Chapter 248

                Finally, it was done. It had taken years of effort, of planning, of lies and schemes and coming perilously close to the edge of failure, but it was done. George, now taking a long-needed rest, had finished decrypting the files stolen from Lander’s system. Many windows for action had come and gone in the years he’d been working on the supposedly impossible task. Thankfully, another was fast approaching, and it was one of the better windows they’d had. In less than a week, it would all be over. Maybe they’d win, and the truth would be dragged out for the world to see. Maybe Charles would be a step ahead of them, and this was their final week of life. Either way, this would finally be done, and after so many years of running Globe couldn’t deny that he was ready to see the finish.

                A knock on his door interrupted his reverie, as Clarissa showed herself in a few seconds later. “You know we’ve still got days until the mission, right? The tension in this place is so thick I nearly choked on it walking inside. Everyone needs to calm down or they’ll burn themselves out before the first punch is thrown.”

                “If we’re lucky, there won’t need to be any punches.” It was a flimsy, unsubstantiated hope that even a perpetual optimist like Globe had trouble holding onto, but it would still be nice if they could get the job done without hurting anyone. There had been more than enough blood spilt thanks to these secrets, there was no sense in adding more. Sadly, experience taught him that it would probably be necessary, no matter how distasteful it seemed. “I take your point, though. Tonight at dinner I’ll start easing people’s nerves, and I’ll help them stay relaxed until it’s time for action. I don’t blame them for being wound up, after all this time it’s hard to believe we’ve finally got the location.”

                “‘Location’ is a pretty grand term for a spot in the middle of bumfuck nowhere. Speaking of, when are you and I going out there? You know I need to visit a location to open a rip.”

                Globe shook his head. “We can’t risk getting too close. Charles might have Supers out there getting paid to do nothing but monitor for people sneaking around near the lab. If we go, we risk tipping them off, which we can’t afford. Not after all this. There’s a town about fifty miles away that we’ll visit so you can open a rip when it’s time to strike, and then I’ll transport us the rest of the trip manually.”

                There was a long stretch of silence and a worried look from Clarissa before she replied. “Don’t you think that might be a touch paranoid?”

                “Charles has had nearly limitless funds, a scheming mind with a talent for planning, and almost two decades of time to work with. Paranoia is our ally in this venture. Whatever mad thoughts we come up with, Charles has almost certainly had time to consider if they’re effective enough to be worth the effort.”

                She was tempted to argue, but the results rather spoke for themselves. Charles Adair had successfully covered up one of the most infamous murders of a Hero in modern history, turning his own brother into a scapegoat in the process. Over-estimating him was a danger they’d have to risk, because if they thought too little of the man he’d surely gain the upper hand.

                “On the subject of being paranoid, I came by to ask when you wanted me to pull Adam out of Lander. We’re obviously going to need him on the day of the attack for the Mobius technique, but I didn’t want to pull him too soon just in case. We could have him withdraw from the HCP officially this week to get him off the DVA’s radar, though.”

                “No, leave him be until the morning of,” Globe told her. “The less attention on him, from any direction, the better. And no one will notice if one student fakes sick on a day with as much excitement as Intramurals. Besides, the boy doesn’t have much time living a normal life left. Let’s at least give him a few final days. When this is over, if he and George keep their promise to each other, he’s never going to be the same.”

                The pain on Globe’s face was evident as he mentioned the arrangement between Adam and George; he’d spent years trying to talk them out of it. But both had held firm, to the point where they weren’t willing to help if he couldn’t respect their bargain, so ultimately Globe had been forced to accept that it was their lives to do with as they saw fit. Even if it ended with Adam taking George’s head from his shoulders.

                Clarissa didn’t mention any of this, she was well-accustomed to remaining silent while Globe tore himself up inside. There were no words to help, he would always carry the world on his shoulders whether he needed to or not. The best aid she’d found to offer was practical, helping to keep things running smoothly so that the guilt couldn’t slow him down. “Got it, extraction on the morning of. I’ll tell Adam to be ready, and have Gerard prep Quentin as well. That boy is going to be cross when he finds out we’re leaving him behind.”

                “I’d rather he be cross an alive than drag a child into this sort of operation. Maybe when it’s over, he’ll be able to have something of a normal life. Normal for Supers, anyway.”

                “Yes, I’m sure after being saved from a group of criminals who trafficked Supers, raised by Gerard who was always on the run from the law, and ultimately brought into a makeshift family of Supers fighting against a corrupted Hero system, Quentin will quickly push past it all to become a mundane office manager with no lingering issues at all.” The words came out a bit harsher than she intended, but Clarissa didn’t regret them. Since Intra was gone, someone had to temper Globe’s optimism with pragmatic truths.

                To her surprise, he laughed at her outburst. It was soft, but still laughter all the same. “You’d be amazed what people can overcome, when given the chance. Look at this team, people who the Hero world turned its back on but are still willing to put everything on the line to try and save it. Or Vince, who has come from literally nothing to being a standout in an HCP class so tough it has a nickname. People can be more than their past, when they have a chance.”

                “For Quentin’s sake, I hope you’re right.” Clarissa stood in front of the door for a few seconds longer, looking carefully at Globe. “So we’re going out to that city tomorrow then?”

                “I’d rather wait until we’re a bit closer, just in case something goes wrong there will be less time for Charles to be alerted,” Globe said.

                “That’s fine. I was just thinking maybe we could get some dinner while we’re out there. Talk about old times and old friends; make a few toasts to those who have gone. Relax and unwind, as it were. You’re as tense as the rest of them, and we both know your power can’t calm your own nerves.”

                He didn’t reply right away, instead rubbing his hand on his knee like she knew he did when pondering. “I’m not sure if it’s appropriate to take a night off like that, given how close we are to the final operation.”

                “Maybe so, but we both know how you expect this to end for you,” Clarissa reminded him. “I’d say if there was ever a time to try and cherish life a little, this is it. Because it’s probably going to be your last chance.”