It’s another one of those days. But not one of those days in which there are too many customers and too little time and no one else I could call to help out–no, it’s one of those days that makes me choose between safety, or fighting back.
Maybe I read too many adventure and fantasy novels, but while the sensible part of me is scared to death, the rest of me screams for me to fight back.
And if I don’t do something fast, Audrey certainly will.
Tapping her wrist to tell her you’d better not do anything stupid and trying to ignore the fact that I’m doing something stupid in an attempt to keep her from doing something stupid, I slowly stand up, keeping my hands where the robbers can clearly see them. “Is there a problem?” I ask, keeping my voice light and non-threatening. One of the masked robbers scowls at me.
“Shut up, sweetheart, this is real life.” The smallest of the three–the one behind the register–a full head and shoulders shorter than me–looks up and whips his gun up, his hands shaking. He’s clearly intimidated by my height–the next tallest is still two inches shorter than me. It’s obviously the kid’s first time doing anything illegal. Is he just another innocent, pulled in by bad company? I may never find out. Even if that sentence doesn’t turn out to be ominous.
“You probably shouldn’t be doing that,” I keep talking, moderating my voice to a carefully measured soft cadence. I have never tried this before on a scale like this, but if it works on angry fellow students trying to keep me from getting to my car, it might at least make these guys less tense. “It’s not right, and it’s not really a good idea, either.” If these guys realize that Starlight is one of the people in the cafeteria–I don’t know what will happen. Keeping my thoughts to myself, I congratulate the crooks on their poor timing. “This is my employer’s livelihood, sir. Whatever problem you’re having, there has to be some other way out. I might be able to help.” I can feel my heartbeat racing and try to moderate the adrenaline. If I don’t keep breathing evenly, it’s only a matter of time–I could potentially do serious damage to the minds of everyone in this room if I get too upset.
I hate being a rational animal. Staying safe would be so much easier if I could just rationalize, rather than having to contend with defensive instincts as well.
Given the guns, I’m definitely feeling threatened enough.
One of the three thugs grabs Rebecca from her seat, as their leader waltzes over and kisses me lightly on the lips. It’s not even a very invasive kiss, not even enough to qualify as an assault–maybe–but it’s very kind of him to remind me that I’m not in control of the situation and never was (even if I did succeed in defusing it somewhat, which is questionable.) “Have a good night, baby,” he says, and then marches out the door.
Wonderful. I was only trying to help, and I’ve inadvertently set up a hostage situation with people who aren’t interested in being talked down. I take a deep breath and glance around the room.
Starlight: Wanted to get enough room to engage the men without threatening civilians–is now free to move with them outside, in the deserted park. She’s about to start moving, but I have a few milliseconds to decide what to do.
Audrey: Angry. (I’ll have to watch out for that, or her anger will become mine.) She’s perfectly right in thinking it’s all my fault, because it is.
Saxon: Perhaps a little shocked. (Her emotions are rather foreign to me, almost as if they’re coming across through a filter, which is certainly unusual, though probably not anything really bizarre.) Currently trying to figure out the best way to take these guys down.
And they are going down.
All of us are determined. We’re not about to just let those men come in and snatch someone from under our noses. If altruism has not brought us together, then pride certainly has unified us in purpose.
I draw myself up. “Rebecca is going home safe, and on time, tonight.” I make sure to make eye contact with each of them, to get my sincerity and determination across. “Starlight, you have the experience no one else does. What do we do next?”