Month: December 2016

Chapter 116: Hunting Blind

They wouldn’t listen to her. She wouldn’t have listened either. But she had to try. No matter what they had managed to face down before, none of them were in Jaeger’s league.

She flew lower than normal. Even if she wasn’t next on Jaeger’s list, it would be hard for him to turn down such an easy target. She was ready for him. There were reflection points all over her body, as many as she could make. Even a mind reader would have a hard time finding a gap in her defenses right now.

She would have to live with the small ache beginning to buzz near the back of her head. If she didn’t fly, she couldn’t lead Jaeger to a safe place for their fight, and there was no way she would turn her defenses off.

She passed over the highway; traffic was only just starting to let up from the morning rush, but it was still packed with cars.

The area in front of her was desolate. The buildings that were still standing were as empty as the streets below them. She’d be able to go all out with worrying about sho might be in the way of anything she sent flying.

She floated to the center of the abandoned blocks and began to wait.

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He hadn’t quite drawn the short straw; Unimportant and Burnout were working on tracking down Jaeger’s hideout, and Hawthorne had gone to get Mach and hang around Red’s room. He was the only one left who could do this job.

Allspades stuck to the streets when he followed Miss Mirror. It wasn’t hard; she was flying low, letting the lights of the city reach her. She knew there was a fight coming and was letting Jaeger know that she was ready.

It was a desperate move; she was letting her opponent choose when and where to attack. It was the kind of opportunity his old team would have used to take a target out before they ever had the chance to react.

It wasn’t until she crossed the highway that he understood where she was going. The ruins left from there fight with Trump had been cleared out, but nobody had started reconstruction yet. It was a large open area that nobody wanted to walk through if they could help it.

In the middle of a place like that, she might actually get the chance to see Jaeger coming, but she hadn’t seen him in person.

She knew where Red was. If Jaeger was really looking for him, then that was the only reason she’d make it through the first attack. All he had to do was wait for her powers to run her down and he could break through.

Allspades stayed near the edge of the area, keeping an eye on Miss Mirror’s floating form. This was the last building he could use to hide himself. His hand drifted to his phone hidden in his costume and clicked a few buttons. His earpiece buzzed to life.

“Allspades?” Hawthorne’s voice drifted into his ear. He could hear someone else talking in the background, Mach he guessed, but nobody seemed to be talking back. “What’s up?

“She’s floating in the middle of what’s left of Trump’s rampage. I don’t think she’s planning on going anywhere. Any updates from the others.”

“Burnout described a very detailed map of the city that Unimportant has been sticking pins in. I don’t think they’ve found anything solid yet. And I’m stuck in civvies until something happens.”

Paige tugged at their bond, jerking his attention to the roof.

“I need to go. I’ll let you know if something happens.”

“Just keep an eye on her, okay? If Jaeger comes for her, then you’re the only one who can help.”

She said that like he’d have a chance to do anything. By the time he reached Miss Mirror from where he was standing, Jaeger could have killed her a dozen times in increasingly intricate ways.

Allspades had to kick off the building about halfway up to make it to the roof. Paige seemed to drift away from him once he landed, he felt the bond stretch toward the sky.

His vision went black.  He failed to suppress a yelp, and only the reassuring waves from Paige kept him from doing worse.

Allspades took a deep breath, and, one by one, specks of light started to fill his vision. He was looking through Paige’s…eyes wasn’t the right word.

It was like he was slowly spinning to take the entire city in, but he could see it all at once. Paige would focus on whatever he asked her to, but he never lost sight ov everything else. Miss Mirror was just as far as she’d been from the street, but he could see her clearly enough to make out the scowl on her face.

Paige drew his attention elsewhere. Across the city, the air was rippling. Nobody walking near it was reacting. Unconsciously, despite the distance between him and the shimmer, he reached out to rub his hand against it. He couldn’t have touched it, but the moment his arm saw fully extended, he cried out.

His vision snapped back, throwing him to the ground. The muscles behind his eyes squeezed uncomfortable, causing the sky to swim above him. Even the slightest movement caused his head to scream and the ground and sky to rapidly swap places.

Allspades brought a hand up to rub the headache away. It took him three tries to successfully land his hand on his head before he could gently massage his temple.

The bond hummed gently without noise. He tried to reassure Paige, but he couldn’t be sure if his message was coming through clearly.

His tounge was dry, but his mouth was filling with spit. Allspades was immediately glad for his mask-free costume when the contents of his stomach spewed from his mouth and onto the rooftop.

“Let’s…not do that again if we can help it.”

The bond seemed to flip up and down rapidly.

His eyes returned to Miss Mirror. She was hovering in the sky still, but had slowly started to turn around and was sinking even lower.

“If he’s attacking he’ll do it soon.”

The bond screamed, but it was too late.

Allspades was soaring through the air. His cartwheels barely let him see the ground, but he could see the black and silver figure keeping pace with him, before he slammed into Miss Mirror’s floating form.

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Chapter 115: First Hunt

No matter how fast she ran, she never got any closer. The man in black and silver was always a few dozen steps ahead of her.

Zero reached into her well of power and drew forth even more speed. Her legs moved faster and pushed harder off the ground. She gained a step on him, but as soon as she did, he gained it back.

It had been thirteen years since Jaeger had been locked away. She’d still been in the hospital after Hermes had died, but even if she hadn’t, she would have stayed away from that fight. Thirteen years ago she wasn’t even a tenth as fast as she was now, and Jaeger had been faster than any runner in the world.

For thirteen years, he had been kept nearly immobile in a cell, and she’d been getting faster. A week ago, she knew she was faster than anyone on this side of the world, and a strong contender on the other. But Jaeger was outpacing her at every step, and she knew that he hadn’t pulled everything out just yet.

Jaeger turned a corner. When she followed, he was gone.

The air was forced out of her lungs before she could feel the blow to her back. It lifted her off the ground and sent her plummeting forward.

At some point, she flipped. It was half a block before her shoulder hit the ground, sending her skipping like a stone on a lake.

She tried to catch herself on the second skip, but when her foot hit the ground it forced her knee into her chest. Her kneecap met her ribs and neither survived. If there was any air left in her lungs, it was gone.

Bye the third skip, she couldn’t protect her head any longer. She was barely conscious of closing her eye while left side of her face scraped along the ground before her tumble lifted it into the air again.

She was still at nearly full speed when, mercifully, her back slammed into the side of a reinforced truck. The thick metal was designed to outlast a tank. She dented it nearly to the breaking point before the entire truck tipped onto its side.

She bounced out of the dented metal, but she came to rest only a dozen yards away. She had just enough time to wonder about the pain before it hit her all at once and her mind faded.

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Burnout’s phone clattered to the ground as it finally slid from his listless hand. The camera was zooming out from the accident, revealing the trail of destruction in the wake of Zero’s crash. The billboard quickly replaced the image with the anchor’s sitting at their desk but the damage was done.

He wasn’t the only one who was entrapped by the image. Allspades’ eyes had grown narrow and he was muttering something under his breath. Hawthorne’s costume was writhing and a few tendrils were swaying around her. Unimportant had faded into the background. Even Miss Mirror had stopped floating and her cape had stopped fluttering in the nonexistent wind.

Zero had been defeated, humiliated, by a runner she couldn’t even hope to keep up with.

He could feel the fire at his core shrinking away. How was he supposed to fight somebody like that?

“That’s Red’s father?” The words felt thick on his tongue. He made a vain attempt to swallow but his mouth was arid.

“He’s been in jail for as long as Red’s been alive.” Miss Mirror sounded less firm than she had in the minutes before the broadcast. “I never imagined that he’d still be so fast. If he hadn’t gone to the hospital to visit his newborn son, then he never would have been caught.”

It was the kind of trap that could only work once. The perfect set of powers and information to keep Jaeger still just long enough knock him out and put him in a cell designed to keep runner’s from moving. One hero to grab hold of the local gravity before he could and one to hit him in the exact spot needed hard enough to get him down; her parents.

“I don’t think we can be much help.” Everyone turned to Allspades, but his eyes never left the billboard. “I saw him before coming here. He’s not just fast, he carved a symbol into the Headquarters in a single pass and I didn’t even see him doing it. We don’t have the powerset to catch him; he’d see any trap we could set.”

Burnout agreed, in spite of himself. He’d read a dozen ways to catch runners with fire, and his armor added a few more, but there was nothing he could do to catch someone that fast. Maybe he could set up some kind of updraft corridor that would force him off the ground? He’d never tried to keep a steady fire going that far from himself, but his fingers tingled with heat.

The expression on Miss Mirror’s face widened slightly before Allspades spoke again.

“We should focus on keeping him away from Red. How many people know about them?”

“Not many,” Miss Mirror said. “Our granpdarents, Will, Zero; maybe Janus if she put it together. Zero may have told the Council, but she said she wouldn’t yet. But-”

“That was before Jaeger turned her into a road hazard,” Hawthorne said. “If she wakes up before they catch Jaeger, she’s going to tell them. Until then, Red will be safe. Maybe we could track down wherever he’s staying and pass it on?”

Unimportant faded more into existence. “if i had an idea of where he’s been seen, i might be able to figure something out. even runners have patterns

An idea hit Burnout. “Half the people at the university keep track of that stuff; I might be able to hit up a few of them to figure that out.”

Hawthorne and Allspades started talking at the same time.

Stop,” Miss Mirror’s voice reverberated over the rooftop. They all turned towards her. “I think you misunderstood me. I don’t want any of you to fight Jaeger. For god’s sake, most of you have only been doing this a couple of years at most.”

They all stared at her mutely. Even after what they’d seen, Burnout didn’t think any of them had actually considered not taking on Jaeger in some way.

She kept talking before they could recover. “It’s not a secret who my parents are. Jaeger will come for me, probably soon. I should be able to keep him busy for long enough that the rest of the Council can get there, but if I mess up, somebody needs to watch over…Red.

“I need to go before he starts looking for me. All of you need to stay away from him, and you need to keep Red away too.”

She didn’t wait for an answer before taking off into the sky.

Once she disappeared, they turned back to each other.

how soon can you get me that info?

Burnout shrugged. “I can make some calls. Can’t be too obvious about it.”

“Do it fast,” Hawthorne said. “We’re not waiting for Jaeger to kill her before we do something.”

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Chapter 114: Hunter’s Sign

*The Night of Trump’s Attack*

Allspades stared at the cocoon. The fight was over.

For a brief moment, relief clouded the pain in his shoulder. Then the day slammed into him.

King was alive. He wasn’t angry about it anymore, or even sad, but even the pain an exhaustion couldn’t hide the emptiness at knowing the truth.

Even after the months he had spent working with the group, thoughts of the Cards had always filled him with warmth. But not that feeling was gone.

Paige’s presence drifted by his side, but she didn’t say anything. He could feel her looking at the cocoon. The bond that connected her to him pulled at his heart as her presence sank to the ground. Her pain echoed through him and lit a spark. A small piece of anger came to life.

The glow surrounded Allspades again, more gentle and less bright than it ever had. He reached down and gave their bond a gently tug. He felt her attention shift.

“He doesn’t deserve it.”

His words were quiet. The group may have been able to hear him, but none of them said anything. But Paige heard him clearly. Her will joined his in grasping the bond. It was the closest the they could come to touching each other.

Allsapdes stayed like that for as long as he could.

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Allspades gripped his shoulder spun his arm in a wide circle. Pain spread from his shoulder, rolling halfway down his arm and licking at his back like fire.

He ground his teeth, but didn’t stop. He’d never taken this long to heal before. One of his arteries had been ruptured, and his shoulder blade had shattered. A doctor had spent six hours pulling the pieces out and puzzling them back together. If he weren’t a walker, he would have lost his arm, if he hadn’t bled out first.

He’d only lost the sling today.

He stopped moving it, and the pain faded, but it was still smoldering in his shoulder.

His lips pulled back in a grin and he started to run. He leapt off the roof and over the street. The city stretched out beneath him. 10 stories down, the first cars of the morning were just starting to fill the street.

With a flash of white, the glow let Allspades push off of the air and clear the street. His own rush of excitement was mirrored through the bond as the glow let him move through the city faster than he’d ever managed before.

Paige hadn’t talked since the attack, but her constant presence was more comforting than her words had ever been.  She prodded his senses now, directing him to the center of the city. He turned to the south and leapt again.

She had been guiding him around town since the group’s decision to look for Will, but so far there had been nothing solid. Every false lead had the bond twinging with her frustration.

If she was really sensing Will, then he was moving strangely. His path through the city looked like he was searching for something, but a trip that would take a few minutes for anyone who could travel by rooftop had been taking him hours.

The Council Headquarters was in front of him. They’d managed to make the street usable, but the building was still scarred and an empty construction site surrounded the building. Despite that, the museum had managed to stay running. The doors were just opening, and Paige was nudging him inside.

The floor was still roped off where it had been cracked from Adamant’s rampage. Allspades walked to the ropes and stared at the hole.

Paige had been pulling him here. In fact, it felt like he was standing in the same spot as Will but there was no one to be seen. The bond stopped reacting. Allspades gave it a light tug and walked out of the building.

If Paige had really been tracking Will, then looking any more wasn’t going to do any good. Will was somewhere they could reach without help.

He could tell the group when they met up tonight, maybe one of them found something more solid.

Allspades scaled his way to the rooftops again.

Ice crept up his bond with Paige, freezing his heart. He couldn’t’ hear her voice, but it felt like she was shouting in his ear.

His gaze slowly drifted down the block. A black and silver blur raced towards the headquarters, barely visible against the street.

Even as close as he was to the building, the blur passed him before he heard anything. It sounded like somebody had fed concreted into a blender, and the blender won. The construction barriers that had been in the blurs way were flattened, and the building had a new scar.

A large, stylized J had been carved into the building, just above the door. Even among the cracks that littered the walls, it stood out as the most important one of them all. It was a statement that echoed in the primal parts of his brain. Somebody had marked their territory; more importantly, they’d challenged the biggest beast in town.

Allspades stared at the carving in disbelief.

A soft ringing filled his ears, but he didn’t realize it was his phone until it was almost too late.

He caught a glimpse of Hawthorne’s name before he answered. Why was she calling? They had all already agreed to meet up tonight.

“Same place as last time, as soon as you can. I’ll explain there, but this could be bad. Keep your eyes open and don’t take any risks.”

She didn’t let him answer before she hung up.

Allspades stared at the blank screen on his phone and then looked at the carved wall of the headquarters again.

He could make it to the meeting point in three minutes, but this guy could do a lot of damage in that much time. He was fast enough that Allspades wasn’t sure if the entire group could take him on.

There were already people gathering around the headquarters, and a different blur was on its way there. The runner had nothing to do with him, and the Council would be able to handle him on their own.

Allspades turned for the meeting point.

As he jumped from the roof, a black and silver blur came to a halt where he had been standing.

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