Prompt #2 - "I'll decide in the car." (September '18)
September's 2nd prompt is
"I'll decide in the car."
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The noise of the Pad Hall was a dull roar as she passed through the crowd, weaving this way and that between the bodies filling the space. The rich emerald of her normally sharp and alert eyes was dulled as she barely focused on the in-between space, a soft smile on her lips as she moved with the ebb and flow of the crowd around her.
So many minds in one space and yet tracking her eight teammates was like holding onto a tethered balloon in the heart of an amusement park. Other balloons bumped against hers but she always knew which ones belonged to her and the image made her giggle. A soft thought brushed against her mind encouraging her to focus.
It wasn't like she had to.
Any mind she had ever delved into beyond a simple 'are you who I'm looking for brush' she could find in a sea of minds far larger than the one she was in and then some. As if to prove her thoughts true, she blinked, focusing back on the world to come face to face with the person she had been looking for, their mind a brilliant beacon for her to find despite how much they had been trying to hide.
But maybe they were aware of how inevitable it was of her finding them, for they looked back at her with a calm resolution on their face as they braced against the crowd. The crowd parted and circled them, clearing a round space that held just the two of them. She smiled as she brushed the other's mind and the noise of Pad Hall vanished as his thoughts rolled beneath the barrier that kept them from her.
"I'm not going back," he spoke evenly into their little bubble of privacy.
The one that had sent that thought to her earlier reached out for her again mentally, but she pushed back patience. The other ceded but only after giving her a time limit.
"You might not get a choice," she offered just as evenly, shrugging. "I can't stop them and this call wasn't something we could ignore."
He scoffed. "Yes it was."
"Truly?" She tipped her head forward and slightly to the side, her shoulders coming up as she kept hold of his gaze. "You know them far better than I do, then." She straightened, that smile still on her lips. "But I wouldn't put it past you to keep tabs on that sort of thing."
A part of his mask cracked and chipped away. His expression twisted into one of pleading for a moment. "Please, Rachel. I can't go back."
That other mind brushed against hers again. She sent back patience again. It gave her an update of what time remained.
"Why not? Certainly you of all people should understand having to face the consequences of your actions."
Another crack, another chip, and rage rushed over his expression. It felt more like frustration and self loathing under the mental connection. "Of course I do! But if I go back, they will destroy all the good I had done!"
"Do you know that?"
"Of course I do!"
Another crack but it held together as his expression returned to one of neutrality. "Reiterating myself will not solve anything." His sharp gaze was on her again. "Let me leave, Rachel."
She let her expression reflect how serious she was as she stated, "I can't, Michael. You have to come with us."
Betrayal made that crack larger and the largest piece yet chipped away from his mask. Any more cracks and it would come apart completely. "I'm not going back, Rachel, and you can't make me."
That mind was back with a soft brush against hers. She returned it with reassurance. "That's why I'm not making you."
Through the exposed places of his mask she saw the confusion and his mind trying desperately to stay several steps ahead of her; the mask itself fought to keep his expression fierce. It didn't matter as the owner of that familiar mind came up behind Michael and wrapped their long arms around him. He stiffened, ready to fight and flee, but a face was pressed into the hair just behind his ear whispering words that she knew the meanings of despite not being able to physically hear them. Just as equally she understood how Michael was reacting to every word despite being stone faced and ridged in that hold.
Another body stepped up behind Michael but this newcomer - a duplicate of the one holding Michael - only stood guard over the pair's backs.
Two bodies came into the circle from the left, both with tight expressions though the shorter's expression was edged with anger. At what, she didn't care to find out. From the right entered a second set of twins but this brother and sister set were not duplicates of the other and both were far more expressive than the twins with Michael. And, finally, the last two of her teammates came up from behind her. Unlike those before her that appeared human, the two that came up from behind her were anything but. One pressed into her leg shaped like a medium sized dog but had antlers and a narrower snout. The other pressed into her back as its front legs gripped at her right shoulder, long sinew body snaking down her back with its fluffy tale wrapped around her left hip and its neck curved backwards so that its small head was level with her temple.
That mask cracked again and fell apart, leaving Michael bare.
Her hand buried itself into the fur of the not-dog's neck, her touch on the crowd strengthening as Michael suddenly broke down. The only thing keeping him upright was the arms still tight around him.
"What now?" the short one from the left asked, drawing her attention away from the scene.
"Back to the car," she responded easily.
The short one's expression darkened. "Clearly but that wasn't what I was asking."
She grinned. "I know. I'll decide in the car if Adhara doesn't already have a plan."
The other's gaze flashed dangerously and she let her amusement soften her expression. "Why are you deciding?"
Rachel arched an eyebrow at her. "Because I'm the only one that can read thoughts, remember? I know what's going on and where we have to go. It's more of whether or not it'll be safe that will change that plan."
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