The warmth of his body woke her. She was too hot. The igloo was boiling from their body heat. It had cooled slightly since their passion decayed, but the small space still had to be above 30˚C. Vosy pressed her lips against Damon’s and touched his cheek with her pale fingers. She watched him rest. As a Saluta, she loved the pleasure that came out of sex. She could feel what others felt almost all the time, and so she felt Damon’s pleasure as well as her own. He was not her favorite partner, of course, but as the battle was raging only a few miles away, he would suffice. She licked his neck, tasting the salt that condensed there. Vosy sighed deeply, wrapped herself in her furs, and walked outside.
The sun was above the horizon, a bit lower than it was when Vosy had snuck into Damon’s igloo. As she padded into the sunlight, she relished the frostbite forming on her bare feet, toes digging into the snow. She walked behind the igloo and squatted to pee. The yellow stream melted the snow below her toes. This snow, some of the last in the world. And she was destroying it. It made her giggle guiltily. Vosy sighed with relief, wrapped her furs closer, and returned to Damon's igloo. When she sat in bed to pull her boots on, she felt thick arms wrap around her waist. Hands pulled the furs from her shoulders, and she turned to kiss the lips waiting for her. His dark eyes and skin so beautifully contrasted her pale fingers—she could not stop touching him.
Suddenly she felt wetness on her chest. “I told you not to...” she laughed, opening her eyes. She screamed. Damon was coughing blood onto her and collapsed. She threw him off of her. “Demonios!” She screamed, and brought her hands to the man’s chest, but his heart had already stopped beating.
Vosy ran outside to get help, but there was no help to be had. The white snow was streaked with blood. The other Salutas were screaming, some coughing up blood themselves. The younger ones, like her, had been exposed to every form of bioweapon since birth, so they were not reacting to whatever the rest of the company was exposed to. These younger Salutas scurried around the campground like mice in their white robes. Vosy could tell that they had dulled their anterior insular cortices, as they were mostly expressionless. She looked down at her chest. She was still wearing the artificial furs from earlier. Damon’s blood was spreading across her white furs like a gunshot wound.
The bonhs around her were dying so quickly that she could not keep up. It had only been a few hours, and the other Salutas—even the younger ones—were now hacking up blood. She hovered her cantrils over each of their bodies, trying to figure out what was happening to them. The soldiers were vomiting up their own stomachs, then dying from hemorrhages. This is what the cantrils told her, but she could not find the source of their illness. Le Syndicat did not have such developed bioweapons.
Hours must have passed but it felt like moment. She was sitting in the snow, holding another Saluta in her lap, staring at the woman choking on her blood. The bodies of the rest of her unit surrounded her, yet she remained. The last. Vosy stroked the woman’s hair, moving a strand from her face. The Saluta suddenly looked like Eva. Eva? She looked up and realized that she was alone. Vosy glanced down at her cantrils and in the reflection saw Pyat’s face. She screamed, blood flowing from every orifice.
~ ~ ~ ~
Pyat woke up with a start. “Xìngjiāo,” she whispered. The taste of iron in her mouth remained. It had been almost twelve months since the crash. The Academy was likely furious. Whoever was following her had become careless and crude. The creeper lurked in the shadows, incepting increasingly confusing and disturbing dreams into her mind every night. She knew the Academy had the technology to incept dreams, though she had not known they could be this detailed. She wondered why the Academy did not just force her to come back rather than create these nightmares. She had not heard from them since before her crash.
She figured most of the dreams were actually memories from other Elementals, though they all were seemingly random. And extremely detailed. This was unusual for Academy inceptions, which were usually fabricated and therefore foggy. Pyat wondered if using real memories helped with clarity. Nonetheless, the message was clear. If an Elemental allowed passion to control their mind, tragedy would occur. At least that was the message of her latest dream. The others? Pyat did not know; she could not untangle the threads of threats the Academy was needling into her mind.
She had to admit, though, that the time had come to report back. Maybe if she told them about the high-tech weapons in Reykjavik, they would be more lenient with her. Pyat rubbed sleep from her eyes and checked the time. Her cantrils told her that it was two in the morning. She untangled herself from Eva's embrace. The woman remained asleep. Pyat got dressed slowly, trying to delay her departure as long as possible. Under-armor, yes. Armor, yes. Jacket, pants, thermal socks, yes. Boots—tie the boots. Hood—tie the hood. Goggles on. Nutrient pills, protein pills, electrolyte water, yes. She checked everything over again four more times, then threw the waterproof backpack over her shoulders.
Pyat sat on her heels next to Eva's face and allowed one of her curls to fall on her hand. The smell of cinnamon wafted from her skull. She could still taste Eva's late-night coffee on her tongue from when they kissed hours before. Pyat pressed the soft, blonde hair to her cheek, biting her bottom lip. "I love you," she whispered, kissing the doctor's hair softly. The woman stirred, puckered her thin lips, and slept on.
The hoverboard felt heavy in her hand despite its modifications. Pyat was lost in thought, pondering her nightmares and the ecstasy of Eva’s arms around her body. As such, her advanced observational skills failed to pick up the dark figure slipping behind her into Eva’s building. She walked at a fast pace away from the building, though she knew that she should be running. Or even using her hoverboard. She was completely healed—to be honest, she had never felt better. Except for the ache in her stomach. Every step she took into the cold air she was reminded of the warmth that she was leaving behind. Her cheeks became wet.
Pyat made it to the edge of the city. The hoverboard boots hit the dirt. Pyat paused, growing as still as prey. She gave herself a choice. Stay, and be hunted down for disobedience. Both she and Eva would be killed if she remained in this icy city. But if she left, she would never see the doctor again. She pressed the hoverboard to her chest, leaned forward, whispered, "Dǎkāi," and jumped on her hoverboard.
Joy flooded her mind as the wind blasted her face. Pyat could barely see, but she knew where she was going. Cinnamon filled her nostrils. It pressed her onwards towards the street. She did not know whether it was the polluted air or the anticipation of being back in that tiny bed that made it hard for her to breathe. She was ready for this life ahead of her, the one with Eva. A life spent lying in bed, maybe working at the board shop, printing crappy meals and watching the same movie on a loop about hypermasculine men. Pyat knew what it held, and she was ready for the mundaneness of it. She knew she would have to defend this life—the one she and Eva have created. And she would, to her death.
Pyat jumped off her hoverboard a street away from the apartment on Ást. She found a dumpster and threw the hoverboard in. “Dismantle all communications, Wēng,” she whispered into her cantrils. They chirped, “All communication is already dismantled.” Though she kept running, she thought that was odd. Something to check out later.
A dark figure behind her began rummaging in the dumpster. Her cantrils trilled, almost nervously. Pyat ran faster, barely noticing the world around her, nor her cantrils. She made it to the large, dark building. The doors almost threw themselves open. In the back of her mind, the smell of ethanol registered as dangerous, but she was preoccupied with the idea of Eva’s arms. Oh, sweet Eva. Pyat dove into the apartment, tiptoed through the hallway, and curled up next to Eva. “I’ll be here, my sweet one,” she whispered into her ear. The woman didn’t move.
A moment later, Pyat heard a voice. “I knew you’d be back,” the voice crowed. At first, she assumed it was Eva. But the woman next to her remained motionless. Her blood chilled. She pressed her finger against Eva’s neck and sat up, touching her ear implants.
“Adeen?” Pyat said as the world erupted into fire.
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