“Come on! He has to be somewhere around here!”
Three men fanned out from the center of the room, leaving the table abandoned. One of them slowly approached the aisles of crates. He slowly reached into his coat and pulled out a revolver. He approached each aisle cautiously, staring down into the shadowy recesses of the warehouse.
“Why the hell is he here? I thought we were supposed to be safe during the day?”
There was no answer.
“Guys? If you’re fucking with me, now’s the time to stop. Guys?”
He slowly turned around towards the table. Nothing. A long crash came from the other side of the warehouse and he rushed towards it.
“This fucker’s not getting me. I’m gonna put more holes in him than a box of donuts.”
…He was not a particularly smart man.
He circled around the building’s office and hugged the wall. He breathed heavily from the short jog before jumping around the corner with a shout.
“HA! Got you now you…”
Two men lay sprawled on the floor. Both were breathing deeply, but their hands were crudely tied behind their backs.
“Tony? Jake?” He whirled around. “YOU THINK THOSE TWO GOT ANYTHING ON ME?! COME OUT AND FIGHT ME LIKE A MAN!”
“why…would i do that?”
The man spun to his left and fired into the warehouse. The bullets rang off the crates. “COME ON COWARD! I COULD TAKE YOU OUT WITH BOTH HANDS TIED BEHIND MY BACK!”
“possibly. but i don’t think we need to find out. after all i already know everything i need to. you are peter lawson, you are in charge of any crates that go in and out of this warehouse, including no less than fifteen shipments from donald baker, a known associate of asclepios.”
“I GET HUNDREDS OF SHIPMENTS! WHAT THE FUCK DOES THAT HAVE TO DO WITH ME?!”
“true. in fact, i almost wrote you off. but then i saw you personally escorting the most recent shipment onto an ice cream truck. in fact i have pictures of it, including several of you receiving payment from the driver, who was arrested three days ago.”
Peter backpedalled towards the table in the center of the room. “S-so what? You think any of that will hold up?”
“no, but the crate you ‘misplaced’ will be very useful.”
“What are you?”
Peter heard a loud thud and then he was on the ground.
“no one important.”
John Andros sat on a building across from the warehouse, watching the lights dancing on top of the patrol cars.
“Feeling proud, Unimportant?”
John quickly turned his power up a little higher. “I didn’t hear you…Slipstream…sir.”
Slipstream quietly landed on the roof next to him. “There’s only a few people who can. I heard you and Will had a one on one last night.”
“We did…He asked about my reasons for joining the group.”
The mecher nodded. “He does that, the man was always better at asking questions than answering them.”
A questioning aura rolled off of Unimportant.
“Sorry. Personal stuff.”
Unimportant nodded. “Nevertheless…he made me look more closely at my reasons…He asked about my memories too.”
“Understandable. I assume he’s trying to make you focus on your reasons for leaving instead of your reasons for staying.”
“Why is that?”
Slipstream shook his head and sat on the ledge next to the young speedwalker. “Make no mistake, Will is trying to make sure you guys do what you think is best, but he’s never been the kindest at that. He’s the kind of man who focuses on the negatives, and it blends into this more than he knows. I can’t really explain more but…make sure you think about why he’s asking questions instead of the questions he asks. And remember that he wants you to find the answers.”
“I…can understand that…I suppose.” Unimportant stared down at the warehouse, the cops were just now placing crime scene tape across the doors. “But, I don’t know anything about my powers. How can I answer those questions?”
“Talk. Talk to him, to the other members, to anyone. This may sound strange from a mecher but…you don’t always need to know why something works to understand that it needs to. Look down there.” He gestured to the warehouse. “You may not realize it, but you’ve gotten farther up Asclepios’s ass in these last few months than the cops have in five years. You’re doing good work.”
“Maybe…But I have family whose faces I barely know because I remember dozens of families. I nearly used a phrase that only makes sense if lizards are mammals because I’ve heard it said more times than I’ve seen a lizard outside of a cage. The last time I saw a dog I nearly had a heart attack because it looked too much like one I remember ripping my throat out. At this rate I’ll barely be able to order a drink without somebody noticing something wrong with me. How can that be worth it?”
Slipstream didn’t speak for a moment. Then he held his hand straight in front of him and one of his engines popped off and hovered in the air before them. “I could sell one of these for hundreds of thousands of dollars, because any number of companies would love to know how they work. Those blimps up there rely on designs so intricate that I had to train a dozen people on individual components just to make sure someone could replace them if I couldn’t. The fact is, I don’t have the types of problems you do, my power lets me take it off and throw it in a drawer.
“I’ve met a lot of walkers kid, and most of them have to make a lot more sacrifices than I did. Some of them crack, and some of them learn to move past their problems. Some of them make it years without a hitch, and then one day they realize they’ve gone too far. The one thing that stays the same is that no two of them ever have the same experience. I can’t tell you whether what you’re doing is worth it, because I’m not you.
“If you keep this up, you may become something that lowlifes like those guys down there whisper about around their campfires. Maybe you’ll finish off Asclepios’ business in the city and decide that’s enough for you, or maybe you’ll just move on. Maybe you will go crazy, maybe you won’t. In the end it’s all up to chance.”
Slipstream reached into a pouch on his suit and pulled out an old coin.
“An old friend gave me this. She asked me if I was willing to bet my life on whether or not I could guess which side it would land on.” He handed the coin to Unimportant. “I told her she was crazy, but she told me that our chances weren’t any better than that anyway. And you know what? I helped bury her three years ago. Our job is dangerous no matter what else is going on. I always figured that if I was going to risk my life, then any other sacrifice I made was nothing in comparison. Others disagree.”
Unimportant held the coin up against the sky. “And…Mr. Writer…Is that why he quit?”
“I don’t know for sure. Personally, I think he cheated on that coin toss one too many times. It made him start regretting too many things that weren’t his fault.”
“What does that-” But Slipstream had already flown away.