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Chapter 4 : I Agreed To
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WARNING: descriptions of violence and injury, threat of violence, bad language, riots, and general internet shenanigans.
I Agreed To
When you decide to save lives on a regular basis, like being a doctor or a fireman or a police officer or a superhero, there’s a lot you agree to. You agree to being yelled at when you’re just trying to help and you agree to being bled on and you agree to going home and literally washing that dead person’s blood off your hands because you couldn’t save them and you agree to letting people try to attack you and you agree to hating yourself when you read the news the next day because if you’d been there, if you’d known, less people might have been hurt and you agree to getting stabbed and shot at and scratched and burnt and you agree to sometimes, very rarely, getting thanked. You agree to putting your life on the line every day, just because it’s a choice you’ve made. Sure, sometimes it’s the worst thing and you wish you hadn’t and you want to stop, please, just stop-
But you don’t. Because they rely on you and they need you.
I couldn’t help but think, though, as I looked down at the street on that Saturday afternoon, that I had not agreed to this.
Thirty minutes prior, I had been at home, trying to get some more of my articles written up while Elizabeth had conveniently gone out with some university friends, with the telly on in the background. I was peaceful. It was calm. I was certainly not standing on the roof of a building watching London’s streets disintegrate into angry waves of rioters, tearing at each other and nearby cars and buildings and, most worryingly, the police that were trying to halt the progress of the ever-swelling numbers.
The little reporter on my screen began to tell me, live, about a once-peaceful protest that had been perfect in both its legality and its reasoning, over some law that affected the lower classes because their taxes were raised and it seemed fair, because the assholes who raised their taxes are the same people that get paid about £70,000 a year.
All in all, it’s fair. I saw no harm in their peaceful, reasonable protest.
Unfortunately, it was not what I saw on that street; it was harm and hatred and irrational violence. There were the small fires that need to be stomped out or there were going to be big fires and men with broken arms and bloody noses and a police car that there wasn’t any hope for anymore, they’d swallowed it in to their incredible mass and it was lost. All I saw was too much. I couldn’t be everywhere I couldn’t do it on my own I needed the police to handle this one but they weren’t arriving quick enough and I had to do something. Of all the problems, I had to choose one.
It was the first time I felt truly helpless.
Something that cut through the shouting and chaos, though, was jeering. At first, I thought it was just voices out loud, in the air, rising gently over all the other noise because it was near, but it wasn’t just that.
Even their thoughts were jeering; mocking; planning their cruelty. Their twisted sadism was cutting through my head they were thinking so loud.
I switched my attention to their out-loud voices, creeping to the edge of the building and looking down.
A police officer, wielding a baton and a pepper spray, had been separated from the rest, and they didn’t appear to have noticed yet. He was trying to radio someone, but he wasn’t getting a response.
The men- and god, it was mainly men in this crowd- nearest were pointing at him, backing him down an alleyway, cornering him, laughing. One threw a beer bottle, and the officer was forced to dodge sideways, cursing.
Without another thought, I scrambled back up and over the roof, grabbing the drainpipe I’d already allocated to shuffle down, and slid as fast as I possibly could, landing heavily and spinning around- to see the officer already around the corner and backing towards me.
“Back away now!” he yelled, raising the baton higher. “I will not hesitate.”
“You’re taking the piss!” grinned one, chugging the last of his beer before throwing the can to the side.
“We ain’t afraid of you, you fucking bitch!” another said.
Striding forward brazenly, one guy was holding up his fists, still sneering.
“Come at me, mate! I’ll get you done for attacking me!”
I raised an eyebrow, and didn’t think. “Not if I back up his side of the story, he won’t.”
I was nearly whacked between the eyes with the baton as he swung it around and tried to smack me with it, but I managed to duck out of the way, feeling it graze over the top of my head.
“Jesus! Watch out!” I yelped, straightening up. “I’m with you, you idiot!”
“I’m here to get you out,” I said, taking a couple of steps forward to stand slightly in front of him. I forced him to back up a few steps faster when I saw the men eyeing me up and glaring.
He swallowed. “Right. How the hell are you going to do that?”
“Not sure yet.”
“Who the fuck is that?”
“I don’t fucking know, do I?”
Glancing around proved there was very little by way of weapons, and even less in escape routes except behind us; running.
“How well do you know this area?” I asked through gritted teeth.
“Very well,” he murmured back.
“Is this alleyway a dead end?”
“Okay... run when I say.”
“What? You’re a citizen, ma’am, I can’t leave you,” he said quickly.
“You can and you will,” I said calmly, a plan beginning to form. “You know who I am, right?”
“It’s a fucking girl!”
“It’s a girl?!”
“Fuck’s sake, I’ll hit a fucking girl if I have to-“
I could hear the smile in his voice, but I had my eyes fixated on the men. “Hard not to. The mask gives it away. We’ve been told to arrest you.”
“Right.” I took a deep breath.
“I won’t tell them. I mean- the truth. I won’t tell them.”
I nodded, trying to concentrate. “Thank you. I need you to keep running. Do not stop until you’re far away and somewhere definitely safe with someone. I’m not sure how long I’ll manage, but I’ll do my best, okay?”
“Do as I say,” I demanded impatiently. “We don’t have time.”
“Who the hell are you?” one demanded of me, and I smirked at him.
“I’m a superhero,” I said, flashing a fake grin his way. “Without all the ridiculous spandex and oversize muscles.”
“Run,” I told the officer. “Now.”
“Go!” I barked, taking a firmer stance and loosely holding my fists up as he finally turned and fled. The urgency of his footsteps faded, but didn’t pause: he never looked back.
There was wave upon wave of them bearing down on us.
Without thought I reached down to touch my wand under my trousers, and summoned every fibre of my concentration and power to go into my spell, pointing to the stone slabs in front of me-
-and the force of the blast punched me like a sledgehammer: I flew through the air and slammed onto the ground, skidding along it and rolling over and over again, scraping layers of cloth and skin off as I went.
The sound had dizzied me; I could barely think when I juddered to a halt on my front, face pressed into the pavement. I breathed deeply to stop my head swimming; it was as though I needed to gasp for air in a way I couldn’t. The heat had singed my clothes and skin, but not in a way I could feel properly yet, and mercifully nothing was broken, so I staggered to my feet, clutching my arm and face to stop the bleeding and trying not to swear through the stinging.
As the god-awful buzzing in my ears began to subside, I could hear them panicking and yelling on the other side of the unsettled smoke, but no one was screaming in pain. I assumed I’d come off worse, which hadn’t really been my intention, but I was grateful it had panned out that way.
I didn’t hurt. I helped.
The effect I’d intended came about; the buildings were structurally fine and no walls had been stripped away. Only the paving slabs were in pieces and a couple of windows shattered. No one was appearing through the dust, but I could begin to distinguish what they were saying over the wailing sirens of the nearest buildings that the blast had triggered.
“WHAT THE FUCK-“
“Shit, that’s not worth it-“
“I DON’T FUCKING KNOW-“
“It’s not worth it! That could’ve killed us, fuck, I’m out of here-“
“Yeah, same- I’m going home, crap, this hurts-“
When I could steady myself enough to point, hands shaking furiously, I muttered a few more incantations, my magic far better said out loud. I fixed the pathway and the windows, but didn’t clear the dust and smoke, when I hobbled down the street and Apparate back onto my roof when I thought it was safe.
I winced and hissed as I ineffectively cupped my wounds, trying to keep an eye on the crowd. The sound of the explosion had clearly freaked out most of the rioters- they all thought it was someone in the crowd that had set off a bomb, clearly- and many were trying to get away as fast as possible, running and shoving others out the way, and the police forcing their way through to find the bomber, arresting anyone who neared them. A cold fury, one I hadn’t seen in them before and their newly arrived enforcements managed to disperse a large number without any real difficultly; the mob’s arrogance replaced with fear.
I sent a young boy, fourteen or fifteen at most, on his way when I heard the murmurings in his mind of anger, or revenge. I took his knife from him and frightened him home, to stop him causing unnecessary trouble.
It was strange- it was only after they disappeared when the vast amount of damage done was evident. They’d set the police car on fire and the fire department were dousing the flames with water. The ground was littered with rubbish and all sorts of odd objects. When they taped off the area, the investigators were prodding around where everyone was pointing to- where the bomb had been, where there was no evidence of any destruction.
Fortunately, it wasn’t really in my job description to hang around to help with the cleanup job.
The strangest reaction I had was laughing. Hands shaking, heart beating furiously, blood drying all over my hands, I laughed nearly the whole way back the flat. The cover of a Disillusionment charm protected me from strange looks, but I couldn’t help but laugh. The whole thing had been absurd. When I got home and logged onto my computer, there were already photos of the riot online. I shook my head and laughed again: it was news. Not much mention of me, but I didn’t expect there to be- but the explosion and whispers of terrorism and Londoners all checking on each other’s wellbeing. I had six missed phone calls from Elizabeth.
I rang her back as I scrolled through the live feed of public messages, wondering what the hell had just happened.
“Hey- sorry I didn’t answer-“
“Oh my God, Becca,” she said, relief blossoming in her voice. “Where the hell have you been?”
“I’ve been in the flat. I’ve just had my phone on silent and I’ve been watching the news- it’s crazy, isn’t it?”
“Yeah- I’ve been so worried about you, Becca- answer your phone when there’s a terrorist threat next time, got it?!”
“Right- yeah,” I agreed, shaking my head and grinning. “I promise. Anyway, are you staying put?”
“Yeah, we were gonna come back but the underground has been completely halted until further notice. I might have to stay here a while... a lot of bus services have been suspended too, and I don’t fancy getting a taxi for a journey that far. It fact, I don’t fancy leaving here at all yet.”
“Stay if you feel safer.”
Not that there was actually any threat.
“Alright. If you change your mind just text me, okay?”
“Will do. See you later.”
“See you. Bye.”
-and why the hell did they have to ruin a perfectly good protest? Fuck humanity
at least noone got hurt
a couple of police officers did- they reckon two were hospitalized and one got checked out and discharged with only minor cuts
I don’t know why anyone directs hate at the police- they won’t do a damn thing to change the law, and shouldn’t. That’s the politicians’ job.
someone to blame?
I smiled at their indignation. I stripped off carefully, working around the freshly forming bruises and showered, and studied the damage.
Usually, I let shallow wounds or burns heal naturally, but I couldn’t leave my hands the way they were, and after I got started I couldn’t stop. When I began, I could feel my body finally calming and relaxing, the shaking easing and my strength returning. Essence of Dittany healed most of my major cuts and burns: I knew I wouldn’t be able to escape the bruises, though. My palms were completely normal although the muscles in them felt sore, like I’d overworked them. Using Elizabeth’s tweezers, I picked out all the grit and dirt embedded in my skin and methodically sealed all the tiny bleeding dots. I massaged salving serum into the bruises to take away their unexpected bruises. I prayed the burns wouldn’t be so shiny the next morning.
After I’d washed the dust that had settled in my hair down the drain, I shoved my pyjamas on and wandered through to my computer again, which was flooded with discussion.
I wish the politicians would stop criticising the lower classes. They take day trips to see it- these people live it.
Urgh. England, get your shit together.
you know, it says on your profile that you’re from the US. didn’t your whole government shut down because they couldn’t get their shit together?
oooh #do you want some ice for that burn
By the way, there were eighteen protesters arrested and they reckon about twelve are probably going to get charged.
GUYS THE SIX O CLOCK NEWS NOW NOW NOW DO IT #superhero
Omg omg omg can’t breathe wHeRE ARE ALL THE OTHER BRITS THEY NEED TO SEE THIS
Guyyyyyyyss what’s happening us poor americans can’t just tune in to your channels :(
yeah we live vicariously through you
ANY NEWS CHANNEL IT’S ON ALL OF THEM
IS THIS REAL
no for serious tell us americans
IT WAS THE #superhero THERE THAT MADE THAT EXPLOSION IN THE PROTEST HE SAVED A POLICEMAN’S LIFE THE POLICE ARE MAKING A STATEMENT ABOUT IT NOW FUCKKKKK
I jumped on my remote and desperately pressed the buttons, the sound flicking on moments before the picture- some deputy or officer at a press conference.
“-and whilst there have been uncertainties about the conduct of this vigilante and his motives, today’s actions regarding the life of one of our colleagues has proved to us that this man is an exceptional citizen. The police department would like to express our utmost gratitude for his actions, and it has been decided that the warrant for the arrest of the man, often called a superhero, has been withdrawn.”
It switched to a reporter, standing in the very street I had been in hours earlier.
“According to the police officer, deputy Marcus Rentman, he was cornered by the mob in this very alleyway and he owes his life to the man he called a ‘superhero’.”
“He told me to run, and I had no choice but to do it,” my policeman said on the screen, making a statement at a podium. “I would have been ripped apart without his help.”
I muted it, watching the pictures and messages from online of the incident and afterwards flood the screen.
I was on national news. I was on the news on every news channel. I turned back to my laptop.
OMGGG OUR BABY HE’S GETTING SO MUUUCH RECOGNITION
I’M SO PROUD :’)
Well it’s about time they stopped trying to arrest him, he’s kicked ass way more than the police.
That night, Elizabeth came back, and told me off for leaving my phone in my room but did I see the news? I grinned and told her I had, and was she pleased? She practically bounced off the ceiling and told me she had to find out what everyone online was saying and she was so happy, he saved a policeman, how brave was that?
Pretty brave, I told her. But that’s all part of being a superhero, isn’t it? He agreed to this.
A/N Had difficulty with this one, but got there in the end :) written in lieu of an essay. PS. The ‘underground’ is the NY tube system, in London.
For the daughter now without a mother.
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