“Three…two…one…breech!” The shape-charges on the warehouse doors warped the metal beyond recognition while blasting big ass holes in them. Flash bang grenades capable of crippling a mid-range strongman followed the explosions, and a few seconds later two SWAT teams stormed the building through the front and rear entrances.
KaBoom had led his team through the wall while Jetwash came in through the upper skylight. He controlled the fall of the glass with his aerokinesis. A field of flying glass daggers hung suspended in the air around the Hero as he took an overwatch position, and it was his aerial position that saved a bunch of lives.
“Everyone out!” He yelled over through the earpiece that was linked through Dispatch to everyone on the assault team.
The team hadn’t advanced far enough to see the laser trip wires the bag guys had planted near the collection of stuff at the center of the room. They could have placed the explosives at the doors, but they likely would have been triggered by the breeching charge and resulted in fewer casualties. Luring the cops and Heroes in before blowing the place to hell ensured a lot more carnage. Unfortunately for the bad guys, they’d been in a rush and forgot the skylight.
Jetwash had an eagle-eye view of the room setup and was able to direct the bomb squad in dismantling the explosives, but it took time. Everyone from the DVA to Hunter was chomping at the bit to get into the room. Any clue, even a small one, which could lead them to Wraith would be worth it.
“Clear!” The bomb squad called out and Hunter teleported to the middle of the room.
“She was here,” he informed immediately. “I need a circle of caution tape here.” He walked the perimeter of an area and the crime scene investigators quickly marked the area.”
As they did, Hunter put his hand out and felt the tear in space-time that Wraith’s teleportation created. It would be the easiest thing in the world to follow, but he’d learned his lesson last time. As much as he disliked the thought, he needed to rely on good old-fashioned police work to find her this time.
“I know you’re thinking about it.” KaBoom stepped up to the edge of the tape. Stepping across it wouldn’t do anything to the kinetic absorber, but it would alter the readings and taint their admissibility in court.
The DVA was already carting in big boxes of tech to document the rupture and confirm that it was Wraith who did it. It was the equivalent of a teleporter’s finger print; each one’s was different.
“What else can you tell me?” Hunter had only been briefed on the operation five minutes before it kicked off.
“We grabbed Seth Abney talking to her downtown, traced the phone call, and here we are. We threw it together in twenty minutes, and it shows just how good the local coordination between agencies has gotten in the last few months.”
A year ago, if the Fist was acting up it would have taken an hour for the cops and Heroes just to get on the same page, and there was no way in hell the DVA would even stick their nose into it.
“Do you think we’ll get anything?” KaBoom looked around at the massive amount of resources being expended.
“Maybe.” Hunter shrugged. Half his attention was still on the space-time rupture. “They’re smart, but we caught them with their pants down. They might have expected anything incriminating to go up in flames, but now that we’ve got it we might find an advantage.”
“Jesus Christ!” A cop stumbled backward out from behind a curtain and proceeded to empty his stomach all over the floor.
“Get him out of here!” The DVA agent in charge stalked over and did everything short of kicking the guy in the ass to get him moving.
“Agent Phillips,” Hunter nodded to the woman and then toward the curtain.
“Looks like a serial killer’s Disney Land in there.” The DVA agent’s face was a little green.
“Nightingale,” KaBoom and Hunter said in unison.
“Stripped the person’s skin off, extracted organs, and cut off some pretty important bits.” The DVA agent stopped there, but having read Nightingale’s file they both knew the torture expert did much more to that poor bastard.
“If you ask me, our best bet is going to be Abney. I knew there was something up with that kid.” Agent Phillips continued.
Having met both Wraith and Abney when they were together, Hunter didn’t buy the agent’s story one hundred percent, but he had to conclude that Abney had gone and monumentally screwed up his life with a single phone call.
“I say we dangle him as bait and wait for Wraith to bite.”
“He and his lawyer will never go for it.” KaBoom played devil’s advocate.
“It’s that or he rots.” Phillips’ shrugged. “I got the word from the brass in D.C. and the shit he pulled is covered under the Patriot Act. We can charge him as supporting terrorism. That’s hard time in a get fucked in the ass federal prison. Once we drop that bomb I think he’ll take the deal.” The agent was smiling.
“If she comes for him.” Hunter stated.
“Then we take her down.” The smile that crossed the agent’s face showed just how much she wanted to do that.
“Easier said than done.” Hunter added his two cents.
“Details boys. With big strapping Heroes like you two how can we fail?”
Both heroes knew from plenty of personal experience against Wraith that there were several ways to fail. For that matter, Agent Phillips did too, but it was hard not to feel some hope with this break in the case. Finally having something Wraith wanted couldn’t be overlooked.
“Let’s bet on it. Fifty bucks Abney takes the deal and helps us bring Wraith in.” She held out her hand for someone to make the bet.
“I’ll take that.” KaBoom shook on it.
“Even if we get Abney to cooperate we’re going to need more firepower to take her down. She won’t be alone.”
“We’ll bring in the big guns,” the agent smiled. “I heard Reaper is back on the job.”
“She is, but we’ll need more.” KaBoom’s statement surprised the agent. “We aren’t going to go into a close fight when we can bring overwhelming force to bear. Is Seraphim free?”
“I’ll have to check. She’s been operating along the southern border doing drug interdiction lately,” Hunter replied. He’d have someone else make the call, because if he did they’d probably get a big fat no from his estranged wife.
“Good.” Agent Phillips clapped her hands loudly. “Let’s get the scene tagged and bagged. We’ve got a busy weekend ahead of us. Mr. Morningstar’s funeral is already a logistical nightmare with most of the city wanting to attend, and now with word that Wraith is in town HQ is going to want us to throw everything including the kitchen sink at this thing. This funeral is as much about honoring a fallen Hero as it is about showing the world that Orlando is back on its feet.
Both Heroes bristled at the comment, but they’d been in the game long enough to know the reality of the situation. The funeral was going to be a big deal, and they needed to be ready, which meant they were in for some sleepless nights.
Agent Simmons was having a great day, and she felt guilty about it. The biggest bust in her career had occurred right in the middle of one of the shittiest weeks of the year, maybe even the decade: a prison break which was a mass casualty event for the prison’s staff, criminals unaccounted for, and the death of a legend. She knew she could feel proud of her accomplishments and still feel the pain of the last week like everyone else, but they were tough emotions for her to rectify. She wanted to celebrate her role in catching the Abney kid red handed, and play it up to her boss so he’d remember when it came time to write her evaluation. She’d been at the lowest field agent grade for the last year and she wanted to get promoted. Her bust was the key to that.
She pulled her small, gray Nissan into her assigned parking place at the apartment complex. Part of her being so low on the totem pole meant she couldn’t afford anywhere better to live. The neighborhood was ok, but after Seif al-Din’s attack it had kind of gone downhill. Her car had been broken into twice and she always carried her gun when walking around. Most of the people in the complex knew she was law enforcement, so she’d ended up the head of their new neighborhood watch. She hadn’t actually participated in a nightly patrol, but from what she’d heard it mostly involved twenty-something-year-olds sitting around and drinking while looking through a set of binoculars she’d loaned the group.
It was late when she arrived and the two watch members on duty gave her a wave. Judging by the cans in their hands, her impressions of the group weren’t that far off.
<Community activism is important in public safety.> She reminded herself as she waved back. As long as they didn’t rope her into standing guard all night with someone else she was ok with it.
Like most of the people in the complex, she was a late twenty-something-year-old, fresh out of an enlistment in the marines, and looking to work her was up the ladder in her new career. Judging by the amount of times guys came up to randomly talk to her she was fairly attractive, but she had a hell of a right hook, which intimidated some guys and kept them at bay. She was single and would be ready to mingle when she found the time, but right now her life was her job, so she wasn’t going to get shit faced with some junior banker in the middle of the night when she had to be at the office at six am.
One of the watchmen started making his way toward her, but she held up her arms full of files and shrugged. The guy took the meaning and made a “call me” sign with his finger and thumb. She smiled politely back with no intention of calling him. Then she was out of sight and heading up the stairs to her second floor apartment.
On the neighbor front, she’d gotten pretty lucky. The guy upstairs was never home because he was a night manager somewhere, and the couple downstairs didn’t bother her at all except for the occasional sounds of them humping or their Chihuahua barking. Often the two occurred at the same time.
Tonight the upstairs guy was gone and there was no humping or barking downstairs as she unlocked her door to the dark apartment. She did a quick customary scan of the space. The marines and DVA stressed situational awareness, and it was something someone in her line of work needed to succeed.
Everything was clear, so she closed and locked the door behind her, placed her keys on the table and headed to the bedroom. She stripped off her blazer, removed her holstered weapon from her belt, and placed it on the nightstand.
<I’ll close my eyes for five minutes and then I’ll get to work.> She had dozens of files to go over, but she needed a moment to unwind before diving into them.
She flopped down on the bed and…
“AH! What the fuck?!” she screamed as tiny daggers dug into her back, arms, legs, and neck.
She jumped back to her feet to see her white comforter stained red. She flipped on the light and the comforter started to glisten.
<Glass?> The sheet was covered in glass.
Her instincts screamed that something was wrong and she listened to them. She lunged for her nightstand and removed her pistol from its holster and pivoted to do a three hundred and sixty degree sweep of the room. She hadn’t even done one hundred and eighty degrees before she realized she wasn’t alone.
Two people were in the room with her. Her finger moved instinctually from where she’d rested it parallel to the trigger guard to the trigger. She line up a shot on the taller of the two people who was dressed in black with a mask she’d seen hundreds of times in files like the ones in her living room. She squeezed the trigger with the soft part of her finger between the tip and first knuckle…or at least that’s what her brain told her body to do. Her body did not comply.
She tried again…nothing.
“Look, Morina, it looks like someone has performance anxiety.” Wraith chuckled as she walked forward and easily disarmed Agent Simmons. “But where are my manners?” Wraith placed the weapon in her coat’s pocket. “My name is Wraith and this is my close personal friend, Morina. You have a lovely home, so lovely that we let ourselves in while you were running around ruining other people’s lives.”
Simmons tried to speak but her throat wasn’t working.
“You are Agent Claire Simmons. You were top twenty percent of your class at the DVA Academy with a distinguished record and honorable discharge from the Marine Corps. Plus, you were all state in high school field hockey if I’m not mistaken.” Wraith smiled as she walked in a circle around the frozen agent.
<What do you want?> Simmons could only think her response.
“What was that?” Wraith held her hand up to her ear and leaned in real close to mock her. “What’s the matter, blood manipulator got your tongue?”
Simmons wanted nothing more than to spit right in Wraith’s face, but like the rest of her she couldn’t work her mouth to gather the saliva. In fact, she was beginning to drool down the side of her cheek.
“My friend will give you the use of your mouth back so you can answer a few questions. Answer them truthfully and we’ll let you go with a minor ass whooping. Answer untruthfully and I’ll leave you to my friend.”
Simmons didn’t know who Morina was off the top of her head, but there had only been a few confirmed blood manipulators since Supers made themselves known. They went on of two ways: medical professionals that helped a lot of people, or deranged psychopaths. Since Morina was with Wraith, Simmons was betting on the latter.
Wraith turned and nodded to Morina. The iron grip that had seized Simmons vanished from the neck up.
“AAAAA!” She got half a scream out before the grip clamped back down on her.
“Stupid bitch,” Wraith’s haymaker hit Simmons across the side of the face. Her body reacted by toppling to the floor like a frozen statue. Luckily, she didn’t shatter on impact. Unluckily, she was pretty sure her jaw was fucked up.
“Keep an eye on her.” Wraith left the room, and Simmons heard her going through the files in the living room.
<Shit.> Most of the stuff was mundane, administrative crap, but a few were more sensitive documents.
“Look at what we have here.” Wraith’s feet came back into view and she bent down to shove the paperwork in her face. “Are those the security plans for Mr. Morningstar’s funeral?”
It was a rhetorical question, and Simmons tried her best to spit in the villain’s face again.
“Geeze, they’re going all out for that old fucktard. If I would have known killing him was going to get him a big-ass funeral, then I might have just shot his dick off as my revenge. The guy wasn’t that great. He didn’t do that much. Morina, can healer heal a dick that’s been shot off?” She turned to her partner in crime.
The blood manipulator shrugged. Her eyes were fixed on Simmons, and there was something in them that made the DVA agent’s blood run cold.
“Oh well,” Wraith pocketed the documents and squatted down so she was fully in Simmons’ eye line. “Let’s get back on topic. I need you to tell me all the latest upgrades to the Protectorate’s HQ. I’ve got the layout up here,” she pointed at her head, “but I need to know what new tricks they have up their sleeves.” She nodded and Simmons felt control of her mouth returning to her.
A relatively light slap sent her reeling in pain, but Morina had already reasserted control. On top of the broken jaw, the slap nearly made her black out.
“I’m going to ask you again. What are the defensive countermeasures the DVA has in…”
Three repetitive knocks on the door brought the villain up short. Both Wraith and Morina looked in the direction. If she hadn’t been effectively paralyzed, Simmons would have made a move to escape, but all she could do was drool and bleed onto the faux wooden floor.
A second round of knocks and two people called her name. She hadn’t spoken with them much, but it sounded like the couple from downstairs. Wraith rose to her feet and pulled two sleek looking pistols from shoulder holsters.
“Coming, just give me a second!” She yelled into her arm to muffle the response, but still loud enough for the couple to hear.
Simmons wanted to scream a warning to her unsuspecting neighbors but she couldn’t do anything but watch as Wraith left the room. Simmons heard the sound of the door unlocking and being opened. “Hey…” was the only word spoken before two sizzles were quickly followed by two thumps. She heard more footsteps and something scraping across the floor before the door closed and locked again. Wraith reappeared dragging the young couple toward the bathroom.
“I’ll leave these two for you,” she said to Morina. “I’ve got a promise to keep.”
Once the couple was dragged into the bathroom, Wraith squatted back in front of Simmons. “Tell me the plans.”
They went back and forth for several hours. Simmons refused to talk and Wraith beat her some more. She cut off three of Simmons fingers’ on each hand, both of her big toes, and was getting ready to pull finger nails off of what remained when Simmons finally broke.
She knew she was going to die at this point and she just wanted to get it over with. Pain was a powerful motivator, so she gave Wraith everything and then some. Some things were true, others were lies, and a few were even elaborate fantasies. She was laughing and crying by the end of her recitation. The pain had frayed her grip on reality, and she’d given Wraith the biggest middle finger she knew in her explanation. The villain wasn’t getting any more out of her. She’d just have to verify for herself what was true and what wasn’t.
“She’s gone,” Wraith stood up and stretched her back. “She’s all yours.”
Morina had been steady for most of the interrogation, but she’d started to tap her foot and scratch her forearms the longer she sat there watching Wraith work. Now, the biggest smile split her face as she grabbed the DVA agent by the feet and dragged her toward the bathroom.
Wraith knew what would happen next. The blood manipulator would drain the three people of their blood, bathe in it, and do whatever her ritual was. Serial killers always had rituals, and although Wraith got along with Morina, that didn’t stop her from thinking the ritual was creepy as fuck.
While the blood manipulator worked, Wraith wiped down the apartment of forensic clues and studied the files. She had two missions coming up: the funeral and Seth. If she was lucky, she might be able to execute both in the same day.
<Use one as a distraction for the other.> It was pretty straightforward, so the Heroes would be prepared for that. <And I need to parcel through the bullshit she gave me.> Wraith knew a new energy cannon that sped up the passage of time within its confines was unlikely to be real, but it was going to be hard to verify what was the truth.
She’d be as well prepared as she could be, but there would be some risk involved. There was always risk in being a villain.
Morina emerged from the bathroom forty-five minutes later with perfect skin, a smile on her face, and a skip in her step. Wraith didn’t even ask. She just grabbed the blood manipulator’s hand and teleported them and the necessary files to several locations before finally returning to their base of operations.
Only 5 days until the new Thor movie! I’m super psyched, and then a couple weeks after that is Justice League. November is going to be a great movie month.
Make sure to pick up my published works: The Harbinger Tales and Two Worlds: Rags & Riches. You can get them for low prices and even read The Harbinger Tales for free on Kindle Unlimited. Make sure to keep an eye out for The Harbinger Tales Book 2 coming out soon. I’ll send out more information soon.
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