An Empty Lot
Tondzaosha, Idaho Idaho
Amelia clenched her jaw, released a long breath through her teeth and forced her eyelids back open. She hovered amongst the clouds, dangling so far up in the open air that if she were to fall, she would die on impact. God, it was unsettling. How did Sapphira do it?
She peered around, taking in Tondzaosha arrayed below her in miniature. Tiny vehicles roved the streets and figures, each appearing no taller than a centimeter, moved about the sidewalk.
Amelia sank her teeth into her lower lip and felt her whole body tremble. A shiver that had nothing to do with the temperature wriggled down her spine and she pushed herself to continue her search. Instead of looking with her eyes, she clenched them shut and reached out with her mind. Dozens of sights, sounds, and impressions assaulted her senses.
‘God, why couldn’t I have a body like that?’ The thought came to her mind unbidden, and the agent furrowed her brows before realizing that it hadn’t come from her.
It had come from a girl, perhaps fourteen or fifteen, seething with envy and a raw burning hatred, her attention focused on another young woman, the same age, who was receiving a fair amount of attention from a rather rakish young man. Amy shook her head, forcing the girl’s tide of emotions out of her mind and swept her senses out.
A choir of voices rang through her consciousness and she gritted her teeth, forcing herself to wade through them rather than focus on any one of them. Despite her best efforts, she caught snippets of thoughts, here or there. Most were mundane, a file clerk reviewing her workload for the day, a delivery driver scanning his route for a place to stop and eat, and even a young boy struggling to decide which type of candy bar he would purchase at a local grocery store. All those voices swept through her and around her, and she continued her search.
Then one rang out louder than the rest. “Oh god!” It came out as a cry of pain so bright, so intense it was almost palatable. “How am I supposed to tell mom and dad I’m trans?”
Amy stopped, a sob escaping her lips as years of remembered dysphoria came rushing back upon her. An image of a teen’s face reflected in a mirror, hand sliding over stubble as a plaintive sign escaped the kid’s lips.
Hair, oh God, the hair.
Though the child’s face looked calm, the mass of disgust and revulsion mirrored in her eyes and boiling just under the surface told another story.
Amy’s hands cupped her own face as if to reassure herself that she was not looking upon her own reflection. She forced herself to concentrate. She couldn’t afford to get distracted, but she stopped long enough to reach out to the child.
“You’re not alone,” she whispered, watching the kid’s reflected eyes grow wide.
Amy’s lips trembled, and she let out sob before turning away and breaking her connection with the young trans girl. She swallowed hard and pressed her lips together before again extending her mind out. This time, she narrowed her focus and avoided touching any minds. Instead, she brushed passed them, only getting a cursory impression before moving on.
At last she found it, her face stretched out in a frown, released half a dozen of her most choice curses and burst forward, zooming through the air at breakneck speed.
Supervisory Special Agent Nathaniel Fredericks climbed out of the Durant Lucerna, only casting the vehicle a cursory glance before slamming the driver’s side door shut. Two more dull thuds sounded after, but he paid them no mind. Instead, his eyes surveilled his surroundings, scanning the buildings with a dull, dispassionate gaze.
Cheap, synthetic-leather shoes crunched on the gravel of the empty lot as his subordinates approached from either side.
“Fucking nowheresville. What the hell do you think we’re doing here, Grimes?”
Fredericks turned to eye the speaker, Special Agent Frank Harrelson, a young man with a name that evoked images of a hardened veteran on the cusp of retirement, but who was a rookie in every sense of the word. Frederick’s hand snaked up to adjust his tie, but he remained silent, cool gaze regarding the second man, Robert Grimes, a seasoned agent, with a thoughtful expression marking his face.
“Hell if I know Harrison. We’ll get our orders soon enough.” Grimes muttered, eyes darting toward Fredericks with an inquisitive expression.
Fredericks at last opened his mouth to speak, but you uttered even one syllable. A bright scarlet blur slammed into the Earth less than four feet away. He brought one arm up to shield his face and slipped the other inside his suit jacket to retrieve his firearm, but the cloud of dirt that arose burned his eyes. He peered out through the haze of dust, tears slipping down his cheeks.
Gunfire rang out, but it had not been Fredericks who’d opened fire.
“Oh hell,” a gravelly baritone voice said. “Would you cut that out?”
A clank of steel sounded from nearby and a single gunshot rang out, followed by a shriek of pain from Harrison. Nate blinked and swirled around, at last getting a clear picture of their assailant. He took a step as the armored figure’s head swiveled around to match his gaze.
“Easy there.” The figure let out a low growl, its eye sockets blazing scarlet-red as its gaze tilted down to peer at the gun in his hands. “I’m not your enemy. I’m your contact, dude.”
Fredericks raised an eyebrow, sinking his teeth into his lower lip. Dude?
“Ashley Harris?” He asked, lowering his gun. He knew of her armor, but hadn’t expected something that looked like it had crawled its way out of the deepest infernos of hell.
A series of mechanical whirs and snap hisses sounded from the suit as the face plate, chest and groin areas all retracted. A girl, shorter than the towering form of the suit which she wore, emerged climbing out from within the contraption and landed with a soft grunt and a crunch of gravel. Though the Agent had read her file, the photo hadn’t done her justice. When Fredericks laid eyes on her, he sucked his breath in and swallowed hard. She pursed a set of pouty lips and ran a hand through her shock of blond hair.
He cleared his throat, reminding himself he was a married man, and regarded the girl with what he hoped was a close approximation of cool disinterest.
“Sorry, if I startled you.” She sucked air in threw a thumb over her shoulder. “Still getting used to that thing.”
“Nabu,” she craned her head over her should. “Why don’t you—”
She never finished her sentence, instead her eyes fixed on a black and gray streak that came tearing down from the sky above. It impacted the ground, about ten feet away. Fredericks and his companions had their weapons out and trained on the spot, but when the dust cleared, Amelia stood eyes wild, and jaw set in a scowl. The agents exchanged glances, but didn’t lower their weapons.
“We have a problem.” Amy stood, both fists at her side, panting for breath.