Unimportant

Chapter 119: Watch

Hawthorne had already left by the time he reached the hospital room. Mach…Tina was still there, staring at the news. The newscasters weren’t talking, but Miss Mirror and Allspades’ names were on the scroll at the bottom, alongside Jaegers.

He forced himself into existence slowly. Tina acknowledged him with a nod.

“John.”

He nodded back, but remained focused on the news.

Allspades had been blown the far side of the damaged block; it wouldn’t take him long to get back, but he would have to unbury himself first.

Jaeger squared off against Miss Mirror. The newscaster was talking now, but her voice was quiet and muffled.

John glanced over at Tina, but his gaze didn’t stop until it landed on Mitch, still sitting on the bed. He saw Tina nod slightly when he did. “What are her chances?”

“I don’t know,” she said. “15 years ago, there were only a few heroes who could take him on. He was faster than any runner at the time, possibly the fastest since walkers were revealed. His powers are gravity based, and the only gravity manipulator around had to put a lot of effort into overpowering him. He had a habit of messing with other people’s powers. He used the wake from his power to make it difficult for them to use.”

Miss Mirror had looked like she was putting up a good fight, but Jaeger was doing something to her now. She was floating but it didn’t look like she was in control.

“Not good then,” John said. “She’s tough, but she’s only been active a few years. She’s never fought someone who could affect her powers.”

Tina’s brow furrowed. She was clutching the wheels on her chair; her knuckles were slowly turning paper white.

“What do they need to know?”

“What?” Tina’s hands didn’t loosen, but the worry had faded from her face for now.

“They’re going to fight him. We can’t fight with them, but we can help.”

Mach slowly nodded. Her eyes closed.

John pulled out his phone and quickly called Burnout. He answered immediately.

“They need to be ready for his wake. Even if he doesn’t touch them, he can hurt them. And if they want even a chance of winning, they have to stop him from moving. Not just his legs, or his arms, they need to keep him as still as possible. They’ll have to trap him somewhere that Hawthorne can wrap him up before he can use his powers.”

Unimportant waited for more, but Mach stopped talking. Her hands were still clutching the wheels, but she was breathing more steadily.

Jaeger jumped over something in his path, breaking the trap he’d caught Miss Mirror in.

The newscaster’s voice finally came through clearly. “Another hero has arrived on the scene. We are getting confirmation on the identity now-”

Tina muted the TV. “She arrived faster than I expected.” She had released her wheels and blood was slowly returning to her hands. “Thank God.”

“Burnout should be right behind her.”

They stared silently at the news, but didn’t turn the sound back on. Hawthorne and Burnout’s names joined the others on the scroll.

John walked to the other side of the bed and sat down. He had had to watch his teammates fight before, but there was always something he could do to help. Against this opponent, with so little time, he was useless. A weight settled on his shoulders and he felt himself sagging into the chair.

“You’re not useless,” Tina said.

John’s eyes slid off the TV and to her.

“I own enough mirrors to know the look.”

“I don’t like sitting around doing nothing.” Tina raised an eyebrow at him. “I didn’t mean-”

“I know you didn’t. I don’t like it either. I used to be able to fight with them. I built the weapon that drove off Frankenstein, and now the best I can do is offer some good advice. I can’t even control the powers I have.”

“So how do you get through it?”

“If you had the powers you needed to help, you would. If I could still walk, I’d be right there beside them.”

“That’s enough?”

“No. It’s never enough. It’s barely even a comfort. But I know that I would never forgive myself for not helping if I could. That’s the best I have.”

John didn’t have an answer for that, and Tina didn’t seem ready to give any more.

A blue sphere took up the entire screen. It looked like they were trying to catch Jaeger.

John stared intently at the screen, barely catching the slight movement out of the corner of his eye.

And then the sphere exploded.

“No,” Tina breathed. She bolted upright in her wheelchair and had to catch herself before she fell off.

Jaeger was already charging at Hawthorne.

And then the fight was over. He’d taken out all three of them in moments, and now he was dragging Burnout back to pile them together.

John couldn’t take his eyes off the screen. Even with everything he knew about Jaeger, he never expected the others to lose. They’d taken on a man capable of throwing buildings and using their own blood as a weapon. Compared to that, this should have been easy.

Unimportant started to fade and jumped to his feet.

He ran for the door. He’d never get there in time to stop anything. He wouldn’t even get there in time to see Jaeger leave.

Tina didn’t say anything when he passed. Her eyes were clouded over, and he could see the tears starting to form at their corners. Her hands gripped her wheelchair again, but she made no move to release the brake.

He opened the door, and something blurred past him.

Unimportant and Tina both looked at the now empty bed.

Tina looked back at the news. “He’ll get there in time.”

Unimportant didn’t say anything. He ran out the door and straight for the stairs.

Tina rolled out after him, but didn’t rush. There was nothing else she could do.

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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 107: Four of a Kind

Allspades’s scream echoed in the distorted space. Even as loud as it must have been, when it reached Unimportant’s ears it was hollow and lifeless, as if it had echoed one more time than he should have been able to hear before it reached his ears. He didn’t know if that made it better or worse than if he heard it in the real world.

He’d tried to get close to Trump more than once, but he couldn’t reach him. The barrier that had kept him from the Ambrosia was back. At first, he’d was forced to stay a few dozen steps from Trump. He’d gotten closer since, but he still hadn’t been able to get close enough to hit him with the stun baton.

He’d had time before. For all the damage Trump could do, he’d mostly been stuck on the defensive. As far and as hard as he could throw the others, none of them had been hurt too badly. Now, he’d figured out how to hurt them for real with his new powers.

As if he could read Unimportant’s mind, Trump started to laugh. It was quiet, but even with the muted sound of the Between, his laughter seemed to overtake all other sounds.

The barrier fell back a few feet, and Unimportant got a little closer. Trump paused. He didn’t turn to look at Unimportant, but his head cocked to the side like he’d heard something in the distance. Unimportant froze, but Trump started walking towards Allspades. He was saying something, but Unimportant tuned him out.

Six feet. That was the limit of how close he could get, and if he got any closer Trump would probably figure out he was there.

“perfect…just perfect”

It was still too far to hit him with the baton. Unimportant pulled his backpack off and dug inside. He gently moved the chloroform to the side. His bolt cutters weren’t any help either. Rag, water, zip ties, alarm clock, duct tape, flashlight, cell phone-

Duct tape. He could work with duct tape.

Unimportant pulled out his stun-baton and flipped it open. The switch to turn it on wasn’t supposed to stay on if he let go of it.  Copious amounts of duct tape fixed that.

Unimportant gripped the handle and turned towards Trump. Six feet. Missing this would be the worst way to fail to save the city.

Unimportant drew back and tossed the baton at Trump’s back. It spun in the air. He could hear the way its echo changed the moment it switched from in the Between to the real world; it was the same time that Trump stopped talking.

Trump whipped around with his hand already raising. But it was too late.

The baton slammed into him. The scream that filled the Between this time was much more pleasant.

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

Trump was hit.

Allspades couldn’t move his arm, and he’d resorted to chewing his cheek to keep from screaming. There was blood flowing into his mouth but he barley noticed.

This might be the only chance he gets.

What little of the glow he could still muster gathered at his feet and launched him forward. He wouldn’t be able to get his feet under him for a second leap, but he didn’t have the strength for a second lunge.

The glow shifted to his good shoulder. For a moment, he looked at Trump through the light of the glow and he saw something dark and shining crawling over him. Then he slammed into Trump.

Both of them hit the ground. Allsapdes rolled over and off of Trump. His second bounce landed on his bad shoulder and his vision went white.

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

Trump was down, but not out.

Burnout dropped from the sky and planted a knee in his back. It was a heavy blow, but damage wasn’t the point.

Burnout’s armor melted off of him and molded to Trump’s prone form, forming bands around his limbs. The bindings bolted Trump to the floor, but they’d only be able to last as long as Burnout could stay near Trump.

Trump had recovered enough to struggle.

Burnout dug his knee into Trump’s spine and gripped the bands closest tho Turmp’s shoulders.

“Get. Off!”

Trump couldn’t focus the blast enough to do damage, but Burnout still felt himself being lifted off of his back. His grip on the bands held firm, but his legs lifted off the ground until they were pointing straight into the sky.

Trump gave another cry and Burnout’s grip wore out. He was launched into the sky and the bands disappeared.

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Burnout was out of the way.

All of the roots Hawthorne had grown throughout the battle burst from the ground beneath Trump.  Trump had managed to break her connection to them when he hit them earlier, but she’d found what was left beneath the ground. They wrapped around him, twisting and knotting themselves until he was completely immobilized.

The buildings around the cocoon started to shake.

One of the roots began to rapidly sprout flowers. A thick musky overly sweet scent filled the air, but it would be a hundred times stronger in the cocoon.

The buildings grew quieter and the ground stopped vibrating.

Hawthorne limped to the cocoon. What little reserve of power she’d built up after the zeppelin was gone and her outfit stopped helping her walk. Her leg collapsed beneath her.

Unimportant caught her. He wrapper her arm around his shoulder and helped her keep walking.

Burnout slowly approached from above. He couldn’t fly any more, but he’d gotten enough lift to keep from crashing into the ground. He had to land on all fours, but he was able to get to his feet and join them on her other side.

Allspades came around the far side of the cocoon. His right arm hung limply at his side, and there was a long strip torn from the bottom of his shirt. He’d stuffed it in the hole in his shoulder to stop the bleeding.

The four of them stared at the cocoon.

People began wandering out of the buildings. A few stared at the cocoon, but most looked up and down the street.

There was a small figure in red and white at the far end of the street, but the crowd passed between him and Hawthorne and he was gone by the time they were gone.

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Chapter 102: Leap

It’s the kind of sound most people never realize they’re afraid of, the sound of a building realizing that something important is broken and, one by one, every piece of concrete and steel that is only held up by the piece next to it realizes that there’s nothing to support it any more. It isn’t the sound of some artificial thing being broken. It’s the sound of a living creature, a mythical behemoth, giving one last cry before it stops moving entirely.

The entire zeppelin was falling apart. It was being bulged outwards, pushed from a single unrelenting source. If this was a death wail, it was a more painful death than anything natural had ever experienced.

Allspades’ hands slammed into his ears, but his entire skull was vibrating. He was vaguely aware of Hawthorne sliding off of his back as she tried to cover her own ears. He stared into the undulating blob of reddish black light that hovered in the center of the room. He tried to focus on the blob, focus on getting closer to it, closer to King. He managed a step before the zeppelins wailing grew even louder and forced him to a knee. The mercenaries were all pinned to the wall by their weapons and ammo; they were screaming, but it was lost.

Allspades collapsed, his eyes finally dragged away from the blob. There was someone running down the hallway towards him. His mind slipped away, and finally, he couldn’t hear the sound anymore.

Allspades opened his eyes. He was being dragged, and he could see Hawthorne being dragged beside him, though he couldn’t see who was dragging her. He tried to call out; he knew he spoke, he felt the words echoing out of his throat, but the sound never reached his ears. A dull ringing echoed in his head.

The dragging stopped, and he saw Will looking down at him.

“-ou—lk?”

The half formed sounds echoed past the ringing. Slowly, the ringing was replaced by whistling wind.

“Allspades, focus. Can you walk?”

“I think so.” Allspades slowly worked his way to his feet. After a moment, he nodded.

“Good. We need to move. I don’t know how long this thing will hold itself together.”

The whistling grew louder, Allspades slowly turned. The hallway behind him led straight to the lab. The far wall was gone, torn away completely.

“King-“

“Went outside,” Will said. “If we’re lucky, he won’t survive the fall.”

His gut twisted in his stomach. He either felt guilty for letting King die, or for not killing him. He didn’t know which one he’d prefer.

“can you carry hawthorne? i’d rather not have to keep dragging her.”

Unimportant’s presence slammed into Allspades; he flinched, and the ringing gained a little of its old strength. Will and Unimportant stared at him strangely, but he shook it off.

“Yeah…right, we’ll move faster that way.” Allspades easily lifted Hawthorne and cradled her in his arms. He glanced around. “Where’s Burnout?”

“I heard him fighting earlier. We’re going now.”

Allspades almost asked another question, but Will and Unimportant started moving, and he realized how stupid it was to stay still and talk. The thought started the ringing again and spots swam before his eyes and faded almost instantly. That wasn’t good, but it would have to wait.

Will led the way, which was good because Allspades had to focus too much on not falling to think about where he was going.

A blue light filtered through a door ahead. Will headed straight for it, and led them into a massive room.

Burnout hung in the air, armored in flames that moved unnaturally slow. Dozens of mercenaries littered the ground. A few were still fighting, aiming their guns at Burnout with a defeated look in their eyes. Will swept his hand and they dropped their guns as if they were scalding hot or as if they had come alive and tried to bite them.

With their guns gone, Burnout was able to sweep them to the side with his sword.

Will pointed at a helicopter, and Burnout flew straight for it.

“can you fly that?” Unimportanted asked.

“I’ve done it before. We didn’t die.”

“that’s not as comforting as you would hope.”

Will hopped in the cockpit and started flipping switches. Unimportnat seemed to stare at him for  a moment before clambering in back and turning to help Allspades get Hawthorne into a seat.

Burnout’s hand appeared before him with a pair of headphones. Allspades slipped them on and felt better almost immediately. The ringing still echoed in his ears, but there were no other sounds for it to bounce off of. He managed enough coordination to buckle his seat belt, and then he felt the helicopter lift up and out of the hangar. He watched the zeppelin out the window, slowly sinking beneath the clouds. The ringing faded a little more, and he slowly remembered the last few hours.

His eyes widened.

“There were people-“

“They’re fine,” Will said. “Beck employees will be teleported off immediately.”

“The mercenaries?” Burnout asked.

“The computer will do what it can. And there were enough of them conscious to get to some of the other copters.”

Some of them wouldn’t make it. Allspades knew it, and he could tell the others had figured it out too. They sat in silence.

“Uh-“ Hawthorne had shifted in her seat, she had woken up with her head against the window looking down at the city below them. “Is that building sliding away from the street?”

Allspades looked down. It wasn’t just the one. Four buildings were moving, bulging outwards or actually ripping from their foundations. Houses built to withstand earthquakes were starting to fall apart. At the center of the destruction, Allspades could barely make out a single figure walking down the street.

“King’s alive.” Someone said something. Allspades didn’t listen. But he got the message. He unbuckled his seat belt and moved to the door.  “I can get to him the fastest. Get there as soon as you can.”

Allspades opened the door and jumped.

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Chapter 101: Nectar of the Gods

If Unimportant hadn’t seen guards running out of the room after Burnout, he would have assumed that none of them did. Twice as many guards as he’d seen patrolling meandered about the room. Unimportant caught himself drifting towards the shadows, but it wasn’t the guards that drove him there. Even if none of them were in the room, it would have felt wrong.

It was as if there were hollow space in the room; a place where space seemed to fold in on itself that attracted and repelled everything around it. It made his entire body feel like it had been dunked in pudding and left to dry. Even the air tasted stale and moist; it burned when he breathed as it slithered into his mouth and down his throat.

The distortion was focused in the dead center of the room where an opaque glass box sat on a small pedestal. It was the only thing in the room; there were no desks or computers or equipment. The only light in the room stood directly above it, shining on the box like a beacon from heaven.  Trump circled it slowly, turning to face it at all times and staring at it through half closed eyes as if he could see through the black glass.

Unimportant slowly walked to the box, but the strange force emanating from it was twisting his stomach. He had to pause after each step to keep himself from heaving. His fingers tingled and he found himself twitching them uncontrollably.  He forced himself to take slow deep breaths but the air was getting caught halfway down his throat.

He forced himself to talk closer. A cold sweat dripped down his neck. His legs were growing heavy. Slowly, he realized that he had stopped moving forward. He was inside the circle of light, but only barely. He tried to take another step, and felt watched his foot slide backwards as if he were trying to run on ice or push a wall.

He walked around the room, trying to find a way to push himself through the wall, fighting back the heaving of his empty stomach all the while. He was never able to get any closer, and found himself spiraling away from the center of the room if he didn’t actively fight against the force.

No one should know he was here, but somehow someone was stopping him from reaching the box. It could have been a trap set up by Trump surely he had more walkers in his army than they’d seen so far. But even the most powerful walker had limits. Setting up a trap like this would require more energy than would be worth it. Especially with as many guards as he had in the room. If Beck had set it up as security, then Beck could never have gotten as close as he did.

As much as he hated to admit it, the only thing that could cause it had to be the box, or whatever was inside of it. Something about him or his powers must have triggered its defenses and caused it to push him away.

“It’s here.” Trump’s voice pierced through Unimportant’s thoughts. It was surprisingly clear and rang out above the muted sounds he experienced with his power. “The Ambrosia is inside this case. I’m so close, and yet I cannot get it open.”

Unimportant didn’t have a lot of time. He couldn’t get any closer, but he could make it easier for anyone else who managed to show up.

Unimportant followed his original instincts and crept into the shadows near the edges of the room. The guards were wandering about the room more than they were patrolling. It was strange, none of them talked, leaving Trump’s the only voice in the room.

“Anything strong enough to break the box will be strong enough to destroy whatever container the Ambrosia is in. There must be a way to open the box, and yet there are no switches or keypads to enter a code.”

Unimportant held his breath as he poured a healthy dose of chloroform onto a rag. He’d have to take the guards out one by one and hide them in the corners of the room. They’d be seen eventually, and far sooner than he would like, but the guards’ eyes were slowly being drawn towards Trump. He might be able to take out five or six before he was caught.

No eyes were on the closest guard. Unimportant struck quickly, flipping the cloth over the guard’s nose before he even noticed it anyone was there. The guard was young, and light enough for Unimportant to drag him to the corner quickly.

“Beck is no fool, if the box could be opened form another room then it would be far too easy for it to be stolen while walking to this one.  The notes form his tower are useless here. They labelled the room clearly, they describe every security function between here and the hangar, they describe the box in detail, but they make no mention of how to open it.”

He may have had more time than he thought. Trump was talking slowly, carefully thinking through his words. Unimportant had already managed to take out another three guards.

Unimportant avoided one of the larger guards. His struggling would be too obvious and too loud for none of the others to notice. The next guard was smaller, but the way his muscles rippled when he moved and the loud thunks that accompanied his footsteps meant he was probably a tank. He might be even harder to put down than the larger one.

The next guard went down quickly. He had wandered into shadows to lean against the wall and closed his eyes. He was probably already asleep by the time Unimportant knocked him out.

In the center of the room. Trump reached out and gently touched the box. It rocked.

The room froze.

Trump cautiously reached out with both hands and grasped the box. It lifted easily from its place on the pedestal. An alarm sounded, but Trump just laughed. He knew there was no one coming

What sat on the pedestal looked little like a bottle, and more like what a child might imagine a bottle would look like if it held something magic. It had a wide bottom, almost a perfect hemisphere save for the flat plane it rested on, and the top drew quickly into a long thin bottleneck that widened slightly at the top. An ornamental glass stopper rested in its mouth.

There was a loud crash from the entrance, but Trump held the bottle In his hands and lifted it to his lips.

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Chapter 100: Dragon Knight

There were more mercenaries patrolling the hallways now.

“Judging by every videogame I’ve ever played, this is the right direction.”

A wave of agreement brushed across Burnout’s skin. Unimportant had started opening doors for him to duck into whenever he needed to hide. The patrols had started checking the rooms less thoroughly, but he’d had to be clever with his hiding spots more than once.

How many mercenaries were there? He’d seen Adamant take out at least a hundred just a few hours earlier. Even if they’d had twice that many on the streets, how did Trump get so many of them on the zeppelin?

Burnout passed the open door before he saw it. By the time he slid to a stop and ran inside, the shadows of the mercenaries were already edging their way around the curved hallway.

The room was mostly empty; the only place to hide was behind a freestanding counter in the center, packed with machines he didn’t have time to identify. He dove behind it. If the mercenaries decided to do anything more than glance in the room, he would be found.

The footsteps were almost at the door. It was tempting to hold his breath, but anyone who could hear him breathing wouldn’t need that to find him.

The footsteps stopped, and the sound of them entering the tiled room rom the hallway clacked into his ears. Something slammed into the ground a few rooms away. The sound of feet scrambling on the tile was brief and the mercenaries were gone.

Burnout waited until he couldn’t hear them on the carpet anymore.

“Thanks.”

Unimportant’s presence flickered in his mind. Burnout stood and brushed the dust off of his costume.

“We aren’t going to get there in time are we?”

“probably not” Unimportant’s voice echoed. He faded into partial existence a few feet in front of Burnout. “the patrols are happening more frequently…it is likely you will be unable to move without notice soon”

“What are my chances if I just fly past them?”

“you would attract the patrols…if you found trump or the ambrosia…you would be facing an army…and i would likely be left unable to help you”

He was right. Anything Burnout did to move faster would just paint a glowing target on him.

Flames started to lick the bottom of Burnout’s feet.

“what are you doing”

“Do me a favor. If you can’t find a way to lock that stuff up, throw it down a drain or something.”

Unimportant didn’t get a chance to answer. Burnout flared the flames at his legs and took off down the hallway.

It was a matter of minutes before the first patrol spotted him, but they barely had time to be surprise before he shot past. He couldn’t hear them shouting into their communicators over the rush of the wind and the roars of his flames, but he could only hope that they were letting everyone know where he was.

The next group of guards had already pulled out their guns, but Burnout wasn’t interested in a fight. He let his flames wash over himself. They grew larger and hotter and soon he was nothing more than a ball of blue-white fire flying through the halls of the zeppelin. The sound of their guns managed to pierce through the wall of flames, but the bullets melted before they reached him. The liquid metal cooled quickly after it reached his skin and fell off in pellets.

He couldn’t pull out his phone to check the map, but he knew the hallway had to end eventually, and he remembered a path that branched off and led to a large room near the back of the ship. Hopefully, there would be enough room to keep the mercenaries focused on him.

There was a hallway coming up, he hoped it was the right one.

He couldn’t turn at this speed. Burnout flipped and shot the flames from his feet as strong as he could without turning the hallway into the oven. He slowed quickly, but that was the easy part. A new jet of flames shot from his hand, twisting him until his feet were skidding on the wall. Burnout shoved off the wall, feeling the metal warp under the heat, and blasted down the corridor. The flames form his feet weren’t strong enough to stop the turn, and when he tried to compensate, he was thrown into a spiral.

He corkscrewed down the hallway, but he managed to stay in the air.

Before he was up to speed, he managed to hear shouts and stampeding footsteps coming after him. Hopefully, it was enough of them to put a dent in the patrols.

He found the room from the map. It was the hangar. It was mostly filled with helicopters, but a few spots had craft that looked like they belonged in a video game.

Burnout came to a stop and hovered in the center of the room. He only had a few minutes.

Burnout remade the shell of flames that had melted the bullets before. He wasn’t sure how long he could keep the mercenaries here. Adamant hadn’t been entirely right when he said that Burnout didn’t have a way to take normal enemies out of the fight. He’d spent the equivalent of weeks stuck in his own head with a dead dragon teaching him how to use his fire. In his head, the fire had been solid, and Azor claimed he could do that in the real world too. He’d just never gotten it to work without a few hours to concentrate on it.

“Okay, I’ve spent the last year and a half of my life throwing around dragon fire. Time to figure out what I can do with it.”

Burnout closed his eyes and held his hands out in front of him. Making fire solid was about a lot more than concentrating the flames; that was the first thing he tried and it just made them hotter. He had to change the property of the fire. The parts of him that understood the science behind fire cringed at the idea, but the part that had talked to a dragon inside his own head was a bit louder.

He felt the heat shield contract closer to his body. He could still only work with solid fire if it touched him, and if he did it right then he needed to be able to see more than the heat shield would let him.

The effort was getting to him. He could feel sweat starting to bead on the back of his neck. The armor formed around him slowly. He couldn’t see what it looked like, but with any luck it would look at least a little intimidating.

Next was the hard part. Burnout brought his hands together. The fire extended up between them, slowly tapering off to a point. It was almost twice as tall as him, but in his hands it was feather light.

Burnout flourished his sword in his left hand looked down. The mercenaries had entered the room, but their guns had dropped. He slowly allowed himself to drop to the ground.

Fire erupted from his back and he shot forward. He brought his sword high and swung it wide. Four mercenaries were struck by its blade and rocketed towards the wall.

Some of them managed to shoot, but the bullets either melted or bounce off of his armor.

“This will work.”

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Chapter 97: Infiltration

Pain.

It had been cold at first like an ice bath that had started at his fingertips and slowly crawled up his arms and flowed around his body until it covered him completely. And then it grew colder, until it burned, until his mind was pushed further and further back and the only thing left was the desire to escape it. He would have done anything to escape it.

But what came next was worse. It started at his fingers again, the nothingness. He couldn’t look down, but he knew, with absolute certainty that the tips of his fingers were gone, and then his toes. The nothing crawled up his body to his neck. When it finally reached his head, he thought it would be over. The feeling didn’t stop, even with the knowledge that his brain no longer existed, his mind refused to stop.

Burnout would have screamed if he still had lungs.

The return happened all at once. The nothing, the pain, the cold, it all disappeared, and he was somewhere new. Burnout gasped, filling his lungs with air in a single burst.

“What the hell?” Allspades said. It was impressive that he was able to talk at all. Burnout couldn’t get enough air in his lungs.

“It fades quickly,” Will said. He was the only one who hadn’t grown a little paler in the instant it took them to arrive on the blimp. “In a few seconds, you’ll barely even remember it.”

Burnout was about to argue, but the words dies on his lips. His entire focus was on the trip through the teleporter, but even so, it was slipping away from him. Slowly, the room came into focus.

The room in Beck Industries had been stark white with an unadorned silver platform in the middle. They appeared in a dark conference room surrounding a circular table. The projector had been left on, but the computer it was connected to had long since fallen asleep, leaving the room bathed in the blue light bounding off the far wall.

“Beck’s scientists have been working on their teleporter for years. It can get you to the other side of the planet in a second, but they’ve never been able to get rid of the discomfort. Human minds can’t handle the experience. We forget it almost as soon as it happens.”

“That doesn’t make me want to try again,” Hawthorne said. She was shivering, but her voice was strong.

Unimportant seeped into Burnout’s consciousness. “i don’t know what lab we’re looking for…trump will be difficult to find.”

“We’ll have to split up,” Hawthorne said. “Allspades, come with me. Unimportant, Burnout, head to the left. Will…”

“I’m heading to the control room. I might be able to figure out where the Ambrosia is being kept from there. The labs were placed wherever they had room, so you’ll have to move quickly to find them all. I should be able to let you know over the PA’s in your area if I find anything.”

Allspades had already started moving, and Hawthorne had to hurry to keep up. Will was out the door right after them.

Burnout ran down the corridor, his footsteps echoing on the tiled floor; he couldn’t see Unimportant, but he could feel waves of emotions coming off of him anyway. It was a reversal he’d never felt form him before.

As fast as they needed to move, they had to glance into each room they passed to be sure they didn’t miss their target. So far, there had only been conference rooms and offices. The zeppelin had been mostly empty, but there were a few people collapsed at their computers.

They couldn’t find any labs.

Burnout’s steps started coming faster. He opened each door a little harder than the last, barely glancing in the rooms before moving on.

“stop.”

Burnout slid on the tiled floor, nearly falling backwards before catching himself.

“guards ahead…go for the room three doors back.”

There wasn’t time to question him. Burnout moved as quickly as he could without making noise. There had been a small meeting in the room; its members had all slumped over on their chairs.

“far side…head on the table…cover your eyes…can’t fight.”

Unimportant’s voice was fading into nonexistence, but Burnout got the message. Surprise was the only advantage they had. He hurried around the table and stole an empty chair. If the mercenaries only saw the top of his head, then they’d never notice he was in costume.

He ticked the seconds off in his head while he tried to force his breaths to come slower. Despite his best efforts, he could feel his heart jump up to his throat with every beat. He could hear them now, their soft footsteps punctuated by slamming doors as they checked the rooms one by one.

Their footsteps slowly drew closer, echoing louder and louder through the empty hallway into the conference room. They marched in such perfect rhythm that he couldn’t count how many there were. Even with his eyes wide open, he could only see the red cloth of his outfit.

He had to fight to not hold his breath when they reached the next room over; it was growing harder to keep his breathing steady.

The sound of boot meeting wood slammed into him when the door was kicked open. With his eyes covered, he could only imagine the two or three mercenaries scanning the room with their guns swerving back and forth. He swore he felt the moment one of them passed over him.

They didn’t say a word. As one, they backed out of the room and the left the door squeaking on its remaining hinges.

Burnout waited until their footsteps faded down the hallway, and then waited even longer.

“you’re good.”

Burnout raised his head off the table. Unimportant was still hidden from him, but he nodded in thanks anyway.

The broken door hung wide open, as did every door he could see up and down the hallway. Burnout made a mental count of them and held back a sigh.

“This is taking too long. We can’t keep looking like this. Keep close.”

With the doors open, Burnout didn’t even have to slow down. He barely glanced in the offices before moving on. A wave of confusions that followed him told him that Unimportant wasn’t far behind. The first five offices were useless to him, the next five as well.

“There has to be one…” he muttered.

“what are you looking for?”

Another door open, and he found it. One of the sleepers had passed out on his keyboard.

“This,” Burnout said. He pulled the man back off his computer and rolled his chair out of the way. “I probably can’t get into anything important, but I might be able to find something to help us out.”

The interface was a little strange, of course Beck wouldn’t let his employees use a public OS, but it was similar enough to what he was used to. Burnout got rid of the windows he had open and started at the desktop.

“He still has his new hire documents here. And…there’s a map.”

“no printer though.” There was a rustling sound and then Burnout found a phone in front of him. “take a picture.”

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Chapter 96: Ambrosia

Will was pacing. He’d started as soon as Unimportant mentioned going into Beck Industries, and he’d been getting a little faster with each turn.

“What was he looking for?”

“I only caught a glimpse of the document; he-” He nodded at the once-again unconscious man they’d dragged from the car “-locked it back up before I could get to the computer. He woke up on the way over and we managed to get him to tell us where it was before passing back out. He called it Power Nectar.”

Will’s fist slammed into the wall. “He was supposed to destroy it. He promised us that no one would ever get another chance to touch the stuff.”

“You know what it is?”

Will nodded, his voice grew quiet.“Ambrosia. If you believe the stuff mages say about it, then it’s all that’s left from when gods spent more time wandering around earth. The Council got their hands on it about the time they took over from the first generation. It can give certain walkers a massive power boost, but it kills most of the people who drink it. It was used once, and then it was supposed to be destroyed. Beck must have decided to try and improve it instead. If Trump really found some on one of Beck’s zeppelins, then we don’t have time to think of a plan. Let’s go. Put him in the trunk.”

Will headed out the door and straight for Allspades’ and Unimportant’s stolen car. The group quickly followed behind him. Unimportant’s masking grew a bit thicker as he ran alongside the others.

“So he’s trying to get stronger?” Burnout asked. “That’s why he took over the city?”

“He wouldn’t be the first,” Will said. “The last time someone was after it, they barely stopped him from blowing up half the country. It’s as close to infinite power as a normal walker can get. Trump might just consider the city worth it.”

“No,” Allspades said. “If he just wanted the drug, then putting on a show like this isn’t making it any easier for him. Trump could have gone after it directly and he probably would have been able to drink it before anyone realized he needed to be stopped. He said he wanted to make the city an example, that stuff is just phase one.”

They reached the car and Will hopped into the driver’s seat. He glanced at Allspades sliding into the seat in the back. “You talked to him.”

“He came to talk to be before he blew up the library. He said that he want to show people that walkers weren’t tools to be thrown at problems and forgotten.”

“Normally that’s the kind of speech they save for the end. He’s from you’re old crew isn’t he? King?”

Allspades paused, but quickly nodded. “He’s holding onto a grudge from the old days. King was always an asshole, but we never doubted that he was one of the good guys. I don’t know what could’ve driven him this far, but I need to stop him.”

“No you don’t,” Hawthorne said. It was the first time she’d spoken since she’d seen Will stopping Adamant. “The last time you tried to take on something from your past you ended up running off to kill them. I am not chasing you down again. When we catch up to him, we’re going to take him down together.” She turned to Will. “If he drinks the Ambrosia, what’s going to happen?”

“He’ll…probably die,” Will said slowly. “The last time there were a couple dozen walkers drinking it, and only three of them made it through alive. Half of them died right away; the rest managed to use their boosted powers for a few hours before they died; one of them lasted two days.”

Trump’s men had abandoned the streets, but craters and cars, abandoned or with sleeping drivers, still littered the roads. Will had to stop talking while he snaked his way past the remains of rush hour on Main Street.

“…he won’t die,” Allspades said. “King was always an arrogant prick, but he earned it. The only reason I’ve seen one of his plans fail is if he didn’t have all the information before he started. If he really plans on drinking that stuff, then he’s sure he’ll survive.”

“Even if he survives drinking it, it takes a few minutes to build up, so you have a window to take him out.  After that, the only thing you can do is run; even the weakest of the walkers who drank it could have taken out a city block in an instant. Someone who can shoot metal like he can could probably level the city in one go. It’ll cool down to about half that level after a day or two, but until then, he’ll be unstoppable, and the effects never wear off for good.”

“One in eight; almost 90% chance we don’t even have to do anything,” Hawthorne said. “In some jobs, that’d be enough to ignore the problem.”

“A job where the city isn’t at stake,” Burnout said. “You get to sleep at normal hours, have a consistent schedule, and you get paid too. It’d almost be like winning the lottery.”

“I’d be dead or back on the streets in a week,” Allspades said. “I could barely stand working at the library and I could literally disappear for hours without anyone noticing. Sitting at an actual desk might kill me.”

“you’d have to wear a nice shirt too.” Unimportant said.

Allspades shivered. “Don’t remind me. I only have one shirt that even has a collar; having to wear one every day might actually kill me.”

Will coughed, but he was hiding a smile behind the clenched fist he used to cover his mouth. The group’s attention shifted back towards him. “Anyway; most of Beck’s zeppelins have labs on them, but only one of them has the kind of security he would need for Ambrosia. The best way to get there is to get a lift from one of his supercopters.”

“Supercopter?” Allspades asked.

“I didn’t name it. Unfortunately, everyone who knows how to pilot one is probably asleep right now.”

“So how are we supposed to get there?”

“…have you ever watched Star Trek?”

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Chapter 92: Drive

Allspades’ fist slammed into the mercenary’s chest, hard enough to cause a sharp crack to pierce through the sounds of the others shouting.

Normally, he would have been sent flying by the punch, but Allspades reached out and grabbed his leg before he could. Allspades twisted, bringing the barely conscious mercenary over his shoulder and tossing him at another enemy.

The two collapsed in a twisted mass, but Allspades didn’t check on his work. He stood still and let the blow from a third mercenary’s rifle slam into the back of his head. Then he twisted, bringing his elbow around and striking her in the side of her head.

There was another mercenary left, still reloading from the initial salvo they had launched against him, but Allspades ignored him. He walked over to wear he’d dropped his burden and lifted it onto his back. With his other hand he rubbed his shoulder roughly. It was still twinging from when he was buried  under the library.

The last of the mercenaries clicked his second magazine into place and drew a bead on Allspades. His finger reached for the trigger when he started convulsing and dropped to the ground. Unimportant faded into existence behind him and flipped the stun baton closed with his one good hand.

Allspades had only barely managed to keep Unimportant still long enough to put his left arm into a sling before they ran out of Beck Tower and straight into the path of a patrolling Humvee. Unimportant had insisted on getting to Will as fast as they could, and stealing one of the enemy’s cars was definitely the fastest way. He didn’t explain why and Allspades didn’t ask; he didn’t want to trade stories.

But there was still something that bothered him.

“Can I ask a question?”

“we have a car now…go ahead,” he echoed. “i’m driving.”

“Who is this guy?”

Allspades lifted the unconscious man he’d been dragging for the last few blocks by the scruff of his shirt and tossed him into the backseat.

Unimportant waited for Allspades to hop to the other side of the car and get in before answering.

“trump had him looking for something in the tower; Beck moved it to a zeppelin yesterday.”

The car started and Unimportant gunned the engine, pulling the car into a sharp U-turn and speeding away from downtown. Allspades gripped the dashboard in front of him, digging trenches into the surface.

Once Unimportant settled on a speed, Allspades let go of the dashboard. Unimportant had faded more into existence now, though his face remained obscured.

“He managed to tell Trump where it is before I could knock him out. We need him to tell us where he went.”

“Then pull over.” Allspades unconsciously cracked the knuckles on his left hand and his the shadows cast by the car’s frame seemed to grow a little lighter. “I can get him to talk.”

The waves of emotions that had always rolled off Unimportant stopped. “No.”

Allspades frowned.

“I saw how you fought. I can’t trust you right now.”

“Stop that”

Allspades didn’t know when he’d started putting his seatbelt on, but the buckle had been bent in half by his grip.

He could feel Unimportant’s eyes glancing at it before quickly returning to the road.

“Even if you could find out which zeppelin he’s going for, we’ll still need Will if we want to get onboard. So take the chance to calm down, or Will will make you stay behind.”

Allspades gritted his teeth, but managed a nod before Unimportant had to swerve around an overturned car sitting in the middle of the road and made him grip the door grip so tightly it snapped free. He couldn’t see Unimportant raise an eyebrow, but he could feel the wave of humor rolling off of him before it almost instantly calmed down.

“You’re not going to ask?”

“I saw what was left of the library on my way to the Tower. Somebody on Trump’s side wants you dead.”

“He’s close, but it’s so much worse than that, isn’t it?” Paige’s voice echoed in his head.

Allspades just shrugged. “I was probably still stuck there when you went by. I made a beeline for the tower as soon as I shook myself loose.”

A short burst of shock and regret flowed from Unimportant. “Sorry, if I’d known you were there-“

“We wouldn’t know where Trump is now,” Allspades finished. “You did a lot more good not knowing than you would have by helping.”  He tried to stretch the ache in his shoulder out, but it wasn’t leaving.

“I suppose” Unimportant’s voice wavered back towards its echo. Allspades had to fight not to roll his eyes as his emotions started fading back.

“Don’t,” Allspades said. “If I had second guessed myself every time my mission forced me to ignore someone I could have helped, I’d be dead a hundred times over, and so would a lot of people we managed to save. You can be a bleeding heart when there isn’t an army invading our city.”

A wave of uncertainty washed off of Unimportant. “I don’t think I can think like that.”

“Then it’s a good thing wars don’t come very often.”

But Unimportant’s mind was elsewhere. He’d heard gunfire on his way to the tower, and almost immediately discarded the thought of helping. He hadn’t even considered regretting it until now.

“what did i…” he whispered. The echo had returned to Unimportant’s voice.

“Huh?”

Unimportant shook the thoughts form his head. “It’s nothing; we should see the Councils Headquarters in a few more minutes.”

Allspades nodded. “Good, the faster we get this guy talking, the faster I can go after Trump.”

Unimportant nodded, only half listening to what Allspades said.

There was a loud pop as Allspades rolled his shoulder. “Finally.”

He paused, and slowly glanced over at Unimportant still driving the car, and then down to his left arm, sitting out of view from the passenger seat.

“Why are you driving when you only have one good arm?”

There was a brief squeak form the backseat. The man had woken up just in time to hear the last comment.

“Because I called it.”

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Chapter 90: Weakened

Allspades leapt forward into his loping run, and immediately fell flat on his face. A cloud of dust puffed up from the floor of the ruined library and forced its way into his throat. His lungs were too weak to force it out in a single cough. He could feel the dust scratching its way up and down his throat as he lay on the floor hacking and wheezing until his lungs burned and his stomach was threatening to force its contents up his throat if he coughed even one more time.

Finally he was able to take a clean breath and he gasped hopelessly on the ground as he gratefully refilled his lungs. The sky above him had grown noticeably darker in the time he was stuck on the floor. He raised a hand to his face and made a fist, but now he could feel the difference. The grip he had now could barely crumble a snowball, let alone crush steel.

The light had robbed him of his strength.  He didn’t feel weak, and his arms and legs weren’t tired, but he was no stronger than a normal man.

He felt a ball of lead drop into his stomach. Without his strength, he’d be lucky to make it three blocks before he was shot down. He didn’t stand a chance against the army King had brought into the city.

Allspades stared at his hand for a second longer before he picked himself up off the ground. “Like hell,” he said through gritted teeth as he pushed himself to his knees and then to his feet. “I’m going to sit here just because of some bullets.”

He took a deep breath. He started to walk towards the entrance of the library; with each step he started to move a little bit faster, and by the tie he had reached the entrance he was at a dead run. He could see the headlights of two Humvees coming from either direction, but their lights hadn’t reached him yet, and he was across the street and down another before they saw him.

Almost immediately he missed being able to take to the rooftops. The streetlights had been shut down and he could barely see the stars through the concrete canopy over his head.  He could only keep track of the buildings by the light breeze flowing through the space between them.

He’d heard gunfire before the sun set, but now the city was silent save for the light hums of car engines making their way through the blocks surrounding him. For the moment, he kept running.

King had always been straight forward; as smart as he was and as clever as he could be when he needed it, there had never been a better option than taking the most direct route to the most important person. Whether he had Allspades kick it in or he was able to calmly walk in and talk his way through the problem, he’d never liked any entrance more than the front door.

If his goal had been destroying the city, he’d be heading for the mayor’s office. If his goal had been killing the heroes, he’d be going for the Council’s Headquarters. But he’d been talking about changing people’s minds, about proving they don’t deserve protection. That meant he was going to aim for something bigger, something that showed the way normal humans could cooperate with walkers. There was only one place in the city that he would have found appropriate.

Allspades could feel a little bit of his strength returning, but it only let him go a little bit faster. He took the first right he could and started towards Beck Industries.

The wind picked up, pushing him forward just a little faster and cooling him down just enough to make the sweat dripping down his face leave freezing trails behind them.

Beck Industries was close, but not close enough to avoid meeting the patrols. He saw the reflection of the headlights through the windows across the street and hid in an alcove between two buildings. It wasn’t an alley; it wasn’t wide enough and it was only a dozen yards deep; just enough to hide a couple of trashcans.

He ducked behind one of them now. Despite the smell flooding the space, he took the chance to catch his breath. He watched as the across from him slowly grew brighter until nearly its entire length was lit up. And then it slowly crept back towards the front of the building.

And then it froze, and his heart, which had just begun to calm, started racing. The Humvee’s engine quieted and one of its doors popped open.

There was a mild grumbling. As a pair of heavy boots plopped onto the ground and trudged their way into the alley.

“Don’t forget your flashlight!” an older man’s voice called from within the car.

The owner of the boots grumbled some more but there was a click and a narrow beam of light struck the back wall of the alcove.

Allspades started breathing through his nose and stopped his leg from fidgeting. By the time the owner of the boots was halfway to the trashcan, there was a cramp building up in his right leg; it was begging him to move it and ease the pain, but even the slightest movement would scrape against the ground and give him away.

Silently, Allspades hoped that the owner of the boots would be as careful in his search as he sounded. With each heavy footfall that hope grew slimmer and slimmer until it would only take the mercenary glancing to his left to see Allspades standing there.

He couldn’t afford to wait any longer. If the mercenary saw him, the cramp in his leg would keep him from reacting fast enough to keep from getting shot.

Allspades kicked off the wall behind him and leapt straight for the mercenary’s gun. With his right hand he went for the mercenary’s face, and with his left he went for the gun.

The mercenary was bigger than him, and without his strength he’d never have a chance in a fair fight. But the force of his tackle was enough to knock the mercenary down and slam his helmeted head into the opposite wall.

He wasn’t unconscious, but he was dazed. Allspades took the changce and ripped the gun from his hands. The other doors on the Humvee opened, and Allspades leveled his stolen rifle at the entrance of the alcove.

It had been a long time since he used a gun; he’d only taken one on missions when it was considered absolutely necessary and barely used it half the time then. But throughout his years in the Cards he had had the basics of most firearms drilled into his head.

He stayed low to the ground and kneed the mercenary onto his side; with any luck they’d be too worried about hitting their comrade to fire. At least at first.

Allspades braced the assault rifle against his shoulder. The first time one of the other mercenaries peaked around the corner, he squeezed the trigger and fired a short burst at them.

He caught one of them in the shoulder, and another ducked back to check on him. That left only the older man until the other returned.

Allspades didn’t know how many rounds the gun had, and didn’t want to risk finding out. He fired another burst towards the last mercenary and charged forward.

A little more of his strength had returned. Enough so that when he reached the entrance to the alley, he was able to leap on top of the Humvee. He knew the mercenaries would be turning towards him, so he let his feet drop out from under him as he landed on the car’s roof and rolled forward and to the other side. He turned around and shot another burst into the Humvee’s shifter.

There was a brief shout form the other side of the car before he started moving towards the tower again, dropping the gun as he went.

There was a brief scuffle behind hi as the older mercenary went to check on his comrades’ wounds. He hadn’t even bothered to try firing at Allspades’ back.

The path to the tower was clear, and Allspades charged straight past the parked Humvee and into the front door.

There was a ding from the elevator and Allspades ducked behind the receptionist’s desk. But there were no footseps.

Slowly Allspades peaked his head over the edge of the counter.

“allspades.” The voice came from behind him and he whipped around, fists raised.

Allspades let out a deep sigh.

“Unimportant.”

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