"I didn't touch it, Arlin, and you can't prove I did!" Nebula yelled, stabbing Arlin with her index finger.
"I don't care if you did!" He met her intensity. With a breath, he continued, "I just want to know who fixed my tablet."
"Even if I did, don't think you could catch me with that lie. You've never thanked anyone in your life."
"Not to you. You mess around with everything… what… what is the sound?!”
They walked out of the hall into the main room of HQ. Nothing was there, but the noise persisted.
They took a few more steps, surveilled, but still nothing. Another few, but nothing. And another, nothing. Finally, wedgied in the farthest corner lied the source of the sound.
Curled tight, a boy sat, beeping and bopping as he played on a tablet. “What are you doing, Lafayette?” Arlin erupted.
From the first sound, Lafayette jumped with the tablet tumbling from his lap. “I...I...I…” he stuttered, scrambling for the tablet and his feet.
Arlin snatched the device from Lafayette. “This is the one I threw out this morning!” He scrolled through the content.
“I didn’t think you were going to use it,” Lafayette squeaked.
“He wasn’t,” Nebula said, putting a hand on his shoulder.
“This self-destructed! You shouldn’t be able to turn this on let alone play on it! How did you do it?!” He stepped closer.
“I don’t… It wasn’t hard… I don’t~”
“You’re the one who fixed my tablet! How did you do it?!” He was only ruler length away now.
" I don't know?"
“What’s going on here?”
Arlin and Nebula turned. Artemis, the leader of the rebel resistance, was standing in front of them with her arms crossed. “What’s going on here?”
As Arlin explained, Lafayette sneaked away and scurried down the nearby hallway. No one saw or heard him. Nebula and Artemis had all their attention on Arlin: the former to know what to call out as lies and the latter to find points of comparison with what she knew.
By the time the talking stopped, Nebula had an eyebrow raised to find her head shaking in agreement.
"Is that true, Lafayette? Lafayette?!" she yelled, echoing off the walls.
"Lafayette?" Nebula swirled around. "We need to find him."
"No. I'll find Lafayette. You need to get on your patrol. And you-" she switched her gaze from Nebula to Arlin- "you need to analyze this before something happens to it again."
"But-" Nebula pleaded.
"Now!" She boomed.
Like rats on a sinking ship, Arlin and Nebula fled to their respective duties. Artemis stayed her ground, making them divide around her. When they were gone, her stern expression slipped into a tremble.
She bit her lip, v-lining her gaze to the nearest exit. It was the best place to start in this maze of corridors and rooms.
She hugged the left wall and took the first left. She systematically searched this hall and that one, making sure to open each door on her path. Nothing had been placed on this side of the building as of yet which would make it simple to find something or someone out of place.
It should have been simple. Empty halls plus empty rooms should equal one easily found boy. What Artemis forgot in her calculation was before coming to them, Lafayette's life was hiding and running.
That fact donned on her when something touched her head. She patted the top to find a small wet spot the size of a drop.
She dashed to the right wall and looked up. Bingo. "Lafayette?"
At the top of the wall was a box inlet. A mass was shifting. "Just leave me alone!" he droned with his nose stuffed.
"I can't do that, Lafayette. Not with you crying, dear."
"Why can't you people just leave me alone. I've already answered all your questions. I don't know how I know these things. I don't remember anything. And I don't want to. So just mosey on."
"Just one more question... please?"
"If it'll get you off my back."
"Why? Why what?!"
"Why don't you want to remember?"
Wiping his nose with his arm, he spun around and let his legs hang. "Why would I? They're all nightmares!"
"Some of them led you to me?"
Lafayette slid down the pipe next to his hiding spot. On her level, he started up at her, and she looked down. "You're my aunt, you tell me, was there anything good about his life?"
She moved a few steps away and offered him her hand. "Why don't we go for a walk and I can tell you all about your past?"
He started at the hand. His hand twitched at his side.
"It isn't all bad. I promise."
With those two words, something inside made his hand jump up.
Against the rules, she took him outside to walk in the sand and the sun casting long shadows of cacti. With a brilliantly blazed sunset behind them, she began telling Lafayette's story, starting when Artemis' sister gathered the family to tell them she was having a third child. She continued with second-hand stories from her sister and her tales of babysitting her niece and nephews. "I remember this one summer when you, Eclipse, and Lyra dug up that terminal line. I don't know if your father was madder that you guys accidentally lost four high-profile communiqués or you destroying the yard."
"Clip was nearly in tears before mom put an end to it. That was summer before…-" his smile of reminiscences faded into the pain of history- "before she died."
"Yeah, I know it hurts and I miss her, too, but I wouldn't trade that summer day for anything."
"It's not that easy."
"I know. I'm not trying to rush anything. I just want you to know when you remember you won't be any more or less Lafayette nor any more or less Cascade. You are you even if you don't remember your birthday."
Lafayette pulled her tight. "When is it?" he squeaked.
She was shocked at first: he hadn't done that since he was five. "9th in two months," she said, giving into old ways.