance the cultures.”
I sighed. “If the screamers were gone, and the fey played nice with everyone…” I shrugged. “There are a lot of options that are off the table because of things like that. But that doesn’t mean they’re all out of reach. Did you talk to—” it took me a moment to remember the subcultures in question. “The sibriex, or the Glasyans? Either of them would have been helpful.”
My old friend clicked his beak disdainfully. “Yes, we did. As well as the autumn fey. And the Avernans, the Belians, and even the Nosferatu. Anyone who might be able to help vitalize the subculture has turned us down. This was the last option.”
I held up my hand to stop him. He was getting a bit angry. “Look, I’m sorry. I’m not involved in this, I don’t know all the details. I shouldn’t judge. It’s just…” I shrugged uncomfortably. “It’s Necessarius, Guy. You know better than to screw with them. Remember how they ended the Battle of Shendilavri? The Battle of Hathsin?” He broke eye contact, and I stepped forward, forcing him to look at me. “In five years, do you want people telling stories about how they massacred the aves at the Battle of G’Hanir?”
“It won’t—” he started, but I cut him off.
“Yes, that is exactly what will happen. You guys have one ‘scraper. Butler can topple that easily enough.”
He met my gaze again, fury giving him strength. “It’s too late now. Soaring Eagle knew what she was getting us into. We’ll survive or not, that’s just the way it is.” He sighed, deflating. “Let it go, Ling. The die is cast.”
I bit my lip. “Guy—”
“I’ve been meaning to ask you about Lizzy,” he interrupted, in a blatant attempt to change the subject.
I didn’t object. “What about?”
“What’s she do for a living, anyway?”
I raised an eyebrow. “Didn’t her driver or bodyguard or whatever tell you?”
He shook his head, feathers rustling. “No. They didn’t talk much.”
I shrugged. “She’s a voice actress. I think she’s doing My Little Pony right now. Not sure though.”
“She’s…what? Nevermind, the point is that she has a pretty big support system for just a voice actress.”
I raised an eyebrow. “You complaining?”
“No! No, nothing of the sort. I was just impressed, that’s all.” He shifted awkwardly on his feet. “She’s a nice girl, and her type don’t usually last long in that kind of business.”
Pigeon spoke up. “Seems like everyone likes her. Maybe that’s how she’s surviving.”
“Shut up—” Turgay began, then paused. “Actually, that’s a good point.” He shrugged. “She seems to rouse protective instincts.”
“I think you guys are making acting sound more dangerous than it is,” I said with a smile. “This isn’t some shadowy cabal. The worst these people get is paparazzi and weird letters, and voice actresses aren’t popular enough have to deal with even that.”
The crow cawwed—a laugh. “I don’t think you know what you’re talking about.”
I laughed right back. I might not know much, but I’ve been trying to break into the animation business since I was seven. I knew what I was talking about. “No, I do. It’s hardly a cutthroat business.”
“I was talking more about the stress,” Turgay cut in, before the argument could escalate. “It weighs on you. And Lizzy seems to have…weak shoulders, so to speak.”
“You don’t have to worry about her,” I promised. “She has lots of friends who are more than willing to shelter her, make sure she doesn’t get overworked. If anything, she’s naive and pampered.”
“Naive is better than spoiled, at least,” the eagle admitted. He paused to think, and his phone started beeping. He shut off the alarm quickly. “Sorry about that. There’s this thing we have to get to, but we can talk for—”
I held up my hand to stall his protests. “No, no, don’t worry about it. I just wanted to know you were fine, that your King hadn’t chopped you up for spare parts. Go. I have homework to do anyway.”
Behind the Scenes (scene 80)
Ehh…don’t really like this one. As Turgay and Ling’s relationship becomes more strained, it becomes harder to write for them.