July 15 2010. 1930 hours: Martin pads bare-footed out into the kitchen/dining room to scrounge up a meal for himself, since his mom is working on a new cookbook in the office, and by the sound of the rapid key-strokes she is in full swing. Martin’s father Henry is right there at the dining table working at a laptop: something of a surprise given the evening’s stop-press story, but maybe the Ledger lets its editors work from home.
“Hey, how’s the day been?”
“Pretty good thanks dad… what’s the scoop?” Martin’s father laughs at the old family joke.
“You know, there’s a good quote to that question, just came up again today. It’s an oldie but a goodie. Just a moment… here…” He extracts a clipping from his archive: Martin leans over and reads:
‘”Being a reporter in Freedom is the easiest job in the World. You just wait and a Super-villain will drop a story in your lap, usually before deadline, and they will make sure you can get good pictures. Then you wait, and next thing the story develops with some flying human tank roaring in to put that Villain down. And the public laps it up. Heroes, Villains, Big Fights!
“It’s like WWF, except not fixed.”’
“Not bad, dad! …though I guess it would be WWE these days. And you’re supposed to say, ‘booked’ not ‘fixed’. So… capes is the story huh?”
“You know it! Look ‘a this:”
The photo that pops up looks like it has been taken by cell-cam but it may be a blurry still from an over-the-shoulder news camera. It’s a male figure, apparently suspended in the air and possibly moving at some speed. The angle makes it look as though the figure is high above the surrounding mid-city buildings.
“Oh… that the story Channel Three was running? I think I saw some of that.”
“Sure, but this is the real news son, not thirty seconds of headlines and a half-hour of nonsense and talking heads. I tell ya, if that Amy Feng wasn’t so hot-looking, what they reported down there at Foster’s Yard woulda been a non-starter. We in the print media gotta roll with facts!”
Martin hates to lie to his pop, but a mixture of pride, morbid curiosity and genuine prudence makes him read over what his dad is writing and check if the team have been compromised in any serious way. He pretends surprise and distrust at the capes’ antics, all the while recalling what really happened at Foster’s Yard.
1722 hours: Foster’s Yard
Performer follows Jamestown Lane roughly north toward Foster’s, clipping along at his maximum speed about 50 feet above the traffic, his caped comrades held secure in his telekinetic clasp. Holmes and Bad Tripp both point to a vehicle parked midway along the eastern access island, where a man fitting the Bomb’s description disembarks and hurries down the stairs.
“Drop me there!” Bad Tripp yells.
“I’ll take that one too!” Skylark agrees.
“Put me down here, I’ll start at the southern end!” Nightfall advises.
Holmes feels a prickling of unease. “I’ll take the far end, east!”
“Then I’ll take the far end west!” Wraith finishes.
Bad Tripp’s landing announces the arrival of capes on the scene as the suspect vehicle caves in, axles collapsed. As he raises himself from his landing crouch, RPG-armed thugs from opposite ends of the Yard lanes step from their vans, arm their weapons, line Tripp up and fire!
Performer’s control over his telekinesis allows Nightfall a much gentler landing: he slides into the shadows of the subway descent and peers down: two thugs, one with an AK type automatic rifle, the other with an Uzi. He recalls that the briefing on the Bomb noted that he prefers to equip his henchmen in terrorist chic! Sliding quietly up on them, Nightfall downs one before they can spot him!
At her chosen stairwell Skylark has much the same experience, except that the two thugs there spot her and she has to tumble neatly over the arcing auto-fire to down one: the other flees.
Performer finishes dropping Holmes and doubles back, pushing a van at the thugs nearby before they can reload with another RPG round. One is trapped against the stairwell rail, the other ducks away.
Holmes and Wraith swiftly bypass thugs on guard but have no success at cornering the Bomb. They descend to the platform level, to find that a tableau of terrorism has been arranged!
The platform level has been elaborately staged. Several 44-gallon drums stand roughly equidistant from a gleaming, flickering central device. Around them, a complex network of light-beams can be seen forming a web around the 30 or so commuters. All stand stock-still in silence: they’ve been warned that to move or cry for help will set the bombs off!
Wraith detects the departure of a small rail-car, reaches out with his device-access and disables it. Holmes, frustrated in his attempt to lock into the Bomb’s mind and halt him, mind-probes a henchman: with no useful result. Skylark and Nightfall slip nimbly through the light-beams in answer to Wraith’s summons: it’s a multi-threat complex device, and even his formidable gimmickry will need assistance.
Up top, Tripp finishes blocking a third exit with vehicles. He’s smarting, from the impact of the one RPG that hit him, and from lack of usefulness. “Izzat train been stopped yet?” he queries. “All under control: all connections have been suspended. Do what you can to neutralize the device, and minimize casualties,” commands Panoply from his post.
“Good! Then if’n youse got nutn else f’ me, I’m splittin’ ‘fore th’ cops get here,” Tripp growls back into the comms.
There’s a long pause. “The Bomb’s headed south, Tripp,” Holmes comes back with, “Try the Circle subway!”
“K, on it!”
“I’ll just finish this one, then I’ll zip out, pick up Tripp, and fly us to the Circle!” brags the Performer.
“The fuck you will!” Tripp rejoins and bounds off, seething. By his third leap, Performer is gaining on him, and they get to the Circle exits about the same time. The whole area is cordoned off by the FCPD blues. Tripp plunges down, drops onto the unlit platform.
“Done it! That’s all three triggers we need worry about! Please tell the people they can evacuate in an orderly manner. I’ll wait here while you supervise,” Wraith commands, sending Skylark and Nightfall on their way. As the once-trapped commuters negotiate the few remaining exits in panicky fashion, pulses of sound come up the tunnel. Performer is glowing with light, hovering behind Tripp who is smacking his hands together every hundred feet or so, northward back to Foster’s. Disappointingly, they discover a service exit from the tunnel: evidently the Bomb was not greatly inconvenienced by losing his transport. Tripp shrugs, turns back south: he can easily lose himself among the evacuees as Joe Tripley. Performer flies on, to emerge from Foster’s.
As the FCPD Bomb Disposal Squad cautiously advances onto the platform, a kevlar-wrapped squaddie spots a vague shadow standing near the device. Then the shade slides eerily through the wall and away. But out on the Yard, much more solid evidence of capes is spotted. Nightfall, Holmes and Skylark use their covert techniques to leave discreetly, but as Performer brashly rises from exit stair and up, up and away, he’s filmed by several witnesses. Channel Three’s Amy Feng rushes right by Skylark, yelling at Dave the cameraman to get the shot, get the shot!
1830 hours: Panoply congratulates what he’s beginning to think of as “his” team over the comms network. Everyone is there at Holmes’ office again: even Avenger, who’s turned up late. The 6pm news has carried the local story as its leader, and runs its accounts of various costumed individuals and a behemoth behind its repeat shots of a flying caped figure. “Just like 9/11, only without actual explosions,” comments Skylark skeptically.
“MO-wise, whadduz dis mean for th’ Bomb?” Bad Tripp asks Avenger.
“It probably means Bomb will do something he thinks of as bigger and badder. Real soon.”
“We’ll need to run through our list of possible Bomb targets again,” Holmes summarises.
“As far as the overall caseload goes – did you find anything more out?” Avenger queries eagerly. Tripp pulls his casebook out, flips it back to Victor-Taylor, explains (cagily, Holmes muses) that the murder police are motivated and will give it priority, but it’s too early for information to be fed back. He repeats the basics of the lines of inquiry – Tonifanni in particular – but the team has had its hands full chasing the Bomb. Avenger seems satisfied.
The team falls to thinking along likely “crazed bomber needs quick jollies” scenarios, save for Nightfall and Tripp, who leave in their separate ways. Nightfall has a long ride back to Hanover where as Martin Remillard, he lives with his folks: he hopes his mom is cooking something tonight! Tripp heads for his clothes stash: Joe Tripley will be walking back east.
1900 hours: Joe settles his denim jacket back into place, walks the mean streets of Lincoln back toward his native Southside. His street smarts picks out Southside-C bangers, running corners on this side of the I-6. He marks down a couple of likely stash-house locations for later surveillance. Across I-6, his AT&T mobile rings. It’s the Hippo: wanting reassurance that Joe is not running hog-wild as an on-loan CI. Joe reassures him, hangs up, quickly adds to his casebook notes on Victor-Taylor. Hippo has passed on the next piece in the puzzle: Taylor was a railroad timetabler. “A connection to a timetable freak like Calculus: maybe just what sweet lil’ Barbs Kane‘ll be lookin’ for,” Tripley grins. He slides out Kane’s contact card: but it’s getting late, best to leave a call until morning. Night-time is the right time for a different kind of call. He heads home, phones Charlie and begins a long, pornographic description of what he wants to do with her.
Can’t fight City Hall
1945 hours: Holmes’ office
The four planners have run through quite a lot of imponderables, and keep coming back to Victor Taylor as the outlier. They’ve pulled up as much as they can about him, and have his funeral (tomorrow) as a possible go-to appointment.
Dinner (Chinese) is interrupted by TV: the Bomb is on again, smiling.
“Hello again Freedom City! Well… they do say, ‘You can’t fight City Hall!‘ But I can! I can!”
The camera pulls back, revealing a picture of a familar Freedom City landmark: he appears to be threatening City Hall!
“I just knew it!” Skylark exclaims.
Holmes mentally reaches out and scans City Hall: he sees a device dropping by parachute: Panoply closing in on it!