Tyson grabbed Samantha’s hand and pulled her down being the car, a shiny blue SUV of some sort or the other. He left her squatting behind the back tire while he hopped towards the front one, not a moment too soon, as the windows were shattered in a spray of bullets while he crouched down.
“Holy shit,” yelled Samantha. “Who are they? And who are you?!” She glanced frantically at Tyson for a moment before her curly, brown hair began flying everywhere as her head darted back and forth. She tried to see the men who had been following her, but she whimpered and ducked back down as the echo of gunfire filled the low ceiling parking garage.
“I’m Tyson, we had class together this morning, remember?” he young man said calmly. His eyes and voice didn’t falter as he spoke to the frightened mess a few feet from him. “And those men are here to kill you. Don’t worry though,” he said as he took out of small box of matches and lit a cigarette. “I lost the guys after me already.”
“That… That doesn’t answer anything! Why are people trying to kill me? Us?”
“Well, you weren’t the only one pulled out of class today, you know. You really should pay more attention to the people around you. I was wanted as well, so looks like we’re both special.”
“What the hell? You mean this has something to do with the damn Churches!? That’s ridiculous! It’s just all showboating and ritual, some way to hold onto power. The government hires everyone that can Convert, that’s the whole point of our university! And why are you smoking right now?!” Samantha was yelling louder and louder as she started to rise on her haunches. She was no longer sitting with legs pulled up, she looked like she was ready to run at a moment’s notice from the scary calm guy who wanted to smoke while being shot at.
“Well it looks like you’re wrong about the Churches. We have power, and they want it. Or they at least want to make sure nobody else can have it. The men after me were only trying to catch me though, they didn’t just start shooting. What did you do anyway?” Tyson’s light brown eyes seemed to sparkle as he spoke to the girl, as though he were about to burst out into laughter.
“I, um… Might have told them I wasn’t really interested in being a part of the Church. I mean, I don’t really like standing out. I only joined the Conversion course because I qualified and could make good money.” Samantha looked down sheepishly as she admitted that, as though it were a crime in itself. Her head suddenly darted back up with wide eyes. “Tyson! Tyson they stopped firing. …Oh gods, does that mean they’re getting closer? Oh gods, protect us, please!”
“Well, they’re going to help but we’re going to do the work,” he answered. He slowly got onto one knee while he tossed his cigarette away. “Do you remember the class this morning?” Samantha looked at him incredulously, suddenly realizing what he was suggesting.
“No. No we cannot be trying that. We’ve had one class, one half of an intro class, on how to Convert. The prof barely went over the basics!” Tyson really did laugh aloud at that point.
“It’s do or die at this point. I can see one of them in the reflection of that car over there,” he said as he pointed over Samantha’s shoulder. “Trust me, Sam. It’ll be easy.” He ignored her glare as he casually nicknamed her. “Remember the three things needed to Convert? No? Ok, I’ll make this quick. First, you need an Offering. There’s a trick though, it has to be in your possession, that’s important by the way. We’ll get back to that one.” He pulled out his small box of matches, made sure Samantha saw it, and tossed it over the SUV they were hiding behind.
“Next, you need the Desire. You need a clear picture of what you want to happen. We need a distraction so I’ve got that covered as well. Finally you need a Prayer. It’s flexible, but try to be clear about it. The Gods like eloquence. Or wit. And they really like you to say their name and-“
“Hurry the hell up!” Samantha snapped at him. She could see another of the men, he was only a few cars away. She began to wonder why it was taking them so long to get across the garage when Tyson began speaking again. His voice was different this time. Still as calm, but it almost echoed. And she could swear that as she saw his eyes shut they had been a different color. Her hair stood on end and her body relaxed, as if this were something familiar. Somebody was Converting right in front of her eyes. Somehow, he was able to channel The Cycle.
“Lillian, Lady of Fire,
Hear my need, my desire.
Uh, something something I need to run far.
Take my matches, blow up that car.”
Samantha gaped at him as he spoke the second half of his prayer. “What was that?! You can’t just-“ She was cut off as Tyson jumped up, grabbed her hand, and pulled her along as he ran. He was laughing. Again.
“It’s fine, it was funny! She likes that about me, at least.” He didn’t look back as he ran, with her in tow. They were past the first car when she heard the men shouting, and past another when she heard an explosion and a resounding crash of another car. She tried to glance behind her, only to see three cars on fire, with a bumper of another stuck in the cement ceiling. The men chasing them before were now either screaming in pain or trying to help their burning comrades. She gulped as she held onto the hand of a near stranger. Somebody who had saved her life, somebody who could joke with a God, somebody who laughed in the face of chaos and fire. Somebody who scared her terribly.
She held on tighter and tried to keep up.