Will watched Slipstream darting back and forth across the sky. He had been flying for nearly an hour now, buzzing the rooftops to find the chem signature that the group hoped would lead them to Unimportant.
He took his eyes off his old comrade and looked around him. The rest of the group had come back one by one, and if he wasn’t mistaken, they were talking with Mach through their phones.
“You’re smiling.” A voice came from behind him.
If he had been, it was already gone. “Adamant. I thought you were going to sit this out. Like usual.”
The silver-skinned man’s arms were crossed and his eyebrow was twitching.
“Oh right. You aren’t much used if you’re not punching something. So of course you can’t help out when there’s no one to hit. Which makes me wonder what you’re doing here at all.”
“I’m here in case you fail. Whatever comes from that child’s actions, I am here to stop it.”
Will grimaced, and turned away from Adamant.
“Stop acting so dignified. Wasn’t it you who taught me to always expect the worst? I think I was only a little older than him then.”
Will scoffed. “You’re twisting my words. Don’t pretend you based you’re whole life off that night. You were a fucked up kid and you’re no better now. We don’t need you here. ”
Adamant walked around and shoved a finger in Will’s chest. “You. Don’t. Tell. Me. What. To. Do. You never made it to the Council; you ran away. You left the rest of us to fight alone, and wallowed in your selfish pity for over a year. Do you even know what happened because of you? Do you know what you put us through?”
Will stayed silent.
“Of course you do. You know everything don’t you? You always know exactly what to say and exactly what to do. Even now, you have most of the Council wrapped around your little finger. Even Sigurd’s coming around to your side. But I’m not going to forget.”
Will didn’t say anything as Adamant hopped away, bouncing from rooftop to rooftop.
“I found something,” Slipstream reported. “There’s a warehouse leaking that signature 12 blocks to the Northeast.”
Will looked to the group, who were all staring at him strangely. “Let’s go.”
Slipstream landed lightly on the roof as they all moved for the warehouse. If necessary, he could have kept flying for hours more, but his suit would need to recharge before he’d be any use in a fight. He stared at their backs as they moved towards the warehouse. He hoped they could succeed, because he knew what would have to be done if they failed.
Just before they were out of earshot, Will heard him speaking.
“I hope you know what you’re doing, Will.”
Will did his best to ignore what those words really meant. The worry in Slipstream’s voice filled him with a heaviness that he hadn’t had to experience in years.
“We need to hurry,” Will said. “It’s going to be nearly impossible to find him with the sliders still keeping an eye on the other warehouses. We have to hope he’ll be able to give us a sign.”
“We don’t even know if he’ll be here tonight,” Hawthorne said. “You seem oddly eager.”
“It has to be tonight-ight,” Red Racer said. “They said they’d only give us the one night.”
“So what happens if we fail?” Burnout asked.
Allspades was the one who answered. “Blood Moon Protocol.”
“You’ve heard of it,” Will said.
Allspades nodded. “As far as I know, they’ve only ever had to do it twice, but it was one of the situations we had to be taught. If a large enough amount of a specific rift radiation gathers in one spot, then it will become stuck between universes. In order to stop it, a large group of sliders will work together to lock out that frequency. It prevents it from ever entering our universe again.”
“And Unimportant with it-it. Apparently, it easier to do the close it is to dawn, and they aren’t going to let him run around like this any longer.”
Will nodded. The warehouse was just ahead of him.
“We can’t go inside,” he said. “If we’ve already taken it out, then there’s a good chance he’ll pass it up.”
“We need to keep an eye on what’s happening inside,” Hawthorne said. “We should split up to make sure we don’t miss anything.”
The others nodded and the group immediately split off. Will sat down on the roof and waited.
He waited because there was nothing else he could do. He waited because he had to put his faith in the only plan that had a real chance of working. He waited because he wanted to believe that everything would be all right. He waited until the sun’s rays were peaking over the horizon, and then he knew he’d waited too long.
The group had started wandering over as sunrise drew nearer.
And then they felt it; as one they turned towards the south. Only Will understood what the familiar feeling really meant. It kept building higher and higher until they could see the rift reaching for the sky.
“What happens next?” Burnout asked.
“All the rift radiation that Unimportant’s been leaving around town will be drawn into it. With so many sliders working together, it’ll be spread across who knows how many universes and the threat will be gone. At first, Unimportant will be drawn to it, but he could ignore it if he knew what it was. Soon enough, it’ll start to physically pull him through its center, and he’ll either end up locked out of this universe or stuck drifting between them forever.”
Red Racer walked towards the rift until he was standing near the edge of the roof. His eyes were wide and his breath came up short.
If his sister were there, she’d be holding him tightly and telling him that he’d done everything he could to help his friend. But his sister wasn’t there; she was patrolling the skies as a part of the deal they’d made to get so much help in trying to find Unimportant.
Allspades came up behind him and rested a hand on his shoulder.
Red Racer turned and looked him in the eye, and there was a hint of a tear about to fall.
Allspades turned back to the rest of the group. He looked each of them in the eye, and when he met Will’s, Will knew what he was going to say.
A part of him hoped he wouldn’t say it. Allspades didn’t know what failure would cost in this case, but Will did. He’d seen brave people, good people trying to do the right thing, forced to hang up their capes forever because they went against the best interests of the world. Even if the Council understood, they couldn’t afford to let heroes like that poison their kind in the public’s eye.
Another part couldn’t have been happier than if Allspades followed through. After Confluence, he’d been worried that Allspades would sink into the shell that the group had barely gotten him out of before he left. If the look on Red Racer’s face was enough to sway him, then maybe he’d be the kind of hero Will wished all of them could be.
“How do we stop it?”
In spite of himself, in spite of the pain that Will knew they might end up with, in spite of his instincts telling him to stop them right now, Will smiled.
“You’ll only have one chance.”