"Ay, Dios mío..."
Gwen's hands trembled, sending seismic activity through the sheet of newsprint between her fingers. She could scarcely believe the headline: Mass Explosions, Protagonists Blamed. There'd been five so far: three were abandoned border outposts, one on the outskirts of Vancouver, and one at The Tower. The outposts were completely destroyed, minor damage was done to the foundation of the Tower, and it seemed the Vancouver one was just for show.
But it wasn't the kaboom factor that stunned the Irish Pianist. No, it was the fact that they automatically blamed the Protagonists. "It is our duty, and the duty of the citizens, to annihilate this group of rogues. Our very safety may hang in the balance," read the final line of the article, attributed to no one in particular.
Shaking her head, Gwen plopped down against a building. She'd somehow managed to find her way to Winnipeg by this time. But she knew she was only about halfway there.
"I wonder if other folks've show up by now," she muttered to herself, fiddling with the paper. It felt good, having newsprint between her fingers again. "F'only I could feel those ivories again," she sighed nostalgically. Gwen glanced at the page, noticing how interesting the text looked when folded together.
Then inspiration struck. Her fingers moved habitually, manipulating the paper into a square, then began folding it. As she folded and creased, she began to sing a little under her breath:
I love a piano, I love a piano, I love to hear somebody play...
on a piano, a grand piano... it simply carries me away...
Gwen started, looking up. A pair of young men, about her age if she had to guess, stood before her. The one on her left looked a bit reproachful, but the other looked down on her smugly.
"Whatcha doin' there?" the right one asked (she decided to think of him as Derecho)
She shrugged, slowly rising. "Y'know, the usual: breathing, heart-pumping, involuntary impulses. Nothing out of the ordinary, really."
Derecho glanced at his partner, clearly off-guard. "That's not what he meant," the one on her left, whom she decided to call him Izquierdo, muttered. "What are you doing with your hands, and the paper?"
"Oh!" she cried in mock surprise. "Making a butterfly!" She held the folded newsprint in her cupped hands delicately, as if actually holding a butterfly. "Linda, ¿no?"
"Creative's more like it," said Derecho. "We're not liking that whole creative thing, y'know what I'm saying?"
Gwen rolled her eyes. "You sound like LitPol in training 'r'something."
"Smart girl. Got quite a mind under that peculiar hat, eh?"
"If I may say so, yes, I think I do. And even if I may not say so, I'm saying it anyway." She nodded defiantly, punctuating this remark.
The right one tilted his head to one side. Gwen imitated him. Izquierdo sighed.
"She's not hiding anything, let's just go," he mumbled pitifully.
"Hold on," snipped his partner. Reaching behind her neck, his fingers found a black cord and tugged. "What have we here?"
Gwen jerked to avoid possible strangulation. "Well, what do you think it is? It's a necklace, silly."
"With the ensigna of the Protagonists, no less." Derecho's eyes narrowed at the sight of the blue "P" and lime-green bolt on a black cord.
"She's not causing any trouble, we can just let her off with a warning," Izquierdo lamented.
"She could cause trouble," Derecho snapped. "I can tell from her dialect, she's from the States. Haven't you thought she might be part of those hooligans who've been causing trouble left and right?"
"Me? With them?" Gwen asked innocently, not bothering to conceal a smirk. "That's the most ludicrously, ridiculously insane idea I've heard in quite some time."
The two staggered backwards. "D-d'y'have any idea how many banned words you just used?" She nodded, perfectly content with herself. Then, without warning, she jerked herself forward, and threw one arm behind each of the two. In a blink she found the spot on their necks and pressed with her fingers. Slowly the two collapsed against each other, unconscious.
"Gotta love pressure points," she sighed to herself, adjusting her hat and stowing the necklace back into her collar. She picked up the origami butterfly off the ground, considering it thoughtfully, then setting it on Izquierdo's shoulder.
"A little souvenir for ya," she said to their unhearing ears. With a nod and a skip, she turned and high-tailed it to a nearby rail station.
Even though she allowed herself a little wiggle-room for a tiny bit of mischief-making here and there, if she had any hope of making it to the Safe in a punctual manner she had to keep moving.