Rowan leapt off his warbike as soon as he entered the cargo bay from outside. He hurried up the latter to the second floor.
“Heva, is she alright?” he said as soon as he saw someone.
“Not too good. Howll just took her to see Lois. Looks like a bullet hit the bike and shrapnel tore up her left side,” Caleb said. Rowan gritted his teeth.
“Anyone else get hurt?”
“Well, Barry hit his head when the warhead slammed, but he’s fine. Juleka’s swearing her head off with how much damage that did.”
They looked up as Basilisk climbed down the ladder next to them.
“That was the scariest moment of my life!” the sniper said.
“You say that every time,” Sven said as the group of turret gunners rounded the corner.
“I could have died!”
“But you didn’t,” Klark said. “You’re breathing just fine.”
“A bullet slammed into the deck two inches from my face! TWO inches!”
“You’re such a baby, Bask. When are you gonna grow up?” Deheu smirked.
“Caleb!” Bask said. “Tell them to stop teasing me! Why does everyone tease me?”
“Probably ’cause you react to it,” Caleb said with a raised eyebrow. “So, how many did you hit?” Basilisk immediately perked up.
“I hit twenty-two.”
“I hit thirty,” Sven said.
“Thirty-one,” Klark said.
“Gosh you two are ridiculous. How did you get so many? I only got thirteen,” Tegan said.
“Me and Josem both got twenty-four,” Deheu said.
“Yeah! I beat ya, ya roat!” Sven grinned at Josem. Josem turned away with a humph.
“Heva got fourteen, and I got seventeen.” Rowan said. “That means Blick probably got something like twenty-five, twenty-six, if I had to say.”
“Ack, that mean’s I’m last,” Tegan frowned.
“Drinks on you,” said Josem.
“I can understand Tegan, but Rowan, since when did you and Heva fall behind that much?” Sven asked.
“Would you do as good out in that mess on a warbike?” Rowan glared at Sven.
“Point taken. Hey where did Blick go anyway?”
“Probably sulking in his room,” Klark said.
“Sulk?” Josem laughed. “I would’ve said brood. That’s a good one, Blick sulking, haha!”
“I meant to say, Bask,” Rowan said turning to Basilisk, “thanks for watching out for us out there. Especially for Heva. I’m not sure she would have made it back with out you covering her.”
“Yeah,” Bask said, “I really wish I had hit that guy going after her though.”
“Don’t worry about it, Bask,” Lex said, walking down the stairs from the navigation theater. “That one was a league above the others. He was probably the platoon leader. His skill level was well out of my predictions. It just shows your skill that you managed to contain him at all. Plus, you shot down several squad captains it looks like.”
“What, you didn’t think we’d do this good, Hime?” Klark said.
“With that warhead, it was fifty-fifty. Thanks for taking down the missiles,” Lex said sheepishly.
“No way we were letting those hit,” Deheu frowned. “Juleka scary when she’s mad. She’s gonna hate me when she learns I let one through.”
“I heard that, Deheu!” Juleka called from the floor below. “Get your kant gamin down here!” Deheu blanched.
“Alright, you roats, cool down time. Go help Juleka if you have free time,” Lex said.
“The bonus?” Bask said.
“Calm down. I’ll get it to you all when we get to Delhi.” Lex shooed the group off.
“I don’t know ’bout you roats, but I’m gonna find my little buddy. He’ll wanna hear about how awesome I was,” Sven said as he wandered down one of Biscotti’s halls. “Now where could he be?”
He found Seven a few minutes later, tucked up in a dark corner of the ceiling.
“Hey, Sev. Whatcha doing up there?” He reached his hand up to Seven. “Here, come on down. I got a story to tell ya.”
Seven flinched, shying away from Sven’s hand.
“Hey, you alright little buddy?” Sven asked.
“Just stop, already!” Seven snapped. A bitter and anguished look crossed his face. “Stop pretending like you’re my friend. All of you! You’re all just a bunch of liars!”
Sven retracted his hand. Seven didn’t look to see the man’s hurt and confused expression, but he feel it.
“Please,” he mumbled, “leave me alone.”
Sven stood there for a second before sighing and sitting on the floor. He pulled out a piece of paper and began folding it. Seven stared at him, and minutes passed in silence.
“It’s origami,” Sven said.
“I didn’t ask,” Seven said grumpily.
“But you were wondering.” Silence returned for a minute longer before he spoke again. “It helps me keep calm. My sister showed me how, but I only know how to fold a crane.”
Seven looked away.
“I wasn’t the best of people when I was young. I guess I take after my dad. We were from Nordsland, and for the longest time, it was just me and him. He wasn’t a bad father. He worked hard in a factory to make money so we could live, and he rarely every drank. But when he did, my dad was very violent. He used to be a lot worse before my mom died. One hit too hard on her head, and she never woke up.”
Sven folded the paper smoothly as he spoke.
“For the first couple of years, I blamed him for it. I ran away from home and ended up with the trash of the town, drinking and raging and beating to steal money that only ever ended up being pocket change. But some of those people, well, we hurt them badly.”
He held up the folded paper, inspecting it.
“When I was sixteen, I came home to steal some money from him, only I noticed how broken he’d become. I grew angry, a red-hot fiery maddening type of anger, and I smashed a bottle over his head.” Sven gave a weak laugh. “The punch he gave me, my jaw was aching for weeks afterwards.”
He paused in thought. Seven looked back at him, before turning away once more.
“Indignant, I intended to march right out of that house and never look back. Only, I didn’t make it past the door. On the doorstep, someone left a little girl. She was only about three at the time, dressed in grimy clothes and bawling her eyes out. She had this note around her neck saying ‘This is Mali. Take her or leave her. I don’t care anymore.’ It was her eyes that did it. They were so pure and unjudging they stole my and my dad’s hearts. And that’s how I met my sister.”
He pulled at the piece of paper, forming wings.
“To this day, I don’t know where she learned to make paper cranes, but it helped me control my temper because I never wanted her to see me angry. Now, I do it because it reminds me of her.”
He held the crane in his open palm and looked up at Seven.
“Sev, you’re defensive, and you have every right to be. But just keep in mind, that living in anger, living without trust can mess you up badly. That’s not a way to live, and if you do, one day you’ll look back and wonder how you became so ugly.”
He groaned as he stood up.
“Someday Sev, you’ll find someone kind of like my sister. They’ll be someone who accepts you so completely that you won’t be able to keep them out. They’ll worm their way inside of your heart, and you’ll find yourself changing before you know it. When you meet whoever it is, make it easier on yourself and let them in.”
He placed the crane on the ground and began to walk away.
“What happened to your sister?” Seven called out.
Sven paused for a second. He turned and looked at Seven before saying, “She had cancer. She died when she was fourteen.”
“Do you miss her?”