Chapter 23: Thunder

Unimportant crossed his fingers and cut the wire.

A low laugh echoed through garage and Unimportant felt a shiver run down his spine.

The rest of the group ran into the room behind him.

Mach checked over the machine. “It is not releasing the gas. Is that…?”

Unimportant faded into view, nodding. “That is Asclepios…but I do not understand why we are hearing him now.”

Oh, Im sorry,” Asclepios’s voice echoed from behind them. “I honestly didnt expect anyone to stop one of my canisters, but I had to take a look at whoever did. I must admit, Im disappointed that I dont recognize any of you.”

Allspades was about to throw it in his face, but the wording caught up to him. “One of the canisters?”

But of course, do you honestly believe I have survived this long because I didnt plan for failure? This is not the only canister, and this is most definitely not the only target. But do not fret; you have stopped Plan A. That is far more than most of my enemies can claim. Unfortunately for you, it is far too late for you to stop them.”

Unimportant worked his way to his feet and turned towards the voice. “Why are you doing this…? You’ve never been one for terrorism.”

Terrorism? If that’s how you see it very well. But the truth is that this is nothing of the sort. I am not a terrorist, I am a businessman. This little act of terrorism, as you call it, will fund my business for the next 20 years. If all I have to suffer is some bad publicity, so be it.”

“So,” Hawthorne said. “I don’t suppose you’d tell us where the rest of them are.”

Of course not. Not that it matters either way, you should be hearing the effects in a matter of moments. I suggest you get moving; Id hate to see anyone get hurt.”

A resounding click filtered through the speaker.

A quiet roar echoed from the street.

“We screwed up didn’t we-we?”

&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&

Will stared down from the roof of the Carpenter Tower, next to him stood a tall man with blood red hair. His eyes reflected the city below, dying it in the green of the purest emerald.

“Looks like your kids missed something,” the man said in a deep baritone.

“They tracked the truck fine, Sigurd. You couldn’t have done any better with that much time at their age.”

“So what’s next, Rumor, crowd control?”

“Half the skywalkers in the city are down there working on crowd control. From what Red Racer told Miss Mirror, the group is probably gonna try to figure out what’s going on that needed such a big distraction.”

“So what are we going to do? I’m not staying out of this fight.”

“Do what you want, you greedy worm. My job is to keep an eye on the group, no more no less.”

Sigurd grunted and began to walk to the edge of the roof. “Just keep them out of my way. I’m gonna find the bacraut who decided to do this when I’m in town.”

Will sighed as the man dove off the edge of the roof, sprouting a pair of bat-like wings as the fell, and glided into the distance.

&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&

Allspades slammed his fist into the speaker they found in the back of the van. “Dammit. What the hell are we supposed to do now?”

“There’s a riot to stop. We can worry about everything else after that,” Burnout said.

“No,” Mach said. “Filtration masks have been issued to every walker willing to help already. By the time we retrieved a mask from a provider, the riots will have been quelled.”

“You get radio in that thing?” Hawthorne asked.

“Of course.”

“Where were the other blasts centered?” Allspades asked, with a touch of excitement in his voice.

“According to the reports, one was placed in the Perry Hotel, the other in a park off of 40th and 501st, at a concert.”

Allspades tore the door off the passenger side of the truck and began digging around the glove compartment.

“What are you doing-ing?” Red Racer asked.

“When I worked with the cards, distractions were a big part of my job.” Allspades pulled out a city map. “Found it. The trick to distracting cops is to make it far enough that no one investigating has any chance of seeing you, but it has to be close enough to guarantee the one’s investigating are from the right station. It works for heroes too; they tend to be territorial.

Allspades laid the map on the ground and began looking for the right section.

“Burnout, I need you to mark each target, here too.”

Burnout reached down and burnt three dots into the map.

“Closest station is….” Allspades studied the map for a moment.

“Three blocks north of the park,” Mach provided.

“Good.” Allspades guided Burnout to burn an oval around the targets and station. “Okay, so…south of the park, east of here…”

He motioned to a block a few miles east of the stadium. “What’s here?”

“Bunch of stores,” Burnout said. “They have a jeweler, a couple clothing outlets, and a pretty good computer store for custom builds.”

“The other side is mostly an office building, a distribution company, I think. They’re a middle man between manufacturers and retailers.”

“It’s as good a guess as any,” Allspades said.

“I can check it out-ut,” Red said. “I’ll double back to let you know what I see-ee.”

The group nodded and ran out of the garage.

When they made it to the car, Unimportant turned to Allspades. “I don’t quite understand…What could they be stealing that they need a distraction this big for?”

“Not sure,” Allspades said. “But that’s the best area for them to hit. At worst, hopefully, I’m off by a block or two and we still find them.”

&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&

Will watched the blur racing away from the stadium through a pair of binoculars. A small smile tugged at the corner of his lips.

“Looks like they’re following through.”

A part of him felt proud of his latest group, but a sense of doubt still settled in the back of his mind.

“They’ll be fine, I’m not rushing them.”

(‘Except…’)

He shook the thought away. “Something big came up. I wasn’t going to be able to stop them even if I tried.”

(‘Except…’)

“They’re no different than any other group. Once the high of tonight wears off, they’ll start to worry about everything that could have happened. That’s where the struggle happens. I’m not pushing them too hard to stay in the game.”

The blur in his binocular disappeared behind a building and he gave a light curse. After quickly checking to make sure no one was around, he walked to the edge of the building.

“Need to make sure he stays in sight after all.”

He stepped off the building and into the night.

&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&

Allspades stopped the truck and they piled onto the street. Mach and Burnout both floated down from the building above them.

“Has Red gotten back yet?” Hawthorne asked the two flyers.

“No,” Burnout said.

“He’s probably checking the alleys…That’s what I’d do,” Unimportant said.

“I just don’t want him getting caught. He’s fast but he’s still a kid.”

“Give him a couple minutes,” Allspades said. “We’ll lose a chance for an ambush if we head out without a location.”

“I believe it is too late for those concerns,” Mach said.

They turned down the street, and saw Red Racer rushing towards them. At first, the rest of them weren’t sure what Mach was talking about.

Burnout saw it first. Red’s hands were waving over his head almost wildly. As he got closer, the panicked look on his face became clear.

He skidded to a halt in front of them. He tried to wheeze out a warning while he was doubled over and wheezing.

“Don’t force it,” Hawthorne said. “Catch your breath first.”

“Ha…half the buildings are tilting-ing. It’s like someone built a maze under the whole block­-ock.”

“It is possible. The only seismic monitors for this city are for the reactors on the other side of town. Provided you moved slowly enough, you could dig under a third of the city without being detected,” Mach said.

“We have no way of knowing where they’ll surface then. We have to get down in those tunnels,” Hawthorne said.

Burnout’s face turned ghostly white.

 

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