“Shit! We need…” The call ended in static.
There were a lot of radio reports getting thrown around. The bomb squad, bomb-sniffing dogs, and durable Heroes were extending outward from Force Field’s shields and searching the surrounding city block by block. They were calling in their grid squares clear as fast as they could. EMS was frantic. There were so many injured people and no one was being allowed to leave. Ambulances were being held because the last thing the situation needed was an ambulance to get hit by an IED. They were being stacked up to come in when everything was clear, but in the meantime, EMS was doing everything they could. They’d set up a casualty collection point for the most seriously injured. Healers were being brought in as fast as the DVA could arrange it, but there was a lot of injured, and it was turning into a race against time.
The media was trying to get on scene to broadcast the tragedy, but they were being held back as well. The resulting footage from a distance of Force Field’s shimmering barriers keeping people contained was not going to look good on the national evening news.
Through all of that, Daisy singled out that one radio call. It was the one she’d been waiting for. This wasn’t just mayhem for mayhem’s sake, this was chaos for a reason, and she’d been waiting as patiently as possible for the enemy to make their move.
“Dispatch, isolate that call!”
“That’s the Mayor’s security detail. GPS has them two blocks east.”
“I’m on it. Call for reinforcements to that location.” Daisy didn’t wait for a reply. She looked at the skyline, plotted a course, bent her knees, and jumped.
Asphalt cracked under her as she leapt onto the roof of the nearest building. She almost over shot it, but skidded to a halt right at the edge. <I’m out of practice.> She grimaced at the fall that would have cost her valuable seconds.
She aimed for her next point and jumped. Two jumps were all it took. She landed around the corner from what clearly sounded like a fight. Rapid gunshots rang out from the security detail as they fired at something. Daisy rushed forward to round the corner and joined the fight when the brick wall next to her exploded. Instinctually, she covered her face and let her kinetic absorption do the rest.
The thing that came through the wall was wearing blue, but there was a lot of red too. It was a human body, but it was all messed up. Something had hit the poor officer so hard that he’d been completely pulverized. Things were jutting out in weird spots and way too flappy in others. It was clear the guy was dead, and it caused a terrible image to flash through her mind.
<It could have been Topher coming through that wall.> Her boyfriend wasn’t on the Mayor’s detail, but this guy was someone’s husband, father, or son.
Terror gripped her for a second. Terror not for herself, but for the people she cared about. She’d lived a long and full life, some might even say too full. She’d done her best to do the right things, and aside from a few regrets, she was happy with what she’d accomplished. People like Topher and this dead cop still had their whole lives ahead of them. This guy’s was over. Topher could be next, and there was a small voice in the back of her mind insisting this was all her fault.
Dr. Johnson would tell her it was survivor’s guilt. The cop had died, she’d lived, and she felt responsible. She knew it was more than that. She remembered Seif al-Din’s conversation that he wanted to make Super, evil babies with her. Just the memory made her skin crawl, but that didn’t stop the fact that if this was him coming after her, then this guy had died because she was here. If she was alone at home, and not an active Hero anymore, people wouldn’t be getting thrown through brick walls on her account.
The whole situation made her feel sick to her stomach.
<Nut up Meyers! Get back in the game or a lot more people are going to get turned into meat bags.> Her internal conundrum only lasted a few seconds, but in that time another dozen rounds were fired in the Mayor’s defense.
She took a deep breath and stepped around the corner.
The alley was a slaughterhouse. More than half of the detail was down, and not just down. They’d been broken. There was one figure stampeding through them, while another had taken down the Mayor. It was a little comical to see Nightingale, who didn’t look terribly outwardly intimidating, standing over an unconscious former NFL Probowler.
<You’re already out. You won’t remember this.> Electricity crackled between her fingertips before she threw a bolt of lightning directly into Nightingale’s chest.
It did jack shit, but it accomplished its purpose. It turned the villains’ attention on her and away from the overwhelmed cops.
“You.” Stal’s one-word response was paired with a smile. She ignored the cops and advanced on her.
“You guys deal with Nightingale.” Daisy cracked her knuckles and walked to meet Stal head on. “I’ll deal with her.”
They were only about thirty feet apart, but that was plenty of time for both of them to build up some speed. Stal came in high and went for a tackle, so Daisy went low. At the last second, she went into a slide. Stal went straight over her, and Daisy was able to see the surprised look on the villain’s face just before another bolt of lightning hit her in the chest.
The nullifying compression armor held, but the added force of the attack, and Stal’s current weightlessness, threw the strongwoman off course. Now it was she who went flying through a brick wall.
Daisy saw an opportunity and took it. Stal was down for a second, so she came out of her slide and pushed off toward Nightingale. The other villain was taking cover behind a dumpster with the Mayor while the remaining cops tried to figure out a way to surround her.
Nightingale peeked out and fired a few rounds from her pistol. Some drove the cops back behind cover, while the last bounced harmlessly off Daisy.
Daisy’s feet touched down and she launched herself up this time. She wanted to go up and over, come down on the other side, and pin Nightingale in. Hopefully, she’d be able to get the Mayor to safety before Stal extracted herself from the bricks that she was buried in.
Daisy twisted in midair so she came down facing Nightingale.
“Give up and I’ll…”
Something hit Daisy right in the gut and knocked her right on her ass.
<What the fuck!> Stinging pain shot through her with each breath, and she was pretty sure she’d broken a rib.
Moving hurt like a bitch, but she struggled back to her feet…only to get hit again. The bullet hit her right in the tit. It was a good thing she was all natural or she’d definitely be dealing with a burst implant.
<Stupid…stupid…stupid…> she put two and two together and felt like a moron for not thinking of it sooner.
Nightingale’s nullifying ability could be manipulated into armor, so why couldn’t it coat bullets. Daisy was one hundred percent certain that her kinetic absorption was on when she took the hits. The only thing that saved her was the body armor she was wearing.
<Now what.> She was lying on her back and playing possum for a moment to think.
A bullet hit the ground next to her head and kicked up debris. The debris hit her body and she felt the small amount of energy absorb into her. It also gave her an idea.
<I hope this works.> As fast as she could, Daisy raised her arms and smashed them into the ground.
A tremendous amount of kinetic energy rushed out of her and into the ground. The ground shook, making Nightingale’s follow-up shot go wide, but it also broke off a big slab of concrete. It didn’t rise up that far, but it was enough for her to dive behind for cover. The next bullet ricocheted off the concrete. Daisy’s next blow was more measured, and it propped up the slab enough to give her complete coverage and a little breathing room.
<Fuck me.> She ran her hand across the front of her armor and felt the still-warm bullets embedded in the tech-genius fabric.
The first thing she was going to do when she got out of this thing alive was to upgrade her armor. Right now, it only protected her chest and back. She needed to get some protection on her extremities as well.
“Dispatch, let everyone else know that Nightingale’s bullets are dipped in her power. It’s cutting right through my absorption abilities. We need…” she didn’t get to finish.
The slab of concrete exploded as Stal launched herself into it. If Daisy’s absorption wasn’t on it would have snapped her spine and turned her into something resembling the pulverized cop. Instead, the hit sent her rocketing forward. Even with her absorbing the brunt of the hit, it still knocked the wind out of her. On top of her broken rib, and throbbing tit, the pressure of her full kinetic tank didn’t make her feel any better about her chances of winning this fight.
<Fucking nullifiers.> Was her last thought as she plowed through the front window of a Subway.
Thankfully, they were closed for the half day, or Daisy would have had more lost lives to add to her already weighted-down conscious instead of deli meats and condiments.
<What the hell have I done?> It was the first thought to flash through Seth’s mind as the first bullet sliced through the air by his head.
A blast of hurricane force wind whipped through the room, tossed papers around in an improvised smokescreen, and blasted a wooden table in the direction of Seth’s attacker.
“Fuck!” the shooter yelled.
That was all the confirmation Seth needed to know he’d hit his target. With a snowfall of bureaucracy impeding his view he couldn’t see shit.
<What the hell have I done?> The thought resurfaced now that he wasn’t being shot at, and his instinctual response to the attack hadn’t helped his situation.
He was now resisting arrest with his abilities. That was not a misdemeanor in the same category as some inebriated college kid struggle against police while they handcuffed him for drunk and disorderly conduct. He’d just assaulted a person in a police station with his powers. Seth wasn’t a lawyer, and his high-priced lawyer had just been suffocated to death, but he had a pretty good idea he was in even deeper shit than before.
“We need to move!” The woman who’d killed his lawyer yanked on his arm.
He didn’t budge. She was smaller and physically weaker than him, and without her power she didn’t stand a chance against him. For a second, he thought about turning on her and trying his luck with the cops.
<They didn’t have anything on me. I didn’t commit treason, I didn’t help her plan any terrorist attacks, I didn’t even talk to her about the HCP…much.> The last point wasn’t totally true. <I had an out. I could have signed the paper and been done with this.> Even as he thought it he knew it wasn’t true.
Even if he’d signed the agreement, the crazy lady would have still busted in and killed everyone. She might not look like much, but he knew a powerful ability when he saw one. Maybe Seth would have won that fight, maybe not, but either way with the Detective, ADA, and his own lawyer being dead the prospects of cutting a good deal were probably off the table.
He thought back to what the ADA had said, <This is not the first time the supervillain known as Wraith has contacted your client, and that establishes a pattern. You might be able to select a sympathetic jury, but you are forgetting about the person on the other side of that phone call. Wraith assisted terrorists in destroying a large chunk of this city. Anything to do with her being brought into a courtroom is going to be a piece of cake for me.>
The other dead lawyer had a point. Anything Seth went to court for in Orlando that was associated with Wraith was a guaranteed guilty. After she killed Mr. Morningstar on national TV, and broke out of prison, that verdict was pretty certain just about anywhere in the country.
That was where Morina’s statement made sense. <You’re never going to get free of this. You’re on their list. They’re going to use you up, then fuck you over, then watch you get fucked by the system day after day after day, and then they’re going to point to you and tell the world how they caught the bad guy. Then they’re going to go behind their closed doors and laugh at your stupidity. They’re going to screw you, and you know it, all because you loved someone.>
There wasn’t a better example that he could think of for being caught between a rock and a hard place. The rock could kill you with your own blood and had snatched evidence that looked like he was going to throw Wraith under the bus. Whether he really would or not was irrelevant. Morina had the paperwork. Then there was the hard place. The hard place was currently lobbing a metallic cylinder into the large open space.
“Grenade!” Seth summoned another gust of wind and blasted the flash bang back in the direction of the cops, while simultaneously diving back into the room full of dead people.
Even through the wall he felt his eardrums painfully assaulted by the explosion. A high-pitched whine filled his head, and no matter how much he tried to shake it, it persisted. Thankfully, his vision was fine, and he was able to push back into the cubicle farm.
He’d only been in the place a few times, but there were only two exits that he knew of. The first looked like it had a tactical team stacked around it in various states of discomfort for the failed grenade toss. The second was at the opposite end of the room.
“This way!” Seth barely heard himself yell as he grabbed Morina and ran toward the rear elevator.
Or at least to where he knew it was. There were now walls and a door in front of it. Seth lowered his shoulder and tried to run through it only to be violently pushed back. “Motherfucker!” He was lucky he didn’t dislocate his shoulder, but there was going to be a wicked bruise there in the morning.
Morina shook her head in his direction and grabbed a keycard from her belt. She swiped it in the scanner next to the door and the light flashed green. She pushed open the door and stumbled in as the tactical team finally shook off their failed assault and pushed into the cubicle space in force. It didn’t take them too long to spot Seth and start taking shots.
<We need time.> Best case scenario, it would take ten seconds for the elevator to open and close with them inside it, and that was only if it were waiting on the top floor for them. If it wasn’t, it could be a minute of waiting.
Bullets started impacting all around him and throwing bits of drywall everywhere. They made Seth’s decision for him. He knelt down to make a smaller target and unleashed a torrent of flame into the nearest few cubicles. He poured more power into it and became a human flamethrower. Orange flames flew twenty feet from his hands as he sprayed back and forth across the room.
The tactical team did what any normal human would, they fell back. The sprinklers automatically activated, but Seth channeled the water away from the flames. Every second he let them grow was a second longer it would take to put them out, and those seconds could make the difference between him and Morina getting out of here alive.
Seth looked over his shoulder where she was holding open the elevator. He cut off the fire and rushed for the door. It closed safely behind them without any more bullets threatening his health.
“Not bad.” She shrugged, clearly not comfortable with complimenting others.
“We’re alive. That’s all that matters.” He was too busy thinking about what was going to happen when they got to the basement. He knew it was a parking garage from when they’d brought him in to see Lilly after she’d been captured, but his memory of it was foggy at best.
He was trying to remember where they kept the keys when the elevator ground to a halt. “Shit!” They’d only been moving for a few seconds and there was no way they’d reached the bottom. “The place has got to be on lock down.”
“Burn through the floor and we’ll climb down!” Morina ordered.
Seth took one look at the woman’s spindly arms and questioned if she was physically capable of that. “Can’t,” he replied. “If I burn through too much then I could snap the cable and we’ll be pancakes at the bottom of this shaft.
“Then we need to go out the top. Give me a step up.” She pointed at the hatch at the top of the elevator.
Seth didn’t have a better idea, so he hoisted her up so she could throw the metal grate open.
“Back…Back!” She screamed as he lifted her up. She twisted and pushed away while he tried to push up and they both ended up falling on their face. “Move!” She scrambled away from the open grate.
With it open, Seth could hear the groan of metal against metal. Coupled with Morina’s reaction, that only meant one thing: the tactical team had gotten through the fire and were prying open the door. Now, they’d either rappel down and take them prisoner or just shoot them. He’d gone from being between a rock and a hard place to being a fish in a barrel.
“Fuck it. Move!” Seth shoved Morina away from the center of the elevator before flaming on. “It’s going to get hot in here.” He focused the fire into a circle big enough for them to get through while Morina cowered in the corner. It had already jumped twenty degrees and it was only going to get worse.
Twenty seconds of work and his fire had gone from a red-orange to and orange-white hue. The metal in the floor was a glowing yellow-orange and looked to be sagging. He abruptly cut off the flames.
“Why’d you stop?” Morina was drenched in sweat and looked pissed.
“It told you. If I go too far then it’ll go right through and snap the cable, so shut up I need to concentrate.” He switched things up focused on the glowing circle.
“Sure, just turn this place into the sauna from hell for nothing,” she murmured.
“Shut up!” Seth snapped and glared at her.
That shut her up, but she looked like she wanted to slit his throat. It was hard to ignore her like that, but he had to. He focused on the glowing circle again and dug deep. He didn’t have to go far to find the anger.
He was pissed he was in this situation. He was pissed at himself for making the moves he’d made. He was pissed at Lilly for lying. He was pissed at the DVA for being tools. He was pissed at his class for being douches. He was just pissed at everything and everybody. Even Morina, who he’d just met, was on that never-ending shit list. All of that built up rage made it easy for him to focus his metalokinesis.
Heating up the metal made manipulating it easier. It was half metalokinesis and half pyrokinesis. Leveraging his newest and strongest ability he was able to punch a hole clean in the bottom of the elevator. The edges of the hole still glowed threateningly, but they had an escape route now.
“That’s how you manipulate shit.” Morina gave him a creepy smile before climbing down the hole.
Seth had to lower her to avoid the still glowing edges, but she was able to wrap her arms around a cable and start shimmying the twenty feet to the bottom of the shaft. Seth followed her lead and they left the elevator and approaching tactical team behind…for the moment.