The tip of the paintbrush barely skimmed across the painting below, leaving a slight trace of light brown. Leaning back, the young woman tucked a strand of her shiny black hair behind her ear, further smearing the dab of blue that ran from below her eye to her temple.
Her phone chimed, shattering the silence and startling her slightly. Dropping her paintbrush onto the table next to her, she stood and walked towards the window. Sun washed through and the gentle breeze waltzed with the thin white curtains.
A sigh escaped her lips as she read the notification. Sliding her phone into her back pocket, she grabbed her coat from the hanger by the door and swung around the corner to check her reflection in the mirror before leaving.
“Agh, again,” she wined, shuffling for the kitchen where she quickly wiped the paint from her face. Her hands were stained and, in her opinion, looked more like art than the canvas in the other room.
Without another thought, she disappeared out the door and into the buzzing crowd below.
Eko rubbed the back of his neck as he stared at the floor. The hum of the elevator's ascension was making him anxious and each floor they passed seemed to crawl by, mocking the nervousness that bloomed in his stomach.
“Relax,” Emmet muttered. “It won’t be worse than last time.”
“And how do you know?” he countered.
The door slid open before either could say more and they hurriedly stepped off, each eager to be on solid ground again.
Intricate white walls surrounded them, designed and mazes engraved on them. Cream-colored flowers lined the hallway, their vases a sheer granite allowing visitors to see the stems that sparkled and shined from the Ven that had kept them alive for so long.
Ven was plant-based power. Some called it magic, but regardless of how it was referred to, its purpose was quite simple. It kept things alive and could heal dying things, including species such as humans. It only worked to certain extents but, with the right Weaver, it could save someone’s life.
Eko drifted back to the present when they reached the conference room before them. Scanning his badge, the grand door moved backward and then disappeared into the wall, allowing them access. He took a deep breath and looked at Emmet to see if he was ready. His gaze was met with a nod and both stepped forward.
The door instantly closed behind them, sealing them in the room until their meeting was finished.
“Ah, good to see you.” Juno stood at the end of the large oak desk.
The roof stretched upward, its glass ceiling giving a view to the grandeur surrounding them. Galaxies upon galaxies sprinkled the dark heavens as the flashing of docking lights and cruise ships swept across the scene.
It never failed to take his breath away. Millions and millions of different life forms were out there and what he was seeing was just the tip of the iceberg. His chest tightened as his throat swelled shut. Sweat began to form on his palms and his head spun as the realization of how small he was hit. His stomach dropped and he forced himself to look down at the ground.
The world spun before his eyes and he struggled to stay standing. Emmet led him towards the closest chair and helped him settle before speaking up.
“I thought you wouldn’t be using us for any more missions.” There was a certain bite in his tone, one that you wouldn’t quite catch if you didn’t know him and one that could most easily be misunderstood if not careful. “We were promised a peaceful Break.”
“Unfortunately, there’s been a change of plans.” Juno straightened his suit coat, his white hair complementing his black fitted suit that snugly fit across his broad shoulders. A gentle smile played across his lips. “And blame the higher-ups for bothering you, I’m just the messenger.”
Eko rested his chin in his palm. “Can you just tell us what the mission is?”
“It’s not something we would normally title as a ‘mission’ but we’ve located another Traveler.”
He raised an eyebrow.
“However.” Juno held a finger up. “She isn’t aware of her ability yet. We’ve traced her Pathway and she’s jumped multiple times but never for long. We’re assuming that they were just quick bursts into parallel universes and since she didn’t stay for an extended period of time, she most likely didn’t pick up on it.”
“And you want us to do what exactly? We’ve never encountered anything like this before.” Emmet spoke.
“We have regulations and protocols to follow in situations like this but I have permission from the Geau to bypass all of them. They need her as soon as possible and if we adhered to the rules it would take too long.”
“So you go and we kidnap her.”
“Yes, but I would hope you go about it in a more civilized manner. Let’s not have the authorities on our tails, okay?”
Eko chewed on the inside of his lip for a moment. “What do they need her for exactly?”
“I don't know but if I were to guess I would say for the Liberation. We’re getting to be too big with not enough room and–.”
“And they need someone else to do it for them when they have the two of us?” He cut him off.
“And Anitha who is stronger than the both of us combined,” Emmet added quickly.
“Look.” Juno took a deep breath and stepped back. “Just look up. Do you realize how little you are compared to everything out there? Yes, your powers may be immense but if we can get our hands on her, we have the key out of this god-forsaken place.”
“It’s not that bad but you wouldn’t know anything about that because you sit in your little spiny chair all day.” He rolled his eyes.
Eko silenced him with the wave of a hand. “I still don’t understand. We’re both indebted to the Geau and they’re just going to hire someone else on when we could do it and be free from you guys?”
“Take it up with them,” he snapped. “I don’t have the time or the effort to argue with someone like you.”
“Apologies. I let my anger get the best of me.” Juno closed his books and slid one across the table to them. “Here’s everything you could possibly need to know about the new Traveler. We’ll have a check-in in about a month.”
Words rushed to the tip of Eko’s tongue but he bit them back. He’d long since learned that there was no point in arguing with Juno or asking any more questions. The rest would be up to him and since they no longer had to follow regulation, the Geau wouldn’t be watching over him like a hawk.
Juno stopped, his hand resting on the door. “Please do be gentle with her though when you break the news to her. The last thing we want is for her to be traumatized and scared of the Pathways. Although, if she decides to be stubborn, you’re authorized to go to extremes.”
“Extremes? As in…” Eko’s voice faded out.
Juno nodded. “Yes.”
And with that, he disappeared through the door leaving the two in silence.
“Well, that certainly wasn’t what I was expecting.” Emmet dropped into a chair across from him.
He nodded. “I don’t know if it’s worse or better than what I had prepared myself for.”
He reached across and grabbed the files from him. “Where do we find her?”
Ecko tilted his head to the side. “Are you ready to be the proper art student or are you going to play hooky with the rich girls behind the studio?”
A pout formed on his face. “Fine. I guess the newbie is more important.”