Well, the boat is absent, what next?
I stared at the place where the boat was usually found. Apparently the Unknown isn't in need of a refilled meter as of yet. The mystery of why he needed Aether in the first place returned to mind.
It's an important reason, I know that for a fact. However, it would be nice to know the details of his situation.
I paced up and down the riverbank, concentrating intently. Another thing to take into consideration, trust. I'm simply a stranger to him in this strange land. Each time he sends the boat, he gives me an opportunity to discover his headquarters. If he mistrusted me greatly, would he even risk the boat for Aether? Unless . . .
I paused in my pacing and looked over the water towards the lake. Unless he needs Aether badly enough to undergo the risk. That is, assuming he's aware of the risk at all.
I began my pacing once again, by now, I've left footprints on the riverbank. He could be completely and utterly unaware of any potential danger I could cause him, after all, what could a malnourished grotto girl do to a man like him?
I paused and shook my head. No, he knows the risk, and he struggles with it as well. I may not be particularly dangerous to his person, however, if I spread word of his existence . . . if that's the case, he does have a fear of being known. That, and a desperation to live.
I suddenly snapped back to reality, a fearful thought crept across my mind.
How long have I been waiting here?
The memory of the Autofficer Flintshot's four Troubleshooters surrounding me in this very position flashed before my mind. They had be surrounded entirely. Leaving me helpless, prison bound, with no where left to hide. Then came the Unknown out of the mist.
If this scene repeated itself, would the Unknown still be there?
The answer came in a nasty female voice behind me.
"Well well, if it isn't the wretched little street rat!"
I turned around to see my old enemy, Autofficer Sharpgaze, sneering at me wickedly. Behind her, three Troubleshooters and a Pacifier stared blankly at me with their robotic eyes.
"Autofficer Flintshot informed me about a certain red-haired missy in grotto garb he ran into around these parts. Of course, I had to check it out myself."
"Of course," I muttered.
"This place might not be within city limits, but then again," she leaned towards me menacingly, "You never belonged in Aethasia anyway."
She ordered her automatons to position around me. I breathed heavily in attempts to remain unafraid. Sharpgaze began walking a circle around me, I stared down at the ground and concentrated on an escape plan.
"It's amazing really, how in the Empire did you live to be as old as you are without any record of parents or origin. Even the wretches in the grotto have papers of some sort explaining how they got to be in this world. Legally, you don't even exist!"
She ordered her mechanical thugs aside and grabbed my collar. "And since that's the case, street rat, the laws of loitering don't apply to you. You're very existence is illegal! Why shouldn't I be able to arrest you every time I see that disgusting hat of yours!"
With that, she ripped of my urchin's cap and threw it into the river. I cringe as it gets carried away by the current into the lake. I bite my lip and try to focus on a plan, any plan! Anything to keep her words from sinking to my soul. However, as always, my mental shields give way.
This is one reason why Sharpgaze is one of my greatest enemies. She reminds me how worthless I am as often as she can and feeds off of my fears and sorrows to make herself a mighty, powerful monster of a human being.
Suddenly, I see my chance. I thrust myself between two automatons and plunge into the freezing river. The cold is so startling I almost forget to swim. However, Sharpgaze's angry shouts motivate me to swim as far away from her as possible. I swam up river and out into the lake. Sharpgaze's shouts slowly fade away as I swim. I never swam very much in my life. If the Resistance hadn't taught me how, I wouldn't be able to at all. However, my arms and legs begin to give way.
No, not here, I can't stop in the middle of the lake!
A soft object brushes by my arm, I almost shouted with joy when I realized it was my cap. Holding onto it the best I could, I continued to swim into the lake. The exhaustion weighed heavily on my limbs. I've been in worse states, however, knowing I'd drown if I stopped to rest kept me going. I swam and swam until I could no longer feel my limbs from the cold. My eyelids drooped against my will, and my teeth chattered violently.
Finally, a misty shore could be seen. With one final burst of energy I swam the last few feet and staggered to shore. I fell down beside a strange boat. Two boats, actually. Something about the second boat seemed familiar to my weary mind. However, I had lost the ability to move for the time being.
The moment before the world faded to black before my eyes, I realized just what I had done.
I've crossed the unknown boarders, and I've lost the ability to leave!