Casey leaned forward and said, “What kind of wrinkle?”
“The Twins are separated,” he said passing his eyes over everyone.
“So,” Edie said, scrunching her face. “What’s that got to do with anything?” Nudging the door open, she moved the dirt pile outside.
“According to Damsel and Filament,” Malcolm said. “The Twins are symbiotic with each other. If they remain separated for too long, they suffer. I don’t know more than that or even what that means. It could mean death, so we need to get going.”
“I’m changing and coming in,” Anders said. The air in the room shifted as the door opened and the stocky EMT walked inside. A heady aroma carried across the room when he closed the door. “Rains building and so are the winds. A good breeze, but it has gusted a few times.” He looked at Casey, who nodded.
“Thanks, Anders,” Malcolm said. “Take the remaining time and rest up. Once Lawrence gets back, those that need it will hydrate and get food. I have a spare sandwich if you need it.”
“You carry food?” Filament said from behind Malcolm.
“I’m a speedster,” Malcolm said, shifting to look at the masked woman. “Having a good calorie supply is important.”
“But,” she said looking at him and pointing to the wheelchair. “The chair?”
Malcolm let out a chuckle and shook his head. “I wasn’t always in it. Plus, like all speedsters, I can move all my limbs at high rates of speed.” Holding up his hands, he wiggled his fingers until they blurred and made a humming noise.
Filament’s mouth worked, but no words came out for a few seconds. “I’m sorry,” she said as the visible parts of her face turned crimson. “I didn’t mean…It’s just that…I’m an idiot.”
“No,” Casey said moving closer. “You’re biased. Just because someone is in a chair, has prosthetics, or even stutters doesn’t mean they aren’t capable. Karl, Malcolm, and I were the first to arrive here once we were signaled.”
“She didn’t know,” Paladin said. “I keep things compartmentalized.” He looked at Filament. “Let’s go and work on the plan for coverage.”
A low thump sounded, making everyone jump. Turning, they saw Lawrence putting two cases of water, a collection of sports drinks, and two bags of food on the table. “I’m here with food and stuff.” He reached in and pulled a box of powdered donuts and a bottle of mocha coffee. Anders grabbed a sports drink and a protein bar. Karl imitated Anders but took two bottles. Edie took a water, as did Casey. Jason grabbed a bar and water, then went back to setting up his laptop with a projector.
“Do you want my sandwich?” Malcolm looked at Filament. “I prefer the bars and water. More energy and faster to process.”
“I’m good. Thank you.” Filament followed Paladin around the wall.
“Karl, Casey, let me know when you’re ready,” Malcolm said rolling to the food table. “Lawrence, if you’re up for it, would you assist Casey on the aerial?”
Pulling a powder-covered finger from his lips, Lawrence nodded. His jowls wobbled once when he stopped, then his eyes slid over to Casey. He swallowed hard and pulled in some coffee.
The team went quiet as they chewed and drank. Edie moved around straightening tables, moving junk, and taking the wrappers and bottles and put them in a bag. Jason gave the thumbs up when he had the computer with the projector setup. “I have a battery backup for the laptop, but if you say there is a time crunch, I don’t suspect we are going to need it.”
“I agree,” Malcolm said. “It shouldn’t take long, but we have to get intel first.”
“I’mreadytogo.LookslikeCaseyistoo,andsoisLawrence,” Karl said. A humming noise emanated from him and his eyes and nose blurred.
“Karl,” Malcolm said. “You can’t go all out. The wrist panels need time to get a ping. I’ve done this at around fifty.”
“Damsel and I are going out as well,” Paladin said. “We know what to look for just in case there’s trouble.”
“Thank you,” Malcolm said and showed a flat smile.
Looking around, Malcolm signaled for Casey and Lawrence. Karl stood near the door, his foot tapping a rapid steady rhythm. The hollow sound of his shoe extension made it sound like the bass line in a rave. Paladin opened the door and took to the air. Damsel walked behind him and gave a finger wave to Anders. Anders choke-swallowed his drink and waved back.
“Wait for their signal,” Malcolm said. “You know the drill. No rush, but at the same time, be safe.”
“My force field belt is charged to the max,” Lawrence said. “I’m turning it on as soon as I leave here.”
“Same here,” Casey said. “I’m not taking crazy chances.”
“Good,” Malcolm smiled at the duo.
“Irunfasterthanabulletanywaysowhybother,” Karl said.
“Karl,” Malcolm said. “I would prefer to not have to take you to a hospital.” He let out a little laugh.
“EMT Team,” Paladin’s voice came over the earbuds. “First blush shows things to be clear. How do you see it, Damsel?”
Damsel’s clear smoky voice came on the heel of Paladin’s report. “Clear as far as I’m concerned.”
“Sending out the recon,” Malcolm said and nodded to the trio waiting.
Karl disappeared out the door first, fluttering bags and splashing into the rain. Casey took to the air when she exited. Lawrence vanished without even using the door. Jason closed the door as they left.
“Dash,” Paladin said. “Slow down. We might be in the industrial area at night, but there are still people here.”
“Iunderstand,” Karl said. “Slowingnow.Almostatscanninglocation.”
“Jason,” Malcolm said. “Bring up the map.”
“You guys come prepared,” Filament said. “We take an hour to plan, show up, and kick ass.” She laid her hands on the wheelchair handles.
“Yeah,” Malcolm said. “We don’t have your training or team.” He glanced at Filament. “Besides, we got lucky with Jason. Normally I go on a call with my kit and chair. Most of us do that.”
“I’ve seen the reports on you guys,” Filament said. “You use your powers in unique ways. Then there is your power set. Not a single blaster amongst you.”
“I don’t think that power is conducive to saving lives,” Malcolm said.
“Depends on your point of view,” Filament said as she smiled at him. Malcolm nodded.
“Telemetry is coming in,” Jason said. “Excellent! Dash is cruising at fifty-four and getting hits. Cutlass’ location updated. Garbage’s, too.” Edie let out a small gasp and her cheeks brightened. “Twin-A is below the warehouse. Triangulation from Dash, Beam, and Sonique. Fantastic!”
“Dash, give me two more laps,” Malcolm said. “You can pick up the speed a little. Sonique, same thing. Beam, if you can get to other spots, try it. Do not get closer.”
“I keep seeing a blue light up here,” Lawrence said. “It blinks twice, then disappears and reappears some—”
Paladin’s voice cut in. “Get out of there, Beam!”
“There’sspeedsterhere,too,” Karl reported over the earbud. “Wearinggreen.”
Malcolm gripped his armrests and leaned forward. His voice shouted,“What? Karl. Run away. Top speed. Get back here when you lose him. Don’t fight him.”
“I see the blue light,” Casey said. “I’m veering off…Aaaahhhh!”
“Sonique’s hit!” Lawrence screamed over the earbud. “She looks like she’s flying.”
“Owwww,” Casey said. “My belt is smoking. That hurt. I’m outta here.”
“Sonique,” Damsel’s voice said. “Go long and far. Circle back.”
“What does that mean?” Edie looked up from scrubbing a table. She first eyed Malcolm then Filament. A sonic boom answered the question. “Oh,” Edie said. “Right. She can break the sound barrier.” Tossing the alcohol wipe in the makeshift trash bin, she moved to a seat and listened to what was happening.
“Really?” Filament looked at Edie. “That’s fast.”
“I’m running circles around the green guy,” Karl said. “I can take him.”
“No!” Malcolm grabbed both his armrest and yanked upward, making his wheelchair bounce. “He’s well trained. And he cheats.”
“How do you know?” Filament and Jason looked at Malcolm.
Malcolm let out a sigh. “That’s Tempest.” He ground his teeth a few seconds. “He’s my twin brother.”
“Son of a bitch!” Anders walked over to Malcolm. “Your brother’s Tempest? He’s a killer.”
“I know!” Malcolm shouted. “He put me in this chair. Karl, get the hell away from him.”
“The blue light is back,” Lawrence said. “I’m coming in…engaahhhhhh!”
“Beam!” Paladin shouted again. “I told you to disengage.”
“Falling falling falling,” Lawrence said. “OK, back up. Dammit, there it is.”
“I’m on my way,” Paladin said. “Get back to base.”
“Ow! Fuck!” Karl shouted over the earbud. “That guy has brass knuckles.”
“I said get out of there,” Malcolm shouted through gritted teeth.
A new voice came over the earbud. It was muffled. “I’ll put you in a chair, too. Ask my brother what that’s like.” Wumpf came over the line.
“Dash, disengage,” Damsel said. “Follow Mag Wheels advice. Now!”
“You ain’t hitting me again,” Lawrence said. “Gotcha!”
“Damn!” Paladin said, his voice louder than a whisper. “That fat guy put Lightning Bug into the pavement. Not like smashed him into the pavement, I mean into…Beam you’re falling!”
“Got it,” Lawrence said. “Going to base.” Lawrence appeared next to the food table. Holding a hand out, he supported himself. Sweat ran down his face and he huffed air through his open mouth. “Not bad for a fat guy.” He looked in the bags of food. “Damn. Outta donuts.”
“Razzle-dazzle,” Karl shouted with a hint of a laugh in his voice.
“No, Dash,” Malcolm said, shaking his head. “No razzle-dazzle! Run away!”
“What did he do?” Damsel’s voice sounded breathy over the earbud. “There’s like twenty of him.”
“Dammit, Karl,” Malcolm said with a sigh. “He’s not stupid.”
“Tempest tripped,” Damsel said.
“Run!” Malcolm slammed a fist on an armrest.
“Washing machine,” Karl said.
“Dash, you’re an EMT,” Edie said. “Not a hero. Get out of there.”
“I have never seen that,” Damsel said.
“What?” Paladin said. “Where?”
“Look,” Damsel said.
“Is he spinning the green guy?” Paladin’s voice was soft, but the earbuds still carried what he said.
“Yup,” Damsel said. “And you can’t even see his face. It’s just one big green blur.”
“Dash,” Paladin said. “That’s enough. Get to base.”
“Is he crying?” Damsel said. “That’s wrong.”
“Tell me about it,” Paladin said.
The door opened and closed. Karl stood by Malcolm with a wide, toothy smile and sheets of sweat running down his face. “Whew. I need some food.” He staggered over to the table and grabbed three protein bars and a bottle of sports drink.
“What’s that noise?” Jason turned his head in different directions.
“It’s not me,” Karl answered. “I burnt off a good amount of energy.”
“I think it’s coming from outside,” Jason said.
“Is it kinda melodic?” Anders moved to the door.
“Yeah,” Jason said. “AHHHHHHHH!” His knees buckled, and he clutched his ears.
“AIIIIIII!” Edie did the same as Jason.
“Dirge!” Filament moved for the door. Anders blocked her way as he grabbed the knob.
Flinging the door open, he stepped out and grew three times the size of a normal man in the blink of an eye. Fur bloomed over his entire body and protruded from his collar and waistband.
A very different, almost chocolaty voice shouted. “What the hell?”
With an animalistic snarl, Karl reached out and grabbed the man by his torso and lifted.
Dirge opened his mouth and pulled in a breath. The first note exited his mouth and Anders’ finger relaxed. As the sound deepened, the man slid further from Anders’ hand. From out of nowhere, several strands of a white rope appeared and wrapped themselves around Dirge’s mouth. The sudden quiet yanked Anders’ attention and he re-gripped the man clad in gray.
Dirge clawed at the rope around his mouth and head, squirming and kicking as he moved.
Filament appeared several feet away and flung both arms in his direction. The cord coming from her palms wrapped around his wrists and pulled him into a spread position. Each cord anchored itself to the edge of the roof on the small building and Anders released him. Dangling, Dirge kicked his legs. Filament flung her hands again and forced the legs of Dirge still as he hung sprawled on the side of the building.
“Don’t let him make any noise,” Filament said, looking up at Anders. “Bring him inside and I’ll secure him again.”
Snapping the lines, Anders pulled the dangling body down. Pinning the remains of the cord to the dirt covered asphalt with his large feet, Anders changed back to a man.
Dirge scrambled to his feet, but a yank on the cords sent him face-first into the hard ground. Lawrence gave a thumbs up to Anders and both of them lifted the unconscious form or Dirge. Moving him inside, they carried the body around the wall and into a closet.
Anders used a slat of wood and put an end on each of Dirge’s forearm. Nodding, Filament wrapped a cord around the wrist and elbow of the arms, tying them together. Anders repeated the process using a piece of wood for the lower and upper legs of Dirge. Filament lashed the ankles and knees, ensuring there was no movement. Lastly, Dirge was suspended from the top corner to the opposite corner on the floor.