ASN 5.1 Of Course

by Matt P.

Siobhan cursed and stumbled back, but then looked down at the young woman lying on the ground sobbing. With a grunt she stumbled back forward, reaching the body at the same time as the man who had burst out of the grimy tunnel.

The man was tall but skeletally thin, and shrouded in ratty clothing so that she couldn’t see his features at all. But she thought she could judge his intent, as he reached out with ragged hands toward the girl on the ground. With a curse, she reached out and grabbed the man by one of his wrists. Before he could react she stepped in to grab his upper arm, then suddenly and violently pivoted around and threw her hip forward. Despite her smaller stature, the throw sent him sprawling to the ground with a wet squish.

“Come on Dad, pick up!” Antigone cursed at her phone. “I’m getting his ring tone!” She grumbled…before she blinked. Siobhan blinked as well, and while her eyes stayed on the figure rising to his feet, she realized she too heard her father’s ring tone. It was coming from…

Just as the man was getting to his feet, her father came hurdling in to view from the tree line they had come from. Apparently figuring out the situation without much prompting he barreled into the skeletal figure with a meaty thunk and a crack, sending them both sprawling in to the mud. Walter grunted in pain, but the figure on the ground began to writhe in what was either terror or rage. And he began to scream in pain, his voice hoarse and horrible.

Some of the shrouding rags had fallen away from his face, and wherever he was exposed began to crackle, pop, and hiss like someone had poured acid on him. Obviously almost insensible with pain he rolled onto his feet in a sort of mad lunge at Walter, growing faster as if drawing on some kind of internal reservoir of speed. But Walter apparently expected it and pulled much the same move that Siobhan did, grabbing the reaching arms and pivoting around; but it was also clear that Walter was more practiced at it. He didn’t just hurl the other man away, but drove him in to the ground with the apparent intent of immobilizing him with an arm-bar. This was defeated by the expediency of the gaunt figure screaming, and rolling away violently—heedless of the fact that his shoulder was clearly wrenched from his socket. This also ripped away more clothing, and exposed even more skin to begin bubbling and sizzling. He screamed in agony once more, sending birds from a nearby tree to the sky in fright.

He rolled over far faster than Siobhan expected him to be able to move, and bolted for the hole he had come from. He moved so blindingly quickly that Walter didn’t even have time to get his gun out before he was gone in to the dark and scary hole.

“Shit,” Siobhan cursed with feeling as she looked around the now almost silent riverbed; almost silent except for the sobbing of the girl. “You knew, and you followed us?”

Walter continued to stare at the hole, as he reached in to his pocket to pull out his phone—presumably to call for backup and medical for the still sobbing woman in the mud. “Of course I followed you,” he answered simply.

**** ****

“Bonnie,” Walter answered again with a sigh as the group of them walked toward Border General Hospital, “Of course I followed you.” They had been briefly checked out by the paramedics—and being cleared, Walter had driven the girls to the hospital to follow after the young woman they had found. “Since we’ve gotten to this town you’ve been a weirdness magnet, and you’re also curious as hell. So yeah, I followed you, and I knew if I told you I was going to do it that you’d try to sneak out even harder.”

Siobhan started to protest but then closed her mouth and settled for a pout instead. There was really not anything that she could do to argue with it, given her track record in the city, but she didn’t have to like it. Antigone, Monica, and Lacey all gave her various levels of smirk, which made it worse. But any argument also died on her lips as she came up to the entrance of the hospital. She paused at the threshold, and Antigone did too.

She felt like a sudden burning heat burned through her, starting at her stomach and ending in her limbs and the back of the neck; it was followed by a bristling, ice-cold prickliness that she tried to shake out. Antigone stopped as well, and they reached out to grab each other’s hands and squeeze. Monica and Lacey continued forward, but Walter noticed and paused.

“I don’t like hospitals either,” their father told them honestly, smiling slightly. “We’ll get through it together.” They nodded, although now Antigone gave a wry little smile.

“It’s not hospitals, plural,” she explained as they resumed walking, and caught up to the others who had finally noticed. “It’s hospital, singular. This one. At least for me…” Antigone looked over to her sister, and Siobhan nodded at the assessment. “It was…very much not fun.”

Walter sighed, and ran a hand back through his hair as he considered his two daughters. “Some day will you talk to me about what happened here? Fully, completely.” At their skeptical looks he sighed again, and gestured in the vague direction of Lacey and Monica. “Will you talk to someone, then?” He asked.

Siobhan shared a smile with Antigone, and they were both able to truthfully nod. “Then come on,” Walter shook his head. “Morgan and Tania are around here somewher-” he began.

“Walter Richards, what the hell did you find in my city!” Tania’s voice called out angrily from the direction of the Pediatrics wing. Walter looked up at the ceiling, as if steadying himself, and then just sighed again for the third time.