Hive 18-VI

Not Worth The Effort.

I panicked. My invisibility had disappeared with the impact, which I hadn't known would happen, and based on previous experience, that meant that the copy up with Kai would have poofed. Barely even thinking about it, I created another one as I threw myself to the side, a frozen statue caught in a half-crouch, with a look of shock on its face. Not the most flattering image, but it wasn't like that was the top of my list of priorities. The dive was unwieldy, and I nearly fell on my face before catching my weight on one hand. Heart thumping wildly, I opened my mouth to gasp in a breath, but caught myself just in time, instead drawing it in slowly. It was a struggle, but I felt like I'd managed to stay quiet; not that I could tell, over the rushing blood filling my ears.

The man, Porter, stared at the other me, an expression of mild bemusement on his face. He waved his hand in front of my eyes, and when that got no reaction, gently poked me in the cheek. It reacted exactly like a real one, and he pulled his hand away. “Well, this is new.” He turned back towards the villains. “Any of you know anything about this?”

Green Cloak opened her mouth, but one of Metalface’s meaty paws clamped over her face, shutting her up. The blurry woman spoke instead. “I recognize the girl; she was with the hero that came after us yesterday. Not sure what this statue thing is, though.Last time she was just intangible.”

Porter hmm-ed quietly, stepping away. “Well, it feels like flesh.” He frowned, pensive. “You said she was part of the Tower?”

“I said she was working with them,” she clarified. “One of the junior heroes, Stump. Based on the outfit and the fact that she’s here alone, I don’t think she’s actually with them.”

“The Tower, working with unlicenseds?” scoffed one of Porter’s group, a young black woman with what looked like an armored laptop bag slung over her shoulder. “Shit really is different here.”

“We’re not from around here either, so I couldn’t say.” For whatever reason, I was really struck with how level-headed she was. How on earth had she ended up working with slash in charge of a group of thugs like the others?

“Well,” Porter said, “if she’s in contact with the Tower in any way, I don’t think we can let her leave.” He sighed, and his hand… shivered, and became a knife.

Oh fudge. Stabbing the clone wouldn’t hurt me, that’d already been established, but it would reveal me, and if they were smart (which I’m pretty sure Porter was), let them figure out the gist of my power. And then they’d kill me. I was 100% confident in that. Nine of them, and one of me, and I wouldn’t even be able to rely on being able to shrug off hits by going dense, because they’d almost certainly just target the real me.

Think, Hannah, think!

“Kai? Can she help?”

How? She’s stuck up there, and it’s not like she has any more experience at fighting than I do. You saw her against Carnage.

“Okay. Okay. So fighting is out. Running?”

Teleporter, remember? Plus whatever these other people can bring. And if he thinks we’re going to spill the beans, he’s not going to just let us run.

What if they don’t know we’re gone until it’s too late?”

Not going to work; they’re on the look-out for invisibility now. I’m surprised they haven’t done another scan already.

“So we’re effed in the a.”

Language. But I wasn’t wrong. It should have been a big moment, a break-down or something, but I was pumped full of adrenaline, and all my emotions that weren’t ‘run and/or fight’ were kind of flat. It’s also the only excuse I have for what I did next.

“Oh, you can’t possibly be serious.”

I switched into the clone, and the change of perspective threw me off for long enough that I almost didn’t see Porter’s knife headed for my throat. A sharp crack sounded from the concrete below my feet as I went dense, and the knife bounced off. Porter didn’t seem surprised, though; he just fell back into a ready stance, knife-hand held close to his side. All of the others immediately aimed at me, too: Metalface’s helmet glowing, Combat Gear and a few of Porter’s people with guns. One of the mercs’ arms were suddenly surrounded with a swirling nimbus of color that completely obscured their flesh, and they readied themselves in a posture that communicated that they were very confident in their ability to do damage with it even from the distance that separated us.

None of them, though, attacked me.

“This is freaking stupid, you know that.”

Better suggestions? No? Then shut it.

I stood up straight from the half-crouch, and affected a casual, relaxed posture. “Well,” I said, “I guess that one was probably doomed from the start.”

“I don’t know,” Porter replied, matching my own casualness with his own, completely at odds with his posture, “as far as pretending to be a statue goes, that was pretty good.”

Okay, okay, you’re not scared of him, you’re not scared of them, calm, calm, what does someone who’s not afraid say, what do they do? I smiled, hopefully not looking too fake, and shrugged a shoulder. “I guess I’m just talented.”

“Uh huh. So,” he said with the same forced cheer, “would you mind awfully telling us why you’re here? We were having a bit of an important meeting.”

He’s afraid, I realized suddenly. No, not afraid, but… cautious. He hit me and did nothing, so now he’s playing it safe. “You’ve got nothing to fear on that account, don’t worry. I’m only here for them.” With that, I deliberately turned my head towards Green Cloak. Who flinched. There and gone again in a second, but I saw it. It filled me with a sense of vindictive satisfaction, and I wasn’t sure I liked it. Problem for another time, though. “If you’ll just let me drag them away to the authorities, I’ll more than happily leave you and yours to your business.” I had no idea how that would work in practice, there were still four of them and one of me, but I was talking out my behind anyway, so what did it matter?

“Well, as nice as that sounds, I’m afraid there’s a bit of a problem. See, those four are my business right now, and as much as I can empathize with your dislike of them-”

“Go f*** yourself, sellout piece of sh*t,” Green Cloak yelled at him.

“-we’re under contract, and we always respect a contract.” His face softened a little. “Look, kid, I get it. But I think you’re way in over your head, in some real serious stuff. You seem like you’ve got your head screwed on, so I’ll make you an offer. You forget about any of this, and I don’t have to do something I’m going to regret for a long time.”

Play it cool, play it cool, you’re not worried, and someone who’s not worried says-

“No!”

I stopped, mouth slightly open. I’d been about to turn it down, too engrossed in desperately trying to maintain the facade. But… I needed to get out. It was exactly the escape I’d been looking for, a way to leave safely. And all it meant would be letting them… her… get off scot-free. But I’d be alive. But-

“Noooooooooope, absolutely not.” There was that reverse whooshing noise, and then Green Cloak was standing beside me. “Man, White Tie really knows how to find pussies to hire, doesn’t he?” Her hand swept up towards my throat, something glimmering in the light.

I moved, instinctive and without reason. There was another crack, but this one was meatier, fleshier, and Green Cloak stumbled back, staring at my upraised arm.

At the stains on it.

At the ground below it.

At her severed forearm, lying limply on the ground.

Oh god.

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