Escape 19-Vignette


Tired Of My Lady.

One year and five months ago, or thereabouts.

“I didn’t need your help,” said Flint Perez, lying through his teeth.

Seven people stood in the alleyway, lit by the stars and the glow of the city, and only two of them were still upright. Five thugs lay sprawled in various positions, some with limbs pointing in awkward directions, others bleeding from various places. Flint leant against a wall, doing his best to stand up straight, while the other floated about a foot off the ground, held aloft by a breeze.

“Sure, sure,” Void agreed amicably, her voice surprisingly sarcasm-free. “You’d have pulled some trick out of nowhere and stopped that guy from stabbing you.”

“Don’t-” he hissed as he shifted slightly, “don’t condescend me.”

“I’m not,” she replied with a laugh, “I’m not. Sorry. I do genuinely believe that you’d have managed it. But you were already hurt-”

“I am not,” he snarled.

She snorted. “Yeah, you are. And he had a knife and you-” she looked to the side and saw his sword lodged in one of the walls, “-didn’t, so you’d have probably end up getting more hurt, and would have had to expend even more energy. And now you don’t have to.” She swept her arm across her body in a mock-bow. “You’re welcome.”

“I,” he repeated stubbornly. “Did. Not. Need. Your. Help.”

She laughed. “Man, you’re really sticking to your guns on this one, huh? Fine, fine. Everything would have been perfect, and I actually made things worse by helping out. Is that what you wanted to hear?”

He gritted his teeth. “Why are you here?”

“Would you believe I was just passing by?” she asked lightly.

“Nope.”

She shrugged. “Well, it’s the truth. In fact, I-” she stopped, tilted her head to the side. “Hold on a sec.”

The wind, which had been whistling in the background, suddenly picked up, shifting direction and howling past him. It caught Void and hurled her towards him, then shifted again just before she hit, blowing in the opposite direction and stopping her cold as she spun around. Dropping to the ground directly in front of him, she flung out both hands, and the wind redoubled, almost knocking him off his feet. He managed to catch himself, just, and looked up to see a large chunk of concrete drop to the ground in front of them, skidding forward slightly before coming to a stop. The wind died away, and Void dropped her hands, standing up straight. “Ooh, too bad!” she called down the alleyway. “Almost got me that time.”

Over the debris, Flint could see a figure stalking towards them. It was hard to tell, but in the lighting, it almost looked like a moving statue; oddly uniformly textured. Then they stepped into the light, and he revised his assessment. They didn’t just look like it. It was an actual moving statue, roughly hewn from concrete, with a pair of burning green eyes the only thing signifying it as alive.

He glanced at Void, and her masked face tilted in a way he instinctively read as a smile. “I said I was passing by. I didn’t say why.” She turned her gaze back to the statue, just as they came to a stop in the middle of the unconscious thugs.

“Oh?” Appropriately enough, their voice sounded gravelly and low, with an odd reverb, like it was coming from inside a cave. “You’ve finally decided to stop running?”

“I was never running, Ore,” Void replied. “Just choosing a better battlefield.”

Ore looked around at their surroundings. “You chose… poorly.”

“Really?” Flint blurted out without meaning to. “Indiana Jones?”

They looked at him. “‘Really’ yourself. You’re what, twelve? It’s way more surprising that you’ve seen them than the other way around.” He had to restrain himself from replying to the crack about his age, instead glaring daggers at them. “But really, Void. This is the best you could come up with? You couldn’t find anywhere better for yourself?”

“It’s not about the place,” she said confidently. “It’s about the people.”

“Oh hell no,” Flint said immediately. “Don’t involve me in your fuckin’ bullshit.” With a grunt effort, he pushed himself off the wall and hobbled a few steps away from Void. “I’m not with her!” he called out to Ore.

They looked at Void. “Is it, now?”

“Well,” she grumbled under her breath, “obviously I was expecting him to be a little less of a dick.”

“Yeah, well, that’s great and all, but I’m gonna go now.” He started moving backwards away from them both. “Have fun with your… whatever.”

“Mmm,” Ore said. “Yeah, no.” They reached one hand out to the side, and when it touched the wall, it melted into it, the texture bleeding up their arm. They yanked their arm back out, and with a violent tearing noise, a large chunk of the brickwork came with it, still attached. With a grunt of effort, they swung it forward, and the chunk detached and went flying upwards, arcing over Flint’s head and smashing into the ground behind him.

He glanced back at it, and sighed. “Just so you know,” he said to Void, “I blame you for this.”

“That’s fair!” she replied cheerily.

-----

“You haven’t heard the last of me!” Ore yelled as they melted into the ground and shot away, chunks of them still flaking off. “Mark my words! You’ll regret this day!” Then they were gone.

Flint let out a sigh of relief, slumping over and catching his breath. “If you,” he said between pants, “intended that to be some kind of trust-building exercise, you’re even worse than I thought.” He looked over at Void, who stood there looking as unharmed and peppy as ever. “And it’s already pretty bad.”

“Nah,” she said. “That wasn’t about trust, that was just using one problem to help solve another.” She walked over to him, and offered him an arm. “This is about trust.”

He looked down at the arm, then back up at her, sighed, and grasped it. “So I’m a problem, huh?”

“Don’t try and deny it,” she said. “Now, hold on. This’ll feel a bit weird.” His entire body suddenly went light, as if underwater, and he gasped involuntarily. A breeze rolled in out of nowhere, then strengthening and pulling the both of them upwards. In seconds, before he even really had time to process what was happening, they’d reached the top of one of buildings, and had been blown over onto the top. Once their feet touched ground, she let go of him, and his limbs resumed their normal heaviness. After the brief lightness, it was almost painful.

“Whoa,” he breathed, unable to help himself.

“It’s fun, isn’t it?”

“...yeah,” he admitted. He took a deep breath, and turned back to face her, only to find her in the act of removing her helmet. “Ah!” He quickly spun away. “Sorry, sorry.”

She laughed, the sound now unmuffled. “It’s fine, it’s fine.” Slowly, he turned again, to find her grinning at him. She was dark-skinned, with a wide, broad smile and eyes that sparkled with mirth, and frizzy black hair shaved close to the scalp. She tucked the helmet under one arm and stuck out a hand. “Natalie Wilson. But you can just call me Talie, everyone does. Nice to meet’cha.”

He stared suspiciously at her. “What is this?”

Her smile only grew wider. “Like I said, it’s about trust. I don’t need or expect you to reciprocate, but it’s a gesture to show that I’m sincere.” She waggled the hand a little.

Not really knowing why, he took it in his own. “...Flint Perez,” he said as he shook it. “Likewise.”

She beamed at him. “Flint! That’s amazing. Who names their kid Flint?”

“Well, I can think of at least two people,” he grumbled.

She smirked, but her face quickly grew more serious. “Flint, I’d like you to reconsider joining my little group. I think tonight has demonstrated that there are some problems you can’t solve on your own, and that there are some that you don’t need to. I’m not asking you to sign a contract or anything. Just… stay in contact, with me and the others. Let us know the state of things as far as you know them, and we’ll do the same. And if you need help, and are willing to admit you do, then you have somewhere to turn.”

He avoided her gaze, staring off into the distance. “Why do you want me?” he asked. “I’m nothing special, power-wise.”

“Well, no,” she admitted. “But from what I’ve seen, you’re quick on your feet, and obviously trained in hand-to-hand. But, more importantly, you’re sharp, and I like sharp.”

“Trying to butter me up?”

She shrugged a shoulder with a self-effacing smile. “A little. But the best way to do that is to tell the truth. So. You in?”

He stared up at the Tower for a few long seconds. “...I’ll think about it,” he said at last, then held up a hand when she started to speak. “Not a ‘no’ I’ll think about it, an ‘I’ll think about it’ I’ll think about it.”

“Well, I guess that’s the best I’m gonna get.” She didn’t seem too upset about it. “Will you be okay?”

“I’ll manage.” He turned to leave. “See you around, I guess.”

“See you round, Flint.” The wind began again, rustling in his ears, and there was a fluttering of fabric.

He got a few steps before a thought occurred to him, and he turned back around to see her hovering above the roof, beginning to drift away. “Have you got a name?” he asked her. “For the group, that is.”

She winked at him as the wind picked up and pulled her away. “We’re workshopping it!”

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