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Fight or Flight

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The sunlight glowed off the white buildings, giving them a pale golden hue. The grey cobblestones of the streets were likewise enhanced by the light's gentle caress, turned a soft, dusty silver. Lining the streets, trees rustled peacefully in the breeze as people streamed past them; their leaves gave off a sweet, fresh scent that mingled with the countless other smells rising from the city. Meat, roasting on a spit; wine and spices, from the merchants in the market; and as always, the smell of people. The city brimmed with them, making last-minute deals with the traders and travelling folk in the square, the monks that moved silently among the crowds, the guardsmen swinging their truncheons. They moved fast and slow, a never ending stream of humanity going about its business. In an hour or so, the sun would be down and the river of people on the streets would thin out to a trickle.
Take a closer look. A young man weaves his way in among the crowd. He is wearing simple black clothes; his boots are sturdy, clean but dull from use; shaggy black hair reaches his shoulders, contrasting sharply against his pale skin. His eyes are deep violet, although they are turned indigo, almost black, by the faded light. He is scowling. This is his usual expression, this intense look of concentration and irritation; his gaze flickers from side to side, as though he is looking for something. He moves fast: the moment he reached a side street, where the crowds flow thinner, he breaks into a run. His long legs eat up the street; he runs like a drop of oil rolling its way across marble, smooth and fluid, graceful. He turns a corner, back into the crowd. Slowing abruptly to his original pace, he hurries between groups of people, allowing the tide to push him along the street even as he moves across it. When he reaches the exit he wants, he dives for it, picking up his run again, almost a sprint; whatever it is he is running for, it is important. He turns corners, navigates a web of side streets, each one less busy than the last, until finally, his destination is in sight. A long, low building in white marble with a shallow roof. The man speed up: he is running flat-out, now. He comes within a few metres of the wall, and hurls himself at it, legs still running, arms stretched in front of him, and for a moment, he is suspended in the air, like some grotesque cat - then time catches him, and he slams into the side of the building. He tucks up one knee as the marble rushes towards him, and instead of his body smashing against the stone, the balls of one foot land. He pushes off once again, propelling himself upwards, now, and his reaching hands grasp the edge of the roof. He pushes himself off the wall, pulling with his arms, and within seconds, he is rolling onto the roof, his momentum dragging him upright. With a relieved grin - this appears to be more than merely an athletic achievement - he turns and jogs over the top of the building, to a small hatch at the far end. Kicking it open, he drops inside and bolts it above him.
He is in a corridor, with white walls and a dark wooden floor. The man breathes quickly, shallowly, as he walks. Despite his heavy boots, his movements are totally silent. He reaches a door, pushes it open and enters a room. The light spills in through the large window, illuminating a small room with a table, chairs and three doors, the third being the one he has just entered by and is now locking. Grinning to himself, the young man quickly strips off his clothes and collapses onto the bed in the next room, sprawling across it with his eyes closed. There is a contented smile on his face.



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