You are Ruled by Criminals – Chapter 12

The over-sized buffoonish sweater wrapped loosely around the target, suffocating the hurried movements of the now self-acknowledged prey.  Adrien let a few seconds pass awkwardly, before seeking conceptual approval of the tactical inclination to jump into immediate action, “Uh, shouldn’t we be chasing him…?”

Ahsha smiled warmly and replied with little situational intensity, as if she had grown more comfortable in her rapidly more chaotic surroundings.  “Nah,” rolled almost musically from her lips, as she copped a squat on a half-wall lining the sidewalk.  “Let’s give the new roomie a head start.  I mean, all things considered, this is basically just a big game, right?”

Adrien’s gears were still turning much more rigidly, and though much heat was still being generated, Ahsha’s approach and demeanor was slowly cooling Adrien’s system down to a more even keel.  “Well, this is a test, but yes, in a way, I guess this is a game.”

“So–” Ahsha continued, pulling a small shimmering red apple from her pocket, and polishing it’s skin on her shirt.  “If we’re playing a game,” Ahsha began to line-up while taking the first deep crunch into her pearly red prop, and continued with a mischievous charm, “and Mr. Sweatshirt is our new friend, shouldn’t we be somewhat fair?”  Ahsha swallowed the juicy bounty of her pocket’s treasure, and hopped back into her explanation to the gradually settled Adrien, “In an effort of fairness, among friends, we should give him a head start.  He can ‘hide’ and we will ‘seek’ after we count.”  Ahsha paused in her monologue that almost appeared to be more directed toward the fruit she held, than her partner and new housemate standing an arm’s length or two away, to look up and evaluate Adrien.

Adrien seemed, at the core, still wound and a bit hurried, but Adrien had clearly calmed into Ahsha’s pace.  Ahsha proposed, “So… let’s count to… thirty, plus the time we’ve already given him, that should be fair.  OK?”

“Sure,” replied Adrien shortly.  Adrien appeared to be far more interested now in evaluating the anomaly of the young woman speaking than the now anticlimactic test situation.  Ahsha sat, chipmunking away at the apple, awaiting Adrien’s count for a few seconds, before a propositioned glance shot from her eyebrows toward Adrien.

Adrien responded, regaining a normal too-cool bravado, “Well, ladies first.”

 

*****

 

Joe headed down Hulen Bend Blvd, legs burning from the constant movement of the last several days.  He felt utterly strange, running down a nearly empty street in broad daylight, strip malls surrounding him on either side, the high containment walls separating this district off from its neighbor lent the streets of this neighborhood a subdued shadowed quality.  Joe quickly glanced behind him as he darted around a corner, noticing the two students he had seen earlier were no longer following him.

He slowed down to an easy jog, pulling the RD back out of the hoodie’s pocket so that he could reassess his current circumstances.  As the new GUI popped up, he placed the RD next to his gauntlet, letting it begin breaking into the program they had remotely installed.  As that process started, Joe reread through the instructions he had received.  Apparently there was another target the students would be allowed use actual force upon, as opposed to the conditions for capturing him allowed for restraining devices only.  Good, he had a real chance against these kids then.  This would be a golden opportunity to prove himself to the faculty here, and possibly gain access to their inner circles.  The conditions for capturing the other target seemed to give him leeway for letting loose, so he might actually stand a chance of ending things quickly.

He scrolled through the GUI, and accessed the map, noticing two blips on the map approximately where he had last seen those two girls, apparently the instructors here were gracious enough to give him the location of his pursuers.  Just as he noticed another blip pop into view, the device showed a connection lost window, with a block of text which read “Due to an attempt to approximate circumstances in the field, the signal for this GUI has been purposely reduced so as to drop out and disappear when out of range or blocked by other signals.”

“Fuckers!” Joe spat the word out with such vehemence that a business owner who was opening up his store for lunch dropped his sign with a startled expression.  Joe sped down Granbury Road, hoping to get to the financial district, where his particular abilities would probably outshine his competitors.  The GUI lit back up and the map reappeared, showing three manifesters in the area, although Joe could sense a few others somewhere nearby, undoubtedly they were the liaisons he had heard the Academy employed as observers for most exams.  One of those blips was moving far faster than a human could, in a circular movement, inclining Joe to believe that student might be in an avian form of some sort.

If Joe wanted to avoid fights with the other students, whom he couldn’t risk injuring, he would need to hide out in a multi-storied building where having his location on a two-dimensional map would be far less useful.  As Joe neared the financial district, he placed the RD back up against his gauntlet, and had it override the RD’s GPS system, giving himself at least a minute of anonymity before they could reestablish a connection with his device.  He dashed through the entrance to the financial district, attempting to look inconspicuous as possible, smiling at the security guards at their posts, hoping they would just assume he was another student late for an interview for an internship.  As he dashed into the tallest building he could find, he smiled as he noticed the other target appear on his map, showing it just outside the city grounds nearby.  He would be able to watch everything as it happened if he positioned himself near the right window.  Plans built themselves quickly in the hyper aware mental state he existed in while preparing for battle, and he took full advantage of this capability as he ran up the metal staircase of the towering financial building.

 

*****

 

“Twenty-seven; twenty-eight,” Ahsha’s numerals projected in a happy, nearly melodic method, reminiscent of the jump-rope touting girls of Adrien’s long forgotten childhood playgrounds. “Twenty-niiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiine!”  The gravity of the moment began to press.  Anticipation.

Interruption. Adrien’s RD chimed in, and pulled the tension from anticipating legs, up through the stomach, and hung in a breathless throat as Ahsha pulled and stretched out her RD holding it up for the visibly shaken Adrien to view a positioning grid, topped with an ETA counter and announced in a center-screen bubble:

“SAM HAS JOINED YOUR PARTY.”

You are Ruled by Criminals - Chapter 11
You are Ruled by Criminals - Chapter 13
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