Perfect 13-VI

Chances Are That You’re Probably Wrong.

“Jess?” I poked my head around the door frame. “Everyone's ready to go. We’re just waiting on you.” The room was dark and unlit, but I could see clearly enough to notice that Jess wasn’t there.

“Right,” came her voice from a side door. “Just changing. One second.”

I nodded, realized she couldn’t see me, called out “got it,”, then pulled back my head and leant against the wall. Idly, I held up one arm, twisting it back and forth, inspecting the new costume. Nat had done good work; it fit like a glove. Except, actually, for the gloves, which stood out, solid white against the grey. Made me look like Mickie Mouse. If I was gonna keep this design, and I was thinking I was, then I’d need to get new ones. After some consideration, I’d kept the same cape as well. It was a bit tattered, but still in one piece, and the ragged edges helped lend it a certain flair. And after all, what was a cape for if not flair?

I lowered the arm, drumming my fingers against the wall behind me. After a few seconds of that, I reached up and pulled off the scrunchie holding my hair back. I slipped it over my fingers, stretching it out one way, then the other, watching the way the elastic contorted. Pointing it upwards, I let it slip off the finger at the bottom, sending it flying out and forward. My little ‘fight’ with Awestruck had completely drained my power, and Daniel's healing hadn’t done anything to change that, but I could feel it trickling back in drips and drabs. Right now, it was maybe back up to a third of what I considered ‘full’. Really, I shouldn’t have been using it at all, trying to save it for when it was needed. But hey, I was bored.

Dipping into a mostly empty well always felt different from a full one. If it was normally like ice water, then this was closer to a chill wind, blowing through my arm. I don’t know why it was my arm, but apparently that was pretty common. Pretty much everyone I’d seen with powers that needed to be directed used their hands to do so. Just one of those things, I guessed.

I focused in on the scrunchie’s arc, watching the relative angles. If I managed to time it right, I should be able to get it to shoot straight back to my hand. It reached the top of its arc, beginning to fall, and I squinted at it, concentrating. Should be right… about…

“Done.”

“Gah!” I jolted, losing my grip on the power. Jess looked at me with one raised eyebrow as she stepped out of the doorway. “Shit! You surprised-” Something flickered in my peripheral vision, and I snapped my hand back to where it had been before just in time to catch the scrunchie. I stared at it, confused. It should not have spent that long in the air and still ended up where I wanted it. Either it would’ve continued on its arc and not returned, or come straight down, missing my hand entirely. But it had come back, with enough hangtime to react to Jess surprising me. How did it…

“Skew?” Jess- Freefall, bleh, waved a hand in front of my face, and I jerked up. “You okay?”

“Wh-,” I paused, shook my head to clear it. “Yeah, I’m fine. Just… something weird. I’ll figure it out later.”

She shrugged ambivalently. “Whatever.” I fell into step with her as we began walking back to the main room. “So. You’re coming, then?”

I chuckled a little awkwardly. “Yeah. Talie’s… pretty persuasive. Or, she made some good points at least. Primarily, that you’ll all fuck this up without me there.”

She snorted. “Flattery. You’re not essential.”

“Thanks, Jess, you really know how to make a guy feel special. But I think she meant more just in terms of general numbers. Hopefully, she’s not thinking in terms of ablative armor.” I poked myself in the chest. “I don’t think I could stop a bullet.”

She laughed, kinda growly-ly. “You couldn’t stop a punch.”

“No, but only because I don’t need to,” I replied haughtily. “If you have to stop a punch, you’ve already failed.” She frowned, then pushed her goggles up onto her forehead and squinted at me. “What?”

“Just checking you hadn’t become an ancient kung-fu master since I last checked.”

I rolled my eyes and flipped her off.

We walked back into the main room to find everyone else bar Ricochet (and Stonewall) gathered around the main table. Void, her helmet sitting on the table next to her, was inspecting a datapad that Tide was holding up for her. Ribbon was standing slightly off to the side, body language surly. As we entered, she looked up from the screen and beamed at us. “Hey guys! We’re just waiting on Ricochet, and then we’ll be good to go.”

“Wait, where’d she go?” I asked, confused, as we joined them at the table. “I was just- oh, no, no, no, please don’t tell me she’s getting her bazooka. I've told her before, that thing is-”

Void cut me off with a wave. “Relax! I vetoed the bazooka. No, she’s gone to get the bag.”

“Oh good. I swear, she’s like a child sometimes.”

“Cut her some slack; I’m pretty sure her childhood actually did involve weapons and high explosives.”

“Maybe that’s how she got her brain damage,” Foresight interjected dryly.

I didn’t even bother looking at him. “Someday, you and I are going to have words, and it will not be pleasant.”

“Yeah,” he replied, “for you.”

“Children,” Void said (told you it was her go-to), “please. Is everyone clear on the plan?”

“Yessss,” Flatline groaned, head down on the table, “we’re clear on the bloody plan. For the fifth goddamn time.” He had his goggles in his hand, swinging them around.

“Fourth,” Vortex replied, sounding more awake than before. His bare arms were crossed over his chest, and he wore a fancy-looking vest, orange plating over black. A faint white light emanated from underneath the gaps. I’d asked him multiple times what the point of that was, and he’d always dodge the question.

“Because the exact number is very important to my point.”

“Because being precise is always an admirable quality to maintain.”

Flatline groaned again. “I miss Adib. He was the buffer between me and you.”

“You know,” I observed, “it’s actually amazing we get anything done, considering how dysfunctional we are.”

Void winked at me. “And that’s why I’m in charge. I make it work.”

“Yeah, well,” I muttered, “I guess we’re going to test that theory.”

-----

First United Bank stood at the bottom of the Tower, right in the center of the New Chicago. Literally, the center. When the city was being constructed after 9/11, the Tower were apparently instrumental in the process, and got their crazy Forge founder guy to build them a base to focus the rest of the construction around. The bank came a little later, I think, but history is really not my thing. You’d have to ask someone who cared.

The atrium was large and spacious, columns lining either side. The main desk was straight ahead, tall and ostentatious in marble, with smaller ones off to the sides in between the pillars. To either side of the main desk were sealed doors, with no visible handles or seams. Those would lead back into the Tower proper, I’d guess.

Currently, it thrummed with people. Upper class, mostly; the type of people you’d expect somewhere as fancy as First United. Here and there were sterner-looking figures in the uniforms of Tower personal, hurrying to and fro.

I’d entered last, as I was carrying the bag. It was cold outside, so the others being covered up to hide their costumes wouldn’t have been out of place, but the combination of a dark trenchcoat, and an obviously-full duffel bag was enough to arouse suspicion. No-one stopped me, because it was possible that I was entirely legitimate, but I could feel the stares of the security guards on my back. And, of course, the cameras that swiveled to follow me.

I strolled up to the main counter, doing my best to come off as if I hadn’t a care in the world, and plopped the bag down on the counter. The young man behind the desk’s eyes widened, then again when he saw my costume.

“Afternoon,” I said cheerily, pulling my hood up over my hair. “I’d like to make a deposit, please.”


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