I sat, stunned, for a moment before I recovered. “You’re using your power to figure out how to keep me off balance,” I realised.
Amelie’s grin turned predatory as she leaned out over her chai. “And I’m gonna keep doing it until you stop lying to me. I know more than you think and you really don’t like that. Your uncle’s Savage. I guess that explains how he gets his information.”
This time I wasn’t surprised she knew. I’d assumed she would follow with that, considering that we broke into her hotel suite together.
“Hmm. Nothing. That’s disappointing,” she said. She flicked her mug.
“You know I have no reason to stay if you keep this up,” I said, but my nerves were still on edge, and she could almost certainly tell. Fortunately, she doesn’t know my real name. “Your uncle.” She still thinks I’m Arthur Knight. “Why did you even call me here?”
“A, because I could spill you and your uncle’s secret, B, because I want you to admit that you lied to me!” she banged on the table with her fist and I felt a sudden flash of anger- her anger spilling over. “You think I didn’t notice you were working me the first time you opened your mouth at that dumb press event? Anyway, C, I still have information you want or you wouldn’t have come in the first place.”
“That’s true.” I said. There was no point in denying that. I’d already pretty much admitted the fact.
“So here’s the deal. You tell me what you and your uncle’ve found, and I’ll tell you what I know. Deal?”
I let out a frustrated sigh. I didn’t have to try hard to put emotion into it. The situation seemed untenable. Wait, she can’t read my mind, just my emotions. She knows how I feel, but not why. “Fine. I did lie to you, I admit that, but I can’t tell you everything, because I don’t know everything,” I said. I let my frustration at her manipulation show, but disguised as frustration at Savage. “I wasn’t lying when I told you I didn’t know he was helping with the transition to Rob Banks’ leadership. After the fiasco at the hotel, he hasn’t let me help at all.”
“Sounds like typical overprotective adult behavior,” she said with a sardonic tone.
“It’s ridiculous! I can look after myself! It’s not like I’m just going to stop.”
I could tell I’d struck a chord there. She’d mentioned that her own father was overprotective.
“And I didn’t stop. I can tell you what I’ve found myself. The security at the event and the armored guy at the hotel were both contracted from Temple Sun- they’re a shady mercenary group that claims they only do non-lethal crowd-control, but actually gets up to a lot of sketchy stuff.”
Amelie furrowed her brow and lowered her head to sip her chai, eyes still on me. “So, weird.”
“Yeah. Very.” I said. “Plus, I know for a fact that they have a metahuman agent in the city: a guy called ‘Temple.’ Has some kind of brainwashing powers. Not permanent, but not fun either.”
“Seriously?” She looked skeptical. “That’s not supposed to be possible,” she said.
“Have you looked in a mirror?” I said.
“Fine, I get your point. How do you know this?”
“I’m just gonna say that I’m sure about this one,” I said. “Moving on, I have a strong suspicion, based on what I saw when I was working with the Wardens of Tomorrow, that the Upright Man, you know, Brandon Lim, wasn’t working alone.”
“Well yeah, since they caught the scary brain doctor lady-”
“I’m not done. Lim’s goal appeared to be to break up the Wardens of Justice and the Wardens of Tomorrow, but within a short period of time his actions lead to the dissolution of the Collswell City Specialists and…” I started to explain Jamisson’s theory, but trailed off.
Hold on. Temple said he wanted me to kill Myriad because I stole a suit of Temple Sun armor for her in exchange for Charity… who was only captured because Lim told Myriad to kidnap Wren as leverage against Kevin. Was that a part of his plan all along? I shivered, unsettled. Or maybe it was just an excuse.
“What?” Amelie said. “Don’t leave me hanging.”
“Oh, and now Myriad’s disappeared, and I have some information linking Temple to it.” Hopefully she’s just laying low. I’d love a chance to arrest her properly. “It’s possible that Temple Sun was working with Lim and the others in his group, since they were running security.”
If that’s true, is Randwulf connected somehow?
“Okay, that’s enough. My turn,” Amélie said. “Rob Banks is up to some really weird stuff. When we visited his dad at the mayoral office, he said that he hasn’t seen him in more than a year since he got a management job at LazarusTech.”
“Laztech? The company that makes the power resistant concrete?” I asked.
“Yeah. Rumor has it they’re working on some kind of metahuman power detector for the FDA, but I did some digging and got ahold of someone working on that project. He said that they just moved everyone off the project all at once onto some top-secret thing lead by -you guessed it- Rob Banks.”
How did she find that out? I wondered. It seemed a bit unbelievable that a girl my age could pull off a piece of corporate espionage that easily, but then I remembered her power, both metahuman and in connection to Virtue. I’d bet plenty of people at Laztech were members of Virtue. I was impressed nonetheless, and she smiled, basking in it.
“That’s useful,” I said, nodding. I need to tell Jamisson about this.
Without warning, a connection formed between something Jamisson had said and what Myriad had told me about Temple.
Randwulf worked at an illegal metahuman experimentation lab in Liechtenstein. Temple’s team specializes in cleaning up messes people wanted hidden from the ITAB. We know Randwulf has some kind of power-enhancing tech. If they’re working together, that could be why Temple’s so powerful -and so unstable. And, if they’re connected to Rob Banks, that could be the project he’s working on at LazTech. From what it did to Davy Jones…
I stood to leave. “Good talk,” I said, and rushed out of the cafe.
I arrived at the warehouse only a few hours after I’d left, by my estimation, though it felt like much longer given all that had happened in between.
This is ridiculous. I should be investigating LazTech. I thought as I approached the Anchor Boys safehouse. But then again, I’m not exactly that experienced at corporate infiltration.
Entering, I found the Anchor Boys gathered around a game of poker on the carpet in the office.
“Shit, man!” exclaimed one of them. “You stealthy.”
“I try,” I said, voice dry.
“Where’s Ransom?” asked one of the hooks- a “hook” was an Anchor Boys enforcer.
“I put him on a boat,” I said. “And dealt with the sniper outside. We should be good to go.”
“So what’s the plan?” asked Nemo, the large islander I’d left in charge.
“What does Blackwell have that we don’t?” I asked.
“A shitload of metas,” said one of the hooks.
“Plus the whole fucking drug market,” added another. “All we got is Krokodil and Flakka, which don’t sell since Pils hit the street.”
Krokodil and Flakka? No wonder they took a hit when Blackwell showed up. Those aren’t exactly friendly drugs.
“None of you use that shit, right?” he continued, to a chorus of ‘no’s and shaking of heads. “See? Even we don’t use our shit, and it’s basically free.”
“They got guns,” said a third Hook. “Not cheap ones like we got. Goddamn laser weapons.”
“Completely right,” I said. “But there’s an underlying cause for all three. They have tinkers. Because of Opiate, they could corner the whole drug market and make super juice- when they need metas, they can make their own. ‘Cause they got Lumen, they have a steady stream of high-tech weapons.”
“So what? How are we supposed to beat that?”
“I’m not sure.” I said. “Not yet at least. Myriad’s gone though, and Blackwell’s backed off, so for now our priority is gathering together what we can of our own people without shooting at eachother.”
As bad as the Anchor Boys are for the city, a power struggle isn’t going to help anything.
“They shot first!”
“And I’d bet they’d say the same thing,” I said. “Though there is one other thing. Davy Jones had a power enhancer. Do any of you know where he went?”
The assembled men glanced at one another. “Uh,” one of them said. “The crazy hobo guy?”
Crazy hobo? Huh. “Yeah. The last thing we need is Blackwell getting their hands on him.”
“Mm,” grunted Nemo. “What he did for Jones an’ Ransom, I see you.”
“I know the east docks don’t have ‘im,” said the man with the beard. “They’ve got a few low-power metas that’d be stomping our asses if they did.”
Nemo approached me and motioned towards the door to the warehouse floor. I followed, and he shut the door behind us.
“Before you showed up, Ransom and I found somet’n in the wreckage. Bossman had a bigass safe in the Maven Shipping building. Big. Ass. Bank vault kind ‘a safe.”
“Huh. That could help,” I said. “Show me where it is.”
The snow had started back up again, just a gentle drift of flakes from the dark sky. The snowflakes melted before they reached me, hitting the bubble of warm air flowing out of me from the contraption Dr. Mind had set up. It was odd, seeing the snow, but not feeling the cold, but I wasn’t about to complain.
“Ey, here.” said Nemo, beckoning me. I teleported to the mark I’d left on him and looked towards what he pointed at. Sure enough, buried in the rubble was a huge metal cube. I couldn’t make out more than the one corner, the others being buried, but I could tell it was a serious safe. Too big to move, that was for sure.
I started pushing rubble off of it, leaving dark streaks on the metal where my hands brushed against it, and soon revealed the wheel and the combination dial for opening the vault. Now that I’d cleared it off some, I could see the gouge the vault had made in the ground when it had been torn clear of the building and landed in the street.
How can I open a safe? I though. I tried to feel out the inside of the safe, but it was completely airtight so I couldn’t feel inside it at all. But I did find something else. What’s this?
A tiny hole in the surface, concealed behind the wheel that opened the vault. Feels like a keyhole. I thought. Why does it have a combination wheel and a keyhole? I put a finger over the hole, then pulled air out of the heated warehouse where Dr. Mind had put the rat I’d marked and pushed it through the hole. The inside of the door appeared in my mind, as clear as if I held it in my hand, tumblers and all. I laughed quietly. Too easy.
With my other hand, I turned the combination dial until I felt the first tumbler fall into place, then the second, then the third.
“How d’ya know his combination?” Nemo asked from behind me.
“Davy Jones trusted me with a lot,” I said, easily slipping into the role. I’d almost forgotten who I was supposed to be for a moment.
I spun the wheel, and the bolts slid back into the locking mechanism. Curiosity burning, I pulled the door open. A heap of burned-out electronics stared back at me, along with a few small bricks of money and what appeared to be an oil painting.