“Delphic,” the email began. “You have yet to fulfill your side of the bargain. I understand your reluctance, but I can no longer wait for you to make a decision.”
It was unusual for the Doc to do this sort of thing by writing rather than verbally, but I had avoided returning his calls for nearly a week now. Despite the threatening tone, I didn’t really blame him for being upset. He had been counting on the hospital info, which I had agreed to provide. I didn’t know the shelf life of this ‘vaccine’ of his.
“If I have not received the agreed-upon data within 24 hours, consider our business relationship terminated. That means I will no longer take your interests into account when I deploy agents in and around North America. You will likely find the results of this, at a minimum, uncomfortable for you and your remaining allies.
“As a reminder that we are allies, I have enclosed correspondence between our mutual antagonist, Ms. Norberg, and a financial firm that she contracted to buy up the debt to your start-up, Delphic Inc. This came to my attention early enough that I was able to prevent the transaction, but Ms. Norberg is not one to give up easily. Frankly, you have too many enemies to afford to lose a friend.
“I can say from personal experience that a mistake can have lifelong repercussions. Don’t make one here. -Doc”
I stood from my desk, the dread sitting deep. Twenty-four hours to either give Doc the keys to the kingdom or lose my single most powerful contact. And it wasn’t even the most time-sensitive situation I had to deal with on this dreary Sunday.
My call to Whisper connected with an image very similar to that of a few days’ prior: the sitting room of an impossibly large New York townhouse, occupied by superheroes. The roster had changed: while Whisper herself was still supported by Blue Scarab, neither Flawless Form nor Enki were there. Spinner perched on the edge of a recliner, a half-empty juice glass in one hand. Two other women, neither of them in costume or bearing obvious physical signs of their powers, looked to their hostess with patient unease.
“Delphic, good.” When Whisper spoke, her voice did not match her namesake; it seemed even louder and more confident than during our planning from the day before. “That’s everyone who can be here. Enki and FF are on call at HQ for the day, hopefully keeping an eye open there. Liberty and Peregrine haven’t been seen downtown yet. If we wait until the dinner itself, we should have a minimum of two hours to get in and out.”
“Sooner is better,” Spinner commented; it sounded like something he had mentioned to them before. “There’s no telling how much time it will take to subvert security or overcome the building’s defenses. If we can be assured that Liberty is indisposed -“
“We can’t, though.” One of the women that I didn’t know spoke up; she had the clipped cadence of a native New Yorker. “That’s the whole point of waiting until the event: we know that Harmony is somewhere that she can’t easily leave from.”
“If we’re detected, she’ll take the social hit and come for us anyway,” Spinner insisted. “She’s done it before. The separation between her and Liberty is a pretext – half the city elite already know.”
“Spinner,” I typed to have Delphic say, “Are you speaking with predictive knowledge about how Liberty will react?”
“No, sorry,” he frowned. “It took most of 4cast’s juice to manage the -” he looked around and swallowed “- something, ah, else he was working on. He can’t give us much about how it’s going to go down.”
I breathed a sigh of relief when Spinner managed to stop himself from mentioning the other matter. 4cast had helped us put a contingency together should Liberty (or, worse, Peregrine) get wind of what we were doing in time to try something. It wasn’t an ideal solution; we’d much rather find the evidence on the Norberg Capital servers and get out without seeing them. But I was glad we had a plan in place either way.
4cast himself had sent me a message earlier explaining the matter, with a strong request that I not mention it to the rest of Whisper’s group. Whisper herself knew, as did Spinner. But, at least according to 4cast, the chances of things getting back to Liberty were too high if anyone else was told. Also, the rest of the plan didn’t hinge on it.
This was decidedly not my preferred way to run a team. The idea of meting out different levels of information to different team members, of leaving allies in the dark on salient facts, rubbed me the wrong way. But, in the end, I accepted that it wasn’t my call to make. These people weren’t here at my request; they and I had agreed to back Whisper and find justice for Refraxx.
“Everyone here,” Whisper nodded to the four others, “will suit up for field work. Make sure you’ve left the NYST comms at home; we don’t want to trip any alerts they’ve set up.”
I interjected, “Your private comms may have more latency issues and occasionally drop your signal. The super team electronics can demand priority on the network, and I can’t duplicate that without risking detection.”
“How do villains do it?” Bronze Scarab asked. “I’ve never heard them have those sort of issues.”
“More than once we’ve shut down portable signal boosters, usually in, like, a big work van,” Spinner explained before I could type a response. “In fact, that’s tipped us off at least twice that something was going down. Delphic’s right not to risk it.”
Whisper tapped on her mobile, bringing up a floor diagram of the Norberg Capital offices. “The secure server isn’t in the IT server room for the company; it’s in a closet just off Harmony’s office. The windows are sealed, and all the ventilation is filtered, but there’s a straight shot up the elevator shaft.” She gestured down to the table in front of her where electronics were set out. “One device to override the elevator doors, one to open office doors, and a final device to quickly image the drive. Thirty minutes at most.”
“I don’t like having you enter the building alone, but yeah, none of us have an easy way to duplicate your ability,” Spinner frowned. “But if anything happens, I should be able to reach your position in less than a minute.”
“By shattering a window,” the same unknown woman pointed out. “Likely triggering every alarm in the place.”
“Which is why it’s not Plan A,” Whisper reminded her. “If everything goes according to plan, I’ll be able to do all of this myself with Delphic in my ear. When things go wrong,” she spread her arms, “that’s when I’ll be grateful that my friends are nearby.”
“If we’re doing this,” Bronze Scarab said, “it’s time to suit up and head out, since it will be at least 20 minutes to actually get to the NC building. Go or no go?”
“Go,” Whisper said immediately.
“Yeah, it’s time,” Spinner agreed. “Go.”
“Go.” “Go.” The two unnamed women answered at nearly the same time.
“Go,” Bronze Scarab echoed. “Delphic?”
Despite all the planning, it all seemed too fast. I could see a hundred ways this could go wrong. But it was the best way – possibly the only way – to find enough on Lady Liberty to take her down. There really was only one answer.