Prepared 20-Vignette | 2

Be Prepared.

A year and seven months ago, or thereabouts.

“I still don’t see why I have to come with you,” Flint grumbled, leaning against the wall of the elevator. He was dressed sloppily, a dark, baggy hoodie, and faded and torn jeans. His hair was the awkward length of a shaven head left to grow on its own for too long, and deep, heavy bags sat underneath his eyes.

“It’ll be a learning experience,” Marco replied with a small smile. In contrast to his son, he stood tall, relaxed but formal, and was dressed in a suit, charcoal grey with a dull red shirt and no tie. The briefcase he held at his side was large, black, and had at least four different locks on it. “Seeing as you kept sleeping through the summer classes.”

“It’s not like that’s my fault,” Flint protested. “Who the hell even needs to know about angular momentum anyway?”

“You’d be amazed at the things from school you end up remembering years later,” Marco said mildly. “But more importantly, you need to know about angular momentum, so you can pass your tests and graduate, and go to college. What happened to that art degree you were all excited about?”

Flint stared at the floor and said nothing, hands in pockets.

Marco sighed, and checked his watch.

The elevator dinged, and the doors opened to reveal a bustling corridor, with glass walls looking down onto the city center below. People in business clothing hurried back and forth, juggling papers and folders and mugs of caffeinated drinks. Marco stepped out, seamlessly folding himself into the flow of the crowd, and Flint hurried out after him, not nearly as graceful. His attire stood out, and he found himself on the receiving end of a few suspicious looks before he managed to catch up to Marco hide in his wake.

“I could actually be doing things now,” he complained, again.

“What things?”

“You know…” he gestured incoherently. “Things.”

“Things like sulking in your room? The only thing you’ve done for the past month?”

Flint’s eyes darkened, and he opened his mouth to snap at his father, but someone bumped into him from the side, nearly knocking him over. “Watch it!” he hissed at the culprit, but they ignored him, rushing over to the floor-to-ceiling window. A second later, he saw why.

A streak of flame shot past the building, bright red and giving off copious amounts of black smoke. A ripple of gasps shot through the crowd, and most of them began crowding around the windows to watch. The flame slowed and came to a stop in mid-air, revealing a vaguely humanoid figure in their centre, which raised a hand and pointed, causing a large gout of fire to shoot out from it. The crowd ooh-ed on cue, but Marco just snorted and rolled his eyes, and kept on walking. “It’s like they’ve never seen it before,” he muttered under his breath.

“Or they have a sense of joy and wonder?” Flint said sarcastically, head still turned to watch the spectacle as he followed. The gout of flame roared towards something out of sight, but was dispersed in an instant as a ripple in the air tore through it. Awestruck descended into view, wind fluttering his cape behind him. He seemed to be saying something, smiling, but it wouldn’t have been audible even if there wasn’t a thick pane of glass in the way.

“Wonder,” Marco said flatly. “Sure.”

With the crowd distracted, they had a much easier time, and after a few turns they arrived at the door to a corner office. Small rumbles passed through the building every few seconds as the figures outside clashed, but although Flint jumped slightly with every one, Marco seemed unperturbed. He raised a hand to knock on the door, but then paused, and turned to his son instead. “Now, you’re here to listen and observe, okay? You can talk if you feel you have something valid to say, and can do it without being rude, but you have something sarcastic to say, you keep it internal.”

“What do you even expect me to learn anyway?”

Marco grinned. “Pay attention and see if you can figure it out.” He turned back to the door, rapped his knuckles against it, and the room exploded.

When Flint came to, he was drenched in sweat. Smoke burned in his throat, making him gag and sending him into a coughing fit. He was laying awkwardly against something angular, prodding into his back uncomfortably, and there was the feeling of something pressing down on one of his legs. His eyes burnt and watered, but a few blinks and they began to clear.

He immediately wished they hadn’t. He was lying in a pile of rubble, the air clogged with as much dust as smoke, and all around him was fire. He was sitting in a small uneven circle of safety, but outside it flames raged and burned, consuming and charring, adding to the swirling black smog that obstructed his view.

He coughed weakly, dizzy, and tried to move, but found that his lower half refused to obey. Looking down, he realized that a support beam was lying on top of his legs, holding them in place no matter how he tried to wriggle out. They didn’t feel broken, but they were effectively out of commission.

“Flint?” came a faint, panicked voice. “Flint, are you here?” He opened his mouth to reply, but doing so sent him into another wracking fit of coughs. “Oh thank god.” Marco stumbled into view. What looked like part of his suit jacket was wrapped around his mouth, and his shirt was hastily rolled up and singed in places. “Thank god,” he repeated again, kneeling down by Flint and squeezing him in a painfully tight hug. When he pulled back, there were tears in his eyes. “Are you okay?”

“Can’t move my legs,” he rasped. “Not broken, just pinned.” With a hand, he patted the support beam. “Can’t lift it.”

Marco frowned, glancing up and down the length of the beam, then rocked back and grabbed it. “Try and shuffle out,” he instructed Flint, then braced himself and lifted.

With the few inches he managed to get, a height that seemed miraculous considering the size and weight of the beam, Flint managed to curl his legs up so they were out from underneath it, and Marco dropped it with a heavy grunt, leaning back and panting.

“What’s happening?” Flint asked him, sounding scared and confused.

“That fight, it got out of control. Awestruck must have launched the hero into the building. Come on, get up, the fire escape is this way.” He offered Flint his arm, and hauled him onto his feet.

The sound of flames roaring grew louder as they reached the fire escape, and Marco wrenched the door open, gesturing for Flint to go first. He didn’t follow him in, though, and Flint turned around, confused. “Get downstairs,” his father instructed him, still holding the door open. “Get out of the building. There are still some people trapped up here, and-”

Something smashed through a wall behind Marco. A whirling mass of flame and flesh, it quickly resolved itself into Awestruck and his opponent. The hero was grappling the human fireball, not being burned despite the intense heat being put off, and he managed to raise him above his head and throw him, hard. The fireball flew through the air, clipped off of a still-standing support beam, and spun straight towards the fire escape.

The last image Flint saw of his father was his face, desperate but determined, as he shoved him backwards and slammed the door behind him.

There wasn’t any screaming. It almost made it worse.

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