Downtown, Setalite City 11:39 PM.
Tuesday, February 22nd, 2022.
Loren stayed low to the ground, crouched behind a dumpster, peeking out towards the partially lit road ahead.
“Where are we going?” Sparklite said before frowning when he didn’t respond immediately. “What are we doing?”
He was watching the people from the festival as they passed by in groups.
“Loren,” Sparklite complained. “Loren!”
“Keep it down, greenhorn!” Loren cried, “and use my code name-”
Sparklite tugged back on his shoulder just as he rocked back on his heels, and he fell on his ass in the alleyway with a squawk.
“You’re the greenhorn-and I’m not calling you that,” Sparklite huffed, “How are we saving the city?”
Fine, he couldn’t hold the mystery over her head forever, regardless of how funny it had been.
“Someone has been putting explosives underneath the Heroes Podium,” Loren said more seriously, turning to face her. “I have no idea who’s responsible, but they’ve been a very naughty boy-or girl, I suppose.”
He nodded firmly, looking pleased with himself. Sparklite, on the other hand, just stared at him in silent agony.
“Explosives?” Sparklite whispered urgently, “Like the kind that explodes? Loren, you should have just reported it-”
“Tried that already,” Loren said honestly, “It didn’t work out.”
Sparklite looked nonplussed.
“That doesn’t make any sense; they pretty much have to take bomb threats seriously,” Sparklite said, frowning in concentration, “How did you tell them-Loren!”
“I don’t know who that incredibly handsome sounding person is, but I am Bootyslayer911,” Loren said confidently, jogging out of the alleyway and across the road. “Expert in all things-”
A car beeped as he crossed in front of it.
He gave the three occupants a sheepish wave in apology before ducking into the opposing alley. Sparklite dropped down from above him, having used her power to zip up to the rooftops and cross over from there.
“We are definitely going to get caught,” Sparklite complained, “You’re not even trying to be sneaky anymore.”
“Nope,” Loren denied proudly, “I just suck-there’s a difference, idiot.”
Sparklite squawked in indignation at the strange retort before reaching out to grab him by the back of the mask. He jaunted to the side and sped up, but he could practically feel the Spewbeast breathing down his neck as she kept up seemingly without any effort.
“Besides, with the festival, there are too many people everywhere to bother with stealth,” Loren said distractedly, peeking around the corner.
As if to punctuate his comment, one of the many groups of dedicated partygoers tromped on past, singing loudly. With all the colorful clothes, superhero merchandise, and cosplay going on, they pretty much fit right in with them anyway.
He glanced back at his companion to give her another quick look over, but she caught him this time. He stroked the dangling sleeve of his shirt-mask as he studied her.
“What?” Sparklite said hesitantly, fiddling with her belt self-consciously.
Her costume would standout based purely on the fact that it was such high quality-the real deal in this case, but there really wasn’t a dearth of alternatives here; they would just have to risk it.
Loren hummed loudly for a moment.
“Loren-” Sparklite whined before stopping herself with a huff, “Bootslayer911-”
He let out a startled laugh.
“Oh my god, I can’t believe you actually called me that.” Loren said, laughing, “You are the single lamest villain in all of Setalite City.”
With the bottom half of her face uncovered, he could clearly see the flush traveling up her neck and to her cheeks. There was a cry of indignation, but when she grabbed for him, he managed to snatch her by the wrist, pulling her straight out into the street with him.
“Loren.” Sparklite hissed, but he just held his arm out to her.
She took it immediately, glancing around frantically at all the people around them. Loren steered them through the bulk of the still lingering festivities and towards where the Heroes Podium sat. He felt a tightness in his stomach as he saw the spot on the road where he had been standing amongst the crowd during Paragon’s speech.
He forced himself to calmly walk until he was standing right on top of it and came to a stop.
“Why are we stopping?” Sparklite said quietly, still freaking out. “There’s people looking at us..”
“Don’t worry about it, we just look like a couple of cosplayers-” Loren said just as quiet, “Well, you do; I look like an idiot with this shirt on my face but still.”
He waited for several moments to see if she would take his silence as the bait it was and squawked out a complaint when she pinched him on the arm instead.
“Ow! Fine!” Loren huffed, “Directly under where we are currently standing, is where one of the many, many explosions will occur on Thursday.”
Sparklite stilled before slowly turning to face him more fully; Maybe he should have warned her first? Hmm.
“Why are we standing on top of it?” Sparklite whispered urgently, “What if we blow up?”
“Then we just need to act like we don’t know nobody, obviously,” Loren said flippantly before scratching his cheek at her glare. “But-I’ll be honest, I hadn’t thought this far ahead yet.”
Sparklite let out a strangled noise in the back of her throat, so he kept on going before she could verbally waste him. His thought process had pretty much been; go-to place with bombs, and use power to vanish bombs.
Foolproof in theory.
“More seriously, we are going to need to get underground somehow; I can’t exactly use my power out in the open like this, though; it would reveal us to everybody nearby.” Loren said with a titter, “What will the neighbors think?”
Sparklite was gripping his arm with more force than was warranted now, but he did his best to ignore it.
“Fine. Fine.” Sparklite breathed, “There was a sewer grate back that way-did you see it earlier?”
Lore shook his head; he hadn’t been looking for sewer covers or entrances at all, really; but he was willing to take her word for it.
“Lead the way, Sparky,” Loren said quietly.
She turned her nose up at the name, which he immediately made a mental note of. It wasn’t the first time he’d called her it, but she’d had more pressing concerns then. Did she have an aversion to nicknames or just the terrible ones he kept calling her?
“What do your friends call you?” Loren asked curiously.
More of a whim than anything.
“My name?” Sparklite said curiously. “Why?”
“Lame,” Loren complained.
They fell silent as they reached where the grating sat-there was still too many people around, so they couldn’t chance just it out in the open; luckily, his power should work to bridge the gap there. Loren tugged her down into the alleyway when he thought nobody was looking before letting go.
He used his power to vanish a large square of the concrete, but there was just more underneath it. He repeated it until the hole was about a person deep and then hopped down inside it.
“You coming, champ?” Loren said with faux excitement.
He got another scrunched up face at the word.
“Stooop,” Sparklite whined. “That’s the worst word ever; call me anything but that.”
Loren just grinned as she dropped down beside him; she made the task look effortless. He shuffled around a bit; he should have made the hole larger. Once he was facing roughly the same direction as where the sewer entrance had been, he used his power to carve a tunnel towards it.
“You should close up the entrance in case someone follows us,” Sparklite said quietly.
He looked at the dark tunnel he had made and then glanced back at her.
“This shit is like a horror movie already; I’m not trapping us down here-” Loren said incredulously.
A loud laugh washed down the alleyway and reached them in the hole, and he scrunched his face up.
“Just do it,” Sparklite insisted, gripping his arm. “There are people coming this way!”
Loren forced himself to make the top of the hole reappear and immediately wished he hadn’t. How people could possibly enjoy spelunking, he would never understand. He fished around in his pocket for his phone, and once he managed to get it out, he used it to light up the perfectly smooth walls around him.
“Are you happy now?” Loren complained nervously, feeling like he was being compressed.
Sparklite giggled behind him.
“Try not to think about the walls closing in on us-” Sparklite snickered.
Loren vanished a massive section of concrete in front of him, widening the tunnel before moving with purpose in the direction of the sewer. He rapidly vanished another three chunks before they made it into the actually underground.
Sparklite’s amused giggles followed him as he rushed to exit the small area of vanished concrete.
A surprisingly spacious tunnel, made up of thousands of bricks stretched away from them, filthy water filed the bottom of the area, and a metal walkway, safely above the rank water lined the opposite wall.
“Bingo,” Loren said, relieved.
He jumped over and managed to get his foot on the metal floor of the walkway before pulling himself over the railing.
He watched as Sparklite stood in the wall of the tunnel for a moment, smirking at him.
“Try not to fall in, idiot,” Loren said meanly.
She glanced around for a second before she cleared the distance to land on the railing, a small sparkle of blue flickering around her.
“Wow!” Sparklite said, giggling, “So hard!”
He almost pouted.
They had missed the entrance by about five feet, but it didn’t take too much effort to realize which way they needed to go. He followed the walkway further down the tunnel, trying to keep a mental map of the street above in his head. He stopped after a moment and frowned up at the dark ceiling.
“That glowy eye thing you can do-does it allow you to see in the dark?” Loren mumbled, “Because I can’t see anything up there.”
“Not really,” Sparklite admitted, “I can’t feel anything with power inside it either.”
Loren frowned, had they come too early? Maybe the bombs weren’t planted until the same day as the speech? He frowned around at the walls for a moment before his eyes caught on a break in the otherwise unbroken pattern in the brickwork.
He moved up to lean over the railing, taking a closer look at the area.
“There’s a gap above the brick,” Sparklite said quietly, “It’s been removed.”
Loren nodded in agreement before glancing down at the disgusting water. He brought a large amount of the concrete he had vanished out of his powers sub-space, dropping into the water. He spent a moment juggling it with his power to get it to fall correctly into a somewhat stable platform.
He started to climb up onto the railing when Sparklite grabbed him by the shoulder.
“I’ll do it,” Sparklite said uneasily. “You might fall in-”
“Not a chance, Ass-Sparkle,” Loren grinned down at her and made the jump.
“Don’t call me that idiot!” Sparklite huffed. “I would have done it.”
“I’m the captain of this ship,” Loren said idly as he visually inspected the brickwork. “And this is my maiden voyage; how dare you try and take that away from me.”
Three of the bricks looked like they weren’t attached; it was obvious when looking at it from this close. Then again, why would anybody come down here to look at this wall in particular?
“You don’t look anything like a maiden.” Sparklite laughed.
Ouch. There was no need for personal attacks.
“How rude.” Loren huffed, vanishing the first brick.
That was definitely a bomb, judging by all the wires, not that he’d had any experience with them outside of video games. It was also humming, which was surprisingly intimidating.
“Wow, I can’t feel anything from it either.” Sparklite said wearily, “How many are there, do you think?”
“Three is the minimum, but there’s likely more than that.” Loren swallowed before bracing himself. “Alright, I’m going to vanish it-”
He paused for a moment as something occurred to him.
“Uh, if it’s connected to the others somehow, it might set them off.” Loren realized, “You may want to head back to the surface; there’s no reason we should both get blown up.”
Sparklite didn’t say anything for a long moment before shaking her head slowly.
“You asked me to come,” Sparklite said quietly, “So here I am, I’m not leaving.”
Loren glanced over his shoulder at her; that felt kind of nice, having someone willing to stay with him despite the danger of potential death by explosion.
“Did you get kicked out of villain school or something?” Loren joked weakly. “Isn’t this a bit too heroic?”
They could both tell he hadn’t been expecting it, and she smirked at him instead of taking the bait. Dammit, she was getting used to his shit already. He vanished the bomb instead of letting her dunk on him. Unfortunately, it didn’t set off a chain of explosions, so he had to deal with her needling the old fashion way.
“Villain school?” Sparklite said amused, “And you called me lame-”
“Lalala!” Loren said immediately, climbing back up onto the walkway. “This is me-Loren-not listening to your bullshit.”
Loren started jogging further down the walkway, the most tactical of retreats.
“Hey!” Sparklite laughed, catching up to him in only a few steps. “At least it didn’t explode.”
“Yeah, I guess they aren’t connected.” Loren guessed.
A red dot appeared in the shadow of the ceiling ahead of them. Loren immediately came to a stop, watching it wearily. Was it a camera? He glanced back at Sparklite, who had also stopped cold.
“I can’t feel anything from it; it’s shielded somehow,” Sparklite said quietly.
“Can you just zap it anyway?” Loren said quietly, “If it’s a motion sensor of some kind..”
They stood still in the dark as the small red light shined ominously.
“I’ll try, but it might set the bombs off,” Sparklite said quietly, “Be ready-”
“Hold you’re darn horses, Zappy,” Loren said quickly. “Let me make a barricade real quick.”
He waved his hand in front of her face to obscure her line of sight, and she let her hand drop, annoyed.
“Oh,” Sparklite said sheepishly.
The concrete he had restored from the previous platform was deposited on the walkway, and he vanished some pieces of it to get it to stand upright in front of them.
He added a thicker block at the base and ducked behind it, waving her down next to him.
“Alright, go for it,” Loren said quietly, peeking over the top.
Sparklite slipped her hand over the top of the barrier, took aim for a moment, and then lighting flashed across the distance, briefly illuminating the roof in the process. He had to squint at the sudden brightness, but he also saw a flash of what was on the ceiling. Dozens of cameras peeked out from gaps in the bricks, tracking them; only a single one had its light on.
Each camera was also surrounded by a matching pair of slowly spinning barrels, all of which were aimed directly at them. Loren quickly looked behind him, but the roof was clear of anything, so they wouldn’t be getting hit from behind. The lighting stopped, and the camera, the two surrounding turrets, and a decent chunk of brickwork fell to the walkway ahead of them with a clang.
“Oh shit,” Sparklite said nervously before ducking back behind the barrier.
The sound of what could only be the overlap of multiple guns firing at the concrete blocks in front of them washed through the tunnel. The sound of metal ricocheting off the walkway added to the cacophony, and pieces of brick debris fell down on them as the projectiles tore up the tunnel walls.
It was the most deafening thing he had ever heard, and even covering his ears with his hands did nothing to stop it. Sparklite wasn’t doing much better, having curled up into a ball behind the block to make herself a smaller target.
Loren thought he could almost hear her terrified voice under the unending gunfire. Pieces of the concrete were being chipped away with every second, and their layer of protection was becoming much thinner.
He would have to do something before the concrete was gone, or they were both going to die.
Loren took a deep breath, mustered all the courage he could, and then peeked over the barrier. The spinning barrels hanging from the roof were now illuminated by their flash of chemically charged gunfire.
He vanished precisely one of the spinning barrels before a series of objects torn through his face-sending him tumbling backward and onto his back on the walkway. Sparklite’s terrified scream slowly faded into a more distant but still loud moan of pleasure.
Loren stared hollowly up at the dark ceiling as his lightbulb exploded into a million pieces.