Chapter 13 – The Streets of Ottawa

When I answered Spinner’s call, I found myself looking down a clean Ottawa thoroughfare under a darkening sky. We were moving at a walking pace, and occasionally I saw a green gloved hand wave back at a passing pedestrian or motorist. If Spinner’s headgear was electronic, it made sense it would include an outward-facing cam for team coordination.

“This is Delphic,” I sent.

Spinner’s voice came at a low volume and crisp tone: a sharp contrast from his broad and jovial mannerisms earlier. “Spinner here. I’m on my gear. Do you copy me clearly?”

“Yes. It appears you’re walking from the direction of the hospital campus to the scene. Is that correct?”

“I am. I wanted to see if there were any trails coming from the hospital, but none still visible. And we know the one biker guy did a speed run back after the hit.”

“I can confirm that Velo carried Lamarck’s body at accelerated speeds. Can I ask what trails you are looking for?”

“Right, probably nobody’s filled you in. It’s not something we want to go public.” He waited at a light before crossing the street. “I can sense power use by other supers, and if the super is actively using a power while they move, I can follow it. The trail lingers for a while.”

He reached the intersection and looked around. “Yeah, there’s a very faint trail here that moves off that way,” pointing across the street in the direction of the the shots were fired. “Carca-whatever, who ran after the sniper. I bet that was him.” The view raised as he looked up, centering on the rooftops. “Oh yeah, sniper was definitely up there.”

“What is it you see?”

“There’s like a blob centered right at the corner, sticks out into the space over the sidewalk. I’ve seen it before with area powers, they come in a bubble.” He shrugged. “If the guy was firing bullets from there, you could probably see them once they left the bubble. He might be able to like, stick some of his power on something to keep it hidden longer, but I doubt it would survive getting shot through a gun.”

I started to type a response, but I stopped when I realized the image was moving toward the building very rapidly. At first I thought Spinner might be zooming in on the sniper’s vantage, but shaky angle and changing perspective quickly confirmed that he was running at a startling pace.

Traffic was fortunately clear as Spinner moved into the road and then lifted off the ground. The building dropped below and rushed directly underneath and I heard a soft curse over the line. The next noise was a loud thud, and it was hard to tell if the shuddering visual that followed was the super or the building.

“My… ah… my aim was off,” came Spinner’s panting admission. “I meant to grab onto the edge but I overshot.” He took in the gravel surface and swept his gaze carefully across the while roof. After a couple of minutes, he looked off toward the north and raised a hand.

“Flight,” he pronounced. “Came and left from that way.”

“Can we follow?” I asked.

The scene moved with a sideways shake. “Trail’s gone within about two dozen yards. It doesn’t stick in the air.”

“Does that mean something changed regarding their power usage?”

“Nah, the trail always does this when it’s too far away from solid ground,” he explained. “I figure it’s like a scent: sticks to buildings or streets for a while, but only a couple of hours at most over air or water.” He sounded like he had just about recovered his breath, and up on the roof he was less concerned about staying quiet. “The good news is, I have the scent now.”

Spinner seemed to enjoy the questions, so I kept them coming. “You can recognize trails from different powers?”

“Yeah,” he boasted. “Each trail is unique to a super – I can always tell a super that I’ve seen before.” The camera view was across the tops of many buildings in the creeping dusk. “When the team –” he cut himself off as another voice, or a tinny echo of one, cut across the channel.

“Spinner, this is Ottawa HQ. Can you confirm your position at Fifth and Elsevier?”

“That is my position, affirmative.” His tone was louder, clear and crisp in the cold air.

“We have an active pursuit heading south on West Fourth Street,” continued the voice. “Five suspects on foot.” The image was moving rapidly again; this time it looked like Spinner was moving to the edge of the roof to drop down from it. I could see very little as he made his abbreviated climb.

“Supers?” I heard Spinner ask, and immediately after, the line went dead.

I was already centering myself to View when an invitation came in for Delphic to join the OST operations channels. I knew from my work earlier in the day that they used a very similar system to the US super teams, and within only a couple of minutes I had video feeds for three deployed supers, as well as a team map with an approximate location for the suspects. They had last been seen heading south on Fourth Street, and unless they doubled back, they would encounter Spinner approaching from the south several minutes before either of Carcajou or Fray (a third of the way across town in a police van, sirens wailing), could get there.

“Delphic, this is Ottawa HQ.” The woman’s voice, low and with a pronounced Irish Canadian accent, was much clearer now as it was no longer getting to me indirectly through Spinner’s headset. “We have a super incursion. Five suspects are carrying valuable property looted from nearby.”

“Just the one super, though, right?” Spinner’s voice was no clearer than before but he was no longer making any effort to stay quiet; a heavy puff came over the line intermittently as he strained to move at speed.

“One confirmed,” the woman from HQ corrected. “Reports say five figures. Three men are carrying stolen items, a fourth man is armed, and a woman has used force projection on both officers and vehicles. You should be able to see them up ahead.”

While Spinner had ran north down the sidewalk, I noticed that no cars or people had passed him heading south. The reason was clear as soon as he rounded a bend in the road and his camera showed, still three blocks away, a group of five figures running rapidly toward him. Behind the fugitives, on both sides of the street, were the bulks of cars tossed onto their sides or laying on their tops. Several vehicle bodies blended with smashed or shattered store fronts, and no people were visible anywhere other than the suspects themselves.

The voice from HQ came over the line, “Spinner, you may engage at your readiness. Lethal force is not, repeat not, authorized at this time. Again, authorization for lethal force is negative.”

Since I had not been expecting to work directly with a super team during the investigation, I had not looked into the details of Canada’s somewhat notorious “no kill” policy. I had read that it was one of the ways they justified using supers at all: that a skilled super team could bring down criminals without killing or crippling them, and with less danger to themselves than the constabulary would face.

“Acknowleged,” was Spinner’s answer. He had stopped while still two blocks away and seemed to be studying the people approaching him. All five were dressed the same in heavy black winter clothes with black ski masks over their faces. A man with a large sack over his back kept pace with an empty-handed woman ahead of the other three men.

The group came to a stop halfway down the next block, with an intersection and a number of parked cars still lining the road between them and Spinner. “Powers on both the two in front,” Spinner said. He was on the sidewalk, and as he spoke he began walking forward at a leisurely pace. “Nothing yet from the other three.”

As Spinner continued his gradual advance, the man and woman designated as supers were in heated discussion. Spinner reached the intersection. The man with the gun – the one other than the woman not holding a loot bag – stepped up beside the other two and pointed his weapon at the costumed hero.

I didn’t want to miss what was happening, but at the same time I wasn’t providing any value watching the interaction in the present. I brought my View up at the roof and quickly moved north and east to get my eyes on the suspects while at the same time rewinding to where I could hopefully get more illuminating data.

As the thieves came into sight and I let time run normally, I saw the woman confronting a blockade of three police cruisers as another pulled up from a side street. Five uniformed officers stood among the cruisers with weapons drawn.

I moved my View in closer on the five. The two in front – the woman and the man with by far the largest bag, those Spinner had pointed to as having powers – were more than a head shorter than the other three and seemed older as well, the worn stance and movements of someone with too many years riding their bones. Rays of pale blue shot out from the woman’s outstretched hands to the cruiser forming the middle of the blockade. As the cops cleared away from this car, it slid forward and then off to the side where the fourth car was braking to a halt.

One door was already open on the side vehicle as the woman aligned her captured car between herself and the new arrival, but the door closed without ejecting any human passengers in response to the super’s power use. A pulse of bright blue came out of both her hands and ran down the rays; the car slid rapidly across the street toward the other and collided hard with it.

Even as the cars collided, the group of five were on the move toward the empty space in the middle of the blockade, which the police had (wisely) abandoned. Putting out both arms again, the woman stood for a few heartbeats as another set of rays hit the vehicle on her side and a pulse came out half a second later, sending the cruiser end-over-end away and towards the curb. A minute later, the other leader put his free hand against the remaining car and shoved hard to the side; it slid fifteen feet away.

I really wanted to know where these two came from and what was in those bags, but the little I had seen might allow me to provide at least some advice only if the encounter wasn’t already over – plus, just then, three gunshots echoed over the open channel. I dropped my View.

While I was under, the scene had not been static. Spinner was looking out from behind a parked car while the gun guy and the beam woman had spread and were both aiming in his direction. The other three, the ones carrying bags, had doubled back north to, based on the angle they were running, turn east down a sidestreet.

I heard a loud expletive from Spinner as he suddenly dropped to the ground and rolled under the car. A flash of blue illuminated the dark underside for an instant as the civilian sedan was blasted up and behind the supine super. As it left he was already moving to a crouch and up, spinning sideways as he launched forward and then springing back just after. The camera angle changed rapidly and seemingly randomly as he moved.

It was nauseating to watch. After checking to see that the other supers were still three more minutes out, I dove back under, pushing my View to the present and the new vantage as quickly as I was able.

He wasn’t much easier to follow from a third-person vantage. He mostly stayed low to the ground, twisting and sprinting in different directions, spinning and ducking at odd angles. He occasionally made a sudden back flip or forward leap but always into some spring or roll that set him in a different direction.

Three blue bursts had passed harmlessly into the ground as the woman tried to track him, and one had hit another parked car pushing it off the road. None had hit Spinner.

“I think he’s got a tracker in his visor,” I heard a different woman’s voice say. I presumed it was Fray, riding to the scene. “He’s waiting for a clear solution to put them down but he’s not getting one.”

Hold on man, we’re almost there!” That voice reverberated over the channel at surprising volume; Carcajou was ready to fight.

Spinner didn’t respond, but HQ did. “Based on the suspect’s power range, we will be dropping you half a klick north on Fourth Street to reinforce Spinner.” The voices seemed surreal, being so removed from the intense battle in front of my sight.

“What about the other three?”

“We are setting up another blockade to try to confront them. No indication what the other super does.”

I dropped my View again and quickly responded. “Enhanced strength,” my synthetic voice said over the comm. “He pushed a police vehicle away with one hand earlier.”

“Who’s this?” Carcajou’s voice came across as more of a bellow than a roar this time.

“Delphic is supporting,” responded HQ. “Any other intel to share?”

I thought for a minute about what I had seen the woman do with the vehicles, and the undamaged street.

“Confirm, please. Officers were hit with concussive blasts but all survived. Is that correct?”

A momentary pause before the answer. “That’s right.”

“Then her force is mass-proportional rather than mass-invariant.”

I got no response over the channel, so I continued. “Spinner is stronger than her blast.”

I heard a small huff that I realized was what the woman in HQ used as a scoffing sound. “She blasted a car into another car. That’s thousands of pounds of force.”

“It’s thousands of pounds of metal,” came my reply. “There aren’t dents in any of the vehicles where the blasts hit. And there are no cracks or other marks in the street where the blasts missed.”

Another gunshot rang out, but it was impossible to get a fix on the action from only Spinner’s erratic perspective. The line was silent several seconds, other than Spinner’s labored breathing and occasional slaps on the pavement. HQ broke the silence: “The other super is charging the blockade. We are diverting Caracajou and Fray to their position.”

There was rumble-filled moan over the line… it was Carcajou and he didn’t sound happy. “What does HE do then?!” There was no confusion about who “HE” was.

“Delphic?” One word from HQ, and then silence on the channel. Apparently my intel (read: “guess”) was as good as a plan now.

“Spinner, can you get to her by soaking one blast?”

“Yep.” An immediate response with no hesitation.

“If you can somehow jump towards her will your full strength, that should be enough to overcome her blast force.”

But by the time the synthetic voice said the word “enough,” Spinner had launched himself off the street curb closest to the woman and opposite the gunman. His visor cam got a clear shot of her hard eyes and savage grimace as the intense blue light pulsed out from her hands, and Spinner’s forward momentum reduced noticeably but not nearly enough.

Even at sub-second windows, Spinner’s acrobatics were remarkable. His launch had been slightly off-center and with sufficient torque to allow him to brush past the woman’s shoulder and land an axe kick solidly in her back. She went face-down with an audible “thump” and didn’t try to get back up.

Spinner landed, crouched according to the camera angle, and looked up at the gunman. He waited.

The gunman dropped his weapon and hit his knees.

A few blocks away, a small woman in a red and orange jumpsuit stepped out of a van and into chaos. Watching from her cam, and Carcajou’s just behind her, I could see a lone figure in black pounding repeatedly on an already battered cruiser, then shoving the vehicle out of the way to get at the men behind. Occasional gunfire rang out even as the cops backed away from their vehicles.

At the heroes’ feet were the bloody forms of the other two men, and it wasn’t hard to see what had happened. The men had confronted the blockade, banking on an apparently bulletproof super to drive the cops away like last time. The cops had eventually opened fire – and while the leader was bulletproof, the other two were not. What might have started out with some semblance of a plan was now just a violent rush in blind anger.

Fray turned back to Carcajou for only a second, long enough to say, “I got the target, you help the civvies.” She wore an orange mask over her nose and mouth with oversized teeth painted over it; the top half of her face was visible under a hood. Fray had bulky gloves that extended up her forearms and several pieces of equipment hung from a utility belt and netting on her back.

Carcajou’s camera showed him kneeling to examine one of the two injured suspects while Fray moved forward quickly and, depressing a button on one wrist, shot taser leads directly into the attacking man’s back. He gave a shout of pain as electricity discharged, and he whirled around on his new attacker. Fray continued to advance, launching a set of taser leads from her other wrist which immediately began pumping the man with further volts.

The super was starting to look unsteady on his feet, but he charged forward, with arms out to grab Fray. She danced backward and grabbed each of his wrists in one of her hands. As soon as both hands were touching the man, there was a blue glow at both points of contact; the man tensed up, spasming, his eyes glazed. After several seconds, Fray let the man go and he fell limply to the ground.

Carcajou had produced some medical bandaging from somewhere and was competently wrapping up bullet wounds to reduce blood loss. Now that the violence was over, police approached to assist the first aid efforts and take custody of the criminals. A similar bustle was ramping up at Spinner’s location, and the supers stayed at each scene long enough to make sure the thieves with powers were adequately restrained.

It was at Spinner’s site where the news crews first arrived. The woman had awakened by this time but didn’t seem inclined to give the police any more trouble. Spinner had directed that her arms be tightly bound behind her back. Removing her mask revealed a wrinkled face, dark and dangerous eyes set within deep copper skin. She glared at everything with naked contempt.

When the woman saw the first news crew approach, the camera recording the upended cars and smashed storefronts along the road, she stepped towards them; her police attendants stayed alongside but made no attempt to stop her. Spinner hung back. I suspected he was as interested as anyone else to hear what she had to say.

The reporter kept glancing over her shoulder as she approached the woman, narrating into her hand mic. “This is 17 News Ottawa, first on the scene downtown where a Super Battle has taken place. The devastation –”

But the woman had waited long enough, and she began yelling at the reporter, who quickly moved the mic into her face to catch her words clearly. “They wouldn’t give them back! They’re people, not objects. You can’t study people. It’s grave-robbing! They profane our grandparents. They make us all like animals!”

She took a breath, then, giving the reporter time to ask, “So you did this?”

“No!” she shouted. “They did this, the government. All we did was take back what was ours. What had been stolen, that’s all.” She shook her head, and some of her long grey hair flew into her face. “We didn’t hurt anybody, we weren’t going to hurt anybody. They were ours! They stole what was ours. We took it back! Didn’t hurt anybody.”

The reporter asked, “Who are you?” but the woman didn’t respond. She was crying now, although her eyes were still no less hard or hateful.

A second news crew arrived at the same time that a police wagon pulled up, and both took footage of Spinner helping uniformed police load the two bound figures into the back of the vehicle. Two microphones were thrust in his face as he turned away from the van.

“17 News Ottawa. What happened here?” The second crew seemed happy to let the first reporter ask the questions.

“Crime suspects fleein’ on foot.” I noticed that Spinner’s Boston accent was far thicker and broader again in front of the cameras. “Five of ’em, two supers. One of ’em starts throwing cars around, so they called OST in to take care of it.”

“Are you a new member of Ottawa Super Team? What’s your name?”

“Yeah no, I’m visiting from out of town. Spinner, New England Super Team. Boston.” Although I was still watching through Spinner’s own camera, I was certain his smile was at full brightness.

“You took down both those supers by yourself?”

“Nah, just the one super here. Fray and Carcajou took down the other when the perps split up.” I saw his glove gesture east. “And anyway it wasn’t just me, I had Delphic helping me out.”

I was not expecting to get any public acknowledgement, as I was seldom mentioned by other supers in front of the press. I felt an upwelling of pride; it was nice to be acknowledged, despite the possible ramifications of more exposure.

“You and Delphic fought together against those two?”

“Sort of, yeah. Delphic is like a digital hero or whatever. He analyzed the situation and, like, figured out how I could take them out.” Projected clearly to the cameras: “Thanks, buddy! Couldn’ta done it withoutcha!”

The voice from HQ came over the channel. “Spinner, please report to headquarters for a debriefing.”

“Gotta go!” The super didn’t take any time for pleasantries. The motion of the camera suggested an abrupt pivot and all-out sprint with an impressively superhuman jump across the nearby intersection.

Checking the other scene, three ambulances had been called and three figures were loaded in on gurneys. I saw Fray climb in with the super, restrained with reinforced metal bands across his limbs and torso, while Carcajou climbed back up into the police wagon to be taken back to HQ.

From Carcajou’s camera, I saw all three of the EMT vehicles leave the scene. Only two ran their sirens.

It didn’t take long for me to confirm that, yes, of the two men who went down with bullet wounds, only one survived. I took a little more time to see what they had been up to. The five of them had broken into a lab facility associated with the University of Ottawa and emptied a bunch of specimen cases. They had loaded all of the bones and tools they could find into their bags.

I believed that woman, whatever her name was. These were clearly First Nations people trying to reclaim what they saw as their own. I didn’t see any greed or bloodlust in what they had done: just a desire to have those bones back, to set them to rest where they belonged.

But whatever their motives, they had put people’s lives in danger, even shot at Spinner. They would surely go to jail for a long time. For the two supers, it was likely to be the rest of their lives. I couldn’t deny this was justice, but it didn’t feel like there was any clear good in it, either.

The whole debacle was an unexpected and exhausting ending to a long day. I confirmed the timing on my electrical repair jobs for the next morning and went upstairs to make myself a late dinner.

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