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Ressa loved Affamarg at night.
The five free days before the Empire calendar set for the new year were one of the few times that the Head of Files had the leisure to walk out at night, given her early-rising schedule. Most years, Ressa cherished these days, taking long walks alone along the river, half-wishing that the free days would last forever.
This year, there was a weight to her feet that wasn't usually there, although it was already the third day of the extra days, and the streets were well-lit, reflecting brilliantly off the melting river and the last remains of snow. She almost wished the holiday were over, and she had the excuse of work to return to sooner.
The summer's street entertainers had moved to warmer climates, or retired for the season, leaving the streets hushed, like that quiet moment when the lights had dimmed before a theatre show, before the music began.
Without meaning to, Ressa found herself veering off from the river, past the theatre district, and found that she was unconsciously re-tracing the route she had taken with Urti and Bai just a few nights previously.
She wrapped her arms around herself within her thick coat, not cold, but chilled. Memories of that night drew a reluctant smile to her face; poor Bai, struggling so hard to be a perfect mix of professional and friendly with her. He was so obviously smitten with her; so conflicted by his feelings that he was even short with his friends. And still, he managed to be the perfect citizen, respectful of her before anything else. Her chest felt tight in sympathy.
Ressa shook her head and scowled at her feet, walking faster towards her housing. She passed a monitor, and a woman wrapped in a coat that looked too thin. She should be melancholy because she'd broken things off with Yeff, a lover of many months, not praising Bai in her mind for having thoroughly inappropriate feelings - no matter how well he was dealing with them.
A book, she decided. She would cut her walk short and retire with a book for the evening. Something engrossing that would take her mind off of other things. She turned the block to her housing with long, determined strides, and drew up short when she ran into a man standing there, almost as tall as she was, and dressed all in dark colors. He grabbed her arms to keep his balance.
"My apologies, Citizen," she said automatically, stepping back, but he didn't let go. It was a tick before she even thought to struggle, and by that point, there were footsteps behind her, and a second figure was pulling the scarf from her face. "What are you --"
The shock of cold air at her neck made her flinch, but not enough to dodge the stab of pain that followed. She remembered the monitor she'd just passed, and opened her mouth to call out - to find that she could make no sound. She tried to struggle, raising her arms and turning to strike out at her second assailant, but she was held too firmly by the first figure, and her hands were going numb inside her gloves. Not just numb, but losing feeling, like her legs, and she was groggily aware that they were shuffling her away, supporting her between the two of them as her vision faded to black.