“Ten points to the first person who can guess why I’m upset,” Akov hissed, plopping back onto his worn and creaky chair and giving his feet a temporary break from the pacing of the last thirty minutes. “And it’s not because Miranda refused our help. That’s to be expected from somebody so unaware to the prophecy.”

Calum raised his hand, cowering from behind the pile of beanbags along with the rest of the Mithraes and Mithrals who had joined that meeting just a few minutes prior. Akov’s bloodshot eyes warned against qustioning his authority, but he persisted, “Because Cas-”

“Shut it!” Akov whipped a bundle of pens at Calum, who ducked behind the beanbag wall just as the bundle thunked against the bookshelves behind the huddle. “I don’t want this building desecrated with that bastard’s name!”

“You’re going to have to face it eventually,” Hayle pointed out from the safety of behind the wall, elicting a tamer bundle of pens sent airborne. “She decided that she didn’t want to override her morals because somebody she barely knew said to do so, and she actually had the backbone to respect Miranda’s choices. Sorry that puts such a chink in your armor of superiority.”

“Can it, both of you!” Akov palmed the plastic pen holder, immediately coating it in a fne layer of sweat. From what Calum could see from just barely peeking his head above the wall, Akov’s veins were almost popping out of his neck and arms. With his teeth clenched, he continued, “I’m very clearly upset because now we’ll have to reformulate how we bypass the hotel’s security. Whatever investigators might go looking for Miranda are going to be a pain in the arse as well, but those are easier because we’re better at hiding things than stealing them. We can’t take him back to Gehenna-Altaris, that’s for sure, so we’ll have to keep him safe while we kill-”

“Is killing Anders really the solution?” Calum warily stood up, holding his hands out in front of him in case Akov sent the pen holder his way. “I thought we as two species were supposed to be the centrists on everything, not the extremists, and killing people we don’t like kinda seems like something an extremist would do.”

“And what do you suppose we do with him, Calum?” Akov set the pen holder down, wiping his hands on his jeans and opening one of the antique books on his desk. “The man’s relentless.”

He sant back behind the wall. “So are you, it seems.”

“I don’t get women pregnant so that I can plan to kill the baby to fulfill my sick wishes of achieving immortality.”

“But you’re willing to kill a man because of some ancient words scribbled by our ancestors. At the very least, Anders has a more altruistic reason for what he does. He can’t help anybody if he’s dead.”

“Alrighty then.” Akov slammed the book shut, sliding it towards the front of the desk instead of throwing it. “Why don’t you exit my presence and find Cassandra, then. Go be a merry band of traitors together and rest easy in the knowledge that we will thwart you eventually.”

“Fine.” Calum stepped over the wall of beanbags and exited the room, taking the first right and loitering around the elevator until Hayle joined him and pressed the tangerine button for down. “Why are you here?”

“Do you know what my favorite part about humans is?” she whispered, her right hand playing with the decorative buttons on her dress.

Calum paused for a moment, taken aback by the sudden change in subject. “You never told me, so I wouldn’t know.”

“It’s their pets. I love dogs because they have a sense of loyalty to those who treat them well.” The elevator door wooshed open, and they entered along with one of the Mithrals who had also abandoned the whole affair. “And since Miranda feels more like a pet of Anders, I’m inclined to pretect her. Or him. Whatever you’re supposed to call that person. And I honestly don’t blame him for wanting to stay with Anders- heck, sometimes I wish that I was guaranteed a warm home and three meals a day and a decent marriage.”

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