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I don’t actually have an alarm per se; instead I’ve got a little program that fires the wake up circuit in my brain. It sounds cool but is just as annoying as being woken by a real alarm clock and just then I really wanted to go back to bed. Maybe the Voice was right for once, this wasn’t our fight.

Then again was Max freeing us her fight?

At that point I got a massive dump of possible break in plans for the lab concocted by some online fragment of me, and got clumsily to my feet.

“Okay guys, up and at’em'” I said with some semblance of brightness.

“Five more minutes,” Cam murmured, rolling over. At that point I played the sound of an explosion over my palm pilot, right next to his ear. That woke them up.

“Who’s attacking?” Gale yelled blearily, lashing out wildly and almost knocking Cam flying. Then she saw my smirk. “Remind me to get you later,” she said with ice in her voice.

“Woke you up didn’t it?” I shot back and then went to look for my doomsday supply.

“How long was I asleep?” Weird piped up suddenly, as I dug a duffel bag out of a box.

“Five hours or so,” I said over my shoulder. “It’s not yet dawn.” I pulled a roll of canvas out of the bag and unrolled it revealing a variety of weapons.

“Why are we up so early anyway?” Cam asked drowsily.

I dew two daggers attached to a belt out of the roll and strapped it on “We’re taking advantage of the rest of the Erasers making a break for it this morning,” I explained. “I figure if we take advantage of the confusion no one’s going to notice us slipping in and out.”

“Makes sense,” Gale said with a shrug. “What have you got there anyway?”

“Doomsday kit,” I said nonchalantly and threw a pair of knuckledusters and a dagger at Gale which she caught easily. “I’m sick and tired of being caught weaponless when the Erasers turn up, so I bought a load just in case.”

“Now when you say weapons…” Cam said appearing over my shoulder.

“Yes I’ve got guns,” I confirmed, handing him a pair of twin pistols. “And no I’m not telling you where I got them.”

“Awesome,” Cam said, aiming down the barrel at Gale who dived out of the way.

“They’re not loaded,” I reassured her, and threw another dagger belt at Tapper. “Now, Weird what do you want?”

“Nothing,” she said with quiet determination. “My stance on not hurting people still stands.” Gale rolled her eyes but I just unloaded the canvas and stuffed everything into a rucksack. I don’t think I have a weapon that could increase Weird’s strength anyway; nukes are hard to find.

“Anyway,” I continued throwing open the door. “Dawn’s in twenty minutes and I want to have at least gotten to the experiments by then. Now, any questions?”

“I’ve got one,” Gale said more sombrely. “Are you okay?”

I looked at her in surprise. Had I been acting like something was wrong? I didn’t think so, and hopefully everyone had been asleep during my showdown with the Voice.

“Sure,” I said uncertainly, seeing the concern in Gale’s face mirrored in Cam and Tapper’s. “Why wouldn’t I be?”

“Err, Hawk,” Weird broached cautiously. “Where are we going?”

I smacked my forehead.

One quick explanation later we were drifting above the town of Sausalito which, for anyone who’s never been to California is the across the bay from San Francisco, literally a stones throw from the bridge.

“You know I pictured the lab choosing a more sinister location,” Gale said as we looked down on the picturesque town in the pre-dawn light. “Like Alcatraz.”

“That would just be a dead give away,” I said with a mid air shrug. “By the way, I see guards on the roof.”

“Ditto,” she confirmed. “Two at opposite corners.”

“Okay,” I said hurriedly, springing into action and motioning Tapper closer. “Taps, follow me and stop the one on the right from raising the alarm. I’m going to have a chat with the other one.”

In unison Tapper and I folded our wings and plummeted towards the lab. The Erasers were busy scanning the sky around the building; they’d probably been warned that we were in the area, but you’d be surprised just how little people look up. At the last second we flared our wings, mine with a snap and Taps in silence and landed like ghosts behind the Erasers.

Well, Tapper landed like a ghost, in my case everything in my backpack went ‘thunk!’ simultaneously.

The Eraser in front of me had just gotten to the, ‘what was that?’ step and was beginning to look round when I held a naked dagger to his throat. He froze, scarcely breathing, his hand poised just above his radio.

“Believe it or not, I don’t want to hurt you,” I told him in a blend of a conversational and iron tone. “But I will, if you try and raise the alarm. Is that understood? Just nod by the way.”

His head moved up and down by fraction of an inch and pulled his hand away from the radio.

“Good,” I continued. “Now you lot are making a break for it today, right?”

There was another, near imperceptible, nod.

“But security’s been tightened since last night?”

A third nod.

“I’m interested in getting the experiments out of this lab. Now if you were willing to cooperate then we might be able to come to some kind of mutually beneficial arrangement. Does this sound good?”

This time the nod was a lot more fervent.

“I’m going to let you go now,” I told him. “If you try anything you’ll find my other dagger lodged in your back.” I let him go and stepped smartly back. “Understood?”

“Crystal,” he muttered, turning to face me, rubbing his neck. “Now what was that about helping each other?”

“My friends and I pretty good at causing chaos,” I told him, not sheathing my daggers. “If you can tell your buddies not to notice us, and tell us where the experiments are kept, then we can kick up such a storm that the White Coats won’t notice you guys slipping out.”

Suddenly there was the sound of something hard impacting with someone’s skull and I stole a lighting quick glace over my shoulder to see Tapper standing over her unconscious Eraser.

“Tapper,” I said loudly, not taking my eyes off my Eraser. “You’re not helping my negotiations.”

“He attacked me,” she shot back. It was a statement rather than an excuse.

“There are some of us still loyal,” my Eraser pointed out bitterly.

“Terrific,” I muttered to no one in particular, motioned over my head for the others to land and then addressed my Eraser. “When are you making a break for it?”

“T-minus eight minutes and counting,” he said, glancing at his watch.

“If you could get the message that we’re friendly we’d be very grateful,” I told him.

“Right,” he said, running towards the stairs. “The experiments are in the sub basement. Take Peo’s card, it will get you down there.” He paused at the stairs. “Thanks,” he said simply as the others landed and dived through the door.

“Okay everyone,” I said, watching Tapper search the other Eraser for his key card and tossing Cam a couple of clips for his pistols. See, I was smart and kept him away from live ammunition for as long as possible. “We’ve got about seven minutes before it all goes nuts but most of the Erasers are on our side, so go fast, stay out of trouble and Cam for the love of Pete don’t shoot if there is even the slightest possibility of hitting one of us.”

Cam looked a little hurt at that suggestion but I was only trusting him with firearms because I didn’t want him in the main brawl. The words sensible and Cam do not go together well, but I reckoned I could trust him enough not to accidentally shoot me in the back… also, we had Weird.

We ran for the door which the Eraser had left ajar and before heading down the stairs I put my hand on a lone camera hidden in the shadows. In a flash I had access to the internal security and installed a little program that would blank our presence from any camera feed. You know, the really ironic thing, is that wouldn’t work on a low tech security system. I also spotted our Eraser burst into the security room and speak hurriedly to the two Erasers on duty then rush out again. I thought I’d help them out and unlocked all the security doors. That would make their escape easier.

“Okay, we’re good,” I said hurriedly. “Now let’s get moving. It’s five flights down and I not stopping for anything.”

It was too bad we had to cut through a corridor to reach the stairs for the basement, and it was just rotten luck that at very moment we burst out of the stairwell an Eraser rounded the corner. We froze, well I tried to freeze but the others piled into the back of me, but mine and the Eraser’s eyes locked, both of us looking at the other in shock and I could practically sense Gale behind me tensing to rush him.

“It’s okay,” I said placatingly, trying to be diplomatic, we’d be in trouble if he raised the alarm. “We’re here to help you guys escape.”

His eyes widened further if that were possible and he snatched at the radio from his belt, brining it to his mouth as Gale barged past me. It didn’t take a genius to see she wouldn’t reach him in time though.

“We’ve got intruders…!” he began as a hunk of concrete roared over Gale’s shoulder, trailing green sparks and smashed the radio into a thousand pieces. Gale arrived a split second later and took him out with a right hook and a flash of light that slammed into a wall.

Gale shook her hand and swore in pain as we jogged to catch up, and the Eraser slid to the floor. For a moment I thought we might have just got away with it but just then an alarm started wailing.

“That’s torn it hasn’t it?” Gale hissed.

“I suggest we run now,” I said simply, really wishing that the alarm had been attached to the main security system but the White Coats were smarter than that.

“Agreed,” everyone said in unison and we dived into the next stair well, half running and half falling down and ignoring the yells.

“They went this way!”

“Right,” I cried, bursting out into another corridor and dashing left much to Gale’s gall. “There’s an elevator a hundred yards away, that should take us to the experiments.”

“Did they have to make this so complicated,” Gale demanded angrily as door behind us slammed open and a platoon of Erasers rushed into the corridor. The lead one caught my eye as we accelerated off and he mimed tripping, crashing to the floor and falling in such a way that he tripped the three Erasers directly behind him, who tripped the Erasers behind them and so on until there was a literal dog pile in the centre of the corridor, and only a few Erasers left standing behind the crush.

The Eraser who tripped winked at me, and as I skidded round a corner I shot him a thumbs up, smiling broadly. It paid to have friends on the inside. I slid to a stop suddenly in front of a door and almost got flattened by Gale running into me.

“We’re here,” I announced before opening the security door, to reveal…

A perfectly normal lab. Complete with a perfectly normal scientist.

“Hey what are you kids doing here?” he demanded and I scooped a bottle from a nearby bench, hurling it at him as we rushed past and sent him diving for cover a as thick brown liquid went everywhere. Note to self: check what chemical you are throwing first.

I tore open the door at the other end of the lab and got hit over the head by mop.

“Hawk, this is a broom closet,” Gale said with just a touch of scorn. I frowned at the back wall for moment, according the schematics there was an elevator here but those didn’t account for any changes made after the building was constructed. Hell! Had I brought everyone here for nothing?

“Hawk look at the floor,” Tapper said simply and I instantly spotted a little sliver of light shinning beneath the back wall. I kicked out suddenly and the already unlocked door crashed open to reveal a short corridor and a pair of metallic elevator doors. Bingo.

The lift was ready and waiting for us and we dived in as the Erasers burst into the main lab.  I slammed the secret door shut, scrambling the codes so they’d need at least a blowtorch to get in, before squeezing between the closing door and letting loose a deep sigh of relief. We were safe, for the time being at least.

“Hey Hawk?” Cam asked suddenly. “How are we going to get out?”

There was only one real response to that.

“Shit,” I said with some finality. “Okay, let’s at least finish breaking in first, then we’ll figure out how to get out.”

“Remind me never to follow one of your plans again,” Gale said, dropping her head into her hands in despair.

“At least I had a plan…” I began but petered out as the elevator binged and the doors slid open to reveal a great expanse of darkness, lit only by the little light in the elevator. It was hard to see in the gloom but one thing was obvious, the room was filled with things that resembled huge fish tanks.

And they were all occupied.

I put my hand against the nearest tank. It was big, at least ten foot square and black as pitch. I could just about make out a vague shape at the bottom and it was probably only because of my enhanced vision that I could even see it twitch slightly in its sleep.

“What are they?” Gale asked softly, right next to my shoulder.

“No idea,” I replied honestly, mimicking her hushed tone. Something about the stillness of this place encouraged lowered voices.

In a flash the shape was right in front of my face and looking at me with all too human eyes. I leapt backwards with a yell, tripping over my own feet and falling on my butt, smashing my head on another tank with a sickening crack.

“Ow,” I said after a moment and Gale pulled me to my feet, looking over my shoulder into the tank behind me. I assumed there was another thing… person… person thing, in there but as the first was grinning broadly with sharp pointed teeth and I didn’t particularly want to see another one having a laugh at my expense.

I walked back up to the tank looking at the thing inside curiously. The thing, it, or possibly he, the face had that sort of cast to it, was about seven foot long. I say long, not tall because where his legs should have been he had a tail that didn’t resemble any fish I’d ever seen. At best it put me in mind of an eel, but eels’ tails aren’t four foot long and thick as several planks at their widest point, also I’m fairly sure they stroke side to side, not up and down.

The experiment put the back of his hand against the glass. That was at least more human, though it looked like it had been squashed and stretched slightly, heck his whole body looked like that, though in all fairness the weak light filtering through the glass probably didn’t do much to add dimensions. I could at least say with some certainty however that his skin was a dull, dolphin, grey and he didn’t have a trace of body hair, but for a fish I guess those are pretty much prerequisites.

He looked me right in the eye and raised three fingers, then a different three fingers. He paused a moment then repeated the gesture.

“Hi.”

“Taps, I owe you anything you like after this,” I shot over my shoulder, before flashing “Hi,” back to the experiment.

“Who, you?” he gestured back. Taps language doesn’t lend itself to good grammar, sorry.

I flared my wings at the wrist as an explanation and signed, “Hawk,” pointing at myself and hoping that he understood.

“Adam,” he signed back, also pointing at himself.

“What are you?” I asked. I’m not entirely sure why I said that, it should have been obvious.

“The Dragons,” he replied, eyes flashing. It fitted I gave him that, though I did wonder where they picked that name up from. “Why you here?” he added.

“To get you ou…”

Suddenly Cam yelled out brightly. “Found it!” And there was a series of bangs as the large overhead lights burst into life, shedding a harsh luminescence over everything and making me shield my eyes from the sudden light.

“A little warning next time Cam,” I snapped and then suddenly saw just how far the row of tanks extended.

Mere dozens didn’t do the shear number of tanks justice; there were at least thirty on this row alone and, I did a quick check, another five more rows each side of me. That was an awe-inspiring amount, and from what I could tell they each contained another member of The Dragons.

“Good Lord,” I said after a moment, words escaping me for the moment. There were enough experiments there to start a whole new species. What the hell had the White Coats been planning to do with all of them?

I probably realised that getting them out was impossible about then, we were as good as trapped and I had no idea how to get three hundred aquatic experiments out of the lab when I already didn’t know how to get us out. Fortunately denial is a wonderful tool.

“Can you guys breath out of water?” I signed rapidly against the tank, probably blurring a few letters but I think he got my message.

Adam shook his head sadly and ran his hands down his chest, highlighting the two foot or so of gill there, and then gripped his throat, still shaking his head.

“That’s a no then,” Gale observed right behind me. “And not to shake the boat but what’s to stop the Erasers just coming down the elevator.”

“I scrambled the security door,” I explained dismissively. “Now there are three hundred or so experiments to get out of here,” I muttered to myself, beginning to pace. “The pipes running into this place are too narrow to fit these guys through. As far as I know there isn’t a back door to this place and there’s no way we can pick up these tanks and escape the Erasers.”

Actually even picking up a tank might be an issue, ten cubic feet is a lot of water.

“I told you this was a fool’s errand,” the Voice interrupted suddenly.

“Shut up!” I snapped, very definitely out loud and got a lot of curious and concerned looks. “There is still a way to get these guys out of here!”

“Hawk, give it up,” Gale sighed. “We should get out of here while we still can.”

“No!” I roared. “There’s a way. We just need to find it. We just need to…”

Gale slapped me and I reeled back, finally shutting up.

“I should have done that last time,” she muttered. “Now Hawk, concentrate on getting us out and we can save your Dragons later.”

“She’s right you know,” the Voice pointed out. It was true, unfortunately admitting defeat is no one of my strong points but sometimes you just have to accept it…

“Hawk, someone’s called the lift,” Tapper said suddenly.

…before reality slaps you in the face. This time however I think Gale beat reality to it.

“Cam, gun,” Gale snapped, holding out her hand for the weapon which Cam handed over reluctantly.

“I want it back when you’re done,” he whined but Gale only rolled her eyes and cocked the gun as the lift doors slid open.

Word to the wise for anyone planning on storming a building, don’t use the elevators, especially when Gale’s standing ten feet away with a semiautomatic. At least the White Coats were smart enough to use Fly Boys.

Ten seconds later the thunder of gun shots died away and I took my hands off my ears. You have to hand it to Gale, she’s thorough, three Fly Boys were down before even getting clear of the elevator, two were just outside the doors and the lone robot that had gotten within punching distance was crumpled on the ground with its face caved in.

“Hawk, a way out please,” she snapped, handing the gun back to Cam who was looked at the Fly Boys awestruck.

I really wished my wireless connection was still working as I pulled up a copy of the building schematics but unfortunately even I can’t get a good signal four stories underground.

“The lift mechanism is on the ground floor,” I said after a moments searching. “If we can get through maybe we can sneak round them.”

“Maybe?” she asked sceptically.

“Unless you can climb a vertical air vent, it’s our only way out,” I replied with a shrug and went back over to Adam’s tank. I don’t know how much he had gotten of our conversation but it was fairly obvious he knew that we weren’t going to be his guardian angels for the day.

“We’ll be back,” I promised, signing as rapidly as my fingers would allow.

“Good luck,” he flashed back and I ran back towards the elevator which Gale and Tapper had just managed to clear of Fly Boys.

“Okay, everyone through the emergency hatch,” I ordered, diving into the elevator and jumping to knock said hatch off. It took about ten seconds for everyone to get on the roof of the car which was lucky because that was just when the elevator gave a little ‘bing’ and the doors slid shut. Apparently White Coats aren’t patient either.

“Hawk?” Gale asked concerned as I slammed my hand onto the control panel.

“I’m on it,” I snapped, erasing the code required to make the doors open. Just stopping the car would have been counter productive. “And don’t worry people only get crushed against the top of the shaft in movies.”

“People get crushed against the top of the shaft!” Cam exclaimed suddenly, selective hearing striking again. I rolled my eyes as the car slid to a stop and I hoisted myself into the space between the elevator and the mechanism, having to kneel to avoid hitting my head on the low ceiling.

“Now there should be a service hatch here somewhere,” I muttered, crawling around Gale who was looking particularly cramped. “Ah, here it is.” I pushed up on a slightly lighter piece of ceiling and nothing happened.

I began straining against the panel which still didn’t budge an inch.

“Hawk, someone’s trying to break into the elevator,” Tapper said, peering back into the car and I swore.

“Weird, get over here,” I snapped, rapping my knuckles on the light patch to make sure it was hollow. It was. “Can you break through this?”

“I’ll give it a shot,” she said, beginning to draw power, and I felt the air stir in the confined space.

There was a green flash and the hatch rattled slightly but stayed resolutely shut. Weird frowned and began drawing in power again, more this time. A lot more.

“Weird what are you doing,” I gasped as the breath caught in my throat. It was suddenly getting very cold and I could practically feel the pressure dropping. Water was forming on the walls but freezing almost instantly, and the elevator groaned as the metal contracted.

Suddenly there was an explosion of heat as Weird let lose all that stolen energy on the panel, and it dissolved into a puddle of molten slag. That was the final straw for the poor elevator, the car roof began to shriek as it warmed, not really helped by the fact the former hatch had managed to melt a large hole in it, and the foot wide cable began to fray, strands pinging of into the ceiling.

“Move!” I yelled, flipping through the still glowing hatch and nearly setting fire to my pants. Weird was through like a shot after me followed by Tapper and Cam who almost fell on the scalding hot metal. Gale was last through, pausing just before jumping up and there was a blue flash though I couldn’t see what she’d done.

Suddenly there was a huge bang as the cable slammed into the roof and the car began to fall.

“No!” I screamed, diving towards the hole as Gale plummeted only to be caught by Tapper who grabbed me round the waist. Tapper’s message was clear even though I didn’t accept it at the time, there was nothing I could do, in freefall you can’t jump to safety.

Gale popped up through the hole with another flash of blue and landed breathing hard.

“Psychic,” she explained patronisingly as she caught my expression and there was a huge crash from bellow us as the elevator hit the bottom of the shaft. “And I thought cutting the cable would by us some time.”

“It certainly bought me a heart attack,” I said angrily, extricating myself from Tapper’s grip. “Now let’s go, nearest exit’s a hundred metres away, tops.”

The door out of the shaft wasn’t locked fortunately, though it was cleverly disguised to blend in with the lab wall it opened out into, and quick glance told us that the room was empty. With our luck that wouldn’t last long. I leapt onto a workbench to reach the security camera and did a quick check on our friends the Erasers who’d just about managed to evacuate the building, though there were still a few charging up the stairs and looking disturbingly like they were heading straight towards us.

“We’ve got incoming,” I yelled, jumping off the bench and running towards the door, ripping open one of my backpack’s many pockets and pulling out another pistol. Opening the door took too much time so I rammed my shoulder into it, bursting through, acquiring a clip from another pocket, loading, cocking and flicking the safety off in one smooth motion.

Yes I had got my internet connection back, what makes you ask?

A door opened down the corridor as I bounced off a wall and opened fire, a slug blasting a hole in the wall right next to the lead Eraser’s head. It’s just too bad Erasers have combat training. The first Eraser dived for cover, going for his gun and two more rolled out of the door, a third shooting from the cover the door provided.

A warning from one of the computers forced me up against the wall as bullets whistled past and I retaliated, hitting one Eraser in the shoulder only two have him replaced with two more, and there were at least twenty more on the stairs. It wasn’t looking good.

“Go!” I roared at the others who were clustered in the door. “First left!” The wall around me exploded from gunfire, showering me with splinters and I ducked instinctively, firing back wildly.

Next to me Cam started firing as the others sprinted down the corridor, Weird’s eyes glowing like emeralds, and I reloaded desperately. There were at least a dozen Erasers now and all of them were firing, worse they were beginning to advance. Cam, ducked back into the lab as a storm of fire erupted around him, a few bullets buzzing to a stop but not nearly all of them. I really hoped Weird’s upper limit on the number of bullets she could stop was high, it would have to be, or we’d be in trouble.

I ran backwards, firing all the way, and ripped open a door before flattening myself against the back of it just as the wood exploded from the slugs slamming into it. The Erasers had finally accepted that we were shooting back and had copied me by hiding behind the doors, but they were still advancing by running between cover. Well two could play at that game. I reloaded and readied another pistol, only half looking and yelled.

“Cam, fall back!”

Before opening fire, training each pistol on their own side of the corridor and sending at least three pistols skittering away from their owners. There was a momentary lull as the Erasers scrambled for cover and Cam ran to the next door, reloaded and started firing again. Now we just had to do that another three times, each.

“Cover me,” I roared, emptied the last of my clips in the vague direction of the Erasers and sprinted down the corridor. Just as I was about to rip open the next door something clipped my shoulder and I went flying, somehow managing to grab the door handle as I fell and flew into another deserted lab through sheer momentum.

“Son of a…!” I screamed as I landed on my shoulder, the bullet had scored a half inch channel across my shoulder but had somehow managed to miss anything vital, it still hurt like hell though.

“Sorry!” Weird shouted over the hail of gunfire and I turned off the pain receiving part of my brain, the last thing I needed was an immobile arm.

I came out of the door shooting, the amount of processing power I was drawing was approaching the maximum, but I was still missing almost every shot what with the incoming fire simulators taking up all the power. A small part of me suggested I should go for a bigger target, say, heads instead of hands but I fought it down. I kept telling myself his was a purely defensive gunfight but I think my shoulder said otherwise.

Cam reached the next door, ducked into cover just in time and gestured wildly for more ammunition. I reached into my back pack and found just two clips; I knew I should have bought more of those damn things. I reloaded one gun and threw the other clip to Cam with the warning, “Last one!” This wasn’t looking good.

“Fire in the hole!” Gale roared suddenly, standing at the end of the corridor behind Weird with two large automatic rifles, grinning like a loon. She opened fire as bullets buzzed to a stop around her.

I dropped to the ground, mimicked by Cam a half second later as slugs screamed down the corridor, meaty thuds resounding as they slammed into the Erasers who didn’t get out of the way fast enough.

On Gale’s fifty eighth shot I leapt to my feet, her final two bullets wailing past, and I neatly took out the florescent lights between us and her, spinning round mid step and hitting as many others as possible. The corridor plunged into darkness, lit only by the eerie wraith lights surrounding Weird and I sprinted towards them before the Erasers could get their wits together, Cam hot on my heels.

“Good timing,” I yelled at Gale, rushing round the corner and catching one of the rifles clumsily in my right hand as she tossed it at me.

“We found an armoury,” she explained ducking round the wall and just avoiding the Erasers return fire. “We also found these,” she added, holding up a flash bag, pulling the pin and hurling it round the corner.

We started running, soon followed by the howls of Erasers as the flash bag did its work; good hearing can be a double edged sword. My shoulder was really beginning to throb despite my best efforts to shut down the pain but I still leapt to grab a security camera and got a snapshot of the current situation.

“Shit!” I yelled as I made sense of the pictures. The whole building was surrounded by Fly Boys and more were arriving by the second. They must have come from another lab, there was no way this building could hold that many as well as the hundred and sixty or so we’d destroyed yesterday.

“We’re surrounded,” I explained. “Hang a right.” We rushed right at the next T-junction and I skidded to a stop in front a door simply marked, ‘garage’. There was an electronic lock but you can image how long that lasted and we piled in, Gale rushing for the doors.

“Wait! We’re going in the Humvee,” I called after her, slamming into the vehicle’s side, firing the electronic unlocking mechanism and jumping into the front seat.

“Hawk,” she yelled, smacking controls to open the garage doors. “You can’t drive!”

The Fly Boys were in through the door before it was even half way open, and lunged at Gale who was already running. I fired the starter circuit and the engine roared as I pressed randomly on the pedals to find out which was the gas, the whole car juddering against the handbrake.

“Go!” Gale yelled, ripping open the door, jumping in and almost cracking me over the head with her rifle in her haste.

“Going,” I shot back, taking the wheel in both hands, releasing the handbrake and flooring the gas, smashing the car into a Fly Boy that didn’t get out of the way fast enough. The Humvee roared out of the garage, barging its way past the still opening door and the tires squealed in protest as I tried to turn far too tightly to avoid a wall, almost flipping over. Now that would have been a good start to our escape.

Windows exploded in showers of glass as the Fly Boys surrounding the building opened fire and we dived for cover, the Humvee ploughing straight through a low wall and then, by what I claim to be good driving and what Gale says was dumb luck, we were back on the road and accelerating away from the lab, somehow dodging the scarce cars.

A flyboy suddenly loomed in the back window and took a swipe at the back of Cam’s head, missing by millimetres and that was only because Weird blasted Cam down with a burst of green light. I flipped my pistol into my hand, holding it upside-down with my thumb on the trigger, aimed in the mirror over my shoulder, and emptied the clip in to the Fly Boy’s face.

The thing flew backwards out of the rear window and I glanced in the side mirror to see yet another Fly Boy clawing its way along the side panels, its claws tearing deep holes in the bodywork. I threw the car into a u-turn; really grateful that this thing had power steering, I wasn’t entirely sure I could turn the wheel that fast if I wasn’t using my powers.

The Fly Boy smashed its claws through the window and dug them into the frame, in a desperate attempt to stay attached to vehicle. Behind me I could hear Tapper, Cam and Weird sliding into a pile in the back seat, but stopping the turn would not be smart, it would give the Fly Boy a chance to attack. Also I think I’d hit the point where control was a distant memory, and I hadn’t a clue how to stop turning beyond taking my foot off the accelerator.

I let go of the wheel, simply willing the steering not to turn and slammed my hand on the Fly Boy’s claws, not much of its circuitry went that far but it was enough for me to mess with it. There was a low hum and then a small explosion as I dropped a massive charge into the Fly Boy’s fingers, and the thing threw itself from the Humvee spasming wildly, then hit the road hard and lay still.

Simultaneously my brain exploded with white noise, and I screamed wordlessly in pain as the car finally rolled to a halt, curling into a ball instinctively and fighting the twitches perpetrating my body. That had been unimaginably painful, possibly because I’d essentially hit the Fly Boy with a small lightning bolt. I have no idea how Weird manages to do that without short-circuiting her brain.

A third Fly Boy appeared at the passenger window and Gale lunged at it with her rifle, hitting it in its face with the barrel, totally ineffectually. The Fly Boy growled and batted the barrel down and Gale took a straight punch at it which the Fly Boy caught with ease. At this point Gale flicked a switch on the rifle and the empty clip dropped out of the bottom of the gun. The Fly Boy realised what she was doing far too late. A ghost of a smile appeared on Gale’s lips just as the fresh clip clicked home and the gun barked four times sending the Fly Boy flying, hitting the asphalt with a crunch where it lay, twitching.

I uncurled with a grunt and after the spots stopped dancing in front of my eyes, gunned the engine again, ignoring the concerned looks and accelerating off down the road, realising a moment to late that we were heading back towards the lab. The Fly Boy’s swarming the road ahead of us should have been a hint.

“Hawk!” Gale yelled, pointing.

“Working on it!” I shot back as I spotted a side street about a hundred yards up the road and fifty yards ahead of the Fly Boys. Oh well, beggars can’t be choosers.

“Incoming,” Weird screamed as the windshield, the last surviving window, exploded inwards, a bullet missing me by a fraction of an inch, and the hail of gunfire forced everyone into the foot wells. Which meant I was now driving blind and the turn was coming up fast, somewhere between fifty and sixty yards but that was the difference between making the turn and going into an office front, and there was no way of checking. At least I wasn’t going to risk it judging from the state of the headrest. A small part of me was trying to get a satellite feed but it really didn’t have enough power to work with to crack that many passwords so I was just going to have to wing it.

I could say something mystical at this point and claim some inner voice lead my way, but he was being inconveniently silent so I just spilt the difference and went at fifty five yards.

The Humvee mounted the curb as I turned too early and neatly took out a newspaper box but at least we managed to miss the lamppost. I slid back into my seat and slammed my foot down on the accelerator, watching the Fly Boys recede into the distance through the rear-view mirror which had miraculously survived, and breathed easy for I think the first time since we started escaping.

At this point two more Humvees swam into view, gaining ground fast. Damn optimism.

“Could we just catch one break?” I screamed at no one in particular as the Humvee shifted into a higher gear. It was a good thing that I was using an automatic, we wouldn’t have gotten out of the garage if it had been a manual.

“Welcome to reality,” Gale said shrugging, opening the sunroof and standing up so she could train her gun on the approaching vehicles.

“Hawk can I use the other gun?” Cam interjected suddenly.

“Knock yourself out,” I replied, lifting the thing out of the foot well and handing it to him. “Bug Gale for ammunition.”

I spied a sign for the freeway and yelled, “Going left!” Before sending the Humvee into a screeching turn and almost throwing Gale out the sunroof, which she can’t get mad about because I warned her. So there.

“Hawk!” Gale roared angrily but I ignored her.  I’d finally got my satellite feed and while moving pictures aren’t great from several miles up it at least gave me a layout of the road and told me that I was about to have a third Humvee try and cut me up from a side street.

“On your left,” I yelled suddenly, stamping on the breaks, forgetting to let go of the accelerator and wincing as the tires squealed in protest. That could not be good for the car but it was good for us, as the other Humvee swerved out onto the road in front of us and Gale opened fire, bullets pinging off the fuselage and a tire exploded into black shreds.

Whoever was at the wheel of the other Humvee fought for control and I gunned the engine, slamming into the back of them and sending them careering off the road into a fire hydrant. I swerved past them as Gale ducked back down into her seat, reloading her rifle and tossing Cam a clip which he slotted into his own rifle and clambered into the trunk.

“Cam what are you doing back there?” I yelled over my shoulder, fishtailing the Humvee to make the onramp to the highway and stamping on the accelerator. Something flashed past my eyes and sparks flashed over the bonnet as a hail of gunfire roared past and Cam opened fire, the rifle backing bullets towards the Erasers.

“Carry on!”

I skidded onto the highway, just avoiding an eighteen wheeler that appeared out of nowhere, and gunned the engine, thinking that maybe I could get some distance before the Erasers got onto the highway. At that point I saw the large number of Fly Boys taking off from the lab and powering towards us.

“Gale!” I yelled even though she was right next to me. “We’ve got a problem!”

“Oh, what next?” she exclaimed angrily, standing back up and shooting into the swarm of Fly Boys and I glared at the dashboard, daring something to go wrong. Fortunately nothing did.

The road was practically deserted at this time of day but that didn’t exactly make it any easier to navigate the traffic seeing I’d never driven before in my life. Being shot at didn’t help much either. I swerved round a sedan and the guy blasted his horn before diving out of the way of the other two Humvees who were gaining fast, firing all the way.

“A little help Gale,” Cam yelled, ducking down to reload as we flashed through a tunnel, heading full speed for the Golden Gate Bridge.

“I’m a tab busy Cam,” she shot back, holding her fire for a moment to reload. “Hawk, right!” she cried suddenly and I slammed the wheel over as a Fly Boy smashed into the asphalt sending little bits of machinery everywhere.

“Shit!” I roared, dodging another ballistic robot and almost running off the road only to lose a wing mirror to yet another, that one trailing hydraulic fluid. “Gale, shoot the bloody things down further away!”

“The closer ones are in the way,” she snapped back, opening fire again.

“Down,” Cam cried suddenly and I ducked as bullets went screaming through the car, yet again almost losing control of the vehicle. “Hawk, can you lose them?”

“One crisis at a time please!” I hollered over the cacophony, dodging round another car and turning far too sharply, the wheels squealing in protest. “Any chance of some help Weird?”

“Give me a minute,” she said, stressed and I glanced over my shoulder to see her eyes beginning to shine like green suns.

We flashed onto the bridge and I somehow managed to coax the Humvee to go faster but the poor thing wasn’t going to last much longer, it had far more bullet holes than was healthy. Another volley of bullets went screaming past as I slammed the wheel left sending the Humvee jumping onto the other carriageway and avoided hitting a pickup by a feather width before ricocheting off a crash barrier. I fought my way back onto the right side of the road and got rear ended by another Humvee for my trouble.

“I’m out of ammo,” Cam piped up suddenly, ducking down into the trunk as yet more bullets came screaming through the window. I’m fairly sure that Weird was stopping some of them but it’s hard to tell when the bullets stopping means they’re going about a hundred and twenty miles an hour slower than you.

“Same here,” Gale supplied, slipping back into her seat which was now looking a lot worse for wear.

“Great!” I exclaimed. “Weird, this would be a great time for some ‘deus ex Weirda’.”

“What does that even mean?” Gale exclaimed angrily but behind her I saw Weird jump into the trunk, almost crushing Cam, and a blinding green corona burned into life around her.

I watch in my one remaining wing mirror as a beam of dull red light exploded out of the back of the car and hit the lead Humvee square on the bonnet and for a moment the bodywork glowed white hot.

Then it exploded.

The blast shook me down to the bones and almost sent me spinning off the road, which as we were over the Pacific at the time would have been quite bad. The other Humvee was much closer to the blast, and was thrown into the air. It hit the bridge cables roof first, bouncing off, sans roof and smashing back onto the road trailing debris across both carriageways, before coming to a rest over four hundred yards later.

Weird didn’t seem to notice the chaos and had already shifted her focus to the sky and was sweeping the beam over the Fly Boys who were simply melting, dozens falling from the sky with missing wings, chests, heads and in a few cases they were simply boiling away to nothing. The beam ended suddenly as Weird slumped, at that point the remaining Fly Boys started firing and Gale swore as a bullet pinged off the door and grazed her arm.

“Hawk!” she yelled as I tried desperately to swerve around the incoming fire. Weird’s protection was obviously wearing thin, then again she had just melted forty plus Fly Boys. That had to be exhausting. It probably would have been better if I’d realised that at the time though because Weird tends to get a little bit extreme when she’s tired, and calling it a little bit extreme is like calling a hurricane a stiff breeze.

“Weird!” I cried desperately over the thunder of gun fire, the engine rattling and Cam shooting vainly back with the final pistol clip, and heard Weird sigh, sadly.

There’s this oddly crystalline, for lack of a better word, moment when Weird draws in a lot of power. The whole world slows momentarily, though this might be a side effect of her sucking the energy out of your brain, and suddenly it gets very cold. If you ever see Gale draw in power in a rush you can hear the roar of air as the pressure drops, but when Weird does it that roar starts about five miles away and it takes a minute or so to get to you.

The Humvee exploded forwards and I clung onto the steering wheel for dear life as the seat groaned from the acceleration, and I felt my fingers scream in protest. Gale was less lucky and something went ‘ping’ on her chair, the back folding right down and catapulting her into the back seat with a yell.

I slammed the wheel left as a car loomed ahead us, and nearly flicked the Humvee off the road, we were going far too fast for me to steer properly, very few cars are meant to travel over twice their top speed.

“How fast are we going?” Gale hollered over the wind, clawing her way level with me.

“No idea!” I roared back. “The speedometer only goes up to one hundred and sixty!” The front of the Humvee was beginning to tilt back quite noticeably and I was fairly sure the front wheels weren’t touching the ground anymore. That was going to be a problem seeing we use the front wheels for steering.

“Err Gale,” I shouted anxiously, seeing the end of the bridge and a sharp corner approaching with alarming speed. “Any chance of getting the bonnet down.”

There was another inrush of air that could only just be heard above the roar of the wind, and a blue flash slammed into the bonnet, the wheels hitting the ground with a bang just in time for me to lock them left and fishtail through a toll both, smashing the barrier out of the way and rebounding off the curb with a bone shattering jolt.

“Okay Weird,” I called over my shoulder desperately. “We can slow down now.” I glanced in the mirror to see Cam waving his hand in front of Weird’s eyes which were now a piercing white. I had a feeling that was very bad sign; it takes a special kind of bright to get that white.

“I don’t think she’s listening,” Cam reported, as I threw us around a turn and only just avoided death for what must have been the fiftieth time today.

“Terrific,” I growled. “What else could go wrong?”

“Well, I think its getting foggy,” Tapper reported, craning her head of a window and much to my surprise, not getting it ripped off.

“Rhetorical question Taps,” I snapped back, throwing the Humvee right onto a side road as I could see we were not going to make the turn coming up, and rocketing along side of the Palace of Fine Arts at about half the speed of sound.

“Gale, any chance of slowing us down?” I asked desperately, barely making another turn by glancing of another car, and realised with a sinking feeling that we were heading downtown. Very fast.

“You’re kidding right,” she exclaimed, sweat beading on her brow. “Weird and I aren’t even in the same class. I don’t even have a clue how it’s even possible to do something like this on this scale.”

“I was just asking,” I retorted defensively, barely missing a car that appeared suddenly out a side street and cursed the four second lag on my satellite feed. I was drawing on far more processing power than I could safely get away with but even then I was barely staying on the road. That wasn’t going to matter however because unless we slowed down a bit we were going to run out of road in about half a minute.

“Oh shit,” I said as a hill loomed ahead of us and I realised just what was on our route, we were heading straight for Lombard Street. I swear we have the worst luck in existence. For anyone who’s never been to San Francisco Lombard Street is the one that’s so steep that they had to split the road into a series of shot winding curves, and that I didn’t think I could make it down at the best of times, let alone in a shot up Humvee travelling double what ever speed it was designed to do.

“Gale,” I roared as we hit the beginning of the hill and the axel screamed in protest. “Let go of the bonnet on the count of three.”

“One,” I yelled, ignoring her incredulous look, I may sound crazy at times but she trusted me enough to do what I said and it usually makes sense later, heavy emphasis on usually.

“Two.” We crested the hill and I was afraid the car would go airborne there and then but Gale kept it glued to the ground.

“Three!” The blue light on the bonnet ceased suddenly and the Humvee, obeying several laws of air pressure, leapt into the air, easily clearing the start of Lombard Street and flying straight and true, the ground rapidly receding below us. For a moment I thought that we were really going to make it but then I realised with a literal sinking feeling that the Humvee was slowing falling backwards and there was no way on earth that we were going to survive impact like that. Actually the whole surviving thing was up in the air anyway.

“Gale get the bonnet back down!” I screamed and she lifted her hands high above her head, a blue nimbus flaring briefly into life around them and she slammed her arms down, smacking the bonnet down with them. Now we only had to worry about hitting the ground normally.

“Brace! Brace! Brace!” I hollered, lifting my legs onto the chair and wrapping my arms around them, curling into as tight a ball as I could muster and even wrapping my wings around me for good measure.

We hit harder than I could have imagined possible, the tires exploding from the pressure and we were all catapulted into the ceiling. I crashed back down into the seat, joints screaming and forced myself to uncurl which, just for the record, is absolutely the last thing you want to do after a high speed impact. We were half bouncing and half flying down the road, hitting the ground every two blocks or so and I was basically kidding myself about being in control at this point, the steering column had gone, the pedals had long ago become redundant and I was fairly sure that the Humvee was being held together by prayer and the bullets lodged in the chassis.

Also we were heading for the only cliff that actually exists in San Francisco.

Its official, reality hates us.

“Everyone okay?” I yelled, noticing that Gale had stayed glued to her seat, damn telekinetics.

“Just,” Cam shot back, just as there was another bone shattering jolt as we literally bounced over a car and a major road before hitting the ground again, hard. I distinctly heard an axel snap, which would have been bad if we were actually touching the road half the time and the blue sparks dancing across the bonnet stopped suddenly.

The front of the car lifted up just in time to take the hill and we skittered up the asphalt, the Humvee screaming in protest and I saw the Coit Tower loom to my right which meant we were shortly going to run out of road.

“Everyone get ready to bail!” I roared, with seconds to go to the crest of the hill and the Humvee hit the ground hard right before the crash barrier where the road suddenly did a U-turn. The Humvee catapulted itself into the air and flew clear over the cliff.

“Jump!” I screamed ripping open the door and throwing myself out with as much force as I could muster, tearing my wings open in the process and catching Tapper copying me out of the corner of my eye.

Here’s a tip for how to unfurl your wings when going two hundred and forty miles an hour.

Don’t.

Or at least if you do don’t do it directly into the headwind.

My wings screamed as I learned this lesson far too late and I almost crashed into Tapper as I decelerated rapidly, desperately trying to break the airfoil and losing height all the while. Around me I could see the others struggling with the wind, Cam having particular trouble holding Weird who was doing her sack of potatoes impression, the light in her eyes finally out and I forced my wings to fold behind me, instead using my jacket as a parachute which at least wasn’t attached to me. The Humvee was still going strong however and cleared one of the piers before crashing into the bay with a splash that I could hear three blocks away and over the roar of the wind.

Gale moved to land on top of a building, doing a couple of corkscrews in mid air to get her speed down and, when I judged I’d slowed down enough, I flared my wings and dove to catch up with the others, landing hard on the roof next to them.

“Now that, really hurt,” I announced letting my wings fall limp next to me, my shoulders too sore for me to attempt folding them for a while yet.

“Yeah,” Gale agreed, sitting down heavily next to Weird who was yet again, fast asleep. “Next time let’s just fly. No driving.”

“Agreed,” I said fervently. “Though you have to admit we lost the Fly Boy’s.”

“I’m sure they’ll follow the trail of destruction eventually,” she said sighing. There was a definite hint in that sentence, no more Humvees.

“We should probably get out of here then,” I said, folding my wings and wincing. I wouldn’t be flying on those for a while, well not if I could help it anyway.

“Where to though?” Cam asked with the same exhaustion in his voice everyone else was showing.

“I don’t know,” I said nonchalantly. “Breakfast maybe?”

“Well that was a bust,” I announced sighing, leaning back and pushing the demolished plate of breakfast pancakes away from me.

“We’re not dead at least,” Gale said darkly, rolling her eyes and glanced out the window, looking for trouble. I’m not sure why she bothered, the fog had come down thick, which I suspected had something to do with Weird, and we were sitting in a restaurant at Fisherman’s Warf which, for those of don’t know, is a pier and no one would attack from the bay. First, they’d have to get past the sea lions.

“We gave the White Coats a bloody nose,” Cam piped up.

“Yeah, well that only means we’ll probably go up on their wanted list,” I sighed.

Remind me to check on that at some point; apparently I’m fighting some kid called Angel for third place.

“We didn’t actually achieve anything except get shot at a lot,” I concluded.

“The Erasers got out,” Tapper pointed out fairly. “And by the way how’s your arm?”

“Bandaged,” I said bluntly. It was a shame I liked that jacket, also having a massive bloodstain down your sleeve attracts a lot of attention. “And I’m still trying to decide whether helping the Erasers get out was smart.”

“It wasn’t.”

“Shut up,” I snapped. “Besides we didn’t manage to free The Dragons, and that was the whole reason we broke into the stupid place.”

I didn’t mention that I’d managed put everyone’s life on the line, again for some stupid attempt at being a hero. Gale would be more than happy to point that out at length later.

“Also I believe that was what I was saying all along,” the Voice pointed out.

“Yeah, well I wasn’t going to mention that either.”

“Are you ready to admit it was the wrong thing to do?”

“No, I will admit that it was a very stupid thing to do, but that doesn’t make it wrong.”

“Some would say it does.”

“Go away Voice,” I muttered shaking my head, and really hoped the others hadn’t noticed me talking to myself, them noticing the long silence was a cert’ though.

“You know we didn’t exactly fail,” Gale said delicately, something I didn’t know she could actually do.

“Well, we didn’t achieve any of our objectives,” I said, beginning to count the ways we failed on my fingers. “We almost got captured, you and I both got shot, Weird’s going to be asleep until next week, and I’m fairly sure we’re going to make the news in a few hours. If that’s not failure I don’t know what is.”

“Well, we never were going to be able to get The Dragons out,” she said frankly. “Let’s face it, we’d have struggled even moving one of those tanks.”

“Yeah, remind me to punch Alfour in the mouth next time we see him,” I cut in; the bastard must have know we couldn’t have got them out.

“My point is,” Gale continued tersely. “We never were going to succeed, don’t beat yourself up over it.”

“I’m not beating myself up over it,” I muttered. “I’ve been beaten up more than enough today.” I didn’t meet Gale’s eyes as I said this. It really wasn’t the reason that I was a little sombre, but I could truthfully say that I wasn’t a little upset about not being able free The Dragons. I was extremely upset, I’d made a promise to get them out of there and now there was no way that I’d be able to help them.

“See Hawk, there’s nothing you can do,” the Voice cut in.

“Shut up,” I snapped, then addressed the others. “Anyway we have to face that we’re not getting back in there without a… a…” I trailed off, trying to think of a suitable example. Somehow a tank division seemed a little extreme.

“A SWAT team,” Gale suggested.

“Yeah that would-” I paused again, suddenly struck by a thought.

“Hawk, I would strongly suggest you leave this well alone,” the Voice said with a hint of worry in its voice. “You’d be stirring up a hornet’s nest that you wouldn’t be able to deal with.”

“Shut up Voice.”

“Hawk, please tell me you don’t happen to know where we could get our hands on a SWAT team.” Gale asked sounding worried, I could sympathise. I’d be worried if I could get my hands on a SWAT team.

“No,” I said after a moment. “But I know someone who does.”

***

“So who the heck is this guy you’re meeting anyway?” Gale asked finishing her milkshake and crushing the cup beneath her boot.

“Remember that FBI guy that Glass eye threw through a wall,” I explained, finishing the remnants of my own lunch. “Well I thought he might like to get some payback against the lab and he has the authority to run a SWAT raid, so I reckoned he’d be perfect. I’m probably going to have to generate a warrant for him though.”

Gale shook her head, probably over the fact I could generate a police search warrant. “And why did you arrange to meet on top of the Embarcadero building, it wasn’t like it was easy to get in here?”

“Oh come on,” I said shrugging. “He’s an FBI agent about to meet a shadowy contact who’s going to give him information on how to get back at the people who shot his partner. Can you think of a better place to meet, especially seeing he knows I can fly?”

“You know most people try to downplay the cliché,” Gale pointed out.

“Fortunately, I’m not most people,” I said jokingly. “Though I am missing the trench coat and hat.”

“You’re hopeless,” Gale said, sighing and shaking her head.

“I prefer to think of myself as unique,” I told her with a stupid grin on my face. “And on the subject of coats, can I borrow yours to complete the image.”

“No,” she said instantly, pulling the leather jacket protectively around her and I did wonder if she knew she was doing it. “I need this.”

“Gale,” I told her frankly. “If there’s one thing I’ve learnt over the last few weeks no one is going to suspect that you’ve got wings under there.”

“You’re not getting it,” she repeated. “Anyway when’s this guy getting here?”

“Thirty seconds or so,” I said, checking the buildings security cameras.

“That’s freaky,” Gale said, stuffing the remains of our meal into a paper bag.

“Says the girl who can throw people through walls,” I shot back.

“At least I understand how that works,” she said with a shrug. “Anyway I should really check on the others, they should be back home by now.”

“What’s the betting that’s Weird’s still asleep?” I asked as she popped open on of the doors to the roof, letting the roar of the wind into the observation deck.

“Three to one on,” she said shrugging, closing the door behind her and after a moment jumped off the roof.

You know I really should be disturbed when someone does that.

I sighed and cast my eyes around the large room for my avenues of escape. For those of you who’ve never been to the Embarcadero building, the observation deck is breathtaking. You’re perched on the top of one of the tallest buildings for miles around and if you combine this with the dazzling white of San Francisco under the noon sun and the brilliant blue of the sky you’ve got one picture perfect view.

Of course it was late November and freezing outside but you can’t let that kind of thing get you down, it’s really a shame that you’re not allowed up there anymore but at least I had somewhere private to meet my FBI guy. It was also a fairly large space so I stood a fighting chance if things turned ugly, and there were several doors to the roof which Gale and I had pre-unlocked. Re-locking them may prove difficult but I wasn’t planning on sticking around that long.

The elevator binged once and I rose from the bench to face the metal doors as they slid open.

“Hello Agent Mathews,” I said coolly as he stepped into the room and cast his eyes around, quite sensibly looking for trouble but not finding any.

“Hawk,” he said nodding, lowering his hand which had been hovering around his coat, specifically the shoulder holster area. “I thought it was you.”

“Well, I did sign my name,” I sighed, resisting the urge to roll my eyes, and held out my hand to shake. He took it.

“Yeah, well a lot of people could’ve used that as a pseudonym,” he told me. “Most people view it as a cool nickname.”

“Well it’s the only name I have,” I admitted turning away and rolling my eyes. “Also I don’t really need a nickname to be cool.” I flashed my wings as I said that, just to make sure he remembered. “Anyway take a seat.”

I sat down on one of the many benches and he followed suit.

“Well I can’t say I wasn’t surprised when I got your message,” he said after a moment. “Especially as it arrived in the internal mail. Care to explain how you did that?”

“Trade secret,” I explained with a grin. “Anyway at least you didn’t ignore it.”

He laughed ironically. “Well I could hardly do that with the number of priority stickers you put on it, the mail girl thought I’d been summoned by the President.”

Okay, I may have said this before but subtlety is not one of my strong points.

“What did you want to talk to me about anyway?” he asked when my smile had faded somewhat. “I doubt this is a social call.”

“How’s Agent Keifer?” I asked after a short pause.

“Still in hospital,” he said grimly. “The doctors say she’ll live but it could be months before she’s out. That is if she doesn’t get killed first, there’s already been one armed break in to her room but at least now she has a guard.”

“HHHHHHHHWhat happened to the first one then?”

“She shot him in the hand,” he told me simply and I whistled in surprise. It’s remarkable just how difficult it is to do that, especially when you can’t sit up.

“That’s not why you contacted me though?” he asked me astutely. “I got the impression that your message was pretty urgent.”

“Yeah, well,” I said hesitating slightly. Realistically I’d made my decision hours ago when I sent the message but some small part of me didn’t want to ask for help from someone I’d hardly met, who wasn’t ‘family’ but apparently there are humans you can trust in the world. Go figure.

“I’ve come into some time limited information,” I explained. “Those guys that attacked you in the hospital are part of a big group. Like an internationally big group, and usually they’re untouchable, they’ve got enough places to hide the illegal stuff in the paperwork so no one can pin anything on them and if anyone tries they get their lives destroyed.”

I paused there for a moment to see Agent Mathew’s reaction to that piece of news, apart from his jaw tightening slightly he didn’t seem to care. “However,” I continued. “There’s a lab right here is San Francisco that is definitely involved in some iffy experiments, and they won’t be able to dump the evidence for a day or to yet. If you can get in there you should be able to take the building with relative ease and get enough on these guys to put them away for years. I can’t say that you’d bring down the conspiracy but it’ll hurt them. A lot.”

“That’s good enough for me,” he said after a moments thought. “Do you have any more info?”

I pulled out a sheaf of papers I’d printed off earlier and hand them to him. “There,” I said. “A floor plan with as many secret stores I could find, it should have the risky and high security areas marked and I’ve taken a rough guess at where their main forces are. Unfortunately beyond that you’re on your own, but luckily for you they’re in a bit of disarray after some break in or something.”

He looked at me suspiciously as I said that and I resisted the urge to wink; he’d probably put two and two together later but for now the less questions he asked the better. I may trust him to break into the lab but I wasn’t going to be giving out all my secrets.

“You know I hate to break it to you,” he said looking over the pages of information. “But I’m going to need a warrant to search this place, and if these guys are as dangerous as they look I’ll need a SWAT team to storm this place.”

“Not a problem,” I told him smugly. “Check the building for search warrants; apparently they’re involved in some plot to steal the President’s brain. You have about six hours before someone realises its bogus so should get a move on.”

“Anything else?” he asked, folding the pages into his coat pocket.

“Not really,” I said getting to my feet and walking over to one of the doors. “With any luck it should go down without a hitch.”

“How should I contact you though?” he enquired as I opened the door and let the roar of the wind in the building.

“You shouldn’t,” I told him simply. “But there is one other thing I want you to do.” I paused a moment for dramatic effect. “Set the experiments free.”

With that I sprinted the short distance to the edge of the building, and jumped.

***

“So you trust him?” Gale asked as we watched the FBI guys put up a long tent between the lab building and the bay.

“More than I trust most people,” I admitted, stretching and lying back on the cliff. It was nearing dusk and frankly I was beginning to get bored. A few hours ago Agent Mathews and a full SWAT team had gone into the building and half an hour later they came out again nursing wounds and escorting forty or so White Coats, and whilst we didn’t get close enough to hear any of the battle I reckon it was pretty fierce. I didn’t see any Erasers walk out of there at least.

But that was a while ago now and nothing had happened for some time, needless to say my attention was beginning to wander.

“You know that’s not saying much,” Gale sighed.

“Eh, what can you do?” I said with a shrug. “Anyway anything going on?”

“Anything gone on for the last two hours?” she shot back.

“No.”

“Then that’s your answer then.”

I sighed. “Great, I hope they get a move on. I’m bored and all out of knock-knock jokes.”

“Finally!” Gale exclaimed a mite too enthusiastically and I glowered at her, then tried to find something to do.

Here’s a trick, try holding your thumb and forefinger about an inch apart and you’ll feel a slight tingle. I can’t explain that but I’d been concentrating on building up a charge between them for the last five minutes, and the little sensible part of me in the back of my head was telling me that that much electricity was going to give sooner or later. That or my finger was going to fall off if I kept it crooked much longer. One of the two.

Suddenly there was noise that sounded a little bit like a bug zapper going off and tiny lightning bolt flashed between my digits.

“Shit!” I swore as my finger burned and I cradled my hand around it, trying to shut off a few of the pain messages. There’s one thing I’ve never seen Gale or Weird do, get hit by their own blasts, and lightning bolts hurt.

“I didn’t know you could do telekinetics,” Gale said conversationally, not looking round and not looking particularly concerned over the large red welt forming on my finger. Note to self: don’t zap your own damn finger.

“Technically, that’s electricity,” I pointed out, hissing as I prodded my finger to ascertain the damage and promptly concluding that I shouldn’t do that again.

“Meh,” said shrugging. “As Weird keeps saying its all energy, just be glad you didn’t do one of her lightning bolts.”

“Well I guess this means I get to join the super powered kids club,” I said jokingly

“The one that you founded?” Gale asked rolling her eyes. “You were here before Weird, remember?”

“True,” I countered. “But throwing lightning bolts is more impressive than throwing data packets around.”

“I don’t know what those are,” Gale admitted. “Anyway you’ve saved us just as many times as Weird, we wouldn’t exactly be doing this if it weren’t for you.”

“Throwing lightning is still more impressive,” I said stubbornly and Gale rolled her eyes muttering.

“Males.”

“Just don’t say that around Weird,” she continued after a moment. “She’s still not gotten over killing those Erasers.”

“I do have some tact,” I told her and she gave me the same look you’re probably giving me now but I maintain it’s true.

“Hawk you have the tact of a sledgehammer…” she started to say but then paused looking down at the lab.

“What? What’s going on?” I asked sitting bolt upright and spotted a silvery tail slip into the water with barely a ripple.

“Looks like we managed to free your Dragons,” Gale said as another dived into the water disappearing without a trace.

“I knew he’d do it,” I told her and spotted Agent Matthews at the end of the canvas tunnel.

“Okay, so maybe you’re a reasonable judge of character,” Gale admitted as yet another Dragon slipped into the water.

“Meh, character has got nothing to do with it,” I said shrugging. “I just knew wouldn’t rat us out.”

“So now what?” she asked.

“We go down and meet them,” I said simply.

“And where would we do that? I thought we were avoiding the FBI guys.”

“Can you spell Alcatraz?” I enquired theatrically, a knowing grin on my face.

It turned out she could.

***

The sun was just setting as Gale and I crouched on the rocks of the bleak little island in the centre of the bay. I don’t particularly like Alcatraz, it reminds me to much of the lab; it’s the whole imprisoning other humans thing, though I guess you can always argue that they deserved it. Actually what surprises me is just how much green has managed to wrangle its way onto the island, though I can imagine back in the day it was a pretty daunting place to get imprisoned on. If you don’t have wings of course.

“It doesn’t look like they’re showing,” Gale observed at length as I maintained a vigil over the waves, steadfastly ignoring the scenery which was doing its best to distract me. Stupid breathtaking sunsets.

“Give them a minute,” I said grimly, ignoring the cramp in my legs. “There’s no way they could have missed us flying that low and its not like there’s another island around here.”

“You know, while we’re waiting, I’ve been meaning to ask you something,” she said suddenly. “Do you know you’ve started talking to yourself?”

“You’ve been thinking of a tactful way to ask that for a while now, haven’t you?” I asked after a moment, dodging the question.

“Not really,” she admitted. “You’ve always been a little nuts.” Thanks Gale. “But you’ve started arguing with yourself lately, and then there was the whole thing last night.”

“I was hoping you guys wouldn’t notice,” I sighed after a moment.

“Yeah, good luck with that.”

“Touché,” I said. With hindsight a group of paranoid super humans is not exactly the best place to hide a secret, though I did think I’d be able to deal with it without worrying the others.

Okay so maybe not all of my plans are as brilliant as the others.

“Fine,” I sighed. “I’ll level with you. I’ve been hearing a voice and I swear it’s not just some fragment of my personality.”

Gale looked at me questioningly, chewing on the inside of her lip. “You know I think hearing voices is the first sign of madness.”

“Hey, he’s real,” I protested.

“That’s the second sign,” she countered. “It’s not telling you to break into labs and burn things is it?”

“Actually, it’s been telling me not to break into the lab and keep my head down.”

“Well apparently he’s saner than you,” she said shrugging and I shot daggers at her.

“Anyway what makes you think he’s real?” she continued.

“He knows things I don’t,” I told her simply. “He knew where I was when I woke up in the hospital; he knew that the door to the lab in New York would be unlocked; he knew exactly where Rainbow and Mir were when they were invisible, and he even warned me about a group of Erasers sneaking up on us. There’s no way I knew those things and he’s told me himself that he’s not just some figment of my imagination.”

“He could have been lying,” Gale pointed out.

“Nah, I haven’t actually caught him lying yet, besides I don’t really have a reason not to trust him. I just don’t like him.”

“If he’s real,” Gale said sceptically. “How are you hearing him, I take it you don’t have a speaker in your ear?”

“No,” I admitted throwing her my palm pilot and getting a spare out. “But I don’t exactly have a normal brain. Just call me and I’ll show you.”

“Okay,” she said doubtfully and rang the number I’d put on the screen. “Hello can I speak to a Mr Hawk please?”

“Speaking,” my voice said out of the speaker and Gale looked round in shock at my closed mouth.

“See,” the ‘phone continued. “It’s not exactly hard to do something like this. I can’t say I know how I’m receiving signals from the Voice, but it being possible that I’m sending them is not that much a stretch of the imagination.”

“Cool,” Gale said after a moment. “Got any more party tricks?”

“Got any more party tricks,” the ‘phone echoed in her voice.

“Stop that!” she snapped.

“Stop that!” I echoed again. At that point she hung up.

“Spoil sport,” I told her.

“Whatever. So let’s get this straight,” she said taking a deep breath. “A potentially malicious, untrustworthy and untraceable person is reading you mind and we have no way of stopping it.”

“In a nut shell yes,” I said off-handedly.

“It never rains but it pours doesn’t it?” Gale asked after a moment.

“Well, life would be boring if it didn’t,” I said shrugging and Gale glared at me.

At that point a rock hit me in the back of my head and I whipped round to see Adam’s head bobbing in the surf a dozen yards away or so a big grin on his face.

“Knew you’d be back,” he signed.

“I said I would didn’t I?” I flashed back. “Are you guys okay in this water?”

“Sure,” he explained. “Just like back home but fresher.” He looked around, his gaze falling in particular on the city that was just lighting up for the night. “It’s big out here isn’t it?”

“I still haven’t found the right words to describe it,” I told him frankly. “What are you going to go now?”

“We’ll find somewhere,” he signed with a shoulder less shrug, which I won’t elaborate on. I don’t have the right bone structure to demonstrate it anyway. “Somewhere warmer hopefully.”

“Do you guys need any help?” I asked and he just smirked.

“Can you swim?”

“Not really,” I told him shrugging and flaring my wings slightly. “Feathers aren’t exactly waterproof.” Actually come to think of it, what the hell could I help a group of aquatic experiments with?

“We’ll manage,” he signed. “Thanks for coming back.”

“Just be glad someone came back for us,” I flashed and raised my hand in a half salute and half wave.

He waved back and suddenly with a flick of his tail he disappeared beneath the surface.

The ripples disappeared with the next wave.

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