Jessup rounded the corner in time to see a chair erupt from the plate glass window in the front of the address he had been given. The restaurants’ refugees invaded the quiet street. The former customer of the establishment clambered over each other and the shards of broken glass still decorating the window frame to get away from whatever it was that started the commotion.
Outside the group of three militiamen who were ambling along the other side of the street, chatting good-naturedly stopped and gawked. Jessup skidded to a halt. Too late, as one of the three pointed in his direction and gave a holler. So much for doing this quick and easy.
Luckily the confusion from the eatery was infectious. The few erupting patrons had become a mob of confusion as those trying to flee, clashed with those trying to run closer to see what had caused the ruckus. It was easy for Jessup to get lost in the fray, and find himself in front of the broken window.
The empty frame held a perfect picture of what misinformation and fear could do if delivered the right way and in the right amounts. The young militiaman in the establishment looked just about to piss himself as he faced down the source of the fray. A boy, no more than 15, sitting at the remains of a table, palms outstretched in surrender, looking just about as afraid and stupefied as the man who was screaming and pointing his weapon at him.
Jessup saw the potential for an ugly situation to turn hideous when he saw what had the militiaman crapping himself. The boy’s hands were on fire. More accurately, angry red flames danced across his palms. The boy, his eyes a bright cerulean, glanced back and forth in fearful awe between the end of the pistol and his flame covered palms.
The man kept screaming, even as the boy tried closing his fists and opening them. As the child tried shaking the hands, as if he were trying to extinguish the flames. Jessup saw the moment the man with the gun let lose his bladder and a bullet, and he was launching himself through the window when he saw bright blue eyes widen in shock and fear and then narrow in morbid determination. The bullet had gone wide, hitting nothing but a bottle of something oily and fragrant on the shelves behind the counter, but the flames now covered the whole hands, they had turned white and emanated a heat that Jessup could feel twenty feet away.
‘If they are going to shoot at me, then I must fight,’ the eyes said. Jessup, if he were having a civil conversation with the boy would have given him about 50 reasons why fighting with the man-boy, who now smelled of rotten onions and ammonia, was a bad idea. As it was they were in the middle of a potential war zone, with a mob forming and a veritable army on the way and there was no room for civil conversation.
Jessup leapt through the frame of shards and copied the boy’s submissive stance. He faced the boy but addressed the excrement soaked man-child quivering too hard to shoot either of them.
“Hey,” the boy just trembled in response. “You think pointing that thing at him is helping?” This time the boy offered a whimper and a squishy plopping sound emanated from his trousers. Jessup wasn’t sure if he was trying to suppress a laugh or a gag. “I would like to think putting it down would be a good idea.”
The gun clattered to the floor. Jessup now faced the boy.
“Hey kid.” Frightened eyes turned to the newcomer, one flaming palm also followed the motion. “You got a name?” Frightened eyes turned to the newcomer and the determination shifted focus. The man-boy took the chance to make a mad squishy dash though the agape restaurant door, but Jessup had no time to pay much attention.
“No name is fine. Do you know how to turn those off?” Jessup gestured at the hands, but his peripheral vision showed him that the crowd was looking less civilian gawker and more paramilitary by the second. Scared eyes shifted to the crowd, widened and then looked at Jessup. The boy shook his head no.
“First time this happen to you?” Nod Yes “Alright, so I’m here to take you somewhere safe. Would you be willing to do that?” Wide, scared, uncertain eyes just kept shifting from his face to behind him.
“Do you know what they will do to you?” Another nod, and tears misting up the corners of confused, wide eyes. “Kid you have the advantage, you have those, I have me and my wits and an order to get you to safety.” More staring, a mist became a dam, threatening to burst. “If I was looking to hurt you, I would have tried already.” The flames receded to the palms and returned to their original red. Not angry, these were flames of fear.
“Just don’t point those things at me, Ok? And I’ll get you out of here.” Jessup looked at the door to the back of the room. Actually he looked through the closed door, he knew his own eyes probably now blazed blood red, while he was using his abilities. The boys, eyes were wondrously wide when Jessup again focused on him. Jessup saw the core of flame in the boy, he saw the way it blazed and gutted, the flame mirroring the boy in uncertainty and fear.
Jessup motioned towards the door, and the boy took his que. He extended his arms out in front of him and allowed the red flames to spurt towards the door; the door simply parted and removed itself from their path. Out in the alley through the smoldering doorframe, there were no souls to be found. As if the mob in the front of the establishment had sucked all the living things out of the city immediately around them.
Jessup didn’t bother to ponder at it, he just ducked them around the alley and towards jetty at the end of the roadway. He splashed the boy with the cool water of the harbor and flung him, smoldering and confused into the dingy.