Posted August 4th, 2017 by Zelda
in a perpetual predicament
A/N: yes it's late. Yes the foreshadowing sucks. Yes i'm sorry.
Strikhedonia; the pleasure of being able to say 'to hell with it'
Punching the executioner strikes a chord in the crowd of homeless. He reels back even as they are breaking forward. My knuckles sting from the impact, but thanks to Jedediah's hell training, it's a familiar pain. The executioner recovers from the initial shock of being hit.
"You insolent bavva!" He roars, his face flushes red, except for blossoming purple bruise on his lower jaw. The assistant who was announcing stands frozen, her eyes are as wide and bright lightbulbs, her mouth falls open and snaps closed repeatedly. I can't help but iken her to the not-quite-dead fish some of the Merchants sell.
The executioner storms at me, the other assistant joins him, hands out to grab me if I run. Behind them, Acid swears in a loop under his breath. I back up, skimming the faces of the crowd. I know Mercer wouldn't abandon me, and I'd like o think the others wouldn't either, though with all that's happening lately--... I refuse to finish that thought, I trust Isaiah and Raleigh, I do.
The executioner and his assistant are too close for comfort, they've cornered me.
"Taj," the executioner snaps, the female assistant jumps. "Resume work with the prisoner." He commands. As the female assistant, Taj, is hurrying up to Acid, the male one lunges at me. I throw my hands up to block him, but he is knocked down before he ever reaches me. A cry flies from his mouth as he collapses on the ground, Raleigh follows with her red-clad fists flying. A pressure that I hadn't realized was there releases in my chest, my head finishes clearing at the same time.
The executioner is momentarily distracted by Raleigh, I take advantage of this, plant my foot solidly, and kick with as much force as I can muster. My kicking foot strikes the executioner square on the chest, my heel digs into his diaphragm and I can practically hear the air leave his lungs. He stumbles to his knees, his meaty fists fly to his chest. I clasp my hands in a double fist and swing at his head. The impact pops my knuckles and leaves my fingertips tingling with that numb sensation you get before something really starts to throb, but the executioner crumples and doesn't get back up.
I shake out my hands and turn to Acid right as Taj brings a scarily large hammer down on the humerous of Acid's left arm. She shrieks when he can't hold back the start of a pained shout, and drops the hammer with a clang.
"Hey!" I shout to catch her attention. It works, her huge eyes zap up to me.
"Zyair!" Isaiah's voice pulls me away from Acid. I turn, she waves until she know I see her, then yanks the vials from her belt. Her right eye is bloodshot and swelling, her hair is half out of it's ponytail, and she favours her left side. She throws the vial s to me, I fumble, but manage to ahng on to the silvery tubes. When I look again, she's gone. The crowd is riled, but there isn't a single Stiff sympathizer among the faces, no one tries to stop us. I dash to Acid's side, Taj scurries back like a frightened mouse,
"I'm sorry," she squeaks,
"Is that mine?" Acid demands, meaning the vials.
"Yes," I answer.
"Dump it on the shackles on my feet," he instructs.
"It won't burn you?" I ask, even as I'm crouching to do as he says. He doesn't answer.
"Acid?" I look up from unscrewing the vial's cap.
"I'll be fine," he snaps. Opaque liquid is streaming from the fingers of his unbroken hand, he curls them so the acid runs onto the iron shackle. I bow my head again and tup the contents of the vial onto the nearest shackle. My fingers are clumsy from the numbness and spill, thankfully none of it lands on skin.
Taj provides a background chant of 'I'm sorry' and 'I did it wrong'. The perchloric acid hisses as it chews through the shackle. I rush to twist off the cap of the second vial and pour it over the other shackle.
"Do you have a knife?" he asks.
"Who doesn't bring a knife to a fight?" he snaps. There's a lot of buried pain seeping through his words. I pop opena third vial since it looks like the first might not be enough to erode all the way through the shackle.
An explosion rocks the square, so close that the sound waves pop my ears.
People surge away from the source; one of the four major streets branching from the square. Debris is launched into the air. Taj skitters out of the way of a flying chunk of concrete, she's hyperventilating now. I barely hear the second explosion, though I certainly feel it. It comes from the south, opposite of the original one. A blasted chunk of building narrowly misses my head.
Suddenly a gnarled hand snatches the open vial from my hand. Acid shouts something as he bends to spread the contents of the vial on one of the shackles. I can't hear him, but his actions spur my own. I pop the lid on the final vial and pour it liberaly over the last shackle. While my head is bowed and the mass flux of panicked citizens has yes to paint my skull with blips, I check for the other rebels. Raleigh's blip is mere feet away, Merecer's is the next closest and getting closer. Isaiah's blip flits like a drunk fairy between the dimmer blips flooding towards the eastern street entrance. Every blip she goes near changes direction.
Acid breaks free of the final shackle just in time to shield his eye from the next blast. The third one is the one that truly makes my heart skip a beat.
No. No. No. My lips form the words that I can feel but not hear. The citizens are racing towards the final remaining street, the mob splits instinctively around the chalk square. There are so many of them, none of them are the right person.
Out of nowhere there's a hand on my arm, shaking me. Raleigh stands in front of me, shouting. Sweat and dirt are smeared across her cheek, her lip is split.
"—are they." The ringing is settling in increments, I catch her full sentence the second time she shouts it, "where are they?" She demands. Silently, I raise my hand to point in the direction of the most recent explosion. At that moment, Mercer breaks through the crow from the west. He jogs up, barely able to keep in a straight line. There's four of us here, and five missing.
"Can you see everyone?" He asks, resting a hand on my should, Kali and Tula's blips are gone, too dim, swallowed by the crowd. Zaya's is brighter.
"She's that way," I point to the third blast site again, "alive, not moving." I choke the words our, already walking purposefully in that direction. The other's fall in behind me quickly. We pass the executioner and his other assistant, both splayed on the dusty ground, unconscious. I imagine that's how Zaya is right now, debris must have caught her on the head when the explosion went off.
I expect the crowd to resist us, instead the teeming mass of sweaty, dusty homesless parts to let us through. I suppose if I saw an angry-looking group of people, two of who just punched out government officials, I would scramble to get out of their way too.
We make it to the explosion site. There are only one or two living people here by now. Lots of corpses though. A shudder runs through me as I trudge over the rubble, catching the exposed flashes of hands or heads poking up from under the gravel chunks like weeds. Those blips blink white and fade fast. Dust swarms the air. Zaya's still-blue blip flickers, then begins to move.
"Where is she?" Acide demands. The unmistakable vibrato of pain rings in his words.
"Here," Isaiah finishes for me, cresting the small rise that had hidden her from view. The right side of her face is swollen and bruised. She works her mouth, the spits something white to the side. "Did everyone make it?" She asks. Her eyes skim the destruction. She must catch sight of a half-buried corpse, because the next thing she does is look to the sky and murmur, "damn it."
Rock crunches as she picks her way down to us. Her expression is neutral an unpenetrable, but that in itself is a dead giveaway that she's upset.
"Many people survived, and we got Acid back," Mercer fills in in his calm way. The second part is arbitrary, seeing as Acid is very visible and Zaya is close enough that even with one eye swelling shut she would have to be either blind or ignoring him to miss him.
"Yes," she breathes, bypassing us all o thump into Acid and wrap her strong arms around him. Something only describably as pure relief washes over them both, it's a sight to see someone as tense as Acid relax. Rushed whispery words pass between them. They speak a language I don't understand, but can assume is Bengal. Their conversation ends with a slight, tired smile from Acid, one that barely tps the corners of his lips. Zaya releases him and turns to the rest of us.
"We have to get back to the base fast, we can't let them beat us there," she instructs.
"Them?" I voice the question we all have, following her lead across the rubble. She doesn't spare a glance back.
"Kali and Tula, they bombed the square and I think they're going to bomb the base too." She waves us forward urgently.
A harsh gasp comes from Mercer, I turn sharply, expecting the worst, but instead I find Raleigh clinging to Mercer's back as he staggers and windmills.
"Raleigh!" he chokes. His black-brown ees bug in surprise. She holds on tighter and rests her cheek on his shoulder.
"You're walking funny, ny?" she says.
"You're heavy for someone so small, ny?" he fires back.
"Says the second smallest team member." Raleigh hops off his back, then takes his arms and slings it over her shoulder. She's right on both counts; he is limping, and he really is the smallest aside from Raleigh. He's taller than me, but slighter, and it shows.
I tune out the rest of their conversation. We're well on our way to the base, if Kali and Tula are nearby, maybe I can find them. I don't close my eyes like I usually do, which might be why the map lights up, blinding and white-blue, like a brilliant flare that splatters my thoughts and consciousness against the inside wall of my skull. To say the least, it's disorienting.
A sharp cry spits from me, but it sounds disjointed, like someone else is using my mouth, and I fall to my knees clutching my head.
Maybe it was the sheer loudness of the explosion, maybe it was whatever was on tht cloth. Whatever the reason, trying to find the two bomber girls creates a sonic boom in my head that removes my ability to breath and walk for a starting moment.
"Zyair!" Isaiah shakes me gentyly. The pressure seems to remind my bdy that it does need air to survive, and automatically I inhale a huge breath of murky, NSE air.
"I'm arlright," I respond on my next, less desperate breath. I gesture to the general area of my head while clambering to my feet, grateful to find that they both still work, "my map glitched, or malfunctioned, I think." I rub my temples to relieve the eerie buzzing sensation left behind by my map's tantrum.
"Are you good to walk?" Isaiah asks. She skims me, checking for any visible reasons for my apparent attack. Her right eye is very nearly swollen shut. I am overtaken by the notion that now is not the time to be having map malfunctions.
"Yes, of course." I assure her, and we're off again, at as fast a pace as we can manage with our damaged, ragtag team.
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