Two days later than I’d said it would be, once because of crappy internet, once because Miss Marple was on. (Both times because I hadn’t actually finished this section of the chapter–but we had a NaNo prep meet today and I took the opportunity)
No further introduction this time–when we last left our heroes they were shooting the breeze in the mall-type-place when they noticed the mysterious ‘Harbinger’–who had run into several of their number in chapter one, literally, giving our heroine Amy a small wound that had since healed up suspiciously fast–watching them from the next floor up…
Jericho recognised his all-black ensemble, his hair and the shape of his frame from seeing him knock Luke over that one time.
He was standing next to a short black girl with pigtails and glasses; a girl who was kind of hard to miss in her long sparkly rainbow-coloured coat. Jericho had seen her around school too, but didn’t know her by name. She looked like she was talking to him happily, but he just kept looking at them, and if Jericho wasn’t mistaken, at Amy in particular.
Warning bells were beginning to go off in Jericho’s head.
“Oh my god, that is him, isn’t it?” said Hannah. “Is he looking at us?”
Amy waved at him. Jericho felt like he should tell her not to, but he couldn’t think of a good reason to stop her from simply waving. He didn’t believe Harbinger was really cursed, after all.
“You sure you want to attract his attention like that?” asked Jocelyn.
Harbinger tilted his head for a second, then waved back. The response was slow enough to make him seem even creepier.
But the girl next to him saw him wave, and after a brief exchange of words she’d taken him by the arm and begun leading him towards the escalator to their floor.
“Crap, are they coming down here?” Luke muttered.
“Who’s the girl with him?”
Amy’s question elicited shrugs from everyone in the group. And you’d have thought someone in their group would know who such a stand-out figure was. Maybe she…
No. No, he seriously couldn’t think of a reason he hadn’t heard talk about her. Probably that meant he had, and he just hadn’t been listening.
“She’s pretty short,” Jocelyn observed. “Maybe she’s a Freshman?”
Jericho shrugged. Strange as it was that anyone at all willingly hung around a guy nicknamed ‘Harbinger’, let alone a short, quirky Freshman, he wasn’t all that interested. He was even about to change the subject while they waited for the two of them to appear, but then, without warning, Mercedes Talbot swooped in behind Harbinger from the other direction and began following him and the girl down the stairs.
“Oh, no,” Jericho groaned.
“Is that… ?”
“The love of Jerry’s life!” laughed Shane.
Jericho hit him. A little.
“Come on, be nice,” said Hannah.
Before their eyes Mercedes caught up to Harbinger and snaked her arm around his, not physically pushing the girl out of the way but casting her aside with a look somehow. She said something to him, her lips almost touching his ear, and then grinned and laughed. Harbinger’s expression didn’t change any more than it ever had, as far as Jericho had seen it.
He did see the short girl roll her eyes in annoyance. She must have at least been familiar enough with the school to know about Mercedes and her wiles.
A few seconds later the three of them were within speaking distance. Mercedes gave Jericho a flirty wink, but he just nodded, not missing how her eyes began to sneer as soon as they travelled in the direction of the girls. Amy looked like she could barely contain her anger.
“Hi, Jerry!” said Mercedes, resting her head against Harbinger’s. “Fancy meeting you here.”
“Hey,” Jericho muttered. He’d usually tell anyone who said it not to call him Jerry, but in Mercedes’ case he preferred she knew as little about him as possible.
Hannah stepped forward, always eager to harmonise a negative atmosphere, and spoke cheerfully to the three newcomers.
“Hi, Mercedes.” Then, to the other girl, “I don’t think we’ve met—I’m Hannah; this is Amy, Audrey, Jocelyn, Luke, Jericho and Shane.”
“Tessa,” said the girl, extending her hand to shake with Hannah. “Tessa Lovelace. Everyone calls me Tess.”
“You a Freshman?” asked Luke.
Tess laughed, “Uh, Senior, actually.”
The group stared.
“Yeah, I get that a lot. Anyway, I was just saying to this guy he should come over and say sorry; he told me about running you guys down earlier, and I figured he was probably too embarrassed to do it on his own.”
Harbinger didn’t look embarrassed. He didn’t look anything at all. He said “Sorry,” while looking off to the side.
“That’s okay,” said Amy. “Look, the scrape healed right up. Can’t even tell I had it, mostly.”
Now that, that made Harbinger’s eyes widen. It was just a touch, but it was enough to let Jericho know the guy wasn’t one of those androids the conspiracy nuts were always whispering about.
“Does look like you missed a spot shaving your legs, though,” said Mercedes. “You should look in to that.”
Jericho was sure that if they’d been in a cartoon, Amy’s eyes would have literally gone red. He himself was only not offended on her behalf because he was so surprised that Mercedes had said what she’d said so brazenly. Seriously, who said things like that just out of the blue!?
Amy didn’t take it lying down though.
“Well, I generally don’t show them off enough for people to notice, Mercedes,” she said, with icy, false niceness. “But I’d be glad to have you over sometime so you can check for me, and I can help you with your English class like Cheviot wanted, so you don’t fail it again.”
“Amy…” said Hannah.
“Oh, Nick and I’ll work something out,” said Mercedes, still smiling but not as much as before. “And while it’s always nice to have offers, I’m afraid I don’t swing that way. You’ll have to ask Tessa here.”
She snapped her fingers then reached out and gave Tess a pat on the head—and from the look on Tess’ face the insinuation must have been on the money. It made Jericho grit his teeth—Luke wasn’t exactly interested in the ladies himself, and they did say the C through F class stations in the United Colonies of New Cascadia lagged a century or so behind in social issues. In his experience, Rhea was no exception.
“Maybe I will,” said Amy, also through gritted teeth.
“Mrrraow!” said Shane.
Jericho hit him. Harder than before.
“Anyway,” said Amy, heaving her bag over her shoulder, “I’m going to be late for curfew. You want me to let the Doc know she’ll be grounding you tonight, Jericho?”
Jericho rubbed the back of his head. “I guess I can be at least that considerate,” he said.
“Great,” Amy told him. “I’ll see you all later.”
“Ames,” said Jocelyn.
No dice. Amy walked away without another word, towards the elevators. Jericho sighed heavily, and was about to turn away and try to figure out how to get rid of Mercedes without getting too confrontational, when suddenly Shane pointed out something that for once wasn’t entirely pointless.
“Hey, what’s with that guy?”
He was looking the other way from where Amy was going, and Jericho followed that line of sight, though he would have seen what was going on eventually anyway.
A man, black, in an old-fashioned black suit and sunglasses, a hi-tech looking silver device moulded noticeably onto his ear ran along the top of the railing around their floor itself—seemingly heedless of the massive drop below, perfectly balanced. People were stopping to stare as soon as he passed them, and he passed them faster running on the railing than Jericho thought most people could run on flat ground.
For a few seconds their group stared without saying anything. Strange as this sight was, there was certainly nothing to suggest it was anything to do with them. Then, just as he reached the same place Amy was walking in front of, he jumped off the railing.
“Amy!” Jericho shouted across the court, as loud as he could.
Amy turned just in time for the stranger to grab her around the shoulders.