Good 17-III

Don’t Owe You A Thing.

It hurt my neck, kind of, to look up at the sky, but I did it anyway, squinting against the sun. “Hey God?” I said up to it. “You're kind of dealing me a shitty hand. Recently, and also, generally. Could you maybe lay off, thanks? That'd be great.”

“Don't blaspheme,” Edith snapped at me. She was wearing her white jumpsuit, the crystalline one, but now the hands were stained in shades of crimson all the way up to the elbow. I didn't know whether it was a design change or if she'd just gotten people killed recently, but I knew which one was more likely.

“Who said I was kidding?” I shot back. “You would not believe how garbage my life has been recently. Oh, no, wait, you would, because you're responsible for like half of it!”

“You don't get to talk to me about hardships, you flippant little piece of human waste. If you'd endured even a fraction of what I've had to-”

“Ooh, yes, let's have a misery-off,” I cut her off, sneering. “That always goes so well.”

Thing 2, at her feet, made a pathetic whimpering sound, as he weakly grabbed at her leg. Edith's face contorted in an ugly grimace, and without looking, she kicked him in the head. There was another blur, the same disgusting, wet sound, and he fell to the ground, completely limp, a brutal gash in his forehead and his eyes blank. Through it, I could actually see his partially liquefied brain, beginning to seep out, and I had to struggle not to throw up.

“Jesus,” I muttered, before turning to the people further down the street, the ones too stupid to run away completely. “For God’s sake, one of you idiots call 911!” Thing 2 was so very clearly gone, but Thing 1 could still make it.

She laughed scornfully. “Idiot. Do you really think you have a better chance escaping than I do when they show up?”

“I was thinking,” I snapped back, “that maybe someone can stop that guy from bleeding out, you fucking psychopath!”

She snorted dismissively, and kicked again, at Thing 1 this time. I was ready for it, though, and her foot went sideways instead, and she nearly toppled before righting herself. “I can't let you do that, E,” I said, probably a lot calmer than I felt.

Her sneer deepened. “He's a piece of human trash, Flint.” I winced a little, but no one was near enough to hear her use my name. “He's not even worth the air he's wasting.” She didn't attack him again, though.

“So, you're the fucking Punisher now, is that it? You think you're the anti-hero or something? That's not how it fucking works.”

Her glare was ice and venom. “I think, that all I care about is Eve. And anyone who gets in the way of that can either remove themselves, or have me do it for them.” Sad thing was, I almost got it. “So, which is it, Flint? Are you going to get out of the way? Or...” the edges of her form began to come apart, “are you going to continue to be an obstacle?”

“First mistake: never give Skew a chance to be an obstacle. He can't resist them.” A figure in blue dropped from above me, and landed on the pavement between us. As it hit, the ground sank, like a trampoline that's just had a heavy object dropped on it. Instead of springing the figure back up into the air, though, the depression spread outwards like a ripple as the centrepoint returned to its original height. I stepped over the rolling gap as it reached me, and Edith did likewise, a little more hurried. “Well, I'm sure you've made more than one mistake,” Tide continued as she stood up straight, stretching her neck and rolling her shoulders. “But you get the point. You dead yet, Skew?”

“Not yet, but I'm doing my best. Nice entrance.”

“You think so? I've been trying to figure it out for a while now, and it seemed like a good moment for a field test.”

“Oh, definitely.”

Edith watched our little exchange with something halfway between irritation and confusion. “So you can't even fight your own fights now, Flint?”

I cocked my head, curious. “That's… a really weird criticism. I've always done the team thing? It's not like you're just discovering this. Did you just say it because you thought it sounded cool?”

“Yeah,” Tide agreed, “that was weird. Hey, Skew, how come she knows your name?”

“Wait, have you not-” I ran back through my memories. I realized the two of them had never interacted before: Tide (and Ribbon with her) had joined after those first few tumultuous months where most of our run-ins (with the recent exceptions, of course) with Edith and the Cabal had taken place. “Oh, right. Tide, meet Edith Ellis, my psycho ex.” She gnashed her teeth at that, and it was probably not the best way to describe her, but I was past the point of caring.

“Huh.” Tide looked at her critically. “Are the psycho and ex parts linked, or independent?”

I grimaced. “Actually, not the best topic to joke about? It's complicated.”

She nodded. “Sorry. It is cool if we kick her ass, though, right?”

“Oh, absolutely.” At that, she grinned, and turned towards Edith.

“Ooh, yes, so witty and cool,” Edith said, rolling her eyes, “the two of you. You always manage to attract 'funny’ ones, don't you, Flint.”

“Okay, you're making it sound weird, and also intentional. Don't do that.”

“She does sort of have a point, though,” Tide noted.

“Well, you're just proving her right, aren't you!”

“So arrogant,” Edith sneered (lots of sneering going around), “thinking you've automatically won this because there are two of you now.”

“Well, I know I'm bad at math, but that is generally how it works when one party outnumbers the other.”

“Who said anyt-” Edith started, but Tide cut her off.

“And I am good at math, and I can confirm that that is how it works,” she said with a little smile.

I glanced over at her with a grin. “Why don't we do this more? This is some great banter.”

“Who said anything-” Edith tried again.

“We don't do this more because you're an ass, Skew.”

“Tide, you wound me right to my core.”

“Who. Said. An-”

“That can't be hard; you're incredibly shallow.”

Edith growled, and snapped her fingers, and two figures stepped out of thin air behind her. Junction and Occam, two more of the Cabal. “I hope you think that joke was worth the pain you're about to receive,” she snarled.

Tide and I glanced at each other for a moment. “Yep,” I said with a grin as she nodded in assent. “Totally worth it.”


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
If you support worthwhile pain,  vote for Outliers on Topwebfiction, or rate or leave a review on Webfictionguide. Every bit of support helps keep the story going, and, more importantly, stroke my ego.