Chapter 44: Preparations

Jack slowly walked into his apartment.

The kitchen was in front of him, centered around a pristine stove and oven. The refrigerator was empty, and nothing in the freezer had cost him more than a few dollars. The microwave would have to be thrown out. He tossed it in the trashcan, crushing the piles of paper plates and plastic silverware.

He didn’t take his shoes off. He had walked on the carpet barefoot once, and had no desire to feel the gooey floor again. There was an odd stain near the window on the far wall that had dropped the rent a good 40 bucks a month. He’d decided not to clean it up.

The couch could stay, it had a large dent in the center cushion, but it was far from worn out. He was tempted to lift the cushions, but he had lost the remote there once, and he didn’t have any desire to see that again. The boxes he used as a table wouldn’t be a problem for the landlord to toss. The TV, the one thing he had let himself spend real money on, would be a shame to lose, but someone else would find a better use for it.

He walked into the bedroom. A few thin sheets sat on the old mattress. He couldn’t feel the cold, and he had slept on the ground for years. Anything else seemed silly. He grabbed a few things out of the dresser. Clothes mostly, and a couple old trinkets.

He turned to the closet and let out a soft sigh.

The doors swung outward.

He looked at the dark blue uniform with slight disgust. Queen had suggested a symbol stitched into their uniforms, something to distinguish them a bit more, but they never had the time before the end.

It still fit like a glove. It was designed to stretch, but it had always felt tight across the chest. When they were younger, he’d asked Paige if she’d had the same problem. She’d sent him through a wall.

“You deserved it.”

He ignored the voice.

A pair of heavy gloves still sat on the bed. He glanced down at the ridged fingers. Fake callouses, because he hadn’t been able to get his own. He’d lost his grip on his sword one too many times before they’d given those to him.

He stared at his hands. He had real callouses now, courtesy of that night. He didn’t know what had injured his hands enough to give them to him, but maybe he’d find out soon.

He looked at the other end of the closet.

Allspades’s uniform was there. It was just some clothes he’d grabbed from an army surplus store, but it had been the first uniform he’d decided for himself.

He couldn’t leave it here; Allspades wasn’t famous, but that didn’t mean he should be left behind like that.

The pants were still good, and it was always good to have a spare pair, but the jacket was unique, conspicuous.

He gripped the symbol he’d placed on the back and tore it off. He didn’t have the luxury of time; a large hole was left in the jacket.

That left the gloves. The symbol was on them too, smaller and less noticeable, but there. He stared at the spade. It wasn’t supposed to mean anything, it was just a reminder of old days.

He tucked the gloves in his pocket. He had more old days to remember.

Knight left the apartment.


“You’re sure?” Will asked. He didn’t have to. He’d known the short man since he’d moved into town almost a decade ago. Phil was crass, annoying, and often enough whiny, but he wasn’t a liar. He was too old to bother with it any more.

“Ya. The spook didn’t stay long, and he didn’t seem the kind ta chat. But he said enough for the kid to run outta here like death was on ‘is heels. Said you guys could have the cake without him, whatever that means.”

Will gritted his teeth. Allspades had left on his own, that much was clear, but he was a hero now. The government didn’t get to call on them like that; that wasn’t how it worked.

But he couldn’t do anything about it either. As much as Allspades was a hero, Will wasn’t. And even if he went to The Council, or brought up a complaint himself, they hadn’t recruited him as Allspades. They had called up a retired agent, who had accepted. As far as they were concerned, Allspades had nothing to do with it.

“You can’t do anything can ya?”

Will shook his head. “No. They didn’t force him into it, or ask him to act as a hero. There’s nothing illegal about what they’ve done.”

Phil nodded.

“But that doesn’t mean I have to like it.”

Will started out of the gym. Phil trotted after him.

“Where ya goin’?”

“I need to make a few calls.”


Rose heard her phone ringing and groaned sleepily. She checked the clock. Apparently they’d managed to beat her alarm by three minutes.

After she managed to work her hand out from the tangle of sheets, she flipped off the alarm and answered the phone.


“Rose! Thank god you answered.”

“What is it Barry? I’d like a chance to take a shower before I have to go back to the office.”

“I got here early, and you won’t believe who else is here.”

“If it’s anyone who’s gonna fire me for not being there before 8, then I’m sick.”

“No, you don’t get it. It’s that guy, the one in charge your group.”

Rose jerked up straight. “You’re sure?”

“Yes I’m sure. I saw him talking to the receptionist when I walked in. He just said his name and the guy gave him a straight pass up to 90.”

“The exec floor? Did you hear who he was going to meet?”

“Walked in too late. But the man looked serious Rose. I think something’s going on.”

“Keep an eye out. Call me if he leaves. I’m on my way.”

“You’re not gonna follow him, right?” Rose could hear the stress in his voice.

“I don’t know yet. But if something’s happening, especially if it’s with the group, I want to know.”

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