Curveball Issue 36: The Titan’s Shadow

Part Thirty Four: Aftermath

Jenny knew it would happen fast, but she wasn’t quite prepared for how fast.

One second Blink and Hu are at the Alpha site, waiting. Another second they’re gone, and a second after that Blink and CB are at the Alpha site, waiting. Then the world shakes from a truly massive explosion, and a second later Blink disappears, then reappears five feet in the air, holding the limp form of Agent Hu. They both fall hard, Blink managing to hit first to cushion Hu’s blow. He grunts, and spends a little time wheezing as Brother Judgment and Agent Grant lift Agent Hu off him. Brother Judgment kneels to check on his teammate as Grant throws one of Hu’s arms around his shoulder to walk her over to a medic. David sinks to earth and sheds his shield, almost collapsing on the spot.

Then the sand begins to fall.

The amount of overpressure Hu can generate is impressive enough—it did take a chunk off the tip of Thorpe’s island, after all—but there was more going on in that explosion than just her. Previously unnoticed sensors on Jenny’s visor report traces of unidentified energy that she quickly re-categorizes as “magic.” Whatever it was Hu blew up apparently decided to blow up a bunch of other things, and the end result was that the parts of the building that exploded were almost entirely pulverized. No large chunks of stone fell to earth, just fine powder and sand. It was, Jenny thinks, in some ways the cleanest explosion she’s ever seen.

And the rest of the building does… nothing. It does not topple over, or even sway in a stiff breeze. It was, apparently, standing in a perfect state of balance when Hu blew off its “head,” and it continues to stand, unmoving, as sand falls from the sky.

They did it. They won.

She realizes she can no longer feel the rest of the team in her head. She panics for a second before realizing that Brother Judgment ended the link. They didn’t need it any more. She looks over to see the him sitting on a low brick wall, head between his knees, with Sister Sentinel crouched beside him, making sure he’s OK.

Jenny looks for CB, and sees him leaning against a police van, talking to one of the police officers—an older guy with a weird 70s vibe. They both laugh at something the older guy says, and CB offers him a cigarette. Jenny rolls her eyes.

She methodically goes through the rest of their group. Derecho is standing with Brother Judgment and Sister Sentinel, but Blink is nowhere to be found. Agent Grant is standing next to Hu, who’s being loaded into an ambulance. Near him is a tall black man in sunglasses wearing the exact same suit as his. They’re talking in low voices. Jenny could enhance the audio on her helmet if she wanted, but she doesn’t bother.

Scrapper Jack, LaFleur, and the three Haruspex Employees who rescued him are nowhere to be found. That doesn’t surprise her. Equally unsurprising is the disappearance of Street Ronin and Red Shift. What does surprise her is the reappearance of Blink, carrying the semiconscious form of Senator Tobias Alexander, blinking blearily as he tries to make sense of his surroundings. Blink yells for a medic, and as soon as everyone figures out who he’s carrying the service is excellent.

That leaves David. She walks over to him as he tries to climb to his feet. She offers a hand; he takes it.

“Thanks, Zero.” Despite his exhaustion he seems pretty pleased.

The sound of jets roar through the air, and moments later Sky Commando lands a short distance from the two of them. It’s an impressive piece of machinery up close. Jenny notices David’s eyes linger over it with just a hint of longing as it opens up and the pilot steps out. The pilot is covered head to toe in some kind of battle armor, but it’s obviously a woman, and it’s equally obvious David knows her.

She walks over to them, regarding the Haruspex building as she nears. “Doctor… Enigma, is it?” There’s the definite hint of a smile in her voice.

David nods. “I wasn’t a huge fan at first, but it’s growing on me.”

Sky Commando shakes her head. “I just saw you fly.”

“You’ve seen me fly before.”

“I saw you fly without jet engines,” Sky Commando clarifies. “And you tanked a skyscraper.”

David grins. “This is New York City. That was barely a skyscraper.”

Sky Commando laughs, then pulls a very surprised David into a quick, tight hug. “You set a really hard example to follow, jackass.”

David’s grin fades as he looks around. “Oh, I don’t know about that. I never had to deal with something like this. Today Sky Commando managed to contain a monster that would have utterly destroyed Manhattan. At least Manhattan. Probably more. I think you did pretty good.”

He pauses.

“The Mayor’s gonna try to get you fired, obviously.”

“Obviously.” Sky Commando’s voice is dry.

“But he’ll fail. Hey, have you met Zero?”

“No…” Sky Commando turns to face Jenny. “Zero, is it? Odd name.”

“I was short on time,” Jenny says. “And, it turns out I’m terrible at names.”

Sky Commando laughs. “There are entire social media sites devoted to voting on the best names for new heroes. Just hang out there for a while and read the comments.”

“Never read the comments,” Jenny says automatically. “Also, the top choice for every new hero is always ‘Hero McHeroface.’”

Sky Commando laughs even harder. “I think I like you. Look, I have to go coordinate something before someone ropes me into getting shouted at for a few hours. Take care.” She turns back to David. “I mean it.”

David grins—a cocky grin that Jenny hasn’t really seen on him much—and he half-salutes.

She walks over to one of the uniformed officers and starts giving orders.

“She’s pretty cool,” Jenny says.

“Yeah,” David says.

Jenny looks over the wreckage. “So what now? Do we help clean up?”

David frowns, considering. “No,” he says finally. “Normally, yes, that’s what you’d do, but part of our group only has a 24 hour pass before someone starts trying to arrest them with more enthusiasm than sense. And because the rest of us were actively coordinating with one of the world’s most infamous supervillains, that would make us ‘persons of interest.’ And oh yeah, there’s still the matter of that metahuman virus.”

“Shit.” Jenny feels herself deflate a little. “I hadn’t really thought about it, but when you put it that way, we didn’t really win, did we?”

David shrugs. “I don’t know about that. We were trying to save the Senator’s life. We did. That was our objective, we met it. They tried to retaliate by leveling the city. They failed. We didn’t win the war, but we won this battle.”

Jenny looks around again. “So what now?”

David starts looking through the crowd. “Now we round everyone up and go back to the Nautilus. Then we probably sleep for a few days. Then we try to figure out what to do next. We’ve still got a lot of work to do, and we can’t do it from here.”

Jenny looks up at the sky. It’s morning now. Even though the sun can’t get through the Manhattan skyline, the sky is bright and blue and cheerful. David is right: this wasn’t a loss. As brutal a fight as it was, it was an act of desperation from an enemy that had run away. They’d done what they’d come to do: saved her uncle’s life. And along the way they’d recovered LaFleur, acquired three new assets, and destroyed the leverage these assholes had over a bunch of very powerful people.

And, just as important, that wasn’t the end of it. There was still more to do.

“Right. I’ll tell the others. Time to get back to work.”

“Time to get back to work,” David agrees.

So they did.

51 comments

  1. At last! Muchas gracias. Read the whole thing, mind is thoroughly blown.

    You may wish to fix the typo at paragraph 6, first line. The “f” is missing from Red Shift’s name.

  2. Typo immune to spell check, part 6, paragraph 91, sentence 3. Did you mean, “The small one jumps to his feet” rather than “his feat”?

  3. Re-reading part two, section where the scene shifts to Jenny: second paragraph refers to Liberty as Toby’s grandfather, third paragraph refers to Liberty as “his great-grandfather.” In context, the intent of the second reference could have been “his grandfather” again or “her (Jenny’s) great-grandfather”.

  4. Great to have you back in the harness – so to speak.
    Minor typo: Part Two, Para 5: a ‘d’ is missing in: one arm hangs limply by his sie as the empty sleeve…

  5. Part two, second section (Jenny), second paragraph, last sentence, linguistic quibble: “At the moment he’s laying down” should be “At the moment he’s lying down”. It may be said that in the previous episode when David moved Toby after casting his protective spell, he laid Toby down, but now Toby is lying down. For edification and amusement, you may wish to go to dictionary.com, enter the word “lay” in the definition blank and hit enter, then scroll down to the “Lay vs. Lie” video and enjoy.

  6. Part 9, paragraph beginning “He can see the Chairman”, last sentence: Richter is misspelled “Reichter”. Possibly Freudian slip?

  7. Part 10, first paragraph, second sentence, first word should not contain the apostrophe. (Autocorrect does that to me sometimes, substituting the contraction for the possessive pronoun. Bad autocorrect!)

  8. Part 22:
    – second paragraph, first sentence speaks of “dimly lit florescent lights” but I think you meant “fluorescent” since the dictionary says “florescent” means “flourishing”.
    – fourth paragraph from the end, beginning “There is a low hum”, another “it’s” that should be “its”.

  9. APOLOGIES FOR THE FORMATTING:
    I just finished reading an excellent and enthralling tale (obviously shaving your head did nothing to kerb your style – I was worried a la Samson and Delilah that you might lose your talent).
    Anyhow, the following typos, misspelling(s), and possible misunderstandings, by me, of your choice of words/phrases to this left-pondian, who only lived in the US for 21 years, triggered my antenna – but the story demanded that I keep reading. This resulted in a quick copy and paste (without commentary) and then a quick insert of the Part Number (so that you have a vague clue where to look).

    Part Seven: Haruspex Analytics, Jason Klein’s Suite

    He wouldn’t be the first to abandon a good team in favor of a promising promotion. To become “a suit,” as Billy would to say.

    Part Eight: New York City, Downtown

    David grins in spite of himself. “Because it’s better ‘Doctor Weird, Warlock Supreme.’”

    Part Fourteen: Haruspex Analytics

    Shewatches, calm and remote, and waits.

    She at Justin. Without hesitation, he bolts toward the still glowing tear.

    Part Eighteen: Haruspex Analytics, Ground Floor Lobby

    The torso comes together in a rough outline, and in a matter of seconds he can the pieces of rock fuse together as the golem begins to reform.

    Blue light flares up again, but it’s different this time. It flickers erratically, like a fluorescent light just before it does.

    Part Nineteen: Haruspex Analytics, Upper Floors

    Street Ronin crouches on the landing tile, his rifle trained on the closed door

    Part Twenty Two: Manhattan, Alpha Checkpoint MCV

    “That’s right,” the Senator’s image says. “Remember when I said the first virus—the that didn’t kill

    It’s bad, Captain. Bad in way that, historically, cuts across old boundaries. . . . .. We’re talking genetic plague, Captian.”

    Part Twenty Seven: Metamorphosis

    As the wind rises, so dow the sound, the thummm growing louder, and behind it a second sound.

    Part Twenty Nine: Downtown Manhattan

    Para 2: It can’t move beyond this spot because the buildings surrounding it are too fall.

    Alishia flies closer to the golem, keying up a volley of anti-vehicle missles

    Part Thirty One: Ingress

    No games, Sky Commando. We have a way to take out thegolem.

    Part Thirty Three: Haruspex Analytics Golem, The Labyrinth

    he knocks a new hole in the side dof the building and jumps.

    Part Thirty Four: Aftermath

    David starts looking through the crowd. “Now we round everyone up and go back to the Nautillus.

    HTH

  10. Back again. Just checked the amendment that you made re. Part Nineteen (which is the deja vu all over again and again) and “on the landing tile” appears at least 5 more times – thanks be to Ctrl-F.

  11. Sorry, my misunderstanding, my septuagenarian vocabulary didn’t extend to ‘landing tile’ as a thing, but google.com showed me the error of my ways – since multiple peoples being advertizing them are.

  12. part ten

    not fighting against the other awareness, but fusing to cede what remains of his own identity.

    refusing to cede?

  13. part seventeen

    She twists his arm, and the he cries out in pain as the carbine clatters to the floor.

    then he tries?

  14. part 24 “Where are these thingscoming from?” Jenny keeps

    not sure if missing a space?

  15. And now to see where Regiment was during all this kerfuffle…
    Thanks for coming back!

  16. Part 22, paragraph 43: “Sky Commander” should probably be “Sky Commando” unless the point is that Captain Banks (understandably) is so badly shaken he isn’t even using Sgt. Webb’s proper title. He gets it right two paragraphs later.

    Part 22, paragraphs 39 and 41: not sure about this. 39 refers to “the worst of the group” as a tossup between Crossfire and Overmind. In 41, Sky Commando tells Captain Banks that Haruspex is “much worse than either of those groups could hope to be”, where “either of those groups” seems to be a reference back to Crossfire and Overmind. Am I misreading this, or is she calling Overmind a group?

  17. One of those typos that spellcheck will never catch: Part 26, paragraph 1, last sentence: “standing father back”: s/father/farther.

  18. Part 27, paragraph 15, sentence 4: the word “shifts” is missing an “f”.

  19. Part 29:
    Paragraph 33:
    – sentence 5: need a space here: durabilityconverging. “durability” is in italics in the actual text.
    – next to last sentence: “it’s attention” should be “its attention”.
    Paragraph 44, next to last sentence: “one a little to low” “to” needs another “o”.
    Paragraph 48, last sentence: “She adjusts her position, putting as much of the base of her cable between herself and the ones closing in.” “as much” seems to want another “as” but I’m not sure exactly what you want here.

  20. Part 30:
    Paragraph 11, first sentence, after the second dash: “is throws it”: s/is/it
    Paragraph 31: last sentence: “keeping out of site” out of “sight”?

  21. Beautiful, beautiful work. Thank you so much for sharing.

    Partway through Part Seventeen there appears to be some paragraph-level cleanup needed at the point where the Chairman nearly comes in to check on Artemis, but then changes his mind. Two versions of the same passage? –>

    “Our guest…” Suddenly the Chairman sounds weary. He sighs. “The resources we will need to expend to keep him in check will be… prohibitive. I fear we will be forced to leave him behind.” Phyllis is surprised by the amount of regret in the Chairman’s voice. Who is he talking about?

    “I should, at least, say farewell…”

    Footsteps close in on the door, and when the door handle begins to turn her heart nearly stops. But it stops, then returns to its original position as the hand on the other side lets go.

    “No,” the Chairman says. “We don’t have the time. It galls me to leave him behind

    Ah. Yes.” The Chairman hmmms thoughtfully. “I fear we won’t be able to take him with us. The resources we’d need to expend to keep him in check are best used on other things. Come, the door is here.”

    The group comes to a stop, and for a terror-filled moment Phyllis is convinced they’ve stopped in front of her door. Seconds pass, then something clicks on the other side of the hall, and the footsteps move off carpet, onto stone. The door clicks a second time as it swings shut. The hallway is silent once again.

  22. @cuatroojos: thanks for the extra updates. They’re all fixed. Sidenote: the issue with the two words being crammed together without a space between them is an oddity because it never shows up in my original text — it’s a result of dumping the text into WordPress. So far I haven’t figured out what it is that’s making WordPress remove the spaces. I assume it isn’t random, though it looks that way to me.

    @Christopher Krebs: aaaaaAAAAAAaaaaaAAAaaaaaaaaAAAAaaaaaa fixed now. 😀

  23. You’ve done a terrific job keeping so many different narrative strands going without getting all tangled. Bravo.

    Part Twenty-Eight, paragraph 4, another sentence-level blip: “He grimaces, thrusting his right hand left arm and his side.”

  24. Part 17, third-to-last paragraph, last sentence: “careless” needs to be in its adverbial form, “carelessly”.

  25. Part 6:
    – Paragraph 73 begins “Int he”; “In the”?
    – Paragraph 93, beginning “David doesn’t reply”: in the second sentence, “exends” looks like it wants to be “extends”.
    – Paragraph 11, first sentence, “more than match”, maybe “more than a match”?

  26. > It was literally SURROUNDED by other instances of the word spelled correctly. Sigh.
    If your fingers are anything like mine, they don’t *care* how many times you have spelled a given word correctly. And I echo your Sigh.

  27. C.B., Thanks so much for this! Amazing!

    It’s been so long since 35 (and 35 made no sense to me at the time!), that I just bit the bullet and reread from the beginning, and then crashed straight through 36. Wow. Really well done – I can see where the breaks would be for 36a, b, and c if you could break from “year 3”, but boy does it work as a whole.

    I actually thought it would be the complete wrapup, since it took that long to “pull in all the loose ends and stories”. But no – it’s just the cliffhanger to Year 4, “on the clock” as it were. Can’t complain about that!

    Since I did do a compleat runthrough (spelling intended), I then did it again, trying to pay attention to blips and continuity issues. I have a bunch of notes (some on 36 might already be noted here), plus a Liberty Family Tree – what’s the best way to get them to you, should you want them? I could post it here or the forums, but it is the size of one of your smaller chapters; plus some of the questions are “I could very easily be wrong here, having not understood context”, so, not sure you want those ideas that public.

    Note: the email registered with my account is live and commonly read, if you don’t want to put anything out in the open yourself!

    Also note: there were threads running through the story that I only saw on the “editing runthrough” – and I’ve read (what was, at the time) the whole story, I think 5 times now. Love the world and character-building that has clearly always been there, but I haven’t noticed happening in serial form.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *