Wednesday, August 18, 2010
Derby Girls - Part 2
In this week's tale Slaughter is still running from (Hyper) Lynx and the girls with skates and tasers. She may have found a way out, only to land in a different kind of trouble.
The rain came down in sheets. It washed out colors and blurred people in the street into an indistinct mass.
A mass of ambling umbrellas and she was a black splash between them. Running as fast as she could with her socks flopping over the ends of her toes and her lungs burning.
She could hear them over the roar of the rain. The whirr of wheels on pavement, following slowly, carefully marking her in the growing crowd.
She felt the ache building in her side and knew she couldn't run much longer. She looked down every alley she passed. Brighter light and bigger crowds were less than a block away, but a dark block where no one would see them bring her down.
She ran faster, ducking between grumbling tourists reluctantly coming in for second curfew, the pain in her feet slamming up through her shins.
A pair of boys passed her, bags held over their heads as they ran for the gates. One of them tossed something black into the trash as they pounded across the intersection, long legs propelling them effortlessly over the ground.
She passed over the same ground seconds later, ducking around the giant curve of a golf umbrella, seeing the trashcan, seeing the crumpled umbrella the boy had thrown. She grabbed it with a stinging hand and tucked it tight under her arm, not slowing but squinting hard into the rain. She saw what she was looking for and ran faster.
A tour group was milling at the next intersection, black umbrellas and black shirts, a smudge of darkness in the growing light.
She pushed herself faster, ducking under the arm of a man holding an umbrella for two, shoulder checking his companion, putting as much distance as she could between her and the eyes she felt on her back. When she could make out individuals in the tour group she slowed to a jog, heart hammering in chest, the bent umbrella in both hands. She jogged closer, skirting the loose edges of the group, fumbling with the bent stays of the umbrella as she passed an older man with white hair above his black turtleneck. She stumbled to a stop, forcing the umbrella halfway open before it collapsed again. She swore and looked sheepishly around. She caught the man's eye and shrugged in apparent embarrassment.
He looked around at the group behind him, then beckoned her with a wink.
She smiled and jogged lightly over, not daring to look behind her, the ruined umbrella clutched tightly in her fist. "Thanks," she said, straining to hear over the rain, tensing in anticipation.
"It's not much, you couldn't get wetter," he said, holding the umbrella over both of them, rolling the ‘r’ in wetter with a flourish.
"True enough," she agreed, casually turning to look back the way she'd come. Searching for that smooth bobbing movement of a figure skating through the crowd. Her breath caught when she saw one, blue uniform turned black by the rain, but the girl was too short to be Lynx and rolled past without even looking at the tourists.
A firm grip settled on her arm and she whipped around with the umbrella, aiming high. It was caught in a gnarled fist. "We're headed for the gate," the man said, half-shouting over the rain, eyeing her steadily.
She stopped pushing forward and he allowed the umbrella to fall between them. "Sure," she said with a tight smile, feeling for the outline of the ID in her pocket. It was a good one. It said she was from the EU. Just another tourist.
He nodded and started forward, holding the umbrella to the side so it covered her head and shoulders.
They were moving into the middle of the group, claustrophobic but safe. She thought she saw another skating figure pass as they joined the end of the line for the gate.
"So," the man said gruffly.
She looked at him and saw he'd raised his hand to touch her shoulder and stopped short. She smiled disarmingly, afraid of what he’d ask.
He blinked and shook his head with a smile that drew deep lines on his dry face. He leaned in slightly and beckoned her forward, his voice low but clear. "The police are pretty nervous here. You might want to pull those socks up before they get in a twist over why you're running around with no shoes."
Her breath caught and her toes curled in her wet socks, reflexively scrunching them under her feet. She tried to look calm. "I lost them-"
He shook his head and put a thick finger to his lips. "We've all had a wild night or two," he said half-shouting again, looking out over her head as though he was trying to spot the skaters too.
She bent and quickly yanked up one sock, then the other, the fabric cold and prickly on her skin.
He nodded and held the umbrella carefully over them as they rounded the first bend in the line and lost sight of the street. He didn't speak again, as they wound through the bends and mounted the stairs to the gate. She pressed her bleeding hands inside her pockets and imagined she could see figures rolling in the crowd below, heads turning restlessly left and right, looking for a black uniform in a sea of tourists, and avoiding the cops because they would have to split the reward.
"You go ahead," the man said near her ear.
She had barely noticed they were at the head of the line, the gray uniformed police thrown into sharp relief under their awnings, the only bright dry things in the night. "Thanks," she said fumbling for her ID, feeling it slide against her slick palm as she stepped forward. She glanced down as she approached the metal detector and saw a streak of red on the card. She wiped it against her pant leg before she held it out to an officer with bored blue eyes.
The back of the card still had blood across the corner as he raised it to inspect the country seal. She could see his eye implant focusing and refocusing as he measured the exact dimensions of the seal and recorded the numbers under it.
She knew she was caught before his eyes widened, before he took a step back or reached for his comm.
There was nowhere to run with cops ahead and the wall of tourists behind.
"You'll have to come with me," he said briskly and officially, lightly gripping her arm after he touched the alert on his comm. "Sorry Madame Secretary, it's procedure with flagged IDs now," he whispered as another officer came up on her right and grabbed her other arm.
She followed quietly, her legs shaking with relief. It was just the fake ID. Lynx hadn't turned her in. No one would know she'd been skating.