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The Bridge

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The Bridge - Art

The Bridge, originally, was built as a way for people who were on one side of the City and wanted to be on the other to get there without having to wind through the narrow roads of the City. Well, from the east to the west anyway – people wanting to go north to south had to tough it out through the City, or go around (they usually went around).

The trouble with a clear Bridge that travellers used was an obvious one – if you wanted to rob travellers, which some people regrettably did, the Bridge was an obvious place to do it, and so people did.

The trouble with that was that the choices for getting away were basically forward or back, neither of which were ideal for ducking the police, or angry people who'd just been robbed.

And so people got creative.

*

"There is no way that is going to work," Laura said. She wasn't even sure whether she was standing at the head or the foot of the contraption. Actually, if Simpson hadn't told her what it was, she wouldn't even have been able to guess.

"Would I bring you something that I can't guarantee will work?" Jeanette asked.

"Yes," Laura and Evan said in unison.

"Hey-" Jeanette started.

Aiden, leaning against the far wall of the garage the team worked out of, piped up: "There was that underwater vehicle, Alicia nearly drowned in that."

"I warned you all that it was still experimental. You said you wanted to try it out anyway."

"I did," Alicia said at the same time as Laura said, "You didn't warn us it would nearly kill her."

"It didn't nearly kill her," Jeanette protested.

"It was fun," Alicia said, grinning at Aiden, who rolled his eyes and said, "Yeah, until we had to fish you out of the drink."

"Okay," Evan said loudly, holding both hands up for silence. "Let's start with, does it work? As in, tested-for-what-we-want-it-to-do work?"

Jeanette shuffled her feet, shrugged. "It won't blow up."

"Very reassuring," Laura said. Not that she didn't understand Alicia's excitement – Jeanette's creations were frequently terrifying, but always in an obscurely fun way.

"Hey, if you want to start paying me what my legit customers pay..."

"We really don't," Evan said, still vaguely quelling. "Can we do a test drive first, before we commit?"

"You break it, you're paying for it," Jeanette said.

Evan looked over at Laura, who shrugged, caught Alicia's eye, and followed her gaze when she turned to look at Aiden, who hesitated, then nodded.

"Deal," Evan said, and shook Jeanette's hand.

*

The next problem, of course, was where to test it – having an up on your competitors wasn't much use when they all knew you had it.

"Yeah, cos that's a much bigger concern than the police catching us with an illegal gadget," Evan said when Laura pointed this out.

"Does it still count as illegal if we've got it in the testing phase?" Aiden asked from where he was kneeling with Alicia, fiddling with the controls. Laura really hoped one of them understood that thing better than she did, or fishing Alicia out of the harbour would be the least of their problems.

"We don't have a permit for experimental gadgets within the City limits, and even if Jeanette does, we're her customers not her employees. Also, two of us have past convictions for the misuse of explosive materials, and we're all one slip up from landing in City prison for crimes on the highways."

"So, yes, then?" Alicia made a face.

"So, I'd really rather not find out if the answer's yes." Evan sighed, the one that usually meant he was wondering why he'd ever let Laura talk him into adding first Aiden and then Alicia to their team. "Do you actually know how to work that thing?"

Aiden and Alicia exchanged looks that didn't exactly scream confidence. "Jeanette walked us through it," Alicia said.

"She walked you through the underwater vehicle as well," Laura pointed out. Well, someone had to side with Evan in his whole doom-gloom-pessimism thing; he sulked, otherwise, and lectured them about not taking the risks seriously.

"That was because it didn't work, not because I didn't know what I was doing."

"Small comfort that'll be when you're falling to your death," Evan said dryly, then sighed again and waved at the gadget. "Let's just get this over with, before the police find us."

Laura couldn't stop herself from giving their surroundings a sarcastic double-check. They were standing in the middle of a pasture on the edge of the City, out past a derelict warehouse district in the north, the kind of place people didn't go unless they were doing something they shouldn't be. It wasn't the best cover ever – the police liked to keep an eye on places like that for exactly that reason – but the sun was sinking below the horizon, and dusk would be enough of a cover unless they got really unlucky.

Okay, so Laura could sort of see Evan's point. Luck was not something they had in any kind of abundance, even on their best days.

"Ready," Alicia said, drawing Laura's attention. She was bent forward slightly, probably under the weight of the gadget now strapped to her back, but she was also grinning, wild and excited. "Relax, Boss, this is going to go great."

Evan covered his eyes with one hand, shaking his head, and even Aiden was frowning a little. "You think maybe we should have brought the parachute?" he asked Laura.

"Can't, we punctured it a couple of weeks ago."

"We did?" Aiden asked, then quickly added, "Right, we did. Never mind."

Alicia sharply put off any further discussion by hitting the power button on the gadget. It whirred in a vaguely terrifying fashion for a second; then, the large metal wings unfolded behind her, and the motor settled into a low hum. Alicia slid her arms into the straps on the wings, the fingers of her right hand settling against the buttons and levers built into the gadget.

"Here we go." She took a deep breath, nudged one of the levers, and suddenly she was six feet in the air, the wings beating slowly, holding her in place.

"Okay, that," Laura said, "Is cool."

"You're not going to fall?" Evan asked.

Alicia eased a little further into the air, then did a slow circle above their heads. "I think I'm good."

"How about landing?" Evan asked.

"No problem," Alicia said, and kicked Aiden in the head as she sank back to Earth.

*

"You realize that if anyone gets arrested, it's going to be the two of us," Aiden murmured a week later, the two of them crouched in the shadow of the bridge wall.

"And the two of us with past convictions," Laura said, faux-sadly. "On the bright side, it's not like we wouldn't be able to break out."

"Pretty sure Evan would prefer we don't get arrested at all, even if we can break out."

"Then Evan should have arranged a better getaway plan for the two of us than 'run quickly and hope people are distracted'."

"Or hide until they go away."

"Last time we hid until they went away, they nearly found us," Laura grumbled. "That's why we just bought two sets of mechanical wings that are as likely to kill one of us as not."

"See? It'll be us getting arrested," Aiden said, case-closed clear in his tone.

"Guess we'd better go for run for it then." Laura leaned slightly out of the shadows to check the empty road under the gas lamps. "Coach coming up."

"Here we go." Aiden flashed their lantern and got two flashes back from Evan and Alicia, skulking in the shadows on the other side of the Bridge. "Now?"

Laura checked again, the rumbling coach wheels just close enough to be heard through the cool late night air. "Twenty more seconds." She dug in her pocket for the second of the two remote detonators. "Ten more." Next to her, she heard Aiden dig out his own detonator and flip it open. "Five, four, three, two – now."

The flash of the small explosion in front of the coach was followed by the whir and clunk of a rapidly stopping engine, the lights on the coach rocking slightly with the abrupt halt.

"Wait for it," Aiden said quietly.

"Old model, doesn't go into reverse," Laura told him, and blew the second explosive, boxing the coach in.

The driver's window slid down and the driver leaned out. "I don't see –" she started, then yelped in apparent surprise as Alicia appeared out of the shadows, pistol in hand.

"Hello," Alicia said, her voice carrying easily. "Don't look to your left, there's one of us there as well."

The driver looked anyway, a quick glance before she faced back to Alicia again. "Any chance you're police?"

"There's not, no," Alicia said, sounding genuinely regretful. "We're here to rob your passengers."

"We should go," Aiden muttered in Laura's ear.

She hesitated – watching Alicia and Evan do their thing was fun, but more and more of the coaches carried guards these days, and Aiden and Laura didn't carry weapons (see: most likely to be arrested of the team). No guards had appeared yet, and the voices inside the coach didn't sound too terrified, interspersed with Evan giving orders and Alicia making nice with the driver. It seemed like the whole thing was going to be over quickly, which probably meant Aiden and Laura really did need to cut and run, before someone started to wonder if the explosions had been caused by other people than Alicia and Evan.

"Back at base in twenty," she said.

In the coach's lights, she saw Aiden nod agreement. A moment later, they turned in opposite directions, and Laura heard Aiden's soft footfalls heading towards one of the staircases down into the City.

Laura was just at the top of her chosen staircase when she heard the staggered dual whir of two pairs of wings starting up. She grinned – for once in their lives, things were working to plan – and jumped down the top couple of steps, catching her balance on the stone banister.

Halfway down, the whir got closer, and she looked up to see Evan come flying over the edge of the Bridge and pass her, heading down. "Nice work, Boss," she called, not even sure if he'd hear her over the whir of the engines.

Apparently he did, turning slightly towards her. "Thanks," he called back, right before something in the wings gave an alarming shriek, the wings stopped, and Evan yelled in surprise. Barely a handful of seconds later, he crashed to ground in a heap of twisted metal.

"Evan!" Laura yelled, stumbling and slipping down the steps.

"I'm fine," he called up to her.

She went down to her knees next to him as he finished speaking, reaching for the straps of the gadget. "Sure?"

"Bruised," Evan said, pushing himself to his knees. "At least one of them worked."

From the other side of the Bridge came the shriek of their second pair of wings dying, followed by a crash. Laura looked back to Evan, who was frowning. "And it was all going so well," he said, holding out a hand for Laura to pull him upright. "Come on, let's go see what we can pull out of the disaster this time."

Laura took the second satchel from him, contemplated the wings for a moment, then abandoned them. "Could be worse," she said brightly. "Could be raining."