The disgust on the guard’s face was apparent and impossible to miss. His eyebrows scrunched together as he looked them up and down. Beside Jaycee, his partner looked unfazed.
“You’re free to leave,” the soldier said. He delivered the words smoothly, but the tone is his voice was enough to show his revulsion. Someone waved the guy over, and they were all but forgotten. Leon let go of his hand.
Jaycee wiped his palms on his pants. He didn’t have the luxury to be outwardly picky about how they made it to their destination, but on the inside, he could disagree with their methods. The result was all that mattered, but maintaining his sanity did, too. Well, with what little he had left. His past would endlessly haunt him. The nightmares would accompany him to his eventual demise.
He accompanied his companion to the lengthy line, and they awaited in silence as it grew shorter until their time arrived. The loudspeakers echoed around them, an authoritative woman announcing to all passengers that the airship would depart shortly.
So far, no one had stopped them, but as time passed, it sounded as if the military had become more frantic. They had held a few individuals who stepped in, and they placed guards at the opening of the line.
“Keep your head down,” said Leon.
Jaycee glared up at him, about to tell him how he honestly felt when a guard strode past them and up to the worker checking tickets. He scanned the crowd before leaning into her. His mouth moved, but all Jaycee could piece together was the word fugitive. Immediately, his person became overheated. His former comrades would laugh at him if they saw it, sweating over something as elementary as this.
As usual, Leon didn’t look perturbed by the sudden change of events. A true professional of his trade. It made Jaycee seriously consider who he was. Had he met him somewhere before in his line of work?
“Pardon me, you two.”
Leon lifted his head, features agitated. “What now?”
In the distance, a voice was pushing through the crowd, calling out. “Hey, let me through! Excuse me, there’s a lady passing by—whoa, watch where you touch, Mr. Slippery Fingers.”
Jaycee noticed just in time to see Kyla making her approach to them, hands shaking frantically as soon as she caught them looking her way. To say she was embarrassing would be an understatement. Leon groaned loudly next to him.
“Sir, we can’t hold up departure any longer.” The worker caught the officer’s arm, pleading with her eyes to allow them to pass. All the commotion had people peering in their direction. There was unrest within the crowd.
“If I have to, I’ll get commander Jin and inform him of what's transpiring here.” The woman tipped her hat up and stared the soldier down. “A little birdie mentioned to me what you were doing last night—”
The officer clicked his tongue. “Fine. You win.” He faced them. “You may go.”
He shoved past Kyla, not even whispering an apology. “What’s his problem?”
Commander Jin. That name would strike fear in anyone. He was the head of the military in Fioma, and also well known down below. He was merciless, and better to stay off his radar.
The worker bowed her head. “I’m sorry about that. Do you have your tickets ready?”
After showing their proof of passage, they proceeded down a lengthy corridor, then through a door that brought them outside. The wind picked up, whipping Jaycee’s hair around. Before him held an object unlike he had never seen before.
The airship towered above the building they had just exited. Its length involved the whole dock. It stopped at the edge of Fioma. The only thing separating it from the sky was a steel barrier. At that moment, he realized how mighty Fioma undoubtedly was.
Jaycee looked up. The cerulean sky stood out amongst the puffy white clouds. Underneath him was a mixture of brown and green grass with a dandelion peeking out as the sun hit it. He wanted to burn this picture into his retinas. The beauty of The City in the Sky was unlike anything one would find below.
An employee waved them forward, and Kyla bounced ahead.
They were about to start their journey down to The World Below. There, his real adventure would begin. Everything he was running from would come smashing down, nipping at his heels. And yet, he had to see it one more time. His home.