Guardian Angel, Dark Archon, Jamisson and I followed the warden through the security checkpoint leading into the Meta-Max facility. Dark Archon’s feet clacked loudly on the concrete floor as he walked.
“You picked a tough customer to take off power suppressants,” the warden said. “Precogs are notoriously successful at escape attempts.”
“We wouldn’t have come here if we had other options,” Jamisson said. “But precogs are also notoriously useful.”
Taking him off Denudine had a double purpose. The neuraplast used to cancel the power-blockers should also free him from Temple’s influence. As we walked, I brushed against the warden, leaving a tiny splotch of darkness clinging to his skin. I’d taken recently to marking random people I walked past on the street.
The warden snorted. “So are genies, but we all know how that usually works out.”
Your job is about to get a whole lot easier now that the Nullifier schematics are out there, I thought. I wonder how long we have before that hits the news.
We arrived at the interview chamber and filed into the small observation room. Beyond the transparent aluminum window was a huge room, at the center of which sat a second, smaller room. Behind the large window on the inner cell sat Brandon Lim- the Upright Man.
Dark Archon leaned over to Guardian Angel and whispered, “So that’s the guy who was all over the news?”
I didn’t take my eyes off Lim, but I could feel Guardian Angel nod.
“Intercom’s here.” The warden gestured to a microphone situated on the table in front of the window. “Just press the button to talk.”
Jamisson leaned in and pressed the button on the intercom. “Mr. Lim, I have a message I need you to carry,” Jamisson said. The intercom system crackled a bit as it carried his voice across the space between the two rooms.
Brandon Lim looked at us through the two sheets of transparent metal, expression flat.
“Why?” his voice came out of the room’s speakers when he spoke. “Why would I help you?”
“We have witnesses who will testify that you were under the influence of a mind-altering metahuman.” My back stiffened. Had I accidentally provided evidence that would make this psychopath go free? “If we present our evidence to the Department of Metahuman Affairs, the city will have no choice but drop its charges against you.”
Lim shifted in his chair and the creak carried over the speaker system.
I turned to Jamisson. “We can’t do that,” I protested once his finger was off the button. “Even if he stole the nullifier for Temple, he’s still responsible for breaking up the Wardens of Justice, and Masquerade’s murders are still on his hands.”
“That’s something we can deal with later,” Jamisson said. “But for now we have a bigger threat to deal with.”
“What do you want?” Lim responded.
“When this is all over, I’m going to come back here and tell you something. I need you to tell me what it is,” Jamisson said into the microphone.
“I don’t believe you,” Lim said without a pause. “For this to work, you need to fulfil your side of the bargain. If I tell you nothing, you won’t come back, so I can’t help.”
A shiver went down my spine. What does that mean?
Jamisson frowned. “He’s toying with us.”
“What did I tell you?” said the warden. “Premonitions of doom.”
I glanced at the warden. He was staring at the wall, stiff. Weird. Jamisson ignored him and leaned forward to speak into the microphone again, but Lim spoke again.
“I’ve tried to find the best way to end this,” he said. “You know, I saved your life. I thought you might be useful, but you’ve gone too far off-script. Do you want to know what I see?”
He didn’t wait for a response. “I only see two futures now. To one, I am blind, and the other is empty.”
Jamisson pressed the button and spoke urgently. “Empty how?”
“An endless, featureless wasteland. Nothing but ash.”
“Locus,” Jamisson said, eyes wide. He turned back to us. “We need to go, now.”
The building rocked with a distant explosion, then another. A siren went off in another part of the building, then a second later, an alarm started blasting through the speakers.
“Sorry to leave you so soon,” The Upright Man said, voice barely audible over the klaxxon, “But I believe that’s for me.”
Without hesitating, the warden thrust his hands out to either side. A beam of energy lanced upwards through the ceiling and expanded outwards from where he stood, air rippling like a mirage as it grew to surround the building.
He turned to us. “As heroes present during an escape attempt, you are legally obliged to assist as per UMBRA, section 11.”
Jamisson didn’t respond, instead frantically dialing his phone.
“I’m not a registered hero, sorry,” I said. “And any other time, I’d love to help, but,” I glanced at Jamisson.
“I’d like to report a precognitive warning of a Nightmare event.” Jamisson said, voice raised to be heard over the alarm. “The… yes, codeword authentication is fine.” He paused. “Hiram Jamisson. Yes, the-”
The warden pushed past me and snatched the phone from Jamisson. “Think!” He shouted. “He’s trying to lure you away so he can escape. A Nightmare-class event is the only thing that takes precedence over a supervillain escape attempt. They never happen in the same city twice in a row.”
But we know why– Randwulf knew Temple was on his tail, but it’s too late to leave the city now. A moment of horror washed over me. We actually might get a second Nightmare event.
The warden slammed a hand down on a button by the intercom and the cell containing the Upright Man started to flood with pale blue gas.
“I’ve surrounded the building with a mirror field. Nobody’s leaving.” His certainty only made me less certain.
Either he’s trying to trick us into leaving… or he knows the warden won’t let us leave and is taunting us with the truth, I thought.
Decision made, I turned to Jamisson. “Where does he live?” I asked.
“Last I knew, he has an apartment on Chestnut,” he said, voice low. He thought for a moment before adding, “The 68th.”
I opened up a map on my phone and reached out to all the people I had marked. Once I’d centered the map on my location, it only took a few moments to find a mark that was near Chestnut Street.
“I’ll be back,” I told Jamisson.
He nodded. “Keep in touch.”
I teleported away, and appeared in a small, friendly-looking café. The woman I appeared next to glanced over, then let out a startled yelp and threw her coffee at me. The café’s other patrons echoed her with surprised shouts of their own. I was quick enough to catch her paper coffee cup –the lid was still on, thankfully– and put it down on her table.
“Sorry, just passing through,” I said as I uncoiled the parachute cord I had wrapped around my torso.
“Shadow!” called one of the other patrons. “Where are the Wardens?”
I ignored the question and teleported out of the building. The cold nipped at my fingers, but the bubble of warm air that surrounded me protected me from the brunt of the weather. I glanced at the nearest street signs. Walter and 5th. I’m off by a few blocks.
I reached out to my other marks, but didn’t find any that were closer. “What’s going on at the prison?” I asked as I alternatingly jogged and teleported my way towards Chestnut street.
Guardian Angel replied. “Lady who can control sound blasting the building with shockwaves.”
I heard a rumble through my communicator. “Other guy trying to liquify the walls. We have a handle on them.”
Good, I thought to myself, yet I wasn’t reassured. I could be really useful against a woman who can control sound. I pushed the doubt to the back of my mind. I’m also the only one who can be out here to check on Locus.
I reached Chestnut and scanned down the street for the nearest visible building number, but what I saw stopped me cold. A police barricade blocked off the entire street. Only a few meters beyond, a line of Blackwell thugs surrounded the building. At their center, directly in front of the door, loomed a figure in a suit of Temple Sun power armor.