Part Twenty Eight: Haruspex Analytics, Below
It starts with a tremor, then a sound, then all of the cultists bursting into flame.
In the immediate aftermath of the fight Agent Grant brings everyone up to speed on Jenny’s group finding LaFleur along with three apparent defectors. Then the building starts to shake: the tremor is brief, but strong enough for CB and his group to stop what they’re doing and focus completely on the cracks forming through the stone floor. When the sound starts, it’s alarming enough that CB is about to suggest that they take the wounded and get David to make one of those convenient portals to hurry through when suddenly they are surrounded by fire, heat, and light. The strange red stone in the room and infused in the walls are engulfed in flame, followed shortly by every cultist in the room. Even the ones who turned to stone burst into blue-white flame. It’s an unnatural burn—it takes no more than a second, as all the cultists bodies and red stone are consumed like flash paper—and then all that is left are piles of ash scattered across the broken floor.
CB looks at the others. Blink is on the other side of the room, an instinctive reaction to suddenly being surrounded by fire. Brother Judgment is airborne, for pretty much the same reason, wisps of smoke rising from the hem of his trenchcoat. David appears untouched, though he’s swaying as if trying to catch his balance, and the strange shadow-bird he calls “Allard” is hanging in the air, motionless.
The only one who appears physically hurt is Agent Grant. He grimaces, thrusting his right hand between his left arm and his side. CB can smell charred flesh.
“Just a sec.” Grant speaks through clenched teeth, forcing back a gag. “I was trying to triage one of those assholes. Fuck, this hurts…” His outline blurs for a second, then he sighs in relief. The smell of charred flesh disappears, and as he drops his hand to his side CB can see no trace of burns at all. “Now what the hell is going on?”
The trembling starts again, stronger this time.
“Curveball.” Brother Judgment floats down beside him and points to the door. “Exit’s gone.”
Correction: Brother Judgment points to where the door used to be. There is no longer any trace of it, just a solid, stone wall that is cracking the longer the building shakes.
“What the hell?” CB races over to where there ought to be a door. “Doc, is this some kind of illusion?”
David frowns at the blank spot on the wall. “No. Give me a second, and I’ll summon a portal. Where do you want to go?”
“Good question,” CB says. “Grant, tell Travers to reach out to Sky Commando. Looks like we need to group up.”
* * *
Alishia Webb banks sharply, the Sky Commando suit responding far more nimbly than its size would suggest, as one of the building’s cables flies past her in a blur. The end strikes the side of a nearby building, knocking out a human-sized chunk of concrete and causing spider fractures to form around the impact.
“Status!” She’s yelling, an unnecessary but altogether reasonable reaction given all the adrenaline pumping through her right now. She’d assumed all those metal plates being scattered across Manhattan was the worst-case scenario. She was so very, very wrong.
The building’s right leg (the building’s right leg??? How the hell is that a thing?) stands on the street, its left on the edge of the small park. The building is too large to fit entirely on the street, it can’t go any further without pushing through other buildings first.
This is clearly what it intends to do.
“We’ve expanded the perimeter.” Captain Banks sounds a little calmer than Alishia—on the other hand, he’s not dodging sky tentacles. “Sky Commando, we’re lucky, I suppose, that this is happening now. Not as many people here. But there are still people…”
“Understood. I’ll get you more support.” She switched channels, activating the band reserved for civilian metahumans who assist law enforcement. “This is Sky Commando, calling all Licensed Metahuman Assets. You unlicensed ones, too—I know you’re listening in. We need any metahumans with abilities or resources that can assist in evacuating the area to report to Captain Paul Banks as soon as possible. I’m sending his location now. We need you to focus on getting people out of the area instead of engaging with the…”
Her voice trails off as she tries to find a word that accurately describes the walking building without actually calling it a walking building. She can’t find one.
“Kaiju?” Whoever is making the suggestion doesn’t bother identifying himself.
“You know what, at some point someone is going to post this entire conversation on the Internet and there will be a subreddit devoted to how wrong that is, but I can’t think of anything better right now. If you are tasked with evacuating civilians, do not engage the kaiju. The point is to get the civilians out of the way. Air Force is en route, I don’t want civilians caught in the middle when they show up.”
Another channel lights up—one of the reserved ones. Alishia gains a little altitude to bring herself above the writing cables, then activates the reserved channel. “Sky Commando.”
“Hello, Sky Commando.” The voice is pleasant, professionally friendly, and exceptionally calm. “This is Pete Travers.”
“Travers!” Alishia feels herself tense. “Agent Henry told me to expect your call. What’s the status of your people?”
“It’s complicated,” Travers says. “Most of them are in the building at the moment, but we’re about to extract them somewhat rapidly. Can you give them a safe place to exit? Keeping in mind that we would prefer they not be shot at, or arrested…”
“Since none of them are a 50 story tall walking building I think that’s not going to be a problem,” Alishia says. “Get them to the Alpha MCV—sending location now. Agent Henry and the rest of his team are already there.”
“That’s convenient,” Travers says. “Location received. I’ll contact again once everyone is out.”
“Hurry,” Alishia says. “The Air Force is on its way.”