Steel Scars
Osanos, the nymph governor of the Westlakes region and commander of the city, continues a family feud with Lord General Laris, commander of the entire Nortan Air Fleet. Who is essential to the military and who wears rank for show. The list goes on. Petty rivalries and weaknesses to be exploited. There are places of rot for us to poke at.
    If Command doesn’t see this, then they must be blind.
    But I am not .
    And today is the day I set foot inside the walls myself and see the worst of what Norta has to offer tomorrow’s revolution.
    Cara folds up her broadcaster and reattaches it to the cord around her neck. It stays with her always, nestled next to her heart. “Not even to the Colonel?” she asks. “To gloat?”
    â€œNot today.” I force my best smirk. It placates her.
    And it convinces me. The last two weeks have been a goldmine of information. The next two will certainly be the same.
    I force my way out of the stuffy, shuttered closet we use for transmissions, the only part of the abandoned house with four walls and an intact roof. The rest of the structure does its job well, serving as the safe house for our dealings in Corvium. The main room, as long as it is wide, has brick walls, though one side is collapsed along with the rusted tin roof. And the smaller chamber, probably a bedroom, has no roof at all. Not that we mind. The Scarlet Guard has suffered worse, and the nights have been unseasonably warm, albeit humid. Summer is coming to Norta. Our plastic tents keep out the rain, but not the moist air. It’s nothing , I tell myself. A mild discomfort . But sweat drips down my neck anyway. And it’s not even midday yet .
    Trying to ignore the sticky sensation that comes with the rising humidity, I pile my braid on top of my head, wrapping it like a crown. If this weather keeps up, I might just cut it all off.
    â€œHe’s late,” Tristan says from his lookout at a glassless window. His eyes never still, always darting, searching.
    â€œI’d be worried if he wasn’t.” Barrow hasn’t been on time once in the past two weeks, not for any of our meetings.
    Cara joins Tye in the corner, dropping down with a merry flop. She sets to cleaning her glasses as intently as Tye cleans pistols. Both of them share the same look, fair-haired Lakelanders. Like me, they’re not used to the May heat, and they cluster together in the shade.
    Tristan is not so affected. He’s a Piedmont boy originally, a son ofmild winter and swampy summer. The heat doesn’t bother him. In fact the only indicator of the changing season are his freckles, which seem to breed. They dot his arms and face, more every day. And his hair is longer too, a dark red mop that curls in the humidity.
    â€œI told him as much,” Rasha says from the opposite corner. She busies herself braiding her hair out of her dark face, taking care to divide her curling black locks into even pieces. Her own rifle, not so long as Tristan’s but just as well used, props against the wall next to her. “Starting to think they don’t sleep down in Piedmont.”
    â€œIf you want to know more about my sleeping habits, all you have to do is ask, Rasha,” Tristan replies. This time he turns over his shoulder, just for a second, to meet her black eyes. They share a knowing look.
    I fight the urge to scoff. “Keep it to the woods, you two,” I mutter. Hard enough sleeping on the ground without listening to rustling tents . “Scouts still out?”
    â€œTarry and Shore are taking the ridge, they won’t be back until dusk, same as Big Coop and Martenson.” Tristan ticks off the rest of our team on his fingers. “Cristobel and Little Coop are about a mile out, in the trees. Waiting on your Barrow boy, and looking to wait awhile.”
    I nod. All in order then.
    â€œCommand happy so far?”
    â€œHappy as they can be,” I lie as smoothly as I can. Thankfully, Tristan

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