We left. It would have been stupid not to, not to mention more than a little unkind to our backup that, past careers notwithstanding, was risking their lives for an information-gathering mission that had turned into something much bigger.
Jaclyn jumped up, crashing through the floor and then jumping back down to grab Izzy before jumping up again. Cassie didn’t even have time to say, “I could have taken out the floor for you,” though she tried.
We all flew through the hole, finding ourselves in the first hallway under the lobby. We were on the far end next to the elevator that led down on the tower side of the hall. The hall went further than I’d realized past the elevator.
Cassie flew out of the hole, pointed her gun at a section of the concrete ceiling a good thirty feet down the hall from us and fired, causing an oval-shaped section of the ceiling to explode and fall in—those parts of it that weren’t vaporized on contact. I felt glad we weren’t under it.
Then we all flew up into the building’s lobby with Cassie and I leading the way since we weren’t carrying anyone. It didn’t look that much different than it had when we left, putting a hole in the lobby’s floor and ceiling. Now, we’d added another to the floor.
Even as Cassie and I looked at each other and both said, “Out,” we heard the Atoner’s voice over the comm, “We’re out and just in time.”
When he hit the word, “time,” a deep rumble started, followed by screeches of metal and then crashing noises, some of them deeper than others. The building literally shook. We all looked at each other and started running out the front doors. I didn’t bother with opening the door and neither did Jaclyn or Izzy—who’d woken up as Jaclyn carried her and dropped down to her feet.
I’d have felt worse about smashing through if it wasn’t owned by the Nine and if we hadn’t already done so much worse damage than simply trashing the glass and the metal frame around it.
We weren’t the only ones either. The Probationers pulled themselves up through the hole. Ape Nasty propelled himself up , pulling himself over the edge and landing on his feet. Dr. Transylvania floated out of the hole in a mist and reformed a few feet past the edge, surprisingly pulling Mistress Madness out of the mist along with him. Seeing him up close, I noted the magical symbols inscribed into his armor. I couldn’t read even one of them, but years of knowing Amy and Samita had left me with at least a basic recognition of the magic symbols that actually worked.
I’d heard him described as a vampire Iron Man. I’d have loved to talk shop with him if we had the time—which we didn’t. There was, of course, also the matter of the thousands of deaths at his hands due to feeding over the centuries since the Middle Ages.
I didn’t know how he’d become a member of the Probationers, but chances were that he’d helped a team with something big.
The Atoner came out of the hole last, jumping up and landing just past the edge. Most of the gadgets on his belt were missing. There’d been more in the video when he’d flown in, but he grinned at all of us, “Did you got everything you were looking for?”
“I think so,” I told him.
He began walking toward the door, “Then let’s get out of here before this turns into an interview with the local press.”
Sirens screamed in the distance, somewhere beyond the cornfields. I didn’t doubt that they were most likely on their way here. We all walked out the wide, double doors in front as a group. Despite all the destruction of the past half hour, the doors opened automatically.
Walking out onto the front steps of the building, we looked into the parking lot to find that there were already news trucks there—WGN and Chicago’s CBS affiliate. How they’d gotten here on time had to be luck because they didn’t have time to get here from Chicago in the time we’d been here.
A pale-skinned woman with long, brown hair and a black suit walked up to me with a microphone in hand and a cameraman standing directly behind her. He pointed the camera directly at my face as she said, “I’m Alissa Henges from WGN-TV, have you seen this video?”
She held up her cellphone in her left hand. It showed a picture of Rook’s black armor, beak, wings, and all.
“We’ve been busy fighting for our lives,” I peered down at it. “When did that come out?”
“Just now. It’s been emailed to reporters across the country,” she moved the hand with the microphone in toward the triangle in the middle of the phone’s screen and tapped it with her finger.
Any questions I might have had ended with the voice. It was the same one I’d always heard coming out of the Rook suit. If that weren’t enough, the crow-themed helmet looked like every picture I’d ever seen of Rook.
“Heroes’ League,” Rook said. “Let me be the first one to congratulate you for starting a war.”