As I slowed down, preparing to land, I felt the wind pushing at me from the right. Checking over my shoulder told me exactly what I suspected. Vaughn flew toward me, catching up.
I landed the usual way, turning my body so that my feet were toward the ground. I gave it a little more fuel, straightening me out, and moving upward before lowering myself to the ground.
Vaughn landed at about the same time.
On the bright side, they’d stopped arguing. I suspected it was less due to solving the problem than that the combination of rocketpack and wind made it hard to hear.
The bodies on the ground weren’t burned. That boded well. They might not be dead.
Something about them seemed a little off. They wore jeans and shirts with sports teams. A couple had baggy pants. They seemed right for a gang in a Hollywood sort of way, but wrong in some of the little details.
From what I’d seen at school, gangs didn’t seem to be equal opportunity employers. They seemed to be mostly of one ethnic group or another. These guys included all skin tones — white, black and in between. Also, in the gap between one man’s red jacket and jeans, I could see the man’s t-shirt. It seemed to be made of a material similar to the stealth suit.
I wondered if they all wore it.
Even beyond that, they seemed too clean cut. It didn’t jump out at me because they had different hair lengths, but they’d all shaved. The two guys with long hair wore it in ponytails. I could have written all that off to my own stereotypes of what gangs should look like, but I noticed three submachine guns on the ground. They were identical.
Did gangs buy guns in bulk? I had no way of knowing, but I doubted it.
Vaughn stopped to stare at the bodies, and then the hole, but then said, “So, what happened?”
Jaclyn stiffened. “These two practically helped them get away.”
Red Legacy held up his hands in (I assumed) frustration. “I already said I was sorry.”
“But they’re still gone,” Jaclyn said.
Next to Red Legacy, the yellow-costumed Justice Fist member didn’t speak, or meet anybody’s eyes.
“Whoa everybody,” Vaughn said. “Take a breath. How did it happen?”
Cassie and Jaclyn looked at each other for a second.
Then Cassie said, “Before we went out tonight, the Mystic said that he thought that something might happen around here –”
“Actually,” Jaclyn said, “he said that he’d felt that something might happen here last night when he was on patrol, so we decided to watch it tonight.”
“Anyway,” Cassie shot an annoyed look at her, “we stuck around here and saw two vans pull up. These guys got out of one, and four other guys stepped out of the other. I recognized the guy with the burning hands. That’s when we went in.”
“Except we didn’t recognize him,” Jaclyn said, “until after the really big guy punched a hole in the building.”
Cassie sighed. “I recognized him. The cycle’s got a camera… So, Accelerando got there first, and threw the big guy almost to the road. I jumped off my bike, and started to help her except these guys,” she nodded toward the men on the ground, “got in my way. So I started fighting them. I took out three.”
“And that,” Jaclyn said, “is when Red Taser and Darkness Girl showed up. He,” she pointed at Red Legacy, “zapped everybody, and she put out the lights.”
I looked around the group of them. “What happened after that? Where’d they go?”
“I don’t know,” Jaclyn said. “I was unconscious.”
Cassie said, “Me too,” and then glared at Red Legacy. “What were you thinking?”
“I’m not going to apologize for this again… Lightning is hard to direct. The farther it gets from my body, the less control I’ve got. I had the choice of doing nothing or taking out everybody. I didn’t think either of you would get permanently hurt, so I took the shot.”
Vaughn looked at Red Legacy. “Oh come on, you have to have more control than that.”
“I’m working on it, but no, not yet.”
“So what happened?” I asked. “If Red Legacy took everyone out, what happened to the other guys?”
The other Justice Fist member spoke. From her voice, I recognized Shannon, Julie’s cousin, and one of the baristas at Solid Grounds. “They didn’t all go down. Two of them stayed conscious and pulled the other two back to their van. Then they drove away. We couldn’t follow them because we couldn’t see through it.”
Vaughn laughed. “They could see through your darkness, and you couldn’t? That’s kind of funny, you know?”
She paused for a few seconds. “It’s not funny. It makes it all my fault.”
I felt like I should say something comforting, but what exactly?
“Nah,” Vaughn said. “You’ve got a bunch of people who weren’t working together, and you guys probably haven’t done this much. They didn’t kill anybody this time, did they?”
Shannon looked toward the hole in the building. We all did.
The wall had fallen into an apartment’s living room, covering the couch, and breaking the television. We didn’t see any bodies.
Cassie said, “Well, at least something went right, but we’ve still lost them.”
“I don’t know,” I said. I pointed toward the melted van. “They took two vans. Is that their other one? The Mystic’s going to show up soon, and even if the guys on the ground have protection against mental probes, I bet he can get something off the van.”