“You’re sure she’s okay?” Flynn asked for the umpteenth time.
“No,” I snarked. “Akane died a horrible death on the operating table since you asked me five minutes ago. I don’t know, baseline. Clarke—Robyn Joan—got her to her dad, and he said he was putting her in the toy box. Something about her shoulder. That’s all I’ve got.”
The swordsman settled back in his seat. “Right, sorry, I’m just worried.”
“Yeah, you’ve said that a million times too.”
“Will you both shut up?” Jarasax muttered as he made another sharp turn. “You guys are distracting me.”
Flynn and I immediately fell silent. When you’re involved in a car chase and the driver needs to concentrate, you do what he says.
I turned my attention to the vehicle we were following, a sleek black sports car that could outpace our dumpy van any day of the week. Luckily for us, Domina traffic was just as bad as always. They were swerving and dodging through traffic with admirable skill, but all they got for their trouble was shouted curses and blared horns. They’d need a good, clear straight road to get away from us, and there wasn’t anything like that nearby.
But the Blackguards were in that car. We didn’t know what they were capable of, so we had to stay on our toes.
It would have been nice to be able to follow them back to their base silently, but they had peeled out of the ave garage so fast that hadn’t been an option. Right now, our only choice was to run them down and hope someone survived to be interrogated.
If Clarke’s daughter was to be believed, General Brannigan was in the car, but that couldn’t be right. Even ignoring the fact that he should still be off in Nosferatu territory, there was no way he was one of Greene’s. He was only a few steps below Butler himself, it made no sense for him to be turned instead of a handful of grunts in easier reach.
Unless it was both…
“Window’s opening,” Anders snarled, as he readied his pistol.
He was right; one of the rear passenger windows on the sports car was rolling down—the renegades were clearly preparing for something. I pulled out my Saint Euphemia, a rifle with pretty good accuracy even in conditions like this, and rolled down my own window.
An invisible wave of force nearly ripped my nose off.
I turned to the renegade car in surprise, blinking under my daygoggles, to see a a grinning man with violet hair leaning out of the window. As I watched, he flexed his empty hand and snapped it forward like throwing a ball.
I dodged back inside, and just in time. The mirror was snapped off by the force of his power.
“I believe we’ve found the telekinetic,” Sax noted.
“Don’t be an ass,” I grumbled. “George, grenades.”
The giant tossed me a tangerine-sized explosive. I pulled the pin, counted to four, and carefully chucked it out the window at the car ahead.
My timing was perfect, but my aim was not. Instead of the grenade blowing up right under the renegade vehicle, it exploded off to the side, barely even buffeting their windows. It wasn’t a frag, so it didn’t do anything worse than scorch the paint job. At least it forced the telekinetic Blackguard back inside, where he couldn’t shoot at me any more, so it wasn’t a total loss.
Gunfire blasted from behind me; that would be Anders, opening up with his SMG. He hit the rear window of the sports car, making a few good craters but failing to shatter it.
“Bulletproof,” he muttered. “Figures.”
I didn’t bother pointing out that most of the cars in the city had bulletproof glass. He got the picture. “Keep trying, though. We’ll break through eventually.”
He clicked another magazine home. “And then what? Toss a grenade in the car?”
I blinked at him. “Uh…yeah? What else?”
“I thought we wanted them alive.”
“Blood and shadow,” I murmured under my breath. I had forgotten. Taking people alive always made life more difficult. “Okay, Anders, keep shooting, but stop if you break through the glass, and don’t aim at them if they poke their heads out. George, what other kinds of grenade you got?”
“I got a tanglefoot,” he admitted, pulling out a smaller bomb with an orange stripe down the side. “But that’s not going to do anything to a speeding car.”
Bleeding night…why didn’t any of us have anything better than guns and bombs? We were too used to fighting zombies instead of people, that was the problem. “Okay, Alex, what have you got?”
The angel shook his head. “Too bright out for my light to be any use.” He paused. “If we get close enough, I can jump to their car.”
Hm…that might work. Unexpected maneuver, playing to his strengths…he could certainly put those dayknives to good use in close quarters…I was hesitant to put him in direct danger like that, but he was a big boy, and could handle himself.
“Sax, you think you can pull it off?” I asked, as Alex started to lower his window.
The changeling swerved sharply, nearly throwing me out of my own open window. “Maybe, but I wouldn’t risk it if I were you. They’re not exactly staying still.”
I glanced at my phone, and the traffic map MC had given me. “We’re coming on a clear spot. If you floor it after the next turn, you should be able to catch up to give Alex a couple seconds.”
The driver grunted, unconvinced. “And how long is our opening?”
I winced, guessing from the map. “Five, ten seconds.”
“So Alex jumps on their car, and we crash.”
He sighed. “Gods of men and darkness…fine. But if we all die, I’m not vouching for you wherever we end up.”
“Shut up and drive, changeling.”
“Yes, Honored Noble.”
“I said shut it.”
With a grin, he wrenched the wheel around at the same time as he stomped on the gas, screeching around the corner at speeds too fast to be safe, bringing us right alongside—
Right alongside nothing.
The renegades’ car was gone.
“Spring, summer, autumn, and winter,” Jarasax cursed as he sent the van into another screeching hairpin turn to avoid traffic—and then another turn, and then we were on the sidewalk. For once, I was glad there weren’t a lot of pedestrians around these days.
“We lost them,” I confirmed as I scanned the street. “Anybody else see where they could have gone?”
“Over there,” Alex pointed at a building close to the corner of the street, just barely out of sight before the turn. “The gate’s down now, but I’m pretty sure that’s an underground garage.”
My mind raced. “You think there’s another exit?”
Sax backed up off the sidewalk carefully, knowing that traffic would avoid a Necessarian van but not wanting to push the issue. Everyone else—including me—started double-checking weapons, getting ready for an ambush. I’d read an article that said underground parking garages were the third most likely ambush spot, after rooftops and bathrooms. We needed to be ready for anything.
Of course, there was no ambush. There never was, after that kind of build up.
I pulled off my daygoggles—the place was lit by red nightlights, which didn’t interfere with my nightvision—before frowning and indicating for Jarasax to park the van in about the center, near the elevator.
The garage was almost completely empty, with just a couple cars scattered around a space built for a few hundred. It took less than a glance to confirm that none of them were the renegade vehicle, and there weren’t any skid marks on the ground to give us a clue to which direction they’d gone.
“Now what?” Anders asked as we all piled out of the van. “I’m guessing you have a plan.”
“Shut up and let Alex work, that’s my plan.”
The baseline blinked. “What? What can Alex do?”
The angel rolled his eyes. “Thanks, that makes me feel appreciated.”
“No, I mean—” Anders made a frustrated growl. “I mean—”
“I know what you mean,” Alex chided gently. “I’m just teasing you.”
“Alex is Night-caste,” I reminded him. At the outsider’s blank stare, I elaborated. “Spies and assassins. He’s a tracker, specifically.”
The angel used one of his hands as a flashlight, emitting a bright beam through the lens on his palm and scanning the floor.
Anders looked skeptical. “But there’s nothing here to track.”
“And that’s why I’m the tracker, not you.”
The baseline sighed. “Fine. Tell me what you can see on the concrete floor, Honored Daybreaker.”
“Tracks,” was the blunt reply. “In the dust.”
Flynn stared at the ground. “I don’t see any dust.”
“You don’t have training. Plus, your eyes aren’t very good.”
I couldn’t see any tracks either, but then I couldn’t really even look into Alex’s flashlight without wincing. “Where are they going? There are no other exits.”
“Over here…” he stopped, frowning, as his light shone on a solid wall. “That’s odd.”
“Secret door, maybe?” I asked hesitantly.
The angel rolled his eyes. “Kelly, secret doors only show up in comic books and bad fantasy novels. No one actually uses them.”
“My dad did,” I pointed out, long practice allowing me to word that sentence very carefully.
“Bad example. He was crazy.”
George knocked on the wall in question, but it sounded like solid concrete, which seemed to disappoint him. “Huh. Was kinda hoping he was right.”
Anders peered at the wall closely as well. “I don’t know…maybe it’s some kind of illusion? A power, I mean.”
“Maybe…” I admitted, scratching my fixer absentmindedly. “But how long could something like that last? I know Derek and the rest talk about ‘reservoirs,’ or whatever. A kind of mana meter.”
Jarasax shrugged. “Easy solution, then. We wait it out.”
“And if we’re wrong, they’re getting further and further away. No, keep searching.”
That made me quirk an eyebrow in his direction. “For what? A hidden switch for the secret door?”
“I keep telling you, there are no secret doors. Maybe, I don’t know, they phased the car through the wall somehow.”
“So secret doors are impossible, but moving through solid matter is a-okay.”
“That’s not what I mean. They’re ridiculous, not impossible. The only people who use them are—”
“The Composer, apparently,” Anders noted, as Flynn pulled off the fire extinguisher on a nearby concrete pillar and pushed the button hidden behind it. The solid concrete wall began to slide open, grinding into the ceiling above.
I grinned at Alex, who just glared back, before taking a closer look at the revealed room.
It wasn’t that big, but the small sports car fit inside with room for another of the same size. Other than that, it was featureless, just a dull concrete box, more like a personal garage than anything else. Who would bother making a secret garage…inside a garage?
“What do you see?” Alex asked. He was keeping his light off for the moment.
“Just the car. C’mon, let’s get a closer look.”
The angel illuminated the cubicle enough so that the others could see and avoid the car, but not disrupt my own vision too much. I peered inside; the glare made it a little hard to see, but it seemed empty.
“The place is empty,” Jarasax noted. “Unless you guys see another secret door.”
“Never hurts to check,” Anders insisted as he stepped into the room. “You want to help me with the wall?”
Then the car roared to life.
“What the—” I whipped my gun around, but it was far too late. The car sped backwards, tires squealing and leaving the scent of burnt rubber, and throwing up sparks from where the vehicle scraped against the too-close wall.
Before we could even think about following, the secret door thudded shut, whatever mechanism that kept it open against gravity disabled remotely by the fleeing renegades.
I slammed my fist against the wall, but I may as well have been throwing butterflies at it for all the good it did.
Alex set his skin glowing slightly, just enough to illuminate most of the room. “It was just bad luck all around. Don’t worry too much about it. Worry about how we can get out.”
I checked my phone; no reception. Of course. We were in a concrete box underground, the only way to get any reception in here would be with a wired cell relay. Obviously, there weren’t any.
“Not seeing any switches,” Flynn reported. “Or anything, really.”
He was right. The walls were completely bare. There wasn’t even a light in the ceiling.
I sighed. “Keep looking anyway,” I insisted. “We need to get out of here as soon as possible. Who knows how long the air will last.”
It took an hour for some nearby ‘sarians to come find us and let us out.
By that time, the renegades were long gone.
Behind the Scenes (scene 193)
This is one of those I’m not sure about, but it was still important.