Happy Purim, everyone! have a song while I keep you in suspense.
-sits and enjoys the concert-
Ahhh anyway. This week we’re doing something a tad bit different. One in the sense that it’s Franklin’s POV when we’re all sitting here freaking out about what happens to Wolfgang next.
And the other in the sense that this week’s part and Tuesday’s part are happening at the same time and end at the same note before coming together on part 25.
Fancy writing techniques, I know. Getting ahead of myself.
Here we go. Hope you guys enjoy. -hands out hamentaschen- -and links in case you need to read up-
and part 24 everyone!
“I’ll take autographs later,” I leaned against the SPI headquarters front desk with one arm, giving the girl behind the counter a charming (even if semi-distracted) smile. “But right now, if you can book me an appointment, that would be lovely. Ecks is still visiting these parts isn’t he?”
The girl opened her mouth slightly, staring at me as if she didn’t know what to say.
Well, I was used to that and I’d learned to be patient in getting responses from girls. It always took a bit for the shock of seeing so fine a specimen as me to wear off enough for them to get their voices back. She was a pretty little thing too. Mousy brown hair back in a bun. Just a little bit of makeup, thin build and nice clothes.
But today, I was on a bit of a time crunch. I’d love to hang out and chat, but if I wanted Maxine in the clink before tomorrow, this would have to move faster.
The girl blinked, looking down at the papers she had on the desk and still opening and closing her mouth in a search for words.
I cleared my throat slightly and looked sideways at the clock, rubbing my fingernails against the side of my coat.
The girl tucked a strand of her stringy hair behind one ear and furrowed her brow as she looked back up at me. “I’m sorry, are you an SPI agent?”
I just stared for a second. She didn’t . . .? What?
I gestured to my face, leaning forward. “I’m Franklin. Franklin Tumbler. You know, the singer?”
“I . . . no, I don’t . . .”
Man, if I still had my mind control, I’d give her a nice download of information on me, along with the best songs. I guess SPI agents just didn’t have taste or something.
I started to state how preposterous it was or name off some of my songs until she recognized one she’d heard on the radio, but stopped and shook my head. “Anyway. Besides the point. Ecks is still around, isn’t he?”
“Sir, he’s still in medical care, recovering from the assassination attempt. I hardly think . . .”
“Well they take visitors in the hospital, right?” I asked. She didn’t shake her head, so I continued. “Great. Well, I’ve really got something that’ll rock his world here. Something I need to tell him really quick.” I stepped back from the desk, straightening my jacket and looking around the hall entrances. “Could you show me which way goes to the hospital wing?”
It wasn’t very busy around this lobby. Only a few agents walking here and there. I was the only guest here, so she didn’t have anything better to do, right?
“Sir,” the girl’s voice got firmer, even if it still held a touch of confusion. “There are protocols. You can’t just go in and talk to Mr. Ecks without an appointment. Even if he was taking visitors in the hospital, which he isn’t.” She shifted in her seat, her legs still held straight by her pencil skirt. “If you want to schedule some sort of meeting, you could see one of our SPI quartermasters that’s in the division you’re worried about.”
Dude, she just did not get the seriousness of this thing.
I stepped back to the desk, crossing my arms on top. “Listen, it isn’t like that, sweetie. This is huge. I mean, like national security huge. Somebody high up needs to know, like, now.” I pushed my hair back out of my eyes, lowering my voice and putting on a pained expression. “Really, you don’t even know how much danger I’m putting myself in just by coming in here . . .”
The girl examined my face for a second before responding. “Then we can try and . . . book you a meeting with Maxine Wellington? She’s the assistant director and she’s still overseeing operations while Director Ecks is recovering . . .”
I nearly snorted, but managed to keep up the serious front. “No, no, that’s part of the problem. Maxine . . .” I dropped my voice farther. “I have eyewitness evidence that Maxine is more than she seems. There is a hidden evil that lurks beneath her pretty surface . . .” I leaned closer, looking side to side. “It’s connected everywhere. You remember Mansley?”
The girl backed her chair up ever so slightly, looking uncomfortable. “Yes?”
“It’s with that thing. He stood for an organization . . .” I rubbed my fingers together. “This organization is everywhere. Making big money. And Maxine is in charge. I was undercover there for years, trying to figure out how to get out and expose them. I finally did just this morning. There are a ton of things involved and this is seriously urgent. You have to listen to me. I gotta see Ecks.”
Nobody could refuse that good of a case.
Because really, if I wasn’t getting any payoff being part of Silverwing, then screw them. I’d get my glory in a more heroic way. And throw it in Maxine’s face.
The girl nervously played with a strand of her hair again, looking lost for words. “Sir, I . . . really, if you need to present important information to the board of the SPI, you need to at least be represented by an agent. Just to lend some credibility. Have you shared this information with anyone who happens to be an agent of the SPI?”
I raised my eyebrows. “Excuse me, I have too important of information to wait for that sort of thing. Really, sweetpea . . . this is ‘major act of terror happening tomorrow’ level of big. This is superpowers and mind control and things you can’t even imagine. I don’t have time.”
That might have pushed it too far because her look implied I was losing some of my suspension of disbelief. “Sir, this is procedure and if you don’t follow, I don’t see how I can help you.”
I bet Maxine set up this whole stupid system herself.
I spread my hands, putting my head back as though looking to the sky for help. “There’s no time! Seriously, is there anyone else I can talk to?”
“Excuse me, sir, I really . . .”
The revolving door behind me spun and I turned to look.
Coming into the light of the inside from the rainy dusk outside was a strapping, blond, familiar figure. His brow was furrowed and a phone was held to his ear.
“ . . . I promise it won’t happen if I can help it, honey. I know now and we’re doing what we can. I’ll see you soon, alright?” Charles Fernsby stopped for a second, dropping his voice to be quieter. “Right. Love you, hon. Bye.”
He pulled the phone down from his ear and hit the button to end the call. His gaze came up, starting to go over to the front desk, but it stopped on me and he froze.
Talk about evidence walking right in.
I turned back to the secretary, spreading a hand back towards Charles. “See, you remember this guy, right? Amazing Man and all that? Well there’s a virus. A nanites virus inside the thing that gives him his superpowers and tomorrow him and every other hero who has those nanites injected in them are going to go nuts terrorizing the cities. They’ll get their powers back, but . . .” I gripped the counter and locked my eyes on hers. “They’ll be evil. They won’t even know their own friends and family.”
Fernsby just stood there staring at me, his phone still held in his hand and his brow furrowed.
The secretary opened her mouth slightly, moving her fingers towards a button on the side of her desk. “Sir, I really am going to have to ask you to leave. You can come back with an agent to represent your case, but until then, I can’t help you.” She forced a smile back to her face and looked past me like I wasn’t there. “Mr. Fernsby, sir. How can I help you?”
Charles raised his eyebrows and took a breath as he stepped forwards. “Hello, Brandie. I was just stopping by to . . . actually . . .” he looked over at me with confusion and worry mixing on his face. He raised a hand to point over at me. “I’ve got some concerns regarding almost exactly what he was just saying.”
The girl, Brandie, raised her eyebrows back. Though she really looked more wary than interested.
I smiled triumphantly. “See? He knows what I’m talking about. You’re an SPI agent, right, Fernsby?” I started over to shake his hand, but he moved back and I shifted the movement into an awkward wave, gesturing towards the desk. “Go on, tell her I’m telling the truth.”
Charles looked between me and Brandie with his mouth open but no sound coming out. “Look, I don’t know what all . . .” he trailed off and shook his head, coming up to the desk and just focusing on the secretary. “Look, I have some concerns about the nanites that were supposedly shut down when the program ended. Some studies that a friend has been doing show that they might not be totally off and there may be a virus involved. Something that could . . . take over my brain, potentially.”
I didn’t say anything, but just triumphantly gestured towards Charles. Pretty much exactly what I’d just said. He knew exactly . . . My thoughts trailed off.
Wait, how did he even know that? Not that I was particularly concerned for Silverwing’s safety anymore. But with how well we’d covered our tracks, just . . . huh?
Brandie looked unsure how to react. “Well, I could . . . call the scientific or medical wing and we could do a scan . . .”
“Boom.” I snapped my fingers and pointed to her. “Perfect. And call in my audience with Ecks while you’re at it.”
She didn’t look at me, just pressing the button against the side of her desk.
“Do you still have any of the technicians from the Hero Project around?” Charles asked, smoothing a hand over his hair. “I really think this might be harder to take care of than it looks like. If they already tried once. This is remotely controlled, from what I know.”
And yeah, that lined up too. Dude, I knew he was a smart guy, just not that smart.
Brandie nodded, ducking down to take a few notes. “I’ll try and see what I can find, Mr. Fernsby.”
I frowned, leaning over to touch the former superhero’s shoulder. “Hey Chuck. How exactly did you figure all that stuff out?”
Fernsby tensed at the feeling of my fingers on his shoulder. Did that mean he knew I had mind control before too? Maaan, somebody was in the loop . . .
“Hey, relax, man. I don’t have that thing anymore. Just wondering who . . .” I trailed off as my question answered itself in my mind. Of course. “Wolfgang told you?”
Charles gave me a wary look, not answering.
I waved my hand dismissively, bringing it back to push my hair out of my eyes. “Hey chill man. I’m not with them anymore. Done with those jerks for good. I just . . . didn’t know I had competition to bring ‘em down.”
Fernsby still didn’t look eager to talk to me. I could almost see the wheels turning in his head. Probably wondering if this was some new, crazy gambit that Silverwing was trying to pull off to find the information leak.
Brandie seemed absorbed in making notes and tapping keys on the computer for now, her smooth brow wrinkled in concentration. Not paying much attention to us, if any.
“You were with them,” Charles murmured, still scanning me over. “Your mind control was what kidnapped Dallas.”
I spread my hands in a shrug. “Well I don’t have it now. I’m out. Quit cold turkey. I mean, look . . .” I reached over and touched his arm, despite how he drew back. I raised my eyebrows. “Are you getting anything? Any mind control effects? Seriously, man. If I still had it you’d be doing the Macarena right now.”
Charles pulled his arm away.
I stepped back as well, giving him his space. “I mean it. There’s only so much the conscience can take before my basic human decency takes back over.” I let out a sigh. “I just couldn’t go along with them any longer. There was no way. And I had to get all the way out. No powers either.”
Finally, a bit of impressed respect came into Fernsby’s face. Finally, I had someone on my side for taking Maxine down.
He glanced over at the secretary, dropping his voice slightly. “Did you kill your nanites, then?”
“Turned them off. It’s a switch on a board.” I still felt a smolder of annoyance at the memory of the incident with Maxine. But hey, sometimes it takes a bit of a shove to move on to heroic things.
“And there’s no way you can totally kill them then?” his voice held a tone of desperation. Yeah, mine might too if I knew I would be quite possibly Hulking out in the next twenty-four hours.
I thought for a second, then shook my head and shrugged. “None that I know of. Those things are in your bloodstream and unless you take out your blood . . .”
Charles blew out his breath, clasping his hands on the back of his neck. The way his elbows stuck out made me think it looked something like wings for a second.
“Hey, is there a problem?” a voice came from one of the side hallways.
Charles and I turned at the same time to see two agents dressed in snazzy suits and ties coming out into the entrance area where we were. One was an older, balding guy and the other a tall, serious young man with sunglasses. Their dress shoes clacked against the tile as they walked out.
Brandie stood up from her desk. “They both seem to have corroborating stories regarding . . . something to do with the agency’s security?” she looked back over at the two of us.
I stuck one hand in my pocket and raised the other one in a greeting. “Something involving evil superpowers and Maxine Wellington being the female devil incarnate,” I added.
The man with sunglasses looked me over with a frown.
“It involves the organization that Mansley was suspect to have been a part of,” Charles offered.
That got the older guy’s attention. He looked over, his eyes keen. “What Knight was working on? The research that went missing?”
Charles nodded. “We believe we have until tomorrow to stop another catastrophe, sir. And it involves all the former Heroes, including me.”
“Why then, by all means. Tell us what you fellows know.” The older man beckoned towards the hall. “Let’s go find somewhere more private. This is very interesting indeed . . .”
The younger man looked decidedly less enthused, but followed along just the same. I caught his eye and winked at him as we started walking. Seemed to throw off his stride a little bit. A note of confused along with that surliness.
Private audience with a couple of official looking SPI dudes, though . . . now we were getting somewhere. I’d be a hero in my own right in no time at all.
My spirits rose and my mouth rested in an easy smile. I snapped my fingers a little, humming a song to myself as we walked.
All downhill from here.
Take that, Max.
We were just starting to sit down in one of the little office seating rooms when a sudden electric current went through the air. The hairs on my arms stood on end. I stiffened, sucking in a breath and stopping where I stood.
The agents didn’t seem to notice as they moved their papers around and got themselves situated, but Fernsby froze alongside me, his breath catching oddly.
My vision blurred for a second and I blinked. This was like it had been when my powers turned on. Was Maxine turning them on again? What was happening?
But the feeling left within the second. Back to normal. No powers.
I frowned, my goosebumps going away. Then what had that been? Some sort of power surge effecting nanites and . . .
Slowly, I turned my head towards Charles Fernsby and I had my answer.
He stared straight ahead, the taut expression on his face not looking like him. His hands balled into fists. A muscle in his jaw twitched.
I hadn’t seen the evil setting on the nanites at work before. But it was pretty clear that this was what it looked like.
But this was all wrong. Maxine wasn’t supposed to do this until tomorrow. The big move wasn’t tonight, it was tomorrow. Why would she start early after all the planning and laying things out?
My heartbeat sped up.
Fernsby’s fists clenched tighter, along with his jaw. It might have just been me, but I could almost see his muscles bulging bigger than before.
The older agent looked up. “Mr. Fernsby, are you feeling alright?”
Charles’s steely blue gaze snapped over to the man’s face. His fists unclenched and he took a step towards the man.
Backing up towards the door, I breathed out one word through my teeth.
The younger man got up slowly. The older man just stared.
“Fernsby, what’s the matter?”
Fernsby lifted one foot in a vicious kick that sent the small coffeetable flying against the man’s chair and . . . yeah, into his face.
I didn’t stick around for more of the show.
I ran out into the hall, turning the corner sharply and skidding up against the wall behind a shelf.
The younger agent ran the other way out the door. Charles was close behind, his movements tight and jerky and unexplainable anger mottling his features. He looked both ways, either not seeing or ignoring me.
He went out towards the lobby area. There were a few smashing sounds and screams, then I heard the thumping of the front door slamming shut.
I leaned out. He was gone.
Charles was out loose in the city. Terrorizing just like Maxine had said.
My mind whirled and I ran my fingers through my hair as I hurried to the door. This wasn’t the plan at all. Not even close. It was supposed to be tomorrow. Wolfgang was supposed to be practically right next to Fernsby when he turned evil.
What’s she thinking? I craned my neck to see out the window into the street. The rare June rainstorm was soaking the city and the sky was darker than usual.
More smashing noises and another scream. Something huge came flying up and smashed against the side of a building.
Holy crap was that a car?
I reached for my phone in my pocket, dialing without even looking at the buttons and just watching out in the street. I pushed through the revolving door and into the full sounds of terror and wreckage.
Even if I didn’t like Maxine’s plan, there was a distinct something missing from this picture if we wanted the city to still be standing.
My thumb punched on the call button and I put it up to my ear.
A couple of rings before a rough, shaking voice answered. “This better be good, you . . .”
I cut him off before he could get to the punchline. I probably knew what he was going to say anyway, There wasn’t time.
“Wolfgang? I need you, buddy. Fernsby’s gone psycho.”
Fernsby has indeed gone psycho. Keep reading and we’ll find out the puzzle of how to stop him. -dramatic music-
Have a great day, guys! ❤