Read (The Push Chronicles (Book 2): Indefatigable Online

Authors: J.B. Garner

Tags: #Superhero | Paranormal | Urban Fantasy

(The Push Chronicles (Book 2): Indefatigable (3 page)

BOOK: (The Push Chronicles (Book 2): Indefatigable
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"They?"  I wasn't surprised that Blood-sucking Terrorist wasn't alone, the Hogs were rarely solo acts, but I wanted as much information as I could get while Archer was feeling informative.

"Oh yes," he eagerly replied.  "First and most obviously, the weight of a steamer trunk with that much soil would be unwieldy for one normal man, no matter how strong, but there's more.  Performing a digital reconstruction of the trunk, there was a false bottom in which the soil was.  There are trace residues of gun oil, metal shavings, and explosive chemicals in some of the wood.  To conclude -"

"We had terrorists with a crate of arms, explosives, and something hidden," I finished for him.  "Do you think -"

"I do, I'm afraid."  He nodded grimly.  "The quibble remains though if they knew what they had or if that was a surprise set for them by another."  I started to pace, as was my nature when thinking.

"They obviously didn't live down here, even before ... that."  I gestured at the corpses.  "They at least had the sense to booby trap the entrance, which that beast probably couldn't do.  So where's the rest of them?"

"Perhaps I could pick back up the trail on the surface?"

"Maybe, but that booby trap?  It collapsed the tunnel.  It might have scattered any evidence of their trail and I certainly didn't see anything obvious topside on my way here."  I wandered over to the pile of personal effects and fingered the matchbook.  "It's a stretch but -"

"Not at all!"  The silver-clad hero stomped over and I tossed him the matchbook.  "As a lad, I favored a good puff myself and 't would often need matches.  Most likely the villain picked those up at some common hangout."  He shrugged.  "'T is a start.  Perhaps the clues and this ... 'Paul's Pub' establishment will converge, eh?"

"It's a start," I conceded.  "I can get the rest of this evidence to my sources, see what they can dig up.  First, though ..."  As the last of the adrenalin pumped out of my system, the pain in my forearm was turning into agony.  I held it protectively to my stomach.  "Topside and medical attention."

As if on some cue, there was a distant rumble and the distinct sound of cracking ice.  Wonderful.  Here came the other ex.  

Chapter 4 Relations

"Indy," Extinguisher shouted as he slid into the room on a sheet of ice.  "Are you okay?  We -"  He was one of the least outwardly altered Pushed I knew, his rugged features and dark skin only highlighted by a perpetual layer of frost.  Still feeling a kinship to his roots, Ex wore his fireman's jacket over his new uniform, an ice-blue jumpsuit with reinforced boots and black trim.  Said jacket flared dramatically as he interrupted himself with a shout of "Crusader!" and raised a hand, glowing with blue energy, at Archer.  Three things happened in rapid succession.

First, I suddenly realized the uncomfortable irony that we all called Extinguisher 'Ex' for short and he was also, at this point, my ex.  My ex-what?  I was still trying to decide the best spin on it.

More importantly, Archer reacted in the way that Pushed tend to react to anything even remotely hostile, by instantly raising his massive crossbow as it whirred and clunked into arming position.  It was the classic comic book conceit of heroes having to battle the instant they meet for the edification of their readers.  In our twisted reality, it was just stupid and led to horrible injuries and at least a few fatalities.  This action led, of course, to action number three.

I stepped between the two of them.  Archer was closer, so I shoved his bow away with my shoulder as I moved before raising both of my arms to my sides, legs set apart and braced.  I gave Ex a hard look.  He didn't deserve it, the Whiteout was to blame not him, but I couldn't help myself.

"Hold it!" I yelled, then quieted myself.  "Both of you.  No more fighting."  Despite the pain I was in and the hunger my trance had already induced, I forced myself to try to look as vital as ever.  "I'd really hate to beat both of you up."

"Are you sure?" the ice-powered firefighter asked.  His fingers flexed nervously; I could see the struggle against the influence of the Whiteout in his eyes.

"Dost thou know this brute, Indomitable?" Archer felt obliged to add to the conversation.  "If the knave doesn't lower his hands, I will be forced to thrash him."  I did not hear the sounds of his bow unloading.  That would have been a nice thing to hear and I was certain at this point in time that I would forever be denied nice things.

"Let's try this again," I said to both of them.  "Both of you are going to put it back in your respective pants, lower your personal implement of destruction, shut up, and listen to me."  I eyed both of them, doing nothing to mask my frustration with the ongoing nonsense.  "Don't even speak, just nod if you understand me."  A small part of me wanted to chalk this up to typical male posturing, but I knew it was reality itself twisting normally rational minds.  I looked back and forth between them for a tense moment, then Extinguisher, followed by Archer, nodded and lowered his guard.  Letting out a sigh, I stepped out from between the two Push Heroes.

"First, Extinguisher."  I was trying to be careful not to use the nickname.  Stepping on raw wounds and such.  "My com got knocked out when I got jumped by that thing."  I pointed at the Hog's corpse, still staked into the ground, partially freed from the net-arrow.  "The Argent Archer here got sent to Atlanta to find a cell of Hogs.  I know he's a Crusader but we've already had a long chat about that."  I thumbed at his mangled shoulder plate.  I glanced at the armored bowman.

"Archer.  This is Extinguisher, who you may already know from your divine muckity-muck's stories."  Archer nodded slowly but wisely kept silent.  "He's the leader of the Atlanta Five and a good friend.  Considering who you are, his concern was pretty justified, so stow the 'brute' and 'knave' crap.  You're in our city, so act respectful to it's defenders."  I folded my arms over my stomach, keeping my mangled forearm out of site.  "Now, questions.  Extinguisher?"

"Right, going to stick to the important stuff," Ex said, scratching at his short afro.  I tried not to be amused at his twitching nose as he talked; he had just taken to the Push fashion trend of masks and I could tell it was itching his nose something fierce.  "I see two dead people with wooden stakes in them, so ... vampires are a real thing?"

"Yes."

"Right.  So our Downtown kidnapping case ...?"

"Exactly."

"What about the Hogs?"

"Well, my good man, 't would seem that these nasty lads brought a cache of weapons down here with a surprise of a hidden creature," Archer answered for me.  Ex seemed to bristle a little at the Crusader's interruption.  I gave them both a look, then continued myself.

"Yes, though we don't know if they had any idea what they were carrying.  It could have been a set-up of some kind."  I shook my head at the thought.  "Either way, the only real leads we have are related to the dead Hog's personal effects.  Considering there had to be more than one of those jerks and we have only one accounted for -"

"- there's at least one more vampire terrorist, and at least one vampire who started it all?"  It had only been two months we were ... whatever you want to call it ... but damn, he had picked up that knack for reading what I was saying.

"Right," I nodded, then looked at Archer.  "Questions?"

"Wouldst Mi-er-thou wish me to explain in depth the scientific evidence to date?"

"Later," I said, glancing at the tunnel leading to the surface.  "Like I said, first priority is to get out of here and get medical attention."  Ex perked up at that, returning the hard look I had shot at him several times already.

"Indy, for Christ's sake, why didn't you say so when I first got down here?" he said as he approached my side.  From the slight tense in his motion, I could tell he now saw the hole in my jacket and the blood dripping down, not to mention the funny way I was holding my forearm.  "We're getting you back to the Foundation, double-time."

"Why the concern, my good man?" Argent asked.  He sounded genuinely puzzled.  "Is this not the woman who faced down not only my Lord Epic but the most foul, odious, and powerful villain on the planet?  In comparison, these must simply be flea bites -"  The interruption came from a hard shove on one shoulder as Extinguisher obviously lost his cool.  Unfazed by the shove, the Crusader puffed up from what must have been an insult to his sensibilities.

"Look, Mr. Hood," Ex said, "you have no idea what you're talking about.  You weren't there in Washington and you haven't been here.  She's hurt so we're going, pronto."

"Sir, if not for the lady being present, I would -"

"Would what?  I'm real damn curious to find -"

"Can it!"  The two men ceased their arguing and looked at me.

"Can we go?  Seriously?"  Injured or not, I was at the end of my patience with both of them.  "Archer, get the evidence.  Extinguisher is going to be sliding us so he needs both hands and I'll be busy holding on."  The shout followed by the clear and concise orders seemed to snap them both back into reality, such as it was.  As the Crusader gathered what small amount of evidence we had, I put my good arm around Ex's waist, trying not to enjoy the strange icy tingle that permeated even my Push resistance.  I was quite fortunate that the ice he created was actual real ice; his Push powers created the cold and condensed the moisture in the atmosphere, but the ice itself was blessedly real.  "Okay, I'm ready when you are."

"Okay, Robin."  The frozen fireman glanced behind him.  "I hope that tin suit of yours can keep up."

"Undoubtedly, my frost-laden friend," Archer replied.  "Undoubtedly."  Flaunting itself in the face of conventional physics, what I assumed had just been an ammo and power pack for the crossbow unfolded itself into some kind of jet-propulsion system.

"Alright, let's go!"  Ex gestured in front of him, creating a solid ice platform along the ground.  We picked up speed rapidly, Archer keeping up along side suspended by his jet thrusters.  As we began to be impossibly pulled along the uphill path, I had a pang of remorse.  Our final fight had started when I remarked just how insane it was that he slid on ice all around town in complete defiance of physics and without causing one iota of property damage.  Was it my fault our two month, well, fling had ended so venomously?  We burst out into Underground, causing heads to turn and people to point and gape.  I couldn't help myself as I began to think about how exactly I wound up at this point in our relationship.

 

"Are you sure about this?" Ex asked, obviously nervous.  "I mean, not that I don't find you beautiful and ... intense, but ..."  He was obviously torn, so I let him spell out his confusion.  It was only fair, really, considering we were both slightly tipsy.  Hell, maybe I was moving a bit fast.  What was the harm in it though?  We were sitting on a perch near Centennial Olympic Park, watching the Fourth of July fireworks from a place no ordinary person could go.  The team party over at Foundation headquarters had broken up so people could be with their families.  Family was something Ex and I didn't seem to have, so we wound up sitting on that perch, together.

"Look, Ex, take your time and, you know, talk it out."  I smiled broadly.  Maybe I had a bit more to drink than I thought I had, but, at that moment, I was sure of what I was doing.  We both had needs, after all, and we got along great.  Maybe I wasn't angling towards something as committed as my time with Eric had been, but who would have expected that considering how it ended?  Surely Ex would realize that without me spelling it out.

"Well, okay," he said, returning my smile.  "Look, I've just seen this thing go bad, real bad, at the station.  You have a tight knit crew and then two of them get involved, it gets real passionate, then  *bang* it explodes like a fire at a chemical plant."  I found myself uncharacteristically giggling at the passionate part.  I really had drank a bit too much, but it had helped with the pain that night.  It was only a month distant from Washington, from the Whiteout, and Eric's betrayal ran deep.  The physical pain, well, it was a daily recurrence.  No matter how efficient or fast-healing my body had become, I was still shockingly mortal compared to my Pushed friends, but the demands I placed on myself were no less than theirs.

"C'mon, look, we're friends, right?"  I leaned on him, settling my head on his shoulder.  I always enjoyed the cooling tingle of his skin, even if it was so unnatural.  "Siblings-in-arms!  There's no way that would happen.  Even if we, you know, didn't click or whatever, we're mature adults.  We could break it off and no one's the wiser."  I could feel his body relax as I leaned against him.  A strong, icy arm wrapped around my shoulder.

"You know, you're right."  He chuckled.  "I mean, come on, we've saved the world together.   What's some dinners out and some romance compared to that?"  He paused, then added, "You know, though, we should probably keep it all hush-hush."  He leaned his head against mine.  "Tank has those puppy-dog eyes on you, after all."  I couldn't help but laugh again.

"You know he's completely devoted to Eye; I'm just the cool big sis," I joked.  "But you're probably right.  I mean, no need to rock the boat until, you know, we've got things going, yeah?"

"Yeah, exactly."

We were sitting there, closely huddled, enjoying that closeness.  The fireworks burst and lit up the night sky and, at that moment, everything seemed good.  Better than they had since the Whiteout.  We had our first kiss then, outlined in red, white, and blue star bursts.

 

"Are you crazy?" I asked, annoyance dripping from every syllable, as I tried to sit up in my bed.

With Eric out of the equation and every moment of my life now subsumed by Indomitable and the Foundation, I had moved from the spacious apartment I had shared with him into a rather Spartan set of rooms in the Foundation building itself.  Choi and Brooks were kind enough not to charge any kind of room and board, which was fortunate, as I had only my rather limited severance package from Georgia Tech to live on.  I had to daily refuse one veiled suggestion after another by Duane to be officially employed by the Foundation.  As kind and appropriate an offer as it was, I just couldn't do it.  It was one last stubborn stand of mine, as if taking the job of official superhero would be giving in that last step to the Whiteout's new reality.

"What do you mean, Indy?" Ex replied, one hand on my chest gently keeping me down.  He was in the middle of putting stitches into a particularly nasty cut in my side which made me extra annoyed that he brought this topic up now, with me in such a position.  I was also annoyed at the fact that he never ever called me by my actual name.  Hell, I still couldn't get him to tell me his.  Still, I relented to his gentle pressure and laid back once more.

"It's only been a month," I argued.  "I mean, we've had some great times together, don't get me wrong but ..."

" ... you still aren't sure you want to make this a real relationship, right?"  Damn him, he was already doing that.

"Did you just find out a month ago that the person you were in love with had betrayed you and was also suddenly the most powerful superhuman on the planet?  And you had to stand against him to save the world?"  I let that hang for just a moment.  "Oh wait, no, no you didn't.  You've got no right to judge me on this."  I was also increasingly annoyed at how I always seemed to be the villain in these disagreements.  Was there something evil about wanting to pursue a casual but intimate relationship at this point in my life?  It's not like I ever lied about my intentions.   It's not like I said I would never entertain the idea of something more meaningful.  How was I the bad guy (or girl, in this case)?  There was a jerking pain in my side as Ex inadvertently pulled too hard on a suture.

BOOK: (The Push Chronicles (Book 2): Indefatigable
8.87Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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