That silence was broken soon after we reached a bus stop.
“Damn,” Ami said, checking her phone after we were waiting for a bit.
I tilted my head, curious at what would cause her to cry out like that.
Glancing over at me, she powered her phone off and replaced it in her purse. “We missed the last bus from this stop, and it’ll be hours before the next one. Stupid weekend schedules.”
“That is concerning,” I said. I knew fair well that Ami’s apartment was quite a distance from where we were, and walking the entire way would not bode well for her legs.
“Couldn’t you just, I dunno, manifest and fly both of us home?”
“I don’t manifest unless it’s absolutely necessary. Not only does it take a toll on me and restrain my power, if I am too careless with it, things…happen.”
“What the hell are you talking about?”
“It’s something I have noticed as I have been in my Netjeru’s service. As I have grown in power and have been promoted to my current position, certain oddities happen within the area I manifest in, particularly if it is in rapid succession. I had mentioned this to Lady Nit and Lord Shu at one point, and they both said that it is one of the limitations they deal with when entering saq, or ritual possession, but that they know how to mitigate it for themselves, and the people they work through are properly trained for it for the short periods of time they do work through them.”
“And that means?”
“I am not a god, nor am I intensive, so I cannot mitigate these things. Somewhere in the area of a manifest considered one too many, something will happen. Last time it was a hurricane on Rendova Five when I had to work there. I would prefer to not have that happen here.” I crossed my arms.
Ami looked as if she was considering something, pulled out her phone again and tapped away.
A breeze kicked up as I remembered the islands and their inhabitants getting pounded hard by the storm. I did what I could, but the override I needed to have it completely miss them was from their local gods, and it came too late to be of much use. A wet chill formed in the air when…
“Hey,” Ami said and broke me from my thoughts. “I found the nearest stop that has a decent run to my place.”
I blinked, a brief thought of my sister passing my mind’s eye.
“It’s over off of Franklin Street. Not too far of a walk, considering.”
I nodded, and then we were walking again.
Half an hour later, we were standing at the entrance to Franklin Street’s historic district once again. It had changed little, save the day and time we were here, and the crowd.
“The next one’s due to come in roughly an hour, but damn better than what the place we were at was,” Ami said before putting her phone away.
“At least the air here is less choked with iron…” I said. “I don’t know how those goblins can cope with it.”
I sighed. “Must I explain my people’s loathing of it to you?”
“No, that not what I meant—”
The screams from the square behind us and more than one person passing through me cut off Ami’s sentiment.
I shuddered in disgust and turned to see what was causing all the panic in the air.
A man dressed in a too small for him black shirt and pants, with stubble for a haircut was brandishing a knife and was roaring belligerently at the crowd to face him.
Out of the corner of my eye, Ami ducked into the nearest covered shop to get out of the way of the stampeding crowd.
I kicked off, happy to not be phased through by panicked humans, and got closer to assess the threat level.
“C’mon, does no one want to have a go at me?!” the man said, waving the knife around. “Am I too rowdy for you, eh? Weak-ass pussies, all of ya!”
I could smell the alcohol from him as he stumbled.
He then picked up one of the decorative river rocks, tossed it in the air, and as soon as it started to fall, an orange glow encompassed it. The stone shot off to hit a sign behind me. “Take that, Old Man Peters!”
Hmm, he was a threat, but far below my normal actionable level. I was glad that Ami was hiding out at the candy shop at the corner…
It was then that I spotted Ami dragging one of the injured out of the firing line as the drunk got closer.
“And what do you think you’re doing, taking the glory from the Skulker? I should rip you open like a fish!” The man charged at a running bystander and shot off a rock at the support that was over Ami’s head, collapsing it.
That took my concern up to actionable level, even if she was wearing her protective collar.
I called to my pocket, pulled out my Wind Bow and felt the weight of my quiver coalesce on my left hip. Releasing the catch, I knocked an arrow and checked my aim before manifesting.
Ami pulled the injured man into a nearby restaurant’s patio.
“Wink’aana, obia’te, moushu!” I said to the arrow and released it, sending it flying towards the man. At the last second, he turned and my arrow hit the fountain, splashing the water into a small spout. I cursed my luck as the arrow reappeared in my quiver. They were still sleepy from being tied up in pocket space since my last intensive.
“The hell?!” Skulker said at the splash and then looked up to see me hovering over the path. The silver in my wings’ veins must have been reflecting the light from the street lamps, as he shaded his eyes.
I quickly took stock of the situation. There were too many injured and people still running to get into a projectile fight with him. Shi’ha, I would have to get into melee and knock him out with my own power instead of my items. I dislike that kind of expenditure at this level.
“Stop assaulting these people!” I called and replaced my bow in its pocket, but left the arrows out as a counterbalance. I knew that I’d only get one shot at this before having to make it bloody.
“Like hell I will!” he said and shot rocks at me. One grazed my arm and stung like Chokoris’ pumice shots.
“Wink’aana oshou maka! Mieto moriphase fo’ra!” a ball of super-condensed air formed in my hand as I dodged many further river rocks and a piece of a bench. “Ata mishou farai!”
I landed, gathering the speed from the spell and launched myself forward at him and drove the air sphere into his gut, launching him into the sprayer part of the fountain and knocking him out. The sphere then expanded to bind him as an extra precaution.
“Don’t mess with my liaison,” I said and dismissed my quiver.
Just then, I saw flashing lights and Ami running over to me.
“Are you okay?” she asked.
“I should ask you that. And what about the man you were rescuing?”
“The collar protected us both with some sort of force field. The debris just bounced off. The staff of the eatery are looking after him. Skulker got him pretty good.”
“I hope he pulls through.”
A flurry of footsteps heading in our direction and the glint of black metal out of the corner of my eye told me the cavalry had arrived.
“Chapell Hill PD, hands in the air!” a male officer said while drawing close.
I sighed as Ami put her hands up. “Must we always do this? I have the man who caused this bound and will release him to you, but I need my hands free.”
The cop regarded me, then squeezed a device on his shoulder. “Hey dispatch, I got the Tinkerbell here. Is she dangerous?”
A mumbling sound came from the device.
“Ten four, not a threat to personnel. Yeah, I got the form in my car.” He waved to the other officer and they both holstered their metal objects. One went to the man in the fountain, while the other came up to us.
I nodded and made the releasing gesture. The cop dragged the man out of the fountain and cuffed him after making sure he was breathing.
“All right, what happened here?” the short officer asked as the wheeled bed people rushed to the restaurant.
Ami summarized the situation and added some terms I wasn’t familiar with. After a few minutes, the average sized cop had woken up the instigator and lead him back to the patrol vehicle before coming back with what I would assume was paperwork for my statement.
“Barbara said that your first actionable was over ninety days ago, but that none of us have seen you around since then, so we gotta be nice and give you a chance to fill out the form. We’ll be by to pick it up after we finish making statement rounds.” He placed the stiff board with the paperwork and a pen in my hands and walked over to one of the customers of the bar.
“Just wave us over if you have any questions,” the short one said and followed his partner.
I scanned the document in the light of the square and immediately had a distaste for it.
“SRA registration,” Ami said as she peered over my shoulder. “They probably think you’re a superhero starting out.”
“I have no intention of entering into a contract like this,” I said, placed the whole set up on the fountain bench, and stepped sideways. “Do they not know that I’m bound by an authority higher than their own?”
“Most don’t believe in the gods you serve,” Ami said, walking towards the bus stop. “Some believe in a god, while even more still just pay lip service and hurt others in service to such.”
“Still, offering me the irons of a contract without discussing the terms at length beforehand is rude at best.”
“I could put looking into the SRA’s language a bit further up in my priority list after I’ve secured my spring internship.”
“Yes, please. I want to know why they want me to sign that contract.”
“All right,” Ami said and got on the awaiting bus, “time to go home.”
I nodded and stretched, then felt a warming sensation in my pocket. I pulled out the parchment, and it glowed.
“I’ll meet you back at your place after a while,” I said.
I smiled. “They’re ready.”
Ami nodded and waved me off.
I went over to the park across the street from the scene, made sure it was clear, and made the jump to Tir. The worlds resisted the connection, but I knew it was healthier for them than using the daggers. Slowly they relented and I stepped upon Reyvel’s doorstep once more.