I’ve gotten pretty good reception for this new series so I decided to post chapter 2! Click the following links if you haven’t read the prologue and chapter 1. I think I’m going to post up to chapter 5, but we’ll see how things go. This book moves pretty quickly, so if you’re into fast paced sci-fi novels with plot twists, this book’s for you! This is just a lightly edited rough draft so there probably will be typos, and I apologize for that. Anyway, I hope you enjoy the new chapter!
“You disobeyed me, again,” Noire said, pacing in front of Kira and Artemis. Kira could tell that he was doing his best to keep his voice even, but his anger was apparent in his rigid body, knitted brows and clenched jaw. “I told you specifically not to steal from Tora Corp again.”
Artemis sheepishly raised his hand. “Uh, ‘scuse me, but you said that we ‘shouldn’t’ try to steal from them, not that we ‘couldn’t’. I thought it was just, you know, a suggestion—which I considered long and hard, I really did! But, ultimately, we decided—”
“He decided,” Kira grumbled, glaring daggers at Artemis.
Artemis raised his palms defensively. “I decided that we should go for it. I mean, that photon gun could have made us a lot of money, Noire!”
“That photon gun nearly got you two killed!” Noire roared, his voice echoing throughout the machine filled bunker.
Kira lifted her chin up, but kept her gaze lowered to the ground. “Noire, sir, I just want to say that, Artemis told me that you weren’t comfortable with the idea, but you weren’t against it. He lured me into this scheme of his under false pretense.”
Artemis scoffed, crossing his arms over his chest. “Way to throw me under the hovercraft, K…”
Kira ignored him and continued on. “Had I known that you forbade the heist, I would have never gone.”
Noire paused in his pacing, his yellowish eyes zeroing in on Kira. “And you. You may not have been responsible for this scheme gone awry, but you still went along without consulting me first. You knew that I told you Tora Corp and its subsidiaries were off limits—I’d spoken to you both on the matter on many occasions.” He took a few slow, intimidating steps towards her. “You need to start taking responsibility for your own actions and stop blaming Artemis every time the two of you get into trouble. You’re an adult, you can think for yourself—that’s more than I can say for those chipped imbeciles living up on the surface.” Kira bowed her head and Noire returned to pacing. “I took you in so you could have a better life—a free life. Now, instead of playing things safe and attempting jobs that suit your skill levels, you’re throwing yourselves into dangerous situations and putting that freedom that I envision for you in jeopardy.”
When Artemis and Kira said nothing in response, Noire sighed and shut his eyes. “What’s rule number five of the code?”
Kira raised her head, clasping her hands behind her back. “The media is a thief’s worst enemy and should be avoided at all costs.”
Noire nodded. “Very good, Kira.”
“Yeah!” Artemis grinned tentatively. “That’s what I was just gonna say!”
Noire cast Artemis a stern look which wiped the smile right off his face. The master thief smoothed back his jet black hair before saying, “Archimedes, show me the news.” A moment later, a fuzzy hologram projection of the same busty newswoman from earlier was projected beside him along with a clip from their botched heist from earlier. The anchorwoman’s lips were moving, but there was no sound emitting from the projection. Kira didn’t need to hear what she was saying to know what Noire’s point was.
“Look, Noire, I know you’re angry, but no one saw our faces—they didn’t even bother to take off our masks! We’re fine,” Artemis insisted. “Who cares if we’re in the media! They don’t know who we are.”
“Yet,” Noire bit back. “You’re reckless, Artemis—you always have been. If you keep ‘winging it’ as you say, you’re going to find yourself in a more dire situation than just behind some hackable plasma bars. The police may tolerate your antics now, but they’ll tire of your nonsense soon enough. The next time you’re caught maybe they’ll just send you straight to the prison ship orbiting mars. Is that what you want?”
Artemis cringed. “Not really, no…”
Noire stared at Artemis long and hard before speaking again. “That’s enough for now, Archimedes. End projection.” The news scene disappeared and Noire approached the two. “We’re thieves. We are meant to be invisible.”
Artemis pursed his lips in a childish fashion. “But did you see how good I looked up there? This body wasn’t made to be invisible.”
Kira groaned. “Shut up.”
“I think I should have our tailor droid make me a tighter suit to show off my abs and glutes a little more…” Artemis murmured, thoughtfully tapping his finger on his chin.
“Oh, yeah! I’m sure the ladies are going to be really impressed watching Figment drag your ‘glutes and abs’ back to jail,” Kira said with a roll of her light brown eyes. “Spare us your narcissism, Artemis. You don’t need a tighter suit—what you need is some self-control. You’re too impulsive and that’s almost gotten us killed more than a few times.”
“Oh, really?” Artemis said, his grin sickeningly sweet. “And your ‘shoot first ask questions later’ attitude hasn’t? I can’t even count how many times that you’ve pulled the trigger and ruined our cover because of your damn paranoia!”
“At least I know how to restore my cover after I’ve blown it,” Kira snarled, her hands settling on the guns at her hips. “You just prance out into the open and expect me clean up the messes you make.”
“If you could disable a friggin’ alarm properly, I wouldn’t need to ‘prance out’ anywhere,” Artemis said, his hands balling into fists.
That was it—the last straw. No one insulted her hacking skills. She snatched her ray guns out of their holsters and shot at Artemis. He dodged the stun charges and launched a spinning kick at her. She ducked beneath his leg, rolled behind him, shoving the barrels of her guns into his lower back. He spun around and grabbed her wrists before she could get a shot off. She elbowed him in the face, and punched his wounded shoulder.
However, before their fight could progress any further, Noire grabbed both of their arms and twisted them behind their backs. “That’s enough,” he hissed. “You want to be treated like adults, yet you act like petulant children. You both need to learn self-control. Your tempers will only get you into trouble. Artemis, what’s rule number twenty-one of the code?”
Artemis grimaced, his wounded shoulder bleeding profusely now. “I-It’s something about not letting our emotions rule us or some junk like that—I dunno! Would you let me go, already? You’re killing my arm!”
Noire held them there for a moment longer before finally releasing them. “That’s close enough. You mustn’t let your emotions overrule your mind. Everything you do, do with a cool head and a calm heart or you will fail—like now. If you’re going to kill each other, perhaps you shouldn’t do it in the presence of someone who will try to stop you.”
Kira took a deep breath and reluctantly holstered her guns, while Artemis groaned and grabbed his bleeding shoulder. Noire’s feature’s softened as his gaze settled upon Artemis. “Go lay down. I’ll scrounge up some micro bots to stitch up your arm.”
Artemis nodded, casting one last glare at Kira before shuffling down a large aisle of machines toward his room—if one could even call it that. Noire had fashioned walls out of old boxy machines that no longer worked. Two of these make-shift rooms Kira and Artemis inhabited. They were cramped and drafty, but they granted them enough privacy not to complain about it.
Kira felt Noire’s eyes burning a hole into the side of her head and she reluctantly turned to face him. “He deserved it,” she said lowly.
“He was already hurt,” Noire said, his voice softer now. “We don’t kick people while they’re already down.”
“You don’t kick people while they’re already down,” Kira said. “Sometimes, playing dirty is the only way people like me can win. I’m not the martial artist he is.”
“You have other talents. If you would just stop and think for a moment instead of letting your temper get the best of you, you could easily outwit your opponents,” Noire said, clasping his hands behind his back. “For someone as boundlessly intelligent as you are, you can’t figure out how to use that mind of yours to your advantage. Until you do, you’re going to keep losing. No, you’re not a martial artist, but you are an expert markswoman and an excellent strategist when you actually put your mind to it. Don’t dwell on the abilities you don’t possess—focus on the things that make you unique and hone those skills.” He lowered his head and slowly shook it, shutting his eyes. “Please, Kira, stay out of trouble and see to it that Artemis does as well.”
Without waiting for a reply from her, Noire turned on his heel and left her to stand alone amidst the machines.
Later that night, after she had time to cool down, Kira left her room to see Artemis. She had changed out of her beaten up adaptation suit—a jumpsuit of her own creation which enhanced one’s skills and abilities when worn—and brushed her short, boyish, dark brown hair. She liked her hair short. She didn’t have to worry about it falling in her face, or getting caught on things, or getting in the way when she was working on her tech projects, Artemis often teased her for it, but she didn’t really care—it was not as if she was trying to impress anyone, anyway.
It always felt good to get out of those tight adaptation suits. It was not that they were restricting—on the contrary, Kira designed them to have a wide range of motion—she just liked lose fitting, comfy clothes much better. Although Kira could admit that her microfiber pants, baggy shirts, and tank tops were not the most practical attire for a thief, they were one of the few impracticalities she allowed herself to indulge in.
Her bare feet made soft padding sounds upon the cold, stone ground of the bunker, and her baggy pants dragged along the floor. It was a bit chilly for the tank top she was wearing, but she’d rather be ‘a little cold’ than ‘too warm’. It was for that reason, Artemis would sometimes jokingly refer to her as a reptile—an extinct species of cold-blooded animals that Noire had taught them about when they were younger. Maybe she was cold-blooded. Maybe Artemis had a little more humanity than she did. Maybe he was a better person than she was…
Kira paused outside of Artemis’s room, biting the inside of her cheek as she hesitated there for a moment. Despite her pride, she knocked upon his door. She waited but was met with no reply. She knew she should have waited until he answered, but she pressed a button on the touch pad beside the door and it opened for her.
Artemis was relaxing on his bed with a pair of earbuds in his ears and tapping his feet as he read a comic book. There was a bandage wrapped across his bare chest and most of his torso was covered in black and blue—he had gotten really hurt today. A bit of red leaked through the white bandages on his shoulder but he didn’t seem to mind. Kira glanced around his room, frowning in disapproval. It was messy, as always. Dirty clothes were strewn across the room, and smashed pieces of bots—some that she had built—were pushed into a disorganized pile in the corner. Metal bins of balled up clean clothes sat at the foot of the bed and beside the door there was a huge book case filled with thousands upon thousands of comic books that Noire had given him.
Overhead, Artemis had attached a large piece of canvas—usually used to cover the larger tech—to the top of the old machines that made up the walls of his room to create a sort of ceiling. On the canvas he’d hung old sheets of glossy paper with graphics on them—she recalled Noire saying they were ‘posters’. She recognized some of the names on the posters as rock bands from over a thousand years ago. Rock was all Artemis listened to. She couldn’t stand it.
Even though Artemis had his earbuds in today, listening to a thousand year old piece of music-tech—which she had restored—he had the volume up so loud that Kira could hear the lyrics to song he was listening to. She sighed softly and made her way of to his bed, taking a seat on the edge of it.
Artemis raised his comic book to look at her. He groaned, set aside the comic book, yanked out his earbuds, and sat up. “Come here to finish the job you started earlier?”
Kira shook her head. “I … I just came to make sure you’re not dead. Noire would be upset at me if anything happened to you.”
Artemis ran a hand through his hair and smiled wryly. “Well, as you can see, I’m not dead yet, so you can go if you want.”
She shut her eyes and took a deep breath through her nose. This was much more difficult than she anticipated it would be. “Are you okay?”
“Despite my bruises having bruises, yeah, I’m fantastic,” Artemis said, sarcasm dripping from his every word. “You dislocated my shoulder. Noire had to pop it back into place—it was super fun. Tickled a little.”
Kira’s fingers curled into the material of her pants. “I’m … I’m sorry…” she murmured.
“What was that? I couldn’t quite hear you?” Artemis said, leaning in towards her, his moss–green eyes twinkling with amusement.
She gritted her teeth. “Maybe if you’d turn down that crap you always listen to, you’d be able to hear me.”
He chuckled and clawed over to her, laying his head on her leg. “Come on, K. Don’t be mean. I just want you to say it a little louder.” He rubbed the back of his head against her thigh. “You’re getting kind of squishy, K! I like it—you keep eating those dessert tablets and you’re gonna make a great pillow for me!”
“Get. Off. Me,” she snarled, jerking her leg up.
He grimaced at the sudden action and sat up. “Jeez… Ya think you’d be a bit gentler with a guy who was just shot.”
Kira straightened up, exhaled, and tried again. “I’m going to say it again, so listen up—I’m not repeating myself a third time. I’m sorry. I knew you were hurt and I took advantage of that, so I’m sorry, Artemis.”
He grinned. “That was really hard for you, wasn’t it? I bet your wittle pride is hurting more than my shoulder.”
Kira punched him in the injured arm, and he yelped out in pain. She couldn’t help but smirk. “Now it’s not.”
“Ow.” Artemis said, pouting his lips. “This is why you’re never gonna have a boyfriend.”
“I don’t want a boyfriend.”
“This is why you’re never gonna have a girlfriend, then.”
Instead of retorting, Kira punched him in the arm again. “Keep it up. This is a great stress reliever for me.”
“Damn that smarts,” Artemis said through gritted teeth, grasping his wounded shoulder. All was silent between them for a long moment until he said, “I’m sorry too, Kira. I screwed things up today—it’s my fault, I know that. Noire’s right, I gotta start thinking before I act. It’s just, when I’m in the moment, I kind of get lost in the excitement, you know?”
“I guess we both have things we need to work on,” Kira said quietly. She finally lifted her head, looking up at Artemis. “Are you still going to ask Noire about the Tora Space Station heist?”
“You bet your ass I am,” Artemis said, his grin becoming mischievous. “It’s gonna be a little harder to get him to agree after the verbal bashing we got from him today, I think we can still convince him to let us go.”
“Let you go where?” said the Noire’s smooth voice of from behind them.
Kira and Artemis swiveled their heads around to see Noire—still dressed in his neatly pressed black suit—leaning casually up against the doorway. Artemis’s grin faded into a grimace. “How does he always sneak up on us like that?”
“He’s a master thief, idiot. Sneaking is kind of his thing,” Kira said with a roll of her eyes. “Well, Artemis, now is as good a time as any to ask him.”
“Ask me what?” Noire asked, his eyes flickering between the two.
Artemis pasted on a broad smile, but Kira could tell by the way the corners of his lips quivered that it was all for show. “So, you know how you said we should start acting like adults because, well, we are?”
Noire squinted his eyes and slightly turned his head away. “Yes…”
“Well, K and I were thinking—”
“Artemis was thinking,” Kira said quickly.
“Alright, I was thinking that the two of us can help fix this place up by going after bigger scores,” Artemis said, crossing his legs beneath him and leaning back on his hands. “I mean, what’s life without the bare necessities, right? There’s tons of stuff out there just waiting for us to steal! It wouldn’t hurt to do a few upgrades around here and make our lives a bit easier, would it? Those bulky machines out there are gonna die sooner or later—I mean they’re all over a hundred years old—so let me and Kira work some bigger jobs. Give us your permission to let us work some bigger jobs.”
Noire crossed lifted his hand up to his chin, looking a tad reluctant before saying, “What exactly did you have in mind?”
Kira eyes widened. She’d expected a little more fight from Noire.
Artemis’s smile brightened into something more genuine, his moss-green eyes full of renewed hope. “I was thinking about snatching some of that MCTA stuff. You heard of it?”
Noire’s face hardened once more, all openness dissipating in that instant. “Yes, I have. It’s on Tora Corp’s Research and Development Station up in space.”
“Yep! That’s the stuff!” Artemis said cheerfully. “So what do ya say?”
“I say ‘no’,” Noire replied without hesitance.
“Come on, Addy! You can’t just shut us down like that!”
“I can and I have,” Noire said sharply, reaching up to massage his temple. “And how many times have I asked you not to call me that?”
Artemis shrugged. “Fine. If you won’t give us your permission, we’ll—”
“You’ll,” Kira murmured.
He stared at her as if she had just slapped him in the face, before crestfallenly lowering his eyes. “I’ll go by myself without your permission. You want me to act like an adult, Noire? You’ve gotta start letting me make my own decisions and nix this ‘permission’ crap. I’m not a kid anymore and neither is Kira. We can decide what’s too dangerous for us.”
“Can you?” Noire snapped. “What you attempted today was ‘too dangerous’, but you went anyway and nearly got yourselves thrown in prison—or worse.”
Artemis stood from his bed and marched up to Noire, having to look down at him slightly—he was a few inches taller. “Look, Adair, you’re not my boss—you’re not even my legal adoptive guardian. I appreciate all you’ve done for me, I really do, but you’ve got no authority over me. I’m gonna get some of that MCTA and I’m gonna bring it back here to you so the Panther can be as awesome as he used to be—so the three of us can be a force to be reckoned with. I’m tired of hiding down here in the sewers—”
“It’s a pipeline…” Noire said, his words lacking conviction.
“No, it’s a sewer,” Artemis said through a sigh. “Give me your blessing or don’t—I’m still gonna get that MCTA stuff and I’m gonna prove to you that I can pull off a successful heist. I know I’m not as smart as Kira, but that doesn’t mean I’m stupid. I mean, I am pretty dumb, yeah, but I think I can manage to steal a couple pieces of metal from some science geeks.”
“You’re not dumb, Artemis,” Noire said, the hard edge in his voice faded. “You just—you don’t think things through.”
“I will this time,” he replied, standing up a bit straighter, soon grimacing from his wounds. “I need this chance, and if you’re not gonna give it to me then I’m taking it.”
Noire shut his eyes and bowed his head, crossing his arms over his chest. “If you go … don’t come back and don’t contact me again. At least then I can pretend that you’re alive and safe somewhere.” With those harsh words left to hang in the air, Noire brusquely left Artemis’s room.
Kira stood from the bed, standing there awkwardly, unsure of what she should do. She was terrible at comforting people, and this was serious. Artemis stood there in front of the door, unmoving. Noire’s words had hurt him. Artemis never said it, but she knew that he was constantly seeking Noire’s approval. To be told to never come back by someone who he held in the highest esteem must have been unbearably painful. Perhaps it hurt more than all of Artemis’s physical wounds combined.
She slipped her hands into her pockets and cautiously approached him. “Are you alright?”
“Yeah, Kira. I’m friggin’ fantastic,” he said in a voice that was somewhere between a murmur and a growl.
“Do you … want to talk about it?”
Artemis spun around to face her, his eyes livid. “Oh! Now you wanna talk, huh? You weren’t so chatty when I was getting chewed out by Noire. Why didn’t you back me up?”
Kira considered lying to him, but ultimately she decided to go with the truth. “I didn’t say anything because … you needed to hear that from him—well, most of it anyway.”
“And why do you think that?”
Kira ran a hand through her short, brown hair, exhaling softly. “Because, Artemis, you’re idea—it’s…”
“Stupid?” Artemis growled. “You think it’s stupid. You think we’re gonna get caught again. Well, don’t you worry, K, you don’t have to be involved in anymore of my dumb plans. You’re out. I’ll do this by myself and I’ll prove to you and Noire that I’m not the screw up you think I am.”
“I never said—”
“You should go now,” he mumbled, brushing past her in a way that made her feel as if she’d just been punched in the gut. “I’ve got a lot of planning to do.”
Kira’s lips pressed into a thin white line. He doesn’t want my help? Fine. I didn’t want to do this anyway, she thought before storming out of his room.
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