Notes: So, this chapter is a bit of a long, hot mess. It’s not exactly how I wanted it but there’s so much to do that it’ll have to suffice for now. Just, holy crap. Lots of stuff in here.
Thanks again to all my prompters, I love you. You feed my muse, and I’m grateful for it. My birthday was extra wonderful thanks to your help J
Title: The Academy
Part Twenty-Eight: Subtlety Is Overrated
It took Ten a week to orchestrate a scenario with Kyle that ze hoped would lead to the end result ze wanted, which was basically Kyle confessing to being a horrible human being. Once ze got face-to-face with Kyle, Ten was pretty sure ze could talk him into an outburst, when presented with the fact that they all knew he was a would-be murderer. The problem was in the “they” part of the equation, because there was no way that Ten was going to confront Kyle on anything by hirself, not when ze was perfectly aware that any scion of the Alexander family was undoubtedly full of combat mods, despite their illegality before formal graduation. Exceptions were made for high-profile students, and Ten knew ze wasn’t the only person who didn’t like Kyle.
So, ze needed muscle along for the ride, the kind that Kyle might think twice about messing with. That meant ze needed to convince—and this pained hir to no end—Darrell and Xenia to go along with this. Grennson would have been better, but honestly, Ten wasn’t sure why the Perel had decided to go into the military; he was decidedly pacifistic. Whatever, he could stay with Cody, who under no circumstances could know what Ten was planning out because he would throw another fit and leave Ten feeling inexplicably bad for being right again.
Not surprisingly, Pamela was Ten’s first ally when it came to hir plan. “You’re going to need a way to subdue him, not just intimidate him enough not to come after you,” she said earnestly, her face unnaturally pale. “He won’t just stand around and wait for security staff to catch him. He has to be immobilized.”
“But how?” Ten asked, feeling unusually slow. Ze had been musing over this all week, making plans and discarding them left and right; no doubt hir brain was tired. Plus, ze hadn’t slept for over forty hours, but that was what energy shakes were for.
“Well, I’d say sneak into the infirmary and grab a sedative shot, but they won’t let you in there anymore, will they?”
“So why don’t you do it?” Ten asked. “You’d be even better at sneaking in, wouldn’t you? You’re psychic, you’d know who was where and what was going on. Even better, just compel someone to give it to you so you don’t have to worry about being caught on the security footage.”
“Ten,” Pamela said, her expression pained, “there are some lines that I try not to cross, and compelling people to do my bidding is one of them. Besides, I’m really not that strong a psychic.”
“What constitutes ‘strength’ in a psychic, anyway? What can a really strong psychic do?”
“I’ll tell you later,” she said firmly. “Right now we have to think about how to take out Kyle. Maybe I can get Bartholomew to make something up for me.”
“Good idea,” Ten said instantly. “He’s got access to chemicals that they won’t give me anymore, otherwise I could do it myself.” Ten was sure ze could, if given enough time, at least. “Plus he likes you.” The last few times Ten had met up with Bartholomew at the lab, all he’d been able to talk about was Pamela.
“Yeah, he’s got a bit of a crush.” Pamela smiled. “Now. We should go and talk to Darrell and Xenia. They’re getting out of paraball practice soon, right?”
“Right.” Ten was faintly aware of the fact that ze was being chivvied into doing things Pamela’s way, which was a little disconcerting since generally ze stuck to hir own methods, but there was no need to fight about the little things when things were generally going the way ze wanted.
“Great. Let’s go meet them and we can tell them what we need from them.”
“I’m still trying to work out how to phrase ‘be the mute and imposing muscle and for fuck’s sake don’t screw things up’ in a polite way,” Ten said as they headed toward the field.
“Don’t worry, I’ll help you soften things,” Pamela promised him. “I was taught the art of diplomacy from a very early age, I know how to be inoffensive.”
“Maybe I should take lessons from you.” Because Ten didn’t care what people thought of hir, ze really didn’t, but maybe it would be nice if ze could have a conversation with Cody without ostracizing him these days. Ten felt like ze was walking on razor grass with hir roommate, casting around for neutral subjects and trying not to be overbearing about Cody’s pain management even though the schedule that ze had worked out was clearly better.
“Tell you what,” Pamela said as they neared the field. “Why don’t you stand back and let me do the talking with Darrell and Xenia? Think of it as your first lesson.”
“Sure, I can do that.”
Since when are you this agreeable? Ten had to admit, hir superego had a point. Ze wasn’t used to standing back and letting someone else take the lead. The answer was simple, though.
Since it’s Cody on the line. Ten could take second place if it meant making sure Cody was safe.
And ze had to admit, watching Pamela at work was like getting a master class in manipulation. They found Darrell and Xenia leaving the field together, sweaty and talking about some new move they were going to try out in the next game. Darrell looked suspicious to see them together, while Xenia was more curious.
“I’m not sure I even want to know,” Darrell said with a groan.
“You do want to know,” Pamela insisted, stepping forward immediately and taking both their hands. Ten shivered and clenched hir fist suddenly, looking down at it in surprise. Hir palm was sweaty. Had Pamela been holding hir hand? Strange, ze hadn’t even noticed it…
“What do you want?” Xenia asked, pulling back a little but not far enough to escape Pamela’s grip.
“We need for you two to help us talk to Kyle,” Pamela said. “Something is going on with him, and we need to get the truth out of him. He’d never speak just to me or Ten, he doesn’t like either of us, but if you two were with us I’m sure he’d be more willing to open up.”
Darrell frowned. “What is it that you want him to talk about? What’s he done?”
“Something he should be ashamed of,” Pamela said, her voice full of quiet conviction. “Something very dangerous, for Cody, Darrell.”
“You’re not referring to the bike thing? Because that was an accident.”
“No it wasn’t.” Ten opened hir mouth to explain, but Pamela plowed ahead before ze could, explaining the event much better than Ten ever could have. She knew just the right things to say, her turns of phrase perfect, her tones inviting confidence and trust. Darrell and Xenia leaned in closer to her the longer she spoke, and Ten found hirself swaying in Pamela’s direction even though ze already knew everything she was going to say.
“We don’t want to hurt him,” Pamela finished up. “We just want to talk to him, we want to get him some help. That’s why we need your help, to make sure nothing goes wrong tomorrow, that he doesn’t run or try to hurt anyone.”
Ten blinked. “Wait, tomorrow?” That wasn’t enough time. “Bartholomew will need longer to synthesize the kind of sedative we need for Kyle.”
“Actually, he won’t,” Pamela said with a little smile. “It’s something he and I have been talking about for quite a while, and I’m sure by tomorrow morning it’ll be ready. Besides, we don’t want to give Kyle any longer to plan his next move. We have to strike first. For Cody’s sake.”
“Right,” Ten said, but ze was frowning.
“Ten.” Pamela let go of Xenia and took his hand again. “We’re doing this to save Cody. It’s the only way, I swear.”
“All right,” Ten agreed.
“I’m not sure about this,” Xenia said uncomfortably. “Kyle’s never done anything to make me think he’d be capable of killing someone. Not like this.”
“He’s an Alexander,” Pamela said sadly. “They’re the most powerful family in the Federation, do you really think they’d let any member of theirs go out without knowing how to protect themselves by getting rid of others? It’s the only thing that makes sense.”
“You should get Grennson to come tomorrow, if that’s true,” Darrell said. “He’s an empath, he’ll be better able to tell if Kyle’s lying. Plus he’s way stronger than any of us.”
“I bet I could take him,” Xenia muttered.
“Of course you could,” Pamela agreed. “You two will do just fine. Ten will have the sedative standing by to make sure.”
Darrell still seemed frustrated. “Why don’t we ask for help, take this to the Admiral? I’m sure he’d help.”
“Really?” Ten asked acidly, unable to stay silent any longer. “You think Admiral Liang would believe us over his golden child, without absolutely incontrovertible proof to back it up? You think Admiral Liang would put Cody’s welfare before a Legacy’s? No offense meant,” ze added for their sakes, “but the Legacy program is what makes this branch of the Academy shine, and a lot of powerful people will be really offended if someone tries to tarnish their brightest star without making sure he’s guilty. Which he is,” ze added. “You know he is. There’s no other good explanation.”
“Listen to Ten,” Pamela pleaded. “Tell us you’ll help us talk to Kyle tomorrow. Ten will let you know when.”
“I…I guess,” Darrell said after a moment.
“Sure,” Xenia replied much easier. She turned to Darrell. “Maybe we should stay together tonight, make it easier to coordinate tomorrow morning. You can come over to my quad.”
“Okay,” Darrell said.
Ten squinched hir eyes shut suddenly, feeling a sharp pain in the very front of hir head. This was…something was…why would Darrell staying with Xenia be easier? Ze didn’t think—
“Ten.” Ze opened hir eyes to look straight into Pamela’s grey ones, and the pain eased a little. “I know you’re worried, but it’s going to work out, I promise. You’re going to need to set up the meet with Kyle through Cody’s personal account, you know how to do that, right?”
“Yes.” Cody rarely used his implant to send messages, preferring to do it the old-fashioned way. It wouldn’t be hard for Ten to mimic Cody’s account and send a message to Kyle from their room.
“Perfect. You do that, and let all of us know when the meeting is going to be. We’ll go in Cody’s place and get Kyle to talk. Cody will be safe.”
“That’s what I need,” Ten said with complete honesty. Pamela smiled and cupped hir face in her hands.
The rest of the day felt…hazy. Ten was a planner, and ze knew that normally ze would be reviewing their course of action, making backup plans and coming up with alternatives and generally annoying the hell out of everyone around hir with hir zeal, but instead it felt like every time hir mind tried to wander beyond what they’d already worked out, it got hard to think.
Grennson frowned when he learned of Darrell’s absence over dinner, and his quills ruffled even further when Ten didn’t explain beyond a shrug. “Are you sure you are well?” he asked, reaching one milk-pale hand toward Ten’s shoulder. Ten jerked violently out of reach, filled with a sudden repugnance at the very idea of Grennson touching him.
“I’m fine,” ze said automatically, buy that didn’t make Grennson stop staring.
“You don’t seem fine,” Cody said from hir other side, and when he reached out to touch Ten let him. It felt like a balm on hir frayed nerves, and ze leaned into it gratefully.
“Too much studying, not enough rest, maybe,” Ten offered. “I’m going to try to go to sleep early, I think.”
“Good idea,” Cody agreed. “I’ll be in soon, okay? I’ll try not to wake you if you’re already asleep.”
“Okay.” Ten retreated to their room before Grennson could say anything else, shutting the door behind hir with a sigh. That was a close call. If Grennson knew what was going on he’d undoubtedly try and talk them out of it, and that was completely unacceptable at this point.
Sending a message to Kyle through Cody’s account was child’s play, accomplished in under a minute from Hermes’ tactile interface. When ze got a positive response about it a minute later, Ten sagged a little with relief, the forwarded the news to Pamela and Darrell. This was it, then. The perfect set-up.
Ten reached up to massage hir aching temples and started when hir fingers hit the edge of hir corona. Ze’d forgotten ze’d had it on. Ten slid it off and connected it to hir tab, letting the energy recordings from the day download into it. Ze’d have to remember to bring it tomorrow, it would be a good back-up in case Kyle put a blip into the security footage again.
Ze pretended to be unconscious a few hours later when Cody came into the room, but in truth Ten couldn’t calm down enough to fall asleep. Ze couldn’t quiet hir mind, hadn’t been able to for days—it was so odd, so uncharacteristic. Ten was no stranger to staying up for days on end, but never because of this strange anxiety that had a grip on hir now; ze had always had perfect control over hir mind, and could catnap hir way to victory until ze’d solved whatever problem had captured hir attention. Right now, though, everything was cloudy and indistinct, a vague air of unease that turned into a frenzy when hir thoughts drifted the wrong way. In the end, Ten spent hir last few hours before the meeting perched on the edge of Cody’s bed, fingertips just barely grazing his messy curls.
It was ridiculous, this dependence on Cody. Foolish, because everyone either left Ten or pushed hir away. Hir parents, Symone, countless caregivers and stupid, heartless children that Ten had eventually learned not to try with…none of them had ever stayed. And eventually ze hadn’t cared whether they stayed or not, because frankly they bored hir, but Cody was different. How long he’d stay that way Ten had no way of knowing, but he’d leave a lot sooner than anyone wanted if Kyle Alexander had his way. Ten couldn’t let that happen.
Ze left their quad just as the sky began to lighten, uniform jacket buttoned up tight against the chilly morning air. Ze met Pamela just outside the racing track, where she pressed a heavy metal syringe into hir clammy hands.
“Aim for his heart when you do the injection,” she said. “This is important, Ten. You need to get as close to the heart as possible.”
“Why don’t you do this part?” Ten asked, feeling a little queasy.
“Because I’ve got something else to take care of. Don’t worry,” she assured him. “It’ll be fine. Bartholomew made it, you trust him, don’t you?”
“He wouldn’t give you anything that wouldn’t do the job.” Pamela looked over her shoulder at—nothing. “Darrell and Xenia are coming, wait here. I’m going to meet them. When they come back, head into the track. Don’t leave until you get Kyle.” She headed away, out of sight, and left Ten staring at the auto-syringe in his hand. It reminded him of Cody’s, only instead of pain relief this one had…sedative…Ten really should have checked on that, it wasn’t that ze didn’t think Bartholomew was capable of making something effective but he wasn’t brilliant, and if this was too strong, or too weak…and sticking it close to the heart could do serious damage, even if it was a weak formulation, even to someone as modified as Kyle had to be.
All of a sudden Xenia and Darrell were there, and Ten knew exactly what ze had to do. Ze didn’t speak, just led them into the track. The lights were low, but the man they were there to meet wasn’t trying to hide. Kyle Alexander leaned against the far wall, and even in the dim light Ten could see his eyes widen slightly before he pushed forward to meet them.
“Well, you all aren’t exactly who I expected,” he said calmly.
“We’re here to talk to you,” Ten said, feeling anger start to flood hir system at the sight of him. Standing there so casual, like he had nothing to feel guilty about. Standing there like a liar. “You need to tell us why you tried to kill Cody. Why you’re being his friend, when you’re a Legacy, when you’re an Alexander and you hate him.”
“I don’t hate Cody, and I had nothing to do with Cody’s bike exploding.”
“You did,” Ten yelled. “You’re the only one who could have done it, it was you, just tell me why.”
Kyle shook his head. “I don’t have anything to say to you,” he said. “But I’m pretty sure that you’ve got something to tell me.”
Kyle sighed and moved a little closer, flexing his hands. “This isn’t how I wanted things to go, but it’ll have to do at this point.”
Before Ten could move, even to raise the syringe in hir hand, Kyle attacked them.