Olivia shifted, restless, then remembered that they were supposed to keep movement to a minimum. Delta spent most of the day working at her computers (what that entailed exactly Olivia didn’t know), stopping only to sleep for a couple hours. They now observed a building Delta tagged as possibly being involved with Freedom Fighter. Olivia didn’t quite know how she knew this, and quite frankly was tired of needing everything explained to her.
The last sixteen hours had been boring. Chris and Amanda discussed ways to track down Freedom Fighter. Ben fiddled with some explosives he had pulled out of his bag. Homemade, he was quite proud to say, but he still got antsy when anyone approached them.
“Didn’t you have a whole box of them at your house?” asked Olivia.
“Yes, but those ones had no way of explodin’, I made sure of that. These do.” He pointed to the explosives laid out on the floor next to him.
“OK. Next question: Should the guy with the head injury be playing with these things?”
“Pft. No. Not at all.” He laughed and continued fiddling with another bomb.
She shook her head and joined Amanda and Chris at the other end of the shop. Chris had been on edge lately, but now he seemed more collected with a problem to solve.
“He has a whole network,” Chris was saying. “Supporters, fighters, arms dealers. Even if we can’t find the man himself, we can find that network and work our way to him.”
“Yeah, I’ve been going through known associates and any other possible leads. Soon I’ll have access to most of what I had in the MHU: security feeds, alarms, all the rest. The thing is, we have no idea why he’s here. Those associates are mostly in Latin America,” said Amanda. “As well, the counterterrorism units tried this before. He saw them coming from a mile away.”
“Yes, but we should be immune to his power. They weren’t. They assumed it was unblockable like most powers. He’ll want to make a point, show that no one can touch him.”
“Well, Olivia over here did.”
“No, I mean arrest or kill. Though his lack of an arm will probably make this easier, so thank you Olivia.”
Olivia looked down at the sudden attention. I don’t really want to hurt anyone. During the fight with Blackout and Whiteout, every instinct she had was screaming at her to kill them, and she very nearly gave in to those instincts. This disturbed her.
Chris continued, “He’s not just a fighter. He leads, rather than going out causing havoc like earlier. His minions might actually turn on him when his power activates. So he’s got to have other fighters around, very probably some of them are supers. If he used his power all the time, it would be obvious where he is, and he would never get anything done, because everyone around him would be too busy fighting.”
“So you want to look for armed groups, ones that are at least relatively new. Makes sense,” said Amanda.
Amanda had tagged the building she and Olivia currently watched, and the four of them had watched it in shifts once night fell. Nomad and Olivia had watched for an hour, then Delta took Nomad’s place.
They were there for observation: defenses, who came in, who left, and getting more accurate pictures of the people for Delta’s systems. There was the small chance Freedom Fighter would show up there as well.
The building was apparently well soundproofed, Olivia could hear little of what went on inside, a good indicator of some less than savory going ons within. Otherwise, it looked like a run of the mill building for the neighborhood. Most of the buildings that composed said neighborhood were abandoned, and the ones that weren’t had seen better days. They currently observed a building with a pawn shop on the ground floor and apartments further up.
Why is everything abandoned? There’s people in the city, and I get that we frequent these kinds of places, but why do these places even exist in the first place? “Hey Delta?” Olivia asked, keeping her voice low. They occupied yet another abandoned apartment, overlooking the pawn shop.
“Yeah?” she responded, not taking her eye off the surveillance equipment she had brought.
“Why is it that nearly everything I’ve seen in this city is abandoned or something?”
“The economy crashed hard a couple years ago. Happens every other decade or so.”
“Every other decade? That seems frequent for something so major.”
“Yeah. People like to blame supers for that. A great, unsustainable growth fueled by good people with good intentions, followed by a hard crash as villains catch up. The heroes eventually rebound and everything is good again. Happens everywhere. Hell, you get out of the US and things are much worse right now.”
“Huh. I thought things would be better if people had super powers.”
Delta laughed. “What, you think powers don’t make you human? You think they make you better? People are still heroic, greedy, selfless, murderous, and universally operate with a complete disregard to logic, even with powers. How else would you explain the Cold War? Powers only let people do whatever it is they do better.”
Olivia remained silent for a moment. “You guys make it kind of hard to maintain faith in humanity.”
“Why is that?” Delta sounded amused.
“I don’t know. People seem awful when you put it like that.”
“You didn’t hear the part where I said people are heroic and selfless as well, did you? So much for that super hearing.”
Olivia smiled, returning her full attention to the building. “So what is it you see with that helmet of yours?”
“Right now? I’m on thermals. I’m seeing four guys. Two are sleeping on the ground floor, one is walking somewhere. Another is sitting, watching the door to the rooftop. Riveting, I know. There’s someone who I’m guessing is a woman, sitting on…something, I’m guessing a bed. Sensors are going a bit wonky with her, nothing too bad though.”
“I’m feeling pretty useless. I can’t really hear what’s going on from this distance, they soundproofed the building really well. How come your thermals work?”
“Because they would only do that if they wanted the military on them in an instant. A building that is proofed against thermals would be a big tip off. Also, don’t worry about not doing much. You might be able to pick up a car, but this is the kind of stuff they train people for.”
“Yeah, Chr- I mean, Nomad,” she amended after a sharp glance from Delta, “he had me doing some combat training kind of stuff. Stances, how to break holds, stuff like that. He said I was pretty good at it.”
“Well, gotta start somewhere.” Delta pulled something from a pocket. They looked like a pair of thick sunglasses. “Try these on, might be a little small. Been meaning to field test them.” Olivia took them and put them on. Other than making everything darker, nothing happened. “Now there’s a button on the frame, near the left lens. Press it.”
Olivia did so, and her left eye suddenly took in an entirely different picture. She saw the building, despite the fact that she faced Delta. Several human shaped orange and yellow blobs added color to the otherwise grainy grey picture. “Whoa.”
Delta turned to look at Olivia, and Olivia saw herself, a large orange blob. “You are seeing what I’m seeing. There’s some kinks with the system, it’s just a prototype.” So I’m watching Delta watching me. Seems a bit roundabout. Delta looked back at the building. “What do you think?” asked Delta.
“Well, it works. Kind of distracting though. Half my vision is cut off…” she trailed off as she saw movement in the building. A man had walked into the room of the woman. From what Olivia could tell, they were fighting. The man twisted and the woman staggered back.
“Are we going to do something?” Olivia stood up and removed her glasses, passing them back to Delta.
Delta paused when she took the glasses. “No. We don’t know what’s waiting for us in there. Traps, cameras, the powers, if they have any, of the people inside. If they manage to destroy any information they have, this whole thing will have been for nothing. Besides, we have two more people to help us out sitting back at base. The two of us rushing in is not a good idea.”
“What if he kills her? What then?”
“Then we bury her, and kill that fucker later. Nothing we can do right now,” Delta said quietly.
“Then what have we been doing this whole time? Haven’t we been gathering that information you just mentioned? Besides, there’s only four other people inside.”
Delta remained quiet, and Olivia watched the location of the woman, seeing only a brick wall. There’s a guy in there, beating a woman. That’s not all he could be doing. She realized Delta was talking.
“Olivia?” she asked. Louder, “Olivia!”
“You were hissing again. And not quietly.” Delta sighed. “Fine, turn on your comm. I’ve got an idea or two.” Olivia fiddled with the comm unit as delicately as possible. She had it for the whole time during the stakeout, but had kept it off, as it was another way for them to be detected. She heard static in her ear, and Delta sounded like she was mumbling something.
“I just told Nomad what we’re doing,” said Delta. “He advised no, but I told him the rough plan I’ve got, and he left the final choice up to us. Him and Skulker are about forty minutes away, so they probably won’t be able to help. Now let me see…there, did that work?” Delta’s voice cut out, and Olivia could only hear her clearly through the comm.
“Yes, can you hear me?”
“Yes, good. Now, here’s what I’m thinking. Cutting the power won’t do anything for cell phones, but it’ll give us an edge for combat, cause I’ve got night vision and you don’t seem to have a problem with it. I’ve got some localized EMPs, but that’ll wreck any computer, and we kind of want those for any information they contain. But this little fella,” she pulled out a metal spike with a bulb on the top. “This’ll keep any signal from going in or out, but it’ll also keep us from using our comms, so that little bit with our comms was kind of useless. Landlines will also still work in there. Unless, of course…”
“The power is out,” finished Olivia. They moved from the room they occupied to the stairwell, stopping at the stairs themselves. Delta passed her the spike and a couple of plastic zip ties.
“Exactly, but the best place to cut the power is down on the ground level, while this,” she wiggled the spike, “needs to be somewhere near the center of the building, for maximum coverage. If you move it while it’s on, it doesn’t work, and it only has so much range. Because black magic.”
“That’s how you get out of exposition, isn’t it?”
“Damn right. Gimme a sec…” she fiddled with the device. “There. Flick this switch on my mark.” She indicated the switch in question. “Put it on roughly the center of the rooftop, hide it if possible, then work your way down. I’ll go in from the ground level, two points of contact for them to deal with. It’ll also mess with my thermals, but you’ve got your own close range personal radar. Right?” Olivia nodded. People smell…distinct. “The building’s layout is standard, no tricks that I could see when I looked up the blueprints. I think I’ve been talking long enough. Don’t get killed.” She started down the stairs.
“You too.” Olivia went upwards to the roof. She paused once there, observing her target. There were no cameras or other pieces of surveillance equipment that she could see. Delta darted across the street, and Olivia glided to the other roof, then listened carefully. Nothing out of the ordinary, but then again they have soundproofing in there. She went to the center of the roof, crouched near a vent, and waited. And waited.
Just as Olivia was about to call Delta, her comm buzzed in her ear. I should figure out how to turn that thing down a little bit. Later.
“You ready?” asked Delta.
“Yes,” Olivia whispered back.
“K, turn it on in three, two, one. Go.”
Olivia hit the switch, set down the device, then hurried to the door of the building. The lights had gone out. She pressed her ear to the door. It sounded like the guy was stumbling around, cursing. Olivia tried to open the door normally, and found that it was locked.
I really wanted to be quiet about this. Really. She drove her claws around the edge of the door and yanked. A loud metal pop accompanied the door coming free of its hinges. She set the door down to her side, then entered at a brisk pace.
The man heard the door, but his eyes still hadn’t adjusted to the sudden darkness. He also heard footsteps and a faint hiss, his eyes barely making out a hulking shape moving towards him. He began to shout and draw a weapon, but was cut short by a large scaly hand wrapping around his mouth. His pistol was torn out of his grip before it could be brought to bear on Olivia.
Olivia was then stuck with a struggling man in one hand and a pistol she had no desire to use in the other. She tightened her grip slightly after a particularly violent thrash nearly got the man free, accompanied by muffled noises. Please stop. I can’t control whether you cut your head on the claws. She considered him for a moment.
“Please stop,” she said quietly. “I don’t want to hurt you. Please stop.” Her efforts were rewarded by a kick to the shin and renewed struggling with more muffled words. Theatrics worked before, maybe I should try that again. She raised the hand with the pistol and made sure that her fingers weren’t covering the man’s eyes so he could see. She squeezed, slowly bending the gun out of shape. She dropped the twisted pistol on the ground and the man stopped struggling. Now what? I need to get moving. Wait a minute, zip ties.
“Put your hands out in front of you. Don’t make a sound.” He did so, Olivia tied up his hands, then cut some cloth from his shirt to make a gag. She made sure to keep her claws blatantly obvious during the process. She lifted him and set him down inside a closet in an empty apartment, then tied his legs down. She shut the door behind her. I hope that lasts long enough.
She hadn’t heard anything when dealing with the man. She made her way to where she remembered where the woman was held. The others she had seen were on different floors, they shouldn’t be a problem if this went quietly. Another set of footsteps moved slowly below where Olivia was.
As she descended, a low voice became clearer to her, muttering, “Damn thing, work. There was reception five minutes ago.”
She was close, now. Where is Delta? I hope she’s OK. Olivia paused at the stairs, a familiar scent came from down below her. She whispered, “Hey, Delta. It’s me.”
“Olivia? Hold on, I’ll be up in just a second,” Delta whispered back. Delta ran up as quick as possible while maintaining a reasonable volume. “Any trouble?” she asked when she reached Olivia’s side.
“No. I tied up a guy and locked him in a room. The other guy is still in with the woman though, I can hear him muttering.”
“I got the other two. Let’s get the last fucker then. I’ll go first.” Delta lead the way into the hallway.
It smelled worse the further in they got. How long have they kept her in here? Delta seemed unaffected. She held her pistol in a two handed grip, cautiously walking to the door. Probably just me. Suddenly a door ahead of them opened, and a large Hispanic man in jeans and a stained wifebeater walked out. Of course he’s wearing a wifebeater. He yelled “What the fuck are you doing here?”
Delta raised her pistol, when suddenly she was thrown into Olivia. Olivia caught her and tried to move around her to get at the man. Something invisible hit Olivia in the knees, tripping her up. Olivia stumbled, she didn’t have the greatest balance, then righted herself. The man backpedaled, when a woman screamed and threw herself at him from the same room he’d left.
The man had a good hundred pounds on the woman; she was small, in only an orange prisoner’s jumpsuit, torn and threadbare. What she did have, apparently, was raw hatred for the man. And surprise, that helped too. She grabbed the man by the neck and punched him in one eye, then the other. She kicked his knee and he went down. Olivia heard a scraping noise from further down the hall, nothing human.
The woman screamed again, still punching. The invisible force hit her in the shoulder, twisting her off the man. Olivia moved forward, Delta behind her. The force hit Olivia squarely in the chest, causing her to lose a small amount of forward momentum, but not enough to stop her completely. The man began struggling to his feet, stopped by a kick to the face from the woman.
Olivia looked at her. The source of the scraping noise revealed itself: three small bones walking on their own accord, bound by translucent dark red threads. The bones came within reach of the woman. She grabbed a broken one with a jagged edge and shoved it into the throat of the man with a final scream.
Olivia froze in horror, but Delta pushed past her, leveling her pistol at the woman. “Whoa, calm down now. He’s dead. Get up and drop the bone.” The woman complied after a moment. Delta continued, “I’m guessing you aren’t with Freedom Fighter.”
The woman eyed Olivia through unkempt black hair. Her features were sharp, with tan skin. There is something wrong about her face though. The woman said in an exhausted voice, “You’re that feral people’ve been talking about. Tore off Freedom Fighters arm. I’m guessing you two ain’t with him either.” At that her knees buckled and she collapsed.
Olivia grabbed her, lifting her gently back to her feet. “Do you have a name?” she asked.
“Just call me Miya.”