4208 words (16 minute read)

Drive By

“You just...tried it?” You frown at Vigilante, barely resisting folding your arms across your chest like some self-righteous paragon of justice. Which you most certainly aren’t, but you can’t have your members experimenting with unknown drugs whenever they feel like it. “I hope you’re not expecting some sort of ‘atta girl’ for that. Regardless of anything else, you know you can’t afford to get caught out without your full abilities.” You pause for a moment, thinking. “Anything like Headlight that just happens to affect mutants like you say it does is pretty suspect. Keep an eye on yourself for any other weird side effects.”

Vigilante nods, and adds, “I’m not a junkie, Jane. I’m not going to say ‘I know what I’m doing,’ but it was a one time thing. The downswing was... it was just weird. I could still ‘port, but only a fraction of my usual distance, and I got tired out quickly. As far as experiments go, I know it was stupid, and I won’t be doing it again.”

Satisfied, for now, you instruct everyone to get ready for tonight.

Los Santos has the look and feel of a city that used to be nice, but hit it’s peak years ago. Declining neighborhoods are equal parts low income apartment buildings, grandparents who had their houses built when the majority of the area was still citrus groves, and middle class families just trying to scrape by in a house that could use some more work than they can really afford.

On Banyon Street, in the middle of the block between Lemon Ave and Orange Grove Ln, is Redención House. It’s front porch seems to be in dire need of shoring up, but overall it’s clean and maintained as well as can be expected. The driveway goes back to a detached garage, behind which there is a narrow alleyway that runs behind all the houses. The backyard is fenced with chain link and you can see a pretty elaborate looking vegetable garden is laid out. There’s a big tree in the back, close to the fence and the alley, with overhanging branches that should have been cut back.

As the sun begins to go down, you’re gathered inside a Denny’s a few blocks away, in Barrio Boneyard turf. Vigilante is hanging out on Banyon Street, keeping an eye on things, but all is quiet for the moment. Eel is nursing a glass of water while Squib stuffs fries into his mouth, and Wildfire looks bored. Intercept is back at the apartment, but only a text away.

You look at Eel. He had a little trouble getting his car out of police impound, but you’ve promised to reimburse him the towing fee. After all, you did tell him to leave his car and join the protest, so it’s the least you can do. He meets your eyes, and smiles. You’re about to ask him if he met any mutants who seem like a good fit for the League, when your phone starts vibrating. The Barrio Boneyard is calling you. Intercept has sent you a text message: video - vigilante last night. You skip the text and pick up the call.

”We’re in. Big Mike says send your guy to Lemon and El Camino, and we’ll pick him up.”

Changing the deal doesn’t sit right with you, at least, not without more information first. You narrow your eyes and say, “Our offer was clear - you get to work with our guy after tonight. Why does Big Mike want to change it? You know something we don’t?” You don’t know who Big Mike is, but you assume he’s the guy calling the shots.

There’s a bit of sullen silence on the other end. ”Nah, man. We just -” You can hear some muffled words in the background, and the speaker pauses. You purse your lips and catch Squib’s eye across the table as you wait. He grins and gives you a thumbs up, his plaid shirt parting just enough for you to catch a glimpse of the yellow/pink cartoon pegasus on his t-shirt.

“This is Big Mike,” says another, deeper voice. “Word on the street is the Locos are bringing the heat. We need your guy, tonight. We… can put him to good use, if what you say about his mutation is true.”

You get the feeling the Bones aren’t nearly as well equipped as the Locos, but they can’t just come out and say it straight up. “I’m no liar,” you reply. “What makes you think you can use him more effectively than we can?”

Squib leans forward a bit, trying to hear the conversation on the other side. Big Mike clears his throat. ”You’re not the only one who has people with abilities. My guy can walk through walls. We put them together, I figure they’re untouchable and can go anywhere.”

You think quickly, weighing possibilities, and come to a decision. “Okay, I’ll have him go to Lemon and El Camino. He’s not coming alone, though, one of our other members is going to accompany him. She’s a teleporter.”

“All right!” fist pumps Squib at the same time as Big Mike saying, ”I can see we’re on the same wavelength here.”

“And one more thing,” you continue, before he can hang up. “We’re changing our plan for you. I’m going to be down firepower because of this. The Barrio Boneyard owes me one.”

The chuckle on the other end of the line is rich and deep. ”You got it, Zombie. You call this number if you need us.” He hangs up, and you pull your phone from your ear to get in touch with Vigilante.

Intercept’s text message from earlier sits there, with an new addition.

video - vigilante last night [attached link]
watch it asap

Your finger hovers in a moment of indecision, while Squib jokes with Eel about how Vigilante is going to have to be touching him to teleport. “Everyone get your comms in,” you say. The comms are Intercept’s design, ear pieces that will allow your team to communicate easily and on a shared channel. Time is running out. You need to get moving into position, and get Vigilante on her motorcycle and over here to pick up Squib or else the Barrio Boneyard could back out. She does teleport, of course, but her jumps are limited to a bit over thirty feet at once, and if she strings too many together she gets tired. And, of course, she loves her Harley.

You decide to watch the video first. If Intercept thinks this is important then you’d rather know now, than after you’ve sent her off with Squib to meet your tentative new allies. You excuse yourself to the bathroom for a bit of privacy, just in case, as your companions get ready for the evening’s events.

It’s a grainy video, from a security camera late at night. Rather than strung out on a new drug (or ‘porting about, testing it), Vigilante appears to be talking to someone just off camera in a nondescript neighborhood. They only talk for a minute or two, but Intercept seems to have cut out the beginning of the meeting, or whatever this is, and given you just the end of it. Vigilante is mostly nodding, but she gets a little agitated toward the end. The second person steps into frame for a moment to take her by the shoulders - their image is blurry but they appear to be male, and wearing a military style cap.

After giving her a shake, the man steps back, and Vigilante ‘ports out of the video. The footage continues, and you see a black SUV with no plates drive through the shot. The video has a timestamp - 1:13 am.

You frown, wondering what the hell is going on. Vigilante has a military past, and used to operate out of New York City, taking out mobsters with a bow and arrow. As far as you know her only power is teleportation, but she certainly also has a special ability with that bow. She’d a valuable asset to your team with her experience, and you don’t like the look of this late night meeting, especially if she’s lying to you.

Your voice echoes a bit in the empty restroom as you call Intercept. “I watched the video. I need you to find out more about this. If she’s being blackmailed, or is compromised somehow, we need to know how. Until then, business as usual.”

”Sure thing, boss.”

“We’re going to comms,” you say, walking out of the bathroom, and hanging up. Squib is already outside the restaurant with Wildfire, Billy is nowhere to be seen, and Eel is settling up the bill. You call Vigilante. “I need you to come here and pick up Squib.”

”Okay,” she says. ”Not a lot going on here, except some arguing over who’s supposed to be doing the dishes. They don’t seem to know what’s coming.”

If anything was coming. You briefly wonder how bad it will make you look if the Locos just decide not to do anything at all today, but give your head a little shake and move on. “Great. Get over here, get Squib, and take him to Lemon and El Camino ASAP. You’re meeting Big Mike and the Barrio Boneyard, and you two are going to work with them. I want you,” you manage not to pause, even if you’re not sure you can totally trust her, “to keep an eye on Squib and keep him out of trouble. They’ve got their own mutant, and say he can walk through walls and shit.”

”Okay. Cool.”

“One more thing. You can always come to me with anything that might come up. Not necessarily about today, just in general. I’m ...trying to be more accessible when it comes to that. Don’t feel you have to keep your mouth shut about anything that might be bothering you.”

There’s a pause, and then she says, ”Like if Squib tries to grab my boob when I’m ‘porting him?” Vigilante laughs. ”Sure thing, Zombie. Tell the little guy I’m on my way.”

“We’re going to comms,” you add. “Be smart tonight.”

Fixing your earpiece in place, you join the rest of your team. In ten minutes you’re all standing on Banyon Street, far enough west that you aren’t obvious to the shelter. The sun has gone down, leaving a last splash of red streaking across the sky as the street lights begin to flick on. You zip up your leather jacket - thin enough not to impede your movement, but sturdy enough to give you an extra layer of protection. Wildfire keeps snapping her fingers, creating a tiny flame above her index finger every time. Billy’s curling rams horns shine briefly in one of the last gasps of sunlight as he shakes his head and stamps his feet. Eel just stands still, arms folded, waiting for you to talk.

Before you can tell everyone to group behind the palm trees, and while the thought of splitting up into the alleys behind the houses is still forming in your brain, you run out of time. The screen door of the shelter bangs open, and Anna Fernandez appears on the porch. You hear brakes squealing, and a car skids around the corner of Lemon and Banyon, the driver gunning the engine toward the house.

“Stop that car!” you shout, shoving Wildfire with a hand in her back, but she doesn’t need encouraging as she sprints down the sidewalk toward the car. You feel your heart racing, and the solid feeling that you get when your body goes into overdrive and you feel like you could run through a brick wall.

Anna is kneeling in front of her house, in front of the porch, and right in the line of fire as guns sprout from the windows of the incoming car. You feel detached from the situation as ice blooms around her, a wall forming in front of her and growing taller and wider by the moment, frost racing across the grass as she disappears from view. A panel van with it’s headlights off comes up Lemon on the heels of the sedan, and crosses Banyon to screech to a halt on the corner.

Wildfire is nearing the car on your side of the street, and fire blossoms from her hands, billowing across the asphalt and roasting the nearest corner of the Locos’ car. You can see a silvery figure in the shelter’s driveway, moving toward the sidewalk as your heart beats a staccato rhythm.

“Eel, with me - Billy, go ‘round back - alley!” You’re sprinting down the street, words coming in short bursts as you pick up speed.

”We’re incoming!” Vigilante says over the comm. You can see more guys pouring out of the van, about eight, all holding guns. You pass Wildfire, turning your head briefly as the fire dazzles your eyes, and then it extinguishes, the car burning as smoking Locos fling open the doors and roll out onto the road. One of them shoots wildly in your direction and you feel a tug against your side, but you keep going as Wildfire steps back, a gout of flame covering her momentary retreat. It seems she has remembered that your purpose here isn’t to kill Locos, though you’re starting to wonder if that’s even going to be possible.

”Got a 911 call in from the House and ...a couple more from the neighbors.” Intercept’s calm voice seems out of place as your feet slap against the asphalt, Eel hot on your heels. Three Locos disappear behind the house on the corner, and a couple more head down the street, firing into the wall of ice that is beginning to obscure the shelter.

You are purposefully in front of Eel, two more bullets embedding themselves into your body as you run inexorably forward, putting on your brass knuckles as you move. Eel splits to the side, grabbing the gun of a surprised looking Loco whose bullets had not stopped you, and sends him to the ground twitching as electricity overloads his nervous system. You punch a Loco in the face, hard enough to send him backward in a spray of blood as his nose gives way to your enhanced strength, and continue after him, two more hard punches to his body.

Behind you there is a sound you can only describe as a quiet implosion, and three people appear on the sidewalk in front of the shelter. “UP YOURS ASSHOLE,” screeches Squib, and he tosses an object toward the incoming Locos. Bullets pepper into the trio of mutants, but pass harmlessly through them, and then the ping pong ball he’s thrown bounces up and explodes at shoulder height. A Loco rolls on the ground, screaming, “My fucking face!”

Behind you, Antonio Fernandez, Anna’s youngest brother, is coming down the driveway, his body solid steel and a string of curses coming from his mouth. “‘Tonio, no!” Anna is yelling from behind the ice, and there are other, younger voices calling to each other.

You kick a fallen Loco in the side as you turn away from the van, the Boneyard rolling up and spilling out of their car. “Keep them occupied!” you shout at them, “Away from the houses if you can!” They don’t respond, except to surround the van, cutting it off as an escape route. You and Eel back away as the Locos begin to scatter, one returning to help his fellows at the van against the Bones, the others from the sedan spreading out across the street. Vigilante, Fade, and Squib disappear in release of air pressure, making your ears pop.

You turn and point at Fernandez. “Tin Man, go around back! They’re in the alley. Protect those kids!” Your heart is still pounding from the excitement of the attack, but you try to focus. Where are the Locos lieutenants? Is this too small to warrant attention, or do they have something else in store for the shelter? “Intercept, keep monitoring the police scanners. I’ve got a bad feeling about this. Anything moving in Locos territory?”

”They’re sending three cars, you’ve got about… five minutes. Helicopter inbound as well, will be there sooner.”

Wildfire sends another burst of fire across the street, keeping the Locos from getting around Anna’s impressive wall of ice. You can’t tell how thick it is, but it’s about ten feet tall and you’re beginning to notice a chill in the air. You hear a high pitched scream from behind the house, and another of Squib’s explosions - a louder one this time, probably a rock.

”They’re in the backyard!” shouts Billy over the comm, ”I -” you hear a thud through your earpiece, “got one. Squib’s got one - they’ve got a kid. Metal guy’s -” You spin toward the house, and notice a phone on the ground by the burning car.

Eel is grabbing a Loco who is trying to line up a shot on Wildfire’s back. You see another Loco right on the ice wall, shooting into it regardless of the danger of ricochet. He’ll break through in a minute. “Anna, get back!” you shout.

”Can’t see anything suspicious in Locos turf,” says Intercept. ”I don’t think they were expecting resistance.”

You don’t hesitate, running at the gang banger at the ice wall full tilt while yelling “Vigilante get that kid clear!” The gunfire is deafening, ice chips are flying toward you, and you leap forward, throwing your entire body weight behind your fist.

POW!

You catch him right behind the ear, smash his head into the ice, and he crumples to the ground, legs loose but arms strangely stiff. You hear sirens in the distance, and the distinct chop of a helicopter’s rotors.

”Kid’s clear,” comes Vigilante’s breathless voice, which you hear over your comm and also on the other side of the ice wall. A few moments later she’s gathered up Fade and Squib again, and they’re behind you in the street. Another car of Barrio Boneyard members has pulled up, and the Locos are either running or lying in the street as Squib sets off another explosion.

“Anna,” you say through the ice, the porch light from the house casting her in silhouette against it. “We are the League. We’re not the enemy - I hope we can be friends of the shelter.”

The helicopter is overhead, spotlight lingering on the car on fire in the street, and you know that Intercept is monitoring all the police chatter that is no doubt filling the airwaves. Vigilante grabs Squib and they ‘port to Wildfire who is alternating punching a Locos in the face with flipping off the chopper, and then they all three disappear.

“...Gracias,” Anna says, just barely within your range of hearing. “What you did for the children, I will not forget it.”

The ice is beginning to melt, and her shadow dips away from the wall, back toward the porch. You see Eel running toward you, Boneyard members are getting some kicks in on fallen Locos before also beginning to scatter, the spotlight wavering between objects of interest. You kneel and go through the pockets of the man you’d just knocked out. He’s beginning to move and groan a little, so you put your knee on his head and lean a little to remind him to stay still. You pull out a phone. “Intercept, if I have a Locos’ cell, can you trace the GPS and suss out where their hideout is?” You pause, a plan beginning to form. “Remotely? This is time sensitive.”

”No problem, as long as it’s got bluetooth. Pair it to your earpiece, I’ll override the -” He strings together some instructions and you follow them as best you can.

Sirens are getting louder, and the only 15th Street Locos on Banyon are lying on the ground. Some have gotten up and started running away, Bones on their heels. “Get that van!” you shout at Eel, who just nods and runs down the street. You’re starting to sag against the ice, your blood beginning to pool in your shoes and drip off your left hand, and you shake your head and slap yourself a few times. It was probably for the best that Anna Fernandez hadn’t been able to see you through her ice creation; you aren’t exactly in the best shape for a first impression.

Billy rounds the house, running in his peculiar head-first fashion, and you see Eel jumping into what had been the Locos’ van, a Barrio Boneyard member joining him inside. It backs up and comes for you. Intercept is talking over the comm, but it’s difficult to concentrate on what he’s saying. Billy says, “What’s the plan?” while looking over his shoulder in the direction of the sirens. You’re momentarily blinded by light - is it too late? Are you out of it? - but it’s just the spotlight getting a look at you.

“Adrenaline,” you say, mush mouthed as you fumble in your perforated jacket, and Billy reaches inside with no regard for your privacy, roughly pulling out the syringe. He uncaps it, looks at you for a half-second until you nod, and then stabs the needle in deep, depressing the plunger and sending your heart rate skyrocketing.

You lurch away from the wall as the van drives up, it’s side door unlatched and sliding open on it’s own.

”I said I have a good idea where the HQ is,” repeats Intercept, and you jump into the van, invigorated.

Eel looks over the front seat at you. “Where to?”

“There’s a few coordinates this guy liked to hang out at - one is an apartment building off of Heatherwood, another is a local park, and the last is a partially abandoned strip mall. Street view has a few Locos graffiti tags on it, that’s where I’m putting my money on their hideout. There’s a barber shop still open on one end of the mall, but the whole thing needs some serious urban development. I’m looking to see if I can hack into the defunct CCTV set up at the mall.”

“Let’s get out of here,” you say to Eel. “We know where the Locos’ hideout is, we can take care of that later.” He nods, spinning the wheel and pulling the van in a tight U-turn, riding up on the sidewalk to complete it. You turn down Lemon toward the depths of Locos turf before the first police car arrives, but the helicopter’s light follows you. Shit. “Vigilante, help the Bones scatter, if it looks like they need it. Then head back home with the others.”

”Got it,” she says over the comm, sounding tired.

You pull yourself forward and look at the Barrio Boneyard member in the passenger seat, who is holding on tightly as Eel guns it down the street. “What’s your name?”

“Little Mike,” he says. He’s maybe a shade over six feet tall.

“Any ideas on where we can lose this helicopter?”

“Uh,” he thinks fast, “There’s a wide overpass a couple blocks down, freeway overhead. We can bail there, keep -”

“Keep the van going,” you interrupt, looking back into the rest of the van. There’s a backpack and a bunch of stray papers, and Billy hands the pack to you, bracing himself against the insides of the van. It’s heavy enough and you hand it to Little Mike, who nods.

The overpass is looming and there aren’t any patrol cars on your tail yet, so you grab the sliding door, Billy scooting up closer as Eel takes the pack from Little Mike and jams it on the accelerator. The van drives under the overpass, the spotlight dims, and you all open your doors, flinging yourselves from the speeding vehicle. You roll a few times and land in bunch of overgrown weeds at the side of the road.

After that, it’s just a matter of finding a car to hotwire and drive back to where you left your own cars. Little Mike makes his own way back, limping a little, but in good spirits from your joint operation. You’re not bleeding as much as you were, but it’s still more than you’d like, and once you get to your car you give Eel the keys and wrap yourself up in the tarp you keep in the trunk before getting in the backseat. Your phone buzzes insistently, and you look at the screen, wiping off a smear of blood so you can read it.

Intercept: This guy doesn’t seem to be high up in the Locos, but he’s got instructions via text to ‘teach those muties a leson [sic]’, and a number for 8Ball. Pinging the phone marks 8Ball in the area of the mall. There are a bunch of coded texts, probably shipment information or drug deal locations? Decrypting it now, shouldn’t take long. Also mall is drawing a huge amount of power, spiked in the last month.

You: thx, we’re headed back. i need a nap.

You lean back against the passenger seat, seatbelt holding you upright, and drift off.

Next Chapter: Redención House