Luck is a complicated thing. For one thing there’s far less of it than most people imagine. Many events can be traced back to a series of decisions, or at least physical conditions, that created them. “It’s bad luck it rained the day we went to the beach” is an example of both. That’s the result of observable physical conditions (the rain) and a poor decision (not checking the weather forecast before planning an outing).
In that sense, Way and I winding up in the back of a moving truck, tied up and held at gunpoint wasn’t bad luck. We’d made our choices. They’d led us to a spot we couldn’t get out of. At least not without cheating. The question was what sort of cheating could manage to get the job done.
I tested the walls of reality with a little nudge of dream magic and immediately eased off. The mere fact that I was awake was straining the bounds of what the world could tolerate. Any more direct cheating on my part would pitch the city into the dreaming, with the rest of Earth Glass to follow shortly thereafter, mostly likely as a cloud of rapidly expanding and disconnected idea fragments.
I tested my bonds by flexing my wrists and feet. They were made of rope and tied tight enough to cut off circulation. That told me the guys who’d picked us up had put together the operation quickly, probably in response to Way beating their marksman. If they’d had time, they’d be using handcuffs or manacles. It said something about their organization that they’d had incendiaries and knockout grenades available at a moment’s notice but not restraints. Reflecting on that, I didn’t like our chances of surviving the next few hours.
“You could save your friends a lot of pain if you told us where you’ve hidden the files you stole from us.” one of my captors said in accented English. He had the kind of pencil thin moustache that suggested he wanted to appear sauve, unfortunately it didn’t fit the blocky bone structure of the rest of his face. His companion was clean shaven and had a brow so thick I wasn’t sure he had a full set of human chromosomes. Whatever his parentage was though he knew how to hold his rifle properly.
“You’ve got the wrong girls.” I told Mr Moustache.
“For your sake, I hope that’s not true.” he said.
“Why? What are you going to do to us?” I asked. I knew, in general terms, what they had in mind and I wasn’t all that interested in exploring the details but the more they talked the more chance I’d find a clue to how we were going to escape.
“We are going to ask you some questions.”
“And if I don’t want to answer them?”
“We have chemicals that will insure that is not a problem.”
“Chemicals? What kind of chemicals?” I figured playing up the scared and confused stage girl was the safest play I could make. Unless their secret society had access to technology far in advance of the rest of the world, I knew what sort of chemicals they’d be using. Opium, hallucinogens and other similar tools were the stock-in-trade of the professional (and immoral) interrogators on Earth Glass. Dosage and purity control were poor at best, as was the accuracy of the results produced, but the effects on the subject looked so profound that people had a hard time shaking their belief in the efficacy of the drugs.
“A special formulation of our own devising. Be assured Ms. Lee, you will have no secrets from us. You’re future need not hold the special agonies that we can bestow though, all you need to do is to submit to the will of the Dragon.” the gleam of madness played in Mr Moustaches eyes. It was worrisome that he knew “The Amazing Jin’s” last name, but not that surprising. They’d been able to find where we lived in under an hour. Turning up information wasn’t a problem for them.
I looked at him closely. It wasn’t just madness in his eyes. His pupils weren’t quite dilating right. Apparently the society was a firm believer in drugs all around.
“You don’t want to know my secrets.” I told him.
They both laughed.
“You and your friend led us on quite a chase, but I assure you, to the Brotherhood of the Dragon you are nothing.” Moustache said.
The semi-human looking guy kicked Way’s leg in agreement with his companion’s opinion. I felt something cold run through my veins and a little voice in the back of my head wondered whether I really cared about Earth Glass all that much.
I stayed quiet for a moment to make sure I had my emotions under control.
“I’m going to make you a promise; if you harm my friend, you will regret it in ways that no human in history has ever regretted their actions.” I said calmly and without inflection.
I wasn’t speaking to them, not precisely. I was warning the world. For the most part injustice, cruelty and the other forms of human evil were not something I couldn’t change. To wish the world into a state where no evil could befall the innocent would mean changing it on such a profound level that most worlds would shatter under the strain. Even the one’s that could bear the alteration would lose too much for it to be worth it. A world where I dictated all that was allowed to occur would be little more than a fancy clockwork that reflected no one else’s desires but my own. That kind of world could be fun to visit, like an amusement park, but it wasn’t a place where people could live and grow.
So I was careful to tread gently in the worlds I visited. Unless someone hurt Way.
I didn’t dwell on what I would do to them. I just knew that, unreasonable as it was, I would not allow them to harm her, no matter what the cost to Earth Glass was.
“You should not speak to us like that.” Mr Moustache said with a snarl. He raised his rifle and reversed it. His next action would have been to smash me in the face with the butt of the rifle. To his good fortune though he was interrupted before he could make the final mistake of his lifetime.
As Mr. Moustache spun his rifle around, there was a tremendous crash and the moving truck bounced violently to one side. Moustache and Cro Magnon Man were both tossed off their feet. The rest of us were already laying on the floor but the crash was violent enough to bounce us off the walls.
I landed on my back and started working frantically on my ropes.
“We’re under attack! Kill them!” Moustache shouted. He’d lost his grip on the rifle he was carrying but his companion was still armed.
I wrenched my hands free of the ropes but I could see it was going to be too late. He was both too far away for me to reach and too close for him to miss.
A blonde blur passed in front of me and I heard the rifle crack.
I almost did something regrettable but I noticed that Way have managed to get the barrel of the rifle pointed at the roof of the truck before the shot went off.
A moment later I heard a different sort of rifle crack – this one being where it smashed into the Cro Magnon’s nose and shattered it. The man gave a choking cry as I saw Way bury her elbow in his throat and then flip him over her shoulder so hard that he flew to the back end of the truck and smashed through the doors to tumble out onto the road we were racing along.
Moustache dove for his rifle as Way worked the bolt action on the one she’d taken from his partner. Both of them were interrupted by another collision. From the sound and the force of the crash I guessed that some maniac was playing bumper cars with us and was using a truck that was bigger than ours to do it.
Somehow the truck we were in manage to avoid tipping over, which gave Way and Moustache a chance to regain their balance, while I got my feet free of the ropes.
Moustache made another attempt for his rifle, but Way pre-empted that with a strike to to his jaw using the rifle as a club. I heard bone snap and watched her kick him in the side hard enough to launch him out of truck after his companion. Seeing the impact that he made on the asphalt made me wonder if it wouldn’t have been nicer to just shoot him. He was still twitching when he came to a rest but if there were any unbroken bones in his body they could only have been very tiny ones.
“Are you ok?” Way asked.
“Yeah, thanks for the timely save there.” I said.
“Thanks for distracting them. I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to get out of those ropes in time.” she said, anger still rippling through the muscles of her face.
I saw something there, in that moment. She could have dealt with our captors much more gently if she’d wanted to. She could have disabled them or even knocked them out without breaking a sweat. They’d threatened me though.
Its hard to put into words what I felt in that instant. On the one hand there was the warm, squishy, happy feeling of knowing that I was that important to her. On the other hand though there was the understanding of what that meant she’d been willing to throw away for me. She was strong, but it was kindness that she’d always kept in her heart. To cast that off would be like destroying who she’d chosen to be. That wasn’t something I ever wanted her to do for me.
My musings were cut off by another tremendous crash. Whoever was playing automotive patty cake was done fooling around. Our truck rolled over completely onto its side. All of us inside the truck were smashed into what had been the left wall as it skidded against the ground leaving behind sparks and random bits of metal behind.
When we came to a rest, I checked myself over and was pleasantly surprised to find nothing was broken. Way looked at me and nodded, indicating she was similarly in one piece.
“We need to get out of here.” she said.
“We can’t leave the two here though.” I said.
“Are you one of Eddie Stone’s underlings then?” a new voice asked.
A woman, clad in black stepped around the back of the truck and peered in through the opening. She had two gleaming guns, one in each hand and was wearing bulky enough clothing that I knew she was well armored too. The full face mask was a bit surprising but far less so than the feeling that ran through me as I watch her.
Way looked over at me with eyes as wide as mine were. Neither of us moved a muscle.
“Not used to having guns pointed at you? Maybe you don’t work for Stone.” the costumed woman said.
I blinked and shook my head to regain my voice.
“No. We don’t work for him. I’m pretty sure he’d like to shoot us in fact.” I said.
“Well that’s a mark in your favor then. What’s your name?”
“Jin.” I said.
“Well Jin and Way, you can call me the Night Warder. I believe you were talking about getting out of here? Allow me to endorse that idea fully.” she said as she bent down and waved a small vial under Eddie Stone’s nose. Smelling salts. “The police will be here soon and I’m willing to bet that if you were interesting enough for the Brotherhood of the Dragon to kidnap then you’re not the sort who would enjoy being interrogated by the law for the next few days.”
“What about these two?” I asked as Stone started to twitch violently awake.
“I’ll take care of them.” Ms. Night Warder said.
“Take care of them how?” I asked.
“I’ll see that they get the medical care they need. If I wanted them dead, I’d have shot them already.”
“Fair enough. Why did you rescue us though?” I asked.
“You were a bonus. I was looking for these two, but I’m glad I was able to keep you out of the Dragon’s hands.” she said.
“You seem to know a lot about them.” I said.
“It’s one of the perils of my profession.” she said.
“But you can’t tell us because it’s too dangerous for us to know?” I guessed.
“I’m afraid so.”
I nearly burst out laughing. It felt Poetic Justice and Karma had found me in a dark alley and were beating me with a pair of Irony bats.
In the distance, the sounds of sirens picked up and started growing closer.
“You better get a move on.” Night Warder said.
“Right. See you later.” I told her as Way and I headed out of the ruined truck.
We made it to the nearest alley before Way grabbed my arm.
“That was her! We found the dreamweaver!”