The three of them walked outside to see a large black diplomatic motorcoach on the street, flying the flag of the Republic of Louisiana. Emma walked ahead of Ariana and Liliyet, and Liliyet’s mind conjured the image of a mother duck escorting her ducklings to the pond.
Liliyet looked left down the street and saw nothing of note, but to the right was something altogether different. Two women were leaning against a vehicle parked some ways up the road: Ally Summerfeld and Isadora Brightmorning.
A large man exited the vehicle and opened a door for the three women.
“Thank you, Jerome.”
“Of course, Ambassador.”
The three entered the vehicle and sat down on the plush leather interior. Liliyet’s own country was too poor to afford a diplomatic car, but she’d heard stories from her grandfather about such vehicles.
“Welcome to the sovereign territory of the Republic of Louisiana.”
“Is the vehicle really weaponised?”
“I suspect, despite your elevated station, you’ve never been in a vehicle like this before. Is that true?”
“Never. I’ve heard stories, though.”
“I was born in Louisiana, but I grew up in Cascadia—most of my childhood was spent in this city. Despite being in them since I was a small child I’ve never seen what they can really do. Like you, I’ve heard stories, too. One in Dakar is said to have survived 600 bullets and a grenade. It’s a comforting thought, for sure.”
“What is this all about?” Ariana interjected.
“All in good time, Ariana. Once we are secure in the embassy. Despite it’s security, and the measures we take to keep it that way, such vehicles can be listened in on. I would prefer we spoke only about such niceties in here as could be spoken of on the street.”
Liliyet took it all in. She looked over at Emma Hubert, who smiled broadly at her.
“You should be proud of yourself, Liliyet. Isadora says you took them on a merry chase this morning through the Wharves and into the Grand Concourse. Clever of you to lead them into that wonderful maze.”
“I think about a lot of things when I have insomnia. I make plans in case I need them.”
“Do you have insomnia often?”
“You must have a lot of plans.”
“I do. I don’t have a plan for this, though.”
The vehicle rounded a corner and turned back onto Cornelia Street. They again passed the complex, though this time Sarah Taylor’s MG was missing from its usual haunt.
“One of my favourite places in the world is here.”
“No, I detest large crowds. Above it, Sarah Taylor keeps a menagerie of animals from around the world that she has rescued and raised. All manner of creatures live there with her in a series of rooms made to resemble nature. It’s the next best thing to being in nature itself. Better in some ways because you can interact with the animals. I’m particularly fond of the wolves.”
“She has wolves?” Asked Ariana.
“A pack of wolves, yes. And a mountain lion, amongst others.”
“I’d heard stories.”
“Do you know her well?” Asked Liliyet.
“She’s one of my best friends.”
There was silence between them all for a few moments. The vehicle continued through the bohemian district Ariana and Liliyet had traversed so quickly earlier that morning.
Everything seemed surreal to Liliyet. Everything that had happened since she was slipped that note in the morning, and a thought had occurred to Liliyet.
“Were you the one who slipped me the note?”
“We’re almost to the Embassy. Let us wait to speak of it until we arrive.”
The vehicle turned into the diplomatic district and sped along the streets until arriving at the Embassy of Louisiana. A high wall enclosed the compound, studded with architecturally pleasing but terrifying-looking metal spikes arranged in geometric shapes. The building at the centre of the compound resembled a castle and sported a high tower that overlooked the surrounding area—taller even than the other embassies in the district, allowing the Louisianans to see into the compounds of other nations. Something which Liliyet imagined rather annoyed them.
A gate opened, and the vehicle entered the compound. They had arrived.