Doors 14-VIII

Tides Do What Tides Do.

The bank was reasonably busy; at a guess, there were maybe 300 civilians in there. Most of them were crowded around the edges of the room, behind the intangible barrier that the pillars created. A few were trying to get as far away as possible, but most seemed to be fairly intent on observing the situation now taking place in the lobby. Which seemed kinda stupid to me: it didn't really make sense to prioritize spectacle over your own safety. But people were strange, and it wasn't like I could really criticize, considering my actions over the last few days.

The way the crowd had moved had created an arena of sorts, the rectangular space within the pillars and bookended with the main desk and the glass doors at the opposite end. It was… it was almost like a painting, actually. Within the arena stood the superhumans, larger-than-life figures in colorful costumes, bearing strange abilities far beyond those of mortal… people. Then the regular, ordinary, baselines, eagerly peering in on the spectacle but unable to connect to it on any level.

Or maybe I was just being an overly-academic prat with her head stuck up her own butt. I think it could go either way.

The Outliers were spread fairly evenly around the space. Skew stood in front of the desk, a duffel bag at her feet, talking to the Guardians with an insouciant grin on her face. They’d assumed a fairly tight formation, facing outwards so that they could observe all of the vigilantes. Comet was at the head, facing Skew, evidently having a conversation with her. I could actually hear them, as could everyone with their smartphones out, but I was tuning it out. The other Outliers were facing half towards the heroes, and half towards the crowd, keeping a watchful eye out but otherwise just standing there. Seemed Skew did the talking for them, which fitted with what I'd seen. As well as said dark-skinned woman, I recognized the other two I'd met, Freefall and Flatline, the former surly with crossed arms, the latter a small smirk and relaxed posture. The others were an interesting bunch. There was a woman clad entirely in white, with crimson trim and metal gloves and mask, hovering slightly off the ground, and one in black loaded with more weaponry than a Russian militia. A faint blue glow emanated from a lithe figure with heavily-armored gloves as he stood off to the side with his eyes closed, while a short blonde with blue, sculpted armor tapped her foot impatiently, sending ripples through the ground. A tall, square-jawed… I can't really not describe him as a hunk, in an orange plated armor vest, was watching the crowd closely, absentmindedly rubbing at bruised and bloodied knuckles and- was that a mummy?! The fabrics were all different sorts, but the style was definitely that of a classic mummy, with the exception of the tendrils of fabric that twisted and snapped in the air around her. It wasn't hard to guess what her power was.

Skew had said there were ten of them, and I'd done my research, but seeing it was a whole nother matter. It was frankly scary that they'd managed to stay completely under the radar for well over a year, while apparently being effective enough to more than halve petty superhuman crime in the city.

I couldn't help but wonder what they were doing here. I mean, it made no sense. Not that I knew their motives or anything, but they were essentially wanted criminals, and they'd walked into the home base of the city’s heroes because of a…

A duffel bag. A large duffel bag. The Outliers were suspects in the case of the missing $200 million in bearer bonds. I'd looked at it the wrong way. They weren't walking into the Tower. They were walking into First United. On one hand, that probably meant they were trying to return it, which was good! But on the other, it meant they'd had it in the first place, which was… not so good? I dunno.

The more important thing, though, was that it was… well, to be kinda blunt, it wasn't really my problem? I mean, I didn't really have any investment in whatever this was, and considering I was on semi-friendly terms with both of the members of the conflict, I really didn't want to spoil that by getting involved. So I guess I could just leave.

That was a first.

I closed my eyes, began to will this body away- and stopped. The image of Stonewall sitting upstairs in his little cell appeared in my mind, and no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't make it go away. It wasn't right.

“Dagnabbit,” I muttered sourly under my breath. I couldn't leave him there, I just couldn't. It'd be wrong. It was wrong. “Dag. Nabbit.”

Unfortunately, freeing someone from their cells would not endear me to the Guardians, or the Tower in general. Bu-ut… it seemed like the Outliers didn't know the whereabouts of their teammate, based on the attempted phone call I'd seen Skew make. But the Guardians didn't know that, did they? And it would make sense for the vigilantes to mount an offense and try and rescue their friend. All I had to do was fill them in, and they'd do my job for me, with no possible connection back to me. Assuming I got it right, that is.

So I had to get the attention of one of them, without also alerting the heroes to my presence. No problem, right? It's not like they were out in the open, and would easily be noticed if one of them disappeared.

I was seriously considering starting some chaos to let one of them slip away, when blue light filled my vision. It covered my eyes for a brief moment, before forming the shape of letters. You're different, they spelled out.

I paused, not sure what to do. The letters quickly reformed. Speak under your breath, I can hear you. Who are you, and why are you here?

“I could ask you the same question,” I whispered, barely audible.

Immediately the words changed again. You first.

I bit my lip, but complied. “Wisp. I presume you're one of the Outliers?”

Correct. Foresight, the one glowing blue. Ah, interesting. Some kind of astral projection? Why are you here?

“Not important,” I answered, then continued quickly before the letters could change, “but I know something that is. Stonewall, your teammate is being held in a cell upstairs.”

The letters froze halfway through reforming. Interesting, they said after a moment. Why are you telling me that?

“It's not right,” I answered without hesitation. “He didn't do anything to deserve it.”

Ah. So you're one of those. Alright, fine. Can you lead me to him? I mentally reviewed the trip I'd taken. Assuming the corridors worked the same way backwards, I should be able to. I nodded my assent. Okay. Then I just need some way to slip away. I can't exactly just walk away.

I frowned, glancing at the scene unfolding in the 'arena’. It seemed tense now, with the exception of Skew, who was as relaxed as ever. She was currently tossing the duffel bag onto the counter, her teeth bared in a mocking grin. “How likely,” I whispered slowly, “would you say it is that this situation devolves?”

100%, the words answered instantly. Or 1, depending on how you're representing probability.

Okay, then. I wouldn't be starting anything, I'd just be… helping it along. To help someone else. That was okay, right?

Right?

I glanced over to the other side, and at the red fire alarm on the wall. “In that case, I think I have an idea.”

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