Lucy looked over the carnage with a frown. Even now, work crews were still pulling bodies from the wreckage.
Work crew, she mentally amended.
New Granton didn’t have the funds to direct more than token effort to the affair.
Or rather, is unwilling to spend anything more than the bare minimum on this neighborhood, she thought as she glanced at the denizens of the area who were cautiously watching the work from a distance.
They were a grim looking lot.
As if feeling her eyes on them, a mother pulled her child closer before striding off, ignoring the muffled complaints of her offspring. A quick glance up and down the street gave similar results from others.
Not all fled from her gaze though. Some remained to watch.
To guard, she thought as she noted the gang colors adorning a number of them.
The ‘Red Squares’ if she remembered her hurried readings on the trip over here. Apparently they were the dominant force in the city now that the other two factions had been driven out.
They posed no real threat to her, or the work crews given that she was present, but it was still troubling to see such a blatant show of force arrayed against a Guild hero.
She didn’t know whether it was the norm here, or simply the result of the recent carnage. If it was the former, then the city was even worse off than she feared. If it were the latter though…
Well, it's not like I can blame them.
“Shadow Guild.” She huffed under her breath as she watched yet another skeletal corpse be dragged from the rubble.
This had their fingerprints all over it.
A newcomer infiltrating a known gang. A brief and violent coup. The systematic destruction of other gangs in the area, and then finally the destruction of the infiltrated gang by law enforcement as they engage in more and more obvious criminal behavior.
At which point the infiltrator would disappear.
Or rather, that’s the usual way these things go, she thought as she glanced at the carnage.
Clearly someone had thrown a spanner into the works of this particular operation, because it was the ‘New’ Brotherhood that had been destroyed, and now, rather than a city with a conflicted and fractured criminal underground, there existed a single unopposed and unified force.
That's going to be a pain in the ass to remove, she thought as she fingered the baton at her side.
In fact, she was reasonably sure that taking down the Red Squares would be completely impossible for the beleaguered police force within the city. The power disparity was simply too great.
“You have no jurisdiction here, Blur.” A strident voice called out over the sound of heavy machinery, “This territory belongs to the New Granton Defenders.”
And here’s the reason why that disparity is so great, she sighed as she turned toward the newcomer.
Valiant was not a particularly impressive man to look at. For one thing, his costume only served to display his rapidly burgeoning gut, and his lack of a visor meant that she had a clear view of the man’s very bloodshot eyes. The man was an addict, and didn't even have the good grace to do a decent job of hiding it.
Behind him, the man’s team were equally lackluster - if in different ways.
“The entire country is Olympian territory.” She said calmly as she let the stoic mask of Blur fall over her. “We go where we feel we are needed.”
“Fuck that.” Valiant swore as he stormed up to her, “this is our town. We don’t need outside help. Least of all from you glory-hounds.”
She shrugged, “Your opinion means nothing, I go where I please.”
“I'm telling you you’re wasting your goddamn time. I just said that we’ll handle this!” Valiant spat as he started to turn crimson.
Behind him, Blur could see his team cringing away from their boss.
Well, at least they aren’t total fools, she thought, before turning her gaze on their furious leader. It took a special kind of stupid to argue with a member of the Olympians.
Still, it raised questions. Addict or not, one didn't become the leader of a hero team without some modicum of sense.
What are you hiding? She thought as she sped up her senses to better catalogue the man’s many micro-expressions.
Anger. Indignance. Hangover. Fear… Desperation. Pressure from above? Not the Guild. Not the Guild proper. As suspected. Shadow Guild. Pressure from them. They certainly had the influence, but it would be odd for them to act so… blatantly. Why? Her eyes flicked toward the shattered ruins of the hospital. A result of this operation’s failure? Scrambling? Overextended? Exposed? Vulnerable? Good.
Grinning, she let time resume its normal flow as she came to a decision.
“No, I don’t think I am.” She said, watching the leader of her fellow hero team carefully, “I think something of note happened here.”
Something the Shadow Guild wanted covered up.
And she’d be damned if she’d let that happen. Not when they’d finally slipped up in a manner she could use to expose them.
Her body started to blur and vibrate in the signature fashion that given her the moniker ‘Blur’.
Valiant and his cronies paled, their various powers feebly flickering to life as they got ready for a fight.
“You crazy bitch, you can’t be serious!?” A young woman called from the back.
Behind her, the relief efforts ground to a halt, as members of the work crew started to notice the impending meta fight burgeoning not more than a dozen meters away. Some stayed to watch. Most started to run.
Wise, but needless, Blur observed.
She could take down all of these chumps without endangering anyone.
Not that it's going to come that, because in a moment someone is going to-
“That’s quite enough.” Someone called out before either side could make the first move.
Right on time, Blur grinned as she turned toward the newcomer striding over, his Guild uniform creased and stained in a manner that suggested long hours and little sleep.
The Shadow Guild’s man on the ground.
As if to reinforce her theory, she could hear the New Granton Defenders exhaling in relief at the man’s approach.
All except for one of them.
“Did you see that?” Valiant said as he turned toward the newcomer, “this bitch was about to attack us!”
“Language, Valiant.” The man frowned, “you represent the Guild when you put on that suit. Act like it.”
“And what about her?” Valiant responded, “I’m pretty sure picking a fight with another hero team’s worse than throwing out a few curse words.”
“Rest assured, I will speak with Blur.” The man said, glancing toward the Olympian, “in the meantime, you and your team should return to base. I don’t think we’ll be having anymore need of you tonight.”
Valiant looked like he was about to speak up again, but another look from the newcomer silenced him. In the end, the hero was forced to storm off, his team trailing behind.
Blur didn’t bother to watch them leave, her focus was entirely on the figure across from her.
“Shadow Guild,” she grunted.
“God, I hate that name. We are on the same side, Lucy,” the man said sadly. “I do wish you would come to recognize that.”
Blur’s snort of disdain said exactly what she thought of that.
“What are you doing here, Blur?” the man continued.
“Exactly as I said to that pathetic excuse for a hero team.” Blur said, “starting my own investigation of what went down here.”
“That would be a gross misallocation of your time, given that Guild resources are already present” the man said. “The Olympian’s right to intervene in situations across the country was awarded on the basis that it would allow the most powerful members of the Guild to react rapidly to developing situations without the need for excess oversight or fear of stepping on the toes of other meta teams.”
Blur nodded, “which is a right I am exercising here.”
“This is not a developing situation,” the man shot back. “And certainly not one that requires the presence of a powerful Meta.”
Blur shook her head, “I disagree, I believe that there is more to this situation than a ‘conventional’ Guild investigation will turn up.”
It went without saying that the man in front of her was about as far from a ‘conventional’ member of the Guild as you could get.
Which was exactly what she wanted to investigate, and both of them knew it.
The man sighed, “I had a feeling you might say that.”
As if on cue, Blur’s communicator started to ring.
“You might want to get that. Sounds important.”
Scowling, Blur did exactly that, “What’s up, Techno?”
“I’m sorry, Blur,” the holographic form of her fellow Olympian said wincing at her tone, “I know you said you didn’t want to be disturbed, but we’ve got a situation developing in New York. It looks like Raider’s crew is getting ready to make a move. We’re all getting called in.”
Blur resisted the urge to swear as she sent a venomous glance the Shadow Guild operative’s way.
Of course they're playing both sides of the chess board...
“I’m on my way.” She spat, cutting the line as soon as Techno told her where transport would be waiting for her.
“Don’t think this is over,” she grunted as she turned to leave.
“I wouldn’t do you the disservice of assuming it was,” the man sighed, “though I still maintain the hope that you will come to see that we are on the same side in this Blur.”
Never going to happen, she thought as she stormed away.
The Shadow Guild was a blight on her grandfather’s legacy, and everything the Guild stood for.
Used to stand for, she corrected.
It seemed that with every passing day, the Shadow Guild Movement grew in power within the Guild, and she had no idea how deep the cancer spread or how to stop it. The only thing she did know was that someone high up within the Guild’s power structure was keeping the faction protected from official investigation.
Someone with enough powers to get the Olympians redeployed on short notice. That was certainly a new trick for them, which suggested that they had either been holding it in reserve for a situation like this, or someone in the top brass was a recent convert. Neither suggested anything good.
The worst thing was that Shadow Guild wasn’t even the root problem. It was a symptom. A result of the fact that the current rules and systems weren’t working. Couldn’t work in a world that was rapidly being overrun by individuals with incredible powers, with no discernable cause or origin.
Shadow Guild wasn’t an act of callousness on the part of elements of the Guild. It was one of calculated desperation on the part of a few.
Still, doesn't make it right.
She wasn’t about to compromise on her grandfather’s vision by bowing to fear and desperation.
The ends never justify the means.
And she wasn’t alone in that belief. Just as the Shadow Guild had allies within the Guild and without, so did she.
“Did you get everything, Techno?” She asked as she fired up her communicator as soon as she was clear.
“Yep,” the young man chuckled from over the line, “I’m sending everything that was on his Omni-Pad and phone over to you.”
Lucy felt a predatory smile pull over her lips.
“You’re a lifesaver, Techno,” she complimented.
Lucy smiled, at the giddiness in her teammates tone. Some members of her team found the young Technomancer's youthful enthusiasm grating. She considered it a breath of fresh air.
It was like having a little brother. Albeit one that wasn’t quite as prickly as-
No, she shut off that line of thought as a pang of shame shot through her.
That had been an unworthy thought.
“So, what am I looking at here?” She asked, earlier giddiness forgotten as she glanced at her pad while walking.
She knew she could do a superspeed scan of the document herself, but she knew from experience that Techno was infinitely better at picking up details that she might miss - and only slightly slower.
If Techno noticed the sudden downturn in her mood, he was kind enough not to comment as he started summarizing.
“Not a ton to go on in here. It looks like this operation was a total clusterfuck like we guessed, and the operative they had on the ground was killed before the plan could reach the later stages.”
Nothing they hadn’t already guessed, “anything we can use to finally expose these cocksuckers?”
“Maybe?" Lucy had to smile at the teen's exaggerated wince. The boy had come a long way from his first days on the team, but she knew that deep down he still thought of her as 'Blur' rather than Lucy. Blur didn't curse. Lucy cursed a lot. The disparity between the two always served to catch him off guard.
"I’ve got the names of a number of villains that keep reoccurring during this report; Gravity, Hard-Light, Mechromancer, Myra and Bronte. Hard-Light went to ground after his initial conflict with the Shadow Guild operative, and they have no idea where he went, but the Shadow Guild has a general idea on where the others will go, if they haven't already left.”
“Tell me.” Lucy asked as she heard the telltale roar of her transport swooping down from overhead. “With any luck we can get to them before they leave, or the Shadow Guild does.”
“…The West Coast.”
For just a second Lucy was glad for the deafening sound of the overhead vehicle’s engines, because it served as ample camoflage for her loud, creative and venomous cursing. It was moments like this that really made her wish she was a conventional speedster.
"Tell the pilot to fly like their life depends on it," she shouted as she clambered up the transport's ramp.