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July 25th, 2027, 1:00 p.m.

The Congo

Einherjar had a meeting with Evo. Morri was torn between intruding on that meeting so she could remain close to Einherjar, or staying away from what was sure to be an angry meeting. Evo had seemed upset and after last night’s maelstrom of tears and hope and renewal, Morri really didn’t want to take another emotional roller coaster. Instead, as she and Einherjar ate lunch together, she said, “I think I’d like to go for a run while you meet with Evo.”

He’d been relaxed until she’d brought up her run; it was subtle and he tried to hide it, but she knew he didn’t want her out of his sight right now. She could understand and even agree with the feeling but she couldn’t tie herself to his side forever. It had taken her years of pain and fear to learn to feel anything other than anxiety when he wasn’t around. She had no desire to do that again. And Einherjar was far stronger than she was, for he simply said, “Alright. Take care of yourself. I’ll see you when you get back.”

Morri nodded in agreement. “How long do you think the meeting will take?”

Einherjar snorted. “I’m not sure. Depends on how long he decides to yell at me before calming down enough for me to explain, and then how long it takes to explain and appease him. At least an hour, I’d guess.”

“Sounds good.” And then they had spoken of other, lighter things; of his plans for the Congo and her expectations for the therapy she’d agreed to take last night, of good memories and future hopes. It was very delicate between them still, their new understanding of each other still uncertain.

They walked together toward the meeting; when they came to the intersection where they were parting, he leaned over and kissed her forehead. “Enjoy your run,” he said, even if she knew that he wanted to tell her to stay there with him, where he could protect her.

“Enjoy your meeting,” she told him with an impish smile to break the somber mood coming from him.

Einherjar fixed her with a cool gaze before chuckling. “How do you always get to wiggle out of these things? I could make you come, you know.”

“You could,” she replied. “You won’t.” She smiled at him and he sighed. “I’ll see you soon.” He gave her another hug, this one tight and holding for a few seconds longer than a normal hug. Then he released her and turned for Evo’s office.

Morri went for the exit and the outdoors, moving at a slow run through the palace. She went to her room, looking for Tahir, frowning when she realized he wasn’t back yet. That was concerning but he was a big lion and infatuated with Sakura. He likely wrangled an invitation to stay with her. I hope they didn’t have sex, Morri thought. That would likely cause issues.

Either way, there was no Tahir to invite and she headed for the jungle. She really needed to stretch her legs out and run.

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The early morning air above Kinshasa shudders, buckles, then folds inward. Murat slips quietly through the wormhole and drifts slowly to the ground. After the past weeks of continuous preparation and travel he was looking forward to catching his breath before heading back to New Hope. After taking stock of his location he begins to walk down the street then pauses in front of a gate.

Murat looks through to the home on the other side. Here’s to hoping this works… He takes a deep breath before pressing the buzzer, “My name is Murat, can you tell Aaron that I would like to speak with him.”

The speaker squawks briefly once, “One moment sir, I will see if he is available,” before going silent again. As he stands there Murat wonders how Aaron is going to take the news. It had been years since they last saw each other. Much had changed since then, for both of them. The speaker squawked again, “Please head directly to the south entrance Mr. Farrell is not available but Mr. Arnold would like to speak with you,” then the gate slid open along the motorized tracks.

I guess Tim plans to screen me, can’t say as I blame him. Murat relaxes as he moves swiftly to the entrance. That Tim was going to see his was slightly encouraging he thinks as the security checks him before motioning him through the door. He enters the entryway and follows the guard down the hallway and into the waiting room.

Standing across the room is Tim as stiff and proper as always. The past few years have not been kind, I wonder what Aaron is going to handle it as Tim keeps getting older and we don’t, Murat reflects as he heads over to the bar. Tim watches him closely as he walks toward him and says simply, “May I see your hand please?” Murat pauses briefly, this not the reaction he had expected, before holding out his left hand for Tim to inspect. Tim takes his hand and looking at it briefly before asking, “The necklace?” Murat slowly pulls the locket out and as he does Tim starts dropping his drink, “You’re supposed to be dead.”

Murat quickly catches the glass and laughs sharply, “So that’s what this is about. I assure you the rumors of my demise are greatly exaggerated. I would like to know where those started; I was only gone around a year.”

Tim takes the glass back and gulps a good portion of the scotch before responding, “Yes, well, you left under unusual circumstances. Master Farrell told me you had never taken a leave in over 20 years. We heard the stories about you before you left as well. After a couple months well rumors spring up faster than weeds as you know.”

Murat sighs, “I suppose so, but as you can see I am alive and well Tim. Is Aaron around?”

“Master Farrell is unavailable currently. He should be back this afternoon, why don’t you stop by after lunch? I will let him know that an old friend is coming by and you can startle a few years off of him as well.”

“I think I will do just that, Tim. Hopefully we can catch up as well. See you this afternoon.”

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