Joaquin watched the exchange between Anne and Massey, saw pity in her eyes, a base emotion she never offered to anyone.
“She’ll be there, she’s always there by his side day and night.” Anne bit on the last part frowning at the suggestion it made. Massey was tight lipped. “You’ll call her tomorrow and tell her to leave before we engage.”
“Wait…tomorrow?” Quake looked over to Joaquin then back to Anne.
“Yes. Is it inconvenient for you Mr. Quake? Since we’re talking now, all eager to sink our teeth into the problem I figured we use the closest opportunity. Forgive us for talking this over before we came. Frank, Andy and I came up with a little plan.”
“Tomorrow there will be a conference right in front of Globe’s doorstep. He’s fond of those. There will be a lot of people, supporters and haters in equal dosage, but a big crowd nonetheless. If you do your thing and stir things up, Anne can secure a way in,” Massey explained.
Anne picked the back pocket of her jeans and fished out a piece of paper. On it she had drawn a close representation of the tower and its levels. “Forgive the crude drawing I did it in the car on the way here. Much easier with makeup. Anyways, Globe sits at the top, that’s where his control room is, where he sleeps, eats and shits. He’s protected there, secure. We’ll need to dismantle him step by step to get there. The tricky part is there’s a detection system mounted on the front door of the building, no unregistered super goes in or out without that thing alerting the FBI and therefore the Nightprowlers. The entire tower goes into lockdown within 60 seconds. However, I’m authorized to switch that alarm off. If Quake can create a 30 second distraction and Nightwave another 30 seconds of blackout, I’ll be able to turn it off and pretend it’s misbehaving on account of your peculiar abilities. Globe will be able to restart it manually from his control room but once you’re inside it won’t matter. The building will go into lockdown after another 15 seconds.”
“Won’t that draw too much attention? A supers attack at a rally?”
Anne smiled at Betty. “The people in the crowd will be fine and they will get to go home with some fright in their system and a story to tell. Besides we’re aiming for the cameras.”
“Massey did say you were born to be a cop, Officer Patterson. Always with the questions. It’s because they need to capture the moment when Globe is exposed as a fraud.”
“But won’t he be dead?” Kid joined in.
“It’s double the pleasure of ruining him twice, once in life and again in death. Detective Frank Massey and Officer Betty Patterson leaving the building with lab rats bubbling with evidence and survivors of his sadistic trials will look great on camera and will serve to exonerate Mr. Jensen here and others like him. Maybe even get Frank his badge back.”
“I still have friends in the force. I can call Felix and see if he can send patrols to keep the people away in case something goes haywire,” Betty offered turning to Massey.
“That’s a good idea, Betty.”
Anne tapped her finger at the corner of the first floor. “Now that we got that out of the way, here’s the elevator. The main laboratory is on level zero but the button won’t be active unless you have a keycard that unlocks it. I can swipe that off of Globe and give it to Betty and Massey if they’re up for the exercise. You’ll need to sneak in within the blackout. Once you go down there you’ll be on your own.” Betty nodded letting a small smile creep up her pale lips at the prospect of working with Massey again.
“Good. You’ll have to disable the system, cancel the process of transfer and get people to safety. Keep a plan B in your mind.”
“Plan B?” Betty shook her head confused.
“Smash everything that blinks and beeps. I know for a fact that there is a different exit to that laboratory away from people’s eyes. You use that. The second laboratory if there is one is my responsibility. You lot just keep Globe and his minions distracted. Once he’s striped down of that power he’ll be vulnerable. We’ll have a short window to act while they assume there’s an attack outside. We will use that to get into the main elevator and go knock on Globe’s door.”
“That’s when I pop a bullet in his melon,” Joaquin smirked.
“What about me? I can still do something to help.” Miles was looking at Joaquin expectantly.
“You sit tight man, you been through enough. Its safe here, so don’t worry. After tomorrow you’s goin’ to be a free man.”
“What can you tell us about his “minions”?” Nightwave asked.
“In truth there are only three people to be worried about aside from the Nightprowlers and their stasis rifles.”
“And Cosma,” Joaquin added growling at the name.
“If she survived the shot,” Betty suggested. “Regardless, she’ll be too weak to put up much fight.”
“Right,” Andy paused. “The security in the tower is controlled and monitored by this hacker girl, Sindi, “ he explained. “We had a hard time moving the SuperHub from IP address to IP address so she wouldn’t track it down and use it. Every security measure we put up she took down within seconds. We ended up not using the program of fear she’d find our whereabouts. So you can bet she’ll have eyes on every step we make but I can keep her busy, irritate her and slow her down while Anne locates her sever room and shuts her off the grid for good. Besides I have a score to settle with her.”
Anne pointed at the drawing. “Her server room is here, on the apartment floor. He likes to keep them close, her especially. Sindi can easily lock us out of the elevators and deploy more Nightprowlers, so she has to go first. Luckily all we need to do is plug her out like Andy said. I’ll take care of her preventively. In the cacophony Globe won’t notice she’s offline until it’s too late. We need to take the elevator to the top floor quickly before Silas senses there’s trouble inside the tower. He can manipulate time and he’s very loyal to Globe. We can’t let them make a run for it and I can’t predict his moves. I can’t stop him on my own if he directs his attacks at me. When we confront him and we will it would take team effort to not let him use his ability on us. In the meantime I’m counting on you, Kid Vision to make sure we don’t have unannounced Prowler surprises while we do that.”
Kid grinned at the attention. “Awesome! Mi radiografía es su radiografía…right, yeah. Cool!”
“And Bree?” Joaquin waited for Anne’s response.
“I don’t know. I don’t think she picks sides but she’s dangerous. I’m warning you now, she may look like a little girl but she can control you and make you do things you wouldn’t have dared to do ever. If you run into her, you turn back. Don’t try to fight her. Don’t intimidate her. She…I believe she has some fondness for me. If I can convince her that what we are doing is right she may even help.”
“We’ll be able to communicate with these, “Massey signal to Andy who searched the inner pocket of his jacket for a small plastic bag. He tipped its contents onto the table. A dozen earpieces tumbled out.
“Each will put on of these in their ear and Andy will make sure we hear each other loud and clear.”
“We can do this. I know it seems a lot but you’ve survived thus far so that means something. If you get scared get out of my way, I don’t tolerate whimpers. This is a one shot thing. He will not be expecting it, not this force of power. Tomorrow we end it all. Now get some shut eye and get your heads in the game. You leave at 9 sharp.”
Anne stood up and stretched her back.
“This is my queue to leave you and go infiltrate the enemy. I have appearances to keep up. Besides The Major has been calling and I already had to lie once of being deliciously occupied with a younger man in manners that would make Joaquin blush.”
* * *
Anne tried to imagine the amount of missed calls she had on her smartphone forgotten in the glove compartment of her car. She had to change in her fresh posh clothes, neatly folded in the trunk and again, lie to Globe of where she’d been. He wouldn’t think of questioning her too much just like any other time. It was a game they played; she knew he was trying to guess who she’d been with, what she had done, imagining her with other men, doing things he wanted of her but could never get.
Her new playmates relocated themselves to the bar, back into the soft music now plying Dean Martin’s rendition of “Blue Moon”. Andy remained last in the room. The boy was too smart for his own good. He sat on the table pinching another cigarette from the overused box but didn’t light it.
“What can I do for you, Anne?”
Anne swayed closer to him, hands on her hips.
“After you do your part with Sindi and I shut her down I want you to step back.”
Andy gave her a puzzled look.
“Why would I do that?”
Anne snarled at him. “Don’t play dumb, Andy. I know you used the SuperHub despite the danger. What I want to know is what did you find when you searched yourself up?”
He played her a smug smile shaking his head about to laugh.
Anne darted her hand and grabbed him below the elbow wrenching him off the table and up to his feet.
“I asked you a question.”
Andy pushed her hand away and she released his crumpled shirt. He stepped back from her and she stepped into his space again.
“That’s my own business. And you can’t just shut me off the mission. Massey won’t allow that.”
Anne didn’t back down. They were alone in the backroom, her voice dangerously low and raw.
“What did you find?”
“Nothing.” He looked through her, ignoring her stare.
“You hesitated there. Are you sure?”
Andy met her eyes finally.
“Yes, positively. Now can I leave or am I also to be questioned what I had for breakfast today?”
“I know you’re lying, Andy. I don’t understand why you feel like you can’t share this with me.”
“There’s nothing to share.”
Anne twisted her face at the lack of quiver in his voice. He zipped her jacket up in one swift move. “I don’t trust unknown abilities and yours is just that. I’m not comfortable not knowing what you’re capable of. You will stay put tomorrow, understood?”
Andy stormed off past her. Anne rolled the heel of her boot over the broken cigarette he’d dropped, grinding the tobacco to grains. She would deal with Andy on the morning.
* * *
Up in his skyscraper…
Globe nursed a glass of scotch idly caressing the ring on his thumb. His eyes hovered over the screens in front of him.
“Rewind,” he instructed again and the feed from the Nightprowler unit Anne had slain jumped back to the start. Again he watched her plow through them with ease, like knife slicing through butter. He missed seeing her so passionate, he thought that had died with poor Justin. Massacre suited her. A hoarse chuckle escaped his lips. Even in betrayal he admired her. His eyes turned to the second screen taking into view the actions of Joaquin’s team. His posse of street vigilantes was exceptional, the wielding of their abilities nearly masterful. But he’d lost men there too, and Cosma, he’d nearly lost her too.
“I am sorry, Jacob.”
He turned his head to look at Silas’s lanky frame. The man’s silvery eyes were facing the floor. Globe sucked in air through his nostrils.
“I shouldn’t be surprised I suppose. You warned me she shouldn’t be trusted and I chose to believe otherwise. I know she despises me but I never imagined she would jeopardize the future I’m trying to build here. Maybe it’s my fault, I shut her out, thought she needed to find herself again. But in all that time, watching her passive, I believed she understood. I believed she wanted to be a part of it.”
“Maybe I should have intervened at the railway and brought her back here-”
Globe drenched the scotch, slamming the glass back down, and stood up from the leather chair.
“No, it’s better she didn’t see you.”
The doors slid open and Doctor Lee walked in holding a report card. He halted in his steps, breath hitching when Globe lashed out at him.
“Lee, you reassured me the new stun rifles would be good enough to take Joaquin down. They. Didn’t. Work! Not even a scratch on him! Half a dozen of my SWAT team are dead because of that.”
“Jacob, they are still prototypes. We’ve hardly had the opportunity to test them against anybody stronger aside from some petty supers. Joaquin’s DNA is crucial to their betterment. If I had him here or at least a sample, I could-”
“But don’t you see? You don’t have him here because your little creations weren’t good enough. All Cosma needed was him paralyzed for a few seconds. A few bleeding seconds. Why couldn’t they work for just that long?” Globe spat back, fingers brushing across his desk to lift the pen lying there between his fingers. He took steady steps toward Lee.
“I’ll perfect them to a state where they would affect supers as strong as Joaquin. I’ll keep trying on the subjects we have. I just need time.” Lee was on the verge of begging but Globe shushed him. He stood in front of Lee towering him. Globe rested his hand on the older man’s shoulder and squeezed it, his thumb tapping the collarbone nervously.
“I ran out of patience, Lee. And I’m sick and tired of your attitude toward me. It offends me.”
He moved his hand to rest his palm flat on Lee’s cheek. “You’re a brilliant scientist but also an annoying piece of shit.”
Globe brought the pen up swiftly, jabbing it in Lee’s carotid artery. He held it there while Lee gawked, trying to wrench the pen free from his neck. Globe jammed it deeper feeling the blood seep through his fingers and down the sleeve of his white dress blazer. Lee’s eyes fluttered shut and the actions of his hand diminished. Globe pulled the pen out and dropped it on top of the scientist’s body. He pulled out a handkerchief and dabbed at the spray of blood that had gone to his face.
“Apologies for the scene, Silas, I didn’t mean for it to be too graphic.”
He bent down and picked the report card Lee had been holding.
“Ha! Looks like Cosma will be up and about in no time. The surgery was successful.”
Globe returned to the screens, a lazy, drunken smile playing over his lips. On the left screen infamous Frank Massey was shielding a girl with his body. Ever the hero, the old cop. Tipping the bottle against the glass, filling it generously, Globe wondered why he had agreed to let him live in the first place. Anne, that’s right, she’d asked, reassured Massey wouldn’t be a problem once his reputation was crushed. Everything that came out of her pretty red mouth was a lie.
“Do you want me to bring Joaquin in?” Silas asked.
“No, no need. He’ll be coming here soon.”
“What about Anne? Do you still want me to kill her?” Silas’s lips quirked up, the prospect of murdering Anne amusing.
The refilled glass in Globe’s hand burst, shards of it flying across the room, scotch and blood dripping to the steel floor.
Like a jealous lover, Globe brought the audio recording back on the screen. He’d listened to it live while it was being broadcast from Mile’s hidden bug, listened to it after they had stopped plotting, stopped imagining they could ever stop him. Their voices haunted the control room, wispy and crackling.
“Tomorrow there will be a conference right in front of Globe’s doorstep.”
“If you do your thing and stir things up, Anne can secure a way in.”
“He won’t be expecting us, not this force of power.”
“So sorry to disappoint you, dearest Anne. I can’t wait for you to come home.”
Silas came to stand shoulder to shoulder at him.
“Are you certain you want to go through with the plan and allow them to breach us? Expose the Blue Room?”
“They have to assume we don’t know their plan. I want them trapped in here so I can kill him slowly and painfully.”
“Anne will kill Sindi.”
Globe rolled his eyes looking up at Silas and his silver slits staring down. “Necessary sacrifices are to be made. You just do your part.”
Right on queue Sindi’s voice came through the sound system.
“Pulling up files on the vigilante group led by Joaquin as instructed, sir.”
The cam feed and the sound wave of the recording were replaced by two pairs of profiles which Sindi read out loud.
“Xavier Mendoza, age 27, code name: Nightwave. Ability: Manipulation of shadows.”
The face of Nightwave popped on the screen.
“Eric Jacobitsky, age 17, code name: Kid Vision. Ability: Next gen X-Ray vision.”
The blonde boy’s face stared at Globe with all its innocence.
“James Hardigan, age 36, code name: Quake. Ability: Creation of artificial earthquakes varying in magnitude. Partial control of the elements: earth.”
Quake in his uniform frowned for the photo.
Against those, Sindi aligned four new faces and Globe let out a laugh clapping his hands stained with blood.
“This will surely be entertaining to watch,” Silas dragged, his voice thick, giddy with delight.
“You’ll have a front roll seat my friend. Call Batiste, bring him up to speed. We have a long day to prepare for.”
Next: Undiscovered Perfection