Note: I accidentally posted 8.1 out of order before arc 7. I decided not to post it as this week’s chapter, because you’ve probably already read it. If you haven’t, here it is.
Guardian Angel alighted on a rooftop and looked into the disaster area, soon joined by me and Dark Archon. “Jamisson, advise,” Guardian Angel said. “We’ve got at least two groups of Anchor Boys shooting at one another on and off. They’ve stopped now, though, but I don’t know what I’m going into.”
“So, why are we out here?” Dark Archon asked. “I thought you said the team had been disbanded.”
“It was,” I said. “And technically, we aren’t legally heroes, so we can’t go looking for trouble or conduct our own investigations, but the police can still call us in when they need support.” I’d spend a while researching what I was and wasn’t legally allowed to do now after Savage had convinced me to illegally search someone’s apartment and got me caught by Temple Sun.
Looking across the desolated area, I could see the building we’d been directed to: one of the huge brick warehouses that had been built around the docks during the city’s industrialization to store whatever needed shipping. It sat on the edge of one of the two small portions of the Anchor Boys’ territory that hadn’t been demolished, separated by the destroyed area between them. Every night, the factions holed up in either part would rush into the intervening area and undo the reconstruction efforts of the previous day in their pointless power struggle.
“You’re at the building dispatch said Ransom’s hiding?” Jamisson said over the comm line.
“Yeah. They said he injured one of their new powered armor pilots straight through the suit, and they can’t get a bead on him with their snipers because he’s camped out in a windowless building.”
“Snipers?” Dark Archon exclaimed from beside Guardian Angel. “Since when do the police have snipers?”
“For a while,” I said. “I think they mostly handle hostage situations.”
“Which this is, because of Ransom’s power,” Jamisson said. “From the sound of it, anything he’s involved in is a hostage situation.”
“Remind me why we can’t just blow up the building?” Guardian Angel growled. “It’s right on the edge of the disaster area. No one would notice.” I glanced at him, surprised by the vehemence in his voice.
He shouldn’t go in with us, I realized. The last time he fought Ransom was the day before Paragon died.
“I can scout it out,” I suggested. “I should be able to get in and take a look around, and I can just teleport back out if I get spotted.”
“I think I could take Ransom,” Dark Archon suggested. “I’m pretty bulletproof.”
I nodded. I’d seen him take a few hits from Charity that would have shattered concrete.
“That’s probably true, but it would be best if you didn’t have to directly engage him,” Jamisson said. “We can’t afford any unnecessary risks right now.”
“If I get a chance to take him out without him seeing me, I’ll take it,” I said.
“Go for it. Guardian Angel, keep a lookout for anyone entering or leaving. We don’t want any surprise visitors,” Jamisson said.
Looks like Jamisson’s got the same idea I had. Come to think of it, why is Sean already back in the field at all?
I used the rope to teleport back down to street level and approached the front of the building. There wasn’t a police line set up any more. They were spread thin enough as it was.
I pushed the end of the rope under the door and felt out the air currents inside the building. I couldn’t make out much, but I didn’t feel any obvious movement or breathing.
“Going in,” I subvocalized, and teleported through the door.
I found myself in a small office. The room was currently unoccupied, but a small pile of of handguns on the desk that stood in the room betrayed the Anchor Boys’ presence in the warehouse. That is really unsafe, I thought. I crept over to the desk and twisted my head around to read the paper on it.
The sheet consisted of a list of names and dates- a list of remaining members, perhaps. I snapped a picture with my phone to look at in more detail later. I was also tempted for a moment to steal one of the guns, but I resisted the impulse and walked away from the desk to peek under the door leading into the main warehouse space.
The room I could feel on the other side of the door was smaller than the black market warehouse where I’d stolen the powered armor, but it was nearly empty, with only a single row of crates stacked near one wall. I counted at least five people breathing nearby, and possibly more on the other side of the space where their currents were drowned out by background noise. I extended the parachute cord under the door towards the row of crates, where I would have the most cover, then teleported along it into the main storage room.
The five Anchor Boys were right where I’d felt their breathing- a circle of tough-looking thugs with the chain-and-anchor gang tattoos spiralling around their bodies. What I hadn’t noticed was Ransom and a huge, dreadlocked man leaning on the wall of crates, talking in hushed voices. I moved to duck behind the crates, but it was too late. Ransom’s eyes went wide as he spotted me and he pushed off of the stack of crates.
“Hey!” He shouted, raising a heavy chrome pistol towards me. The noise prompted the five armed thugs to turn and spot me as well.
I lashed out with the slender parachute cord and wrapped it around Ransom’s neck. The line went taut as I yanked on it with all my weight. He stumbled forward, off balance. I teleported towards him, then planted my palm on his forehead and pushed. His feet came out from under him and I followed him down as he fell. The gun went off, a surprised reaction that went nowhere near me. The back of his head cracked on the concrete floor. I stood, leaving him moaning on the ground with a black handprint covering his face.
Gotta make an impression, or I’ll never make it out of here with him.
“Anyone else?” I said to the gathered Anchor Boys.
“You made your point,” coughed Ransom. “You’re the boss.”
“What’s going on in there?” Guardian Angel asked through my earpiece. “I heard gunfire. Were you spotted?” I ignored him for the moment.
“Boss? What you talk about?” said the hulking man with the full set of Anchor Boys’ tattoos and dreadlocks who stood near Ransom.
What the hell? Is he bluffing, or does he really think I’m part of the Anchor Boys leadership?
“Well, you wouldn’t know him, ‘cause you’ve never been to the sub,” said Ransom as he stood. He stumbled towards the bigger man and put an arm on his shoulder for support. “Play along, idiot,” I heard him whisper. “We get what we want this way too.” He raised his voice again to address me. “Now how about we go talk somewhere private?”
“Yes. We have a lot to discuss,” I said, the lie coming out on pure reflex. Ah, he was trying to save face. He can’t be seen getting beat by some out-of-work mercenary, so he fluffs it up a bit. “You idiots are wasting time fighting one another for a pile of goddamn rubble,” I said, mouth taking off on its own. Wait… I can use this. “Like you’re trying to be kings of the junkyard. Our old territory is only going to be worth anything if you let it rebuild first. We represent the largest unified group of Anchor Boys left, but we’re still less than half the size we used to be, so we’re going to have to play this smart, however foreign a concept that may be to you.”
He told them I’m his boss so it’s a bit less embarrassing that I beat him, but now I’m running with it and he doesn’t know how to back down. Let’s turn that around on him.
I turned away from the bewildered villain and addressed the Anchor Boys thugs. “Hooks, hold down the fort. You,” I gestured to Ransom, “Come with me. We need to talk.” I pointed at the large man next to Ransom. “What’s your name?”
“M’name’s Nemo,” he replied with a thick islander accent.
“You’re in charge until I get back.”
Ransom looked at me, confusion clear on his face, giving way to anger. Good. I turned away and subvocalized to Guardian Angel. “Got Ransom. Get ready to pick him up. Going out the front door.” I was careful not to actually vocalize any of the message. I strode purposefully towards the office I’d entered from, forcing Ransom to make a decision.
“Hey, you can’t just walk in here and take my men!” he protested.
Now you see what I’m doing. Let that distract from your surprise that I actually am your superior. Or claiming to be. Either way, he can’t back down now without losing face.
“What? How? That wasn’t the plan!” Guardian Angel exclaimed in my ear. I ignored him.
“I just did,” I said, stopping, but not turning towards him. “Don’t get me wrong, you did good work here. We just need to get you somewhere else to lay low for a while. You’re a valuable asset, and we can’t afford to lose you to the fuzz just yet.”
“The police-” he started to say something angry, but I cut him off. Fool that he was, he let me.
“Don’t worry, they’re taken care of. A little crisis back at the station. They won’t be back for another twelve hours or so.”
I’ll be sure to tell them to be here in six to clean up this rabble. I resumed walking, forcing him to catch up with me.
“You just want me out of the way so you can take power, don’t you?” he griped.
He sounded desperate, and his men saw it. “Are you really that dumb?” I said, not looking back. “Are you really that fucking stupid, chum? You don’t think if I wanted you out of the way, I couldn’t have had that oversized piece you call a handgun out of your hand and just shot you with it? But of course I want power. That’s why I’m with the Anchor Boys in the first place.”
I pushed the door open and stepped through. I was almost surprised that he followed me. So focused on the argument that he followed me right into my trap.
As soon as he was outside, I kicked the door shut and Guardian Angel dropped down behind Ransom. He spun, eyes going wide. I teleported to the mark on his forehead and clamped a hand over his mouth to stop him from shouting. His eyes flicked between me and Guardian Angel, realizing what had happened. I’d managed to talk him right out of his safehouse.