Earned Honor (March 2019, Week 2, Day 7)
The night air was heavy with warmth as Asta Lyx slowly turned the knob, closing the door behind her without a sound. She was already covered in a sheen of sweat before she managed to clear the stoop and regroup in the alley under the cover of darkness. She smiled to herself as she shifted her pack into place on her back – they hadn’t thought she’d make it even this far.
With her pack secure she looked down at the route that pulsed just beneath the skin in palm of her left hand. She wasn’t sure of the final destination and wouldn’t be until she got there. The directions were clear – she had a long way to go and needed to get to the next checkpoint before daybreak. Asta Lyx checked both ends of the alley before closing her left hand and starting out.
When she’d left home, Asta Lyx had told her mother her plans. The derisive laughter still rang in her ears months later. The youngest of seven children and the slowest to grow, no one had ever believed in her. This mission was her chance. As she skirted from shadow to shadow she alternated between reviewing the map in her mind’s eye with thinking about how she’d be recieved back home once she was done. Walking into the family home fully decorated for her service was motivation enough to keep herself moving, no matter how heavy the pack was or how far she had yet to go.
Asta Lyx stopped abruptly and dropped to her belly. She had spotted the search bot in time, but only just. From her limited view, she watched the thing work its way down the street, crossing the intersection in front of her without stopping. The search bots were popping up more regularly now than they had at the start of her journey. Asta Lyx waited for it to get fully out of sight before pulling out her com pad to report it. She felt her left hand glow and looked at the updated route – the end point hadn’t changed this time, just her path to get there. The new route added 10 kilometers. She shook her head as she rose and picked up speed.
Being small and fast were what had gotten her this assignment. When she’d showed up to volunteer, the review team had looked skeptical. Asta Lyx had fought her urge to speak her mind that day, biting her tongue to keep from giving the team a verbal lashing, and waited instead for her chance to show them what she could do. Their tune had changed quickly enough. She was stronger than she looked, too, which she’d had to prove with every new supervisor.
She got the rest of the way out of town without seeing more search bots or running into any obsticles. Asta Lyx checked her hand from time to time to make sure she was on track. She was drenched with sweat and ready for a drink before she felt safe enough to stop for a rest. Options for pausing unseen were limited on the edge, so she ignored her thirst until she made it past the threshold and away from its forced lights.
She’d had to work past her fear of the dark before she could join the resistance. Light didn’t exist outside of the city domes at night, and it wasn’t like they could just amble around from place to place in the light of day. When she was small, one of her brothers had locked her in a closet. She’d cried and pounded on the door at first, and then sank into a corner, terrified of all the things she couldn’t see around her. It had taken hours for anyone to miss her and then more time for them to find her. By the time her sister had thought to check the closet, Asta Lyx was almost catatonic with fear. She’d slept with the light on until leaving home and came up with excuses to avoid travel outside of the city.
Darkness was a gift now, and Asta Lyx was ready for the pitch black waiting for her on the other side of the dome. As she slid through the barrier and into the darkness, Asta Lyx looked over her shoulder at the brightly lit town and smiled. She traveled half a kilometer further into the darkeness before dropping to her knees dig out her canteen. She checked her hand and was pleased to discover she was ten minutes ahead of schedule.
The items in her pack had never been outside the barrier and, as long as she was successful they’d never be inside it again. She’d completed two of the steps of the mission, entirely on her own. She wiped her mouth with the back of her hand, smirking into it, as she prepared to work her way through to step three. The soft glow from her palm was her only light, so she held her hand open as she started out into the darkness.
It was twenty minutes before daybreak when she arrived at the checkpoint. The glow from the people showed her where she was heading better than the map in her hand, a welcome sight after the long night of traveling in the darkness. Asta Lyx was tired, sore, and hungry, all of which overshadowed her joy at their exuberant welcome and left her feeling more resentful at their surprise than pleased by her reception.
Her hand was map-free which told her she had enough time for a full sleep. She got the required greetings out of the way as quicly as possible before heading to the space they’d designated for her and pulling the curtains closed to block out the hubub. Using her pack as a pillow, Asta Lyx lay down and was asleep before her second exhale.
Delicious smells infiltrated her dreams before her body woke up. Her eyes were the last to comply with the morning routine as Asta Lyx slowly came to. Her first consious thought was for the pack. She tensed and bolted to sitting, reaching for it around the bedclothes until her hand made contact with it. She slipped it back onto her shoulders before opening the curtains.
The people of this community, Asta Lyx could see in the light of day, weren’t too different from the people she’d grown up with. They all appeared to follow the customs, complete with a full spread of food in honor of their visitor. She stood up tall and jutted out her chest as she sauntered up to the table. Being a guest of honor wasn’t something Asta Lyx had much practice with and she was prepared to enjoy it today.
An older man was standing off to the side, staring at her. She felt him before she saw him, and it wasn’t a welcoming feeling. He watched her move along the line of food, and he watched as she chose where to sit, and he watched as she filled up her canteen. Asta Lyx pretended to ignore him, not wanting to give him the satisfaction of her attention, even as she tracked every twitch or shift he made.
She was used to negative attention – that was all she had growing up. If she wasn’t being ignored she was being yelled at or hit. It had been a while since she’d had to use her en guard stance, but it came back as easily as if she’d just used it yesterday. If he had something to say to her he could make the first move. She wasn’t going to give the old man any help.
Asta Lyx had settled down in a spot with her food layed out in front of her before the man left his spot to loom over her. He had his arms crossed and was looking down at her over the top of the small glasses he had perched on the tip of his nose. It was clear that his jaw was clenched, and his left hand was balled into a fist.
“What are you doing here?” He spat the question as he glared down at her.
Asta Lyx pressed herself up to
“You left home.”
Asta Lyx leaned closer to the man. “Do I know you?”
“Maybe not. Not anymore.”
“Yes, I left home.” Asta Lyx puffed up her chest and pulled her shoulders back. “At least I’m in the fight.”
“La de dah”
Asta Lyx mirrored the old man’s crosed arms before saying, “I’d like to finish my meal so I can get back to work.”
“And what good will that work do for others, huh? Or are you just in it for you?” The old man glared at Asta Lyx one more time before lifting his fist and spitting over his left shoulder and walking away.