The brown haired man was smiling. His trap had worked, and now he leaned once more against the corridor wall, smugness practically radiating from every inch of him. The attacker, for her part, was still for the moment, seemingly content to allow Tasha to make the first move. She took a few seconds, tensing and relaxing every muscle group in her body, ascertaining that everything was still working as it should be. Good, nothing was broken, that was something, at least.
The floor was not a good position to attack from, at least not in this position, with her legs in front of her and her arms to the side, she lacked any way to build her footing before another of those attacks, whatever it had been, hit her. Cautiously, hoping against hope that it wouldn’t provoke a response, Tasha pushed herself upright, then stood. Surprisingly, the woman let her, a small smile spreading across her face.
“…You’re testing me?” She asked, leaning back against the wall and trying her absolute best to make it seem natural. Her hands found the solid surface of it and braced themselves against it. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw her baseball bat, laying perhaps ten or so feet away, too far for her to grab it without giving her adversary another opening. She’d do this barehanded, then.
“That’s the idea,” the woman replied coolly. “If I like what I see, you might even have a place with us. I’ll be honest, though, you’re not doing all that well so far. You got yourself baited into an ambush, that’s a rookie move. Try and be a little smarter from now on, kay?”
Tasha grit her teeth at the woman’s words, and nodded, more to distract than for any other reason. She needed to take this one by surprise. Think it through. First step, get more information.
“And if I fail?” She asked, her muscles tensing, ready to spring. “What happens then?”
“Then I guess I kill you,” the woman replied, sounding unconcerned. “You did attack us after al-”
Tasha pushed herself off of the wall with all her might, her hands and feet digging into the ground and wall as she forced herself from complete stillness to a dead sprint in under a second, not so much running as throwing herself at her foe like a battering ram.
The woman barely even moved. She stopped talking mid word, and opened her mouth wide, letting out what may have been called a scream, if a scream were able to happen without sound. The shockwave struck tasha before she was even halfway towards her new foe, and for a moment, she strained against it, the force of it battling against her own momentum, before it launched her back, harder than before. She struck the wall, and, with a crunch, felt it give way beneath her. She landed on her back, the new room around her utterly dark. Tasha was prepared this time, more ready for the second blow than she had been for the first, and wasted not a moment in shoving herself to the side, out of the small field of dim light pooling in from the hole into the hallway. Somewhere in the darkness of the room, a young voice screamed. Tasha grimaced; so this was a bedroom, then.
“No blind shots,” came the man’s voice from the other side of the wall. “You might hit Ellie!”
“I know!” The woman’s voice snapped. “Just stay back and let me work, will you?” The man did not respond, and it seemed the woman turned her attention to Tasha. “That’s two really bad calls in a row now. Gonna go for three?”
Tasha moved towards the punctured wall, and pressed herself against it, as far from the hole as she could get, then squeezed her eyes shut, trying to force her eyes to adjust to the darkness as fast as possible. When she opened them again, she could see.
The room was small, set up similarly to the others she had seen. A bed against one wall, a single window, the curtains closed against the night, and a free standing dresser to one side. A small scuffling sound from the bed drew her eye, and she caught sight of the room’s only occupant, a girl a little older than her, by appearances, crawling beneath the bed. Tasha nodded to herself, best the girl stay out of the way, where possible. There were sounds of movement coming from outside the door. She was running out of time.
Tasha shook herself. She needed time to think, to make a plan. Easiest way to get time was to make distance. She nodded to herself, then turned towards the wall adjoining this bedroom to the next one along. With one deep breath, praying quietly to herself that this would work, Tasha threw herself at the connecting wall, her shoulder slamming into it with full force. The old plasterboard gave with a crunch, and she found herself in another bedroom. The light was on. She smashed it. The inhabitant of this room was a boy. He did not scream, merely glared at her.
Glancing momentarily into the room behind, Tasha saw the woman standing in the doorway, peering owlishly through the dark as her eyes began to adjust. It would be perhaps a few seconds before she could see well enough to fire off another blast without risking hitting a bystander. That was the hope, at least. Tasha crossed the bedroom, aiming to put her next hole in the opposite corner to the one through which she had come so as to break the line of sight. She charged, and the wall gave just as easily as the last.
This room was empty of its inhabitant, presumably one of those dealing with the ‘customers’ outside, and that gave Tasha an idea. She crossed to the window, tore away the curtains, and slammed her forearm into the glass, shattering it. Then, she made for the next connecting wall, this time aiming to make a hole by the dresser that stood against it, just as in every room, it seemed. Tasha aimed low, intent on making the hole as small and low to the ground as possible this time. The moment she was through, she reached behind herself, taking hold of the dresser by a leg, and tugged it along the floor until its bulk covered her exit hole. Glancing around, she made eye contact with the inhabitant of this new room, this one a teen, and held a finger to her lips, the other hand curling into a fist. The girl got the message, and remained quiet. Tasha returned her attention to the dresser covering her, and lowered her head to lay flat on the floor, gazing into the vacated room through the space between its legs.
From this new vantage point, Tasha watched a pair of feet step into the empty room, before making their way towards the broken window. The woman swore under her breath, and spoke in a low murmur, apparently to herself.
“Going out into an open street when your enemy can use ranged attacks. That’s another mistake. Stupid girl.”
Tasha moved in near silence, positioning herself to sit facing the gap between the two rooms, bracing herself with her hands on the edges of the hole, before placing her feet against the dresser. Tasha took a deep breath, trying to picture the remembered location of the woman’s feet as accurately as possible, before thrusting her feet outward towards it, sending the dresser skidding towards the woman across the floor. Without waiting to see if the first attack made contact, Tasha pulled herself forward through the hole with her hands, and forced herself off of it as hard as she could, throwing herself through the air towards the woman.
The noise of the maneuver caught the woman’s attention, and she turned away from the window, catching sight of the dresser just in time to blast it aside with another of those strange, silent screams, her eyes going wide with surprise. She did not have time, however, to stop the other attack, and Tasha impacted against her in an uncontrolled tackle, bowling her down onto the bed against which she stood. Tasha wasted no time in wrestling the woman into submission, forcing her into a headlock so as to prevent her taking any new targets.
“There,” Tasha grunted, frustrated beyond belief. “Now, If we’re done with the bullshit, I’m gonna finish robbing you.”
As she spoke, she pulled herself to her feet and the woman was dragged stumbling along with her. She tried to speak, her words coming out hoarse and halting through Tasha’s grip on her throat, but before she could get out anything coherent, the girl shifted her grip, cutting her off.
“Nope!” She snapped. “No talking for you. You sell kids for sex, you threatened to kill me, and you punched me through a wall. We’re gonna go get my bat, and then I’m gonna break your legs.”
They reached the door, and Tasha lashed out with a foot, forcing it free of its hinges with a loud crack. She tugged the struggling woman into the hallway, glancing left and right for her bat.
Tasha registered the impact before she noticed the man holding the gun. The sound of the gunshot rang in her ears, far louder than tv shows made it seem. She felt her leg give way under her, and toppled sideways against her captive, who herself was forced against the doorframe, barely keeping the two of them upright. This change in their profile was likely the only thing that spared Tasha of a second shot. There was a pain in her left leg, somewhere below the knee, a hot, sharp sort of feeling, but that was not the main concern. A small part of her mind realized that her homemade armor had failed to deflect a bullet, and that she needed to get away. The rest of her mind, too busy reeling from the shock and the rapidly building pain, obeyed the impulse. She clumsily tugged the woman forwards, placing a hand at her waist, and another at the back of her neck, before hoisting her up and throwing her bodily down the hall towards her attacker, who, she realized belatedly, was the same man who had threatened her with the gun on her last visit. The woman screamed, and the man fumbled to catch her, the weight of momentum forcing them both to the floor.
Tasha turned, grasping the sides of the doorframe in either hand, and faced herself towards the window. The room was on the second story. This was not going to be fun. She grit her teeth, then threw herself towards the opening, glad that at the very least, the glass had already been removed from the frame. She hit the windowsill at an angle, the injured leg striking the wall on the way through and eliciting a wave of genuine pain. She yelled in defiance of it, her body tumbling the five or so meters to the pavement below and landing on her arms, managing luckily to absorb most of the impact. She would have liked to remain still for a moment, take some time to adjust to the pain, but she knew they’d be right behind her, and so dragged herself to her feet, grasping the side of a public bin to aid the effort. No chance of getting away at ground level, she knew that. Best get to a rooftop then, and fast. She tested her undamaged leg against the pavement, and felt no real pain from it. Good, that gave her a chance. She crouched low, trying to keep as much of her weight off the damaged leg as possible, then pushed off from the ground with all her might, launching herself across the street and up into the air. She fell short of her intended target, the rooftop of the building opposite her jumping point, and found her chest colliding hard against the edge of it, her legs dangling uselessly in the air below as her hands scrabbled for purchase. She caught a hand on the edge of the brickwork, and pulled herself up onto the roof, letting her body slump down onto the ground, concealed by the short, slightly raised lip of the rooftop that, hopefully, would help hide her from the eyes of anyone in that damned whorehouse. If she wanted to get away, she had to stay hidden; had to stay silent.
Slowly, fighting against the urge to gasp in pain as her damaged leg scraped against the rooftop, Tasha began to crawl. Finally, she made her way to the other end of the rooftop, and after a laborious climb to her feet, she launched herself across the gap once more to another rooftop. Only then did she allow herself to succumb to the pain and sheer frustration of it all. She raged in silence, slamming her fists against the ground again and again, tears streaming down her cheeks. She had been so close.
For a time, Tasha lay still. She would not bleed out, she knew that well enough. Of the many strange little quirks to her biology that seemed to have accompanied her newfound strength, one of the more commonly used was a far enhanced ability to withstand punishment. So for the moment, Tasha simply lay there, letting it all sink in. Then, once the tears had run dry from her eyes, she dug clumsily in her pocket for her phone. She dialed the number without much thought. It rang into the silence a few times, before a quiet voice answered on the other end.
“Yeah?” It asked.
“H-hey, Casper,” Tasha mumbled, trying to ignore the shame building painfully in her gut. “I-I kinda got myself in trouble… I need a favor.”