Tallied up, Jamie thought, things are a lot grimmer than they should be.
The LBA pilots had only left when their fuel ran out, late into the night. Hours had gone by and their effect on the Scavengers had been, truth be told, unprecedented.
The group of twenty was now twelve. The fact that plenty of vacant spots had now surged in the Teen’s roster wasn’t even an upside. Too many.
Zion died trying to lead some kids to safety. Emery was wounded doing the same, she was still being bandaged right there, as she tried to sit up straight in the chair that had been brought out for her. Andy was passed out on some bed, they didn’t know whether he’d make it. Blake was also dead. River and Sage were fine, as was the Schoolboy. One kid Jamie knew as a friend had died, but otherwise, no other close friends, just a balking number of acquaintances.
The Street Trash kept the mind busy, the role going. Kept the show on. Honest feelings itched the skin and pulsed within the heart. They wouldn’t get through.
Kids and nurses were spread out around the large room, still the underground cave, but now opened for others to take cover from an eventual, though highly unlikely, second attack.
The Street Trash was doing all he could to stand upright, a bit bent on his good leg as if too cool and relaxed to stand straight. The truth was that the leg wound pained too much when he put weight on it.
“I think we just received a grim reminder…” Sage slowly started up the impromptu meeting, “that we forgot something. In our planning.”
“Led By Anarchy,” River nodded.
“This…collection of psychopaths has been allowed to operate for far too long,” Emery said, angry. Visibly angry.
“We aren’t the only targets,” Jamie put forth, a little push towards the decision she wanted from them, “they’ll be striking others. Whoever supports the Shadow Conclave…”
“They’ll want to strike back,” Emery agreed, slamming her fist in her chair’s armrest.
“We’ll find out where to direct their efforts,” River said, looking around. Jamie then noticed the right side of her head was actually bloodied, she had not been untouched after all.
“We should go after them ourselves,” the Schoolboy put forth.
“Us?” Emery threw him a dirty look.
“Kids can make great assassins, we should just–”
“This line of thinking won’t be tolerated,” Sage interrupted, he was already playing the part of mediator. Zion’s part. Even his vocabulary had sharpened.
“We have one of the best information networks in the world. Beggars and homeless are more invisible than shadows and spies. We will find them.”
The teens, what was left of them, nodded. The Street Trash nodded with them but the Schoolboy was a second behind, looking all the more foolish for even trying.
Jamie smirked victoriously.
“I will still go to convince the holy lady.”
“Is it needed? With this attack, will that–”
“Yes.” Emery interrupted since it wasn’t a teen talking. Jamie felt good they hadn’t interrupted him, it was a good sign. “That oaf’ll get even more scared after losing three planes. ‘this is how we did against normal people,’ he’ll say, ‘imagine if we fight the dark ones!’”
“Coward,” River spat.
“None of us are that brave,” Sage commented, “we’re simply not foolish. Yes, Jamie, your mission stands.”
“What about leadership?” The Schoolboy, of course. “We need replacements for Zion and Blake, possibly Andy.”
“Andy will be just fine, boy.” Emery threw him another look.
“I’m guessing my boy here wants a spot,” River mentioned with a hint of amusement, “he’s of age, we could consider it.”
“Not the matter at hand,” Sage interrupted, “especially right now, we need you in the field, too. We need everyone in the field, at least for the next week.”
The Street Trash shrugged at the Schoolboy, who shot him a mean look.
I’m not scared of bullies…
His look said ‘you should be’ but Jamie didn’t even have to try to look unbothered, it came quite naturally.
“Jamie. You can get going.”
“Shouldn’t I stay and help with the rest of the decisions?”
“We’ll have to survive without you,” River quipped, “I think we might manage.”
Jamie laughed and turned around, walking out.
“Well, I certainly hope so. It’d be a pretty ugky shame for the Scavengers to crumble ‘cause o’ some rotten radishes like the LBA.”
“The Scavengers don’t crumble,” Sage stated as the Street Trash climbed the stairs, smiling to himself. “With or without the Street Trash.”
It didn’t matter what he said. Just the fact Sage acknowledged Jamie’s comment was victory enough. It meant Jamie was seen as an equal.
The Street Trash left back out into the street. It had been dirty before, dirt-poor dirty on the surface, but now it was a wreck. Emergency responders were everywhere, medics and firemen trying to help people still stuck and wounded inside broken buildings and exploded streets.
It was the greatest attack to the ego, to see the place that originated the Scavengers so… humbled. It was the sight of defeat, or at least, of a severe blow.
It was inevitable that the LBA would pay for it. Antagonizing everyone around the world? They couldn’t really expect to survive the year, but then, that was the point, wasn’t it?
They didn’t expect humanity to survive the year.
Jamie had never been a very emotional person, of course because of the fact she spent so long expertly faking it, but seeing that? Children she had interacted with for so many years, hurt or dead, her home smelling of burnt concrete and fear instead of the sea and confidence?
Her home was scarred. Her past was marred. Pretending like she was still on top was very hard.
I wonder if Falk’s got anything to do with this? That moment of doubt quickly dissipated, Jamie was certain of his character, he would most likely prefer to slaughter his whole guild rather than help them assist the beasts, insulted as he was. Hunter’s Guild, The Wild Felids, would probably be targeted as well, as would House of Magni, the Mafias, etc.
They would probably leave the Kagekawa alone since the beasts were already targeting them. How would they fare against organizations with actual combative capacity? Probably not as well.
But against them? Against a bunch of kids who spent their lives bluffing their way past danger and into ultimate riches? It had worked pretty well.
She sighed, her spite alone giving her the stubbornness to ignore the pain in the leg.
She went to Andy. As much as she could get away with antagonizing someone like Sage or Emery, it was important to have an ally, someone to vouch for her. Schoolboy’s was River.
Andy was lying in bed in an underground floor of a house, some houses had them, basements or caves turned into a one-bedroom flat.
He was awake, almost more on top of his hair than the bed sheets. Most of his torso were bandaged and his left arm was mutilated. Nothing was there from the elbow down.
“Hey Andy,” Jamie greeted, standing at his side, “yer gonna make it or what?”
“I figure,” he groaned painfully. “Death doesn’t hurt like this.”
“Yeah, it’s more of a sneaky bastard, right? You wanna know stuff about the teens?”
He looked at Jamie. The eyes were crying, they were red, probably from rage. Yet, they did not look the part they were playing. They loved, they asked for compassion, for Jamie to do whatever Andy asked and to trust him implicitly no matter what happened.
Andy was a dangerous individual.
“Let’s guess… they’ve decided to root out LBA members,” he casually stated, a hint of pain hiccupping his voice. “They’ll be attacking other groups so we’ll have them worry about actually fighting. Then, and I just guess, your task’s still the same. Then someone talked about electing new teens. That made you be a smart-mouth, which got you kicked out.”
“I am a smart-mouth, you trained me.”
Andy rolled his eyes and looked aside. A part of Jamie was sad at that, looking eye to eye was a warm feeling. The Street Trash ignored that part, of course.
“I lost my arm and I’m in a stupid amount of pain, Jamie, I don’t really have the patience for your games.”
Andy hadn’t trained Jamie, not really. They all trained themselves, sometimes by observation, but the only thing they were really taught by the teens was independence.
“They’re gonna pay, Andy,” she relaxed a bit, talking to him honestly, “and we’ll take down the dark ones, too.”
He tried to laugh but the pain forced him to cough and complain instead.
“Ow…ah. It might be the sedatives speakin’ but I believe ya.” He looked back at her. “You’ve always been different, Jamie. Better.” He squinted his eyes, lovingly and pleadingly at the same time.
What the hell?!
“If anyone can juggle the powers o’ the world n’ direct them appropriately…it’s you. If anyone can make a real difference in this fight, it’s you.”
Jamie opened her eyes, startled, almost shocked.
Andy thought they were all doomed.
“Yer bein’ weird.”
“Well, look the part, I always say,” he lifted his bandaged stump where the rest of the left arm used to be, “you want to be a teen, right? Or are you seein’ bigger things than the Scavengers?”
“I’m seeing nothing but LBA and the dark ones for my future,” she told him, still weirded out by his forthcoming attitude.
“Yes, one problem at a time,” he looked up, “things I say. I never trained you but it seems I was still able to teach you some.”
“Of course,” Jamie raised an eyebrow, “I was a kid once, who knew nothing.”
“You’re still a kid, Jamie.”
“That’s what we want others to think,” she smirked but he shook his head and grabbed her hand with his hand, his remaining one. She shuddered at the touch.
What…is going on? Is he testing me?
“You can’t change what you are, no matter how good you act.”
She looked at him seriously, challenged. She put all of her will into ignoring the feelings that were being manipulated by his look and by his words.
“Yes, I can.” She felt very honest, good delivery.
She pulled her hands out of his grasp in a quick jerk.
“’m not gonna hold yer hand, Andy. If that’s what you want, you’re in the wrong outfit.”
“Heh,” he looked away again, a relief that time. “So are you, if you plan on visiting the holy lady.”
She frowned and crossed her arms. He was touching an annoying point, which was the necessity to be Lady Sarah, Jamie’s identity in the royal courts. She dressed in fashionable dresses, the Street Trash didn’t like it.
“I’ll change, of course.”
“And what about that wound on your leg?”
So he noticed it. Am I not hiding it well enough? She thought momentarily. Ah, when I pulled away from his hand, I must’ve skipped my foot. He’s good.
“The dress will hide it.”
“Like it hides you?”
“Andy, please,” she rolled her eyes, reflexively arching her arms with her hands on her waist. “Yer bein’ a mucus butt, what’s wrong with you?”
He laughed his way into pain again. He was being way too familiar.
Once he regained control, he relaxed, even to the point of closing his eyes. For some reason, right then, she noticed they were alone. There had been a nurse there but she had left when Jamie had walked in and no one else had come inside.
“The Street Trash,” Andy voiced ominously. “The original titled thief, the source behind an entire criminal culture and the founder of the Scavengers.
“Do the name justice, Jamie.”
She softened her face, she couldn’t help it.
“Justice?” Jamie smirked, “by the time I’m done, that guy’s cred will be ancient history. They’ll be sayin’ ‘yeah, the first was hot stuff, but the fourth, though? That was the real deal.’”
He scoffed a smile and gave her a thumb up with his good hand.
“Get goin’, then. Go make your legend. But remember…if you have to remember anything, that… the Scavengers just get the scraps.”
She raised an eyebrow. Like any other big name organization, they had words, a mantra that defined them. “They get all the scraps they want,” she finished the saying, feeling odd. It made it feel so dramatic, to finish the saying off of someone else’s mouth. “You really are drugged up like crazy, huh?”
“Took a bit to kick in,” he dropped his hand in a sudden movement as if he had forgotten it up there. “But boy, it almost makes getting bombed worth it. Get outta ‘ere already.”
“Alright,” she turned around to leave, “see ya around, Andy.”
He hummed in response. She walked out and left feeling…incomplete. There was something she had missed in there, but to return would make her look bad. Despite the strangeness, she was confident Andy still had her in good consideration, and if there was a test, she had passed it for sure.
Still, it made her think. All the scraps we want.
Such a Scavenger thing to say, it was basically saying they get what they want, but in a way it seemed it was saying what they get is worthless. It was disarming and belittled, but it was still saying they get whatever they want.
Nobody thought highly of the Scavengers, only the top-most underworld entities were aware of the power and sway that the organization had over the nations of the world, and somewhat of an idea of the fortunes they had amassed. Everyone else didn’t think much of them, she was sure only one or two members of the LBA knew how important it was to try and strike them out.
That was, in many ways, their greatest achievement. But with the invasion and all the open aggression, the time might be arriving where that would no longer be possible.
The Street Trash put all those thoughts aside. One problem at a time, after all.
First order of business, wear a dress and manipulate one of the most powerful women in the world.