5.5 Escalation

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Liverpool, England – Tuesday, the 12th of June, 2012. 04:02 PM.
 
 
We’re here, Sarina thought as she peered out the car window, pressing a hand to her stomach to stifle the nervous flutter in her gut. She could see at least a dozen police cars patrolling past the NBE headquarters building. Additionally, there were small groups of heavily armed security guards positioned every fifty feet or so. The local authorities were clearly expecting trouble.

And for good reason. Ever since Shanti’s death, the world had been waiting for the UNEOA to break its silence and rationalize the decision-making process behind the execution order. And even though the main event was happening in the States, it didn’t take Visionary powers to anticipate acts of sabotage in Liverpool. The Shanti riots across Europe had calmed down only recently. NBE Britain was one of only two European news networks that had permission to do live pre-announcement commentary with a direct connection to New York.

Here come the troublemakers. Sarina forced herself to look away from the ever-present security and focus on the road ahead, wishing that her mission was already over.

The Nameless were about a hundred meters away from NBE Britain’s ten-story headquarters when Tess pulled into a parking lot behind an electronics store. Sarina knew it that the store belonged to one of Tess’ friends, but that was all she knew. She could only hope that they were trustworthy.

“So far, so good,” Tess muttered. She pulled the station wagon to a stop next to a sign that said Absolutely No Parking.

“Did you expect this much security?” Sarina asked as she got out of the car and closed the door behind her.

“No,” Ace admitted. “But it’s alright. We’ve got coverage, remember?” he said, clapping Sunny on the shoulder.

“Right,” Sarina agreed uncertainly.

Besides, we’re not planning on doing anything to hurt anyone. They would have no reason to come after us even if they could see us, she reminded herself in an attempt to calm her nerves.

Jasper emerged from the other side of the wagon, tucking his earbuds into his collar. Together, they craned their necks to look at the top of the NBE Britain building, which was topped off with a giant satellite dish and a protruding antenna that reached into the overcast sky.

“Well, let’s get at ’er,” came Ace’s voice.

As he opened the trunk, Sarina came around to his side to get a better look at the things he’d prepared for their studio hijacking gig. Her eyes went wide at the sight of the military-issue kevlar vests that were stashed in the trunk. She didn’t ask where or how he got those. Even if she happened to get a straight answer, she probably didn’t want to know.

After depositing the kevlar vests in a pile on the pavement, Ace began to unload six sets of gloves, an armful of gray hooded cloaks, and a set of plastic Halloween masks that bore a suspicious resemblance to the ones used by a certain infamous group of internet terrorists.

“Masks? Really?” Sunny protested. “That’s lame, man. I can’t believe you don’t trust my powers.”

“You know I do,” Ace returned as he picked up one of the vests and held it out to the boy. “But if your concentration slips for any reason, even for a second . . . well, let’s just say that most of us don’t want our pretty little faces being shown on satellite television.”

Sunny grimaced. “But Tess is showing hers in the video.”

Ace shrugged. “That was her choice, not mine.”

Sarina couldn’t decide whether to admire Tess’s bold decision or disagree with it. On one hand, it took some serious guts for the Technician to record herself and broadcast their message to the world. And as Tess saw it, people would be more likely to believe the words of someone they could actually see and maybe even relate to.

On the other hand, the Nameless had worked hard to keep a low profile all this time, and for good reason. Some of them, Sarina included, were enjoying their status as untraceable rogues whose names were little more than footnotes in the Covenant’s database. The line between hero and villain was becoming too blurred for comfort these days.

Ten days ago, my biggest worry was if David would get a video of my dancing gig to show Mom and Dad, Sarina thought. And now . . .

She shook her head, refusing to let the worst case scenarios into her mind. Not today, when they had something so important to accomplish. The message they were about to broadcast could very well put an end to any future post-surge execution orders.

Ace’s voice interrupted her thoughts. “But here, put this on,” he said, holding out a Guy Fawkes mask to Sunny. “There’s gonna be a lot of people in there. A lot of cameras, too.”

“Tess said her friends are taking care of the cams,” Sunny sulked.

Ace forced the mask into the boy’s hands. “Right, but I’m not taking any chances. Not with this.”

It sucks that even after surging, Sunny’s power still can’t trick technology, Sarina thoughtShe would have felt so much better if the kid could render them invisible on film, too.

Sarina peered down the road towards NBE Britain’s headquarters, where the police were making some sort of announcement over a megaphone. The words were too distant to make out.

Meanwhile, Tess joined her at the trunk and reached for a large duffel bag bulging with tech gear. “You ready, girl?” she asked Sarina gruffly.

Sarina nodded as she took up one of the masks. “I think so,” she said, tracing the mask’s grinning features with a finger. Her voice sounded anything but convincing.

“It’s just stage fright,” Tess suggested, not unkindly. “You’re a dancer, though. You should be used to that.”

Sarina almost laughed. “This is nothing like dancing,” she said.

“It sort of is,” Ace pointed out. “We all have moves to do, and we gotta do them right the first time or else all hell breaks loose.”

Something about his words sounded ominous to Sarina’s ears. “No hostages and no one gets hurt, remember?” She said, jabbing a finger at Ace’s kevlar-clad chest. “You promised.”

“Right,” Ace said. “And now put on your vest and cloak. We don’t have all day.”

“Here, let me help,” Jasper offered, coming up beside her. He’d already donned his vest and cloak, and he’d pushed his mask up on top of his head so it poked out of his hood like an oversized duck bill.

If anyone could see us, they would probably laugh. Sarina couldn’t help but smile a little.

“Feeling okay?” Jasper asked her as he stepped in front of her to help her fasten the vest, his hands fumbling slightly.

“Um, yeah,” she said. “I guess.”

Sarina glanced up to see Ace and Tess watching on with stupid smirks on their faces. What’s so funny? she almost asked them, but she didn’t feel like joking around just now.

Jasper finally secured the snaps and looked up at her, studying her face with genuine concern. His caring felt good, but Sarina would have preferred not to draw any more attention to herself. She was a member of the team. Not someone they needed to babysit.        

“Hey, why don’t you ask me how I’m doing,” Sunny complained, forcing his way into Sarina and Jasper’s quiet moment. “I’m the star of the show, after all.” He flashed a boyish grin.

Sarina forced a nervous laugh. “Okay. How are you doing, Sun?”

“Fine, thanks for asking,” the boy retorted.

Jasper rolled his eyes.

“Hey, Sunny boy! Over here!” Ace called. “We need those big ears of yours.”

Jasper returned his attention to Sarina. “Remember, I’ve got your back,” he whispered as he draped the cloak over her shoulders. “If it comes down to it, I’m pretty good at throwing coffee cups. And trust me, television studios are full of those.”

Sarina couldn’t help but smile a little. You’re such a dork, she thought affectionately.

Then Jasper suddenly turned serious. He flashed a quick glance at Sunny, who was preoccupied with helping Ace and Tess listen in on what the security forces were saying over their radios. His young face was strained with concentration.

“I have an idea,” Jasper said. “About how to control your power, in case you need to use it. Mind you, I’m not sure it will work, but . . .” He shot her a hopeful expression.

Sarina knew she should have been happy by his news. After all, how many hours had she spent wishing she could control her stupid, useless power? Even so, the idea of using it at all made her feel ill.

But before she could say anything, Jasper leaned in conspiratorially. “There’s something about my power no one knows,” he whispered. “I think I can use it to help you.”

“Like what?”  She asked, curious.

He leaned in, as if to fiddle with the clasp on her cloak. “I can sense people’s moods,” he whispered next to her ear.

Sarina’s eyebrows shot up. “You can sense people’s moods?” she repeated slowly.

Jasper nodded.

She cast a quick glance towards Tess, Ace, and Sunny. “Like an Empath?” she whispered, hoping that Sunny’s superhearing was focused on the mission ahead rather than his teammates.

“Not quite, I don’t think,” he said. “They never managed to classify me. But what I’m trying to say is, I can somehow sense your moods when your power kicks in. And I think part of the problem stems from you being in the wrong mood to use it. You’re either scared, or stressed out and angry.”

Sarina’s mind returned to the Sun King’s court, and then to the awful junkyard basement. Stressed out and angry is definitely an understatement, she thought. What Jasper was saying made sense, kind of.

Jasper helped her to affix the mask’s elastic around her head. “So how about this,” he whispered. “If you have to use your power today, try to take a moment to think about something positive. Something you love — something worth protecting and fighting for. Even if it’s just for a second.”

“But I don’t want to use my power,” she reiterated. “Ever again.”

Jasper lowered his hand and reached into his jeans pocket. “You might have to. Just remember what I said, okay?” He pressed the Mp3 player into her hand and closed her fingers around it.

Track seven, she recalled.

“But today is all about Tess and Sunny,” she said feebly. “The rest of us won’t even be needed.”

“You never know,” Jasper whispered back, his fingers still wrapped around her closed fist.

Sarina sighed. “Fine,” she muttered, slipping the player into her cloak pocket. “If it makes you happy.”

“It does,” he gently assured her.

“You two ready?” Ace called over. “We gotta get moving.”

Jasper took a hurried step back and they both looked back towards the station wagon, where the other Nameless, including Snow, were fully dressed and ready to go. Tess was easily recognized with her duffel bag and the foot long antenna that poked out of it.

“Yep, good to go,” Jasper called over, pulling his grinning internet terrorist mask down over his face.

“Then fall in,” Ace said. “We’re heading to the delivery entrance.” With that, he began leading them down the side street at a brisk pace, his long grey cloak flowing out behind him.

The alley behind the electronics store was deserted except for a stray dog that was foraging in some spilled trash. He raised his mangy head at the group’s approach, flattened his ears, and gave a low growl. The group went wide around him.

“Couldn’t we take the main road?” Sarina asked as the group brushed past some graffiti-covered dumpsters. “No one would see us anyway, right?”

“Someone could be taking a picture at any moment,” Tess pointed out.

“Smartphones work like cameras,” Sunny said. “They’re too stupid to be tricked by me.”

“But if the studio’s going to be crowded, aren’t people going to bump into us?” Sarina continued. She caught herself absently closing her fingers around the music player in her pocket.

“We’re not invisible, if that’s what you’re asking,” Ace clarified. “People are gonna see us as staff who belong, or maybe as some kind of obstacle that’s not worth paying attention to. We’ll just blend right in to the background.”

Sarina was dubious. Still, she had no choice but to trust her teammates. Snow seemed to be doing the same – she walked along silently, her fingers clasped together under her cloak.

“Will they remember our masks later on?” Jasper asked.

“Nope. They wouldn’t even be able to tell if we were walking on our hands,” Ace said, waggling the gloved fingers of his right hand. “These get-ups are just in case we get caught on one of the cameras Tess’s buds can’t control.”

The group rounded a corner and the back of the NBE Britain studio can into view. Compared to the mayhem out front, its back parking area was surprisingly void of activity. Two delivery trucks were parked against the backside of the building. A trio of men in staff coveralls were standing beside the vehicles, having a smoke break and oblivious to the approaching group of masked terrorists.

“Protecting Sun’s our top priority,” Ace said without breaking his stride. “If he gets knocked out, everything is gonna get much more complicated. Second priority is for Tess to have access to the tech room for as long as she needs. The guards aren’t gonna shoot something that’s background noise to them.”

The Nameless stopped in front of a closed door labeled Delivery. and Ace approached the keypad beside it.

“But when their satellite live feed gets replaced with Tess’s tape, they’re going to figure out that something’s up,” Sarina pointed out.

“That’s why we’re gonna tell the crew on site to stay where they are and keep quiet while Tess is working her magic,” Ace told her.

“And we’ve got to keep them there until our transmission is finished,” Tess added. “Or else they’ll just mess with it.”

Ace tapped a seemingly random sequence of numbers into the keypad. He was rewarded by the small light above switching from red to green. “Whaddaya know? Lady Luck has done it again,” came Ace`s cocksure voice from behind his mask.

“Don’t ever play poker with the boss,” Sunny commented. “Spoiler alert — he cheats.”

As the door slid open, Ace turned to glance over the Nameless. “Once we’re inside, don’t talk more than you have to,” he said. “Even our Wonderboy here has a hard time keeping on top of everything with this many people around.”

When Sunny didn’t respond, Sarina assumed that his attention had already shifted to the enormous task ahead of him. Here’s hoping our luck holds.

The group made their way inside and marched past a couple of inconspicuous grey doors, then rounded a corner and climbed a stairway to the top level. After spilling into the top-floor hallway and yet another corner, they arrived in front of a large double door labeled Studios 1 & 2. The muffled sound of voices came from all directions, but there was no one in sight. Not just yet.

“What do you hear, kid?” Ace whispered.

Sunny held up a finger for silence and tilted his head. When he spoke up, his voice seemed more strained than usual, the words punctuated by faint gasps.

“The guests for the show are in there,” he said. “A Mr. Kovac is one of them. Someone said he used to be in the UNEOA’s Evolved Committee? And there’s a Mrs. Clarke, a journalist or something.”

“Huh,” Ace grunted, sounding unsure. “What’s Clarke’s first name?”

There was another strained pause.

“Hilary, I think,” the boy finally said. It came out like more of a wheeze.

“She’s a British blogger and political scientist,” Jasper said from the back of the pack. “She’s got millions of followers.”

“But we weren’t expecting any guests, were we?” Sarina asked in a small voice.

No hostages and no one gets hurt.

“Doesn’t change a thing,” Ace said curtly. “They’ll just have to hunker down and wait it out like everyone else. Come on — we’re moving.”

He pushed the double doors open and stepped through another door on the left labeled Studio 1. Tess was right behind him, shifting her bag to keep it from bumping into the two guards who flanked each side of the doorway. Neither guard seemed to notice them. One was just staring into space, the other was busy discussing security preparations over his headset.

She and the rest of the Nameless followed Ace and Tess inside. As they went, Sarina peered up at a small camera that had been installed overhead, wishing she knew for sure that Tess’s hacker friends had everything under control.

The group progressed past two sets of doors labeled Makeup and Kitchen. Dozens of cameramen, sound guys, and people with clipboards drifted past the masked group, taking absolutely no notice of them. There were only a handful of security forces present inside the building. Apparently, the bulk of them had been stationed outside.

It’s almost too easy, Sarina mused as she peered over Jasper’s shoulder and through the glass door panel that was ahead. The studio was just beyond.

Sarina could see two women sitting on a couch on the far side of the room, next to a man in an adjacent armchair. He was saying something to make the women laugh.

Sarina couldn’t help but smile at the paper coffee cups in their hands. There you go, Jasper. Your emergency ammunition.

Ace gave the glass door a push and held it open for the rest of them. Sarina passed through knowing that Sunny was working his magic, making the door’s opening and closing blend into the surroundings for everyone else’s eyes but their own.

The studio they entered consisted of a large rectangular space whose back wall was curved into a slightly elevated semicircle. In front of the curved wall was a stage with couches and decorative elements — what the television audience would see. On the big-screen TV behind the guest couches was the NBE Britain logo with its star symbol and surrounding starburst. In front of the grouping of couches, several technicians were putting the finishing touches on the three-camera setup that was aimed at the stage. The collective cable clutter trailed across the cement floor, leading into a smaller adjoining room that was the focus of Tess’s attention. The redhead left the group and made her way towards it, bulging duffel bag in hand.

The production room has to be over there, Sarina deduced.

“Psst, team,” Ace hissed. “Make sure you don’t get caught on these cameras, alright? Remember, our friends are only controlling the security recording equipment. Tess is gonna take over these TV cameras just as soon as the way is clear.”

Stepping over some trailing cables, Ace made his way to the far sidewall, out of the way of the scurrying TV staff and cameras. Snow and Jasper followed his example, helping a visibly groggy Sunny along the way.

Sarina watched the interaction on stage for a minute before she joined the others. The short-haired brunette was snickering beneath a splay of fingers while the large blonde woman with the pinned-up hair was talking animatedly. The first one was probably the blogger, Sarina guessed, and the hair-sprayed blonde the moderator. The man in the armchair was dressed so formally that he just had to be the UNEOA representative, Mr. Kovac. His fingers were perpetually busy, checking and rechecking the arrangement of his tie.

“Five minutes before they’re starting,” Ace announced from behind his mask. “If shit goes south, Snow’s gonna open a direct passage to the fire escape, got it? But as long as we’re good, all we’ve gotta do is wait for Tess to finish.”

“Is Sunny okay?” Sarina asked, peering at the gangly cloaked figure who sat on the floor against the wall.

“Yeah, he’ll be fine,” Ace assured her. “He’s just a little overwhelmed, trying to listen while hiding us from all these people.”

Sarina nodded, then settled down on the floor beside the kid. She couldn’t help but feel that she was involved in doing something terribly wrong. Sure, the others had told her this was all for the greater good. That it would help them all in the long run. But her heart was fluttering like an anxious bird, unconvinced by their arguments.

Crybaby.

The thought darted through her mind with a startling intensity, yet felt detached from her own consciousness. For a moment she wondered whether she might be suffering from late-onset side effects of her drug abuse. Then the anger claimed every reasonable part of her mind, shoving the thoughts aside.

Behind her mask, Sarina closed her eyes and inhaled a deep, plastic-scented breath. She forced pleasant, peaceful thoughts into her mind, just like Jasper told her.

Mom and Dad. David. Family dinners. Dancing . . .

As Sarina focused on the images in her mind’s eye, she could feel herself relaxing slightly. She was still angry – at herself, for the most part – but she no longer felt like she was going to burst any moment.

She turned her head to the front of the studio. The stage manager was checking the guests’ microphones now, and a cameraman was giving some last-minute instructions to the host. The large screen behind the couches flickered a few times, briefly flashing to a viewpoint from a different studio before defaulting back to the channel’s starburst logo.

“We’re on in one minute!” a male voice rang out from somewhere near the tech setup room.

On cue, the atmosphere changed from casual banter to professional anticipation. The host and her two guests passed their coffee cups to an assistant and assumed formal poses.

Someone clasped Sarina’s fingers. She didn’t have to look to know it was Jasper. You’ve always got my back, she thought, smiling behind her mask.

“On in five . . . four . . .” the stage manager announced, then silently finished the countdown on raised fingers. When he reached zero, a brief jingle was played, followed by a velvety female voice from the loudspeakers above the stage: “NBE Britain, up to date for the world.”

The world. Sarina’s heart skipped a beat. The whole world is watching.

“Welcome to Liverpool,” the blonde host began, directing her smile at the camera. “We are on air with a live show to accompany the long-awaited UNEOA press conference scheduled to begin in half an hour. I’m Elena Young, and I’m pleased to welcome our guests for today’s special transmission: Mr. Elijah Kovac and Mrs. Hilary Clarke.”

The host continued with an introduction of the guests, elaborating on their professional backgrounds. On the other side of the room, Tess jerked a thumb in the direction of the production studio. Ace shook his head and held up a finger.

As Sarina watched, Ace drew out some sort of modified, long-barreled gun from under his cloak and proceeded to load it with a strange-looking cartridge. Her heart was pounding in her chest. Her fingers squeezed around Jasper’s hand, glad to have someone to hold on to.

No hostages and no one gets hurt, remember? she silently beseeched the others.

Ace turned at the weight of Sarina’s stare. “Tranquilizer gun,” he whispered. “Tess made it. It hurts a little, but doesn’t do any real damage.”

“Okay,” Sarina replied uncertainly. What else could she say at this point?

“My resignation had nothing to do with the Covenant’s actions,” Mr. Kovac was saying now. “I wanted to spend more time with my wife and our children, that’s all. The Evolved Committee is more than a full-time job, it’s a calling. I’ve come to realize that my personal priorities have shifted.”

He was pretty high up at the UNEOA, wasn’t he? Sarina thought, surprised. Why did he resign so suddenly?

“But you remain connected to the UNEOA through family ties,” the host prompted. “You are married to the sister of Overseer Vega, who acts as the Covenant’s highest authority and their middle-man to the Assembly.”

Mr. Kovac nodded, giving a thin smile. “You could say that. But I’m afraid my wife is more interested in animal welfare than international politics.”

Sarina let go of Jasper’s hand and stole a glance at Tess, who was waiting beside the production studio door impatiently.

“Mrs. Clarke, how do you feel about the upcoming Secretary General’s speech?” the host was now directing her smile at the short-haired brunette. “In one of your recent blog posts, you described your dissatisfaction with the Covenant’s chain of command.”

Ace raised a gloved hand and signaled in Tess’s direction. The masked woman flashed him a victory sign, then picked up her duffel bag and slipped through the open door leading to the small production studio, her cloak billowing as she went.

So that’s it. We’re getting started. Sarina forced her attention back to the studio guests.

“The command chains and decision-finding processes are too cloudy for the general public to grasp,” the blogger was saying, sounding pleased with herself. “Evolved powers affect all of us, and we have a right to transparency . . .”

Ace settled a hand on Sunny’s shoulder to get the boys attention, then gestured to his masked lips. The boy looked up and gave a brief nod.

The host didn’t get the chance to follow up with another question. An eerily distorted echo of Ace’s voice sounded from every corner of the studio, interrupting the proceedings. “Attention! The show’s over. We’re taking it from here,” it boomed.

Sunny’s powers are something else, Sarina thought, wishing for the thousandth time that she had that kind of fine control over her own powers. Sound projection didn’t seem as impressive as teleporting her parents from a mile away, but it sure was more useful right now.

A collective gasp went through the room. The host froze on her seat, mouth hanging open as she was caught in mid-sentence. The cameramen and the stage manager exchanged confused glances, then turned, searching for the voice’s source.

“Keep calm and sit down where you are,” Ace’s voice commanded from four different directions. “Do as I say and no one will get hurt.”

No one moved for a few seconds. Then the stage manager spoke up in a thin, quivering voice. “Whoever you are . . .” he began, looking around, “we’ve got guards outside.”

“Seeing as I’m already inside,” Ace’s voice resonated, “I suggest you shut up and sit down.”

One of the cameramen set down his shoulder cam and raised his hands into the air. Then he bent his knees and slowly lowered himself to the floor. The stage manager raked his fingers through his hair, then did the same, followed by the host, the guests, and most of the studio crew.

All except for one man, who bolted for the exit.

A thunderous boom ripped through the air beside Sarina. The bolting man’s forward movement came to a sudden halt, and he tumbled to the floor with a sharp cry of surprise or pain. His body spasmed once, then stilled. The studio was blanketed with silence.

Oh no. Please, no. Sarina lowered her hands from her ears to press them to her mouth instead. A cry was bubbling in her throat, wanting to get out.

“Now don’t anyone else fucking move,” Ace’s distorted voice boomed. A fearful whimper came from somewhere in the room.

All at once, the studio door crashed open and half a dozen guards poured into the room, weapons at the ready. None of them fired a shot. They darted their heads around, unable to find their suspects.

“Everyone’s gonna be fine,” Ace’s projected voice boomed. “But next time anyone moves, it won’t be a tranquilizer shot, it’ll be cold hard lead. Capiche?”

He’s bluffing, Sarina thought desperately. He has to be.

One of the guards recited codes into his shoulder radio. Others held their position near the entrance, telling the studio crew to stay down. It was obvious that they couldn’t make any real moves. They had no targets.

One by one, the weapons in the guards’ hands disappeared. Then the grenades and other equipment attached to their belts vanished as well. Sarina had never been more relieved to have Snow on her side.

The guards stared down at their now empty hands. One of them, a muscular bald man who seemed to be their commander, relayed a terse update through his radio. Sarina didn’t understand all of the jargon, but she could tell that he was mobilizing the security and the police who’d been positioned outside and elsewhere in the building.

Through the open door of the production studio, she saw Tess hook up various cords to the studio’s broadcast equipment.

“Please,” the stage manager whined. “Take whatever you want. Just don’t hurt anyone else.”

“Good man,” Ace’s voice boomed. “If you don’t piss me off, we’ll be gone soon.”

The bald guard commander beckoned for his now-disarmed men to spread out along one of the walls. “The Covenant has been alerted of the situation,” he said into the room.

“Like I said,” Ace replied. “We’re not planning to stick around.”

From the couch, the host let out a half-choked sob.

“Ace,” Sunny whispered, his voice strained. “More people. Incoming.”

“Can’t be the Covenant yet,” Ace replied with his normal voice, unheard by anyone but the Nameless. “Security?”

Sunny shook his masked head. “No. There’s six or seven of them. Flying in. Above the roof,” the boy elaborated with significant effort. “They’re talking about . . . breaking through. Smashing a hole.”

“That wasn’t the fucking plan,” Ace growled. He turned to the production room and raised his voice to a near shout. “Tess! Get a move on! There’s an uninvited third party flying in.” His cloaked figure began to pace. “Let’s just hope it’s not that fucking feathered Emo,” he grumbled.

Feathered Emo? When Sarina made the connection, her hand clenched Jasper’s arm. “Raven,” she whispered, her mind racing with too many possibilities of how this situation could go terribly wrong.

“It’ll be alright,” Jasper whispered, gently squeezing her fingers.

“Got it. We’re on air,” Tess’s voice announced from the production room.

Ace gave a curt nod, then gestured to Sunny that he wanted to be heard by the rest of the room again. “We got powered flyers incoming, so everyone take cover. That includes you, guards. Sorry you got no guns.”

The guards didn’t budge, but the studio crew and guests cowered obediently. The host dropped to her knees with a sob, making a futile attempt to squeeze into the hand’s breadth of space underneath the couch.

“We should let everyone leave,” Sarina said hoarsely. “No hostages, remember?”

“Can’t,” Ace said. “If they leave, we’re gonna get carpeted by the guards outside.”

Sarina watched Jasper get up from his place beside her. Before she could ask what he was up to, he was already walking towards the hysterical host. She didn’t doubt his good intentions, she just wished he’d stayed close to her.

“Can’t you disable their weapons?” she asked Ace, her eyes glued to Jasper’s back.

“I can’t risk it. They don’t just have guns, Wondergirl. They got dozens of grenades. I’m not sure I can disable them all before one of them goes off.”

“Then why don’t we just leave?” Sarina pleaded. “Whatever Tess is doing—”

Her voice was cut short by a sharp, high-pitched whir slicing through the air. Seconds later, large chunks of concrete were crashing onto the floor near the stage, drawing cries of panic from the hysterical staff. Sarina looked up to see an opening the size of a manhole appear in the ceiling.

Something was coming down through it.
 

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4 thoughts on “5.5 Escalation

  1. Ended up waking early, so this goes up a bit before the usual time. As always, votes are very appreciated and help me gain new readers: http://topwebfiction.com/vote.php?for=anathema

    The cast page should now be finished. Some characters are missing because they would be spoilery, such as Legion. It’s very possible I forgot someone that should be on there. If so, please let me know in a comment!

    I’ll look into establishing a TVtropes and Reddit presence after the next chapter, which will happen on Sunday again. I’ve started planning the Samael interlude in my head and will start writing it this coming week, I think it will turn out great and surprise some people.

  2. Oh man, here’s me wondering what the broadcast was going to be like, but now I want to see this fight.

    I’m betting that our trans-continental serial killer might crash the party while Raven’s crew and the Nameless get rough and tumbling

  3. The Nameless vs the Murder Crows, place your bets. Things are getting good, haven’t had a super fight in a while.

    Really loving Snow’s power, even though it doesn’t work on people it is very useful. Reminds me of powers in Worm, unique and unexpected but much more useful than you would think.

    P.S. what’s the limit of Snow’s power? How much can matter can she make disappear, a few cars, buildings a whole forest?

    Until next week.

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