Doors 14-IX

Doors Are For People With No Imagination.

Ha. I like your style, 'Wisp’. I didn't know how he knew what I was looking at, and I didn't ask. I'll give you a cue.

I nodded, sidling over to the wall next to the switch and resting my hand on it. Okay, the light flashed. Three. Two. One. Go.

I pulled the handle down. Immediately, a siren went off, almost painfully loud, and red lights began flashing. Sprinklers began going off, spraying a thick deluge of water down over the patrons. A wave of shock and alarm shot through the crowd as the unexpected noise jolted them out of watching the confrontation. The participants of said confrontation reacted similarly, but no-one did anything to break the tense standoff.

Except Fog. Of course. If I didn't already have a nemesis, I think she'd probably be it.

As soon as the noise began, her hand shot out, and spears of ice formed, hurtling towards every Outlier she could see. It was so quick that there was no way it had been off-the-cuff: she'd clearly been preparing to do that ever since stepping in the room.

As the screams began to sound, and the crowd began streaming towards the door, the frozen projectiles hurtled through the air towards their targets. Not a single one made it. It happened too fast for me to see what happened: the only one I managed to catch was the hunk with the orange armor. He casually raised an arm, and a shimmering forcefield appeared in front of him. Oddly enough, it was concave, looking for all the world like an oversized contact lens. The ice hit it and shattered, but the fragments didn't fall to the ground. Instead, they stuck to the shield, quickly swirling inwards to the centre of the disc and forming a large, solid clump. He waved again, and the clump shot forward back towards Fog with nearly as much speed as the original. What happened beyond that point, I don't know, because everything erupted into chaos. The Outliers and Guardians were fighting, forcefields and energy projectiles and bullets and wind and seemingly everything else under the sun flying around. The civilians were streaming towards the exits, some calmly, some less so, and managing to block my view despite the fact that I was taller than most of them.

“Alright, 'Wisp’, lead the way.”

“Gah!” I leaped to the side, away from the figure suddenly standing next to me. “How did you-”

“Is that important right now? Let's go.”

Right. Right. Okay. I nodded and lead him towards the door back into the Tower’s innards. “Wait here,” I said once we reached them, and faded through. On the other side, I quickly re-donned the rest of my costume, then pulled on the handle, opening it for Foresight. He strode through, glancing at my costume and raising an eyebrow, but saying nothing, just closing the door behind him.

Okay, so to get back I'd have to go past the situation room, as it was the only way I knew. I titled my head, and broke into a quick jog down the corridor, the Outlier following close behind.

“Why couldn't you do this yourself?” he asked suddenly, as we were passing through the five consecutive 90 degree turns.

I saw no point in trying to lie. “Plausible deniability. I have a… relationship with the Tower I'd rather not violate.”

“And yet you're still here in view of the cameras.”

“Part of that relationship involves being removed from the cameras.”

“Ah,” he breathed. “That sounds… useful. So will I not appear as well?”

I shrugged. “Don't know, don't care.”

“Fair enough.” His voice was dry. It occurred to me suddenly, probably far too late, that he really should have known who I was. Unless Skew hadn't told the other Outliers about their encounter with me, which seemed… possible, I suppose? I couldn't really guess why she might do that, but it didn't seem outside the the realms of plausibility.

Well, nothing for it. “Why didn't you know who I was?” I asked back. “I would've thought Skew, Freefall or Flatline would have told you all.”

At that, he gave a pained, forced chuckle. “The others, maybe. Skew doesn't tell me shit, that insufferable prick does whatever Skew does, and Freefall’s too new to know better.”

“Oh.” I hadn't gotten that impression from them at all. “That sucks.”

“You have no idea.” Despite the subject matter, his time was still calm and measured. Almost… too measured? Like he was timing each syllable precisely. I glanced back and saw that although he was moving normally, eyes ahead behind a thin mask, he had that blue glow surrounding him again. Perhaps it had something to do with that.

Another abrupt turn that I almost missed, and then we were standing just outside the cell block from before. I sighed an internal sigh of relief. I'd been pretty sure we'd been going the right way, but all the corridors looked exactly the same. It was nice to know I'd been right. Very validating.

I came to a stop just outside the room, and though it was abrupt, Foresight did the same easily and calmly, like he'd been expecting it. It was exactly how I'd left it… geez, probably only fifteen minutes ago. It felt like longer. I turned to gesture to Foresight that we needed to be quiet, but he'd already moved past me, striding up to Stonewall’s cell- no, past it.

What?

He stopped outside a cell further down, one I couldn't see into, and peered in. “Well hey there,” he said, sounding oddly cheerful, “you psycho whore.”

“Whoa-oa-oa, back the heck up. Not cool, guy.”

There was a snarl, and suddenly I knew which cell it was. In hindsight, I could've guessed; there was only one other occupied, but it did happen very quickly. “You,” a voice hissed. Husky and hoarse, it had the distinct ragged quality of someone who did a lot of screaming. My old gymnastics teacher had sounded the same way, and I don't think she ever said a single word that wasn't louder than a barking dog.

“Aww, you managed to remember me. I'm touched.” His voice dripped with condescension. What the heck was with this guy? He'd seemed… normal up until now, but this was just unpleasant. “I see you've managed to f*** up your life yet again. How many times is that now? Three? Four?”

I couldn't help myself. I strode over until I could see inside. The woman was standing right up against the barrier, staring at Foresight. Her hands were clenched by her sides, blood and salt falling from them in equal measure. Fury radiated from her, so much that I reeled back even behind the barrier. Her eyes, though… they were burning with white-hot rage, but tears were welling in them. I blinked, and checked again. Yep, definitely tears.

“Let's see,” Foresight continued gleefully, “there was… your mother, your sister, Flint,” and she stiffened at that last one.

Okay, this is screwed up. I grabbed Foresight's arm and dragged him away, cutting him off halfway through a word. Shock let me get a few steps before he started resisting, and then I just upped my density until I couldn't feel him pulling away. “What the flipping heck was that?!” I hissed at him once we were a safe distance away.

“Let. Me. Go.” he snapped back, futilely pulling on his arm. I didn't relax my grip. “I said-”

“And I asked what that was.”

He gritted his teeth. “That… girl is a terrible human being who has killed more people than I can count, and attempted to do the same to me multiple times.”

“One you apparently have a personal connection to,” I noted, “seeing as how you knew the exact details you needed to flipping take her to pieces!”

“That's not relevant,” he sniffed. “Consider it revenge for all the times she’s tried to snuff me out.”

“One, revenge is stupid and pointless. Two, there's no scenario where that is justifiable. Never.

He sniffed again, this time dismissively. “Whatever.”

I stared at him mutely. I think I was starting to see why Skew apparently didn't tell him anything. “You're a real piece of work,” I said as I released his arm. He rubbed the spot I'd held him by gingerly. “Now are you going to get your friend out or not?”

He didn't answer, instead closing his eyes and beginning to glow again. “I can't just shut off the cell, the control panel is too far away and too complicated for me to shut off. There are some power essential power circuits built into the wall, if you're willing to use that freakish strength to break them-”

I cut him off with an emphatic shake of the head. “Nuh-uh, nah, nope. I'm not gonna leave any evidence I was here.”

He sighed, still glowing. “Fine. I'll do it the messy way, then.” He pulled something from his belt, a small white hemisphere.

“Which is?” I asked.

He reached up and carefully placed the object above the cell doorway. “Shaped charge, blow the circuit, door opens.”

“And… you just have a shaped charge ready to go?”

He shrugged, stepping away and slipping a small controller from another pouch on his belt. “I need one now, so I'd say it was a sensible preparation.” He began fiddling with the controller. “Stand back.”

“A.) That logic is terrible, and B.)-” He slammed one finger down on a trigger, and everything went white for a moment. The smell of acrid smoke immediately filled the air, and even through my scarf I still had to cough.

The explosive had gouged out a chunk of the metal wall about the size of a basketball, leaving exposed wiring sparking and smoking. The blue field blocking the cell flickered, and then shorted out entirely. Some of the other doors were flickering as well, but they all remained solid.

There was a beat of silence as the dust whirled around us. Foresight turned to me as if to say something, but before he could, a giant brown blur barrelled out of the cell and slammed into him.

I started forward, going dense, but it quickly became apparent that it wasn't an attack. It was a bear hug. The giant figure of Stonewall had lifted Foresight clear off the ground, and was squeezing him so hard it looked like he might burst.

“You all came,” he rumbled, with such sincere happiness it was hard not to smile. “Thank you.”

“You're welcome,” Foresight managed to squeak out. “Could you put me down now, please?”

“Oh,” he said, abashed, immediately loosening his grip. “Sorry.”

Foresight leant over, taking a few deep breaths. “Just don't do it again.”

I glanced up at the destroyed chunk of wall. “Shouldn't that have set off some kind of alarm?”

Stonewall spun towards me. “Who are you?” he said, alarmed. His fists clenched tightly by his sides

I unconsciously took a few steps back. “No-one important,” I said hastily. His eyes narrowed.

“She-” Foresight began to say, but he was cut off short. Abruptly, the lights above us flickered, and the exposed wiring sparked again, even harder. On a hunch, I spun around, just in time to see all the remaining shields waver one last time, then disappear.

There was a noise from behind me, one that stopped unnaturally, and I turned to find a wall of black had filled the hallway. “Oh, what?” I yelled, slamming a fist against it. “Come on!” It didn't feel like something solid when I hit it. There wasn't any connection, my hand just… stopped, like all the energy had been drained out of it.

I remembered just too late. I heard footsteps behind me, gulped, and slowly moved to face them. The woman from the other cell stood in the hallway, blood still dripping from her hands, salt still flying around her. Eyes still full of fury, and locked directly onto me.

“Hi,” I said weakly. “How's it going?”

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