Hunting Season – Boom

Olivia missed flying. Flying for fun, not having to worry about people with guns, or helicopters, or helicopters carrying people with guns. She’d flown to the Freedom Fighter outpost and back, but that was less for enjoyment and more for getting from point A to point B as fast and quietly as possible. Now they were in the auto shop, or the lair, as Ben had christened it.

When they arrived Delta immediately got out and checked her car for damage, while Skulker got out of the driver’s seat and mocked her. Those two need to stop. Nomad had to focus their attention to other things. “Ben, put the real license plates back on. Delta, I think Miya would like you disable those things in her.” The two went to their allotted tasks. “It’s like herding cats,” Olivia heard Chris mutter under his breath.

Miya moved quietly off to the side as Delta grabbed some black and red wires and an unidentifiable tool from the desk not covered in computers. Delta motioned to Miya to sit on the chair near the wall, saying, “This whole process is going to be something out of a horror movie. And in the interest of full disclosure, it’ll probably kill you.” Olivia felt faintly nauseous at that.

Miya nodded, a hard look in her eyes. “Freedom Fighter’s people will definitely kill me in the next day or so. Do it.” Ben started snickering from where he sat at the front of the car.

Chris and Ben had rigged up some curtains for privacy in shop while Olivia and Delta were watching and storming the outpost. Considering there were four, maybe five now, people living in the lair, Olivia considered this to be a good idea. Delta blocked their view of her and Miya with one, and Olivia heard another zap. At least Miya knew that time. I know I wouldn’t be OK with something like that.

She grabbed a computer out of the back alongside Chris. She’d noticed that Delta hadn’t taken off her helmet during the ride back, though Ben and Chris had. It must be because of Miya, though Olivia couldn’t figure out why. “Hey Chris, why is Delta nervous around Miya?”

“What makes you say that?”

“Well, I don’t know. I mean, she is still wearing her mask, even though no one else is. Is that weird, or…?”

“It is possible that the helmet is showing her the locations of Overlord’s implants or other relevant information,” he said, placing his computer near Delta’s main desk, the one with the big monitor Delta was always shouting at them to watch. Olivia placed hers beside his. They stopped there. “But did you hear me talking to Miya while the rest of you were packing the car?”

“No, I was more listening for other people, if they were coming in or not. And…I’ve been trying not to eavesdrop on other people talking. I figured it would be kind of rude.” I know. I’m weird.

He smiled slightly. “Fair. Basically, Miya told me that she was a small time thief in Arizona until she was captured by Overlord’s people. Or maybe that was in the car. Anyways, Delta is just erring on the side of caution.”

“Miya never went with the secret identity thing?”

“Nah, not everyone does. It’s kind of a recent trend, comic books affecting how people act in real life. Actually, it’s usually associated with criminals, so you’ll have to ask Miya why she didn’t have one before.” Chris’s phone began to ring. He glanced at the screen. “Excuse me, I need to take this.” The normally stoic Chris sounded eager for once.

She walked over to her designated spot in the shop. There was a thin mattress and a couple blankets they had managed to buy or scrounge in the last day or two. No one else had any better; Amanda hadn’t finished furnishing the lair when they moved in. The city’s water didn’t connect to the building, the others went to nearby gyms to shower, and they drank out of water bottles. Except they didn’t need to steal them. Must be nice to have a bank account. Or even be able to have a bank account.

Olivia tried to ignore the sounds of the others as she walked. The sounds of snipping from where Miya and Delta were, Ben throwing the screwdriver and fake plates randomly on a desk (Delta hated other people messing with her mess), and Chris talking very intently on the phone. No, bad Olivia. You just told him that you are trying not to eavesdrop. You told him that not ten seconds ago.

She heard it anyways. “Yes Mr. Kenner, this is Chris speaking. Is Alice alright? Can I talk to her?”

Much more faintly, Olivia heard from the phone, “Chris, I’m sorry.” The man, Mr. Kenner, whoever that was, sounded choked up.

“No. No, she was nowhere near the hospital. How…?”

“She got caught by a group of men. They…they,” said Mr. Kenner.

“Stop. I…” Chris trailed off.

“I’m sorry I didn’t tell you til now. They just found her…”

Olivia was distracted by a zapping sound and Delta saying in a panicked voice, “Shit! Fuck! Son of bitch! Oh, wait, that worked.” The noises from Delta’s area returned to normal levels.

Chris hung up his phone in silence. Olivia was stock still, she didn’t hear the end of his conversation. Curiously, she heard nothing from Ben as well. What are you supposed to do in this kind of situation? I don’t think it would be a good idea to ignore something like this.

Olivia got up, walking towards where Chris stood, staring at his phone and leaning against the wall with his shoulder. His heart beat faster than usual, and he smelled…angry. Olivia had no idea how she got that out from everything her nostrils picked up constantly, but she did.

“Hey, Chr…” she began.

“I’m going for a walk,” he cut her off tersely, continuing to stare at the phone.

“Isn’t there a curfew? And I don’t think the streets are safe…”

She trailed off at the glare Chris fixed her with. “I. Am going. For. A walk. Do you need me to say it any slower?” I messed up something, didn’t I? He’s just angry, right?

Before she could speak further, Ben called out, “Hey Olivia, can ya come here a sec? Need yer help with somethin’.”

She spared a final concerned glance for Chris before going to Ben. Ben held up a hand when she arrived, forestalling any questions. He watched with a half smile as Chris left, then counted down on his hand once the door closed behind Chris. Then he said, “You wanna watch out for him or me to?”

“I’ll do it.”  It’s not as though I can do anything else productive here.

“Bueno. An’ might I suggest stayin’ outta sight, an’ be back in before he is? I’m guessin’ he’s not in the best of moods.”

So Olivia followed, keeping a good distance but still able to keep tabs on Chris. At least I’m flying again, though I wish the circumstances were better. There was a brief scare when a patrol car stopped Chris. Olivia thought the cops would attempt to arrest him: a young man, alone, with an angry expression, after a curfew, in a city in lockdown from a terrorist organization. He probably set off some alarms with the police. She felt sick to her stomach.

Olivia landed on a rooftop, ready to jump in. The officer approached Chris, who stood his ground. The cop’s partner hung back by the car. “You have your ID with you, son?”

Chris provided it without a word. The officer read it, saying, “So, Mr. Collins, you are aware that you are breaking curfew right now, correct?”

“Yeah.”

“Any reason for that?”

“Just lost someone. Wanted to clear my head.”

The cop fixed him with a hard look for several seconds, then passed Chris’s ID back. “I recommend you get back home soon. The streets aren’t the best place to be at night nowadays. Stay safe.”

With that, the police drove off, and Chris walked aimlessly a bit before returning to the lair. Olivia returned slightly before he did; she was fairly confident that he never knew she was there, he seemed lost in his own thoughts.

Delta was cleaning blood off her gloves and Ben whistled while disassembling his pistol when Olivia returned. Olivia exchanged a brief nod with Ben, then went to Delta.

“How is Miya doing?” Olivia asked.

“I’m no surgeon, so there’s an excellent chance her brain is fried. If it were anyone else, I’d give them a fifty-fifty chance, but with magic her chances are better.” Chris walked in at that moment, immediately going to his section of the lair, pulling the curtains shut. “It could automatically heal her without her say so, though that is not something you ever want to count on. Way too unpredictable. But right now, she’s alive and unconscious.”

Olivia heard a distant thud, then another. I’m not going to ignore that this time. Pattern recognition! “You didn’t hear that did you?”

Delta cocked her head to the side. “No. What are you talking about?”

“I heard something loud.” Another thud. “It sounds…kind of like…” Like the bomb that took out that hospital.

“Olivia…like what?”

“The hospital bomb, just a lot further off. Three of them.”

“Oh, no fucking way.” Delta ducked her head down. She’s probably checking something in her helmet. Or she’s just standing there unmoving for no reason, one of the two. Several seconds passed. “Yep. Police band just confirmed it.”

Delta shouted to the others as she sat down at her main computer, “Hey, get your asses over here, Freedom Fighter set off more bombs.” She opened up a map of the city and surrounding area. Ben suddenly teleported to Olivia’s side. To Olivia’s immense surprise, she heard Miya slowly walking towards where they were. She’s alive! Maybe Delta was just exaggerating. But…where’s Chris?

“Where did they go off?” asked Ben

Delta highlighted an area near the river in red. “The water treatment facility for the city.” She highlighted a portion well outside of the city, to the west. “A portion of I-70 is now covered in a good chunk of mountain.” Another area, this time to the southeast of the city center. “The Cherry Creek mall. And…hang on.” She highlighted a fourth area, very close to city center. “Counterterrorism caught another bomb at Union Station. They’ve got it contained though.”

Miya staggered up to them. “So we gonna kill Freedom Fighter now?”

“Gimme a sec. Checking the chatter,” said Delta. “Er, it’s sounding like he’s not out there right now. Still don’t know where he is.”

“Did he do this because of what we did earlier?” asked Olivia.

“Nah, doubt it. Ya can’t come up with bombin’ places like these on the fly. Needs preparation,” said Ben.

Miya gave a dissatisfied grunt. Olivia noticed she swayed slightly on her feet, slowly flexing her hands. There was still something slightly off about her face, specifically the left side. It…doesn’t move? I can’t put my finger on it. Olivia realized she was staring, and Miya noticed. Olivia looked away quickly. Oops. Sorry.

Delta spoke to the group at large before Miya said anything. “And where the hell is Chris? Isn’t he supposed to be in charge for this kind of stuff?”

“Ummm…” How much should I say? It sounded really personal to Chris.

Ben saved Olivia from having to explain. “He’s grievin’ right now.”

Delta sounded apprehensive. “Is he…?”

“Dunno. We’ll see.”

After a quiet moment, Miya said, “Hey, back to the matter at hand. When are we going to find F.F.?”

Olivia felt a jab of pain in her gut. She winced and held a hand to her stomach, trying to ignore it. Delta caught the look on her face. “You OK there, Olivia?”

“I’m fine,” she mumbled, withdrawing her hand and putting both behind her. No, don’t throw up. Bad stomach, bad.

“Really? Didn’t look like it.”

“Olivia, if yer not at the top of yer game out there, we’ll probably get killed.”

“My stomach’s hurting a bit. It’s nothing.”

“Wait a minute, what have you guys been eating lately?” asked Miya, eyeing the tower of pizza boxes in the corner, interspersed with the occasional donut box. Ben got food on the cheap.

“That, mainly. I figured we shouldn’t pump ourselves full of crap before getting into a big fight, so we’ve had some fruits and vegetables…” Delta trailed off. “Oh, I get it.” Get what?

Ben started laughing. “Hon, wanna gimme the keys? I’ll go get somethin’ for her. Unless of course you feel like drivin’ on a couple hours of sleep.”

Delta sighed, then said, “Don’t hit anything, jackass.” She tossed him the keys and he went to the car.

“What?” asked Olivia over the sound of the car starting.

“Let’s think this through,” said Miya. “You’ve had nothing to eat but pizza, random junk food, and vegetables and fruits lately.”

“Yeah. So?”

Miya paused for a second. “Describe your teeth for me.” Sharp? Pointy?…Oh, I get it. Her realization must have shown on her face, because Miya continued, “You’re not built to run on junk food for long. You seriously didn’t know this?” Miya regarded Olivia curiously.

“Well, no.” Olivia scratched the back of her neck, feeling awkward. “I’ve never had a problem with eating stuff that wasn’t meat before.” She winced as her stomach reminded her that she was, in fact, having a problem with eating a meat free diet. This is so backwards.

“OK, little Ms. Apex Predator,” said Delta, sounding amused. “Ben is probably out getting…I don’t know. Some fried chicken or something. I am 100% confident that will come with no health concerns.” Why did you say it like that? Oh, sarcasm.

“Sorry. I didn’t know,” Olivia mumbled.

“Yeah. Also, we should probably make sure you aren’t getting slowly poisoned by some random chemical in food. Your biochemistry seems a bit off.” Delta looked at Miya.

“What?” asked Miya. “What do you want me to do? I’m not a doctor, at all. If you have a broken bone, I’m all over that shit, but beyond that I can only heal minor stuff. And right now I’m pretty tapped out. Do you even have an idea of how magic works? Either of you?”

Olivia shook her head. Delta said, “Nah, it’s basically black magic to me, only literally.”

Olivia smiled. “So magic has to do with magnets?”

Delta snickered, while a confused look crossed Miya’s face. “No. And none of this gets us closer to F.F.”

Delta groaned. “Another all nighter? Challenge accepted.” She rubbed her hands together and moved towards the computers Olivia and Chris had moved for her.

“Do you need any help?” Olivia asked.

“Nah, this is mainly just editing some programs I have and pointing them in the right direction. No offense but you’d have no idea what to do. And I don’t know about Miya, but she looks like she’s about to die on her feet. Go get some sleep. Or wait for food, whatever.”

“You need sleep too.”

Engineers don’t sleep!” exclaimed Delta, grabbing a cable of some kind. Miya staggered off, collapsing on the first mattress she saw, which was Olivia’s. She needs it more anyways. Delta began furiously working on…something, and Ben was still gone.

I wonder how Chris is doing? She hadn’t heard much from where he was. Everyone seemed to think that giving him space was the right idea. Trying to talk to him certainly hadn’t worked for her before. I wish I could help him somehow. She realized she didn’t know anyone too well. Maybe Delta would like some company at least, even if Olivia couldn’t do anything concretely productive.

***

The sun came up, and everyone else was asleep, even Delta. Olivia sat on the edge of the chair, munching on a piece of fried chicken and monitoring the computers. This was the first time Delta had all seven of them running at full capacity, Olivia couldn’t sleep over the noise they made even if Miya wasn’t passed out on her mattress.

I’m just glad I convinced Delta to get some shuteye. Olivia currently monitored for red alerts. Delta didn’t expect it, but if a document on the stolen computers said exactly where Freedom Fighter currently hid, that would pop up as red. Same with an attack, or news like they had gotten before when they first came in.

Uuuuugh. This is boring. And why does every chair have to have a backrest? Her tail prevented her from sitting normally, and the wings made leaning back uncomfortable. At least it wasn’t a couch. To sit on one of those she had to bend her wings forward and to her side awkwardly. Then again, a chair with no backrest is just a stool.

Miya woke with a start, causing Olivia to whip her head in Miya’s direction at the sudden noise. Miya stood up, grumbling. She looked around, confused for a second, then realized that she wasn’t in a cell.

“Good morning,” said Olivia, quietly so as to not wake the others.

Miya grunted. “Too early for words. Fuck mornings.”

When did everyone get grouchy? “Food is over here.” Olivia pointed to the pile of random food next to her that they accumulated over the past few days. We should probably get organized at some point.

“Those words are OK.” She walked over and pulled out a box of Poptarts. She fumbled with the wrapper. “Anything happening?”

“No. I’ve just been sitting here for the last several hours.” Miya still struggled with the wrapper. “Need some help?”

“I’m fine.” As if to prove her point, she finally got it open.

“Recovering alright, then?”

“Yeah. Healed most of the stuff Delta cut up while I slept. It was actually kind of cool. I think she attached a couple wires to the things and ran a current through.”

“Ummm, OK.”

Ben got up and coughed a bit. “Nrrrg.”

“Someone else not want to be up?” asked Olivia.

He rubbed the sleep from his eyes. “Sleep is precious. Sleep is sacred. An’ our sleep schedules are fucked. Anythin’ happenin’?”

“No.”

“Then what’s that red thing?” He pointed at the screen, and a happy sounding ping emerged from the speakers.

“That’s a thing,” said Olivia.

“WAKE UP MOTHERFUCKERS!” Ben shouted, then cackled to himself.

***

Olivia flinched as bullets whizzed overhead. Something exploded nearby, deafening her. The riot finally erupted in the afternoon, this was their best chance to get Freedom Fighter

“You sure this thingy’ll work?” Skulker asked Delta, motioning to the device clipped to his mask.

“No, but that’s half the fun, jackass. Go on, the rioters are waiting.” Olivia cringed inwardly, remembering the last time Freedom Fighter used his power. I hope Skulker doesn’t react how I did. He doesn’t seem full of rage, but I don’t think I am either.

Nomad said, “We need to hurry. The Koitsenko are inbound. They’re here for us and F.F.”

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