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.”
“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.