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Recluse

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Wait: There. One rooftop over. She stands—you think she’s a she, but you’re not quite sure (you want her to be a she). She stands, her eyes glinting yellow. Her stance is unmistakable, standing there, tall, hungry, predatory, waiting…

She glances up. It takes you a moment to realize: she’s looking at you (your heart skips a beat). You can’t see her mouth behind her mask, but you’re convinced she’s smirking at you. Laughing, even. You want to bristle, but—

She pivots on her heel to face away from the ledge, pivots away from you—and then—

You rush forward as she slowly—so slowly—tips over backwards.

Then the screams begin.

Not yours. You don’t scream (not even when—

You reach the ledge of your own rooftop just as she topples over the side of hers. You see a glint of something around her, reflecting just slightly in yellow light.

She falls. One story. Two. And before the last, she slows, rotating upside up to land gently upon her feet. Not like a flier. No: something’s holding her. Stretching…

She twitches slightly just as she touches the ground, even this movement somehow elegant (beautiful). You see that glint of something fling back up behind her, back towards the rooftop from which she fell. Somehow, she must have detached it. Tinker?

No. Not a tinker.

You forgot about the screams. A gunshot reminds you. You see a spark where the bullet ricochets off her suit. How? It doesn’t look armored. It looks… silken, almost. Soft. The yellow of the streetlamps reflect off it with a gentle grace (but you’re not envious).

It must be armored, and yet, you realize, swallowing roughly as you once more survey the horror below… she’s no tinker.

The sound of terror draws your eyes to the gunman.

He was trying to pull the trigger, but even if he had, and even had his opponent not been wearing armor, he would have been no better off: his aim was off by a full forty degrees at a half-dozen feet.

It’s not his fault, one part of you suggests. But it is his fault. He’d not have found himself so ensnared had he not been so weak as to… well, you preferred not to think about it (you preferred not to think about many things). Suffice to say, his crimes were numerous and severe.

You had been planning on apprehending him yourself. You’d been waiting until you could catch him in the act, and tonight, he had acted. You had been about to strike when you saw her.

He was trying to run (pathetic). You supposed it was only natural he’d end up here, ensnared within a giant web, eyes swollen shut from stings of wasps or bees, panicking, spiders crawling and skittering across him, flailing (useless).

Still. He was made of sterner stock than his friends. His clients. They laid curled upon the ground, shaking and whimpering, even as spiders wove their way across them, spinning them into cocoons.

And she, the figure dressed in a color so close to black, with only those yellow eyes—did they glow? She stepped forward. Flicked her wrist. It was a delightful gesture, lazily powerful, as if she had no concerns whatsoever. As if it were all beneath her. As if she were humoring her prey with her presence.

She flicked her wrist, and a baton extended.

A sharp, efficient movement, and the gun fell from the man’s hand. Another, and he collapsed back into the web, his flailing becoming nothing more than gentle twitches.

One final move collapsed the baton and hung it, once more, upon her waist.

You saw her breathe in. Measured. Calm. Assured. (Perfect).

“Do you like what you see, Shadow Stalker?”

Her voice was unnaturally melodic.

It takes you a full five seconds to respond (say something, Sophia, anything). Measured, like her breath had been, you tell yourself (entranced, you didn’t).

“I—”

She chuckles, just as you begin to speak. You cut yourself off. You should know more about her. Let her talk, Sophia (you can’t not let her talk). You wonder how you can hear her so well from three stories up, but then, the night is quiet.

“Don’t worry,” she says. “You’ll think of something to say by the next time we meet, won’t you?”

There was an edge to her voice (you’ll think of something). You should be angry. You are angry. You try to say— you’re not sure (next time). But something about that edge in her voice grabs you and twists at you.

“You’ll handle cleanup,” she states. “Name’s Recluse. See you ‘round.”

She walks away. There was no hurry to her footsteps. No concern. You could catch her (you could run). You want to call to her (next time).

You handle cleanup.