Six Days After the Michigan Avenue Proclamation
I’d just turned in after another day of waiting for the shoe to drop when Wallace banged on my door. The two days after taking out a drone with an Empion grenade had been difficult, with most of us slowly getting more and more tense as we looked for signs that Project Sumter, or whichever government organization had sent that drone, was getting ready to pay us a visit. In the mean time, I’d spent a lively afternoon tramping through the underbrush and trying to track down the Empion grenade we’d used to disable the drone on it’s way over the park.
In theory, the grenades were supposed to launch off the maglev relays, shut off all extraneous systems and trip an EMP. Then, with internal circuits shielded by a bit of pirated military tech, they’d switch back on, link up with the nearest maglev relay and swing back to the holding area. Unfortunately, the switch back on part wasn’t working exactly as intended. I’d spent part of the previous evening and most of that day arguing about why it might not be working with Davis. When I wasn’t doing that, I was arguing with Heavy or Grappler over how to best set our handful of perimeter guards. Most were mercenaries with some field experience and I wanted to leave them to their own devices, but Heavy felt they’d get out of hand if we let them have too much autonomy. Worse, a few squads were gangbangers and other petty thugs Heavy had scraped together and who weren’t thrilled with taking orders from anyone, but were willing to listen to someone with enough street cred to command their respect. Eventually we compromised on Heavy leading the crooks and the mercenaries working on their own.
When I finally got to bed I was hoping for a solid five hours sleep before something else went wrong. It was not to be.
I yanked the door open just as Wallace was raising his hand to knock again. He blinked at me looking more than a little surprised, perhaps not used to seeing me without a shirt on. Then he rallied and said, “The eyes we’ve had on the Sumter headquarters say they dispatched a helicopter around two o’clock this afternoon. Hangman’s trying to hack in and get their flight plan, but no idea where they were headed yet.”
“They’re probably not coming directly here,” I said, drumming my fingers on the doorframe. “This location is in the middle of a jurisdictional nightmare, they can’t have cut the red tape in a day and a half, even if all five senators on the Talented Individuals Committee rally to the cause.”
“Well, you said to tell you as soon as they made a move, and now you’ve been told,” Wallace said with a smile. “I’m going to hit the sack.”
“You’re awful cheerful about this,” I said dryly.
“Other than running some checks on the last turbine in the concrete dam, I haven’t had much to do today.” He shrugged. “Lots less stress than the rest of you. Good night, Circuit.”
I watched him head off down the dreary hallway and turned back to flip the lights on and reached for my shirt. Wallace was a very phlegmatic man and took just about everything in stride but it wouldn’t do to run around the installation shirtless and start everyone talking. And I certainly wasn’t getting much sleep with Helix on the way. Might as well get a little work done.
The biggest sticking point was what we would use to enter the park. Kesselman was a certified helicopter pilot and more than familiar with the EC-155s the Project used on those rare occasions we needed to be airlifted into a situation. We used that to get out to our meeting with the National Guard and we wanted to go in using it too. The Guard, on the other hand, wanted to go in using a Black Hawk, which meant we’d have to rely on them for pilots. That, in turn, would give them the leverage to insist we take Guardsmen along as tactical support, instead of our usual teams.
Even though there wasn’t enough room on a chopper for me, Massif, Samson, Amplifier, along with our assorted oversight agents and support teams plus Darryl and his team, I would still prefer that the tactical support we did bring had experience dealing with talents on both sides of the equation. To my surprise it was HiRes, the rookie from Darryl’s team, who gave us the leverage we needed to make the Guard go along with our plan.
We’d been in and out of meetings and teleconferences with various military honchos the whole of the previous evening and we’d pretty much figured that we’d have to wait on Washington to break the stalemate. Voorman and the team oversight agents were in yet another meeting and the rest of us were sitting in the situation room, in case our knowledge of the enemy’s talents was needed, and HiRes’ head was surrounded by the faint rainbow effect I’d come to realize meant he was using his talent to somehow see things that were far away and, on occasion, around corners. My best guess was that he was bending light somehow, which was cool and creepy at the same time. It was also something I’d never heard of before, and I had to fight the urge to pry into what he could do with it. Not knowing that kind of thing was a novel experience after twenty years of working with talents.
For most of the morning HiRes had been glancing around a lot, like he wasn’t used to all the hustle and bustle, but now he’d settled down and was just leaning back with his eyes half lidded, watching over the shoulder of various drone operators when he wasn’t skimming classified messages as the cryptologists decoded them.
Forstburn and Coldsnap had been keeping up a constant string of chatter the whole time, deflecting attention from him by virtue of being cheerful and pretty, and I’d been eavesdropping between fielding the occasional question about Circuit’s methods. The status quo had held for nearly half an hour before HiRes quietly murmured, “They’re using drones.”
“They told us they were sending in another wave of drones over the park at this morning’s briefing,” I said just as softly. “Nothing new there.”
“Circuit’s people,” he said. “They have a couple of those high altitude surveillance drones that double as a sat uplink. They think that’s how he’s spotting and shooting down our drones as they come in.”
“Well that’s a pain.” I pinched the bridge of my nose. “It sounds more and more like we’ll have to go in on foot. Jack will be thrilled. He can finally give that lecture on jungle warfare he’s been saving all this time.”
“Assuming they don’t just give the job to the Guard,” Frostburn said.
“Because they’re better suited for that kind of operation,” her sister added.
“Drones are good.” HiRes’ eyes snapped fully open again and he sat up straight. “That means they’re spotting us visually and not by radar. I can make a chopper invisible but I can’t screw with radar waves.”
“An invisible chopper.” I said, feeling my eyebrows creep towards my hairline. “That sounds too good to be true. What can go wrong here?”
“It’s a two way street,” Coldsnap said. “When HiRes does his magic no one can see you but you can’t see anything, either. You have to rely on other senses, or leave a hole you can see out of.”
“Your pilot should be able to fly us by instruments.” He waved his hand downwards. “And I can work it so we can see, and be seen, from the ground but not the sky. It’s all in where you choose to make the bends.”
“I’ll assume that makes sense somehow.” I drummed my fingers on my knee. He was definitely bending light. Interesting. “Other potential disasters? Things the Guard might say to try and keep us from using this route?”
“The public parts of the park have a PA system,” Frostburn said. “It wouldn’t be that hard to rewire it so it could listen, too. It’d be a cheap way to monitor those parts of the park and make sure we weren’t slipping through the underbrush. There might be listening stations all over the place by now. What if they hear us coming?”
I laughed. “Don’t you have the silent man on your team?”
“There’s a limit to how loud a sound can get before he can’t squash it anymore.” She tilted her head to one side, meaning she’d just thought of something. “Unless…”
“Unless we have two wave makers working on it.” I pointed at HiRes. “Find Amplifier and Hush, get them together and see if it’s possible. I have a phone call to make.”
I left the three of them to run errands and started looking for a quiet corner of the base, already scrolling through my contacts list for the number of a certain Senator who had just as much at stake in this case as I did.
Wallace and Davis came to me late the next morning, neither one looking particularly well rested. I gave Wallace a rueful look and said, “I thought you were under no stress?”
“I had an idea after talking to you last night,” he said with a shrug. “I wanted to see how practical it was so I checked with Davis. We were up most of the night getting the numbers crunched and some rough plans put together.”
I suppressed a yawn and took a gulp of my coffee. “What kind of an idea are we talking about?”
“One that will get us out of here by three tomorrow afternoon.” Davis handed me a sheaf of papers covered in sketches and notes. “Your plans call for us to make all our superconducting material and shape it into electromagnets here at Chainfall. But, with a few adjustments, we can turn CPC wire into magnets at Deepwoods, meaning can focus the hydroelectric capacity of here at Chainfall on manufacturing the superconductors. That cuts the time we have to stay here almost in half.”
I glanced up from the plans he’d handed me. “Deepwoods?”
“That’s what Hangman’s been calling the place up in Wisconson,” Wallace said.
“I see.” I went back to the papers and said, “This looks feasible. Make the changes here as soon as possible. Davis, I want you to take all the completed materials we have at the end of the day and return to the northern installation and begin prepping it according to these spects.”
“Just me?” He asked.
“I need Wallace here to help me finish checking over the second hydroelectric turbine in the permanent dam.” I set the plans aside and stood up from my desk. “We’ve had drone overflights most of the morning and I was busy shooting them down. Once we get that second turbine working we’ll have enough electricity to keep a blanket of Empion mines airborne for half an hour, more than long enough to knock down anything that can come to us through the air. That means Sumter, or whoever winds up coming after us here, will have to come by ground.”
“And by the time they can cut through the paperwork to do that we’ll be long gone,” Davis said with a smile.
“Good work, boys,” I said with a smile. “As long as we keep the hydroelectric turbines intact I think it’s safe to say we’ve won this round.”
“You make it sound like you expect to loose one of these days,” Davis said with a laugh.
Wallace and I laughed too, but in the back of my mind the Thunderbird gambit gnawed on my conscience. Davis was uncomfortably close to the truth for once. Hopefully he, or worse Wallace or Hangman, wouldn’t see through to the endgame until it was time.
But first there was Thunderclap. And before that, we’d have to keep the hydroelectric generators going for the next twenty-four hours. Simple enough, right?
A week and a day after the event the press had started calling the Michigan Avenue Proclamation we were flying low over the marshy forest that held Circuit’s latest supervillain’s lair. The Guard wasn’t happy about it, but the ability to put an invisible helicopter in the middle of the opposition’s base had tipped the turf war in our favor and we were going in to sort things out.
As for flying invisible, it was really weird. If you looked up there was nothing visible but a nauseating pulse of twisted light over the chopper while the Indiana countryside continued to roll by undisturbed below us. On top of that, the combined efforts of Amplifier and Hush were suppressing most of the noise we were making, so the helicopter’s engines were making no more noise than the typical house fan. This also meant that if you wanted to say anything to anyone you had to yell at the top of your lungs, and even then our wave makers were pretty upset about it.
But thankfully we made it safely to the landing zone in the northern part of the park, about two miles away from what our drone reconnaissance suggested was the center of Circuit’s clandestine instillation. It wasn’t really anything more than a small, level clearing well removed from the public areas of the park and all of Circuit’s territory that we could identify. It was really quite impressive the way he’d managed to smuggle enough materials and labor into the park to build three hardened bunkers and one smallish dam. There was probably an inside man in the DNR or something, Analysis and Records were going to spend months working out how it might have been done, but in the mean time it meant that we had a lot of work to do.
Grandpa Wake used to tell stories about jumping huge distances, like the time he vaulted off a three story building onto a Panzer Mk. IV to bend the main gun out of shape. I’ll admit that I had a sneaking suspicion those stories were hyperbole, at least until Samson jumped twenty feet from the chopper to the ground and proceeded to secure our landing zone like nothing unusual had happened. Kesselman put us down without incident and the rest of us piled out in a less spectacular fashion.
I glanced around and suppressed a slight shudder. The group included Teresa and the rest of our team, Massif and Screeton, Amplifier, Sanders, Darryl and his team and Sampson. In all, there were eight talents present, twice as many as I had ever seen in one place outside of a briefing room. “All right people,” I said, rubbing my hands together. “You all have your assignments. Circuit’s had his chance to make history. Let’s show him how to do it right.”Fiction Index Previous Chapter Next Chapter