Chelsea didn't usually dream her visions. Some
prophets did, she knew, but it had never happened to her. Her typical
dreams were mercifully peaceful. This came in handy when, after hours
of ruminating and lamenting her bitter past, she would drift, softly
weeping, into a blissful slumber of forgetting, without so much as the
smallest Freudian symbol slipping into her head. You can imagine, then,
that it made her grumpy when, far too soon after her arrival in the
land of forgetting, someone abruptly knocked on her door.
Chelsea was still slightly wet on the floor, lying in the loose stuffing
from her bed. After about a second and a half of renewed consciousness,
her head began throbbing. She regretted just about her entire life at
that moment. She began to pull herself to her feet, which took far more
difficulty than she thought it would. Little bits of the stuffing clung
to her moist body. She attempted to brush them off as she grabbed her
towel and wrapped it around herself once more. Again, she heard the
knock at the door.
She looked through the peephole. She started to panic, but then she
saw that Alison was still wearing the same outfit she had been before,
nothing too fancy. Chelsea crossed to the dresser and grabbed her sword
out of her still broken scabbard. Gathering her towel around herself
tightly, she ran at the door. The sword slid soundlessly through until
the hilt thudded into the wood.
Chelsea could hear a yelp outside, then, "Jesus, Chelsea!"
"What the hell do you want, Argento?" she replied. "Get
the hell out of here!"
"Chelsea, we need your help. It's Red."
"Red doesn't want my help! Red doesn't need my help! He's the
golden boy, remember? The perfect god-damned Saint!"
"Someone's… controlling his mind, Chelsea," Argento
said. "We need your help to stop him."
Chelsea dropped her sword. It sliced down through the bottom half of
the door as it fell, gouging a line before settling into the floor. "Crap," she
muttered, picking it back out.
"Chelsea, let us in!" said Argento.
"It's not like I can beat Red, anyway," she muttered.
"What?" said Argento. "Let us in, Chelsea. I know things
haven't been going that great but you can't just leave town before things
are taken care of!"
"Why the hell not?" asked Chelsea. She shook her head gently,
as if shaking off one thought for another. "Leaving town? That's
a good idea."
Chelsea grabbed her bags and began tossing her things into them.
"What are you doing?" Argento asked.
"You heard me!" she called out.
"No, I didn't," said Argento. "This is… all right,
this is ridiculous."
Chelsea could hear a series of rapid footsteps and then Argento came
smashing through the mostly-severed door into the room. She responded
by performing a spinning kick, which connected with Argento's face as
her towel fluttered to the ground.
"Get the hell out of here!" Chelsea said.
Alison poked her head around the doorframe. Chelsea scurried to the
dresser and picked up her gun from where it lay in its broken holster.
It clicked as she flipped off the safety. "Don't you even think
about coming near me!" she said, aiming for Alison's widening eyes.
"Chelsea, calm down, please!" said Argento, scrambling to
his feet and clutching at his nose, attempting to quell the tide of
blood Chelsea's foot had called forth.
"No!" said Chelsea. "I know what this is! You're just
here to get me to help Red! I won't do it!"
"No! That's not it, Chelsea! We're…" Argento's voice
lowered quite a bit, as he appeared to grow more serious and urgent, "We're
here to help you. Red's lost his way, that's obvious now. I'm no fool.
I need to back the winning horse here, and that's you. You know I can
help you, Chelsea. You know I can. I helped Red for years."
"Ha! Back when you were competent! You were a different person
"You can think what you want, Chelsea, but I'm not. I stopped
doing what I was told, that's all, stopped marching to their drummer.
But you don't march to that beat, do you Chelsea? You need someone who
can help you do what you do best, then get the Highers to realize that
your results are worth the breach of protocol. You know I can be that
"Yeah," said Chelsea, "Right up until we save Red."
"Screw Red!" said Argento. "Red's a whiny brat! Red
has been sitting here for a year, a year! Doing nothing! Red's a waste
of my time, Red's not going to do any good in the world! You… you
Chelsea's grip on her gun slackened a bit. "Are you serious? Are
you serious or are you shitting me?"
"I am deadly serious, Chelsea. We're going to be a team."
Chelsea kept him locked in her gaze for another few moments, sizing
up the offer he'd put on the table. Eventually, she decided to go with
it. Argento had made the right choice, finally. He hadn't been liaison
to one of the top agents for years by being a fool, it made sense that
he would wise up. "All right," she said, relaxing her gun,
bringing it down to her side. The cold metal against her thigh made
her remember that she was naked. She scrambled for her bags, grabbing
some clothes and dressing. "But Alison is not part of this deal.
As soon as we put a stop to this Red nonsense, she takes him far away,
never to be seen again."
"Agreed," said Argento. "You'd better finish packing,
though. I think we're going to have to change hotels again."
Chelsea zipped up her bag and tossed it at Argento, who let go of his
nose as the baggage thumped into his chest. "Oh, wait!" she
said, lunging for the ice bucket on the floor by the television.
"I don't think you need a drink right now, Chelsea," said
Argento, from what was left of the doorway. "Time is somewhat of
The champagne bottle lying in the ice was long since empty, however,
and Chelsea gentle brushed it aside, her true goal hidden beneath it.
She shoved her hand into the ice. "I've been saving this for you," she
said to him, holding up a dripping severed finger.
Red held his breath as they dove below the tree line in just the right
spot to clear the gaping metal doorway into the ground. Yellow and Pink
landed with grace as blue deposited Red onto the ground as delicately
as he could. When Red was on solid ground, Blue slowly lowered himself
to join him.
"That was terrific, Red," said Blue. "We took out the
entire super-store without a single serious injury. That's exactly how
we'll stick it to that capitalist, imperialist swine!"
Pink pulled off her helmet, revealing herself to be a dark-haired Caucasian
woman of about thirty. "We're proud to have you on our side," she
said. "I'm Amy Hart." She stuck out her still begloved hand
to Red. He shook it vigorously.
"Thuy Kwan," said Yellow, also now with a human head. She
was clearly Asian, around the same age as Amy, but Red wasn't able to
tell what country she was from. He shook her hand as well, smiling.
Blue pulled up on his helmet next, knocking his thick wire frame glasses
askew. He straightened them and, tucking his helmet under his left arm,
extended his hand to Red. "Steve Orloske," he said. He looked
to be more in the range of forty and had a moustache with a touch of
gray in it. "It's really an honor to be working with such an incredible
"It's nothing," said Red. He supposed it was all the training
he had forgotten DI&R had put him through. "I'm just happy
to finally find myself among like-minded peers who can help me take
down the plutocratic infrastucture that has usurped our free-market
"You can certainly count on us," said Orloske.
Red looked around himself. They were in some sort of hangar, the doors
of which, the doors they had flown in through, were slowly closing themselves.
A couple of random workers in red jumpsuits began to help the Liberal
Mediators take off their flying gear and stow it in one of the four
stations about the bay. Red wondered where the fourth mediator was.
"This is quite an expensive looking setup you've got here," Red
said. "How did you get the funding?"
Amy and Thuy both looked to Steve. Steve hesitated for a moment. "I'm… sad
to say that my parents… were part of the problem. They became
rich in the rise of the corporation. Now that they are gone, I have
devoted their tainted money to the destruction of the hand that has
"A noble cause," said Red.
"A cause we would be pleased to have you join up with officially," said
"The pleasure would be all mine," said Red.
"Come, Red. Let me take you on a tour of our facilities. We have
much to show you."
"Sir! Sir!" a voice called out. A short-ish man in his mid-twenties
with dark, curly hair ran into the room, stopping in front of Steve,
catching his breath. "We… sir, we've got a visual… on
the woman who… killed Tommy…" He held out a few printouts
that appeared to be taken from a security camera of some sort. Red craned
his neck to look.
"Can't you see I'm busy, Katz? I have Mr. Coates here-"
"Chelsea!" said Red, his eyes narrowing.
Steve's eyes widened. "You know this woman?" he asked.
"Yeah, unfortunately. She still works under the corporate yolk
from which I extracted myself. You say she killed someone?"
"Yes, I'm afraid so… Tommy, our fourth Mediator. Why don't
you tell me about this woman while I show you around?"
"No problem," said Red. "It all starts with, shock of
shocks, a corporation, this one called DI&R."
"Tell me all about it."
Sobering up wasn't fun for Chelsea, but it was necessary if she wanted
to have any chance of taking Red down at all. It involved lying in her
third hotel in town thus far and trying to avoid moving for untold hours
while her body throbbed beyond the verge of pain.
When at last she emerged from her daze, she walked out of the bedroom
of the suite to find Argento and Alison had set up a base of operations
in the living room. They had laptop computers, a printer/fax machine,
and a slew of printouts scattered about.
"Welcome back," said Argento.
"Did I miss anything?" asked Chelsea.
"Just information gathering," said Argento. "We've been
sorting through a number of sources, trying to find out as much as we
can about these armored flying folk. Oh, and it seems Red's officially
linked up with them since he left us." He grabbed a printout of
a picture depicting three of the flyers of various colors carrying a
man clad in red and black. You couldn't make out his face, but it was
fairly obvious who he was, if you knew.
"That asshole," she said. "When did he start killing
Alison spoke. "They haven't, actually-"
"Shut up," said Chelsea.
"They haven't," said Argento, glancing to Alison awkwardly, "since
Red joined up with them. While we were gathering you up yesterday, Red
and company were busy destroying an entire Wal-Mart superstore without
a single casualty."
"Then they're bullshitting him. These people blew up a video store
with a couple of people in it."
"A few, actually. They are supposing them to be car bombs, but
from what you've told us, that was the plan. Those, plus Wal-Mart, CCI,
the computer pods, the attack on Circuit City that Red stopped, and
the vision Alison had that made her go crazy… It seems someone
has it out for modern technology. We think the Mall is the next most
likely target. The Mall here has a Radio Shack, an FYE, and two video
"Sounds pretty good to me. Though, hey, they didn't get Circuit
City, so they may go back for it."
"Good point, hold on," said Argento. He typed something into
his computer. A moment later a little chime rang out.
"What are you doing?" asked Chelsea, making her way around
the array of devices and papers.
"Letting Warner know what you just said," he said. "He
says it's a good point, too."
"Warner?" Chelsea shouted. "In Chicago? You're talking
to Warner about me?"
"Well, yes," said Argento. "That's… that's my
job. To connect to the corporation. How else can I get information?
I sent them that finger, we're awaiting an analysis. What… did
you think I would do with it?"
Chelsea screwed up her forehead thinking about that for a moment. "I
don't know, I just… I don't know. I don't usually keep them informed,
"I know, and let me tell you, they are thrilled to hear from me.
They like having the chance to find out how you work, they hear so little
about it aside from your results."
"Just don't bother me with their stupid orders."
"They wouldn't dream of it," said Argento. "They're
just glad to hear we have things in hand."
"What did you tell them?"
"Everything," he said. "Er, well, minus a few details.
I left out Red and Alison of course, but all about these flying things
and the attacks."
"I guess they'll have to get used to it. Hearing from us. I mean,
you can keep them posted on what we're going to do, so long as they
don't think they can tell me what to do. I mean, you know, after this.
When we finish this, and it's just you and me."
"Of course," said Argento.
"Ok," said Chelsea. She began to quietly do some stretches
as they talked. "So who do I beat the crap out of?"
"Yes, well, we don't have any, ah, leads on that front. Mostly,
we just have ideas of where they might strike next. The Mall and, as
you said, Circuit City again. Any… feelings on the matter?"
Chelsea closed her eyes and tried to clear her mind. She hadn't had
any visions of either the Mall or Circuit City since the one with Red
and the discus thing. She wasn't getting any particular 'buzz' off of
either one as she rolled them around in her mind. She quietly began
to focus on her mantra.
"I think Circuit City," said Alison. "It's popped up
in my visions a few times now. It sort of makes me feel… uneasy
just thinking about it. It's more likely."
Chelsea's eyes opened into a glare, meeting Alison's eyes instantly.
Alison looked away. "Fine," said Chelsea, clenching her jaw. "I'll
go to Circuit City, you two stake out the Mall."
"Er, that's fine," said Argento. He held out a set of car
keys. "I picked you up another rental. And take this. Call us if
you need anything." He was holding out a cell phone to her.
She reluctantly took it from him, but pledged she would not even dream
of calling until she'd taken the bastards out on her own.
"We'll head out in a few minutes," said Argento. "If
we don't see anything by," he checked his watch, "let's say,
five o'clock we'll call you, ok?"
Sure, whatever, Chelsea thought.
"Here are the plans, Sir," said Katz, handing a rolled up
paper to Red.
"Thank you, good work," said Red. He unfurled the blueprints
and began to study the layout. "Yes, yes, this is very good," he
said. "I knew I remembered seeing a door here. Look." He gestured
to a certain part of the layout. "Here, near the McDonalds, there's
an entrance to this series of back hallways and such, see? If we can
get into those, we can travel to where we need to and appear in the
stores from within, causing the people to flee outwards, get me? Instead
of chasing the people into the stores we want to blow up, we'll be chasing
them out. See, it connects to all the stores along each side. We can
chase them out, light it up, and move on to the next one."
Red had been given his own desk in his own office from which to plan
out their next attack. It was his, but there had never been less then
two other people in the room since he'd gotten there. People were so
eager to help him, to jump at his every order.
"That's great!" said Amy, "Really, I don't know how
we would have done it otherwise, people would have been killed. I mean,
we could have, could have hurt someone, really."
"Steve will love it," said Thuy.
"What will I love?" Steve asked from the doorway.
"Red's come up with a great plan," said Thuy. "We'll
take out the Mall without any casualties. It's so much less hassle to
just blow up buildings, than-"
"I've been meaning to ask you guys about that," said Red. "Those
other places, the video stores, the church, did you do those?"
"The church was an accident," said Steve, "caused in
Tommy's struggle with your friend Chelsea. The video stores, I'm afraid,
we must take credit for. We were confused, I assure you. We wanted to
strike a blow for the people against the fascist power structure, but
we made a mistake. We thought that the only way to wake the masses from
their ignorant sleep would be for them to hear their own innocent cries,
but now! Now you've shown us the way- we can destroy the power structure
on a small scale and leave the people to discover that there is, in
fact, another way then to continue to suckle at the corporate teat."
"Chelsea blew up the church?" Red asked.
"No, no, it was a stray rocket in the fight. Again, it was a mistake
we regret more than we can ever make amends for. If we could go back,
we would do things your way from the beginning. What can I say? We aren't
as skilled as you are at these planning sessions."
Red looked down at his hands on the blueprint. "I just hope you'll
try to give some sort of help to the families of the victims of your
Steve's eyes widened. "Of course," he said. "We, we'll,
we'll get right on top of that. We'll put together a list of those killed
in the blasts and contact their, their families. Anonymously, of course.
Offer them any assistance we can."
Amy and Thuy shared another glance, something Red noticed them do a
lot. He wondered why he made them so nervous.
"Speaking of Chelsea," said Steve, "I wanted to return
this to you." He took Red's sword from where he had been holding
it behind his back. "We've finished our analysis. I'm not sure
exactly how much of what we saw we completely understand, but I've got
a number of our best people working on trying to figure out a way to
"Great," Red said, taking the hilt from Steve's hand. "I
have a feeling we're going to run into trouble with her sooner or later.
It'll be nice to know we might have a way to stop her. How long do you
think they'll need?" He slipped the sword into the holster behind
him and it disappeared.
"There's no way to really know. If you hear someone shout 'Eureka',
you may want to take a look, otherwise, we can't be sure."
Red chuckled. "When do you want to move on the Mall?"
"Oh, I don't know, maybe around five thirty or so? Actually, that
was the other reason I came to see you, about that mission. I have a
surprise for you." Steve smiled, his moustache spreading a little
wider with his grin. "Come with me."
"I'm going to head topside," said Katz.
"Sure," said Steve, ushering Red out of the room.
"What is up above this complex, anyway?" Red asked. He joined
Steve in a golf cart and Steve sped them off down longish hallways leading
to the hangar.
"Just a, an office building. Nothing obtrusive. Subtle."
"We going to the hangar?"
"Yep," said Steve, the grin creeping back into his eyes.
He stopped the cart outside the door. "Go on in."
Red got out of the cart and through the archway where he found a bright
red Liberal Mediators outfit all laid out in the fourth station. It
was brand new, so beautifully clean and shining. Red ran up to it and
touched it, the smooth metal surface gliding almost frictionless under
his fingertips. Two of the red jumpsuit people were standing on either
side of it, smiling.
"You like it?" Steve said, coming into the bay.
"Of course!" said Red.
"Try it on," said Steve. "I'll show you the basics."
Alison was really beginning to hate Chelsea. She'd never done anything
to Chelsea, as far as she knew. Nothing she remembered, anyway. Chelsea
was just so incredibly hostile to her all the time. Alison wanted to
get out of Chelsea's life just as much as Chelsea wanted her gone. Alison
would be happy just going back to school and getting back to her life,
though the more complicated this whole escapade became, the less likely
it would be easy. As it was, her Lit Crit paper was due in less than
a day and she not even begun to rewrite it. No, instead of doing her
schoolwork, she was waiting for Argento to get his shoes on so they
could spend a few hours walking around the Mall looking for and signs
of sabotage. That was how she usually spent her Sundays, right?
"Whoops, hold on a second," said Argento, as the fax machine
began to whir to life.
"Come on, the Mall could have burned down five times by now," Alison
Argento shot her a look and leaned over the fax machine, watching the
paper come through. "It's the finger," he said, pulling the
first sheet free. "Thomas David Frank. More to follow. Ah, they're
also faxing all the available information on Mr. Frank, here."
"Is this going to help us?" said Alison. "What are we
looking for on that? I mean, if we don't know this guy, and we don't,
how will it help?"
"Patience, Alison. Not all of us can have their information hand
delivered into their brains, some of us have gotten quite skilled at
research." He took the second page off the machine. "For example,
here we have more information on Mr. Frank. He's originally from California,
and he… oh, my…"
"We have to go, right now!"
"What? Where? Why?"
"Circuit City!" Argento cried. "Chelsea may be in grave