Stand 23-II

Caution With Our Curiosity.

“So,” I said warily, “how exactly are-” The wind smacked me in the face as we shot off, snatching the words from my mouth, and replacing them with “ahhhhhh!”

I was clinging to Thrust’s back, arms wrapped around his torso, kneeling on top of the back of his calves. I'd gone as light as I could without being completely intangible, but now the air resistance was threatening to drag me off. I clung tighter as we rocketed forward, and increased my weight slightly, but the sheer speed we were going still threatening to pull me loose.

We rocketed forward across the ground, picking up speed quickly. Thrust knelt low, the segmented forcefields around his knees and lower legs supporting his weight, and leant forward with his arms stretched out backwards. It would’ve looked like an anime character if he was running, but as he was, the position’s purpose was obvious: the jets of red liquid shooting out of his hands provided the force that was his namesake, and was currently trying to drag my skin entirely off of my face.

“Stop screaming!” Thrust yelled at me, his words almost snatched away completely by the wind. I didn’t even realize I still was, and I snapped my mouth shut, embarrassed. Doing so made me realize that although I’d subconsciously expected the ride to be rough, there was actually almost no vibration or jostling at all. What I’d felt initially had been my own screaming. I looked down at the forcefields, and watched the tarmac slide smoothly along underneath them. They must have been nearly frictionless, for this method to work. Can he only generate them around his legs? I definitely haven’t seen them used in any other way, but that’s such a ridiculously specific power, and frictionless forcefields would be incredibly useful…

“Hold on!” The words jolted me out of my thoughts, and I realized we were rapidly shooting towards a T-junction.

““Hold on”? Because, what, right now we’re just giving him a hug?”

Not help-ful. As we grew closer, he twisted his body 90 degrees, and stuck one arm out directly towards the wall. The stream immediately began slowing us, and a second later, he adjusted the other arm so it pointed behind us. Even with the first stream counteracting our momentum, we still came very close to hitting the wall before recovering and shooting off again.

“I said to stop screaming,” Thrust said irritatedly. Oh. Whoops. In my defense, it had looked like we were going to pancake ourselves against a brick wall.

We took another corner in the same manner, putting us back on track towards the Tower. The buildings around us were growing taller now, and I was pretty sure we’d reached the edge of… Shelter, that was it. In a way, it was better that Paladin had grown wings. If she hadn’t, she might’ve rampaged straight through all of-

“F***!” Thrust yelled, and suddenly we were spinning through the air. I lost track of our surroundings for a moment, and then we thumped back down onto the ground, no momentum lost. A loud horn blared behind us, and I glanced over my shoulder to see the a car growing smaller. I’d seen so many empty streets tonight that it almost seemed wrong. There aren’t supposed to be cars on streets. There are supposed to be superheroes and supervillains, and giant golden abominations. “A**hole didn’t have his lights on,” Thrust complained.

We turned, perpendicular to the Tower again, and found more cars, speeding in both directions. Thrust seemed to be prepared now, though, and wove through them with what seemed like effortlessness, but was probably just lots of practice and experience. More horns blared, but no-one swerved or crashed; stuff happens sometimes, and driving in New Chicago seemed to involve getting used to that fact.

I jerked my head around as we passed a corner that would’ve taken us back on track again, watching it disappear behind us. “Where are we going?” I yelled. “The Tower’s that way!”He jerked his head forward as we slid between a sedan and an SUV, gesturing towards… something? “What?” He shook his head for a second, then repeated the gesture, but more upwards. I looked again, and…

Ohhh.

One of the spoke-like, high speed train lines that ran straight out from the city center was up ahead. Lifted above the buildings below it by supports that were ingeniously integrated into the structures below, it was a gleaming line of metal that sat just above the horizon like the frame of a painting.

A second after realising what Thrust was talking about, I also realised what he meant by it. “Ohh no,” I said, probably too quiet for him to hear. “Oh, no, no, no. You’ve got to be kidding me.”

“Brace yourself,” he yelled to me as we hit a relatively empty stretch of road. The line was still a few blocks away, and I didn’t see any way for us to get up there; there wasn’t a station nearby in either direction.

Abruptly, his streams cut out, leaving us sliding across the road on built-up momentum. The red lighting hadn’t disappeared, though; now, it gathered rapidly around Thrust’s hands, condensing and darkening, like it was building up pressure.

That turned out to be a very accurate simile.

Just before we got run over by a semi truck, the gathered energy released all at once with an almost-blinding flash of red. It felt almost like the beginning of a theme park ride, one of those ones where the ball is strapped with thick elastic cable to a slingshot and flung into the air, a rapid acceleration that sent my stomach plunging downwards. We soared through the air, the truck that nearly flattened us shrinking away, wind ripping at my hood and my hair. Thrust abandoned his kneeling pose, stretching out like Iron Man, and the streams resumed, carrying us further upwards like one of those water jetpacks I’d seen on YouTube.

By the time we reached the apex of the jump, we were well above the height of the train line, and still moving rapidly towards it. Too rapidly, actually. At this rate, we were going to overshoot it.

Thrust noticed it too. He swore aloud, and began moving the streams to compensate, but something went wrong, throwing him off balance. We flailed around for a second before he recovered, but our speed hadn’t decreased at all, and we were almost at the raised line now. We were going to miss it entirely, and with it, our chance to-

I saw the train to my right, shooting towards us, and a plan formed in my mind in the same instant. “Catch up with me!” I yelled into Thrust’s ear. We were just passing over the train line, and so before he could react, I let go of him, letting the wind pull me backwards.

In a second, I was floating almost perfectly still directly above the tracks. Thrust rapidly grew smaller in front of me, yelling things I couldn’t make out, and the train was growing closer. I was drifting slowly down, but at that rate I’d probably miss the next train, let alone the current one.

I took a deep breath, went solid and let myself drop.

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