Seems so obvious in hindsight, but at the time, I was shocked out of my – my – well, something . . . shoes, I guess – to suddenly see, at the end of the corridor close by the drinking fountain, four FNTs standing shoulder-to-shoulder and looking ready to crack skulls.
I coughed one last time and straightened into a stiff position, eyes roving over the aliens’ characteristics. There was a tall-dark-and-handsome one in the center – small eyes, large nose. There was a fellow with short-black-and-curly hair sort of bouncing on his toes. There was a stocky, bearded dude, and a little fellow with a stern face and glasses that glinted under the fluorescents. All of them wore strange costumes. No one said a word.
Then Y poked me in the side. I was so focused on the FNTs that I jumped out of my socks and my shoes (not really, but it was a similar sensation), and looked furiously at him. “What?”
He grunted, nodded from me to the FNTs, and then charged them.
Naturally, I didn’t hesitate. I charged right away too. In the opposite direction, though, towards the bathroom door. Such behavior probably seems heartless to you, and I’ll admit that I flinched a little bit as I heard the thudding and thumping and scraping going on behind me, but I grit my teeth and didn’t look back. P-DAPs do not engage in pointless acts of heroism – that’s part of our motto. And charging alien forces when the odds are two to one definitely qualifies as a pointless act of heroism in my book. (Which is the P-DAP Agent Handbook, actually. I helped edit it, so it’s kind of personal to me, although I will admit it’s a little dry in places.)
If Y wanted his skull cracked, that was his problem. I had other things to think about. Like getting that antidote down to the rest of the students.
I smashed into the bathroom and met Angel, who looked like she was about to come out.
Her eyes narrowed as she looked at my panting frame. “Where’s Y?”
“One question at a time, for Pete’s sake!” I panted. “Where’s who and why wh – Oh.” I gestured toward the door just swinging shut. “He’s out there. Fighting FNTs. There are four of them – I don’t think –”
“IDIOT!” Angel said, brandishing a bit of curled wire at me.
“Don’t call me names! There’s no way I’m going up against four FNTs no matter how –”
“Not you: him!” She whirled around and seized the now-empty plastic cup from the counter. “This is exactly what I expected to happen! We don’t have time for this!” She dunked the cup into one of the solution-filled sinks and brought it up overflowing. “Do you have any idea how much money P-DAP spends on UOCs? He can’t throw his life away like that because we can’t afford it!” Holding the cup in a white-knuckled grip, Angel glared at me. “Well, don’t just stand there! Grab something and follow me!”
I wanted to point out that we were in a bathroom, and the handiest thing to grab in a bathroom is paper towels, which wouldn’t be at all helpful. But this was also no time to argue. I pounced on the bit of wire that Angel had left on the counter when she picked up the glass, and bolted after her. She was already at the door.
Unfortunately, so was tall-dark-and-handsome. Angel had just started to pull the door open when it came crashing inwards, so that the edge caught her in the face and threw her back into the far wall. (Just so you know, it is physically impossible for a hard push from a door to throw someone across the room. Does that stop the Fernacktorians? No. That’s one of P-DAP’s main problems with them – they do something weird to Earth’s laws – as if they don’t apply or something. It’s very disrespectful. Not to mention inconvenient.)
With Angel sprawled on the floor at the far end of the bathroom, that left me, standing in the open doorway, facing TDaH with nothing but a bit of curly wire in one clenched fist. I planted myself in the doorframe, arms braced against either side, and glared up at the alien. “You cannot come in here. This is the girl’s lavatory, and you’ll ruin your cover if you so much as –”
TDaH took ahold of my wrist and, with one twist, I found myself jerked out of place and spun around so that I was facing the door as it slammed in my face – him inside, and me outside. I gaped, and then growled something less than decorous as I threw myself at the door, trying to open it.
It wouldn’t budge. Naturally. I fumed another few seconds, and then became aware of the scuffling sounds coming from the hall behind me.
Oh, yeah. Y was being killed by three FNTs.
I hesitated only a moment before turning around and rushing to help. I couldn’t let him be crushed now – not when that would leave me alone with three FNTs.
The aforesaid FNTs were in a tangled mess of arms and legs on the floor by the drinking fountain. I couldn’t even see Y. I skidded to a halt up close to them, staring at their faces – all screwed up and purple with concentration as they tried to strangle whatever they could get a hold of. I looked for some sign of Y – a bit of brightly colored shirt – a tuft of springy hair – anything, but to no avail. I was going to have to go digging. I got a firm grip on my bit of wire, prepared to stab it into the first scalp that presented itself, but before I could, someone inhaled – long and deep like one would while smelling a rose – right below my ear.
I swung around with a left hook, but the someone ducked. He straightened a moment later, to give me some version of the evil eye.
“Thanks for the backup, Airy.” Y said, out of breath and looking a little rumpled.
“Anytime,” I growled, fists poised for another punch. My eyes went from the UOC to the pile of FNTs. “How . . . ?”
Y grinned – half evil and half pleased. “I’m quick.”
“Not THAT quick –”
“That quick.” His tone would brook no further comment. It made me want to argue, that kind of tone did, but I refused. This wasn’t the time.
“I need your help,” I said.
“Yeah, I figured.”
I gave him a sour look, but he only raised his eyebrows indignantly. “Okay, you left me out here –”
“You charged four Fernacktorians. That’s explicitly against the rules.”
He rolled his eyes. “Rules . . .”
“Are very important.”
Now, I’ve never been that big on rules and rule following and all that. But just let someone else try to tell me that rules are unimportant and I’m ready to sock them as soon as talk to them. This is probably a fault of mine, but I’m usually too busy to deal with it. I glared at my co-worker. “And just what do you mean by that?”
Y had headed towards the bathroom, but at my question he turned as though to tell exactly what he meant by that, but I didn’t hear him.
Because at that moment, the three Fernacktorians that had been wrestling with each other on the floor had apparently realized that two P-DAP agents had been chatting calmly not three feet away.
If there’s one thing an FNT hates, it’s looking stupid. And they rose up faster than I could stir a step and tackled both of us.