A week after Misha was attacked I find myself sitting on the roof of my apartment complex staring out at the rising sun. I could barely sleep last night. Faceless ghosts haunted my dreams. Their wordless screams still ring in my ears drowning out the early morning traffic. The city feels different somehow. Empty in spite of all the people I see moving around it regularly. I pull the blanket tighter around my shoulders. The heavy fabric weighs down on my shoulders. A welcome distraction from the metaphorical weight that has been resting there for a week. It has only been amplified by the discovery KH had revealed to me yesterday. My phone lies lifeless at my side. I had messaged Jero when it became clear I was getting no more sleep. No response was forthcoming, not that I was expecting one so early. Nor will I be for another few hours and by that time I should be going inside anyway. If only to charge my phone to get that response.
As the activity around the city picks up I gather get up myself. I shake out the blanket, snagging my phone from the ground and making my way back to my apartment. Inside it is too quiet. Too still. My phone beeps pitifully at me when I plug it in. While I wait for it to charge I wander in circles around my apartment. Picking things up and putting them down within the same motions. Eventually I double back to my couch and fall down on it. My face is pressed into the soft fabric of the light brown cushions. The insistent buzz and cheerful chime that comes with my phone turning on is a welcome series of sounds. I can see the flare of light before it flickers and dims, setting up the interface for me to use. I reach out to grab it from the low coffee table and hurriedly go through the motions of unlocking it. My eyes remain fixed on the screen as it finishes loading up. After a few seconds of my holding my breath my phone buzzes in my hand and a notification appears on screen.
My fingers fly to respond and I nearly rip the charger from my phone as I roll over onto my back. A frown makes its home on my face as I stare up at the words typed out in dark letters staring back at me from behind the glass phone screen. I rest my phone back down on the coffee table. A rumble ricochets through my chest as I stomp my way into my bedroom. From the disorganized pile of clothes spilling out of my closet I grab a plain black t-shirt and dark jeans. I toss them onto my bed followed by a heavier jacket. The too large for me shirt and baggy sweatpants I had put on when I couldn't sleep are discarded on the white and black checkered tile of my bathroom floor. I dig through the cabinet beneath my sink, pushing aside bottles of cleaning substances until I begin to hit boxes of assorted hair dyes. Two or three boxes later I stand, kicking the cabinet shut and leaning my hip against the sink. My eyes narrow as I read the instructions. I reach out and turn on the shower, letting the water warm up while I wander back into the main living area of my house to hunt for gloves. When I return the bathroom has filled with steam that is seeping out from beneath the door. I sniff delicately as the steam clears my sinuses. My gaze falls back on the box of hair dye sitting innocently on the edge of the sink. The dead eyes of the smiling, black haired woman stare back at me. I scoff but take the dye and begin the agonizing process of changing my hair once again.
Hours later I step out onto the street. It is past midday and already the sun has begun to descend. The traffic flows steadily, caught in that time between the lunch rush and after work commute. A small black two seater car exits the stream and settles into the loading and unloading zone in front of the building my apartment resides in. I quirk an eyebrow, reaching up to pull down my sunglasses just enough to peer into the dark tinted windows. In the pocket of my cot my phone buzzes twice. Pushing my sunglasses back up I step forward. The door unlocks with a click and I am able to slide inside without any issue. As I settle into the seat the corner of the folder digs into my hip.
"Back to black?" Tiffany asks. I groan and let my head fall back against the seat. I can see the blonde haired woman glare at me out of the corner of my. My lip curls up in a sneer.
"It's dry." She snorts but returns her focus to the road. A few minutes pass and my eyes drift shut. The gentle hum of the engine relaxing my body though my mind refuses to settle at all.
"Not a wink."
"That bad." There is a pause and I can hear Tiffany thinking in the way her fingers drum against the small car's steering wheel. I crack an eye open to glance over at her. She is nibbling at her unpainted lips and her eyes are darting across the road. Occasionally they dart over to me, dancing over my form before looking away again. I hum as she looks away again. Her shoulders lift in a half hearted shrug. I let my eye fall closed once again and just let the world pass me by.
Another hour later Tiffany is shaking my shoulder. I shrug her off, unhooking my seatbelt and stumbling from the car. Tiffany reaches out to steady me. Her hand is warm on my arm, even through the thick material of my jacket. She gives me a look made up of furrowed brows and tight lips. Her eyes are as jumpy now as they had been while she was driving. She takes her hand off me and fiddles with the sleeve of her grey high necked sweater. I tilt my head to the side and smile.
"Trying something different there?" I tease. She narrows her eyes eyes at me. She stomps a sneaker clad foot into the concrete floor.
"Inconspicuous," she hisses. I snort. We stare at each other in silence for a few heartbeats before she turns on her heel and walks towards the elevator. I follow after her sedately. The white walls of the hospital reflect the fluorescent lights, nearly blinding me as I transition from the the dimness of the attached garage. Tiffany walks up to the main desk. She raises herself onto the tops of her toes and leans forward. I recognize the woman behind the counter from when a week ago. By the way her eyes flicker over to me and she shrinks back into her seat, she recognizes me as well. I flash her a smile and waggle my fingers in a wave. Tiffany looks over her shoulder to send me a glare before turning back. She taps the counter with her nails and huffs. The woman's eyes dart back over to her and sharpen with focus. I drift over to a wall and lean against it, pointedly turned away from the hushed conversation Tiffany has with the receptionist. I hum idly as a means of distracting myself from the constant din of activity that fills the early afternoon within the facility.
Tiffany tugs at my arm and I turn to follow her obediently through the large, swinging doors. Our footsteps echo through the hallway. We pass nurses and other visitors on our trek. I keep my eyes fixed on the ground the whole time. Out of the corner of my eye I can see Tiffany with her head held high ignoring everyone else around her. When we reach the correct door she walks in without even knocking. Hartley is already inside sitting on the small plastic chair that comes with every hospital room. Jero is propped up by pillows on his bed. The wrap of bandages around his side is pleasantly white where it is peaking out from beneath his haphazardly bundled blankets. He is quick to notice us, eyes flickering over towards us as we let the door swing shut again. Hartley falters in their sentence and looks back at us skeptically before their face breaks out into a smile. I wave to them both as a smile of my own spreads. Tiffany strides into the room, moving to lean against the wall beside the window. She glances outside then reaches over and pulls the drapes across. Effectively shutting off the room from the outside world. For a few tense minutes no one speaks. Our narrowed eyes dance over each other, the wrinkled claws at the corners gouging deeper grooves.
"So, that bad?" Hartley asks. Breaking the silence. I feel my shoulders fall. With a nod I reach into my jacket and free the folder from where I had stashed it. Jero sits up while Hartley's spine stiffens and they straighten in the chair. Tiffany takes an aborted step forward, her arms uncrossing. Everyone's eyes are now on the folder. I walk forward and open the folder, spreading out the pages across the open space of Jero's bed.
"All known gang activity, or lack thereof, as well as the names of Liminal agents who have become indisposed around the same time." My own eyes fall to see Misha's name printed in the same black ink as everyone else. The last name on a list of agents sent in too small groups or alone in so called raids into the rough territories held by the five gangs that have infected the city. Tiffany swears beneath her breath. She slides the second list closer to her. Her eyes narrow to near nothingness as she reads and her lips twist into a scowl. She flicks the page over to Hartley who picks it up after scanning the first. Their eyes widen and their mouth falls as they read. I startle as the paper is slammed down onto the bed. Hartley's mouth closes with a sharp click and a snarl escapes past the interlocked shards of teeth exposed by their lip curling back. Jero and I exchange uneasy looks before turning back to the angry informants.
"Recognize any names there?" I ask trying to force as much steadiness into my voice as I can. Hartley nods sharply. Tiffany pulls a pen from her pocket and hands it over to the levanin. Hartley circles five names spread out across the gangs listed then goes to the second page and circles a name hidden amongst the jargon at the top of the page. I stare down at the red ink overlapping black and white.
"Oh," I breath. Within the circles drawn an uncommon surname is shared between the gang members and the one who is responsible for organizing the raids. Jero leans forward to peer down at the papers.
"I do not know this Gerald Septima," Jero confesses. He grinds his teeth together and frowns.
"There are probably a lot of things we don't know about our organization," I say softly. The harsh set of my partner's jaw does not lessen at my words. He slams a fist into the bed. I jump back slightly.
"And there is nothing I can do about it stuck here in this damnable bed," he growls. I blink at the man. A frown of my own begins to make its way onto my features. Hartley reaches out and rests one of their hands atop Jero's clenched fist.
"We will do what we can until you are ready to join the fray once more," Hartley says in a low, almost teasing voice. Jero's lips quirk upward ever so slightly and he turns his attention to the levanin.
"Thank you," he whispers.
"Thanks to Ashe we now have names to go off of and we can be safe in the assumption that these incidents, the disappearances and raids, were all planned and organized," Jero says, addressing the room. There are a few murmurs of assent and the shuffling of the papers.
"Ashe where did you get this information?" Tiffany asks after a moment. I freeze at the question. Glancing over I can see her inspecting the plain black folder, the papers carefully returned to the pockets inside. At my continued silence she raises her eyes to turn that searching gaze on me. I can feel Jero and Hartley's eyes boring into the side of my head as I stammer nonsensically.
"A. Friend?" I manage eventually. My voice sounds weak, cracking and questioning. Tiffany quirks an eyebrow.
"Does that friend happen to be your former fiance?" Jero's low, rumbling voice asks. Tiffany's eyes widen and she turns her attention away from me. I duck my head, face aflame.
"Former fiance?" The excitement in the tone is a sharp contrast to the gravity of the situation we find ourselves in the middle of.
"They broke up shortly after moving here, when their respective careers put too much of a strain on their relationship."
"You swore you would never tell anyone!" My voice comes out as more of a petulant whine than I had intended and the other three occupants of the room laugh.
"I have said nothing about who they are or what they do so I have broken no promise I have made to you," Jero defends as his laughter dies down. I pout. He smiles at me. A soft expression that is in contrast with the humor dancing around the room. Reaching out I grab the folder from Tiffany's loose grip. I walk over to the door and hover there until Tiffany heaves a sigh. She pushes away from the bed, fixing the hem of her sweater and flashing a charming smile at Jero and Hartley.
"Looks like we're heading out. We'll keep you updated on everything, just focus on getting rest okay Jero?" The man rolls his eyes and waves us away. Hartley is pulling their phone out of a pocket with their free hand.
"I'll ask around and touch base with you guys later. Don't get into too much trouble now, okay Ashe?" I blink at them but do nothing to stop the sly smile from spreading over my face. The barest hint of teeth peeking from beneath my upper lip. Jero narrows his eyes at me, his lips pursing in a frown. I turn away before he can begin to say anything.
"Bye guys. Get well Jero!" I call back as I stride from the room. The tapping of Tiffany's footsteps as she follows me rings sharply in my ears. It does not take her long to catch up with me and she knocks her shoulder against my arm when she does. I glance over to her and return her smile with a shaky one of my own.
"Never knew you had been engaged," Tiffany begins conversationally as we slide into the car.
"It was years ago," I reply blithely. "We haven't even been in touch until recently."
"That bad?" She asks. I shake my head.
"Just happened. Nothing to be done about it either way really." Tiffany looks at me out of the corner of her eyes and quirks an eyebrow. I can tell she does not quite believe me but I am resolute in my refusal to say anything else about the topic. It is quiet in the empty parking garage. No one coming in or out as we just sit there. I stare resolutely at the crack in the wall in front of us.
"What do you think we should do first?" she asks eventually.
"A part of me wants to storm Liminal headquarters to find that Gerald Septima," I begin. Tiffany whips her head to level me with a sharp look. I grin at her, eyes sparkling in amusement. "But of course that would be a stupid idea right now." Tiffany's sigh of relief draws a sort of mad giggle from my chest. I lean forward, resting my elbows on my knees and steepling my fingers together.
"No matter who we go after we can assume they are on alert. Jero and I are professional irritants after all." Tiffany snorts and her mumbled 'you especially' is not lost to me as I continue on. "I suppose the next thing to consider would be how much revenge you want."
"I would like nothing more than to cave in the heads of those who harmed Misha," Tiffany replies instantly. There is a spark in her eyes that causes the mark on my hand to tingle. I push me hair back, falling backwards to rest comfortably in the seat.
"I'd be down for round three." The ignition in the car sparks and it rumbles to life. We peel out of the garage, barely managing to avoid a collision as we merge into traffic. I watch as we speed past buildings and people. The blaring of horns follows us through the city until we skid to a stop in front of Tiffany's warehouse. The woman is out and stomping up to the building barely a second alter, keys still in the ignition. I scramble to follow. My feet kick up dust as I run. Tiffany's voice carries through the warehouse. Barking orders to the myriad of people hanging around. I duck through the door, stumbling as I nearly run into one of the guards. He glanced at me curiously and without the animosity I am used to from Tiffany's men.
"Prepare yourselves boys. There's a war brewing and we sure as shit ain't missing it!" Tiffany shouts from the top floor. Her footsteps sound, sharp and ominous down the steps. She appears just past the curve, a wicked smile on her lips and a war hammer slung over her right shoulder. Whispers erupt amongst the ranks of men and women around me. Fingers twitch at their sides. Itching for weapons of their own.
"Well?" She asks, quirking an eyebrow and cocking her hip so it brushes against the railing. There is a brief pause before the warehouse erupts into a whirl of activity. I stand back and pull out my phone, shifting so as to dodge the occasional thrown object or get out of the way of a rushing guard. I type out the same message and send it to two different people.
'Please disregard any commotion you hear in and around Caer territory for the rest of the night. Thanks.'
There are many things being a Liminal agent trains you for. Combat, intelligence gathering, search and rescue, and crowd control; to name a few. Nothing, I think, would have prepared me for this. It is not the scenario, raids into hostile territory are not uncommon depending on where one happens to be stationed, but the situation surrounding it is odd. At almost any other time I would have been doing this very same thing against these people, not with them. Even if she is quiet about it Tiffany does run the largest smuggling ring in the city, if not the state.
The thundering footsteps of over a dozen heavily armed men and women swarming the streets fill my ears. They break away from each other into groups of twos and threes. Their footsteps fade away as they slow and begin to comb the area marked as Caer territory. Whispered conversations come through as staticked buzzing through the earpiece Tiffany had made sure to fit me with before we left. The deia is leaning against the van holding a further five men and the monitoring equipment that the cameras affixed to every guard are feeding to. She is watching me, I know. Waiting for me to make a move in any direction. I shift uneasily. The armor Tiffany has lent me flexes with my every move. How useful the armor will end up being rests on multiple factors, not the least of which being whether or not I get into combat tonight or not. From the sounds of it the likelihood of that is getting smaller and smaller by minute.
"Agent, KH would like to inform you that they are very disappointed in you," one of the guards inside the van informs me. A round of unprofessional giggles sounds throughout the communication link. I roll my eyes.
"Kindly tell them that that doesn't work anymore." A snort of amusement from Tiffany's location and the hummed affirmation as the guard relays my message, my phone being temporarily linked up to their system. In case of emergency Tiffany had told me when she had stolen my phone from my hands initially.
"With all due respect, Agent, bullshit," the guard says. I blink and glance back at the van.
"Was that you or them?"
"Little bit of column A, little bit of column B." Another round of giggles. My eyes slide over to Tiffany and I cock an eyebrow at the blonde woman. She smiles back at me beatifically and knocks her hip against the handle of her warm hammer leaning beside her. I open my mouth to say something when the comm line crackles to life once again.
"Boss we found some scraps talking about this Septima guy you're looking for." Tiffany straightens and the doors to the back fo the van swing open. I move to look over Tiffany's shoulder as she looks at the feed of the talking guard. A small collection of torn and burnt paper lays spread across the dusty ground of what appears to be an abandoned building. The feet of other guards pass in and out of the corner of the feed as they wander around the rest of the house.
"Looks like fragments of correspondences. Meetings maybe? Some of those words look like street names and the numbers could be times."
"Good job. Gather it up and return to start," Tiffany barks the orders and her guards move to comply immediately. The feed flickers then goes black. Tiffany freezes and looks towards the men stationed at the computers. Chatter erupts across the channel, panicked voices calling out the names of comrades before being suddenly silenced. Fingers fly over the keyboards, trying to re-establish the connections to the lost guards. Tiffany swears vehemently.
"Do we have readings on their last known locations?" She asks. There is a note of something in her voice that sends a chill down my spine. The confirmation and subsequent relaying of the information is nearly lost to me as Tiffany barrels past. Shouting behind her as she swipes her war hammer off the side of the van.
"Lock yourselves in this damn van and don't you dare leave unless you're about to be blown up!" I step back and help by slamming the doors shut before moving to follow after the deia.
"Do you think they got attacked or cut off?" I ask. Tiffany shrugs.
"We're about to find out," she replies. She marches off confidently. A woman on a warpath. I trail after her slowly, trying to keep my footsteps soft against the sidewalk. My palm itches and warmth blooms at the nape of my neck. Tiffany stiffens but does not look back at me. Static rings in my ears. I grit my teeth and glance around. My eyes dart to every perceived movement, ears straining for all sounds outside of the droning static. Tiffany's light breaths, the sharp clicks of her steel tipped boots against the concrete, the fluttering of my own heart in my chest.
Frustration bubbles beneath my breast. There has been no sign of the guards who had scattered out across the streets hours ago. Hours that had been full of gentle teasings, clipped words, murmured assurances. But now there is only silence, silence, more silence. No movement either. Nothing. A high pitched screech pierces my ear. I jump, hand fluttering up to pry the earpiece out and hold it at arms length. Ahead of me Tiffany has done the same thing and is glaring at the offending technology. I wait for the noise to stop. My hand shakes, knuckles turning a bony white as I clench my fist.
"Come in someone, anyone, please come in!" The voice is small, distant. I hurry to put the earpiece back in.
"This is Tiffany, report!" I hear her voice echo in both ears. We wait with baited breath. My body vibrating with chained energy. There is a series of pops and muffled shouts before the voice returns, an energy to it that was not there with the initial message.
"Boss! Thank Leahsi. Our comms got interfered with, I've been trying to bypass the signal and get back in touch. We're under fire, it seems to be primarily suppressive but we don't have any doubts that these guys will shoot to kill given the opportunity. I'm here with mine and two other teams, a few of us are injured. We think there's another team somewhere nearby drawing the enemy's attention but it's hard to say for sure."
"So only one team is unaccounted for," Tiffany murmurs mostly to herself. "Stay put, the Agent and I will head to your position and break the line."
"Thank you Boss," the voice says. "We're in the northeast quadrant. It shouldn't take too long to find once you get close enough." A smattering of laughter from behind the speaker. I can see Tiffany's shoulders relax somewhat. She looks back at me with hard eyes.
"We're getting my people back and taking out as many of those damnable Caers as we can in the process. Understood?" I nod. She hefts her hammer and begins moving once again. This time faster, with more purpose. I jog to catch up to her.
It does not take long for the sounds of the pops and cracks of shots being fired to stop from coming just from the comm piece. Tiffany ducks into a bullet riddle building as we approach. I follow her lead, peeking out to try and see anything beyond the vague shadowy outlines of buildings. Consistent, unending, muzzle flashes coinciding with every crack that fills the air are my only hints as to the number of people keeping Tiffany's guards pinned down. Every so often there will be a flash from another building as Tiffany's guards return fire. Their bullets do nothing, however, only appear to strike a barrier before falling to the ground. As I'm watching a bullet flies past my face, barely missing grazing the tip of my nose. Through the din I can hear Tiffany swearing and the solid thud of her boot making contact with the wall.
"They are unrelenting," she hisses.
"And they know we're here," I add. She kicks the wall again. I risk another peek out at the firing squad.
"Do you have anything that can disrupt magical barriers?"
"Not with me." I shift from foot to foot, nibbling on my bottom lip as I mull over voicing my idea. Tiffany narrows her eyes in a glare.
"So I might have an idea," I begin. Tiffany raises her eyebrows and motions for me to continue. "And it might be dumb. Very, very dumb." She levels me with a deadpan expression, lips turned downwards.
"Are you going to do it anyway even if I veto it?" I widen my eyes and bat my eyelashes. The deia heaves a heavy sigh.
"What's your plan?"
"I'm going to go out there and draw all their attention so you and your people can focus fire on dropping that barrier." The words leave me in a rush. Tiffany blinks slowly.
"You're right that is a dumb idea." I lift my shoulders in a shrug.
"Unless there's some pretty impressive firepower or antimagic anything just lying around I don't think there is anything else we can do." She growls something and stomps to the other side of the building. The shooting stops and we freeze. I poke my head out and catch flickers of movement from where the firing squad had been set up.
"Boss they're on the move!" The voice is panicked and there is the sounds of bodies scrambling to move. Hushed voices hissing orders to get down, to protect the injured come through in broken segments. I look back over at Tiffany and see her pale face. Her eyes wide, fear and uncertainty swirling within them. She meets my gaze. Her lips purse and her grip tightens on her war hammer. With a jolt of her head, she nods.
"Hang tight and be prepared to unleash everything you've got on them. I'm going to draw their attention away from you," I tell the guard. I can only vaguely hear them relay my orders to the others with them. With one final nod to Tiffany I step out of the building. As I walk closer I can feel the magic holding up the barrier. My vision wavers. A seductive whisper breezes past my ears. A gentle caress down my arms. I shake my head, gritting my teeth against the allure of the magic. My hands flex at my sides. I breath a prayer. Ice fills my veins even as my right palm splits and erupts into blue fire. The back of my neck burns and heavy drops of a thick liquid slide down my back. Cracked bone wings erupt from my back, splitting the armor that Tiffany had given me. I don't have the time to worry about it as the attention of the group advancing on Tiffany's people changes to focus on me.
There is a vaguely worded shout and sound erupts around me. Bullets streak past me. Some strike my armor, pushing the wind out of my lungs. I gasp, desperately trying to suck air back into my aching body. The bone wings shutter and lift me into the air. Divine magic swirls around me. A rush of wind picks up and pushes back against the barrage of bullets being sent my way. It merely slows the projectiles down, making their hits against me less effective. It does not take long for Tiffany's people to rally. Gunshots strike harmlessly against the barrier surrounding the people firing upon me. There is a stutter in the attention being paid to me as the people shuffle around to usher someone into the middle of the pack and the barrier is reinforced. I cock my head to the side as I try to focus on the magic user amongst the throng of bodies and ripples of magic. My right hand flares brighter, the ashen colored fire climbing higher and making me a beacon in the darkness. Or more of one. From amidst the flames a dark weapon forms. The scythe is heavy in my hand, wrought metal cool against my heated skin. The blade glints within the light of the flames spiraling out around it.
A grin spreads over my face as panicked shouts make their way through the pack. I flourish the scythe unnecessarily before diving through the bullets and bringing the blade down onto the barrier. My strike reverberates through the magic construct, causing it to ripple slightly. I pull back slightly only to wind up another swing and strike again and again and again. Heedless of the bullets burying themselves into my worn armor and grazing the exposed skin of my face. When the blade cuts through the barrier and cuts across the tops of its denizens' heads the shooting stops. Silence suddenly reigning in the night. I blink and drift to the ground before the group. They drop their guns, many of them raising their arms. Their eyes dart from me to the rest of their surroundings. The whites having nearly overtaken their pupils. Someone huffs and I look over to see Tiffany resting her war hammer over her shoulder. In front of her a person is holding their side. Footsteps pounding against the cement and Tiffany's guards appear to surround their previous assailants. A few are missing pieces of armor, blood soaked bandages in its place. Three more of Tiffany's people appear from the shadows and hurry up to their boss. I can't quite make out what is said but I do see one handing off a stack of battered papers to the woman. She nods her thanks and sweeps her gaze over her captives.
"Boss? Come in Boss! Did it work this time?" The comm crackles to life and the strained voice of one of the men back at the van fills my ear. Tiffany holds up a finger to the group and turns slightly away.
"Tiffany here. We read you," she replies. There is an audible sigh of relief form the other end and the faint murmurs of reassurances amongst the party that had been left behind.
"Thank the Gods. We had been worried," the voice whispers. Through the darkness I see a faint smile spread over Tiffany's face and a slight flush spread up her neck and cheeks.
"Boss, Agent, both of you have gotten a number of texts from someone called Hartley. Most recently they've sent out an SOS." Dread pools in my stomach. The scythe falls to the ground. Wrought metal clattering against the concrete at my feet. Tiffany freezes. Her hand curls into a tight fist.
"Detain these people, search them, then bring them back to the warehouse for interrogation!" Tiffany shouts. She begins to move, striding away from the group with tight shoulders. I take a step forward. Bone wings shudder at my back. Wisps of smoke curl around my feet as the scythe dissipates. I reach out and wrap an arm tight around Tiffany's waist. She makes a choked off noise of surprise that she muffles into my chest as I take off into the sky. Tiffany flings her arms around my neck and pulls herself closer to me. I can feel her sharp breaths on my collar bone through the armor. She is shaking, minute tremors that she is trying to supress. I curl my other arm around her. Providing added support as we soar over the city. I am faintly aware of the conversations Tiffany's people are having, questions being posed and worries voiced. Tiffany responds in shuddering breaths every so often but I cannot make out what exactly is being said beyond the howling of wind and the pounding of my heart.
My body feels heavy when we land in front of the hospital. The street is empty, almost eerily so. A few cars parked along the street. Vague shapes in the darkness. The hospital itself is unnaturally dark. No lights of any kind can be seen through the windows. Tiffany and I let each other go and take a step away to separate ourselves. We take a moment to catch our breaths and steady our pounding hearts.
"What," Tiffany begins. An explosion of light and sound interrupts her. The sky opens up and rain pours down on us. Lightning strikes around us. Thunder booms. I jump back as something fills the building. A coiling spiral of scales spills out from the second floor windows. A low sound rumbles, shaking the building and the ground we are standing on. A shrieking roar pierces the air alongside another flash of lightning. A razor finned tail knocks out a wall of the hospital and slams into the ground a few feet to my left. Magic pulses. A condensed wave that washes over me. My throat bobs as I swallow. I feel the wings at my back crumble away. The ocean roars in my ears. My vision clouds over. Static fuzz fills my mind. I suck in a shallow breath but choke on air as my lungs feel like they are filled to the brim with water. Salt coats my tongue when it darts out to wet my chapped lips. I sway unsteadily on my feet. Moved by the current. Another push and pull of the tide and I am swept away.