A Block Too Far
PART ONE: THE WAY WE DO THINGS HERE
"Git yo'self rollin, git yo'self rollin, move it, gotta prove you gonna rise up to the top. Git yo'self rollin, git yo'self rollin, git up out dis place, start goin neva stop."
Brynna did not need to be told twice. By now she was already doing eighty on a forty road and rapping along with the radio.
"Mothafuckas be hatin," she proclaimed to the beat. "Mothafuckas be tryin to lock me up, ruin my life. It's hard to run, from the gun, but if you could, tell me would, you put the hood behind you? So git goin while you can, git rollina while you can, git up out dis place, start goin neva stop."
The song had some truth in it for Brynna—as it did for every other resident of the city. If the cops ever did catch her, they would probably lock her up and ruin her life. ...And she would probably refer to them as "mothafuckas" for doing so.
Drive as she might, though, there was no leaving the city. It sprawled in all directions, had no border that anyone knew of, and contained within it no residents who actually knew just how, exactly they came to be there.
As the song drew to a close, Brynna suddenly became aware of a sound that was anything but music to her years: a siren. She checked her rear-view mirror, but there was no police car to be seen.
Unfortunately, she kept her gaze on the mirror a split-second too long as her car sped over a hill and into an intersection—the same intersection that the previously unseen police car was at that moment trying to cross.
Brynna yelled an expletive and, with a quick thought, changed her red sports car into a motorcycle instantaneously. The use of this magic might bring attention to her, but at least the smaller vehicle could maneuver around the cop and avoid a collision. Hopefully, she thought, the cop was on such an urgent mission, and the whole incident of the near miss happened so quickly, that the officer would keep going past her and not take notice.
Brynna might easily have had such luck, but this was an urban street, and although it may have been a highway with a forty speed limit and few cars at this midday hour, in her haste to avoid the police car that would have sideswiped her, she crashed directly into the back of a van just beyond the intersection. If her evasive maneuver had not slowed her down, she might have been killed. As it was, though, her luck was looking almost as bad.
The police officer saw the accident and, siren still blaring, turned around and stopped at the scene of the collision. The van's driver also left his vehicle and checked on the now-unconscious woman who had slammed into his van with her bike.
Brynna awoke in less than a minute, but she was too shaken to do much except listen to the cop and van driver as they spoke.
"So what happened here?"
"I think she just hit me; not much more to it than that."
"Need an ambulance?"
"Well I don't think she was going very fast, and she doesn't look to bad... But it can't hurt to be safe."
"Alright, not a problem." The cop took out his wireless radio and said, "We need a paramedic to the scene of a car crash. Just trace it to my cruiser, 'cause I'm right by it and will be standing by, over."
Brynna knew this could not end well. It took most of her strength, but she managed to say, "I'm fine."
"You're fine?" asked the cop. "Can you stand on your own, ma'am?"
It had been a long time since Brynna had attempted a push up, and having a motorcycle resting atop one's right leg did not make matters easier. But her leg was not broken, and after a little effort, she was able to kick the bike aside, do a push up, and stand.
"There you go," said she. "Y'see, I'm alright."
"Do you at least want a ride somewhere now that your bike's busted?" the officer asked.
"No, I'll just walk it over to get it repaired."
Brynna looked the cop over; this was definitely not the usual variety of police officer. Not only was the man being civil, but he was actually offering help. Were white men in uniform even allowed to do that? He looked like any other cop—shaved head, muscular build, gun at his side—and he smelled of the ghetto, just like any other cop, and he exerted authority over the situation just like any other cop, but he definitely did not talk just like any other cop.
The van's driver appeared equally puzzled at the cop's demeanor. This driver was shorter, not so muscular, dressed in all black—but not a uniform and not Gothic in nature—had black hair as if to go with the rest of his wardrobe, and had a prominent brow that cast a shadow over his eyes.
"I think she'll be alright," he said to the officer. Clearly he was as anxious as Brynna to be rid of the police, helpful or not. "Listen," he continued. "You were on a mission somewhere, and I'm kinda in a hurry, and she's saying she's fine. I don't even wanna press charges for damage to my van. She can stay and wait for the ambulance if she wishes, but this was really nothing more than a brief scare and fender bender at most. The bike doesn't even look all that bad."
As if on cue of suggestion, the cop asked Brynna, "Do you still want the ambulance?"
"I told you, I'm fine," she assured him. And she smiled to prove it.
"Well, alright then. Drive safely, now." The officer then walked back to his car, and as he did so, called on his radio to cancel the ambulance.
Brynna did not dare take her eyes off the cop's car until it had exited from view. When she finally did look elsewhere, it was at the van driver, who, to her astonishment, already held a fixed gaze on her.
"Neat trick you did there," said he with a smile.
Brynna did not respond, so he went on: "I heard the cop, so I looked in my rear-view mirror, and for a moment, I thought for certain that I would be rear-ended by a red sports car."
Brynna sighed and picked her bike up off the street. "Yeah."
"Mutation spells are very useful. Kind of a gutsy call to use it that close to an Authority member, though."
"Like I had a choice," said Brynna. "You was ready to git that cop outta here in a hurry, too, y'know."
"True enough," said he. "Perhaps I should introduce myself." He held out a hand to shake and said, "Logan. Pirate by trade and class. You?"
Brynna examined the hand being offered her and made sure it held nothing threatening. Then she took it and said, "Brynna. Rogue."
"Ah, so that explains it! A wanderer with a spell to modify her mode of transportation on a moment's whim. Clever—no, I take that back... very, very smart."
Brynna gave a brief glance around her. They were still in the middle of the street, and there were pedestrians watching, but there were no cops as far as she could see.
"Step back," she said. Logan was quick to obey, and this was a good thing because, without any further warning, the motorcycle turned back into the perfectly functional and unbroken sports care it had been minutes ago.
"Well, so much for walking it over to the shop," said Brynna.
Logan grinned. "Say, if you don't mind, may I treat you to dinner?"
"I ain't got no business with Pirates," Brynna answered. "Got everything I need already for gittin around."
"I'm sure you do," said Logan. "I wasn't hoping for a sale, though; just a decent restaurant in the area and a good conversation. My treat."
"Huh. So what, do you invite every girl to dinner when they crash into your car?"
"No, of course not. But I am a bit curious as to certain particulars of Rogues an their culture, and I had been hoping to find one for some time. I know this is quite the oddball coincidence indeed, but would you mind terribly if I asked you a few questions? Over the aforementioned meal, that is."
"Wanna know about Rogues, huh?" Brynna considered this. "Well, fine, long as you aren't a cop in disguise."
"I'm not a cop." Logan raised his open hands to gesture his innocence. "I only want to know more about life as a Rogue, and I'm willing to buy you a dinner as compensation for your time."
Brynna still did not know if she should trust him. Experience had taught her that anyone who asked for favors always had two reasons for doing so: the reason they told you, and the reason that lay beneath that, which would never be openly mentioned. Experience had also taught her, though, that Pirates were generally trustworthy individuals—an ironic truth, perhaps, but a truth nonetheless—and that when a Pirate spoke of any deal, be it a sale or private agreement, they always stood steadfastly by their word. So if this Logan fellow said he only wanted an interview of sorts and would offer food for it, then this is exactly what he would do.
Caught in this conflict between prejudices—a person she could not trust versus a person she knew she could trust—she laid out some terms of her own.
"Alright," she said. "We'll go to a restaurant. But first thing you gotta understand about Rogues is that they only sit in the booth next to the back door. And they only do it when they got a good view of the front door. Gotta be able to escape real quick, y'know?"
Logan took her at her word. "Right, then; let's go find such a place."
Brynna snapped her fingers, and her car disappeared completely. "I know one that's close by," she said. "Walking distance. So let's walk."
Logan looked around the same way Brynna had in search of a cop amid the pedestrians, but he saw none. And pedestrians were almost always safe; the grim fact of the city was that anyone who was not a police officer was most likely some sort of criminal. So Logan made his van disappear.
"Alright," he said. "I could use the exercise."
Brynna smirked and motioned her head to her left. "This way. And don't get behind me. Gotta watch my own back."
"As you wish."
And so they walked.