EPISODE TWO (Caren) - "Et in Arcadia Ego"

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story by Mabel Harper & Cassidy Webb

written by Cassidy Webb

"Time to give up the dream, Lenny."

Caren stalked toward her cornered quarry, flipping her balisong with a lazy motion of her right hand, rainwater smacking with each heavy tread of her Docs.

Lenny had crammed his stocky body as far as he could into the corner of the alley. His belly was visibly expanding and contracting with each breath. His round face glistened with rain and sweat, his small brown eyes switching this way and that.

"Seriously." Caren sighed, snapped the knife shut and pocketed it in her long leather jacket. "Jig's up. Let's do this the easy way for once, huh?"

"Come on, Neneng," Lenny whined, in his faintly accented English. "How 'bout you just let ol' Lenny go free...just this once? For old times' sake."

Caren slid the dampening bracers from the adjacent liner pocket of her jacket. "No way, man." She jerked her head. "Let's go."

Lenny cowered, blinking at her—then popped a sparkling capsule out of his right sleeve, crushed it with a grunt, and flung its contents in her face.

"Fucking—!" Caren threw her arm up to cover her eyes, too late. A disembodied diaphanous giggle grazed the air as an explosion of flares and misty shapes filled her vision, as her surroundings kaleidoscoped: a thousand Lennys bolting in a thousand different directions.

Caren blinked furiously for several seconds, stumbling in a vague circle, waving the pastel smoke out of her face till things had returned to normal.

"Motherfucker!" she yelled.

Lenny was nowhere in sight.

The ratcatcher took a deep breath, funneled her mana through the tiny agimat beneath her right eye; stood stock-still, attuning her now-heightened senses.

With her enhanced hearing, Caren soon homed in on the sound of Lenny's stumping footfalls in the next alley over.

Caren pulled the mana current out of her super-sense agimat, routed it through the super-reflexes one implanted in her left shoulder.

The brick of the alleyway blurred as she streaked in the direction of the sound. Turned one corner, then another, and spied the squat frame of Lenny making a beeline toward the street.

Caren glanced around to make sure no mundanes were in view, then surged ahead, parkouring off the brick wall, using a first-floor fire-escape landing as a springboard, and finally flipping midair to land in a low crouch smack in front of Lenny before lunging and tackling him to the ground.

Lenny lay on his back, wheezing, and let out a hoarse whimper as Caren planted her boot on his chest.

She crouched and dangled the bracers. "Dude. Just fucking play along. You being back on your bullshit already made me miss my Tinder date tonight. I don't wanna have to deck you again this time, but you know I'll do it. Don't fucking test me."

Lenny bared his crooked teeth in a watery-eyed grin. "Man's gotta make a living, Neneng! C'mon, you don't really wanna do this to your Tito Lenny, do you? Just think of all the good times... Remember how I used to babysit you when you were little? And I would take you to play at all those fancy arcades in Atlantic City?"

Caren leaned more weight on the foot on his chest. "What do you think I am, an idiot? Those weren't arcades. They were casinos. And they wouldn't let kids in 'em, so you always left me by myself at the motel with nothing but free Jolly Ranchers from the front desk and a VHS copy of Baby Geniuses." She leaned lower, applying more pressure. "The rooms didn't even have a VCR!"

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