[Lr] Week 327: Event Cascade

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Beaks

Wacky Woohoo Pizza Sadness Man
Feb 16, 2008
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This was supposed to be the moment. This was supposed to be the moment where the strain and pain wracking their muscles gave way to that moment of raw bliss. The moment where all the aches and pains fell away and there was nothing but the touch of the wind, and the deafening euphoria as the world around them grew quiet.

That’s what this moment was supposed to be… and now it was tainted.

Chase’s footsteps and heartbeat competed for dominance, each one trampling a constant staccato across the senses while their heart felt like it was trying to emerge from their throat. The setting sun overhead cast an orange glow across the rooftops of the district, threatening to drown out the route in shadow. With a breathy curse and a renewed burst of speed Chase managed to clear the final few rifts just as the visibility was dashed from them. Hitting the lower pedestrian levels with a haphazard roll and scrabbling of hands and feet the decoy hurtled themselves into the nearest alleyway, fighting every cell in their body that screamed to keep running.

Chase pressed themselves into the smallest and most unassuming shape they could, hiding among the trash and debris and willing the animalistic urge to flee away. One minute bled into another, and each passing moment gave them back a modicum of control. Control your breathing, control your body, control the situation.

The situation sorted itself out a few moments later in the form of half a dozen of the city guards rushing past the darkened alley, oblivious to Chase’s position. They continued to wait, feeling the sweat that soaked their clothes and skin begin to chill. Another minute or two, and they would need to make their way to the vacant hovel that the Sharpe brothers had designated as their temporary hideaway.

The noise on the street receded back to the usual droning hum of a hundred different conversations, each one believing that it was the center of the universe.

“Now or never, wouldn’t you say?” Cribbage’s tinny and guttural sounding voice piped up at the back of Chase’s mind, signalling the end of the familiar’s patience with the matter.

With a small chuff of agreement, Chase donned their hood and stepped out into the thoroughfare. Nothing to see here folks, just another one of the unwashed masses. With annoyance scrabbling at the back of their thoughts, the tired and dirty decoy did their best to blend as they made the trek to the meeting spot.

Chase absently repeated the knock they had been instructed to use, and was greeted by not only the Sharpe brothers but five other rough-looking men and women. After stepping inside Chase was startled by a sixth individual, a haggard looking man who closed the door quietly behind them.

“W-What was that?!” The words came out as an embarrassingly ragged rasp, a lingering product of running in silence for the majority of what had been a painfully long day. “You h-had-ad what you w-w-”

Chase paused, closing their eyes and balling the hands at their side into fists. They were going to open their eyes, and they were going to speak clearly. For once in their life, they were not going to be that scared stuttering worthless little thing.

However, the sight that greeted Chase when their eyes reopened chased any hope of that right out the window. The Sharpes each had a pistol pointed their way, and one of the men they had brought along racked a rifle’s chamber to life. By the cursory count at least five blades were being produced, for whatever reason. The guns would have been enough. Adding knives to it was just insult to injury.

“We had what we wanted, yeah.” The older Sharpe brother tilted his head in mock thoughtfulness as he spoke, letting a lingering pause fill the air before continuing. That was Elias for you, they supposed. The man seemed to have an evergreen romance with hearing himself talk.

“Trouble was, you called out a warning to the mark while my little brother was trying to work.” His eyes flitted to Erasmus momentarily, then back to them. “Why’d you go and do a stupid thing like that, hmm?”

He was grandstanding, Chase knew enough to know that. Elias wanted to show off how ‘tough’ he was for all his friends. Yeah. Eight armed men and women against Chase. Such a badass. The runner quickly quashed the urge to roll their eyes. It would have been brave, defiant even. Neither virtue had a place here. Bravery right now was as good as them pulling the trigger themselves.

“H-he had a blade ou-out, and with t-t-them fighting back it lo-lo… it seemed like he was-was going to k-k-”

“Kill her? Well thanks to your little stunt that’s exactly what I had to do, so thanks for that.” Erasmus found his voice, indignity showing as plainly on his face as contempt did on his older brother’s.

“I’ve got this, little brother.” Elias half-turned to face his sibling, offering a wan smile before turning that expression off in a heartbeat as they returned to face Chase. The runner was hardly fond of these two, but the truth of it was that Elias flat out made their skin crawl. His expressions were too measured to be genuine, and any smile he gave was as empty as those cold gray eyes. Chase didn’t want any part of either of them.

“He’s right though. You lost your nerve, and because of that the city guard is looking for my little brother for murder.” The older sibling let the pistol drop to one side, another part of his carefully crafted swagger that Chase wasn’t going to critique out loud. “So now the question is, what’re you gonna do to make things right between us?” Just out of smug superiority the man cocked one eyebrow after speaking.

“I f-forfeit my sha-are.” The words came out in a shaky breath. “It’s y-yours.”

“That was a given.” Another insufferable head tilt, another empty smile. “You botched the job, so going unpaid should have gone without saying.” Elias managed an honest to goodness tsk at the end of the comment. Chase could have thrown up right then and there, but it wasn’t worth it if the cost was their life.

“M-my gear then. It’s yours.” With painfully slow motions Chase raised their arms at each side, waiting to be frisked.

“S’a start.” Elias managed a derisive grunt, and two of the men who carried only blades started forward. “Boys, relieve this bungler of his effects.”

“Don’t.” Cribbage’s rasping tone at the back of Chase's mind offered a single word in response to the insult.

“Wasn’t gonna.” The mental reply was curt as Chase did their best to keep a neutral expression while the two men went to work. Elias wanted them to take offense to the label he used, but he was going to have to do more than that if it meant Chase risking their life to get even.

“Thre-e smokers at the lower ba-back. Knife in-in the right b-boot. C-c-currency under my left a-arm.” Chase's words were jilted like always, but came out in an exceptionally level volume given the circumstance. It was going to have to do. One of the men frisking them looked up at Chase with something akin to confusion on his face.

“Tell-elling you where it all is-s.” The runner managed a neutral expression, as if they weren’t being made to assist in their own robbery. The two men followed the instructions and relieved the runner of their tools, but continued to pat Chase down regardless. Halfway through the process, the runner found themselves staring back at Elias, albeit out of coincidence.

“No.” The older brother started forward, and before Chase could ever have hoped to defend themselves he brought the heel of his pistol down into their face. White-hot pain momentarily blinded them, and warm and salted blood began to cascade down from their nose into their mouth. “No. You don’t get to fuckin’ look at me like that, am I clear?” The voice was coming from above, and Chase realized that they must have gone to the floor instinctively after the blow.

“Y-yes.” Another jilted mumble.

“Yes what?”

The blood on their tongue quickly mixed with bile rising from the back of their throat. The indignity, the arrogance of this man…. no. If Chase wanted to live, they were going to have to lead their pride to the altar instead.

“Yes s-sir.” It sickened them to think it, let alone to say it.

“Lookie there, first smart thing you’ve done all day.” Chase looked carefully upwards, mindful not to let eyes fall on the man’s face. The posture was enough, sadly. Elias was practically preening at this point.

“You want us to take the…” One of the men who had been on frisking duty pointed towards Cribbage, who was absently cleaning one eye with its tongue. “...the thing. That thing.”

“Nah.” Elias managed another smirk that made Chase’s blood boil. “Let him keep it. Boy already has no family, can’t see takin’ his pet to boot.” Out of their peripheral vision Chase watched as the older brother managed a beatific expression. Look what I just did for you! Aren’t I nice?

“In return~” His words were just shy of singsong in their cadence. “You take your little… thing, and you run. You run hard and fast, little boy.” A heavy boot was placed on Chase’s forehead, pushing them backwards into the closed door with a heavy thwunk. “And you make sure that me and mine never see your little freak-show face again.”

“Ok-kay.” The pitiful little word that Chase was going to hear every day for the rest of their life hung in the air like a lingering stink. If this kept up Chase really was going to need to vomit, albeit out of anxiety and shame.

Elias used the boot to nudge Chase to the side of the door, then opened it. Behind him, the sounds of various weapons clicking idle or sliding back into sheathes filled the silence. The runner stood up on shaky legs, keeping their eyes fixed firmly on the floorboards.

“Ta-ta.” One of Elias's large hands placed itself on Chase’s chest, pushing them brusquely out into the street and sending the runner falling ass over teakettle in a heap. A series of amused snorts and sharp chuckles leaked out of the hovel for a split-second, just before the door was slammed shut once again.

A few passersby looked down at the dirty and bloodied runner, but none stopped to offer aid. Chase rose to standing once again, giving a glance first to the slammed door and then to the familiar on their shoulder. The creature said nothing, instead choosing to blink its two eyes one after the other.

With a single swipe at the blood on their face, Chase started off at a headlong pace towards home. They were going to pack what they could, as fast as they could. Then they were going to run.

What other choice was there?

[1,861 words]
 

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