So we’ve got Wolfgang going to a fancy place to stop an assassination, while in cahoots with an evil organization and in possession of explosive superpowers.
What could possibly go wrong?
As the title implies, this is mostly setup in a lot of ways. A shorter chapter. Making up for the fact that the next one turned out so long it could line the coast of California.
So let’s dive in. And if you’re behind, catch up here:
“Video is the most solid evidence we can get, so that would have been the best.” Dallas turned the video recorder baseball hat over in his hands, frowning. His voice echoed off the walls of our old empty meeting room in the Den. “I was able to get a little bit out of this but it seems to be . . . broken. There were only a few minutes of recording done before you . . .” he looked over at me, a confused frown on his face as he trailed off.
Yeah, before I pitched the hat into the wall like a total idiot.
I was worried about that.
Liza glanced my way with a raised eyebrow. “Things just like to break for you, don’t they, mate?”
“I guess they do.” I mentally swore at Franklin as I shifted my position, feeling my face getting red. “At least we have the microphone, right?”
“Y-yes, we do still have the microphone,” Dallas assured. “Though before you go in for your meeting with Maxine, the sound gets distorted and I can’t make out much. Here . . .” He hit a few buttons on the laptop computer he held.
Sounds from the meeting came out. Everyone saying their superpowers and a bit of Maxine talking about the individual meetings sounded loud and clear.
Silence for a bit, then the microphone started crackling with static. My whole meeting was distorted with static, only bits and pieces coming through.
Dallas sat back, letting out his breath and looking tired. Liza squinted at the computer.
“Sounds like somebody . . . overloaded the mic. Tried to turn it up too high.”
I stared at the computer. But I didn’t touch the . . .
Yes I did. Right before going in. I clenched my teeth and gripped tight on the pen I was holding, wanting to kick myself. Right when everything was on the line . . .
“That’s what I was guessing.” Dallas tapped a few more things and looked up. He opened his mouth to say more, but froze for a few seconds as he looked down at my pen. “Wolfgang . . .”
Liza stiffened as she followed his gaze. “Lose the pen, Wolfy.”
I looked down to see it had mottled and turned orange, pulsing with heat. I’d accidentally turned it into an explosive.
I cursed, jumping to my feet and running over to throw it out the door into the hallway.
A miniature, firecracker explosion sounded a couple seconds later and I glanced out. It left nothing more than a smoke stain
Right. Watch the temper. I took a deep breath and let it out, rubbing my hands together as I walked back to Dallas.
“I . . . seriously, I kept them on the whole time . . .”
Dallas nodded, still fiddling with the microphone. “And we have evidence now. Even if it isn’t a lot.”
“Can you still get agents in to shut this thing down?” I sat back down on the floor next to him.
Dallas hunched his shoulders a little as he looked over something on the computer screen. “Well, a possible assassination attempt, even if the recording is scratchy, is enough to at least get us more security precautions at the concert Mr. Ecks is going to. We’re making progress.”
“What about shutting down Silverwing?” I asked. The sooner I got these powers turned off and got back to normal, the better.
“I’d guess that they’re sending one of their own to try and kill the Director. Someone not high up, admittedly, because they’re clearly planning on him taking the fall so that you can get a better reputation.” Dallas sighed and rubbed his hands together. “But if we catch whoever it is, we could probably get enough of the information we need through interrogation. So it’s important we succeed tonight.”
I nodded slowly, running a hand up through my hair. “Right. Got it.”
Liza twirled a strand of hair around one finger. “And if we want a chance at keeping you in this little club, you’ll need to just catch the guy before he kills Ecks. It could be covered as an overeager mistake pretty easily.”
Dallas nodded. He looked over at the clock, closed his computer and stood up. “I think we should probably start getting ready for tonight.”
I stood with him. “Yeah, you go . . .” I gestured for a few seconds. “Show that to security or something, and I’ll go dig up my old tux.”
And get a different shirt for that, too.
“Good.” Dallas hesitated before he went for the door. “Wolfgang, I don’t think . . . I can really tell them that I got this information from you just yet. In case there’s a leak in the SPI information, it could blow your cover.”
So I was still on the SPI’s naughty list – despite the pardon – for a bit longer. Big deal.
I shrugged. “It’s fine. It’ll come out eventually.”
Dallas nodded again. “Thanks. I mean . . . for doing all this and helping.” He bit his lip for a second, then slipped out the door.
Liza elbowed me. “We should probably go find you a better shirt for your tux that doesn’t look like you got brutally murdered, eh?”
I chuckled. “Yeah. Let’s do that.”
I adjusted my bowtie, swallowing as I stepped into the grand entryway of the opera house. Best to just forget the looks I got from the lady taking the tickets.
Wow. I turned around slowly as I walked. Didn’t know that Franklin could even get this nice of a place, no matter how good of a singer he was.
This was a bit more of an open venue than most opera houses, so I put it down to that. Still, it must have cost an arm and a leg to get for the event.
I stopped at the foot of one of the winding staircases, letting the other fancy-dressed people flow up the smooth stairs around me. I ran over in my mind again what I needed to do.
Get a fix on where exactly Ecks is sitting. Station myself nearby. Check in with Dallas . . .
Ecks was supposed to be in one of the booths. A higher up level in the opera house, looking down on the rest of the seats.
I stuck my hand in my pocket and pulled out a piece of paper I’d scribbled a few important things on. I glanced it over as I kept walking up the stairs.
Right, so that was the seat number.
I let out my breath and shoved it back in my pocket. My hand hit the cloth at an awkward angle. I wrinkled my nose slightly. It had been with much chagrin that I’d left my leather jacket behind and worn an actual suit coat.
News would have been proud of me, if he’d even answered any calls today and minded checking in . . .
I ran a hand over my hair in a vain attempt to smooth it down. Eh, News knew where I was if he needed me. And he had habits of disappearing for random acts of charity abroad. This wasn’t really anything new.
I hit the top of the stairs and looked over the crowd. Out to the edges. Dallas said he’d be waiting right . . .
I spotted him against a wall, his posture tense and straight as he leaned away from the crowd. There was the look of a martyr dying for a noble cause on his face as he endured the throngs pushing past.
Most of the people had enough of a fancy image to keep up that they weren’t pushing in too hard against me, so I wasn’t having as much of a problem with the whole claustrophobia thing. But I took in a bit of a forced breath as I shouldered my way through the crowd towards Dallas.
I was by his side after a minute of dodging other concert-goers. Dallas jumped a little as I touched his arm.
“Hey, it’s just me.” I kept my voice as low as I could while still being heard.
He relaxed a little. “Any trouble getting in?”
“Ah, just a few looks. Everybody hates me, what else is new?” I let out a breath. “How are things on your end? Got some agents here?”
“A few under cover,” Dallas responded. “Security is up and we have some backup at least.”
“Fantastic,” I nodded, not managing to get as much enthusiasm into my voice as I intended. Dallas’s brow furrowed slightly.
“We’ll do fine, really,” he assured me, clasping his hands behind his back. “Just don’t . . . you know.”
“Yes, that would be bad.” A tiny bit of a smile touched at the corner of his mouth.
I saluted. “I’ll do my best. Gotta head off to find my post now. Break a leg, Dall.”
Dallas looked mildly shocked for a second before fully registering the expression and nodding.
I shook my head as I walked off. Time to find Ecks’s seat.
I got a general bearing on the mapping of the seats so I could find the number. I followed a steady stream of people up another set of stairs and down a hallway leading to the booths.
I counted down the numbers as I passed them Booth 15 . . . booth 16 . . .
A hand touched my arm and there was a quiet “hsst”. I stiffened at the touch, a little scarred from last night and what Franklin’s simple touch had done.
I stopped, turning back. A tall, blonde woman in a green dress stood behind me, her hand still partly outstretched. She raised her eyebrows slightly. “Hey, mind if I talk with you for a sec?”
I frowned. “I’m sorry, you are . . .?”
She waved a hand dismissively. “You know me, Dankworth. We need to talk about our plans. Come on.” She tilted her head and started walking back down the hall.
I just watched after her in confusion.
Our plans? I’d never seen her before in my . . .
Her voice clicked into place in my mind. Maxine Wellington.
Stupid. She can switch faces now.
I jogged for a few steps to catch up with her, lengthening my strides. She could walk pretty fast for someone in heels.
She glanced back and shot me a smile as I reached her side. “Nice tux.”
I adjusted my bowtie a little. “Uh, thanks. Nice . . . dress . . .” I trailed off with the realization that it probably wasn’t even the dress she was wearing. Just someone else’s dress that she’d happened to copy.
“Thank you,” she replied easily. The green fabric of the dress swished around her ankles as she swung up onto a different stairway that would take us to the top level. The sign “closed for maintenance” that it sectioned off didn’t seem to bother her. My shoes scuffed against the gold carpet covering the stairs. Just like it had been backstage when I’d first come out into the hall . . . after loosing my memory . . .
The smell and the soft hum of the air conditioner running through the vents pushed memories to the front of my mind, bringing a slight headache with it. I wondered if I’d been up these stairs before and just didn’t remember.
Maxine led the way, her feet hitting out a quick, staccato rhythm against the stairs while she climbed.
I took the stairs two at a time so I wouldn’t have to take such fast baby-steps along with her.
We reached the top level and a dull roar of distant chatter and general hubbub drifted up from below. We both stepped out onto the red carpet that covered the balcony. Maxine ran her hand along the wood railing.
I came up next to her against the rail and looked over, down onto the crowds. The rows of seats and the few booths placed high along the walls.
When I looked back at Maxine, I jumped a little to see she’d changed faces again, back to her normal. She now wore a strapless, bright blue dress. The tattoos Dallas had told me about . . . the silvery wings . . . wrapped up and over her shoulders, adding a sheen to her smooth, dark skin. Her black hair was pinned partly up off her neck so they were more visible.
I realized I was staring after a second and tore my gaze away, looking back down.
Maxine pointed over towards a booth down to the right. “That’s where Ecks and I will be sitting. You could probably stand right behind a booth down the hall a ways and still be able to see the concert.”
I spotted where she was pointing pretty easily. The one with the SPI guard checking out the area before letting the guy with the suit and tie take his seat.
I nodded slowly, my concern for Ecks’s safety diminishing as I saw another couple of security guards. “Well, seems to me like it’ll be pretty hard for whatever assassin to get to him, really.” I gestured towards the booth. “They’ve got some good security going on down there.”
“When you’ve got money to work with, bribes can do you wonders,” Maxine pointed out. She leaned her arms against the rail. “Aaand the other guys . . . trust me, it won’t be too hard for our man to take them down. He’s got it covered.”
Oh boy. I eyed the security guards, who – estimating from where I was standing – were at least half a foot taller than I was. Who’d she hire? Godzilla?
“Just remember, Ecks has to go down before you swoop in to save the day, alright?” she looked over at me and tucked her hair behind one ear, raising her perfectly shaped eyebrows. “Should be right after the third song ends that this goes down.”
I nodded and leaned my hands against the rail, looking down so I didn’t have to meet her gaze. Run less risk of her seeing how disgusted I was with this idea.
I heard her let out a whoosh of breath and the rail creaked slightly as she leaned her weight on it again. It was quiet for a few seconds before she spoke. “Really, after how rough your life’s been, I think you probably see it better than anyone else in Silverwing. What we’re going for here.”
I frowned a little and glanced over at her.
“After a while, you know . . .” she waved one hand absently in the air. “You just see that when it’s down to it, it’s really every man for himself. Everyone’s out on his own if he wants to get anywhere in life. Society just proves itself like that again and again. Look at you. Big old sacrifice to save the heroes . . . and before that, just fighting for your family . . . and everybody just hates you.”
She wrinkled her nose. “While that Fernsby dude . . . all he ever does is kiss babies and have great hair and I mean . . . no offense I’m sure he’s a great guy, but, man. Fortune’s just such a fickle thing. It just comes to some people, and some folks . . . you gotta try a little harder. Gotta sacrifice some things to get to the top.”
I chewed on my lip, still not looking over at her as I watched people still finding their seats. The mental distance I’d been trying to keep from this whole thing crumbled slightly.
The methods (killing people, particularly) were wrong, definitely. But just the idea of actually being a respected member of society with a bit more than five bucks to my name . . .
“See, us at Silverwing? Me, Franklin, Übel . . . all us guys just found the way the game works. The shortcut to getting somewhere with life. To getting people actually respecting you.”
Maxine let out a sigh. “And I just . . . mm.” She gently punched my shoulder and grinned. “I’m glad you’re in with us, dude. Don’t get hung up along the way with any of those people who’d drag you down or anything. A guy like you deserves better than life’s handed him.”
I pressed my lips together and managed a smile in return. “Yeah, thanks.”
Maxine grinned and flashed a quick peace sign before heading back to the stairs. “Well, I probably better go find my seat with Ecks. See you after song three, hero boy.” She disappeared for a second, then peeked back around. “Oh, and remember to show off a little of your flame-action, okay?” she gave a thumbs-up.
Flame-action, right. I gave a halfhearted thumbs-up back.
There was some movement down on the stage and a few girls yelling out some things. Franklin walked onto the stage to set a microphone down. He waved and laughed, blowing a kiss to the crowd at the small cheer he got before the lights were even coming on.
I stayed up there, watching the people go by for another minute before heading down the stairs myself. I needed to get into position for this thing.
Bum bum BUM. The suspense builds. And tune in on Sunday for it to get worse. >:)
Talk to me in the comments! (I promise, I’m trying to catch up on replying to comments, guys. XD)