Volume III of Legacy: Black Star, Part 1 - Cover

Volume III of Legacy: Black Star, Part 1

Copyright© 2023 by Uruks

Chapter 28: The Two Mystics

The rodent came back to life and began swimming alongside the test subjects. They seemed to accept it as one of their own after that. The recently revived rodent also began mutating. It gradually showed physical traits similar to the test subjects as time passed. I couldn’t understand this behavior. Why would they eat part of it, and then begin infecting it with their own cells? What could supersede a lifeform’s instinctual need to feed and survive?

So, Saria will back off for now? asked Leon mentally as he leaned against the wall.

Rachel and Leon were in the marketplace on Platform 913. It was the day cycle within the Inner City of Nirvana. The streets were alive and abuzz with vendors, merchants, and customers moving and chattering all around Leon and Rachel. He still endured his pirate outfit, but allowed himself to wear his more comfortable glasses instead of the lenses since there was no longer any need to stay so inconspicuous. Since Brocktree was already aware of his identity (if not his true loyalties) going incognito no longer factored. In order to avoid suspicion, Leon had opted to meet with Rachel in an area that was not outside of Brocktree’s surveillance, but still did not warrant much attention. Rachel had insisted on meeting in person despite how inconvenient that was for Leon’s cover. However, he made it work, acting as if he simply wanted to do some supply gathering as he bought food and wares here and there, putting them in a floating gray metal suitcase that he had programmed to follow him as he walked. Rachel was invisible to everyone in the marketplace save for Leon. She had once again tweaked her invisibility to allow Leon to see her as she wore her usual leather pirate outfit without the shades. She still looked slightly translucent to his eyes, appearing almost like a ghost as he saw through her body to the stalls and people behind her. Quite an ingenious psionic spell on her part, though even if Leon couldn’t see her, he’d still be able to sense her presence with his telepathy. During the course of the conversation, Leon and Rachel only spoke mentally using his abilities. Her mind, however ... something felt off about Rachel today. Leon felt it was more than her simply being uneasy about Lucille’s continued involvement.

The ‘Fire Minister’ has agreed to our strategy, Rachel replied rather tersely, emphasizing her grandmother’s title. We should be grateful that she’s not sending a team to arrest us. Never mind that she’s actually willing to go along with our plan despite us going over her head.

Leon nodded absently at a merchant without acknowledging Rachel only a few feet behind him. She was mindful not to bump into anyone as she moved deftly through the streets, carefully staying within range so that Leon need not strain his telepathy. Leon pretended to sample some pink apples from a Goblin merchant, who rubbed his green, clawed hands excitedly.

While sampling the fruit, which was mostly rotten anyway, Leon maintained his mental conversation with Rachel. Well, as long as she doesn’t interfere, that’s all I can ask for. You did well, Rachel. Thank you.

Rachel remained quiet. At one time, Leon might’ve taken her silence as simply being flustered, especially since he just complimented her, but he got the impression that it was something else. As Leon moved on to another vendor selling cleaning droids, most of which seemed to be malfunctioning, Rachel followed behind him, her footsteps not even making the slightest sound. He had heard that some Hiders could mask even sound itself, making them indetectable to all but the most powerful of sensory types. Leon wondered if Rachel was of such caliber.

As Leon poked at a floating cleaning droid shaped like a yellow sphere, the droid sputtered and spun with a loud buzzing sound, and then it fell to the plated street at Leon’s feet, breaking into two pieces. The merchant, a large green and brown Ogre, quickly made apologies and indicated his selection of ‘higher quality’ items.

As the Ogre merchant went on and on about the superb craftsmanship of his work, Rachel said, So, how’s Lucille? The two of you getting along alright? Just like old times with your old Mystic buddy?

Leon almost broke character. Almost. He glanced behind him, shooting Rachel a glance. From the brief flash he got of her face, which appeared slightly transparent thanks to her invisibility, she seemed to be frowning with her arms crossed. To any onlooker, it looked like he was just casually looking over his shoulder, which he had already been doing at random intervals throughout their conversation to avoid suspicion. If Brocktree’s men were watching him, which Leon had no doubt they were, it would just look like he was being a cautious Mystic checking for any tails.

Leon turned back to the Ogre merchant, explaining politely how the price was too high, and if he could possibly go down a smidge. At the same time, he said to Rachel, I told you. Lucille was an acquaintance back when I worked as a Mystic, but now she’s a free agent.

And we’re just supposed to take her word on that?

I would know if she was lying, Leon said, partially bluffing, but Rachel didn’t know the extent of his telepathic abilities.

While he continued chatting with the droid merchant, out of the corner of his eye, he noticed Rachel shaking her head. That doesn’t mean she can’t fool you. And even if she’s not part of the Shadow Order now, it doesn’t mean she won’t try to turn you in to Brocktree for a tidy profit.

Rachel’s thoughts felt oddly guarded. This line of questioning ... it was more than just Rachel’s distrust of Lucille. For the first time ever, Leon felt something in Rachel that he hadn’t felt in her since he first joined her team years ago. Suspicion. That realization disturbed him more than he thought it would. He was accustomed to suspicion from others, but not Rachel.

We were very close friends back in the olden days. She won’t betray me. Or is it my loyalty you doubt now? Leon said flatly.

No! No! That’s not it at all, Leon, Rachel quickly exclaimed, rubbing her temples in frustration. I ... I just don’t know about this anymore. I don’t know about her, alright!

That reaction at least felt sincere, so that meant that Rachel had not lost complete faith in him. At least not yet anyway. Leon briefly turned his attention back to the Ogre merchant, who was growing more and more insistent on a deal. Hoping to avoid a scene, Leon transferred the agreed credits on his wrist communicator and put one of the cleaning droids in his floating suitcase. He had chosen one of the better-quality droids, and had negotiated the price down a bit, but he doubted he was getting a good deal.

As Leon walked with both the suitcase and Rachel following him, he said, This mission has forced us to take on allies we wouldn’t otherwise consider. In fact, you seem to be getting on well with a certain Pirate Captain despite our initial misgivings about him.

Rachel didn’t respond as she continued following behind Leon.

Her lack of a response annoyed Leon, and he found himself asking, Do you trust me, Rachel?

After a somewhat delayed response, Rachel said, Of course I trust you. I may have been mad at you when it looked like you sold us out, but I got over it when I realized you didn’t have a choice. Just ... just be careful of her, alright! Freelancer or not, she’s still ... she was still a Mystic.

Leon risked looking directly into Rachel’s face, and he said somewhat coldly, So was I.

A few minutes later, Leon was in a hovercraft being taken back to Brocktree’s fortress. The human pirate piloting the craft gave a wry comment on Leon’s lack of business sense, but Leon wasn’t paying particular attention. He was agitated since his conversation with Rachel, and he didn’t entirely know why. Also, something about the way Rachel referred to Lucille. She didn’t even mention that Lucille was Leon’s relative. Would she know that? He supposed she wouldn’t anyway, but that was hardly what troubled him the most.

It had been a long time since he felt distrust from Rachel, since he felt himself somewhat distrusting her, and he didn’t like it. Such mistrust reminded him too much of his days as a Mystic, when he and Lucille had to work together to survive assassination attempts from their peers ... assassination attempts that his father sometimes allowed to make him stronger. He shuddered, thinking of the first time he’d been forced to kill a classmate to save Lucille’s life. She had done the same for him the very next day. She had always been there for him. All the other Mystics and everyone in his family had treated him cruelly. Even his mother, who was always loving, still allowed those things to be done to him. She didn’t have the courage to stand up to his father’s tyranny. But Lucille ... Lucille had always been kind to him. Lucille had never betrayed him.

Then Leon remembered something Rachel said. ’That doesn’t mean she can’t fool you’. As much as he hated to admit it, he knew how probable such a statement could prove to be. Lucille’s thoughts were well-guarded when she spoke to Leon. There were things she didn’t wish him to know. He supposed it was only natural given how he became an Elemental, the lifelong enemies of their family. Still, if her claims of being a freelancer were genuine, why would she need to keep things from him? And the way she went about getting him in Brocktree’s inner circle certainly displayed a certain nefariousness.

There was something else nagging at Leon. After their argument, he and Rachel traded rudimentary reports as the final stages for the attack came full circle. However, when he asked if she heard anything about Éclair and Ryan from Saria, she appeared uncertain. She said that the Minister had been vague on the two Seconds’ circumstances. Leon glanced upward towards the upper hemisphere of Nirvana. Éclair was out there ... somewhere. He could still feel her. He had placed a mental seal on her before she left. He would know if something happened to her. Though his connection with Éclair was tenuous at best, especially considering the vast distance between them. He couldn’t necessarily know if she was in danger, but he could tell her general state of being ... whether she was overly stressed or not. A few weeks ago just after they made it to Nirvana, he woke up after having a nightmare about Éclair. He knew it was due to their bond. It felt like she became very frightened for a brief time, and he almost abandoned the mission to rush to her side. However, her agitated emotional state petered out after that, and she grew more calm. Leon figured it was just the stress of negotiations. Such things could become tedious. Just as a precaution, Leon maintained his bond with Ryan ... a bond they had developed when they both fought Galzar. His bond to Ryan was older, not as fresh, so he couldn’t tell Ryan’s emotional state. But he could at least tell that Ryan was still alive. So, for the moment, Ryan was alive, and Éclair was calm. That meant everything had to be okay, right? Still, he felt uneasy. He felt uneasy about a lot of things. Lucille’s return to his life, his conversation with Rachel, and now, Éclair. He wasn’t sure which part had him the most uneased.

Leon scowled at nothing in particular as the landscape above and below him blurred together from the motion of the vehicle. Then he remembered something he had intended to do while he was at Platform 913. Quickly, before he was out of range, Leon reached out with his mind towards Kormal, whom he knew was still hiding on the platform at James’ secret headquarters.

Kormal, can you hear me? Leon called out, his mental messages sounding echoey in his head.

It took a little while, causing Leon no small degree of impatience, but Kormal finally replied, Affirmative, young Lurranna. Loud and clear.

I’m here, too, said the younger Sage, Kevla, cheerfully. She felt excited to be able to speak to someone else. She and her father had been working hard on their project, and hadn’t much time for social stimulus.

Kormal. Kevla, Leon said, remembering to address them both this time. I’ve been thinking, and I think I do want that project finished ... especially now that I know Brocktree has an army of advanced droids like Slayer-1. Do you think you’ll be able to complete it before the invasion?

Kormal felt doubtful. Difficult to say. Perhaps if you came yourself some time, then maybe. The project has a better chance of success with three telepaths than just two.

Leon rubbed his chin, considering. I’d like to bring Lucille in for the project. She’s a telepath as well. She can bolster our brainwaves with her own.

Both Kormal and Kevla felt displeased by that suggestion. Look, Leon, spoke up Kevla. You’ve let me peek in your head, so I know you have good intentions for everybody, but Lucille, I’m not so sure. Her mind felt ... kind of twisted from what I was able to see of it when she kicked me and my father out of your head.

And besides that, Kormal went on. This experiment of ours requires absolute trust in order for it to work. Kevla and I trust you, but you can’t expect us to extend that same level of trust to someone like Lucille, and I doubt she would trust us either.

Leon should’ve expected as much from them. It was generally the same reaction as Rachel. He almost felt like yelling, but instead he said, Fine. It was a stupid suggestion anyway. As long as you’re sure we can finish the project without her.

Try to find some time away from Brocktree, and we’ll see, said Kormal.

Leon was just about to break off the connection when Kevla suddenly chimed in. Maybe ... maybe if she let you in. Let you see into her mind without restrictions. If she did that, we could know all her intentions for everyone. Then you could share what she shows you to us.

Leon allowed himself a private thought, one that he didn’t share with Kormal or Kevla. Would Lucille trust me enough to do something like that? Reveal herself completely. Doing so would give me the chance to dominate her mind utterly. She wouldn’t have hesitated to let me in when we were younger, but now...

What was that? asked Kormal. I didn’t hear that last part.

I said I’ll let you know. Then Leon cut their connection before the two Sages could press further.

A few minutes later, the hovercraft brought Leon to Brocktree’s fortress yet again. Strass was there to meet him. The man’s metal chin glinted in the low light as he greeted Leon cheerily.

“There he is! The man of the hour!” said Strass, slapping Leon on the shoulder.

Leon had to admit, even though the shoulder slapping was annoying, Strass’ over-friendliness would make it somewhat difficult to kill him when the time came. Perhaps he could arrange for James’ men to deal with him so he wouldn’t have to kill the man personally. As dumb and as annoying as Strass was, Leon found himself almost liking the man a little. That was a dangerous thing.

“So, what news from the Elementals, eh?”

Leon forced a casual smile as he walked into the fortress’ interior at Strass’ side. “Since the deaths of Rachel Kaves and that Werewolf, no one suspects my true loyalties. I’ve informed my superiors that they died while we were trying to infiltrate Brocktree’s inner circle. Blamed their deaths on vehicular malfunction.”

Strass chuckled. “And they actually bought that?”

Leon shrugged. “Makes more sense than them dying in the battle on Tremel’s ship. Elementals and Monks are too well trained and their reflexes too quick to lose a simple gunfight. But just as an added measure, I sent forged schematics of the hovercraft in which the two of them perished, hinting at possible sabotage. And for effect...”

Leon then held up his hand, rolling down his sleeve to the elbow. Strass gaped at the terrible third-degree burns going down Leon’s arm and up his shoulder. “I let them see this. According to the story, I was in the hovercraft too, and only barely survived.”

Strass drew in a shuddering breath, pointing at Leon’s blackened and cracked arm. “You did that to yourself.”

“But of course,” Leon said casually, lowering his arm with a slight wince. “My story needed to be believable. Two agents dying in the field is not something easily explained away.”

And hopefully, this will keep Brocktree convinced of my loyalty for the time being, thought Leon to himself. Though, I do admit, perhaps I used the plasma torch a tad too long.

“You’re gonna get that looked at, right?” asked Strass. The genuine concern of a pirate was almost touching on some level.

Leon waved a hand dismissively ... his good hand at any rate. “I’ve asked Lucille to treat it later, given that your medical facilities are free, of course. Speaking of which, last time I was here, Savine seemed to be taking up residence there. Is she still in the lab examining Mozar’s body?”

Strass shook his head, waving to some guards to open the doors ahead of them as they walked down the metallic hallways of the fortress. “We’ve seen hide nor hair of Savine for a while now, not after she burned the Werewolf’s corpse when she was done with it. She and them creepy cats of hers come and go as they please. I think they got a cloaked vessel floating somewhere around the station, but she don’t bother telling Brocktree where. She’s so good at her job that she’s earned a bit of leeway with the boss. He likes her almost as much as he likes that Mystic girl, Lucille.”

A wicked grin came to Strass as he leaned towards Leon. “Maybe that’s somethin’ you and the boss have in common, eh there, lad? I heard you two were cousins, but I also heard that things like that don’t bother you Mystics too much. If you lot are still able to dish out specimens like Lucille, I can see why.”

Leon didn’t rise to the man’s bait as he said, “Where is she anyway?”

Strass gave a shrug. “She’s probably finishing up with her latest one right about now. I’ll take you to her.”

“Latest what?”

Strass only grinned as he led the way down countless corridors. A few moments later, they arrived at a sector comprising of living quarters. For some reason, this portion of the fortress seemed much cleaner than the rest of it. Leon guessed it was because Lucille had been given this wing for her private use. Like any good Lurranna, Lucille liked to keep things tidy. Leon remembered that even his father’s torture chambers were unusually well-cleaned. Sometimes, the janitor would be cleaning blood from the floor even as the prisoners were being interrogated.

Strass stopped Leon in front of a door and then waved farewell. “I’d wager neither of you will want me around for what happens next. Give Lucille my regards.”

Leon was about to ask ‘what happens next’ but Strass was already turning the corner. Then, before he had time to consider calling after Strass, Lucille’s door slid open with a whoosh! However, Lucille was not the one at the threshold. In Lucille’s place stood a young human male wearing only black trousers, his white shirt slung over his bare shoulder as he faced away from Leon. His dark hair was done in a buzz cut, and he had a lightly stubbled face. He was fairly fit, too, indicating a military lifestyle. He was about the same height as Leon and had dark tanned skin. Leon’s first impression of the young man was that he was a bit better looking than most of the pirates that made up Brocktree’s crew who tended to be grizzled and grungy like Strass.

The young man wasn’t looking ahead, but instead back behind him to a dimly lit apartment. “Same time tomorrow, darling?”

A feminine voice purred contentedly from the darkened quarters. “Mm. We’ll see, Roderick.”

‘Roderick’ chuckled, took a step forward, and stopped when he noticed Leon. “Oh! Sorry. Didn’t know she was seeing another today.”

Leon’s first impulse was to slash the young man in twine, but instead, he simply stepped aside and let ‘Roderick’ pass.

The man grinned at Leon, muttering, “Much obliged there, mate.”

Leon didn’t bother to see where ‘Roderick’ went as he stepped into Lucille’s room, the automatic metal doors closing behind him. The quarters were large and dark, but Leon could still see clearly. This room wasn’t half as dark as the cell his parents had locked him in for training when he was a child. He wasn’t a sensory type, but he could still navigate fairly easily in the dark.

There was a large, round bed at the center of the circular chamber. The walls were dark gray, and the bed was covered in a lavish black fur blanket, likely from an animal of some kind. Lucille loved animal furs, not for attire, but for decorative purposes. Leon thought he could detect subtle signs of Elemency in the walls, perhaps shielding the room from spying.

Leon perceived Lucille sitting at the edge of her large bed. She was smoothing out her long, black hair. She wore nothing but a white towel. Apparently, she was getting ready to take a bath. Appropriate considering the company she’d been keeping. Lucille glanced over her shoulder at Leon and flashed him that dazzling smile of hers. It was the first time since their reunion that he’d seen her without her black lipstick, but she was still so beautiful.

“Leon, darling. Well, feel free to make yourself comfortable, I suppose. You did just let yourself in, after all.”

Leon smacked his lips and held his hands behind his back stiffly. He tried, but he was unable to keep himself from saying, “Roderick?”

She glanced back at him, her dark eyes glinting mischievously. “Don’t tell me you’re jealous. You needn’t be. He’s just one of the few pretty ones I like to play with. But I admit, I’m not quite satisfied.”

Lucille then stood up, walking around her bed, her hips swaying gracefully with her subtle movements. She stopped in front of him, holding her hands at her sides so that he had full view of her. She looked him up and down, a hungry flash of craving on her pale face. Then she said softly, “You can help with that, I’d imagine.”

Leon sniffed. “No, thank you. I have a better estimation of myself than to simply be another one of your playthings.”

Lucille’s grin deepened, then she reached up and undid the knot that held the towel to her breast. The towel fell to the floor at her feet, leaving Lucille’s glorious form exposed. Leon had to admit, those had gotten a fair bit larger since the last time he saw them.

Lucille took a seductive step forward. The smile was gone now as she gazed deeply into Leon’s eyes, saying in a voice barely above a whisper, “You’re sure about that?”

Leon only allowed himself to appraise Lucille’s naked form for a few seconds, then he groaned, rolled his eyes, and turned away. “Yes, quite sure.”

Lucille giggled. If she was disappointed in his rejection, she hid it well. “Suit yourself. But you don’t have to look away. Our family took great strides to ensure that any sort of bashfulness was driven out of us at a young age. They knew we might have to use sex as a tool to get what we need.”

“So I recall,” commented Leon, still refusing to look at Lucille. “Though when it comes to getting things I want, I always preferred the direct approach. If I need something, I simply take it.”

Lucille giggled again, and he felt her eyes sizing him up yet once more. “I’m sure you do.”

Leon then heard Lucille pad softly over to the other side of the room. A door in the back opened up for her. He heard the sound of running water as she began cleansing herself. Feeling slightly uncomfortable, as much as he hated to admit it, Leon followed after Lucille and leaned against the wall next to the door that led to her shower. It was a thin, glass door, so he could still hear her clearly as she bathed. He could even see a hazy outline of her curvy figure behind the glass barrier, though he tried not to look. The sound of water dripping off her flawless skin was distracting, so he thought it better to converse while he waited.

“Tell me. What exactly do you ‘need’ from a pirate stooge like Roderick?”

“Entertainment, of course,” she said while she continued bathing. “I get dreadfully bored out here, darling. So, I pick out some of the pretty ones to amuse me from time to time. Brocktree doesn’t mind too much, so long as I make time for him as well every now and then.”

Leon groaned, leaning the back of his head against the wall. “Wow. You sure know how to pick ‘em, don’t you?”

“With Brocktree, it’s more for business than pleasure. I’m only allowed to move so freely throughout Nirvana because I keep him happy,” Lucille said almost defensively. Then she added, “He does know a few tricks to keep things ... interesting, at least. You’d be surprised what he can do with those mechanical hands of his.”

Why would she say such things in Brocktree’s own compound? To openly admit to using him like... Leon immediately dismissed the thought. This was Lucille’s room. She had no doubt found any listening devices and deactivated them. She probably even had the place shielded with Shadow Elemency if the slight tingling of psions he felt in the walls was any indication.

“Oh, I can only imagine,” said Leon sardonically in response to Lucille’s earlier comment. Then after thinking about it, he added, “Actually, I take that back. I don’t want to imagine it. I don’t want that image anywhere near my brain.”

Lucille gave another girlie giggle. “You joke better now. Those didn’t use to come so naturally to you. I’m proud of your progress.”

Leon sighed, growing annoyed at this conversation. He moved off from the wall by the shower to wait at Lucille’s bedside. It was only then that he noticed the small stand sitting at the end of the bed by the big fluffy pillows. On a table by the bed sat a porcelain vase with a single black rose. Lucille’s mother once cultivated black roses using a rare sediment that made the plants virtually immortal, able to live longer than most any flower with minimal nourishment. Lucille had once given one such rose to Leon, saying that it would serve to bind them until they were given their wedding rings. Leon had kept the flower. It was with him at his quarters at the Fire Ministry. As for the wedding rings, those were to be given to them by their parents when they came of age. Leon ... before his mother died, she had given him her own wedding ring that his father gave her. Then she told Leon the proper vows to say when he asked Lucille to marry him and make their union official.

Leon found himself sitting on Lucille’s bed and picking up the rose, examining it carefully as a torrent of emotions and memories welled up inside him. Many of those memories were painful to recall, but not all of them ... at least not the ones that had to do with his mother and Lucille.

“That was one of the last roses I managed to save from my mother’s garden,” Lucille said, her voice close.

Leon looked up in surprise. He had been daydreaming so long that he hadn’t noticed that Lucille had finished bathing and now stood before him. Thankfully, she was clothed this time. She didn’t wear her usual leather combat suit, but instead donned a black dress of sorts. The dress had long sleeves and a black, cloth skirt parted at the center to allow more movement for Lucille’s legs. Beneath the skirt, she wore black trousers and long, black leather boots. The make of the cloth dress could almost be described as traditional, at least for Lucile it was. It didn’t show off her body too much, though it did cling a tad tightly to her graceful form. She even found the time to put on her black lipstick again, but Leon kind of missed seeing her without it. Éclair never wore lipstick or makeup. Éclair never needed to.

“Tell me something, Leon,” Lucille said as she drew a strand of her long hair behind her ear. Éclair did that too from time to time. “Do you ... do you still have the rose I gave to you, the one we promised would suffice until the day of our wedding?”

Her voice sounded vulnerable. It was difficult seeing Lucille as vulnerable. Leon almost told her the truth, but then he remembered Roderick. He remembered how she used men for sport, toyed with Brocktree’s emotions for gain. Éclair would never do something like that. She was far too noble.

Clearing his throat, Leon sat the black rose back in its vase. He kept his voice uncaring as he said, “That flower. No. I think I lost it while escaping Chissler’s compound. It’s gone now.”

“Oh. Pity,” commented Lucille, her voice sinking. Then she quickly added almost cheerily, “I suppose it doesn’t matter anyway. Though I do want to see to your immediate wellbeing, I think if I’m being honest, I gave up on the idea of marrying you ages ago.”

Leon came to his feet, smoothing out his black trench coat. “Quite right. Besides. Given the company you keep, it’s clear that both of us have moved on.”

Lucille gave an almost imperceptible jerk. “Both of us?”

Leon allowed himself a smooth smile. “Indeed. I’ve taken a confidant recently.”

Lucille stared at him flatly. “An Elemental from the Fire Ministry?”

It pleased Leon that there was something about him that Lucille didn’t know. And since Lucille was being so open about her flings with others, there was no need to keep it from her out of fear that she might attack Éclair in a jealous rage.

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