Not a second after Reil’s feet had made it onto the concrete loading bay outside of the Labyrinth, the steel doors slammed shut with a plume of gas escaping from the sides. He wondered if the guard had planned such a close call with the emergency switch. He worried about the man’s injuries, but with the capsules he gave him, Reil knew he’d be fine as long as he got some bandages to stop the bleeding soon. He wouldn’t have blamed the man for still trying to lock him in the ship, it would certainly secure his job and a heavy reward in Sigils, maybe even a silver coin.

          With a shake of his head Reil cleared his thoughts of the man and brought his attention back to the mission at hand. He reached into his coat and found the small carbon knob on the inside left chest pocket and turned it 90 degrees. His coat’s exterior shifted into a deep blue hue with a white and red crest on the front right over the heart depicting a globe with three sharp lines cutting through it vertically; the Crest of the Delkari.

          From the back pocket of his pants he whipped out a hat of matching hue with a shortened bill and a white symbol of a bird on the front. He uncrumpled it and fit it over his greasy blonde hair, first slicking his unruly mop straight back with a firm hand. He tossed the canvas bag onto the ground and slid a carrying strap out of his coat, attaching it to two metal rings on the bag.

          He hefted the strap onto his right shoulder and set out at a leisurely yet determined pace out into the busy streets surrounding the cargo bay. Anyone who saw him would dismiss him as a simple deliveryman, the white bird on his hat being the symbol of the Delkari Postal Federation and his deep blue coat with the Crest of the Delkari on it being a rough match of their standard entry-level uniform.

          He knew he had to get back to the Thief House to deliver the pick up, but technically, his orders were to drop off the goods at 4 o’clock and it had only just passed noon. Reil made his way to a favorite bakery on a side road in the same direction of the House. He dug a hand into his trouser pockets and found a few Sigils inside, enough to get a coffee and maybe a muffin.

          If Feldrin did anything right, it was baked goods. He’d even heard rumors, probably false, that kings and queens of other planets and systems had pastries ordered from Feldrin to their palaces because of how delicious they were. It was a rumor Reil was tempted to believe every time he bit into a fresh Seventh Street Bakery smallcake.

          Weaving his way through the throngs of people in the busy streets, he took in his surroundings. The city was ugly, there was no doubt of that, but it had a charm. It had an immense economic value, but the Royal Family cared only for its production capabilities, not its citizens. And the oppressive heat could kill on the right day. It was dirty, dangerous, and the Guard was about as corrupt as they come. I can’t really be one to lecture on ethics though, Reil smiled to himself as he hefted the bag to feel the weight of his prize.

          The buildings in Feldrin were huge, truly scraping the sky and then some. The tops of each skyscraper was never visible, at least Reil had never seen them, as they pierced the smog that blanketed the city year-round. They shot out of the ground, windows dirty and covered with grime; Reil had doubted that anyone inside the buildings could even see through the windows at this point.

          The architecture in Feldrin was an interesting combination. Half the buildings were made only of ground to roof windows, while the other half were almost entirely exposed concrete, either small slits for windows or none at all. The buildings were often smashed up against one enough, real estate prices in a city this size didn’t quite allow for empty spaces. Alleyways, while very rare, were pitch black, with odd sounds coming from them in the late hours of the night. Smells fought for an audience with Reil’s nose from every direction, mixes of gas, tar, food, and filth all assaulting his senses. Reil took it all in and shook his head with a laugh, I really can’t decide if I love or hate this city.

          He took his seat with a bit of flair and a huff, less than carefully placing his canvas “delivery” bag on the seat next to him. “I’ll have a coffee, no sugar please, and one of your muffins. Thank you very much,” Reil beamed a smile to the attractive waitress and arched his back in his chair for a good stretch. The cost of going to a full service bakery to a street rat like Reil was hard to justify, but the way he saw it, he had to treat himself sometimes. His job well done today should be justification enough in any case. He slouched in his chair, earning him haughty stares from the people who frequented high end places such as Seventh Street.

          “Oh, a man can’t rest after a long day’s work, eh? Well, then quit your staring.” Most who knew him wouldn’t describe Reil as subtle nor well versed in the art of social interaction. After a few more haughty huffs and puffs, Reil laced his hands behind his head and looked into the freshly cleaned window to his right.

          His reflection surprised him in a way. He hadn’t remembered growing up, and his face didn’t have the lightness it once held. His greasy blonde hair had grown long enough to pull into a ponytail and his skin was more tanned than ever. There was a small scar under his left eye, but you had to know it was there to notice it. His friend Brody had bought, stolen is what Reil believed the correct word was, an anti-scarring capsule for him for his birthday last year and it had worked wonders. His violet eyes didn’t show their true colors in a glass window, but even so he thought they looked deeper than he remembered. The last bit of ‘baby fat,’ as Luke liked to say, had apparently burned off from all his adventures and escapades leaving a well chiseled jaw line with an ever so small amount of fuzz starting to sprout on the tip of his chin.

          A movement behind the glass stirred Reil out of his thoughts and he realised there had been a woman behind the window, undoubtedly flustered at having had a scruffy looking deliveryman stare so intently at her. Windows aren’t one way mirrors, idiot, Reil reminded himself angrily.

          To hide his shame, the thief turned his gaze forward, to the street in front of him and the massive, towering white structure across from that. The only building cleaned on a near daily basis, and flourished with intricately carved scenes and statues; The Church of the Source Star, Temple of Mother Yvesu. Men, women, and children filtered in and out of the grand white temple, all wearing their best outfits. In most Churches, people were told to come in rags and old garments to show humility and to be modest, but people who frequented Seventh Street were too superior to the rest of the ‘filth’ of the city to be seen in anything but the best suits and dresses. Reil rolled his eyes, I wonder what you think of them, Mother. Walking around thinking they are Gods and Goddesses among men. You ought to teach them some humility sometime.

          To say Reil’s ‘prayers’ to Yvesu were casual would be an understatement, but he thought of himself as a good religious citizen. How he justified stealing for a living was a thought to confront at a later time.

          He enjoyed his coffee and muffin, people watching on the busy afternoon. He had attempted to flirt with the waitress her second time to the table but he was met with a cold glare. Her loss, Reil thought to himself. As he finished the last sip of his coffee he figured it was time to get going. Perhaps arriving for the drop off early would look good in front of Quentin and the others. He left the payment on the table and hefted the bag back onto his shoulder, not so eager to leave the blessed shade of the bakery’s canvas overhang. With one look back at his reflection in the window, he straightened the cap on his head and set off.

          Reil quickened his pace under the hot sun, even hotter after the glass from the skyscrapers reflected it downward onto the streets. The city was always hot, with a fog of fumes and smoke resting over it like a blanket on the hottest afternoons. He found shade quickly and walked along close to the buildings, relishing every time he crossed paths with an air vent and got a face full of semi-cooled air. In the heat, it felt like ice water being poured over his head.

          He was vaguely aware of the rip in his pants and the possible blood stains from the taze-dart in the ship corridor, but everyone around him seemed too busy to take notice, and he himself was simply happy to be alive with a belly full of coffee and baked goods. Not like there’s anything I can do about it right now anyways, Reil reasoned. When the dirty blackstone building came into view, the thief wiped his forehead of sweat and let out a long-held breath.

          This was to be his last solo mission if Quentin was to be believed, and he’d be promoted to a squadron leader for bigger, more important robberies. The previous two missions of his had been successful in the end, but far less clean. A relatively problem-free robbery such as the one he had just pulled off would look good when Quentin and the others reviewed his track record.

          As he swiped the hat from his head and jammed it into his back pocket, Reil rounded the corner to the rear of the building where he always made his drop. Deliverymen and other costumed characters constantly visiting the same run down building would draw attention, so the thieves had to be crafty with their entrances after a successful mission.

          It wasn’t much of a life, the way of the thief, but it was all Reil really had at this point; be a thief or work as an uncared for, minimum pay office mule. The thieving life provided excitement, a rush, shelter, and food. If you can call it that, Reil mused. Above of all those benefits, it provide a family… Of sorts. Truth be told he was lucky to be where he was. The youngest thief to be considered for squadron leader, and he was always given the higher end missions. That fact held far more weight than it appeared to, for it meant Quentin and the others had trust in him, and in the world of thieving, trust was worth its weight in silver chips.

          The Thief House run by Quentin was a good one. It brought in modest money, but made up for the profits in the number of connections it had. Missions were safer, less guards were on duty the day of a big robbery, the death rate of thieves was far lower than any other group in the city, the list went on. The rumor was that Quentin used a heavy portion of the profits to pay off more guards, and his connections rivaled that of members of the Royal Family. He came off as hardened and uncaring, and he played the role well when he needed to, but Reil believed he cared for his thieves. The way he saw it, the rumors had to be true, and Reil knew no other Thief Lord who would pay so much out of pocket for the added protection of disposable, usually untrained, men.

          Still lost in thought, Reil was not aware of the unusual commotion outside of the Thief House. He had already set his shift-coat to revert to its usual black and dark green, with his unruly hair pointing in every direction, by the time he realized what was going on. The back door to the House was broken off at its hinges and trace amount of purple tinted smoke oozed out of broken windows; Reil knew at that point what had happened. The House had been raided by the Feldrin Guard.


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