Escape 19-III

Cut Through All This Red Tape.

Ever been in a sandstorm? I haven't, actually; never even left the state, and it's not like there’s an abundance of deserts around the Great Lakes. So obviously I don't actually know what one feels like, but when I imagine a sandstorm in my head, it feels a lot like what Edith hitting us did.

The wind saved both of our asses, I'm pretty sure. Although it bore her up to us in the blink of an eye, it didn't just let her stop there. She was only actually on us for about a second before she was whisked away as fast as she had arrived. Without that, we'd have been torn to shreds.

That wasn't to say we were unscathed. Red hot, fiery streaks of pain slashed across my body; tiny and thin individually, but there were lots of them. One hit just above my cheekbone, and I winced as a tiny spray of blood was blown directly into my eye. The grunt of pain from beside me told me that Freefall had been hit too, though maybe not as badly, with my body blocking a decent amount of hers. If I was being cynical, she might have done it intentionally. I didn't feel like being cynical here, though; that just wasn't Jess.

Then she was gone, and we fell on, now streaming miniature trickles of blood behind us. It didn’t feel life-threatening, but it’s not like it was pleasant either. On the plus side, I reckoned that was close enough that I could scratch ‘dive through a window’ off my bucket list. Laceration’s laceration, right? Maybe I’ll just dive through an open one instead.

I craned my neck around, but Edith had disappeared. Whether it was because she’d been teleported away or because I just couldn’t see her more diffuse form, I wasn’t sure, but the difference was really academic. I leant back over towards Freefall as she steered us back on course (we’d made surprising progress already, the lake & docks growing closer). “This isn’t sustainable!” I yelled in her ear. She growled, and said something that was lost in the rush of wind. I got the gist, though. “Well, it had to be said. We need to take out Junction! He’s the only thing enabling this!”

Instead of replying, Freefall frowned, tilting her head to the side. “What?” I said, curious. “What is it?” She tapped her ear, still listening. “Oh.” Then my eyes widened as I connected some dots I really should have connected sooner. “Oh shit!”

I reached over and snatched the earbud out of Freefall’s ear, ignoring her sound of protest as I stuck it in mine. “They have my comm!” I yelled into it, cutting off Foresight’s voice.

“What?!” Tide interjected. “Are you sure?”

“No, but it’s pretty likely!” I smacked myself in the forehead, earning an unreadable glance from Freefall. “Idiot!”

“You’re really doing well on the self-awareness tonight,” Foresight snarked.
“Someday, I’m going to kill you, you slimy, good-for-nothing piece of shit.” My attempt to sound cold and disturbing was stymied by having to yell to be heard. “I will tear out your fucking liver and I will force-feed it to you until you-”

Freefall snatched the earpiece back out. “Can you switch frequency?” she asked calmly, giving me a glare. She listened for a second, nodded.

I took the time to glance downwards, and nearly gave myself a heart attack. We were rapidly hurtling towards a rooftop below us, and the kind of death that tends to attract comparisons to tomatoes. I let out a noise that could be charitably be described as a shriek, and clutched Freefall’s arm in a death grip, which I think was a perfectly understandable reaction given the circumstances.

Because I was still, uh, screaming, I almost choked on the bile, narrowly avoiding getting it in my lungs. “Why,” I screamed, “does it do that?! WHY?! Gahh!” I coughed a couple of times, spitting out a glob of phlegm that was instantly whisked away. Hopefully, it’d land on Foresight.

“I can hear you,” Freefall was saying. “We need to take out Junction. How far behind are you?” She, of course, didn’t seem perturbed in the slightest by the near-death we’d just avoided.

Something below caught my eye, and I squinted down. Yep. “Incoming!”

Freefall immediately stopped talking and rolled us to the side, spinning out of the way just as Edith shot past us again. No whirling cloud this time; it was a solid comet-shaped projectile that probably would have perforated us if we hadn’t dodged.

I made a grab for the earpiece, but Freefall swatted my hand away. I frowned at her, made a sort of generic gesture, and tried again. Somehow, the meaning must have gotten across, because she let me take it that time. “Foresight,” I said, “can you do your light trick for us again?”

“No,” he snapped, “obviously not.”

“Oh, it’s obvious, is it? Of course. It’s not like you’ve refused to explain how it works, now is it?

“You two,” Tide snapped, “either need to just kill each other or make out, but more importantly you need to do it later.”

“Fine,” I grumbled. “Do you have any way of marking them for us then?”

“...I can light them up,” he said grudgingly. “But not for very long, and they’re moving quickly, teleporting across rooftops.”

“Yeah, do that in like...” I turned to Freefall. “How quickly could we dive?”

“30 seconds.”

“In about 20 seconds then. Freefall?” I grinned. “Go towards the light.”

She grinned right back, and dove.

I hadn’t thought about it until then, but she must have been suppressing part of her power up until then, because the falling we’d been doing had had none of the hallmarks of her usual ones. No glowing corona of light and energy; I think I would have noticed. This one, though?

I don’t think she was suppressing anything.

She began to glow almost immediately, and it spread through her grip to me after a second. As we picked up speed, it increased (less so for me, which would have been worrying if I’d had any brain cells to spare for it), and within moments the full corona had developed, a blinding, shimmering white that encompassed the both of us. It filled my vision completely, and all I could see was a faint outline of our bodies. Didn’t affect my hearing, though; I could still hear my own screaming perfectly well.

I hadn’t thought the plan all the way through: the light was going to pretty handily obscure any sort of signal Foresight could make. Fortunately, it didn’t seem to have the same effect on Freefall as it did me: I felt our course change as she adjusted, aiming us down towards-

And then we hit.

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