Prepared 20-VI

Can’t Be Caught Unawares.

“Of course she'd hide it on the docks,” I grumbled, as Wisp slumped back into unconsciousness up ahead. “Typical.”

Void glanced back at us, and the group as a whole. “Remember the plan,” she called out, before lifting off into the air. Beside her, Freefall vanished with her usual lack of flair.

“Why is that typical?” asked Kai. She wasn’t nearly as winded as I was, which I took as a personal insult.

“Because,” I panted, “Li- Ricochet is basically a danger-junkie with zero sense of subtlety. So, if someone asked her to hide something, in order to keep it away from criminals and other unsavoury sorts, where else is she going to put it-”

“-than right under their noses,” she finished.

“Uh, yeah. Exactly.” Another reminder that I didn’t really know anything about her; it wasn’t common knowledge about the smuggling gigs that ran out of the old docks, or the fact that they often clashed over it. “You a street kid?” I asked, working from an intuition.

She pretended not to hear me, which I took as a yes. Probably a touchy subject, then.
We’d fallen far enough behind that I almost missed the next communication, the sound muffled by distance. The panicked tone caught my attention though, and I focused in. “They’re, uh, spreading out, looking for it, somewhere in fifty meters, and-”

And we rounded the corner, to see the mercenary leader standing over a limp form on the ground.

“Ricochet is… down. She’s been shot.”

For a moment, everything was still. I could hear my own blood pumping in my ears. Then, my veins filled with ice, bitterly cold and frigid. Absolutely fucking not.

The others were talking about something, chattering in alarmed voices, but I tuned them out. Wasn’t important. My whole body burnt with pain, my lungs gasped for breath, but somehow those didn’t seem as big of a deal as they had seconds ago. In fact, they didn’t seem relevant at all. Without even thinking about it, I powered ahead of them, my vision tunneling down until all I could see was the man, and Lis, still fine, still alive, just lying down and not moving and blood pooling out from-

Someone was yelling. I realized belatedly that it was me. I didn’t remember deciding to do that, but it seemed appropriate, so I let it keep happening. The mercenary, gun still in hand, spun around, shock etched into his face, just in time for me to hit him with a flying tackle and send him flying to the ground.

More by chance than by any particular skill or effort, I ended up on top of him. I swung both fists down towards his head in a hammerblow, but he managed to get one arm out from underneath me and block it. My blow bounced off like it had just hit rubber, but his arm was forced downwards too, and I hit it again, forcing it to bounce straight into his face, knocking it against the concrete. It, too, bounced: a very small, very quiet part of my brain noted that he must have been able to shapeshift parts of himself. That was fine by me, though; I smacked his head down again and again with a fist, treating it like a spring-loaded punching bag. It was kind of funny, actually, until my fist connected and found something hard and unyielding instead of flesh. There was a nasty crack that I felt even through the haze, and one my fingers stopped doing what I told it to do.

The mercenary tossed me off him, and reached for the gun he’d dropped, pointing it at me. He fired, but I’d been ready, and the pistol tore itself to pieces as the bullet tried to exit vertically through the slide. To his credit, he didn’t waste any time being confused, instantly tossing the useless hunk of metal to the side, but he’d already lost the moment, and I hit him again, in the side this time, sending a furious spike of pain from my finger up my arm. That wasn’t going to be sustainable, so I instead used it to grab his arm, grasped his shoulder with the other, and pivoted around my hip and slammed him to the ground.

He hit with a pained grunt, and something snaked around my arms and pulled me down with him. I leant into it, landing on his chest with both knees, causing him to lose his weird snake-grip on my arms.

Then, I proceeded to hit him until he stopped moving.

And then I hit him some more, and I pretty much kept on doing that for the next little while.

At some point, hands grabbed me and lifted me off him. “Flint?” someone asked. It was Void, staring at me concernedly through the gash in her helmet. “Are you…”

“Fix her,” I said dully. “Go get your healer, and fix her.” All the energy had drained out of me, and I stared off into the distance, not willing to look down at-

“Flint, she’s-”

“Just… please, Talie.”

“Yeah, Talie,” said a weak voice. “Go get him.”

“Oh cool,” I said tiredly, “I’m imagining voices now. That’s fun.”

The voice laughed weakly. “What a surprise, Flint’s crazy.”

Void stared at me flatly. “Like I was trying to say before you interrupted me-”

“I live, motherfucker,” said Lis.

“Well, not that exactly.”

I stared blankly at her for a moment. She’d rolled over onto her back, and was sitting up awkwardly, with both hands clutched to her gut. Her headgear was pulled up off her face, and she was pale and sweating profusely, looking pained.

But she was alive.

“Would it actually kill you if I hugged you right now?” I asked with a weak grin.

She rolled her eyes. “It’d kill me even if I hadn’t just been shot.”

That brought the reality back in. “How bad is it?” Void asked.

“I’ve had worse,” she said, wincing. “But there was always someone with a medical kit right there.”

“You’ve been shot before?”

“Yep. My mom did it once, just so I’d know what it felt like.”

“Well, that was a horrifying sneak peak into your childhood,” Void muttered. “Look, I don’t want to move you right now. I’m gonna go and get Da- a healer.” She glanced at me. “He should probably have a look at you too, Flint.” I was too tired to protest. “Keep pressure on that. I will be right back with help.”

She lifted off into the air, and we watched her go. One of the others started dragging Porter’s unconscious body away, but I couldn’t muster up the energy to lift my head and see who it was.

“I can’t believe you got yourself captured,” I said to her.

“Oh, fuckin’ excuse me, who just got locked in a fuckin’ kill room for like a day?!”

“How did you even hear about that?!”

“I gots sources.”

“You’re a fucking liar and you know it.”

“Souuurceeesssss.” She waggled her fingers at me, then immediately winced and put her hand back.

Footsteps approached. “Are you two alive?” Tide asked.

“Barely,” Lis and I said together. “Oh shut the fuck up,” she continued immediately, “I’m way closer to death than you are.”

I made a face at her.

Tide sighed. “Okay, so you’re both fine, then.".

“Hey, guys!” It was Wisp’s voice, and she was close enough to my current field of vision that I managed to look at her. She was waving one hand at us, and holding something in the other. “Is this it?”

“Yep,” said Green Cloak, as she appeared behind her, snatched the datapad and disappeared again.

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