three - "far from acceptance"
Jett wondered if this was a bad idea.
He struggled to keep the friendly grin from slipping, taking a long look at the Crossfire gang members. There were a lot of them, more than he had remembered seeing when he had first encountered the gang. They easily surrounded him, trapping him within a large circle of their numbers.
"You've got guts, flyer," a dark voice spat. "Showing your face after what you've done here!"
Jett half-turned to eye the speaker, a scowling, bulky man who cut a menacing figure dual-wielding huge knives. Jett couldn't stop his gaze from dropping to those knives, and even though they appeared to be battered and slightly rusted, he was very sure that their edge was still keen. He dragged his eyes back to the man's face, his friendly smile slipping.
"But I didn't do anything."
"Oh? You're denying it now?" Jett had to turn the other way to look at the next speaker; this guy was slender, with pale straw-coloured hair. He hefted a bent piece of steel pipe, his darkly eager expression just begging for Jett to do something stupid so that he could put that steel pipe to good use. Or perhaps he was wincing from weight of the pipe – Jett wasn't sure which.
"You dare. . .!" hissed a woman, her gentle face twisted with rage. "Look around!" She made a jerky, sweeping gesture at the ruins encompassing them, before glaring at the small white flyer in their midst. "You've destroyed our home, killed our families, and now you've come to gloat about it?"
What. . . no! I wouldn't. . .! Jett unconsciously took a step back. He looked at the Crossfire gang about him, his eyes passing over face after face as he turned a quick half circle. Each face was the same, bearing the same pain and burning rage as the one beside it. They thought he did this? They were just like the other civilians from before!
Jett clenched his fists, gritted his teeth. "Don't be stupid!" he shouted, frustrated and annoyed. "I'm just one person! You think I took out this whole city by myself? I'm only seventeen! I'm not some monster that only has to fart to level giant buildings and slaughter thousands of people!"
Jett spun, levelling a glare at the guy dual wielding the knives. The man shifted, obviously uncomfortable. Or maybe he was just getting even more enraged. "Look!" The white flyer went on, his voice dropping into a quiet, yet determined tone. "I just came here to help."
"But you're a flyer," came the cold retort. "There is nothing you can to do help." There were several murmurs of agreement, and some began calling out for him to leave, to get out of their sight. Before he knew it, many were shouting at him, their words unintelligable in the mass of many voices. Various weapons were hefted, then aimed in his direction.
The white flyer's mouth dropped open in shock. Why? Why are they so stubborn?! I thought they'd be different that than the people from before! He turned, looking over to where Tarrod and his fallen friend were watching him with no small amount of confusion and apprehension.
Jett tried to smile. "Don't you remember, Tarrod? You guys helped me once, a while ago. I was trying to run away from the flyers then."
Tarrod started, eyes growing wide as something flickered into life within them. "You," he gasped, staring at Jett. "Were you. . . are you. . .Jett?"
The white flyer blinked. Then he grinned brightly, delighted that the teen finally recognized him. Perhaps there was some hope to this, after all! "Yes! It's me!"
"I thought you were dead," Tarrod spoke slowly. "That thing that took you away looked like some kind of monster. . ."
"Eheh," Jett rubbed the back of his head, wondering how Raven would react if he knew he'd been called a 'thing' and a 'monster' all in the same sentence. The guy would probably smile a creepy smile, and go ". . .Oh?" before he'd lunge at the culprit and -
"Tarrod?" The guy with the steel pipe stepped closer, his gaze flickering back and forth between Jett and the two that were by the hole. "You know this flyer?"
Tarrod didn't answer immediately. Instead, he looked up at Jett, his confusion gone, but the wariness still there. Jett met the teen's gaze steadily, realizing that Tarrod held the key here. It hung between them, unspoken, but understood. Several months ago, Tarrod had fought to help him, despite the fact that he was a flyer trainee, marked and doomed to become a flyer or die. Back then, Jett had vehemently declared to all Crossfires who'd listen that he'd never ever become a flyer under any circumstance, yet here he was before them, the very thing he'd said he'd never become.
"You became a flyer," Tarrod finally said, his gaze growing sharp, bordering on something unfriendly.
Jett swallowed, then smiled weakly. "I guess I did."
The dark vehemence in the teen's tone startled Jett, taking him completely off guard. It was like he'd betrayed Tarrod, which, in a way, he had. Jett bowed his head, feeling ashamed. But only for a moment, for he had already made his decision, and he did not regret it.
He lifted his gaze slightly, just so that he could look Tarrod in the face. "The best way to fight a flyer," he began softly, "is to use another flyer, right?"
Tarrod stared at him for a long moment, before he finally looked away. "Tch."
Huh? What was that reaction supposed to mean? Jett scrunched up his brow, trying to decipher if Tarrod's "Tch" was a good "tch" or a bad "tch."
That was when an authoritative voice broke over the crowd, slicing through the murmurs and hostility like hot knife through butter. "What's going on here?"
Jett looked over to the source, only to find the Cross-fires parting to create a small path. A man strode through the opened space, his intimidating presence defying his nondescript appearance.
Jett swallowed nervously. He knew this man. This was Jerrick, the older brother of Tarrod, and the leader of the Crossfires. If there was anyone that could help him get out of this mess, it was this man. So he waited quietly, letting the man enter the small circle of open space.
Jerrick didn't even seem to see him, for he immediately turned his attention to the two teens by the hole in the road. At once, his entire face lit up with relief and subdued joy. "Tarrod!" He exclaimed. "You're all right! And Leyrone . . ."
"Hey," Tarrod merely nodded in response. He didn't seem to hold the same joy in seeing his brother as did Jerrick. The other teen, the one sprawled on his back by Tarrod, let out a weak moan.
Jerrick didn't waste time. He jabbed a figure at two men in the crowd, barking out orders. "Rike, Galis, get Leyrone to the doc."
"Boss." The two men hurried forward, each taking hold of an arm, and hoisting the injured teen onto his one good foot. Carefully, they helped him along, leaving through the same gap that had allowed Jerrick to enter. No one moved or spoke until they were gone.
Then Jerrick slowly turned, his sharp gaze falling onto Jett with such cold intensity, the white flyer couldn't stop himself from flinching. In the time that since he had last seen him, the Crossfire boss had changed. Weary wrinkles now lined his face, with patches of hair going gray at the temples. And those eyes, the kind warmth had nearly faded, overshadowed by a tired grief.
"Why have you come?"
Jett couldn't move, pinned to the spot by the raw intensity that underscored the rough voice. He suddenly wanted to retreat, to flee back up into the sky, yet his stubborn determination to carry through what he began held him still. His mouth had gone dry, so he swallowed hard to try and regain some of the moisture. Then he carefully met the man's gaze, struggling to keep steady.
"I'm here -" his voice, pitifully small, hitched on the last word, so he stopped, taking a moment to gather some confidence. "I'm here to help."
"Oh?" Jerrick sounded mildly curious. "And why would a flyer help us?"
Jett gritted his teeth; the continuous put down was beginning to grate away at him. Something in his gut twisted, and dark emotion began to churn inside. He shifted his weight, his black eyes taking on a pained shine. Cold began seeping into his mind, attempting to numb the feelings and the turmoil away.
"The same reason any other human being would help you!" Jett threw the words back at Jerrick, his tone far harsher than he had meant it to be. At once, he regretted the words, because the gang members surrounding him reacted instantly, spitting fire and hatred.
"You're no human! You're a monster, you freak!"
A small piece of concrete hit the dirt before him, bouncing once and clattering to a stop against the toe of his boot. Eyes growing wide, he took an alarmed step back. Again?! He had already been stoned once – he didn't want this to happen again! The white flyer glanced up at the smoky skies, his mind telling him to flee.
"Enough!" Jerrick's shout shattered the chaos, bringing everything to a sudden, sharp silence. Jett's eyes jerked unwillingly over to the man, and saw a dark look simmering on the Crossfire leader's face. Jerrick glared at the gang members around him for a long moment before turning back to the flyer. "My apologies, Jett. It seems my people have somehow turned into foolish idiots without my knowing."
Jett blinked, the cold within rapidly dissipating along with the dark emotions. "You. . .you know who I am?"
Jerrick's lips curved, but no light reached his eyes. "You may have changed, but my eyes never forget a face."
"Oh. . ."Jett weakly responded. He rubbed his face nervously, his fingers running over the thin, raised scar that marked his cheek.
"So," Jerrick softly said. "You are here, and you are a flyer." His eyes never left Jett's face, making the white flyer even more nervous and uncomfortable. Jett could almost hear the accusation in the man's voice: You said you'd never become one of them. We believed you. We helped you. And now here you are, a traitor. An enemy.
But I'm not! Jett thought fiercely. Pressing his lips together, he looked the man in the eye. "Yes," he stated firmly. "I am a flyer because I chose to be. I want stop this war and help the people, but to do that, there is a certain a flyer I must destroy. And I can't face him as a normal soldier."
Jerrick remained silent, his expression becoming thoughtful. For a long moment, he remained quiet, leaving Jett to wonder what he was thinking. Finally, Jerrick smiled.
"If that is the case, then I will call in the favor you owe me. Do you remember?"
The white flyer nodded slowly. In exchange for the Crossfires' help in fleeing from Raven back then, he had promised to pay back Jerrick some time in the future. "I remember."
"Good." Jerrick lifted his gaze from Jett's, and turned to look over his gang. "Jett is here to aid us. From now on, he is an ally of the Crossfires, and I expect you treat him as such. Is this understood?"
There was no reply, save for a sullen, horrified silence.
Jerrick's eyes flashed, and without warning, he thundered, "Is that understood?!"
Every single gang member jerked like they'd been electrified. They stammered out their affirmative reply in a jumble of reluctant words. Nodding his acceptance, Jerrick smoothly left the area, leaving Jett alone where he stood.
The gang members began to disperse back into the ruins to continue their search for survivors. It appeared that they would follow their leader's will. Yet the cold eyes and stony faces that flickered his way were far from accepting Jett as an ally.