There were other metahumans out there in the Cabal’s league in terms of strength and toughness, but the Cabal’s toughest soldiers had all of that plus regeneration—the quick kind.
My heart started beating, and I quickly scanned the area around us, all 360 degrees of it. More cars were stopping, and even more slowing down, but not in the kind of way that made me nervous. No one was running to join us or crossing the distance in a single jump.
That was the other thing about the Cabal—they’d agreed to leave us alone for a year last spring. It was now the end of the summer. By their own promise, they were free to kill us now.
Setting my suit to send my voice to the comm, but not my suit’s speaker, I said, “He’s part of the Cabal, but he’s not trying to kill me—yet.”
Ahead of me, the man raised his hands above his head. “I’m not here to fight. I’m on a contract. That’s all.”
“Okay,” I said. “How about giving me your name and address in case we need to talk later?”
He frowned for a second, but then said, “Philo Schwarz,” and gave his address. He lived downtown in Grand Lake.
I replayed the recording I’d made of him to make sure I got a clear record of it. It sounded good.
In the silence that left, Marcus asked, “You said that you were going down the highway when suddenly you couldn’t move, and the next thing you knew, you were lying here. Do you remember anything else?”
Philo raised his head from the side of the van, aiming it at Marcus. “Nothing.”
Marcus sighed, “Well, what about your cargo? Was the van empty or did they take it?”
Philo made a noise in his throat that was almost a growl. “We were carrying money for a bank. It’s all gone, and whoever did it was moving too quickly for me to see it.”
“That fits with my idea that it was a speedster,” I began.
“I can smell at least three different people.” Haley’s voice came over the comm.
“Three?” I checked the screens inside my helmet. She wasn’t anywhere I could see. “And where are you?”
“I landed on the other side of the highway.” I gave a second look at the spybots feeds, and there she was in the grassy median between the north and southbound traffic. In addition to her gray and black costume, she wore one of the small jetpacks the original League members had used to respond to calls inside the city.
I wondered how long she’d been using it. It shouldn’t matter (they were designed for durability), but I hadn’t done any recent maintenance on any of them since an initial once-over last year.
“I’m working off smell, but the speedster is a guy, probably in his twenties. He drinks a lot of energy drinks, mostly fruity flavored. And he sweats a lot.”
She sniffed. “The other two are both women. I think one is in her twenties. She… smells a little like the speedster, but more of money, metal, and coffee. I’m not sure, but think they’re together. The other one is in her forties. She wears too much perfume, and I think I smell power juice.”
I tried to put all those details together in my head. They didn’t create anything resembling a clear picture. “Do you know where they went?”
She sniffed again. “No. It’s like they disappeared. I think they left so quickly that the smell was too spread out for me to get a good trail. Or maybe they flew.”
“Maybe it would be clearer on this side?”
“Maybe,” Haley said, “but I think they left from this side.”
She flew across to our side of the highway anyway, landing next to the van and sniffing around it without touching the van. After a little while, she said, “It’s definitely the same people. The older woman wasn’t on this side, but the speedster and the other woman? They were. I can smell them on the doors that were ripped open.”
“You can smell her on the doors? That’s good. She’d have to be moving quickly enough that he,” I pointed toward Philo, “didn’t see her.”
“Really?” Haley glanced at him. Then she said, “Oh. Because he’d be in Accelerando’s league.” She frowned. “That would be a disaster, but right now, it’s just looking like it might be true.”
I was trying to think about how to respond to that, but then Kayla’s voice came over the comm. “They’ve dispatched the police. You’ll be seeing them in ten minutes, maybe less.”
I looked at Haley. “I guess we’d better tell the police what you know.”
She turned, looking down the highway. I didn’t see anything, but maybe she could already hear the sirens. It wouldn’t be the first time.
Noting the dull gray rocket pack on her back, I asked, “Has anybody been doing maintenance on the rocket pack?”
“What?” Her eyes narrowed. “Oh, right. Chris has been looking after them.”
“Oh,” I said. “Huh.”