Thank you so much to everyone who is still reading, even though my updates are not so regular. I'm leaving for a vacation in Europe in less than 2 weeks, so I can't really promise many more updates for maybe the next month. But I will get better at one point, I promise.
A big thanks to my reviewers, I love feedback and you help me keep this story alive :)
Max was sitting in the common area at Jam Pony, trying to straighten back the wheel of her bike. She had missed on several runs yesterday, as Norman refused to let her use one of the loaners. He could be such a jerk sometime, complaining that she was slacking off, but unwilling to help her. She threw another angry look at him, which he kept ignoring, pretending to be working on some paper work.
She looked past Norman and frowned when she saw Rafer coming in. He was wearing a Paramedic uniform and carrying a couple of brown paper bags. He came over to her and smiled. "Hey."
Max was still frowning, annoyed. "Okay, you are a paramedic. So what? You showed up to try to make me feel bad for not believing you?"
His eyes clouded, insulted. "No, I came by to see if you wanted to have lunch. It's my way of making up for our, uh, little run-in."
He sat down next to her, and unpacked the food, sandwiches and cans of soda. Max looked at the table.
"I'm not really hungry."
He shrugged. "It's ok. I wanted to talk to you. About that night..."
"I'd really rather just forget about that."
"Me too actually. I was in a really weird place, you know, just broke up with my girlfriend…Anyways, if I came on too strong, I'm sorry, because I'm not like that."
Max looked up at him, and felt that he really meant it. Part of her wanted to say the same thing, but she was too ashamed of that night. Couldn't bear to think about it, to remember what the cost had been for slipping. She replied softly, deciding to stop blaming him, letting go of her anger. "It's okay."
"I came by here looking for you a couple of times, but no one knew where you were."
"I had to deal with family stuff. It's complicated."
"I thought maybe you had a boyfriend somewhere." His voice rose, clearly intending this to be a question.
"Well, that's complicated too…"
Lily had already been to the market, ran a lot of errands and drop some stuff back at Joshua's place and it was barely time for lunch. She would have to go back and help him out with the actual cleaning, but for now she just left him with all the stuff, and the cigars, figuring that if anyone was watching the house, they would be more likely to visit while she wasn't there.
She still had a lot of things she wanted to do today, but she thought she could maybe take a lunch break with Max. After all, if they were to tolerate each other, become friends even, they had to start hanging out, without Logan or Joshua. Drawn once again to Chinatown, she figured she could pick up some food there and surprise her at Jam Pony. She looked up at the sound of some firecrackers and smiled; she just loved how lively Chinatown was.
Original Cindy and Sketchy had to stop in Chinatown to make a delivery. OC was impatient; she was hungry and had no time to waste while Sketchy was being curious about the mutant rumors, again. He was talking, well, listening in to some vendor's gossip about mutants. Finally, after a few more angry glances his way, he came back over to where she was waiting.
"You know, it's worse than I thought, O.C." He didn't seem worried, he was grinning.
"What's going on now?"
"The mutant infestation. It's here in Chinatown as well. Eyes-Only said it, and these nice people confirmed it."
She rolled her eyes. "Were you born dumb, or do you put in work? There are no such things as mutants, fool!"
Sketchy was about to argue, when OC was distracted by the sound of firecrackers. There was nothing unusual about firecrackers in Chinatown, but she looked around her all the same. She saw a flash of red in the crowd and squinted her eyes. There, she thought she saw Lily. She kept staring and then someone moved and the redhead was indeed standing there, not too far from them. "Hey Lily! Girl! Over here!" Her smile died on her lips when the girl turned around. Something was wrong, the girl looked like a deer caught in headlights, completely in shock and then tears were running down her face. She mouthed "run" and OC did feel a strong urge the get the hell away from there. It was almost as if someone had shoved her. She barely had time to blink and then Lily wasn't there anymore. She had gotten used to Max seemingly disappear out of thin air, but it was just weird to see someone else do it.
She grabbed Sketchy's arm and then she heard a very wet fit of coughing behind them.
They both turned around and noticed the guys Sketchy had been talking to doubled over, coughing. More people around them started coughing blood and they were also bleeding from the eyes and their noses, most of them starting to collapse.
"OC, we have to get out of here."
She kept a hold of his arm. "What we need is an ambulance, gimme your phone."
Lily stood still. She felt a weird tingling in her fingers and a tickling sensation in her chest. She coughed, surprised. She was starting to feel dizzy. She looked around her for the cause of her symptoms, and noticed a lot of people were coughing blood. She heard her name and turned around, momentarily taken by surprise. Was it a trap? Was she in danger? Relieved, she saw it was Original Cindy. She felt tears run down her face and several people around her started collapsing. She had to get out of here, fast. She told Cindy to run and she did the same. As fast as she could, she blended in the crowd. She knew she wasn't sick herself, but she needed to get away from the scene, before authorities showed up.
She made it through a checkpoint, taking deep breath and fighting the raising sense of panic. She wasn't going to pretend that hadn't scared her. She wasn't raised a soldier, never had been caught off guard in the middle of something like this before. She took a few minutes to regain her senses; she had to be calm if she wanted to make sure no one would pay attention to her.
She kept walking for a few minutes until she spotted a payphone. She had her cell phone but she wanted to stay out of view, so this worked perfectly. She paged Max, left her number and then tried to reach Logan. He would probably know right away what happened in Chinatown. Well, Matt would know first, but she didn't think it'd be a good idea to call him just yet. Logan was usually Eyes-Only's contact. She sighed and wondered if she should call Alec. She hadn't heard from him in days. Not that she was really surprised, but she had hoped he would keep in touch, regularly. Well, she didn't see any need to involve him in this, except for the fact that she wanted to see him.
Even though she was still shaken, she decided to keep running errand and buying supplies, and then go back to Joshua's until she heard back from Logan. She saw an electronic store and figured this was a good enough place to start. She tried to keep it simple, mostly buying parts to enhance the equipment she already had, some burner phones and pager. She didn't want to raise suspicion from the clerk, nor show that she had access to money. Bare minimum, stay under the radar.
After she was done, she headed back towards Joshua's. It was getting dark and the people lurking around all seemed to be watching her. She needed to get a grip on her emotions and Joshua's happy presence would help her. Walking faster, she cut through an alley, for once not liking the sound of her heels clicking on the ground. Way to be conspicuous. Might as well raise the alarm that she was alone, walking in a dark alley and carrying electronic equipment. She sighed. She was on edge; she really needed to calm down. She wondered if maybe she should get a bike. It would definitely save her some time wandering around the city.
Before she even heard the footsteps behind her, she felt a wave of excitement. Not hers. This was a predator's excitement; they'd find an easy prey. She probed more into the minds, she did need practice and to be more aware of her environment, and find out there was 3 guys following her and 2 more waiting at the end of the alley. She absolutely did not want to get into a confrontation with anyone, not today. But she could feel her body tense at the idea and her heart beating faster, under the adrenaline boost. Want it or not, her body was ready and expecting a fight. She was the predator here, not those punks. Relieved, she let her instincts take over for once, not fighting the part of her who would enjoy a good fight.
The footsteps behind her were getting closer, and the creeps on the other side had started moving towards her as well. She looked over her shoulders and made a point of looking startled and walking faster. They dropped the pretense and hurried after her. She purposely slipped, broke a heel and fell to the ground, letting out a sob and holding her ankle, trying to look as vulnerable as possible. "Oh, my ankle! Stupid shoes!" She looked back at her followers, happy to see they had relaxed their step and were smiling and nudging each other, obviously happy that she was going to be so easy.
"Маленький цветок, все готово к сорвал." Russian. She had not expected to run into Russian mobsters in this sector. This was not their territory. Her temper flared up, she was not a flower ready to be plucked. "Please don't hurt me! I think I sprained my ankle, it hurts, and I broke my shoe."
One of them crouched in front of her, smiling with a yellowed out set of teeth and flipped a knife in front of her face. The others were still laughing. They were clearly high. He said to her, in broken English. "Is OK, we help you. We don't hurt, we take money, we take sex and then we kill you. But we don't hurt you." His laugh covered his face with his putrid spittle. She was going to spring into action, showing them who was going to hurt who, when the other 2 guys joined them. And then a shot was fired, in the arm of one of the Russian. She turned around to see why they would be shooting at each other, and realized these were from a different gang. Steelheads.
The man holding the gun had large spikes sticking out of his forearms, several piercings, and smaller spikes sticking out of his shaved head. His companion was a short nervous-looking guy with blue hair, covered in piercings and missing an arm. They snickered. "How many times am I going to have to warn you? This is our turf! Now leave the nice lady alone and get the hell off of our land." "That's right, get lost" Added the shorter one.
After some cussing, the Russian men actually backed off, their eyes on the punks. Lily couldn't believe it. What were the odds, to be rescued by another gang who were just as much going to threaten her and rob her? Not that she needed to be rescued, or that she was going to get mobbed. But still, how unlucky. Or, considering the day she had, maybe it was lucky, she'd still get to kick some ass. Keeping up with the charade, she smiled at her saviors and held up her hand to the one with the blue hair.
"Oh thank you, I was so scared. Can you help me up? I think I hurt myself." He smiled back at her awkwardly and gave her his hand. She noticed the other guy tugged his gun back in his pants. She leaned against blue, so she could take off her other shoe and in one swift movement, before they could say anything, she hit him over the head with the shoe and pushed him to the floor. She'd hit him hard, he was not getting up for a while. The one with the spikes tried to grab her; she just giggled as she moved behind him, grabbed his gun and threw it in a dumpster on her left. Completely attuned to his mind, she was going to have some fun. She knew his every move and reaction before he even flexed a muscle. So she blocked every punch, escaped every grab, every thrust of the spikes, moving around him, not even noticing she was still laughing, taunting him. When he grew tired and as frustrated with her as he would get, she finished him off with a few roundhouse kicks, slamming him conveniently against the dumpster, where he slumped down.
She paused, to make sure no one else was coming at her. Bending down to grab her shoes and her bags, she turned her gaze over to the shadow leaning against the wall, at the end of the alley. "So, did you enjoy the show?"