Thoughtful - Chapter 23

How it played out

Slow down buddy, you aren’t quite up to walking on your own,’ Deadeye said firmly, shifting his weight to catch Cal who stumbled awkwardly to the left and nearly fell. 

‘Right you are,’ Cal agreed and let the other man take his weight as Hera supported him on the right.

The group continued on back the way they’d come until they passed a room that Hera felt looked like they had what she needed. Lifting Cal up, they laid him gently on a makeshift bed and Hera got to work. Tearing away his shirt, she hissed involuntarily. His torso was a mess of small holes. Scatter gun. How she hated having to deal with those. This would be time consuming, but though he’d lost a lot of blood, he’d live.

‘This is gonna take me a while,’ she explained as the rest of the crew hovered over her shoulder, checking out the bloody mess for themselves. 

‘See anything you like?’ drawled Cal, smiling up at everyone.

‘Cal, while Hera does her thing is there anything you want us to do? Check the house? Check the city? Find survivors? Anything?’

‘Hey that would be great, all of it, let me know how bad it is, I’ve only seen the vid footage.’

‘OK, we’ll check back here in a few hours, then I want to hear everything you know,’ said Lady as she signalled for the others to follow her. 

‘But what about your shoulder?’

‘It’s fine, look,’ Lady replied, reaching for a surgical staple gun and pulling aside her own shirt, stapling up the wound. It was a disturbing thing to watch, but Lady seemed not to notice the pain 

‘Holy Bowie Lady!’ Deadeye exclaimed, ‘didn’t that hurt?’

‘Nah, the stuff Hera put on it earlier contained a local anaesthetic, can’t feel a thing,’ Lady smiled, ‘now come on, we’ve got a lot of ground to cover.’

Out in the hallway, Lady took Fury and their crew through every room in Cal’s labyrinthine house. Thankfully they didn’t run into the ghost again, and didn’t find any Overworlders either. It was time to check out the town and try to figure out how many had survived. Walking outside into the city streets, Lady was surprised to see that the people of Royale were already checking the damage themselves, and starting the long slow process of rebuilding their world now that the threat was gone.

As Lady walked through the destruction, here and there she saw people she recognised, but she let them be. They looked so sad and angry, she didn’t want to press them with questions. That could wait. Finally, they came across the Gatsby, the bar where Lady had worked before she fled Royale. Though the building’s roof was extensively damaged, and the walls pockmarked with laser fire, it was otherwise still standing and unscathed. As they approached a well-dressed, if somewhat rumpled man emerged from the bar’s interior, a martini clutched in his hand. He waved to Lady, and motioned her to follow him inside.

Though the lights weren’t working, numerous candles had been lit and peppered the bar top, casting a dirty yellow glow on the bar’s interior. Fury and the others followed, hanging back just enough to give Lady and the man some space as they embraced and the man looked into her face sadly.

‘OK everyone, this is Jacob, owner of the Gatsby,’ Lady began her introductions, ‘and Jacob of course you know Fury, but these other brave souls are some of my crew … Cato, Fizz and Deadeye.’

‘Much obliged,’ Jacob replied, but his voice betrayed his exhaustion, ‘please take a seat everyone and I’ll get you something to drink.’

‘So what happened here Jacob?’ asked Fury as he watched the man slip behind the bar and grab a bottle of rum.

‘As far as we can tell, it was Overworlders … but we ain’t never seen ‘em down this far before, generally they leave us alone because Cal has the place so well fortified and it’s not worth their damage to bust in, but this time they were after something … or someone rather, and they were desperate to get their hands on them.  

‘Shit!’ Lady exclaimed.

‘How did they get passed Cal’s security?’ asked Fury, though he felt he already knew the answer. He just had to hear it out loud.  

‘Demise and his crew, led them straight here … I think they were looking for you, Lady.’

‘What makes you say that?’ 

‘They can’t have been,’ Fury interrupted, ‘surely they must think they’d taken you out with that last explosion?’

‘Fury has a point there,’ offered Cato.

‘Yes,’ agreed Lady, ‘and they would have known that I hadn’t been here before the second explosion, there just wasn’t enough time.’

‘Explosion?’ asked Jacob, leaning forward over his drink.

‘Someone tried to blow up the Anhinga, twice,’ Lady explained, ‘Fury called it a ghost, but it was something real enough, the Anhinga identified it as non-human, anyway the first blast wasn’t much, just took out one of the condensers, but the second one, well let’s just say it almost did the job.’ 

‘Bloody hell girl!’

‘Yeah,’ agreed Lady, ‘we don’t know if it was just someone cloaking themselves in Mellion tech, or even a Mellion itself, but overall not good news.’

‘But why would someone try to blow you up?’ asked Jacob incredulously, still trying to get his mind around

‘Pretty simple really, I had something they wanted … but that doesn’t explain why they came here …’ 

‘Unless someone here had another piece of the puzzle,’ Fury thought out loud.

‘What do you mean?’ asked Jacob, now a bit lost.

‘The Mellion tech?’ prompted Deadeye. 

‘Yeah,’ Fury replied, ‘look Jacob, Demise and the Overworlders got their hands on some weird Mellion tech, it registered as sentient, and we figured it was some sort of terraforming equipment, but there was more than one of these things … now we don’t know if each piece they’re after is a component of a whole or each is a standalone piece, but Lady here seems to have gotten her hands on one of the other machines … do you know if Cal had gotten his hands on something like that recently?’

‘Well not that I’ve heard, but it’s possible of course. 

‘Let’s save that to ask Cal when we’re back up at the house,’ Lady suggested, before turning to Jacob, ‘now tell us what happened here, I need to know all of it.’

Jacob drained the last of his martini and sighed.

‘After Demise led them to Royale, he used his sub the Returned to gain them all entry to the city, I guess that’s just something Cal or any of us ever expected, that an Underworlder would help those bastards and turn against their own, so we weren’t prepared for it, there was no warning, they tore through the city on a mission of destruction leaving dead and wounded in their wake, clearly making their way towards Cal’s house, but you know how well set up he is.’

‘Bowie be damned,’ sighed Fizz under her breath.

‘It didn’t take us long to get our shit together though,’ Jacob continued, ‘and by the time they reached the second Trict we’d managed to get ourselves armed and chasing after them, from then on it became a skirmish through the streets, we gave as good as we got and eventually we were able to drive them back out of Royale, and Demise along with them.’

‘And Cal?’

‘He took in as many of us as he could before they got too close and then he had to close the rest of us out, have you seen him?’

‘Yeah, he’s injured but he’s OK, the ghost that attacked us and the Anhinga somehow managed to get to him,’ Deadeye explained.

‘My medic Hera is looking after him as we speak,’ added Fury.

‘Did anyone manage to speak to Demise or any of the Overworlders?’ asked Lady, digging for more information.

‘Not aside from trading insults,’ replied Jacob. 

‘Hmmmm,’ mused Lady, ‘and they just left right? after you drove them out?’

‘Sailed away into the deep.’

‘Because they knew their ghost was still here!’ exclaimed Fizz excitedly.

‘Bingo, I bet they figured that it would finish the job and grab whatever it was they were after … but now that the ghost is injured,’ Lady added.

‘But what was it after? Wouldn’t it still be able to get that and then escape somehow?’

‘Royale is on lock down, nothing else gets in or out without Cal’s express permission,’ explained Jacob.

‘Damn it all to Bowie!’ Fury jumped to his feet, ‘what if that ghost is still alive, and looking for that tech? we left Hera and Phoenix up there looking after Cal! They could be in danger, come on! we gotta go, we’re not out of the woods yet,’ he added running for the door.