To her, it had become second nature; drawing the arrow from her quiver, notching it, aiming, and then letting it loose.
She found comfort in the whistling that her arrows made as they curved in slices through the air, striking the target at the other end of the room with decisive clinks. To her, it had become second nature; drawing the arrow from her quiver, notching it, aiming, and then letting it loose. There was rhythm in it, poetry that she had neither the time nor the inclination to put into words. To her, the feeling was enough.
There was the sound of a door opening behind her, and then a laugh as two figures stepped in, seemingly at ease until they noticed the tautness of her shoulders, her complete focus on the target.
“Didn’t get her?” the woman with a swinging blonde ponytail asked as she took a seat behind her desk, turning on her equipment as she kept an eye on the other.
“No,” Tatiana replied shortly, reaching back and realizing that she was out of arrows. She stepped forward and began yanking them from the target board one by one, painstakingly putting them back into place in the quiver on her back. “I lost her at the warehouse.”
“You shouldn’t have gone in there alone,” the boy with the blonde curls pointed out.
“Don’t lecture me, Gray –“
“I’m serious.” He looked up, his warm eyes startlingly worried. “You’re getting emotional about this one. You know how these go when you get emotional about them.”
Tatiana ignored him, but Seren piped up. “He’s right. You need to get out of here for a while, clear your head. Let us take care of it for a bit.”
The brunette heaved out a short sigh and shook her head, but she relented slightly and placed her bow back up in its case, looping the arrow-filled quiver off of her shoulder.
“You know what would make you feel better?” Seren leaned over her computer screen, eyes alight. “A normal crook for you to cross of your list. Take this Baudelaire bloke,” she made a few quick keystrokes, “He’s been selling flower crowns laced with acid down in Hogsmeade. They burn right into people’s skulls.” She shuddered and then pouted, “Although he’s kind of cute. Maybe you should let him live?”
Tatiana shook her head. “This is personal. Chastity Hamilton-Reed threatened my mother. I can’t be out chasing cute… flower boys when I have this to deal with.”
“He’s very cute, though,” Seren added as if it would entice her friend, but the brunette shook her head.
“At least let us come,” Benjamin added from the back, sorting through the collection of arrows that Tatiana had left on the table earlier. “We don’t need you getting hurt again.”
“Personally, I’d be glad if you never turned up in the back of my car, bleeding from gunshot wounds ever again,” Seren added earnestly, nodding along.
“Yeah, I don’t want a repeat of that, either.” Tatiana snapped the door of the case shut and took a seat on the counter beside it, glancing around at the other two.
There was silence.
“So, what do we do now?” Benjamin asked, leaning against the opposite counter, crossing his arms across his chest.
“We’ll set a trap for her. If she gets anywhere near my mother again – well, she won’t,” Tatiana said decisively.
Seren glanced up from her screen. “How eloquent.”
“What’s she going to fall for?” Benj plowed on.
The brunette paused. “The undertaking. We need someone to tell her they’re interested, that they have some technology that will speed up its development. Maybe then we can lead her somewhere where we can take her out.”
Her hazel eyes were on Benjamin, but it was Seren who responded. “I’ll do it.”
“You can’t,” the other two replied in unison, glancing over in distraction.
The blonde shrugged nonchalantly. “Do either of you have the expertise to discuss technology with her? Besides, it can’t be Benj. She’s seen him before and she knows that he’s your driver – in public, at least. It can only be me.”
“But Chastity’s dangerous,” Tatiana argued back, “You don’t know how to fight.”
“I don’t need to.” Seren shrugged. “It’ll be simple. I’ll be in and out.”
Tatiana didn’t like it, but she finally conceded after a brief staring match with the blonde hacker. “Alright. But we’ll be right behind you.”
“She got the note, I saw it delivered to her. Whether she shows up or not is what we need to worry about,” Seren spoke through, tucking a lock of hair behind her ear to hide the motion of turning on the communications device.
Tatiana was perched rather bird-like on top of the nearest building, her green hood drawn low over her face. “Don’t worry about that. Stay focused.”
The speakers crackled again. “She’s coming,” Benj added. “Her hair looks lovely today.”
“I’ll be sure to ask her for tips,” Seren replied somewhat nervously, lacing her fingers together.
“Don’t worry,” Tatiana repeated, “We’ll be right here in case anything goes wrong. I’ll be in your ear the whole time.”
“And can I just say that it’s a relief to have you inside me?” Seren paused and then clapped a hand over her mouth. “That’s not what I meant!”
“Seren. She’s coming,” Benj urged.
The brunette ducked lower, watching the witch with the red hair stride boldly down the alley, her chin raised high, a proud gleam in her green eyes that she could see even from up here. “Well?” she demanded once she was within a few feet of Seren. “What have you got?”
Tatiana had been afraid her friend would stumble, but she was smooth, “Technology. It’ll make your… project run smoother. Less time needed for maintenance. Penvrane Consolidated has been working on this prototype for months, but I’ve taken the designs for it already.”
“What sort of technology?”
“Er,” the blonde stuttered and then seized upon one, “Hardware. Better encryption, harder to crack.”
“Yes, well, I’d suspect you’d know all about that, Miss Jones,” Chastity’s voice was eerily silky, and both Seren and Tatiana tensed simultaneously; the former by freezing up and the latter by drawing an arrow taut against the string of her bow. The redhead’s voice called out now as she pivoted to the rooftops, green gaze skimming the skyline with the air of calculate amusement. “I know you’re up there, Robin Hood, or Arrow, or whatever it is that they’ve started calling you now.”
Tatiana’s jaw clenched. The voice modulator clipped to her hood flashed green suddenly as she spoke. “Stay away from my mother.”
“Make me.” The two words were simple, a glittering challenge that the redhead put forth, her head high, her pose at ease as if she wasn’t worried at all.
It infuriated Tatiana.
“Tatty, don’t,” she could hear Benj start, but she didn’t listen; her fingers flitted back and the arrow was set loose suddenly, whirling down in a precise spiral toward the other’s heart – and then there was a whirl of color and auburn hair and a crack as the arrow sailed into the brick wall right behind where Chastity had been standing.
The other may have been relaxed, but she wasn’t out of practice. With a silky laugh, she disappeared into the shadows of the alley, red hair disappearing into the darkness. Tatiana swore under her breath and notched two arrows at once, letting them both loose, but her hands were shaking and they missed by long shots, one sailing only inches away from Seren.
Benj cursed in her earpiece. “What did you do that for? She got away, must have had some escape planned.”
Tatiana ignored him once more, firing a special arrow from the building to the ground and then sliding down, using her bow as support. She landed just beside her friend and then bent down beside her. “Seren, are you okay?”
“Well, you didn’t put an arrow in my head, so I could be worse,” the blonde replied, uncharacteristically sharp out of anxiety as she stepped away from the arrow behind her.
Tatiana glanced in concern at the blonde but then realized that they had bigger things to worry about. “She knows who you are. She knows that you work for Penvrane Consolidated. We need to get you into hiding, now.”
Seren scowled at her, seemingly about to argue, but then Benjamin appeared at the other end of the alley, running a hand through his curls, damp with sweat. “I tried chasing her, but she got away,” he explained, catching his breath before his gaze landed on the blonde woman. “But she’s right. We need to get you back to base now. You’ll be safer underground.”
“Alright,” Seren acquiesced, and then glanced in alarm as Tatiana drew her hood up again. “Where are you going?”
“To my mother,” Tatiana answered shortly. “I’m going to get to her before Chastity does. We can’t keep letting her beat us.”
“Tatty—“ But she was off again, hitching her quiver higher up onto her shoulder before she disappeared into the shadows as well.