Chapter Two: Mysterious Stranger (I)

Hello, ladies, gentlemen and shitlords of all ages, today I wanted to make the very important announcement that the TV show ‘Gotham’ is awesome, and if you haven’t watched it yet, you must do so now, or I won’t be your best friend!

Also we’re starting chapter two of Troped!. Mysterious Stranger. It’s a trope that pretty much speaks for itself–the stranger normally turning out to be either an exposition dump/mentor figure of some kind, sent to ensure the hero receives ‘The Call’ and usually doomed to die not long after, or an eventual love interest whose job is to see exposition is not dumped too soon so later reveals aren’t spoiled, even when it would make far more sense to explain everything right away. I’m looking at you, Teardrop.

Obviously this one isn’t the latter, as that job falls to Harbinger. As for the former, you might think these characters are normally reserved for fantasy novels, but I think they have their fair share in sci-fi too–how many times have we seen a ‘I knew your father before our dystopian government killed him and now you must take his role in the resistance!’ asshole show up? The variation being the wanker who instead of exposition just forks over a Mcguffin and hopes the rest will sort itself out.

Of course, this Stranger isn’t one of those types either. What type of stranger are they really? You will find out… in a week or so, because unfortunately he doesn’t show up in the first 1200 words that I’m about to post. Next post on this blog will be my commentary on ‘Halo‘ (the Adornetto novel, not the game. Sorry. I’m so sorry) and after that we’ll see how it goes…

*~*~*

II

Mysterious Stranger

 

“So Mercedes Queen-of-the-ladies is sexting you after school now? The plot thickens.”

Shane nodded like an idiot after coming to that conclusion and let a strawberry lace hang out of his mouth. Jericho jerked his Minipad away from the idiot and practically slapped the image off the screen.

“Deleted,” he announced. “And don’t worry, this plot is about as thick as a blade of grass.”

“Yeah, but grass has, like, cells and stuff, right?” said Shane. “With… vacuoles… and stuff?”

“Oh, like the one between your ears?” asked Luke, tapping Shane on the head. “Come on, everyone knows Mercedes Talbot casts her hooks out to every large body to see what will bite. At this point it’s not even worth talking about.”

“Unless our man Jerry feels like biting, huh?”

Jericho glared at him.

“Uh, sorry—Jericho feels like biting.”

“That wasn’t the only problem I had with what you said. I’m not taking any of Mercedes’ bait, and I’m frankly offended that you think I would; she’s obviously insane and she’d probably cut you as soon as kiss you.”

He punished Shane for his stupid comment further by reaching into his pic-n-mix bag and stealing a gummy worm.

“Hey…” said Shane weakly.

“Oh look, it’s your sister,” said Luke suddenly.

Eden, was the first name that came to Jericho’s mind, even after four years of her not being the only one and the fact that Eden randomly appearing at the Recpod at this time of night was patently ridiculous. It was Amy of course, his foster sister, her and her friends walking out of the cinema and talking loudly. His eyes flickered up to the display board to work out what they’d just seen.

‘Immortal Blood: Heart of Desire’. He cringed. Surely not?

“Shit, man; it’s almost ten,” said Shane. “Don’t you two have a curfew?”

Jericho shrugged. “I’m breaking it,” he said. “Don’t see why she shouldn’t too. Though I guess she could make it if she hurries. It’s not like my mom will really flip out or anything.”

“Hey, Hannah Wright is with them!” said Luke. “Think Shane should try his luck—”

“Dude, shut up!” said Shane hastily. “Don’t say stuff like that where she could hear it; she’ll totally shoot me down!”

Privately Jericho knew Shane was right about that one, but it wasn’t his place to dash his friend’s dreams of skipping through a meadow hand in hand with fairy-princess Hannah, or whatever his dreams concerning her were. He caught Amy’s gaze as she passed into the food court and waved. She smiled and waved back, and when her friends saw her do so they followed suit.

Then Amy suddenly stopped, still looking at him but not really at him (if that made any sense) and narrowed her eyes; considering something. After a moment she tapped Hannah on her shoulder, said something, then started walking towards him. This was a surprise for Jericho, who might have liked Amy to be the sort of girl who came up and talked to him when they saw each other in public—they had lived together for almost four years now—but he wouldn’t have expected her to.

She’d never really tried to get that close to him, despite their being so close in age. Not that he could blame her, considering how much it had to have hurt for her to have lost her real brother.

As she came closer he noticed a patch on her leg that he soon realised was a band-aid. He was curious, but not worried. It wasn’t a big band-aid.

“Hey Amy,” he greeted her once she was close enough to hear without yelling. “Everyone.”

The girls responded with a few ‘hi’s.

“What happened to your leg?” asked Shane.

Amy grimaced and then twisted her grimace into a smile. “Oh, we had a run-in with a celebrity,” she said.

“Cool,” said Shane. “Did you get their autograph?”

Jericho slapped the back of his head.

“I think for Harbinger that counts as an autograph,” said Audrey Huntingdon.

Harbinger? The guy who’d tried to kill a bunch of people by driving a Transpod into a building? The guy who, the way Jericho had heard it, was petitioning to have the ‘H’ in ‘GBH’ legally defined by his own name? The curse of Rhea High?

“No way, the Harbinger?” asked Shane. “Don’t you know him, Luke?”

“Know him?” Luke laughed bitterly. “I swear he broke my arm last summer. Medics said it was just a bruise but I don’t know. I’m sure I heard a crack.”

“What, on purpose?” Hannah asked him.

It hadn’t been; at least not the way Jericho had seen it, and he had been on the football pitch at the time, but he wasn’t surprised to hear Luke answer in the affirmative. He took everything personally.

Shane sometimes did as well, glaring like an idiot as he was as soon as Hannah Wright talked to another boy. Moron.

“So what’s his real name anyway?” asked Amy. “He can’t really be called ‘Harbinger’.”

Luke shrugged. “Something St. Kilda,” he told them, “or at least that’s what Coach calls him. Your leg okay?”

Putting her bag on the nearest plastic table in the food court, Amy rested her foot on the seat of an accompanying chair. Jericho saw Shane tilt his head a bit as if to get a better look at her upper legs and promptly backhanded him across the chest with a glare. Amy peeled the band-aid from her knee without comment.

“Whoah,” said Jocelyn, peering closer.

To say Jericho could see why Jocelyn had made that explanation wouldn’t have been entirely accurate. He couldn’t see anything; not on Amy’s leg anyway—and neither, apparently, could Amy, who did a pronounced double-take on seeing the unblemished skin. Maybe it was a little yellow, like there’d been a bruise that had faded to almost nothing, but that was… well, almost nothing.

“No way,” said Audrey.

“What?” he asked them.

Hannah leaned forward and put a hand gently on Amy’s knee. “That is so weird,” she said. “A few hours ago it was all torn up.”

“Well it wasn’t that bad,” said Jocelyn. “You had the band-aids, Hannah—were they like, active-healing brand? Frontier X make, or something?”

“I don’t think so,” said Hannah. “I didn’t have the box with me, but I don’t think my mom would buy stuff like that, they’re supposed to be super-expensive.”

“Huh, maybe it just healed up on its own,” said Luke.

Amy frowned. “Yeah, maybe.” She put her leg down. “Anyway, that’s the story of our fateful meeting with Harbinger St. Kilda. He skated right into me, fell over, stared at us for a while and then skated off.”

The words she said were dismissive, but the way she said them made Jericho feel like something about the encounter had really bothered her. Maybe when she said Harbinger had ‘stared’ at her. Maybe he’d done it in a really creepy way or something?

“A-ha, speak of the devil and he appears,” said Shane, pointing up at the next floor where, behind the railing on the other side of the court and looking down at them, was Harbinger.

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