ARC: Restarting Project

When I was a child, I was in the room my father forbid me to enter, and inside, I found a crumpled piece of parchment, as a child, I didn’t understand, the letter began…

April 1st, 941

Mechanic log, 530, Mechanic Syndra Vanco. I write this for any who can read the old language. You must protect the generators. Fix them, keep them running, they must stay on. The world has become so dependent on them, I’ve seen people go insane without the whirr of the generators throughout the cities. I’ve seen people crumble due to the loss of the power. The New Colonies are filling the continent with tyrannical rule. We fled here, to this protected cove, where we can be safe from them. You must keep the generator going, I cannot stress that enough. I understand that in Theodore it’s different, its people want to go without the power as best as possible, but it will be hard. I hope they can learn to live without it, but I don’t know if they can. I built it, so I’m sure it will be fine, but as always, it won’t live forever. These generators weren’t made to last that long, hopefully you understand that. Before everything changed, and the dates reset, they decided that the world couldn’t survive without being allowed to revive itself. The humans were using up too many resources, so take heed, mechanic of Theodore, this was a choice. It could have been helpful to the earth, but it was ignorant to think that humans would do everything exactly as planned. My father told me to write down everything I learned or did, and I don’t think he expected me to live in a time like this. He would have been sad, knowing how things turned out. I will try and give you all that I can, all the help I can. However, some things might be more than you’ll want to handle. Understand first that the Generators will fail. But you can keep them going for a period of time. There will continue to be generators if the mechanics stay alive. We are apart of them, they are apart of us, we are important. They will work, and live until they are meant to die, just like us all. Mechanic, you need to-

The letter ended there, I never did ask my father what it meant.

Chapter one

Icy fingers of frost crawled over the soft grasses, hinting to the coming winter. Dew clinging to the grounds been frozen white during the long nights, and the sun rose late, drowsy from the chill that had already set in the air. It was becoming cold earlier and earlier each passing year, and now in September, the blankets of hard rain had done its worst.

“Fetch Dria!” A soggy woman shoved her sons back lightly.

The sun hadn’t even risen to burn the frost from the blades of grass, and heavy pounding steps scattered stones as people began to rush around in the dark. Alone, the young boy scampered along the gravel pathway in a familiar direction. He went there almost every day for lessons, so he knew the way like the back of his hand, and soon he was pounding on the door, shivering from the icy chill wreathing around him.

The Grey Manor towered over him, the dark colored bricks were wet from the clouds that released their bellies down. The chipped red wood of the front door smelled musty, and everything smelled of the heavy rain silencing the sounds around the massive home. It took a long moment, but soon the door swung open.

A woman, black hair tied back messily, gray eyes wide and brows drawn together peered down at him, “Kole? Is something the matter?”

“The pipe,” Kole gasped out, looking up and blinking in the bright light of the Manor’s grand entrance, “It burst.”

Dria frowned deeply, the lines in her forehead darkening and she nodded, “Let me grab my coat.”

She disappeared into the house, and appeared once again wearing a bright yellow slicker, and she pulled up the hood, “Get inside and start the fire, you need to get warm before you catch cold.”

Kole did as instructed and went inside the Manor, leaving Dria to head out into the downpour. She held out her torch, squinting in the sheets of rain. It wasn’t uncommon for the water pipes to burst in these circumstances, the icy weather would make the metal brittle, and then the pressure from the rain would pound against it until they cracked and poured forth water. She sighed as she hurried through the thick darkness and towards the town center.

It was lit up, lanterns gleaming as people slogged around in the wet mud. The pipe that had burst was right under the main dirt road from the fields.

“Affari?” Dria called out over the drone of the rain and shouting of people.

The elderly woman that had sent off the child looked up from where she was helping lay sandbags to stop to flooding from reaching the houses, her face relaxed slightly when she caught sight of who had called her, “The break is down the way a bit, Jamis is there waiting for you.”

Dria nodded and stepped over the small sandbag wall they’d gotten set up in the faint glow of the lanterns. She moved through the foot high mud and slopped down the road, water seeping through her pants and slushing through her boots. Groaning and cursing as she went, Dria made her way to where she could slightly see the large outline of Affari’s elder son, Jamis. He was standing knee deep in the flooding waters, hand raised over his eyes, “Dria!’

The black haired woman stopped beside him, “Kole said the pipes burst, how bad is it?”

He leaned close to her, warm breath tickling her ear, “About five inches long, not very wide, but it seems to have been here awhile since it’s already flooded this much.”

Dria sighed and nodded, “Alright.” She crouched down, kneeling down in the water, the icy tingling pricking at her skin and she gritted her teeth as she reached down towards the piping.

Whilst wincing and ignoring the want to shiver, Dria ran her fingers along the cold metal, searching for the tear in the piping. Sharp ridges slid painfully against her open palm and she swore, digging in the large plastic pocket of her slicker and pulling out a small tool, looking almost like a wand. She could feel the water gushing around her fingers and maneuvered the tool to the opening.

There was a burning feeling and the water began warming up, even though the water was darkened with dirt and mud, Dria could see the light blossoming around her hand. The pain in her palm had been instantly forgotten due to the numbing temperature of the water. Now that it was heating up, she hissed softly and drew the glowing wand across the jagged break in the metal. There was a high-pitched wailing sound that erupted from the water as Dria pulled away. She traced the tear with her fingertips, feeling the bumpy patch job. She’s welded it as best she could in the rain and now she stood up.

Her hand dripped red, and she hid it quickly within her large pocket, along with the mechanical tool, “That should do it!” She hollered to Jamis, who was watching her with his dark brown eyes which smiled when she said that.

He held out a hand to help her away from the pipe, and she took it gratefully, before bidding him farewell and trudging back towards the town center. Affari noticed her and Dria waved her unharmed hand, “I’m gonna go home and dry off, send anyone that needs a dry place, they’re welcome.”

The village elder nodded and smiled warmly, the crows feet at the corners of her eyes crinkling, “You look like a wet cat, go get dry, we’ll clean up this mess.”

With that, the older woman went back to hefting sandbags into place, and Dria turned to go home, slipping slightly in the wet water. The short distance to her Manor seemed a bit long, her legs trembling from the cold was what made it the most difficult. It was still too early for the sun to show its face and she dragged herself up her front stoop and into the front entrance. The warmth of her home wrapped around her, but it barely penetrated her wet clothes and help warm her up.

She shivered and her teeth chattered as she clambered up the stairs to her room, knowing Kole was probably in the living room by the fire. Dria made it to her shower, stripped her soaked clothes and hopped in the shower. She was so happy for the warm water that trickled over her icy skin. After a few moments, and the burning water tracing lines through her skin, she began paying attention to the slight soreness in her hand. The cut was angry, about three inches in length, from base of thumb to base of pinky finger.

It took about five minutes to get the dirt grains from the open wound, and when she got out of the shower she pulled out a first aid kit and wrapped the cut in her hand tightly. Within five more minutes, she dried her hair and tied it up, clumps of wet hair dribbling down her back as she pulled on a heavy gray sweater and thick black leggings with fuzzy brown boots.

“Kole!?” Dria yelled as she thundered down the stairs, “Is anyone showing up?”

A little brown haired head popped around the corner of the wall, blue eyes watching her come downstairs, “Dana and Ronan are in the kitchen cooking, and Marcus is in the shower.”

The host of the sanctuary nodded, “I’m gonna go check the generator.”

Kole perked up, “Can I come?”

“Sure,” Dria shrugged and turned left towards the door that led downstairs. She reached under her shirt and pulled the long chain from where it lay against her skin.

The lights flicked on, and as they descended the stairs into the depths, beneath the manor, the tell-tale familiar whirring sound of the generator rose to meet them. Kole held her hand as they stepped down on the basement floor, the overwhelming warmth radiating from the machine. Kole held tight to her, not for the protection, but because it almost felt like he wasn’t allowed there. Like Dria was the only one who should be in that chamber. It always felt unwelcome to him, and every other person that accompanied her. Yet, something still drew them along behind, something bigger than the fear.

“Let me make sure it’s in the correct perimeters.” Dria gently wriggled from his grasp and headed towards the massive machine taking up the entire center five square feet of the cement room.

Dria walked slowly around the machine that went from floor to ceiling, it looked like a concoction of an old car engine and a super computer. Gears turned, wires pulsed, lights and sounds, clicking, whirring, a bit of squealing. Dria paused at one point, peering thoughtfully into the mess of machinery. To everyone but herself, it seemed impossible to see anything wrong, but as Dria inspected the wiring that coiled expertly from left to right, around a small gear that lazily churned, “There you are.”

Carefully, she reached lightly through the moving, breathing parts and touched the wire, tongue stuck between her teeth and she moved the wire slightly over. It was a chain of sounds and suddenly that small gear began to spin faster, in turn moving the larger gears quicker, and the humming of the machine returned. “Simple enough, the 44th point was misplaced again.”

Kole had no idea what she meant and he just admired the machine as she walked back to the single panel. It was probably the only thing of it’s kind that many of the villagers had ever seen, as there were no other technologically advanced devices in the village. Dria tapped a few buttons on the smooth touch screen and slowly read through the code, “It’s alright, how about we go up and see if anyone’s arrived, and how far Dana’s getting along with dinner.”

Kole reached out and took her hand again, tightly holding her fingers as they stood in the warm chamber, “Okay, I’m hungry.”

Dria nodded, and led him up the stairs, locking the door, and turning, being greeted by a number of soaking and shivering people in her entrance. She smiled as they thanked her for fixing the leak in the pipe and a few asked about drying off.

“Anyone that wants a shower can use those upstairs, put your wet clothes in the dryer and there should be some extra dry clothes if anyone can fit into my size, up in my room. The closet in the living room has dry blankets right now.” Dria explained and then she wrapped her arms around her waist, “Dana is making some warm food, so we’ll eat in the dining room in about fifteen minutes, so make sure you’re down here for some hot bread.”

The noises coming from people were cheerful and filled with light comments and laughter. They were a hardy people, and even a busted water line before sunrise was nothing to put a big damper on their moods. Dria smiled, feeling comforted by their warmth and kind words.

A warm, wrinkled hand landed on her shoulder and she blinked, glancing behind her, “Oh, Affari, did you get warmed up?”

“Sure did, I always love being here, because of those wonderful showers you have.” The elderly woman commented playfully and Dria grinned.

“It is nice,” Dria ran a hand through her insanely curly hair that had pulled from her bun, falling around her chest and down her back, “Do you need a blanket?”

“No, thanks, sweetheart, I want to help out in the kitchen, not very often I get to cook without fire.” Affari rubbed her old hands together and cackled before limping off into the next room.

After a little, the group thinned out as people showered and dried their clothes, wrapping wool blankets around their shoulders. Dria counted forty-six villagers within her house, and she suspected others would catch wind of a party at the manor and show up as the sun peaked over the tree-tops. She didn’t mind at all, being alone with just the humming of the generator was quite lonely and she preferred when this house was filled with voices of those she cared about.

She caught hold of Marcus’s shoulder as he stomped down the stairs, “Have you seen Peter?”

The flame-haired man paused and then nodded, “He went with Jamis and Gale to make sure all the animals are warm and dry.”

Dria let him go and headed off to the dining room to help set up, he’d get here when he got here, she supposed.

The stews were well prepared, the meat tender, vegetables flavorful, it was a wonderful meal. They chatted and laughed, told stories and teased. Dria flared bright red when she was praised and in turn, they called her modest. It felt warm, like it always did in Theodore, with kind people, and gentle warmth. Dria smiled as she sat at the head of the long wooden table, and then her ears began ringing. Slowly and quietly at first, gradually increasing in volume until there was little else. She felt her vision blur, and then something tore through her head, and she gasped.

In an instant, it was gone, and laughter filled her ears once again. Now she sat still, eyes flicking to the dark windows. Something had just happened. Something was wrong.

Her head pounded painfully, but no one took notice as her brow furrowed, Something was coming.

Chapter Two

“Damnit Kade, what the hell did you do that for?” Baritone voices deepened in agitation and leaves rustled, “This isn’t supposed to be a vacation.”

“Who put a stick up your ass,” A man with blond hair retorted, standing back up, “They’re just some flowers.”

Three others, dressed similarly in dark clothing, silver weapons strapped across their backs, stood alongside Kade. They said nothing about their commander’s outburst, already aware of Kade’s strange obsessions. One spoke up, “Let’s just get going, we need to get back to Riage with the Mechanic as soon as possible.”

The commander gave them a cold look and then turned and promptly continued walking, “Hurry up.”

Kade rubbed at the soft petals of the vibrant purple flower and followed him, the others clambering with. It was cold, much colder than in Riage and the Colonies, this place, Theodore, was secluded from the rest of the world. They’d been trekking through the rainy woods that hid the town of Theodore, for the past two days. Going in circles, sloshing through mud and swamps, fighting the chill of early winter. They seemed to be getting nowhere.

“This is taking too long,” The tallest muttered, running fingers through thick wet brown hair, “Do you think they’ve started the evacuation yet?”

Kade glanced back at him, “Probably not, you know how prideful the council is, Leon.”

There was a murmur of agreement, but it was silenced, “Quiet,” Gavin growled, his mouth falling into a hard line as he looked back over his subordinates, “Take care how you speak.”

Kade and Leon shared a look between similar blue eyes and returned to shoving the prickly marsh bushes out of the way. Their worry for their city was tangible, the tension between comrades loud enough to be heard over the heavy sounds of traversing the wilderness.

Gavin’s hand swung wide and they froze, dark clothes like splashes of black against gray, masking their presence quite completely. The trees had relinquished hold on the land, and a small manmade path broke the mismatched spurts of foliage.

((((((

Beast’s thundered down the path, out of place as oil on water, dressed solely in dark garments that wrapped around their large forms tightly. Curiosity pushed Kyle forwards, wide eyes gazing upon the strangers. He’d never seen anyone new before. Their height’s matched the younger trees, and their arms were as strong looking as Peter’s. However, even in his young view on them, they seemed swathed in a darkness, one that he didn’t want to touch.

Kyle followed them along the road, scampering among the low-lying bushes, keeping a close eye on them until he was sure they were headed towards the village. He turned right and took off, racing through the familiar trees like a wild dog. The road went around the swamp, but he knew a shortcut straight through the center.

The soft ground gave beneath his boots, and he lightly leaped from mound to mound, the earth alive with voices. Crickets sang, bullfrogs croaked, and the occasional bird gave a warning trill. It didn’t take him long to reach the center of town, and he ran right to the white haired woman, “Nanna!”

Affari turned, her wrinkled face lighting up in surprise, “Well where might you have been off to?” She glanced at his muddy clothing, “Playing hide and seek in the bogs again?”

Kyle took a deep breath, eyes still wide, “There are strangers heading this way.”

The Head of the Village frowned, the lines in her face deepening, “Call for Dria, quickly!’

Kole took off, leaving the other’s nearby to gather around Kyle and Affari, “What type of strangers?”

“How many?”

“Were they armed?”

Affari raised an old boney hand, “Let him talk,” She commanded in a firm voice.

Kyle was still breathing deeply, his breath puffing out in clouds of fog, he sniffed loudly, “Five men, wearing dark clothes that looked hard, and they had silver guns, strapped across their backs. Unlike any I’ve ever seen, they gleamed, like Dria’s keys.”

Peter had heard what was said and swore under his breath, “We all know who carries those types of weapons.”

Another villager, Margret clenched her jaw and then questioned as calmly as she could, “Why would they be coming here? They’ve left us alone this long.”

Affari was silent, her old gray eyes concentrated on the ground as she thought, allowing her friends and family to spurt conspiracies.

When almost all the village had gathered, the thrum of worries had mounted, and Affari interrupted, “Hush, Theodore, we mustn’t worsen this. We do not know why the Colonies have sent people here. Perhaps it is to make peace? Perhaps there is no harm coming to us. We shouldn’t expect such things.”

Her calm voice of reason quieted the crowd, but sharp glances flickered back and forth among the villages, short whispers were shared and then Affari took a breath, “We’ll wait until Dria arrives.”

That sent a sense of relaxation through them all, but Peter still frowned, eyes watching the entrance from the road that led towards the center of town.

The appearance of the black haired woman, being dragged along by Kole turned the entire mass of eyes onto the mechanic.

“Kole told me it was urgent.” Dria stated and frowned, walking towards them, hand tucked into her front pocket, “Is something wrong?”

Affari looked at her and then nodded, “The Colonies have shown their faces.”

Dria froze, eyes snapping wide, and she faltered, foot dropping back to catch her before she fell, “They’re coming here? How soon?”

Affari walked to meet her and rested a hand on her shoulder, “Kyle says they’re on their way and will reach the village in a few minutes.”

The mechanic rubbed her face, and then clapped her hands together, taking a slow breath, “If they ask for a mechanic, the family died off.”

Peter stepped towards her, “What do you mean?”

“Me, a mechanic. The journal’s say that the colonies generator is massive. My guess is that they’re looking for the Vanco family.”

“Your family didn’t work on the Riage generator.” Peter reminded her, and behind them, the rest of the villagers spoke in hushed voices.

“She’s still a mechanic,” Affari nodded, “If that is why they are here, then we will protect her.”

“As her family has protected us for generations.” Jamis set a gentle hand on Dria’s head, in a fatherly manner.

He turned around and motioned to Dria, “We will protect her to the best of our ability, so if these strangers from the Colonies are here looking for a mechanic, hold your tongues. We will welcome them as guests until they pose us harm.”

It was a low mumble of agreement, and then, Kole tightened his grip on Dria’s hand, and she snapped her eyes up, “It’s them.”

They arrived like shadows, the man that emerged first looked gruff, with a hard jaw and furrowed brows, he was big, bigger than Peter, and clothed in a hard looking black outfit. It reminded Dria of armor from the stories in her books, she ushered Kole behind her slightly, and Peter protectively stepped to hide her.

The villagers stood quite still, watching them slink from the pathway like bad tidings, and stand at the entrance to the village, across from the villagers. Affari stepped forwards, a thin smile missing her eyes by a mile, “I am Affari, the Head of this Village, and we welcome you as guests of Theodore.”

“You knew we were coming.” The hard jawed man, obviously the commander by how the others stood behind him.

Jamis and Peter stayed between them and a view of Dria, which also closed off her ability to see them. Kole was plastered tightly to her leg, hugging her waist, her arm holding his shoulders to her.

“This is our home, we have lived among these trees for generations, the arrival of newcomers is the largest change we have seen in all of them. People leave all the time, but you are the first people to arrive here from outside.” Affari confirmed, and she bowed her head slightly, “May I ask why you’re here in Theodore? We have livestock and crops, but the frost has hindered our harvests this year.”

“We are here looking for someone.” The commander stated, “I’m General Gavin Burkart of the New Colony Military, these are my men. We were given orders to follow a rumor that one of the Mechanic families fled here during the wars three hundred years ago.”

Dria sucked in a sharp breath and Peter stiffened, but Affari made no change in expression, “I’m sorry, but the Vanco family has been dead for the past forty years, ending with Damian Vanco.”

One of the men shuffled forwards, “They’re using oil in these lamps, and I haven’t heard the sound of a generator.”

Jamis cleared his throat and waved a hand, “Go back to your days, these men are guests. Treat them as such.”

Slowly, like mud, the crowd began to disperse, trailing away from the center of town, eyes peeled on the strangers still.

“Yes, the lamps are oil. But we do have a generator, in the Grey Manor. It’s small and only powers so much.” Affari explained lightly, “You and your men will be staying with us?”

“A few days, we’ve been lost in the Westrage Forests for quite some time.” Gavin seemed agitated, and the others in his team looked disheartened, “Are you sure there are no mechanic’s left here?”

“Damian Vanco died of a fever, he was a good man, and I’m sure he would have helped.” Affari’s voice was firm, losing its soft tone as she repeated her affirmation again, “Now, would you like to see where you will be staying?”

Jamis’ eyes moved to the weapons, “You don’t plan to use those, correct?”

“Not if it isn’t prompted.” Gavin’s words were flint, a underlaying threat thinly veiled in them.

Jamis frowned, and looked at Peter, who returned the unsure expression, “Dria, why don’t you and Peter show them to the Grey Manor?”

The sole surviving Mechanic held her breath a moment and went to move forwards, but was held back by Kole clinging to her. Jamis turned, and let out an uneasy chuckle, trying to lighten his own mood and he knelt down to Kole’s height. In turn, it brought Dria in view of the five men that were actually looking for her. She felt their eyes burning into her, and she gently ran her fingers through Kole’s hair, feeling him hug her again. She knew the little boy was worried about her, he may be young, but he understood much.

“You gonna let go of her?”

“What about lessons?” Kole asked.

“Not today, come on, I’ll take you home.” Jamis detached the thin arms from Dria’s waist, and collected the gangly child in his arms, leaving with stiff shoulders.

The center of town had cleared out, people returning to hide in their homes, safer behind closed doors, leaving Dria, Peter, Affari and the newcomers alone to stare at one another.

Affari blinked her wise eyes a few times, “This is our village’s teacher, Dria Noel,” She left off the last name, “She also is the caretaker of Grey Manor and will be your host. This is my Grandson, Peter, he will accompany you there.”

Gavin nodded, though didn’t look interested in either, “These are my subordinates, Kade,” The man holding the purple flowers smiled, “Leon,” The sharp nosed, blue eye one nodded stiffly, “Daniel and Taylor.”

The two ginger haired soldiers seemed quieter and just blinked at their names. Dria forced a smile as she gritted her teeth, “Nice to meet you, come with me, The Grey Manor has the majority of the power usage of the village, you can freshen up and I’ll prepare a hot meal. You may find it shabby compared to white stone buildings that touch the clouds, but it is the best we can supply.”

She turned without another word, Peter staying at her heel as they took the path to the Grey Manor. Peter leaned in, “I’ll stay with you while they’re here. We should warn the people to stay away as well.”

“Perhaps they will leave soon?” Dria whispered.

“Their leader seems suspicious, I dislike the way he watches us all.”

“I felt the same, but Affari has decided. So shall it be.” Dria quieted him and then shook out her ringlets of ebony and stalked along the packed gravel ground, the cold chill from an infant winter trickling under her thickly woven coat.

“This way,” Dria spoke up, without looking back, turning right down a forked path.

She could hear their heavy steps behind her, their gaits slow, where hers was quick and purposeful. The trees thinned out, opening up to the large grey brick house tucked into the middle of the forest. The old worn red door was welcoming, and Dria produced her chain, clinking with her three keys, the lock clicked and she pushed into her home.

“The Grey Manor has running water, electricity, heat, working appliances, it was designed by the early mechanics to be the home of the family protecting the generator. Now, however, due to the end of the Vanco lineage, we use it for schooling, and meetings.” She pointed out in two directions, “The kitchen, dining room, livingroom and library are that side of the first floor. The Library is locked, and unavailable. To the right is the sitting room, bathrooms, and the office. Also locked, because it has all my teaching supplies. Upstairs is bedrooms and bathrooms. I’ll take you two, and Peter, you take General Gavin and them to the south bedrooms.”

Dria began up the stairs, leading Leon and Kade with her, completely ignoring the rest. “If the door’s locked, don’t try to open it, other than that, this Manor is free space.” She mentioned and shrugged, “Sorry it’s not fancier.”

“I honestly don’t mind it.” Kade pointed out, “Better than the ground.”

“True,” Leon smiled tiredly, looking stretched thin, “It’s warm, and there’s a roof.”

“It’s the nicest place in Theodore.” Dria said calmly, “I would appreciate if you didn’t bring harm to my people. We’re just trying to live a quiet life here. Until our generator fails, which we suspect it will.”

It was quiet as they walked down the short hallway, Dria stopped at the first door, “Here’s one, go ahead.” She waved a hand for someone to enter, and Kade was the one to open the door, turning around and holding out the flowers with a tilted head and boyish grin, “Flowers for the hostess.”

Dria’s eyes snapped to the purple petals and she fisted her hands reflexively before delicately taking them, “Lockleaf, it grows near the marshes.”

“You know plants?”

“Of course, we are living without real medicine, so, herbs work.” Dria shrugged and brushed a fingertip over a soft petal.

Kade smiled and closed the door, chuckling about how much he wanted a hot shower. That left Dria holding purple flowers, standing in the hall with Leon, and she turned, “The other room is just down the hall, I’m sure you can find it on your own.”

She began to head back to the stairs, when his voice stopped her, “Our generator is failing.”

Dria took a slow breath, “I’m sorry to hear such news. I worry how the Colonies will fare without power.”

“You’re doing fine here.” Leon leaned against the wall, watching her, “I’m skeptical though.”

“We survive due to community, a small population, and fertile lands. Something as large as the Colonies would have difficulty living the way we do.” Dria cleared her throat, “Now, please excuse me-”

Strong fingers wrapped around her wrist and she flinched, being yanked around to face the Colony Soldier, his blue eyes smoldering into her own, “There’s something fishy about this.”

His breath hissed over her face and she stared up at him, eyes wide and jaw set, “I don’t understand what you mean?”

A cold smile twitched at the corners of his lips as he leaned close to her, lips brushing her ear, “You’re lying.”

“Get away from her!” A voice barked angrily and Leon was shoved ungraciously away.

Peter advanced on him, eyes furious, fists raised dangerously, “You’re a guest, don’t lay a finger on Dria, or-”

“Or you’ll what?” Leon’s fingers inched for his silver weapon and Dria stepped forwards, snatching Peter’s hand.

“Peter,” She whispered urgently, giving him a slight tug.

Fear pulsed through her and she felt her fingers shaking as she tried to hold onto him. She could tell the solider was smirking darkly, and Peter was seething with anger.

“Don’t touch her again.” Peter growled and backed away a step.

“Sure thing, farmboy,” Leon chuckled coldly, eyes snapping to Dria, who cringed at his gaze, “Unless she asks me to.”

The air was still a moment, before Peter roared, tearing away from Dria’s grasp and lunging at the newcomer. He didn’t get anywhere near Leon before he was thrown sideways, slamming into the wall with a resounding echo.

“Calm it down, kid.” Kade ran a hand through his hair, “Jumping at an officer with a energy weapon is just a damn stupid thing to do.”

Dria stared at the soldier who had intervened and Kade sighed, “Put the gun away Leon, you’re just going to make a mess of this.”

The silver weapon was slowly holstered and Dria’s stomach flipped as Leon peered at her with dark blue eyes and was ordered to his room by Kade. The door closed and she rushed to Peter, who was rolling to his knees.

“You shouldn’t attack us.” Kade pointed out, looking a bit uncomfortable as he messed with his hair again.

Peter glared, “What right does he have to touch Dria like that?”

“None, I suppose, he’s always been a bit impulsive. But you can’t really blame him, his family is back in the Colonies, and with the generators failing, he’s worried about them. We all have the same situation.”

Dria stared and then her expression darkened and she spat, “That has nothing to do with us, you came here because of a rumor.”

“It was right though, wasn’t it?” Kade peered at her with intelligent eyes, “There was a mechanic family here.”

“Years ago,” Dria helped Peter to his feet and clutched at his sleeve like a child, “We’re simple farmers.”

“Then you’ll have to forgive his behavior, we have no use for mere farmers.”

“Good.” Peter grumbled, and wrapped an arm protectively around Dria, “Then you’ll be leaving soon, I pray.”

Dria took a slow breath, calming her nerves, “I hope you can sleep, if there is anything you or your comrades need, my room is at the end of the hall.”

Peter’s teeth ground together as she spoke as if nothing had happened and he took her hand, jerking her slightly, away from Kade, “Let’s go.”

They left Kade standing outside the room and he sighed, rubbing his face, “You make a mess of everything, don’t you.”

Something caught his eye and he clicked his tongue, “What a shame…”

Crouching down, Kade picked up a shredded flower stem, the purple petals squashed and scattered on the wood floorings. He sighed and tucked the remains into his armor’s pocket and retreated into his room, “Such a shame.”

Chapter Three

Dria was forcefully sat on her soft bed, Peter holding her biceps, “What are you thinking? Letting them stay here after that?”

Her grey eyes wavered, and it looked like she was going to cry, so Peter sighed, pulling her against his chest, “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you like that.”

Her fingers clutched at his shirt and she pressed close, until she felt him wince. She drew away and in a swift motion, lifted the hem of his shirt. Peter stiffened, though used to her strange antics, and he glanced down at her grey eyes and distressed face, “It’s fine, really, just bruised a bit.”

Dria was inspecting the deep black and blue coloring that was blossoming on his left side, “He hit you hard enough to do this?”

“Yeah, they aren’t no joke, those military men.” Peter gently touched her cheek, in a loving way and her eyes flickered up to him, “I’m okay.”

Dria swallowed and dropped the hem of his shirt, snuggling close to his chest again, “I knew something was wrong, Peter.”

“What do you mean?”

“The day the pipe burst, I felt like something was coming, something dangerous.”

Peter frowned and ran a hand through her black hair, “How could you have known that, Dria?”

“I’ve got no clue. It’s scaring me.” Dria leaned into his touch and she hiccuped, on the verge of tears, “I don’t know why everything’s changing.”

“Hey,” Peter lifted her chin with a gentle finger, gazing into her grey eyes and he smiled, “Not everything is changing, we’re all here still, the generator is still running. Soon these men will leave, and everything will go back to normal.”

Dria sniffed and pulled away slowly, “Alright, I’ll believe you.”

But he was wrong.

Dria had been unable to sneak down to the generator room since the men arrived in her Manor, she spent her time making sure they didn’t suspect anything, and partially trying to avoid the one named Leon. It bothered her most when she saw him speaking to Kyle or Kole, who still insisted on her giving them lesson even though she’d asked them to stay away.

She knew, from the villagers discomfort, that the men continued to ask questions, and they had been loyal to her, not giving anything away. They tried to act like there was nothing wrong, but the ways the villagers shared unsure looks made Dria aware of how uncomfortable they were.

Peter stayed in her room with her, sleeping on the other side of her large bed. The sound of his breathing deep through his nose all night was the most comfort she could get. She found that it was harder to sleep than every before. Every small sound made her tense, and every echo through her large house made her heart skip a beat.

The sun rose lazily, and Dria rolled out of bed, rubbing her eyes, heading to the massive windows and throwing open the curtains. The dim watery light spread over the bed in an arc, and Peter groaned, pulling the blankets over his head and turning away from the sun, “Could you wake me a bit gentler?”

“No, come on, I want you up by the time I’m done showering.” Dria walked to her adjoined bathroom and locked the door behind her, stripping out of her clothes and stepping into the warm stream of water.

It ran over her sun-kissed skin and she relished the heat as her muscles uncoiled. She washed her body and hair and stepped out of the shower after a nice soaking in the steam. She used a towel to rub down her skin and then dried her hair the best she could, piling it up on her head again. Dria knew it would naturally curl on its own even if she attempt to straighten it by blowing it dry.

It took her only a few more seconds to pull on jeans and a loose red shirt, padding out of the steamy room to find Peter sitting up groggily, pinching the bridge of his nose, his hair looking quite messy with bed head. He raised a brow at her and then stretched, the muscles in his shoulders rippling with the movement and he got up, “I’ll throw on a shirt.”

Dria chuckled and nodded, heading for the door, leaving her room to find that all the five doors were already ajar. It had been common for them to awaken before her all the five days since their arrival, and she thudded down the main staircase to find them seated at her dining table. At her entry to the well lit room they all looked up at her, and she went right to the fridge, “It’s eggs for breakfast, again.”

“That’s fine, it’s kind of you to feed us,” Kade grinned at her in his nonchalant way, and she would have thought him harmless and innocent if she hadn’t witnessed him throw Peter across the hallway.

Dria nodded and got to work, sometimes feeling their eyes boring holes into her back. After a little while, and the sizzling of eggs and bacon on the pan, Peter stalked over to her, looking grim and he bent to her ear, “Kole said some of the lights aren’t working near the edges of the town.”

Dria clenched her jaw, and she nodded, “Alright.”

There was nothing she could do with these men here, so she waved him away while she cooked. She handed out the plates of food and took her own, following Peter out of the dining room into the entry way to the Manor where she furrowed her brow, “Can you keep an eye on them? I’ll just head down,” She held out her plate to him and smiled, “It’ll be quick.”

Peter grimaced and nodded, “Sure.”

She left him there and walked down the hall towards the door that led downstairs. Dria inserted the silver key in the gold lock, and twisted. With a click, it unlocked and she slipped inside, notching the dead bolts behind her just incase someone tried the door. Below, the generator whirred and she felt the heat it emitted warm her straight to the core. It made her suck in a breath and then she relaxed, feeling content with the familiar hum and the churring.

The input panel was glowing, and she tapped a few codes in, finding nothing wrong with the technical side, she frowned. Why was it always the gears? Perhaps because they were old. She ducked beneath a low hanging wire and made her way through the massive machine, skirting around clanking