Someone had put a lot of time and effort into making the front doors the building more welcoming. Paint was strewn across the courtyard, popping up in a variety of locations. Statues here and there. Some archaic. Some just human, and a few more esoteric pieces consisting of chains and wire and chairs.
It looked more fitting for the front of a corporate building rather than a base for the heroes of America. It had also sustained a massive detonation, glass shattered, doors thrown off of their hinges. I didn’t recognize the specific danger, which was all the worse, as it meant I had no idea what we were facing.
We’d picked an entry point to the side, half hidden under the shadow of one of the taller buildings visible over the wall, and vaulted over, rope festooned over the barbed wire into the compound.
Hands breathed out from behind me and shot me a look. “Never thought I’d actually get to go to one of these.”
“Not even as a secretary?” I asked, waiting for Gunze to join us.
“Requires some weight behind your name,” Hands said. “Most of my family’s just had minor classifications for years. We’ll get picked up through testing, go to the schools for a year, then get dropped out after we had demonstrated mastery of our power.”
I blinked at her. “What caused you to answer my radio call?”
She paused, and Gunze slowly slid down the ropes.
“I didn’t want my little brother to be as scared. He thinks I’m so cool.”
“What does he do?”
“No idea,” Hands laughed. “I guess we’ll have to find out.”
Gunze landed beside them, and gestured, the threads slowly sliding back into his flesh. Soon, the evidence they had breached the compound had disappeared back into the elderly hero. “Stop talking,” He cut in, stepping past them. “Business now. Flirting later.”
Hands looked away from me, and looked at the front of the building. “There’s our entry point, I guess.”
“Doubt we’ll get anywhere making our own entry point,” Gunze muttered. “Place is probably locked down harder than a prison. Otherwise, they’d be able to tell where we are already. Would have control over the base defences, certainly.”
There were no guards on patrol at the front gates. Already subjugated territory, and they were focusing on choking off any reinforcements. From this distance, we couldn’t even hear Ironmarrow, and I just hoped she could sustain for a bit longer. We had people to save.
I licked my lips and summoned a cushion of air under our feets. Not a lot, but just enough to diminish the sound of each foot step. So that we couldn’t be heard while walking.
All they’d hear would be the wind.
Hands shot me a grateful look, Gunze shrugged it off. “Go ahead, fearless leader.”
I shot him a look, and he raised an eyebrow. “What happened to not questioning the hierarchy until after the mission?”
“Called me out on it. Damn. Guess you’re getting a spine after all.” Gunze laughed under his breath, and we pressed on ahead.
Ducking past the modern art, I caught a whiff of something I didn’t want to. I caught the distinct tang of something even worse.
The spray of blood on the wall, visible from just beyond the alcove the main entrance was nestled in, confirmed it. I held up a hand and crept forward, keeping my footsteps diminished.
Wouldn’t do to get found out.
Not like the dead body had.
In life, she’d been someone of power and passion. Red hair, porcelain skin. Gallant cape. Still in uniform, bright reds and yellows.
The thing about most heroes was that they tended to die if you caught them by surprise with a bullet.
And she’d met the bullet face first, and her blood decorated the far wall like an elaborate mosaic.
Gunze swept past me, clicking his tongue. “Doesn’t bode well for your rescuing plan, now does it?”
Had I made the wrong choice?
…Didn’t matter. There wasn’t a way of backing off now. We only had the path forward. Couldn’t leave anyone behind, not while the island was crawling with the Cuban Patrol.
With my luck, they’d be looking to quiet any witnesses. Burn the place down. Destroy the evidence.
Leave the gulf crippled. While I was losing faith we could keep the association base alive, I knew there had to be someone still walking the halls, or else our party would’ve been escorted out to the tune of assault rifle fire.
Hands stared down at the corpse, then wrapped one of her hands around her face and looked away.
“Where are we going?” She asked, looking over at the map.
It fell onto me to make the decision again, and I grappled with the burden of responsibility. It had been my idea to come here.
There was a map behind the front desk. Smeared with blood and debris from the explosion, it stretched and mapped out the building. Bizarrely, it looked nicked from blades, long gouges carved out. I leans forward and looked at the blood.
The scratches bisected the blood. Not the other way around.
So it couldn’t be the dead heroine behind them cooling like the collection of meat she’d been reduced to.
Who could do something like that? Who had a power related to knives?
Were they a friendly or an enemy?
Well, they were probably a friendly. The Cuban Patrol was mostly unpowered.
So there was at least one person who’d lived long enough to leave the front of the building, since the knives had been used after the blood had been sprayed.
Which meant we had a chance of finding someone still alive.
Hands tapped me on my shoulder and roused me from my thoughts. “Which way? We’re burning time.”
I pointed at the map, to the central building. “The best place to start looking is the cafeteria. It’s central to everything else.”
Gunze laughed. “Gutsy. It’s also where you’d want to keep a muster point to take the rest of the base.”
“They haven’t taken the base yet, Gunze. Something is still harrying them and keeping them busy.” I pointed at him. “And it’s our job to get them out of here. Someone set up that SOS, and they’re not all dead yet.”
Hands nodded. “Right. So we just need to go… to the place most likely to have people in it.”
“Regardless of whether or not they’re friendlies.” Gunze finished.
“It’s a stealth mission,” I said. “We’ll find a way to sneak and take a look at it.”
“I don’t like this,” Gunze muttered. “This seems sloppy on the Cuban’s part. They’re normally more organized than this.”
“We’ll figure it out when there’s time.”
Gun shots rang out in the distance.
“And I think we’re about out of that,” I muttered.
“Problem solved,” the thread master said. “Let’s investigate.”