Quick as a flash, Naffur was back on his feet and jamming the close door button. As the metal slowly lurched to respond, Naffur also pressed in the button for the ground floor. Anything to get away from this place.
“Excuse me young man, but no matter who you are you cannot- is this blood?” Senator Firefly’s voice started out stern, but it abruptly switched to concerned as he noticed the state of Naffur. Only when the metal doors slid shut, blocking out the sound of Dank’s cursing as he struggled to clean the melted flesh off of his helmet, did Naffur relax.
Naffur tried to imagine what he looked like as he turned around to face the Senator. He likely didn’t look like he was a no good street rat whose heart was pounding in his ears. But then again… maybe Naffur did. He felt so small and dirty before this man. He was not large, but his eyes were incisive and bright.
Those eyes seemed capable of piercing right through Naffur’s mask and seeing him for who he truly was. A fraud. He was not the Ghosthound. He was nowhere near a hero. He was just a kid that was in way, way over his head. And maybe this was his chance.
Blood dripped down Naffur’s soaked suit and pooled on the ground of the elevator. He hadn’t soaked up much, as it was partially dried, but it was still enough to leave very noticeable stains. Aside from the crimson shirt, the rest of the clothes were probably a lost cause. His Ghosthound mask seemed to be melted in the corner where a bolt of plasma had whizzed too close to him.
As Naffur opened his mouth to confess everything to this imposing older gentleman, two things happened at once. First, the pain of having his thumb burned off by plasma finally stomped past the haze of adrenaline and began to rip apart his resolve to come clean.
The second thing is that there was an audible sound of impact above, and the elevator started to accelerate somewhat. It moved right passed safe speeds and into free falling in the next four seconds.
“Damnit, I knew we shouldn’t have traveled separately…” Senator Firefly muttered to himself. Then he shook his head and looked at Naffur with a more measured gaze. “...well, going the silent route, are you? I suppose it is safe to say you are not friendly with these volatile elements, then. Please, stand back.”
It felt like the small elevator was careening downwards at ever higher speeds as Naffur obligingly stood with his back against the wall as the Senator rolled up his sleeves. It surprised Naffur, but the vantage point was enough to show that the Senator was trembling.
Good. So Naffur wouldn’t be the only one who had peed himself before they died.
“Flaming Burst!” The Senator shouted as he pointed at the wall. A balloon of flame seemed to inflate from his hand, and even though he had rolled up the sleeves of his shirt, there was the distinct smell of burning cloth. The wall of the elevator began to tremble and ooze as the high heat destabilized the metal. For several long seconds, the walls distorted as the Senator continued to apply heat.
The Senator seemed pleased with this development, but Naffur just stared wide-eyed at the man. The heat in the elevator was rapidly rising to something that felt like 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Then, of all things, the Senator bashfully looked over his shoulder at Naffur and coughed lightly.
“I- ahem, excuse-” But the Senator couldn’t talk anymore, because he was hacking as he attempted to breathe, only to find nothing that could sustain him in the air. Naffur wasn’t completely sure, but he knew that oxygen burned away when fire was used in an enclosed space. People with higher Endurance and Vitality could ignore the lack of oxygen for a short time, but it was very hard to convince your body to ignore its biological imperatives.
Even Naffur felt a slowly rising, panicked, need to breathe. There was a story that Naffur always liked about how the Ghosthound walked to the bottom of Lake Apollo to slay a dragon and stayed there for three days, not moving until the dragon thought the Ghosthound had departed and walked right out of its cave into his waiting arms.
‘You ARE NOT the Ghosthound!’ A part of Naffur screamed at him. That was the part of him that wanted to curl up and hope that nothing bad would happen as this tiny, partially melted metal box crazed into the ground floor. The floor indicator was rushing past 10 now and was very quickly at 9.
Of all things, the throbbing pain of his missing thumb brought Naffur back from a panicked state to something resembling calmness. Time seemed to slow, although that was perhaps just his overdramatic mind thinking about how long it had been since he had breathed. Feeling the agony and strain in every corner of his body… all Naffur could think of was how he didn’t want to die.
Naffur clenched his fist as he watched the Senator with a red face and hacking up phlegm. This man… perhaps he was good at running a district and voting on taxes, but he was a fool. For whatever reason, Naffur felt no desire to help the man, but rather…
Rather, some selfish part of Naffur that had Skulked in alleys as richer individuals walked by wanted to prove to these people that they weren’t all they were cracked up to be. There was something more important than money. Naffur would prove he mattered.
Senator Firefly had fucked them by melting the elevator wall so it would collapse and smother them when they crashed to the ground. But Naffur could save them.
Not that the Senator was wrong. The elevator indicator ticked past 8 to 7. The lower 10 floors of the Manhattan building had the elevators descend through a glass tube in full view of the lobby. If the wall of the elevator could be broken, it would be easy to leap out and not end up like old vegetables smooshed in a tin can.
The indicator ticked to 6. Naffur shoved Senator Firefly to the side and stepped up to the wall. He clenched his fist, even without a thumb. His knuckles were knobby and deformed: Naffur knew that when the missing thumb pain faded, he likely had some damaged bones in his hand. But he couldn’t stop now, could he?
‘Was this how the Ghosthound felt?’ Naffur wondered as he smashed his fist harder than he had ever dared before against the wall of the elevator. ‘You start down a path… and by the end, you don’t know why you are here, but you simply cannot stop.’
The wall of the elevator erupted outwards, smashed back the glass casing of the elevator shaft in a glittering explosion. Inwardly, Naffur belatedly remembered there would be normal people below who might be affected by the raining glass. He smiled ruefully as he stepped forward towards the opening. It was definitely just his imagination, then. The Ghosthound would never do something as selfish as this.
The Ghosthound especially wouldn’t leave-
Blinded and coughing, the Senator stumbled back into Naffur as he took a step forward. Once more in a heap of limbs, the two of them tripped together and tumbled out of the elevator. Naffur was on the bottom, so his back was ravaged as the elevator continued to descend and his body was forcefully used to shatter the glass shaft.
But the pain once more focused Naffur. He roared as they tumbled through the air, and he gripped the Senator by the lapels. To his surprise, the other man’s weight was easily maneuvered by his current crazed state. He would have perhaps begun to throttle the man, but then they hit the floor, feet first.
This time, the Senator was on the bottom, and with a cry, he fell to the ground. The ground floor was a bank lobby, and there were about 20 people standing around frozen as Naffur and the Senator crashed into the ground. Naffur swayed and stumbled, but managed to stay upright. There were four guards visible by the doors, and another ten waiting in various locations around the ground floor. The memory surfaced like a bad smell, causing Naffur to wince.
Then the elevator crashed to the ground behind him, and Naffur was once more almost knocked off his feet. There was a wave of force and billowing clouds of shattered plaster that spread throughout the whole room.
“You…” Naffur said angrily, feeling his pulse pounding in his ears. It felt like his suit had been completely ripped up the back and his flesh had been shredded by the glass. With a roar, Naffur grabbed the Senator and threw him bodily, almost like one would see on a professional wrestling show.
As if on cue, the shattered glass arrived, raining down on the area that the Senator had just vacated. The small bits embedded themselves in Naffur’s back, and he grit his teeth to keep from crying. The tinkling sound of falling glass slowly stilled as Naffur breathed heavily to try and catch up with all of the wild emotions that were pulling him in different directions.
Pain, fear, exhaustion, surprise, regret…
With a crash, Dank, in full battle regalia, slammed into the nearby ground. Without even turning fully, the power armor pivoted and backhanded Naffur. Helplessly, he tumbled sideways until he cracked into the hard marble counter of the bank tellers stations and everything went dark.