Nobody would think twice, seeing a girl working her tablet in a coffee shop. Especially not if she dressed the part of an average online gig IT contractor perfectly. She had three dozen windows working, seemingly lost in the world of tagging and managing coding bots and search tools while simultaneously on the lookout for her next gig.
Das Ria moved through the background as always, never attracting attention to herself. In her daytime persona, she shed her sword and the T’hana, her Jhisari battle dress, and went out in the civilian garb of locals. More importantly, she suppressed the trait of recognition through firm control of her Osen, her Origin gate. As long as she kept her blood signature concealed in this way, Alwarzi would see just another hikul.
Hikul. What a vile way to see the world that word described. To see people as either having the ‘Blood’, the sign of their Ilidi ancestry, or being hikul, empty, lacking in the identifying signature. The Alwarzi viewed the Osri surrounding them who lacked the signature as non-people, cattle to be controlled through ignorance.
That way of thinking made the Alwarzi her master’s enemies.
She keyed a bot that messaged her phone, which allowed her to stop her ‘work’ at the alert tone and quickly scroll through the fake message that appeared. She swiftly swiped a reply and returned to her work. It was touches like this which allowed her to maintain the image of an ordinary Osrin in a coffee shop.
It would soon be necessary to switch locations, but it was nearing time to get a meal anyway. She would pick up lunch from a street vendor and relocate to a bench with a good view of the same building entrance she was monitoring now. The ten uppermost floors of that structure housed Dawes Enterprises, a local headquarters for the enemy.
Her master had difficulty moving around this world unnoticed. An Ilidi man standing 214 centimeters could not help but stand out among Osri, with or without his long white mane. But when Ria put away her T’hana and passed as an average Osri woman of this nation, she became far less distinct. Too tall to be cute, and too plain to stand out as long as she applied makeup to hide her real looks, she became an unnoticeable piece of furniture. Master had his mysterious ways of movement, but they could only occur under the right circumstances in specific locations. Ria could move quietly using this technique, anywhere she had access.
There were only four potential targets remaining in this city. Four girls whom the kidnapper would target. The entire city currently lived in fear because they didn’t know they had nothing to fear, if they weren’t one of those four.
For her master, that meant there were only four remaining opportunities to catch him. It would be practical simply to let him capture three, and then guard the fourth. But that would condemn three girls to the hell which Ria herself had suffered before her master rescued her. Duty demanded it, but also her own heart, that she continue her search for their sakes.
So for Ria, this building, where her quarry was sure to show up, was her best hope now that the slaver had thrown her off the trail. His elder brother and accomplice was the ‘Dawes’ for whom the corporation was named, and he visited here often.
The fear that she had failed her master still gnawed at her, even though he had firmly reassured her.
If the Gireid had not interfered, she would surely have caught him. She remembered the anger she had felt at their ancient enemies. She’d fretted, “Why was a Giriedin with the police? Are the dark ones involved too?”
Master had simply stroked her hair to calm her. “Little one, she was an unwanted intrusion, but that does not make her the enemy’s ally.”
“Why not? Perhaps the Gireid are misleading the Alwarzi. You said that they are using tools that look similar to Gireidil things!”
“Little one,” he had spoken a little more sharply, to douse her agitation, “irrational fear leads to false understandings. Calm yourself.”
“Is it irrational, Master?”
“You are not to call me by that name, little one.”
“Is it irrational, Father?” she repeated with the title he made her use, refusing to be put off.
“If you cannot tell me her purpose in being there, then you cannot presume to tell me her goal. Is deciding something without evidence an act of reason, little one?”
Das Ria realized she had stopped moving while reminiscing. She put the memory aside. Thinking of Master calmed her, but it also distracted her. It was time to change positions anyhow, so she went through the routine of packing up her business tools into her messenger bag and picking up the cold remains of her coffee and cinnamon roll.
While exiting the coffee shop, she at last spotted what she had been patiently awaiting. An unshaven man in a fashionable shirt and jeans walking up to the door of the building. Her quarry, in the flesh. She at last had her confirmation that he had indeed not vanished through the path like the Osril policeman and the Gireidil huntress. Ria had seen glimpses of stealthy flux use that suggested he was still nearby while she stood observing the fire that night.
Now, she had her proof.
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