My ankle, which I had been able to blissfully ignore through a miracle of willpower and adrenaline, suddenly made its displeasure clear and decided it wouldn’t take orders from me anymore. I nearly fell, but caught myself with my power, teleporting back to my feet.
“Shit,” I gasped, frantically shifting all weight onto my left leg, my right now useless.
I teleported myself back to Emily. After I appeared, she sobbed quietly once before noticing me. She looked up at me, suddenly angry.
“I let him get away, didn’t I?”
“Manipulation is what he’s best at. There was nothing we could do against his precognition.”
“That fucker. I’m going to hunt him down.”
“I might be able to help with that, actually. I know where he’s going.”
It had been about 45 minutes, going by the clock on my comm.
Dr. Mind and Adam had approached us by now from where they’d been talking. I turned and addressed Dr. Mind.
“Dr. Mind, the subvocalizer got messed up. Anything you can do?” I stripped the band off my neck and handed it over. He nodded, made a few quick adjustments, and handed it back, fixed. I pulled it back on and immediately contacted Jamisson, running through a list of important information.
“Jamisson, we need backup and transportation. Kismet will be necessary. The Upright Man has escaped with Cryoclasm. I believe he’s Phenomena’s father, and had a similar powerset, though less precise and less limited in scope. We can’t counter his precognition with our current group. Emily has revealed an aspect of her power similar to Shatterpoint which may be very useful. Adam-“
“Shadow, focus. You can make a full report later. Transportation is on its way with Kismet, and Guardian Angel. Plateau, Legion and Jet are following. You said the Upright Man is Phenomena’s father? That can’t be right, he doesn’t have powers- he’s even registered as a member of… Oh. Hold on, let me get back to you.”
Only a moment later, our ride showed up. It looked like the CCPD had lent us an old emergency response vehicle -a cross between an ambulance and a SWAT van- while our vans were getting repaired. It screeched to a halt and the back opened, Guardian Angel leaning out and gesturing us in.
After some awkwardness, I discovered I could walk with only one leg by transposing my left leg to the front again after each step. It felt strange, only doing half of my normal walk cycle, but it seemed to work.
I started toward the back of the van to enter with the others, but the driver gestured to me to go around to the passenger seat.
“Jamisson said you’ll be giving directions. Dr. Mind can brief the others.”
I nodded and made my way into the passenger seat.
I pointed to where I could feel the mark I’d left on the woman from earlier, roughly in the direction the Upright Man had escaped.
“That direction, maybe 2 or 3 kilometers.”
Distance was much harder to determine than direction. The driver looked at me strangely, (probably, I realized, my use of kilometers- a habit I picked up from my mother) and set off along the street the closest to the right direction.
I rested my elbow on the dash and rotated my hand to point us towards our destination. Leaning back, I pulled open the hatch separating the front and back sections of the van.
“-they’re going to know we’re coming. This is where you are going to factor in, Kismet,” came Dr. Mind’s voice. “Precogs counter precogs very effectively, so you should be enough of a variable to shut down his precognisance if you use your power as much as possible. This does mean that your power won’t be completely reliable either, so be on guard.”
“What kind of attack pattern does he have?” asked Guardian Angel. Very textbook- attack patterns weren’t reliable at all in practice. Dr. Mind understood, though. I guessed that’s what they’d learned about in the Hero program today.
“I couldn’t tell. His power’s effects are invisible.”
I spoke into the back of the van, holding down the button to let my voice also be transmitted by the subvocalizer to the others in the police car following behind us. “His power creates about twenty invisible copies of him which he can teleport or use to view the future, like Phenomena. The more he has in the field, the weaker his precognisance is. Because of this, he attacks in bursts, occasionally pulling his projections into the future to assess strategies and determine threats. He prioritizes based on who his precognition tells him is most dangerous, making him very adaptable.”
“I wasn’t aware he could teleport them. How could you tell?” Asked Dr. Mind.
“I can feel them with a secondary power, sensing disturbances in the air. He can’t teleport them into open air, though, so you should be safe, Guardian Angel.”
“He’s a crowd of invisible, teleporting, precognitive assholes,” summarized Emily. I thought that described him nicely.
We strategized for a moment.
“I can make the first move and disable the woman immediately, if you let me borrow your stun baton, Dr. Mind,” I suggested, “but the Upright man will probably notice me before I can do anything.”
“What if I tell you when to go in?” Suggested Kismet. “He can’t predict what I’m going to do without causing a feedback loop. I can imagine it would have been.”
“That could work,” commented Dr. Mind. “You know, I can’t tell you how useful it would have been to have a precog on our team back in the day.”
Kismet paused for a moment, realizing that she’d gotten ahead of us in the conversation.
“There’s a reason we’re rare. Huh? What do you mean?”
“I’m going to have to tag everyone so I can get back out, though. I don’t want to get stuck in there.” I paused for a moment while I caught up with what Kismet had said. Her power still confused me sometimes, thought the others seemed to have gotten used to her responding to questions before they ask them. She could usually adapt, but since the length of her precognition changed unpredictably she would occasionally get off. That she kept falling behind suggested that her window was lengthening, for whatever reason. “It’s part of my power I found recently. I can mark people with my power and teleport between them, as well as track their location.”
“Here?” She replied.
-“Hold on, we’re close” I said-
“Yes,” I said, going against my natural instincts. I guess my father’s insistence on training how to work around precogs is going to be very useful.
“Don’t do that!” Kismet said, wincing.
“Do what?” Guardian Angel looked confused. Dr. Mind explained.
“He changed what he did based on what she said, shunting us into a different probability.” He turned to Kismet. “You’re going to have to get used to that, because it’s going to be our main weapon against the Upright Man. Every time that happens, he’ll lose sight of our location in causality.”
I turned to the driver and motioned for him to stop, pointing to where I could feel an office in which waited the woman I’d tagged.
“Stop here. It’s that building.”
“Wardens, I have some intel for you,” came Jamisson’s voice. “Phenomena’s father works for an anti-powers group called “Virtue.” The building you’re in front of now holds their Collswell offices on the ninth floor. They dropped off the radar a few years back when their founder was murdered by the villains Turncoat and Hypocrite, but re-emerged recently with a new face, a man named Pierce Honnete. He’s been making speeches calling for more power regulation and causing quite a stir in political circles; that’s what’s been keeping Paragon busy in DC. If the Upright Man works for Virtue, it explains why he’s been using villains to break up prominent hero teams like the Wardens of Justice. No matter who wins, there are fewer capes around.”
He paused for a moment, letting the information sink in.
“The woman is a tinker by the codename “Chastity,” going by the logo on her equipment; it’s ‘Chaste-Tech, not Chas-tech. Specialty unknown.”
“The cardinal Virtues,” came a synthesized rendition of Guardian Angel’s voice as he spoke through the subvocalizer. “Honesty, Chastity, whatever the Upright Man is, probably Patience or something because he’s a precog, Chari- wait, what the-“
Everyone reacted almost immediately, except Kismet, who had reached the conclusion moments earlier.
“That’s the connection I made as well. Charity is still involved in a fight with Blackwell that shows no signs of stopping, but once that’s over, I’m going to call her in for questioning. You have other priorities for now. What worries me is that there might still me a Temperance, a Humility, and a Kindness out there.”
“A Kindness,” I recalled suddenly. “Chastity said that telling the others would be ‘a Kindness.'”
“We can discuss this later. For now, go retrieve Cryoclasm. If you can, I advise using her to get Pyroclasm back too. Getting the Upright Man and Chastity into custody is vital, but don’t get caught off guard by Pyroclasm. If he’s not held back by his sister, he could be the most dangerous of any of them.”
Guardian Angel finally took the lead, and we started to plan.