Running for Fire: Chapter 13

We hurry back to the motel, or at least as fast as we can when I can barely walk. Cas’ face is cold, hard, and I know that he’s seeing those two men fall to the ground, again and again, like the image is on a loop. Still, he keeps his arms around me, helping me walk, in fact he is almost carrying me by the end of the journey

We stop when we near the car-park. We went the long way-round, skirting around the towns, the buildings, so we couldn’t be seen. I turn to face him, gasping, everything spinning, so I focus on his face, lit up by streetlights that are steadily turning on around us.

“You didn’t have to do it Cas. I didn’t want you to! I could have done it, I was going to do it.” I stumbled slightly, the dull pulsing pain bursting out suddenly with a higher intensity. Cas wraps an arm around my waist to steady me. He cuts me off, staring at me with an intensity I wasn’t used to.

“Of course you could have done it Tallie. I know how strong you are, you don’t have to tell me that.” His breathing is coming out harshly, but his eyes are soft.

“Yes, of course I know but- I don’t want you to…” I trail off, trying to express my anger and sorrow.

“This is all of our fight, Tallie. Despite how much you tell yourself you can, you cannot keep sacrificing yourself for us, shouldering burdens you shouldn’t have to bear alone. I’ve told you a hundred times and I will tell ou a hundred more: you are fire Tallie. Stop trying to extinguish it, just in case other people get burnt.”

I stare at him, rendered wordless for one of the first times in my life. It hurts somehow, to have him think so highly of me, when I am no way as kind or as brave or as anything as him, or as the others. I am the one that is a burden because I can’t control myself or my powers. I have never though that I was the fire, rather that I was controlled by it. I open myself to say something, anything, to tell him what that means to me, to repay the gift, but he cuts me off.

“Come on, we have to get you back to Mel and Pete.” Cas has wrapped up the hole in my wing as well as he can with the mini first aid kit he was carrying, and I can feel it beginning to heal (all four of us heal fast). I’ve always healed faster when my wings out, even if, as they are currently, folded at my back with a coat over them. It hurt like hell to fold them up, but we’ve never tried to draw my wings back into me when they’re injured. When my wings vanish, we don’t know where they go. They don’t vanish into my back, they just shift away. If they do manage to vanish inside me though, it could cause internal bleeding now that they’ve got a bloody great hole in them.

We stumble up through the reception, Cas mouthing “too much to drink” at the receptionist. Without even asking, Cas scoops me up instead of letting me take the stairs, careful not to put pressure on my wings. I hit him, feebly on the chest, murmuring that I can walk, but he ignores me. We walk up to room 24, and before Cas can lift his hand to knock, the door flies open, and we are faced by a thunderstorm.

“Where the hell have you been? How dare you? We have been in pieces here, you have been gone for hours! You were only going to get some food…” Mel stops her yelling as see she sees me. “Tallie!” Mel gasps, her hand flying to her mouth. Pete is standing just behind her, and his face goes pale as he sees Cas standing there with me in his arms, and I am assuming from the lines on Cas’ forehead and the look on Pete and Mel’s face, that I look like death. “WHAT HAPPENED?”

  • ● ●

The next hour is a blur, which I am glad of, because I hate people looking after me. And that is all that happens. The wound on my wing is strapped and treated with an anti-bacterial thingy that burns- which is not a sensation I am used to. More plaster and bandages are wrapped along the shattered bone, but I can already feel it knitting itself back together, which is a weird and painful experience.  I am aware that Mel and Cas have left to find a 24hour pharmacy to buy painkillers and whatever else. I am also aware that Cas has not explained what happened, and said he will not until I can fill in the gaps.

They return to find me sat up on the starched white sheets, my hair messy, face pale, in the same bloodstained clothes I got shot in. Cas shoots me a grin over Mel’s shoulder, who rushed to tackle me in a hug the second she comes through the door. Pete also gives me a relieved grin when I laugh and hug Mel back instead of, as I assume he expected me to, his with pain.

“There you go Cas, she’s all better-almost. Now spill. What the hell happened to you two?” Pete finishes in an exasperated voice.

We all sit on the double bed in a circle/square, the way we used to when we were children. It didn’t take us long to find a way onto the roof in Metropolis, and we used to sit up there all night, huddled around a campfire of my making. There is no campfire between us now, and we don’t need it. We are closer than we ever have been before. I remember Pete saying on our first night of fleeing Metropolis, lying side by side under a cloudy sky, when his face was stained with tears and his voice all scratchy, that this plan was either going to unite us forever or disband us.

We recount the tale. How we were trapped down the alleyway, how Cas saw the future and realised that if we were to leave that alleyway, I would be killed, how we thought up a plan, or as Cas put it, “a suicidal plan that had absolutely nothing to do with me”. Then I talk about how I got the fighters into the warehouse, how I set fire to the place, how I got shot, and then Cas talks about how he got to the warehouse, his slightly delayed journey down back alleys and council flats, and then we both pause. Pete and Mel knew that we weren’t worried enough when we returned that we had to move, that there wasn’t people chasing us, and know they are looking at us both, and neither of us have to say anything else, they have already worked it out, yet Cas still does.

“I shot them both. Tallie was on the floor- I didn’t know how badly she was hurt and the two fighters were aiming at her and I shot them.” He rushes his words out, but doesn’t hang his head, instead he lifts his chin slightly.

I open my mouth to speak but Pete gets there first.

“You don’t need to justify yourself Cas, you saved Tallies life, even if she will never admit it” Pete nudges me in the ribs, laughing along with the other two, and I mock glare at him.

“That reminds me”, says Mel, who is still laughing, “we got painkillers and the rest of the stuff.” She points to a boots bag lying on the hotels purple carpet. I grab a pack of painkillers, hoping they will stop the slowly intensifying pounding pain from my wings, which are still folded at my back. As I pull out a sheet of tablets, however, a piece of notepaper flutters to the floor, red lines stark like blood against the bleach white paper. My hands shake as I read the scrawling handwriting.

Ulciscere Manor- north of Bristol.

Welcome to Metropolis the second.

Stay safe, see you soon- Jay.

Advertisements

Running for Fire: Chapter 12

And so the game begins. My wings shift, and I accelerate, feeling the wing stroke the scales. I effortlessly twist and dive around the buildings, avoiding the now more and more frequent gunshots, muffled by the screw-on silencers. I plummet downwards, seeing the red-brick walls rush to meet me as I fall, and suddenly there are buildings looming all around me. Before I can hit the alley floor, I let my wings snap out again and speed off, the bricks no more than a blur as I fly straight and fast- parallel to the grubby tarmac floor.

I round a corner, now flying down the backstreets of a council estate and I dive low, low enough to touch the ground before accelerating upwards. Now that I am back in sight, the gun shots start again, getting dangerously close. I panic. How are they keeping track of me? I recheck my surroundings, making sure to not keep still in the air, and spot the warehouse again. Cas should be almost there by now. Shouldn’t he? A few more minutes.

Deciding to up the game, I fly faster, in tight dizzying circles, repeatedly plummeting and rising in different areas, using the plain brick buildings as an ocean, constantly dipping in and out of the waves. It felt good, to fly like this. I know I should be scared, but adrenaline was pounding my blood so hard there was no room for fear. There was just my wings, the way they sliced through the sky like a chainsaw through chocolate. There was nothing but this.

It was time. This was going to be the hard bit. I twisted in mid-air, looking at the roof of the hairdressers below me, and sped off towards the main road, ducking in low towards the buildings, careful not to be seen by anyone. I danced this way and that, making sure my attackers could still keep me in sight. I was leading them in a particular direction, I was leading them to the warehouse, only a street away. They had seen us, they had to die. I was frightening how that had become a reality for us.

The warehouse loomed in front of me, abandoned yet intimidating, and I dropped to the floor, pulling my wings in close to my body, folding them to my back. The doors were shut, but they weren’t locked. When I got them open, a large bare room welcomed me. There was a very old rug in one corner, surrounded by very old take-out cartons, empty packets of cigarettes, and beer bottles. The leftovers of some squatters home. Everything was covered in a layer of dust. It was also empty in the way that Cas wasn’t here yet.

That was better, somehow.

I looked up at the corrugated metal ceiling, the fading logo of a washing machine company imprinted on the far wall, and tracked a pipe that stretch across the width of the room, above the door. Perfect. I shut the doors behind me, plunging the room into semi-darkness, and stretched my wings wide, launching myself up to the pipe. I perched there, letting my breathing slow, but keeping my eyes focused, not sure if it was going to be Cas or the members of TJP coming in though the doors below me.

When the doors creaked open, I knew it was immediately not Cas. I knew that because it was a gun that had pushed the door open, and a gun that preceded its owner into the building. I waited, crouched in the shadows, watching the two heads move further into the room, looking around.

I leapt from the pipe, falling like a stone, too fast for their bullets, and slammed the doors shut, pressing my palm that was burning with adrenaline against the metal, feeling the two doors melt together, just a bit. I leapt back into the air, not giving the attackers time to adjust to the change of light before sending a spike of fire at where I assumed they were. I missed, just. One of them- the lighter haired, older one, fell to the floor, rubbing the flames off his clothes.

The other one shot more bullets at me, which I dodged, sending a stream of fire down towards them. The older one was scrambling to his feet, but he had to dive to the side to miss the next jet of flames, so I aimed for the other one, throwing a kitchen knife at him. It buried itself in his right arm, and his gun clattered to the floor. I held my hands up to shoot another stream of flames at him, when I heard the bang. The older one was standing in the corner, a gun in his hand, and I could fell blinding pain spreading through me from my left wing.

I plummeted downwards, twisting and writhing, frantically beating my other wing to stop myself braking all my bones. I landed heavily, and felt a fresh pulse of pain coming from the perfect hole in the black membrane in my left wing, the dark blood nearly invisible. I struggled to my feet, but I wondered if I had enough energy in me to force out some more fire, and wondering if it was even worth it, seeing as the man had his gun in his hands, and he was pointing it at me, and his friend was on his feet, grimacing and clutching his arm, but alive, ready to fight.

No. I would go down, fighting, or not at all.

I dove to the side as the bullet passed by, ignoring the impact of my landing. I had another knife on my belt, I could fight.

I let out a sting of flame, not very powerful, but enough to make the attackers dive to the side. My wing was shuddering and shaking, and I was seeing red in the corners of my vision. Why did it hurt this much? Why was I reacting as badly as this? The membrane of my wings was thin, made of tightly strung muscle, divided with flexible, strong bones.

That was it. One of those strong, agile bones, bones that could bend with me, twisting however I waned, had been hit. And it had shattered.

I couldn’t throw a knife, but I could fire a gun. It was the coward’s weapon, after all.

I wrapped my hands around the weapon I had dismissed earlier, feeling the cold, dead weight of it in my hands. Coward.

I raised it on the blurry figures, scrambling to their feet, surrounded by the flames that had found something to burn, some litter or sack, and flicked the safety off. It would be six. Six people dead because of me.

The doors flew open, the smelted metal cracking, and in the doorway was Cas, hoody and messy hair, and a gun in his hands. The attackers spun around, blinking in the light as the sunset behind him that set fire to his features. He shot.

Once.

Twice.

Running for Fire: Chapter 11

We don’t even make it halfway. We are almost in between the two buildings when they are below us. My heart plummets. That adrenaline charged bravado tumbles to the ground as ungracefully as me. I almost follow it. Then there are gun shots, and I have to shoot upwards and then down, and then to the roof top, and me and Cas lie in a heap for a fraction of a heartbeat, before scrambling to our feet. We don’t stop. He doesn’t yell at me, not yet, but he is angry, angry and disappointed. That hurts, physically, but I shove it aside, it’s not the first time people have been disappointed in me. A feeble childlike voice comes from within me at that thought, a little mental moan of “they don’t understand”. I shove that aside too.

Me and Cas exchange brief glances, and I see from that look that he is going to murder me later, and right now, he is going to get us out of this. That makes me feel useless, I won’t lie. The gun shots are still going, ringing in my ears. They stop, and yelling and voices follow. How long will it take them to get up here? How long will it take Cas to work out a way out? I turn to look at him as he drops to the floor and shuts his eyes, looking for a way out, a way for us to survive. I sigh, and grab both our rucksacks and busy myself. We weren’t carrying much in the way of weapons, we both have guns, throwing knives, and a dagger the length of my forearm each. I also tug the fireproof blanket out of my rucksack, and strap it to the outside of Cas’. Just in case.

I sense Cas standing up behind me and I whirl around, his rucksack and his weapons belt in my hands. He take them from me, not meeting my eyes, and says,

“There’s a warehouse, a street that way. It’s our best bet.” My heart shudders for a moment, I expected us to find a way to escape, to do what we do best; run. I didn’t expect us to have to fight it out.

“Plan 13 yeah?” I say, keeping my voice steady, focusing on his brown hair that is stirring in the wind up here.

“Plan 13.” Cas affirms.

When we were younger, and training in Metropolis, we learnt endless action plans. Jay would drill them into us until we could say them backwards. When I made that particular observation, Jay made us learn them all backwards. Literally. We have over 25 altogether I think, but I tend to forget them, Sorry Jay. I remember Plan 13 though, because I have a big role to play. It is as follows:

Plan 13-

Subjects’: Tallie+1

Aim: Distraction until attack/escape.

Method: In case of attack: Tallie+1 agree on location (1). Tallie drops +1 in location (2). +1 follows alternate path to location (1). Tallie distracts and leads attackers to location (1), where +1 is waiting. Attack follows. Note- location (1) must be enclosed and safe from public view.

In case of escape: Tallie (+1) agree on location (1) and location (4). Tallie drops (+1) in location (2). +1 follows alternate path to location (3) where (+2 and +3) are waiting. Tallie distracts and leads attackers to location (1). Tallie flies to location (4), to lead attackers astray, then goes on foot to location (3). Note- Tallie must not be seen distracting attackers and must not get caught between location (4) and location (3).

They’re complicated right? Try learning like 26 of them together. Impossible. If you hadn’t already guessed, I failed, like, every test that Jay set us. I was not good at Strategy class.

Bringing myself back to the present, and away from the memory of Jay’s kind eyes, I focus back on Cas.

“’In case of attack’ I’m assuming, due to the fact you chose a warehouse.” I ask.

“Wow look at that! Tallie remembered something from Strategy class!” Cas exclaims as we hurry to the edge of the building.

“Oh shut up. You failed as many as I did!”

“Tallie dear, no one could ever fail as many of those tests as you did.” Cas quips back, moving to take out his gun and stand in front of me. I won’t be able to attack or defend us with my arms around Cas. Ignoring his last comment-I wrap my arms around him and close my eyes, bringing my lips to his ear.

“Cas, don’t shoot. Not if you can help it. Don’t ever shoot if you can’t help it. ” I murmur the words, my eyes clamped shut, blocking out the sleepless nights, the constant image of the four people I have killed crumpling in front of me.

“It’s not worth it Cas. It really isn’t.” I sigh, and then stretch my wings, square my shoulders. I don’t listen to Cas’ voice as he replies, I don’t want sympathy.

“Ready?” My voice is steady.

“Ready.” So is Cas’.

I wait only a tiny fraction of a heartbeat before launching myself into the air. I fly in high, dizzying circles, twisting this way and that. It takes a few seconds for the muffled gunshots to begin. I throw us down an alleyway, not stopping as I twist back up to above the buildings. I cling tightly to Cas as he fires a shot at the floor. The two TJP members evidently were unable to get onto the roof, they are now attempting to get us from the ground. The next time I plunge downwards, I let go of Cas, and he lands in a crouch. Before I can move he wraps his arms around me and holds me tightly, his ragged breathing stirring my hair.

“See you later alligator”. He says and kisses the top of my head. I hug him back and grin up at him.

“In a while crocodile.” It has been a long time since we have said that to each other.

I back away, spin on the ball of my foot, and leap back into the sky.

Check out my cover: http://www.polyvore.com/cgi/set?id=153329559

Running for Fire: Chapter 10

I closed my eyes on the plain red bricks, the uneven cement, ignoring Cas’ nervous glances back to me as he kept watch. I focused on the tarmac below me, the crumpled take-away box under my left foot, the sounds, and the smells. Then I focused on nothing at all. Letting my mind relax and detach itself used to take me hours, now it took me seconds, seconds to block out everything, seconds to reach inside me for that rush of energy, that alien familiarity, seconds to grab it as it rushed past, seconds to release it.

I opened my eyes.

Cas was gazing at me, and I understood why. My wings are impressive, seriously. They are massive, completely disproportioned to my body, and they are the colour of the night sky. Not quite black, but actually a dark and inky blue with dark purple swirls mixed in. The scales are smooth and tough, the membrane stretched across the lightweight flexible bones. They are strong, fast, and agile. They are dangerous.

You see, the biggest mystery, the one thing all of us swear to discover, is how we are what we are. How did us four be the, as far as we know, only four people in the world with our powers? Cas and Mel could perhaps be just random freaks of nature with insane brains, but me and Pete? Not so much. Pete can change is appearance, however he likes. He can change the colour of his whole body, the texture of his whole body, with only the smallest amount of effort. And me? Well my skin I guess could be explained by the whole “freaks of nature theory” it being fireproof and all, but how about producing fire out of nowhere? And how about the fricken dragon wings that spring out of my back whenever I want them to? How the hell do you explain that?

We decided, the four of us, a little time before Metropolis fell, that we would try and work it out. We would find out what we were, where we came from, our parents, our backstories, how Metropolis found us when we were infants, why we’re all a similar age. We decided we would work it all out, when we were older and Metropolis decided we could look after ourselves. When TJP were less of a threat, or better, finished. For now we just had to deal with the unanswered questions, find a way to look at life without them ruining the picture. Now, I had to focus on getting me and Cas out of here alive.

Cas had seen my wings before, of course, hundreds of times, but I’m guessing the look a little strange in broad daylight, outlined against the brick wall behind me. He gaped like a fish for a minute, before looking once back over his shoulder and running to me. As we had decided, I climbed onto his shoulders to check over the wall, my wing folding at my back. If we were being watched form over the wall, the plan was foiled.

In the end, I had to stand on Cas’ shoulders to see over, but when I did, I was glad. The alleyway was the same. It ran all the way between the two buildings, and even though someone had built a wall across the middle, it was the same on each side. Tall, imposing brick buildings with no windows, the alleyway itself empty of people but filled with overflowing dumpsters.

I grinned down at Cas. “We’re good to go.”

He let me down, and touched my face slightly. “Pete is going to absolutely kill me for letting you do this. And if Jay was here, he would cut off my head and sick it on a pole, right next to yours.”

“Oi! Who says he would kill me first?” I say indignantly.

“Jay would murder you first, no questions asked.”

“I’m his favourite.”

“Even if that were true, he would still murder you first. Now stop changing the subject! You do realise that you are going to fly up a building in the middle of a town, in broad daylight, right?”

“Quit your worrying Cas. When have you been the one telling me not to take risks?”

“At least I can say I tried to talk you out of it now.” He grinned, mischief sparkling in his eyes. “Let’s do this.”

He turned his back to me and I carefully put my arms around him, hooking my hands under his arms.

“Ready?”

He takes a deep breathe. “Re-“

Too late. I’ve leapt into the air, my wings adjusting quickly to the extra weight, and I’m flying upwards, slicing through the wind. I pull up over the edge of the roof, swooping low before landing, letting go of Cas. He stumbles and rights himself, and we look around. The roof is deserted. Flat, and empty, we both note the entrance- one small trapdoor. Cas tries it, it’s locked.

“Ok, what now?” My breathing is a bit heavy, I flew fast and I’m not used to the extra weight. My wings stir slightly in the breeze up here, and I smile. I haven’t flown in ages.

“We should head out of town. We need to get back to Mel and Pete.” Cas is breathing hard too. I hit him lightly on the arm and grin.

“Stop looking so exhausted! I’m the one that did all the work, and I had to carry your fat behind up here!”

He grins lazily. “I’m going to have you take me everywhere now, you can be my chauffer!”

“In your dreams Casper.”

“Uh-Oh, full name…”

“Shut it Cas”

“Much better” he grins, throwing an arm around my shoulders as we walk to the edge.

It’s not like hose films where everyone jumps from building to building. There’s an alleyway bellow us, a long way below us, and it’s too wide to jump. Sighing I move behind Cas again, and he laughs.

“Told you! You’re my chauffer!”

“Oh shut up, or I’ll drop you halfway.”

Before he can let out a heavy sarcastic gasp of ‘You wouldn’t!’ I take off.

The next roof is much the same, and we begin continue across it, but are stopped by the voices floating up from the ground in front of us.

“I swear I saw something!”

“Yeah right. It was probably just a big bird. You can see how mad they all are here, they probably feed the crows or something.”

“Look, no one has had a sighting since the false alarm by those new recruits. What’s the worst that could happen if we abandon our post for five minutes to see if it’s them! I mean, come on, something big with big wings in the air… what else could it be?”

“A fat crow!”

“Oh come on.”

“Fine”.

Cas are staring at me, his pupils blown wide. I’m struggling to breathe. They saw us. My mind clicks into action and I start to drag Cas towards the edge, but he resists, pulling his arm out of my grip.

“Tallie, no. No way. We’ll never make it across the next alleyway, they’ll see us- again! Tallie I’ve got a bad feeling, a really bad one, we are not doing this.”

I look back at him. I think of his sobs earlier, the tears that spilled from the brown eyes I know almost as well as my own gold ones, those tears that spilled for me. Because he saw me dead. I shove the image away, now is not the time.

“We can make it- hurry! We can if we move now, now Cas!”

I grab his arm again and drag him, ignoring his protests, I spin round, looking straight into his desperate eyes. He grabs both my shoulders, shaking me.

“This is madness, if we stay, they won’t see us.”

“We can’t guarantee that! They’ve already seen us! We need to move before they can work it out, we need to warn Mel and Pete!” My thoughts are jumbled together. All I know is that I have to get us both out of here, as fast as I can, how else am I going to warn Mel and Pete? In the back of my mind is that continuous pulse of energy, the one that tells me my wings are out, the one that tells me to get in the air, to zoom and twist and fly as fast as I can. A dull pulse has started around my ears, all I can see is the sky, stretching out above me. And it’s mine. I am the sky, I am part of it. Air and fire, mixed together to create a weapon, to create me. But I refuse to be a weapon. I want to be the sky, I want to be fire, I want to be able to feel the air rush across my skin as the fire burns inside me. Cas doesn’t understand, I can do this.

“Tallie, see reason, please, this could get you killed, get us both killed, it could get everyone killed!.” I don’t hear him. Not over my pounding heart and rushing blood, drowning out the rest of the world.

I grin, letting the twisted thoughts become a twisted smile. I spin around behind him, feeling my wing unfurl and stretch tall, up to the sky. Wrapping my arms around his torso, I look down at the alleyway, then up to the sky, and jump.

The Art of Procrastination

“Procrastination is the practice of carrying out less urgent tasks in preference to more urgent ones, or doing more pleasurable things in place of less pleasurable ones, and thus putting off impending tasks to a later time, sometimes to the “last minute” before a deadline. – Wikipedia.

I am a procrastinator. It can take me all day to write a paragraph, and a whole week to do an essay. For example, the other day, I sat down to do some Citizenship homework (don’t even get me started on Citizenship) and ended up playing baseball with a hairbrush and an empty tic-tac box.

As another example, I am supposed to be doing Citizenship right now, but instead I am writing a blog post. You see the problem?

This of course means that it is almost impossible for me to get anything done, especially if I need to do it. Like I will colour code my t shirt drawer and walk the dog and write a novel, but I won get my homework done.

I’m sure that this is true for lots of people, but I felt like ranting about my first world problems and I really don’t want to do Citizenship.

Something else Wally (la sœur) pointed out to me which I realised I do when I’m bored and typing is type-talk to myself. So I’ll be like,

So the cause of the tsunami is actually linked to hi Rosie how are you are you bored because I’m bored and his is boring I mean how on earth is this going to help me in later life? Why can’t someone teach me how to pay taxes? Anyway I’m really bored and really tired and I’m also hungry but we probably don’t have any food in the house and I should really do some work now but never mind who cares about grades anyway?

It’s a serious problem. Please can someone, as in Lizzie, tell me I’m not alone? Please say other people do this too?

I should probably go do some work now. Or lie on the floor and ponder the meaning of human existence. Whatever.

Questions…

Hey! A couple of things have been confusing me lately about where Running for Fire and this blog is going. If you are one of the one people reading this can you please answer these questions.

1. Would you be interested in a second book for Running for Fire, or should I summarise it all in this book, maybe with an epilogue?

2. Is it getting boring? How much longer do you think the climax should continue?

3. Do you have any questions or plotholes?

4. Would you be interested in reading other stories that I might post to this website in the future?

5.Ships?

6. Is there anything else you want me to post other than Running for Fire? (short-stories, updates, rants, etc, etc…)

Thanks!

-excusemeitsrosie

Running for Fire: Chapter 9

“Oh god Tallie. Oh god.” Cas was a mess. He was holding me tight against him, his breathing ragged, saying my name again and again, great shudders running through him. What had he seen? He was still shaking, still holding me, and all the time there was a member of The Justice Programme leaning against the co-op, smoking a cigarette. There was very few things I could think of that would make him shake and sob. I didn’t want to imagine the worst, that he had seen one of us die, because that wold be unbearable.

“Cas tell me, tell me! What did you see?”

“I- I- I saw you Tallie. You, and you- you died.” Shock washed through me. Cas was sobbing his hair ruffled, in a kind of daze, I pushed it out of his eyes. Dead. Me. I had thrown myself into the path of every demon or danger we came across, never caring about the consequences, excepting that I would die for my friends, never believing that I would actually die, never stopping to look for another way out. I didn’t want to imagine the worst, that he had seen one of us die, because that wold be unbearable. The pain it would have caused any of us was too much for me to even attempt to visualise, let alone bear. And I could die. One wrong move now, and I would be dead. I wish I could say that that wasn’t scary, that I would accept my death, but I didn’t’ feel like that. I didn’t want to die. I really, really didn’t. I shoved the though away. I would only die if we did things a certain way, Cas had only seen one of the paths spiralling out in front of us. We would be fine, we would get each other out of here.

Cas was still speaking, his words fast and uneven. “You were there but you weren’t, there was no more fire in you Tallie, and there was nothing I could do and you just stared but you weren’t seeing and-“

I composed myself, shoving thoughts of death away. “Sh, Cas, Imo ay, I’m here, I’m alive, I didn’t die, I’m not going to die, and we are both going to get out of his. Okay? “He looked up at me, his face all raw and open, and I reached up and placed my hand to his face, not caring how close we were, I needed to get us both put of here.

“You’re alive?”

“Yep”

“You’re not going anywhere”

“Never.”

“Okay. We’ll get to back to that, I need you to swear on that, but first do we have a plan?” Cas voice seemed to be back to normal but I knew how much effort he was putting into disguising it. I imagined if it had been the other way around, if I had seen him dead. I couldn’t. I couldn’t imagine it.

Instead I grinned. “Oh yeah, I’ve got a plan. But you are so not going to like it.”

● ●

“You’re mental. You’re completely insane, you know that right?” Cas was staring at me in disbelief. Ok, my plan wasn’t perfect, it did go against rule number 1. Well not against, but definitely pushing the boundaries. Rule number one since Metropolis fell was simple: DO NOT BE DISCOVERED.

“Have you got a better idea?”

“Yes! Give me a minute and I could come up with one.” Cas began to pace.

“We don’t have a minute! That douchebag could be walking towards us as we speak.”

Something flashed in Cas’ warm eyes. Taking a deep breath, he sighed, his eyes finally meeting mine. He was just a teenage boy. A teenage boy wearing jeans and a hoodie. We were all teenagers. Fighting for our lives. Yet his eyes were still so warm.

“I’m in.”

Running for Fire: Chapter 8

The driving for the next few days was slow. We seemed to encounter traffic everywhere, and everyone that walked by seemed suspicious. Perhaps it was just the paranoia that was infecting us all like a disease, as it had for the last week since we had been found. Since then we had covered miles and miles, sleeping in cheap motels or camping in small parts of woodland, sharing the driving and watch shifts between us.

The atmosphere between us had changed slightly, since the “attack”. We were all slowly realising what was at stake, what could happen to us. What we could lose.

On the bike in front of us, Pete signalled for us to turn off the dual carriageway, he and Mel drove a little way in front of us, Cas was driving, I was on the back, hiding a gun between us, my hands around his waist. Every now and then he would gently touch my interlocked fingers, as if to check I was real.

We pulled into a small hotel, crummy in appearance and no doubt cheap in price, and me and Cas were set the task of finding a small supermarket for food whilst Pete an Mel got a room.

The town that the hotel was on the outskirts of had the same run-down, not often used appearance, and as me and Cas walked down the red brick streets, my mind drifted back to this thing where it analyses my current situation. I was sixteen years old, on the run from a dangerous terrorist group, and was currently walking down a run-down street in a town I don’t even know the name of looking for Pot Noodles. Oh yeah did I mention that I have never been to school, don’t know who my parents are and… Oh yeah, I have dragon wings. Before I could spend much debating the complete bizarreness of my life, even though it was a topic I had spent a long time laughing over, Cas grabbed my hand.

I looked up at him quizzically, but he simply grinned.

“Well we do need a cover story, and this one is believable, because, come on, who could not fall for my dashing good looks and sparkling personality?” He was grinning down at me, his dark hair falling into is eyes slightly.

“Yeah, and your modesty too.” All the same I kept my hand in his, trying and failing to hide my smile in my short hair.

“Just another one of my many talents.” I swear if he smiled any wider it would fall of his face.

“What along with being a complete twit?” I realised I was grinning too.

“Remind me again why I put up with you when you insult me so?” He replied, dramatically putting the hand that wasn’t holding mine on his heart.

“There’s only four of us! You have to put up with me!”

Cas just sighed, but he kept my hand tight in his, swinging them slightly as we walked.

It didn’t take us long to find a small local supermarket that looked like it was begging for customers. Before me and Cas could get anywhere near it though, Cas shoved me down a side alley quickly, pressing me against a wall.

“What the hell, Cas?” I whisper yelled.

“I- there was a man leaning against the wall next to the Post Office, and he had a gun, and he’s not safe Tallie, I could tell.”

We all knew what “I could tell” meant, it meant that Cas had got something psychically.

“Right, okay, right, godammit.” taking a deep breath I paused, working things out. I wasn’t good at this, we needed Mel and Pete, my best idea was to just run out there and burn him to the ground. Thankfully I was saved from doing something reckless and stupid by Cas.

“Just keep watch for me okay? I’ll try and get something psychically.” His voice was low and urgent, urgency mixing with guilt of putting me in danger swam in his eyes.

Tilting my chin up and squaring my shoulders, I nodded and tugged my gun out of my waistband and moved to the opening of the alley, hiding behind a dumpster, my gun pointing at the edge of the wall, ready. Cas crouched down against the wall, closing his eyes and taking deep breathes to centre himself and trying to let his mind wander.

It didn’t work.

He started at small noises and kept opening his eyes to see if anything had happened. Wordlessly I reached back and took his hand, mentally telling him to calm down. Gripping onto my hand, he took several more deep breathes and went silent.

I didn’t move as I waited. We needed Mel, she would be able to tell us what’s going on. The best Cas could do was to see flashes of the mans’ future and try to piece together who he was and what he wanted. It was going to be tough. Suddenly he doubled his strength on my hand spinning me towards him.

I careered into him, still holding the gun, and he grabbed my arms to steady me. I tried to move, I was practically sitting on him, but he held me still and whispered words that sent terror straight through me that was immediately replaced with anger.

“Tallie, Oh god Tallie, He is. He’s one of them.”

Running for Fire: Chapter 7

“Ok so what do we know?” We were sat in our crumby hotel room, Mel and Pete sat next to each other at the end of the bed, me and Cas each sat on a stiff chair. Pete’s question hung in the air for a minute, and I suddenly felt slightly helpless, because I had no idea what was going on. I could see the tension that had arisen since I had shot the three men, because all three of them understood why I had done it, and they were all annoyed and secretly relieved.

“Mel, why didn’t you tell us they were TJP soldiers?” Pete looked at Mel, his features taut.

“I didn’t know! It was like there was some sort of fog or pressure or something around all of their thoughts! When I looked I saw that they were looking for us and that they didn’t understand why. I saw that they were from the police or some sort of authority, and disappeared before they could find me! I didn’t see that they were with TJP, but I guess didn’t want to think that.” Mel’s desperate tone was covering up her own self-doubt.

The name ‘TJP’ hung in the air slightly, and I supressed a shiver. TJP stood for ‘The Justice Programme’ and they were a terrorist group intent on destroying anything strange or supernatural, even technology. They were intent on keeping things the same, slowing growth, stopping change. Mel, Pete, Cas and I didn’t know how we had become what we are, and at first it had been a thing that plagued us endlessly. Metropolis hadn’t known either. They may be part of the government, but they were also very secretive, making sure no one could exploit us, or anything else they knew. We had loads of theories about how we came to be the way we were, science experiments, tampered with genes, the list goes on. None of us would be able to find out of course and that of course lead us to the question, who were our parents? We all came from different parts of the planet, but we had all moved to England when we were tiny. Metropolis had told us that Pete came from West Africa, Mel came from America, Cas had come from England, and I had come from Italy. That was where I got my coffee coloured skin. Metropolis had also told us that they had not taken us by force, and that our parents gave us up, which made us rather angry with our “parents”. In retrospect, however, I wouldn’t have want to grow up anywhere else, and not with anyone else.

I turned to Pete, who was the oldest out of us (I was the youngest), and who was a natural born leader, and said “But they can’t have known- they can’t have had some sort of training could they?”

Pete looked grave. “Hypothetically, yes. They have nothing to do against Cas or me, but Tallie, they can simply acquire fireproof clothes for you, and Mel, well, they’ve evidently learned how to change your information.”

“But that means I’m useless! Nothing will be reliable anymore if it comes from me!” Mel looked distraught. She had always been the most “in control” of her power, the most reliable out of us. She had herself completely sorted, and that allowed her to help sort others out. Like me.

“Don’t be silly Mel! You’re stronger than them, and you can do so much more than read people’s minds and you know it! You can read peoples moods, their hopes dreams personalities! And you know you can break down any mental defence, Jay showed you.” Cas was looking at Mel with a kind of furious kindness, his eyes open and fierce.

“You are so much stronger than you give yourself credit for, Mel.” I added.

“You could never be useless Mel.” Said Pete quietly. She sighed, blushing slightly and relaxing, just a bit. What Cas had said had been such a reflection of his personality, he understood the world around him, I guess that was a perk of being psychic. He told her the truth which such a fierce kind of brother-ness, while Pete, his added comment had a slight edge to, it, something I couldn’t quite place. It was like… sadness, anger that she could ever think she was useless. Despite what we had all said, and the tone in Pete’s voice that had made her blush, she was still as taut as a tight strung wire.

“What else do we know?” asked Cas?

“We know that Tallie is a lunatic, and that that particular hunting team are not going to be giving in any reports any time soon… how long do you think it will take for someone to try and contact them? We should leave here first thing tomorrow, anyhow, in fact we should have left ages ago. Jay would, will be so mad.” Pete finished, glancing away.

I just grinned. “Okay, so plan made? We crash here tonight, and leave first thing in the morning, heading… where?”

At this Cas just grinned and said, “onwards, dear lunatic, onwards”. Which made me hit him with a pillow.

“Okay, okay, cut it out you two. Who’s sleeping where?” Mel asked.

“Well obviously the queen of idiocy gets the bed.” Said Cas, which made me resume hitting him with the pillow.

In the end Mel and I took the bed, with Pete and Cas sleeping on the floor, evidently trying to be manly. It took me a long time to sleep though. I could still feel the weight of the gun in my hands, the way it had felt to kill those three men. I didn’t even know their names! I knew Mel was awake as well, and the other two, probably. I turned over, to see that Mel was shaking slightly, not crying I don’t think, just shaking and worrying. Wordlessly I reached out for her hand, and she clung to it for dear life.

[omnia in finem ardebit]

It's all going swimmingly, right?