Doors 14-X

I Told You What It Is, It’s A Horrible Monster.

I could've just left. Poof, gone, problem solved. I'd like to be able to say the reason I didn't was something cool or sensible or pragmatic or something like that. Gather information, get the dangerous criminal back in a cell, that sort of thing.

The truth is, though, in the panic of the situation, I forgot I could do that. Look, I was stressed, and sort of used to only having the one body. You'd have done the same.

The woman stared at me, still trembling with rage. The tears were gone from her eyes, but they were still red and swollen. Her hands hadn't moved from her sides, though, so I assumed that for now, she wasn't going to try and kill me. Which was nice.

“So, uh-”

“Who are you?” she interrupted me. I could barely make out the words, her voice was so raspy.

“W-well,” I stammered, “that's, um, a bit of a long story.” The black wall was still there, darn it. Why the heck did he do that?

“Panic, obviously. So logically, the guy who took on three hardened criminals is scared of this woman.”

Gee, thanks. That makes me feel better.

“Oh, would you prefer I lied to you? Would that be better? Well, then, I'm sure he did it because she's going to give you lots of presents, and he was nice enough to make sure you have them all to yourself.

...I hate you.

“You should see someone; self-loathing is not the sign of a healthy mind!”

Hate. You.

“You were with the heroes,” she noted coldly, “and now you're here. Breaking out… an Outlier.” She spat the word like it was a curse. “It’s only the first part that's stopping me from killing you right here.” For all the rage she was clearly feeling, her voice was icy calm, with just the nearest hint of brittleness. Step lightly.

“I… don't think you could do that,” I replied, entirely honestly.

“You're not acting like someone I can't hurt,” she sneered. “And you would be amazed at how good I've gotten at hurting people.” Shivers ran down my spine. Regardless of proficiency at causing pain, she was clearly very good at creating fear.

“Well,” I said, faux-casually, “we can't always control instinctual reactions. And so while logically I know you can't hurt me,” I absolutely did not know that, “the brain still does what it does.” I offered up a half-hearted grin, realized she couldn't see it and dropped it, then realized she could probably still read my facial cues and pulled it back up again. I imagine it made me look quite schizophrenic.

Her face was blank as she stared at me, but I think there was some confusion there. She hid it well, though; probably because of her whole 'murderous psychopath’ thing. Not that I was trusting Stump blindly on that assertion, but seeing her behaviour made me inclined to agree. “Who are you,” she repeated, “and why are you here?”

I sighed, standing up straight. It was becoming clear that the barrier wasn't going anywhere. “Look, I'm not with the Tower, okay? Or the Outliers.”

“Then why were you with both of them.”

“I'm…” I cast around for an explanation. What would make the murderous criminal psycho likely to let me go slash be? “I'm… playing them off each other.” Huh. Not quite what I'd meant, but I'd take it. I mean, it was technically true.

In a general sense.

When viewed from a distance.

At night.

She raised an eyebrow, but there was no warmth or mirth in it. “You are,” she said disbelievingly, not quite a question.

Oh, there was no way this wasn't coming back to bite me. “Mm-hmm,” I nodded. “With all this…” I searched around for a word, failed to find one and compromised, “...this, going on, they were already on a bit of a collision course. I'm just... helping it along a little. Keep them both busy.” Spin, spin, spin.

“Why?” I didn't get the sense she believed me, but she wasn't attacking either.

Okay, motivations. If I could reach back in time and strangle the Past Me who'd opted out of drama classes, I totally would. I decided to stick close to the truth, an experience that was becoming depressingly routine. “The Dresden Four- you know, those guys from the school thing a few days ago? I have beef with them.”

“What kind of 'beef’?” Was that a hint of curiosity beneath the sardonicism? Golly, I hoped so.

“Part personal, part professional,” I said curtly. So far, I'd managed to avoid either confirming or denying whether I was a criminal or not, and I planned to keep it that way.

That got a laugh, a hoarse snicker that teetered right on the edge of cackling. “How could you have a grudge with four hardened criminals?” She knew about the blurry woman? Now that was interesting. “You can't even be out of high school. You're wearing ski goggles. Gardening gloves.

“Not everyone can afford fancy-schmanschy outfits. You're not exactly looking haute yourself right now.” She glanced down at her flimsy prisoner’s garb as if seeing it for the first time.

“Fine,” she said grudgingly, but didn't move. “But if you're playing both of those groups of idiots and children against each other, and I am not saying that I believe you, why are you admitting it on camera?”

“The Guardians are operating under the assumption I'm helping them.” Because I was. “That comes with certain perks, such as a personal camera blindspot.”

Now that got a reaction. It was an angry one, but it was a reaction. Something in her snapped, and she began striding towards me, coming apart at the edges. I pressed up again the barrier, willing it to disappear, but no dice. “What are you stalling for?” she snarled.

“W-what?” I stammered, confused.

She snarled again, but anger made it kind of incomprehensible. All I caught was something about 'stupid, stupid story'. So I don't think she believed me.

“Whaaaaa, but you were so good at it?”

Therapy, and meds. That's what's waiting for you if you keep this up.

“Look,” I said doing my best to stay calm, “I know it sounds a bit crazy, but-” Oh, why was I even bothering? I went solid and threw a punch at her.

Her eyes widened: I don't think she'd been expecting that. Heck, I hadn't been expecting it. As my fist made contact, though, the pertinent section of her body shifted into salt, and my fist just passed right through. The wind it generated did move her form around a little.

Her eyes narrowed, and suddenly the salt began whirling like a razor, trying to cut into the arm that was currently halfway through her torso. It didn't tear off my forearm - yay - but I could actually feel it, which probably wasn't good. I jerked the arm back out of the hole, and again the air currents pushed it away a little.

There I was, cornered by a madwoman that I couldn't actually hit. Would've been a good time to remember that I had no reason to be there, right? Haha, no, that would've made sense. Instead, my stupid brain took it as a challenge. There must be some way that I could affect her. A half-formed theory niggled at the back of my mind, but I was distracted from following it to its conclusion by Ado exploding into a cloud of sodium nitrate crystals and swarming over me.

I flailed around weakly as the blurring storm began to cut into me, but it was about as useful as trying to punch a cloud-

And suddenly, I figured it out. It was all about displacement. I stopped flailing, then lashed out as quickly as I could with both arms. The gusts of wind it generated were enough to disrupt the salt cloud, and I kept repeating the action until I'd actually driven her off me.

Okay, this is either going to be really cool, or really, really dumb. As the swarm bore back down on me, I took a deep breath, closed my eyes, extended my arms, and spun around as fast as I could.

Immediately, a wind picked up, quickly growing stronger and stronger as I spun. It howled in my ears, and I could feel myself getting dizzier. I'd have to assume it was working, because I was not opening my eyes.

After a few moments, when I felt like I was about to fall over, I stopped. The wind immediately lessened, but didn't die out completely. I leant one hand against the wall and opened my eyes. Ado was down the other end of the corridor, and judging by the way she was braced, it hadn't been willingly on her part. Her teeth were bared, and one hand was covering her eyes. She must've been blown at least twenty meters back. Which was good, because if I did something that stupid for a minor effect, I would be pretty darn pissed.

As she realized that I'd stopped, her arm came down, and her form began coming apart again. But something interrupted her, a noise from out of sight, and she spun around to face it.

Taking advantage of her distraction, and finally remembering how to use basic logic and self-preservation, I closed my eyes and poofed out. The whole situation was probably going to come round again with a vengeance, but at that moment, I was too tired, dizzy, and sore to care.

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