Chapter 298

                “They’re coming!”

                “Well hold them back!” Crispin pressed his hands into the yelling man’s flesh, imparting as much enhancement as he could. The receiving Super fired off a powerful beam of burning white energy, far more intense than anything he could have managed alone. It blazed down the hall, lighting the darkness as it went, before suddenly dying into nothingness. Not a crash, not hitting a shield, it simply ceased to be. No question about it. The lines had broken. The defenses had failed.

                Globe was here.

                Behind Crispin, the man in a suit who was clearly acting as his handler whispered a few words into a communicator. Without warning, he whipped a hand forward and wrapped it around Crispin’s neck. Instantly, the world shifted. They were still in the bunker, but no longer at the bottom. The sounds of battle were distant, and instead of looking at the approach of Globe, Crispin was instead staring at a fresh group of Supers equipped with tactical gear.

                “Had our teleportation anchors give me a brief window to work in,” the suited man explained. “We can’t hold that position, but from reports we’ve gotten they are starting to weaken and slow down. If they’re using amplification, the effects might be fading, so instead of losing you pointlessly we’re going to give you one more shot: stop them from getting out. This is the exit, make sure Globe and his people never set so much as a single foot past here.”

                There were plenty of objections Crispin could have raised, not that any of them would have mattered. He was here, under this man’s power, and nothing he said right now would change that. Better to play along and be a good tool, waiting for a chance to slip free. If things continued their descent into chaos, it probably wouldn’t be much longer.

                Grabbing the nearest Super, Crispin began to enhance her. The juice was coming slower now, all powers took a toll and Crispin’s was no exception. It had been a very long time since he tried to amplify this many people at once. Perhaps a healer could have aided his endurance, however he’d yet to encounter one among all the armed Supers. If those were here, they weren’t being put anywhere near the fight, a significance that wasn’t lost on Crispin. Win or die, those were the options the owner of this base had left for their employees.

                “Any idea how long he’ll be down there?” Crispin asked, not daring to stop working as he did.

                “It shouldn’t take him long to get what he’s after, but Globe is the sentimental sort. Hopefully that will buy us some time.” The teleporter in a suit checked his watch, even his previously composed face showing signs of anxiety. “Five minutes of mourning, maybe. Potentially less, depending on what he finds first.”

*             *             *

                What Globe found first was Intra. In a manner of speaking, anyway. The metal holding tanks filled with strange fluid contained pieces of the man once known as Joshua Taylor, father of Chad and husband of Miriam. Arm here, leg there, all kept disturbingly fresh, like he’d only died a few weeks ago. The brain was in the largest container, chunks visibly taken out and dozens of wires running from it to unseen devices. Globe might not have known it was his best friend at all, if not for the labels and the container holding what remained of a face.

                In battle, Globe had seen this kind of carnage, and worse. But that was in the field, when action and desperation gave other places to focus. Finding it here, like this, he almost lost his stomach right there on the floor. Raze stood next to him, the only other one still down here who once knew the container’s contents as a man, not a science experiment.

                “Globe, you need to make me a promise. No matter how this goes, no matter what ends we come to, I think you’re the likeliest one to survive. That means it is your responsibility to make sure Chad and Miriam never see him like this. Never.”

                “I’ll do all I can, but I think you might be over-estimating my odds of survival.” Globe composed himself, this wasn’t the time to get lost in despair. They still had someone counting on them. Assuming she hadn’t met a similar fate somewhere down the line.

                From across the room, Adam stepped into view. Minutes earlier he’d discharged his remaining enhanced-amplification power into Globe, restarting that clock to an hour, then given the others a weaker version that was all he could manage alone. With no more reason to keep Quentin’s form after that, he’d returned to his own until they decided what new copy would best help their efforts. “Hey you two, I found a door over here. Powerful locks, on par with the best we’ve seen in this place. Going to need some help.”

                The two former Heroes looked at each other, Raze putting their question into words. “You think it’s her?”

                “For Alice’s sake, I dearly hope so.” Globe turned away from the remains of his best friend and followed Adam down a hall, to the door he’d indicated. With a minor effort Globe forced the door to unlock, keeping his defenses up in case there was some sort of trap set.

                Nothing leapt out at him as the door slid open, instead it revealed a room that didn’t match the rest of the base’s décor. White walls, soft chairs and blankets, a screen showing shifting high-definition images of a garden, all around a top of the line hospital bed. In an instant, Globe knew the woman lying in it, eyes trained on the screen even though she didn’t seem to be watching. Even with years since he’d last seen her in person, she was as distinctive as always. Same blonde hair, same bright green eyes, same kind expression. He would always recognize Shelby Adair, the woman he’d watched marry his brother all those years ago. Moving slowly, Globe walked over to her, waiting for a reaction. She didn’t turn, didn’t twitch, didn’t blink. Just kept staring blankly at the screen.

                “Is she… what’s wrong with her?” Adam asked.

                “She’s in the same state she’s been stuck in ever since Charles tried to cure her. Trapped in her own power, unable to see or interact with the real world in any way. All Shelby can see are the potential futures, she’s lost in the lands of what may or may not come to be.”

                Adam shuddered involuntarily. “That sounds horrible.”

                “It almost certainly is. And yet it pales in comparison to the awful things Charles has done to set her free. But none of that is her fault. He’ll have to answer for his own sins.” With a careful motion, Globe began levitating Shelby off the bed. “Our job is to get her out safe, no matter how many Supers we have to fight our way through to do it.”

                “I wish you wouldn’t tempt fate like that, you know they’ve been rallying troops behind us, the others are probably already holding them off,” Raze pointed out. “You’re the only one who is still fully enhanced, and we’re down Joan and Shimmerpath. Getting out is going to be a much harder fight than getting down was.”

                “You know, I thought about that as we were coming in, and I realized something.” Globe looked to the ceiling, which began to buckle upward. “Now that we have Shelby, I no longer need to worry about this place’s structural integrity. Why don’t we grab the rest of our team and take the short way out?”