Prepared 20-IV

The Murkiest Scam.

As soon as the mercenaries were out of sight, Void snapped her head up and began pointing and gesturing silently. It was a rough and crude system, but it got the idea across. Point at Freefall and herself, then in the direction the mercenaries had left, Freefall and I will follow them. Wide spread to cover all of us, same direction again, then indicating space between her hands, everyone else, following further back. Eyes, then a shake of the head, don't be seen.

What? Did you think we were actually just going to let them go? You mustn't have been paying attention very well, then.

“Wait-” Wisp started to say, confused, but I whacked her in the arm with the back of a hand and shushed her. She snapped her mouth closed, looking embarrassed, then gestured vaguely around. What’s going on?

I held up one finger. Wait. Void had stopped gesturing, one hand held up in a stop sign and her head cocked to the side. She must have heard something, because she nodded, and gestured for everyone to come to her. We did so, Vortex picking up and carrying Ribbon’s limp form, until we were all arranged in a small huddle. It really helped highlight the height differences in our group, too: Tide had stood next to Vortex (because of Ribbon), and there was an almost comical size discrepancy between the two of them.

“Alright,” Void said in a low voice, “they shouldn’t be able to hear us now.

“What is going on?” Wisp demanded. “Just a second ago, you were all-”

“We were faking it so that we could get out of that situation and set ourselves up for a better one.”

“Wait,” Stonewall said, “we were faking it?”

“Yes, Adib,” Vortex said with long-suffering patience.

“Oh! So we’re not actually-”

“No, Adib.”

“Good,” he said, satisfied. “If we had to leave Lisette I’d feel bad, even though she isn’t very nice.”

Despite the situation, that got a chuckle out of everyone. Well, all of the Outliers. Wisp and whatshername just seemed confused, probably because they had no way of matching names to the people. “What’s the plan, then?” Wisp asked instead. “Can you get to this… datapad before they do?”

“Well, it’s harder to move with a hostage, trust me. Especially one as… uh, as Ricochet as she is,” I said. “But we’re not very mobile ourselves, right now.”

“Of course you know about moving with hostages,” Flatline said dryly.

“Besides,” Void said before I could reply, “whether through coincidence or intention, they’ve managed to screw us over even more. As a safety measure, Ricochet was the only one who knew where the datapad actually was. So we don’t actually have any way of finding it except following them. Which we need to do stealthily, from a distance.” Her gaze moved over to me. “Flint. You’re staying behind.” For some reason, Wisp’s head snapped to me at that.

“No, I’m not,” I replied immediately, “and do you really want to waste the time arguing about it?”

She continued, conceding the point. “You two,” Kai and Wisp, “powers. Five seconds or less.”

“...mirror shields,” Kai said reluctantly.

“It’s complicated,” Wisp said almost at the same time. “A lot of stuff, really. I think I can follow them without them seeing, though?”

“Will we be able to follow you?”

“Ah- not exactly. But, I think I can tell you when they get there? If you’re willing to carry my body around while I do.”

“I can do that!” Stonewall said.

“I… don’t doubt it.”

“Do that, then. But give us general directions to move in as well.”

Wisp nodded, then closed her eyes and collapsed like a marionette. She fell against Kai, who only barely managed to keep her upright. “A... little… help?” she groaned, straining under the weight. True to his word, Stonewall hurried over to her and delicately picked Wisp’s body up, holding it easily. Apparently, being carried was the theme of the day.

“Same ideas as before apply,” Void continued. “Shock and awe, hit them hard and fast. Freefall initiates-”

Wisp snapped her head up. “They’re moving north,” she said rapidly, then immediately collapsed again.

“Well, that’s freaky,” I muttered, and Kai nodded her assent next to me.

“North, then. We’ll give it another minute to be safe, then we’re off. Freefall, stay high. If you can, hit them once they’ve found the datapad. If they’re indoors, I want you to wait outside and we’ll try and draw them out. If they’re indoors, Tide, you’re the opener, so be ready. Mirror shields, I want you on the guy with the metal mask. Your power should nullify his.” Kai didn’t even have time to protest before she plowed ahead. “Vortex, Stonewall, work on containing glowy arms. She and I stalemate, and that’s pointless. I’ll go after the leader. The rest of you focus on the others. Don’t let them get another dome up, however they do it, and don’t let them get away with the datapad. Flint, if he tries to hurt Ricochet before I can get him off her, you stop him.”

“They’ve turned left,” Wisp said, “heading towards the shore.” She didn’t bother sitting up this time.

“Okay, that’s long enough. Let’s move, people. If you’re injured, do your best to keep up. Tide, I’m sorry, but Ribbon’s gonna have to be okay here. She’s too out of it.” She frowned, kneeling by her girlfriend with one hand placed protectively on her back, but nodded reluctantly.

“Shouldn’t we stick our hands in the middle and do a cheer before we go?” Flatline asked with a smirk.

“Sure, but ‘3, 2, 1, these fuckers came into our home and tried fucking with our friend so let’s show them exactly why that was a mistake’ is a bit wordy.”

“I like ‘3, 2, 1, fuck ‘em!’” I offered.

Freefall broke the huddle and began striding towards the exit without a word. “Spoilsport,” I called after her.

The rest of us followed her example, though. As we did, we started inspecting various pieces of gear and weapons. I would’ve liked to have had a gun, considering my state, but Lis and I were the only ones who really carried, and she was… so I couldn’t borrow one off of someone.

Kai fell in beside me, for lack of better options. “She’s, uh, something, huh?” she said quietly, looking at Void up ahead.

I was too tired to make a joke out of it. “Yeah,” I replied. “Yeah, she is. This whole thing wouldn’t work at all if she wasn’t.”

We passed through the dome, and were suddenly awash with light. Relatively speaking, that is. I hadn’t noticed while in there, but the lack of ambient light had really been creating some dissonance in my head. It was nice to have it back.

Up ahead, Wisp said something again, and Void quickened her pace, pulling even further ahead. I sighed, and picked up my pace in turn, body aching in protest.

As we moved out, for some reason, I felt the need to look over my shoulder. There was nothing there, though; just the dome, and above and around it the lights of the city, and the Tower, stretching up into the sky. I squinted at it. Was it… brighter than normal?

No, no. I was just imagining it.

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