Prepared 20-I

HANNAH
Stick With Me.

The building was on fire, and it wasn't hard to figure out whose fault it was.

I’d expected the inside of the dome to be pitch-black, but it was surprisingly well-lit, the streetlights still giving off flickering white light. It would have been darker without the ambient light from the rest of the city, but the fire more than made up for that. It roared and crackled, a giant blaze that had consumed the entire front facade of the Outliers’ warehouse and had begun to spill out onto the street. Which was strange, because neither of those things were in any way flammable, and yet they burned anyway.

Did we see all the mercenaries’ powers? Is that one of them?

“Well, there was super-speed, glowy fists, and… knife-producing? Maybe? So between this and the dome, that probably covers all their powers.”

Hmm. Then again, one of them did have some kind of tech stuff, didn’t he? One or both could be that, too.

“Does it really matter?”

Well-

“That was rhetorical. It doesn’t.”

I turned, to see the others enter the dome behind me. The inky blackness of the shield seemed to cling to all of them as they passed through, stretching out slightly before snapping back, which actually looked pretty gross. Foresight came first, his hands raised warily, then Tide, who was still looking at me with mistrust. Then Freefall, carrying Skew, and finally Kai, a few feet away from the others and watching them with blatant mistrust. I guess I couldn’t really blame her; I still wasn’t sure if I trusted them 100% myself.

All their heads immediately snapped to the burning building as soon as they were through. Kai looked surprised, and a little concerned, but the Outliers were…

Oh geez.

They were pissed.

“Makes sense. That’s their base, right? Gotta sting.”

“We should’ve killed them in that bloody lab,” Tide growled.

“Lab?” I asked, without thinking.

“Long story,” Skew said, waving a hand, but not looking away from the building. “Not relevant. What is relevant is rectifying that mistake as soon as possible. Wisp, you said they were with mercenaries?” She managed to still be surprisingly serious while being carried in someone’s arms.

I nodded. “Five of them. Uhh, the leader seemed sharp? I guess they all did. They had one speedster, but he, uh, got stabbed? So I don’t think he’s here. Then the big lady has some kind of destructo-fists? Like a glowing energy thing around her hands, seemed to destroy matter. The others, I don’t know. With the- Prowlers,” that was actually a pretty good name for them, “you don’t have to worry about the teleporter. She’s…” I winced, but couldn’t resist, “‘armless.” They stared at me blankly. “She’s missing an arm.” Thinking about it made the nausea swell up again, but now that I was removed from the situation and in a better headspace, I could just push it back down again.

“Really?” Skew asked. “How’d that happen?”

I frowned. “Not relevant? Anyway, I don’t know if you know, but there’s four of them, not three.”

“The blurry one? Yeah, we know.”

“Just so we’re clear,” Kai said loudly, “I have no fu- effin’ clue what any of you are talking about.”

“It’s a good thing nobody cares about you, then, tagalong,” said Foresight dismissively.

Kai stared at him, and opened her mouth, but before she could speak, the other three Outliers chorused “shut up, Foresight” in unison. He glared at them, but did indeed shut up. When we’d last interacted, he’d complained about how the others treated him, and I was starting to get an idea of why that was.

“Wisp,” Kai muttered to me as she sidled up to beside me, “who are these people, and why are they crazy?”

“They’re vigilantes,” I answered back at the same volume, “and… they’re vigilantes. I think you have to be a little crazy, to do that in a city like this.”

She raised an eyebrow. “Aren’t you one?”

“I- no!” I protested. “This is temporary! I’m just- I’m not-”

“Uh-huh,” she said, sounding utterly unconvinced. “You can stop any time you want.”

“Yes, that, but, like, not sarcastically.” I don’t think I did a very good job of convincing her.

“...and I can’t f***in’ walk,” Skew was saying. “We’re not in any state to be going up against three unknowns and,” she made air-quotes, “‘destructo-fists’.” I winced. My mouth had gotten a little away from me there.

I stepped towards them, waving a hand a little.“Um, yeah, sorry to interrupt. Is there a reason you guys are all just standing around instead of, you know, doing something?”

“That,” Tide growled, “is a very good question.” The mostly calm demeanour she’d had outside seemed to have dropped away as soon as she’d seen the fire. In fact, she seemed kind of antsy, hands clenching and unclenching and foot tapping as she stared at the fire.

“Because,” Skew said to me, ignoring her, “in case you hadn’t noticed, we’ve been through some shit tonight, and aren’t exactly in any shape to be rushing in?” She grinned humorlessly to reveal blood-stained teeth. “Especially when we don’t even know half of what we’re going up against. I dunno about what’s going on in your head, but personally, I’m not keen to die any time soon.”

“Shame,” Foresight muttered.

“So yeah, we’re trying to make something resembling a plan. If the other Outliers are in there, they can handle themselves for a minute longer. Besides, dollars to donuts Void’s in there, and she can probably handle the entire situation on her own.”

As if on cue, the front facade of the warehouse shattered as something smashed out from the inside. A white blur, it went flying through the air and slammed into the front of the building opposite, before dropping to the ground. Chunks of rubble sprayed out from the explosion, one large one landing only a few feet away from us. Dust swirled around the exit and impact points, but not enough to obscure the projectile, or the fact that it was person-shaped. They hung inside their impact crater for a second, before gravity reasserted itself and they fell to the ground, landing in a kneeling crouch. That… would be Void, then.

“Or maybe not,” Skew said resignedly.

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