Sveta was out of her armor, and her tendrils flicked out with enough force to crack ice and send the hard crust of snow flying overhead. As she approached, one of her tendrils whipped out and caught me, seizing my forcefield.
It let go a moment later. Forceful as the grab had been, it hadn’t disrupted the field.
“My fault for getting too close! Keep it up!” I called out.
In the gloom, even with the snow reflecting ambient light up, and with Sveta’s face being pale, it was still hard to make her out. She was more easily detected by the loose ring of whipped-up snow and flecks of ice than by anything else. I could judge the maximum range of her tendrils and look at the ring to estimate the center of it. The origin point.
I floated, keeping one careful eye on the ring while my eyes scanned the snow. It wasn’t easy to find what I was looking for. Holes that animals had dug, depressions, and shadows cast by distant objects all looked the same.
As a group, we’d fanned out, moving over the field, the road a hundred feet to my left, the streetlights casting a yellow pallor over the field.
“We might have to call it quits!” Tristan shouted.
“If you’re going to wimp out, switch to Byron! The cold doesn’t bother him!” Rain.
“I’m switching to him, but it’s not because I’m wimping out! He might have seen something, and he deserves a turn!”
“Also, just saying, he’s got the crampons on his boots, and I’ve got the boots for running indoors! He’s better equipped for the snow!”
“Stop saying that!” Tristan called out.
“We need to meet Spright too!” I called out. “It’s about time. Five more minutes!”
“It’s no big!” Kenzie. “I don’t want anyone getting cold! We could go now, really!”
“We’re going to find it.” Ashley, in a firm statement that I could only barely hear.
Sveta continued her patrol, edging closer to me. I ceded the ground to her, flying up and back. I could see a crop-circle style swathe that had been cut through the field in her wake.
I was rooting for her, really. With her going to this much effort, the recent spell of frustration, and her needing to feel included, I wanted her to score a win doing what she was good at.
I looked skyward for a moment. Snow was falling, which wasn’t helping our efforts. High above, the barely visible clouds were clashing with one another. We weren’t even that close to any portals. I was glad to have the Wretch encapsulating me, keeping the worst of the wind off. It made the cold something more insidious and subtle, than a blast that left me drained.
My phone buzzed in my pocket. With gloves on, I fished it free. Spright with a meeting place.
I didn’t respond right away, holding the phone in both hands instead. My eyes scanned the terrain. If I were all business, I’d have said time was up, that we should give up and meet our allies.
I glanced over at the section of field where Sveta was tearing things up. Reaching, groping, finding a small tree to grab, or just standing herself up on some tendrils while reaching out with others. A herky-jerky progress across snow with grass and rocks jutting out from it.
I crossed two numb fingers, looked down to look at the snow below me and tried to tell holes from rocks and shadows.
We were making the Advance Guard guys wait, but some things were more important.
“Found it!” Rain called out.
The tendrils stopped the thousand-flag-grab attempt. There was only stillness, the dark tendrils invisible against a dark backdrop, the shape that was Sveta’s head too camouflaged and small to see.
Well. Rain needed some wins too.
I floated over to Sveta as she returned to her body, which was sitting on a rock, the front and back halves of her torso hanging apart, a gap marking the divide. I waited, quiet so that she wouldn’t be spooked and lash out, her coat folded over my arm.
Her arms and legs shifted slightly as she found grips on wires and the loop-pulls. The handles, for lack of a better word. She was still working her way back in when she looked up at me. “Sorry I yanked you. Did I hurt you?”
“No. Forcefield, not me.”
“Good,” she said. She pulled the two halves of her torso together, craning her head around to keep tendrils from getting pinched. Clasped could be heard from the inside, and then her prosthetic hands reached up to do up more mundane clasps on either side of the neck. “I was pretty sure. My head plays tricks on me sometimes, and I am just a bit numb.”
She eased her way to her feet, moving slowly, periodically thumping around in her body as she lashed out within the confines of the suit. and rearranged herself.
“It’s been a long day and a long night,” I said.
“Is it that obvious that I’m tired?” she asked. She stood straight, and she lifted her chin to encircle her neck with a band of metal that had been hanging loose around the collar. Metal clicked as it cinched tight. She did the same with another band, closer to her neck. Binding all of the tendrils into a ‘neck’ that was one solid cord.
I steadied her with one hand and held her coat so she could slide her arms into the sleeves. “You wouldn’t be the only one that’s tired and cold. But I think we’re doing okay tonight.”
“Don’t jinx it. Weld and Crystal are supposed to get back late tonight, and if you keep talking like that then something’s going to get in the way of our reunion.”
“Mm, yeah. Not sure what Crystal is going to say. Knowing her, she’ll just go straight to sleep.”
“I’m looking forward to sleep,” Sveta said. “Half of me wants to see Weld and talk for a straight week, and the other half wants to say nothing at all, to avoid overwhelming him. Go back to the apartment, and curl up in bed. Make myself a pillow nest on his chest and have him do this thing he does where he puts his hand at the back of my head, tendrils and stuff through his fingers, and puts that gentle pressure down on me. Pushing me into the pillows and his chest with the weight of his hand.”
“You put way more effort into describing one of those things. It sounds like you have a preference.”
Sveta smiled. “I’ve been thinking about it lately. But doesn’t it sound bad if I don’t want to talk to my boyfriend after not seeing him for a while?”
“You want to be close to him. That’s, ah, I envy you having that to look forward to.”
“It’s weird to picture someone envying me.”
“Nah,” I said. I bumped her shoulder with mine as we trudged over in the direction of the main group. “Weld’s one of the truly good good guys. And so are you, for the record.”
She shook her head.
“So are you,” I said, for emphasis. “And you two deserve each other in the best way. If you’re stuck on what to do, you could let him take the lead on how to reunite,” I said. “If it was hard or ugly where he was, he might want to just cuddle instead of getting super into it.”
Sveta gave me a one-armed hug.
“I wanted to ask,” she said.
“Ashley. She showed me the lockpicking thing. Was that because you said something to her?”
“No,” I said.
“Was it because… I hate to ask, even. I shouldn’t ask. Benefit of a doubt, right?”
“Did Kenzie listen in and share with Ashley?”
Sveta made a face.
“I think that was just Ashley.”
The others were huddled. Rain blew on his hands for warmth, then clasped them together, before folding them inside another pair of hands that stuck out of his sleeves. Ashley didn’t look dressed sensibly for the weather, but as far as I could tell her hands didn’t get cold, and she was putting on a brave face, her back straight, hands in her pockets. Her nose and ears looked visibly red in the gloom, though, and I strongly suspected she would be annoyed at the fact.
Byron was fine, of course, entirely in his element, and Kenzie had the stuff with her to dress for the weather. She had the camera that Rain had found clasped in her gloved hands. It looked like Byron was trying to free a bit of fabric from a sharp bit of metal without damaging the glove too much.
“How’s the camera?” I asked.
“Broken in six different and major ways. But it’s nice to have the parts. Makes fixing it way faster.”
“That’s good,” Sveta said.
“Spright wants to meet,” I said, showing them my phone- more to just indicate the glowing screen than to hold it out for them to see the text messages. “If anyone wants to opt out, go home, warm up, recharge for tomorrow, build stuff, I don’t think anyone’s going to hold it against them. Having some people who are a little more refreshed at the start of tomorrow could be good.”
The statement earned me some blank stares.
“I heard the emphasis on building stuff,” Kenzie said. “You don’t have to shoo me away or anything.”
“I’m not. I’m just offering an out,” I said. “For a lot of us, this conversation could be personal or difficult.”
Rain made a sound, creaky and low in his throat, as if he was chewing on the idea. “It’s because it’s personal and difficult that some of us have to show.”
“Then let’s go talk to Sidepiece and Disjoint,” I said.
“Fuck you,” Sidepiece said, turning to Swansong. “The short hair looks good, hon, but you looked way better in black and fuck you.”
“The white is growing on me,” Ashley said.
“Is the ‘fuck you’ growing on you too? Go fuck yourself with the business end of a broken bottle, yeah?” Sidepiece retorted. She turned to Rain, “And while I’m at it, fuck you, kid killer. You think she didn’t mention that detail? I hope you shared with your team.”
“I did, actually,” Rain said.
“Did you share all the gory details, kid killer? Did you tell them about her having to watch her daughter’s face get cracked open on a table every time it’s her night?”
“Yeah. I explained some of that pretty early on.”
“Then fuck you, that’s secret identity shit, you asshole. You act like you’re all for the rules and then you share that stuff? Fuck you.”
“I left out the details pertinent to-”
“Then fuck you for leaving out details and not owning up to every last bit of it!” Sidepiece said.
“Fuck me either way, huh?” Rain asked, his voice quiet.
“No,” Sidepiece said. “No, no, no. Fuck you one particular way, okay? Take the narrow end of the broken bottle I told her to fuck herself with, stick your narrower pecker into it, and break the neck off while you’re inside it. Then fuck it.”
“There’s a kid here,” Sveta said.
“Fuck her! Fuck that surveillance state fucking tinker bullshit unblinking creepiness!”
“I think she’s pissed,” Capricorn said.
“Fuck you! Fuck off!”
“I don’t think this is going anywhere,” Shortcut said. “We’re not going to get anything useful here.”
“Waiting on a text,” I murmured.
“You really like making us wait,” he said. “You let your guys go and now you want to benefit off of our catches? Do you think we’re going to go home and let you take the credit?”
“They totally do,” Disjoint said.
“Shut up!” Shortcut barked.
“That’s not what we’re doing,” Capricorn said. Byron.
“I guess I’m supposed to take your word for it?” Shortcut said.
“Shortcut,” Spright said. “People don’t like capes right now. Who are we supposed to be getting credit from?”
“Everyone,” Shortcut said.
I kept my mouth shut for the moment. On my phone’s screen, Nat had left me with only an ‘asking around’.
Our group was assembled in a garage, for lack of a better word. It was more like a shack, with sliding barn doors and a way through wide enough for a car to drive in and park, with the doors closing in front and behind. The gas, tools, and other things had been carted away by whoever operated the place during the daylight hours. The space was oil-stained concrete floor and thin wooden walls, the only decoration a table that was a wooden door and four planks for legs, and a pile of engine parts in the corner that clearly violated the rules that had been put up on the wall.
Sidepiece and Disjoint were by the wooden table. Disjoint had a loop of something connecting him to the flimsy plank leg of the table. Sidepiece had her hands cuffed behind her head. She wore her partial, phantom-of-the-opera face mask, white with a ragged edge that had been beaded with what looked like red nail polish, to look like blood, black hair covering the part of her face that her mask didn’t. She was curvy, except everything between the ribcage and the pelvis had been picked clean- her stuffed polyester coat covered most of that up, but blood stained the belt-line of her jeans.
Disjoint, meanwhile, was black, with a ‘blindfold’ band of white across his eyes, a mask at the bottom half of his face, meeting with the line of white facepaint. More bands encircled his arms, not touching the spaces which were decorated with tattoos. He wore a costume top, and regular black jeans. His coat had been removed by Spright and Shortcut before we’d come, and it had the same lines painted on the sleeves.
“I’m saying everyone counts when it comes to getting credit. Because rep matters,” Shortcut added. “Stupid fucking kids join them because they have the rep and we don’t. Because they seem ‘cool’.”
“Damn fucking straight,” Sidepiece commented. “I’d tell you to fuck yourself too, but you already did, wearing that fucking awful, uncooool costume.”
She drew out the word, with vocal fry amped up and it sounded like she was belching it.
Leaning against the wall, her arms folded, Swansong looked away to hide her smile. Despite herself, Sidepiece smirked. She corrected the smirk and spat onto the floor.
“This costume is focus group tested, moron,” Shortcut said. He reached up and flicked one of the circular discs that seemed to intersect his costume, like Halloween knife-headband combination that kids could pay a dollar for, to make it look like the knife was stuck through their heads.
“So were the Jeep Rockaybe, the Roundphone, and the second Iron Giant movie, so good for you, you’re in shit company,” Sidepiece retorted.
“You’re not going to win this one,” Swansong said. “Not if you get into a knock-down, drag-out back and forth. You’ll lose.”
“I agree,” Spright said.
“Fuck that,” Shortcut answered.
“I will kick over this chessboard, shit on it, and I will strut like the pigeon I am!” Sidepiece said.
Ashley pointed at Sidepiece with both index fingers, as if to say ‘that right there’.
“And fuck you all!” Sidepiece added.
“You’re giving me a headache,” Disjoint said. The table wobbled as he brought his head back to rest against the leg. “Can you turn down the volume two clicks, ‘piece?”
“Aw, I’m sorry baby,” Sidepiece said. She stuck her foot out in the direction of his foot.
Shortcut’s weapon came down, embedding itself in the concrete between the two feet.
“What the fuck?” Sidepiece reacted, going straight back to a maxed out volume knob with the ‘what’ and bringing it to a near-whisper by the end of the ‘fuck’. “You almost took my toes off.”
Still no response on my phone. I knew it was a lot to ask, shooting questions Natalie’s way, but in our recent contact, she’d asked that we continue to loop her in. I’d brought up where we were, and now she was phoning around.
Well, couldn’t hurt to try asking. Maybe one of the two would answer.
“Why did Love Lost want the guns?” I asked.
“To shoot shit?”
“I said this was a waste of time ten minutes ago,” Shortcut said. “I think I’m right.”
“You are so right,” Disjoint said.
I bit my tongue.
“She’s dealing with an anti-parahuman group,” I said. “How does that make sense?”
“Pretty sketchy,” Sidepiece said. “I wasn’t about that. Stayed home, diddled my boyfriend.”
“Don’t say diddled,” Capricorn said. Tristan, this time.
“Sketchy and it doesn’t make sense,” I echoed her words.
“It’s sketchy. That’s all. It makes plenty of sense, even if I don’t agree with it. And no, I’m not sharing no details, so go fuck yourselves. I don’t love what Love does all the time, but I respect her enough to keep my gob shut or otherwise occupied while she’s doing the shit I disagree with.”
“Sounds like a compromise,” Swansong said. “I thought you didn’t believe in compromise, only conquering?”
“Fuck you! I also believe in fucking class, which is why I gave your skinny white derriere the benefit of a doubt. It’s why I’m behind Love all the way.”
“You’re white too,” Capricorn observed.
“And I have an ass.”
“Betrayal and undercover action is fair in the game, Sidepiece,” Swansong said. “But the guns aren’t supposed to be part of it. You know that.”
“The game’s done, Damsel. The game got fucked backwards when the world ended. And you, doing this? You’re fucking it worse.”
“How does that make sense?” I asked.
“Coming after us? Look at what’s happening everywhere! Fucking heroes banding together under the Wardens? You’ve got the four teams that nobody really cares about, some corporates, some mercs who are the only ones I could maybe respect. You assholes. And then the villains. Everyone under one banner, and the ones who aren’t signing up with Brattletale, Goddess, Teacher or the evil Mayor? What do you think happens to them? To us?”
Her toe moved, indicating Disjoint and herself. Shortcut’s weapon moved in reaction to the toe moving.
“Us,” I said.
“Fucking you! Fucking heroes! Leaving us no choice but to band together with the top tier organized crime. They’re the groups that know who to put where and how to stay out of your sight or keep their people out of the way. And the rest of us get picked off. You wanna fuck us? Then you perpetuate a survival of the unfucked!”
“I did miss you,” Swansong commented.
“Well fuck you, it’s your own fault you don’t get any of this for company.”
Sidepiece wiggled on the spot. Shortcut moved his polearm in a warning.
“I missed your brain and your wit. That belongs to Disjoint,” Swansong.
“This belongs to me.”
“I stand corrected.”
Spright cleared his throat. “Let’s get back on track.”
Looking at Shortcut, I could see that his face was visibly red. He was that steamed. I would have suggested he take a breather, but I was pretty sure that if I did, he’d be pointing that weapon of his at me.
He didn’t like the digressions. Which meant he was falling one hundred percent into Sidepiece’s trap. After being warned about it.
“I want a lawyer before we go any further,” Sidepiece said. “Oh wait, they’re all dead. The fucking world ended. So let us fucking have our fun and kick some ass and go focus on the stuff that actually matters.”
“You’ve killed people,” Capricorn said.
“Allegedly. And in this alleged situation I might have tossed a bit of spinal sheath into a moving vehicle and allegedly killed a bunch of people who got high off of my drugs that I’d already paid for. They tried to give me seven tenths of what I ordered and tried to pass it off as all the tenths. Allegedly. They didn’t deserve to draw breath.”
“I didn’t think you used,” Swansong said.
“Only a bit, and never my own supply. But I’ll sell if people want. It’s more samaritan shit than what you fucks are pulling right now. Letting some poor, hurting people numb the pain for a while.”
“Allegedly,” Disjoint said.
“Allegedly,” Sidepiece added.
“Those aren’t magic words that absolve you of guilt,” Rain said.
While they chattered, I checked my phone and I saw the series of replies- I hadn’t noticed the buzz.
I asked people about taking in s.piece or joint.
There is no room. Jails over capacity. Homes and apartments in populated areas being used as temporary accommodations.
Do not want minor villains unless lasting injury or murder AND ironclad evidence that can rush them thru system.
Gang leader yes s.piece or joint is a no.
I got the attention of the others and showed them. Capricorn and Sveta first, then Spright and Ashley.
Jesus. This was Wild West shit. It just kept getting worse.
“News?” Sidepiece asked.
I beckoned for Rain to come, and I showed him.
“What am I missing?” Sidepiece asked.
She wasn’t even shouting or swearing as much now, but her voice. The vocal fry, the weird enunciation, like every word was trying to grab attention? It was giving me a headache, like Disjoint had complained about.
I typed out a message in the text box, while Rain was beside me. I let him read it, then showed Spright.
Confirmation from both.
“Sidepiece,” I said.
“You’re kind of right.”
“Fuck y- of course I am. About everything. And fuck yourself.”
“What you said about the gangs? People picking off the ones who aren’t folding themselves into organized crime?”
“You’re amping it up to a hundred today, based on what I heard. You heroes.”
“You were right,” I repeated myself. “The reality is that when we showed up at the Center tonight, it was because we wanted to communicate with Love Lost.”
“Love doesn’t really talk, you know that right?”
“How does that even work?” Spright asked.
“If it’s important, she writes it down, prints it out, and hands it out. Game plan. If it’s not, why say it? We know she’s all class and she’s professional as shit. If she says jump we jump and it works out.”
“So far,” Swansong said.
“Oh go fuck yourself. You can’t even talk. She beat you and scared you off. That’s why you’re talking to me and D.J., you got lucky and you got us after you rolled our car off the road and I sprained my lower back.”
“You don’t have a lower back.”
“We came to talk to Love Lost,” I said. “Because we have it on good authority that Cradle is likely to take March’s offer.”
“I’m willing to bet Love Lost got the same offer. She’ll know what it means.”
“Not if you don’t tell her, and she’s not going to accept a meeting with you assholes.”
“When we said we were bringing you here to talk, we meant it. We’re letting you go,” I said.
“Bullshit. Trying to soften me and D.J. up.”
“We wanted to get a message to Love Lost. You’re going to take it to her,” I said.
I saw Shortcut stand a little taller. Behind his mask, his eyes went wide, intense.
Yeah, this was never going to go over well with him. I’d left him out of the loop as I’d filled in the others, and Spright had too. I felt pretty validated that Spright was tacitly agreeing with me here.
“If you want to stir shit up or make this harder than it needs to be, then we could just send the most cooperative of you two. Or try leaving a message with one of your crooked cops.”
“Allegedly,” Disjoint added.
“You keep using that wrong,” Lookout said, almost plaintive. “Stop.”
“Am I allegedly using it wrong?”
Sidepiece leaned back. “We’re talking sensible alleged cops who recognize that the only towns that have a shot at making it are ones with protectors. And not pussy focus-tested superheroes or asshole freaks like you all, either. Actual make-your-enemies-go-away protectors.”
“Allegedly,” Disjoint said, again. Lookout crossed her arms, trying to look tough.
“A-guaranteed-ly, ackshully,” Sidepiece said, with a dangerous tone. “It’s what we’re about. There can be no allegedly about if we’re going to grant any protection there.”
“Take our message to her,” I said. “No guns. No ground to air lightning cannons. Keep it simple. But right now, you’re right, there’s bigger fish to fry. She should keep her head down, be careful about how she’s treating those enemies. Cradle might be after her.”
“She’s not the head-down type, you know.”
“Her funeral, then. The authorities do want her. But for now we want to avoid disaster. Cradle coming after her and winning would be a disaster. She’ll know why.”
“Uh huh. What’s the catch here? Trading us for info on the new recruits?”
“You’re not a priority,” I said. I wasn’t even lying as I said it. If I had my way they’d be a priority, but I wasn’t about to get my way. The courts were falling behind. Or they had Fallen behind- the overburdened system had become most noticeable when the compound had been raided. “This is about information and it’s about keeping the peace. We know Love Lost is after Precipice. We know what March is doing. But if she’s willing to back off, so will we.”
“She doesn’t back off,” Sidepiece said. “Don’t want to jeopardize my being freed, but I’d be disrespecting her if I pretended she might.”
“It’s fine. We’re making the offer regardless. I’d rather crack down on the masterminds and big threats.”
“While siccing other teams on all the fodder and bottom feeders?”
“They’ll do what they do. We’re just… organizing better.”
Spright bent down. He undid cuffs, freeing Sidepiece’s hands from behind her head, and Disjoint’s limbs were uncuffed. We’d cuffed ankle to ankle and ankle to table leg. The hands had been cuffed in a way that kept them in view. There wasn’t anything he could do that was faster than the spear-tip at the head of the halberd could be.
The two were freed, and they climbed to their feet. The shitty table nearly broke as Sidepiece leaned on it to stand up.
“You’re really letting us go?”
“We’re letting them go?” Shortcut asked. More red faced and pissed off than before.
“Never let it be said I never do anything nice for you,” Swansong said.
“You can still go fuck yourself,” Sidepiece answered, venom in her voice. “But you can leave the bottle out of it.”
“Yeah, huh? I’m a sweetheart like that,” Sidepiece said. “This isn’t a head-game? No tricks?”
“Go,” Spright said.
“No tricks,” I said.
“The creepy camera girl didn’t put trackers on us?”
“No. My stuff is broken, thanks to you guys-”
“Don’t give the enemy information,” Swansong gently admonished.
“-and I don’t need trackers to know everything you do. I kind of wish I didn’t know everything you do.”
“Creepy as shit little kid,” Sidepiece said.
Capricorn pulled the sliding door open. The battered vehicle that Sidepiece and Disjoint had been driving before being intercepted was parked out in the snow, ice and snow covering the various windows. Cold air blasted into a space that had only been tolerably warm because we’d had so many people inside it. Now with the door open, it was cold again.
“What the fuck?” Shortcut asked Spright. I imagined he thought he was being quiet about it, but he was naturally abrasive and loud enough that everyone could hear.
“Why?” Lookout asked. “Why are we letting them go? Because if I was actually supposed to put trackers on them, I didn’t.”
“They don’t have room for minor villains,” Capricorn said.
“They aren’t minor,” Shortcut said.
I actually agreed with him. Places, times, and groups where the more violent enforcers had been active in the last two years had seen more than a few people die. Some had been blatant – but only a few of the people responsible for those blatant deaths were still around. Nailbiter was a major one. A lot more of the deaths had been ambiguous.
Beast of Burden had been active in some out of the way spots, and in the wake of his demise, little things were turning up. Deaths that had been missed in the midst of a lethally harsh winter.
Well, a winter like any ordinary one, but it had been a winter we hadn’t been equipped to deal with. And in places that Beast of Burden and his gang had been throwing their weight around, taking protection money, an awful lot of people had gone out in the cold and died there.
Was it Disjoint and Sidepiece? There was no telling. Nailbiter was a killer, and her way of killing people left enough of a trail that if we got her we’d be able to send her straight through to a jail… where nobody would be able to hold her.
Which meant that if we got her, we’d check with the authorities, sketchy as the woman at the top might be, and with some luck Nailbiter would cease to be a concern.
I didn’t love it, but I was really hard-pressed to think of a better solution.
“We’re going,” Spright said. He produced his grapple-tendrils, floated up into the air a bit, and the air began to ripple around him.
Off to the side, I saw Sveta scowl. I rarely saw her outright scowl.
“Thanks for this,” I told Spright. “Sorry it wasn’t for much.”
“Not very forthcoming. Some hints on how they’re operating. Motivation. Gives us ideas on how to take them down next time.”
“We’ll compile our notes and share,” I said.
I shook hands with Spright, and then we watched as the two of them took off. They skated away, leaving ripples behind them, Spright using tendrils to haul himself forward.
“I can’t stand him,” Sveta said.
“I hear you,” I said.
“Stealing my power without asking and then being better at it than me?”
I nodded. I took her hand and gave it a light shake.
“I can’t help but notice that we’re making deals with Tattletale, and we’re making deals with Love Lost,” Rain asked.
“They’re not really deals,” Tristan said. “They’re pretty hollow. We say we’ll leave Tattletale alone unless she does something that deserves being brought in.”
“Which means nothing,” Ashley said. “Why would she accept?”
I flexed my hand. The cold was making the burned and bandaged skin sore. I was overdue for a debriding.
When I spoke, I was staring out at the distant city. “She accepts because she wants to know that she can do what she’s currently doing without being brought in by us. And maybe she gets an edge if someone else brings her in and she mentions the deal. Makes us look bad. But it’s worth it, to get the information, flawed as it might be. She probably had other strategies in mind.”
“Or she’s high on painkillers and her head is fuzzy,” Sveta said.
“And this?” Rain asked.
“Laying groundwork for later,” I said. “I want to keep an eye on things now. The pressure is ramping up as the hero teams organize, and I’m really curious to see how Love Lost, Tattletale, and March all react to the current state of things.”