Calling 5-IV


Go Knock Them Dead

I shook my head sadly. “You’re really not doing great, are you?”

“Enough with the word games!” Her stare was wild, two pinpricks of strained sanity in a placid mask. “Enough with all this crap, Flint! Tell me!” Her voice rose in tone as she went on, until the last words were almost screeched.

I met her eyes, and then slowly and deliberately slipped my hands into my pockets. “Edith Ellis,” I said clearly, “you do not have as much leverage as you believe you do.”

I was taking a gamble with my posturing. Even if you're confident, which I wasn't, you generally don't want to occupy your hands when a fight is imminent. If she attacked me, it’d be that much harder to dodge, and that much harder again to use my power without my hands to focus it. But you can't gamble without risk, and if I was right in my estimation, the simultaneous display of non-aggression, self-disarmament and lack of concern would be enough to get her to stop and think.

Or she might just blast a hole in my torso.

For what felt like an hour, I stared down her arm like someone facing a gunman, face (hopefully) displaying casual nonchalance, all the while tracking the flow of salt from her hand and its complete lack of slowing. Then, finally, it stopped, and she lowered her arm.

“Dammit,” she hissed under her breath, probably louder than she intended. “Dammit dammit dammit.”

“Mm-hmm,” I said, not undeservedly smug. “Classic problem with death threats; they don’t work when you need the person alive.”

“There’s nothing stopping me from maiming you.”

“Mm-hmm,” I repeated, probably pretty obnoxiously. “Except for, you know, the fact that the Tower’s only a couple of blocks away, and there’s no way you doing that is going to go unnoticed.” I folded my arms across my chest. “You might be able to beat me, you might even be able to beat Lis, hell, you might even be able to beat one of the “heroes”.” I’d surrounded that word with quotation marks for so long that I barely even noticed myself doing it anymore. “But they won’t just send one. And unlike this little standoff here, they don’t need you alive.”

“Is that you admitting that you can’t kill me?”

“No, it’s me saying that I won’t kill you. Believe me, there’s a difference.”

She scoffed. “That’d have a lot more weight if you could actually back it up.”

“See, for this whole conversation, you’ve been operating on the assumption that I’m still, basically, the same level I was at a year and a half ago.” I gave a one-shouldered shrug. “And maybe you’re right. Maybe I am still about that strong. But the only way to know for sure…” I trailed off; it didn’t need to be finished. 

She glared at- no, through me for a second, and then her posture straightened. “Fine. We have a standoff, then.”

“Ehh,” I shrugged again. “Not really. I can leave whenever I want.”

“Then why don’t you?” Her tone was practically taunting, insinuating that I was too afraid of her.

“Well, to be frank, it’s not like there’s much else going on.” I grinned briefly. She did not. “Okay, so there is, namely sleep.”

“Sleep sounds nice,” Edith admitted, pointedly not looking at me.

“You’re telling me. I keep having this weird recurring nightmare, keeps me up all night.”

“And your solution is to go to a bar at 3 in the morning?”

I laughed. “No, that was Lis. I owed her a drink.” I paused, as a thought struck me. “How, exactly, did you find me anyway? I know you had your eye guy do his thing, but unless I'm wrong, he'd still need to have a general sense of where I was, wouldn't he?” I didn't actually know the first thing about his power beyond what she'd told me, but from that it seemed likely that it was either impermanent line of sight, where he could only look through the eyes of people he could see, or it was more like a tag, where he could do it remotely to people he'd seen before, or designated somehow. So I was fishing, hoping that Edith would talk about information she thought I already knew. Because if it was the latter, I'd have to be very careful of my movements.

“I… he was actually doing an unrelated job,” she revealed grudgingly. “I just happened to see you, and decided to make a move." Hmm. So he could share what he was viewing with others. Interesting. It wasn't certain, but her description was making me lean towards the former of the two options. It still could’ve been the latter, or something else entirely, but my instincts were telling I was at least partially right.

“So you just thought you could waltz up and beat it out of me, huh? Not your brightest move.”

“It’s not like I could bring anyone else. The only control I have over them is through money and fear. If any of them discovered that a bunch of high-schoolers led by my ex stole our contract from underneath us, they'd probably try and kill me.”

“Well, I guess every management style has its advantages and disadvantages.” My phone buzzed inside my jacket, and I instinctively reached in to grab it.

Her hand snapped up. “Don’t!”

Slowly, I pulled the device out and showed it to her. “Someone's jumpy.”

“Don't answer it.”

“Why not?”

“Just… don’t.”

“Great reasoning, there.” I tapped the answer button and held it up to my ear.

I didn’t even see her move, but suddenly she was in front of me, and my phone went flying from my hand as she knocked it away. “I said don’t.”

I stared down at her, then turned and walked over to where my phone had skidded along the icy ground. I picked it up and inspected it, and found that it had stayed surprisingly intact. “And I said why not.”

We faced off for a few seconds. Then she turned, and began walking away. “Don’t say I didn’t warn you,” she said over her shoulder.

I watched her reach the end of the alleyway and turn left, out of sight. The phone buzzed again, and I answered it and put it to my ear again.

“What, Lis?!”

Well geez, I’m sorry to drag ya from your little whatever, but ya kinda need to see this.” There were a few seconds of scuffling, then a video feed snapped into focus on my screen. Lis’s face filled the image for a moment, then she cursed, and the camera flipped around. She was still inside the bar, and the casual conversation was actually loud enough that I couldn’t hear the TV she was pointing it at, some form of police press conference. It was subtitled though, so I read along a few seconds after his mouth movements.

“…of course, working with the Watchtower Conglomerate on this matter, as all preliminary signs point to this case falling into their jurisdiction. Currently, we’re attempting to narrow down the suspect pool, which as of now consists of the Cabal of the Enlightened Savior, the Disciples of Shiva, Redline…”

I’ve never discovered anything new about my powers. Right from the start, they’ve always been the exact same, done the exact same. But if you’d asked me in that moment, I would have sworn to God in heaven that I had gained precognition, because I knew exactly what was coming next.

“…and a recently-emerged group, apparently called the Outliers.”