Mud. Mud is not fun.
Especially when trying to follow someone. Or two someones. Mud is especially especially not fun when it is currently raining when you are slogging through said mud, as it makes everything generally worse.
At least, according to Emmalee.
I'm not that upset, even though muck is oozing into my boots and splattering all over my jumpsuit. I don't usually get to to walk in the rain, so that makes it interesting.
"They're turning at the the windmill." Gloria reports. If we needed any more proof that the two mystery people are headed to the Mollisong/Applematch/Darkspark/Fidgetspark home, this was it. Nothing else was past the windmill.
I signal for a halt. "I say we go around the field and meet them there. Whoever they are, we can't let them get into the house. I've got some...er...sensitive information scattered about the house at this particular moment. Really would be bad if an Imperial found it." I need to get this scatterbrain nonsense under control and just learn to put my files away.
As we trek through the field, ("SO! MUCH! MUD!" Iris keeps whisper-screaming) the rain finally lets up, but the sun stays hidden by fog-streaked gray clouds. We arrive at the cottage just seconds before the mystery people, who I do know...
I shove everyone behind the house. "Hide!" I hiss. I peek around the corner.
Tasha and Autofficer Zane are standing on my doorstep, arguing about something.
I slip back to where my team is...not hiding. "C'mon, guys, we can hide in the old barn." No one one moves. "Guys. Move, or we're done for." Ariella folds her arms and whispers back.
"Who are they? Blackspark and her thug?" "Worse. Maybe. Autofficer Zane and Tasha O'Connor." Nikko starts forward like he's going to confront them, but Iris grabs his arm. "Hold on, Nicky!" His face turns red and he looks like he's about to pop.
"Iris, stop it. Nikko, wait. What are you going to do when you get over there? We just have to hide and hope they don't find my stuff." Reluctantly, they start walking, looking back every so often to see if the Imperials have noticed us yet.
The cement floor of the old barn is wet under the holes in the room, and cobwebs string between the walls and every other vertical surface. The first thing I do when we walk in is pick up an old rake and bat down every web I can reach.
"Sorry. I can't be around spiderwebs." Even with every web gone, I still flip the hood of my cape over my head to ensure no arachnids find their way into my hair.
"So...we just wait?" Jacoby perches on an overturned bucket. I nod. "I know it seems dumb, but I've met this guy. We can't beat him." Nikko agrees. "Tasha's no marshmallow, either. I've seen her take on three enemies at a time in training, and never even get hit."
So, we wait. I start pacing, of course. Ariella pulls out her pink Flintlock and looks through the scope at the house. Etlo tries again to get Puffsickle out of Gloria's ponytail. Vytanni and Nikko sit next to each other on a musty hay bale, both saying nothing. Ilayne folds her arms and leans against a post, watching everyone else. May climbs into the rafters, even though I warn her that they're really old and probably won't hold her. Emmalee and Iris amuse themselves with something on the floor, probably a bug.
"Hey, Aislinn?" Ariella whispers about ten minutes later. "Yeah?" "I think they left. They weren't carrying any papers..."
"Huh. Well, that's good, I guess. Nikko, follow me. We'll go in and see what the damage is. You sure they're gone, Ari?"
"Yeah. I can see them walking back to town..." She follows the figures with her scope. "And they're gone. You're good to go."
We creep through the wet grass to the back door. Nikko checks downstairs while I slip up to the second floor. Nothing, nothing, and more nothing. What were they here for, if not my files? I check my room one last time, and walk back down the stairs.
"All clear, Ni-" Before I can finish, someone grabs me from behind, pinning my arms to my sides. I scream.
"Hello, Miss Mollisong." Tasha.
"Nikko, HELP!" I shriek, kicking hard at Tasha's legs. I hear the thud of his footsteps, and he bursts through the door, only to stop short at the sight of his former partner.
"Let go of her, Tasha." He growls. His hand hovers over his Riveter.
She scoffs. "Oh, please. Can you people be any more cliche? I'm not going to. And don't even pretend you're going to draw that thing. I know you won't. You are frightfully predictable, Nik."
I keep struggling, my mind racing at breakneck speed. If Tasha's still here, then Zane probably is too. They knew we were coming, they knew we would hide, they probably knew where we were hiding. The rest of the team is in trouble.
"What do you want?" Nikko says through clenched teeth. "Easy question. I want you to surrender. That's all. I won't even take Aislinn here, or any of those rebels hiding in the barn. Just you." Oh, great. I hope he doesn't fall for it.
"Yeah, right. You think I'm that dumb!? You seem to have forgotten what I used to do for a living. No, you're going to let her go, then you're going to surrender to us. You do know there's nine more of us out there, right? Not to mention two of them are Aethermatrons."
Tasha actually laughs. "And that's a problem? A bunch of little kids and a couple second-rate Automaton knockoffs? Give me a break."
I roll my eyes. You, madam, have no idea who you're dealing with. I've finally come up with a plan. Now I just need Tasha to do her part...
"Oh, hurry, Nikko, before she snarks me to death." I say dramatically. Her grip gets tighter. Perfect.
"Really, I'm not all that surprised you went the cowardly route. I mean, sending out holographic decoys of yourselves so you could ambush us? Was that your idea, or Zane's? Sounds more like yours. I didn't think you'd be brave enough to come out after all of us directly."
Nikko stares at me in shock. What are you doing!? He mouths. I wink at him.
Tasha squeezes harder. "Oh, you're going to regret that, Mollisong."
"Am I? Are you sure? Cause I'm not regretting it now." Then Tasha does exactly what I want her to. In her rage, she forgets about Nikko, lets go of me, and shoves me against the wall, pulling out her Fog-pistol.
"DDV!" I shout, scrambling away from the irate woman. Nikko whips out his Dulcet Defensive Vambrace, sending out a ball of lighting that hits Tasha dead center. She falls to the wood floor with a thump, unconcious.
I start laughing with relief. "Man, I'm glad that worked."
Nikko simply stares at me some more. "That was one of the stupidest things I think I've ever seen you do." "I know! And it WORKED! Now lets go. Zane's probably going after the team."