Reflex

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reflex
ˈriːflɛks/
noun
1.
an action that is performed without conscious thought as a response to a stimulus.

I turned on one heel and ran from the doorway, grabbing Marv's hand as I did so, pulling us both away from the figure of Wynton Simons. They'd found us. We'd travelled halfway around the world and into a trap.

The guy that had welcomed us was taken by surprise and I lashed out at him, knocking him to the floor. I wasn't especially strong but a benefit of squamata muscles is that they react fast. I was a good jabber, in other words. Poke and run.

We turned a corner and a closed door was right ahead of us. "One guy on the left, leaning on the wall," Marv said, pointing. He moved ahead, then kicked out and smashed the door open, before getting out of the way. I darted through, pinned the guy by the throat then jumped up onto his shoulders, wrapping my legs around his neck and pulling him down to the ground. As we fell he clutched at my veil and tore it from my face.

Marv darted through the smashed door frame. "Man, I should just open the next one," he said, "otherwise we're gonna be real easy to follow."

We were running again. Always running.

"How'd they find us?"

Marv shrugged lopsidedly. "They're everywhere, Kay. We should've just gone into hiding, you and me. Two round this corner. You take the one by the far wall."

I leaped onto the wall to my left, rebounded off onto the floor, and scampered around the corner, before pouncing up onto the surprised woman standing there. Her coffee mug smashed on the floor as she fell, and I realised just after I smacked her head into the tiles that she had, in fact, simply been having a chat with the other person, who Marv now had in a choke hold.

The poor guy was tapping Marv desperately with on hand, while trying to free himself with the other, his legs scrabbling about. All the while he stared at me, bug-eyed and full of fear.

"Marv," I said, "just let him go. He's just some guy."

Releasing him, Marv patted him on the chest where he lay. "Sorry, dude," he said as we got going again, "I've still not figured out how that works."

"I have no idea where I'm going," I said, "this place is a maze."

"Yeah," Marv said, "and not in a good way."

I threw him a confused look and then we were at another door.

"All clear," he said.

Turning the handle I inched it open, only to be buffeted instantly by the hot, humid air of the island. We stepped out onto a balcony overlooking the street. There were identical balconies right above and below us, all along the height of the building.

"Up or down?"

"Can't go on the street with you looking like that," Marv said.

"Up, then."

I leaned out over the balcony, craning my neck to see the one above. It was a plain concrete slab jutting out from the building. Climbing carefully up onto the thick wall of our balcony, I tried jumping to the one above, but there was nothing to grab hold of. I swayed, the street far below pivoting queasily in my peripheral.

"You're going to have to give me a leg up," I said, waving at Marv. He climbed onto the wall with me and we both stood there, wobbling like idiots. He held out his one hand and I pounced onto it, running up his arm and onto his shoulders. "Hold on!" I steadied myself, then leaped up and out, reaching up to grab at the top of the higher balcony's wall.

I missed.

There was one of those cartoon moments, where I paused at the top of my arc, and a pigeon sitting on the wall above jerked its head around and clucked at me, then I was falling fast. I grabbed out with both arms, managing to wrap them around Marv's neck, in the process almost pulling him over with me. I used the momentary shift in direction to pivot round and swing back onto the balcony, yanking him off the wall with me and back down onto the balcony's rough, concrete floor.

"Nope," I said, shaking my head, "nope, just nope."

Marv pushed himself up onto his knees. "That looks easier in movies, right?"

"Totally."

The door swung violently open and Furey was there, looking pissed. That was even on top of her usual bitch face. She opened her mouth to speak but Marv was already up, diving forwards to bodily tackle her.

She sort of stepped to the side and as he sailed past she half-pushed him onward and half-slapped his arse. I couldn't quite tell. He sprawled flat onto the floor behind her, managing to hit his head in the process. He slumped down, limp.

I jumped to my feet and showed my fangs, backing away and conscious that I was running out of space.

"What are you doing?" Furey asked, sounding exasperated.

"You know who that guy is, right?"

"Wynton Simons. Works for the company. Also a known sympathiser for years. We were thinking of contacting him after what went down but he got to us first."

"Got to you?"

"He had some old university friends. Revolutionary types. You know, students. They arranged a meeting."

My mind went to its blank place. "We mostly burned his house down and nearly killed his baby."

"That's not how he tells it," Furey said. She pointed across the street at the buildings opposite. "Those apartments. If anyone living over there happens to look this way, all of this is over. Come back inside."

"How do I know I can trust you?"

"Do you really think I'd have sat in a dirty freighter for a month if I was just going to hand you over? I'd have done it back in Europe."

"OK, but how do you know you can trust him?"

"He's been vetted. That's our job, leave it to us."

I lowered my arms a little. It made sense of a sort. Not like I had much in the way of alternative options, anyway. There was nowhere off this balcony.

"OK," I said, "we'll come back inside, but I don't like this, and you should have told us."

"Would you have come here if I had?"

She had a point.

I closed my mouth and relaxed my shoulders. Just as I was about to make a move back towards her there was a bloodcurdling scream. Marv was back on his feet. He grabbed at her, again trying to knock her down, but she was ready and had already repositioned her feet in preparation, so she stood her ground and just frowned, leaving him holding on awkwardly to her waist with his arm. He grunted and pushed strenuously, before then looking up at me.

"Wait," he said, "why is nobody fighting? Are we not fighting?"


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