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No Other Shade of Blue but You

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Izadora could feel the crackling energy in the air as Sarah raked one hand up and down her face in frustration. Petra straightened her spine and stood to her full height. Her eyes tracked Sarah as she pivoted on her left foot and began a quick walk the other way once again.

“I made a tactical decision.”

Sarah whirled, and Izadora flinched at the anger flashing in her eyes.

“To send them with Nicte Batan?!”

Petra straightened her shoulders once more as Sarah fought to barely contain her rage. Izadora could feel the unease wafting off of the woman. Sarah Alder may not be the General anymore, but it did not seem to matter in the moment. Petra stood at parade rest, head tilted back and eyes forward as if she was receiving a dressing down during a bad intel report. Izadora wasn’t sure if the action was out of respect or sheer muscle memory of Sarah’s position, but Petra did not seem to stand as General of the Armed Forces.

Izadora had watched as Petra had swayed under the pressure suddenly dumped onto her shoulders, but she had not seen her buckle. The woman had taken to the danger they now found themselves in a way of which she was sure Sarah would have been proud. She had watched, however, as the decisions and pressure had taken its toll. Petra’s stride had diminished, her shoulders sagged. The weight of the path in front of them had taken its toll.  Not that she would get much sympathy from the Necro – their current situation may not have been her doing, but Petra had certainly orchestrated her way to the position that she now held. That things had gone to seven shades of hell immediately upon her ascension to Sarah’s position was the Goddess’ testing in Izadora’s eyes.

So far, Petra had made several calls that she didn’t agree with, namely the one being discussed now. Izadora had certainly expressed that to her when speaking freely, but she had never been privy to the inner workings of the decisions that must be made at the top of the Armed Forces. She had always given Sarah leeway and understanding, and she was trying hard to do the same with Petra. The woman had never made it a secret that she felt she could do a better job as General, however, and she had watched as Petra had sowed discourse and gained backers among the generals. The bitterness of her final betrayal of Sarah had made it incredibly difficult for Izadora to fully embrace her as their leader. Now that Sarah had returned, Izadora wasn’t sure where their dynamic stood.

She had known Sarah during every single difficult decision that had had to be made in her own time with the Army. She had seen her choose incomprehensible paths with no fanfare. She had watched as Sarah took the brunt of anger and blame from family members of those killed in action under her and never once flinch. Sarah had perfected walls from centuries of political wars that were as real as the ones she had fought on the battlefield and there were days she had struggled to get any read on her even during a friendly conversation.

Sarah Alder’s control was legendary.

Yet in this moment, Izadora could read every thought, every emotion as it reared to life inside of her. She had never known Sarah to be so exposed. It would be fascinating to discuss with her if this moment wasn’t so disconcerting.

Sarah rolled her right shoulder as she stared across the chair at Petra. Fury etched its lines across her face. Izadora glanced down at the hand clenched at Sarah’s side.

It was shaking.

Sarah was standing on the edge of a precipice and Goddess help them when she tipped.

She swallowed hard and raised a glance back towards Anacostia. The Captain raised one lone brow in silent conversation. She had seen it, too.

Something was definitely off.

Izadora nodded to the younger woman. This was going to be an issue they’d have to address, but right now the message was clear: They needed to let this clash between Petra and Sarah play out as far away from cadets as possible.

Petra pulled a deep breath into her lungs and pushed it out slowly.

“Yes, with Nicte Batan. She is experienced at disappearing, and we owe her…”

Sarah’s fury unleashed in a rush.

“We owe her NOTHING!”

Thunder boomed above them with the force of an exploded bomb in the room. Izadora ducked instinctively, her hands flying forward to press over her ears. Anacostia shoved off the wall, and Izadora felt one protective hand on her back immediately. She tilted her head in time to catch Magda flinch against the cane she was leaning against and could just barely hear the shocked “Shit!” that she yelled before it was swallowed by the noise.

Izadora blinked slowly as the echoes rumbled long and loud through the walls of the labs. The fact that the intensity of Sarah’s storm could be heard and felt this far below ground spoke volumes to her now seemingly increased power.

And her unbridled fury.

Somewhere in her brain, Izadora catalogued the moment for further review, but even she knew that right now was not the time for scientific inquiry. Anacostia squeezed once against her back in signal and she slowly raised from her makeshift crouch. Her eyes sought Petra instinctively. The woman was seemingly unphased save for the look of anger safely etched now onto her own features.

No one dared say a word about the display as Sarah advanced, seemingly unaware of what she had just called forth. Her eyes blazed as she moved, hand cutting through the air with the force of a windstrike.

“Nicte is irredeemable. You do not know her as I do.”

Petra seemed to remember herself at that exact moment and she dropped her posture from the parade rest she had been holding. Izadora watched as she spun directly towards Sarah Alder’s fury and snapped.

“And who’s fault is that, huh?”

The words jolted Sarah motionless. She halted mid-step and clamped her jaw closed so quickly that Izadora was shocked she didn’t hear an audible crack. Her eyes burned as they raked across Petra’s face. Izadora watched the muscle in her jaw jump as she clenched it undoubtedly around whatever words she was biting back. The tension between them was thick, palpable in its intensity and Izadora briefly wondered how these two women had ever worked together for so long.

Sarah’s eyes watered even as her lip tugged up into a snarl.

“I will not apologize for a decision made in war.”

Like a flame caught in wind, Petra pushed forward. Her eyes flashed dangerously as she heaved a breath. Izadora was shocked when her famed indifference slipped and she pounded her right hand against her chest wildly.

“Neither will I!”

Thunder boomed once more, rolling deep and angry like a growl from the darkness. It was different from the sheer force of Sarah’s storm, but its timbre belied a deadly anger all the same.

She heard the strange sound a split second before something small dropped against her hair and shoulders. Her brows knit together as she dragged her eyes away from the two powerful witches in front of her and looked down at the fine coating of rock dust that now covered the upper part of her arm. She stared at it for a moment and willed understanding to come.

“Uhm.”

Anacostia’s voice cut through the fog in her mind and she turned to find the Captain staring at the spot above where she was standing. Izadora followed her eyeline and watched as small particles of concrete broke free from the ceiling above them and dropped down onto her once again.

Oh shit.

Understanding at what was occurring rushed in like a wave. Anacostia kept her eyes on the ceiling bricks above her, but Izadora felt her strong grip latch onto her forearm. Anacostia pulled softly and Izadora stepped away just as another stream of dirt dropped to the floor. Thunder rumbled above them once again.

Sarah and Petra, ensconced in the heat of their argument, did not even notice.

Sarah turned wildly, stepping forward as her momentum carried her angrily towards Petra once more. “Do you even know where they are?! You handed one of the most powerful witches we have ever known over to the Spree! Not to mention a Knower unlike any we’ve seen in a generation.”

Petra’s nostrils flared, but she too shoved forward another step. The only thing between the two women was the chair Sarah had occupied earlier.

“Need I remind you that I sent my daughter into this? And Raelle and Tally are just like my own.”

Sarah would have none of it. Izadora could not remember a time she had heard her anger louder than this.

“She is still connected to me, Petra! You don’t think that Nicte is going to figure that out?! That she isn’t already using them?”

Anacostia looked up as another steady stream of dirt filtered to the ground.

Petra wiped at her face in frustration before she leveled one finger at Sarah.

“You think I don’t know the risks?! They were being taken and you were dead at the time! I had to make a decision.”

Sarah scoffed, “It was not the right one!”

“But it was mine to make!”

The words punctured the tension like a needle in a balloon and silence filled the space.

Sarah stared hard across the chair at her former second in command, but Petra did not back down from her glare.

Anacostia took tactical advantage of the brief reprieve and pushed passed Izadora quickly. She tossed one glance back to the ceiling before she shoved herself close to the end of the chair. She felt herself slide back into her drill sergeant mode as she raised one hand up to each woman. It was a futile gesture, she knew, but it conveyed her message just the same.

“Alright enough.”

Neither turned their gaze to her.

Agitation flared in her gut, but Anacostia shoved it down. They needed to get this stopped immediately or the building was going to come down on top of them.

“Any more of this right now and the goddessdamn buildings are going to come down. Cadets are probably terrified right now.”

The words seemed to shake the last blinding tendrils of rage from both women. Each turned then as another stream of dirt tumbled from the ceiling above. Sarah sucked in a deep breath and dropped her gaze to scan the floor in front of her. Petra pinched the bridge of her nose.

“You’re right. Sarah, we can pick this up later when you’re thinking more…”

Sarah did not allow the words. She shoved passed Anacostia and disappeared through the doorframe in seconds.

Petra sighed deeply as she watched her go.

Seconds stretched into minutes as the women attempted to process what had just transpired.

It was Magda’s deep voice that finally cut through the tense silence. Izadora usually delighted in her notorious candor, but even it could not shake her unease.

“Well, that was some shit, Petra. What happened to not pushing her?”

Petra shook her head once before she turned an angry glare towards the witch.

“Don’t start.”

Magda indifferently raised her eyebrows but opted to say nothing to their superior officer. Izadora could easily read the unspoken fuck you on her face from across the room, however. By the way Petra squeezed the back of the chair in front of her, Izadora knew she could, too.

Magda turned her eyes towards Anacostia then, but the woman was already moving.

“Yeah, I know. I’ll find her. And then I’m going to figure out what the hell is going on.”

Anacostia sighed heavily as she brushed passed. Izadora could feel her energy rolling as she pressed through the doorframe and disappeared after her mother.

Love.

Sadness.

Dread.

Resolve.