Get Out Of Her Way
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Iris Black was going to be late to class.

It was, to be fair, not entirely her fault. Thursday was Derby night, always had been; which meant that Thursday was also Derby after-party night, either to celebrate a win or make up for a loss. Normally, she went for a few hours, drank a little, smoked a little, and was in bed by 1 or 2 in the morning, with plenty of time to make a 10:30 class. This time, however, the Double Dees had played the Legion; and the Discordians always partied hard because they had a lot of losses to make up for. Someone spiked the punch with AUM, someone else was passing out joints of Kallisti Gold, and to make a long story short, Iris woke up at 10 AM in a bathtub full of empty beer cans wearing only her Derby helmet and someone else's underwear.

After picking her way through the detritus of the night before, she managed to locate her pants, complete with keys, wallet and phone, in the back of the freezer; she stole a t-shirt that was hanging from the ceiling fan, and sprinted out the door with only 20 minutes to go. She checked her phone. Deer wasn't too far away; if she went fast, she could get there in 15 and still be able to freshen up in the bathroom before class. Her rollerblades were still right where she left them, tied up near the top of a tree in the front yard; a snap of her fingers undid the knot, and they dropped right into her waiting hands. She strapped the blades on, buckled her helmet, and set off for school.

Iris weaved through the mid-morning traffic, furiously dodging pedestrians and cyclists; she almost knocked over an android carrying a stack of boxes, and shouted a quick "Sorry!" over her shoulder as she left it in her wake. Her favorite shortcut was coming up: a pair of Ways that, if she was careful, she could open at high speed, skating only half a block in Oregon to skip half a mile of ThreePorts. She sped straight toward a solid brick wall, screaming "Open Sesame!" at the top of her lungs; at the very last moment, it hinged open, and she popped out of a similarly solid brick wall in Portland, Oregon, just in time to slam full-speed into the hood of a limousine that was, inexplicably, parked right between two dumpsters behind a pizza place.

Momentum carried Iris across the hood, and she crashed into the asphalt on the other side. She heard her left wrist snap before she felt it; then the pain shot up her arm, and she curled into a ball around the injured limb, shouting strings of curses that made up in volume what they lacked in variety. "FUCKING fuck! Motherfucking fuckers! Fucking shit-fuck!" A car door opened and closed, and at least two people approached her. Possibly three. They weren't saying anything, which meant they were either huge fucking assholes, or they had been waiting for her. She stopped cursing, and opened her eyes.

It was three. A slimy-looking kid, maybe a little older than her, in a hideous green-and-gold plaid suit, flanked by two guys who looked like they had been bought straight off the rack at the bodyguard store. The bodyguards, as expected, said nothing, but the kid smiled and offered her his hand. "Good morning." Data point one: English. Rich. Smug as hell. Definitely a huge fucking asshole. "May I help you up, Ms. Black?" Data point two: knew her name. Definitely waiting for her.

"I think I'm fine on my own, thanks," she replied, wincing as she pushed off the ground with her elbows. "You seem to have me at a disadvantage, Mr…?" The sheer cliche of the phrase almost triggered her gag reflex, but she powered through. Both her palms were scraped and bleeding; that could be useful.

Sleazeball gave her a flamboyant bow. "Chrysophilus Marshall, at your service. But please—my friends call me Skitter."

Iris got her blades under her, and stood up to her full six feet, still holding her injured wrist close to her chest. "Charmed, I'm sure." She wiped some blood from her right palm with a finger, and started to draw a sigil on her left arm, taking care to keep it hidden from the three men. "And who, might I ask, are these two gentlemen?"

"I wouldn't call them gentlemen," he said. "This is Three, and this is Four. Say hello, boys."

Three and Four barked a perfectly-synchronized "hello," and Iris finally noticed the barcodes tattooed on their foreheads. Maybe they actually had been bought from the bodyguard store. The sigil was almost complete; she only needed to stall for a little bit longer.

"Well, to what do I owe the pleasure, Mr. Marshall? I assume our meeting was no accident?" She nodded at the wall that concealed the Way. "You seem to have been waiting exactly where it would inconvenience me the most."

Skitter laughed, spraying Iris in spit. "No, Iris—can I call you Iris?—this was no accident. I am here to offer you a business opportunity. One that will, without a doubt, make you wealthy beyond your wildest dreams. If you would just join me in the car?"

The sigil was finished. "Well, Chrysophilus, I would love to, but unfortunately, no'oley bugud gegrasacog nohadz hacar-ficar!" As the Ouranian syllables burst from her lips, Iris felt her bones set and change. She pulled her hand back, and a sword stabbed out through her wrist-skin; the spell's backlash set it aflame. She took a wild slash at Skitter, who leaped out of the way with unsettling agility, then she did a quick 180 and sprinted down the alley, dispelling the burning bone-sword and letting her radius and ulna return to their natural shape. If she was being honest with herself, it probably hurt more than the break had, but that spell was always a crowd-pleaser in the derby rink, and she was glad it performed in an actual combat situation.

Skitter shouted some instructions to the bodyguards, and the limo door slammed. There was still just enough blood on Iris' palms to work another small spell without draining her internal reserves; she flicked her hand behind her, scattering it on the asphalt, and shouted a quick incantation. "Nobo dokez ch'haz!" Spines shot up from the ground, angled back toward her pursuers; they'd have a hard time making it over that with their tires in one piece.

The limo started, and the engine revved as it sped up towards her. As Iris turned out of the alley onto the street, she heard the tires pop. That should delay them for long enough that she could make her escape. The next Way was just up ahead, in the Joan of Arc statue in the center of a traffic circle. The statue that had two more of those bodyguard guys standing next to it, alongside another asshole in head-to-toe Supreme hypebeast gear.

"Mademoiselle Black," he shouted, doffing his bucket hat, "so kind of you to join us!"

"Oh, fuck a duck," Iris swore as she swerved down a side-street. The next-nearest Way into ThreePorts was almost a mile away, and that one would put her by Prometheus Plaza, inconveniently far from campus. She was definitely going to be late to class. Well, there was one other option, but it would piss off the feds, and just attending Deer put her on all manner of watchlists. It was a last-resort sort of move.

Skitter Marshall ran out into the road on all fours, his eyes glowing yellow. He stood, and smiled wider than a human should be able to; his teeth had become needle-points, and his saliva hissed when it dripped onto his suit. "I wanted to do this the easy way," he said, taking a syringe full of red liquid out of his jacket pocket and slamming it into his neck, "but you had to ruin it for both of us."

Last-resort time. Iris did not want to stick around for whatever that drug would do to him. She executed a perfect u-turn, and headed back towards Joan. Hypebeast and his goons were piling into a cotton-candy-pink Rolls Royce; Iris flipped them off as she skated past. She turned south down Chavez, and got ready to commit some federal crimes.

"Fiaco nowole! A'epalizage! Tajnachef'so cho thu fof'widayo shabbe!" The words dried Iris' throat and chapped her lips, each syllable of the chant building on the last. She scratched at her palms, reopening the scrapes, and pressed a bloody handprint on each thigh; this working was dangerous without an external source of EVE, but a little bit of backlash was preferable to getting kidnapped by the kind of people who purchase scary bodyguards in packs of four. "Lofo segwar dibuq udinbak noy renkeb!" The chant meant nothing, of course; Ouranian was a constructed language, designed expressly for thaumaturgy. It was contextless babble, each string of syllables merely a mnemonic for a certain etheric pattern or energetic frequency, and—in Iris' experience—it worked really, really well. "Zametus nabagaf hrov'leiko ptau!" The final incantation seared its way through her mind, and she began to accelerate.

The spell was a variant of Rhadamanth's Sling, modified to launch a person rather than a projectile. It borrowed a bit of the momentum from a large moving object—say, a car, or a pack of derby players—and dumped it into Iris, shooting her forward at irresponsible velocities. Once it got going, it essentially maintained itself on ambient Elan-Vital, but the first burst required to cast it was always a bitch. She would have to go easy for the rest of the day or risk total burnout; but if it got her to class on-time and saved her ass from Skitter and Supreme, it was worth it.

Of course, it was a lot riskier outside of a derby rink. All the rinks in Portlands had various circles, runes, and sigils painted on the floor, so that the backlash from the competitors' spells could be channeled in the safest manner possible. The road in Portland Oregon had no such protections. Around where she cast the spell, a three-foot circle melted into a pool of crude petroleum and gravel, the asphalt reduced to its raw components; as she sped onward, runes glowed on the blacktop wherever her skates touched it, the Ouranian incantations repeated over and over in an arcane script. Thankfully, they faded away after a few moments, leaving only a sooty residue that would wash away in the rain—she wouldn't want to explain a mile-long runic inscription to the FBI, or worse, her academic adviser.

Iris heard a loud pop from behind her, and something whizzed past at chest-height. They were shooting at her. She risked a glance over her shoulder, and saw Hypebeast hanging out the window of the Rolls, brandishing a Desert Eagle x Louis Vuitton collab—turned sideways, gangsta-style. He was shouting something, but she couldn't hear him over the wind in her ears and the roar of his engine; then he fired another shot, and Iris decided to focus on getting the fuck out of there.

She had been having excellent luck with traffic so far—enough cars to slingshot off of and use as shields, but not so many that she had to spend more brainpower dodging them than dodging bullets. Unfortunately, there weren't quite enough to give her pursuers any trouble. The Rolls Royce was cruising down the center of the road, other cars swerving out of its way; some close calls had left a few scratches in its hideous pepto-bismol paint job, but the goon-clone was a good enough driver to avoid anything worse. They were definitely gaining on her.

Then the light ahead turned red. The cars ahead of Iris slowed down; she pumped a little more juice into her spell, and sped up. A semi-truck pulled out into the intersection, signaling for a left turn. Iris kept heading straight for it, and so did the Rolls. Just before she slammed headfirst into the trailer, she bent over backwards and limbo'd underneath it at 40 miles per hour. The Rolls Royce was not as agile, and hit the trailer with an earth-shaking crunch. For a moment, just before impact, Iris and Hypebeast made eye contact; then she stood back up, and continued on her way.

A few more blocks, and she was almost there. Iris' spell ran out just before she hung a hard right down the hill; she dodged past two cars and a motorcycle, and swung into Reed campus. There were mobs of students coming back from morning lectures on every path; she slalomed around them, and cruised through an archway into the library courtyard. The sequoia was dead ahead. A final burst of mystical force, almost completely draining her, sent her sailing over the heads of the confused mundanes. She landed on a picnic table, scattering its occupants' books and breakfasts, and jumped headfirst into the tree's trunk, her hands curled in the gestures that would send her through to the other side. Several moments of horrible vertigo, and she was home free.

Well, almost. Iris checked her phone. 10:29. One minute to get to class. She sprinted toward the library doors, which opened just in time. A freshman was in her way; he dove for cover, his coffee spilling all over the ground, and she was inside. Fifty seconds. No time to take the elevator, but the classroom was in the basement. There was a folding table set up in the lobby—WAN For All, the campus Maxwellist group, was handing out open source literature and free flash drives. Iris tucked into a ball and rolled underneath it. Forty seconds. Through the door to the stairwell, between some seniors arguing about Pythagorean numerology, and over the banister. It was only a fifteen-foot drop, and Iris had just enough magical energy left to stop her fall safely—a little trickle of power activated her blades' dampening runes, and the kinetic energy of the impact was converted into a spray of dramatic but harmless sparks. Thirty seconds. A straight shot down one hallway, a hard right down another, and she slid through the classroom door with twenty seconds to spare.

"Ms. Black, how kind of you to join us," Dr. Greenberg said, looking pointedly at his watch. "And on time! Incredible."

Iris sighed as she sat down. "Long night. Longer morning."

"Now, Ms. Black, I do expect my students to arrive prepared to class." He stared pointedly at the empty table in front of her. "Where are your materials?"

Iris unbuckled her helmet, and made a few passes over it with her free hand. "Abracadabra." She reached inside, and retrieved her textbook and school supplies from the built-in spatial deformation. "Anything else, Professor?"

"Just one more question, then we can begin." He gestured vaguely at Iris' torso. "What on earth is a 'Futanari Titwhore Fiasco'?"

She glanced down at her borrowed t-shirt. "Honestly, Professor? I have no idea."

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