Doors 14-II

Plans Are Like Buses.

I yelped and jumped backwards as the guns choomed. The substance that hurtled out of them towards me looked like nothing so much as half-chewed gum. Two globs splattered on the floor where my feet had been, instantly hardening and solidifying. Gross. The guns, large imposing chunks of gleaming metal, tracked me as I moved, seemingly with no lag, and fired another salvo of the gum at my feet. I dodged again, but this time, they immediately fired again, anticipating my movements, aimed at my chest. I stumbled, trying to stop myself from running straight into them, and they shot by in front of me, but the chooming warned me of another shot, one I didn't think I could dodge.

Thankfully, I didn't have to. A tentacle snaked through the air and slapped the glob down onto the ground. “Stop!” Stump bellowed. “Not an intruder!”

The guns ignored him and kept firing. The tentacle knocked the first few down, but they just kept coming. I couldn't dodge that many, so I just faded out instead, and watched them pass right through me.

As soon as I did, the torrent ceased. The floor was littered with the off-white gum, most of it behind me. The guns were still pointing at me, but didn't seem to be doing anything. “Well,” Stump said, “sorry about that. It can be-” The guns began hissing, and a thick grey cloud began spilling from the end of the barrel. It hung in the air for a moment, before swirling straight towards me. “Oh you've got to be kidding me.”

I couldn't see how the cloud was being controlled, but it obviously was: it followed me as I try to run, dodging around and between the bikes. “What the heck is this stuff?”

“Knockout gas,” he called back.

“That’s real?!”

“No, it's imaginary knockout gas. What do you think?”

The guns were still following me. I think they must have been controlling the cloud. “Well, there's no need to be a jerk about it.”

“Just relax. You'll be fine anyway; it's not like you need to breath.”

I was basically running around in a circle now. “What? What makes you think that?”

“O-oh,” he stammered, “the intangibility.”

“Oh right, yeah. But no thank you, I am not going to expose myself to some unknown gas just because you say it might be knockout gas.”

“You said might, not me.”

“Oh, hush. Besides, this thing seems to have a policy of escalation. If I prove that the gas doesn't work, it's just going to try something else. So I’ll-” a tendril broke off from the main cloud and whipped by my face. I jerked back just in time to avoid getting a faceful of it. “Gah. I'll just keep dodging it, while you go and get someone to stop this.”

“No need,” interjected a new voice. A short man with a salt and pepper beard, dressed in stained and dirty overalls, was stalking towards us.

“Mr. Graves,” Stump said with obvious relief. “Could you please get the guns to stand down?”

“As quickly as possible, please.” I added, juking back and forth to try and keep the cloud in one place. It worked for a few seconds, but then it seemed to figure it out. Darn adaptable programming.

“Hmm,” Graves said. “Can. Won't.”

“What?!” both of us cried simultaneously.

“She's an unknown,” he said to Stump. “If you're going to bring in a saboteur, I want to make sure she's at least competent.”

“What is wrong with you?” I asked him incredulously. “Stump, what's wrong with him?”

Stump sighed. “Please, sir. We're in a hurry.”

“Then she'd better hurry up about it,” he grunted as he turned away.

“Seriously, what is wrong with him?”

“I wish I knew.”

“Is-” More smoke began billowing from the guns. “Goshdarnit! Is there any way to shut them down?”

“Uuh… break them?”

“Won't Graves kill me for that?”

“I think he's already trying to, so what difference will it make?”

“You are taking any and all consequences for this.” Then I turned my attention to the guns. That was a mistake, though: I should've turned it towards the cloud. It swarmed around me, displaying for more speed than it had before, and I instinctively gasped. I immediately clasped a hand over my mouth, but the cloud hadn't changed at all. I hadn't breathed it in. I let out a sigh of relief (which I now realized must just be psychosomatic) and lowered my hand.

“Wisp?” Stump asked nervously. “Are you okay?”

The smoke wasn't affecting me, but it was still blocking my vision. “Yeah, I'm okay. Hold on.”

Okay, f=ma. It was practically becoming my catchphrase. So if I do this… I raised my arms, crossing them over like I was protecting my face, and then take a deep breath, and… Holding my breath, I went as dense as I could manage and quickly swept my arms outward.

The grey cloud practically ripped apart, as the wind generated by my movement tore through it in two directions at once. I allowed myself a little smug smile as I watched the little wisps try and reform, and fail. Take that, science.

I returned to my normal mass, and tried to turn back towards the guns. For some reason, though, the movement unbalanced me, and I fell forward and hit my face on-

Nothing at all. It took a second for the realization to sink in. I was floating. I twisted my head around, and saw that the guns were glowing the same green as the bike had been. “Oh, you have got to be pooping kidding me.”

Okay, okay, antigravity. That's fine, that’s okay. I've seen movies, read books: I knew how to move around like this. Right now, I was spinning slowly forward, face headed towards the ground. The floor was smooth and featureless: nothing for me to grip onto. Unless, of course, I made some.

Slowly, I reached out until I was almost touching the floor. Then, I went dense again and dug my fingers in. The steel warped like putty, and I had myself a handhold. I used it as a lever to lower myself until the balls of my feet were touching the ground. Then, with a screeching of metal, I straightened my legs, pushing into the surface and creating little depressions for my feet.

Now I had a launching platform. I just needed to launch. Both guns were still trained on me, glowing their eery green. They were equidistant from me, so I picked the one on the left. I tensed my legs, leant back into it, and pushed off-

And I was buried in steel. I blinked, confused. What… where am I? I could still see steel above me, but the light was reflecting off it differently. And was that Stump, standing upside down on the…

Ohh. Comprehension set in. I was on the ceiling- well, in the ceiling. I glanced around, and I could see little crushed fragments embedded in the surface around me that looked like the belonged to one of the guns. Well, that worked. Hannah Kingsford, the human cannonball! It has a nice ring to it. Maybe if I ever need a different superhero identity, I could use that. I'm thinking, heavy armor plating on the head and shoulders, in grey and… orange. Yeah, orange. Or maybe purple. Ooh, I could do a new persona, like, all tough and brash and-

I jolted as gravity suddenly reasserted itself. Suddenly, instead of sitting snugly in my little crater, I was falling out of it, way too quickly. I squeaked, and faded out just in time to avoid making a matching dent in the floor, landing on my hands and knees. The one remaining gun was glowing orange now, bright and fierce, ready to fire.

I didn't give it the chance. Barely even conscious of what I was doing, I scooped out a chunk of the floor in one hand, compressing it into something resembling a sphere, and threw it overhand with all the strength I could muster.

The briefest lick of flame managed to escape the gun's barrel. Then, it exploded.

I shielded my eyes as the debris sprayed everywhere. One small piece bounced off my arm, but most of it had gone away from me, following the trajectory of my makeshift projectile, which was currently embedded in the ceiling, actually glowing slightly. I… hadn't meant for it to be that strong.

“Impressive,” said a voice that sounded vaguely familiar. I spun around to find a new figure standing next to Stump, who was looking as awkward as it's possible for an eight-foot wooden behemoth to look. The figure was a woman, almost as tall as me, dressed in what looked like a stylized fighter pilot’s gear, with heavy armor around the shoulders and bright orange and red detailing. “Especially considering she's a complete unknown.” There was a sharp bite to the words.

“Ah heh heh,” Stump laughed, sounding pained. “Wisp, I'd like to introduce Comet, leader of the Guardians.” The helmet’s visor covered her eyes, but I could feel her glare burning through it.

“P-pleased to meet you,” I squeaked out.

She didn't respond, instead turning to Stump. “I expect this to be good.”

He laughed again, somehow even more awkwardly, glancing back and forth between us. “It's… a bit of a long story.”


She sighed. “It always is, isn't it?”

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