Knight stared her down from across the empty club. Will he almost expected, but he never thought she’d be dragged along.
A voice spoke in his ear, but he wasn’t listening. If they were here, then whatever plan Craig had was already too far off track to be of use.
But Plask wasn’t here yet. If he hurried, he might convince them to leave. Maybe he could finish the mission, maybe…maybe she would finally be able to leave him alone.
Hawthorne’s eyes never wavered. She was wearing a different mask, but it was definitely her. He hoped he could make her see reason. If he convinced her to leave, he was sure the others would go with her.
“You shouldn’t be here. None of you should be here.”
Will stepped forward, but Hawthorne stopped him. “I think he knows what you’re going to say.”
Will nodded and returned to stand by the cloaked figure.
Hawthorne walked towards Knight. The two of them met in the middle of the dance floor. Neither of them talked, but the argument had already started.
She wanted to take him back to Macropolis.
He knew he could never return.
Neither of them were really interested in any argument the other would make.
Both of them knew that didn’t change anything.
“Why did you leave?” Hawthorne asked. “Why didn’t you tell us?”
“It’s personal. None of you needed to know about this.” He gestured around the empty club. “Allspades tried to leave this life. He thought he could be a hero. I know better. I’m not Allspades, and I’m not a hero. I’m just a bullet.”
Hawthorne looked back towards Will, but he didn’t do anything. She took a deep breath and looked back at Knight.
“Do you remember, the first thing you said to me?”
“You complained about the food. You said that you couldn’t eat a hamburger for four years. Is that the life you want to go back to?”
“I can live without hamburgers.”
“Knight, what’s going on?” Craig asked. “Who are you talking to?”
Knight pulled the receiver from his ear.
“All that matters to me now, the only thing I care about tonight, is that Plask pays for what he did. If you think there’s anything you can say that will change that, then get it over with. I don’t have the time to argue.”
Hawthorne reached into her pocket and pulled out an apple. She stared at it for a moment.
Knight reached out without thinking and plucked the apple from midair. He held it up with a raised eyebrow.
Vines sprouted from the apple and immediately shot towards his other arm. Knight tried to get away, but the vines just grew with him, never giving him enough space to pull them apart. The vines encased his arms and reached for his waist, slowly forcing his arms to his side.
“I…thought…you had to be…touching them.”
“Not bad at all, but do you really think this will stop me? You’ve saved him for a night. No more,” Knight said.
“If you really think he’s the one I’m saving, you’re a bigger idiot than I thought.”
The vines slowly grew over Knight’s head.
Hawthorne let out a sigh.
Will walked up next to her and lightly tapped the vines. He turned to her with a raised eyebrow.
“We can argue when there isn’t a crime lord waiting to walk in on us.”
“Fuck!” Craig’s fist slammed into the dashboard. “It took me half a year to track that kid down!”
“Calm down boss man,” the driver had reclined his seat back and happily popped another chip into his mouth. “Plask isn’t exactly unpredictable. Once your kid gets free we’ll just track him down again.”
Craig gritted his teeth. “We won’t get another chance you moron! If they managed to track down the kid then someone knows I pulled him back in. I only had one fucking shot at this, and that bitch screwed it up!”
“Don’t worry so much,” the driver said. “There’s no way they’ll find us for a few more days at least. It’ll take at least that long to tell anyone local to watch out for us.”
Craig just laughed. “You really are a moron. Do you have any idea who we work for?”
“I know that I get paid for driving people where they need to go. Nothing else really matters to me.”
There was a knock on the window, and they both turned to see a man in a plain black suit staring at them.
“You might want to reconsider that policy.”
A single bare light bulb illuminated the empty warehouse. He had been secured to a chair in the center of the vast room. Hawthorne slowly extended her hand and willed the vines away from his face.
Knight flinched back when the vines were removed from his eyes.
“Goddammit! Do you have any idea what you’ve done?”
“Unless I’m mistaken,” Will said. “She just saved a man’s life.”
“And if you’re plan was to stand in the center of his club until he showed up, it wasn’t Plask she saved,” Stalker chimed in.
“Who the hell are you anyway?”
Hawthorne looked at Will. “Did he used to curse this much?”
“Why did you stop me?” Knight growled. “That bastard would be dead if it wasn’t for you!”
“Maybe he would be,” Will said. “But probably not. Either way, you would definitely have not survived the night.”
“I’d risk it.”
Hawthorne slapped him.
“Is you’re life really that worthless to you? Are you really that big of an idiot?”
“What fucking life‽ Pretending to be a hero? Toiling away at a fucking library? Praying the next guy I punch won’t be the one I punch just a little too hard? I’m not trained to be a hero! The only thing I can do, the only thing I’m good at, is making sure the other guy doesn’t get up again.”
“Then why is Burnout still alive?”
Allspades shut up.
“If you hadn’t been there, then he would have been stuck in that cave for who knows how much longer. If you hadn’t been with us when those bombs went off, then we never would have found Mason. If all you’re good at is hitting things, then explain that.”
Knight gritted his teeth. “None of that matters now. All that matters is making Plask pay for what he did to Page, and Helen and Thomas. All I want, is for them to rest in peace.”
“By going back to the life that killed them? By going back to a life you hated? If they cared half as much about you as you think you do about them, they would kick your ass for this stunt. You would have died!”
“Then maybe I would get some quiet!” The venom in Allspades’ voice flooded the room.
Hawhtorne took a step back.
“Stop pretending you know what it’s like. Stop pretending you understand how they felt, how I felt. You don’t have to live with it every. Fucking. Day. You want me to go back? Back to wondering if I was still sane? Back to hearing her drone on and on in my head about what I’m doing right, or what I’m doing wrong, or why I shouldn’t be sad anymore. Because I can’t do that! Tonight was the last chance I had to help them rest in peace, and you fucker ruined it! I don’t care if I was going to die! I don’t care how many times I would have been shot or beaten or stabbed. It would have been worth it.”
A white light burst from Allspades, shredding the vines with it. It clung to him, hugging him like a second skin.
Stalker laughed. It wasn’t the laugh that Hawthorne was used to, this one was deeper, more normal. And for some reason that scared her all the more.
Allspades whirled towards him. “What are you laughing at?”
Stalker walked towards him, laughing all the while. “Look at yourself, boy. You really think an agent can get away with being a lighthouse? Do you even know what that is?”
“What are you talking about Stalker?”
“You’ve never seen it before either, have you Will? Magical transference. I saw it in the camera, yes I did. But I couldn’t say, no, I couldn’t be sure.” He turned, his smile shining brightly thorough his shadowed face. “Your boy’s got another soul hitching a ride on his crazy train.”
He turned back towards Allspades. “You want closure boy? Then listen carefully. Somebody’s soul latched onto yours when they died, someone close to you. Normally, it’s because they blame you for their death, but not with that glow, no not at all. Somebody thinks you can’t take care of yourself. You wanna get rid of the voices? Then you need to prove you can.”
“What the hell does that mean?”
“It means, that killing Plask ain’t gonna help your problem, boy. It would only make it so much worse.”
“And why should I believe you?”
The shadows around stalker began to seep out of his hood, but his smile glowed as brightly as ever. He gripped Allspades head and forced him to stare straight at him. “You’ve been given a quest boy, Let me show you what happens to those who fail!”
Allspades tried to look away from the mass of shadows before him, tried to not look at the rotten figure floating behind Stalker, but he couldn’t. He couldn’t look away from its face, twisted almost beyond recognition.
“If you think it’s bad when they talk, wait until they start to scream!”
And then he could hear it. He could hear the pain radiating from Stalker’s ghost, and from Stalker.
“What…happened…to…you?” he managed to choke out.
“I’m in hell, boy, and I dragged someone else there with me. Be careful with that glow, or I’ll be seeing you there real soon.”
He let go of Allspades’ head and turned away. He walked to the door. “We got company, boy. If you can’t fight you better start running.”
A loud bang echoed from the front door.
“Mason White! You are ordered to report for debriefing immediately! Your superior has already been brought in for questioning. Come out now and no excessive force will be used.”
“Shit,” Will said. He looked at Allspades, panting on the floor. “Sounds like your boss went AWOL. Congratulations, you’re officially on their bad side.”
He looked at Hawthorne. “How quickly can you get him to the BIT?”
She stared at him, still in shock from Stalker’s performance. “What? What are you going to do?”
Will shrugged. “I’ll try to have a reasonable conversation with them. And when that fails, I’ll try really hard to make sure none of them get hurt too badly.”
Hawthorne looked down at Allspades, and back to Will. “I can-”
“You really can’t. You agreed to do what I say while we’re in this city. And right now, you need to get him on that train. The black suits won’t come after you if you’re on it. If I’m not there in 10, hit the big red button. It’ll get you home.”
Hawthorne straightened up to argue.
“NOW!” Will’s voice boomed around the empty warehouse. Hawthorne helped Allspades to his feet and rushed towards the back entrance.
Will looked at Stalker. “Please don’t kill anyone. I really don’t want to have that conversation.”
Stalker grunted. “I’ll try.”
The door opened and three men walked in. They all wore identical black suits and matching sunglasses.
“We are here seeking the agent known as Mason White, aka The Knight of Swords. If you tell us where he is, then we will let you go unhindered.”
Stalker’s smile reappeared beneath his hood. “Awww. They think they can hinder us. Please tell me I can prove them wrong.”
Will cleared his throat. “As far as I know, the agent you’re referring to died half a year ago. If you insist on attempting to interrogate us, then understand that we will defend ourselves.”
The agent reached into his jacket and flicked out a long baton. The others followed suit. “Very well.”
“I’ll handle the one on the right,” Stalker said. He charged forward without waiting for an answer.
Will muttered under his breath but slowly approached the others.
“We will give you one more chance to comply.”
Will sighed. Let’s just get this over with.
The two ran nearly silently towards him. Will counted their steps carefully. The one on the left was slightly taller, he had the longer reach, and would probably attack first. But the other one wasn’t slowing down to take advantage.
Will ran towards the taller one. He swung the baton down from his shoulder, but halfway through his swing, it felt like his arm was passing through water. Will quickly struck at the agent’s wrist, hitting a nerve and forcing his hand open. Will grabbed his extended arm.
The other agent had reached them, but it was too late. Will used the taller one’s arm to force him between the two and take the blow for him.
Will let go just before the baton released its electric charge and sent the taller one into oblivion. The second agent barely had time to look surprised before will open palm slammed into his head. He felt his skull shake and he was unconscious before he hit the ground.
Will checked his watch. It had been less than two minutes since Hawthorne left. He looked over at Stalker. He was tapping his foot impatiently.
“You’re slow, Rumor. You could’ve taken those guys out from across the room.”
“And let their boss know exactly who I am. Of course.”
Stalker shrugged. “Think there’s more.”
“As long as those two made it to the BIT, I really don’t care.”
“Then you better make sure they did.”
Outside the warehouse a car screeched by and they heard gunfire.
“Duty calls.” Stalker leapt out the door and disappeared into the shadows.
Will snorted and went out the other way.