Posted January 3rd, 2017 by Zelda
in a perpetual predicament
A/N: and the torture continues.
if you notice anything that can be fixed, let me know :)
According to the clock on the wall above the door, it's ten p.m.
Mercer sits, droopy-headed, on the bed. His left arm is swaddled in clean white bandages. My own shoulder sports a fresh white square. He's been sleeping, mostly. Which makes one of us. I'm too antsy to rest. At least he's getting sleep, he needed it desperately before all this happened, the blood loss aggravated the matter past the point of easy rebound.
The clock strikes 10:01 and the door flies open. Raleigh comes streaking in, her arms envelope me in a crushing hug bear hug before I have time to react.
"You're okay!" She gasps. She releases me to run over to Mercer. "We were worried-- what happened to your arm?" She all but shrieks.
"Raleigh, a little quieter." Isaiah warns, coming through the door. She is closely followed by Acid. Her ember eyes flit over Mercer and I, taking in every inkling of damage.
"Rajeshim contacted the base and said you showed up on her steps. We would have come sooner, but we didn't get in until 9:30." A cursory glance reveas that she's banged up. Dust mats her ponytail, and her palms are scraped raw. Acid is nursing a badly bruised jaw, and when I turn to get a better look at Raleigh I spot a long, shallow scrape that looks suspiciously like road rash all down her right shoulder. Mercer is busy fending off Raleigh's plethora of questions.
"Do you still have the firearms?" Isaiah drops her tone to a mere qhispers. I nod curtly.
"I hid them, in the storage room we used to escape last time."
She moves to exit. I touch her shoulder to stop her.
"Wait." I close my eyes and focus on the storage room. It is empty of blips. "Okay, it's safe." I exhale, releasing Isaiah. She narrows her eyes at me in questioning. Rather than answer, I edge around her and open the door.
"I hid them as well as I could, it'll be faster to show you." I drop a quick excuse as I head out of the room. Isaiah trails after me, carefully closing the door behind her. When i'm sure we're out of earshot of Raleigh, I turn to Isaiah and tell her of the encounter with Sumayyah. Her shoudlers tense and the lines around her mouth deepen.
"I'll talk to Jihad about her in the morning." She decides when i'm done. Her fingers worry the sash at her waist. "That kid needs to be stopped before she can hurt anyone else, especially now that she has a weapon."
A weapon that I let her get her hands on. I'm not normally one for self-blame, but a sudden implosion of guilt bursts all over the inside of my chest cavity at that revelation. It is heavy, and it is cold, and it churns my stomach. This is more than guilt over Sumayyah getting ahold of a weapon. This is about the apartment burning.
Because I should have been there.
For someone able to map out the world in the blink of an eyes, Iam atrocious at being where I most need to be.
"I'm sorry, I shouldn;t have let anyone get near those guns." I apologize to the floor.
"Not your fault, Z." Isaiah's response is immediate and certain, but it doesn't alleviate the guilt eroding my innards. She's wrong.
"Who else is there to blame?" I retort, "Mercer? He was half-dead and he was the only other person who knew where the guns were stashed."
Isaiah wheels around and grabs me by the shoulders.
"You couldn't possibly have known that Sumayyah was there. More importantly, you left the weapons to help your friend. You chose saving Mercer over guarding hunks of metal. That's what matters most."
I search her face, though i'm not entirely sure what i'm looking for. Her jet brows arch faintly, under them her eyes are soft, and her chapped lips are pressed together as she waits for a response.
"What happens when ten people are dead because that little girl has a gun? Hm? And-- and what if she decides to kill someone else on the team, what if, instead of me, she shoots Mercer or Raleigh? Will my decision still be the right one then?" The fear pours out of me like a poisonous waterfall, scenario after scenario break like ocean waves in my head, and all of them because I let one dangerous nine-year-old girl have access to a loaded pistol. Isaiah reliquishes her grip on my shoulders, only to clamp down on my head. She forces me to stare straight ahead-- straight at her, she stares right back.
"How do you survive on the streets?" She asks, imperious. Her question confuses me.
"When you're homeless and starving and dodging Stiffs at every corner, do you have time to reflect on the past?" She presses, not dropping her fiery gaze.
"No, not really." I answer. I'm still not sure what her point is.
"Can you begin to imagine a future past getting your next meal?"
"Then tell me, if you can't think of the past or ther future, what do you do? How do you survive on the streets?" She utters the last question with force, emphasizing it.
"You focus on the present." I breath. She lets go of my head.
"That's right. It works the same way here. If you make a mistake you have to work to fix it in the present, not worry about the consequences of the future. Understand?"
Surprsingly, I do.
"Good." She flicks her wrist, "Now let's go find those guns and get out of dodge."
The guns, thankfully, are exactly where I left them. Isaiah and I cart them back to the motel room, where they're distributed evenly among everyone for easier carrying. I'm dubious about how we're supposed to return to the base without getting caught. We're down all three of out distracters, and Mercer looks about due for a narcoleptic fit any time now. When I ask, Isaiah explains that Akiva went out before curfew and slipped narcotics to all the Stiffs from here to the base, under the guise of wanting to 'gift' them 'tea' for all the hard work they did every night. We would have a clear path to the base, so long as we didn't travel too far north or south.
"Everybody good to go?" Isaiah whispered.
A chorus of hushed affirmation answered her. She gave a quick nod and a thumbs up, and we all spilled out into the night. We've been walking at a steady pace for roughly fifteen minutes now.
"How do we know for sure the drugs won't wear off while we're on our way?" Mercer questions in hushed tones after we pass yet another unconscious lump of Stiff. We're moving along at a quick clip, we've already passed eleven blocks, and there are only nine more to go.
"We don't." Raleigh chirps, earning a shush from Acid behind us. She drops her voice to a whisper. "But even if Akiva's drugs wear off, the Stiffs probably won't wake up. It's like the law of inertia; things in motion tend to stay in motion."
"Ergo, things asleep tend to stay asleep." Mercer makes the connection, "It's dark out, and quiet, their circadian rhythms won't find any reason to wake them up."
"Their what-rhythms?" Raleigh scrunches her nose. I smirk as I watch an exhausted Mercer try to explain the delicacies of circadian cycles. We tiptoe past another Stiff.
Eight blocks to go. The thirteenth and fourteenth blocks tick by with no problem. At the fifteenth the Stiff rolls over, causing all of us to freeze. The Stiff is also snoring thunderously. I think back to Raleigh's comment on inertia, and cross fingers that she's right. We're jogging along the middle of the street, where there are less tripping hazards, but we're also more exposed. We reach the sixteenth intersection, four more blocks to go! I can practically see the waste depository from here. There is nothing I want more right now than to crawl onto my bunk and sleep.
"FREEZE!" A sonorous voice booms throughout the empty street. All at once my breath hitches and my heart hammers in my ears. One of the Stiffs has woken up. Adrenaline hits my sluggish limbs like a firecracker and I burst into a run with everyone else.
"Halt in the name of the Senaapati!" He roars. He gives chase, his footsteps rumble. He is large, and his weight slow hims down. He won't be able to catch up, as long as we're careful not to lead him to the waste depository, we should be fine. At least that's what I think until a dark blur streaks through the edges of my field of vision and collides with Acid. He hits the ground with an audible grunt. I skid to a stop and spin, intent on helping Acid. He's already kicking the Stiff off of him, no help needed. He jumps to his feet. Ahead of us, the other's have paused to make sure that Acid is still with us. He is, but not for long.
"Watch out!" I lunge forward as if I can somehow stop the huge shadow barrelling down on Acid.
There's nothing I can do except watch as the massive Stiff tackles Acid.
"You are under arrest on the charge of breaking curfew." The massive Stiff thunders. His partner is up and darting towards the next nearest target-- me. I duck and dodge to the side. From the left another Stiff rushes in. Isaiah spots him, and directs Raleigh to him, until his two other pals show up in quick succesion. We're quickly becoming outnumbered. Acid fights hard to get free, slamming the back of his head into the Stiff's nose. The Stiff squwacks in outrage, but doesn't release Acid. Both Isaiah and I try to get to him before the three other Stiffs can reach us, but the Stiff that took him down is agile and manages to keep us both blocked off.
"Go!" Acid shouts. He twists his elbow free and rams it into the Stiff's temple. "Go now!"
The Stiffs are closing in, if we don't escape now, we won't escape at all. Isaiah spares one last glance at Acid, her will for him to break free is so strong it's nearly tangible. Then she signals for us to fall back, and we all turn and run. The northern streets hold on immediate threat of Stiffs, so we bolt that direction. The grunts and violent cracks of a scuffle fill the air. I spare a glance back to see that all five of the Stiffs have converged on Acid in favor of keeping the one criminal they have over chasing the rest of us. They only need one of us.
I face forward. My insides are all flipped inside out, fear has lit my stomach on fire.
The punishment for breaking curfew is the public breaking of every bone in the offender's body except the spine and-- in most cases-- the cranium.
Acid might not ever make it back to the rebellion alive.
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