Chapter 19: Calm

Allspades tapped his foot against the floor rhythmically. It echoed off the nearly empty gymnasium’s walls.

Tap.

Tap.

Tap.

Tap.

“Would you please cut that out‽” Hawthorne shouted.

“He’s late. We should just start already.”

“We don’t start until the whole group’s here,” Will said from his spot lying on the stage. “If he’s not here soon, we’ll call it a night. His contact’ll get back to me on what happened soon.”

“Is it possible that he has reached a decision without informing us?” Mach asked.

Will shrugged. “It’s happened before, but he doesn’t strike me as the type. It’d be a shame though. When people make a decision, we get cake.”

“Cake-ake?”

“Yes, cake. Or ice cream. Both if I have the cash for it.”

“That brings up a good point, since we’re waiting anyway. What do you do?” Allspades asked.

Will coughed and sat up. “Most of my income comes from high risk stock market exchanges.” (‘Or something like that.’) “My worth fluctuates regularly, but I make sure to keep enough to live comfortably.”

“But-“

A loud bang echoed through the room and the group turned to the door. Allspades moved towards the entrance, but Will held out a hand to stop him.

“We don’t know who it is.”

With another loud crash, Unimportant stumbled into the room, clinging onto his left arm tightly.

The group started to move over to him, but Will was kneeling at his side before they realized what was happening.

“Gunshot. Mach, Hawthorne, do either of you have anything that can stop the bleeding?”

Mach shook her head. “I did not expect to need medical supplies tonight. I have only basic combat gear at the moment.”

Hawthorne dug through her pockets, quickly finding a seed. “This should work. Lamb’s Ear. It’s not gauze but it should help stop the bleeding.”

With a flourish the seed began to sprout in her hand and she plucked off a few leaves.

Will grabbed the leaves and pulled a worn down, but clean, handkerchief out of one of his pockets. He quickly tied off the wound and checked over the rest of Unimportant.

“I’m not seeing any other injuries. Am I missing anything, kid?”

Unimportant groaned, but shook his head. He spoke in between pained gasps. “Needed help…too much.”

Burnout looked at Unimportant worriedly. “Too much what?”

Unimportant reached back into a side pocket of his bag, grabbing a vial of orange liquid. “Something new…Asclepios…works fast…too fast….Tried to stop it….Messed up, they spotted me….Had to get out…before I could stop them.”

Will frowned at Unimportant. “We need to call someone heavier for this. I can get the word out, we can have half the city on alert in hours.”

Unimportant shook his head. “No time…papers.”

It took them a moment to realize what he meant. Allspades gently lifted him off the floor so they could remove his backpack and get the papers out of them.

Will took one look at them and handed them off to Mach. “Please tell me you can understand this.”

Mach studied the papers closely. “I can work some of it out. It appears to be a drug designed to induce rage. It also contains moderately large amounts of endorphin and dopamine substitutes.”

“What-at?” Red Racer asked.

“It makes you angry, and it makes you feel really good about it,” Hawthorne said.

Mach nodded. “If Asclepios’s previous creations are to be accounted for, it is likely highly addictive as well.”

Will coughed to draw their attention once more. “That doesn’t explain why he’s in such a rush. We need to warn people about this.”

Mach hurriedly flipped through the pages. “It switches over to instructions. Apparently the drug is most effective when inhaled. It also details how to cause incredibly large quantities of the drug to be aerosolized quickly.”

Unimportant grunted from on the floor. “Heard them talking…They want customers fast….They want to release enough somewhere to get as many people hooked as they can.”

Will narrowed his eyes. “Where? When?”

“I don’t know, but we don’t have long.”

Burnout stepped up. “Then we better get moving.”

“No.” The group turned to Will. “We’re not a team, and we’re not equipped to handle something this big. I can get in touch with some of the heaviest hitters this city has. Six speedwalkers aren’t enough to handle a class 3 threat, even if you work together.”

Allspades glared at Will. “And what about you? I don’t know who you used to be, but would you really just sit around while the whole city’s in danger?”

“DON’T BE A FOOL!” The group would have sworn that Will’s voice shook the building. “You all came here because you’re thinking about quitting! Do you think you can survive if you have doubt‽”

Will stared down each member of the group in turn. “This world needs heroes who are willing to fight when they are needed, not when it is convenient. Are you all really going to risk dying over something like this?”

Hawthorne stared back at Will. “Doing nothing would be useless. Of course I’m going to help.”

“Hell yeah.”

“We’ll fight.”

“Try and stop me.”

“Ready-dy.”

“It was my fight…before this started….That has not changed.”

Will checked each member. After a moment of hesitation. “Good.”

“Don’t even-wait what?” Allspades backed up a step.

“Do you really think you can make a decision like this if you stop trying? It takes a bit more than talk to convince yourself. But I’m still letting the big guns know that this could happen. They can patrol the streets. You all need to figure out where they’re gonna release the drug.”

Will turned to walk out the door. “This isn’t a man hunt. It’s an investigation. Find a starting point and go from there. It’ll take them at least a few hours to move the drug, more if they plan on hitting anywhere with enough people to cause a real problem.”

The group watched as Will walked out of the gym.

They stared at each other uncertainly. Allspades and Hawthorne’s eyes met, and Allspades gave a slight nod to the older member.

Hawthorne rose up and addressed the group. “Okay, Unimportant’s going to need a few minutes before he can move properly. Let’s figure out what we know for sure.”

“Unimportant has informed us that he knows the location of the warehouse. However, it is unlikely that the drug is still there, especially considering his discovery,” Mach started.

“It’s still a place to start. Does anyone have an idea of where they’d go after the warehouse district? It might help us figure out what to look for.”

“I live near there-ere. If I knew what way they were going-ing, I might be able to figure it out-out.”

“It depends on who they want to get addicted,” Allspades said. “They could release it in the slums and get a lot of poor customers, or they could release it somewhere less crowded but with richer customers. If it’s as addictive as you guys think, then it wouldn’t matter which.”

“But that’s the weird part, isn’t it?” Burnout asked. “It’s not exactly a great marketing strategy. If they want to get people addicted they could have steam rooms in clubs or something, and those people would come back for more. This way, these guys don’t even know what they were hit with, and it’s not like they’ll get customers who don’t want to buy drugs in the first place to start.”

“Not quite,” Hawthorne spoke again. “It’s an advertising trick. If you can’t create a buzz around a product, create a controversy. If this stuff gets on the news, then every addict looking for a new high is going to crawl out of the woodwork to test it out.”

“But what is the purpose of causing anger? Would it not deter some of their customers?”

Unimportant coughed form the floor. “Trick…papers were from really high up….People releasing drug don’t know about anger.”

“But isn’t he trying to make money-ey?”

“Maybe we’re thinking too short term,” Hawthorne said. “What would be the long term effects of a drug induced riot?”

“Economy would drop for a little while,” Burnout said. “And people would try to get the cops to crack down on drugs for at least a few months.”

“Distraction?” Allspades asked. “Maybe he wants people to be thinking about drugs instead of something else.”

“To my knowledge, Asclepios has no active criminal interests outside of his drug trade. I find it unlikely that a focus on drugs would benefit him, even temporarily,” Mach said.

“Why are we talking about this­-is? Don’t we want to know where it is-is?”

“He’s right. We’re not going to figure this out by guessing,” Hawthorne said. “We have to leave soon, and we need a plan for if we find the drug.”

“I could burn it, but that might make things worse not better.”

Hawthorne nodded. “We’ll make that Plan C then. What about containing it?”

“If he’s calling in the big guns, then they’ll take care of that. We just need to stop it,” Allspades said.

“That would be correct if they are capable of arriving on time,” Mach said. “Is it possible for you to create an air tight seal with your plants?”

Hawthorne bit her lip under her helmet. “It might be if I have enough time, but it would depend on the amount of gas. If I made it too big then I wouldn’t be able to stop the gas from coming through.”

“I believe that would be ‘Plan B’ then.”

“Right.” Hawthorne nodded. She turned to Unimportant.

“Are you good to go?”

“I’ll manage.”

“Then let’s go.”

 

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