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Estimated size: 1 'city block';

 

"That's... that is a really big explosion," I replied.

 

"Yeah, I think she's trying to show off since we have so many newbies this time," answered Imp. "Anyways it's time to go. I'll meet you in a bit, remember to let Olson lead the way in."

 

And then suddenly Imp wasn't there anymore. It was unnerving how quiet his 'teleporting' was. Ambushes would be so easy if I could do that.

 

Olson opened the side door on the van and we followed him out. Then Olson began a leisurely walk to the warehouse.

 

"Shouldn't we be more... stealthy?" I asked.

 

"No point," replied Olson. "Imp does the sneaky part of taking out the security alarms without setting them off, and there aren't exactly a lot of people around these kinds of places at night. Besides, you're in the capes n' cowls business now. What's the point of wearing these awesome masks if no one ever gets to see them? Take it from me, half the power of being a cowl comes from people running the other way at the sight of you. Need to represent the brand, makes things a lot simpler and even safer in the long run."

 

Hmm, I suppose he had a point, even if it was anathema to my usual way of doing things.

 

Olson led us to a door in the side of the building. It had one of those devices with numbered keys attached next to the door frame, and a tiny red light on it blinked steadily. Olson waited for a few minutes and the light on the handle turned to green with a beep.

 

"Wait, give it another sec," Olson said when we started moving forward to enter. After one more minute the light blinked off completely and we heard a click from the inside as the lock disengaged.

 

"Sometimes even when the alarm looks like it is off, it isn't. Best to just wait until everything is dead, you can never be sure if they tried to get tricky with their security," he said as he opened the door.

 

"Why does the lock disengage when the power goes off?" I asked.

 

"Because it's a fire hazard if they don't," replied a raspy voice.

 

Surprisingly it was Ifrit who had spoken. I had never heard her talk before. Her voice sounded like bits of dry paper scraping against each other.

 

We entered into a small room and corridor system before we reached the warehouse proper, inside of which we were met by Imp. He showed us some of what he had done, mainly avoiding cameras and applying one of Socket's gizmos to the warehouse 'network'. His method of entry was simply teleporting to and through a high window on the wall.

 

There was no one else inside the warehouse, so we left and told the minions outside that it was clear to enter. Then we piled back into the van and headed for the next warehouse.

 

"Well, that was pretty uneventful, just the way we like it. You guys got any questions?" asked Imp.

 

I considered it before asking: "What were we stealing?"

 

I hadn't actually seen anything I would consider valuable. There wasn't any food or money or weapons inside.

 

"Just a few odds and ends that Socket had on his shopping list. That warehouse is a storage and distribution center for several different electronics manufacturers. That's why we only had a van there, the next one will need one of the trucks."

 

We drove for only a few minutes before coming to another warehouse. The truck we were meeting was already parked in the 'parking lot', and we wasted no time in exiting the van and heading to where Olson indicated.

 

This time went a bit differently than the last one. Instead of the alarm going dead, the door was opened by one of the employees of the facility. The reason it let us in was Imp, standing behind him with one of his 'pistols' out and in his hand. Again Imp led us inside to show us some of the security systems he had bypassed, while Olson watched over a few warehouse drones that had been inside the facility.

 

This warehouse made much more sense to me. It was filled with food! There were crates full of a variety of different food items, and parts of the warehouse were taken up by artificially cooled rooms that contained 'perishable' items such as fresh fruit. Again I was impressed with the clever solutions drones employed to solve important problems.

 

We left the warehouse (to my disappointment), and told the minions it was safe to enter. Olson was assigned to stay with them since it was standard policy to keep a super around if hostages were involved. Apparently just the threat of super powers was enough to keep them docile.

 

The next warehouse was where things got interesting.

 

Imp explained as we drove to our destination: "Okay guys, the next one is going to be a meat storage facility. It's going to have some security and they will most likely have guns. Nothing your jackets won't take, but I don't want you guys panicking if some of the guards start popping off on you. Tofu, since you can regenerate I want you in front of Gregor and Ifrit if you get caught out of cover. Think you can do that?"

 

"Yes, as long as they don't shoot enough bullets to overwhelm me."

 

"They should be carrying handguns, about ten to twenty shots depending on how cheap their bosses are feeling. That sound okay?"

 

"Yes, that should be fine."

 

I had been worried for a second, the drones had used thousands of rounds on the yellow-fur, if the guards here only had a few dozen it wouldn't be enough to kill me.

 

We arrived at the warehouse and Imp parked the van on the street next to the building rather than in the parking lot. The reason why being a small security checkpoint that separated the parking section from the main road.

 

"Alright, give me about twenty minutes to get the alarms down and then walk in like you own the place. Try not to kill the guards if you can, just disarm them or send em running. This is the last stop of the night so we don't need to keep it too quiet. The trucks will be coming in right behind you."

 

Then Imp disappeared as he teleported onto the roof of the warehouse. We waited in the van like he said, and at the twenty minute mark left to enter the warehouse ourselves. As we approached the small security hut I realized I had forgotten to ask Imp something.

 

"Um, exactly how do we 'walk like we own the place'?"

 

Gregor chuckled at my question and replied, "A little like this," He moved ahead of us and reached the security hut, a tiny structure with a yellow/black pole that provided a (rather flimsy) barrier to oncoming vehicles. There was a guard inside the room who was fumbling for his weapon, but Gregor ignored him, and instead he reached out and pressed against the pole until it simply popped off its mount.

 

The guard abandoned its attempt to unholster its weapon, simply raising its hands and running away as fast as it could run (which wasn't very fast). How utterly perplexing. This was supposed to be security? This wasn't even slightly comparable to the soldiers I had seen in the test chambers.

 

"Why do they even bother hiring these guards if they are so ineffective?" I asked.

 

"Its like Olson said. Half the power of power is simply the threat of using it. They don't actually pay the guards enough to risk their lives defending this place, the guards are just hired to provide the image of security. We were both bluffing, he just folded first," answered Gregor.

 

Interesting.

 

We approached and entered the facility to meet up with Imp. Most of the guards or employees we encountered gave up the moment they saw us, dropping their weapons and walking or running away with their hands up. One security drone did try to ambush us by popping out from behind a corner, but he had waited too long and allowed us to close the distance, so I simply smacked the weapon from his hands. This resulted in an awkward moment where it just stood there hyperventilating until it collapsed on its own. Gregor laughed a lot at this, and even Ifrit let out a raspy chuckle.

 

We met up with Imp, and the minions soon came in with two trucks and a van. I soon found myself staring at the amount of meat the minions were packing into the trucks. Gregor tried to tell me that some of the carcasses might be worth over two hundred dollars a pound, but I didn't believe him until Imp confirmed it. It didn't make logical sense to me, paying two hundred dollars for a single pound of meat was inefficient when for the same price I could buy almost twenty tofu burgers. Even if burgers tasted terrible (which they didn't) the meat was simply too expensive to choose it over the nutrients you would get from the burgers instead. When I tried to ask Gregor why anyone would choose to buy the meat, he merely shrugged and said that rich folks have rich tastes.

 

Either way, Imp promised we would keep some of the meat for ourselves much to my delight.

 

 

We were almost done loading up the trucks when Imp teleported from where he had been on a nearby roof into the middle of the group.

 

"Alright guys its time to scramble! I just got word from Hellion, Turbo left the party early. Drop what you're doing and move!"

 

Instantly the veteran minions dropped whatever they were holding and scrambled for the trucks and vans, directing the new minions on where to go.

 

"Tofu! Go with the first truck! Gregor, second truck! Ifrit, go with the minions in the van!" yelled Imp, all casualness gone from his voice as he teleported on top of one of the trucks, guns drawn, to keep a lookout.

 

I ran for the indicated truck and jumped into the passenger seat. The minion with me already had the engine running, and as soon as another minion closed the container doors we were on our way. The driver aimed for the parking lot entrance and we almost made it.

 

But then a blur crossed the lot in seconds and attacked the truck. First a brick hit the windshield and cracked the glass, then the driver side door flew open and my driver was pulled from his seat and flung ten feet away. I was slammed into the front dashboard when the blur hit the brake pedal, and then it was gone. Almost immediately I heard gunfire as Imp engaged what must have be Turbo.

 

Estimated threat: Very High.

Preparing defense protocol: Speedster;

 

I was already shifting as I got up from my seat and went for my driver. I didn't know how to drive this truck! He was outside on the floor, but luckily he was uninjured and I went to help him. I pulled him up from the ground and we ran for the truck, him in front of me.

 

The driver reached his seat and punched out the broken window, while I latched onto the door frame and held on as we started to move, scanning for Turbo as we did so. Apparently teleporting was a good defense against speed because Imp was still firing away to try and keep Turbo away from the trucks, and every time Turbo tried to close on him he simply moved his position and kept firing.

 

But when the first truck began to move Turbo predictably went after us again.

 

Some interesting facts about Turbo:

 

He has super speed. It's fast, but he has to 'push himself' to dodge a bullet that's aimed directly at him.

He can accelerate objects he carries, but if he throws them they only have the normal force they would have had if he was traveling at normal speed. A strange quirk of his power.

 

He does not have super strength.

He is not super durable.

He does not have regeneration.

 

And so when he tried to grab me, he triggered one of the 'whiskers' I had been extending, and my leg automatically lashed out, breaking his leg.

 

I owed Tim lunch.

 

I had been planning countermeasures against Turbo ever since I first saw him on Ashwood St. My idea had come from the rats in the sewers. They used whiskers to sense things before they ran into them in the dark, and with Tim telling me all the factoids of the local hero I had made an estimate of how fast I would need to move to catch him by surprise.

 

True, I had also broken my own leg in doing so.

 

And used an entire cycle's worth of energy to move that fast.

 

And now that I look again I don't think Turbo's leg is actually broken, only injured. He's still limping around rather quickly. Dang.

 

At least it slowed him down enough for Imp to get some clear shots. As Imp increased his barrage my driver stomped the gas pedal and the truck swerved out onto the street. Followed soon after by truck two, and the van full of minions. We quickly split up and went different directions, trying to make sure that the hero couldn't go after all of us.

 

We traveled for several minutes before my driver spoke up.

 

"Do you want to come back in the cab?" he asked.

 

"That's okay, I'm good."

 

"Alright. Nice work back there by the way."

 

"Thank you... is this how most jobs typically go?"

 

The driver laughed and replied, "Yeah, just about."

 

Then he frowned as he noticed something in the sky and said, "And I don't think this one is over just yet."

 

I followed his gaze and hanging in the sky was a flying drone. This one had a purple glow to it as it slowly flew down to a closer position in front of us.

 

"Would that be Magenta?" I asked the driver.

 

"Yep."

 

"Any details you can give me about her?"

 

"Um, she makes that purplish force field around herself. It's strong and she can make weapons out of it too, claws and swords and stuff. Oh, and she can fly of course."

 

"Understood. I'll try to lead her away. Be ready to drive"

 

"You sure?"

 

"Yeah, how far away is Ashwood street from here?"

 

"About twenty five blocks north."

 

"Okay."

 

"Good luck."

 

"You too."

 

I jumped down from the truck, and he started to drive away. Magenta started to fly after him when I yelled as loud as I could, "If you don't stop me I'm going to hurt people!"

 

Yeah, that got her attention. If the Guardian's behavior was typical of heroes then she would prioritize coming after me rather than pursuing a truck.

 

She did seem to hesitate for a second, so I took out my knife and waved it around. That helped her decide, and she accelerated towards me.

 

I ran for it.

 

I didn't really have the time or interest to grab a hostage of course. The streets were almost empty due to how late it was and Odd Summer warnings. Instead what I wanted to find was an entrance to the sewers.

 

I swiveled my head backwards every now and then to keep an eye on her as I ran. She was moving just a bit too quickly for my liking. She wasn't a speedster, but flying was definitely faster than running, and even though I was running on all four limbs and burning fuel to stay ahead of her she was still gaining fast. Yeah, this wasn't going to work.

 

I ran for the nearest building, a multi-level 'apartment'. I scanned the windows for a good candidate and ran straight for it. This one was lit, and showed two drones drinking what I assumed was coffee at a table. Swinging an arm forward I shattered the glass and barreled into the room, heralded by screams from the two drones. I was wrong about the coffee, they were drinking 'tea'.

 

I knocked the table over as I entered, sending cups and glass flying. Now, if this apartment followed the same design principles as the ones Tim and Mikey lived in, then the entrance should be... here!

 

I smashed the door open and then continued into a different apartment, smashing that door down too. At this point I was using traction claws on all four limbs, and I used them to maintain speed as I ducked around corners and smashed past random furniture. Drones screamed everywhere.

 

I busted out of the window in the new apartment and landed in the street on a new side of the building. Hopefully that would buy me a few moments as she checked the civilian drones for injury. Scanning the area I found what I wanted, a 'manhole cover'. I barreled towards it, and upon reaching it stuck a claw into the small hole maintenance drones used before wrenching it open.

 

Then Magenta slammed into my side. Her 'force field' was encasing her hands, making them look over-sized, and she pummeled them into me. Each hit broke a bone.

 

"Surrender now! You are under arrest!" She yelled between hits. Instead of doing that I swung the manhole cover into her face.

 

It knocked her away, but her force field was indeed strong and she looked untouched if a bit dazed. Touching the force field felt like I was sliding across wet glass, or being blown away by a strong wind.

 

I settled for throwing the manhole cover at her and dived for the sewer entrance. I was almost there when she tackled me around the middle and pulled me to the ground.

 

Damn, my torso was hanging over the hole but she had a firm grip, and the force field was wrapping tighter by the second. I wasn't going anywhere unless...

 

"Please! Not so tight! It hurts!" I yelled.

 

"Yeah yeah. Surrender before you hurt yourself," she replied.

 

I triggered the micro units in the area she held me. They quickly self-destructed, rupturing the surrounding tissue and causing it to tear. My torso separated from my lower half with a spray of blood, and I made sure that some "viscera" spattered into her face. The force field blocked it, but it obscured her vision as my upper half, and my core, fell into the safety of the darkness below.

 

I listened to her yells as I fell, and lamented the fact that I hadn't been able to plan for this ahead of time. I lost a little more than half of my mass and resources to pull off that escape, and the loss stung.

 

That Kobe beef Gregor was talking about better be worth it.

 

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A note from Gogglesbear

And if my math is right, this puts me at 50k words for NaNoWriMo. Just barely making it in time. If you'll excuse me, imma go collapse.


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Gogglesbear

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