Black 3-II

With The Gang

For about ten seconds, the world seemed to stand still. We all stared into the bag, our minds and bodies frozen in a mixture of shock, horror, and (if we’re being perfectly honest) greed. Possibilities, explanations and warnings tumbled through my brain faster than bowling balls on a greased slide, filling my head with thoughts of danger and riches. I quickly abandoned the latter train of thought; we’d taken it from the Cabal, after all, and if it wasn’t either acquired criminally or payment for some criminal act, I’d eat one of Lis’ shoes.

But what would they have had to done to make this much money? If a job had earned them a giant stack of bearer bonds, I’m pretty sure we would’ve heard about it, or, knowing the Cabal, heard it, possibly in the last instant before our eardrums ruptured and our brains started to boil. They didn’t do subtle, or at least, they didn’t anymore.

So they would’ve robbed a bank, then. It was the only realistic way that they could’ve acquired the cash, outside of conjuring it out of thin air (and would that really be so weird? asked the guy who regularly fucks physics with his mind). But if that was true, then where were the ‘heroes’? Bank heists were practically a rite of passage for the wannabe supervillain, and they were one of the things the Tower actually responded to one in any significant way. Hell, the biggest bank in the city was built directly into the ground floor of the Tower, and there were waystations near every single significantly-sized branch in the city (don’t ask how I know that, it’s a long and convoluted story). If the Cabal had tried to pull that off, they would’ve been swarmed with heroes about thirty seconds after stepping through the door. And even if they’d managed to get away from that, there’s no way the heroes wouldn’t have followed them, and no way in hell that they would’ve taken only half their team for it. Now, I’ve never been good at math, but to me that screamed of an equation that didn’t add up.

Judging by the looks on the faces of the others, a similar train of thoughts was running through their heads.

"Oh cool, money!" Adib said, happily, reaching for the bag.

Okay, maybe not all their heads, then.

I slapped his hand down. "Alright, everyone, let's all just back up a little," I said. They stared at me blankly for a second. "Physically, that is. Could be trackers and stuff." They nodded assent, and stepped back, some more reluctantly than others.

"There aren't any devices," George said, staring at the bag with his eyes sort of out of focus. "The only electrical device in that bag is the pad."

I titled my head at him questioningly. "I can see the electricity," he said in answer to the unspoken question.

"You can do that?" I asked, surprised. He'd never mentioned it before.

He shrugged. "In a manner of speaking, yes. It doesn't really work in high-saturation areas, though."

"Interesting." I stored that little titbit of knowledge away. "But there could be some kind of power-based tracker, or a nasty surprise or something. Everyone back up further." I took a few steps back myself as they backed away. "Nat, can you do the handling?"

Now, at this point, you might be thinking that I'm being a little too paranoid, and you might be right. But we're a group of unregistered supers running a technically-criminal vigilante operation out of an abandoned warehouse. I have a supervillain ex-girlfriend, Ivan probably won't be allowed back in South America for the rest of his life, George is sworn enemies with the British government and I'm pretty sure at least one of Lis' parents is an assassin. Not only are they actually all out to get us, but they're also out to get each other and don't particularly care if we get in the way. Considering who we’d acquired the bag from, and how they’d probably acquired it, I wouldn’t be surprised to find some kind of weird power trap or Forge-made tracking device that didn’t need electricity or turned us all into newts (Forges are fucking weird).

Nat snorted at me. “You have to ask?” Her ridiculous scarf snaked down her arm at past her hand, extending out into the air like a cloth serpent (look, it looked like a snake, there’s only so many different ways I can phrase it). Once it reached the bag, the threads unraveled and split apart into two vaguely-hand shaped halves, complete with fingers. They grabbed either side of the bag, shook it a little, then unceremoniously turned it upside down onto the table.

We all jerked back, and I instinctively readying my power in a wash of pain, bringing my hands up to cover my face. After a few seconds with no forthcoming explosion, implosion or newt-wave, I chanced a glance through my fingers. One of the couches had been overturned, with Lis, Shauna and George hiding behind it, Ivan had surrounded himself with a forcefield, and a void of utter black marked Adib’s position. Jess had disappeared entirely.

“Natalie!” Shauna yelled from behind her cover. “What the hell was that?”

“Sorry,” she said, giving an insincere grin. “There aren’t any explosives, by the way."

“Nat,” I said angrily, “that was really-” there was a loud thud, and a thin cloud of dust rained down from the roof, “-really fucking stupid.”

“Why? Now we know, don’t we?”

I was halfway through opening my mouth to launch into a rant, when the skylight above us opened up. Jess fell through it, landing next to Nat in a wave of force that knocked her onto her ass and back a few feet, which, frankly, said everything I’d wanted to quite concisely.

Jess stalked towards her, a furious expression on her face, but I stepped between the two of them. “Later,” I said, staring up into her face. “That was fine, but any more and I'm going to have to stop you both.”

She stared at me, and for a second I thought she was going to take me up on that, but she eventually turned and strode away, fists clenched at her side. I sighed internally. I’d have to deal with her, and people skills were really not my forte.

“You might want to consider following her lead,” I said over my shoulder to Nat as I walked over to the pile. “I’m not feeling too well inclined towards you right now, and I doubt anyone else is either.”

I heard her feet scuffle on the concrete as she got up and headed for the door. There wasn’t anything new in the pile; just the money, the datapad and the piece of paper. I picked it up and turned it over; “$20 million, NC, OP in place”, it read. Well, that was fan-fucking-tastic. I picked up the datapad, checked its power levels, then turned around and chucked it at Shauna.

She barely caught it, hands fumbling with it in mid-air before getting a grip. "Lis, I need you to get me a safe, put all the money in it, and the find a secure place to hide it. Take Adib and Ivan." They nodded and hurried off, Lis miming drinking something as she did. "I haven't forgotten," I replied to her reminder. "Now is just really, really not the time." She made a face, but left.

I faced Shauna. "Find out what’s on that thing. It could be important.” She looked towards the door that Nat had left from, but I held up a hand, forestalling her response. “You know her better than I do. How do you think she's going to react if either one of us goes after her right now?" She hesitated, then frowned, acknowledging the point. "Let her cool down, then go talk to her," I said gently. "But in the meantime, figure that out. If you can, make a backup too." 

"What are you going to do?" 

I cracked my knuckles. "I think I it's time to have a chat with our newest member."