Now, I wasn't a hundred percent sure. 10 million people in the city, there were definitely many, many teenage girls with pink-y blonde hair around. But she was wearing white pants & boots, like Wisp had, and her black shirt looked like thermal underwear, that you'd wear underneath a proper shirt. I do it, most of us do when it's wintertime. Steelsilk is fantastic, but it's not very warm. Plus, there was the slightest hint of shimmery lavender at her side, like that scarf she'd been wearing.
“Is that that Wisp girl?” George asked. So there was that too.
I nodded, not looking away from the screen. “Yep, looks like it.”
“Who?” Talie asked, sounding confused.
“Long story, tell you later. What was she doing there?”
“Oh, I saw her!” said Adib, excited. “She was there when Sanjay came and got me! He told me she helped him find me, but I didn't know at the time, and I thought she was with Edith, so I blocked off the corridor and ran.”
“Uh huh,” I said distractedly. “But why would she have-” my brain caught up, and I froze. “What.”
“Oh yeah, Edith was there too. She mostly ignored me and screamed a lot and hit things, though. She was already there when they brought me in.”
I spun away from the screen, thoughts of Wisp forgotten. “The Tower has her?!”
Adib took a step back, and I realized I was up in his face. “...no, she got out when I did. See, Sanjay blew up one of the circuits, but it shorted out the rest, and-”
I'd already stopped listening. I began pacing, back and forth, wringing my hands and rubbing my neck. I… didn't know how to feel about that. On one hand, it was the Tower. They could all rot in hell, as far as I was concerned, and I respected their authority about as much as I respected the average fly. But… if she was in a cell, then she wasn't out on the streets, hurting others and herself. No, wait, Adib had said she was hitting things, she'd do that until she bled. So not hurting others, at least. I… think I could live with that? It's not a happy thought, but it's kind of hard to say she doesn't deserve it. Moot point, though, because she'd escaped. And whatever she'd been planning to get back at us for, that'd probably still be happening. With an accelerated timeline, I bet. If I knew her at all, she'd take the anger from being locked up and channel it all my way, because that's what she did. She focused on a target, and it was like tunnel vision. Didn't matter what happened from there and who was responsible, any new emotions were directed at that person or problem. Add to that that she apparently thought the datapad had some clue as to Eve’s whereabouts, and I predicted she was a problem we were going to have to deal with sooner rather than later. And I really didn't want to do that.
“Flint.” A hand landed on my shoulder, stopping me in my tracks, and I looked up to see Talie, standing in front of me with a look of concern on her face. “Problem for later, yeah?”
I took a deep breath in, and let it out slowly. “Yeah. Yeah, okay. Sorry.”
“It's okay,” she said gently. “We know-”
I knocked her hand off and strode back to the TV. “I'm not made of fucking porcelain, I'm not gonna shatter.” I leant in and peered at the still-frozen image of Wisp on the screen. “Adib. You said she helped you?”
“That's what Sanjay said. He said she told him where I was.”
“Did he say if she said why she was there?” He shook his head. “Damn. That would have made this easier.”
“Flint, I seriously think you need to tell us what the deal with this girl is.” Shauna was looking at me with a mix of concern and trepidation, and a little bit of anger.
I sighed, looking at Jess and George. “I don't suppose either one of you wants to take this?” They both looked at me flatly. “Yeah, I realized as soon as I said it.” I gave the rest of the group the briefest possible rundown of Wisp’s whole situation.
“So, she's looking for the… school hijackers, the ones Adib stopped?” Talie looked pensive, but the big guy puffed out his chest slightly.
“I call them the Prowlers,” I said. “But yeah. And at the time, we didn't know there was any connection there with our thing. But now there is, because they were looking for the datapad, and she just happens to show up at the Tower at the same time as us?” I sucked in a breath through my teeth. “I think she might be working for them.”
Jess shook her head. “Why would she help Sanjay?”
“To plant a tracker on Adib, track him back to us?” Shauna asked.
George shook his head. “He's clean.”
“Hmm. Then I don't know.”
“I'll admit, it doesn't make an amazing amount of sense,” I said. “But you have to admit it's suspicious that she just happened to run into us, twice now.”
“Well, counterpoint,” Talie said. “You said you brought her here. Why would she need to bug Adib or whatever, if she could just show them herself?”
I felt my eyes widen. “Oh fucking hell, I hadn't even thought about that. I may have doomed us all.”
“I think we'll be okay. Adib, they got you yesterday evening?”
“More like early this morning.”
“Right, yeah. They wouldn't have done that if this Wisp girl could've led them straight here.”
“Why don't we just ask her?” George said, pulling out his phone. He mimed tapping on the screen. “Dear Wisp, are you working for the Tower? Thanks, the Outliers.” He made a booping noise. “And… send.”
“Ha ha, George, very funny.”
He frowned. “...did you think I was joking?” He turned the screen to us and showed us the sent message. I gaped at him for a second, then buried my face in my hands and swore a bit.
“Oh-kay!” Talie clapped her hands together. “I think this has officially fallen under the category of something to worry about later. Right now…” she’d set her phone on the table when I wasn't watching, and she tapped the screen.
“Ey yo,” said Lis’s voice on speakerphone. “Wassup.” There was the slight sound of rapid clicking in the background.
“Hey Ricochet,” Talie said, putting a slight emphasis on the name. We all got the hint. “How's our mutual friend going?”
An unfamiliar voice came onto the line. A woman, heavily tinged with one of those British-tinged subcontinent accents. “I am standing right here, thank you. You are the client, yes? Void?”
“That's me, yes. Do you almost have it?”
“I would have it already if your busybody would not stand over my shoulder and pester me.” The tapping intensified. “But yes, I have your files. I trust payment has been delivered.”
“Ricochet will handle that,” Talie said smoothly. All of us were now looking at her with what were probably pretty amusing expressions. She held up one finger and smiled. “Can you do as agreed, please?”
“I deal with criminals and you are my worst customer.” A brief pause. “There, it is done. Now, I would very much like to be paid, please.”
“Thank you, Bhaga. Ricochet, pay the lady.”
“You got it, boss lady.” Then the call clicked off.
“Mind explaining what that was?” I asked with a raised eyebrow.
“That,” she replied, “was the hacker we hired to grab the footage of the fight and release it to every major news network and cape board.” She grinned at our stunned reactions. “Cool, right?”
I leaned back, breathing out. “Holy shit. So you predicted they'd cut out the video?”
“It does make sense,” Shauna said contemplatively.
“Mm-hmm. And now everyone knows we were peaceful, and they attacked us. They'll take a hit to their credibility for sure, and it'll be a lot harder for them to come after us.”
“Except now,” George pointed out, “every supervillain in the city knows for sure we still have the datapad. They'll all be gunning for us.”
In response, Jess popped her knuckles, sharp and loud and unexpected, and said what we were all thinking.
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