"AWAKE! ALERT! ALIVE! IMPOSTERS ON THE BRIDGE! IMPOSTERS ON THE BRIDGE!"
My eyes instantly snapped open, and raked my surroundings for landmarks I knew. Shiny Goldoba metal, check. Desk, check. Closet, check. Good, I was still in my own bed, my own room on the Goldoba. But who were these imposters? Kalas and his friends, probably. That's who tended to crop up in our lives—particularly when it was inconvenient.
"LET'S GO! LET'S GO!" The strident voice was back. "AYME, GET YOUR ASS OUT OF BED!"
"My ass is out of bed," I retorted as I jumped to my feet, already in a fighting stance.
"Finally!" Folon exclaimed. "Holy hell, suit up! They're going to be on top of us and you won't even be dressed!"
"Drama queen," I huffed as he disappeared from the doorframe, slamming the door behind him as he went.
Already up and on the move, I headed over to the closet and flung the doors wide open. Hanging on the back rack was my armor, hung up all nice and pretty from the last time I'd worn it. Not sure what possessed me to actually hang the damn thing up; I usually throw it on the floor. It stands up on its own, after all.
So on went the blue undersuit. I wriggled into it without too much trouble, even though the material had decided to shrink in this high altitude. I ran a cautionary hand down my leg, wondering how furry I'd let myself get recently. Nope, still fine. I'd shaved last night, and anyway, I was kicking ass, not rubbing elbows with the Emperor and the nobles. Folon and Giacomo sure didn't care if I was hairless or not.
Over the blue undersuit went on my black armor, with the attached coattails. I buckled it in all the right places, making sure it fit snugly over the rest of me. I then made the mistake of glancing at my reflection in the mirror on the backside of the closet door, and recoiled slightly at the sight of myself. I was a mess; all bruised and bloodied from my last battle, my magenta hair wild and snarled from sleeping on it.
"Crazy rabbit, let's go!" I heard my nickname from somewhere behind me, and laughed when I realized it was only Folon. "We're burning daylight, here!"
"Calm down, would you?" I ordered as I attacked my hair with a brush. "Kalas isn't known for sprinting through things."
"Nah, you are," Folon agreed with a laugh. "That's why you're being weird."
I turned to face this blue, half-crazed joker, and realized he was right. Why was I taking so long? Something wasn't right. I didn't feel right. Not today, not now. Hmm. "What do you know of weird?" I snorted, turning back to the mirror.
"Same as you," he replied.
I rolled my eyes and began to braid my hair, making sure the plait was tight enough to withstand whatever I was going to put it through today. I glanced at the calendar on the door opposite the mirror, and my heart froze in my chest. No wonder I felt strange today. Today, of all days…
"Ayme," Folon immediately noticed the change in me. "You okay?"
I drew in a deep, even breath. "Happy anniversary," I said quietly, without looking at him.
I tied off my braid just as Folon turned me to face him. "I don't have an anniversary," he said seriously, his blue eyes boring into me.
"Sure you do," I said as I shrugged him off and set about looking for my helmet. "You have the same one I do."
"Okay, now I'm just confused," he said, scratching his head. It makes me laugh when he does that; he subconsciously avoids his Mohawk.
I threaded my braid through the niches in my helmet, then set the whole apparatus into place. "Today's the day we were taken from Azha," I said, tapping the calendar with one tanned finger. "Don't you remember?"
The hot desert breeze blew sand across the barren town. Soldiers were in the midst of firefights, men and women were shrieking and calling out to one another. Children—my friends, even—were hiding or bawling or not making any sound at all. My sister said to me, "Ayme, Ayme, just stay here, I'm getting mom. I'll be right back; don't move."
That was the last I ever saw of her.
"'Course I remember that day," Folon said, now just as quiet as me. "I just never remembered the date."
"It's my sister's birthday," I said conversationally as I sat on the edge of my bed, pulling on the knee-high socks that keep those blasted boots from chewing up my legs. "I wonder if she'd even recognize me anymore."
Folon appraised me a moment. "The hair might not help."
"Shut up," I half-snapped, half-laughed. "At least I'm not blue, eh?"
Folon collapsed next to me, and handed me my boots. "Ayme…" He seemed to struggle to find the words. Not made for emotions, this one. "Crazy Rabbit…"
I slid into each rocket boot, adjusted them accordingly, then stood. Without the heels and the helmet, Folon is taller than me, but for the moment, we're just about the same height. "Let's go, Folon. You're the one saying we'll miss them."
He snorted, without any anger or sarcasm. "Giacomo can deal with a failed experiment, a waif, a fisherman, a magician, and two ex-Imperials."
"Yeah, but we'll get ourselves chewed out if we don't get out there," I reminded him as I scoured the room, looking for my blasters. "As it is, we'll probably get chewed out."
"Whatever," Folon shrugged. "We've been chewed out before."
"And no doubt will again," I said, still looking for my guns. "Where are those things?"
"What, these?" Folon snickered, holding up my blasters.
"Hey! Give me those."
He shot me a look. "Just promise me something, Ayme."
My brow furrowed. "Sure, what do you need?"
He drew in a breath. "Promise me you'll keep your head on straight today, especially if we have to fight." He stared down at his boots. "I don't want to lose you, too."
I nodded. "Only if you promise me the same."
"Deal," he said, his smirk returning. He handed me the two blasters back. "Let's go."
I slid them onto my hands, fully dressed and ready for whatever lay next, and left the room.