Curveball Issue 24: Triple Helix

Part Seven: Farraday City, Midtown

“Christ Almighty. What the fuck happened to the sky?”

Agent Grant stares in amazement as rain pounds against Hu’s car. The city is a mess: cars are abandoned in the road, along the side of the road, sometimes even on sidewalks as streams of people slog through the rain, heading for any building they can find. The only people actively driving on the road are Hu—who is clearly unhappy about it—and, based on occasional glimpses of flashing red light, a few emergency response vehicles.

Most of the time all Grant can see are solid sheets of water crashing into Hu’s windshield. It looks like someone has pointed a garden hose directly at each window in the car—all he sees is water spilling over more water. When lightning flashes he can see a little more: endless black clouds roiling in the sky, wind whipping sand and garbage through the air, tiny streams coursing down streets and pooling at intersections. Then the light fades, and once again all he sees is sheets of water against the windows.

“Wasn’t it sunny ten minutes ago?” He squints, wondering if the vague shapes he thinks he sees through the rain are really there, or if it’s just the rain screwing with him. “I distinctly remember there being sunlight.”

“Sure wish somebody thought to tell us we’d be driving through a hurricane today,” Hu says, voice tight.

“There’s not supposed to be a hurricane.” Travers holds up a newspaper. “Their front page story is ‘DROUGHT THREATENS WATER RATIONING.’ This was not on anyone’s radar. Literally.”

“I think it’s cute that you bought that,” Grant says. “Really, newspapers are adorable. Me, I’d just check the Internet, but apparently it can’t swim. Still, if you wanna be retro, at least try something with a little less delay…”

He turns on Hu’s car radio and almost immediately they hear the electronic warning tones of the Emergency Broadcast System.

Warning. A significant weather event has occurred over much of the Farraday City Metropolitan area. You are advised to remain indoors at this time. Sustained winds of up to ninety-eight miles per hour have been reported in some areas. Do not remain outside. Do not remain in your car. Do not attempt to drive at this time. Please seek the nearest storm-ready shelter and remain there until the storm subsides. The boardwalk and surrounding regions are considered especially unsafe. Do not attempt to travel at this time. Warning. A significant weather event has occurred over much of the Farraday City Metropolitan area…”

Grant turns off the radio. “There you go. Ninety-eight miles per hour. We just wandered into a category two hurricane. Jesus.”

“Yes,” Travers says. “I think this storm is significant.”

“It’s about to wash the whole fucking city out to sea,” Grant says. “I’m pretty sure everybody thinks the storm is significant.”

“That’s not what I mean. This storm is obviously unnatural.”

“What are you saying?” Grant asks. “Weather machine? Weather death ray?”

“Maybe a manipulator,” Hu suggests.

“I don’t know,” Grant says. “I never heard of a manipulator who could do something this big.”

“Whatever the cause,” Travers says, “it’s not natural. Someone—something—created it. It sounds like the source is near the boardwalk, and if we can find that, I’ll bet we find Curveball as well.”

“How are we going to do that, exactly?” Hu asks. “We can barely see the street. How do we find the center of the storm when we can’t even really see the part we’re in?”

“Good question. It’s not like we can—well. Huh.” Agent Grant frowns thoughtfully.

“It’s not like we can what?” Hu asks. “Is this gonna piss me off?”

“Maybe,” Grant says. “Probably. I know how to find the center of the storm. Well. I know how you can find it.”

Hu narrows her eyes.

“You won’t find it under the storm,” Grant says. “You gotta go over it.”

Now it’s Hu’s turn to frown thoughtfully.

“Can you do it?” Travers asks. “I assume all this water would work against you.”

“Not too much,” Hu says. “I can burn underwater no problem. The wind’s tricky, though. Grant, I’ve never tried to fly in wind this strong before.”

“Yeah, that’s… yeah,” Grant agrees. “But you don’t have to fly against it. You know how they tell you not to swim against a current, but to swim at an angle? Well this is the same thing, only your angle is up.”

“Oh really,” Hu says. “And this comes from how many years of experience as a flier?”

“Got me there,” Grant says. “Still, it sounded good. Come on, Hu. I got shot in the head, died, then had my organs scooped into tiny bags by the coroner. This is nothing.”

“After today, you don’t get to use that line on me any more.”

“Yeah, I figured,” Grant says. “Really, the window was closing on it anyway.”

Hu pulls over to the side of the road. “Shut up, Grant. Travers, hand me my carry bag. It’s on the floor behind my seat.”

Travers grabs the heavy fireproof bag and sets it on the armrest between the driver and passenger seat. Hu opens it up, rummages through the contents, nods in satisfaction, and throws her phone on the top.

“If I find what we’re looking for, I’ll try to call. Of course if there’s something exciting going on…”

Travers leans forward slightly. “If there’s something exciting going on, and you happen to run into either Curveball or Crossfire, please tell them I sent you.”

“OK,” Hu says. “What if they don’t believe me?”

“Then don’t let CB break your jaw.”

“Hey Hu,” Grant says. “Are you wearing your—”

“—yes,” Hu snaps. “I am wearing my ‘bathing suit.’ I figure if we’re in Farraday City, I’d better be ready to burn things down…”

She stares out the windshield, watching the rain, listening to the wind shriek.

“I better get this over with.” She unhooks her seatbelt, grabs her bag, and grabs the door handle. “See you boys later. Grant: don’t drown, don’t make trouble, don’t drive my car.”

She shoves open the driver’s-side door and tumbles out of the car. Even that brief moment of exposure to the storm drenches the interior; the wind whips the rain so fiercely that it stings when it hits skin, and Grant flinches as the first spray hits his face. Then Hu slams the door shut, and Grant and Travers watch, soaking wet, as Hu disappears into darkness.

“Do you think she—” Travers begins, then a fireball explodes in the intersection, shooting up into the sky.

“Yeah,” Grant says. “I think she did.”

The car falls silent. The rain sounds like hail.

“OK,” Grant says, “time to motor.”

His edges blur for a moment, then he disappears from the passenger seat and reappears in the driver’s seat. He turns the ignition.

“What are you doing?” Travers asks.

“Driving us to the boardwalk.”

“Agent Hu told you not to drive her car.”

“I know,” Grant says. “She’s gonna be pissed.”

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