James fell to his knees and looked behind him, but couldn’t see the person that stabbed him. The blade was still in there and Sandy was screaming and Jennifer looked panicked, from the little he could see, people were running around in every direction, but the juniors he could see were alert and on guard, people had shifted into their other forms, and someone had put a bright blue force field over a group of students. He saw out of the corner of his eye someone teleport in and slash a student with a knife, but he couldn’t get a good view as the porting left bright flashes in and out. “Pull out the knife!” James tried to yell, but it was barely a whisper, luckily Sandy had been staring at him, so she saw his lips move and she moved right next to his mouth to hear him.
“I can’t!” she said over and over again, she was panicking pretty badly.
“Jen!” James yelled, loud enough this time to get her attention, she was on guard watching the flashing light going in and out of the crowd. “Pull it out.” And she did without being gentle. James screamed and would have collapsed if he hadn’t been pouring Sam’s stored energy into his body, trying to heal the damage. It started to heal, but he was weak and getting weaker. He grabbed Sandy’s hand, “I need Mandy!” he said through clenched teeth. Maybe she was more focused than he thought, or maybe she was looking for an excuse to hide, but Mandy appeared moments after James asked for her and laid her hands on James’ wound and joined him in trying to heal it.
Michael was chatting up Amy and Rosa and they were teasing him with idea of a threesome, so he was being very careful with his words to try and get that to happen when suddenly the lights went out. It was a funny joke as the warehouse had no windows and it made for a scary effect, then out of the corner of his eye he say a flash of light and heard a scream mere feet from him, it was real and it was loud enough to convince his brain to do something. If it had been any less he would have assumed it was more of a prank and felt foolish for shifting.
His shifted form was tall, lean, had long limb, three sharp claws and incredible senses. He could ‘sense’ or see everyone in the pitch dark room, but when the back wall exploded those same senses all overloaded from the light, sound and force of blast. It took him a handful of seconds, but finally the room began to come into focus again. He could feel as the air displaced every time the teleporter came in, but with the flash of light that accompanied it, he couldn’t tell what they looked like, and there was something very weird with what his power was telling him about it, but he couldn’t figure it out at the moment. The ground under his feet was covering with ice, radiating out from where Amy was standing, then he felt the air just behind her showing the tell-tale signs and he grabbed her arm and pulled, actually cutting her with his claws, but the teleporter came in and slashed where she had been standing. He barely had time to recognize that fact before it was on the other side of warehouse again, attacking another person. Michael put his back to Rosa and Amy and they stood defensively, unable to act as the light popped in and out attacking random people, nobody, not even the juniors seemed to be able to do anything about it, no one could even follow it.
Sam was following the light, his senses, perception, speed and durability were as high as he’d used for any match so far. The light was jumping way too fast for most people to get anything from it, but Sam saw her. It was a very thin woman, wearing all black from head to toe, with a backpack that had a bunch of wires running from it and she had several knifes around her body. He tried to run at her when he felt her teleport in, but there was no pattern and he was always seconds late. So he changed his tactic and looked for anyone that might not be able to protect themselves and he saw Rebecca Stone standing mostly alone, so he ran to her and watched her back as the light attacked again and again and he felt useless.
With his mental speed as high as it was it felt like an hour of continuous attacks, when really it was less than two minutes before the light stopped. And it actually stopped the second one of Dean Allen’s portals opened and him and two other professors stepped out.
Allison was dancing with Bradley when the lights went and she felt the good-natured fear come off everyone, but then it was interrupted by the sheer terror that came with its own scream and she grabbed Brad’s arm to make sure he stayed with her as the wall exploded. She hit the ground, pulling Brad with her and watched the light flash in and attack her friends and classmates. She tried to feel the attacker’s emotions, but couldn’t get anything, which could happen with teleporters as well as with the overwhelming amount of terror in the room.
She hadn’t let go of Bradley’s arm, but final heard him yelling at her. “Allison! Let go! I have to help them,” he yelled. Allison shook her head no, she didn’t want him leaving her, but then she felt his emotions and she felt something coming through him. He was feeling their physical pain and it was demanding he help people; it was like a build-in triage, and she relented and let him go. He jumped up and ran across the room, running around someone with a long cut across their face and going to the one with a cut to the neck. He knew exactly who needed his help more.
Allison watched the flashes and tried to lock onto their emotions, maybe if she could get a lock she could slow them down, or track them, or identify them later. She used every trick she was being taught, but couldn’t find the teleporter’s emotions at all. So she changed tactics and instead send out an area effect of calm, if she could get everyone to get over their fear then as a group they could deal with this. Then it was over as quickly as it began; only a minute or two since the lights went out. She could survey the scene with just the little light from the hole in the wall, the fire burning the maze and the light coming through the dean’s portal.
Most people were on the ground, many were wounded. At least ten people were in shifted forms, which may or may not be helping the situation. Allison continued to spread calm as a lot of things needed to happen at once and calm would be better.
John Allen was in his office reading and enjoying a glass of the scotch that’d he won, when the alarm sounded. There were many alarms that went off for one reason or another, but this was one he hadn’t heard outside of testing it; his students were under a real attack. He dropped everything and stared at the information that came up automatically on his monitor. They’d lost all contact with the Halloween warehouse, not even an EMP directly over that building would cause a complete loss of contact. He stood up and threw open six different door size portals, one to each of the professor’s offices. Kelly and Coach Tillman were on the other sides and stepped through without question and then he opened one to the warehouse and he got some resistance, not unheard of, but nothing he expected to encounter here, so it took 12 seconds for the portal to finally form and they stepped through to chaos.
Students littered the floor, many bleeding. Shifters stood around in bestial forms ready to attack. Anyone with a power that could be visually seen seemed to be charged and ready to strike; which made him proud in some ways and terrified in others. And he felt Allison’s power calming people. Kelly vanished in a blur and the dean dropped the portal from his office and opened a massive one to the gym and a smaller one to the infirmary and tried to get everyone’s attention, although he pretty much had that since his portal was one of the only sources of light. “Attention!” he yelled, “everyone move through the portal into the gym! Healers and injured through the smaller portal!”
Kelly reappeared next to the dean, “nothing. Checked a quarter mile out in all directions.”
“Alright. Ben, check near the explosion, see if there are any casualties.”
“Roger, boss,” he said and moved off towards the burning maze.
Tony had shifted into owl as soon as the wall exploded and he had flown up to the rafters and watched helplessly as his friends were attacked. Even if he could have come up with a strategy, the attack was over within minutes. So he sat up there and watched the aftermath. The student healers were surprisingly professional, even the freshmen. They moved through the crowd quickly and healed anyone with even a scratch, fast. Tony heard one of them say they were afraid the blade might have been poisoned, which would have explained why so many people just had superficial wounds. So Rebecca had been going back through all those that were healed and gave them all a sort of universal antidote, although Tony couldn’t understand most of what she said to describe it.
Professor Gray had been running at super speed in and out of the warehouse several times a minute, occasionally coming back with another HCP student who was outside for one reason or another. And Coach Tillman had been tearing through rubble looking for bodies, but as far as Tony could tell he’d found nothing as he walked back to the dean. Anyone who had received a wound had gone through the infirmary portal along with most of the healers and the last of the unharmed students were just now entering the main portal, so Tony flew down and shifted back to human right in front of the dean. Unfortunately, his costume hadn’t shifted with him, so he was now standing naked in front of the dean, however neither commented on that. So he quickly shifted into a dog and ran into the portal and headed to the locker room to put on his uniform.
Coach Tillman walked back through the portal into his domain, the gym. John and Kelly had stayed behind in the warehouse to deal with the aftermath, leaving him to deal with room full of scared, angry, confused, tired and partial drunk supers; he’d hated dealing with all this after action crap in his hero’s days and didn’t think he’d have to deal with it tonight. “Listen up!” he yelled in his gym teacher voice and everyone stood a little straighter and stopped what they were doing to listen to him. “Nobody leaves until they have given a full accounting of everything they saw tonight. And not just the attack, you are all going to give an account of everything you did, everything you saw, and everything you heard for the past two hours. It will be a good exercise for when you make hero and you have to do one for every incident. You all know where to find paper and pencils, get to it!” and the students scrambled.
“Any causalities?” Phil asked sneaking up on Ben without warning.
Ben was trained enough not to jump, but he hated it when Phil did that, “none that could be found at the scene, but we won’t have a list of who was there until the system is done rebooting. Any information on that?”
“No. It doesn’t make any sense, this is tech genius surveillance patched through dispatch…I’ll know more once it is back up. Any info on the attacker?”
“Not really, nobody seems to have gotten a good view.”
“Sherry and I will start the interviews once she gets in, either her or Ron should be able to find something, no matter how fast this teleporter happens to be moving.”
“How about the locals?” Ben asked.
“Chief of police will call it a Halloween prank that got out of control, although we’re going to have to sell that warehouse now.”
“Give you a chance to set up a new one though.”
“Silver lining,” Phil said with a tiny chuckle and then they lapsed into silence staring at the empty track.
“Sam?” Dr. Gibson asked from the open door to the classroom.
“Yes? Who’s asking?” Sam asked pretending not to know the staff therapist.
Dr. Gibson picked up on this right away, “My name is Doctor Ron Gibson, I’m the staff therapist. I understand you may have gotten a look at the attacker,” he said.
“What there was to see.”
“Would you be willing to allow me to see that memory so I can transfer it to staff and investigators?”
“Sure Doc, lead the way,” Sam said, standing up and following Dr. Gibson back to his office.
“So how you been Sam?” the doc asked once the door was closed.
“Does this count as my session this week?” Sam asked back.
“With what happened tonight, I’m pretty sure I won’t have time to do all of your sessions this week anyways. So sure, this is your session,” he said smiling.
“Then…I felt helpless. I was going as fast as I could and it wasn’t enough.”
“That’s nothing to be ashamed of Sam, you’ve only been training for two months. Even the juniors with two years under their belts couldn’t lay a hand on him.”
“It was a female attacker,” Sam said.
“I see. Well why don’t you show me?” he said reaching out both his hands for Sam to take. So he reached out and grabbed them, he expected something to immediately happen, but it didn’t. “Close your eyes and think about the exact moment the attack started,” he said. “Okay, now open them.” Sam opened his eyes and he was standing at the party in a small swatch of light. “This is your line of sight, if I do this same thing with every person at the party all detail will be clear, which I may end up having to do, but for now it is limited to only what you saw, and you see here on the edge it blurs where you weren’t focusing.” Sam saw and it was weird looking out into nothingness while standing on their island of light. “Now remember everything about the building.” Sam did and suddenly the layout of the room filled in, but no people, just the environment.
“Now, we’ll play the memory, try not to fight it.” And the lights went out in his memory, then they heard the scream and then the explosion. Sam had immediately enhanced his senses after that and suddenly the dark room lit up and details came back into focus. He remembered where he got the best view of the woman so he fast forwarded until he got to it, the memory being surprisingly easy to control. He found it and paused at the exact second and he and Dr. Gibson walked up to it. Even with the speed at which he was perceiving and his senses enhanced and him so focused with the help of Dr. Gibson’s power, the attacker was still not in focus. Getting up close they saw what Sam was talking about. It was thin, and likely female, although the breasts were small, the black clothes covered everything, even the eyes, and the backpack was a normal looking pack, black, but it had wires running from it that went into the mask and body portion, but their use was unknown. “Okay, I got it, play it all out now,” and he did ending after the dean stepped out of his portal. “Thank you Sam, close your eyes…now open them,” they were back in his office standing where they had been, only seconds having passed.
The dean was going into his eighth hour of collecting information and doing interviews and fielding phone calls, and it was wearing on him. And then Robert Samson, his DVA contact, walked in, “Hello John,” he said.
“Robert,” the dean said carefully, he wasn’t rested enough to deal with the DVA yet.
“What have you got so far?” he asked.
“I’d rather finish my report and present it through official channels. I do not have nearly enough information yet.”
“Well, I’m more interested in what won’t be in the official report,” Robert said. “Does this have anything to do with our ‘special students’?”
The dean stared him down, he had to admit the thought had crossed his mind. He’d read the files and some of their parents had enemies, but then so did every legacy student there and so did all the professors, and there was general dislike for the HCP, by power supremacy groups and pure human groups and enough other people to fill a warehouse, so saying it was directly connected to the seven would be a big leap of logic. “I don’t know,” he said eventually.
“Well, we need to find out.”
“Of course we do, but for the sake of argument, what if it did have to do with them? What would happen to the program?” The dean asked.
“It’s hard to say…nothing good, that’s for sure. They got in by only the slightest of margins with voting and support. Legally none of the people who got them in have the power to knock them out; that’s now an HCP issue alone, but they could lose their protection, scholarships, or anonymity.”
The dean could only grunt at that, he was too tired for more, “when’s the official debriefing?”
Robert checked his watch, “twelve hours.”
“Fine. I’m going to get some sleep and then put all my people’s stuff together. I’ll be ready,” John said and opened a portal and stepped through without saying good-bye, leaving Robert alone in his office.
It’d taken hours before the students were released, but finely they got out of the HCP complex and began walking home as a group, even Sandy/Andy decided to come with them. Tony didn’t have any spare clothes, so he’d turned into a pigeon and flew ahead. Sandy was currently walking with James, with Jennifer nearby looking upset that she couldn’t be with Andy at the moment. As they reached the house they slunk off to their rooms one by one, nobody saying much, everything wearing on them. Sandy and James were heading to his room, when she stopped and said, “I’ll be right back,” while looking down at Jen’s door.
“Yeah, alright,” James said exhausted. And she turned and Andy walked down the hall.
“Hey,” Andy said while walking into Jen’s room without knocking. Jennifer got up fast and grabbed Andy in a hug and sobbed into her shoulder.
“Can you stay?” Jen asked.
“No, Sandy wants to be with James first,” Andy said sadly, “but, I’ll try to get by later. I’m sorry.”
“It’s not your fault. I just wish it could be easier.”
Andy laughed at that, “yeah, me too.” Then she told her how to get the paint off and kissed her good night, before leaving the room and heading back towards James as Sandy. She too opened James’ door without knocking and walked in. She heard the shower turn off as she started to get out of the various Halloween costumes. Candy was to be the last personality of the night and therefore had insisted on sexy underwear, which happened to be what she was down to when James opened the door to his bathroom and came out.
“Wow, very nice,” he said.
She turned and smiled at him, he was standing in a towel, “thank you. Not my usual style, but if I have to wear it…”
The dean walked into the room followed by his six professors, then Dr. Peavy and Dr. Gibson. The room had a massive conference table in it and on one side was a slew of DVA agents and Washington bureaucrats. His staff took the seats on the other side of the table and it made the whole thing feel very adversarial. John saw Robert near the end and saw that he looked uncomfortable, which could mean many things, but few of them good for Sizemore. The man in the center of the table, across from the dean started talking, he was an older man, although his hair was still black, no gray showing through and his suit was tailored and expensive. “Welcome, ladies and gentlemen. This is the initial debriefing for the incident that occurred, last night, October 31st, at roughly ten pm, local time, Sizemore University, Chicago area. Congressman Walter Nelson overseeing. Dean Allen, would you care to begin?”
“We’ll start with Dr. Peavy,” he said looking to her.
“There were no casualties.” She began, “and the actual injury count is difficult to access, as much of the healing was done before anyone even reached the infirmary. However, best guess has 31 students injured. 4 of those were self-inflicted or accidents during the panic. Eight were because of damage from shrapnel during the explosion and the rest were knife wounds caused by this unknown attacker. But, of those 31 only three would be considered life threatening, this, I have been told is significant because for such an effective attack resulting in what would have been so few causalities, signifies it may have been about panic and not death.”
“Yes, I would like to expand on that,” Phil Young said. “To me it feels more like a first wave attack to stir up people and get them paranoid. If I wasn’t 100% confident in the security of the underground complex I would even think this room was the target.” This got most of the pencil pushers in the room to look very nervous, although the agents remained calm. They too were sure of the security of the actual facility.
“And now Dr. Gibson,” the dean said.
“Yes,” he coughed to clear his throat. “I copied the memory of 12 students in order to create a 3D interactive memory of the incident. Unfortunately, with the lights out only a few people had senses that were good enough to ‘see’ anything, but I made sure to get all of them. I’ve shared this memory with all the staff and will do the same for any of you who would like it, however, it reveals very little about the attacker. All we really know was that it was a female teleporter that has a flash effect. Our database of worldwide supers has 42 woman with a light effect during teleportation and that’s just the ones we know about.”
“The good news,” Ben Tillman said, “is that the memory does include the physical dimensions of the teleporter and the exact look of the lighting effect should help to eliminate all those 42 within the day. Or rather it’s only good news for that 42, as we’re working on the assumption that this woman wouldn’t appear in any official databases. Which means we are going to need to see the unofficial ones,” he said looking right at a person that looked average, but if Tillman was staring him down, it meant he was almost certainly intelligence; CIA or NSA or DVA’s covert division. The man said nothing.
“And Professor Young. Have you pieced together how this happened?” The dean asked him.
“Not as much as you or I would like. First I’d like to point out that this warehouse was not set up for any active HCP exercises and therefore had the very minimum level of security, or course minimal HCP security still puts most banks to shame, but it needs to be said since it had more holes than a full facility would. It had the cameras and sensors that you would expect and they were linked to this facility and Dispatch with a hard line, a wireless line and a redundant wireless line. Something blew up all three nearly simultaneously along with the power box.”
“Could you elaborate on ‘something’?” the congressman said.
“Either small enough to not set off a sensor, like an insect, or a power like intangibility, although you’d need four people with intangibility to set off an explosion at the exact same time, which leads me to believe it was something more like a swarm of tiny robots filled with explosives, although I’ve found zero traces of robotic components and the sensors ‘should’ have picked up any signal that may have controlled them. So bottom line is…that I’m not sure. I know three secure security points and a power box were blown up at the exact same moment. I know that the sensor were all working perfectly up that point and didn’t alert to anything. And I know that the cameras picked up nobody for the past month messing with that building.”
“So your system failed?” the annoying congressman asked.
“No! From the second the security blew to when three veteran heroes arrived, it took one minute and 42 seconds, that’s the point of the part of the system where we get an alarm if we lose contact. We lost no students and the local population was none the wiser of the attack. The system helped secure the safety of our students and the anonymity of the program, it worked like it was supposed to. We simply couldn’t ID the attacker, and that’s not the primary point of the system.”
“Maybe it should be!”
“Are you telling me you’d sacrifice a student if it meant identifying this attacker?” the dean asked sardonically.
The congressman backpedaled, “of course not,” although the telepath on the other side of the table later confirmed that he would.
“And Professor Anderson. What’d you find out from your contacts?”
“Nothing. There is no chatter, no one claiming responsibility, no internet rumors or conspiracies. Nobody seems to be giving an abandoned warehouse fire any thought…”
“Strange,” Phil said, “I was sure this would be a terror attack, but if nobody knows about it, then that wouldn’t make sense.”
The meeting went on for hours after that, with little new to add. There was accusations and questions and a whole lot of bullshit.
“What do we know?” Diane asked Carter. They were in Carter’s apartment combing through piles of reports, that still somehow, were just a fraction of those that had been submitted. Carter was using his connection in the DVA to get what he could, but even so they were limited in the information and had been forbidden from interviewing their wards, ‘less they interfere with the official investigation’. Carter had had a long heated discussion with someone higher up after he’d been told that, but they’d held firm and Carter and Diane had to subsist on second and third-hand reports.
“Very little. But from what I can tell nobody else has any answers either,” Carter said, not looking up from a report. “I’ve been listening to the students and Sam has a pretty clear picture of what happened.”
“Carter!” she admonished, “you shouldn’t be doing that.”
“It’s my job!” He said and she just glared at him. “What about you? Your super brain filling in any missing pieces?”
“I don’t even know what the puzzle is supposed to look like; let alone if I’m missing anything. You’re the agent…Can’t you deduce a motive of something?”
“You can just ask the question you want to ask, you know. Is this about them?” He asked pointing towards the ceiling.
“No way to know. As far as I can tell, nobody has claimed responsibility. With all seven of our wards there, only one received an injury; you’d think if they were the target, they’d actually be targeted. And even from those who know of this program’s existence; nobody seems to be pointing fingers at them.”