Prepared 20-VII

Run Away, And Never Return.

Everything was happening too fast. I stared at Ricochet’s limp form, frozen in place and panicking. This wasn’t happening, this wasn’t happening, this wasn’t-

“Stop. Not now. The others need to know. You can freak out later.”

I don’t- I gathered myself, switched. Okay. ““They’re, uh-” my voice caught in my throat, “spreading out, looking for it, somewhere in fifty meters, and- Ricochet is… down. She’s been shot.” I couldn’t bear to stick around to see the reaction, and I was back, staring at Porter’s back.

“Okay, it’s just him. You can take him. Hit him from behind, try and-”

With an unholy scream, Skew came charging around the corner, nearly bowling me over, and slammed into Porter, bearing him to the ground.

Oh. I didn’t realize they were that close. Skew had charged on ahead of the others, but they were close behind. “Skew!” Void yelled at him, which was about as effective as shouting at a wall. “D*mnit. Round them up,” she said to the others.
“We have the numbers advantage, so take advantage of it.”

They split off, moving towards the mercenaries and Prowlers still in the open.

Which abruptly left me with nothing to do. Skew seemed to have Porter well in hand (by which I meant that I wasn’t going anywhere near someone that obviously, apocalyptically ticked off) and Void was moving towards Ricochet. I didn’t want to go and help the others fight; it felt like giving up my presence was the wrong thing to do, and I wasn’t going to be moving around a fight while invisible and get friendly-fired to death. I guess I’m looking for this datapad, then. If I were a crazy gun-obsessed vigilante, where around here would I hide something?

I turned, scanning the area. There weren’t that many options, and all of them had been taken by one of the bad guys. Abandoned building across the road, two piers, bus stop, some kind of small security shack? All of them seemed equally likely. The piers were being handled by the Outliers, so that left security shack, building, bus stop.

“Eenie meenie minie-”


“Fine, be a spoilsport.”

We need to think about this.
“Based on what? You’ve got literally no idea about any of these. Guessing is all we have. It could be any of the three.”

Or… My eyes fell on the sewer grate a few feet away.


It makes sense.

“No. No more sewers.”

You think I'm happy about it? Retreading the same darn thing over and over?

“You understand we’re going to stink for days?”

You understand your priorities are way off?

“Let me have this.”

The grate was really darn heavy, and I couldn’t use my powers without revealing myself, but I eventually managed to my fingers into the gaps, lift it above the lip and slide it partially open, just enough to slip through. It was a pretty safe bet no-one was paying enough attention to notice it, but just in case, I replaced so that it was almost back in place, with just a sliver of a gap to let the light through. No easy feat when hanging from a ladder, but I managed.

Sadly, I didn’t find a room with a chest in the center, bathed in a perfect halo of light, and the datapad inside. It was just a sewer, like the others, with nothing in sight that looked even remotely like a hiding place.

“Good guess, dingus.”

Shush, there’s probably more of those tunnels around here. The sewer stretched out for a long while to my left and right, but straight ahead of me was another shorter path, and then a t-junction. Investigating it revealed that it was the same as the previous one, with one crucial difference: a rectangular concrete doorway, out of sight from where the entrance was. Unlike the others, though, this one actually had a door on it, a solid steel slab with a chunk lock attached.

No one was going to see me down here, so I made a clone and crushed the lock in my hand, then swung the door open. It was soundless and smooth, enough so that I almost hit myself with it. Behind it was a short dark corridor, and a small, square room, with, I kid you not, a single light hanging from the ceiling, pointing at a large metal safe.

“Item get,” I muttered to myself as I began walking forward.

“It’s absolutely trapped, right?”

No crap. I ghosted just before entering the room properly, and as I looked down, I could just barely see the light reflecting off of a tripwire as my legs passed through it. Wasn’t hard to figure out what would have happened if I’d pulled that.

There were probably other traps as well, but I didn’t see any obvious signs of them as I walked up to the safe, and crouched down in front of it. It had a large, complicated looking dial in the center, which seemed like too much trouble, so I just pushed a finger through the seam of the door and dragged it through the hinges. The door fell forward and hit the ground with a clang, revealing the interior, and the datapad.

There was other stuff too; some large oddly-coloured bullets, what looked like an old CB radio, a single, battered notebook, green with a fraying spine, and money. Quite a bit of it, multiple stacks in multiple currencies. Suddenly, I felt a bit bad for breaking the door, but it wasn’t like she had given me the code. Besides, all the traps were still there. I picked up the datapad, tried to put the door back in place as best I could, and turned around to leave.

Hugging the pad to my chest seemed to allow me to keep holding it when I ghosted, like doing so with my glasses had made them invisible along with me. I shut the door behind me, went to switch back, but then reconsidered and left my real body there. It was probably safer that way.

When I pushed the grate out of the way and stuck my head out, it was clear that the fight was over. The Outliers had the Prowlers and mercenaries tied and/or cuffed to various objects, including Porter, who had been dragged away from Ricochet, and were now sort of milling about. Kai was near them, but still slightly separate, leaning against a wall with her arms folded. Skew was lying on her back next to Ricochet, who had rolled over onto her back and was now pressing her hands to her wound. Seeing that was a relief: I didn’t know her, but as a general rule I’m more of a fan of people living.

“Hey, guys!” I yelled at the group as I clambered out of the sewer, waving the datapad with one hand. “Is this it?”

“Yep,” said Green Cloak’s voice from behind me, and something pulled the pad out of my hand. Hearing her voice, I instinctively spun around, trying to hit her, but she was already gone, the suction left in her place pulling me forward slightly.

I spun around, wide-eyed, trying to follow where she’d gone, but I couldn’t see her anywhere.

“Are you,” Skew’s voice said, and I turned back to see her pulling herself up into something resembling a sitting position, “F***ING KIDDING ME?” The others were yelling, spreading out and darting around as she continued to yell from her prone position.

I stared mutely down at my hand. Something was bubbling up inside me, like boiling acid or liquid nitrogen, something that had been building all night. It forced its way up my throat, and out my mouth, and I clutched at my hair and screamed, wordless frustration and anger and the sheer frickin’ pointlessness of it all condensed into a single sound.

“Bad night, huh?” called a familiar voice. Hollow, echoey.

Oh, no.

I looked up to see Stump standing on a rooftop above us, flanked by the other Guardians, and behind them, all four members of Valiant.

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