It wasn't an official race, but the result still mattered. It was people's reputations on the line now, rather than their place on the leader board. So with everyone's egos let loose, a back country race down Happiness could only lead to disaster. It usually did.
Winds were blowing at gale force around Zoe as she stood tall at the top of the peak. They'd chosen a bad day to do this, and it hadn't been advised to go any higher than Metro City all week, but they still did. It was fun when you weren't supposed to be there.
'Zoe.' That cold, plastic voice of Elise Riggs chimed in from somewhere behind her, evidently having just got off the cable car.
'Elise.' She replied in the same manner.
'Told him yet?' Elise levelled with her so Zoe could just about see her from the corner of her eye.
'I have no idea what you're talking about.' She said calmly. Elise laughed almost cruelly. Zoe cast her a cold stare. 'Stopped shagging Atomika yet?' She stopped laughing.
'I'm with Nate.'
'That wasn't my question.'
Elise glared at her. 'Don't even go there.'
Zoe grinned back, knowing she had the upper hand now. 'You started it.'
'Don't be childish, Zoe, it's beneath you.'
'Better than whatever's been beneath you…'
Before Elise had a chance to respond, a whole hoard of other people arrived, having shared a car up there. Zoe smirked at her before re-directing her attention. Allegra was happily chatting away to Nate, and Zoe couldn't help but notice something else in Nate's expression. But he was with Elise, she'd just been reminded of that, she must have been mistaken. Moby was hanging like a spare part by Nate's side, looking dejected, a look he'd been wearing all too often recently. She made a mental note to ask him what was going on later. Mac had his arm draped over Kaori's shoulder and was saying something closely to her, and she was blushing a bit. Zoe smiled, she couldn't help it. And then there was Psymon, walking alone, as usual, and his eyes met Zoe's. She smiled and he beamed back at her. He didn't seem to be able to smile without looking psychotic, but Zoe still found it oddly endearing.
'Is this everyone?' She asked no one in particular.
'Where's Grommet?' Allegra asked, scanning the group to make sure she hadn't missed him.
Mac smirked. 'Keeping Viggo company.'
'He'll love that.' Allegra rolled her eyes at him. Mac shrugged casually.
'Ready then?' Elise asked impatiently, desperate to put Zoe through her paces now she'd not got the chance to continue their argument.
'Come on then!' Mac piped up. 'If you're that impatient, dawg.' He winked at Elise, but in a competitive way. And they just went after that, Elise firing up ahead of the pack. Zoe was hot on her tail, just as ready to make her pay for what she said to her about Psymon. She wasn't paying attention to what was going on around her any more, she couldn't be bothered. She didn't need to – she knew this course off by heart anyway. She was confident.
Nate watched as everyone headed off in front of him. He took his time. Something wasn't quite right, and he could tell. Sure, Zoe and Elise usually had this kind of stupid argument, but that wasn't it. Someone was going to do something stupid, and someone needed to be looking out for it. It was too dangerous to take your eyes off the ball.
Viggo was stuck indoors yet again, and they'd left him with Grommet as company. How thoughtful. Frankly, he'd rather have spent the time alone. For the past half an hour Griff had drank them out of Cola and almost eaten all the biscuits. Viggo, on the other hand, was still sipping at the glass of water he'd got, and had eaten nothing. He didn't feel like it.
'Shut-up.' He cut him off before he even had the chance to address a topic.
Griff persisted. 'You said you didn't fancy Allegra, right?'
'But you always want me to leave whenever she's around, and you go all weird and smiley when you see her…'
Viggo gritted his teeth. Why did Griff have to try and get involved in something a twelve-year-old is never going to understand? 'I'm smiley anyway.'
'No, you're not.'
'Sure, I am,' Viggo grinned at him to prove a point.
Griff winced and leaned backwards in his chair. 'You look scary.'
Viggo rolled his eyes. 'No pleasing some folk.'
'I'm sure you must like Allegra.' Griff was insistent on not dropping this topic. Viggo sat up and leaned against the wall to look the kid in the eyes. Griff swallowed, realising he may have overstepped the line.
'And what would it be to you, Grommet, if I did?' He said quietly.
'Just so you'd admit it.'
'And if I did?'
Griff shrugged. 'I dunno.' Viggo smirked – exactly, he had no idea what he was going to do with this information once he had it. 'Might tell Mac.' Viggo snapped out of his smugness.
'What?' He spat.
Griff grinned widely. 'Just thought I might. I mean, if you're completely honest and admit it… then I won't.'
Viggo thought about it. Could he really trust a child with something like this? One candy bar and Griff would tell you the world's best kept secrets if he knew them.
'Fine, Griff,' Viggo said suddenly. 'I like her.' Griff was about to say something, when Viggo cut him off again. He'd asked him to be honest, so why not overwhelm him with it? 'Whenever I see her I just want to be with her forever. I never want her to leave. She's beautiful. I wanna get lost in her eyes, because I don't care if I ever find a way out or not – because I'm not looking for a way out, I'd happily stay there until the end of time. She could say or do anything and I'd never abandon her. She's completely unique, and I've never met anyone like her, and I never will again. She's one in a million. And that's about the chances of me ever getting with her – one in a million.'
Griff's jaw fell open in amazement. Had the Scanner really said that? Because that sounded like something a lot more than one little crush, that Griff had previously suspected.
'I'm sorry,' Griff said in a small voice that was uncommon to him.
Viggo shook his head. 'Don't be. But, you will be if you tell anyone. Alright?'
He nodded slowly, and Viggo went back to his busy hobby of staring at the ceiling.
Meanwhile, things had gone from bad to worse out in the back country. There was no set route down the mountain, and everyone had naturally found their own route. Zoe was off on her own, as she liked it, and she had no idea whether she was in the lead or not. She was a thin tunnel, coated in ice, with sunlight dripping through the gap at the top above her. A shadow appeared in the light she'd been watching the reflection of in the ice, she slowed up a little and stared above her. Elise flew overhead, and Zoe was unaware of whether she knew she was there or not. A few lumps of previously undisturbed snow smashed through the gap, which was precarious at the least. Zoe sped up, it was best to get out of that tunnel right now, even if it led to nothing, it was still dangerous to have things falling from over head. The snow must have dislodged a rock as it fell, and Zoe didn't notice as all her attention was taken up on trying to get out quickly. Something hit her in the back of the head, and then everything went black.
Psymon heard a noise. Not a normal noise, like snow shreds, or boards hitting the snow. It was a hard sound, like a rock or a boulder. That was the thing about Psymon, he wasn't normal. He heard that and doubted anyone else did. It hadn't hit the snow though, because that wouldn't have registered at all with him, it had hit something else, because it made a dull sound on impact. It was probably nothing, but as he stared at the impending finishing point, there was one face who wasn't there who should have been. So, Moby wasn't there, that was irrelevant, he'd been on a pretty bad form recently, but Zoe? She should have outrun Elise. Psymon turned back, throwing all his weight to the front of his board to get back up the hill he'd just come down.
'Psymon?' Allegra called after him. 'Psymon, what's going on?'
'Zoe,' He yelled back. 'she's not here.'
Allegra glanced around at everyone else, they didn't seem too concerned. Zoe was always going off by herself, pulling vanishing acts. When she turned back to see if she could followed Psymon, he was gone.
He followed his memory to where he was when he heard the noise, then cross referenced it in his mind to where it would have come from. He stared around where he ended up. It should have been here, but there was nothing there. He picked up a small rock and threw it onto the snow. It didn't even make nearly the same noise. The one he'd heard had echoed. Maybe from a tunnel, or a crevice?
'Zoe?' He called out slightly redundantly, having run out of options. Nothing. 'Zoe!' Louder. He took unhooked his board and took a step forwards, and nearly fell straight down a gap that had been covered up by snow. He jumped backwards, then cleared some of the snow, just to see what was down there. As he began to clear the snow, a soft moan issued from within the gap.
'Zoe?' He tried one more time, maybe he was hearing things – it wouldn't be the first time.
'Psymon?' It was her. He frantically threw the snow aside, and dropped himself into the tunnel, not even bothering to see if it was safe or not. He skidded a little on the ice, but steadied himself quickly. Zoe was lying on the ice, a small frozen pool of blood beside her head. 'Shit,' She muttered, trying to sit up.
'Don't,' Psymon instructed her, sliding across the ice to kneel down by her head. 'don't move, okay?'
'Mm, fine.' She mumbled, her face showing the strain it was to even attempt to sit upright. He gently placed her head on his lap.
'You hit your head?'
'No,' She said through gritted teeth. 'a rock hit my head.'
'At least it didn't knock out your sarcasm.'
She smiled weakly at him.
'Psy,' She said in a near whisper.
'I think I'm gonna pass out.'
'Fuck,' He'd almost forgotten the situation at hand, she seemed fine! But that was Zoe, she'd always be fine. If she'd just got herself run over, she'd still insist she could get back up and carry on what she was doing. Psymon dug into his pocket and brought out his MComm, dialled for the slope medic, and put it to his ear.
'Someone should go back.' Allegra said for what seemed like the fiftieth time.
'No,' Elise said firmly. 'if she's out there, he'll bring her back. Hell, she'll cling on for dear life if he's the one carrying her back to safety.' She scoffed.
Allegra spun around, her hair whipping behind her and smacking Mac in the face. He didn't mention it, she didn't look like she was in a mood to be messed with.
'How can you say that at a time like this?' Allegra practically screamed, causing most of the team to take a cursory step backwards. 'She could be hurt, and you're making jokes?'
Elise put on hand on her hip and her cold, blue eyes addressed Allegra.
'If she's hurt, there's nothing we can do about it now. Psymon will call the medic if he's got any sense… oh wait…' She smirked at her team mate.
Nate grabbed Allegra's arms just in time, as she was about to take a swing for Elise. She struggled hard against her captor, but even her aggression was no rival to Nate's pure muscle.
'Nate! Get off me!' She growled. He didn't move an inch. She stopped struggling and he eventually let go of her, and she stormed off towards the cable cars without another word. Elise laughed coldly, but everyone ignored it.
Allegra's mind went onto autopilot as she was just too angry to think straight. Her feet were taking her to where her mind wanted her to go, without actually consulting her about it first, and the next thing she knew, she was standing outside Viggo, Griff and Mac's apartment. She took a deep breath. Did she really want to burden him with everything that was going on? He probably wouldn't even care anyway. She could hear him arguing with Griff anyway, it was probably best to just go… But she couldn't help it. She was practically rooted to the spot, she didn't want to listen in, yet she was still standing there.
'So,' Griff was saying. 'I don't understand. If you really like her, y'know, like you said, then why not tell her? They say you're meant to be honest.' He said innocently.
She heard Viggo sigh, evidently this had been going on a while. 'Because, Grommet,' He paused and Allegra assumed he was glaring at him. 'I can't just tell her. It's not as simple as you make it out to be. What if she doesn't feel the same? I'm going to look like such a dick if she doesn't like me that way…'
'You won't look-'
'Oh,' Griff replied quietly. 'I knew that. But anyway, surely it'd be better to just go for it. I mean, you're snowboarder, you're meant to be all up for taking a risk.'
'I took a risk, and look what happened!' Viggo retorted angrily, and Allegra knew he was talking about his leg.
'Er, yeah,' Griff answered awkwardly. 'right… But still. You should tell her.'
'And why would I take relationship advice from you, Grommet? A twelve-year-old kid!' Viggo raised his voice slightly.
'I'm just gonna go now…' Griff said, and Allegra heard his footsteps nearing the door. She briefly wondered what to do, panicking a little in case she got caught eavesdropping. She took a few steps backwards down the corridor, so she could make it look like she'd only just got there. Griff nearly walked straight into her.
'Whoa, calm the rush, Griff.' She told him convincingly. He managed a small smile, before he continued off down the corridor. Allegra stood in the doorway for a moment, waiting for Viggo to tell her to come in. He didn't even notice her, as he had his hands over his face.
He jumped and sat up, smacking his head on the sloped ceiling above his bed. He instantly raised his hand to rub his head. 'Shit,' He muttered. 'I mean, hey, Allie.'
'Hey,' She grinned at him and his clumsiness.
'Come in,' He told her, ushering her in with his hand. She did as she was told and shut the door behind her. Her mind was whizzing through all the things she'd just heard them talking about, and quickly put it together with what Griff had said about Viggo liking her the day before. But she was just making assumptions. It was probably a misunderstanding.
'Have fun with Griff?' She asked with a smirk.
'Oh, God. Don't even talk about Grommet.' Viggo groaned. 'I actually want to murder him and set fire to his body.'
'It really isn't.' He grinned at her, his messy hair falling around his blue eyes. Allegra blinked and forced herself to look away. He'd think she was crazy. Viggo changed the subject before things got awkward. 'Good time in the backcountry?'
She shrugged. 'I guess. I nearly hit Elise though.'
'Haven't we all.'
'No, I mean I actually took a swipe at her, but Nate stopped me.'
Viggo's eyes narrowed. Nate. Again. 'Shit.' He said, short of anything else to say.
'I know,' She sighed. 'Zoe's gone missing, and Elise – that bitch – made a joke about it.'
'Zoe's gone missing?'
'She'll show up. Psymon went back up after her, so if he doesn't find her then she'd disappeared off the face of the earth. He's like a bloodhound or something.'
Viggo smirked. She was right, Psymon definitely wasn't entirely human. He was his own race most of the time, no one was quite similar enough to him to even be the same species.
'What pissed Grommet off so much, then?' Allegra asked, deciding she could bring that up without looking suspicious.
'Oh,' Viggo said slowly, trying to think of another answer. 'He… er, he just –'
The door flew open and slammed against the wall behind it. It was closely followed by a loud bang on the wall next to theirs. Psymon ignored it though, as he stormed into the apartment and threw himself into the chair by the desk, his eyes were dark and stormy. Allegra swallowed, not quite knowing what to say next, although, someone else spoke for her.
'Enough with the noise, Rolig!' Atomika's voice issued from the corridor, before he appeared in the doorway. His eyes widened as he saw Psymon, then the look on his face. 'Ah, fuck.'
'Damn right, Atomika!' Psymon muttered, lifting his head and glaring at him. Atomika smiled awkwardly.
'Just… just try to keep the noise down a little… Oh God, is that the time? Bye.' And he shut the door and left.
'Did you find her?' Allegra took a risk and asked him, after all, she was her roommate. He nodded slowly. 'Is she okay?'
Psymon shrugged. 'Probably. She hit her head on a rock, I called the medics and she's gone up to the hospital. They wouldn't let me go with her.' He stared at the floor. 'Bastards.'
Viggo couldn't help but think they had no choice but to refuse Psymon's request, they were medics after all. Why would they let someone like him near a medical patient?
'Least she's in the right place then.' Allegra said, unable to think of any other way to reply. Psymon nodded regretfully.
'She'll be fine, Psy.' Viggo assured him. He merely nodded once more. Allegra exchanged a glance with Viggo, unsure of what to do now. They'd never seen Psymon upset before. It was something that just didn't happen. They sat in silence, having no idea what to say to him to make him feel better. Zoe just meant so much, there was probably nothing they could say to ever make that better.