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|The flashing gumballs made an odd contrast to the afternoon sun as I dropped downward out of the sky, landing gently by the front fender of the lead car grouped in front of a dilapidated old storefront. A willowy, Nordic-featured woman came forward out of the officers grouped behind them, her plainclothes a marked contrast to the tight blue of the others.
“Supercub, I presume,” she said, offering a quick and perfunctory hand. “Detective Nielson, SFPD. Glad you could help us.”
“That’s why Superbear and I are here, Detective,” I said, scanning the area, trying to get a good glimpse of who was inside. She coughed; I automatically looked her direction, then turned a ruddier red when I failed to turn off my vision power in time.
She smiled a crooked smile at my blush, then snapped back to business. “Do you see anything?”
“Not much, I’m afraid,” I said, quickly turning back to the building. “There seems to be a lot of lead in there – old pipes, insulation, what looks like eight layers of paint. It’s too hazy to get a good idea.”
She grimaced. “That’s not much help. We’ve been getting reports of odd activity around this building for the past week – noises, strange odors, lights going off and on up and down the block, that sort of thing. I was just assigned to investigate – but then we got a call today. Frantic voice, sounded like a teen playing a prank, screaming he was being held hostage.”
She looked over at the broken-down storefront, glass broken, hazy with dust. “We got about ten seconds worth of call – enough to trace the location. Very garbled – the only clear thing we got was something about Eddie.” Her expression darkened as she saw my jaw harden, breath suddenly catch in my chest. “Supercub – what is it?”
“This just got seriously personal, Detective,” I growled. “I have a missing friend named Eddie. If he’s in there –“
“He may be in danger,” she said, a flash of concern crossing her face. “We haven’t been able to figure out what’s going on – all the entrances appear to be barricaded and for some reason, our electronic listening devices can’t pick up anything. We don’t know who, what, how many –“
“I guess I’ll have to find out,” I said, quickly lifting off, shooting around the blind side of the structure……there…..an open—WOAH, I said, pulling my fingers back as I felt an electrical tingle. Mild to me, but to anyone else who tried that…..my mind raced as I found the hotwire, quickly soldering a short circuit with pressure and heat vision. Gingerly I climbed through the opening, feeling the hairs on my arms stand on end. This building is one giant freaking toaster, I grimaced, carefully floating over the floor, seeing the wires strung along its length. Slowly I came up to an overhang…..the upstairs ending, providing an unobstructed view to the floor…….and….Eddie sitting over in the corner!
Instantly I was right beside him. “All right you bastards, this is too much!” I yelled, shielding him with my body. “You mess with my friends, you mess with—“
“It’s OK, Supercub, it’s OK,” Eddie said in monotone, his expression vibrating a deep chord of danger inside me as he looked at me calmly. “Everything’s fine. I’m just standing up for myself, like you told me to do.”
“What do you mean, you’re….” my voice trailed off as I looked around….my heart catching up in my throat as I saw one….two….three…..four prone forms sprawled out on the floor…bodies wrapped in wire….ohmigod…the—the bullies! “Eddie, you didn’t –“
“No, Supercub,” Eddie responded lifelessly, pausing…..”not yet, anyway.” His eyes bored into mine, a horrifying mixture of desperation and don’t-care burning inside them. “It happened again….they came after me, beat me up…..but then I remembered what you said….they’re nothing but scum who don’t deserve to live.”
His words ripped through my chest like a bullet. “Eddie, I didn’t mean—“
“So I set all this up. This place sits on top of the junction box for the whole block, so it has plenty of power. No one ever comes in, so it was perfect for me to experiment,” he droned tonelessly, his recitation a cruel mockery of his usual enthusiastic bubble. “All I had to do was lure them here, stun them—“ “Eddie….no….you can’t do this,” I said, almost in shock. “You can’t kill these guys – they--”
“Made my life a living hell!” he flared, his voice cracking. “They treat me like shit, beat the crap out of me. You said I should stand up for myself – well, I’m doing it!”
“Eddie, you kill these guys, you’re a murderer,” I stuttered, hammering away, my super-strength useless against an emotional wall built of years of abuse. “You’ll go to prison, you’ll—“
“Why should I care?” he spat back. “I can’t live like this – hiding out, having to take back ways, looking over my shoulder. There’s no other way to get rid of them.”
I squared my shoulders and started toward him. “Eddie, I hate to do this, but if you won’t –“
“NO!” he screamed, holding up a remote. “One step closer and these guys are DEAD.” His face twisted in rage. “You LIED to me. You’re sticking up for these JERKS. You’re no better than they are.” His voice rose to a fever pitch. “No one cares. No one FUCKING CARES about me!”
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