He colored his sneakers in red pools of watered blood that seemed black in the darkness and covered them in guts galore dropped in little piles where the broom hadn’t swiped them back into the river. “Oh man…” he whispered to himself and sighed. On the bright side, his body didn’t hurt from the impact or the gunshot and Joaquin had to smile at his ability to heal. At least that’s how he understood it. He felt almost bulletproof; unlike that agent swimming face down in the river. Joaquin bit the inner side of his cheek at the memory all too present in his adrenaline-fueled mind. He had seen death many times before but not like that. The man had been out to kill him and indirectly Joaquin had caused his death, crashed and drowned under his car. And
Missing a watch, Joaquin had no notion of time. He was either at the right place or missing entirely on the party and in his head, he could hear Massey’s judgmental voice, Andy’s sneer for fucking up a simple task. Andy… Shit, he didn’t want to think about that fire. The guy was a 50/50 chance and Joaquin didn’t want to think about him right now. Disasters were piling one atop another and just like in the streets Joaquin found himself standing in the middle, fending off any sucker aiming for a chance to mess with him. Only he was fending off the thin air here. He half wanted to scream.
A light right above his head flickered on. Joaquin snapped to his senses and crouched low beside a stack of pallets nearly tipping them over. He looked up and swore at the sensor. A pair of voices approaching did the same.
“That shit scared me!”
“Don’t worry mano, it’s just a light.”
“Turning on before we even got near it?”
“It’s probably just broken esse. Calm down.”
Joaquin didn’t dare move, his heartbeat pounding in his ears. The voices dropped low, cautious, with words sparse. He had to raise himself on tiptoes to peek through the gap of one of the pallets. Down the side of the building was a red door, above it, a red light beamed brightly against the dark sky. The taller of the two men banged his fist against it. He wore a hoodie and his companion a hat set low. To Joaquin, both were just silhouettes. The door inched open and after seconds the two men were let in. Before they snuck inside the shorter one looked around still suspicious.
After he decided it was safe, Joaquin emerged from his hideout. He tiptoed to the door and inspected it. He could try the signal, he was sure he got the pattern – one heavy bang followed by three rapid ones. It was as if the signal suffered from artistic indecision. But, once someone opened and saw he was a stranger what was he going to do? Threaten them with no weapon? Joaquin instead looked for a window.
His eyes scaled the upper portion of the building spotting windows tightly shut. As nimbly as he could he stacked up enough pallets to lift himself close enough. The rest was a game of balance. Lifting himself on the unsteady Jenga tower he’d made, Joaquin put his body as close to the façade as he could and rested his arms on the rusting tin ledge sticking underneath the middle window. Yellowing foil, the corners gently peeling away, covered the window the glue gone. But it was transparent enough to allow him some view. And he could see what he had come for and more.
At first, he spotted their shadows, four in total intersecting giants on the opposite wall and on the ground below. Then he saw the source of the light, a barrel filled with orange flames dulled to a sickly yellow by the foil. The four people sat facing each other in a circle. As thin as the window was Joaquin could hear hushed voices seeping through the space between glass and metal and concrete. Their words were not coherent, however. Joaquin paused. Miles Jensen was not dealing, nor was he up to some petty crime. It felt too much of a coincidence to not be true, him coming here to this… meeting. That made no fucking sense to Joaquin.
There was a sudden deprivation inside the warehouse, of something that Joaquin couldn’t rightly place but it drove his attention back to his spying activity. He blinked and looked and tried to see what was amiss. And then he saw it, the shadows missing from the wall, missing from the entirety of that vast room filled otherwise with shadows of all kinds thrown by the wild flames. They were being pulled down like a curtain from a living shadow, that of a man sliding down the wall with ease, an inconsistent silhouette vibrating in and out of view. The humanoid shadow returned to its owner vaguely revealed by the singular source of light, the barrel. With itself, it brought a bundle of swirling like smoke shadows misshapen and formless that now rested in the hand of the man. He lifted them up to his mouth and swallowed the dark bubble cementing the overlapping darkness that had now settled in with comfort.
The room had taken an ultimately intimate mood, a thick blackness that eyes and flames alike couldn’t penetrate. Joaquin’s eyes lost sight and it was like he was staring into nothingness. His eyes sunk into it, his body inclining to break through the window and fall into the darkness consuming everything inside the building, mostly the inhabitants of the circle who were engulfed fully. It was like they weren’t there at all. And just like that as he was wobbling on the unsteady pallet tower his mind snapped back into place and his eyes bulged.
He pulled away from gazing within and blinked dizziness as he stared into the outside where colors and lights and sounds existed aplenty. The warehouse grounds returned him to his normality, the space lit with the same dull lights flickering restlessly in the night; the shadows of the outside were placed where they were rightly to be and Joaquin was thankful for that. Excitement and some primal fear of the unknown battled inside of him. To the inside, he threw a look again.
Excitement won over fear, as Joaquin was a man of tomorrow, a person granted abilities that told him fear was just an attribute of others and not him, never him. In that warehouse was the truth he was seeking. Inside a whole new world existed and Joaquin wanted to be a part of it. He allowed for a second proud smile to play on his lips. It wasn’t just any meeting Miles was coming to. It was a Supers Anonymous Meeting.
Next: All Flags Fall