The Cybunny was waiting for him in the small coffee shop
at the corner of the Student Union. He could smell the brews from the side entrance,
the warm invitation of hot beverages enticing students in from the cold rain.
Honey wood half-walls separated the round silver tables and padded chairs from
the rest of the cafeteria. A counter resided in the corner, a pet diligently
cleaning the counter around carefully arranged cups and saucers. In a glass
case were various pastries for the customers to select from. Beyond this tiny
little haven was the cafeteria of the Union itself, a crowded and noisy place
of poorly cleaned tables and garish plastic chairs. Eric sighed inwardly and
made his way for the coffee shop, brushing past the plants set along the half-wall
and into the industrial carpeted area, breathing in deeply. The Cybunny could
wait. He wanted some tea. Tea and a pastry. He stopped before the counter, one
hand hanging on the damp strap of his backpack, the other digging in his jacket
pocket for some Neopoints. The striped Kau looked up at him expectantly, a green
apron around her neck.
"I'd like… some blairnut tea," he said, "and…"
He cast his glance down at the pastry display.
Apparently they were also stocking items from the bakery, thankfully. The stuff
they sold at the coffee store was much too sweet for him most of the time.
"And a Thistleberry crepe."
The Kau nodded and turned to fix the tea. He
counted out the Neopoints and laid them on the counter, accepting the blue flowered
mug and matching tray containing the pastry with a nod of thanks. Only then
did he turn and acknowledge the Cybunny's existence, making his way through
the tables to where he sat with a dour expression on his face.
"You're late," the Cybunny said gruffly as Eric
set down his tea and pastry, letting the backpack slide to the floor with a
"Hello, Mr. Grievm. Yeah, class ran a bit late,"
the Kougra replied, easing himself into the chair and studying the food before
"Sir Grievm, not Mr. I would think that this
is more important than class."
Only for you, Eric thought bitterly,
but he remained quiet. It wouldn't do to antagonize the pet, not now. Not at
this stage of the game. Instead, he concentrated on his tea, gently blowing
away the steam to show the rich amber. Across the table, the silver Cybunny
studied him, a black cane by his side, held in one gloved hand. A tailed jacket
in impeccable condition - no wrinkles, a white handkerchief in the pocket.
"So what have you found out about this girl?"
Grievm finally asked, resting the cane across his knees.
"She's young and naïve just like any other college
freshman," Eric replied, taking a bite of crepe just because he knew talking
through a full mouth would irritate the Cybunny. "I broke into her room while
she was at class this afternoon. Nothing noteworthy aside from a book in her
desk drawer. It's the one detailing the legends and history of campus."
The Cybunny's whiskers twitched but his composure
remained smooth otherwise.
"Then she knows the legend?"
"I think so. There was a bookmark on the pages
that talked about Rain Gray."
Grievm folded his hands on the table, his eyes
drifting in thought. Eric took the opportunity to take another bite of the crepe,
hastily wiping thornberry off his chin as the Cybunny's frown deepened.
"She knows too much."
"Like she'll act on it. VerdeVer says she's
rather shy. He's befriended her sister, Mia."
"Then she has a twin sister?"
"Yeah. Not that big of a deal."
Grievm slammed one paw onto the table, causing
the fork to jump off the plate and the tea to slosh around in the mug. Eric
jumped and tried not to shy away from the intense scrutiny of the Cybunny.
"You are not taking this seriously enough!"
Grievm hissed, his whiskers trembling in anger. "You are the second highest
official in the League of Rain, subordinate only to me. In case you forget,
it is my Neopoints that keeps you here. I expect you to take our mission with
"Yes sir. I'm sorry sir. I'll be more attentive,"
Eric forced out, silently cursing the Cybunny and his arrogance on the inside.
"Anyway," Grievm continued, "We need the girl
to fail. I want to take no chances with this - get her out of the picture. Permanently."
For a second time Eric was startled. He nearly
choked on his tea and set it down, raising his eyes to meet the Cybunny's.
"You heard me. Get rid of her. Arrange an accident.
I want her dead."
"I didn't sign up for this!" Eric exclaimed,
"I'm a college student. I can't kill someone."
"Then find someone who can!" Grievm snapped
back, "There's about twenty people in the League. See if one of them will, or
their pets. Failing that, grow up and do it yourself. I'll return to the university
once the evacuation for the floods starts. Until then, ensure that everything
continues according to plan. And make sure the girl dies. Her sister too. Be
wary of her - Grays are most dangerous in pairs. The original Rain Gray was
a twin also."
And he stood, pulling his jacket closer and
casting Eric one last disdainful glance before heading for the exit, cane tapping
against the floor. The young man sighed and ran his hand through his hair, staring
at the tea and half-eaten crepe before him. This was going from bad to worse.
Somehow they'd have to get Payne out of the way in a manner sufficient to convince
Grievm that the League was still under his control.
"I'll call an emergency meeting," he muttered,
"They're going to the library tonight. We have enough time to arrange something."
He picked up his backpack and disposed of the
crepe, putting the dishes on the counter for the Kau to take care of. The rain
seemed to be coming down harder now and Eric hoped that the Cybunny was being
absolutely drenched. He leaned on the door and staggered out into the rain,
opening an umbrella and hunching his shoulders for the walk back to the dorms.
"This is our campus now Cybunny," he muttered
to himself. "You lost touch a long time ago, both with my generation and with
the League. And if anyone is going to have that sword, it's going to be me."
Night had fallen. The library would be open
for about four more hours where it would close at midnight. Mia sat in the middle
of the floor, ears back, fur bristling. Payne was leaning on the closed door,
tail tucked between her ankles, arms wrapped about her chest.
"Who could have gotten in here?" she asked in
a small voice.
"Anyone who knew about the lock," Mia replied.
"I don't know. They didn't take anything of
value… just that book."
"What's so important about a book?"
"What if the legend is true?" Mia countered.
"And what if someone didn't want you to know about it?"
"But…" she said in bewilderment, "if it's true,
then why take it? The campus will flood if I don't summon the wind."
"Perhaps there's something else. Something we
don't know yet. This means we have enemies Payne."
"We going to the library now? We're going to
need to find out more. And the Techo said that place was your friend."
"And Maria? Should we bring her?"
Mia just narrowed her eyes.
"Really want to involve another person? I like
those two, but neither of them are very good fighters. I can protect you just
fine. I don't know about two more people."
Payne just gaped, the realization that they
could be in danger dawning on her. Mia stood and padded over to the closet,
nosing it open and digging about in the back.
"It's a good thing they didn't find this," she
said, grabbing something wrapped in cloth, "They'd have stolen it for sure,
even if they were only after the book."
And she shook the scrap, revealing a Werelupe's
claw on the inside. She slipped this over her head, letting it fall on her snow
"Help me hide this? I'd prefer to not let everyone
know I have one of these."
Payne nodded and opened the top drawer on her
dresser, pulling out a purple bandanna. She knelt and tied this around her sister's
neck, tucking the weapon inside, away from sight.
"There. You ready?"
"I am. Let's go."
Payne grabbed her jacket and keys, making sure
to lock the door behind her. Not that it'd do much good. Then they were off
down the hallway to brave the elements and the library.
The puddles were even deeper than they were
earlier in the day. It seemed all of campus was covered in about an inch of
water. The puddle in the interior of the library stretched all the way to the
reception desk and orange 'caution - wet floor' signs abounded. Payne shook
out her jacket and gazed about her, glad for the muggy warmth of the building.
"What now?" she asked of her pet who was carefully
sniffing the air.
"To the piles."
And she started off towards the rows and rows
of books, Payne tagging along behind her. Mia made her way directly to where
they had found the book to begin with and together the two started browsing
"This is pointless," Payne announced after only
a couple moments. "There's nothing on the library here."
"We've got to find something."
"Easy for you to say."
She lapsed into silence again, not moving from
the books until Mia snapped her head up, giving a sharp gasp of fear and surprise.
"Mia? What is it?"
"This isn't good," she whispered.
"Do you remember how I'd be able to tell when
someone meant you harm? Back in grade school? I could smell it on them. Well,"
she said grimly, "I smell that now. We've got to get out of here."
Payne slowly stood, trying to look around without
being conspicuous. She sniffed the air delicately, tasting only the heady odor
of old paper and damp.
"I don't see anyone," she whispered.
"They're blocking the exit. Com'n. There's stairs
nearby. Let's go."
Payne started for them, Mia close behind. She
took the stairs two at a time, her hand sliding along the metal banister. Up,
up again, until Mia slipped past and led them out onto the fourth floor. The
music library. Drawers of sheet music were mingled with shelves of books.
"Mia!" a voice cried.
The Gelert froze and glanced over at the green
Lupe that walked towards them.
"VerdeVer! What are you doing here?" Mia asked
as the other pet stopped before them.
"Sorry Mia," he said, "I did like you as a friend."
He jumped forwards, grabbing one of her ears
in his teeth and as she shrieked he broke a Slumberberry potion just below her
nose. She gasped, coughed, and slid to the ground with a heavy thud. The Lupe
let go, panting, as two men came out of the stairwell, one grabbing Payne by
"You're coming with us," he whispered in her
ear. "Try anything and you'll never see Mia again. Now let's go."
And Payne, her heart in her throat, had no choice
but to comply.
To be continued...