by London Lampy
If you read "Exit Strategy" welcome back, I hope you enjoy this new Exit story. If you clicked on this out of curiosity and haven't read any of my stuff before and fancy reading this, or need a reminder a (very) short summery of the last one can be found below, but be warned, it is a spoiler. This is a sequel but not a "part two", it's a whole new story.
As ever I'd like to know what you think, both good and bad, and I'm always happy to answer any questions about anything to do with the story.
Summery of "Exit Strategy"
Exit is an eighteen year old orphan living in the city of Parnell and working as an investigator for a company called Municipal Works who have a monopoly on power and water supply and distribution for the Twin Islands and are therefore very powerful. Exit is an echoback, one of a race of humanoid mammals that originate from the Northern Continent, they are very similar to humans but have long prehensile tails, blue black hair, golden eyes and the ability to move very fast, see in the dark and climb just about anything. It's these attributes that have led to him being employed by Municipal Works. As far as he knows he is the only one of his kind living in the city. He was brought over from the Northern Continent as very small child and placed in the city orphanage by a well meaning priest who found him alone at the side of a remote track. This universe also contains one other sentient race besides humans, the visk, bipedal lizards who have a complicated social structure and while not being very physically strong are mostly very intelligent and many hold positions of power.
Along with his partner Vio Exit is sent undercover as a sailor on a coal freighter to try to obtain evidence about a group of pirates who have been stealing coal the company is exporting to the Northern Continent. Things don't exactly go to plan and he ends up getting kidnapped by the pirate captain, Captain Quint, to be kept as his pet alongside his other pet Topher, who is less than delighted at Exit's sudden appearance in his life. He is put to work on the pirate ship The Firebrat under the tutelage of Tallis, a much older echoback, and the first other one he has ever met, who teaches him how to sail, along with the first mate Zizi, a female visk.
As time passes he comes to enjoy his life as a pirate but keeps the truth about himself hidden, and he frequently finds his loyalties torn between his old life and his new one. This is only exacerbated when the nature of his relationship with Topher changes and they become lovers, much to Quint's delight.
He knows that his time with the pirates is not going to last forever and he tries not to make too many emotional attachments, but is not very successful. When the time comes for him to be "rescued" at the last minute he takes the decision to stay with the pirates, but he's left it too late. He takes a bullet for Quint and blacks out, the next thing he knows he's on a ship being taken back to Parnell.
At the end of the story he's superficially back to where he started, but he's a different person to the one who went away. He's seen that there is more to the world than simply the city he has known his whole life, and he's come to be proud of what he is, something he never was before.
The park is full of spring, the trees are covered with blossoms, the flowerbeds are full of yellow and pink flowers, all around me nannies are taking their noisy charges out for fresh air, and I'm eating an ice cream, my first of the year.
"That didn't last long," Ry laughs as I crunch up the last of the cone while sitting next to him on a bench.
"Mmm," I wipe my hand on my trousers. "I forgot how good they are, he's only just turned back into being an ice cream man from being a hot chestnut man all winter."
I can't stand roasted chestnuts, you burn your fingers trying to get into them, and then they taste like ash and dust. Vio really likes them though, she keeps buying bags of them and eating them in the office then leaving bits of shell all over our desks. Also they make the room smell like a bonfire, but I suppose even that is better than her cheroots.
Ry smiles at me and I look away, pretending to suddenly be very interested in a tiny child riding a tricycle down the path in front of us. I shouldn't have accepted his invitation to meet for lunch, but he came up to the office and asked me personally. I couldn't say no to his face.
We're not dating any more, we're just friends. This is fine because he is my friend and I do really like him, or it would be fine if he didn't keep looking at me quite so, well, longingly, and making me feel really guilty. I broke up with him a few weeks ago, which wasn't easy as I still feel like I owe him for everything he did for me after I had been shot and was being really miserable and sulky about the being brought home, and he didn't want to break up.
I'd known it was the right thing to do for a while. I'd been honest with him from the start that I really didn't want anything too serious and he kept agreeing, but it was becoming obvious that wasn't how he felt, or as Vio put it "either go for it with him or put the poor fucker out of his mystery" so I ended it, or at least I tried.
There was also one other thing that kind of influenced my decision to split up with him. About six weeks ago we destroyed a big Clearwater cell, they were planning on bombing one of our power stations and the entire department worked together. When the whole thing was over Sampson threw us a party, and somehow late in the night I ended up with Vin in his office having sex with him, which if I'm honest was pretty amazing at the time, but after I felt horrible about it.
I've just about managed to stay away from Vin since then, which he hasn't been making that easy as he keeps doing and saying things that really make me want a repeat performance, and I'm pretty sure it's only a matter of time before it happens again. It's only my guilt over Ry and Vin's wife Toni that's stopping me.
"I'd better get going," I say, standing up and brushing cone crumbs off me.
"I'll walk you back," Ry smiles at me again.
It doesn't take long to reach the office, on the steps outside he kisses me on the cheek. "Why don't you come over for dinner tomorrow?" he suggests.
"Hmm... alright." I can't think of a reason not to that won't hurt his feelings.
"Good," he grins. "Be at my house about seven."
I head into the lobby and am rummaging in my trouser pocket for my pass when I hear someone calling my name. I look up to see Toni hurrying over to me, as usual she's perfectly groomed and I bet her dress, cardigan, bag and shoes cost more than all the clothes I own put together. Her presence makes my misery complete.
"Hello sweetheart," she kisses me on both cheeks and I can smell her subtle and expensive smelling perfume. "Govinder tells me you've broken up with Rylance, that's such a shame," she pulls an exaggerated sad face. "I was going to invite the pair of you over for dinner one night."
"Thank you," I say. I'm not really sure why, that would have been one awkward dinner.
"Now, it might be a bit too soon but I know this lovely boy, Piers his name is, he works for Daddy at the bank and I think you'd get on like a house on fire, would you like me to set you up?" Her pretty face lights up at the suggestion.
"No, thanks. It is a bit too soon," I lie.
"Alright sweetheart, just tell me when your heart has mended and I'll arrange things. By the way I made some shortbread, I put chocolate chips in yours, it's on your desk."
By the time I've made it back up to the office I've decided that I'm possibly the worst person who lives in this city. I sit down at my desk, push the tin of shortbread out of my eye line, fold my arms on its grimy surface and bury my head in them. I stay like that for a few minutes, until Vio's voice rouses me.
"Cheer up monkey boy, it might never happen," she says loudly from the doorway, I look up and scowl at her. "Come on you grumpy fucker, spring is in the air and all is right with the world."
It most definitely isn't. I'm used to Vio being the grumpy one, I'm used to her being sarcastic, I'm used to her being rude, but I really can't get used to her being happy. She's in love. Somehow, remarkably, her and Caddy our receptionist, have got it together, sort of. They're dating but they haven't had sex yet, not that this seems to be bothering Vio, she says that they are waiting for a special occasion to seal the deal, seems bloody odd to me.
"Toni left you some shortbread," she points to the tin I moved.
"I know," I sigh. She gives me a strange look, I haven't told her about what happened with Vin, and she hasn't said anything, but I get the feeling she somehow knows.
Vio sits down at her desk and starts reading through some sort of report so I pick up my work. I'm meant to be checking the accounts of one of our mines looking for financial irregularities, but I'm finding it hard to concentrate, or care.
I stare out of the window, the sky is bright blue with a few wispy, high up clouds and it reminds me of the sky over Nightport. More than once I've considered simply packing up and returning to throw myself on the mercy of Quint in the hope he'd take me back, but it's the fear of rejection, not the fear of punishment that's stopping me. I'd honestly rather be keel hauled then have him and Topher, Tallis, Zizi and the rest tell me to fuck off, but on a day like today I can think of nothing I'd rather be doing than standing at the top of the mast sailing toward the horizon.
"Maybe I should try getting myself kidnapped and shot, then perhaps I could get paid for staring out of the window," Sonja's voice pulls me back to reality. She's standing by her desk with with a stack of files in her arms staring at me. She's somehow convinced that I'm now getting special treatment and being given less work than everyone else. She flicks her long black hair over her shoulder and sits down, and I go back to trying to make sense of the mining accounts, but I'm soon distracted by Kezlo running into the room, inky blue robes billowing out behind him as he flings himself down into his chair.
"You're late back from lunch," Sonja looks pointedly at the clock.
"I was busy, sorry," he excuses himself.
"More wedding stuff?" Vio asks, searching her suit jacket pocket for her smokes.
"Yep," he nods quickly. "Had to make an offering at the temple."
He's due to get married soon, visk weddings seem to be very complicated things, and he has a never ending list of stuff he has to do before the actual day.
Sonja sighs loudly. "Why is it when I want time off to do things I'm told no, yet you can pretty much make up your own hours? Oh yes, would it be because the head of our department happens to be a visk by any chance?"
Kezlo ignores her, after being partnered with Sonja for so long he's more or less immune. He looks over at Vio and me, chewing the cuff of his robe thoughtfully. "Vin wants to see the pair of you in his office," he says as if he's just remembered this piece of information.
"When?" Vio asks, blowing out smoke.
"Um..." he tilts his head to one side. "He didn't say, but he told me to tell you that before lunch and I forgot." Sonja snorts without looking up from her work.
"Come on monkey boy, lets go and see what the boss wants." Vio stands up, and I'm glad of any excuse to stop staring at the paperwork in front of me.
Over the desk, on the desk, under the desk, on the desk chair, and up against the window, those are all the places we fucked in here that night, and now every time I'm in Vin's office it's all I can think about.
"Sit down," Vin instructs us, giving me a small crooked smile that makes my stomach flip.
"Violet," he begins, and she, as always, winces at the use of her full name. "As the situation with your father has changed recently, would you be able to spend a few weeks away from the city?"
"I don't think it would be a problem Sir," she replies.
For some time she's trying to get money out of the army to help with looking after her father, who had part of his brain blown away during the war with Surosa. Things got very bad a couple of months ago when he broke into their neighbours house and smashed it up, fortunately they were out at the time. The neighbours had him arrested, the prison wouldn't take him on the grounds he was violent and brain damaged, she didn't want him sent to the city insane asylum, and in the end the army came through with a place for him in some sort of secure sanatorium, I think Vin helped as he's ex army too. Apart from Caddy it's another reason she's in a more cheerful mood these days.
"Good. Exit, I assume you have no reason why you can't be away from the city for a few weeks either?"
"No," I shake my head, I'd quite like to go away.
"How do the pair of you feel about accompanying Sampson to the northern continent. Acting as something between babysitters and bodyguards? He's visiting some of our business partners in the south east region and is speaking at a meeting of heads of industry over there..."
I was on his lap on that chair riding him, shit it was good. I wish it hadn't been then I wouldn't want to do it again. I came over his chest and stomach there, he said he loved it, loved the feeling of someone spunking on him.
"...I hope that won't bother you Exit."
What? What won't bother me? Crap, I wasn't listening.
"No, it won't." What the hell have I just agreed to?
"I didn't think it would, it's not like you have any ties to them, and seeing as you were in a relationship with one of the Jonas family for a while."
Huh? What's Ry and his family got to do with this?
"Yeah, and it's not exactly like if you go there someone's going to come along, chop your tail off and make you work in a rubber plantation." Vio grins at me, and I finally get what they are talking about. The south east corner, near the Rhea basin forest, the area where tailless echobacks are kept as slaves.
"I think between myself and Violet we can stop that from happening," Vin laughs.
"You're coming too?" I question him.
"Yes," he frowns at me. "I just told you that, weren't you listening?"
"So how long are you going to be gone?" Effie asks, dunking a chocolate biscuit in her tea.
"About a month I think, could be a bit longer, or a bit less. I'll arrange for your father to be able to pick up my rent from the bank at my office building, so he'll have no reason to try to evict me this time."
We're both sitting on the couch in my flat. Effie has brought her large, evil, ginger cat Jinks up from the shop with her and he's sitting on her lap glaring at me as we work our way through a packet of chocolate biscuits. I threw him out of here the other night when I got home from work and found him asleep on my bed, I don't think he's forgiven me.
"Hopefully you won't get yourself kidnapped this time," she gives me a small smile. Her wiry brown hair is pulled back into a bun today and some of it has worked itself loose and is curling around her face, it makes her look quite pretty and much less gawky.
"I don't think that's going to happen, we're just there to keep our big boss out of trouble while he visits places and goes to meetings, no pirates involved." Not that I'd mind if there were, so long as it was the right pirates.
She squeezes my arm quickly, then blushes. "Perhaps you could send me a postcard? I collect them," she suggests.
"If I can find a post office I will."
"I'll miss you." She looks a little upset.
"I'll miss you too Eff." I really will, we've become good friends since I got back from Nightport. I like having a friend who I don't work with, is my age and doesn't want to have sex with me. At one time I think she had a bit of a crush on me, but she worked out that was pointless. Now she has a thing for a boy who works in the bakery up the road, I know because she told me, although she's too shy to actually speak to him.
"It's not going to be dangerous is it?" she asks.
"No, don't worry." The only danger I can see to me is weeks spent away from home with Vin. I'm not sure how long I'm going to be able to stay out of his bed, but I don't think Effie needs to know that. "I promise, I'll make it back unharmed this time."
"Good," she says happily, tickling the cat behind his ears and making him purr. "We don't want anything else bad happening to him, do we Jinksie?"
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