The cork from the champagne bottle almost hit me in the eye.
“To victory!” Tekhiko yelled, holding aloft the foaming bottle. He hadn’t noticed the near-miss. “Domina City still stands! Sumus firmi stare!”
“Sumus firmi stare!” the rest of us echoed as we raised our glasses. There was much clinking and smiles, even before most people got any champagne.
“I would like to say something,” Fimmtu said as Tekihoko filled his glass. “First, thank you Orla, getting this nice little venue arranged on such short notice.”
Calling this place a ‘venue’ was giving it too much credit; it was just a reserved room at Nervi’s. It was on the second floor, so most people didn’t even know it existed. So, yeah, I guess Orla did a good job finding it.
There was some polite clapping, and a single cheer from Tekihoko. How much had he had to drink?
Fimmtu smiled an ave smile, but continued. “Domina City won its first war—its first war against outsiders, I mean.” There was some chuckling at that. “That’s something to be proud of.” He shrugged. “And, yeah, we fliers didn’t really do anything, but personally, I’m fine with that. We were ready, but we weren’t needed. I’m not sure what else we could have asked for.” He raised his glass higher. “To victory.”
“AD VICTORIAM!” Tekihoko cried, then burst out laughing.
Fimmtu chuckled. “Sure, buddy. Ad victoriam.”
“Ad victoriam,” everyone else said, much more calmly, as we drained our glasses.
The toast done, the group broke apart into little cliques of three or four people. Orla went with Justine, Reinhold went with Sascha and Kora, so on and so on. Platon half walked, half carried Tekihoko over to a seat. Other than that, there weren’t any actual drunks yet.
Fimmtu sidled up to me. “Hey, boss.”
I smiled. “Hey. What’s up?”
He shook his head and pretended to sip at his wine. He couldn’t actually drink it, at least not easily, since the glass wasn’t designed for his ave beak. “Hell of a thing that happened here today. Never thought I’d see the day where Domina was attacked by outsiders.”
I rolled my eyes. “My dad saw this coming. Well, he’s just generally paranoid, but he was right this time. I have a feeling he and Butler would have unveiled something nasty if things hadn’t gone our way.”
“How is your dad?” Fimmtu asked. “NHQ, I mean. Did it get attacked at all?”
“Didn’t you look at the battle maps?”
“Local ones only. I couldn’t find the city maps.”
MC had given those to me without a second thought. “They’ll probably get published soon. The Americans didn’t penetrate far, and definitely not as far as NHQ. I think they barely got as far as Little Romania. Even that’s just because the vampires were having too much fun playing with their food.”
“I heard North Gate got hit pretty hard, though.”
“Mostly the gate itself. Shops and businesses. Though I hear they did put a pretty big dent in Seventeen Forge, so that’s gonna be annoying.”
Fimmtu looked thoughtful for a moment. “Seventeen is fully automated these days, right?”
I shook my head. “You’re thinking of Ninety-Seven, over in Dire Maul. I didn’t hear anything about it getting attacked. Besides, it’s still just an experiment anyway.”
He shook his head. “Which one is Seventeen? What’s it called?”
I struggled to remember. “…Tanzō.”
He nodded. “Right, right. Yeah, I spent some time there. Basic assembly line work. You have a casualty report?”
“I could look it up.”
“Nah, it’s fine.” He sighed. “It’s got safe rooms and all that. If any of my friends got killed, it was because they were too stupid to run.”
I frowned. “Victim blaming isn’t healthy.”
He raised an eyebrow, which was impressive to see on a full ave anthro. “Since when did you sound like a psychologist? Have you actually been showing up to class?” He chuckled. “Surprised the school hasn’t shut down completely.”
I took a deep pull of my wine. “I’m…”
I could say it. No need to mention Silk or any of the weirder stuff. Just… I’m in therapy. Simple and easy. All I had to do was say it.
The only problem was that Domina didn’t like therapy. In this city, if you had problems, you were supposed to go out and kill something like a normal person. Monsters were great for catharsis.
“I’ve picked up a few things here and there,” I said. “Being trapped in NHQ for a few years gave me a lot of free time.”
“I can imagine.” He shuffled his wings. “Any chance you’ve picked up anything about bird mites?”
I chuckled. “No. Pretty sure you’re one of the first humans to have that problem. Why don’t you go ask Delia, or someone else at G’Hanir?”
He rolled his eyes. “I didn’t exactly leave on good terms.”
“So? First time I was there, Akane exploded her shoulder breaking through a top story window. We’ve gone back there a few times since, no problems.”
Fimmtu gave me a confused look. “I know what those windows are made of. How did she just shoulder it open?”
“Super speed. Like a bullet from a gun.”
He shivered. “Ugh. She’s lucky she didn’t just splat like a bug.”
“Speaking of bugs…”
He rolled his eyes again. “Okay, I set you up for that one.” He pretended to sip his drink again while scanning the party. “I’ll look into it. Some of the hawkmasters might have something. Until then, let’s just enjoy this party.” He took a deep breath. “I doubt things are going to stay peaceful forever.”
I chuckled. “Half the city is partying right now. We won a war!”
“Parties can turn to riots when enough drink is involved. Besides, it’s not like the entire city stopped fighting each other to defend against the Americans. The ‘sarians still have plenty to worry about.”
“Like what? All the major cultures were involved in the fight, even the fey. Unless you think the skulls used the opportunity to try and claim some territory.”
He wasn’t amused by the joke. “Off the top of my head, I didn’t hear anything about the Nessians in the fighting.”
My smile disappeared. “Did they take someone?”
“I’m sure they did, but no, I don’t have any direct evidence of it.” He sighed. “I’m sure someone will just disappear in the chaos, and we’ll never find them again. Maybe one of the lesser kemo clans will get a new slave, but no one will be able to prove anything.”
I leaned back against the wall. “Is Asmodeus still doing business with the fey?”
Fimmtu gave me a sad ave smile. “Skies above only know. I haven’t heard anything about it since their reformatting. They might have just taken it underground. On the other hand, the fey don’t seem to need slaves these days. People are joining them willingly.”
“Maybe it will be enough to finally kill them off,” I said. “The Nessians, I mean. Force of arms couldn’t get rid of them, but if they have no customers, they’ll dry up on the vine. Even the Belians are ignoring them now.”
Fimmtu looked confused for a moment, before nodding. “Oh, right, Fierna cut ties with them. I heard about that. She seems to be doing well—better than her father, at least. She sent some drakes to help on East Gate.”
Fierna. Yeah. Kelly had been doing well for herself. Or at least the best she could.
I sighed. “I’m gonna go get another drink.”
Behind the Scenes (scene 285)
Sumus firmi stare is the official Domina City motto. It doesn’t get much use, but nothing stirs patriotic feelings like being attacked by an outside army.