Xia hissed and jumped backward, sending a handful of water splashing towards the face of the guard. Her power heated it to boiling as it flew; steam rose into the air and curled upward. She watched, helplessly, as the clear liquid stopped short of its target, as if slamming into an invisible wall. Frowning, she tracked the water as it dripped harmlessly to the floor.
Turning off the faucet, Xia regarded the other female with something akin to suspicion. “Who are you, really?” she demanded. “You have a Mark of Taint, yet you walk openly among the normals. Why?”
The guard smiled bitterly. “Not quite openly, I’ll have you know. I hide my eyes behind these,” she said, holding her glasses up for inspection. “And when I’m not wearing these, I have soft shields to cover my eyes. Contact lenses, they used to be called, only mine cover my entire eye, not just the iris.”
Xia said, “I see,” even though she did not.
Smiling more warmly, the other woman continued. “I am called Rei. Whether that is the name my parents gave me, or the name I was given by the people that raised me in the shadows, I don’t know for sure. Apparently I was abandoned shortly after birth, and found by one of The Council’s guards.”
“Bu – but!” Xia interrupted. “Aren’t you guys honor bound to report and deliver any Marked children to The Council?”
“Ah, that is true,” Rei said, “but what better way to change the rules if not from within?”
“Besides, I’m not completely Marked; I only have this one.. And stop calling them Marks of Taint. They’re blessings.”
“Blessings!” Xia sputtered. “What in the Name of-”
“Don’t say it!” Rei exclaimed. “You go invoking that name, you’ll have every Other within three klicks appearing in this room. For now, I have us shielded, but my power is not strong, and it won’t last long.” She looked toward the door anxiously. “We don’t have much time left before the other guards realize we’ve been gone far too long for a normal bathroom.”
“I’m a girl. Tell them I’m having my menses, or something. I can fake some cramps if you like.” Xia grinned, and was rewarded with a bright, genuine smile from Rei. “So, how many like you are there? And what did you mean by ‘blessing’? Sure as hell doesn’t feel like one.”
“That’s because you have yet to be properly initiated.”
Rei gave her a heavy look, full of pity and pain. “Into the Circle of The One, of course. Those Marks are a sign of favor from the true Power. She has not fallen, but reigns unseen by normals. The Others are tools that once served Her, but broke away and formed their own version of justice.”
A sharp pain sliced through Xia’s skull. She gasped, and swayed, and closed her eyes against the floor that seemed to be rising toward her face. Her limbs burned, and she suddenly felt very, very tired. Rei smashed her glasses onto her face and fumbled to train her weapon on the smaller woman. “I thought we had more time,” she muttered as the door flew open.