Later that night, Sasha wearily and gratefully walked up the path to her home. It was a small house near one of the far walls of the cavern, and half of it was dug into the side of the smooth rock wall. It was a good place to live. They even had a garden next to the house, with rows upon rows of various vegetables, and even a few spaces for flowers. Sunlight from above ground managed to find its way down here, shining on the small patch of growing things for around four or five hours a day. It wasn't much but it was enough, especially with Bonny's help. As Sasha walked past it she could tell by looking that Bonny had been hard at work today. There were many patches of freshly turned soil, especially around the flowers. It didn't matter that they were impractical and took up extra space for food, Bonny grew them anyway. They'd yet to starve so far, so Sasha couldn't really complain even though it irked her. Sasha had always been a stickler for what was practical and what wasn't, and it always turned out to be a point of contention between the two of them. They'd gotten into arguments about it more than a few times. Hopefully Bonny would be asleep by now.

Sasha pushed the door open and dropped her keys into the small bowl on the table nearby. The house was dark inside, and she had to grope blindly at the wall to feel for the light switch. When she found it and turned on the lights, it was to see Bonny sitting in the big squashy armchair, wide awake and staring at her with her arms crossed.

"It's about damn time," Bonny snapped. Sasha sighed and rubbed her face with both hands. It looked like there was another argument on the way. Goody.

"What are you still doing sitting around in the dark?"

"Correct me if I'm wrong, but we're in the middle of an energy crisis," Bonny retorted, "and if I remember correctly my calls to check to see if you were safe were 'inexcusable'."

Sasha spread her arms out in defeat. "What can I say? I was dealing with a lot of pressure to find a new cell, and I got angry. I'm sorry, alright?"

"No, it's not alright! You promised me that you were making progress with your anger problem. You promised dad! I don't even want to think about how disappointed he'd be if he were here right now."

"Look, please don't remind me. Believe me I haven't forgotten about the promises I made. But, let me just tell you about what happened, and after that if you still want to scream at me you can, as much as you want."

Bonny still looked annoyed, but nodded curtly as she looked away. It was her 'I'm being reasonable but I'm still mad at you' face. Sasha slumped gratefully into her chair, and told Bonny about everything that happened while she was outside. While she spoke, Bonny tried to pretend that she was still giving Sasha the cold shoulder, but when she got to the part about being chased by a Paantar she forgot her own feelings for a moment and listened eagerly. When Sasha revisited punching the flight captain in the nose, Bonny scoffed.

"Typical," she said, "why am I not surprised? Once more you let your temper get the better of you."

"Didn't you hear what I said? You know how close we were to a complete shutdown of the generators; everyone knew that! When things are that desperate, our priorities should be getting the new cell to the generator as quickly as possible, not argue over who should be the one to carry it. Plus, he was willing to let me die at the hands of a Paantar! He could have easily swooped in and picked me up."

"That may be true, but it would have put his crew at risk, and you know it! You punched a man in the face and broke his nose, Sash. That kind of behaviour is dangerous and irresponsible, even for you. I'm surprised that the Matriarch even let you off the hook."

"She didn't. We're going to discuss my 'penance' in the morning, whatever that means."

"It probably means you're going to spend another week down in the mines, Sash."

Sasha shuddered. She didn't want to even think of the possibility of going back down there. It was necessary work; Eden was always in need of fresh stone, coal, iron and even copper. It was unpleasant and gruelling work, which was why it was a popular form of punishment for transgressors and rule-breakers. Sasha had been sent on more than one stint in that dark, joyless pit.

"I hope not," she said with feeling. Bonny eventually gave up pretending to be mad, and got up to give her sister a hug. She leaned down over Sasha where she sat, and wrapped her arms around her. Sasha, relieved, hugged Bonny back. It was nice to come home to warmth and comfort every now and then.

"I sometimes forget that it's not easy being bound to Fire," Bonny mused as she squeezed Sasha tighter. "Everyone else has their outlets, except you."

"It was better when dad was around," Sasha replied. Her eyes were starting to well up with tears as she thought of her father again. "We were the only two Fire bound, but that didn't seem to matter, because he could just laugh things off and carry on with his work."

Bonny rose to her feet, and pulled Sasha up with her by her hands.

"I know," she said. "I miss him too. Come on, let's get ready for bed. It sounds like you've got a big day ahead of you."


Later that night, Sasha lay in bed staring up at the ceiling and unable to sleep. Her head was awash with ambiguous thoughts and feelings; she didn't know what to think, or how to feel. Eventually she got out of bed and walked over to the window across the room, pulling the curtains aside to look out over the city. Lights were still on here and there, but the majority of the light was being filtered down from above, where star and moonlight came down in long, silvery shafts of light through the natural rifts in the roof of the cave. Soft but busy sounds drifted through the cave; the murmur of a thousand voices, echoes from the mines at the far end of the cave, the rumble of wheels rolling over the paved streets. In Eden there was always work to be done, and so some people worked all night. It was a beautiful sight, but unfortunately it did nothing to help Sasha find any peace of mind.

She went to her desk and sat down, leaning her head in her arms as she thought back over the previous day. It had been a good day for the city, because of the power cell she'd found, but it had been a bad day for her. A bad day in a long string of bad days. There wasn't anything that Sasha could point to, or pick out from the jumble of events over the past few years that she could say with complete confidence was the cause of it all. Losing her father was definitely part of it though.

His picture was on her desk as always, and even in the dark she could still see his expression looking out at her from the frame. She lit a flame from the air cradled in one hand as she picked up his picture with the other, looking at it in the light. Her fingers traced the outline of his face, while her ears rang with the echo of his booming laugh, and her face itched from the memory of his beard scratching it whenever he pulled her in for a hug. She'd gotten angry as a kid before, but somehow with him around it was never a big deal. She'd scream and kick and swear, and he would simply let her finish before he smiled at her with those bright blue eyes crinkled in amusement and say,

"Feel better?"

And because of him, Sasha always did. Even if she tried hard, she couldn't possibly remember the many things that had set her off through her youth, yet he would always be able to make it all alright by smiling at her, and saying the same thing each time. He'd never lost his temper, not even once. Now that he was gone, Sasha wished that he'd been able to teach her how he'd done it. She was finding it harder and harder recently to find the kind of peace that he always seemed to have, and that he helped give to her so many times. He wouldn't have punched someone in the face for protecting the people under his command. The two of them had been the only two Fire bound in Eden, and with him gone she was alone. She'd never felt that isolation more keenly than after he was gone.

Sasha snapped her fingers shut over the flame and snuffed it out. She put the picture back on her desk, but face down so that he wouldn't be able to see what a disappointment his daughter had become. She wiped her face with trembling hands, and they came away wet with tears. Wiping her face on her pyjama shirt, Sasha quietly went back to bed, and hid from the world under her blankets.


Out beyond the valley things were a lot more quiet, but a lot less peaceful. The place where Sasha had fallen from the cliff face was crowded with a pack of Paantars, and even a couple of Ostikaars as they dug furiously into the ground, snuffling and snapping at the smell of blood. Of course, there was only a drop, and it had long since dried up. Even so, the animals spent some time digging to make sure that there wasn't some hidden treasure trove of freshly killed food. After a while they began to lose interest, and they eventually became aware of each other. Paantars and Ostikaars didn't get along, and it was only when they shared a common prey that they actually focused on killing things other than each other. With the faint promise of human meat gone, they growled and snapped at each other, and the noise of their fighting became deafening in the otherwise quiet night.

Fresh blood was drawn by tooth and claw as the all fought one another. There were more of the Paantars, but Ostikaars were bigger. They would have surely all killed each other if they hadn't been startled by a sudden looming presence from nearby. They all stopped and turned to face this intruder who stood at the edge of the clearing. Their instincts screamed at them to fight, kill and eat, but something about this newcomer was telling them different things, and in the limited capacity that these animals could think, they became confused.

It came closer, and feelings of dread and fear replaced their instincts, and each one turned their tails to run. Silence reigned in the clearing after that, and whatever had scared off the predators of the jungle began moving further in towards the abandoned city. It came past the tall leaning glass towers, and past the small half smashed building where Sasha had found the power cell. It lingered there for a while before moving on, and came to a crossroads where a wide expansive highway had once been. The highway was still there, but now it was torn and overlapping with the upheaval caused by the regrowth of the jungle. Many rusted and ruined cars littered the road where they'd been left. Some of them still had bodies inside, and some of those bodies were lying on the ground where desperate scavenging creatures had dragged them out to gnaw at their bones.

The strange presence moved along this ruined road until it came to a bus that had overturned and lay on its side across two lanes. Inside this bus were several bodies, and one of them had a briefcase. The briefcase was opened, and something placed inside before being closed again.

Then it left. After several long moments, the crickets and insects of the night picked up their song again after whatever had disturbed them faded away. The night returned to normal.