“Feathers from a Broken Arrow”

November sixth, 2106 – at around seven in the evening, some members of Artemis were called for a rush job to transport fifties era machine parts to the Feather Creek Desert in the east. Less than an hour later, assailants sent by an unknown party staged an ambush at the hyperloop freight yard.

The brawl lasted twenty minutes, and the assailants were successfully routed. Sadly, despite their best efforts, the Atermis group incurred heavy casualties during the battle. Felicity suffered minor injuries alongside fourteen of her allies. Still four others, including her cousin Marcellus Breaux, were in critical condition as a result.

Until now, I had never heard her talk about the tragedy; and until about an hour ago, I had no idea that her cousin was one of the unlucky ones that night. Asking around the school, I found out that Marcellus had been confined to long-term care for a severe brain injury.

Though he was hailed as a hero, he himself had no memories of the incident or even those closest to him. The prospects of a full recovery were minimal.

“W-What are you saying?” Felicity’s voice shook with a mixture of anger and sadness.

“Marcellus is fine; I saw him today even! He’s fine… He’s…”

“Felicity.” I held up a hand to silence her. “I don’t know everything that happened to you back then, nor can I claim to empathize with the scars it left on your psyche. Yet I will be goddamned if I am going to see my best friend slowly kill herself over the illusion of guilt-“

“SHUT UP!” It was the first time I had ever seen her yell like that. Slowly, she fell to her knees. “I know it’s my fault! If I hadn’t been there, if I hadn’t been in the way! Then Marcellus wouldn’t have had to save me! I should be the one confined to a bed! Not him!”

Her wails pierced the evening sky and I pulled her into my arms. All of the negative energy she had harbored for six months exploded in a cataclysm of frustration at a situation which, truthfully, could never have been prevented. Like all things on Ganymede, chance had dealt its cards, and those caught by the tides were left to cash out whatever remained.

Once the proverbial weight had been lifted, exhaustion crept over the girl and she collapsed against my chest. Holding her close, I carried her along until we arrived at her doorstep. Her sister and mother awaited our return with both concern and implicit understanding of what must have occurred.

Laying Felicity down in her bed was simple enough, and I made sure the window was shaded before closing the door. Felicity’s mother was in the kitchen with Elena. She poured me a cup of coffee and I thanked her promptly. “Please forgive my intrusion so late into the day.”

“So, d-did she tell you after all?” Elena timidly spoke up.

“Her reactions said enough,” I lamented. “If working herself to death is her way of atoning for her transgressions, then she won’t stop until she’s a mere shell of herself. I don’t think she’s realizing that doing so would leave two people to care for and exacerbate her guilt.”

“I tried to get her to see a counselor, but she was so adamantly opposed that I didn’t know what to do!” Mrs. Breaux swirled some creamer into her coffee, the distortions of the liquids a mirror for the turmoil she felt as a mother.

I smiled at her. “Really, I think you’re fine. You know, I only ever get to see my mother once or twice a year. She’s not able to be a part of my life like you can in Felicity’s. You actually have the power to hug her, to listen face to face. So for what it’s worth, I think you’ve done an excellent job taking care of her.”

“That is so absolutely sweet of you to say, Jade!”

“The best thing we can do is let her come to us. Now that the wall has come down, it’s up to her to explore the world outside of it. With her, I don’t think it will take too long.”

Collectively, we decided that I would stick around for the time being. I called my dad and told him only that I was staying with a friend, since I didn’t want to make him worry. Mrs. Breaux presented me a fresh change of clothes and I took a quick shower. By the time I was done, Felicity was showing signs of waking up.

As she opened her eyes fully, I greeted her warmly. “Did you have a good nap?”

“What am I doing, Jade?” Her response was incredibly forlorn.

“I’m not the one who can answer that. I am not you, and I don’t know what your motives are. So tell me, Felicity Breaux: what are you doing?”

She pulled herself upright, holding a pillow to her chest for both comfort and stability. It looks like she’s still a bit worn out. Tears welled up in her eyes. “For the longest time, I thought that if I worked hard enough, I would find a way to help the doctors nurse Marcellus back to full health. I wanted to save him the way he saved me. I know; childish and naïve isn’t it? Then I had another thought, that if I were to become a proper member of Artemis, I could accomplish everything he had set out to do. I felt if I did that, maybe – just maybe – I could be forgiven.

“The sad truth about legends and demigods is that they are neither recreated nor replaced by mere mortals. When I think that, I wonder if my being here instead of him means anything at all. I wasted months fooling myself with bullshit excuses and the notion that I simply wasn’t trying hard enough. I’m pretty pathetic, aren’t I?”

I shook my head and wrapped my arms around her. “This is a burden you never should have had to face alone. Nobody expects you to be the kind of person Marcellus was. I believe that when Marcellus saved you, it was so you could find your own path in the Arrow of Artemis, regardless of whether it would coincide with the one he left behind. In a way, it’s exactly like that book you lent me a few weeks ago. I did finish reading it, by the way.”

At first, Felicity stared at me. Then she started to laugh, and I found myself laughing too. We held each other close for a few minutes and she told me that she felt better about things. Taking her hand, I walked her down the hall to where her mother was waiting.

I found myself waiting outside the door to Mrs. Breaux’s room, arms folded as I listened to the murmurs of mother and daughter coming to terms. There was crying on both sides, but nestled deep within the pain were the emotions of happiness and hope. It would take time, but things would eventually be alright. Felicity would continue to push herself, but this time it would be in a healthier way.

She was my second closest friend after Francesca. I wanted to protect her in any way I could. I hated whatever person or group had caused all of this to happen, and I knew deep down that since Felicity would never actively seek revenge on another, I would ultimately convince myself to take up arms in her stead. Right, wrong or indifferent, I was prepared to destroy anyone in my path.

At the very least, I could take solace in a single fact: circumstances assured that the Megaera family had to be innocent. They may have been related to the attack somehow, but it was very unlikely that they were the ones who carried it out. My plans involving the young heir would be able to proceed accordingly, even if I had to wait just a bit longer to implement them.

I returned to Felicity’s room, grabbed my phone, and made my way into the rear of the house. Elena was busy studying in her bedroom, so I knew I wouldn’t be disturbed. I dialed a number and put the handset to my ear. Five rings later and it went to voicemail. “Bradley, it’s me. I’m going to need a favor from you.”

I made sure to leave thorough instructions and my gratitude as I disconnected the call. It would be a long time before those seeds would bear fruit, but I was willing to be patient. With that accomplished, I walked back to the common room and collapsed on the sofa. My phone fell to the floor as I found myself drifting off…

It is said that the flow of cards into and out of one’s hand is a psychic mirror to the spiritual progression of their life. Identity, aspirations, and motives can all be revealed by the draws and discards a player performs. The first of these was always the card of the player’s birth. In life, a player would either seek to make that card the centerpiece of their hand, or would cast the card aside in favor of a new self.

My birth had been synonymous with the nine of diamonds: suit of autumn harvest and number of spiritual release. In making peace with the symbol that was this card, I often found myself surrounded by diamonds.

From a reality standpoint, I gather that these diamonds were abstract representations of my peers. They turned to me whenever the situation called for arbitration, and in exchange they gave their respects. My relationship with all of them was purely a professional one; I could never truly call myself close with them. The same could be said about my relationship with my father, who was a diamonds jack.

Those blessed and governed by clubs – Felicity and Francesca among them – were rivals to me, yet that charming opposition is what captivated me the most. Clubs were notorious for being worldly, crafty, and a tad manipulative. Felicity had done well to guard herself, even from me, in a vain effort to become the seven.

I feel like I can understand her a tiny bit better, but I fear I may never be able to truly become part of her world. The same can be said of my friendship with Fran, though I certainly resonate with her more. I’m not sure exactly why that is.

Then there was Raiden. He was a spade, the marshals of death and rebirth. I realized that I knew nothing – nothing about him, nothing about his heritage, and nothing about the trials he had been damned to. How would the ebb and flow of this city, with its ever present atmosphere of distrustfulness, change my perceptions of him?

When I next checked my phone, it was half-past four. Shaking the tiredness from my bones, I let myself out for a quick walk along the street. Once back in the house, a bit of yoga helped me to clear my mind. All of the uncertainties from my subconscious began to vanish, leaving me refreshed and alert.

“You really are incredible sometimes, Jade.” Out of the corner of my eye, Felicity was dressed in a pink leotard. She held a matching purple one over her arm.

“I’m above average at best; incredible is pushing it.” I quickly changed into the garment and then pushed the sofa back so my friend could join me on the floor. We focused on our individual stretches, occasionally helping each other with more difficult ones. After half an hour, we lay sprawled out on our back, just breathing deeply in meditative equilibrium. I could sense Felicity’s outlook had improved dramatically since last night and relief washed over me.

She rolled onto her stomach and looked up. “Elena said there was something you wanted to talk to me about. What was it?”

“It can wait until you’re better, surely.”

“Jade, if it’s about Raiden, you already have my approval.”

“Felicity?” Sitting upright, I stared into the eyes of my best friend.

“You’re my best friend; did you think I wouldn’t notice? You pretty much flipped internally at the party and have been acting different ever since. If you want to learn more about him, then do so.” She grabbed my phone off the coffee table. “I’ll give you his number. You should think about going after the things you want, especially if you’re going around telling others to do the same.”

“Felicity… Thank you.” Changing back into my regular clothes, I grabbed up my belongings and bid her farewell. Jeez, what a week… Suddenly, my phone began to ring in my pocket. Pulling it out revealed a text message from Bradley, but in it was a single word.

Marabunta.

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