Ziboniso held onto the pole on the underground tube. Just another young woman visiting London, or so she seemed to the rest of the world. No one would suspect the concealed gun she had on her lower abdomen, or just how capable she was of using it.
She made a considerable effort not to gaze at Xander. They had both boarded the tube near the same time, at the same place, but a carriage apart. Although he suggested a greater distance so that he could use his invisibility, Zib had been insistent that sometimes it was better to hide in plain sight. And of course, the moment that he got too close to her, he would be unable to stop himself from suddenly reappearing.
The plan had to work or they would come face to face with a fate worse than death. Treason amongst the courts was unforgivable, and would thereby be dealt with accordingly.
Leaving the country was their only option.
As soon as Zib saw the three people get on the tube at St James’ Park, she knew something was amiss. Although their faces were completely unfamiliar, there was something different about the way they carried themselves. Two of them were in their early twenties, whilst the other was perhaps seventeen or eighteen, but Zib was certainly not going to underestimate the girl on her age alone. These three had a glint in their eyes like they were looking for trouble. Zib resisted the temptation of immediately looking away as the dark haired girl looked at her, but neither did she keep her gaze on her too long. London passengers were indifferent about other people, always keeping to themselves. That was why Zib wore headphones but listened to no music.
When the tube arrived at the next stop— London Victoria— Zib calmly vacated her spot on the tube and kept her senses attuned to any sudden movements the three agents made. She spotted Xander’s mess of dark, curly hair just ahead of her and kept a pace of a brisk walk. Walking fast was fine. London travellers always walked this quickly when they were in a rush.
She noticed a hooded man appear onto the platform, and before she had time to warn her companion, Zib saw him pass by Xander and plunge something into his chest. Regardless, she forced herself to stay composed. They were after him, not her.
Damn it, she thought, deciding to take action before it was too late. Zib withdrew her concealed gun, and stretched out her mind towards those of the nearby commuters, ensuring that in their mind’s eye, nothing appeared out of the ordinary. [WM1] Then she fired at the man’s leg. As expected, the other commuters remained oblivious to her actions and even the agent who had gotten shot seemed perplexed.
Despite his injured state, Xander acted quickly, punching the agent in the jaw and tackling him to the ground. Zib was once again thankful for his fairly built body type and tall stature. Xander made a run for it and Zib followed swiftly after, lacing a new illusion around herself as she rounded a corner, towards the escalators. Disguised as a burly policeman in a British Transport Police florescent jacket and the classic black hat, Zib brought out her SIG P239. To all others it would appear to be the walky-talky communication device that all officers carried, and it was best this way. The last thing she needed was to be stopped by another officer.
Zib ran up the escalators, barging past late night commuters as she headed towards Xander. To her left, she saw two of the other agents run up the stairs. Although she was tempted to take a shot, there were too many other people to get a clear aim.
When she reached the top, Zib made a move to intercept the pursuing agents, finally getting a clear shot at the blonde man’s right leg. He let out a yelp and stumbled to the ground.
Passer-by’s gasped and looked around for the gunman, unable to see what was right in front of them. Why would they suspect the policeman on duty?
Zib walked towards the two agents and asked them as kindly as possible, “What’s wrong?”
The blonde twisted his face in agony, unable to speak, but his partner calmly replied, “Your sloppy illusions.” Zib’s eyes widened as the man twisted her wrist, forcing her to release the weapon. His injured partner rose to his knees and then stood up, leaning on his left leg. He punched her in the stomach and pushed her down to her knees. Zib felt her illusion slip ever so slightly, but she had been through far worse than this and had kept steady control before.
She had to endure.
The younger man picked up her walky-talky, which turned back into a gun as soon as he pointed it up her chin. Commuters around them gasped in shock at the spectacle before them and a few made a move to run away.
“Don’t move!” the young man commanded. His words were short and sharp, laced with malicious intent. “Or I’ll blow his head off.” His voice was also a familiar one.
The commuters stopped dead in their tracks. Most of them were scared, and others just looked generally fed up. It seemed that Zib’s ‘life or death’ scenario had dented their travel plans. She was at least thankful that her policeman illusion withstood.
“You can quit your posturing, Ariel,” Zib said. “You and I both know that you don’t have the authorisation from your king to kill me.”
“I have been given permission to capture Xander by any means necessary,” he replied. Zib tensed slightly at that, forcing herself to keep her breathing at a normal regulation. Panicking would help no one.
“But I assume that you have made him aware of my talents. I don’t suppose he would want you to simply squander it.”
Ariel stared down at her, his cold, calculating eyes already gleaming as he decided the worst way to punish her whilst staying within the guidelines his king had set him.
“No, he wouldn’t,” the agent replied. Ariel gave the gun to his companion and grabbed Zib’s arm, bending the elbow viciously until she heard a crack that caused a blood-curdling scream erupt from her throat. “For now, I will keep you alive,” Ariel stated. “For now.”
Ariel dropped her arm and she mewled out a whimper, but otherwise remained silent. She would not shed a tear around him.
“Take her to the car,” Ariel ordered his companion. “Limp there if you have to but do not let her escape. If she tries anything, you have my permission to shoot her, but keep it non-lethal.”
“Yes, sir.” It was strange to hear the older man address the adolescent as ‘sir’, but he was fully human, and thereby an inferior. Ariel was like her— an abomination and a weapon; a Galatea. But unlike her, he was willing to sell his soul in service to the fey.
As Zib was directed towards the main exit of the underground service, the agent was forced to conceal his stolen weapon.
“Change back to your normal form,” he ordered.
“And if I don’t?” she asked.
“I’ll… I’ll shoot you.”
“You really want to shoot a police officer in such a public place?” she asked. “I know the Iabal Court aren’t very smart but honestly, you’re just taking the piss.”
The agent fumbled through his pockets for a minute, bringing out a syringe with dark fluid inside of it.
“Change back or I will force you,” he threatened. Zib’s mouth went dry when she realised what he was threatening to inject her with. G28-Dex, or amhiarann as the fey called it, was a drug that had the power to inhibit the powers of a Galatea, or even paralyse them at worst. Unfortunately, there was no telling what dosage the agent would use on her. Ariel has stated that they would capture Xander by any means necessary.
Zib lifted the illusion around herself. It was like taking off a piece of clothing, making her feel slightly lighter but strangely exposed. The man screwed up his features in disgust when she revealed her true face. Used to the reaction, Zib remained unfazed, already thinking through a plan to relieve him of the drug.
“I suppose with a face like that, it’s no wonder you hide it with illusions,” he stated. “Now follow me.” He grabbed her broken arm and she hissed in pain as he pulled her towards the taxis. He rolled his eyes and huffed slightly when he saw her reaction and held her by the waist instead, as if they were a couple, but she noticed that the syringe was hidden in his sleeve, ready to be used if the need arose.
As they walked closer to the taxis, Zib began to despair somewhat. She wouldn’t be able to overcome him with her strength, but she knew from experience that most people did not build up their mental strength at the same pace as their physical strength.
Careful to build the illusion slowly as to not give it away, Zib’s mind reached out the agent’s. As they approached the taxis, the agent steered them around dog faeces on the pavement, only to hear a squelching noise. He looked down at his feet to see himself in the dog faeces he had tried to avoid. As he tried to step out of it, he found that he could not and he let out a grunt of irritation as he continued to fail to take another step. When Zib used her illusionary powers, a man was only as strong as his mind. Sheer force wouldn’t allow the man to escape her trap whether he was as weak as a human or as strong as a fey.
Zib took the opportunity to bend his fingers backwards with her free hand and kick his foot from underneath him as he struggled with the illusion. The agent snarled his protest as his legs gave way, but to her horror, Zib felt the prick of a needle at her side. She yanked it out before the full contents of the drug entered her system, but the damage was done and she felt sick to her stomach just thinking about the symptoms she would experience.
The agent collapsed to his knees and Zib shoved the needle into his arm with what remained of the G28-Dex. She wasn’t certain of the effects of it on humans but his scream gave her an ounce of satisfaction. Relieving him of his guns, Zib shot him in the other leg and ran as quickly as she could just as another agent in a taxi came out of the vehicle.
The manhunt was far from over, and she had to find Xander before the drug took full effect.