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Chapter 15: Confrontation and Aftermath
Storm
palladian23 wrote in superwebnovel
Author's Notes: Warnings for this chapter - Bad language, violence, death threats, descriptions of people in peril, verbal recollection of major assault

As always, a big thanks to my wonderful editor, gwoman for her work on this chapter!


Back to Chapter 14

Over the next couple of hours, Lex found herself carrying food and water to various people on the team, checking with Lily and Riss to find out if they could think of any way to correlate the list of people living on the upper floors of the apartment building with the people the medics took in, getting additional fuel for Joan, asking for check-ins from the team and standing in for Kate when necessary, and reminding everyone to take breaks as needed and not wear themselves out. She felt a bit dizzy with all of the running around and the chemical-scented smoke by the time the engineer found her and suggested that they start telling everyone to just head to the roof because she’d become worried that the 22nd floor would collapse with the additional load of people there.

Lex sighed but agreed, since she’d started to worry about the same thing after hearing the level of creaking and groaning during her last trip into the building. After a moment, she started letting the team know about the change of plans.

“Kate, Serena, can you shut up shop on the 22nd floor in about fifteen minutes? We’re about to do an announcement, but please let people know that they should go up to the roof now if they’re still mobile. Bring as many of the non-mobile people as you can in the next fifteen minutes, but tell the crowd to carry or help anyone else up to the roof.”

“Sure,” Kate answered in Lex’s ear. “What’s the deal?”

“The roof is stronger than the 22nd floor,” Lex said glumly. “Anyway, after fifteen minutes, meet me out front for a break, and then we can work on next steps, OK?”

“Right,” came Serena's voice, followed by Kate's clipped, “Sure, see you in a bit.”

Lex waited until she could see Joan coming down from the roof with her latest passenger, followed not too long afterwards by Victor. She gestured them over and asked, “So, you probably heard everything on the communication link. In the next half hour or so, can you bring Kate and Serena up to the roof on one of your trips?”

The two of them nodded, Joan responding, “Not a problem. Just let us know when.”

Lex thanked them, and then sighed again, knowing the decision would be unpopular with some. She stood in front of the building as the firefighters’ announcement began, waiting for the inevitable appearance of the Alpha team captain. He must not have been paying much attention, however, since Kate and Serena had finished on the 22nd floor, taken a break, and gone up to the roof with Joan and Victor before she saw the man outside, looking around angrily. Stepping forward, Lex cleared her throat, which had gotten a bit hoarse due to a day full of breathing smoke-tainted air, and he stared down at her with a burning fury.

“What do you want?”

“I wanted to let you know about the decision to send all of the remaining people in the building to the roof. The building engineer was worried that the lower floors would start to collapse–”

“Who told them to make the announcement?” he interrupted, almost shouting.

“I did,” Lex replied, looking him squarely in the eye for a moment as she felt a rush of adrenaline in anticipation of what might come next.

“Who the hell are you?”

“My name's Lex, I'm with the M Agency.”

“The fucking Models? Jesus Christ, who're they going to put in charge next: Barbie? Who told you that you could make that decision?”

“Like I said, the building engineer told us that it was becoming more dangerous to have people on the lower floors, since it was likely that the ceilings and floors would start to collapse–”

“It's like a broken record, talking to you,” he roared at Lex. Then, seeing Casey as she came out of the building with two more people, he turned to her. “You. You knew something about this, didn't you? I'm sure it was all your idea!”

To Lex's surprise, Casey didn't respond with her usual confidence, but shrank back from him a little, gently putting the people she’d been carrying down. Her response just seemed to encourage George, and he strode forward to her, swelling up with anger. Lex felt the hair on the back of her neck seem to stand on end as she saw him grab Casey's arms and shake her.

“You goddamned bitch, why are you always doing this to me?” he asked, so angry Lex could see him actually spitting in Casey's face. She responded by closing her eyes and turning away with a wince, as if waiting for a blow to fall. Lex felt something hot rush to her head, and suddenly she stood there beside the two of them.

“Get your hands off my friend,” Lex said, sounding calm and even, but she thought perhaps she’d spoken too quietly, because George kept yelling at Casey and shaking her.

Finally, the heat seemed to pool in Lex’s mind and then she opened her mouth again, but this time she shouted, “Get your fucking hands off of her, you big baboon!”

Suddenly, everything had fallen silent save for the crackle of fire. Everyone in the general vicinity stopped whatever they’d been doing, even George. All attention was fixed on Lex, and even Casey had opened her eyes back up to watch Lex with horror, shaking her head. Lex just stood there, fists clenched, glaring at George, who looked oddly less sure of himself but seemed to try to shake it off.

“Oh yeah? What are you going to do about it, little girl?”

“Stop you,” Lex replied in a growl, crouching down to the ground.

He rolled his eyes and turned away from her, prepared to start back up where he left off, but he hadn’t moved fast enough. While he had his eyes off of her, Lex grabbed a large handful of the ashes and grit piled everywhere on the ground, and then used her free hand to push down as she jumped up and blew the ashy dust straight into George's eyes.

With a roar, he let go of Casey and turned to where he expected Lex to be, but she’d moved slightly out of range. She motioned to Casey to get out of the area and began scanning for anything that might be helpful. Hope growing in her heart, she ran up a pile of debris that the firefighters had heaped on the edge of the pavement, things cleared out from the apartment building so that they could easily get in and out.

“Over here, asshole,” she shouted as George continued stumping around where she’d been, trying to find her. Upon hearing her, he lurched in her general direction.

Lex had begun unearthing a length of metal electrical conduit. On one end, it had been stuck through a half-broken cinderblock, creating a loop. She smiled and began pulling the other end of the conduit out of the pile of trash, waiting until the roaring giant came close. Once he did, she moved quickly, leaping off the hill of debris to put George's searching hand through the loop. Using her upward momentum, she pulled the loop tight under his armpit, the cinderblock now hanging off his shoulder like an odd epaulet, and began to circle him.

“So,” she said, “you like to pick on people smaller than you, do you? You make me sick, you fucking bully.”

Continuing to run around him, she pulled the free end of the cable behind her, suddenly glad she’d brought her new gloves. She circled him several times as he tried to stomp and kick her, but she dodged his big feet and continued moving, letting the conduit loop loosely around his upper body. Finally, after she’d circled a number of times and had begun to run out of cable, she pulled it tight around his arms and torso in one rapid movement and fastened the end under a looser cable loop a number of times until she reached the end of the conduit.

When Lex stepped back, George had been completely tied up like a ball of yarn, only able to stand, curse at her, and vainly struggle. Lex couldn’t help just blinking for a moment, surprised her gamble had paid off. Apparently his vision had returned, however, because he tried to spit on her. Lex dodged it, but the petty gesture had shot her last nerve, and the hot anger running through her found nothing wrong with humiliating as well as incapacitating him. She climbed the nearby debris pile again and judged the distance. Taking a short run down the hill, she launched herself at him, moving in midair to hit him in the chest. She knew it wouldn't hurt him, but since he couldn’t move very well, it affected his balance and he couldn't get it back. Lex bounced off him and landed on the pavement in a crouch around the same time he fell backwards, knocking the wind out of his lungs, it seemed, since he stopped yelling for what might have been the first time since he’d come out of the building.

Lex stood cautiously, looking down at him as he continued to blink furiously, and her anger seemed to surge again as she spoke. “You're used to looking down at everyone, aren't you? Well, let's see how you like it for a change. And if you ever put your hands on Casey like that again, you’re a dead man!”

He turned his head then, still blinking, but trying to glare at Lex. Lex finally shook her head and walked away, her body still vibrating with adrenaline. She could see George rolling around in her peripheral vision, trying to get himself free, or at least to rest on his side, but she ignored him, worried about Casey. She cast around, looking for her friend, and after too many long moments saw her a few feet away, standing on the grass, her back turned. Lex ran over to her.

“Casey, are you all right? Did he hurt you?” she asked, her voice panicky in her own ears.

Casey cleared her throat, but didn’t turn towards Lex. “I’m fine, Lex. Thanks for sticking up for me.”

When Lex walked around to see her friend’s face, she could see the other woman had been crying. Casey had a big smear of ash across her cheek where she’d probably wiped at it with the back of her glove, and the sight made Lex feel like crying as well.

“Are you sure you’re all right?” Lex asked more softly, pulling a tissue from one of her pockets and handing it to the taller woman while gesturing wiping at her cheek.

Casey removed her gloves and took the tissue, using it to dry her eyes then wipe the ash away. “I’m fine, really. I’ve just never had anyone take up for me before. I was always so big that everyone figured I could take care of myself, I guess.”

Lex was about to reply, but stopped upon hearing a small patter of applause. She whipped around to see two women who’d been brought out of the burning building, clapping for her. Then, to her eternal surprise, the medics started clapping. To her horror, she heard hooting and turned further to see Serena cheering. As she kept looking in that direction, she spotted Victor, who nodded at her with an enigmatic smile, and Joan, whose expression she couldn’t determine behind the mask. As a blush flamed on her face, realization of the situation she’d gotten herself into suddenly came to Lex, along with a sickening feeling in her stomach.

“Come on, you guys, let’s get back to work,” Lex murmured into her communicator as she turned back to Casey.

“Aww, you spoil all the fun,” Serena said with a mock pout, then vanished. Victor and Joan soon followed suit. Lex gave an awkward wave at the rest of the people before turning back to Casey.

“What should we do next? I guess we need to report this or something.” Lex’s hands twisted nervously together of their own accord.

Casey snorted disdainfully, looking over at George. Jen and Paula had turned up to try to help him, but he still floundered on the pavement. Apparently, Lex had been able to get the conduit pretty well stuck, because the two didn’t seem able to do much. Paula turned around to glare at Lex before going back to work. Lex looked away guiltily.

“Let’s go to talk to Clara,” Casey said, her normal attitude back on full display. “I’m sure she’ll know what to do.” The sick feeling in Lex’s stomach seemed to intensify at that statement.

The two of them had begun walking across the grass towards the M Agency van when Lex heard in her ear, “…and then, when I showed up, she was calling him a goon or something and he was shaking Casey!”

Lex looked at the van with trepidation, remembering that Clara had one of the communicators as well. She glanced over at Casey, who appeared to be laughing.

“Serena, do you have to talk about this over the communicator?” Lex asked, trying to speak as quietly as possible.

“But it was so funny! And, since I don’t want to stop moving people around, I’ll only talk on the communicator about the parts that I need to cover when I’m not on the roof.”

“Why?”

“Well, Kate asked what happened, so I can’t very well not tell her!”

“I guess not,” Lex mumbled in response, shaking her head in defeat. “But, anyway, I called him a baboon.”

“Even worse!” Serena crowed with delight.

Casey and Lex had reached the van by then and poked their heads inside. Lex felt relieved that Clara had apparently been talking on the phone for a while, because by the time they reached the van, Serena had begun recounting over the communicator how Lex had tied George up.

It was Casey who spoke first, having grown visibly impatient after waiting for a couple minutes while Clara ignored them. “Hey, Clara, can you get off the phone for a minute?” she asked. “We have something important to talk to you about.”

Clara put a finger up, glowering at Casey. “Yes, Mr. Sauer. I understand. I’ll make sure it gets done. Thank you. I’ll talk to you later.”

Lex took the communicator from her ear for a moment so that she could talk to Clara without distraction, trying to ignore the churning feeling in her stomach. She looked nervously up at Casey and, seeing the other woman return her gaze encouragingly, she swallowed once and began.

“Um, Clara, there was an incident with the other team's captain. I saw him attack Casey, and we had a fight as a result.”

Clara had been fiddling with her cell phone, but suddenly Lex had all her attention. “You had a fight? What happened?”

“Well, I threw ashes in his eyes, tied him up in electrical conduit from a trash pile, and kicked him over.”

Clara looked at her in disbelief for a moment, then bolted for the van door, stopping before actually getting out of the vehicle. Lex poked her head out the door and saw that Jen and Paula had backed away a little. George still lay on the ground, tied up and cursing loudly, although he continued to struggle to get to his knees. She cringed and turned back to look at Casey, putting a hand to her head. When Casey saw the look on Lex's face, she chuckled softly. By the time Clara turned back to the two of them, they both wore serious expressions.

“How did you...” Clara began, and then paused to look searchingly at Lex. “Well, never mind, I guess. So, why are you telling me?”

Lex shrugged. “I wasn't sure what to do, so I thought I'd report it. If you have any ideas let me know, because I'm not sure what to do next.”

Clara laughed and shook her head. “Well, there's no harm done, even though he's mad. So let's go out and you can apologize, he can apologize to Casey, and then maybe you can help him get untied. If I need to, I can have a little conversation with him to get him to behave.”

Casey nodded and looked down at Lex, who nodded as well, feeling grateful that her actions hadn’t gotten her into real trouble. The sun had begun to burn its way through the clouds as the three of them went out to where George was and stood in front of him. He’d gotten to a half-kneeling position, and appeared both tired and angry. Clara went forward and whispered something into his ear, and while she did he looked suddenly and shiftily up at Lex and Casey, then back down at the ground. After a moment, Clara retired with a smile and gestured to Lex, who cleared her throat and addressed the Alpha captain.

“I'm really sorry I lost my temper, and what I did at the end was uncalled for. But you owe Casey an apology, as well. None of this would have happened if you hadn't treated her the way you had.”

Lex watched him warily and could see that he almost shouted something in reply, but stopped at the last moment, looking at Clara out of the corner of his eye. Finally, he grunted, “Sorry,” in Casey's general direction. Figuring the barely apologetic word would be the best they could expect, Lex stepped in and worked for a moment to unhook the conduit (which had tightened a bit), then swung it around him a few times in order to loosen it.

“I'm sure your friends can help with the rest,” Lex said, stepping away. She nodded at Clara and put her communicator back on as Paula and Jen rushed forwards to help George finish escaping.

As Lex turned, she tried to catalog in her mind what needed to be done next until she heard Riss over the communicator.

“Lex, now that the excitement's died down a little, I wanted to let you know that I'm across the way working with Lily. We set up a tracking system for the people coming out of the building, and for any already taken to hospitals and shelters before we arrived. Lily arranged the transfer of that data so that we can check against our list.”

“Riss, you’re the best! How are we doing so far?”

“Making progress. Of the original 2033, it looks like we've gotten about a third so far.”

“Thanks for letting everyone know. Please keep us posted so we'll know how we're doing.”

“Will do,” Lex heard Riss say, just before she heard Serena cheering the amount of people they'd evacuated so far.

The next few hours continued to be a blur of activity for Lex; spelling Kate for a while so she could get a break, bringing food to whoever needed it, meeting with the firefighters so she could let them know how the evacuation progressed, and doing any number of other tasks to keep everyone focused on the jobs they needed to do. By early afternoon Lex heard over the radio what she'd been hoping to hear all day.

“There's no one left up on the roof,” came Joan's crisp voice.

“Can whoever's up there check to make sure there's no one else in the stairwell, or in any unseen area of the roof?” Lex asked, unwilling to declare victory too soon.

When the check came back negative a few minutes later, Lex sighed with relief. “All right. Everyone come on down and take a break and we'll figure out what to do next.”

While waiting for the rest of the team to arrive, Lex called to Riss. “Hey, Riss, what’s your checklist looking like?”

“So far, we've checked off a little over 2,000 people. We can probably assume that some people weren't home last night, so we may be OK, considering the last group of people that you all brought out.”

“Thanks, Riss. Let us know once all of them have checked in.”

Lex informed the group that there might still be some missing people when everyone had joined the group sitting on the grass to snack or just rest near the M Agency van. “I wish we could check to see if anyone's still in the building,” Lex continued, “but I don't think we can send people in to check floor to floor. According to what the engineer says, some of the floors have probably begun to collapse and could all go at any time.”

Kate smiled and looked at Lex over her sandwich. “There is a way. Paula, aside from being a bit of a bitch, is a psychic. From what I've seen her do, I think she could actually identify any remaining live people in there.”

“I don't think she’d help, though,” Lex said ruefully, remembering the glares she'd gotten from the woman for most of the day.

“You just have to ask in the right way.”

Kate smiled as she walked away, but reappeared minutes later with an angry Paula in tow who stopped in front of Lex, hands on hips, and began to shout.

“I can so tell who's still in there!”

Lex looked at the woman in surprise, still chewing on a piece of peanut butter granola bar, then glanced over at Kate, who seemed to be trying hard not to let a sly smile show. “I was just telling Paula here how you asked if she could let us know if there are any people still left in the building, and how I told you that she's really just a big fraud, and she got angry about it.”

“I am not a fraud! There are three living people left in the building. There's one old lady on the 13th floor who has asthma and passed out due to smoke inhalation. On the 20th there's a man with a broken ankle who didn't get out of bed quick enough and had part of an interior wall collapse on him. There's also a little boy on the 30th floor who's trapped under a bookcase that fell when the window blew out in his apartment, and his parents couldn’t find him when they left. You should go check it out if you think I'm not for real.”

Paula had been pointing to different parts of the building as she talked and finally marched away, her head held high. Kate chuckled softly to herself while Lex gave her a funny look.

“Let me guess: if she gets mad, it's difficult for her to read your mind?”

“Something like that,” Kate said, still chuckling.

Lex turned back to the group still sprawled on the grass. “I hate to take anyone away from their rest, but Casey and Serena, could you work on this together? You could go from the 22nd to the 20th, then walk to the 13th and then go to the roof, then down a floor. Casey, if you can work to reach the people, great, but if it’s too unstable or if anything starts to collapse, just get out safely, OK?”

The redhead and the blonde looked at each other for a moment, then both smiled. “Sure,” said Casey, grabbing a nearby breathing mask, then throwing one to Serena. Once the two had assembled their gear, Serena grabbed Casey’s hand and the two vanished.

About forty minutes later, the group on the grass watched as Serena and Casey reappeared for the third time, Casey carrying a little boy and Serena holding onto Casey's waist. They all looked singed, and the boy’s leg and head appeared to be bleeding, but they seemed otherwise OK. Kate looked up for a moment, and then flopped back down on the grass with a smile. Lex went to them to offer water and energy drinks. Casey grabbed some water with a smile, after turning the boy over to some waiting medics, and then drank most of the bottle. Serena sat down on the curb taking an energy drink, looking tired for the first time all day but smiling up at Lex.

“Do you think we got them all?”

Lex tilted her head to one side, still a little worried. “I hope so. I'll check in with Riss after a while and let everyone know. Rest for now, though. Do you want to join everyone in the shade?”

The group who’d assisted with the evacuation that day had moved under a small stand of trees several yards from the front of the building since the afternoon had become hot once the sun had fully emerged from behind the clouds. Joan had taken off her helmet but still looked somewhat uncomfortable, sitting back on her hands. She was talking to Victor about his boots, which he’d designed to help with landings when using his flying gear. Kate had spread out in the grass on her back with her head resting on her hands, watching the clouds roll by.

Casey walked over to settle with her back against one of the trees near Kate, and then rested her head on the tree, eyes closed. Serena put her arm over Lex's shoulder and the two of them made their way over to everyone else. Lex could feel the other woman leaning on her wearily, and did her best to make it look as if the two of them were just being friendly. When they sat down in the shade after arriving, Lex looked around for a moment.

“Thanks everybody, for agreeing to work together. I think we did a really good job.”

“We were just glad to be included,” Kate said, leaning up on her elbows for a moment, looking at Victor. “A lot of times we just get left out and end up standing around waiting. It gets old fast.”

Serena suddenly jumped up and pulled her cell phone out. “Hey, do you think Clara can take our picture? I want to have some proof of all of the work we did today.”

Lex frowned then. “That would be good. Isn’t it kind of weird that the press isn’t here taking pictures, though?”

A number of people in the small group turned to stare at Lex incredulously, but Kate just laughed. “You really are new here, aren’t you?” she commented as she stood up, brushing off her coveralls. “Follow me.”

They walked away from the burning building until the grassy area became sidewalk and Kate pointed to some barricades Lex hadn’t previously noted, about half a block away. “Watch for some characters in black helmets–” she began, then stopped and pointed.

Someone dressed in a black jumpsuit with what looked like a black motorcycle helmet on walked by with a large weapon slung over their back.

“Those are the people who protect us from the media, as well as everyone else,” she said with a sardonic smile. “When they said in our contracts they didn’t want us to talk to the press, they weren’t kidding.”

Kate turned to slowly walk back to the others and Lex followed. “Really, it seems like they almost want to keep us a secret, you know what I mean? Did you ever notice that the only papers that report on people like us in this country are the tabloid press?”

Lex trailed behind Kate, realizing she hadn’t thought about that before, that Kate seemed to be correct, and wondering why all of that might be.

Several minutes later, after Riss, Lily, and Clara had arrived, everyone stood together and smiled, having their pictures taken on several phones because once Serena had mentioned her idea, everyone wanted a copy of the shot.

By the time all figured had been checked and cross-checked and the final decision made that everyone had probably been evacuated from the building, an hour had passed and the firefighters remained hard at work. The fire continued to spread and the noise of things collapsing inside the building could be heard clearly from where the team sat on the small lawn of a building a few doors down, across the street just yards from the perimeter, where they’d moved at the firefighters’ insistence. Lex shook hands with Kate and Victor and thanked them again before the two teams climbed into their respective vehicles and left.

Lex couldn’t miss the barricades as they drove back through them, and found herself swallowing nervously as two of the figures in black temporarily moved a barricade so they could drive past. Once they were underway, however, Lex cleared her throat.

“Thanks again, everyone. I think we did something really good today.”

Casey grunted and handed her a bottle of water. “Relax. You worked too hard.”

Lex looked back and saw that Serena now slept against the side of the van. Joan had been loaded into the back, and sat back there looking uncomfortable. Riss still typed into one of her laptops but saw Lex looking and smiled almost unnoticeably before going back to work.

Suddenly, Lex felt very tired. She took a drink out of the bottle, then closed it and rested her head against the van's seat, turning slightly to look as they drove across the bridge and back into DC again. A few moments later, she opened her eyes and saw that they’d arrived in the garage at headquarters. Blinking, she looked up at Casey.

“I thought I might have to carry you upstairs. Come on,” she said, holding a hand out to Lex.

Lex stumbled a couple of times as she walked with Casey up the stairs. She shook her head as she slowly took on the next stair. “I don't know why I'm so tired. You guys did all the work.”

Casey snorted. “Hardly. Come on, I know you can make it.”

“What will we do now?” Lex asked, looking up at Casey, suddenly worried that she couldn’t figure out how late it had become. “What time is it? Is Mr. Chen here?”

“We'll take naps because everyone's tired,” Casey said, looking down at Lex with a laugh and steadying her as her foot stumbled again on a stair, “I'm sure they called him and told him not to come in today.”

Lex nodded, focused on getting the rest of the way up the stairs, and resisted the urge to just sprawl across her bed and sleep once she got there. Instead, she pulled off her ash-stained jumpsuit that reeked of smoke and had a short shower first. Once done she toweled off quickly, grabbed the t-shirt she’d been in when the call came, and looked at the redheaded man on it before putting it back on.

“I wish I had enough energy to appreciate getting into bed with you,” she said drowsily as she got under the covers and closed her eyes.

Lex sat up with a start and a dry cough, having escaped from a world where the sky was made of smoke and everything on the ground was covered in tentacles the color and consistency of used motor oil. She tried to calm her breathing as she looked around at her dark room and out at the lights on the far side of the water, absently realizing she'd forgotten to close her blinds like she usually did at night. Then she realized that the clock only read eleven PM and swung her feet over the side of the futon and into her slippers, trying to figure out what was going on. By the time she'd gotten her robe on, Lex remembered what had happened in the previous hours, and realized that she was hungry, so she headed down to the kitchen.

As she got down the last of the stairs, however, Lex turned her head to the left as she sensed something in that direction, and saw a large figure outlined against the dim light coming through the picture windows in the living room.

“Casey?” she asked, not really sure of the answer, but when the figure turned towards her, she recognized her friend. So Lex shuffled into the room and sat on the couch that Casey stood nearest to, then cleared her throat after a few moments of tense silence.

“Do you want to talk about anything?” Lex asked quietly as she thought over some of the events earlier that day, like Casey simply standing there as George attacked her. She waited, thinking maybe her friend wasn't going to answer and eventually relaxing back into the couch a bit, trying to ignore the cold leather upholstery on her neck. When Casey began speaking a few moments later, Lex quickly sat back up, pulled back from the edge of sleep once again.

“When I first signed my papers, they put me on the Alpha team,” Casey began in a voice so full of conflicting emotions that it sounded muffled and far away. “George, Paula, and Jen were on the team then, and one other guy who ended up leaving due to illness a couple of weeks after I came on. I probably should have taken that as a sign, but I was still too proud of my new job.” Lex could see Casey’s outline against the half-light from the window as she shook her head before continuing.

“It was a few weeks after that when it happened. George kept trying to hang around with me from the time I signed on, but I tried to avoid him because for some reason he just seemed…weird. Then, one day, I’d gone into one of the basement storerooms looking for something, and I heard the door click shut behind me. Not good, since it had an automatic door lock. When I looked down the aisle of shelves, I saw George coming in my direction.”

She paused for a moment, putting a hand to her head, and Lex almost held her breath as she waited.

“I figured he was there for some gear, at least until he put his hands on me. He said he wanted to 'punish' me for not ‘being nice’ to him. At the time, he was stronger than me and I didn't have any martial arts experience. I did the best I could, but he beat me into the ground.”

Lex's heart had leapt up into her throat. She wanted to say something but knew she should wait, and so she anxiously clutched the edge of the couch with both hands, her nails skipping over the smooth surface.

“When I woke up, I was laying on the floor. My clothes had been mostly torn off, and I saw my own blood spattered everywhere and in pools underneath me. I couldn't walk since, as I learned later, my right leg was broken in two places, and I had trouble crawling since my left forearm was broken, too. Fortunately, he’d broken the door as well, so I did manage to crawl out into the hall before I passed out again.

“The second time I woke up, I’d been moved to a room in the medical wing of Alpha quarters. I'd been sewn and bandaged and somewhat fixed up, but I could see when I looked at my reflection in the window next to my bed that more than half my face was swollen up and purple. I was having trouble breathing due to broken ribs, and the casts on my arm and leg were bothering me.

“When the doctors came in, they listed my injuries but seemed most concerned about the idea that I'd been having sex. I stared at them with my one good eye for a moment and told them that if I had, I'd been raped and wanted the morning after pill. That caused them all to stop in their tracks and have a little whispered conference in the corner, and I could see they were afraid of George, especially since they hadn’t said one word about how I’d gotten hurt.

“Watching them, I could suddenly see a long string of ugly things going out into the future for me if I didn't act. So I did my best to fake a laugh and told them I was only joking, that everything was fine but I was bored, so could they please bring me my laptop and my purse so that I could entertain myself. I'd remembered someone laughing earlier in the week about an e-mail that had been sent to everyone on the team, a recruitment notice asking if anyone wanted to move over and join another local team. So, I called Sauer, since he was the one who'd sent it, and he authorized my transfer. I waited until everyone went to lunch, called a cab, and came here. I've been here ever since.”

Lex let out a deep breath, only now realizing she’d been holding it. “That’s terrible, Casey.”

“Not as bad as it could have been, really. Since I was beaten so badly, I really only remember the first few minutes; after that, I passed out. I’d never been badly hurt before that, and it made me realize that there was a lot I could do to improve myself both for this job and so that I wouldn’t ever be in that sort of situation again. I still feel funny around George, as you know, but now that you took him on…well, I think I won’t feel quite the same about him again. Thanks.” Casey had turned slightly in Lex’s direction as she spoke, and Lex could see her friend’s silhouette stood tall now.

“You’re welcome, but I don’t feel like I did enough. If I’d known…” Lex said darkly, trailing off.

“You did plenty. Forget it, we saved a building full of people today, and we should be either resting or celebrating.”

“Well, I woke up hungry, so I was coming down to find some food. Hungry?” Lex asked, her voice hopeful.

Casey finally turned away from the window to look at Lex. “I am. Let’s get something to eat.”

Partway through their kitchen exploration, Lex and Casey decided they would bring their snacks upstairs so they could watch one of Lex’s movies while they ate. By the time they got upstairs, Lex carried a bag of popcorn, a box of granola bars, and a plate with a cup of hot tea and some toast with raspberry jam. Casey had made a plate with fresh cut fruit and veggies and also carried a box of whole wheat crackers, a jar of peanut butter, and a few bottles of water. They’d just about reached Lex’s door when another door across the hall opened.

“Hey,” Serena said, rubbing her eyes with a grin, dressed only in a long shirt. “Who’s making all that noise out here?”

“Sorry, Serena,” Lex said apologetically. “Did we wake you?”

Serena stood a little straighter, then stretched. “No, I was hungry.”

“Well, we’ve got plenty of food. Do you want to join us? We’re going to watch one of my martial arts films, too.”

“Are there any hot boys or girls in the movie?”

“They’re usually all hot,” Lex replied as she closed the door behind the three of them.

Around three o’clock, Lex woke up on the floor with couch pillows propped up all around her, Serena, and Casey. Like most modern TVs, hers had politely turned itself off sometime after the movie had ended. The other two women continued to snooze peacefully, so Lex did her best to quietly clean up the leftovers and get out blankets to put over them before tucking herself in for more sleep on her futon.

Forward to Chapter 16
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Comments about anything you liked or that you thought could be improved are extremely welcome!

I should also mention that I should be posting links to more art soon. My wonderful artist, Snowzapped, has been working on the character study for Lex, and the version she just sent me is awesome! Hopefully I'll be able to post the final for you along with next month's installment. :D


http://www.hitwebcounter.com


Contrarrestar


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Best chapter yet. It's weird how the win with the evacuation feels like such an anti-climax, but that really fits with the nature of the operation and the fact that they're all exhausted by that point.

The ending feels a little weak or awkward or something, but it's nothing I can put my finger on.

Great work, and I look forward to seeing arts!

So glad to hear you liked it! Yes, it did end up feeling kind of odd, but that's exactly it - by that time, they were all so tired it was hard to do more than cheer when they found out they were done.

I know what you mean...it's hard to wrap up something like this. If you come up with any suggestions, let me know.

Thanks very much, and I'll be posting more soon!

Sweet! Bad guy got his ass handed to him. ^^ Though of course he wasn't the big bad villain. Nice way of handling and wrapping up Lex's first job, as well as getting to know Casey and the other characters better. Looking forward to where things go from here! ^^

Well, it's not like he wasn't begging for it. XD Glad to hear that you liked how it all came together, and the windows we got into all of the characters. More to come soon, and thanks for reading and commenting!

Just getting back

(Anonymous)
And that's how the supers first saw Kung Pow! Enter the Fist

Greetings, it is Psycho Gecko again! I'm staying anonymous like this because I'd rather not have Google+ insistently try to link that account to this as well. If they wanted to recognize Psycho Gecko as a proper name, maybe then I'd use them. No Psycho, no Google, as the Scandinavians used to say. It was back when they fought the Mongols in Egypt for control of the Aztec empire.

I took a break to let the story get ahead of me, so I'm just not getting back here.

I thought it might be something abusive where the big fellow wanted sex. It's a sad world where rapes can't always be reported. Privilege and power make that difficult, which leads to the current low rape prosecution rate. The good thing about super-strong people with enhanced durability is that they're often dismissive of any harm that could come to them. They're even worse about that if their a bully and a rapist.

That's one reason to stay up to date on your chemical agents. A guy like him, I'd favor a blood agent. That's a kind of substance you ingest that does something to prevent your blood from getting oxygen to your cells. Destroys red blood cells or binds with receptors and blocks oxygen from binding, that sort of thing.

Generally much cleaner than nerve stuff. Water soluble, even.

The sudden tiredness is only a little suspicious, though high stress situations early in the morning like that have been known to make people tired.

I'll try this comment without the link to the triumphant music in honor of their firefighting success. Hopefully I won't be regarded as spam again.

Re: Just getting back

Yay! I hope you know how much it makes my day to see a comment by you. : )

You know, I always wondered why the Scandinavians didn't end up with control of the Aztec empire...thanks for filling me in!

That's one of the things I love about the internet...if life is busy, or if you just want to read more of a story at one sitting, you can just wait and it'll be there for you whenever you want to read it.

Yeah, unfortunately, it does seem to be a difficult thing for anyone to report a rape, what with some people being openly dismissive/acting like it's a moral failing on the part of the person who was assaulted. : ( And yes, in George's case, the powers that be pretty much seem to let him do whatever he pleases...which makes it more likely that his other team members will fall in line...

Oh, such wonderful ideas! George is actually a pretty lazy person normally, so I think people would chalk off any sudden tiredness to his usual nature. XD Thank you for the triumphant music, even though the spam filter didn't like it - I'm sure the team would appreciate it. Also, thanks for reading and commenting, because I very much appreciate it. :D

Re: Just getting back

(Anonymous)
I advise looking up Power Rangers Lost Galaxy OST - (Instrumental) if you would like to enjoy the triumphant music I planned on tossing your way. That phrase ought to send you right to it.

Re: Just getting back

Thank you, I can't wait to hear it!

the psychic

(Anonymous)
Aren't these people supposed to be rescuing people? Yet the psychic who could tell exactly how many people were left and where didn't do a damn thing? What????????? So everyone is perfectly okay with possibly letting 2000+ people die? Everyone is so unbelievably passive aggressive that its a wonder anyone can do a damn thing. She was there for hours and did nothing, how's that even allowed? Where is the discipline, the order, the fact shes working for an agency who's job it is to rescue people? Sorry but if these are the supers who are part of secret organizations designed to aid then our world is doomed. They are so poorly managed that its almost impossible to believe they are actually functioning. Does no one realize that any extra deaths that needlessly occurred would be considered murder based on the simple fact she was there to rescue them but purposefully let the die

It's amazing what people will do under the guise of 'just following orders,' isn't it? And, yes, I'd see the psychic's negligence as murder, as well, but it would be hard to press any charges since no one seems to admit the existence of super powers in that country. Working in corporate America, I've seen lots of high-functioning teams, but I've seen others that actually made these passive-agressive non-performers look good. In the case of these people, however, it's a deliberate strategy to allow these teams to be poorly managed, which I think you'll see if you choose to read on. Thank you for reading and commenting.

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