Big damn table of all the story parts so far. I intend the parts to follow the Fanfic100 "prompts" sequentially, so this is chapter #3, and prompts 6 and 7 take place *after* this. Yes, more is coming. Promise.
The things stood there, unmoving, their gazes fixed on him through the alive and liquid air. Somewhere behind him, Steve heard a gasp, moaned cursing, but he couldn't stop staring at the thing that lay crushed and oozing a foot or so away, or at the figure that stood between him and the creatures.
"Well?" the chick said again.
Something shifted. Steve felt it, deep inside, something turning over, and pressure built, hard and fast, pressing against his ears, his eyes, his mind, until after-images of blue and white danced behind his eyes. Then the air imploded again. Wind and dust kicked up, grinding against his skin and into his eyes. Instinctively he raised a hand, his eyes watering, peered through the settling dust cloud and veins of after-light burned into his retina. The things were gone.
Through it, the chick hadn't moved. She only stood there, short hair and grey shirt whipping in the breeze, her staff slowly lowering to the ground.
"Jesus." Something hit the dirt next to him. Steve blinked up into Ross's face, as the bassist laid hands on him to haul him up to sit.
"They got Neal," Steve said, feeling slow and stupid. Everything still felt unreal, too bright, too hard-edged, slipping away fast and slick and out of control...
"Who's that?" Ross was staring at the chick.
Steve twisted. The chick was kneeling where the dead thing had been, ignoring the two musicians staring at her. She looked young, maybe mid-20s, if that; straight, short-cropped blonde hair, plain-faced, dressed in a grey, worn t-shirt, jeans that might have once been black but for dust and wear, cheap sneakers. Nothing remarkable, nothing noticeable, nothing that would've made him look at her twice. But now he stared at her. Her left hand was pressed flat into the ooze, fingers spread, and her lips were moving soundlessly as her right hand moved on the ground, a slow, deliberate circular pattern.
Something flickered around her hands and arms, just at the edge of sight, crawling up her arm, flickers of purple-white light that connected the ooze to the pattern and back...
Steve could hear whispering, and shivered.
The whispering stopped. The chick was still staring at the ground, then she looked up, towards the hills in the distance, visible over the stadium walls. She picked up the staff from the ground, used it to brace herself to her feet and limp a couple paces away, her back to them.
"Hey," Ross said loudly. "You with the face."
It was as if she didn't hear him at all. She traced something on the ground with the staff, a wider circle this time, and the whispering was back, odd pressure building behind Steve's ears and eyes.
Steve pushed himself to his feet, staggered towards her, stopping short of the staff's reach. "You...you're hunting them," he said.
The whispering stopped. The movement stopped. She turned her head to stare at him, deliberate, even, appraising.
No, not so plain. She had the bluest eyes of anyone he'd ever seen, a vivid electric blue that glowed in the sunlight. Steve made himself meet that gaze, crossing his arms to hide his shaking.
She said nothing, but something about her settled, waiting.
"They took two of us," Steve said. "Two of our friends."
She turned away, dismissively. "They've taken a lot of people."
"I want to help." The words were out before he could stop them. He couldn't stop them, even as that gaze turned back on him, and in horror, he heard himself babbling, words tumbling out before he could make sense of them. "You -- I saw what you did. You're gonna need a link, something to track 'em with. A really strong tie for that vodoo shit. Friendship and music and all that."
Her head tilted, still eyeing him. "You have any idea what that actually means?"
His brain caught up. "Ahh..."
"You've seen too many bad movies," she said, turning away again.
"He's a fuckin' pothead with delusions of grandeur," Ross said.
"You stopped them," Steve said, ignoring Ross. "You --"
Impatience touched her voice; she didn't turn around, speaking over her shoulder. "The longer you keep babbling stupid shit at me, the more time they got. The more time, the more people they'll grab. The more time they get to spend on your...friends."
Somewhere behind him, he could hear sirens, shouts, chaos. Behind him was the stage, his real life, everything he'd wanted and hoped for, rising in the smoke of whatever had hit. In front of him...
"You stopped them," he said again, and saw her roll her eyes. "I mean, they were hunting me. They were after me. They passed Ross and were coming for me." He was babbling again, didn't care. "They grabbed Neal, they grabbed Aynes, and they wanted me, too. If I stay here, they'll just come back for me. And nothing'll stop them. They'll get what they want."
She bowed her head, muttered something under her breath.
"What?" Steve said.
Something in that gaze quirked. "I said, it is my life to protect fools from God."
He stared at her. "Those things weren't God."
"But you are an idiot," she said. "Though you've got a point." The something settled around her again. "Come over here. And don't break the line."
Something about the way she said that... Steve hesitated, started forward, only to have Ross grab his arm and spin him back around.
"Excuse me?" Ross said.
Steve stared at him. Weird. He'd never noticed Ross had blue eyes, just like... He twisted back to look at the chick, who watched, silent.
"Hey." Ross shook him, hard. "Earth to stupid singer. I know you and Neal were smoking that shit, but it wasn't cut that badly. Your brain can't be that fried."
Steve pulled away, turned towards the chick. Three steps, and he halted. Something was there. An edge. Something. He wasn't sure what, but it tugged at the edge of his sight, barely there. He carefully took a larger step, ending directly in front of her, and trying to ignore the nagging feeling that something was gone, gone forever, and he'd never get it back...
"You got a name?" she said. "Or you just exist to look stupid?"
It caught him off-guard. "Uh...Steve."
"And you still look stupid," Ross said.
For a moment, the chick stared at the sky, sighed. "Okay. My fault, that time. Take two. Your full name. And birth date."
This time he stared at her.
"Well?" she said.
"What the hell you need that for?"
"Look," she said, "we got two ways to go here. You can either keep delaying me with stupid questions, and more people die. Or you just answer me and we get this over with. Comprende?"
"Look, babe," Steve said. "I didn't --"
"Fine." She turned abruptly, smacked one end of the staff on the ground, said a word. The something that had been around them wasn't there suddenly, and she stalked a short distance away, started to trace out a circle in the dirt with the staff again.
He looked back. Ross was still standing there, eyes wide, visibly shaken and looking lost, his hands clenching and unclenching.
"Go find Gregg," Steve said, into that shaken silence. "And...and tell Herbie."
"Tell him what?" Ross said. "The aliens didn't get you, but the groupies did?"
Behind him, Steve heard the chick snort. "Yeah," Steve said. "Something like that."
"If you're thinking that," the chick said, "those things'll be the least of your worries."
"If you don't make it back in one piece," Ross said to Steve, quietly, "those things and that chick will be a sunny fuckin' beach compared to what I'll do to you."
He reached again, this time to clasp Steve's arm firmly, goodbye, good luck, all of the above and somewhere beyond. Steve swallowed, pulled away, turned to face her. She had paused, leaning on that staff, head cocked, her gaze a vivid, intense blue glare that wanted the idiot to stay behind. But slowly, deliberately, Steve went over, halted at the edge of the something.
"Steve," he said. "I..I mean, Stephen Ray Perry. January twenty-second, nineteen forty-nine. You want my rank and serial number, too?"
That gaze gave him a slow once-over. "No. This is the quick and dirty version. Get in here."
He wasn't about to ask what "here" was. He stepped over that edge, felt something close behind him, even as the whispering started again. No, it was her, she was whispering, deliberate, precisely enunciated words that turned the air alive and trembling, sliding over his skin to wrap him in stillness. He listened, listened harder; it wasn't any language he knew, nothing he could place, though she sounded calm, matter-of-fact, as if telling the air, the world what it would do.
He heard her say his name, that same odd whispering speech, and started. It set his heart thumping, an odd inflection that pulled him in and wove him into whatever it was that surrounded them. He wasn't separate, not anymore, it wove through him, through his skin, his heart...
The whispering stilled. Everything paused, a heartbeat.
"Rás," the chick said.
And the world went light.