Perfect 13-V

The More You Think That You’re Right.

Lis pursed her lips, holding the tattered remains of my costume up to the light. “Geez, Flint. You get thrown through a wall or something? Oh wait.”

“Oh, ha ha ha. Just tell me if there’s anything you can do with it.”

“With this?” She spun the costume so it was facing me. It was probably fifty percent holes, and the armor plating was dinged, dented and damaged. “I could make a dishrag, mebbe, but aside from that,” she made a wet noise with her mouth, “nuttin’”.

I sighed. “Yeah, I thought so. Just thought I’d check. Heh. I told Talie I’d come along and help with this thing, but I can’t exactly do that without my costume.”

“Shyeah, damn right. I mean, I can talk to my guy and get another of the same, but it’ll take at least a day, prob’bly more.”

“Maybe hold off for now. Might make some changes.”

She shrugged. “Whatever floats yer boat.” Lis basically functioned as an armorer for the Outliers. If vigilantism was a sliding scale, it would have ‘hero’ on one end and ‘mercenary’ on the other, and she’d lean heavily towards the latter. She actually made her living doing contract work, and that brought her into contact with all sorts of… useful people. On top of her guns and equipment, she also managed to get her hands on all sorts of useful things, such as the Steelsilk bodysuits that compromised a decent portion of most of our costumes. And of course, there was stuff like getting us electricity and running water in the base. Basically, the Outliers may have been Talie’s idea, but without Lis, we’d have a much harder time of it.

“Thanks anyway,” I said with a little wave as I turned to leave. I’d need to figure out something else. Maybe I could jury-rig a costume out of civvies? I’d done it before, when I was first starting, but it didn’t really offer anything in the way of protection, and-

Lis snapped her fingers behind me, and I stopped. “Actually, hold on a sec. I might have something.” She gestured at me, and I followed as she moved over to one side of the room.

This particular room was the only one in the building with actual locks and security. It didn’t exactly fit the idea of an abandoned warehouse, but it was behind the rat’s nest of cubicles and office at the front, so it was a safe risk. The reason for it was that… well, if Lis was the armorer, then this was her armory. Steel lockers lined either side of the small space, and a stainless steel table with boxes underneath. A single row of lights hung overhead, precarious on an ill-fitting steel bracket. No less than four fire extinguishers sat or hung at various places, a precaution I was more than happy with. If there was an errant spark in here, the explosion could probably destabilize the entire building, and no one wanted rubble and fire everywhere. Especially not me.

Lis opened one of the lockers and knelt down, pulling something out of the bottom. She shook it out, and held it up to me. “Just got this in last week. Should work for ya.” It was a Steelsilk bodysuit like mine, but right off the bat, I could see some problems with it. One, it was an undersuit, designed to go under clothing, as opposed to my thicker full one. Two, it was sized for Lis, who was a full head shorter than me and considerably… stockier.

Three, it was black.

I don’t do black.

“What is it with you and ninja clothing?” I asked her sardonically.

“It’s a good look. Ver’ professional. But this ain’t black.”

“Could’ve fooled me.” She sighed, and handed it over to me.

I held it up to the light. Sure enough, it was actually, though it was hard to tell, a very dark grey. “Huh. So it is. Why the change?”

“Was doin’ some readin’, and apparently black ain’t stealthy. Somethin’ ‘bout shadows being like a real dark grey or something, and dark greys and blues blendin’ in better. I was gonna swap it out when my current one got too damaged, but ya can take it now. I’ll just get another.”

“Lis,” I said slowly, “I appreciate it, I do. But I can’t really do anything with this. Leaving aside the size issue, I still need the armor out of my old one, and I can’t exactly cut it out.”

She sucked in her air through her teeth. “Ohhh yeah. Well, that sucks. Gee, if only we knew somebody who could, I dunno, control fabric. That’d be pretty convenient, huh?”

I smacked myself on the forehead. “Maybe that concussion is still affecting me. God, I’m dumb. Thanks again, Lis.”

“Yeah, what happened with that anyway? You were pretty cuckoo.”

“Long story, I’ll tell you another time.” I wasn’t sure how much Talie wanted me to tell the others about Daniel. It felt a bit wrong, but I had to respect his privacy. I took another look at the suit. “Guess I’m going dark now.”

“Yer rebootin’,” she grinned, standing up and dusting her hands off. “New costume, new attitude. Get some spikes on that armor, and you’re set.”

I stuck out my tongue. “No thank you. This is temporary only.”

“Aww, but I wanted to see Bad Flint! Breaks the rules, swears a lot… oh wait, that’s just you.”

I flipped her off as I grabbed my old costume from the table. “Bad Flint has good manners, sucks up to authority figures and eats nothing but meat. He’s basically the worst.”

“Will Bad Flint pay back that fifty bucks he owes me?”

“I guess we’ll never find out,” I said over my shoulder as I shut the door on my way out. Best way to get the last word is to ensure there’s no chance of a reply.

I trekked back to the main room, where I found Nat lying backwards over the sofa, tapping away at her phone. She was in her costume, and strands of fabric floating and twisted aimlessly around her in motions that reminded me oddly of fiddling.

I considered tossing the two costumes onto her face just to see her reaction, but decided not to. “Hey Nat.”

“Hey,” she grunted, not looking away from her phone. Her face was bruised and sore, some fresh, some older. Honestly, it had gotten to the point where she was basically just one giant bruise. She didn’t have any of her piercings in, which wasn’t a surprise, given that just emoting probably hurt her face. Bits of metal would not help at all.

“Shauna around?” I asked.

“Nah, she went off to get something from her house. Why, you looking for her?”

“No, actually. I need your help with something?”

That got her to look up. Well, down, I guess. Is it relative when you’re upside down, or is there a set up and down? “Is this going to be like the time Lis sent me to get slide grease for her guns?”

I frowned, confused. “What? No. wait, I thought slide grease was a music thing.”

“That would’ve been nice to know before I spent three hours looking for it in gun shops and getting perved on by the creeps there.” She spun herself around so she was sitting upright. “So what’s your non-bullshit problem, then?”

I held up the two suits. “Basic addition. I have two of these, and I need one.”

She looked back and forth between them, eyes narrowed. “Give ‘em here.” I handed them over, and they animated as they touched her hands, unravelling into threads that hung motionless in the air. The armor, zips and button clasps, on the other hand, fell straight down, and bounced all over the place. “Ah shit,” she hissed quietly. Strands of the fabric quickly reached down and scooped them up. “Whoops.”

“So can you do it? In case it needs to be said, I need all that stuff in there as well.”

She snorted. “Shit yeah I can do it. This’ll be piss easy. How do you want the colors?”

“Hm?”

“The colors, dumbfuck. I can’t just blend them all in there or it’ll look like shit.”

“Oh, right. Well, um…” I considered it for a moment. “There’s less white than grey, right? Maybe use the white as accents? Or trim or whatever. Oh, and I need those button clips on the shoulders for the cape.”

She nodded. “Yeah, I can do that. Gimme a second.” The strands began weaving themselves together, first into larger strands, and then into shape. As they went, they picked up the metal parts, carrying them upwards and weaving them into the shape. Throughout it all, Nat barely even seemed to be paying attention; at one point, she actually started scrolling through something on her phone.

“There,” she said as the last fibres tucked themselves into place. “You owe me one now.”

“And I’ll remember it. Thanks, Nat.” I took the now complete costume back, feeling the familiar slightly-rough texture underneath my fingers. She’d actually done a really good job: everything was in the right place, and she’d used the bits of my old costume to create highlights around the armor pieces and the edges of the hood. It really made them pop, and it made me feel bad to say it, but I actually liked it more than my old one.

I held it up to the light. “Reboot,” I muttered under my breath. “Hah. No.”

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