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It's Not the Fall That Kills You 2

Sep 20th, 2014
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  1. Creaking steps followed Drew all the way up to the third floor. He never bothered complaining about it. Between the landlord’s laziness and the other tenants’ apathy, nothing would ever get done with them. Besides, there were few things worth his annoyance about this place, no need to get everyone in a tussle over some loose stairs. Drew’s steps subconsciously slowed as he approached his door. Coming to a stop, he took a deep breath, unlocked the door, and stepped inside.
  2.  
  3. A swift kick passed an inch in front of his face. His instincts jerked his head back just in time for his assailant to wiz by. Having thrown her entire body into the attack and finding no resistance where she expected it, the thunderbird slammed into the opposite wall and crumpled to the floor. Drew closed the door behind himself a bit harder than necessary and walked by the dazed thunderbird as if she didn’t exist.
  4.  
  5. “You should never turn you back to your enemy!” she yelled.
  6.  
  7. Drew spun on his heel and stepped out of her path. The entire apartment shook with the force of her slamming into another wall. Drew flicked a light on and walked to the fridge. The scratching on the carpet in the hall told him the thunderbird wasn’t giving up. She popped around the corner and called at him.
  8.  
  9. “Luck will not save you again!”
  10.  
  11. She charged shoulder-first this time. Not even throwing her a glance, threw open the fridge. She bounced off like wet cardboard, ending up a pile of wooziness on the floor once again. Chilled water in hand, Drew grabbed a glass, filled it up, and took a nice, long chug, sighing at the end of it. It’d been a long day.
  12.  
  13. He finally looked at the stunned thunderbird, trying to decide whether to smile or grumble at the sight before him. He could practically see the stars dancing in her eyes, but the moment her head stopped its awkward swaying and her focus returned, she was right back at it.
  14.  
  15. “Prepare to taste lightning, fiend.”
  16.  
  17. Grumbling, Drew rolled his eyes as she wound up. Tiny arcs of lightning ran up and down her body, she pointed her wing at Drew, and her stare narrowed. Right when her grin grew large enough to show teeth, Drew threw the rest of his water on her.
  18.  
  19. Squawking in surprise, the thunderbird collapsed, jerking back and forth as the electricity she’d meant for Drew rebounded back into her body. A week ago, he might’ve felt bad at causing such a sad sight, but she’d quickly gone through all his pity. He rewarded himself with a small smile as he refilled his glass.
  20.  
  21. He’d already sat down at the table and leaned back into his chair by the time the thunderbird stopped spazing. As determined as she was, the thunderbird was still a scrawny, short thing, the top of her head coming just up to his mouth. Harpy types were almost always small like that--wings probably wouldn’t be enough if they were tall and bulky. When you can fly, you hardly need to be tall anyways. At the moment, she wore a t-shirt three sizes too big, obviously stolen from Drew’s closet. He’d learned to buy extras, as wings and talons often made short work of them. Her spikey hair went no further than her neck, probably held up by the intrinsic lightning all thunderbirds possessed. Puffing up her chest, she shouted out another challenge.
  22.  
  23. “It will take more than that to defeat--“
  24.  
  25. “Knock it off, Blitz. It’s been a long day.”
  26.  
  27. The fierceness on her face evaporated into wonder so fast Drew got whiplash just from watching it. She raced over to his side, laying her wings on his arm and asking, “What was it?! Did the forces of evil drive you back?”
  28.  
  29. “’The forces of evil’ had nothing to do with it.” He pushed her off his arm. You couldn’t be too careful with thunderbirds and direct contact. The water trick didn’t work if they were touching you.
  30.  
  31. “Then what was it? A mad scientist? Rich supervillain?” She latched right back onto his arm.
  32.  
  33. Every day this interrogation! His only salvation was the fact he didn’t have to carry out hits all that often, and god forbid she find out about that. “I thought you’d have gotten the hint by now, but apparently you haven’t, so let me make this explicit: I don’t talk about my job.”
  34.  
  35. Hopping up and down, she squeezed and shook his arm like some kind of toy. “C’mon! You never talk about anything!”
  36.  
  37. He threw her off, more fiercely this time. “Because there is nothing I want to talk about with you.”
  38.  
  39. She began to pace around the table with her wings out like a looming vulture. “But I want to talk. Especially when you leave me alone all day.”
  40.  
  41. Had it been only a week since they met? It had, hadn’t it? That short time ago Liess had approached him with this damn thunderbird at her side, smirking as if she’d just won the lottery. He’d rather forget the conversation altogether.
  42.  
  43. “I have a new partner for you,” Liess had said. That alone had told him enough. He’d never worked with a partner and he had no intention of doing so.
  44.  
  45. “I’m not so great with other people. Especially when they’re monstergirls.”
  46.  
  47. “You are alright with me, zho?” she said, jutting out her hip. That had to be a monstergirl thing, showing off your body whenever you got cocky--something Liess never did, and that only worked to concern Drew further.
  48.  
  49. “You’re an exception. I only have to see you once a day, twice if I’m unlucky.”
  50.  
  51. “You hurt me.” Sure didn’t sound that way. “Here, girl, introduce yourself.” Liess gestured for the thunderbird to come forward.
  52.  
  53. Marching up to Drew, the thunderbird snapped a wing to her forehead, her posture stiff as a statue. “Pleased to meet you! I’m your new roommate.”
  54.  
  55. Roommate? Drew narrowed his eyes, pointing at the still-saluting thunderbird. “Did she roommate? Because I heard roommate.” His voice deepened. “I better not have heard roommate.”
  56.  
  57. “You heard roommate.”
  58.  
  59. Now he knew why Liess had that smirk on. Revenge. This was sweet revenge for every piece of equipment he’d brought back damaged, every mission he’d reported back from late, every snide comment he’d made about her handiwork. Oh yes, Liess was that petty.
  60.  
  61. “This isn’t funny.”
  62.  
  63. “Zhen vhy do I feel like laughing?”
  64.  
  65. He leered at the thunderbird. She still hadn’t moved. Maybe there was still some way out of this.
  66.  
  67. “You know whenever I rib on you, it’s sarcasm, right? I actually think you’re pretty good.” It was true. He just did it to keep her ego in check, though right now he needed damage control more than a humble handler.
  68.  
  69. “Oh-ho-ho?” Even trying to cover her mouth, her smile peeked out from behind her hand. “So fery kint of you to say, but I do not sink flattery vill help you now. Zee decishon haz already been made.” That FUCKING german. He could tell she was pleased as peaches. Actually, no. She made the peaches look like emo kids.
  70.  
  71. “I am prepared to be the best, most valiant roommate possible!” shouted the thunderbird.
  72.  
  73. Drew shot her a glare. Valiant? He didn’t want a valiant roommate, he wanted one that didn’t exist. His ire shot back to Liess. “This has your greasy fingerprints all over it.”
  74.  
  75. “Are zey really zo greasy?” She danced her fingers out in front of her. “I am not zo sure.”
  76.  
  77. Drew opened his mouth to shout, but she silenced him with a finger. “Zho I woult love to take kredit for thees, it was out of mine hands, as skillful as zey are.” She shrugged. “Zee order kame from above.”
  78.  
  79. Above? He raised an eyebrow at the thunderbird. What the hell could she have done to end up in this situation? And why would the company care enough to cover for her like this?
  80.  
  81. Liess was still grinning at him with more glee than any one person or monster had any right feeling. What this thunderbird did or did not knew mattered little now. He knew a lost fight when he saw one. Arguing any further would only serve to fuel Liess’ schadenfreude.
  82.  
  83. “What’s your name?” he asked the thunderbird.
  84.  
  85. She perked up as if to answer, but stopped and looked away just as suddenly.
  86.  
  87. “She has none, as far as you are koncerned.” Rubbing her chin, Liess cocked her head at the thunderbird. “Vy don’t you kall her Blitz?”
  88.  
  89. Her rolled his eyes. Just like her, too. He turned on his heel and started walking away, not bothering to turn around when he shouted, “C’mon, Blitz, we’re going.”
  90.  
  91. It took a moment, but the thunderbird clambered after him as soon as the realization hit. She hovered just behind him, channeling enough electricity to make the hair on the back of his neck stand up.
  92.  
  93. “Hey, Kamikaze!” hollered Liess.
  94.  
  95. Drew turned around just in time to catch a couple keys with a slip of paper attached to them. An address.
  96.  
  97. “New place. You’re gonna need those.”
  98.  
  99. Had he know then what he knew now, he would've shoved Blitz down Liess’ goddamn throat before accepting this arrangement. The worst part was whatever supplication she wanted to get out of Drew, she’d gotten. He could feel the scraping claws of her manipulation against his skin, yet he’d still pacified himself around her. Not completely--he’d never let her have that much. But it was enough that he couldn’t remember the last time he’d jabbed at her with a snide comment.
  100.  
  101. “I can see your mind working! Your enemies must be clever and powerful!”
  102.  
  103. Drew glared down at Blitz, the thunderbird still hanging off his arm with a too-tight grip and staring up at him with such energy laser beams might have come out of her eyes. God, he could only imagine Blitz with laser-eyes. She’d probably incinerate everything he owned before even figuring out how to control them.
  104.  
  105. “My enemies?”
  106.  
  107. “The forces of evil!”
  108.  
  109. He tossed her off once more, jabbing a finger at her face. “I just told you, the ‘forces of evil’ don’t have a thing to do with me. Knock off the justice routine. And,” he added, flicking her in the forehead, “don’t use lightning in here. If you miss, you break something or start a fire, and I don’t want to deal with that.”
  110.  
  111. She rebounded from the flick, hopping back and holding her wings close to her chest. “Show me some cool moves, then! If I can’t use lightning to fight, I’ll have to know some of the stuff like you do.”
  112.  
  113. “Yeah, like I’m giving you more ammunition to attack me with. Learn yourself.” He started to get up, then paused. “On second thought, don’t.”
  114.  
  115. But Blitz was already beyond the conversation, throwing out wings and talons in random motions which one might misconstrue as ‘kicks’ and ‘punches’. Though without fists, she could hardly punch. What would you call those? Wing-jabs? Drew shook his head. It didn’t matter what they were called, as long as she wasn’t hitting him with them. She might end up trying something later, but with moves like that, he could hold her off with both eyes closed and a hand tied behind his back.
  116.  
  117. After a dinner devoid of peace and quiet, Drew walked into his room and locked the door behind him. Fortunately, Blitz had at least some respect for his bedroom door, giving him a place to relax and think. He collapsed onto his bed, staring at the ceiling with deep breaths and wandering thoughts. He’d thrown his element of surprise away in a horrifically spectacular fashion, managing to fail securing a kill against a ushi-oni, of all monsters. Thankfully, she hadn’t picked up his trail right away, and without the sharp senses of other monstergirls, he would have some time before she found him. But, knowing someone was after her, she would come looking, no doubt about it. Drew dragged his hands down his face. If she made a ruckus, the police would get involved and make this a hundred times more complicated. If he’d just finished her off outside the city…!
  118.  
  119. Slapping his cheeks, Drew sat up. Today had been a disaster, but dwelling on it wouldn’t make anything better. He needed a plan. He closed his eyes and went over his options. Liess’ Special would still get the job done, but if the ushi-oni had already taken to the city, landing a shot would get that much more complicated, assuming he wanted to avoid collateral damage. He might want to pick up some explosives now, just in case. Nothing would be better than if he were able to lure the ushi-oni somewhere secluded, though the explosives still had the disadvantages for which he’d passed over them earlier. He could ask Liess to have her people keep an eye out, but he’d learned not to depend on her resources for anything more than equipment and basic intel. No one in their right mind would want to get tangled up with a ushi-oni anyways, especially one who’d already taken out three agents.
  120.  
  121. Standing up, Drew pulled out his cell phone and opened up his contacts. Not enough to even swipe the screen down, though that had never bothered him. He had what he needed. He checked the time. Nine P.M. Hopefully this contact wouldn’t mind a later call. Drew hit the name and waited for the pick up.
  122.  
  123. “Hello?” The man’s voice always seemed deeper on the phone than in person.
  124.  
  125. “Hey, Mitch. It’s Drew.”
  126.  
  127. “Ahh, Drew. It hasn’t been very long since we last talked! Busy man?”
  128.  
  129. Drew did his best to keep his frown from crossing into the call. “Busier than I should be. I’m going to need some information.”
  130.  
  131. “Then you know how this will need to go. I’ve got some time tomorrow--“ His voice faded out a bit. “No, hun, it’s a client--yes, I know.” Chills crept up Drew’s legs like tendrils. He knew who the man on the other end of the line was talking to. He’d met her once, in a way, and hoped never to repeat that again. Just knowing she was somewhere in the house Drew was calling made him feel slimy. “Sorry about that, Drew. As I said, I do have time tomorrow, though it’ll be a bit later in the day. Eight alright?”
  132.  
  133. Eight. He’d have to be out after dark, but he wasn’t interested in leaving this job open any longer than he needed to. “Yes. I’ll be there.”
  134.  
  135. “Good.”
  136.  
  137. Drew hung up, running his lips back and forth across each other. He shouldn’t be so perturbed over a single target. This wasn't the first time things hadn't gone exactly to plan, but he'd always come through in the end.
  138.  
  139. He put his phone down and fell back onto the bed. His muscles burned and his head throbbed with each beat of his distressed heart. This job never stopped asking Drew for more and somehow he always found more to give. He stared at the water stains on the ceiling and the fan shaking back and forth by the force of its motion. His clothes stuck to his body and stank of sweat, but all he did was lay there and close his eyes. Tomorrow. He’d deal with all this shit tomorrow.
  140.  
  141.  
  142. **
  143.  
  144.  
  145. And tomorrow was not happy with him for it.
  146.  
  147. After dodging attempted assault from his half-asleep roommate, Drew made his way down to Liess’ place, the chilly, quiet subway ride only aggravating his annoyance with himself. He typically tried not to appear in a hurry--another way to catch the wrong monstergirl’s attention--but his brisk walk and tempest gaze hid nothing. Just outside Liess’ garage, he came to a halt, loosening up his body and shaking out the tension in his muscles. He didn’t need to share his frustration with Liess--that would only backfire. Besides, he was going in there to ask for help, and what worked best on Liess was humility.
  148.  
  149. The garage door groaned, rattled, and creaked as he opened it, announcing his arrival to anyone inside. Oil and humidity invaded his nostrils and thick air hit him like a wall. The fans blasted out more of the sticky air, though their noise could easily be drowned out by any of the monster machines Liess kept in here. She had a modest-sized place, and while it certainly seemed like she lived here with all the time she spent in the workshop, it didn’t have all the facilities a home would. She’d never let Drew know where she lived, anyways. He didn’t know if she had a family, a mate, or even if she had hobbies outside of tinkering.
  150.  
  151. He checked his pistol under his coat, swiping a finger down the grip before stepping inside.
  152.  
  153. “Liess?” His voice echoed just enough to ring in his ears.
  154.  
  155. “Over here.”
  156.  
  157. He followed her voice, finding her looming over a half-dismantled car engine. While it may have looked like a nightmare of work to him, Liess probably got wet over the thought of it. Or maybe she saved those kinds of feelings for firearms.
  158.  
  159. “It’s earlier than usual. What brings you here today?” She tossed her hair back, collecting the waterfall of tanned blonde and wrapping it up in a ponytail holder while looking at Drew. “Finished with the job?”
  160.  
  161. ‘I wish,’ he thought, but said, “I’m going to need those explosives. And some place to plant them.”
  162.  
  163. “Falling back on the flashy method? My special not good enough for you?”
  164.  
  165. It was just a question damn wight, not a knock on your weapon. But she knew that. “Just tell me where they are.”
  166.  
  167. She pointed toward the back of the workshop. “Closet in the back. I don’t need to tell you to be careful.”
  168.  
  169. “Yet you did anyways.”
  170.  
  171. Liess certainly had a collection, enough to take out an entire city block if set up properly. Hopefully, that sort of firepower wouldn’t be necessary, but with ushi-onis, ‘there is no too much’. Drew grabbed a bag and carefully loaded up, taking what he figured he’d need and just a little extra. Things rarely went as planned. As soon as he was packed up, he lugged the bag out to the car and stashed it right alongside the Special. He shook his head when he saw it; Liess had already inspected it and cleaned it out. Did the woman ever sleep?
  172.  
  173. Wiping the sweat from his brow, he re-entered the workshop and found Liess again.
  174.  
  175. “Know of anywhere I can set all that stuff off without pissing off anyone important?” He had a couple places in mind, but the more options, the better.
  176.  
  177. “Ja.” She answered without turning from her work. Letting her ponytail fall over a shoulder, she reached into her back pocket, nudging those criminally short shorts of hers down a bit. Did she always wear the same pair or did she just have a dozen of them? “There’s an old Ford factory few miles south.”
  178.  
  179. “I thought a lot of people liked that place. Like a historic site or something.”
  180.  
  181. “A lot of people do like it. But no one important.” Sitting back, she stared at the motor with the intensity of working something through in her head. “There’s an empty lot near 23rd, but I wouldn’t recommend trying to take on a ushi-oni in an open spot like that. Off 40th, a little ways east of here, there’s a parking garage no one has gotten around to demolishing. That might actually be your best bet, assuming you definitely want to stick with explosives.”
  182.  
  183. Drew wiped the sweat off his forehead again. The heat in this place was relentless. “Do you know anything about the other agents that went after this target? Were you their handler, too?”
  184.  
  185. “Not much. I was aware of their movements and the handlers they were assigned to, but as far as their experiences with the target, I cannot give you much. I can, however, request that information.”
  186.  
  187. Drew crossed his arms. “Not handler to any of them? I thought this was your area.”
  188.  
  189. “It is, and for that reason I was aware of their movements, but I am not given much along the personnel.” She put her tools down a moment to turn to Drew. “Mostly because of the situation that brought you to us. Higher ups feel the attention given to you should be more… precise.”
  190.  
  191. Right. His parents. Always seemed to be finding out something new about them. ‘I’d appreciate you putting out the request, then.” More likely than not she’d come back with nothing Mitch hadn’t already gotten him, but the information couldn’t hurt. Besides, Liess rarely offered help so freely. Maybe she had her own concerns about this job. Drew lowered his head and tapped his foot in thought.
  192.  
  193. “Keepin’ a close eye on me, then?”
  194.  
  195. Her breathing evened out and she sat down properly, keeping her back straight. “You know I do not discuss the details of my duties with you.”
  196.  
  197. “Okay then, why don’t you tell me what you think?”
  198.  
  199. “About what?”
  200.  
  201. “Me. My situation. How much do you even know?” Drew couldn’t pinpoint what spurred the question, but for some reason he really wanted to know.
  202.  
  203. “I think that you are exactly what we need and you have performed quite well, though I would hardly expect less from your upbringing.”
  204.  
  205. If you took out the calculation in her words and the chill on her breath, one could almost take that as a compliment.
  206.  
  207. “However, you are still concerned with far too little of the world around you. Context is important. Your hyper focus will lead you head-first into unpredictable situations and make you stumble where other agents excel. Also, despite your background, you’ve grown up without any real sense of ambition.” Prying grey eyes reflected the pale light of the workshop so clearly Drew could almost make out the light bulb in her irises. “Unless you have managed to hide it from me.”
  208.  
  209. Not surprising she’d saved up much more criticism for him than praise. Actually, he wouldn’t’ve expected any praise at all. Did her tongue ache after forcing it out? “Oh, I’ve got plenty of ambition.” He tapped his fingers with each statement. “Don’t get raped. Don’t die. Don’t end up someone’s slave. Don’t live under anyone’s thumb.”
  210.  
  211. Liess raised an eyebrow. “I have some bad news about that last one.”
  212.  
  213. Drew shrugged. “It’s a work in progress.”
  214.  
  215. She turned back to her work, but not before a smirk flashed on her face. “You’d better start on it, then.”
  216.  
  217. “Guess so. See you later.” He walked toward the door, but paused halfway there. “So, exactly how well am I performing?”
  218.  
  219. Liess’s replying wrench buzzed by Drew’s ear, his dodge just enough to keep him safe. From the bang the wrench made on hitting the wall, he could tell she hadn’t been holding back, either. A brilliant grin creased his face as he walked out.
  220.  
  221.  
  222. **
  223.  
  224.  
  225. This time, when Drew entered his apartment, no kick launched at his face, no lightning sizzled through the air bent on ruining his day. Complete silence greeted him instead, and that was worth a smile. Wet footsteps sloshed across the dark brown carpet, followed shortly by sparse drips of rain. Yes, rain. He’d seen it coming while he was scoping out the places Liess mentioned, but apparently hadn’t planned well enough. He still wanted to wait until after his chat with Mitch before laying the explosives out, so the explosives ended up doing nothing but sit in the trunk. There’d still be time before the ushi-oni became a serious issue, and Drew wasn’t in the habit of rushing things.
  226.  
  227. Something he picked up from his mom. Probably.
  228.  
  229. Drew grabbed a towel and threw it in his face, closing his eyes and letting the fibers drag slowly downward. She’d always told him he was like his father, yet he had nothing to base that on. Was he meticulous because of his father? Or had all the training his mother put him through developed that? If his father had lived, would Drew have ever been subjected to this life? What kind of man would he have grown up to be? The towel dropped to his side, leaving Drew face to face with himself. Brown hair, held down by the rain, came just short of his eyes. Two scars, too small to see unless you were looking for them, marred his forehead just above his right eye and a short line from the edge of his nose toward his left eye. That one had almost taken a lot more than just a little skin. Drew watched his pupils dilate from the bright light above the mirror. “Your eyes match your hair,” his mother would always point out, then pat him on the head. How fucked up was that--the doting succubus who patted his head also trained him to kill?
  230.  
  231. And how much of his ability came from his father instead of his training?
  232.  
  233. Pinching the bridge of his nose, Drew turned away from the mirror, hung the towel back up, and trudged out to the kitchen. Why Liess of all people? Why ask HER? He collapsed into a chair, leaned back, and watched the rain hit the small kitchen window. Miserable as the rain was, it helped keep a lot of monstergirls from bothering with prowling. Plenty didn’t care, and the slimes would be that much more dangerous in the rain, but lamia and other cold-blooded monstergirls hated getting cold and wet. Dragons tried to avoid it, too. If it kept up into the evening, his trip to and from Mitch’s place might not be so bad.
  234.  
  235. Two powerful knocks rattled the door. Drew rolled his eyes. It was probably Blitz coming back from wandering off to wherever she went. Leave it to her to try to kick the door over with her knocks. Drew didn’t know what sort of instructions Liess had given the thunderbird, but he hardly cared, either. Something told him he should probably urge Blitz not to go out on her own so often, but her circumstances were her own, and were he in her position, he’d have asked anyone on his case to back off. Drew dragged himself out of his chair and opened the door, about to chastise Blitz for knocking so loud.
  236.  
  237. Except Blitz had her own key.
  238.  
  239. His guest stood a foot taller than Drew on six hairy legs ending in sharp tips. A seductive, green-skinned human half grinned at him with a grin too large to be simple joy. Only pure, unbridled ecstasy fueled by runaway elation could spread lips that far. Madness danced in eyes stained by dark sclera. Claws twitched and curled in anticipation. One of her horns ended short, and across her chest, a wave.
  240.  
  241. And all Drew could do was stare like a man caught in a firefight with an empty gun.
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