Lilly felt lonely as she walked away from the townhouse and into her usual alley.
<He thinks I’m fucking some other guy.> She wanted to hate Seth for the comment, but she couldn’t blame him.
She’d slapped him to keep up the charade, but she was spending all of her time with another guy. And Mika loved it.
Feeling more melancholy than she had in weeks, Lilly vanished in a puff of darkness and reappeared on the other side of Orlando.
“Hey, Wraith.” Mika looked and sounded loopy.
There were half a dozen empty energy drinks on the table next to him, his eyes were twitching as he fought the exhaustion, and there were red marks around his eyes from pressing them into the binoculars all day. Despite all of that, the kid looked like he was having the time of his life.
“Anything new?” She asked, placing her bag on the bed.
They were in another shady motel room across the street and a block up from the target. They’d been able to get a room with a good line of sight on their target. Even though nothing ever seemed the change.
“Nope.” Mika shook his head, and Lilly heard the vertebrae popping from inactivity.
“Let me take a look.” Lilly laid down on the bed in a prone position and slid up to put the butt of her rifle into the groove of her shoulder.
The tech genius designed weapon was more than powerful enough to kill anything in that room at this distance. <You can’t kill what you can’t see.> She thought with agitation as she toggled through the high-tech scopes multiple functions. Infra-red, night vision, X-ray, super magnification…nothing got her a view into Hunter’s room. <Fucking countermeasures. Things would be so much easier if he was a moron.>
It was wishful thinking. They didn’t train stupid Heroes, which was why they were so hard to kill.
Mika saw the unhappy look on her face, but instead of looking equally displeased he smiled.
“What?” Lilly snapped, letting her frustration get the best of her.
Either Mika ignored it or he was so sleep deprived that he didn’t understand her anger. But he kept on smiling.
That was exactly what Lilly needed to here.
“What are you waiting for?” She slid away from the rifle. “Whip out that little thing and let’s get this party started.”
Mika was already reaching under the bed and grabbing a sleek, silver case. He popped the latches and there was a hissing sound as the air trapped inside of the sealed case leaked out. He slowly opened the top to see their hundred-thousand-dollar investment.
It was underwhelming. It wasn’t much more than a black spec. If it wasn’t contained within a clear receptacle set against a silver case she probably wouldn’t have noticed it.
<And that’s the point.> Lilly felt her mood improving as she looked at the little Frankenstein fly they’d created.
This was their ticket into the room. The key to unlocking the last bits of their plan.
Mika’s entire body was shaking in excitement. It could have been form the gallons of energy drinks he’d consumed, but either way it was the correct reaction. Lilly just couldn’t have him twitching for the rest of the operation.
“Let’s get our little miracle bug into that room and then you need to take a nap.”
Mika didn’t look too pleased at Lilly’s order.
“You’re twitching so hard I’m afraid you’re going to snap the remote in half, and I can’t fly that thing.” Her point was reinforced as a spasm worked its way up Mika’s spine.
“Fine,” he relented.
Flying their little creation was like flying a fighter jet in one of those virtual simulators, but harder. It took a few practice flights around their crappy motel room for Mika to get the feel of it.
“It’s all about synchronizing the wingbeats,” he sighed, having figured out the problem. The fly went from looking like a drunk driver to smoothly flying in circles around them. “Air currents are still going to be a problem, but I can handle them.”
“Are you sure?” Lilly felt the bubble of nerves in her gut. “We’ve only got one shot at this.”
“Yeah, I’ve got this.” Mika waved her off with a confident nod. “It’s Nano time.”
Lilly tried very hard, and barely succeeded, in stopping a laugh. She wasn’t sure if the teenage technopath was trying out a catch phrase, or if his brain had just crapped it out due to exhaustion. Either way, she’d eventually tell him he could never say that again. It would be their little secret. Because if anyone else ever found out he’d be the laughing stock of the villain community.
<And we’re so close to being Gods.>
Taking down a Hero was the ultimate accomplishment of a villain. Her father had done it, her Uncle Armsman had done it multiple times. It was a rite of passage in her family.
<I wonder what my Uncle would think about me fucking a future Hero?> She knew the answer. He’d either be incredibly impressed in her infiltration abilities, or he’d denounce her. <Oh well, we’ll find out soon enough.> She turned her attention back to Mika and the fly.
Mika had maneuvered the fly out of the cracked window and into the street. He’d been right, the air currents had their little spy flying all over the place. There were so many close calls Lilly couldn’t watch after a while. They literally almost splatted like a bug against a windshield more than once.
<Maybe a grenade up the street will stop traffic.> It was a good idea, but she quickly discarded it. <Hunter would be alerted to the explosion so close to his safe house and he’d never return.>
With explosions not being a viable option Lilly was out of ideas. So she sat back and watched as Mika piloted it over to Hunter’s room. It was a nail-biting experience.
Ten minutes later, with a sigh of relief, Mika dropped the fly down onto the windowsill of Hunter’s room. The kid was drenched in sweat, and he smelled. It smelled like the energy drinks were oozing out of his pores, mixing with the stench of sweat, and creating an aroma of ass that was infesting the entire room.
“Get that fly in the room and then get in the shower.” Lilly’s expression left no room for interpretation.
Mika just nodded. He grabbed the controls and slowly walked the fly forward. It hopped off the windowsill, which was only a few feet high, but it looked like the fly was jumping off Niagara Falls; and then scuttled forward on its multiple limbs.
There was only one way into the Hero’s room, and that was through the crack under the door.
<The moment of truth.> Lilly held her breath.
There was no doubt in her mind that the countermeasures Hunter had deployed involved something that detected live organisms entering the room. Devices like that were really meant to deal with humans, but they could be calibrated to any form of life down to small insects. Knowing the paranoia of subtlety Heroes, she was betting Hunter would have it on its highest sensitivity.
The moment their fly crossed the threshold there would be an alert sent to the Hero. The Hero would inspect the alert, probably tune into cameras within the room, and examine the threat. The hope behind their innocent little fly was that he would dismiss it. This was Florida after all. Insects outnumbered humans a billion to one. It wasn’t outside the realm of possibility that a fly just happened to find its way into his room.
“Do we have eyes on Hunter?” Lilly asked just before Mika walked the fly under to door.
“Um…” he checked some other equipment he had set up in the room. “…Yes. He’s still at the Protectorate headquarters, but he looks like he’s getting ready to leave.”
“Hurry then.” Lilly motioned for Mika to move. “If he comes back to the room in the next few minutes we need to be ready.”
“Ok…ok.” Mika shot her an irritated look and pushed the joystick forward.
The bug took two steps then…
…there was a flash of red…
…and everything went black.
<NO!> Lilly felt the remaining hope drain out of her. <Motherfuckin…stupid…stupid…stupid…> She turned away so Mika wouldn’t see her composure crack.
She’d wasted two weeks of her life on this quest. She’d alienated Seth, slacked on her mission, and all for nothing. Lilly wanted to scream, throw things, and kick the shit out of the first person she saw. She had an uncontrollable urge to do something, anything to try and make these last two weeks a success.
“Ah…I thought this would happen,” Mika chuckled, brining Lilly back from the brink of doing something stupid.
“The Hero obviously saw the front door crack as a weakness, so he set up a countermeasure there. The flash of red was a laser meant to fry any electronics that were stuffed under there.
<That’s fuckin’ great.> Lilly need a big stiff drink. <Now we’re right back to where we started.>
“But never fear,” Mika had a big shit-eating grin on his face. “Nano is better than some second-rate criminal trying to peak into someone’s room.
The screen in front of them flickered and then Hunter’s room popped back into focus.
“I added some EM shielding to Franken-fly when I built her. It was the only way to keep the camera operational after something like that. Pretty smart if you…” Mika didn’t get to finish the sentence. Lilly grabbed him by the neck and planted a big sloppy kiss on his lips.
“You’re a fucking genius!” Lilly felt her hope rekindled in her bones. Something like that was worth a little indiscretion on her part. Seth would just have to deal with it.
<Not that he’ll ever find out.>
“Yeah…um…I’m…um…smart…” Mika was in shock; which Lilly took as a good sign. If he wasn’t shocked by her kiss, then she’d have lost her touch.
“Yes you are,” he gave him her best smile, which turned him to mush. “Now get that bug in a good spot, check the Protectorate HQ camera feed, and settle in.”
<Hurry up and wait.> Lilly knew the concept well.
You put in a lot of effort to get something done, and done in a timely manner, and then you had to wait for fucking ever until you saw a return on that investment.
“I think we’re good,” Mika replied, switching his attention between the fly’s controls and the Protectorate camera footage. “He looked down at his watch, hit a few buttons, and then turned his attention back to a conversation he was having.”
<That sounds promising, but don’t get overconfident.> Lilly felt how close they were to success, and she didn’t want arrogance to get the best of them.
“I’ll take over now,” she practically elbowed Mika out of the way. “You take that shower and go grab some food. It’s almost dinner time and we’re in for another long night.”
Now that their little spy was into the room they had to keep eyes on the screen at all time. The second phase of their operation was going to happen fast when the time came.
Lilly reached out and grabbed the black duffle bag that was sitting on the bed by her rifle. Inside was her homemade bomb, the bomb that was going to take down her father’s nemesis once and for all. It was crude, but effective. There was more than enough C4 to take out several rooms, and she’d picked up a bunch of ball bearings to add a little more punch to the surprise. Hunter didn’t have enhanced strength, so the explosion would pulverize him and the ball bearings would rip him to shreds. He’d look like he went through a meat grinder by the time first responders were able to clear away the rubble and find what remained of his body.
If Lilly had been a mediocre villain then her planning would have ended there, but she wasn’t your average teenage supervillain.
Killing a legend like Hunter would bring every law enforcement agency and their mothers down on Orlando. She needed her escape to be flawless, and that meant planning for another tracker to show up.
Lilly would teleport the bomb from this room because she had to. Her teleportations were more accurate when she touched the object she was transporting. But teleportations left a trail to trackers like Hunter. They could sense the distortion in space and use their ability to pass through the rift and reappear at the origin point. So Lilly had to take that into consideration. She needed secondary and even third or forth points set up to make a clean escape, which was why she’d deployed her own countermeasures in this room.
Once Lilly and Mika left, and they’d have to leave in a hurry after the explosion, she’d activate her countermeasures. They weren’t as ornate as Hunters, but they’d get the job done. If anyone teleported into their hotel room, following the trail from Hunter’s destroyed room, they’d activate a second bomb.
Lilly and Mika would be long gone by then, teleported halfway across the globe to another trap. This trap was less explosive, but just as deadly. She’d be taking Mika to one of her European safe houses. The place wasn’t much, just an open flat with a large metal cage in the center. She’d teleport them into the cage. They’d quickly exit, and she’d lock the door behind them. Normally that wouldn’t be a challenge for a teleporter, so that’s why she had generators set to electrify the cage. If someone somehow survived the second bomb, then they’d most likely get barbequed alive in the cage.
From her European flat, Lilly and Mika would head out on foot to a third location a good distance away. Far enough away that a tracker would lose their scent. From that third location Lilly would take Mika back to Chicago before heading back to her alley and a short walk to the townhouse.
Going to Chicago first wasn’t just to drop off her technopathic sidekick. It was also to create a buffer between her and her pursuers. If it came down to it, she was willing to sacrifice Mika to buy her more time to make an escape and disappear.
It might seem cold, but it was just her being practical. The world didn’t do anyone any favors. You had to look out for number one.
<Yeah,> Lilly didn’t want to admit it, but she’d be breaking her own heart if she had to do that. Not because of Mika. She liked the kid, but he was expendable. It was because of Seth.
<Fucking love,> she cursed as Mika headed into the bathroom. <It can be such a pain in the ass.>
Mika smelled better when he emerged from the shower, but he still had an aroma of energy drinks. “Brush your teeth,” Lilly instructed, feeling like his mother. But she didn’t want that artificial tang in the air around her. She needed to concentrate.
Mika ordered food and had them deliver it to the hotel front desk. Lilly made sure he was suitably disguised before she let him go down and get it. Her stomach was growling, but a little abdominal distress was doable to avoid capture and life in prison.
The authorities didn’t take kindly to assassinations of their beloved Heroes.
They took turns watching the screen as they ate. The meal was tense. At any minute Lilly might have to send over the bomb, and they’d need to bug out of this room immediately.
Mika took the first watch after dinner, so Lilly could clean up. She packed up her rifle and teleported it to one of her many stashes. It was in a cave on the Australian coast. She’d found and then blocked the entrance on a vacation. Even if a Hero did find it, they’d be bogged down by international laws and regulations for weeks before they could investigate.
The thought made her smile.
Next she wiped down the room for fingerprints, and sprayed bleach all over the place. They’d worn gloves the whole time, but it was better to be thorough. Any clue they left could lead to their capture.
After an hour of work, they switched so Mika could break down his computer equipment. Everything was dismantled and put away except for the camera monitors watching the Protectorate and Hunter’s room. When Lilly and Mika bailed, those monitors would be wiped by electromagnets and literally melted by a small box of Mika’s own creation.
Lilly wasn’t arrogant enough to think this was the perfect crime, but it had to be pretty damn close. They had all their bases covered, and Lilly even had a few extra contingencies to protect herself. This was what her father had trained her to do since she could walk, and if he knew, she was certain he’d be proud of her.
They did another switch once Mika finished packing his equipment and Lilly teleported it to another safe location. If anyone thought it was easy to sit at a screen and intently focus on anything that changed, they’d be wrong. It was mentally exhausting, especially when you had to do it for hours.
Lilly turned away from the screen and blinked her eyes continuously until her tear ducts started working. Her eyes itched from the constant strain of watching the screen. She also had a crick in her neck, and a burning desire to pee.
She was in her full Wraith costume now; she’d changed after their first switch. If things were to go down she needed to be prepared. Despite her costume’s ballistic protection properties, it was very breathable and maneuverable. She felt and heard her body crack and groan as she worked the kinks out.
Mika was in his full Nano gear now, and he looked even more uncomfortable squeezing into the small seat. Since they’d last done business before the holidays the teenager had purchased some own protective additions to it his outfit.
He was just starting to realize that the supervillain business outside of him sitting on his ass in front of a computer screen could be hazardous to his health.
Lilly glanced at the clock. It was a little after eight. Hunter had left the Protectorate headquarters over an hour and a half ago. They didn’t have any idea where he’d gone, but she was starting to get a sinking sensation in her gut that tonight wasn’t going to be the night.
<Another waste.> She couldn’t stop the defeatist thought from creeping into her mind. <At some point I’m going to have to cut my losses. I can’t keep doing this to Seth, and I can’t keep putting my primary mission on hold. I’ll need to…>
“Holy shit, there he is.” Mika sounded more stunned than anything else.
Lilly’s body acted on instinct. Her hand shot out to the bomb that was sitting within reaching distance. In a blast of darkness, it was gone.
“Destroy it!” She yelled to Nano as she reached back across to him.
There was a beep, and then the sound of bacon cooking. Lilly didn’t need to watch the monitors melt, she trusted Mika’s technological creations.
“Wraith…” Mika tried to say something, but Lilly wasn’t listening.
She grabbed him by the shoulder and focused her mind on her flat across the Atlantic.
<I did it.> She expected to feel ecstatic at the accomplishment. She did feel pride swelling in her chest; but it wasn’t everything she always thought it would be.
Lilly felt the twinges of confusion on the edge of her mind as she and Mika teleported away.
The soundwaves of the explosion were the last thing she heard before they vanished.
Angela was giddy, and she was never giddy. Giddy was unprofessional. Little girls were giddy not Heroes in training. Still, she couldn’t help the exciting bouncing of her feet as she finished up dinner.
But then she had to wait for her father.
Unlike Angela, Henry was taking his time with his meal, and it was a big meal: a porterhouse steak, enough mashed potatoes to sink a small boat, and green beans that he put a little too much salt on. Angela only saw him eat like this occasionally, and that was when her mother wasn’t around.
“What is mom up to?” She hadn’t heard from her since the break.
“There’s a prostitution ring breakup underway in Memphis that she’s been brought in to spearhead,” Henry answered; slicing off a piece of the steak, rubbing it into the sauce, and slipping it into his mouth with a satisfied sigh.
“I feel sorry for them.” Angela felt bad for the guys who’d get their door kicked down by the feared Seraphim.
“Shouldn’t have kidnapped teenage girls and sold them into the sex trade.” Henry shrugged, his face sharing none of the empathy his daughter’s did.
“Is that what we’ll be working on? Are you helping mom with it?” Angela pried, trying to figure out what she’d be looking into soon.
“No,” Henry shook his head as he stuffed a chunk of mashed potatoes into his mouth. “We’re looking at something closer to home.”
That’s all Angela was able to get out of him. She had to wait another agonizing twenty minutes for her father to finish his steak and decide whether or not to get dessert. Finally, after declining some of the restaurant’s famous chocolate chip cookies, Angela followed her father out of the front door.
She realized again she was bouncing with excitement, and quickly reined it in. It wasn’t professional, and it wasn’t lady-like.
<Where are we going? Your office? Protectorate headquarters? A DVA sanctioned operations base in the city?>
She’d been forced to do research on the HCP’s systems for her last project, and she knew the DVA must have better systems. With her father being Hunter, she bet he had access to the best equipment. Even an hour with that equipment would put her ahead of the curve.
Henry didn’t give any indication of where they were going. They walked two blocks down the street, and another two over, and took a left into a dark alley. Angela felt his hand grasp her arm, and then they were somewhere else.
When Angela reappeared she wasn’t looking at a state-of-the-art government computer lab. She wasn’t even looking at a computer. Her father had teleported them back to a shady motel room.
Her father’s hand left her arm and he started to move toward a table in the corner.
Angela was confident she would be thoroughly disgusted if she ran a black-light through the room, and the bed bug report on this place had to be awful.
Angela looked at the bed with a cringe, and that’s when she saw the puff of black.
<What the…> Angela took a step and saw that sitting between the two queen-sized beds was a suspicious black bag.
Angela reacted on instinct. Coach Meyers’ lessons about constant vigilance ringing in her ears as the sudden explosion of light signaled her transformation. She felt the power fill her like a firehouse pouring into a water balloon. She grew taller, broader, and stronger. She felt her wings expand and nearly touch both sides of the room.
“Angela, what…?” Henry yelled.
He never finished his statement. Angela’s wings curled protectively around them both a split second before she felt the concussive blast of an explosive detonating. The shockwave hit her in the back and threw her forward.
It spun her out of control, and she nearly lost the grip on her father.
There was a small, almost undiscernible pause, between the concussive blast smashing into her and dozens of needles stabbing at her. The broad explosion did less damage; it only succeeded in tossing her forward. The stabbing was much worse. She felt the blades stab into her. Those that hit her armor felt like a strongman was striking her with a hammer. Others hit her flesh. Most didn’t penetrate. Her more muscled areas weathered the onslaught, but other parts didn’t.
Blood flew as the blades stabbed into her. Angela screamed in pain, and didn’t even notice crashing through the wall and into the adjoining room; or going through the following wall after that. But she did notice the flames. Fire invading an open wound didn’t feel good for anyone.
The whole incident only lasted a handful of seconds. One second she was transforming and grabbing her father, the next she was being viciously assaulted by man-made explosives, and the next she was lying face down in the smoking ruins three rooms away.
<I hope there weren’t people in those rooms.> Hope was all she had to rely on, because there was no way anyone survived that explosion.
“Dad!” Angela felt movement under her tattered wing.
It hurt to move it, something was bending the wrong way, but she didn’t want to transform back yet. They’d just been attacked, and becoming human again, if only for a moment, could kill her.
<Suck it up!> With a grunt of effort she moved her wing off her father, and shoved that pain deep into a corner of her mind. She shut the door on the pain and threw away the key.
“Angela?” Her father’s voice was hoarse, and he coughed uncontrollably for a few seconds. “Are you ok?”
“I’m fine,” she pulled back both of her wings so she wouldn’t snag them on rubble, and stood back up. “I’m combat capable.”
She only gave her father a brief glance before she scanned for danger. He was patting himself down, looking for any blood, and testing his limbs. Everything seemed to be working, but he grimaced as he got to his feet. He grabbed his abdomen and started shuffling forward toward his old room.
“We need to call this in.” He coughed even more and he climbed over debris. Angela helped, clearing the way for him with a summoned energy spear. “We need to find who did this.”
It took thirty seconds to reach what was left of his room, and that was about thirty times longer than it took the bomb to destroy it.
“Wait here.” Henry put up his hand as they reached where the room’s wall used to be. “There could be more.”
“In that case.” Angela pushed her father aside. She was taller and stronger than him now. “Let me check it out.”
Henry, the father, looked like he wanted to argue; but Hunter, the renowned Hero, knew it was the best tactical move.
Angela stepped into the room, dispersing the spear and summoning a large shield. She needed the extra protection.
The beds were just gone. The only thing remaining was some splinters scattered around the area. The same was true for the desk her father was heading toward, and everything that had been on it. All the DVA files he’d been researching were vaporized.
<They’ll be electronic copies.> At least Angela hoped there were. An attack like this could destroy an investigation if backup copies weren’t kept.
The only thing that was left was a tan bag, not too different from the black one that had suddenly appeared. The bag looked relatively unscathed, except for black ball bearings that were imbedded in the resistant fabric. Angela grabbed it, opened it, and saw her father’s protected costume. Not even a thread was out of place.
“Here.” She walked back and handed him the bag. “Everything looks clear.”
Henry strapped on his mask and became Hunter. The only other thing he grabbed was a phone. From the way he was cradling his stomach he didn’t look like he was in any shape to change.
He dialed a number and put the phone on speaker. “Good evening, Hunter. I trust…”
“I’ve been attacked,” Hunter interrupted the sophisticated voice on the other end of the line. “Someone just set off a bomb in my safe house. I’m injured but ambulatory. I don’t know how they got it in.” Hunter looked down at his watch which was cracked and not showing any data.
“I saw what looked like a shadow, but it quickly vanished. Then I saw the bag, that’s when I sifted and grabbed you.” Angela cut in, feeling the adrenaline pumping through her ethereal veins.
She was injured, her father was injured, multiple civilians had probably been killed in the explosion, but Angela was loving this. <This is what I was meant to do.>
“And who might you…” the voice started to ask.
“You said you saw a shadow that disappeared?” Angela’s father grabbed her by her armor’s shoulder straps. “Are you sure?”
Angela saw something intense pass across her father’s face.
“Yes, I’m sure.” The image of the puff of shadow was as engrained into her memory just as several ball bearings were embedded into her flesh.
“Wraith, I knew it.” Hunter started to turn in a circle, and winced painfully.
“Morningstar, I need anyone available to report to my location immediately.” Hunter gave the other Hero the address. “Let your DVA contacts know, and call the HCP. We might need Dr. Sanderson’s help here.”
Angela could hear sirens in the distance quickly approaching. As much as she wanted to stick around, she might have some problems with an SI infraction if half of Orlando saw her on the news. Her shifted form’s appearance was different enough, but there were some similarities that could point back to her if someone was obsessive and looked close enough.
None of that was on her father’s mind.
“Angela.” He shook her arm. “Where was the bag? Where did you see it?”
Angela turned to where the beds used to be. “Right in this area.” She pointed and circled the approximate space with her finger.
Hunter stepped toward the area with his arms outstretched. When he reached the space where Angela had pointed he smiled.
“I can feel it,” Hunter relayed over the phone. “But it’s getting faint. This was a small teleport with limited power. I need to follow now or we’ll lose the trail.
“That is unwise.” Mr. Morningstar echoed Angela’s restrain. “You sound injured, and there is work to be done at the site of the explosion. Galavant just reached Dr. Sanderson. He’ll be at your location in five minutes. Hold.” The last word was an order.
“We don’t have five minutes.” The defiance in her father’s voice was clear. Hunter didn’t take orders from Mr. Morningstar.
“Yes, Hunter.” A second voice answered over the phone.
“I’m giving my daughter, Angela Martin, freshman at West Private University HCP temporary authority to secure the scene. I need to follow Wraith or she’ll slip away from us again.”
“Hunter…” Whoever Dispatch was, she didn’t seem too keen about the idea.
“I don’t have time, Dispatch. Wraith has already killed multiple people, and now she’s targeting Heroes. We need to end this. I need to end it now. ”
“Yes, Hunter. Ms. Martin.” Despite the whole conversation Angela was still surprised to hear her voice.
“Yes, Dispatch.” She made her voice sound confident and professional.
“Authorities and members of the Protectorate will be arriving momentarily. All you need to do is remain in place until they arrive and give your statement.”
It was a bit of a letdown, but Angela knew very few people were given these temporary authorizations. It was her moment to shine.
“Hunter, wait.” Mr. Morningstar was protesting.
“No time, Morningstar. I’ll see you soon.”
Hunter approached the space where Angela knew the black bag had appeared. “Angela,” he paused, looking back over his shoulder. “Thanks for dinner. It was nice to catch up.”
“Sure, dad.” She smiled, and then he was gone.
A few seconds later another deafening explosion ripped through another hotel across the street.