A security guard paused mid-step at the sound of the elevator's ding.
Instinctively, he reached for his radio. "Perkins?" he asked over the crackle of static. "Anyone coming up from the bottom floor?"
Nothing but white noise.
"Davis? Henry? Boys?"
The elevator doors opened. A group of men and women stood on the other side.
"Stop," Philip Darden said, and the security guard obeyed.
"No witnesses," Scourge said.
Philip nodded, and turned back to the guard. "Shoot yourself."
The guard's hand trembled as he unsnapped the buckle over his firearm.
"Are the others in position?" Scourge asked, with Victoria Noble and Hex behind him.
"Yes," Victoria Noble replied. "Although I still do not understand why you have yet to partake in the Skull formu--"
She was interrupted by the sound of a gunshot behind them. Scourge shook his head. "That is none of your concern," he said. "Is Tech-Head ready?"
"Yep," Hex said. "He's moving the speakers to the roof. Rockstar's following."
Scourge grinned. "Smile, friends. We've got front row seats to the greatest show on earth."
Shortly after Sumerset finished briefing us on the potentials, I got a moment alone with Red.
We slipped out into the storage facility's hallway. When we got there, I wanted to take my helmet off, but I was worried about being seen. I wasn't sure by whom--Epoch was clearly on our side. But Paladin and Mulligan still didn't know who I was, and I felt like letting them know could be dangerous in the future.
"You don't have to do this," I told her. "I can take care of--"
"I am doing this," she said, and there was a crackle of lightning in her voice. But then it shifted to something softer: "Are you alright? Grandmother mentioned--you had to destroy--"
"Yeah," I said, and not for the first time I was glad that the helmet hid the weakness in my voice. "Yeah, it wasn't easy, but I did it. I'm okay."
She touched my shoulder. "We will win."
I gave her a sly look from beneath my helmet. "You see that in a vision?"
Red blushed. "I--no, not exactly," she said, and I could tell by the way she suddenly looked away that she had seen something else.
"What? What did you see?"
"I do not wish to concern you," she said.
"Tell me," I said.
She squirmed, restless and hesitant, but finally submitted. "I saw a man, floating above a shattered battlefield. From what you've described, I think it was Scourge."
I shook my head. "Scourge can't fly."
"This man could. And he possessed power," she said. "Terrible power."
"Maybe it's a fake-out," I said. "Like that whole kissing thing back when we were in the Stix."
Oh, how she blushed. "That was not exactly a fake-out."
"No, I guess not," I said. "Red?"
"Can I tell you something?"
She nodded her head.
I looked around to make sure there was no one else in earshot. And then I started talking: "I'm terrified. I--I'm not sure if everyone here is going to make it back. And if anyone dies, I--"
She wrapped her arms around me. "I'm scared too, Sue," she whispered. "But no one will die. We won't let them."
I was still shaking beneath the suit, but it was hard to tell. I squeezed her back as hard as I dared; then we heard Sumerset's voice calling everyone back.
"Break's over," he announced. As we came back in, I saw that someone new had arrived--Anna. She was sitting besides Sumerset, wearing a long black coat with strange goggles strapped over her temple. She had a big leather backpack and a toolbox on the ground next to her.
"Who the hell is that?" Mulligan asked as he threw himself back into a chair.
"A friend," Sumerset replied. "I'm going to be in the thick of it, which means we'll need a handler. I've been showing her the ropes--"
"Call me... the Machinist," Anna said. And then she grinned.
I tried desperately to keep my groan inward.
"...right," Sumerset said. "Anyway, she'll keep us in communication, monitor the situation from afar. Are there any other questions?"
"How are we going to find these guys?" Bonesaw asked.
"Wytch is working on that," Sumerset replied. "But I've got a feeling that when they go for Sovereign... it's going to be pretty obvious where they are."
As if on cue, Wytch sat up from where she had been meditating. Her eyes flashed with lightning. "TV," she said. "Now."
Among the tools in the workshop was a small monitor screen; Sumerset tuned it to a newschannel. There was a crash of sound, followed by the frantic shouting of a reporter above screams of panic behind him.
It was then that we noticed a sound in the distance, somewhere above the storage facility. The sound of distant explosions.
"Reports are pouring in all over the city," the reporter said, his face flushed. The camera was shaky, violently slashing through the streets. We could see windows breaking--people rioting. And through it all, there was a tremendous, terrible sound--the sound of music.
"Rockstar," Sumerset said. "That son of a bitch."
"What?" I asked.
"He's throwing a concert," Wytch said. "At the top of Metro Tower."