Shocked by what he saw, Lynne acted quickly and rolled to the side, barely avoiding the dagger that Imma lunged towards him.
“Imma!” he shouted as he dodged a second swing. “What is the meaning of this?”
“The great calamity must be eradicated!” the bodyguard shouted back and lunged at him again.
Lynne moved to roll out of the way a second time, but a pillar of water slammed into his side, pushing him against the cave wall. The water kept flowing, locking Lynne into place; he could do nothing as Imma stabbed the dagger towards his heart.
Just as the blade was about to pierce his skin, a soft sizzling sound rang out and Imma twitched violently. The water pinning Lynne to the wall instantly fell to the ground, quickly followed by Imma’s still twisting body. A distinct smell that Lynne couldn’t quite place filled the cave, and he started wide-eyed at Imma as her body slowly stopped moving entirely.
Absolute silence descended on the cave.
Lynne moved closer, carefully picking up the dagger from the ground and observing the woman’s body carefully. She was still breathing, but showed no signs of waking up. The only wound he could see on her was a perfectly round burn mark at the nape of her neck.
Still confused, Lynne was reaching out for his discarded clothing when there was a loud bang that echoed through the cave. Suddenly, the sound of chaotic shouting could be heard, clearly coming from the door leading to the church’s main hall.
“Seize the heathen!” someone shouted and a group of armored priestesses ran into the cave, closely followed by the king’s bodyguard whose robes where covered in blood. There was no time for Lynne to cover up his body, but all who entered started at him with venomous eyes, clearly prepared for what they were seeing.
Lynne’s face paled. They already knew he was male.
For a moment, Lynne just stood there in shock. He had no reaction as the priestesses grabbed hold of him and tackled him to the ground. Before he could realize what had happened, a tug-of-war had started for the dagger in his hands. Back to his senses, Lynne struggled best he could, but he was outnumbered and practically unarmed. His fate was a good as sealed.
“Now, now. That’s no way to treat a lady.”
A surprisingly clear voice cut through all the fighting.
Before anyone could register who had spoken, a massive blazing force slammed into the priestesses holding Lynne down and they flew backwards. Flames licked their clothes, quickly charring them black.
“Oops, sorry,” the familiar voice laughed from the entrance. “I haven’t really learned to control it yet.”
By the time the second sentence fell, a new set of arms had embraced Lynne, but this time they were guarding him rather than pushing him down. Adan’s familiar, woody scent enveloped him, and Lynne found himself sighing in relief.
“You!” The king’s bodyguard roared and waved a flaming sword at them. “Step aside, tribe welp! That man will bring doom on us all and must be caught!”
“Maybe,” Lynne saw Adan glance at him, winking playfully as usual. “But not today.”
Adan waved his arm and a ring of fire appeared between them and their pursuers. The priestesses where quick to act, instantly moving to douse the flames with their own water. Thick steam filled the air, and Lynne caught sight of a slight smirk on Adan’s lips.
The youth leaned in closer, whispering in Lynne’s ear. “Sorry for the inconvenience, Princess. Hold your breath, please.”
Barely had he done as he was told before Lynne felt a firm tug backwards, followed by ice-cold water enveloping him. Adan had pulled them into the pool of glowing blue water and was swimming downwards at an impressive pace. Quickly they reached the bottom and Lynne watched as Adan tentatively knocked on the stone a couple of times before seemingly finding what he looking for. He gave Lynne another playful wink before placing both feet on the ground and punching down with surprising speed.
Massive cracks spread out from the point of impact and for a moment it seemed like that was all that was going to happen, but in the next second the world was turned upside down.
Everything turned dark as the ground crumbled below them and sucked them in.
“Protect the boy,” Adan ordered as she hugged Lynne close to her chest. Her A.I. was quick to respond.
[Redirecting BioArmor coverage. Maintaining only critical protection for host.]
Invisible to the naked eye, a thin protective layer moved from Adan’s body to envelop both her and Lynne like a cocoon. There were no holes on Lynne’s side, but on her own end there were several patches left uncovered.
Adan and Lynne were falling fast. The water from the pool was falling with them, flushing them mercilessly down the narrow shaft they had ended up in. The passage was a naturally formed crack in the mountain and walls were rocky and uneven.
Lynne was held in Adan’s tight embrace and fully guarded by the BioArmor, but every now and then, protruding rocks would slam into unprotected spots on Adan’s side, leaving bloody traces.
“Sai predicts lacerations on two to five percent of your body and one to ten broken bones before you reach the end,” the A.I.’s monotone voice rang out in Adan’s ear. “Especially your ribs are at risk.”
“Yeah, yeah, Sai, I know you are mad at me, but what was I supposed to do?”
“Kill them all?” the A.I. suggested helpfully.
Adan smiled and held back a grunt as she was slammed against the wall of the shaft. Data on her retina informed her that her first rib had just been broken.
“Oh come on, how would we clear the name of Lynne and his family if I did that?” Adan argued as she kicked a crack in the wall, causing a particularly nasty rock further down to fall lose before she reached it.
“Does it matter anymore? Your restrictions have been lifted.”
“True, but Lynne still needs to live here once I’m gone.” A smile that wasn’t quite a smile formed on her lips. “I want him to have the freedom he wished for.”
The A.I. fell silent after that, and Adan focused on making the descent as free from harm as possible. They might have conversed for quite a while in her head, but in reality, only a few seconds had passed since they started sliding down the shaft.
Adan tracked their progress in her head, and after roughly thirty seconds, Adan kicked out again, this time harder than before. The wall under her feet crumbled, and the pair found themselves free-falling for a second before once again splashing into cold water. This time, the fall didn’t continue, and Adan calmly swam upwards, pulling Lynne with her.
Breaking the surface, Adan drew a deep breath. She had no problem holding her breath for very long times, possibly even an hour under the right circumstances, but it still felt better to breathe air.
Adan looked on the boy in her arms and frowned. Sometime along their journey he had passed out, but not from any impact or lack of oxygen. His body temperature was acting up, growing warm in some spots but cold in others, and although his element was the direct opposite of hers, Adan could feel that Lynne’s was beginning to awaken in the boy.
“The exposure to the cold water must have triggered his awakening,” she deduced and swam towards a small ledge at the edge of the water.
“Indeed,” the A.I. confirmed. “Sai’s nanobots are picking up increased oscillations in the boy’s elemental membranes.”
Adan heaved Lynne up on the ledge and leaned over him to touch his crystal. Instant warning signs blared across Adan’s retina, informing of the frostbite risks.
“Definitely his awakening.” Adan pulled back her hand and reached for her waist. “The pouch.”
Detaching what seemed like a bulge in her clothes, a small black pouch revealed itself in her hand. It opened up on its own, revealing a white powder inside. The bag was a piece of her BioArmor that had been used to transport some powder that Adan snatched from the ceremonial chamber before attacking Lynne’s captors. From the information the ancient A.I. had left her, Adan knew that the powder was in fact ground-up moonstone from the light blue moon. The same stuff had been used on her earlier today, but from the red moon, and it was a vital step for a successful awakening.
Adan took some water from the lake and mixed it into the white powder, turning it deep blue in the progress.
“The diagrams,” she ordered, and a pattern appeared on her retina, overlapping with Lynne’s body.
Unceremoniously, Adan started filling in the pattern with the blue paste, not even flinching when forced to remove the last piece of fabric that covered Lynne’s more private parts.
As she drew, Adam noticed that the fluctuating temperatures in Lynne’s body were starting to even out, but he also grew constantly colder. By the time she was done, frost had started to form on Lynne’s damp skin.
Hesitating for a moment, Adan bent down and gave Lynne a deep kiss. In his mouth she licked his cold tongue, sending a pleasant shiver down her spine.
“The nanobots have been retrieved,” the A.I. reminded, pulling Adan back to reality and ending the kiss.
“Spoilsport,” she muttered and collected Lynne in her arms. This time, Adan allowed the BioArmor to protect her from the cold as she waded through the water. Once the water was deep enough to reach her waist, Adan stopped and looked down at the still unconscious man in her arms.
“Sorry about this, but I don’t want to get frozen in by you.”
Without further ado, Adan tossed the boy into the air and jumped backwards. Lynne hit the water roughly a meter away, but by then Adan hand already jumped out of the water. The moment Lynne’s body hit the water, a layer of ice fanned out around him like a white halo. Lynne didn’t sink further after that. His body was at an odd angle after being thrown, but he floated with his head over the water surface.
Landing on the ledge from before, Adan stifled a laugh before sitting down with her legs crossed. All she could do now was wait.
“Status report on the marquis and his younger son,” she enquired, closing her eyes.
Images filled her eyes, showing how the king’s bodyguard Emberon shoved the two men to the ground in the courtyard. The crowd’s reaction was a mix of angry screams and sad sobbing. Emberon then started a long-winded rant about righteousness and justice, promising to capture the abomination and so on. Adan sighed and stopped the feed. She knew the bodyguard’s plans didn’t include killing the two right off the bat, but there was always a risk that Lynne’s escape would change that. However, it seemed that at least for now they were safe.
“Keep track of their vitals and inform me if the danger level increases.”
“Affirmative,” the A.I. confirmed.
“What about Imma, any further information on her situation?”
“The sentinels deployed by the BioArmor have started an invasive investigation. Sai is still waiting for the detailed analysis, but initial readings indicate cognitive manipulation. At least gen four.”
Adan frowned. Hypnotism was fairly normal in the universe and hardly surprising. She had already run into it once on this planet, but gen four cognitive manipulation was more advanced. It moved past simple suggestion and even beyond chemical means, directly altering memories and feelings stored in the brain.
“Could it be from the A.I. in the Sun Tribe?”
“Analysis inconclusive. However, Sai sees no tactical value for it to act that way in secret.”
“I agree,” Adan sighed.
There had been no way for her to escape like she did with an additional unconscious person to keep alive, but the medical sentinels deployed by her BioArmor are only a blunt investigative tool, designed to find major injuries such as broken bones and arteries. They would not be able to give a very in-depth analysis of the brain, and even on the more shallow level, there were risks of actually damaging the brain.
Adan felt for the woman, but now that there was clear further evidence of more advanced technology on the planet, Adan could no longer take too big risks. She needed to understand what she was up against.
[Hazardous subzero temperatures detected. Ambient temperature -20°C and dropping.]
[Altering BioArmor thermal protection. Camouflage mode active.]
A set of warnings flashed by, indicating that Lynne’s awakening was reaching its crucial point. Adan’s armor was doing its best to keep her warm while hiding her heat signal from the world. At this point in his awakening, it was imperative that as little of her body heat as possible leaked out and reached Lynne.
Adan opened her eyes and blinked a few times. Slowly, her black pupils started to turn into slits, with a green sheen to them. For Adan, the dimly lit cave turned into a rainbow of colors, but all the reds and yellows were quickly disappearing.
“The data suggests that the boy is absorbing the thermal energy in his surroundings!” The A.I. sounded totally astounded. “How is that even possible?”
Adan laughed in her mind. “Have you forgotten that I can create flames out of thin air now? You need to step away from our old logic, Sai.”
“Never!” the A.I. refuted. “Sai will figure out the science behind this!”
Smiling, Adan observed the sea of complicated equations that started flying by her eyes. Her A.I. usually wouldn’t share the calculations it did with her, but clearly it was too worked up at the moment to notice what it was doing.
Meanwhile, the temperature in the cave was dropping fast; every second it became a few degrees colder. The water around Lynne was by now frozen solid and a growing layer of ice was forming on every surface in the cave, encasing it like a tomb.
[Ambient temperature dropping: -25°C . . . -27°C . . . -32°C . . . -38°C]
Adan held her breath – the air was too cold now to breathe safely – and as the temperature regulation limit of the BioArmour was quickly approaching, a couple of dull ‘cracks’ reverberated throughout the cave. Minute vibrations spread through the ice, and in the next second, large fissures fanned out around Lynne, opening up the ice like a winter flower. The layer of ice that had formed on the ceiling shattered and thousands of small flakes fell down, the faint blue from the water reflected in them as they fell.
“How beautiful,” Adan exclaimed, slightly dazed. “It’s like a miniature star shower!”
“It is frozen water with a bioluminescent algae in it,” the A.I. cut in flatly, sounding rather annoyed. “Nothing unscientific there. . . .”
Adan would have laughed at the A.I.’s temper, but at the moment her attention was entirely focused on watching the unfolding scene in front of her. At the center of it all, Lynne was slowly sitting up, his bare chest glistening with a thin layer of frost and the blue drawings accentuating his lean muscles.
The young man’s gaze was a bit unfocused at first, but it quickly cleared. He look over at Adan, his piercing blue eyes locking with hers. Adan couldn’t stop herself. She whistled.
“Morning, sleeping beauty,” she teased, a wide smile on her lips.