The beginning of a Lezvie and Angela short story.
The rope unraveled as it dropped into the darkness below. It struck the ground with a thud, less than half uncoiled. Lezvie slid down it, landing catlike on the uneven floor. After kicking aside a few of the loose chunks of concrete, he looked back up at the opening in the ceiling, beckoning to the figure framed in it.
Angela followed him down, her landing almost as graceful as his. “It’s dark down here.”
“Of course it’s dark. These vaults were built for security, not ventilation.” He headed into the vault, his soft-soled shoes making no noise on the concrete floor. Angela followed, trying to mimic his silence. Her lack of practice kept her from being entirely successful.
When the veil of darkness became too thick for easy navigation, Lezvie pulled up the night vision goggles he wore around his neck, motioning for Angela to do the same. With the goggles in place, they continued through the dim passages. Every few yards, another cave-in or collapsed wall forced them to take a different path through the vault.
After about fifteen minutes, Lezvie stopped them. “See that light up ahead?”
The corridor did look less dark, though Angela wouldn’t have called it light. “Yes.”
“See the way it flickers? It’s a fire.”
“Who could it be?”
“It could be almost anyone. It’s most likely raiders or bandits. Anyone else would be more likely to use a steady light source.”
Angela shivered. “What should we do?”
“I’ll handle them.” He started towards the light, but Angela caught his arm.
“Hey. I may not be as skilled as you, but that doesn’t make me a helpless female that needs to stay in the shadows while you ‘handle’ things.”
A faint smile tugged at the corner of his lips. “All right. Just keep quiet.”
They crept forward, and Angela kept a hand on Lezvie’s shoulder. He stopped them just before they turned the corner into the light. “Listen,” he whispered to her.
She leaned against him, listening to the bandits talk.
“So what’s the bosses’ plan, again?”
“You’ve got to be the dumbest person I’ve ever worked with. We meet up with the others. We hit the community. We kidnap everyone. We sell the men as workers and the women as toys.”
Angela felt Lezvie’s muscles tighten as he hissed under his breath, “Slavers.”
“Let’s stop them.”
Lezvie nodded and took a step forward, but then froze as the slavers started talking again.
“Which community was it?”
Angela froze as Lezvie rounded the corner, his knives flashing as they slaughtered bandits. Their cries of alarm and fear and pain barely registered as she processed the name of their targeted community. After he cleaned his knives on the last of them and sheathed them, Lezvie walked back to her and put his hands on her shoulders. “Are you all right, Angela?”
“New Phoenix… I stayed there for a while. There was a girl there, and we became good friends…” She looked up at him, tears in her eyes, but with her face firm. “We have to save her.”
“No.” His response was gentle but firm. “I can take on one group, but the entire Crimson Talon? No.”
“He referred to a ‘boss’. That means it’s organized. There’s only one organized slaver organization. The Crimson Talon. I can’t take them on, not all of them.”
“Lezvie, please. I have to save her.”
“I can’t do it, Angela. I want to save her, I want to save all of them. But it can’t be done.”
“I’ll go alone if I have to. I managed fine before I met you, I can manage fine now.” Though she scowled at him, he could tell that she trembled very slightly, clearly having grown accustomed to the security that Lezvie offered.
“Could you even get out of the vault without me?”
She looked away, flushing. “I’d have to try.”
“Then try. If you insist on taking on the Crimson Talon, you’re doing it alone.” He slipped into the shadows without a sound, leaving her in the silent darkness.
Her only answer was her echo.
She trembled with fear, but her fear gave way to anger. “Fine, then! Leave me! You’re just as bad as every other rotten, arrogant male on this planet! I’ll save her on my own!”
“You’re that determined.” His voice came softly from behind her.
With a faint squeak, she whirled and stared at him with wide eyes, but she quickly mastered herself and scowled at him. “If all I accomplish is that I die with her, so be it.”
“You’re a female. They wouldn’t kill you.”
She shivered, knowing the truth of that. “Doesn’t matter.”
“Then I’ll come with you.”
He nodded. “I just needed to make sure you wouldn’t balk at the challenge of doing it alone.”
She smiled tremulously. “Thank you. And you’re not rotten.” Her smile grew into a smirk. “Though you are arrogant.”
“I can accept that.” He grinned. “C’mon, let’s go find your friend.”
They left the vault, all thoughts of the potential treasures of the vault left behind as well.