“I’m sorry,” Robynne apologized, “but can we please do this with your human form?”
Kunapipi crossed her arms… which actually looked hilarious given how short they were. “Robynne, we’ve been through this before.”
“Yeah, and as I said before, the talking-animal-thing freaks me out. Can we please do this in your human form?”
Kunapipi gave a suffering sigh. Her body shifted from a wallaby standing on the desk to an orb of golden light to a burgundy-haired woman in her chair. Ms. Kuna pushed up her glasses. “Eventually you’re going to have to get comfortable with me talking in my true form.”
“Respectfully,” Robynne tried to keep any venom out of her tone, “I’m the wrong audience for any complaints about not being in their ‘true form.’ Please just humor me.”
Ms. Kuna opened her mouth then looked at her desk. “Hnm. A fair point.” She nodded, picked up a notepad, and wrote something on it. “Very well, Robynne, we need to have a discussion.”
Robynne was about to ask her what the honey she wrote on that sheet but her body shook. Like the last bit of water flowing out of a sink, she suddenly felt empty. Weak.
Her body felt like this before, after powering down after the Day LaMode fight. But then it had felt like having the wind knocked out of her. She had merely felt the difference between the veritable torrent of power as Serenity and the mortality of Robynne. But this…
It hadn’t occurred as suddenly. It took a moment but her body shook like it had just run a marathon. She grabbed the side of Ms. Kuna’s desk. This seemed to rouse Kara from the half-nap she was taking in her chair. “Oh dear.”
Angela hopped up and steadied Robynne. “Easy there, let’s sit you down.” Angela lowered her onto the same couch she had been sitting on. “There you go.”
Robynne held a hand to her head. She could feel a headache coming on. “W… what was that?”
Kara rubbed a tired eye and flashed a hint of a smirk. “That, my friend, is the cost of me having to do a lot of healing on you. Ang, get her some water.”
Angela was already at the mini-fridge Ms. Kuna kept in the corner of her office before Kara could finish her sentence. Robynne scrunched her eyes shut. “I… I won’t be knocked out for days like Mal was, right?”
Kara chuckled, snuggling back into her chair with a yawn. “Oh no. You just had a big stab wound. After Day LaMode, Mallory was like an entire intensive care ward unto herself. You’re just likely to sleep very soundly tonight. Me too. Though I’d feel a lot better if we got some calories in us before then.”
“Mallory already messaged me back. Her game finished about ten minutes ago. She’s rushing to get those fruit bars you made.” Angela handed Robynne the water bottle and two pills. “Here, some ibuprofen too.”
“Thanks.” Robynne knocked back the pills and gulped down a swig of water. “Why didn’t I feel as weak as fast as last time? Last time as soon as I powered down it was unsettling. This time didn’t feel so weird.”
Ms. Kuna cleared her throat. “Your body, even though you haven’t been powered up but two times now, got used to having the Spirit Stick’s power coursing through you, even if it wasn’t active. You can think of it as if the first time you transformed you picked up a weight and, when you powered down, you dropped the weight. This time your body knew how to gradually put the weight down since it’s been tuned up.”
Robynne didn’t like that explanation but she didn’t want to argue. Things were going to be bad enough when the subject of her going rogue came up. “Okay then. I assume Noriko and the Twins are already on cover-up duty?”
“Yes,” Ms. Kuna confirmed. “Your little chase you put on with the cops gave them some bonus time to get into the Buy Bright network. I was worried that would prove difficult, what with them being a big chain store. Good work on that.”
“Thanks.” Well, Robynne supposed that was a good sign. Maybe she’d move along and—
“Although there is the matter of how you attacked the monster alone.”
Deep breath in. Here it comes. “Yeah.”
Ms. Kuna opened her mouth but Angela interjected, “As ill-informed of a decision as that was, we already discussed it at the site of the fight. I think she’s well aware. Maybe it deserves follow-up later, but right now I think the elephant in the room is the fact that the monster displayed behavior we’ve never seen in a monster before.”
The kangaroo rat-woman bit her bottom lip. Why was she frowning? Because Robynne had upset her planning for this meeting? Or had she been looking forward to the dressing down? Robynne probably should understand her motivations better but Ms. Kuna put out no sort of aura of emotion or Investiture that she could glean info off of. Her only path to understanding this woman would be to engage in regular conversation with her outside of these official Spirit Squad business meetings… and that wasn’t going to happen.
“Well, okay then. If that entire matter is taken care of to your satisfaction, Angela, then that is good. Robynne, I’m glad you understand your mistake.”
“Robynne,” Angela said with an encouraging tone to her voice, “explain to us how the monster was a person.”
“Yeah. That.” Rubbing the bridge of her nose, Robynne fought through her headache to recall the details as exactly as she could. “So we went to Buy Bright to look for some present for Cory’s dad or something. It was weird. Like, I didn’t sense her power throughout the store at first. It wasn’t until she… I don’t know… I guess she sort of paired with Stacy’s phone.”
“Stacy?” Angela asked. “She’s one of your friends in cheerleading right? Is she the cheerful brunette or the snowcappe you ditch promoting with?”
“Ditching promoting is part of my agreement with Cammy.”
Angela smirked. “I didn’t say anything in judgement, Robynne.”
Kara chuckled, but kept her eyes closed. “Oddly defensive about it, isn’t she?”
Vivian wasn’t even here and Robynne had somehow lost control of the conversation. “More to the point,” she said in a desperate attempt to get her hands back on the steering wheel of the discussion, “Stacy is the brunette. And actually my timeline wasn’t exactly right. The three of us walk in, see Stacy, talk to her, she wanders off, then I feel… it went down my spine again. But it wasn’t the ice-on-bone feeling I got from Polygal or the hum of Day LaMode. This time it felt like… you know how it hurts a lot when you bite on aluminum foil?”
Kara nodded. “Like the dickens.”
Angela raised an eyebrow, “Why have either of you bitten foil.”
Ms. Kuna cocked her head. “Though I’d prefer if we stayed on topic, I must say I’m confused why someone would do that. Or why it would hurt at all.”
Kara sleepily shrugged. “I bake a lot. A small strip of foil can sometimes end up in your food. You bite down, the aluminum of the foil makes contact with the mercury of your filling, and you got your salty saliva in there too.”
Robynne’s eyes opened wide. “Oh, that makes sense! It’s an electrochemical potential. The two metals are the anode and cathode and your spit acts as the salt bridge.”
Kara cracked open an eye and smiled. “Oh yeah? I actually never understood the physics behind it. Just the fact that it created some sort of electricity that hit your tooth’s pain receptors.”
“I am completely lost,” Angela chuckled. “Science isn’t my area of expertise. But I am glad it makes sense to you two.”
“Back to the matter at hand,” Ms. Kuna said, “this monster’s… negativity felt like biting foil?”
“Not quite. Like, it hurt like teeth biting foil but it didn’t feel like foil was what was being bitten. It felt like..” Robynne frowned as she tried to find the right words. “It felt like TV static. Not the noise of the static but the look of it. The random scan of black, white, and gray. But yeah, still down my spine like the other two but nowhere near the same feeling. It was much more painful this time.”
Kara sat up for the first time since Robynne had entered. She yawned out a, “Hmmm” before tapping her chin. Seemed the biological intrigue of Robynne’s world had roused her a bit. “Well, responsibly we do have to account for the fact that this was your first monster attack post-transformation. You said Day LaMode was a hum when she drained people?”
Robynne bit down on her thumbnail. “I… well no, that isn’t accurate. She felt like a hum when she teleported. When she drained people it felt exactly like Polygal: ice in my bones.”
Angela nodded. “So, the difference in sensation could be explained by either the change in your situation or the change in the monster setup.”
“You know,” Kara said, tapping her chin, “it’s interesting that it causes us pain in the first place. I mean, Robynne’s descriptions are always more vivid but even Mal experiences a sharp pain when she feels a drain nearby.”
Robynne shrugged. “Yeah? We experience a lot of weird feelings though. Sounds that taste like something. Colors that smell like something. Tastes that also have texture.” She paused. “Well, okay, I guess that last one exists normally too, but you know what I mean.”
Kara nodded. “Yeah, but it has interesting implications for when they drain energy. We all feel the same thing. Pain. And not the sensation of pain, but literal pain. Something goes on in that interaction that causes our pain receptors to actually flare up. I wonder if it’s a result of our magical sense. Our body doesn’t know how to fully process it but the monster and ourselves sort of act as… what did you call the two metal things?”
“Anode and cathode?”
“Yeah, that. We are the anodes, they are the cathodes, and… something is the salty stuff needed for that electrochemical reaction that triggers our pain receptors. I don’t know what that would be. Our souls? Whatever senses the magic.”
Robynne opened her mouth but Angela cut her off. “Oh! Oh!” Angela was smiling like she had a joke. She snapped, clearly wanting to get it out despite it not having fully formed. Robynne normally would have made some quip about the cat having Ang’s tongue or something like that, but Angela’s smile was so sincere she couldn’t dare bring herself to ruin her friend’s train of thought. Plus the concept of Angela offering up one-liners was pretty unique and she didn’t want to discourage more of that.
“As… as someone who plays a ton of competitive games, Robynne has instructed me that her… that her soul would be a perfect salt bridge since… since she’s so salty all the time.”
Kara and Kunapipi blinked. “What?”
Robynne laughed. Robynne laughed so hard it morphed into that girly giggle she hated so much. She didn’t care that she sounded every bit the cheerleader she was pretending to be. Her laughter only fueled Kunapipi’s confusion further. “I don’t get it.”
Robynne sniffed and wiped away a tear forming at the corner of her eye. Gummi donut! How long had it been since she laughed that hard? “Angela, I’m glad to see playing Aspect Realms is rubbing off on you.”
Angela beamed like a student speaking their first full sentence in a foreign language. “TurtleSmuggler said something made him salty and all I could think of was, ‘like a pirate?’ That made him and ergoAwesome laugh and they explained what it meant. They said those who play PvP like you and NightKnight get the saltiest.”
Robynne sighed. NightKnight had missed the last two PvP sessions. He had made up excuses but she knew the man’s pride had been shot. Everyone was listening to her and not him. She expected there to be some sort of drama soon if she couldn’t head it off. But it wasn’t her fault the guy was a raging volcano of frustration. “No one gets salty like NightKnight.”
Kara rolled her eyes and chuckled. “Careful, Angela, Robynne could make you as nerdy as her and Eli.”
“Not Cory?”, Robynne asked.
“No one is as nerdy as Cory.”
Ms. Kuna nodded, pushing her bangs out of her eyes. She clearly tried to feign amusement but this jocularity just didn’t seem to jive with her sense of humor. “Yes, well, as fun as this is, we do need to focus on the changes in the monsters.”
Robynne “smelled” the scent of a mountainous pine forest just before a thunderstorm emanating from the Stone in the corner of Ms. Kuna’s office. With a flash it lit up and Mallory stumbled out. She still wore her SAU volleyball uniform, kneepads and all, and was holding a large tupperware bin. “I’m so sorry!”
Angela smiled. “It’s okay, Mallory. You came as soon as you could.”
Undeterred by Angela’s assurance, Mallory rushed forward and opened up the tupperware. “They’ve never attacked during a game. I hadn’t thought of that problem before; we might need to think of something going forward. I brought the tupperware you asked for though, Kara.”
Kara nodded and held her hands out. “Perfect. Could you hand one to me and Robynne?”
Ms. Kuna raised an eyebrow. “What is this, Kara?”
Kara accepted a granola-looking bar from Mallory. Robynne did the same but examined and sniffed the object. “What is this?”
“Homemade energy bar,” Kara said puffing her chest out a bit. “I made them after Vivian bought more garbage after the Day LaMode fight.”
“Garbage?” Robynne asked. “She got, like, chicken soup and stuff.”
Kara rolled her eyes and took a bite. “Generic brand chicken soup loaded with preservatives. That girl has zero concept of what healthy food is. Had I the ability I’d force her to take a nutrition class and I’d drag her there every day kicking and screaming.”
Mallory laughed and shook her head. “That would just make her kick and scream more. And louder. Girl likes to make a scene for her own amusement.”
“Too true,” Robynne nodded in agreement. “She’s a pure exhibitionist.”
“Quit avoiding it and eat it,” Kara commanded with all the authority of a mother. “You need the calories.”
Robynne warily eyed the foodstuff, “What’s in it?”
Folding her arms, Kara made her offense apparent, “Has my food ever not tasted good?”
“I could be allergic?” Robynne offered as a weak defense.
“Sorry,” Robynne apologize with a chuckle. “I’ve just never tasted an energy bar that didn’t taste like absolute angelcake.”
“Angelcake is delicious.”
“You know what I mean.”
Kara took another bite with pride. “Various nuts for protein, and for flavor it’s got cranberries, goji berries, and smidge of dark chocolate. Now eat or I’m going to start taking it personally.”
Robynne sighed. “Fine. Fine. Slavedriver.”
Angela laughed. “Vivian is rubbing off on you.”
Robynne gave Angela a stink eye and took a bite. She had to admit, it did actually taste pretty good. “If anything Cory is rubbing off on me.”
Mal rolled her eyes. “Who can tell the difference? Those two dweebs are dangerously alike.”
Ms. Kuna cleared her throat once more. “Thanks for bringing the much needed sustenance for Robynne and Kara. Robynne was just explaining some new developments with this monster. Robynne, could you please bring Ms. Drake up to speed?” Robynne groaned. Did she just try to suck enjoyment out of any conversation?
“Yeah. Something like that. So… this monster, Cell-celia—” Robynne went on to re-explain how she discovered the monster’s odd existence.
Mallory nodded. “That’s… concerning. You said it infected your phone when you received a text from your friend??”
“Yeah. I immediately turned it off and gave it to Cory and Eli to take to Will for examination. Come to think of it I don’t know if they were able to deliver it yet given the fact the Hush Corps probably went into immediate action after they informed them of the attack.”
Ms. Kuna pushed up her glasses and inspected her phone. “Yes… I think you’re right. Looking at Ms. Yukimura’s updates I see no mention of Mr. Drake or Mr. Frost. ”
“Spectacular,” Robynne grumbled. “I’m likely not getting my phone back until sometime tomorrow then, if Will can even examine it beforehand.” Robynne noted some uncharacteristic concern on Ms. Kuna’s face at that news. “Something wrong?”
“Perhaps a little,” the kangaroo rat-woman admitted. “Tomorrow we were going to contact your uncle to give him all the travel information for the trip he ‘won’ to come visit for Homecoming weekend.”
Like an elevator with its cable cut, Robynne’s stomach dropped. Uncle Taylor. He was going to be here in a few days. She still had no idea what she was going to tell him. How was she going to explain this. “Right. My uncle.”
“We can delay it a bit I suppose,” Ms. Kuna mused. “Though that tightens his ability to make plans and—”
“No!” Robynne said with more panic than she had intended. “I mean, uh, I mean he deserves plans.”
Mallory rested a hand on Robynne’s shoulder. “It’s okay, Ace. He’s going to understand.” She paused and grimaced a little. “I mean, well,” replastering a supportive smile on her face, she hedged, “maybe he won’t understand because this is all weird, but he’ll be supportive.”
“I don’t like how we aren’t even to Friday and we are already sliding the scale of expectations down.”
“I mean,” Mal held her hands up, “I think ‘understanding’ the situation isn’t what you actually want from your uncle. Let’s get real here, we barely ‘understand’ our situation. What you really want is for him to just know what the situation is and support your decisions.”
Robynne frowned, “Okay… yeah, I guess you have a point there. Still doesn’t feel good that I’m hoping for a minimum… case… thing. I don’t know.” She took another bite of Kara’s energy bar. “My head really hurts. I’m really regretting taking that thing on all by myself.”
Angela nodded. “A lesson was learned for sure, Robynne. As much as I know you might want to discuss your uncle, I think, at the moment, we need to discuss the nature of Cell-celia. If Platicore is escalating his monster concepts, we might start having a really rough time trying to reign him in.”
Mal sat down next to Robynne and gave her one last pat on the shoulder. It dawned on Robynne that she hadn’t shrunk away from Mal’s touch. That was new. “Ang has a point, Ace. We can leave contacting your uncle to the Hush Corps. Besides, you can’t really discuss plans with your uncle until we get your phone back. He’ll want to text you. Will and Nick have pulled all-nighters before. And Noriko… well I don’t actually understand her sleeping habits. At times I think she’s half-machine or something.”
“No, you’re totally right. Let’s focus on Cell-celia.” Though she didn’t want to say it out loud, she was glad for the topic change away from Uncle Taylor. The team had barely found out that Mal had told her parents and, even though it went well for Mal, she didn’t feel comfortable discussing it in a group setting. Especially in front of the kangaroo rat-woman who clearly was still annoyed Mal had revealed everything to her parents without consulting her.
Kara finished off her energy bar and opened the container for another. “Let’s start with the fact that this thing seemed to be designed to counter Spirit Guard Serenity. It could see through her stealth, had attacks designed to keep her at a range, and didn’t have the ego problem Day LaMode had.”
Angela nodded. “True, but other monsters have seemingly had specific Spirit Guards in mind before.”
“Ugh,” Mal groaned. “I was useless against Cord-elia.”
Kara, careful to swallow before speaking, raised a finger. “But that was after a few fights, wasn’t it?”
Ms. Kuna opened up a notebook and scanned through it. “Looks like it was… five monsters between Spirit Guard Tenacity’s first appearance and the Cord-elia fight.”
Angela tapped her chin. “That’s a good point. This was remarkable turnaround.”
It didn’t sound like a bad theory to Robynne, but she didn’t think that was the only explanation. “Remarkable turnaround if it was actually designed to counter me.”
Mal raised an eyebrow. “I mean, it seems like it was built to fight you. What other reason could there be to make a monster that sees through invisibility?”
“I’m suggesting that could be a side benefit, but wasn’t Platicore’s actual goal. I think the bigger feature of Cell-celia was that the monster could spread a virus and collect Investiture through the cell network. If Platicore instead started with the collection method, the fact that this thing saw through bouncing signals could have been a design necessity that just so happened to also give it the ability to see me.”
Angela pursed her lips. “True. Could be true. But going forward, it probably would be safer for us to start off fights assuming they can see you.”
“I think so too.” Robynne instinctively scratched at her side, where Cell-celia had ground a hole into her. “I just think it’s more concerning that Platicore designed a monster with such a unique draining system. That shows more outside-the-box thinking than previous monsters. Polygal waited for people to come to its booth. Day LaMode was set up in the mall but could teleport all over it to find marks. Cell-celia is the first one that could actively extend its influence, plus it was disguised as a human. That has to mean something, doesn’t it?”
“It means at the very minimum that Platicore is experimenting with the function of his monsters,” Kara mused. “And the pattern of the latest three monsters suggest he’s moving towards more adaptive designs. Though I’m not sure how he tops a virus that can hack into the very way we converse with each other.”
“It’s very concerning,” Angela agreed. “He used a monster to hack into the cell phone network and spread a virus.”
“To be fair,” Robynne countered, continuing to play the role of the devil’s advocate, “the amount of Investiture it was stealing was very small. I mean, I didn’t even notice it until I felt the initial stab of pain and knew what I was looking for. I don’t know what the standard unit of Investiture is, but he sure didn’t get too much of it per interaction.”
“Oh,” Mal added, “like he was crowdsourcing it.”
Robynne smirked. “Cory made the exact same comparison.”
“He did? Ugh, clearly I’ve been around him too long. He’s officially rubbed off on me. Now I have to take a long shower.”
Angela grinned. “You always take a long shower after games.”
“I’m still going to blame Cory,” Mal snorted.
“It’s your right as a Drake,” Robynne said. She then bit down on her thumbnail, letting her mind wander a bit. “Is there any way to know how much Investiture one monster got compared to another?”
Ms. Kuna shook her head. “Sadly, that type of equipment is beyond our ability to construct. We can use security camera footage to try and figure out how long a certain monster was active, but how long they were working tells us nothing about their efficiency.”
“Why do you ask?” Angela inquired. “Something on your mind?” She was getting very good at seeing when Robynne’s gears were turning.
“I was just thinking that Platicore might be testing ways to improve his, for lack of a better term, Investiture yields. What is the biggest problem for the guy in terms of gathering energy?”
“He’s evil,” Angela blurted.
“Investiture worth gathering only centers around Kessia City?” Kara guessed.
Mal leaned back confidently. “Us.”
Robynne lips drew into a line. “I tried to make you guess what I was thinking. That wasn’t fair of me. I think Mal was technically closest, though. The problem is we keep finding and destroying his monsters, we think, soon after they are implemented. However, the last two were odd when it came to detection. Day LaMode teleported often and felt weird to our EKP.”
“EKP?” Ms. Kuna asked with a raised eyebrow.
“Sorry. EKP is short for ’empathokinetic perception’. I came up with it mid-fight. I thought that’d be easier to say than ’empathokinetic perception’ all the time.”
Kara rolled her eyes. “I’m just going to point out that ‘magic sense’ is the same number of syllables as ‘EKP’ and everyone had zero issue with it before you.”
“Give me a break; I’m a mechanical engineer,” Robynne pleaded. “‘Magic’ just feels too lazy. Besides, this is sort of my point. We aren’t thinking like Platicore, who is, in effect, an empathokinetic engineer. And who also used to be in Fate’s organization.”
“Meaning what?” Ms. Kuna said with mistrusting eyes.
“Day LaMode didn’t immediately set off our EKP. Cell-celia’s touch on this world was so light I almost didn’t feel the monster until it did its voodoo on Stacy’s phone. Plus it was disguised as a human. It seems to me that Platicore is desperately trying to hide his monsters from us. For what purpose? In video games, when you start trying to hide that you’re gathering resources, it’s typically because you’re trying to save up for some late game push.”
Angela leaned back in her chair and pulled one leg close to her. “Hmm, like saving some of your long cooldowns to try and burst an opponent down in PvP?”
Robynne couldn’t hide her pride. “You have no idea how much it pleases me that you’ve been listening.”
“Dork words aside,” Mallory said with some exasperation, “let’s say you’re right and he’s trying to save up resources. What for? What’s the thinking here?”
Kara finished off another of her power bars. “It could be he’s desperate. Maybe we’ve taken monsters out too fast and he is having to make sure to get what he can. Playing it safe, especially because there are now five of us who could potentially discover the monster. We’re certainly capable of casting a wider net than before.”
Angela held up her finger. “While that is a very realistic possibility, I think we need to operate with the more pessimistic angle I believe Robynne was implying. If this indeed some sort of late-game gambit, he could be saving up to build a much more powerful monster than before. Considering the most recent two came close to killing Tenacity and Serenity, that should give us all some pause.”
Though Angela’s words weren’t an admonishment, Robynne couldn’t help the unease in her stomach. She had escaped death not even an hour ago. Bringing it up made her uncomfortable, almost as if, she worried, they were reminding the Reaper he had missed a spot or something. At least Mal looked quietly distressed as well. That had to be a sign that it was natural and okay to feel this way, right?
Mal cleared her throat. “Not that I’d be much of a help with it since my,” Mal chuckled and nodded to Robynne, “EKP sucks so bad, but do we maybe want to consider the idea you threw out a year ago, Ang, and start doing patrols around the city?”
Now that sounded like a good idea to Robynne. “That’s a great suggestion. If we just nightly had one or two of us power up and patrol the city we might snuff out monsters before they get set up. Especially with the sensitivity of my and Angela’s EKP in our Spirit Guard forms.”
Kara smirked. “You really are intent on making ‘EKP’ a thing, aren’t you?”
Robynne shrugged. “Gotta try.”
“I don’t know if I like it,” Ms. Kuna interjected. “More appearances weakens the Disconnection Effect. It could make it easier to figure out your identities. Plus, with you, Robynne, we have to also consider your workload. You are not only adjusting to being female, but also infiltrating the potential Empress’s Cheer Squad, having to attend SFEERS functions as a result, and still taking college courses on top of that. Not to mention this week your uncle is arriving.”
The pit in Robynne’s stomach returned. She had been wanting to bring him into the fold on this. It was killing her to avoid conversations with him. He was the only person on the planet who she knew loved her. So why was the prospect of actually seeing him terrifying her so much?
Mal shrugged. “Okay, so we can afford to wait a week before we do the patrol idea. The odds of him having another monster ready so quickly are low.”
Angela agreed. “And you’re probably right to worry about the weakening of the Disconnection Effect, Kunapipi. We can work on patrol timings with Noriko to determine a way to minimize how much we are seen. In fact, I’ll bet we…”
Robynne’s mind trailed off. How was Uncle Taylor going to act when he saw her? How was she going to explain changing genders, her hair being as red as blood, either form of cheerleading she now was a part of… none of this made sense. It was all crazy. Would he even believe her?
She pushed the thought as far out of her head as she could. She couldn’t get it any further out of her head than the back of her mind. The dark, unspoken potential of him maybe treating her like a crazy person skittered there like the raccoon that had moved into their attic a few years ago. It took them the better part of a year to get rid of the thing. But Robynne wasn’t going to survive mentally if it took Uncle Taylor that long to figure this out.
Robynne shut her eyes and swallowed. He’d understand. Of course Uncle Taylor would understand. That was the whole reason they were bringing him to Kessia City. The Standridge Circle’s perception filter would make it easier to swallow and Uncle Taylor would definitely understand.
He had to. Because although she didn’t dare say it out loud, Robynne knew all of this was stacking on top of her. She didn’t know why, but she just couldn’t bring herself to admit it to her friends. Not even Cory and Eli. She knew it was a bad idea, but she… she just couldn’t tell anyone how close she felt to breaking some days. Something in her mind… she couldn’t let them see the cracks. She had to continue to be strong. Resolute.
So Uncle Taylor would come. And he’d understand. Because he had to. And honey if she knew what would happen if he didn’t.