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    "Hey! Bitch!" he yelled after us.
    She was still alive; that sound had been her windpipe collapsing. I didn't feel confident about doing an emergency tracheotomy with a Swiss Army Knife, and Mt. Auburn Hospital was only 45 seconds away at my top speed. Didn't have time to call ahead, just dove through the bay doors into the emergency room entrance. They were only startled for a moment, then the room exploded into action.
    "What's the story?" someone asked.
    "Crushed trachea." I waited tensely while the paramedics went to work.

[Aside: Everybody Else]

    "Excuse me," a voice said behind me.
    "Hi, I'm Pilar Soma, I'm with WAMT."
    I sighed forbearingly. "Yes?" At least she didn't have a cameraman with her. Her arm had been bandaged; apparently she'd been in the field most of the day.
    "Can I ask what just happened?"
    "No." Not until we knew if she was going to live and her family had been notified, at any rate.
    "Does it have anything to do with the rest of the events today, or is this just something you came across?"
    "We don't know yet," I lied. "We'll update you as soon as we have a chance." After a moment I added, "Look, I'm sure you've had just as long a day as we have, but—"
    "Is that a new costume?"
    I blinked. "Yes, yes it is."
    "Can you tell us who designed it?"
    I gave her a look of pure disbelief. I mean, I'm certainly willing to give Pierre a mention on the news, he did good work, but was this the time?
    She persisted, "If you're not going to talk about what just happened, anything new on the rumors of the romance between you and Thunderbolt?"
    "Don't you have anything important to do?" I appealed.
    "Interview you."
    "Interviewing me right now is not important. Excuse me," I snapped, ignoring the rest of her questions in favor of finding a doctor. I was relieved to hear that the girl was going to make it, and decided to check in with Scott.
    "Hello," he chirped.
    I heard mayhem in the background, and hoped that it wasn't happening in the Blobcave. "Hi, this is Needle. Sounds like you're busy."
    "Do you remember where the old TECH base where I was built was?"
    "Sure, a building fell on me there. I always remember those."
    "I'm told that there's a fight going on between Rue Morgue, some idiot, a giant Don Vincent which is probably Silverblood, an unconscious Phoenix Talon, and Thunderbolt. I'm a little busy, but I should be heading over there in a couple of seconds, but you might like to get a start."
    "Shit," I sighed wearily. "Okay." I looked back at the doctor who'd given me the update. "Guys, I have to go, put a guard on her room. Many, many guards, in case he comes back, insubstantial assassins. I gotta go, there's a fight going on." Was this ever going to end?

[Aside: Everybody Else]

    By the time I got there things were pretty much over; Silverblood was flying away, with someone on its back. There was some light from the news chopper, and from the fires burning on the armored man lying on the ground. Phoenix Talon would be out of things for a while; Thunderbolt looked annoyed with the world as he brushed himself off.
    "What the fuck happened?" I asked. "Where are they going?"
    "We're coming down to talk with members of the Revolution, since we've decided against following the robot," the reporter in the chopper announced.
    "What do you think?" Thunderbolt asked me.
    "That's very helpful. Is Don Vincent controlling it, or what?"
    "Only in your happiest dream," he snapped.
    "Hi, it's Arnold Chang from WAMT news, would you care to tell us—" He paused as we both glared at him; energy crackling around Thunderbolt's hand suggested that he was not in the mood for this.
    A moment later Scott showed up. "There doesn't seem to be a giant Don Vincent," he observed. "What happened?"
    "I've been trying to get him to tell me," I replied, going over to try and wake up Talon.
    "Mind Lazer's in control now," Thunderbolt finally told us.
    "How did that happen?!" Scott wanted to know. "Stop stalling, talk. We've only got so long to catch up to the giant thing."
    "What happened?" Talon asked, coming around and climbing slowly back to his feet; he looked like nine kinds of hell.
    "Blitzkrieg put some kind of control module in him, and Don Vincent got wiped away. I could have stopped him, but...."
    Phoenix Talon groaned.
    "It's okay." I patted Thunderbolt on the back. "You didn't know." Our days are filled with such mistakes. "Well, I guess we'd better go after it, then."
    Scott checked Blitzkrieg; he didn't appear to be dead, although he probably wasn't in good shape in there. We got the smoldering armor off him while Thunderbolt described the module that had gone into Silverblood. Scott wasn't quite certain—it sounded kind of like Plovian technology, but it might also be very advanced Terran tech. Like the guns, a strange melding. He guessed that it was a variant of something the Plovian pilots had used, a personality engram that would allow the ship to function with a virtual pilot while the real one spent the trip in suspended animation. So it wasn't Mind Lazer, but a copy of Mind Lazer. Silverblood had enough power from the batteries to keep going for a while, but he certainly wasn't going to make it to Germany in the dark without stopping somewhere.
    "So, about this helicopter...." Scott gave the news crew a meaningful look.
    "Hang on just a minute." Chang dropped down to be closer to the action, now that it was over. "I haven't even been recording any of this, I know that want all this to be private and stuff...."
    "What?" I prompted testily.
    "I just got word from the station, apparently there's been some sort of jailbreak on the Wuxia SWAT team."
    "We'll be borrowing your helicopter. Bye." I floated up to evict their pilot.
    "Um, can we at least stay in back?" Chang pleaded. "So we're not stuck here?"
    "We'll send somebody out to get you. You don't want to be anywhere near a Wuxia jailbreak, trust me," I told him.
    Scott got on the phone to Reilly to find out "if there was any point to us showing up at that Wuxia jailbreak."
    "Keep moving!" was the response. "However fast you can get there, Lord knows. It's on the television right now for crying out loud."
    "We just commandeered a news copter."
    We watched developments on the monitor in the cockpit. Say what you like about WAMT, their news corps is dedicated to the point of suicidal.
    "It looks as if two of the members of the group have flown away, leaving other ones here," Meyers reported. "They're working their way out of the restraints right now, I'm not certain what sort of a power level they're operating at."
    None of us could believe that we were about to go against these guys for what, the third time in one day? Fourth? Chang Yen ripped the last of her restraints off.
    "One of them seems to have disappeared," Meyers said—she does show up on film, though, that's good to know. I tried to coax more speed from the helicopter as Yeh Cha clambered out of the truck and looked around with a deep, vicious growl. Lights appeared in the near distance.
    "Yen Chu Hsia, I knew you would—" he started to say. The pickup truck never slowed down until impact; Yen went rolling over the top as the truck slewed to a halt and the door opened. J.T. sprang out with a harpoon in one hand and pinned him to the hood through the shoulder.
    We cheered enthusiastically, relieved to see him still alive.
    "Now that's fuckin' hysterical," he remarked. "Now then." He threw a couple of grenades into the back of the van. "That ought to take care of them, nothing like some airborne jellyfish toxin." He'd been in one place too long, jumped and rolled over the truck's hood even as Chang Yen slashed down at him. J.T. opened the cab's other door and reached inside for something. We could see the ninja flying silently into position again; he seemed to be counting. "Okay, now," he muttered to himself, and threw something into the air. A dark blur hit the top of the truck and leaped at her. "I figured if Scott could see you, animals would be able to see you as well," he told her. "And while I can't see you," he hit her, "I can see Newton just fine!" He hit her again, the cat hanging onto her scalp with all twenty claws as she folded up.
    "Never say anything bad about my cat ever again!" I crowed at Phoenix Talon as we came down. "J.T., nice to see you!"
    "Oh, hi," he replied casually. "I don't think they'll be any trouble from here on in. I broke into your base thinking that there might be some weapons there that I could use against them, but the base caught on fire, so I just got your cat out, I hope that's all right."
    "No, it's not," Talon growled.
    "I don't want to hear about it," I told him, cuddling our furry little hero as his fur slowly subsided from its enraged fluff.

[Aside: Elsewhere]

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© 2001 Rebecca J. Stevenson