“Take any character from one of your books and put them in a therapy session. Write a (short!) scene about what happens. (You can include multiple characters and make it a group therapy session.)”
I should probably have known better than to accept this prompt, shouldn't I?
Yeah. I really should.
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There is a well-known phrase that says "don't bite the hand that feeds you". Charley, who rather liked such phrases, would probably have deployed it, were she not absolutely certain that doing so would have resulted in a swift and messy death.
Ah well. Those barricade-making classes had paid off, at least.
Bang! Bang! Thunk!
Alright. Who gave Rin a handgun?
"Wow. Inspirational progress there."
"Find me something more powerful than a pea-shooter before you drench me in sarcasm, will you?"
"My apologies, esteemed leader."
"Oh shut it! Look, why don't we just climb over the thing and -- "
"-- And impale ourselves to save her the trouble? Dear me, Rin, I'm honestly beginning to doubt you know one end of a sword from the other."
Despite herself, Charley cackled. The words 'Rin' and 'esteemed leader' wouldn't have been half as funny coming from anyone other than Vidal Stormlord. Then again, the notion of her irritable red-haired mercenary and the self-styled Kingmaker of Tanelorn in the same room together would have been hilarious until half an hour ago. Perhaps it was just as well that they had joined in the spontaneous revolt that had swept the foyer of the Helping Hand Centre for Traumatised Fictional Personages, otherwise there might well have been trouble. And more than a few lost teeth, among other things.
A sudden flash of inspiration caught Charley's mind, and she pulled a small notebook out of her pocket, flipping through pages until she reached the relevant list. Yes, sieges were definitely a very sore point for Rin - no wonder he was so grouchy. 'Borderline PTSD' was what the self-diagnosis system had said, but maybe she wouldn't push it that far. Never mind. That explained his uncharacteristically bad mood. Vidal, though . . . she hadn't irrevocably damaged him with anything table-shaped, had she? She tapped the pen idly against her teeth, and the hollow clicking echoed worryingly in the silence.
"Aha. She's still back there, then."
"If you need ears that big to tell me that, I -- ACK!"
Crash. Thud. Profanities.
Someone whistled through their teeth. "Twelve hells, that's quite a kick yer lordship!"
"Made a bigger dent than he did with your pistol, didn't I?"
"Ehhhh . . . " Abra - for that was who it was, no doubt - considered the situation. Despite her abandonment issues, inferiority complex, and rampant OCD, Abra was, in Charley's experience, generally fairly amicable. Except, she thought, slapping her forehead, she was also a part-time leader of a radical equalist movement.
That made two people who were at their most dangerous when confronted with impregnable barriers. Whoops.
"I do wish our friends would get back soon. Can't take that long to find a key, can it?"
"As talented as they are, Miss Abra," Rin muttered, extricating himself from the man-shaped hole he had made in the barricade's base, "I doubt they have much experience conducting sieges on broom cupboards."
Let alone broom cupboards with back doors, Charley thought sourly. Seriously! Who thought the cleaners' storage room was a good place to put a Fire Exit?
A sudden clattering and slamming of doors heralded the arrival of more mutineers. Charley risked scooting out from under the pool table to peer through the legs of an upturned chair. Her peephole was no more than half an inch across, but she'd have to have been deaf, blind and incredibly stupid not to recognise the entrants. They, after all, posed a much greater danger than the other three, originating as they did from a genre that granted them knowledge of things like door keys, elevator shafts, and semi-automatic machine guns.
The fact that their leader was easily the biggest bundle of trauma ever to exist in Charley's head did not help. With systematic torture, medical experimentation sans anasthetic, short-term amnesia, chronic insomnia, and a pretty serious form of resultant psychosis under his belt, among other things, Charley dearly hoped Shard's soldierly deference to the unofficial leadership of Abra would prevent him unleashing his worst upon her unfortunate personage.
"No luck with a master key," said Shard darkly, "but we've got the back of the Fire Escape surrounded. I've got Dane working on deactivating the automatic lock. I don't know if she had enough time to block that too, but either way, it'll be another way in. Then again, the time it's taking Dane to find the right system, we'd have better luck waiting for the doors to rot and drop off."
Abra sighed, "Huh. Brute force and ignorance it is, then. Don't suppose you're willing to take that hellish elevator down and find us some decent ammunition? We've tried most everything here. She stripped all the useful stuff from this floor to make that blasted barricade. It's been like taking a stick to a steel elephant."
"Well, I don't know," said Vidal evenly, "our friend Rin did a marvellous job, for an impromptu projectile."
"I'll give you 'impromptu projectile' you crook-eared, mangey sack of --"
As Charley momentarily scribbled a note on Vidal's page - 'false egotism and bullying behaviour evident as result of familial and societal rejection' - the foundations of the world itself seemed to take leave of their senses. As noises of alarm rose from the hallway, Charley dived away from her peephole and crammed herself as far as she could under the foundations of the barricade. The structure rattled and creaked horrifically overhead, and topmost parts broke loose and flew every which way, raising shrieks of pain and fear from all quarters.
When the world stopped shaking, Charley cracked open an eye. Then, slowly, excruciatingly slowly, she began to climb up the barricade, moving as cautiously as she could through the wreckage. A dozen pairs of eyes watched her balefully as she found her way to the top, and draped herself across a pilfered armchair. She smiled at them.
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