V e r a
• Convention Center, Smith's Rest •
It was still cold, Vera wasn’t sure what she’d expected. She wasn’t so flustered as to try and dunk her head into the fluff again, but a nervous boiling had begun to bubble up back in the bar, and she was thankful for the little twists and drifts of icy air that wormed their way between the fabrics of her coat. Of course, as soon as they led to shivers, their presence would no longer be as welcomed. So, to stave that off for as long as possible, she stuffed her hands into her pockets and trotted off at a leisurely pace.
Soon enough that too was interrupted.
“Stop. I’d like a word with you.”
Vera jumped and swiveled around, surprised to see how quickly a woman she hadn’t so much as heard had snuck up on her. She didn’t look particularly official–then again few people besides her mother did–and she didn’t have a badge or anything of the like, but there was something else. Something in the woman’s face, her expression, how everything seemed to be off to her like she was coping with a bout of vertigo, it made Vera afraid, deeply. They were hard eyes staring back at her. Disciplined eyes. Eyes of authority.
“Oh gosh, are you in with the convention?” she stumbled over every word. It couldn’t be that their first day back in town they’d already gotten into trouble, it just couldn’t be. “Is it the noise? You guys probably heard us from the canteen. I’m so sorry, I think–really just one of my friends, a pilot, I think he’s just had a little too much to drink, you know? We’re not trying to make a racket, I promise.”
“This isn’t about them.”
“Oh," Vera said, relieved though now just as much confused. “Well uh, what's up? Everything alright?"
Before Vera had a chance to react she found her shoulder grabbed by the cold hands of her pursuer. She saw it coming, Graham’s training had conditioned her just the same but between the surgeries and being disoriented it caught her off guard. It didn’t help the woman was stronger and faster, not unlike a soldier. Without much of a struggle, she was quickly backed into the adjacent wall.
“Don’t. Trust. Ingram. Kalfox.”
Vera stared at the woman like she had headlights for eyes. One hand had, on freshly-forged instinct, come up and grabbed the invading arm by the wrist, but she was small, pinned. Her other hand covered her face, expecting some kind of blow, but nothing came. Nothing but the unnaturally cold warning.
“Wh-huh? What? What do you mean?" she asked, more sputtered, actually. She tried to press herself away, feet up trying to bar the woman's legs from shoving her further, but she kept an iron grip on the sleeve.
“Ingram Kalfox is not your friend. He is not your ally. He is not a saint. Do not trust him.” She spoke again in the same militant tone. Her cold, faded green eyes invoked a sense of seriousness and rage.
Then she let go of Vera’s shoulder, as if affirming that she was not here to hurt her but something entirely different. Nonetheless Vera quaked, and for a few moments kept hanging onto the sleeve. When she realized of course, she let go, but couldn't take her eyes away. Didn't. She yielded gaze, but watched the woman's face. It was strong but weathered, and anger seeped through its cracks, almost desperate. She didn't know this woman, but she knew that look, faces like it, she'd seen it almost every day in Lizzy, sometimes even in mom.
“Okay," Vera said, nodding gently, putting her hands up, as if she even needed to surrender against someone like her. “Something's wrong, I get it, and it's stressing you out. But try and sit in my shoes, this is weird, right? I'm not saying I don't trust you I'm saying this is weird. I'm not gonna call for anyone, okay? You could explain it to me, help me and I'll help you."
“I can’t explain it, Vera. It’s probably better that I don’t. Ingram Kalfox will seek to ruin you and if you let him, he will. Everyone who has ever known him knows this. If you are alone with him, your childhood will be over. Just like Ana’s.” She paused, as if the woman realized something and didn’t like it. Before Vera could speak out with any more questions a gloved hand covered her mouth. “Don’t ignore what I am saying. Always have a gun in your pocket.”
As Vera reached for the woman’s hand for a second time she released her grip and turned as she began to hear footsteps and took off in the opposite direction. Vera wanted to shout 'wait!' or 'stop!' or anything, but when she tried, she coughed, and by then the woman was gone. Still, she scrambled after for a few feet, trying to spy her among the people walking this way and that, but it was hopeless. A few passersby shot her odd looks, but otherwise, it was all as if nothing had happened.
But that wasn't true, something had happened. A stranger had just warned her at force about Stein's dad, and Ana, and she found herself reeling. What had happened to Ana? Was she in trouble? Stein had never mentioned much about her dad, but everyone seemed to get on well enough with him. Everyone except Percy, anyway.
“Oh god," she said, spooking herself. What if Ana was in trouble? She didn't have the clear head or the time to try and work out how, or why, but if there was even "if", then she was wasting time. Wildly, she oriented herself back towards the canteen, and sprinted off to find Percy.