Doors 14-VII

Don't Be Jealous Of My Genius.

“That's not a real answer,” I began to protest, but the Guardians were already moving towards the door, smooth but hurried. With a lack of better options, I followed them.

“Seriously, what's happening?” I asked, trailing behind the group as they sprinted out into the corridor. Because of his bulk, Stump was at the back, and I fell in beside him. His 'face’ was pointed forward, and he was ignoring me. “Hey!” I slapped his arm with one hand.

It knocked him off his step for a moment, and he turned to glare at me as we turned a corner. “Don't do that.”

“Well, don't ignore me, then! Now, can you please tell me what's happening?”

“It’s a high alert,” he said grudgingly. “This particular one means that unauthorized metahumans have been detected inside the bank, which pretty much always means-”

“-someone’s trying to rob it,” I finished. “Wait. You guys can detect metas?”

“Um, yeah. Did you not know that? It's, like, commonly available knowledge.”

“Well, I'm sorry, but it wasn't exactly relevant to me until recently.”

“It seems like it would be- whatever.”

“Actually,” Thrust interjected helpfully, “it's really not that publically available. It's out there, kinda, but you have to really dig for it.”

I raised an eyebrow at Stump, who avoided my gaze. “Publically available, huh?”

“Technically, I'm right,” he grumbled. The lighting of the corridor had changed, going to blue instead of white, and so bright it was almost harsh, even behind my goggles. We were probably moving into a different area of the Tower, approaching the bank in the lobby. I wondered if there was some significance in the color, or if it was random.

“So how's that work?” I asked, interested. I'd legitimately never heard of any power-sensing tech, and it seemed like the sort of thing I would've, considering Sabi’s proclivities. That thought reminded me that I'd have to tell her about all of this. She'd probably wet herself in excitement. After that, though, she’d tell me without hesitation to agree to the deal. Heck, she'd tell me to skip that and go straight to trying to sign up. But in lieu of that, she'd definitely tell me to take it. I wasn't sure, though. Nothing overt, just more of the same general feeling of… offness I'd gotten about the Tower in general. It's not like I was signing a contract, but I still thought I should at least sleep on it.

“Well, see, it's actually very interesting,” Thrust answered instead of Stump, speaking over his shoulder. “D’ya know about UM radiation?”

“Um, no. Should I?”

“Probably not,” he acknowledged. “It’s a sort of radiation produced by metahuman abilities, or maybe it produces them, no-one’s really sure. Anyway, it doesn't fit anywhere on the known radiation spectrum, and it's by all accounts harmless. What's cool, though, is that every power or set of powers has a unique signature in the UM spectrum. Not only can you tell powers apart, you can actually see where they fall on the Dennings-Milo-Hertzfeldt system.”

“The… what now?”

“Oh, it's the most commonly used system of determining the specific subsets of power types. The fact that it actually lines up with the divisions present in the UM spectrum makes it the most popular slash accurate. So when a meta registers with the DoM, their UM signature is also stored away, and we are allowed access to that information. So whenever any UM signatures that don't match any in the database appear in the sensor’s range, it sets off an alarm. We've had some false ones before, people who didn't realize they got powers, but it generally works pretty well.”

“Could that be what this is?” I asked hopefully.

“Doubt it,” he said. He seemed pretty excited about all this, quite in contrast with his behaviour before. “Mostly because it's multiple unregistereds at the same time, which statistically never happens.” He started tapping at his watch. “Oh wow. Yeah, it's definitely not a false alarm. There are nine of them down there.”

The others started at that revelation. “Are you sure?” Chain asked, the first words I'd heard him say this whole time.

“Baby, I'm always sure.” The quick round of glares he received told me this was familiar behavior. “'sides, it's not me who has to be sure, and the sensors have never been wrong yet.”

“Nine,” Instance mused. “Who have nine?”

“The Cabal,” Stump answered instantly. “It makes sense. They have the numbers, and we have their leader in lockup.”

Comet nodded her agreement, but Thrust didn't seem to agree. “That’s not right. Makes sense, but we have at least a few of the Cabal’s signatures on record, because of the thing.”

“Ohh,” said Stump slowly. “The thing.”

“Yeah, with the stuff. But nine would mean all of them, and we'd get at least one signature recognized. This is nine unregistereds.”

“Could it be someone new?” I asked tentatively. I wasn't even quite sure why I was part of the conversation, or even if I was part of it at all, but I powered on anyway. “I mean, it does seem like a lot of non-normal stuff is happening right now.”

“We'd know if nine new supers moved into the city,” Stump said darkly.

“Not… necessarily,” Thrust admitted. “We've been stretched thin recently.”

And another round of glares. Ah, so I wasn't supposed to hear that bit. Figures.

The corridor suddenly began to widen as we moved through it, and then we were standing in front of a set of large, ornate doors that looked extremely out-of-place. I definitely hadn't seen them there before we stopped, but I was starting to get used to that.

“Dispatch says that it is not a hostage situation, so we aren't shock-and-awing,” Comet directed the others. “Standard formation, follow my lead. Wisp. I appreciate the thought, but there is nothing you can do here. If you can use your teleportation, I recommend leaving that way. If not, second right, then two left will take you to a side exit.” I went to protest, but she'd already turned towards the door.

“Wait!” I said. “How do I contact you?”

It was Thrust that answered. “Number’s already in your phone. I added it while you were on the system.”

My indignant spluttering was ignored as they left, leaving me alone behind the doors. They clunked after closing, locking them out, and me in.

Although I was a little hurt, it made sense why they didn't want me there. They'd just said that my main value to them was my lack of ties, and it would destroy that. Maybe Wisp couldn't do anything, but… maybe Hannah could.

-----

I faded not through the door, but through the wall next to it. I figured people would be watching the door after seeing the Guardians come out of it, so they wouldn't be observing as closely to the surrounds.

I couldn't change anything about my pants or shoes, so they were still matching whites, but I'd ditched the hood, goggles and poncho, wrapping them up in a little bundle. The bank had climate control, so I'd also removed my shirt, leaving just the thermal undershirt exposed. It was a bit of a strange look, but it was better than appearing like a super.

Going through the wall was a distinctly unnerving experience. I'd never ghosted through something for more than a second until then, and not being able to see threw me off. As soon as light hit my eyes, I stopped, my face just barely out of the wall, and looked around. I was behind the main counter of the bank, inside the high wooden borders. That wouldn't work, so I began moving sideways, with just my eyes visible, until I hit the corner of the room, behind a pillar. There were a few people there, but none of them were looking my way, so I crouched and stepped out.

No-one noticed, and I let out the breath I'd been holding and stood up. And then immediately gasped, as my eyes caught on the figure standing in front of the counter I'd just been behind.

Her costume was different, dark grey with white trim, but the cape, and her face, were the same.

Skew.

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