6 The First Targe
Dane didn't wait for Manyface to disconnect before he left. He shoved his way past the rickety wood door, nearly tearing it off its hinges.
"Careful now," warned Third, her voice rising. "This is my shop, and I'll have it in order regardless of how angry you are."
Dane ignored her and walked down a flight of narrow stairs flanked by concrete walls and topped with a low ceiling that made him hunch over a little. The air inside smelt nice and a little heavy. A floral, sweet hint that made him think someone had lit scented candles or incense.
"The hell is this place?" muttered Dane.
Third's voice came from behind. "A flower shop in Chinatown. My family's shop. Or more specifically, since they're all dead, my shop."
Dane raised his brows. "You didn't strike me as the flower type of girl."
"Yes, and that's why I smuggle drugs. The shop is a pretty front."
Well that explained it.
The end of the stairs led to a homely little shop that exuded warmth. It held a charming feel to it, the kind of comfortable, small-scale aura that you'd feel at a mom and pop store. There were circular wooden painted in various cool shades of mellow greens, blues, and purples. Atop them were perched vases of bright flowers of red, white, and yellow.
But Dane wasn't here for flowers.
"Where am I going to get what Manyface promised? Weapons. Information. Targets."
Third strutted past Dane and adjusted a vase that had teetered out of position, her expression calm and carefree. "Slow down a little."
"Kind of hard to do when I had everything I loved incinerated along with myself just yesterday."
Third held up three pale, slender fingers. "Three days ago, actually."
Dane raised a brow. He had been out that long? A little twinge of curiosity laced with pain hit him. How had he been remembered? His friends? What had Sol said about them?
"My, no, our death. What did he say about it?"
Third looked at Dane with her steely black eyes and nodded. "Talking about Sol, yeah? He was on the news a day ago. Said it was a shame four police officers had given their lives in the fight against Manyface. There wasn't much commotion. Not much outrage in cops dying: there's a certain expectation that they can die on duty, so when they do, people aren't as surprised."
Dane had expected Sol to have thrown them under the bus, but hearing it again still stung. He clenched a fist and resisted an urge to smash the nearest vase.
"Good," said Third as she eyed Dane's arm. "You're starting to control yourself. I didn't expect that to happen, to be honest. When I looked in your mind, I saw enough hate that even I almost went crazy."
"So you're a Psionic?" said Dane as he took in a calming breath.
"Yes," Third said simply. She walked to the back of the small store, behind the counter and to a small hallway that led to three doors: two for restrooms and one for an equipment closet. When she noticed Dane was just staring at her, she waved him to come. "You want your stuff or not?"
When Dane got close, she opened the equipment closet and beckoned him to go in. It was dark, so he kept his guard up as he stepped in. There was nothing. Just a dank, musty smell and a few old mops and buckets.
"Is this supposed to be a joke?" said Dane. "Because I am not amused."
Third pushed past Dane and touched the equipment room's wall. It shimmered a little, the space it existed upon bending and wavering.
"A portal," explained Third. "A Creator placed it here. It leads to an underground bunker."
Dane blinked. He had a general idea of what Creator class metas did. They, as the name suggested, created. They could conjure up things ranging from the elements to weapons such as swords, but their ability to create was normally limited to just a few specific type of things.
However, he had never known about Creators that could generate portals. He knew only one Super that could do that, and that Super was a famous bigshot in another city. In other words: this wasn't a power that the average meta had. It was powerful, useful in almost all situations, and it seemed that villains had had it all along.
"Surprised?" asked Third. "Don't be. There are eight million people living in New Haven. Of those, about eight thousand are Metas. A majority of them are registered, but only eight hundred are Supers. The others, the unregistered ones, make a means of living off their gifts."
"Villains, you mean."
"If that's what you call a villain, then you're one now too. Unless you'd like to tell the world you're alive and well again and register yourself at the nearest Metahuman Agency. Though I have this slightest feeling that you don't want to be on track to be a Super."
"You're damn right about that." Dane put a tentative hand on the wall and felt it give way. The wall was still there visually, but his arm was phasing through it. It felt rather strange, but he pushed the unease down and walked through.
Dane found himself in the center of a huge cave. There were wide-screen computers everywhere, steel tables and tools and mechanical instruments clashing with the raw, rocky background. For an underground area, the place was very well lit with a bright white that reminded him of a lab or hospital.
Third tapped his back, and he swiveled around, startled.
"Easy," she said. "Welcome to your new base. One of Manyface's hideouts, though officially it's now mine."
Dane took a light stroll around. There were racks full of firearms, explosives, and the like. In other areas, columns of glass cases that held samples of various biological specimen, scales, flesh and liquids that looked almost alien.
"How did Manyface get the funding for this? How could he carve something like this out without anyone noticing? Where even is this?"
Third shrugged. "All questions I have no answers for. Though this place is mine, I still have no idea where it is, and I've never managed to track my location here. But it had what I needed, so I didn't complain."
"Had what you needed?"
"As a Psionic, my powers are limited to my mind. With a distinct lack of super speed or strength, I have to use weapons to compensate as an assassin. And, as it stands, looks like you do too."
Dane walked up to a rack of weapons and took out an assault rifle, feeling its weight in his arms. He hadn't handled bigger weapons like these – police didn't have occasion to use them much. It was a little overwhelming taking everything in, knowing he had so much at his fingertips.
"Don't get swept away too fast," said Third. She sat herself in a comfortable leather chair in front of the computer screens. "Because I have your first target."
"You?" Dane put the gun away and stood behind her, arms crossed. "You're going to be giving me orders?"
Third booted up the computer screens by waving her hand, and it was then that Dane realized these weren't regular computers. They had been technologically enhanced somehow, probably by a Transmuter meta who could manipulate technology.
"I'm not giving you orders, I'm helping you." Third nodded as she saw the screens light up. "Manyface was clear about giving you as much freedom as you wanted in your hunt for Supers. I'm being paid to keep you alive by giving you support when you need it. I'll be your eyes and ears, your communications and your visuals."
"But be aware: if you get yourself in a twist, I'm not personally going out there to save you."
"As long as I'm getting to do what I want, I don't care what you do. Who's my target?"
Third reached forward on her computer desk and took out a circlet of metal. She placed it around her head, and though it had a futuristic flair to it with its blinking lights and clicking parts, it still looked like a rather pretty piece of jewelry.
With it, she manipulated the screens with her thoughts, bringing up an image of a young Asian man in his mid-twenties. He had a slender, agile build and his costume gave him away as a Super. He had on a skintight black bodysuit with gleaming crystal strips weaved all around him, marking him with bright green patterns that formed into various serpents that decorated his arms, legs, and chest.
"This is Jade Fist, a Creator class metahuman who finished his training at the Steel Dome Agency in Detroit at the age of twenty-two. He has six years of experience as a Super, and is assigned to a few neighborhoods in the more dangerous parts of Chinatown."
She eyed the Super with a hint of disdain. "A relatively unknown Super. He's using that to his advantage by having a side gig working as a sort of deterrent for the Dragon-Fang gang here, letting all the other rival gangs know they have a powerful metahuman working for them. Really stops the competition. I know it stopped me from working as an assassin."
"That's a perfect target." Dane cracked his knuckles. "Just the right mix of hypocrisy and arrogance."
Just looking at the Super, with his composed, self-righteous look, ignited a fire of passion within Dane. He felt hate well up within him, almost burning, almost making him sweat. He felt like he had an unbridled amount of energy within him, bubbling up and explosive, and if he didn't vent it out soon, he would just lash out and destroy anything around him.
And he would take all that volatile, destructive emotion and concentrate it on this one single Super.
"Let me at him, and I swear I'll put him in the dirt."