The streets shook. Babies cried. In the distance, sirens. And above it all, a deafening bellow ripped through the sky: “SINGE CITY, ARE YOU READY?”
No one needed to believe it to see it. Atop the spiraling tower of glass and steel, on the big “K” of the “BANK OF SINGE,” perched a girl as tiny as her voice was loud. She was dressed like a bachelor at a cocktail party, all bowties and tailored, clean-pressed lines. As if answering the question of how such a loud noise can come out of such a small thing, she winked, opened her mouth, and screamed.
It was loud. Windows shattered, and the people who hadn’t already done so stopped in their tracks. Whatever she wanted to do, it worked.
With the full attention of the crowd, she took a breath and a bow, and raised her voice once more. “Thank you, thank you!” she smiled, strolling across the rooftop. The heels of her dress shoes clicked as she walked, a crisp sound that filled the silent air. “So. You might be wondering what I’m doing here today.”
The lights of the sign below her feet flickered once, twice, then imploded – not in a bright flash of light, but into a still, consuming darkness.
The tiny girl did nothing but laugh and adjust her bowtie. “My name is Announcer Underground, and I’m here to rob your bank!”
Still laughing, she stepped off the roof.
Inside, the walls of the bank vault held strong, even as tremors shook the ground around them. Delinquent Underground sighed loudly. When her partner in crime didn’t notice, she swished her ponytail in Colourist Underground’s face.
“Sorry,” Colourist signed quickly, before turning back to her drill. The drill wasn’t making much headway through the vault walls. Even if the drill was enhanced by Colourist’s super speed, the walls were still 3 feet thick.
“Well, I don’t know why you’re apologizing,” Delinquent scoffed, talking to nobody at all. “It’s not like the plan hinges on you – oh wait! It totally does!”
Colourist, of course, doesn’t hear her.
“Oh, if only the walls were as soft as the skies,” Delinquent lamented, “if only, if only, the woodpecker sighs. Get it? The drill’s the woodpecker. Because it’s pecking the wood. Walls. The walls are the wood.”
Colourist, ignoring the elbows stabbing her ribs, continued to not hear her.
Apparently happy with being ignored, Delinquent switched to singing. She had the capacity to sing perfectly well, but was singing off-key for the sake of singing off-key. Again, this is knowing full well that no one can hear her. Her wayward eyes teleported a coin back and forth between her hands to the beat of the music, back and forth and back and forth. Between verses, she popped a pink bubble in Colourist’s face.
Colourist unhooked a belt of spray cans. Delinquent got the hint and stayed far, far away from the impending makeover.
“You know how magicians never reveal their tricks?”
Announcer had reappeared on the opposite side of the street. She strode along as nonchalantly as nonchalant can be, as if a hand made of shadow hadn’t snatched her from the air just a moment ago. Hundreds of heads turned in unison to follow her, too afraid to leave and too mesmerized to want to. There was no spotlight, and yet, the shadows curved away from her, framing her in ivory and gold.
“Well, good thing we’re crooks, because I’m going to tell you exactly how we’re going to do it.”
She said something else, but even her voice was drowned out by the sound of a cavalry of watchmen on horses blaring handheld sirens.
“We have you surrounded!” one watchman yelled. It would’ve been more effective if his voice didn’t crack in the middle. He tried again. “We have you surrounded! We are armed with destabilizers! Come down from the roof with your hands behind your back!”
She smiled broadly and ran a hand through her hair, tracing along an electric gold streak. “Excellent! An audience!” She turned and looked at the empty ground beneath her. “Heartbreaker, please give them a warm welcome.”
In the shadows, red lips smirked, and a pair of perfectly manicured hands rose.
“OH MY GODS!” A woman screamed, looking in horror at the ground. Shadows were rising from the ground and solidifying into masses of darkness you could only describe as human-ish. They were monsters, dripping with shadowy flesh and sunken features. They grabbed the watchmen from behind and pulled them off the horses. One watchman swung his destabilizer rod in a wide arc in a panic, but all it did was pass harmlessly through the ambling monster. It hit another watchman in the chest and he fell to the ground, convulsing. The monsters grabbed them both and held tight. The startled horses fled straight through the monsters and into the night.
Announcer looked down at the herd of fleeing horses in amusement. “Tsk, tsk. No loyalty from your pets at all.”
“Come – come down with your hands behind your back!” One choked out.
Announcer’s eyes narrowed. She clapped twice at the ground, but the shadows didn’t need orders to do this deed.
She had been almost invisible, dark skin and dark clothes blended seamlessly into the dark. She knew it, and wished it, and yet, she adorned herself with rubies and flashes of red. Her bright flaming hair was a beacon that bled through the night. With every step out from underneath the shadows, her dress parted to reveal flashes of leg, heels, the fabric pooling around her feet. Her red lips twitched at the corners. She knew who she was, and she was a heartbreaker.
Heartbreaker walked over to the mouthy watchman and regarded him curiously. Then, as if indecisive, she slowly crushed his chest with her foot, her bright red heel digging into his windpipe. “Not too smart there, darling,” she sang, her voice rich and smooth as velvet.
Announcer never dropped her perfect smile. “As I was saying, my friends should be drilling into that supposedly impenetrable vault. Do you know why they call it impenetrable? Because if it’s tampered with, the watchmen are automatically summoned.” Heartbreaker dug her foot in a little deeper. “These watchmen.”
Announcer started pacing. “Not to mention, that vault wall can’t be cut through in a million years. They say it’s 3 solid feet of the finest metal ever forged, and the skylight is as invincible as anything could be. They say it would take an army hours to cut even a single line. I’m inclined to agree. Then again, my team only needs to drill a single hole, and that should be done in...” She checked her wrist, which boasted a brace and no watch, “...16 seconds.”
Delinquent was monologuing again, and she couldn’t stop pacing and rubbing her hands together like an evil supervillain.
Sweat dotted Colourist’s brow. Metal shavings covered her clothes, embedding themselves in her hoodie and sweats. They stuck to the magnets at the bottom of her spray cans. Her crop of white hair had taken on a shiny sheen. It gave it the appearance of porcelain, and probably the hardness of it, too.
The drill was finally wearing its way through the last few millimetres of the vault wall, but Delinquent was also wearing through the last of Colourist’s patience. Experiencing the world in super speed meant having to watch the slowest, most word-heavy play ever all the time, and frankly, she was tired of this one.
She was so lost in thought that she didn’t notice she’d been drilling empty air for multiple milliseconds. She turned the power off. Before she even pulled the drill out, Delinquent was backing up and screaming something at her. Out of the way, she assumed, but didn’t feel like sticking around to see the rest of the sentence.
In a flash, Colourist was out of there, and Delinquent was teleporting herself through the hole like a tiger jumping through a flaming hoop, eyes firmly set on the prize. Not a second to waste, those two. Not a second at all.