Masks 18: Part 7

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Masks XVIII

by

Rodford Edmiston

Part Seven

After an hour of this, though, Blue Impact decided they had enough data.

"We have the location of the person most likely causing the disturbance isolated to within a few centimeters," she said. "The longer we wait the more damage the storm does."

"Yeah, it's definitely getting worse," said Gadgetive, with a quick check of satellite photos. Though just hearing and feeling
the wind and rain should have been enough.

They landed in the parking lot for the building - with a bit of difficulty due to the gusts - using a space for vans, then hurried inside. The receptionist seemed stunned by the sight of three people in masks and costumes entering her building. This was likely amplified by them stopping to shake and stomp off water on the vestibule carpet.

"Uh, good afternoon?"

"Good afternoon," said Blue Impact, as she walked to the receptionist's station. She was annoyed that in spite of her dewatering efforts her athletic shoes squeaked on the flooring. Somehow, the footgear of her partners didn't. Perhaps due to her greater weight. She introduced herself and the other two. "We're here on behalf of the Bureau of Special Resources, looking for someone."

She thought about asking if they did any weather research, but the place was listed as a local government office, something to do with building permits. Also, she didn't want to give away that the person they were after might be causing the storm. Hopefully, even the fact that the person they wanted was a super would be up to the individual to reveal to their coworkers.

Before the woman could answer there was a gust of wind which drove rain hard against the windows and rattled the front doors. Blue Impact grimaced. They really needed to get this done quickly.

"Who is it you want... to talk to?"

"That's what is making this so awkward," said Blue Impact, managing to not look as uncomfortable as she felt. "We know their location but not who they are."

She turned to Gadgetive.

"The target is on the second floor, about ten meters from the rear of the building and two meters in from the west wall."

"Meters," said the woman, blankly. "Is that, like... feet?"

Blue Impact resisted the urge to roll her eyes, and translated.

Decades after we were supposed to convert to the metric system and half the people in this country still aren't even sure what it is.

"I, uh, don't know who is in that exact position, but I can have security escort you to the location."

"Thank you."

"What we should have done," said Energia, while the woman talked on the phone, "is tell the Bureau and have them send someone in plain clothes."

"They're stretched very thin," said Blue Impact. "We'll even have to take whoever it is to the training facility and Dr. Timberlake ourselves. Even that is only if they agree to go, of course."

"Huh?" said Gadgetive, startled. "They have to go, right?"

"Nope," said Energia. "It's strictly voluntary."

The security guard arrived, did the expected double-take, then had what the trio wanted explained to him. A bit uncertainly, he took them to the elevator and upstairs. Once they stepped out onto the second floor he started down an aisle between adjustable partitions, taking the lead.

The floor contained a typical cube farm, with few people able to see much outside their workspace. The unusual procession garnered almost no attention as they proceeded.

"I think the one you want is this way."

He walked up to an open doorway and knocked on the frame. At first Blue Impact was the only member of Tricorne who was able to look inside. She saw a man was of medium build and perhaps northern Mediterranean coloration. He looked... down. Defeated. Perhaps even clinically depressed.

"Mr. Daniels? There's some... people here who want to speak with you."

Okay, not an Italian or Spanish or even Greek name. He could still be of those stocks on his mother's side.

Harry looked up, puzzled, as the guard stepped back. His curiosity switched to sudden concern as three women in masks and costumes entered his small office.

"Mr. Daniels? I'm Blue Impact. Uh, excuse me for a moment."

She looked at Gadgetive, who was looking at something like a GPS unit in her hands. The gadgeteer looked up at their team leader, nodding.

"Is there some place we can speak in private?"

"What's going on?" he said, voice squeaking.

"I'd rather speak in private."

"Am I under arrest?" he said, voice too loud.

"No. If you're who we think, we're here to offer you training through the Bureau of Special Resources."

"Uh..." said Harry, train of thought now completely derailed.

"We really do need to speak with you," said Energia. "I also think you don't want us just standing here while we do it, either. Can you suggest a place to speak privately?"

* * *

As it turned out, Harry knew of a small coffee shop near the office building. He grabbed his rain coat and they set off. They all got soaked in the short, hurried walk, but that was ignored. What they did note was that the storm had, somehow, become even worse while they were inside.

Once in the coffee shop they sat at a round table with high stools. When the astonished waitress came over they all ordered hot coffee - though of several different varieties. After some uncomfortable shifting, their target broke the silence.

"So... what's this about?"

"Have you ever had powers testing?"

"Uh, yeah," said Harry, "in my teens."

A bit uncomfortably, he gave them the digest story of how she had been assaulted, given an experimental treatment, and had that react with a power.

"Another probability manipulator!" said Energia, startled. "Like Vic, only in the other direction! Has to be."

It was a measure of the man's preoccupation that he scarcely reacted to this information. Fortunately, the uncomfortable silence which followed was broken by the waitress bringing their orders.

"Well, probability manipulation is the most common form of weather control," said Gadgetive, frowning, once the waitress had left again.

"Weather control?!"

That finally seemed to break through his personal cloud of gloom.

"Have you had any significant changes in your life over the past few weeks?" said Blue Impact. "Especially things which added stress?"

"Uh, yeah," said Harry, swallowing noticeably. "A breakup, then I failed to get a new job I applied for. Those were both followed by bouts of anger and depression. My doctor sent me to a psychologist, who suggested tranquilizers. He said what I had wasn't technically depression, that I just needed a little help getting over the disappointments."

"Do you have any of those tranquilizers handy?" said Blue Impact.

"At my apartment," said Harry. He looked worried. "I only took them a few times. I don't like what they do to me. You can't seriously mean that me not taking those might be affecting the weather?!"

"We don't know for certain, but that fits," said Blue Impact. "If you want we can take you to your apartment. You take one of those prescribed pills. Then, with your permission, we fly you to a Bureau facility where they can check and make sure what's going on."

"What if I am causing all this?" said Harry, obviously concerned. "Then what?"

"It's all volunteer," said Blue Impact, tone reassuring. "If you are a weather controller you'll be offered training. I want to emphasize that we are not here to arrest you. We're here to find out if you are the cause of this... unusual weather and if you are help you find a way to stop it."

He nodded, obviously still concerned.

"Do you have a car?" said Blue Impact, prompting him when he didn't speak for a while.

"Ah, no. I take the bus in weather like this. It's actually close enough I can walk when it's nice. It... hasn't been nice for a while."

"Then we will fly you to your apartment building," said Blue Impact, firmly, when he still just wanted to sit there.

They paid their bills and headed out. Entering the flyer actually elicited wide-eyed wonder from their passenger. Before they could even lift off, however, they were getting alerts about local storm-related problems. As Energia had suspected, the storm was getting worse. Likely due to the stress Harry was currently experiencing.

"My suggestion is you bring the bottle back out to us before you take any of the pills," said Blue Impact, as they lifted off. "We'll check by radio whether the medication is appropriate. Then you can take it here - we have water - and if you want Gadgetive will then fly you to the proper Bureau facility in our vehicle. Energia and I will stay here to help with the problems until Gadgetive can get back."

"Okay," said Harry, numbly.

Taking that as agreement for all she had proposed - including transporting him to the Bureau facility - Blue Impact had him guide them to his apartment building. She landed close to a side entrance and the trio waited while he went in.

"What if he bolts?" said Gadgetive.

"You track him and we take him in," said Blue Impact. "He's already consented to go."

"Besides," said Energia, quietly, "that guy looks like he's about at the end of his rope. He's not going to run."

"Yeah," said Gadgetive, nodding after a bit of consideration. "I was expecting a fight or at least a chase, but this guy needs help and knows it. Still..."

"While we're waiting I'll contact the local emergency services," said Blue Impact. "I think Energia and I should stay here and help while you take Harry to the doctor."

"If he comes back," muttered Gadgetive.

However, Harold Daniels did return to the flyer. He showed the bottle to Gadgetive, who consulted with specialists at the Bureau facility.

"They said to take the recommended dose and lie down and wait for it to take effect," she said. "Also, try to avoid stress until I can get you there."

"Avoid stress," said Harry, sourly. "Sure."

The offered him a bottle of water and he downed a capsule.

"Okay, Gadgetive, she's all yours," said Blue Impact, as she turned control of the flyer over to the woman who had designed it. "You get him to Dr. Timberlake's people - Don't hurry! - and then get back here quick. We'll work with the locals on the emergencies."

"I had one power, half my lifetime ago!" the man said, loudly, partly due to the storm noise, partly due to aggravation. "It changed me from a woman to a man! That's it!"

"Yes, sir," said Blue Impact, calmly. "They'll soon have this straightened out."

She certainly hoped so, as she rose and headed to the rear of the flyer.

Blue Impact and Energia squeezed past their passenger and into the rear compartment. Which was just as crowded as the front, in part because Blue Impact's motorbike was there, on a rack which doubled as a launcher.

"Okay, we're hovering - sort of - just a meter off the ground, a block from the first accident, which is straight out from the back door," Gadgetive called to the others. "Energia, you'll have to fly yourself to the coordinates I sent to your com. Be careful out there!"

"Roger," said Blue Impact, putting her helmet on as the clamshell rear doors opened.

"Roger," said Energia, flying out as Blue Impact pulled the bike and launcher into position.

"Better hurry, teach," said Gadgetive, as the view out the rear door wove drunkenly. "I'm having trouble holding her steady with all the buildings affecting the winds."

"Launch!" yelled Blue Impact.

The magnetic accelerator shot her and the bike out the rear door. A normal human would have blacked out. Of course, a normal human wouldn't have been able to hold on. Even with her greater weight Blue Impact - braced for this and experienced with the procedure - managed to hold her position on the bike. The bike itself was more than strong enough for both the launch and the landing.

The trouble came from how the winds blew bike and rider sideways. Blue Impact leaned against the movement, so that when the tires hit the extra motion righted her. She was already giving the throttle a twist, and once the wheels planted (as well as they were going to with the wet pavement) she added more. Unfortunately, the winds weren't steady in either force or direction, and she wove back and forth for a couple of seconds before getting the bike steady.

Fortunately she was not only an experienced rider but had superhuman reflexes. Within seconds she was tearing down the street to the wreck.

As the request for help had stated, there were police on the scene but no rescue workers, and no special equipment. The cops were doing what they could but that wasn't much. Blue Impact braked to a stop. The noise of the storm kept them from even noticing her until she was almost on them. However, they had been told to expect her, and were glad to see her. Blue Impact secured her helmet to the handlebars, then hurried the last few steps to the closest officer. The other uniforms moved in to join them, huddling, heads together.

"What do you need?" said Blue Impact, shouting to be heard over the winds.

"Just get the car open!" the senior officer on the scene yelled back. "She's conscious and from what she says and what we can see not seriously hurt, but we need to get her out and to a hospital! Don't worry, the power's off!"

"For the whole neighborhood!" one of the other officers yelled.

The wooden utility pole had fallen across the car's roof in the rear, the weight of the multiple transformers impacting the roof doing enough damage that the doors were jammed and the windows all crushed down too small for the woman to get out.

"You okay in there?" Blue Impact yelled, as she looked the situation over.

"Get me out of here!"

The woman was crowded down across the front seat, and despite being covered with blankets provided by the officers she was soaking wet and shivering. If nothing else she was already heading into hypothermia.

Blue Impact gave the situation a quick once-over and quickly decided on a plan of action. First she squatted, put a shoulder under the pole and stood, then walked the pole behind the car, dropping it between the rear bumper of the damaged car and the front of the cop car behind it. Then she began peeling back the roof, actually rolling it instead of simply pulling up on it. The force needed for that would have moved the car too much. Even before the roof cleared the headrests the woman was clambering out over the dash, onto the hood. The officers quickly moved in to help her.

They got her standing on the pavement. She weaved for a few moments, shaking her head. She looked at Blue Impact. Despite shivering so hard she could hardly speak, she made a point of doing so.

"Thank you!"

"You're welcome!" said the super, smiling.

The officers got her into the police car beside the wreck, and the driver of that vehicle took off - carefully. Blue Impact then moved the pole to the side of the road.

"Thank you!" the senior officer on scene said, actually shaking her hand.

"Do you know of any other locations which need my help?"

"If you can get this car out of the road, that would be a big help. It's blocking a lane and a half and this is a major route for emergency vehicles."

"Roger."



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