Authors: Lisa McMann
To the real Maria Torres . . .
and secret superheroes everywhere
t was a moonless winter night when a stealthy man in a long black trench coat inched through the aisles of a dark laboratory. He didn't need much light since he knew the place wellâhe'd be able to tell by feel when he found what he was looking for.
When he came upon a glass case, he thrust a metal pick into the lock and turned it. The lock clicked, and the man slid the door aside.
A shrill alarm pierced the air, and the man cursed under his breath. He lunged for the contents, blindly grabbing what he could from inside and dashing for the door. He ran through the hallway and flew down the stairs, coattails flapping, all the way to the ground floor and into the night.
The alarm was just as loud outside. The man heard sirens in the distance and fled down the sidewalk into the darkness.
As he rounded the corner and ran under a streetlight, he glanced at the items he clutched. He grimaced, frustrated that he'd only managed to grab two of the devices he'd wanted: his own and one other. But the alarm on the glass case had been unexpected. There hadn't been one in the past.
Dr. Gray must be growing paranoid
, he thought.
He heard footsteps behind him, and his heart jumped into his throat. A figure in a sleek bodysuit came speeding toward him and lunged for his feet, managing to shred his pant leg with razor-sharp fingernails. The man tripped but kept going as a second figure appeared in front of him. It screeched and jumped up in the air like an acrobat, pushed off against a building, and landed on him.
“Oof!” cried the man as he went down. He slammed his hand into the attacker's face, then scrambled to his feet and stumbled onward, still clutching the precious items.
With lungs burning, the man glanced over his shoulder as the sirens grew louder. The two figures gave chase again. The man ran full throttle through the shadows of the inner city and ducked down an alley. He ran toward a grouping of trash cans, breathing hard and trying not to make any noise.
A woman stepped out of the shadows. The man slowed. He couldn't speak.
“I suppose you did that,” she muttered, indicating the sirens.
The man nodded. “Sorry,” he gasped. He handed her one of the items and kept his own, and dashed away, not waiting to hear her reply. When he looked over his shoulder, he saw her climbing up a fire escape and disappearing over the edge of a roof. He could hear the footsteps of the two attackers in the distance.
Soon the man came upon a lone vehicle parked alongside the curb. He wrenched the door open and got in, and sped off into the night.
Thirty minutes later, the man pulled into a parking spot on the top level of the airport parking garage. He looked all around and expelled a relieved breath, then dabbed the sweat from his forehead and smoothed his hair. He checked the rips in his pant leg for blood and wiped his ankle clean. Satisfied, the man reached for his passport and overnight bag, and opened the car door.
Tires squealed. An SUV skidded wildly into view. Three figures in full bodysuits, like the ones the man had escaped from earlier, burst out and rushed at him. Before he could yell for help or lock himself inside the car, the figures grabbed him and ripped the device from his hands. Then they bound his wrists, shoved a cloth in his mouth, and tossed him into the back of their SUV. A moment later, they were off.