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Fortunate Meeting
Continued from :The Heart is

Her apartment squarely in order and an afternoon still to pass, trying not to let the overwhelming feeling that her world had just spun completely on its axis overtake her, she decided that getting out was the only alternative. She would head back to the market, be amongst people, get what passed for "fresh" air in this part of the city.

Normally, she would have driven to the open aired market, but she didn't want to today. It wasn't so far that she couldn't walk and with her pistol at her side and new thoughts of ways to protect herself she had never imagined before spinning in her mind, passing through barely familiar territory didn't worry her much. She passed people occasionally, walking or sweeping their stoops, stopping at a convenience station for a cup of coffee, or rushing about whatever business pressed them, but she counted no more than 7 at any time, and as the walk progressed, the numbers dwindled.

Maybe the car would have been a good idea. She didn't remember the streets being this desolate the last time through, but the perspective of a driver was quite different than that of a pedestrian. This new block smelled of filth and ash, like too many snuffed out cigarettes.

She heard it before she recognized that the scent was attached to it. A girl screaming. Zoe? No, it wasn't Zoe, of that she could be sure, but the thought of her led her back to that threshold of sensation, and as she opened herself to it, she knew something was wrong. The charred smell was fresh, the scream was of an older girl, and there was a feral snarl that she had not heard before but now could pick out coming from the alley ahead.

The sight which greeted her eyes almost made her turn around and run. A girl, surely no more than 13 or 14, stood atop a dumpster weilding a broom handle at three men, clawing for her. The girls clothes were ratty and one man's shirt seemed to be burning on the shoulder, though he, strangely, seemed to take little notice. The man in the center suddenly kicked the burning man away, then used his spot to try to scramble on top of the lid himself, earning him a sharp rap upon the head from the girl.

Something about these men felt wrong. It was as though their mental faculties weren't working properly. They were all turned away from her, but their postures were all wrong and not one of them seemed bright enough to use the box right across the alley to get up to the girl. The girl herself, blonde hair matted into long dread locks and wild looking brown eyes focused on keeping the men-things at bay, looked ill herself, as though she hadn't had a decent meal or a good night's sleep in a while.

Then, as the center man's arms finally gained purchase on the girl's ankle, it happened. A streak of fire coursed from the girl's hand, down the broom handle and set the man's hair alight. Finally, this sparked Nadia into action. She hardly knew what she was doing when she felt that savage burning within her again leap out as she dashed into the alley, and a wide disc of blue fire hit the final man, sending all three darting back a few steps to see their new aggressor. Nadia didn't have time to spare a glance at the girl as she created a strong current, like the wind, to toss the men into a heap in the corner.

Ignoring the blaze, snarling like a wild beast, they regained their feet and lunged again, this time at Nadia. For the first time, she could see that there truly was something very wrong in their eyes. They shone with the light of a carnivore swooping in on their prey, with a hunger and determination. She felt no sympathy for these men. She remembered the terror she had felt at the rape which had brought about Zoe's life. These men must have been here to do the same to this poor girl. In her mind, she imagined a wall of air, trapping the men where they stood, and sure enough, the tendrils again danced out of her mind and the men froze in place, hammering into an invisible wall, almost like glass, but as solid as rock.

For the first time, Nadia noticed that the girl had come to stand behind her. She had to focus on keeping that wall up, but it was time to end this. The flames might kill them, but they were taking too long. Reaching into her coat, she pulled out her gun, aimed, and fired at the men, three short reports echoing down the alley, then all was quiet again aside from the sound of the flames slowly licking away at the now corpses.

A shiver ran through her and she rubbed at her forehead. What had she done? What had to be done. She wished that she could fully believe that. "Does anyone live in that building?
she asked, pointing to the one on the left of the alley. It appeared to be nothing but an old warehouse, and most of the windows were already busted out. The girl shook her head, and that was the only permission Nadia needed to find a crack in the outer wall, and imagine putting pressure on it, so much pressure that the bricks split and the corner of it nearest the bodies collapsed.

Finally, she let go of that light that she felt inside. "We should go."
As the girl nodded, though, she collapsed. Nadia scooped her up onto her back, tying her long scarf around the both of them for extra support, and headed back towards her home. Maybe once the girl's shock was over and she had had a good meal, she could tell her more about what the hell had happened out there.

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