Escape 19-VIII

Write To Me, And Escape.

“Okay, so we should have hurried.”

I glanced sideways at her. “Gee, ya think.”

We’d rounded a corner onto the street that our warehouse was on, and stopped dead in our tracks. The road stretched out ahead of us until about three buildings before ours, and then just… stopped. No more road, no more buildings, no more lights, just- nothing.

I stared at the nothingness for a few moments. “So. Someone’s erased the base. Gotta say, really wasn’t expecting that.”

“It’s not erased,” Foresight said, sounding surprisingly serious. We all turned to look at him, and found that he had his eyes closed, and was glowing faintly. “There’s a dome over it. Probably a sphere, actually, extending into the ground. Completely black; it’d be a lot easier to see in daytime.”

“How-” Tide and I spoke at the same time. We glanced at each other, and I waved a hand and let her talk. “How do you know?”

“I can see the other side. It ends about the same distance from our place on the other side, so-”

“It’s definitely centred there,” I finished the thought, cutting him off. “Not like we didn’t already know that.”

“Stonewall?” Freefall asked. She was still carrying me, so I had to twist my neck oddly to look at her.

“It does look like him,” Tide agreed. “Why would he do that, though?”

“He didn’t,” Foresight said. “His are solid, this isn’t.”

“Okay, so I know you like being all cagey about your power, but it’s totally like astral projection, right?” I said. “Come on, it’s obvious.” He ignored me, as did Tide, but Freefall chuckled quietly. The way I was positioned, I could actually feel it, which was mildly unnerving. “Thank you.”

“Well, if it’s not solid, can you see inside, then?”

“‘Not solid’ and ‘transparent’ aren’t the same thing. I get a very unpleasant tingling sensation when I get close, which is… a first.”

“Aww,” I cooed, “is baby scared?”

“I’d hit you, but you might actually die.” He considered it for a second. “Tempting as that is.”

“Well,” Tide said, “standing around here isn’t getting anything done.” She began walking down the street, and we followed.

“You say that now,” I quipped, “but five minutes from now when everything sorts itself out, you’ll feel pretty du-”

Freefall let me go for just a second, and my stomach lurched, but she caught me almost immediately. “Okay, message received,” I said, a little shakily.

Up close, the dome was still black, but not quite as impenetrably so. It shimmered slightly, shifting and flickering. It also didn’t have the same weight to it Stonewall’s power did, that sense of the light being erased when it touched it.

We all glanced at each other. “I say Foresight tests it,” I said immediately.

“Anyone got anything they’re not gonna miss?” Tide asked, ignoring me. Foresight pulled out something small and metallic; the bullet he’d caught. “Perfect.” She took it from him, and tossed it at the barrier.

It disappeared as soon as it touched it, the surface not changing in the slightest. “Why did you even keep that?” I asked him.

“For something exactly like this.”

“You were going to keep it, weren’t you?” His face didn’t move at all. “Hah! You were so proud! That’s amazing.”

“Skew, you need to get your shit together.” Tide actually sounded a little pissed.

“Hey, don’t blame me,” I said airily. “It’s all these endorphins from not being dead. Also, probably some kind of concussion. Second in as many days, actually. That can’t be healthy.”

“Really?” Foresight said acidly. “I haven’t noticed any difference.”

“See, that’s because you’re as dumb as a bag of shit.”

“I cannot believe I’m having to be the responsible one here,” Tide muttered, under her breath but loud enough for us to hear. “Making me fulfill some shitty gender stereotypes. Okay!” She clapped her hands together. “Skew, give me your scarf.”

“What?” My hand instinctively reached up to my throat, where said scarf had somehow remained through everything. “Why? I like this scarf.”

“Do you like it more than a finger? Because that’s the other option.”

I sighed, unraveled it and tossed it to her. She caught it with a nod, then turned and swished the edge through the barrier.

It emerged unscathed, and this time, there was a mild disturbance that followed in its wake, like water.

“Okay,” said Foresight, looking at the rapidly-fading ripples, “but we still don’t know. It could only affect organic things.”

“Screw it,” I said. “Let’s just blast through. I’d do it, but I’m out of juice. Tide?”

She glanced at the shield again, then shrugged. “Yeah. Yeah, fuck it. Why not.” Bracing herself, she clenched a fist and pulled it upwards, dragging an oblong swell of tarmac up in concert with it. She slammed the hand back down, and the oblong violently depressed, sending a wave shooting forward through the tarmac, and slamming into the barrier.

As soon as they made contact, the wave disappeared, and Tide staggered backwards, clutching at her head. “Mother of FUCK!” she screamed. “Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck.” She took a deep breath, then let it out slowly. “Fucking ow. God, that was awful.”

I eyed the shield again. “How much power did you put behind that?”

“A pretty decent amount,” she groaned.

It hadn’t even rippled. “Man, I’m glad I didn’t try that.”

“You’re welcome,” she snarked, sounding pained.

“No trouble. So we’ll need something pretty powerful to break through, huh?”

“I might be able to help with that,” came a new voice from behind us.

We all spun around (well, Freefall did the spinning for me) to find the girl with the lavender scarf from Wednesday standing there. What did she say her name was? Wasp? No, that wasn’t it. She had the same cobbled-together scarf, hood and goggles as last time, but she was wearing civilian clothes underneath them. Supporting her, one arm wrapped around her torso, was another girl, one I didn’t recognize. She was shorter, looking Native American at a guess, and dressed in jeans and a dark shirt, with one of those dark-green canvas jackets with all the patches. Strangely, she also wore a pair of mirrored sunglasses, even though it was a dark night.

Seeing our reaction, the girl (Whiff?) took a step backwards, forcing Shades to do the same. “Sorry, sorry sorry sorry,” she said hastily, holding up her free hand. “Sorry. I didn’t mean to- I was just-” Her gaze settled on me, and the shock was enough to jar her out of her stuttering. “Holy crap,” she breathed. “What the heck happened to you?”

“Many things,” I said tiredly. “Many, consecutive things. Hey…” the act of actually forming a sentence jogged my memory, “Wisp.”

“Skew,” Tide asked warily, looking at the two of them. “Who are they?”

“Oh! Right, sorry.” I’d forgotten Tide hadn’t actually met her at any point, or vice-versa. “Wisp, Tide. Tide, Wisp, and…” I trailed off, looking at the other girl.

“An innocent bystander,” she said, “who would very much like to leave.” Wisp shot her a sideways glance, and she sighed. “Kai.”

“Oookay then.” I turned my attention back to Wisp. “What are you doing here?”

She bit her lip, looking nervous. “Well, it’s kind of a long story? But, the, ah, people from the school, you know, Green Cloak and Metalface-”

“I call them the Prowlers,” I jumped in helpfully.

“The… Prowlers?” She considered it. “Yeah, okay. Anyway, I found them,” she gestured to her companion, “with Kai’s help, but they’d met up with some mercenaries. And they were talking about employers, and the government, and some datapad?” All four of us reacted to that; she didn’t seem to notice, but Kai did. “And the mercenary leader had files on all of you, and they were gonna attack you to get the datapad, but then they found out I was there, and-” she’d gradually been running out of brief through all of that, and she finally had to stop and take a breath. “Anyway, they’re two people down, but they’re still here, obviously, and we tried to get here ahead of them, but we didn’t. So we’re here to help.”

She’s here to help,” Kai jumped in. “I just wanted brownie points.”

I could see Tide trying to take that all in, and obviously not doing so well. “What did you mean, you could help? Earlier, that is.”

She frowned. “Well, you need something strong to get through that barrier, right? I’m pretty strong.”

Tide looked at her, then at Kai, holding her upright. “Are you.”

She blushed, embarrased. “Sorry. I know it must look- sorry. Here, I’ll show you. Kai, can you just help me- thanks.” They began moving over to the wall, and Wisp slid herself down it into a sitting position. She sagged, obviously weary, then closed her eyes. She remained like that for a moment or two, then her eyes opened, and she hopped up onto her feet unassissted.

“Could you have done that at any time?” Kai asked flatly. “We trekked halfway across town.”

“I know, I know. I couldn’t have done it before, though; it’s complicated. Thank you so much for your help. I get it if you want to leave now.”

The shorter girl looked away, sticking her hands in the pockets of her jacket. “I’m already here,” she said, doing a poor job of sounding casual, “might as well stick around.”

Wisp grinned, awkward but genuine. “Thank you,” she said again, then turned and began striding towards the barrier. “Okay, this should work.”

“How strong are you?” I asked curiously.

She bent down, and scooped out a chunk of concrete with her bare hand like it was plasticene. I stared at it. “Pretty strong,” she said.

“Uh-huh.” My head was suddenly filled with horrifying thoughts of what that would look like when done to human flesh.

She dropped the chunk, and moved until she was directly in front of the dome. She stopped, took a deep breath, then swung a fist at it. Poor technique, sloppy, but I guess she didn’t really need it with that much raw power. Still, there was a pretty decent chance she would have overbalanced even if the barrier hadn’t been completely unsubstantial.

With a slight yelp, she fell forward, disappearing through the blackness. We all jolted forward, then stopped, unsure what to do.

For a few seconds, there was nothing. Then, her head appeared back through the barrier, and we all breathed a sigh of relief. “Good news!” she said happily. “It’s not solid.”

“You don’t say. What’s on the other side?”

Her face grew a bit grim. “It’s probably better you see for yourself.”

I glanced at the other Outliers, even Foresight, and saw that everyone liked that statement about as much as I did. That is, not at all. But we steeled ourselves, and, bracing ourselves as we did so, walked straight into the black forcefield.

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