Anger gave way to dread, and then promptly to panic as Alice searched the strange mans face.
“What does he want?” she demanded calmly. She went to slip her phone in her pocket, deftly hitting a sequence into the volume buttons on the side. As she clicked the final sequence in, a hand lashed out and grabbed the phone. There was a strange flicker in the air, as if the hand blurred momentarily, and the phone was crushed like a pop can.
In almost the same motion his other hand lashed out in a blur, striking Alice savagely across the face. Blood sprayed from her nose and mouth and she was sent sprawling for several paces. She was on her feet in a blur, her dress fluttering as if in a fierce wind. The man was already there beside her. She focused her shift essence to lash out at him, but he was faster. He grabbed her by the face and then they both vanished.
Grace sauntered into class late. Although Alice made sure she arrived on time, she lingered near the vending machines inspecting candy. She had chowed down on the bagel sandwich Alice brought her.
College classrooms somehow felt way more boring than any other classroom. Grace didn’t like them because they had no character. No flair. Standardized black tables on polished metal legs. Placed in the room in whatever confounded configuration the prior teacher thought would feng shui knowledge into their students sleepy minds.
At least some things remained the same. The hot black girl named Andy always sat in the same spot. She seemed a little older than the normal kids showing up. There were kids fresh out of high school, Grace who was almost twenty three, and Andy of indeterminate age.
When Grace finally picked a spot across the room from Andy, the teacher, who had waited dramatically for the late student to sit down and fumble for a composition notebook, resumed talking about design intent for some obscure product they were supposed to be managing.
A phone began to chime. Not loud, but loud enough for the teacher to sigh loudly. It was Andys phone, but Andy wasn’t looking for the phone in her bag. Her eyes, usually dreamy and half lidded, were suddenly focused and locked with Graces.
Andy got to her feet, leaving her chiming bag behind. She walked briskly to Grace and grasped her by the shoulder, wrenching her to her feet and pushing her to the door.
“Don’t fuckin touch-”
“Be quiet.” Andy cut in, cracking the door open and glancing out cautiously.
“Uh, excuse me? If you won’t pay attention you need to-” the teacher began.
“Tch.” Andy flourished her wrist quietly in a circular motion and everything around Grace and Andy seemed to slow down. There was a low, almost electrical hum in the air that reverberated in Graces skull. The voice of the teacher was still speaking, but sounded like a deep echo.
“What the fuck is going on?” Grace demanded, pulling away from Andy. She didn’t respond as she opened the door and stespped gingerly out into the hallway.
“Stay close. We need to escape.”
“Escape? What the fuck are you talking about? What the fuck did you do?” Grace said, looking at other faculty and students as they seem to move as if in slow motion. Gazes very slowly began to regard them but by the time they walked by the faces were still looking at the spot they had been standing in.
Something seems to snap within Andy and she scowled at Grace. “Alice has been taken. We have to get you to back to your apartment so Walter can get you away from the city.”
Icy dread filled Grace. Her chest felt like it dropped out and she was suddenly aware of her heartbeat. “Where- where is Alice? Who took her?” Grace stuttered. Andy took off down the hallway, almost impossibly quiet. She looked back and motioned urgently for Grace to follow.
Grace didn’t move. “Where is she?”
Andy cursed loudly and sprinted back to Grace. “You have to run. People are coming for you. Powerful people. Dangerous people.”
The world was still slow. But suddenly the thumping of numerous footsteps could be heard echoing through the halls. The thumping was almost too loud. Graces heart was racing.
Andy turned and grasped Grace by the shoulders. She murmured softly, her voice cutting through the sound of footsteps, “Alice has been taken. I have to get you to Walter.”
Men spilled around the corner at both ends of the hallway. They seemed unaffected by the slowing effect that the rest of the world was trapped in.
“Whos Walter?” Grace mumbled. Eyes tracking the men at the end of the hallway. Some of them had guns and combat gear. A couple men and women wore tailored suits. They seemed to blur around the edges of their silhouette.
“Your rat damnit.” Andy shouted, but it sounded like she was screaming across a massive chasm. Distant and urgent. “I ain’t powerful enough to take you to him. Find your rat. Tell Walter that Alice was taken.”
The humming in the air reached a crescendo, and then Grace was outside her school. The shift made her dizzy, but she steadied herself and looked around. The sound of shattering glass could be heard several stories up. There was the clatter and hiss as glass showered the street and sidewalk. Two bodies hit the pavement with a gut-twisting crunch, both wearing the tactical gear. People shrieked and ran in all directions. Grace stumbled towards the bus stop in a stupor, not believing what had just taken place.
“W-Wonton?” she said to herself. My rat?
God damnit Derick.
Alice reappeared almost fifteen feet in the air. She yelped loudly as she spun through the air and hit the hard wood floor.
Alice looked up at the black walnut desk she knew she’d see. Polished to a nice sheen, not a single scratch marred its surface. The desk faced a wall that was floor to ceiling windows. The concrete and glass cityscape beyond seemed solemn, almost small from this vantage point. The wall on her left had a massive TV inset into finely crafted wooden shelves that matched the desk. The wall on her right had modern glass doors that led to a room beyond. Within was a menacing meeting table.
If she was facing the window, she knew the doors to the hallway were behind her. Alice had talents but none of them involved fighting. Jumping through the window left too much up to chance. She tried to regain her feet before another savage kick took her in the ribs. Pain bloomed, and seeped through her. Her eyes welled up.
The same man looked down at her. He picked up the conversation from before as though no time had passed, “He wants to talk about your new efforts to avoid him. Your little group of deserters. And your girlfriend.”