Thunder Clap: Moving Fast

Izzy

“This is a portable GPS navigation device.” Lincoln held up a black plastic rectangle about the size of an e-reader like he was a sleazy salesman, running one hand along the bottom for dramatic effect.

“Those aren’t exactly new tech,” I said dryly. “Dad got mom one because she kept getting lost running errands.”

“Yeah, but it’s special because it’s got maps loaded on it and doesn’t need Internet access. We’re starting to run out of phones with navigation programs that use preloaded maps. We borrowed it from the roadies of one of the opening acts and they’re probably going to want it back so try and keep it away from EMPs.” He tapped a few icons with the stylus and zoomed in on a specific intersection. The end destination the GPS was pointed towards was on the northeast corner. “This is where we need to go.”

“What makes you sure?” Jane asked, looking at him rather than the maps or floor plan. “It’s a bookstore, not an electronics store or something like that.”

“Three factors. To make an EMP you either need a fairly big device consisting of an antenna and a capacitor bank or a nuclear weapon. We’re assuming Circuit went with option one, since there haven’t been any massive explosions in the city tonight. ” Lincoln held his hands a few feet apart and sketched out a box about that tall and deep but twice as long. “You could probably make an EMP with a six, maybe eight block range about so big. EMPs get exponentially weaker as you go out from the source, just like magnetic fields, so it would be more effective to have a lot of small units than one large one and allow for more precise targeting when you deployed them. But most importantly, an EMP weapon of that size could easily be hidden in the utility room of the average two-story storefront.”

“But it would have to be a building of about that size,” Clark added, picking up the line of thought. “Smaller buildings don’t usually have a connection to the power grid robust enough to recharge that kind of weapon quickly.”

“Depending on what part of town you’re in that still leaves a lot of places that could house one of these things,” I pointed out.

“But if you narrow them down by sites Keller Realty has worked on the list shortens to one location.” Clark took the stylus from Al and tapped the GPS screen a few times, leaving us looking at a zoomed out map of the neighborhood. Other than the place they’d shown us before only one other red destination dot showed on the screen. He pointed at it and said, “This is the next closest place that fits both criteria of size and Keller Realty involvement but it’s outside the six to eight block radius range of effect for the weapon we’re assuming Circuit’s using.”

Cheryl leaned back and folded her arms over her stomach, chewing her lower lip thoughtfully. “How certain are we the Keller Realty line of inquiry isn’t another false lead? We did pick up on it from files left behind, in a very conspicuous fashion, at a site Circuit had already abandoned.”

“Believe me,” Clark said, rubbing at his temple, “we had that argument more than once in the last sixteen months. What it boils down to is, these are the leads we’ve got. And the message Helix got from Circuit earlier seems to have come from Waltham Towers, which is a connection back to Keller Realty.”

“Half of cracking a case is running down all the leads,” Teresa said. “We’d be negligent if we didn’t check this out. The question is, who goes and who stays?”

“I’ll lead the team,” Al said. “Clark comes because he’s a field analyst and we keep them handy in the field for good reason. Jane and Izzy, I’d like you two to come as well. That will give us plenty of firepower if we need to tangle with thugs again, or if Circuit has some sort of guards on this place. Teresa, you’ll be in charge here and watch for Circuit causing trouble and let Helix know what we’re up to if he gets back before we do.”

Teresa grimaced, clearly not happy with being benched but apparently seeing the sense in it. “If you’re not back in ninety minutes we’ll start thinking about coming in after you.”

“Fair.” All glanced around the circle. “Anyone spot any problems in the plan?”

“I should go with you instead of Jane.”

I looked at Amp in surprise. “I thought you said you couldn’t hear as well in the city. How does your being there help?”

She gave me a scalding look. “Because even if I can’t hear I can still make noise. Shouting people into ruptured eardrums is pretty effective and I can do it from farther away than you three can punch them into submission. More importantly, I can hear security cameras running from across a street, and if Circuit can control all the electricity in a city you bet he’s found some way to keep the security measures on the buildings he’s hidden weapons in running.”

Al grunted. “Fair enough. You’ll come with us, Jane and Gearshift will back up Cheryl and Teresa here. Teresa is in charge until Helix or I get back.”

“What about me?” Lincoln asked.

Al shrugged. “You’re free to go home or stay here, since you’re not technically with the Project in an official capacity. But if you, Cheryl and Teresa could put your heads together and come up with somewhere we can move our base of operations to once this is done it would be a big help.”

Lincoln turned thoughtful. “There’s a few possibilities. I might even know of somewhere with a backup generator. Leave us the GPS and I’ll get back to you.”

Al handed him the device and said, “All yours. Let’s go, people.”

——–

Helix

Grandpa used to tell me that the only one who hated piggy back rides more than he did was whoever he was giving one to. After crossing the city on Samson’s back all was clear.

We crashed down on the helicopter pad after about half an hour of jumping from rooftop to rooftop. Samson insisted that the whole heroes run on rooftops was a legitimate thing since anyone who could move at thirty miles an hour on foot didn’t have the reflexes to avoid pedestrians at street level but still wouldn’t go fast enough to avoid vehicle traffic. I took his word for it, mainly because when he tried to explain it to me he slowed down and I wanted to get off his back as soon as possible.

As I was shaking my legs out and hoping desperately to get them bending in the right ways again Jack and a team of guards pour out onto the roof of the building. In unison Jack and I said, “What are you doing here?”

Jack glanced at Samson, looked at the way I was standing, and shook his head. “Never mind. I think I figured it out. You need to clear the pad, chopper’s coming in.”

In point of fact that should have been immediately obvious since the sound of the approaching helicopter could already be heard approaching. Samson and I hustled off of the pad and over towards the door to the stairway. There was a short wait as the chopper came down over the building, maneuvered into position and lowered itself down.

I was tempted to ask Jack who it was who felt he needed to show up in a helicopter, rather than flying in to the airport and taking a car but I felt I had a pretty good idea. And, given the problems we’d run into on our way here, I thought I had an idea why taking a car might not have been a viable option.

Samson’s mind was apparently running along the same lines as mine. As the chopper settled to a rest and the blades began to slow he asked, “Have you or any of the emergency responders in the city tried sending units into the parts of the city without power?”

“First vehicles went out from police dispatch almost three hours ago, maybe ten minutes after the power went out. They stalled out two blocks outside the effected area.” Jack shrugged helplessly. “The police have a few units on bicycles in there, there’s a hospital with a working backup generator and landlines that’s in touch with it’s opposites out here and they tell us ambulances are still running, at least so long as they don’t try to cross from a part of the city with power to one without, or vice versa. But that’s about all that’s in there right now. Sanders is trying to assemble a team that can get into the city on foot but he’s operating on the assumption this is Circuit’s handywork and that he wouldn’t leave any holes in his defenses we could sneak a vehicle in through.”

While it was the obvious conclusion to reach, I was worried that everyone I knew seemed to have automatically assumed Circuit was behind the attack. It sure was his style but instantly focusing on him could blind us to other possibilities that might open useful lines of thought, even if our terrorist was Circuit and not someone using his name as a smokescreen.

Still. “That was a good thought,” I said. “Someone claiming to be Circuit did contact me while we were in the effected part of the city. Says he’s taking over, stay out of his way, you get the picture. But something about all this bugs me. I just can’t put my finger on it.”

“Well hold on to that thought,” Jack said. “There’s a meeting in about ten minutes for all senior personnel.”

“Go-go Project Sumter,” I muttered. “Meetings are our idea of action.”

Jack grinned. “Let me know how that goes.”

“What, you’re not going to be there?” He started to make a comeback and hesitated for just a second. Jack had recently been moved up to field agent training supervisor, a senior position, which he had no doubt just remembered.

“Remind me why I wanted to be a senior manager again?”

“Don’t look at me, I don’t worry about that kind of thing anymore.” A short, rotund figure was climbing out of the helicopter onto the landing pad. “Although I have a feeling Senator Voorman has a better idea about regretting career changes than us.”

As his old field supervisor and security escort made their way off the landing pad Samson rushed forward and wrapped him in a giant hug. Jack watched the greeting then shook his head. “How are those two friends? Makes no sense to me. Voorman’s never been anything but administrator – a good, sure, but still. He only got elected because you and Samson got behind him and pushed. Office pool gives him twelve to one odds of surviving reelection.”

“He’s full of surprises,” I said. “Didn’t expect to see him here, that’s for sure.”

“Wonder why he’s here.”

I turned and started for the stairs. “We’ll find out at the meeting. Gonna try and get the rundown from Sanders before we start – and there’s someone we need to bring in on this case pronto.”

“Who’s that?” Jack asked.

“Mister Roger Keller.”

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