- October 1, 2023
The Wolf Pack (Chapter 29)
“When I said that we are going to do exactly what they would never expec, I didn’t expect you to volunteer your car,” the Director says to the Hood. I’ve never done this before, listened in to the Hood’s car and spied on people through cameras.
The Hood speeds down the road, other cars honking as he cuts them off. He answers her question with a push of a button, triggering the car to change. Armor plating comes out from underneath and between parts of the car to the outside. On top, comes a missile launcher and from the headlights are two LMGs, that can turn and aim. It’s an assault vehicle in the form of a sports car.
The Director looks at everything that’s changed around her and asks, “How the hell do you afford this?!”
“Wouldn’t you like to know,” he answers her.
This is an amazing moment, or it would be more amazing if it were under different circumstances. Having both Hoods fighting side by side, having the original turn out to be the Director!
Yeah, I know, Emily can fly and all that, but who would have saw this coming? Just seemed like something that could never happen because who would have thought that the original was Claire and that she’d be… immortal? I’m not sure how that works.
The Hood calls for me, “James, are you listening?”
“Yes,” I answer into his helmet.
As I’m connected to everything, my mind goes between the cameras in the target building and the ones in both the Hoods’ helmets. I look through the second’s, right as he tells me, “I need you to be quiet, no distractions, only if Claire needs help do you tell me to focus.”
Claire makes sure to tell me, “Before I go all dark and brooding like my old persona, know this James, you can talk to me about whatever you want. Seriously, misery loves company.”
Heh, kind of funny that the old-timer likes having someone in the tech chair.
The Hood also orders me, “James, for now, so no one can tell who you are, we’ll call you Oversight.”
Oversight, I like that, that’s pretty cool.
“Oversight, make all the lights green.”
Oh, start me off with something easy.
As they head towards Adds Circle the Hood can’t help but ask the Director, “So, run this by me again,” with skepticism galore, “why was the plan just ramming a car through the front door?”
The Director explains, “There were no other entrances outside of jumping through a window, and honestly,” she pauses to stroke the katana in her lap, “I need some henchman to warm up on. It’s been a while since I’ve done anything other than shoot people.”
“Oh, then maybe we shouldn’t have taken my car then.”
The Director turns her head on a swivel. “Why?”
She groans before she asks, “Was there another way?”
“Sewer?” the Hood offers.
“No,” she is quick to reply, “I have a better question.”
“Can your car hold against lasers?”
That is a good question.
The Hood responds with the thrilling information that, “The armor is made of cantorium, it’ll absorb any blasters like my suit.”
I wonder if he gets a kick out of surprising everyone. If I weren’t so stressed out about the mission, I’d chuckle at the way the Director’s head jerks in her helmet.
She asks the logical question, “Where the hell did you get all this cantorium?” She knocks her knuckle on his suit and remarks, “You haven’t even told me how you got your suit.”
“Don’t say ‘wouldn’t you like to know,’” the Director interrupts him, and instead of coming up with something else to say he doesn’t say anything. It’s odd to watch one person in a helmet with no eye holes stare at another person in a helmet with no eye holes. The silence is deafening, but there isn’t tension or awkwardness, just… silence.
“You’re not gonna answer me now?” she asks.
The Hood takes a breath and glances outside the window as he steers the car. “My mentor gave it all to me,” he admits. He’s mentioned a mentor a couple times, but that’s it, and I’ve only heard him because I was listening when I wasn’t supposed to be. Right about now, I can’t think of anyone who wouldn’t want to meet this guy, or girl.
The Director asks, “Who’s your mentor?” as if it would be that easy.
It’s almost worse that the Hood is cryptic instead of outright silent. “Not of this world.”
The Director turns back in her seat to look straight out the windshield. I can hear her sigh fill the car from her helmet. Sometimes I wonder why she bothers.
They come onto Add’s Circle, and they go around the circle that zooms around Central Park at the center.
They have their target building insight, and they have to drive all the way around, looking at its peak from across the park.
The Hood steps on the gas to go even faster and ram right through the glass doors. He takes the time to ask the Director one more time, “Are you ready?”
“No,” she answers, “I’m about to fight harder than I have in nearly a hundred years, but I’ll get over it.”
The moment seems almost tender, strangely tender when he assures here that, “I can do this alone, you know, you don’t have to follow.”
She turns her head towards him, the helmets make them seem like aliens trying to form an emotional connection. She places her hand on his shoulder as the engine reeves, and he looks down at it for a moment. “You’ve been without your family most of your life, and ahead of maybe the toughest battle of your life you think I’m going to leave you?” she asks him, rhetorically of course. “Not on your life.”
The Director takes her hand off his shoulder and sits back in her seat, and gets her taser-gun out to hold with her katana. The two stare dead ahead as the building comes into view and they can see the nice walkway before it.
The original tells the successor, “This is gonna be fun.”
“Are you serious?”
“No, I’m sarcastic, not crazy.”
He shakes his head as he turns the car onto the sidewalk towards the front doors, honking the horn for everyone to get out of the way.
The engine revs up as it pushes itself up and over the curve and soaring through the air through the front doors. It touches the ground for about a second before the whole door vaporizes.
I watched it happen from the camera on the hood of the car, and it was a trip.
From the inside, the shattering the glass and destruction of the doors is deafening, I couldn’t describe if I tried other than as an explosion of rock and glass. The lobby isn’t anything special, a wide-open space with seats and chairs in the middle, two counters on either side, with people standing and sitting far apart. The first three floors can be seen from the lobby, just as the blueprint showed, they aren’t the full width of the building, or would it be the length?
The Director slings her katana around her back, but the Hood holds her back, and at that moment everyone in the lobby and near the railing on the first three floors, pull out their guns and start lighting up the car. They shoot normal bullets that ding off the plates, fueling it with kinetic energy.
The Director sees that they’re not using blasters, and is more happy than worried about the fact that seemingly every person in here is a henchman, down to the lady at the reception desk. I guess this is what she wanted.
“They’re using bullets,” she laughs at them. She slaps the dash of the car, complimenting that, “Can’t even dent it.” The Hood isn’t so happy, resting his head on his chin as they watch all the henchmen light up his windshield, and the Director notices too. “What are you thinking?”
“They’ve made it easy for us to get in, and they’ve given their front-line little chance of beating us, which means one thing,” he tells her, watching what can only be low grade henchmen reloading normal handguns, dressed in suits and ties, with a few skirts and janitors among them.
Whatever is running through the Hood’s head sets in for the Director, and she leans back against the chair as she realizes, “It’s a trap.”
“There’s not a single non-combatant in sight.”
“But we knew it would be a trap,” she reminds him, adding noise to fuel his silence.
As he looks out at everyone, his hands go to two joysticks of some kind behind the wheel and slowly aims them towards the henchman.
“It’s strange,” he says, “to meet people with as little regard for life…” He moves his fingers over what seems like two buttons over the joysticks and says, “They’ve sucked the fun out of it.”
Then he presses the buttons.
There’s a quick tick-tick before the gatling guns starts roaring and disintegrating people. Claire barely manages out of a scream before men and women are blown a apart, chunks of their skin being blown off on impact and holes large enough for a fist being left behind.
The guns start on those at the ends, and then strafe to the other side. One gun mows down everyone on the ground floor and the other hits the floor above, the only one with an open balcony.
People try to run but there’s nearly nowhere to run to. The dead center leads to an open hall where they die to bullets in their backs. If they’re on the second floor, they might have a chance to run away, but the Hood follows them and shoots up into the ceiling ahead to get as many stragglesrs he can’t see as possible.
All-in-all, he kills several dozen people in a manner of seconds without lifting much of a finger.
“Well, that was boring,” he complains.
He turns to Clair whose clinging to the inside of his card, staring at him. “What the fuck?!”
He sort of shrugs. “I know you said you wanted practice, but we don’t really have a lot of time.”
I mean, he’s right, but I think she’s still in shock from watching so many people, die so fast, with next to no difficulty. This might be the first time that she’s seen up close how effective and remorseless he can be. Or at least while also being so effective.
Lucky me, when looking through the cameras it’s much easier for me to just… detach. He feels more like a video game than real life.
The Director struggles and fidgets with the door handle, not answering the Hood, not even looking at him.
The Hood stops staring and unlocks the door for the Director but when his hand goes to the handle, he holds up his own and grabs her before she gets out.
“I want to say something first, Claire.”
I’m getting a personal vibe from these two, as if there’s something that I’ve been missing every time they interact and seem to know each other, but yet… not know each other.
“You talked about family, blood doesn’t make us family, loyalty does.”
They stare at each, into each other’s eyes without anyone saying anything for a few seconds, until the Hood says, “Make sure I still leave with mine, don’t die.”
Wait… no… wait… no…
“You know,” Claire starts, “I’d take a bullet for you, you know that.”
Aw, that’s really nice.
“Ugh,” the Hood groans, “you’re immortal,” which reminds me, “and I’m going to shoot you if you keep saying that.”
The Director chuckles.
“You know what, you fucking ruined the moment.”
Once they’re out, the Hood clicks a button and the car puts its guns away and locks. They go to the nearest elevator and stop without even hitting a button.
“We didn’t really talk about this part,” the Director mutters to the Hood, turning to him to get an answer, but he’s as silent and stoic as ever, thinking to himself or amping himself up. I can only imagine it’s one of the two. “One of us goes up, the other down, taking the chances of the big bad being upstairs or downstairs and the team in the other.”
There is a chance that they’re on any of the other floors, but that’s honestly not how these evil lairs work.
The Hood scoffs as he crosses his arms, ready to let the Director know, “Let’s not kid ourselves, ego is like heat, it likes to go up, lets secret-society types have a sense of superiority.”
The Director chuckles at his logic, admitting, “I can’t argue with that. So which one do you want?”
“I’m gonna go kick Hundress’s ass, and whoever she answers to.”
“Hundress is a robot, and her boss probably is too, they may not have an ass to kick.” I wonder if she had this sense of humor when she last wore the helmet.
“Oh, don’t worry,” the Hood assures her as he presses the up button, causing the elevator doors to open, “I’ll find one.” He takes a step into the elevator, but the Director takes his hand.
“Hey, remember what you said, about not having a lot of family, well, don’t die, Clay,” name drop, “I’d miss you more than you would miss me, so… be careful.”
The Hood hesitates before he nods his head in confirmation, and stepping in the elevator. As he presses the up button, he looks back to the Director. As the doors close, he has to have the last word he tells her, “Don’t be so sure.”
The elevator goes up, and the Director has to wait before prying open the doors to the elevator shaft. Before she opens it she clearly thinks about what the Hood said to her.
She places her hand over chest at the thought, and goes, “Huh, I guess it can get warm,” and then she jumps.
I’m so glad that a fucking massacre ends with such a nice familial moment.
There’s no way he’d miss me more, no way, right?
To think there was still someone who can touch my cold heart, it’s something that reminds me so much of Alma. Clay and Alma are so very different, nothing alike at all, but they’ve achieved something few have done, gave me a moment of warmth.
Now let’s go kill it.
Sliding down the metal cord burned my gloves, then through my palms, then through my nerves. It’s ghastly how far down it goes, and how there is a door at each level. I’m no geologist or whatever person studies the layers of the Earth, but I don’t think I’m in the crust anymore. I shouldn’t be surprised though, considering everything else the Savaage can do.
I can use my helmet’s ultra-violet, heat detection, or even the old lenses that Tesla put in to see how far I have to go, but I have to admit, I’ve been a little nervous to find out. At this point I have to get over it.
With a flick I’m using ultrared, and the ground is a lot fucking closer than I thought.
“Gaaahhh, hah, hah, oooohh.”
My legs are crushed. I’ve really let my better instincts go by not preparing for the ground. I need to get back into the game, back into being the Hood who brought down Capone. Groaning and moaning in pain as my legs heal at the bottom of the world’s longest elevator shaft, is pitiful. I’m disappointed in myself.
I try to push up, and I feel something cutting into my back.
Oh great, I stabbed myself with my own sword, the Shogun would be most disappointed in me.
I hate this part, waiting for my body to heal and rebuild itself; it’s just waiting and pain. Far too often I envy those who can die, but today there’s too much at stake to be jealous of those that I’m not.
There’s not enough at stake to make me not dwell and think myself to my wit’s end though. There’s never enough at stake to stop that, to stop me from thinking every waking second that I feel my bones breaking again and being put back into place. There’s never anything to stop me from thinking about how useless I’ve been for the past century. I peaked as people say. In fact, I peaked several times, but I think when I first put on this helmet, I peaked for the last time.
Clay, he’s the only person who can put me out of my misery, that’s how the bloodline works, but I haven’t had a family, not in a long time. I had the chance and I always mucked it up. I just… I just want to get it right once before I go, and I’ve already started downhill.
Feeling my one leg come back together, I can’t help but think about how I didn’t work fast enough. I found out about Clay’s father, and he was an orphan, he needed someone strong to take care of him and I wasn’t strong. The military made me strong again, not as strong as I was, but strong enough. I spent so much time working up the ranks that someone eventually noticed how my face never changes, and enough lovers noticed how my body never scarred.
How lucky I was to have served with the current President. The luck of the draw that I saved her life, and she owed me one, so I wasn’t dissected on a table, I was put in charge of the mess that was the superhuman gene. I was so unqualified, still am, but yet I’m the closest thing to qualified.
By the time S.I.L.A.S. was up and running, I had failed, I wasn’t ready in time. Clay’s family, from his parents to his sister and almost him, were killed when a car hit them dead on. At that point, trying to take in a child had me scared, and that’s when I failed… again, because Clay disappeared immediately. I thought I was alone again until someone put on my helmet and started shooting mobsters to pieces.
No, I can’t die yet. I have to push myself up, my body has mended, I have to save these kids and eventually find out the truth. I have to live up to the statement that we’re family, and earn the right to know what happened to him, and the right to apologize for not being there. It’s kind of funny to think about…
He probably doesn’t give much of a shit.
I pull the sword out of my back and do my best to stop feeling sorry for myself, which is kind of working out. I go to the door and I stab right between the doors. This sword isn’t cantorium, not that rare, but it’s lasted a long time, nearly indestructible or at least I was told. Blacksmiths can oversell.
Still, I stab through, and I make a wedge barely wide enough for my fingers, and spread the door wide open. I roll through with my sword and the door shuts behind me.
The place is dark, quiet, but not empty, all the things I don’t want it to be. I mean, I don’t want it to be empty, but I don’t want it to be full. There is a light leading down the hall, and I hear bubbling around me. I switch off the special vision and regular sight is much better.
There are test tubes all around, huge ones, but they’re empty, drained. Maybe five or six rows with a dozen each, and they’re all fucking empty. It’s not like they weren’t used, there’s bubbling residue, whatever was in them was taken out.
Yeah, let’s all agree that that’s not good.
I look ahead, to a wall where I see blurry figures, and enhance the image. I can’t see past the top of the test tubes, but I know the ceiling is much farther up. Up ahead though…
… just what I wanted to see. Wait, no…
… somewhat what I wanted to see.
I see my kids, my agents, each in their own tanks against the wall, including two I don’t recognize from this far away. The problem, they’re in the tanks with helmets over their heads, and that can’t be a good thing at all.
I take my time, I’m usually one to scope things out, plan every moment so there aren’t any surprises, but I can’t account for everything here. As I walk past these empty containers, I can’t help but wonder what was in them and what might still be. More superhumans, people injected with that crap Sanchez was selling? More Hundresses?
I shudder at the thought.
Whatever it is, let’s make sure the ones with more useful superpowers are there to fight them.
When I’m close enough I can make out their eyes behind the helmets and glass, they’re brainless. They’re not dead, but clearly not awake. Even worse, they all seem to have needles plunged into parts of their body… except for Espada. It looks like they’re taking their blood, and tried and failed to break Emily’s skin. There are the holes in her suit where they would have tried. I guess that’s good news.
Then, to really shit in my breakfast, as I’m about to reach arm distance, the lights go on.
Red lights pop up in the tanks to change from the original green. I look to my right and see this Indian girl I think I’ve had monitored before, and Ken? He’s a superhuman? He didn’t have powers when we met, or didn’t mention that he did.
The Savaage, they wouldn’t have… no, they would give him whatever they gave Sanchez. They wanted superhumans for their powers, but what powers would he get?
More importantly, what do the red lights mean?
Now that I can find out now. I pull out my sword and get ready to cut them out, Burke first before something bad happens.
“Hello,” comes this buzzing voice comes on overhead, “is this thing on? Oh yes, thank you, Hundress, it’s working.” Someone else is being helped by Hundress, not much to add to the pool of information but I’ll take it. “I must admit, I didn’t expect to deal with two Hoods, but I guess it’s good that I had two plans, one in case he came for me, and one in case he came for his friends.”
That’s when the liquid in their tanks start to drain, and I start feeling like I’ve just been fucked and the guy finished early.
The strange voice continues over the intercom again, “It’s not as poetic as the Hood fighting his teammates, but I’m sure there’s some irony in these kiddies fighting their mentor, wouldn’t you agree, Director?”
Oh shit, I mean, I guess Shadow Mask could have told him when he read my mind?
Wait, why would they fight me?
As the liquids are all drained from their containers, Tommy, Marie, Emily, Ken, and that new girl, they all land on their feet standing up straight, and when their helmets disconnect and they don’t fall, I get more chills. I don’t want to guess what’s about to happen next.
“It wasn’t hard to take control,” the voice taunts me, “it was harder to take them from their families than it was to take them from themselves.”
I have my eyes trained on Burke in front of me, and when the liquid finishes, her eyes open with the same empty look. There’s none of the family pride or anything, she’s still vacant, and at this point I can take a guess about what’s going to happen.
“Maybe it is better that they fight you,” the intercom rings, at which moment they begin to break out. I start taking steps back as Marie becomes Icicle and starts to freeze the glass, Tommy ignites and Pyre burns everything away, Ken is smashing the glass one blow at a time, and that other girl speaks words I can’t hear to summon darkness to fill her container.
I should have been looking ahead of me to the directly impending threat.
“If they were to fight the Hood, I get the feeling he wouldn’t last as long, he doesn’t heal like you do,” the voice says, but there’s no reason to be alarmed, I’m sure he saw my fall in the elevator shaft, at least until he adds, “old Guardian.”
Never mind, he knows what and who I really am, and that’s almost as terrifying as Espada in front of me.
Espada was tapping the glass before, creating a big bang as she was looking at its general dexterity, until she found her spot. She punches the glass once and frees herself, sending the glass flying at me as I proceed to fall back.
“Espada,” the voice says, making the living tool of destruction stop walking, “kill the Hood please.”
I should have asked to go up.