The mines smelled of earth and soot mingled with the remaining traces of sweat from the Inhumans that labored in there hours before.
Now, there was only one Inhuman using the underground passage.
Medusalith Amaquelin rounded the bend of the tunnel, ducking under a particularly low ceiling.
Cool air hit her face and Medusa knew she was nearing the entrance of the mines. She slowly walked out, hidden by the cover of darkness.
She was the only one in the area, the curfew having forced people indoors by sundown.
Medusa continued her walk, sticking close to the walls and under the darkest shadows.
The sound of chatter made her pause.
The hairs on her skin rose. She folded her body in on herself in a desperate attempt to appear invisible.
"Transferring me to the middle level," someone was saying. "Good riddance. There's never anything to do here but stare at miners."
Medusa craned her ear to the side. The man sounded like he was on a level right above her. She didn't dare make a sound.
"And they're not much to look at," said another voice.
Medusa frowned, fists curling tightly at the insult. These pampered upper level city dwellers.
There were only two of them... Probably. She could take them.
A tendril of hair snuck out from under the hood of her cloak, pushing it down completely.
Her red hair uncoiled itself from its bun, slowly elongating itself, tensed and ready to attack.
Then a hand clamped over her mouth and she jumped. An arm snaked around her waist dragging her backwards.
At the same time, she heard someone say, "don't scream." But it wasn't out loud.
She heard it in her head.
She knew that voice. She relaxed and let the person pull her behind a door.
She was released once inside the safety of an empty, closed for the night tavern.
Medusa rounded on her surprise visitor, glaring at the Crown Prince of Atillan.
"What were you thinking, scaring me like that? I could've killed you!"
Blackagar Boltagon didn't look apologetic. Instead there was a certain urgency in his countenance, fear in his eyes. His jaw was peppered with the stubble he hadn't had the time to shave off.
Did you get my message? signed the prince, his hands moving rapidly. Obviously you didn't because I just caught you sneaking around.
"What message?" The frustration was gone from Medusa's voice.
Black Bolt simply held up a poster in her face.
Medusa grabbed it, unfurling the poster completely. It was a picture of her.
The red of her hair was unmistakable, the arch of her brows and sharpness of her chin penned in perfect detail.
Wanted, it said. For charges of treason and corruption of youth.
Medusa snorted. "Corrupting the youth?" She gave the poster back to the prince. "Nice to know I'm finally being taken seriously."
Black Bolt's nostrils flared at her flippancy. He tossed the poster aside and cupped her cheek. They looked at each other for a moment before Black Bolt's hands moved again.
You have to stop coming here, he signed. It's too dangerous.
"They'll never find me. Lockjaw will—"
Your sister's dog is not what I would call inconspicuous, he gestured with a raised brow.
Medusa took a step back. "I'm not leaving until all my brothers and sisters are free. Your parents and the Genetic Council have barely noticed that half of the population in the lower grounds are gone. I doubt they'll miss the remaining half when I get them safely to Earth."
Black Bolt signed, Medusa, you can't keep doing this. They'll catch you! And they'll make an example of you. The council will hang your body from the highest wall!
"My death will serve a purpose, then," said Medusa, her nose pointed proudly in the air. "It will spark an outrage."
Black Bolt's shoulders hunched. Do you ever think of what seeing you dead will do to me?
Medusa's expression softened. She stepped close to the prince and caressed his cheek.
She motioned for him to follow her to a corner of the room where they sat down on a bench.
"Do you remember the first time we met?"
Black Bolt nodded.
"I was supposed to kidnap you, remember?" continued Medusa, the guilt of her past shining in her eyes. "Use you as leverage, but then I looked at you and... I saw that you were as much a victim of this Caste System as we are. It's why we became friends in the first place." She took his hands and brought them over her chest. Black Bolt closed his eyes and leaned in to her touch.
"But let's not kid ourselves, Black Bolt," Medusa went on. "You and I know this was never meant to end well for the both of us. We're on the opposite sides of a war. If I have to die so that the rest of the people can have a better life, I'd do whatever it takes."
With his head still leaned against her shoulder, he sent to her telepathically, We could run away.
Medusa smiled at the thought. As tempting as it was, it wasn't as powerful as the thought of overthrowing the Genetic Council and the Royal Family.
"That's incredibly selfish….Not that I don't want to." She added with a chuckle.
Black Bolt pulled his head back, far enough to sign, Then let's do it. We could go to Earth, stop sneaking around to be together. We could raise a family.
Medusa shook her head, releasing his hands, and rising to her feet. She paced in front of him before saying, "I'm not like you… I have never been cautious and guarded. It's always easy for you to stay neutral. But I can't have a life with you on Earth and at the same time pretend that I didn't abandon my brothers and sisters to suffer, that my parents' death meant nothing."
She stopped in front of him, kneeling down to meet him at eye-level. She grasped his clasped hands, her hair splaying out a feet around her. "I understand the position you're in. You want to be a different King than your father, you want to help the people. But if you chose to come to our side, you'd be fighting against your family, against tradition and customs and everything certain that you've ever known. And that's scary! But Black Bolt, if you stay in between sides all your life, what do you live for?"
Black Bolt jumped to his feet, hands gesturing wildly, FOR YOU! Wouldn't that be enough?
Medusa's hair fell to her back, no longer buzzing with emotion. She looked at him, the man who's given her the only moments of peace she could get with a rebellion happening in the background, a man who, in his caution to choose a side, in his hesitation to move, would end up standing still.
She took a step backward, hugging herself with her arms.
"I think... I think it's best that I leave."
Black Bolt visibly sagged in relief. Good. If you were ever captured, the sight alone would kill me.
"You misunderstand," she winced. "I'm leaving... You."
"I love you," Medusa stated. She had to make that fact clear before everything else. "And I think that will never change… But right now… it's too risky. I can't be with someone who's too wary to make a move, who wants to wait and see where the wind will blow. I can't…" she trailed off seeing the heartbroken look in Black Bolt's face.
Medusa gulped. "If you do nothing, how are you any different from people up there watching the injustice happen and not address it?"
The comparison to his parents drove the wedge further in the prince's heart and Medusa could feel the pain he was unintentionally sending her through their mental bond.
She watched him look down on the floor, seemingly unsure of what was happening or simply processing it all.
She took a few steps back towards the door.
I'm sorry, she thought as loudly as she could in the hopes that he would hear, and then left.
Medusa found that without a complicated love life, she was even more ferocious in her attacks on the nobles. She snuck into the Palace and stole some Terrigen crystals. She and Karnak destroyed the genetic testing chambers. She, Crystal, and Lockjaw left behind propaganda in Inhumans' apartments.
But the Royal Guards were relentless. They retaliated harshly, taking their frustrations out on the remaining miners.
Medusa got caught saving a child and his father.
Lockjaw had teleported the family away on her orders and she was left behind.
The guards locked her away in a prison cell with her head shaved and her whole body still tingling with Pulsus' shocks.
Her hands shook as she felt her bald head. Sharp and prickly, bereft of life, throbbing with violation. She collapsed on the floor, burying her head in her hands.
She hated it.
She sat there for what seemed like an hour, wallowing in grief and emptiness. She felt like she had lost a limb and she didn't know what to do.
On the second hour, she thought of Karnak and Crystal. Would they evacuate the Inhumans on Earth to another location? Would they mount a rescue mission?
When the third hour came and nobody had yet come to torture, interrogate, or mock her, Medusa wondered if they were going to isolate her to death.
And then the iron doors to her cell groaned as it swung open.
Medusa scrambled to her feet, placing back against the wall. She squared her shoulders and lifted her head high. She wasn't going to give them the satisfaction of seeing her slumped in defeat.
Gorgon, Captain of the Royal Guard and member of the Royal Family, did not look too pleased to see her, but he nodded at his cousin who was standing by his side.
Black Bolt immediately rushed inside the room and engulfed Medusa in a crushing hug.
Medusa vaguely heard Gorgon saying he'd give the two of them ten minutes before he disappeared behind the wall, presumably to stand guard outside.
Black Bolt's hand stroked Medusa's head, snapping her back to the moment. He wasn't gentle with her, his hands rubbed at her head angrily, and she felt his fury slipping into her mind.
Medusa was grateful for that. His anger made her focus on one emotion rather than the myriad of feelings she's flitted through the past few hours. Anger calmed her, letting her ignore the inhuman shocks still pulsing in her veins.
She captured his face in between her hands and it was her turn to say, "You shouldn't be here. It's too dangerous!"
Pulling his hands away, Black Bolt signed, I had to. Maximus is coming to see you.
Medusa froze. She had expected as much and yet the name of the mind controlling prince sent a shiver through her.
Prince Maximus would not only be able to force Medusa to give the Royal Family all the details they needed to win the battle, but if he caught his brother in a cell with her…
She gripped Black Bolt's arm. "You have to leave. Now."
Black Bolt nodded. We have ten minutes before Maximus comes for your interrogation.
Medusa stared at him. "We?"
Black Bolt smiled sheepishly. Yeah. Did I forget to mention that I've chosen a side?
Medusa grabbed the prince's face and kissed him. Hard.
Gorgon poked his head inside the room and rolled his eyes. "We don't have time for this, Bolt!"
The couple broke away, blushing. Black Bolt took Medusa's hand and they looked at each other for one more moment before they stepped out the door, Gorgon leading their escape.
Medusa played with Black Bolt's fingers, her back against his chest while he leaned against a tree. They were a few paces away from where Lockjaw teleported them to—a collection of tents, cottages, and bonfires they were calling New Atillan on Earth.
Black Bolt's free hand caressed the side of her head lovingly. His lips pressed against the back of it.
"Why did you do it?" Medusa asked him.
Black Bolt heard the unspoken question in her mind. Did you do it for me or for the cause?
He looked up at the moon above them, wincing at how painful it was to see it, and then signed, I was there the day you got arrested. I saw them hitting the child. He was a child! And all I could do was stand there while you risked your life. I've never felt more guilty and ashamed. I wanted to do something.
Medusa placed a small kiss on his fingers and then craned her neck to look at him. "You are. Your addition to the resistance has got nobles talking about how maybe we are making sense if we got the Crown Prince on our side."
Former Crown Prince, Black Bolt corrected. Gorgon said they've disowned me and made Maximus heir.
Medusa chuckled. "And you also won Gorgon over and now he's our spy."
I just hope I didn't choose too late.
Medusa pulled away from his arms and looked at him. "I'm alive aren't I?"
Black Bolt looked at the grateful smile on Medusa's face. He nodded. And that's enough. For now.
Medusa leaned back against his chest once more, reveling in the momentary peace Black Bolt always seemed to give her
They were both going to need it when they get back to headquarters tonight.