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Flick was half way down the road towards the pawnbroker, with her eyes fixed upon the shop's sign, when she heard the first yell.

 

“Freak!”

 

It stopped her in her tracks.

 

“Get out of it! We don't want your kind around here! Go back where you came from!”

 

Flick had hunched down without even thinking about it, as if she could somehow hide and make herself look more like a noonday. She looked around, frightened by the aggression in the stranger's voice. It sounded like the kind of voice that wanted to break things. Maybe break her.

 

For a long, scary moment she couldn't see anybody, and then she understood it was because the voice had come from the mouth of an alleyway just ahead of her.

 

“Freak! Monster! Get lost!”

 

There were several voices, Flick realised. She peered very cautiously around the corner of the alley, wondering if it was another gloam in trouble, and what she could do about it if it was, and then she sagged with relief to see that it was just a fauxbeam. There were five or six young noondays surrounding it in the alleyway. The fauxbeam had fragmented into half a dozen flimsy shadows in different shades of grey, and all of them had their translucent hands opened, palms forward, trying to ward off the blows that were already starting to fall upon it. It was making a frantic, wordless keening sound of distress.

 

Flick turned away. It was none of her business, after all, and the fauxbeams weren't welcome anywhere. It wasn't the first time she'd seen one getting beaten up, and it wouldn't be the last. That was just the way of the world. No point borrowing trouble.

 

...

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