I approached the police line at a walking pace, ready to teleport out at a moment’s notice. If Temple Sun agents are here, they might all be under Temple’s control.
The Blackwell enforcers, easily recognizable by their black turtlenecks and tinted goggles, took notice of me first and rotated what looked like a rectangular floodlight on a metal tripod to point in my direction. I recognized it almost immediately– the “cocatrice,” a gadget created by Lumen, one of Blackwell’s two tinkers, to mimic the effects of Basilisk’s powers.
And Temple’s powers, I realized.
One of the officers manning the police line noticed me soon after. “Shadow,” he greeted me. “Glad to see somebody responded. We’ve cordoned off the area, but we can’t engage because there are metahumans involved.”
The figure in Temple Sun armor turned towards me at the sound to reveal that its occupant had the helmet open, revealing her face. She said something I didn’t catch to one of the Blackwell enforcers. Something about the armor was different than I remembered, but I couldn’t place a finger on what.
“Metahumans?” I said, not taking my eyes off the armored woman. A few strands of long blond hair hung loose, but the rest had been tucked back into a balaclava that left the rest of her face exposed. The goons had backed away from the Cocatrice for now, but that wasn’t really reassuring.
“At least Lumen and Myriad,” he said. “But we don’t know who else is in the building.
“Lumen?” I said, looking at the officer in surprise. The tinker almost never went out with the other metahuman members of Blackwell.
“That’s her in the power armor.”
Only then did I recognize the suit of armor. It wasn’t the same model as what I’d seen on the people that had taken Ransom. It was the suit I’d stolen for Blackwell to rescue Charity.
I thanked the officer and walked past him towards the space between the two perimeters. I tagged him as I walked past so I could teleport out. I paused for a moment in front of the Blackwell goons and closed my eyes, letting the darkness covering them block out any light. My sense of the air around me seemed to sharpen as I did, bringing the texture of the building and the street into sharp focus.
“Stop right there,” one of the goons instructed, despite the fact that I had already stopped.
“Lumen,” I called. “Do you mind explaining what’s going on?”
“Come on inside,” she said, and gestured for me to follow her into the building. “I don’t want to have to explain this twice.”
Twice? Who’s inside? A gust of warm air burst out onto the street when she opened the door, carrying with it the layout of the room beyond. I could feel three men in the small lobby of the apartment building. Mafic, Felsic, and Seep, I realized. What am I walking into?
Despite my reservations, I felt more comfortable knowing who was within, and followed Lumen into the building. Inside, Mafic, Felsic, and Seep stood at the desk of the otherwise unoccupied lobby with an old flip-phone open
“-being involved in this kind of nonsense,” said a voice from the phone.
“We were hoping to keep them out of this, but one of the tenants decided to call 911,” said Felsic. His crystalline armor clanked against itself as he bounced up and down on the balls of his feet in anticipation.
“Everybody start powering up,” Lumen ordered. “You know the drill.”
Seep took a few steps away from the desk and extended his hands down and to the sides. Thick black ooze began to drip out of his sleeves and pool on the floor. Felsic walked over to the front of the building and started reinforcing it with jagged crystalline growths. Outside, I heard shouts from the police officers, then the sound engines as they moved the police cruisers farther down the street. Good.
“Collateral damage?” Mafic asked. He squinted and eyed the walls of the building. “Most of the metal around here is in the infrastructure.” Lumen glanced at me, then said, “Limited. Only things insurance will cover. Remember, people live here.”
“Now do you want to tell me what exactly you needed me for?” The person on the phone said again, and this time I recognized its owner. “And what you needed my precog for.”
“Underhand,” I said. I knew he was working with them! I thought. Wait, he has a precog? Maybe they’re here for Locus too.
“Shadow?” Underhand asked, incredulous.
Lumen approached the desk and bent down to be closer to the phone.
“You heard about the attack on the police station? The guy who did that is on his way here, right now.” Lumen said.
Shit. Looks like I won’t be arresting them all here and now. There’s a bigger threat.
“Temple is coming here?” I asked. “Shit, he wouldn’t be after Locus unless-“
“Locus lives here?” Felsic asked, twisting to look back at me.
I tapped my earpiece and spoke to Jamisson and the two other heroes. “Lim was right. Temple is on his way here now, which means Locus is Randwulf’s next target.” I need to find Locus.
Next, I spoke to the members of Blackwell, tuning out the swearing coming to me over my earpiece. “You can’t fight Temple,” I said. “Anyone who can see or hear him is a liability.”
“You heard him. Everybody wear protection,” Lumen said, and on cue, each of the others pulled out a pair of bulky goggles and headphones.
“That’s not going to help,” I said. “He has the Nullifier. If he can’t get you with his power, he’ll just turn off yours and storm in with power armor.“
The Blackwell members stopped what they were doing and turned to me in disbelief.
“What?” shouted Underhand from the phone.
“He stole it from the Wardens’ headquarters,” I explained.
“Fuck,” said Felsic in a matter-of-fact voice.
“So we just need to make sure he can’t use it,” Lumen said. She mastered her expression quickly. “We need a dead man switch.”
“A trap that only springs if your powers are off,” I said, as I understood her plan. That could actually work! “I’m going to check on Locus.”
“Shit, yeah. If he’s here, get him to help,” Lumen said as Mafic and Felsic followed Seep out into the street. I marked them each with a flick of the parachute cord so I could get to them quickly– and track them when this was all over.
I teleported up a flight of stairs with the paracord and pushed the stairwell door open slightly to scout it out. Fortunately, the building’s ventilation system was mostly open, so I could get an idea of the layout of each of the apartments. None of them seemed like somewhere Locus would live, I’d only actually met him once.
“What’s his apartment number?” I asked Jamisson, and realized only a moment later than he’d been talking since I’d reported in and had tuned him out.
“I don’t know. Shadow, what’s going on there?”
“Most of the metahuman Blackwell members are here, except Myriad and Opiate. They were tracking Temple too.” I teleported up another flight of stairs and scouted out the next floor. The apartments were mostly occupied, and the ones that weren’t had evidence of multiple people. Not legion.
“That’s good. They can handle themselves. We’ll be there as soon as Lim’s friends are subdued, which should be soon.”
“The last time we fought Temple, I ended up having to fight Guardian Angel and Dark Archon too.”
“What are you saying?”
“What if we only succeed if they don’t come?”
“There’s no way of knowing. I’ve beaten my head up against predetermination in the past. It doesn’t get you anywhere.”
I went up to the next floor and reached out to feel into the apartments. I was about to jump to the next floor when something caught my attention. A multi-room apartment, but all the furniture had been moved into one room. A bed, a desk, a small table with a television on it, and an armchair had been crammed into the same room as a kitchenette, leaving almost no space between. The other rooms were completely empty.
“I think I’ve found it,” I said.
I teleported into the apartment and looked around. The room was cluttered with furniture, but to say it was spartan was a gross understatement. The room had no decoration of any kind, and as far as clothes and personal items went, it looked like he lived out of a single suitcase at the foot of his bed.
“He’s not here,” I said. “We might be too late.”
“Hold on, I have an idea,” Jamisson said. “Mind, can you reactivate the GPS in Locus’ phone?”
Dr. Mind replied over the comms, “It has a security system designed to prevent that, but I designed it. Give me a few minutes.”
The familiar sound of huge engines rose up from the street below.
“Locus may not be here, but Temple is,” I said, and teleported back down to the lobby.