“How do we want to do this?” asked Amanda. “We should learn from our mistakes leave two of us here.
“They already got what they want, don’t they?” asked Rob.
“Maybe, maybe not. I’m not getting leaving this place unguarded like a moron again,” replied Amanda.
The group nodded in agreement. Olivia frowned. Who then?
“Three other are goin’ into who knows what. That sit right with you?” asked Ben.
“Looks like it,” said Miya. “Unless we want to leave just one of us here.”
“No,” said Amanda with a shake of her head. “One isn’t enough. I’ll stay here. I’m not in the best of shape and I know this lab better than anyone else. Olivia will be tracking the thieves.”
“Rob, go with ‘liv’, don’t need both techies in the same place,” said Ben.
“Yeah, I hear you. Clock’s tickin’,” he reminded everyone.
Amanda grimaced and said, “OK, Ben, you know the city better than the rest of us. Go with them. Miya, that leaves you with me.”
“What if they need a healer out there?” asked Miya, a small frown on her face. “It could get ugly.”
“I know, but we’ve wasted too much time already.” Amanda nodded to the triplets and Olivia. “I put some heavy duty security on it, but that might not stop these guys. Go.”
Miya bit her lip and said nothing as Olivia and the others rushed out of the lab. “Stay safe,” said Olivia. Once outside, she took flight and followed Ben and Rob to the truck. She caught a comm headset Ben tossed in midair, then circled as they armed themselves and got the car started. The relatively windless evening air carried the normal sounds of life of a city completely unaware of any sort of danger. Below her, Rob’s truck rumbled out of a parking lot and onto the streets.
Following the faint scent of the thieves, Olivia guided them from above. Her nostrils flared as she dove down to pick up a stronger scent. They drove a car in a car, that really doesn’t help. They just smell so weird.
Forty-five minutes of flying, backtracking, and muddled directions passed before she found the end of the trail. Rob parked in a secluded lot down the street from the building Olivia marked from the air as where the thieves had stopped. She landed on a low rooftop overlooking it and waited for the triplets.
Ben teleported up first. “Are you sure this is the right place?” he asked as he slipped on his grinning mask. Behind him, a chain rattled as Rob tossed up a grappling hook. When did he get that?
Olivia narrowed her eyes at the small gym. She couldn’t recognize the scent from anywhere else besides those two strange men. It smells wrong, somehow. “Positive,” she replied. Rob hauled himself up, grabbed his hook off of the edge of the roof, and joined them.
“A gym? Really?” he asked after a moment to take in the situation. “Seems, I dunno, kinda weird.”
“Thieves might know the owner,” said Ben, now Skulker. “Might be the owners. Lotta people only pay attention to their workout, not who goes in an’ outta management.”
“I guess,” said Rob, a thoughtful look on his face, soon replaced by a grin. “Any idea who we’re dealin’ with?”
“Nope,” replied Skulker. Olivia shook her head. Why did these guys have to steal something? This was supposed to be a nice, peaceful job.
“It looks closed,” said Olivia. “There’s an open sign, but it isn’t on.” She pulled out her phone to check the time. “And the hours on the door say it’s closed too.”
“Before we get started, are you one hundred percent positive this is the right place?” asked Rob, strapping on his own mask. “We don’t wanna get arrested breakin’ in to some poor shmuck’s place for no reason.”
I think it is. She sniffed and said, “Yes, their scent is stronger here. They didn’t just drive through here.”
“How do we wanna do this?” asked Skulker. “We wanna just go in guns blazin’?”
Olivia shook her head. She sniffed again and wrinkled her nose. “It’s pretty smelly, they didn’t close that long ago. There might be a bunch of people in there. I can’t really tell.” At least I don’t feel like throwing up from smelling all that sweat.
“Didn’t bring you full armor. What else you got?” Skulker asked his brother.
“Shotgun, knife, grappling hook, wirepatch.” Gears tapped his fist against his chest, producing a metallic knocking sound. “Small plate under the shirt, chest and legs only. Been workin’ on lighter stuff lately.”
“Alright, shotgun, knives, an’ claws. Keep ‘em close an’ off balance. ‘liv’, you keep ‘em distracted, me an’ Rob’ll shoot their dicks off.” Ew. Why did you say that? Skulker continued, “liv’, you take the back, go in first. Me an’ Rob through the front once you’re down their throat. Questions?”
Gears and Olivia shook their heads. We can do this.
“Let’s get movin’.”
Olivia took flight as the triplets moved. The gym was no more remarkable from up, beyond what looked like a couple extra air conditioning units. After landing by the back door, next to a reeking old dumpster, she closed her eyes to center herself. OK. Keep the triplets safe. Don’t hesitate.
She reopened her eyes and spoke into the comm, “I’m ready.”
“We go on your signal,” replied Skulker.
She couldn’t hear any movement inside. Beneath the reek of decades of accumulated sweat and the occasional disinfectant, no truly recent scents stuck out to her besides those of the thieves. “I’m going,” she said into her comm. She took a deep breath and braced herself. Lowering her shoulder, she crouched and drove herself into the door. It shot back, torn off of its hinges.
She stormed over the fallen door and into the gym beyond, claws uncurled and ready. The dim room she found herself in was devoid of any life. She kept an ear out for any movement as she moved further into the gym, though she heard nothing beyond her tail dragging on the ground. She thrust her head into an empty office. I smell you, where are you two?
The front door chimed as the triplets barged in from the front. Olivia kept moving, keeping alert for anything her nose or ears may have missed. She found the locker rooms and opened the women’s one. Wait, the thieves were two men. She checked the other locker room. Am I supposed to be doing this? It looks exactly the same. And of course there’s no one in here. The triplets approached from behind, guns held high.
A silent moment passed before Olivia called out, “I don’t hear anything over here.”
“We got nothin’,” replied Gears, relaxing. The exercise machines they strode through in the main room stood silent and empty, no sign of use in the last couple of minutes.
“The fuck? Sure this is the right place?” asked Skulker.
“I’m sure. They were here five minutes ago, and it doesn’t smell like they left,” replied Olivia. I think. Did I mess up?
“What’re the odds they send out a call to the cops?” asked Gears.
“Dunno,” said Skulker with a shrug. “They might have somethin’ else in place, don’t want the cops showin’ up at your hideout, but that ain’t a guarantee. Let’s keep lookin’.”
They grouped together and searched the gym. The triplets weaved between the workout machines, checking for anything that might give them a clue.
“This ain’t right,” said Gears, considering an empty wooden office desk. “It’s set up all wrong”
“It’s broken, what do you want from it?” asked Skulker.
“No, it’s all weird.” He leaned over and tapped the chrome support legs. “Metal is stressed in weird-ass places. I dunno, it ain’t been used as a desk, ever.”
“So what’re you sayin’?” asked Skulker.
“I’m sayin,” said Gears, pushing his weight against the unmoving desk. “That this ain’t a normal desk. Little Bird, you wanna give this a try?”
Just push it? OK. He moved aside for Olivia. She placed her hands on the side of the desktop and gave it a light shove. It didn’t budge. She frowned and put more force on it, until finally the desk began to groan and break.
“Hold up,” said Gears, resting a hand on her elbow.
He wrenched off a panel to reveal a small mass of circuitry. It’s like what Amanda is usually working on. But why aren’t the boards green or tan? And it’s so compact.
Gears tapped on the side of the device and said, “I’ve picked up a thing or two from Ama-” He stopped himself. “Delta. This ain’t a power line. Spotted a tiny little battery in there.” He traced the wire back to a blank wall. It’s just a wall.
He pulled out his grappling hook and drove the pointy end into the drywall. A metallic clang rang out. What? Skulker teleported to his brother’s side and joined him, pulling aside chips of plaster. Behind it lay a perfectly smooth metal surface. Gears brushed aside the last of the drywall and knelt beside the metal.
“The hell is this?” asked Skulker. “Secret room? The building ain’t that big. We saw almost all of it.”
Olivia sniffed. “Yeah, I think they’re back there. It’s weird though, they haven’t left.”
“Let’s get this open,” said Skulker, kneeling down to examine where the wall met the floor. “It’s a slidin’ door,” he said after a moment.
He stood aside for Olivia to tear it down, revealing a small circular tube.
“What is this?” asked Skulker.
Gears took a moment to consider it before replying, “Ever heard of a hyperloop?”
“No,” replied Olivia.
“It’s basically a low pressure tube. Put a little train car with people in it, an’ it can go super fuckin’ fast by pumpin’ air in it or some shit. This one’s vertical, I’m not sure how it works like that. But I’m not seein’ a cable, an’ look at the shaft.”
Skulker snickered. What?
“Fuck you. It’s totally sealed,” Gears continued his explanation without missing a beat. “Not sure what else this could be.”
“So we need to get down an elevator to an underground lair thing? I’m havin’ flashbacks,” said Skulker. He held up two fingers and said, “Well, no way in hell Olivia’s fittin’ in this. Two, no way in hell they’ll just let us use it.” Sorry. “We might need to get outta here, in case they got the cops or reinforcements on the way.”
“You an’ me both. An’ yeah, not sure what to do here.”
Olivia forced the elevator tube over her head, ignoring a few broken pieces raining down, and looked down the shaft. The bottom’s just down there. “It’s not that far. You can probably just teleport down,” she announced.
“Really?” asked Skulker, sticking his head under the elevator Olivia kept aloft. “Then we’re in business. Think you can get down?”
Olivia tucked her wings in, eyeing the limited space she had to work with. “I think so.”
“Then rip out that elevator thingy an’ let’s get to work.”
“Hold on to this,” said Gears, passing Olivia his grappling hook with one hand and gripping the attached chain with the other.
“I’ll go first, I can get down quietest,” said Skulker. “I’ll let you know if it’s clear.” Olivia and Gears nodded in agreement.
“Be careful,” said Olivia as he teleported down. She heard his feet hit the ground. Please be safe.
“Alright, Gears,” murmured Skulker after a moment, only loud enough for Olivia to pick up on.
Olivia nodded to Gears. He ducked down under the elevator she held and lowered himself down the elevator shaft. He doesn’t weight that mush without all that armor. Once his feet hit the ground, he whispered, “Toss it down.”
She released his hook and let it fall. She wedged herself into the shaft, still supporting the elevator with her free hand. The sound of her breathing echoed all around as she climbed down, claws dug into the walls. The elevator hovered above her once she got down far enough, whatever invisible force keeping it steady. Her claws cut through the wall all at once, sending her tumbling down the last ten feet.
“Shit. You OK?” asked Skulker.
“I’m fine,” said Olivia as she scrambled to her feet, heat rising in her cheeks. Stupid, stupid, stupid. “Find anything?” she asked, dusting off her pants.
“I think,” he replied.
“Now, this is gonna sound real technical, but bear with me,” called out Gears over his shoulder. He examined a face of solid metal. “This is a door.”
“Thanks,” replied Skulker, deadpan. Olivia tilted her head to the side. Of course it is. Oh, sarcasm. I get it.
“Can you get it open?” Gears asked Olivia. It reeks of those two guys. Man, they smell really bad when it’s all concentrated.
She replied by forcing her claws into the door crack and pulled. Slowly but surely, the metal gave way with an unearthly shriek. Two inches later, a flash of light lanced out from the hole she’d crated, striking her in the upper chest. She let go of the door and staggered back, holding a hand to where the light had burned a small hole in her shirt.
“The fuck, was that a laser?” barked Skulker, pulling her to the side and out of sight of the hole in the door. Another laser shot out not long after, hitting nothing but the wall behind them.
“That hurt,” Olivia gasped. “A lot.” Stupid, stupid, stupid…
“Lasers? Who the fuck are these people?” demanded Skulker.
I don’t care. I just wanted a nice, relaxing job, where no one got hurt and nothing bad happened. And then these guys steal some sort of horrible weapon, and shoot me. Olivia put her hands on the partially opened door and slowly ripped it out, tossing aside the crumpled length of metal as more lasers lanced out.