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“I can’t believe we’re stuck here,” Lexi Chambers announced while feeding quarters into a vending machine. She hit a couple buttons to make a selection for a chocolate bar before adding, “Or that Mom and Dad are stuck out of here.”
Standing a few feet away as his gaze swept over the half-filled parking lot of the mall they were standing in front of, Zed replied, “Isn’t this what we wanted?” He grimaced as soon as the words had left his mouth. “I mean, being able to stay here and see this whole thing through. Not the part where the mysterious biological attack knocked out like the heroes in the city right when it’s turning into even more of a warzone. We uhh, we could’ve done without that part. If I ever find that monkey, I’m taking all of his paws.” A moment of silence followed before the boy grimaced. “That sounded dark, didn’t it?”
Jae, sitting on a nearby bench as she stared intently at her phone, spoke up. “Your parents haven’t had any luck breaking the lockdown rules, even with their contacts?”
Zed shook his head. “This whole thing goes way over their heads. Whatever caused this attack–err, whoever was responsible, they haven’t claimed credit or made any demands. No one knows how this stuff actually spreads, or who else might be infected. They think it’s because of the Breakwater thing, obviously, but no one knows how, or why, or anything. It’s terrorism. Plus a bunch of other people interacted with those… carriers before they got to the headquarters building. And those people interacted with others and–” He grimaced, watching a woman walk by pushing a stroller with a babbling infant.
Colt-Damarko, the one who was solid at the moment while his other selves remained scattered around in their invisible forms, approached with bags of food, which he began handing out. “He’s right, Detroit’s gonna be locked down until they’ve got a better idea of how to detect whatever this is. So far only the people who were in the building have shown symptoms, but they won’t take any chances. The roads in and out of the city are blocked and monitored, and the airports are completely shut down. I don’t know how long they can keep this up, but no one’s going anywhere for now. Your parents won’t be getting into the city until this situation gets taken care of.”
“So let’s take care of our situation,” Lexi put in sharply. “I mean, obviously we can’t do anything about that bio attack. That’s way beyond us. But we’ve got our own stuff to deal with, like finding the people who were trying to abduct us.” She gestured between herself and her brother. “Maybe if we deal with this ourselves while we’re stuck here, Mom and Dad will see that we’re not helpless babies and let us actually start helping people.”
Jae and Colt exchanged brief looks, each feeling like they should say something about that, but not quite knowing how to go about it. Instead, Jae finally shook her head and asked, “How long until we’re supposed to meet our… new friends?” Her voice was a bit weak with the question. The girl was still finding it hard to believe that they had agreed to work with a group of criminals. Sure, Grandstand and the group from La Casa didn’t know who she and Damarko actually were, not yet anyway. But still, they were helping criminals. The fact that those particular criminals were trying to do something inarguably good by tracking down whoever was responsible for the murder of that reporter lady helped a bit, but it didn’t change everything.
God, how would Amber react if she knew Jae was working with criminals? Actually, considering one of those criminals was Pack, maybe the whole situation would be more complicated than she assumed. Jae really had no idea what was going on with that whole thing, especially now that that Dani girl was involved somehow. But whatever was happening really wasn’t her business. That was Amber’s life. It was just that knowing her friend clearly at least somewhat liked Pack, that the two of them flirted some, made an already complicated situation even more so.
Zed checked his phone. “Uh, about twenty minutes. If we wanna get dressed for the occasion, we better move.” A broad grin found its way to his face, despite his obviously shared uncertainty about the whole situation. “I still can’t believe they agreed to help us find those guys.”
“And I can’t believe we agreed to let them help,” Colt retorted. “But they only agreed because we’re already helping them find out who killed the reporter. Which is something we want to do anyway.” He exhaled heavily. “I still think we might want to bring Whamline in on it. Seriously, the poor guy was right there when it all went down. I’ve seen how guilty he feels about it. He acts like it was all his fault, like he should’ve been able to save her.”
“He does feel bad,” Jae agreed quietly. “But we can’t involve him in this. We don’t know if we can–” She stopped herself. She’d been about to say they didn’t know if they could trust him, but that was the wrong way to phrase it. Of course they could trust Whamline. He was their teammate and friend. What she really meant was that they didn’t want to put him in a situation where he had to either betray them by telling the authorities what they were doing, or agree to work with Fell-Touched. Even if it meant finding out who was responsible for murdering the innocent woman whose death he felt so responsible for… no, maybe they could tell him about it once they found out more. But for now, it was better to leave the boy out of this.
Lexi put in, “Yeah, I want our parents and the rest of the heroes to find out how capable we are and all that, but only after we actually manage to win, you know? They can’t stop us if we’ve already done it.”
“What she said,” her brother agreed. “As far as Mom and Dad know right now, we’re just hanging out and having fun. But if they heard anything about what we’re actually trying to do, I don’t think anything could stop them from breaking through that blockade to come pick us up.
“And personally, I’d rather not make our parents so angry they turn into supervillains. At least not without something to show for it.”
“All this shit we’ve been doing, and what do we have to show for it?” As she snapped those words, Pack tossed a shelled peanut into her mouth from the bag she was holding. The much larger Touched-Tech bag that acted as a portal to the terrariums her lizards were kept in was sitting on a folding chair nearby while she, Eits, and Broadway stood around on the roof of this old tire store that had been safely closed and empty for almost three months. “Because I don’t know about you guys, but I haven’t seen that Jennica girl since–oh, we first started this.”
“We’ll find her,” Broadway informed the other girl shortly, staring intently out over the city while dressed in her awesome power armor that made her look suitably taller and more impressive than her diminutive civilian figure really was. “We just have to do it before she actually joins up with the Scions. If she gets that far, they’ll send her to Breakwater.”
Eits, exchanging a quick look with Pack, hesitantly ventured, “Are we sure that wouldn’t be a good thing?” He held up a hand as the other girl looked at him intently. “I know, I know, she’s your sister and all. I get it, believe me. But seriously, it’s not like she’s being mind controlled or manipulated into this. She wants to join the Scions. She wants to kill a lot of people. There’s a certain point where being someone you care about doesn’t matter. She has killed people, and she wants to murder a lot more. Anyone who sees Pencil as someone to look up to, as someone she wants to work for? It’s not–” He sighed heavily. “That’s not really the type of decision you can just hug out of someone.”
The lights moving across Broadway’s helmet flickered a little as she gave a sigh of her own, clearly taking a moment to think that through. “I know, you’re right. I get it. If it comes down to it, she has to be stopped before she does something too monstrous, no matter what. But I have to at least try to get through to her. Maybe if I can make her snap out of whatever that is, she can go to a normal prison. Or a mental hospital, because she’s clearly not okay. I just want to help make her better, not let her get thrown onto a prison island full of monsters and left to rot.”
Pack tossed another peanut in her mouth before asking, “What do we do if she’s the one who was responsible for killing Grandstand’s friend?”
“She wasn’t.” That was Grandstand herself, climbing off the ladder that led up from the parking lot. “I know it was a Touched, and probably someone directly connected to Ten Towers. Maybe even one of the fucks who was there that day, considering what that guy said about hearing her voice right there on the audio when he was talking to whoever set it up. Or that could be a fakeout. Maybe whoever it was planted a bug on them. Seems pretty stupid to give away that much. But whatever it was, the person we’re looking for is a guy. Everywhere I turn, everyone who knows anything about it always says he.”
As she said that, the woman stepped away from the ladder, allowing their strange new friends from out of town to climb up. They were all still dressed as normal thieves in simple black jumpsuits and ski masks, even though they were definitely Touched. Maybe the four of them simply hadn’t settled on any good costume ideas yet.
Yeet, as the girl who created the glowing eggs that could send people flying called herself, was the first up the ladder after Grandstand. She was followed shortly by Facsimile, the boy who made solid-energy duplicates of objects he touched. Or of the air itself, which allowed him to create what amounted to forcefields. He also enjoyed going by the nickname of Facs, apparently. Which had confused Pack and the others when they thought he was spelling it with an x.
Either way, those two were joined by the telekinetic girl who went by T, and D, the boy who could turn invisible and/or intangible. Those two definitely needed better names. Especially if Pack was going to convince them to join La Casa after all this was over. The thought of how happy Blackjack would be with them if they managed to recruit four brand new Touched onto the team was almost enough to make her giddy.
Once their new friends had joined them, Pack addressed Grandstand. “So you’re sure the person we’re looking for is a guy.”
Broadway snorted quietly. “Or maybe it’s a girl who’s just posing as a guy. That would actually be a pretty good way to hide your secret identity, you know?”
Coughing weirdly, Eits spoke up. “I guess we can’t throw out any possibility. Seriously, you went through the stuff we got out of that courthouse, right?” he asked while looking at Grandstand.
She, in turn, caught the peanut that Pack tossed to her and ate it before responding. “You mean have I read every record that our pal who made those fake IDs said we might want to look at? No, but I skimmed most of them. We need to take a good long look.”
“Wait, is that what you were doing in the courthouse?” T piped up, drawing everyone’s attention. “I mean, when I heard you went in there at the same time as those Trendscendant people, I thought you might be working with them too.”
Pack gave a visible shudder. “God forbid, we aren’t that desperate. No, babe, we were just staking out the place, looking for a good time to break in. When we saw what was happening, we just took advantage of it to grab the thousand files we needed while everyone was distracted.”
Yeet practically bounced up and down. “You had to steal a thousand files just to find the identity of one guy?”
“He didn’t want the counterfeiter to know who he really was,” Pack noted. “Our counterfeiter said the guy he talked to wanted fake identification made for over a thousand different people over the course of the past year, and paid for all of them. There’s no way he’s actually got a thousand people on his side, whoever he is. So he obviously just picked a thousand people at random, plus himself, and had the guy make identification for all of them. The real guy we’re looking for is somewhere in that list.”
“Which would’ve been hard enough, but manageable, as it was,” Eits put in. “Then our guy had to go and take all those files back from the counterfeiter. Fortunately, with a little… uhh… persuasion, our counterfeiter guy remembered some of the file numbers. It’s like whoever this was just took a whole bunch of folders out of the exact same filing cabinet and handed them over. Then he put them back in the same place once the job was done.”
Broadway chuckled darkly. “So all we had to do was take the whole filing cabinet out of there just to make sure we got the right one. The guy we’re looking for has a file somewhere in that cabinet. We’re just going to have to look through every last one until we find the right guy. Then we stop him and use that to find the girl I’m trying to stop. They’re both trying out for the Scions, so they have to know about each other. They’ve probably met and all that. He’ll know something about where she is and what she’s doing.”
“Seems like a longshot,” D noted before rubbing the back of his neck awkwardly as they all looked at him. “But hey, I’ve heard of worse odds.”
“You still want to help?” Pack asked the four of them. “Even though it means looking through a bunch of mind numbing files right now, just searching for anything that stands out? Seriously, I think we’d understand if you wanted to dip. I asked my lizards if they were going to help, and they all went right back to their terrariums. Opened the teleportation bag and everything. It was impressive. Rude, but impressive.”
“If it means stopping a couple people trying out for the Scions, we’ll help,” T informed them. Belatedly, she added, “After all, we’re still just trying to get set up here in the city, and having more of those Scions out there making things worse for everyone isn’t going to help with that.”
Yeah, these people definitely needed help if they were going to get along in Detroit. This city was bound to eat them alive otherwise. Pack still wasn’t sure what their whole deal was, or why it felt like something was off about them. But they were four Touched who could definitely be a huge asset to any group they joined. Especially now with all this other shit going down. Half the Star-Touched in the city were out of commission and the whole city was basically quarantined. Any group these four joined would get an immediate advantage, that much was for sure. She was going to see how they did with this situation and go from there.
“What about you guys?” she prompted after giving the four of them another curious look. “Any luck tracking down the people who attacked you?” The group hadn’t given them much more information than that, but it was obvious there was more to the situation. Pack just didn’t want to push them too much about it. Whatever was going on there, it was pretty obvious that these four were skittish about the whole thing. The prospect of recruiting four brand new Touched to their side was too amazing for her to risk scaring them off just to satisfy her own curiosity about what they were actually up to.
“We’re still working on it,” Facs informed them after exchanging a brief look with his companions. “The records that counterfeiting guy gave us narrowed it down to a umm, a small gang who work with those Sell-Touched guys sometimes. What were their names?”
“Two-Step and Lastword,” D answered flatly. “We don’t know if those guys were involved at all. They weren’t at the actual attack, anyway. But if they work with these people, they might object to us trying to pull them aside for answers.”
“So we’ll help.” With that reminder, Broadway added, “That’s the deal, right? You help us track down and stop these wannabe Scion recruits, and we help you figure out this whole kidnapping thing. But, you know, it’d really help us help you if we knew why they wanted to kidnap you in the first pla–”
Grandstand interrupted, sharing a glance with Pack. “When you’re ready to tell us more so we can help, we’ll be ready to listen.” Then she gestured with her thumb. “I’ve got all the files in my van. If you people all really want to help look through all of it, be my guest.
The sooner we find the right record, the sooner we can get to something more exciting.”
Two hours later, they had brought the entire filing cabinet worth of folders up to that roof and were all sitting around going through file after file. All of their eyes had practically glazed over by that point as they went through mind numbingly repetitive files, searching for anything that might stand out.
Pack was starting to think that this whole idea was stupid and pointless. How were they supposed to get actual answers this way? How could they look at a picture, name, birthdate, and other shit like that and just say ‘it’s this guy, he’s the one who is trying to join the Scions by murdering the reporter who helped expose their identities?’ It was absurd to think that something would just jump out at–
“Oh my god.” That was the telekinetic girl, T. She jolted backward, dropping the folder she had been looking at.
“What?” Broadway demanded. “What’d you find?”
“Nothing,” T replied, reaching for the folder. “I just didn’t expect–”
Grandstand, moving faster, picked up the folder first. She flipped it open once more and frowned at the contents. “Jerry Meuster?
“Who the hell is Jerry Meuster?”
Well there you go, that little plotline is chucking along just fine, apparently. And now we’ll just have to wait and see what eventually comes of that. 😉 But I hope you WON’T wait to boost this story on Top Web Fiction, which you can do right here! Thank you for that, and for reading! Your tags are: Alexandra Chambers, Broadway, Colt, Damarko Myers, Eits, Facsimile, Grandstand, I Really Hope People Remember Jerry Meuster Is Whamline Or That Last Line Was Probably Less Than Effective, Jae Baek, Oh It Cuts Off THERE Before Showing How They Answer That Question? How Rude, Pack, Would These People Please Pick Some Sort Of Group Name To Go By So I Can Stop Referring To Them By Every Individual Name?, Yeet, Zedekiah Chambers
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Hoping we get the rest of this conversation sometime – that was a rather abrupt place to cut it off.
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good news, donators voted to make the continuation of this the next interlude!