Zee, sitting to his left, cleared her throat officiously. “Boss, this is Jun Hideki. Ben authorized a sublet to him at my insistence about an hour ago. Jun this is Boss. We need to discuss—”
“Boss?” Jun said. He sifted through the frequencies, fingers dancing in front of him. “Weird name, dude.”
“My title,” Boss said, her voice a grunt. “What the hell are you doing with your fingers?”
Jun paused, looking at the frequencies of their faces. “Trying to figure things out.”
“By playing air guitar?” said Ashtin Rice. She sat to the right of Boss, arms crossed, leaning back in her chair with her foot on the table.
“Frequencies,” said Benjamin. He sat on the other side of Zee. Jun raised his eyebrows and stared at the gray-eyed man.
“Yep,” said Jun, tapping his fingers on the table.
“Are you a somatic?” Ben asked. “Your eyes aren’t—”
“Nope,” said Jun. “I can see them naturally.”
Rice’s leaning chair jerked and she almost fell backward. She caught and steadied herself. “What?”
“Dude, I’m awe-nat-yoo-rale,” said Jun. “No Soma.”
“How is that possible?” said Rice, glancing towards Ben.
“Even the specialists at Talas use a little Soma,” he said.
“It’s not without precedence,” said Boss. “Jonathan Core was rumored to have found some naturals, and that led to his research in somatic ability and nanoblades. The naturals were the originators.”
Ben shook his head, pain flitting through his eyes for a moment. He ran a hand over his face as if to wipe it away. He made a fist on the table. “But,” he frowned in confusion. “Fire. How can you use fire? It’s too…” his eyes got distant, pupils constricting, “too fractured.”
“Like it exists in a few places at once?” Jun asked.
“Yeah,” said Benjamin.
Jun shifted excitedly in his chair, leaning closer. “Fire’s, like, not solid, you know. It’s a way of effecting things, not the thing itself. It’s an adjective, not a noun. Can apply to many things.”
“Huh?” said Ben.
“Yeah. I just know the specific way things burn,” said Jun.
“How many things?” Rice asked, shifting uncomfortably.
“A lot of things,” said Jun.
“People,” said Zee, accusingly.
“I only know a few metals,” Ben said.
“Can you see the others?” Jun asked, his voice excited.
“Not all of them, but a lot. And only because of the Soma,” Benjamin said with a wince. “They used to be like one giant blurry thread, all the strands too close together to pick out. The more I used Soma, the more I could pick out individual strands of frequencies.”
“Dude, your senses must be like negatory,” said Jun.
“Useless,” said Ben. “I can only see and hear because of implants.”
“Dude, that sucks,” said Jun.
“Tell me about it,” said Ben.
“Soma wrecks you,” said Jun. “Like totally. Soma is, like, the space between sleeping and waking, man.”
“Yes,” said Ben fervently. “It’s horrible.”
“So totally rude, dude,” said Jun.
“How do you still have your senses and use the frequencies?” Ben asked.
“Dude, I don’t,” said Jun.
“Wait,” said Rice, “you can’t smell or hear anything?”
“Not the way you do, man. I know all I know through the frequencies,” said Jun.
Ben blinked. “Woah,” he said.
“Yeah,” said Jun. “Can only touch fire though. I understand it, you know. Fire is chill.”
“And very handy,” said Ben.
“Man, not as handy as metal,” Jun said waving his arms. “You can like build stuff—”
“I hate to interrupt this fascinating nerd session,” said Rice loudly, “but we really should talk about how we are going to keep the governor from executing Jun.”
“I’m still not sure why we even care,” said Boss.
“I saw an opportunity for profit,” said Zee. “I’m convinced someone wants him alive. We just have to determine who and negotiate properly.”
“Dude, do I get a say in this?” asked Jun.
“You don’t have many options,” said Zee. “I’m pretty sure when they say they want to ‘apprehend’ you, they mean they want to kill you. My goal is to prevent your death and that is all. Once we can be certain they won’t kill you, we can go from there.”
“I was doing pretty well on my own,” said Jun.
“What was your plan? Escape to the Wilds?” Rice asked.
“Well, yeah,” said Jun.
Rice rolled her eyes. “That’s a great plan. Ever been camping?”
“You know, living outdoors, living off the land?” Rice said. “Know how to catch your own food and build a shelter?”
“I figured I’d learn,” said Jun. They stared at him in silence. “Well, it was better than being apprehended,” he said.
Zee exhaled. “So who do we know who wants a powerful nanoblade user?” she asked.
“Oh,” said Ben, frowning in distaste. “I think I know.”