Paragon and Guardian Angel crouched side-by-side on the roof of the warehouse, watching the door across the street. The waves from the ocean crashed faintly in the frigid dusk air.
“This is not quite what I expected, Guardian Angel said.
“This is maybe 60 percent of what we do,” Paragon replied, not shifting his gaze. “Along with another 30 percent paperwork and speeches.”
“When are we going to do something?” Guardian Angel replied, shifting his weight to ease sore calves.
“Just as soon as someone opens that door.”
“It’s abandoned! There’s nobody in there.”
“Wrong. This is the last known location of someone named Randwulf -it’s German or something- and for some reason as soon as he showed up, the Anchor Boys got violent.”
“They started out randomly raiding abandoned buildings for squatters which makes almost no sense, then suddenly escalated to robbing stores and entire shopping malls for worthless junk. They hit an antiques store, a discount secondhand electronics store, and a pawnshop, most recently.”
“Those aren’t high-priority targets, but this was an organized group. It wasn’t just desperate punks looking for some quick cash, they had a goal in mind, and it wasn’t the money or high value merchandise.” Paragon glanced over at Guardian Angel. “You know what that means?”
“No.” Guardian Angel shook his head. “No idea.”
“That means they found a tinker, who needs supplies. Worse, it’s probably a tinker with a quirk.”
“A quirk? I don’t think we’ve quite gotten there in class yet.”
“Most tinkers have specialties, which is like a secondary power classification. Dr. Mind is the Joker of tinkers. Conglomerate was the Trump of tinkers. Tinkers with quirks…” He floundered for a moment, grasping at the right word to use. “Don’t really fit the metaphor. They break the rules. Tinkers, despite their incredible scientific ability in their field, are always limited to actual science. They have to work within the rules of the universe.”
“Tinkers with a quirk don’t?” Guardian Angel finished.
“Nope. And it’s a pain in the ass.” Guardian Angel grinned as Paragon’s gestured theatrically. “Since they haven’t been stealing any bulk circuit parts or expensive electronics, looks like we’ve got someone a little quirky.”
“And you think that’s Randwulf?”
“It might be. Could be anyone really, and we won’t know for sure until we check, hence-” Paragon gestured at he warehouse across the street and glanced over at it, then stopped. The door was open.
“Party time,” he said, and stepped off the roof.
The air supported Paragon as if he still had the roof beneath his feet. Tilting his feet downward and leaning in, he slid down an invisible slope like a skier, with a gentle hissing sound. Guardian Angel threw himself off the roof after Paragon, snapping out his wings to catch himself. Swooping across the street, he landed behind Paragon in the doorway and stepped through after his uncle. The warehouse was cluttered with degrading shipping containers slowly collapsing under their own weight. Darkness permeated the large interior, but the two glowing heroes provided their own light.
“It’s empty,” Guardian Angel whispered.
“Not quite. There are a few squatters,” Paragon said, gesturing around the warehouse.
“How can you tell?”
“There are always squatters, this side of the city,” Paragon said, then shouted, “Randwulf!”
“Who?” called back a voice.
“I’m looking for someone who goes by the name ‘Randwulf.’ Tell me where he is and I won’t report you to the police,” Paragon shouted.
“He’s at the docks,” the voice said. “Joined Davy Jones’ crew. Now leave me alone.”
“Thank you for your trouble,” Paragon said, turned, and started to walk back out of the warehouse.
“That’s it?” Guardian Angel asked, lagging behind the more experienced hero.
“That’s it,” Paragon confirmed. “Nothing fancy, gets the job done.”
“But…” They exited back onto the street. Guardian Angel remembered what he was going to say. “We already knew he was with the Anchor Boys.”
“No, we didn’t,” Paragon snapped. Guardian Angel glanced at him, surprised by the sudden change in tone. “We knew the Anchor Boys changed methods around the same time as Randwulf stuck up a thrift shop, but not that they were connected. As Mind says, ‘Correlation does not imply causation.’ Never make that mistake.”
Guardian Angel remained silent after the rebuke.
“I got in a lot of trouble because of that once, and the ensuing lawsuit almost shut us down,” Paragon explained. “Story for another day, but always make sure you have the right guy before you start making assumptions. It was-” Paragon laughed. “Nevermind, I’ll tell you about it later. Just remembered what Locus said afterwards. He said, ‘sometimes, Ben, you just have to let the bus crash.'”
Guardian Angel forced a chuckle, sure he was missing context, and launched himself into the air after Paragon.
The sun had set completely by the time they reached the docks. The two luminescent heroes stood out against the dark night sky. Paragon jogged up next to Guardian Angel in the air. Guardian Angel flared out his wings and hovered.
“That really shouldn’t work, you know,” Paragon said. “Have you ever watched birds fly? They don’t hover. They can’t.”
“I’m not a bird, I guess,” Guardian Angel said, nonplussed.
“You’re not even flapping your wings. I don’t-” Paragon said, then looked down at the bay below them. “Let’s hit ground level. We’re just skeet up here.”
Paragon widened his stance, leaned forward, and skated down towards the ground, spiralling around Guardian Angel as he descended. They landed on a rooftop not far from the bay and Paragon’s glowing armor fading and leaving only the white jumpsuit.
“Power down,” Paragon said. “We’ll be less visible.”
Guardian Angel hesitated, them banished his wings and crouched on the rooftop.
“How do we find him?” Guardian Angel asked, gazing out at the ocean.
“We’re either going to have to search all the known Anchor Boys’ hideouts, which could take weeks if they move around, or find an informant and ask where he is.”
“So… How do we find an informant?”
Paragon gave him a wry smirk, then said, “Pretty much the same way. If I remember correctly, this here,” he thumped the roof with one hand, “is one of their hideouts. Unfortunately, because I might be wrong, we can’t just punch through the roof. We need probable cause.” He sighed. “I kind of miss those days.”
He leaped down to street level and Guardian Angel followed close behind.
“What now?” Guardian Angel asked as they approached the door. The building appeared to be a packing and packaging store of some kind.
“We knock,” Paragon said, and knocked on the door.
“What?” asked a gruff voice from through the door.
” ‘Who,’ might be more accurate,” Paragon said, making his voice hoarse and speaking with his hand over his mouth to muffle it.
“Huh?” The door rattled.
“Let me in. You’re wasting my time,” said Paragon.
“Yeah, yeah, just a sec.”
The heroes could hear more rattling sounds through the door, presumably door chains, and the door opened.
“Right, you…” the unshaven man at the door squinted at the heroes, eyes bleary. A chain was tattooed on his face, dangling from one eye and ending in an anchor on his jaw. An Anchor Boys tattoo. “Hold on, you aren’t-”
Paragon punched the man in the face with a flash of light as his force field flared up to protect his fist. The man fell back and hit the floor, hard. His head bounced against the concrete.
“Woah!” Guardian Angel said, taking a reflexive step back.
“Probable cause,” Paragon said, and stepped through the doorway, powering up his force field.
Guardian Angel hesitated, then followed him in, stepping over the collapsed doorman. They walked through the main store area and into the back of the store down a short, grimy hallway. Paragon kicked a cardboard box out of the way, scattering packing peanuts onto the concrete. A man with a shaven head stepped out from a doorway at the end of the short hallway and turned to face the heroes, then froze.
“Shit! Heroes!” he exclaimed, then retreated back through the door.
“You ready?” Paragon asked Guardian Angel.
“Ready for what?”
The bald man stepped back out, now holding some kind of automatic weapon.
“Get behind me, unless you’re bulletproof,” Paragon directed. “We’re going loud.”
Guardian Angel curled his wings around in front of him, forming a shield. Not a moment later, the goon fired, the sound shockingly loud in the enclosed space. Bullets whizzed past, tearing up the carpet around them and carving gashes into the walls. Paragon’s translucent armor flashed with light as bullets hit it and then ricocheted away or simply dropped to the ground.
Paragon extended an arm, palm out, and a brighter flash of light illuminated the corridor, accompanied by a *thump.* The gun flew from the man’s hands and he spun from the force, stumbling to regain his balance. Another man stepped into the hallway, similarly armed, and Paragon disarmed him in the same manner as the first. Closing the distance in two powerful steps, Paragon slammed a shoulder into the first man, lifted him off the ground, and threw him bodily into the second, then caught a third man with a knee as well on the way past.
“Fuck,” groaned one of the men, his voice weak.
Guardian Angel broke into a jog to catch up with his uncle, but Paragon had already entered the room by the time Guardian Angel reached him. His eyes adjusted rapidly to the dimness, and he could see two more men sitting at a table propped up by more boxes. Paragon swept into the room, upending the table in the center, sending playing cards and cash flying into the air. The two remaining men were bowled over by the flying table and sent sprawling onto the room’s ragged carpet. Guardian Angel collected the fallen weapons, along with a few left in the room.
“Randwulf!” Paragon bellowed to the room at large, repeating his demand from earlier. “Where is Randwulf?”
“Fuck if I know,” spat one of the men, then moaned as moving put pressure on his now-broken arm.
One of the others glanced around the room from his position embedded in a heap of boxes, then said, “Maven Shipping Company.”
“First try!” Paragon said. “I never get that lucky.”
When they reached Maven Shipping, it was a war zone. Pops and flashes of gunfire made their way up from the street in sporadic intervals.
“Holy shit!” Guardian Angel said, but his words were stolen by the wind. His lips felt raw from the cold, but the mask kept his face warm.
“Gang war!” Paragon shouted from right beside Guardian Angel. Guardian Angel startled and almost fell out of the sky. “Anchor Boys and Blackwell.”
The flashes of light from the windows of Maven Shipping revealed the gang members stationed in the Anchor Boys hideout. The front wall of the shipping company building was dark, despite the illumination of street lights and muzzle flares, and a creeping blackness crawled up the buildings on either side of the street.
“Looks like at least Seep,” Paragon observed. “And probably Myriad or one of the tinkers.”
The two streets leading away from the building to the sides were barricaded by police cars, sirens wailing, but the police weren’t shooting at either side, simply creating a barrier to stop the fighting from spreading into the rest of the city.
Paragon started to spiral down towards street level when a flash brighter than the others illuminated the front of the Maven Shipping building. Guardian Angel flinched away from it reflexively, stiffening in surprise. Paragon lost his balance and fell a few meters, but recovered quickly and stopped descending. Guardian Angel glided down to Paragon’s altitude and hovered next to him.
“That was new,” Paragon said once they were level.
The gunfire from the building had stopped, and now gunfire was being returned from the barricades set up on the street leading up to the Maven building- the Blackwell side, which until now had been quiet.
“It’s called the Cockatrice,” Sean explained, racking his memories for the details Shadow had shared. “One of Leumen’s creations. It simulates Basilisk’s power.”
“Damn. That’s a hard one.”
“What do we do?” Guardian Angel asked, his voice breathless. “Do we intervene and break up the fight?”
“No, then we’d be fighting both sides at once.” Paragon said. “We can’t take both. I was thinking we drop into the Anchor Boys’ side and see if we can pick up Randwulf in the confusion. We should wait until they get frozen again. It’ll buy us a little time.”
“That makes sense.”
After a few minutes, fire resumed from the Maven building and the Blackwell side fell quiet again. When the Cockatrice fired again, the two heroes dropped and landed atop the Maven building’s roof, behind a rigid sniper. Paragon pulled the rifle out of the sniper’s stiff hands and tossed it to Guardian Angel.
“Here. Learn to shoot this.”
Guardian Angel fumbled the rifle momentarily before he got a grip on it. He stared at it, then looked back at Paragon, who had turned away.
“What am I supposed to do with this?”
“Just point and click, far as I can tell.” Paragon said as he crouched and planted a hand on the surface of the roof. “You might want to stand back.”
Paragon leapt into the air and powered up his forcefield, then flipped and kicked off the air above him, launching him down into the roof. The rubber waterproofing sheet shredded as he hit the roof, followed closely by the metal frame of the roof itself, which buckled and cratered as Paragon passed through it into the building.