The Grey Edge: Chapter Thirty

Five of them.
They were all so close now, he could hear their conversations, their breathing, their hearts. He ignored their conversations, only listening for key words. Only a few things mattered, otherwise, it was pointless to listen to them. It was only useless data that would be purged whilst he slept.
Five of them, hardly a warm up. Hardly a challenge. Hardly worthy of him. Hardly worthy of them.
He could hear her breathing as well, her heart beat. A lesser man would think that she was scared – she wasn’t scared, she was…cautious. Caution was good, it was a good time for caution – they were in a blackout zone, a Court no less, with no idea of where the exits were, or even what it meant if they did escape.
They were in a better position than they had been though – she was healed, she as no longer dying, no longer appearing weak, lying pale in a bed whilst her body betrayed her.
All they had to do was get out of the Court, get out of the inhibiting field, and shift back. The doctors could use more blue this time, enough to block Magpie while Magnolia was still strong.
And then all he had to do was make a wish.
They were so close, his fists itched to reach out and attack, but they needed every inch of surprise, if there was a runner, their position would be revealed even sooner.
One wish, two, three, however many the experiment’s heart contained. All put to much better use than its current usage, her life. It was a life with inherently no value, unlike his, unlike Magnolia’s. It had been a worthless recruit, one with a predictably short lifespan, one that had been cut short by its own actions, its own stupidity. As an Agent, there was even less value, even less worth, even less contribution. If she was gone, then meetings would go back to normal. Everything would go back to normal.
Humans weren’t supposed to become agents, and there were only dire consequences when it happened.
Whitman, Mimosa, the ones that had before, at other Agencies, the ones that would come after. All versions of the experiment, all forms that the new fake Agents could take. And the ones that survived to be recycled were even worse, they diluted the resource pool, chancing the possibility of human weakness in each successive generation.
Occasionally, there were benefits to recycled humans – particularly those that hadn’t been agents first – those with brains full of information that they needed, or skills that could be adapted. Most of the time it wasn’t worth the negative consequences, but it wasn’t as though anyone listened to his opinion.
Fight. Escape. Shift. Find the experiment. Hurt the experiment. It was all the better if she was scared, it lessened the chance that she would fight back, or try to make a wish before he did – not that it was possible. It would be especially impossible if he removed her hands first, or her arms – they came away easily enough, as repeated demonstrations had proven.
Find her. Knock her down. Tear out her arms. Cut her chest open – the same knife as before would work, but this time, no hesitation. Watch her cry. Listen to her whimper for mercy. Deny her mercy.
He stepped out of the shadows and punched the first magpie in the throat. As an opening move, it was decent, and the man went down, gasping for breath. He leaped over him, and heard Magnolia sweep in behind him, and the familiar sound of a throat being cut.
One down.
There were four, but it was a relatively narrow hallway – and this was to his advantage. One tried to get to his fallen brother, one turned and ran, leaving only two attacking him.
‘Sir, left!’
He grabbed the closest magpie, and swung him to the left, letting her sprint past towards the runner. He slammed the magpie into the wall again, then swung him back, aiming for the remaining one, who ducked out of the way. He dropped the dazed magpie, and swung his fist towards the other.
The magpie man dodged the blow, smiled, and leaped back a few feet, getting some distance. His face went grey as it began to reshape itself, a beak pushing out from his mouth.
He closed the distance, but the guard dodged the blows again, attempting a head-butt at every opening.
The grey beak sliced the air beside his head, and he grabbed for it, his hand coming back bloody as the magpie wrenched his head to the side.
The pain was immediately ignored, but the gun in his pocket wasn’t as easy to ignore – it would make everything easier, but it would also surely give their position away, assuming that their fight hadn’t already. It was also a limited resource, and not one he wanted to waste to protect himself.
The magpie took flight, floating a few feet above the ground, gaining the height advantage. The new dynamic made the beak harder to dodge. His new relative height did give him an advantage though.
He forced himself still, biting back a grunt of pain as the magpie’s beak sliced open the side of his arm.
He grabbed the magpie’s genitals with his right hand, and wrenched them. The guard made a sick, pathetic noise, and lost the will to fight, collapsing to the ground, holding his bloody crotch and incoherently begging.
One step forward, then he lifted his foot, and brought it down on the man’s throat, crushing his windpipe with little effort.
He looked to the other magpie – the one he had slammed down, and found him missing. He looked to Magnolia, and found her fighting two of the siblings, with another dead on the ground.
They were losing their advantage, their location was surely given away. Surprise gone, time was all they had now, time until they were found, time until they were overtaken by more guards, time until Magpie made her next move.
He pulled the gun from his pocket, and took down the other two magpies with two shots each.
She turned to him, and this time, she was afraid.
He opened his mouth to admonish her – this was no time for fear, no time for-
He heard breathing.
Magnolia shouted something, and began to sprint towards him.
There was pain in his back, and then the sudden, and all-consuming urge to collapse.