First time reading? Start at the beginning here.
The worst part was not knowing what the hell was going on. Moreen had heard an almighty crash a few minutes ago. Everyone in the office had. It had shaken her desk, jostling the pens and pencils in their holder. Harris had taken one look at Moreen, said “I’ll check it out,” and dashed off.
She hadn’t seen him since.
Moreen couldn’t sit. She stood by her desk, watching the office doorway intently for Harris to run back through it. Around her, everyone was talking in hushed, nervous tones. She’d put the room on lockdown until they knew what had happened. There were trained agents here, yes, but there were also people from admin, the IT department, and PR, none of them qualified to deal with an attack—if this was, in fact, an attack. Moreen wanted to evacuate them right away, but without knowing the situation, that could lead them straight into danger rather than away from it.
She tried to think of a reasonable, non-emergency explanation for what could have caused that sound. Fireworks from the parade? Not likely. They wouldn’t light fireworks during daylight, and with the Illusionist attending, they didn’t need to light them at all. She was a one-woman pyrotechnics show without the noise, cost, or risk of accidentally setting something on fire. Moreen tried to remember if there were any construction sites nearby, any big equipment that could rattle the ground. She came up blank.
“Rocha, Hewitt,” she called. “Do some recon and—”
The fire alarms went off, a grating wail that would drive people out of the building through sheer annoyance if nothing else. Right, then. That made her decision. Moreen climbed onto her desk to get everyone’s attention.
“Hey!” she shouted over the alarm. “Head to the west stairwell. Walk briskly but don’t run. Stick together but don’t crowd each other. And pay attention to your surroundings. We don’t know if this is a fire or something else.”
People grabbed purses and other belongings before moving quickly towards the door. Moreen got carefully down from her desk, feeling off-balance with her right arm in its sling. She, too, grabbed a belonging from her desk drawer, but it was her taser rather than a purse. Unwilling to waste time fiddling with the holster one-handed, she stuffed it into her inner jacket pocket and brought up the rear of the group.
In the hallway, janitors and other staff were looking around in confusion and joining Moreen’s group on their way out. The alarm continued to blare, drowning out the worried questions and sounds of people moving. Moreen couldn’t count on her sense of hearing to alert her to anything. She shot constant glances over her shoulders, wishing she had eyes in the back of her head. She didn’t like this, not one bit.
Every second, she hoped to catch sight of a familiar blue and yellow suit as Harris rushed back. Every second, she was disappointed. The group slowed down, human traffic getting congested as they reached the narrow door to the stairwell. Moreen’s left foot tapped the floor impatiently, and she shot another glance behind her.
She saw supervillains.
“Move!” she shouted, grabbing the person closest to her and pulling them out of the way.
Everything happened at once. She didn’t know which side shot first: hers or theirs. But soon enough, everyone was screaming, pushing each other as they scrambled for the safety of the stairway. Moreen ducked into an alcove formed by an entrance to the restrooms, but not before catching sight of the Black Valentine and Blueblood. They dashed down another hallway, a few of their men staying behind to lay cover fire. Those DSA agents smart enough to have brought their guns fired back.
The woman Moreen had grabbed ran into the restroom to hide, but Moreen stayed. Allen from IT, who always chatted with Moreen about the best places to go hiking outside the city, was lying in the middle of the hallway, blood staining the side of his pale blue button-up shirt. The sight of his round, friendly face screwed up in agony sent a bolt of emotion through her. The hallway was still a firefight. The cracks of gunshots overpowered even the wailing of the alarm, and it was a miracle Allen hadn’t been hit more than once.
Moreen couldn’t leave him there.
She judged the distance between herself and Allen and crouched down, preparing to run for it. There was a chance she’d get hit, but if she didn’t get Allen out of there, he was finished. Her body tensed, ready to flinch the instant a bullet struck her, but she didn’t give herself any more time to spend in dread. She sprinted out of the alcove.
The first crack of a gunshot made her falter, but it didn’t hit her. She reached Allen, grabbed him under the shoulder, and heaved. They only moved a few inches. Allen wasn’t a petite man, and Moreen only had one working arm.
“Come on, Allen,” she growled. “Work with me.”
Sobbing, he pushed with his legs at the same time Moreen pulled, and they made more progress. The agents and the supervillains’ men were taking cover behind corners, leaning around every few seconds to quickly aim and fire. It was extremely lucky one of the attackers hadn’t taken a pot shot at Moreen and Allen just for the fun of it. She pulled harder with her left arm, throwing the whole weight of her body behind it. She wanted to look over her shoulder and see how far they were from the alcove, but that would take a second that she couldn’t afford to waste.
“Who wants to die first?” someone shouted over the alarm.
A man stepped out from around the corner. He wore a suit and tie, but his face was completely covered by a white mask designed to look like some kind of animal face. Moreen couldn’t tell what exactly it was supposed to be, except it had triangular ears, a snout, and markings in bright red.
The man held up his hands, which were suddenly surrounded by white, plasma-like flames.
Beneath Moreen’s feet, the short carpet over the hallway gave way to the tile on the restrooms’ entrance. She gave one last heave and dragged Allen into the alcove.
Moreen didn’t know whether to call it fire or energy, but a white-hot wave of it shot down the hallway with a roar. The heat of it stung her face as it passed in front of her. Then it exploded, and people screamed.
Moreen stared, blinking, at the scorched walls and ceiling in the flames’ wake. The alarm continued to blare, but more distant now, like the closest speakers had been destroyed. Moreen waited for the sound of gunfire to resume, for one of the agents to take out the masked man where he stood, but no one took the shot.
If the other agents were still alive, they were in no condition to hold a gun.
It’s been forever since we had a scene from Moreen’s POV. And of course it’s a fight scene. 😉 I feel like I owe her a bonus episode where she just takes a relaxing vacation and nothing terrible happens.
I probably owe that to all my characters, actually.
Expect the next fight scene on Monday. 🙂