Prepared 20-V

HANNAH
As Far As Brains Go.

The cold hit me like a slap in the face, and I had to stop myself from yelping. Surprisingly, all those fires produced a lot of warmth. My eyes snapped open, and I jolted forward, and, because I'd been sitting against a wall with my knees up, immediately hit them with my chest. People always told me I had bony knees, but I’d never really appreciated what they meant until then. I groaned softly as I rocked back, glad that no-one was around, and that I was invisible. Just one or the other probably would have been sufficient, but I felt better having double the certainty.

Slowly, I stood, feeling mild pins and needles running through my legs. They were also quite cold, and it occurred to me that leaving my real, physical body out in the cold probably hadn’t been the smartest idea. It was lucky I’d come back to it so quickly; that would have been an ignoble way to go. Would I die, though? If my brain was in another body.

“How about we pretend the answer is yes, absolutely, and never ever try and test it?”

...good point.

I almost missed them at first in the gloom. They’d gotten surprisingly far, already a good dozen yards down the road. I hadn’t even thought about it, but it was lucky they’d come out this way. If they’d gone in the opposite direction, I’d have had no way of knowing. Maybe don’t mention that part to… anyone.

I went to run after them, but after a few seconds, realised there was no point if I didn’t report back. I quickly found a position that would keep me vaguely upright, and switched back.

“They’re moving north,” I said, snapping my head up to look at them, and immediately regretting it. Going from mostly upright to sideways and off the ground did a number on my head, so I quickly switched back before it got worse, got back on my feet and resumed following.

They were moving quickly, for obvious reasons, but they had a hostage, and I have long legs, so I quickly caught up with them. I gave them some space, though, trying to get a good balance between still being able to react quickly if they did anything, and not being, you know, near them. I may have leaned more towards the latter than the former.

Ricochet didn’t have a knife to her throat anymore, but her hands had been cuffed behind her back, and she was walking in the centre of the group with a gun pointed at her. She was completely stripped of weaponry now; it seemed to have been distributed evenly amongst the mercenaries, all of whom were scanning their surroundings in a calm manner. The Prowlers were technically doing the same thing, but with them it looked more twitchy and panicked. None of them spoke, but apparently Ricochet had decided to make up for it by herself.

“Yer goin’ the wro-ong way,” she said loudly, in a mock sing-song voice. “Every last one of ya is an walking, talking slap in th’ face of evolutionary theory whose parents din’ have the good sense to smother them in the crib. Ya wouldn’t know a good idea if it f***ed ya in the ass, and you’re gooooooing the wrooooooong waaaaaay.”

“Be quiet,” Porter said, with the air of someone repeating themselves.

“Haha, f***in’ noooooope. Your mother,” she said, turning her head to look at Khan, “was a whore, your father was a whore, an’ the only reason that’s not in present tense is cause they were both so stupid they got distracted and forgot how to breathe. You,” at Blur, “are a sack of feces that somehow gained sentience. And you,” at Jensen, who was leading the way, “are obviously a decendant of Christopher Columbus.”

He ignored her.

“Because you’re going the wronggggggggggggggg f***in’ way!”

“If you don’t shut up I will shoot you,” Porter snapped at her.

She snorted loudly. “Ya would’ve done it already. But yoooooooouuu can’t risk it!”

“Are you drunk?” asked the other female merc, the one whose name I’d not heard. “Serious question.”

“Cole.” Oh, well, there you go. “Don’t”

“A lil’, yeah,” Ricochet replied casually. “In my defense, very sh*tty awful day.”

“You were not,” Porter said flatly. “It is impossible you did anything you just did while tipsy.”

“Ya lack imagination, my man.”

“Now who’s engaging her?” Cole asked.

Ricochet snickered. “I like her,” she said to no-one in particular.

“Jeez. And we thought the others were crazy.”

Why haven’t they just killed her, though? The group turned to the left down a side street, and I quickly did the switch, told the Outliers, and came back again before following them around it. If they don’t need her to find it…

“Maybe they don’t know her power? It didn’t look like she was using it before.”

Seems like a lot of risk, then. And annoyance.

“Well, she’s still leverage.”

The stream of… erm, colorful insults, mixed with constant reminders of their apparent directional ineptitude, continued almost unabated as we passed through streets and alleyways, moving towards the waterfront. I couldn’t tell if she was saying it because they were going the right way, or if they weren’t; either seemed equally likely. They seemed very confident in it, but she wasn’t acting particularly worried. Then again, crazy.

I kept the Outliers updated regularly, but switching back and forth so much was actually starting to make my head hurt, so it was something of a relief when they finally stopped moving, in front of one of the piers on the docks.

“This is as close as I can get us,” Jensen said, still staring at a device on his wrist. “Within fifty meters, for sure.”

That included three piers, and at least one building on the other side of the road. “Care to enlighten us as to where to look?” Porter asked Ricochet dryly.

“Oh, sure,” she replied cheerily. “Ya might need to move yer head out of the way first.”

“My… head?”

“Yep! See, with it so far up yer own ass, you won’t be able to get right in there and find all the f***s I don’t give.”

I missed the next bit, because I was telling the others, but when I returned, a little dizzy, Ricochet was laughing her head off. “Worth it,” she wheezed.

“Everyone spread out!” Porter ordered. “Check everywhere. And you three,” addressing the Prowlers, “if you start getting any ideas, remember that our mutual friend is paying close attention.”

As the others moved away, he returned his attention to Ricochet, and something seemed different about it now. More focused, and he pointed his gun at Ricochet with more intensity, more… intent.

“Ohhh, I know what this bit is,” she said, not even slightly discomfited. “You… nah, nah, not torture, none of your team would give two shits if ya jus’ did it. Mercy, that’s it! You try and cut me a deal now, with everyone away not to undermine ya.” She grinned. “Am I right, or am I right?”

“You’re not,” he said, and shot her.


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