Stand 23-III

It Is The Unknown We Fear.

I couldn't let myself stop and think about what I was doing. If I did, I'd probably have a panic attack right there and mess it all up. So instead, I focused intently on the oncoming train, watching its rapid approach as I fell.

Within seconds, though, I realised that my initial plan wasn’t going to work. I’d planned to grab onto the top of the train, and hitch a ride that way, but the surface was smooth and unbroken. And at the speeds it was moving, I didn’t trust my ability to grab the edge of one of the carriages without a.) tearing straight through it (if dense), b.) tearing straight through my own arm (if normal), or c.) losing my grip immediately thanks to the wind (if light). I was left hurtling towards the tracks, with the train racing to get there first.

“If one train leaves Baltimore at 8:35 going 60 mph, and another leaves D.C. at 9:00 going 90 mph…”

I could just ghost through the tracks and the train and be fine, but that didn’t solve anything. So I had to come up with something new, and desperately hoped it worked.

And that it doesn’t destroy the train.

Maybe twenty meters above the track, I went intangible- No, I need air resistance -and immediately corrected to just very, very light. I slowed within seconds, until I was drifting just above the tracks. I’d beaten the train down, but not by much, and the sight of a sleek hunk of metal bearing down on me as I looked up nearly stopped my heart. Thankfully, the fight-or-flight leant towards fight, and I managed not to deer-in-the-headlights myself.

It was a near thing, though.

I jumped just as the train arrived, bringing myself up to about where the floor of the interior would be, and went intangible. The sleek, slanted front passed through me harmlessly, and then I was inside. Instantly, I went solid, but still light, and then I was flying down the center of the car. Well, technically, I was standing still as it sped around me, but from my perspective, the difference was pretty academic. I caught the barest glimpses of some very shocked faces from the passengers, before I hit the wall at the other end of the carriage.

Being the approximate density of styrofoam meant that I didn’t splatter like an overripe tomato, but that didn’t mean it didn’t hurt. After a second, I fell off the wall, collapsing to my knees, groaning loudly. My bones hurt. I was pretty sure my bones weren’t supposed to hurt.

Do I even have bones right now?

After a few seconds, the ringing in my ears faded away, quickly being replaced with soft murmuring. I lifted my head to find the train’s passengers crowded around me, staring and whispering.

What they saw was a tall, gangly teenager wearing ski goggles, a scarf and a hood, her clothing torn, tattered and covered in dust, who had just hurtled down the entire length of a train cabin and apparently survived. Oh, and half her torso was missing, and the gaps were leaking lavender smoke. I couldn’t really begrudge them the stares.

It was still an entire train car’s worth of people looking directly at me, though. Thank goodness for my face being covered, otherwise I was pretty sure I’d have frozen up. Even with that, I could still feel every single one of the eyes on me, boring into me like lasers.

“When it doubt, whip it out. ‘It’ being self-confidence, in this case. Act like you belong…”

I stood up fully, trying to ignore the burning protest from my body. Affecting a casual air, I brushed some dust off my shoulders, then stepped forward. “Excuse me,” I managed to say, and the crowd actually parted, letting me through. It was like a little bubble of space around me, no-one willing to get too close. I glanced around, and wherever I looked, people looked away. It was… uncomfortable, actually. I didn’t like the idea of people being afraid of me.

I got the same reactions all the way up the carriage, but I just did my best to ignore it. I’d never seen these people before, and I’d hopefully never see them again. There was one girl who looked vaguely familiar, but I couldn’t place her, and just dismissed it.

The front of the train was hardened one-way glass, which was why I hadn’t been able to see through it from the outside. The people up this end had actually seen me pass through the front, so their reaction was more polarised. Some still skittered away, but others looked at me with curiosity, or suspicion.

Looking out the window, I could see the city center rapidly approaching, silver spires shooting skyward, with the Tower rising above them all. The train didn’t actually go all the way to the Tower, but it got pretty close, stopping at the ring of stations around it. Hopefully I'd be able to spot Paladin from-

“Oi!” I jumped, spinning to find a portly, middle-aged man jabbing a finger at me. “Who do you think you are, jumping around like that?”

“Ooh, you should pick him up with one hand. That'd be hilarious!”

I'm not going to intimidate a civilian! What's wrong with you?!

“Well, let's see your way of handling this, then.”

Uhhhh…

“Hey! Can you hear me?” He clicked his fingers in my face.  Without any better ideas, and panicking slightly, I just turned back to the window and ignored him. “Hey!”

We were coming in to the first of the skyscrapers now, and light entering the train began flickering and strobing. I could see the ring station and the end of the tracks in the distance, growing larger. Still no sign of Paladin, though. Maybe I'd made it ahead of her? I doubted it, but anything was possible.

The man was still talking to me, louder and more forceful now. I turned back to face him, mouth opening to snap a rebuke, but the words kind of caught in my throat, and I just ended up staring at him.

And to my infinite surprise, it actually worked. He seemed to deflate as I continued staring at him, and he slunk away. I guess that with my face covered, it looked a lot more intimidating than the worried, panicked face that was underne-

There was a loud boom from above, and everyone's heads swivelled around to look. Above us, a large golden mass clipped the edge of a building, sending debris and dust flying.

“Found her.”

Her wings were beating desperately, awkwardly, but they didn't seem like they were up to the task of keeping her aloft any more. With an earsplitting roar, she spiralled out of the air and came crashing down on the tracks.

Directly in front of the oncoming train.


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