Again, we have arrived at the magical day of Thursday.
The day on which I shower you all with more story.
So where we last left off, Wolfgang has officially joined the Mysterious Organization with the intent of bringing it down from the inside. And like the genius that he is, he hasn’t told anyone about it.
But now we go back to Dallas. Our usually good child, who is now taking a walk on the wild side by drinking a cup of coffee instead of tea and not taking a nap when his mother tells him to.
For shame, Dallas.
(also sidenote that this chapter and the next one both happen within the same timeframe more or less, just from different POVs. -nod-)
Anyway, if you’re behind, you can catch up here:
Aaaaand here we go into part five!
Studies indicate odd things
Even as tired as I was, I couldn’t seem to get a good night’s sleep. I still woke up at five-thirty without an alarm set. My stomach was clenched too tightly to let me eat anything.
I just showered, got dressed, fed my dog and went to work early. Maybe I’d find something today. Something to stop whatever Mansley’s organization was planning.
I needed to keep looking and find more clues before someone got hurt again. There were more indications towards this thing than there ever were to the Twin Bombing. And that was what killed Wolfgang’s family, along with over a hundred other people.
I can’t let that happen. I can’t. I rubbed one hand over my face, keeping my gaze on the road. The sun peeked up over the horizon, casting long shadows through the trees and shining in my face as I turned a corner towards the SPI building. I winced as a headache pressed against the insides of my temples.
Agents weren’t supposed to be at work until six-thirty, but the headquarters opened up at six. It was six now, so I would be alright going in.
I turned down the ramp into the underground lot and pulled my small truck into my usual parking spot a few levels down. There were older agents here and I usually tried to leave the spots higher up for them. It was fairly empty down here.
I turned off the car and put the keys in my pocket, sitting there to gather my things for a second before getting out. The sound of the door opening and shutting echoed in the empty garage. I started for the elevator, shifting my backpack straps as I walked.
There was a new stack of papers relating to Mansley’s operations to go through today. Pertaining to his oversight of the scientific side of things in the Hero Project. Things to do with the superpowers.
The superpowers were all shut down now. The science of nanite-carried superpowers wasn’t even being pursued anymore, but I never knew where I might find something.
I took the elevator up to my level, leaning against the cold metal sides and listening to the quiet music. The small, grey carpeted space held the same familiar smell of the rest of the SPI. Paper, ink and coffee.
Maybe I should try coffee. I couldn’t focus like this.
The elevator glided to a stop, giving a soft “ding” as the doors slid open to the quiet SPI hallway. I pushed off the side and slipped through, knowing just where to go to find my office from here. The turn to the employees’ break room was a little sooner than that and I slowed up, turning in to peek my head through the door. The automatic coffee maker was bubbling away already, next to the water heater. Plain white mugs sat nearby, with a basket of teabags.
I hesitated for a second before I went over to the coffeepot instead of the tea. I carefully poured the burnt smelling, black liquid into a mug, then poured in enough cream to make it not such an intimidatingly dark color.
It . . . didn’t smell very nice, and I knew from experience that I hated coffee. But being awake enough to pay proper attention was more important right now.
I let out a breath and went back out the door, finishing the walk to my office. There was the manila envelope full of papers, sitting right on my desk. It was notably thicker than the last few I’d gone through. It was a huge part of the project, so I could see why there’d be a lot of papers on it.
More chance of finding a way in with more papers.
I scuffed one shoe against the carpet as I pushed the door shut behind me. It closed with a click and I took a deep breath, going over to my small desk.
I sat down, the chair giving a soft squeak under me. A grimace pinched my expression. There were a lot of papers in that envelope.
I bit my lip, then took a careful sip of my coffee. The burnt, bitter taste filled my mouth and throat and I winced. But whatever I needed to do to keep awake. A sip every two pages should do it.
I set the mug down on the desk with a soft clunk. Reaching over, I grabbed the envelope and pulled the papers to me.
Soon, I was again lost to the world of studying the records.
I flipped back another page on my notebook pad, skimming between my own notes and the old record papers as I jotted down another line of important information.
As much as I’d expected this to be a long day, I never thought the details of the superhero serums could be so fascinating. The details on how they were developed. The early testings.
When the project collapsed, they’d still had another version of the super serum under development, meant to garner even more public attention and involvement. Something to do with more varied powers. It was never finished, though apparently they’d only tested it once and spent the rest of the time tweaking it in the lab. There had been a fire. All the progress they’d made had been lost within the week of Mansley’s escape.
The week where no one could find him. The week he had all to himself, thinking he’d gotten away scot-free. He had to have been making contact with his agency even more desperately then to try and ensure his security.
So there was a very good chance the destruction of these serums connected to Mansley. But . . . why would he want them destroyed? What danger would those pose to him or the people he was connected with?
I scanned back, looking again to see if they found who’d lit the fire.
There were suspects. But all agents denied involvement. The evidence they found was inconclusive, and there was barely any evidence to begin with. A lab burning down, with all those chemicals inside . . . everything was burnt and shattered. They couldn’t find anything much even if they wanted to.
But why . . . why would he want them gone?
I tapped my pencil eraser gently on the page. The room was quiet except for the ticking of the clock. It had been a few pages so I reached over for my coffee mug again, taking another small drink. It was cold now, but the bitterness was just as strong as ever. I suppressed a shudder.
As least it was keeping me awake. My headache wasn’t as painful as it had been earlier.
I went back to reading over the papers.
So would that mean that the big move . . . couldn’t involve superheroes? Maybe that kind of super serum was something the organization couldn’t have out there. If superheroes were the only thing that could stop them and those couldn’t be around . . .
The Twin Bombing without superheroes . . . Mr. Fernsby wouldn’t have even been able to stop the one bomb that had been up in Ogden. And it was more populated up there. The casualties would have been more than doubled.
The lingering sick feeling in my stomach twisted around again and I swallowed down the bile in my throat, rubbing at my forehead.
But they’d started the Hero Project, if Mansley made it.
Why? Had it been their plan to have Mansley fall all along? Why did they even want superheroes out there if they were just going to shut it down? Why would Mansley get involved to start with? Did he even know?
I groaned quietly and sat back in my seat, rubbing the heels of my palms over my eyes. It had to connect, with how closely he worked in this. But I just couldn’t seem to figure out a logical way how.
Why, why, why . . .?
A soft knock on the door made me jump. I straightened in my seat, stacking the papers again.
“Y-yes, who is it?”
The door latch clicked open and the door swung in quietly. Kaity stepped in first, then . . . my mom.
I stiffened as both of them looked over at me. Kaity looked apologetic and slightly worried. Mom looked a little worried too, but her eyes were narrowed in a slight glare, somehow managing to look intimidating even though she was only a couple inches taller than Kaity.
What did I do?
I swallowed. “Is . . . is everything alright?’
Kaity looked over at my mom. “I just . . . thought Miss Cecilia should know . . .”
“Dallas, you’ve been working too hard,” Mom interrupted, folding her arms.
I felt my face redden a little and I straightened the papers more, hoping to make the pile look a little bit smaller. “I’m . . . I’m fine, really.”
She tilted her head and raised an eyebrow. “Did you even have breakfast? Or lunch?”
“It’s not even . . .” I looked at the clock. Oh gosh. It was past lunch break by almost an hour.
Mom walked over a bit closer. “You need to rest sometime, okay?” She put a hand on top of the papers, almost like she was feeling how thick the stack was. “You really look tired. I talked to your boss and he said you could have the rest of the day off.”
I opened and closed my mouth soundlessly, not sure of what to say. I’d never . . . actually gotten in trouble with my mom at work before. I looked back at Kaity, who raised her eyebrows, making her best “she’s right, you know” face.
“I’m alright, Mom. Kaity.” I looked earnestly between the two of them. “I’ll go to bed early tonight.”
“Darn right you will,” Mom replied. “You can go back and go to bed early right now. You’re going to get sick if you keep this up.”
“But you don’t understand. These are time sensitive and I really need to . . .”
“There are other people in the building they can assign to it, Dallas,” Kaity stuck in. “Ever since the gala, you’ve just been running yourself even more ragged than before. You can’t work this hard. You need to take a bit of a rest, okay?”
My heart thumped and I swallowed. I didn’t want to get into a fight with either of them. But these really were very important. I was so close. If I just got this finished, I could rest soon. They didn’t understand.
An idea popped into my head and I winced a little, but it seemed like the only option.
The room was quiet for a second, both of them watching me.
I twisted my hands together and slowly nodded.
“Al-alright. Just let me . . . straighten things up in here.”
Both of them looked visibly relieved. Mom let out a breath and came around my desk to give me a little bit of a side hug, her loose hair swishing against my arm. “Get some rest. And some food.”
I nodded, looking down at my hands.
Kaity smiled when I glanced up, still looking a little apologetic. “This is really the best for you.”
I nodded again.
They both finished with their approving looks in my direction and left.
I sat there for a minute, feeling the weight of guilt stack on top of the sick feeling in my stomach. But I really did need to finish figuring out this organization.
I could study back at my apartment just as well as I could study here. I’d still eat something at least. I’d make a sandwich when I got home.
I took a deep breath, reached down for my backpack, and brought it up to put the papers inside.
Sorry, Mom and Kaity. I’ll rest soon.
I sat with my forehead propped against one hand as I read and made more notes. Mushroom, my dog, sat curled at my feet. The last page of the file lay in front of me, and I was almost to the bottom of the text. It was past dark outside and the only sounds were the occasional rushing of cars driving past.
There was certainly a lot of information in the file. A lot of things I didn’t know before about the details and science of the nanites and how they were developed. More about Mansley, before we knew he was corrupt. But nothing about the organization he really worked for.
It felt almost like having a word on the tip of my tongue. I was so close, I knew. But the dots wouldn’t quite connect. Not yet.
“And this concludes the report regarding the scientific developments in the Hero Project branch of the SPI,” read the last line.
A big, red stamp marred the words.
I sat back in my seat and took a deep breath.
There was something important about that fire. That was the main event that happened in that key week where Mansley was on the loose. As far as I could see, the only move the organization made during that time.
Spend all that time letting Mansley build it up, then let it fall. Let the plan continue and shut down the program, taking away any possibility for future superheroes.
It didn’t make sense.
I tapped my pencil on the table and rubbed my hand over my face. Why would they just let the serums go like that? If they couldn’t have it, nobody could, I guess? Or . . .
I stopped my tapping and looked back at the paper, my eyes widening for a second as a thought crossed my mind. I quickly ruffled through the rest of the papers, trying to find the one in the middle that talked about the fire.
There it was.
I pulled it out and scanned it over again intently. Did it say anything about proof of the serum’s destruction . . .?
Lab was totally destroyed. No remains of experiments found. Research not saved.
But the serum itself?
It didn’t say anything particularly about whether the experiment had been found. Nanites were usually easy to scan and find, even if they were through a fire. This type was fairly resilient . . .
But they didn’t say. Didn’t give any details of whether they even did a scan. Why would they leave that detail out? Did they just not do it?
I felt my breathing speed a little.
Or did they not find anything?
It could have been an attempt at glossing over a failure. If they didn’t say that the serums themselves were destroyed, that left with the distinct possibility that they were stolen. And that made much, much more sense. Even as I mentally begged for it not to be true.
They could have the possibility of further developed superpowers in this organization. And they’d had them for a year and two months by now. If there was anyone who’d been involved in the research within the organization . . . which was highly probable, judging by the lab fire . . . then they could have finished the research.
I noticed I was moving my feet a little, shuffling my shoes sideways nervously.
Mushroom gave me a look and moved away from my feet.
Alright, alright . . . My headache pounded harder and I winced. I took a deep breath and swallowed, looking over the paper in my hand again.
So the serums were possibly stolen. But how would they plan on using them? What would they do, if they figured out a way to turn the powers on? What was their “big move”?
Goosebumps prickled up on my arms suddenly. I rubbed at my skin a little and leaned back over my notes.
Of course . . . this was just based on a lot of assumptions. I was tired and had been working all day. It could be just . . . a hunch.
Maybe I could look up more of the information about the fire at work tomorrow.
The goosebumps prickled harder and I winced, rubbing a hand along my arm again. It wasn’t even that cold in here, why was I getting goosebumps?
It felt almost like crackling static for a few seconds, then there was an electric jolt like someone had shocked me. I jumped in my seat, the chair rocking a little.
My vision blurred for a second and I felt dizzy. I blinked, shaking my head.
A familiar blue sparked somewhere in my periphery. I stood, turning. “What on earth . . .?”
Then suddenly, there was a zapping noise and I couldn’t see anymore. The spinning feeling in my head got worse and I went to my knees, gasping. Rough asphalt scraped at my hands and the knees of my jeans. My heartbeat pounded hard against my ribs.
I shook my head and blinked hard trying to clear my vision.
I looked up. I wasn’t inside my apartment anymore. I was outside. Across the road from my apartment.
I stared at the low level window where my apartment was. The lamp still on like I’d left it. I could hear Mushroom barking wildly.
“Th-that’s . . .” I muttered, shaking my head. “That couldn’t have b-been . . .” I pushed shakily to my feet feeling sick and a little lightheaded. I wasn’t sure whether to attribute that to worry, or the fact that I’d just . . . I’d just . . .
I teleported. I teleported out of my apartment.
I thought my powers were gone. I’d killed the nanites by putting up too strong of a forcefield. I hadn’t had powers since last year. The controls to even turn on the powers were dismantled. I saw. I knew.
It’s not possible. It’s not possible. How . . .?
There was another small zap, and I was standing a few feet away again. My fingers flickered blue, seeming to glitch like a bad computer program.
I put my hands on my knees, trying to keep myself from hyperventilating.
My powers were back.
That was obvious now. Only . . .
Who turned them on?
Well, that’s a good stopping spot. I guess I’ll see you all next week.
But, in all seriousness, I’m like a chapter away from the end on this thing so we’ll be posting twice a week before you know it.
And you’ll probably have a review of The Last Jedi to ease the wait.
See you all next time,