Kirstie smiled at Lex and rocked forward, planting a quick kiss on his lips before slipping back into her top. She bounced to her feet and then hauled him to his feet. "Of course, now I have to sneak into the boys' dorms," she teased. "Brilliant plan."
NVAE, FRONT QUAD (Dennis and Martin; NPCs: Abe)We can wrap this one up here, Arkrite.
Harry answered after a few rings. "Martin," he said, "I'm a bit busy at the moment. Paladin just returned. Can I ring you back later?"
The news that Paladin was back meant that the other missing students might have also been returned to this world: for three months, Lex, Otso, and Kas had been gone. Of course, Gaspar was also still missing, but Martin doubted that he would have returned with the rest of Beta Team.
A quick explanation handled things, though: at the mention of the list, Harry told Martin he had a copy of it he would email him. The Welshman was true to his word, and Martin received a copy of it moments after hanging up the phone.
VIENNA (Otso)Is it okay to wrap this there?
Calling the number only resulted in a dialtone and a message that the call could not be completed as dialed. The only way to trace the number might have been to involve the police, but doing so would have resulted in this woman being arrested.
Armed with the kidnapper's scent, Otso and the woman returned to her home. There, a frantic husband asked where their child was and who Otso was. As she explained the situation as best she could, Otso picked up the scent in the child's bedroom. He followed the scent out the front door and to the street, where he promptly lost it. The kidnapper had likely taken a car and--the phone began to ring with an incoming call from a blocked number.
Answering the phone, Otso held it up, only to hear someone whistling Ring a Ring o' Roses.
VIENNA, INTERNATIONAL CENTER (Jack and Tamati; NPCs: Rusty, Shelby)
"Well, that'll keep one person safe," Rusty said sarcastically. "Sounds like our work here is done!"
“Relax, Rusty, we’re trying here,” Jack said as Tamati said, "Mate, that's enough! We are all trying to help so if you are not interested then bugger off."
"I'm not going anywhere," Rusty snapped. "I'm helping. I'm also pointing out how ineffectual her plan is before someone agrees with it because boobs."
Shelby glared at him and folded her arms over her ample chest.
"If it helps I can stretch my body and carry some people like they are in a small pool which may make it safer to move them."
“It couldn’t hurt," Jack offered.
"I will just need some help to fly out of here." Tamati looked to everyone in turn. "But firstly, do we know if there is anyone left to be rescued up here?"
"Most of the other speedsters and I have been clearing floors best we can," Roger said. "Nate's going to radio it in once we have them all clear."
“Give me a second to check,” Jack said as his face took on canine features, his nose extending as his ear enlarged. Once he’d turned himself into something of a dog-man, the tattooed teen turned his attention towards the rubble filled room.
Sure enough, Jack had picked up the scents of four other people. One was dead, but the others were alive. Two, he felt comfortable letting Shelby move--thereby proving Rusty wrong, but another was as bad as the first. As Jack moved to spin webs once more, Mister Murphy told them the rest of the building was cleared.
VIENNA, INTERNATIONAL CENTER (Kas; NPCs: Buddy, Ellen, Larrikin, Lexus, Logan, Napoleon, Nate, Roger)Is everyone okay with me wrapping this scene?
Once Jack and Shelby had cleared the last of the injured from the building, the go ahead was given to Kas to let the building come down. Even despite the strain holding it up had taken on him, Kas was able to use his powers to slow the fall and prevent it from being more disastrous than it otherwise would have been.
MONTHS AGO...Unless you have more, HH, I'll start to wrap this up.
The Blue Knight knew how the victims were connected, but not why they were being killed or who was going to be killed next. There were too many possibilities for both he and Cavalier to cover. He could call Jack—have him guard a third—but that still left too many openings for the killer to strike.
His only real hope was in finding out who the killer was, and the only lead he had left was Violet’s mother. “We need to go,” he said. The sun was rising. He had been at this all night. The lack of sleep was nothing—he felt like he could go for hours more, but he knew pushing it would cause him to slip. “Plus, we need to rest…”
“We can go in shifts,” Cavalier suggested. “I have a safehouse near here…”
“You go on ahead,” the Blue Knight said. Given how unstable his predecessor was, he didn’t want him near Violet’s house. “I need to check in with mum. I can meet you later.”
Cavalier nodded. “Let me give you my mobile…”
Armed with Cavalier’s contact information, the Welshman took off. Once he was able to land, he took to the streets as Harry Percy. He tried Jack’s mobile, but got no answer. Just his luck—he might already have been at MI18, talking to the magus about his connection to Randy.
He made his way to Violet’s house—he knew she was posh, but nothing had prepared him for this—and rang the bell to no avail. Once he realized no one was home, he made his way to Paladin’s house, figuring to rest there.
Unfortunately, he found the couch occupied by a slumbering Cavalier.
Gwyn rolled his eyes at the other youth’s squatting and dropped himself into a chair. It had been too long since he’d seen Robert—his Robert, not Blackguard. The operating theory was that he was trapped in some other dimension. He earnestly hoped wherever he was, he was doing all right.
Hours passed before he heard from anyone: his cell began to ring—an incoming call from Jack.
“Harry? Harry, it’s Kirstie… Look, so… we’re-”
“Yes, I know!” Whoever the man was, Kirstie had cut him off. “Don’t bloody tell anyone about your secret bloody cottage! We get it!”
“Kirstie Lucille Arnett, mind your tongue!”
“Sorry, mum! Sorry, Harry, it’s… It’s tense her, what with Jack dropping dead and all… Ellen says that he’s going to be fine, but I wanted to let you know.”
“He’ll be fine,” Harry said, finally getting a word in. “He ate an apple-”
“Yeah, we, uh… we got the gist of it.”
“Look, not to sound cold, but, uh…” Harry rubbed the back of his neck nervously. He got up and walked away, hoping to not wake up Cavalier. There were already too many people on the other line and he didn’t want this conversation to become more muddled than it already was. “Is Violet’s mother with you lot?”
“Uh, yeah, she…” Kirstie dropped her voice low. “She’s sort of being a bitch to her daughter. Why? What’s going on?”
“I’ll explain later. Right now, I need to meet with her. Where are you lot?”
“Can’t say. Top secret. Super hush-hush place.”
Harry closed his eyes tight. “Kirstie…” He resisted the urge to grit his teeth. “There’s a killer on the loose, and I think he might be after Violet’s mother. Somehow, he’s been suffocating people without-”
“Suffocating!?! Harry, that’s how Jack died!”
The killer had to be there—after Violet’s mother. “Where are you?”
“I don’t see how what Harry’s doing has anything to do with Jack.” It was Violet’s voice. “It’s not like Mister O’Shae has been murdering people in London, right?”
Mister O’Shae? Then the agent did know where to find Randy’s uncle…
“Harry, we already said we can't tell you where we are. We're out of country, all right?”
“Violet, the killer I’m after suffocates people without touching them. He’s after your mother. You’re all-”
“Why would he be after Mum? What’s going on?”
This was only getting more and more frustrating as it moved on. Why did his classmates feel the need to talk incessantly when time was of the essence? There was a super-powered killer somewhere in their midst, and they wanted to talk about it?
“I’ve got about five victims—all suffocated with no signs of strangulation. All of them were women, and the only link I can find between them are cheques from Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority. I did some digging: turns out, everyone who’s been killed was in the drug trial for Closthiphene—your mother included. Looks like it was some sort of drug designed to ensure a Neo-Sapien father passed his powers to a human woman.”
“You took drugs to make sure I was born a Neo?” Violet asked. “What? Wh-why? And... and what about Jessica? Is she…? Is that why-? Dad?”
“Honestly, Violet! Whoever killed Jack is after me!” At least Violet’s mother was sensible. She made Harry breathe a sigh of relief. “Now is not-”
“There was another drug for Jessica—one that would prevent her from inheriting my abilities.” It must have been Violet’s father, Harry deduced. “Your mother was researching this drug, but she needed Neo-Sapien men to act as sperm donors. She came to MI18, looking for assistance. I wasn’t comfortable with asking the agents there to become fathers. Even with the contracts and waivers your mother had drawn up—freeing them from any legal responsibility—it just... Row 64. That was the solution. We selected inmates who had abilities Mary was confident she could... It wasn’t enough to impregnate these women... The children would need to have powers she could bring out through stress. An inmate with flame abilities, for instance? By burning the baby, she could spark-“
“What the hell is wrong with you, lady!?!” Harry remembered Excalibur; Noble had introduced them shortly after Harry’s arrival in Vienna. “You experimented on babies!?!”
“We worked so closely together in the beginning. We grew close... but Mary wasn’t comfortable with my status as a Neo-Sapien. We got married—decided to start a family... but only after the drug was deemed a success. Mary took a drug to prevent Jessica—our oldest—from ever becoming a Neo-Sapien.
“The success of the project prompted the government to commission another drug—one that could do the exact opposite. We used the same inmates, but different surrogate mothers... Again, the results-”
“Wait, so...” The Blue Knight had had an epiphany. “You used people MI18 put away?”
Cavalier cracked a smile. “Now you’re speakin’ my language! You know, I think I owe you an apology... I thought you’d be more by-the-book... More like Paladin, you know?” He frowned as they continued to leave. “He ever talk about me? Tell you what happened? He... We were workin’ a case, right? This muppet could control air with his mind, right? Was goin’ after people who worked at Vauxhall Cross. He thought they were holdin’ his dad... He took a kid hostage--demanded his old man’s release.
“We cornered him atop Big Ben. Paladin tried to talk him down. Our guy was a kid—about a year older’n I was then. He was countin’ on the kid not wanting to hurt anyone. He gambled and lost. Our guy tossed the kid. Paladin went to save the kid and me... I wasn’t gonna let this punk get away with it. I hit him. I hit him with everything I had. I wasn't about to let him ever hurt anyone else again! Paladin... He stopped me from doing what had to be done. He told me that wasn't what heroes did...
“If heroes go easy on the bad guys, though... more people get hurt—sometimes worse.
“After that, he started making me see this quack and takin’ pills. He bloody benched me—told me it was for the better. But he’s gone now, and this city needs someone.”
“Can one of your prisoners control air?”
There was a pause. Violet’s father was thinking, Harry realized. “Reginald Davies,” he said. “Why?”
“Was he part of the experiment to give a kid his power?”
Another pause. “He was,” the man said slowly.
“What happened to the kids, Missus Lear? The kids your experiment created.”
“Most were put into child services. They-“
“I think one of them knows about how he was created.” But then what was he doing? Was he looking for his mother? Was he punishing all of the women on the list for giving their children up? How was he killing them? If he could control the air, it explained how he was suffocating them, but how was he doing it without being seen? If he could control the air, he could very likely fly... but someone would have seen someone flying around London—it was why he had to be so careful about where he landed when he needed to blend in with the crowd. Maybe the killer was flying outside of their windows, using his power to siphon the air from their lungs?
But what about the video Cavalier had shown him? One of the victims opened her door and died in the hallway. Her clutch and keys were still inside—she wasn't going out. It was like she was answering the door for... an invisible...
“Is it possible one of the mothers was a Neo-Sapien herself?” asked the Welshman. What if that was it? What if they were looking for someone who could control air and turn invisible? “Missus Lear, I need your help on this... I need to find the children your experiment made before one of them kills again.”
It took some bargaining, but Harry managed to convince them to tell him where they were. At first, they only wanted to give him a general area—an intersection where Mary Lear would meet him. He convinced them that this was too dangerous. Jack had been suffocated—just as the five victims had been. It was too coincidental to not suggest that the killer was in the Shetland Isles. For whatever reason, he had stopped at killing Jack. Maybe he had a line of sight through a window, but no longer had it? Maybe killing Jack had raised too many alarms with the others and made them overtly cautious? Whatever edge they had on the killer, the Blue Knight didn’t want to sacrifice it: he pushed them for their location and secured it.
Leaving Cavalier behind, the Blue Knight took off, headed north. Eternally cautious, he checked over his shoulder to see if his predecessor was pursuing him through the sky. With no sign of the crimson-clad vigilante behind him, he propelled himself across the country and soon arrived at the cottage.
Violet was sitting outside in the backyard—why did none of them heed his warnings of the danger? “Get inside,” he insisted. “There’s a killer on the loose.”
“And my mother is inside,” Violet said apathetically. She raised her arms with her palms turned skywards, miming scales. “I’ll take my chances here.”
“Inside,” he insisted.
With a huff, the freshman rose to her feet and led him into the cottage. After hasty introductions, he snuck away with the Lears. “So,” he said, once he’d told them what he had uncovered, “I’m fairly certain the unsub can control air and become invisible. I need to know who I’m after, though… I need to know how to find him.” This would have been easier if Jack were alive; his nose could have helped to find the killer—invisible or not.
The colour had drained from Violet’s mother—a relatively handsome woman whom Violet had obviously gotten her cheekbones from. “I… I would need to go back to the office,” she said. “I could-”
“Given how Ddraig was killed, I’m not entirely sure that it’s safe for you to poke your head outside.”
“If we think he’s outside,” Violet suggested, “why don’t we just go outside and put him down?”
“Because he may be invisible.”
“He may be invisible,” said Violet’s father, “but he still needs to breathe, yes? If Violet and I go outside and lower the temperature, we may see his breath.”
“It’s nearly summer!” Violet exclaimed. “If we do that, we’re going to draw attention to this island! Kenny-” The redheaded man flashed them a look of alarm.
“We may not have any other option,” the mustachioed man said, motioning for her to keep her voice down. “We have to do something.”
The Blue Knight grimaced. Kenny was making his way over to them. The Welshman didn’t know the circumstances of why he was here, or why it was so imperative that this cottage remain such a secret, but he didn’t want to get into it. He was tired of debating this—frustrated with the near constant squabbling that seemed to accompany these sorts of situations. “We need someone who could detect the unsub—Martin or Dag or-”
“No one else!” Kenny objected. “The only way we-”
“We won’t bring anyone else to the cottage,” Violet said, “but we may need someone on the island. Whoever killed Jack…” Violet trailed off. “How did he kill Jack?”
“What are you talking about?” asked her mother haughtily.
“Harry, the cottage has a magic spell over it. You can’t see it unless you know it’s there.” She looked to Kenny for assurance. “Did I get that right?”
Her father was grinning at her. “That’s right,” he said.
“So, even if this killer followed us here, unless he knew where the cottage was, he shouldn’t have been able to see us.” She looked into the other room, where Jack lay under a blanket. “Something else happened to Jack…”
“That’s my girl.” Violet’s father put an arm around her and pulled her close. “Brains and beauty!”
The Nephilim was still trying to make sense of all of this. “You’re sure?” he asked.
Violet nodded, but that didn’t put his mind at ease. Even if the Neo-Sapien he was hunting hadn’t killed Jack, someone clearly had. They were still in danger, only now he didn’t know where the danger was coming from.
“One problem at a time,” he said. “I need to take you to your office, Baroness Lear. I need to know who is killing these women.”
“I’m going with you,” insisted the woman’s husband.
“You’ll slow us down,” the Blue Knight said. “I can carry her fine, but two people?” He shook his head. “Besides, whoever took out Jack could still be near. I don’t think they’re inside the cottage, or we’d all be dead. Still, I think you and Violet should stay here—watch each other’s backs.”
“Fair enough,” the man said. “Promise me you’ll protect her.”
The Blue Knight clapped a hand on the man’s shoulder. He wasn’t in the business of making promises that he couldn’t keep, but saying that he would do his best wasn’t going to put anyone’s minds at ease. Still, he hoped that such a gesture would be taken for such a vow.
The baroness didn’t take a moment to say goodbye to her husband or daughter. She didn’t hug or kiss either. She was cold towards both of them, and it was awkward to watch. Instead, she took a moment to call her eldest. She didn’t tell Violet’s sister what was happening: “I just wanted to call and tell you that I love you,” she said. “I’m so very proud of you, Jessica. Have a wonderful day.”
Outside, the woman hugged the Blue Knight’s neck and he wrapped his arms around her. He took flight, speeding towards London—towards the building he and Cavalier had broken into mere hours ago.
He avoided land. With the sky above them and the North Sea below, they were a blazing blue silhouette against two different fields of blue. After several minutes of awkward silence, land came into view.
Before long, they were nearing London. Accompanied by the baroness, the Blue Knight ceased to worry about being spotted. Instead, he set a course for her offices and brought them both down onto the rooftop.
She led him back to the office he and Cavalier had raided before dawn broke. It was Thursday, and by this hour, the building was staffed. He was thankful he was wearing civies: releasing his hold on hellfire made him look like everyone else.
As they neared the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, he realized there was a slight hiccup to their plans: their break in had been discovered, and security was combing over the offices. “Baroness Lear,” a short, stocky man with thinning hair said in a panic, “there was a break in this morning. Security cameras show two young men coming in a few hours ago…”
Harry tensed. Would anyone recognize him from the security feed?
“I’m sure the authorities will get to the bottom of it,” she said. “If you’ll excuse me? I have a rather pressing matter to deal with.”
She led Harry to her office and sat down behind her desk. “So, when you told us you’d done some digging… what you meant was you broke into my offices.”
“Reginald Davies,” the Blue Knight said curtly. “Who did he father?”
As she began to type, the teen plotted his path around her desk. He looked over her shoulder at the results of the inquiry. The screen displayed a spreadsheet showing a list of experiments involving Davis. “He had that many children?” the Blue Knight asked, looking over the list. There were at least twelve different subjects on the screen.
“In some cases, we were testing Closthiphene. In others, we were testing Ponidoxlin.”
“Ponidoxlin. That’s the drug that keeps the man from passing on his powers?”
“Yes,” she said. “In some cases, we experimented with keeping a child from inheriting Davis’ aerokinetic abilities.”
There was a knock at the door. The same balding man from before poked his head in. “DCI would like a word, mum.”
“I’ll be a moment.”
As the woman left, the Blue Knight took her seat. He scanned the list of test subjects Reginald Davis had sired. It was going to be like looking for a needle in a haystack, but he had to start somewhere.
He searched the computer for any files on Davis’ eldest child: Subject 867-J.
Numerous files were found—including a series of videos. Double clicking the first one, Harry’s eyes watched as the footage showed a woman in a lab coat. “This is Stress Test 1 of Subject 867-J,” she intoned. “The subject’s father is a Neo-Sapien with oxygen-depriving abilities, on a steady dose of Ponidoxlin. Her mother possessed the ability to generate ionized gas, and is on a Closthiphene regiment. With the right stressors, Subject 867-J should be able to manifest the same abilities as her mother.”
The woman moved away, revealing an infant in an incubator. “All right then, Mira, don’t disappoint us now.”
Harry’s eyed widened. Mira? Was it…?
The woman turned on a machine. There was a hum. Inside the incubator, electricity crackled around the baby. Subject 867-J began to cry.
Harry looked to the door Baroness Lear had left ajar. He wanted to ask her if this was Mira Linden—if his classmate was another of the woman’s experiments. Suddenly, he was struck by something else: Reginald Davis was just one of the inmates who had been drafted into this experiment, and he had at least twelve children. Some were likely normal humans—if the drugs were a success—but some were bound to be Neo-Sapiens.
Mira and Violet, Kirstie, Ellen, Anne, and himself: there weren’t that many students at the New Vindicators Academy who hailed from the United Kingdom.
How many teenaged Neo-Sapiens were in this country that the school didn’t know about?
Harry closed the video and began scouring the computer for more information. He needed to find the unsub first, then he could focus on finding the others—finding them before they became killers like this one.
Opening file after file, Harry found all of Reginald Davis’ children: Alexander Robinson lived with his mother, Christine, but Ponidoxlin had successfully prevented the boy from inheriting his father’s power; Amanda Dickey’s daughter, Alisha Thomas had manifested the same power and was living with her adopted family; Alison Roberts had likewise manifested Davis’ powers, as well as those of her biological mother, Janet Brown.
The more he read, the more he was beginning to understand: the killer was only targeting the women who gave their children up for adoption. Some gave birth to Reginald Davis’ children; some gave birth to the children of other inmates. It didn’t matter if the children were Neo-Sapiens or humans—the killer was looking for surrogates.
Soon, Harry had what he was looking for: Samantha Foster-Wilkinson was a Neo-Sapien capable of turning invisible. She had volunteered to act as a surrogate mother. She’d given her baby up in return for a modest payout.
Her son, Joseph, had been adopted by a couple from Shrewsbury: Paul and Diane Taylor.
Armed with an address, Harry rose up from the chair and went to the window. It was going to be a tight fit—it didn’t open much, but it beat having to walk past DCI and possibly being misidentified as the culprit. Conjuring his armor, the Blue Knight flew from the window and began heading west.
By the time he had arrived in Shrewsbury, it was barely noon. Joseph would be in school; his parents, the Blue Knight hoped, would be at work. Donning his civilian identity once more, he walked into town and made his way to the Taylors’ house. Using his mobile phone to find his way about town, he realized the battery was lower than he would have liked. Suddenly, he realized that he hadn’t charged it since leaving Vienna. His phone wasn’t the only thing in need of charging: he hadn’t really slept since Vienna either.
Making his way up to the house, he rang the bell and waited a moment. When no one answered, he headed around to the side and hopped the fence. A swing set had seen better days and a brand new smoker was on display on the back patio.
A little bit of hellfire broke the lock off the sliding doors. Slipping inside, he watched as a calico cat regarded his intrusion impassively. He bent down, quickly picking up the remains of the door knob and putting them behind the fruit bowl on the table.
He had his run of the house. The Taylors had more than one child, he realized, judging by the photos on the walls. Two different boys, with a gap of several years between them, going by the age of the photographs. They had daughters, too. One had a cleft chin that the other didn’t sport. Neither did the parents. She must have been adopted as well. Harry wagered all of their children were.
He poked his head into one room after the other, seeking out Joseph’s room. The first room was clearly an adolescent girl’s room, while the next was a young child’s—a boy, judging by the toys strewn about.
In the basement he found Joseph’s room: the music collection was in line with a boy about Joseph’s age; the posters on the wall seemed about right; the clothes littering the floor brought it all together.
Harry grabbed the mattress and raised it up, looking between it and the box springs. Then he dropped to the floor and conjured hellfire. The glow from his eyes illuminated the space under the bed: some dirty laundry, unwashed plates, and a pack of baby wipes were all he found.
He checked the desk next, only to hit the jackpot. Whoever the killer was, they were using information they had to have obtained from the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority. Harry reasoned that by turning invisible, he could have snuck in and gotten whatever information he wanted… but he would have been keeping that information somewhere. He would have been referencing it—using it to figure out where to strike next.
Some printed pages were thrust into a road atlas of the United Kingdom. He had suspected that the killer’s aerokinetic abilities enabled him to fly, letting him easily move from place-to-place. Joseph clearly needed help figuring out how to get to each of his targets, though. As Harry looked it all over, he was surprised by how equally careful and sloppy Joseph had been. He was smart enough to use analogue maps, like an atlas, rather than let his internet search history hang him… but he was too stupid to hide the evidence better than this?
Even more condemning, Joseph was marking off the names of the victims he’d already claimed. Still, there was nothing in his gazetteer to indicate who he would target next… and he had too many potential targets.
This made Harry sigh. He had no way of predicting where Joseph would head next, and the damage he had done to the door knob would likely be discovered before Joseph left. Harry knew he had to take him down as soon as he could… but then what? The revelation that Pandora was nothing more than a recruitment tool for the Armada meant it was pointless to hand him over to the Hague, and Harry certainly didn’t trust MI18 after their attempt to take down Jack. The school could hold him, but Harry didn’t necessarily agree with their holding Pyre and Bile. It was dangerous to keep the pair levels below where the students slept, and he couldn’t see gambling with his classmates’ lives by adding another killer to their makeshift brig.
The floorboards above him creaked. Were Harry in the practice of praying, he would have prayed it was just the cat. Instead, he crept out of Joseph’s room and made his way towards the foot of the stairs. Someone was walking around upstairs—slowly, and leading from the back doors he had entered through. Had someone seen him break in? Had a neighbor spotted him jumping the fence? For the briefest moment, he considered pretending to be Joseph. It was a ruse that would work on any constable, but not on anyone who knew the Taylor family. Instead he waited; he listened as the footsteps drew closer and closer to the basement stairs…
His heart nearly skipped a beat when Todd Jonas appeared at the top of the stairs. “Jesus, man.” Todd looked almost as shocked to see Harry as Harry was to see him. “Nearly gave me a bloody heart attack…”
“What are you doing here?” Harry asked as Todd hurried down the stairs.
“I’ve been followin’ you for a while,” Todd said once he’d reached the bottom. “Spotted you comin’ into London. You went back to the place we broke into. Why?”
“I had a hunch,” Harry said, hoping Todd hadn’t seen him with Violet’s mother. He still hoped to be able to keep these two parts of his life apart. Todd was an ally, but not one he wanted the other students to have to deal with.
“So, is this it? Is this the killer’s pad?”
“I believe so,” Harry said. “I found some pretty damning ev-”
“Well, then let’s get the son of a bitch!”
“We’re dealing with a kid,” Harry said. “He’s about a year my junior—name of Joseph Taylor. He’s a Neo-Sapien who can turn invisible and control air.”
“Great! So, let’s go-”
“He’s in school,” Harry said. “We have time to plan—figure out what to do.”
“What’s to figure out?” Todd asked. “This kid suffocated those women?” Flames blazed in his eyes as he conjured his soul-weapon. “When I’m through with him, he won’t be breathing so well either.”
“No,” growled Harry, careful not to take hold of hellfire himself. He didn’t want to appear intimidating—to give Cavalier cause to believe he was being challenged. “We are not killing him. Understood?”
“We’re dealing with a killer,” Cavalier growled. “Better we kill him than risk letting him get away and killing again!”
“He is not going to get away.”
“You so sure of that?”
Harry was not in the practice of making promises he couldn’t keep. “Yes.
“These people have other children—innocent children. We need to plan for their safety. What do we do if the parents or siblings come home before Joseph? Even if we’re careful, Joseph might very well take a hostage. Where are we then?”
“If he takes a hostage, you distract him long enough for-”
“We are not killing anyone,” the Welsh teen stressed. “Got it?”
Todd glared at a sock on the floor.
“It’s very important to me that you say it, Todd.”
“Whatever,” Todd said. “This kid slips away and takes down someone else, it’s on you.”
“I can live with that,” Harry said, feeling slightly better about this now. “All right. So, we need to figure out a way to contain him without getting any innocents involved.” He looked around the room. It was small. There wasn’t enough room for them to hide and lay in wait. After debating calling the parents—and potentially warning Joseph, should the parents turn on them—they decided to restrain any other member of the family who arrived before their target. Paladin’s former protégés could wait upstairs; Cavalier’s abilities could strip Joseph of his powers and force him to surrender without anyone ever getting hurt.
Luck was on their side, Harry realized: watching from the master bedroom window, he spotted Joseph crossing the road towards the house.
Two other boys were in tow.
“Dammit,” the Blue Knight swore as he moved for the door. “He brought friends home.” It wouldn’t be a problem if they stuck to the plan. If Cavalier could negate Joseph’s powers, they had nothing to worry about.
Cavalier pushed the Blue Knight back against the hallway wall, shaking a table bearing a ficus in dire need of watering in the process. The British half-demon stomped forward and the Blue Knight had visions of the hothead giving away their ambush. “Give it up, kid!” he snarled as he sent a stream of hellfire into the family room.
The Blue Knight charged in, only to see Cavalier’s crimson collar around the wrong youth. “Wrong-” Before he could get his warning out, the air left his lungs. He frantically scanned the room. One of the boys was darting back out the door. Joseph had turned invisible. He was gone, along with their advantage.
He grabbed Cavalier’s shoulder, gasping for breath. Cavalier seemed to understand what was happening, but little else. “How the hell is he-?”
The Blue Knight pointed at the boy Cavalier had collared and began frantically shaking his head.
Cavalier seemed to understand his error and released the boy he’d targeted. “Where the hell is the bloody muppet?”
The Blue Knight felt lightheaded. Soon Joseph would finish him and move on to Cavalier. From there, he could continue killing. It was only a matter of time before he got to Violet’s mother. The semester was nearly over. Would Joseph arrive while Violet was home? Would she be pulled into the fight? Would he get her, too?
His Blue Flash attack functioned by evoking a flare of blue flame. They didn’t harm—only momentarily blinded those who viewed the sudden flash. It stood to reason that he could apply the same physics to his hellfire blasts. Cavalier would be caught in the explosion, too, but the Blue Knight had to hope that his armor would insulate him from the attack.
Desperate to stay alive, the Blue Knight filled the room with hellfire. Suddenly, he found he could breathe again. Gluttonously drinking in the oxygen, he looked up to see Cavalier charging for a boy lying on the carpet—a boy who hadn’t been there seconds ago.
Taking in the sight of Cavalier’s soul weapon, the Blue Knight realized what was coming. “NO!” he roared. He was on his feet in a second; his hand closed around his spectral claymore in the next. Cerulean wings let him rush forward and place himself between Cavalier and the teen who had just tried to kill him. “Dammit, we went over this!”
“You went over it!” raved Cavalier. “He almost killed you! He’ll kill someone else unless we-”
“We are not doing anything!”
Cavalier swung his sword back around and into the Blue Knight’s side. The pain pierced him to his soul and he watched as his own weapon vanished into thin air. He looked down at his hands—his hands, not the blue gauntlets he wanted to see.
“You’re just as bad as Paladin!” Cavalier snarled as he raised his sword again. “Coddling the criminals! WE DON’T WORK FOR THEM!” He swung at Harry, but even without his powers, Harry had Paladin’s training. He rolled to the side and watched as Cavalier’s sword swung through the back of an armchair. “WE’RE SUPPOSED TO PROTECT THE INNOCENT!”
“I’m beginning to see why Paladin never talked about you,” Harry said, determined to keep Cavalier’s focus on him and not the unconscious Joseph. “I don’t exactly like talking about my most embarrassing failures either.”
Cavalier charged and Harry sprang to his feet, ducking out of the path of a sword swing. Angry as Cavalier was, his attacks were wild and easy to dodge. “I mean, he never told me he wet the bed when he was little either, and I figure that’s got to be worse than being the man who was responsible for your training.”
A wordless snarl tore itself from under Cavalier’s helm as he charged Harry once more. Harry reached back and stole the wrought iron poker from the fireplace. He dodged another wild sword stroke and swung the poker up into the older youth’s armpit.
Running around Cavalier’s back, Harry jumped over the coffee table and picked up a pitcher that looked like it had been in the Taylor family for many years. He felt bad about this, but he’d feel better about saving their son: with everything he had he threw the pitcher at Cavalier’s face. He knew how he would react—how Paladin had trained him to react—and hoped Cavalier took the bait.
As Cavalier moved to strike the projectile out of his path with his sword, Harry lunged for him with the poker. He cracked it against the young man’s helm and fought the urge to savor the moment. “It’s a good thing Paladin’s missing,” Harry said, “because he’d be beyond disappointed to see you getting your ass kicked by someone without powers!”
Cavalier slashed down at the spot where the blonde boy had just been. Harry stepped back out of the path of the easily predicted attack and moved to counter—thrusting the poker forward with all of his might, straight into Cavalier’s chest.
While the other’s armor held up, the blow knocked the wind out of the older Nephilim and pushed him back. “Thanks for the handicap,” Harry spat at him. “I would have beat you too fast with my powers.”
Cavalier shook it off and swung up as he rose. Harry moved to jump back, only to be clipped by the soul weapon. As much as he wanted to hold the wound, he didn’t want to give Cavalier the satisfaction. It was a shallow slash—nothing that a few stitches wouldn’t fix after all of this was over with.
The sound of a garage door opening alarmed Harry. Someone else was home—someone who could be pulled into the fight. Granted, they could potentially get Joseph to safety, but if Harry gave them such a command, it would remind Cavalier of his true enemy.
He needed to end this fast.
“Stand down, Harry. You may be a pussy, but you’re one of the good guys.”
“One of us had to be.”
Harry charged for Cavalier. Cavalier raised his sword and pointed the tip at his opponent. He trust forward as Harry swung the poker into Cavalier’s neck. He watched as the crimson armor coating Cavalier faded, revealing the unconscious man’s face.
Cavalier collapsed to the floor and Harry looked down at his shirt. He was bleeding through the wound Cavalier had just inflicted. He could feel the cold trickle down his back. He’d been run through.
The door to the garage opened and the Blue Knight turned around to look at Joseph’s mother through the blue-tinted visor of his helm. The youngest child—the boy—was hiding behind her. “I’m the Blue Knight,” he said. “I’m a hero.” He looked down at Cavalier. “This guy is one of the bad guys. He was trying to kill your son, ma’am. I can explain later, but for now, I need you to get your youngest out of here. I’ll take care of Joseph.
The woman hesitated and the Blue Knight was struggling to stand after the wounds Cavalier had given him. “GO!” he roared.
She dropped the two sacks of groceries she’d been carrying and scooped her young son up before darting back for the breezeway that connected the house and garage.
The Blue Knight released his hold on hellfire and dug in his pocket for his cell phone. He dialed the United Nations’ communication hub and breathed easier when Oberleutnant Wetl answered. “I need patched in to someone at MI18,” he reluctantly said. With these injuries, it would be a feat to carry Joseph anywhere. His speed would be slashed, and the killer would likely wake en route. He needed help, and this was the fastest response he could imagine getting.
“This is the Blue Knight,” he said once he was patched in. “I’ve been working a case—super-powered serial killer. Tell Agent Oates that I’m in Shrewsbury. I’ll meet him at the River Severn. Tell him to look for the flare.”
Hanging up the phone, he stuffed it back into his pocket. He looked to the floor and saw Joseph was gone. He’d woken up quickly. He could have just been invisible, or he could have taken the opportunity to flee. Where would he go, though? What would he do?
“Joseph,” he said, in case the youth was still here, “I know what you’ve been up to. It needs to stop. No one else needs to die.”
That he could still breathe was all the evidence he needed that Joseph had taken the opportunity to flee. Would Cavalier do the same, while he was off retrieving Agent Oates? Should he restrain him before he left? He was impulsive and insane, but he was trained. If he fled, he wouldn’t go back to Robert’s house. He wouldn’t go anywhere Harry could find him, but that didn’t mean he wouldn’t see him again. He seemed proud and arrogant. He wouldn’t take this loss well. He would come for Harry. He would come for revenge.
The Blue Knight looked down at Cavalier sadly, and wondered if he would be better prepared the next time their paths crossed…
LONDON (NPCs: The Blue Knight, Gus Lear, Paladin, Tantivy)
"And that's it," he said. "The killer's name is Joseph Taylor. He's a Neo-Sapien what can turn invisible and control the air. He's targeting the women who gave their children up for adoption, so I suspect your wife is safe, sir."
Augustus Lear breathed a bit more easily at that, but he wasn't ready to relax just yet. Joseph could still come after her for the information she possessed--or even for her part in the drug trials.
"I've been keeping an eye on things. It's been months and he hasn't struck--same for Cavalier."
Paladin grimaced at the thought of his former protege being out there--dispensing his own brand of justice.
"Do you have a photo of Taylor?" asked Tantivy. "I'll need his address, too."
The Blue Knight raised an eyebrow at that. "Why?" he asked.
Tantivy flashed him a level expression. "I told Violet that I would stop him. I can't do that if I don't know what he looks like."
"I just told you that he's been inactive. He hasn't-"
"I have some ideas," the Romanian girl said. "We're dealing with a kid getting by purely on his powers. He doesn't have any training. He doesn't have the skills to survive on his own. He has to eat. He has to sleep. I want to talk to his family."
"He hasn't been home-"
"He turns invisible," Tantivy said. "How would you know if he went back?"
"Would protect them." Tantivy rolled her eyes. "That's what parents do... or so I'm told. You said there are younger siblings, right? Little kids don't always know to lie."
"Say you do find him," Paladin said. "How do you expect to fight an invisible opponent? How do you expect to fight someone when you can't breathe? What's to stop you from just becoming another of this boy's victims?"
Tantivy chuckled. "If he could, he'd be the $&@%ing hero of the school."
"I'm fast," Tantivy said. "From what Big Blue here says, it sounds like he has to be able to see you to steal your breath. I can stay behind him-"
"Until he turns invis-"
"Infrared goggles. Just because he turns invisible doesn't mean he won't give off a heat signature."
"And if he doesn't?"
"Then I run as far away in the other direction as I can. I doubt he can keep choking me from a few miles away."
Paladin shook his head at her. "Reckless."
"Says the guy who turned a six-year-old girl into a soldier."
"It was different. Roselyn's home dimension-"
"A little under a year ago, my mother was sentenced to life in prison on another planet for acts of terrorism. She became an interdimensional pirate who was planning to take the whole bunch of them down. They through her in the brig, where she got pregnant with me. Then she broke out, stole a goddamn UFO, time traveled back to 1995, where she had me cut out of her and left me to be raised by a spy who drilled into me that I had to ALWAYS be better than what I am. When I get fed up with being turned into the perfect $@&%ing weapon, I ran away from home and joined the same #&^$ing terrorist group my mom was part of, except that I didn't know she was my mom because, again, time travel.
"Don't tell me other dimensions are #&$%ed up. This dimension is @&$#ed up."
Paladin looked at Tantivy for a few moments, then looked to his partner. "Get her the photograph and whatever else she needs."
Armed with the information she needed, Tantivy took off.