Enemies 9-I

FLINT

Talk is Cheap.

Imagine the ugliest building you can think of.

No, uglier.

Come on, you can do better than that.

Ehh, that’s not great, but it’ll do for now. So take this building, this awful, awful building, and now imagine it surrounded by others almost exactly like it, all with their own unique hideousness. Now imagine that all the buildings except the original were demolished, and that through this sacrifice of metaphorical blood, the original gained their powers. You got all that? Good, because while the building across the road wasn’t that one, it certainly looked like an attempt to capture the platonic ideal.

Basically, it was a concrete turd, and I hated it.

“Ya know,” Lis said thoughtfully, one hand on her chin, “I kinda like it. ‘s got a sort of brutalist thing going, and I can get behind that.”

I glanced down at her. “Leaving aside the fact that that is objectively the worst building I’ve ever seen, how the hell do you know what brutalism is?”

“How do you?” she shot back.

“Lis, I was an art student, and I paid at least some attention. You, on the other hand…”

She shrugged one shoulder nonchalantly. “Internet.”

I considered this. “Okay, but why were you looking up brutalism on the internet in the first place.”

She flashed a grin. “Heard the name, thought it was some awesome martial art or summin. And then I thought it was pretty cool.”

“Fair. But seriously, that building is awful. Look at it! Someone had to have specifically made that brand of concrete for this specific look, because… seriously, look at it. It’s literally just two concrete blocks, joined by some other concrete blocks, and it doesn’t even have the decency to be rectangular! You can see the slant! It’s like a wobbly rhombus! Whose idea was this?

I took a deep breath. “You done?” Shauna asked from behind me. She was sitting with her back against the wall, tapping away on her phone. She’d taken off the mask and let her hair out of its braid, but still wore the sea-blue body armor, with the ripples sculpted in. Whoever Lis got the armor off had really outdone themselves with hers. I wasn’t going to lie; I was a little jealous. Mine was basically just recolored body armor with a hood and cape. I’d scratched a symbol into the breastplate, a stylized angle, just to try and give it a little more uniqueness, but at the end of the day it was still silver and grey. At least I was doing better than Lis: with her combination of a tactical vest, goggles, fingerless woolen gloves and black hoodie, she looked like a hobo commando. Not that I was going to say that to the woman with a sniper rifle, of course.

I took another breath. “Yeah, I’m done.”

She snorted, not looking up from her phone. “Sure. Now we just get to wait for the next little stupid argument you two have.”

“And that half-hour argument about the comparative superiority of Yendos cards wasn’t stupid?”

She chose, instead of responding, to ignore me and return to her game.

I snorted, and turned back to the window, leaning against the sill and staring back across the street at the abomination of a building. Lis was sitting on a folding chair next to it, her precious rifle propped on a table next to her. That thing was like her baby; she kept it in better shape than she kept herself, gleaming black and polished. It was a retrofitted Barrett 50. Cal, with four rails replacing the barrel, fitted at short intervals with the small magnets that accelerated the bullets, and a scope that looked like it belonged on a drone. I’m not a gun person, so I only know all this because she’s explained it to me. At length. Multiple times. Over protests, sometimes.

In case you haven’t figured it out yet, we were watching the building we’d been told about by Fragment, waiting to see if anyone was going in or out. There hadn’t been any yet, just FYI. After finally managing to get back to the base, and deal with that Wisp girl, we’d done the only possible thing we could’ve done at that point; sleep like we’d never slept in our lives.  (I know it sounds like I was blowing Wisp off, and I guess I sort of was, but it’s just that I had way bigger things to worry about. Ordinarily, I’d have been all over that shit she was talking about). 

I’d woken up the next morning to find my phone buzzing like a hive of bees. Turns out Shauna had finally gotten round to setting up some sort of secure messaging program or something (she’d explained it, but I’d tuned out about five words in), and George had provided a summary of the events of the previous night. Needless to say, this whole debacle was now significantly higher on everyone’s priority lists; the chat for about thirty minutes had basically consisted of nothing but incredibly foul language and exclamations along the lines of ‘Why me?’. Which was actually a good way of putting my current mood, because, through some sort of group dynamic I couldn’t possibly have explained, I ended up on this little stakeout/investigation, despite being involved in literally every other part of this incredibly shitty situation.

I was a little grumpy about it.

The door clicked, and the three of us spun towards it, Lis and I reached for weapons, Shauna slapping her hand palm down onto the ground. Nat pushed her way through, saw us all, and frowned. Well, she was already frowning, but it got deeper, and frown-ier. I lowered my knife, and with a rustle of cloth, the multitude of small-caliber firearms she’d pulled disappeared back into her jacket. Shauna relaxed and smiled up at the other girl, and the frown softened a little.

Nat held up the paper bag she was carrying, which steamed slightly in the cold. She had a few of her piercings in, and I wondered how uncomfortable they must have been in this weather. “Grub’s here.” She tossed the bag at me, and I snatched it out of the air and opened it up. Packaged dumplings sat inside, condensation forming heavy droplets on the plastic containers. My stomach grumbled at the smell, and Lis made a snatching motion at the bag, which I foiled by snapping it away out of her reach. She growled at me, and I tossed one of the packages at her, then two more to the lovebirds, who were already sitting shoulder to shoulder and holding hands. Insert vomit noises here.

“Nat,” I said as I tore into my dumplings, “I am only going to say this once, so listen up. I do not entirely hate you right now.”

“Wow, thanks,” she grumbled. “That makes me feel appreciated. Plus, I doubt it’ll last.”

“Why not?” I asked through a mouthful of steamed veggies.

“That,” she replied, flicking her head towards the door. It creaked open, and through it stepped-

“You.”

Sanjay Singh, also know as Foresight, also known as 'a fucking shithead', glared at me, shutting the door behind him. He had bags under his eyes, and he was wearing a stained and torn beanie the color of old mustard. “Can we not, Flint?”

I cupped a hand over my ear. “What was that? You’re a little hard to hear, what with your head so far up your own ass.”

“Enough, you two,” Shauna cut in. “Sanj, why’d you come?”

“This moron’s screwed us over enough already; I wanted to make sure he didn’t do it again.”

I leapt to my feet and started towards him. “Oh, is that how you want to play this?”

He squared up, a smug little smirk on his face. “Bring it, you piece of shit n-”

“I said enough!” She slammed her hand onto the floor, and the resulting wave of concrete was large enough to knock us both off balance. We stumbled, and she stood, glaring at us both. “Sanj, you knew this would happen if you came here." Her accent had returned in full force, practically dripping from her voice with how thick it was. "Flint, if this is going to be how you’re going to act, why the hell are you in charge? Grow up, both of you.”

I raised my hands in surrender. She did have a point, and I did need to act like I was in charge, no matter how much I hated it.  “Fine, fine. Singh, you’re here now, so you might as well come along. Everyone else, finish your food, then suit up. No-one’s been in or out all day; I doubt they’re gonna. Lis, you doing overwatch?”

She shook her head, and began disassembling her rifle. “Nah. No lines of site in or out. I’ll come in with ya.”

“Really? You sure?” She didn’t get up close and personal very often.

“Sure,” she confirmed.

“Alrighty then. You work with Singh, your powers mesh well. 5 minutes, people, and then we’re going in.”

"That's what she said."

"Lis, please stop."

"That's what-"

"Stop. Just... stop."