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Each window she tried, Zephyr was promptly shunned by a swiftly sliding metal cover. Her heart raced. How would she get out? Even the door was being covered, and it was a long way back up to the vent she had just fallen though. She spun and stared wide-eyes at the man at the desk, and suddenly she could feel every heartbeat shaking ever fiber of her being.
The man was calm, almost too sure of himself. He stood from the large leather chair and began to walk around the desk, a similarly intimidating size. Slowly, he stepped, and talked as he did.
"You," he said, his voice no longer rich and inviting but devilishly charming with an ominous underlying tone, "heard all that, didn't you?"
Suddenly, Zephyr lost her ability to lie but also the ability to speak. She nodded her head, eyes wide as saucers.
The man nodded back, looking down at his feet, slowly, ever slowly stepping towards her now. "You weren't supposed to hear it," he said. Suddenly, a hand from his pocket reached across his chest, under the fine black jacket, over the scarlet tie, and retreated with a polished ebon-colored pistol. Finding her feet, Zephyr moved backwards, eyes on the man and the pistol hanging loosely from his hand.
"That means, well," he lifted the gun, barrel pointing at the ceiling, as if pointing it out if she hadn't already noticed it, "you know what this is, and what it does, and what I intend to do with it, right?"
Zephyr nodded again. Her back came in contact with the wall and she glanced back at it, almost snapping out of her trance state. But her eyes were still fixed on the man looming over her now. his handsome face had a certain coldness to it, like a beautiful ice sculpture. His similarly icy-blue eyes bore into her own warm brown ones, scouring her mind, instilling fear there.
"But first," he said, and put the gun-hand against the wall next to her head, "I suppose, since its just you and me, we should have a little bit of fun."
Fun? Zephyr was confused. Was there a morbid edition of fun he had in his mind? But her heart nearly stopped when he used his body to push her closer to the wall and she realized what he meant. Hard muscle nearly squeezed the breath out of her. She clawed at the wall behind her, searching for something, anything.
Suddenly, the man's shoulder punted forward as an earsplitting boom rang out. The look in his eyes, once the epitome of calm and confident, changed to pure animal fury. He swerved around and Zephyr could see a figure a few meters before her, with electric-blue hair as its dominant feature.
"Nihilus..." Zephyr whispered, and realized that never before had she been so relieved to see him. In his hand he held a pistol, faintly shaking from Nihilus' sweaty and nervous palms.
"Get away from her," Nihilus commanded, gripping the pistol with both hands.
The man's face changed again, to the composed mask he had before being shot.
"What now?" he queried, "Are you going to shoot me?"
Nihilus cocked the hammer. The man only chuckled and continued.
"Oh, little boy, you have no idea who you're dealing with, do you?" The man dropped the gun and put his hands in his pockets, walking towards Nihilus. "If you're a man, you should pull the trigger and kill me. Save your little girlfriend. Be the hero for once."
Suddenly, Nihilus pointed the gun downwards and pulled the trigger. The man fell to the ground, clutching his knee, anguished cries escaping his lips, teeth grinding against each other with excruciating force. Nihilus only stepped around him and ran for the button on the desk. He smacked a palm on it. The sheet metal lifted from the windows. He ran back to Zephyr and grabbed her arm.
"Come on!" he shouted, and pulled her in the direction of the windows. He shot the window and discarded the pistol, throwing it against the already-shattered glass as insurance against its breachability. The gun flew through without much resistance. Zephyr almost hesitated as they approached, but when she saw helicopter blades rising up before the windows, she ran at full speed.
As predicted, the glass came apart as if it were nothing. Nihilus and Zephyr jumped, stretching for the bottom-most bar on the helicopter.
Zephyr felt as if all time suspended, and there was nothing but the helicopter, herself, and the blue sky above.
Then, with sudden force, her hands came in contact with the bar and she snapped back into reality. She clung for dear life, gripping the bar with all her might as her legs swung back and forth, adjusting to the change in inertia, coaxing her to let go. A hand appeared before her, and Zephyr looked up. Azrael's grave face came into view. Zephyr could have cried. She took his hand and was promptly lifted into the cabin of the vehicle. She looked around.
Behind her the tall skyscraper grew small, moving away into the horizon, camouflaging among the other buildings with their white sides and silvery glass windows. Beside her, Nihilus clung to Shanti, who had just pulled him up. Michael and Decimus sat on the far side of the cabin, looking like the most dog-tired men on the earth.
Azrael squeezed her arm, demanding her attention. When she looked at him, she noticed the expression in his eyes was remorseful.
"He didn't hurt you, did he?" Azrael asked. She shook her head, and he gathered her into a tight embrace. "Thank God... I'm so sorry I couldn't be there. I heard it all. Oh, Zeph, at least he didn't..." He squeezed her harder for a moment, then let her go to look at her face. There were tears in his crystal eyes. "If there's anything you need, just tell me. I'll be here for you."
Zephyr stared dumbly into his eyes, then said, "That man... he was so handsome and beautiful, but... there was something about him.... like, he's not human." She envisioned the look in his eyes and the force of his body on hers, and she shuddered. Her stomach coiled into knots and Zephyr truly thought she was going to vomit.
Azrael pulled her close again and Zephyr curled into him, trying to forget everything that had happened in the last ten minutes.
"I want to go home," Zephyr muttered into his chest.
"Not now. We still need to go to Providence." Azrael paused, then said in a grave tone, "If Edwards' men don't get us first."
Zephyr looked up into his face, confusion written on hers. What did he mean? He stared off into the distance, and Zephyr followed his gaze.
Two more helicopters followed them. These things were different, though. On each side they carried a huge barrel, and one smaller but still menacing-looking barrel sat below. Zephyr realized what they were--military-issue assault helicopters, and they were hunting the defenseless vehicle Zephyr sat in now.
A sudden movement made Zephyr look up at Azrael, and his head was now facing in Michael's direction. Michael nodded, and he turned to the pilot.
"Get us closer to the rooftops. We're going to have to run."
The pilot nodded and the copter dived. To Zephyr, it seemed like hours before they were close enough to the rooftops to leap out.
After everyone dismounted, the pilot took off. One copter followed it while the other went straight for them.
"Go! Go!" Shanti shouted, pushing Zephyr forward. As a group, they ran, but as runners, they knew the golden rule by heart: divided we stand, united we fall.
"Split up!" Michael commanded, "He can't follow all of us!" He looked over at the three teens. "Take the east route. We'll go north."
Swiftly, the three took a right turn and left the adults to their northern fate.
The teens leaped off the building and tumbled to the next. Zephyr chanced glancing back and saw that the copter no longer chased them. Instead, it dropped off a pair of pursuit cops and continued on its way, towards the adults.
Fear gripped Zephyr's heart once more. Pursuit cops were ten times deadlier than any assault helicopter. Trained in the ways of Parkour, they could follow Traceurs and Traceuses anywhere, unlike regular cop or even the trained eye of a sniper. She turned back to the boys ahead of her.
"Company!" she shouted, and they glanced back as well. Their eyes widened as well and did exactly what Zephyr did at that moment; ran faster.
Zephyr searched for any sort of turn or hiding place that they could find refuge in. Nihilus caught it first. "Come on!" he shouted, and turned left, towards an open door that led into a building. Azrael, the last one in, closed the door behind them and made sure to lock it. Quickly, the three made their way down the stairs and collapsed a couple flights down, keeping a good distance away from any door. There, they collected themselves and took a short breather.
"We can't stay here," Nihilus said in between breaths.
"Then where do we go?" Zephyr asked, glancing at both boys. "We belong on the rooftops. They're not safe anymore."
"The streets are always an option," Azrael offered, "I don't think the cops will be at the bottom floor of this building by the time we get there."
Each teen glanced at the other. There really was no other option. "Streets it is," Zephyr said, as if finalizing the group's decision. "But first, a break." She leaned back against the wall and closed her eyes, soaking up as much oxygen into her system as possible. Her mind immediately went back to the man in the suit. She jerked, as if reacting to being hit, her fists clenching. The look in his eyes, the way he spoke... there was something otherworldly about him. Inhuman. Evil.
"You okay?" Azrael asked. Zephyr opened her eyes to glance at him. His eyes were worried.
"Not sure..." she said, and tried to rest again, but the image of the man invaded her mind. "I just... that man..." She opened her eyes and stared at the ceiling of concrete stairs. What about him? She sat up and looked at Nihilus. "Thank you, Nihilus, for saving me."
Nihilus glanced away, but met her gaze again. "Uh, you're welcome."
Zephyr smiled at him, but powerful emotion began to overflow in her heart. She couldn't contain it. In a flash, her arms were around the blue-haired teen, gripping him tightly with all her strength. Tears began to fill her eyes.
"Nihilus," she began, her voice cracking, "Thank you so much. I don't know what would have happened if you didn't come... I don't know..." In reality, Zephyr did know what would have happened--but she didn't want to think about it.
For now, they needed to get back to Providence.