Doors 14-Vignette

They Like Surprises. Almost Always.

With a small grimace, Edith Ellis shook her hand, trying to rid it of the blood that covered it. A few droplets scattered outwards, but her hand remained crimson. She'd known it would do that: when her salt form got absorbed blood, it stained her skin a faded crimson when she transformed back. Still, she shook anyway. It was, she had decided, simply one of those things.

She gave an irritated sigh, lowering the hand. It would bleed out in a day or two, but until then she'd have to deal with being literally red-handed. There was a time where she'd have found that amusing.

The man standing in front of her managed to choke out a breath. One of his arms, the one with the hand with the gun in it, rose jerkily towards her, one trembling finger on the trigger.

She pursed her lips, and took the hand clean off at the wrist in a flash of white. He gaped at his now-severed wrist, then slowly toppled to the side. He hit the ground shortly after his gun did, and lay there, still as a puddle of blood began to spread from the baseball-sized hole in his chest.

Without looking down, she stepped over the now-corpse, an expression of distaste flitting across her haggard face. People never knew when to just lay down and die, and now she had even more blood discoloring her hand. It was irritating, is what it was.

No alarms blared out as she walked briskly through the steel corridors of the Tower. No red lights flashed, no one rushed down the corridor to apprehend her. She didn't doubt that an alarm had gone off, though: she knew the Tower, and there was no way a containment failure in a wing of the cells wouldn't have prompted a response. The most likely explanation was that after seeing her encounter with that security employee, they were holding back until a proper force could be assembled. She couldn't see any cameras, but she had no doubt that she was being observed.

She took turns at random, keeping a brisk pace and darting glances over her shoulder every other second. That, and the twitching of her hands at her sides were the only things that betrayed her calm facade. She didn't know where she was going, and any corner could hide a force attempting to kill her. And they would try to kill her. Frankly, she was surprised they hadn't already.

She thought for a moment, then amended it. They'd sent the kiddies after her, not the full kill squad that they had the nerve to call 'Valiant’. She didn't know whether the younger 'heroes’ were unaware of their colleagues’ behaviour or not, and she didn't really care. It occurred to her that perhaps she should grant them at least a little more respect, considering they'd soundly defeated her, but she dismissed that thought almost immediately.

It had been the element of surprise and luck, nothing more. Edith had been halfway home from her… conversation with Flint, stalking through a back alley, when a stream of red had shot across her vision, narrowly missing her head. She'd immediately shifted, but the two heroes, Thrust and Fog, still had the advantage. They'd hemmed her in, Fog creating ice faster than she could tear it apart until the threat of the torrents of red liquid Thrust’s power generated had forced her to switch back, lest her form got completely dissolved. From there, they'd easily bound her in ice, knocked her out with a stun round, and when she'd woken up, she'd been sitting in that damn cell. Food had appeared when she wasn't looking, with no obvious method of delivery, so she'd had no human contact for the last two days. That part didn't particularly bother her, though; it was par for the course for her these days.

After a few minutes, she had to admit it: she was lost. Well, not 'lost’. Lost would imply she knew where she was going at some point in the process. She'd just tried to head in one direction as much as possible and hoping it would lead to some sort of window or something that would be easier to break through. Once she was out in the open air, the rest was easy. The winds at these heights would prevent her from flying properly, but she could still float down until it was weaker. She just had to find a way out first.

Well, there was nothing for it. She let loose an angry sigh and shifted forms.

For the briefest of moments, it was like coming apart. Like every bit of her was being pulled in a completely different direction to every other bit. She'd never managed to get over how unnerving it was completely, but she'd become inured to it. The first she'd done it, gone all the way, she'd spent an hour crying in a corner in abject terror. Just thinking about how weak she'd been made her feel sick. Now, it just left her unnerved for a second or two.

She hovered at about chest height above the ground, a swirling, glimmering cloud of white. When she was in this form, she couldn't stop it moving any more than she could stop blood pumping in her 'real’ body. It wasn't just her body that shifted, either. Her consciousness spread out, becoming more diffuse. She wasn't in the swarm. She was the swarm.

With a thought, her form bunched up, and then shot away down the corridor, far faster than she could have even run. She swerved and spun through the corridors at blistering speed, and yet the steadfastly refused to transition into any sort of window or exit, or even a room with people she could force to show her the way out. Who had designed this damn maze of Tower? How was there even this much space in it?

Distracted by the thought, she wasn't paying attention when she rounded another corner, and was thus caught by surprise when a gust of wind slammed her against the wall. Before she could recover, a cushion of swirling wind settled around her, holding her in place against the cold steel.

The man standing in the corridor in front of her was dressed in a sharp, three-piece suit in glossy silver and blue. A red sash was slung over one shoulder, and a turban of a matching color wrapped around his head. If she'd still had eyes, she'd have rolled them.

The man twisted his hands in some complex gesture, and the pressure of the wind increased, pushing her harder against. “Windstriker to Dispatch,” he said, tense. Despite the howling noise, she could still hear him fine, probably a side effect of the alterations her power made to her senses. “I have her contained. If you wouldn't mind sending a team down here, that would be swell.” He spoke with a slight British accent, masked underneath the terseness. An expat, Edith thought despite herself, possibly a recent one. It explained why she didn't recognize him, at least.

She, of course, had no intention of going back in a cell. And if this suit-wearing poseur thought she was going to just roll over, then he had another thought coming.

She switched back into her human form, the wind whipping across her skin instantly as she suddenly became bigger than the 'cage’. The pressure that had been enough to keep her salt form in place was barely an annoyance to her now, and she leapt forward at the man, fingers spread and nails bared like claws.

He jerked back, shock written all over his face, his hands coming up to try and stop her. That was the worst thing about first-gens, it was so easy to catch them by surprise. He'd had to concentrate to make a simple bubble of wind. There was no way, caught off guard, that he could muster up anything-

A gust of wind hit her from the side, blowing her hair out in that direction, but doing little else. There it was. Unfazed, she grabbed him by the throat, and brought her other hand up close to his face. With a little mental effort, it broke apart into fragments of white, which quickly began spinning fast enough to be audible. “Try anything,” she hissed at him, “and I cut off both your hands and flay you alive.”Sweat ran down his brow as he gulped. “Where's the exit?”

“Dispatch,” he choked out, “I-”

She pursed her lips, then lowered her hand to his arm and gouged out a chunk at least an inch deep. “How. Do I. Get out. Last time.”

He screamed, and she tightened her grip, cutting it off. “Keep doing that and I'll give you a real reason to scream.”

“T-two lefts,” he stammered, “a right and then up the stairs. Oh god, please don't-”

He screamed again as she sent the whirring blade of salt down to behind his knee and cut the hamstring there. She tossed him to the side and kept walking, ignoring the whimpering from behind her.

Sure enough, following the directions brought her to an empty hangar-like space with an open space at the end. Wind howled outside, and the light of the setting sun casting shadows off the buildings. Another hero was waiting there for her, but she just smothered him, blocking his airways until he passed out and collapsed.

She stepped out over the edge, shifting into a spiralling cloud that buffeted and spread with the wind, but already her thoughts were miles away. She'd been so close, before, so close to finding Eve. She'd tracked down the chain of deals and half-unspoken connections her mother had made when she'd hidden her away. She'd taken her Cabal and raided it, but had found nothing except a lab, running experiments far stranger than anything she'd ever seen. There had been all sorts of fail-safes and procedures and security features, but instead of Eve at the end of it, all they'd found was a bag of bearer bonds and a datapad. Her subordinates were happy with that, but it had nearly crushed her. To be so close, and have it snatched away. And then, to add insult to injury, even that little she had had been taken away from her. Taken by those goddanned ‘Outliers’. She was going to make them - him - pay for that. But not right now. Now, she needed to plan.

I'm coming, Eve. I'm almost there.

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