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Footsteps came clomping down the hall and soon enough Nikolao was standing in front of their cell with a couple of the Big Brass - or who Chiela assumed were the Big Brass based purely on their uniforms. Terasu stood up from where she’d been slumped against the wall, pressed her hands against the cell’s shielding, leaned her face in close, and shouted, “Nikolao, you asshole. What the fuck do you think you’re doing?”

Before Nikolao could say anything, one of the Brass cut in with, “Following orders,” and Nikolao frowned but stayed silent, posture stiff and hands clenched behind his back.



Nikolao pivoted, suddenly, into a kick that knocked the legs out from under the nearest Brass, reaching down to jerk a set of keys from his belt as he did so. What followed probably would have been a moment of stunned silence if Nikolao had stopped there. He didn’t, though. He - holy shit - was, with luminescent eyes, suddenly calling upon shadows which swirled from the corners of the room and swallowed the two Big Brass whole, both of whom thrashed blindly for a moment before crumpling to the ground. Nikolao didn’t even pay them any mind except to step over them to the cell door, fumbling with the keys momentarily before he found the right one and, swiping it, lowered the shielding. For a moment, no one moved; no one said anything. Pipra broke the silence, finally, with a distressed=sounding, “What? What’s going on?” which spurred Nikolao into motion, again; he crossed the cell swiftly to drop to his knees in front of Pipra, reached out with both hands, first to grip Pipra's shoulders, then, sliding both hands up, to cradle his face between them. He had a look on his face that Chiela couldn't quite read, even though it was all on the surface, more open than she thought she'd ever seen Nikolao look out from behind closed doors. Pipra startled before sliding his own hands along Nikolao's arms, over his shoulders, to his face, feeling the countours, brushing fingers over Nikolao's lips and cheeks and eyes, and said, "Nikolao? Nichjo?" Nikolao closed his eyes against what look to be some seriously strong emotions before he opened them again and said, "Yes. Yes, it's me."

"What's going on?" Pipra said, not bothering to take his hands from Nikolao's face.

"Nikolao," Terasu said - she actually sounded approving, which was probably a first in conjunction with Nikolao, "Just assaulted a commanding officer and stole his keys."

"Actually," Nikolao said, "I just assaulted two commanding officers. And now I'm getting you out of here." He set his hands back on Pipra's shoulders and helped him to stand, then looped an arm around his waist to guide him. Nikolao looked back over his shoulders to say, "Come on. We don't have much time. They've got Venka and Dioscorus down the hall."

Chiela and Sprita both popped quickly to their feet; Ixchel… well, she took less time than she normally would have, although nothing about her ever seemed particularly urgent. Probably you didn’t need urgency when you were a goddess - and no matter what Terasu said, that was totally what she was. She could probably just, like, evaporate anyone who tried to stop her, although she was Ixchel so she wouldn’t. Chiela didn’t even know how she’d been taken. Chiela sure wouldn’t want to be the one to confront a goddess, particularly one who spoke for the planet.

Nikolao waited for them to exit the cell before he held out his free hand and gestured so that the two Big Brass went sliding across the floor to crash against the back of the cell and crumple to the floor. He slammed the cell door closed behind them. “This way,” he said, turning his back on the both of them, not acknowledging either, even as one stood from the floor and roared, “CAPTAIN LUCHJO!” and, man, when they got out Nikolao was gonna be in such deep shit.

“Right,” Chiela said, “So, uh, quickly,” and Nikolao turned to give her a look as if she’d just said something tremendously stupid which… okay, she kind of had, but he should already know she wasn’t very good at keeping her mouth shut when she was anxious. She made that motion that meant zipping my lips and Nikolao - Nikolao - just rolled his eyes at her and set his free hand on Pipra’s waist along with his guiding arm, hustling him down the hallway.

They came to another cell, it’s shielding opaque instead of transparent until Nikolao swipes a key through the slot and the shielding fades away to reveal Venka and Dioscorus -

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