“You son of a bitch!” shouted Lazarus. “I’ll blacklist you from every tech firm in the world for this!”
Dr. Mind looked towards the scientists huddled in the side room. Maybe he should have made the design public years ago. All of this… Everything that had happened could have been avoided if he hadn’t been so focused on staying relevant. On keeping the team… useful, for lack of a better word. Was a world without metahumans really better? Arguably… Yes.
“You know, somehow I’m not really worried about that,” Banks said. Something in his tone pulled Dr. Mind out of his reverie. “Given that none of us will probably survive the next few minutes.” He froze up for a moment, eyes glazing over, before he regained his focus, but his voice gained a strange monotone. “Given that I don’t plan on staying in the sector. I’m going into politics.”
Dr. Mind’s eyes snapped up. “What was that?”
“Yeah, what?” Lazarus asked. “Not survive?”
“There’s a- I don’t- I’m-” Banks stuttered before a loud *Pop!* interrupted him and he collapsed to the floor.
Dr. Mind looked for the source of the sound and saw one of the Temple Sun agents by the elevator raising his weapon. Moments later, glass shattered nearby and the lights in the lab went out, plunging the room into darkness.
Dr. Mind flattened himself to the floor as a series of sharp pops and a few muffled shouts carried through the black. He felt something change as his brain ramped back into high gear. The nullifier had been turned off. Light flared back into the room when one of the Temple Sun agents powered up the small light strips on his body armor- smaller than those on the hardshell powered armor, but still powerful.
A dark figure streaked across the room and tackled the man with the light and darkness fell once more. Bursts of light from the flashes of energy weapons lit up the man’s progress through the room as he tore through a second and third Temple Sun agent.
By the time the red emergency lighting flashed on, there were no Temple Sun agents left standing. Dr. Mind pushed himself to standing and finally recognized the person who had intervened.
“Savage,” He said. “Thanks.”
Savage stood and melted back into a more human shape. “I was wondering when this asshole would to make his move. Now get the hell out of here. The whole fucking floor is gonna blow.”
The gathered LazTech staff took that as a queue to sprint for the stairs, followed closely by Dr. Mind and Savage, dragging a protesting Dr. Lazarus and an unconscious Robert Banks behind them.
As Nemo stared at the bodies, frozen, I dialed 911 on my Wardens phone.
“911, please state your emergency,” said the dispatcher a split second after I’d hit the call button.
“I’m at the Maven shipping warehouse at 12 Marina Street. There’s been a metahuman attack of some kind, I count maybe ten Anchor Boys dead.”
The dispatcher didn’t respond for a moment, and to her credit, she was still dead calm when she did. Nemo pushed past me and fell to his knees by his dead comrades, face going ashen.
“Is the metahuman still in the area?” asked the dispatcher.
“I don’t believe so.”
“Stay where you are. We’ve just received similar reports from the area and it may not be safe to leave.”
I ignored the instruction and kept talking. “He has some kind of line-of-sight paralysis ability, and a few others. I think he may come for Ransom.”
“Who you talking to?” Nemo asked and turned to look at me. “That the boss?” I held up a finger and nodded.
“Who is this?” asked the dispatcher, and I took that as my cue to hang up. They would just try to keep me on the line until the cops showed up.
“Go home,” I said to Nemo. “Get your family if you have any, take that cash and leave the city.” I turned and walked out of the building, just so he’d follow me. I don’t know what’s going on, but it’s probably not good.
“Was this Blackwell?” he asked. “You know who did this?”
“No, not them,” I said. “Third party playing both sides for fools. Seriously, get out.”
I teleported out and popped into the warehouse where Jamisson stood before the console, hands in his hair. The slide projector lay on the desk next to him, discarded.
“Jamisson, something big’s going on,” I said.
“I gathered that,” he said, not taking his eyes away from the screens. I traced his gaze to the screens currently playing news feeds from around the twilit city.
“Explosion at LazTech: Lab mishap, or terrorist attack?” said one title crawl, above which a news anchor pointed at column of smoke rising from a row of windows high above the street. A flash of gold caught the camera’s attention and it panned down to focus on a group of power-armored Temple Sun soldiers defending themselves from a pair of men in piecemeal armor with what appeared to be thin metal rods that sent the soldiers flying backwards at the lightest contact.
“Thank god! Mind and Lazarus are okay.” Jamisson sighed in relief.
Oh shit! I’d forgotten that Dr. Mind was there.
“What was it you wanted to tell me?” Jamisson asked.
“That.” I pointed to the second screen, on which a lively reporter was trying to sneak a shot through the open door of the warehouse I’d just left the title crawl read: “Breaking! Massacre at the Marina.”
How did they get there so fast? Jamisson looked where I was pointing and swore under his breath. “Did you do that? No, I know you didn’t. Damn. Temple Sun at LazTech and this at the same time- that has to be a coordinated effort.”
On the screen, one of the officers in the police line spotted the camera man and ran over to block his view, prompting the reporter to straighten up and address the camera, pretending he hadn’t just been gawking at the crime scene himself.
“Agreed,” I said. “I think it was Temple, and I’d bet he’s going after Ransom to finish the job.”
Jamisson straightened, reaching a decision. “This is out of our jurisdiction, but we can’t risk it. Go. If he was at the Anchor Boys safe house just before you arrived, you should be able to beat him to the station from here. I’ll send Guardian Angel and Dark Archon to support you.”
I ran. It had been a little while since I’d run anywhere, really put my full body into it. I’d gotten used to just teleporting places. Now, though I noticed that I’d changed. As I ran out of the building into the darkening night and used my power to turn the corner and run along the sidewalk, I found myself making tiny unconscious adjustments to stay balanced and moving. I felt the chill as the cold air passed through, though much less than before I’d asked Dr. Mind to help.
I can be faster, I realized. I unknotted the paracord that I wore and stretched it out to its full length in front of me, a streak of darkness in the air. Once it was fully extended, I pushed myself through it and rushed forward 25 feet in an instant. 25 feet. I should get more of this stuff. How much could I wear? The mental image of mummifying myself completely in parachute cord made me grin. It is pretty cheap… Gotta invest.
I dodged around a lamp post then glanced at a street sign to see how close I was. Harrison Street East. I need to get to Harrison Street West. God, I wish the streets here made sense.
I repeated the trick. Rope forward, jump to the end. Soon fell into a rhythm where I could take one step and teleport forward before I landed the next. And I used to think this was useless, I thought as I landed between two cars to a cacophony of honking. 25 feet wasn’t quite enough to make it all the way across four lanes.
I skidded to a halt on the small lawn that separated the new police headquarters from the sidewalk. The armored officers swiveled to face me. A few powered-armor officers stood out front charging their internal batteries from a blocky portable base station. “Shadow. You called in the tip?” asked the closest officer. Her helmet was off, hanging behind her on a thick hinge, making her head look tiny compared to the bulky armor.
“I did, yeah,” I replied. Glad they at least know who I am.
“You know you, weren’t supposed to be there at all. We’re only humoring you and your friends because you brought us Ransom. Vigilantism is still a crime, but…” She gestured towards the other armored officers. “We do need the help. One week with the armor and we’re already a man down.”
“Happy to oblige,” I said. I looked down the street.
“We’re supposed to be moving him out of here to the Supermax ASAP for a remote trial, since this isn’t exactly secure anymore.”
She nodded towards the loading ramp leading under the building. The loading door at the bottom of the ramp was gone, replaced with a blue tarp and a huge amount of yellow crime scene tape. What happened there?
“I miss the old days when the Wardens handled this,” she sighed.
I jumped a bit when a loud beep sounded from her armor. Her helmet slammed shut and she pivoted, aiming a weaponized arm up into the air. I looked where she was pointing and spotted a pair of winged figures descending towards us, one glowing gold, one gleaming black and near invisible against the dark sky.
“Guardian Angel,” the armored officer said, lowering her arm. “With you, I assume?”
“They’re with me, yeah,” I said.
She snorted a laugh. “The gang’s all here. God, it feels like we’re back in the vigilante era.”
“It does,” I said. Ignoring the fact that I wasn’t alive then, but… she has a point. No more government heroes, no more metahuman gangs. “The times are a-changin’.” Well, if I’m obfuscating my age, might as well add another outdated reference.
Guardian Angel and Dark Archon landed on the lawn with us with a gust of wind. Dark Archon pulled his large, angular wings back into his body, the black crystals flowing together and bulking up the rest of his body with the additional volume. Guardian Angel simply let his dissipate into a thin golden haze, though the glow from his eyes and hair kept him illuminated.
“Ma’am,” he said to the armored officer when she pulled her helmet off again. He was the very image of the classic superhero.
“Christ, I must be getting old,” she said with a laugh. “That’s officially my first ‘ma’am.’”
“Uh, sorry,” Guardian Angel blurted, heroic composure shattered.
“Hey, don’t worry about it,” she said with a grin. “As long as I don’t get frumpy I’m good. My family ages gracefully. I bet I don’t look a day over sixty-five.” She was probably in her early thirties, by estimate.
Dark Archon burst out laughing at Guardian Angel’s bewilderment and I grinned. Getting distracted. I pulled myself away from the mirth and glanced up and down the street. Nothing. The streets remained almost completely empty apart from the usual light traffic and occasional pedestrian. Fewer of those than usual, even, since the opening of the Hypertube system.
But now that I was paying attention, I heard a deep rumbling that seemed oddly familiar, and a few moments, later, a black metahuman transport van rumbled up to the building trailed by a pair of SWAT vans. Oh, hey, that’s the same kind as the old Wardens van.
“That’s our ride,” the leader of the CCPD armor team said.
The armored officers unplugged themselves from the base station and formed a loose ring around the metahuman transport van. A pair of unarmored officers lead a blindfolded Ransom up the ramp towards the van. Just when they reached it, I realized that I had been wrong. I recognized the unusually deep sound of the engine not from my time with the Wardens of Tomorrow, but from something more recent. It was the same sound I’d heard in the background when I’d been caught by Temple.
“Wait!” I shouted, but the back of the van was already opening, and a beam of blinding light spilled forth.