The grainy footage of Vladimir grinning brazenly up at the cameras froze as Zhao pressed the pause button on the remote. "That bastard," the Asian man spat. "He's mocking us." He went to rewind the news report, but Sebastian grabbed the length of plastic from his hand.
"We've watched that clip eight times. Watching it again isn't going to help." He flicked off the DVR, and changed the channel. An animated girl with impossibly long blue hair shouted something, drew a katana, and then a giant robot rose out of the ground behind her.
Lance went back to eating his cereal. Anime had never appealed to him. He glanced at the clock on the wall of the room the Daemons used as their common room. "That happened at four yesterday afternoon, right?"
Elisa nodded. "It's safe to assume that today we don't have to worry about Vladimir. Using your powers that much in a short frame of time takes a large strain on your body. Even someone as strong as him needs to rest. So today, he'll probably gather his strength. It's tomorrow we need to worry about."
Molly entered into the whitewashed room. "I have our orders for the day.
"We're overseeing the evacuation of Boston."
Lance nearly choked on his breakfast. "Evacuation!"
Molly nodded grimly. "It's the only way to make sure all the civilians are safe. We're going to be on top of buildings, keeping a lookout for Vladimir."
Zhao sat down next to Lance. "Remember the training we went through with you yesterday." Lance wasn't likely to forget, the Daemons hadn't pulled any punches. "It seems as though your powers are the reflection of Vladimir's. Whereas he can absorb electrical fields, you can expel them. Your idea to overload him was a good one, though the execution needed work. You may be the key to defeating him."
The Daemons piled into two black sedans that drove up the highway to Boston. Lance was in one with Sebastian, Molly and Lieutenant Aleksander Vontris. Lieutenant Vontris had gone with Lance the day before to inform his mom that he wouldn't be coming home for a while.
Ms. Shield had been told Lance was selected to go to Washington D.C. to receive an award from the Honor Society and sit on a summit for the rising stars of the next generation. After seeing the shocking newscasts of what happened in Boston, she was only too happy to let him go.
Lance felt bad lying to his mom, but it was for the best. Lieutenant Vontris had played the part of the representative well, and was a good man. Lance even liked him, though their acquaintance was brief.
The lieutenant passed them all an earpiece, and told them what channel to set it to, so they could stay in contact with the army. He expertly maneuvered the car off the highway, and into the streets of Boston. He took them to a park a few blocks from Downtown Center.
"Stay safe, you three." He saluted, and then left to join his unit. Zhao had driven himself and Elisa to the same park, and ran over to them.
"Lance, Molly, you two go to the John Hancock tower, and get on top. Molly, you're the best at telepathy, so this will extend your range. From there, contact the rest of us. Sebastian, you know that big church on Dartmouth Street? Go there, and get on top. That's a major evacuation route, so you need to make sure those people stay safe. Elisa, head towards the old State House. There are plenty of buildings there. Take your pick."
Molly glanced at Zhao. "What about you?"
"I'm taking the Prudential Building. Vladimir focused his attack around there, and my force field generation should protect people from falling rubble."
Sebastian nodded, all serious now. "All right. Molly, get in touch with me as soon as you can, 'kay?" He ran off, did a cartwheel, and vanished into the crowds of evacuees.
Molly grabbed Lance's wrist and dragged him away. She broke into a run, shoving people aside. "Hang on!" Lance shouted, struggling to keep up. "C'mon Molly!"
"No time," Molly hissed back. "We have work to do."
They reached the base of the Hancock Building, and Molly looked up. "Not too bad. I think we can make it up."
"What do you mean?" Lance said. "We can just take the elevator."
A sergeant standing at the door let them in. They crossed the lobby to the elevator, and Lance hit the "up" button. The doors slid open with a ding, and he stepped in. Lance glanced at the buttons, and hit the highest number he could. "Looks like we'll have to climb up to the roof."
Molly sniffed, and made no move to get into the elevator. "That was the plan from the start." She walked out of the building, and stood on the sidewalk.
Lance dashed after her. "What are you doing?"
"Beating you to the top." Molly jumped up and swung around one of the building's horizontal flagpoles. She used her enhanced stamina and speed to vault up to window ledges, and scale the sheer face. People all around gasped and watched.
Lance shook his head, ran back inside, and furiously stabbed the elevator buttons. He anxiously tapped his foot as the elevator rose, knowing that Molly's physical prowess when she used her mental powers far outclassed his. He'd never have been able to make that climb.
When the elevator pinged open at the top floor, Lance all but threw himself out the nearest window and clawed up the fire escape. Molly was already there, her brown hair streaming in the light breeze.
She winked at him, and grinned. "Too slow, Mr. Shield."
"That was crazy!"
"I've done it enough times before, on mountains and stuff." Molly shrugged. "It's really no big deal."
"Why couldn't you just take the elevator?"
"Would it have been half as fun?"
Lance sighed. "I'm not going to make you see reason, am I?"
Molly shook her head, and knelt down.
Establishing mental link. Please confirm.
The voice was Molly's, but it was not issued from her lips. Lance heard it, but he heard it… in his mind. Uh… mental link confirmed.
Zhao's presence appeared in Lance's head. Mental link confirmed. Good work Molly.
Mental link confi-irmed! Sebastian's voice sing-songed.
I hear you loud and clear, Elisa relayed.
Molly nodded. Has everyone reached their positions?
I'm hanging loose on the steeple! Sebastian replied.
Elisa sent an image of the view from the top of her building. A picture's worth a thousand words.
I've been held up, Zhao said. They needed my telekinesis to help move some wreckage, but I'm at the Prudential Building.
Okay, good. And Lance is up here with me. So… commence with mission.
Molly sank back. "All right. This is going to be a long day. Anything you want to talk about."
"I want answers."
"To what questions?" Molly patted the ground next to her. "Take a seat Lance. There's a big story as to why we're here, and it's a long one. In fact, it's so long, I probably can't tell the whole thing. But when all this madness is over, we'll sit down over dinner and I'll explain absolutely everything."
Lance blinked. "Like… a date?"
"I guess. But anyway, what did you want to ask me?"
Lance made a small bolt of lightning arch from his fingertip. "Why can I do that?"
Molly flopped backwards, pillowing her head on her arms. "It's called the Limitless Project. The army wanted to boost the capabilities of the human brain by unlocking latent potential. However, not everyone could do it. You're one of the lucky ones."
"And so are you, Zhao, Sebastian and Elisa?"
Molly winked. "Bingo. That light does something to our brains, gives us these… superpowers, I guess."
Lance thought for a moment. "Where does Vladimir fit in? And why is he Experiment Eleven? What happened to One through Ten?"
"I'm Experiment Ten," Molly replied. "Experiment One still lives at the base. But she was messed up by the Project. She lives in her own little world now. Quite literally. You'll see later."
"What about the others? I doubt they went back to their normal lives. Are Zhao and the others in that group?"
Molly closed her eyes and was silent for a long time. "No. None of the Daemons are numbered experiments. Except me, I guess, but nobody calls me Experiment Ten."
"So where are they? The Numbers?"
"They're dead, Lance." Molly looked sidelong at him. "Two through Nine did not survive the process."
Lance jumped to his feet. "Are you telling me I could have died?!"
"No," Molly answered calmly. "After Experiment Nine blew up half the lab as he died, the Project was refined to be non-lethal."
"Experiment Nine died six years ago, didn't he? They said there was a gas leak…"
Molly nodded. "Allen didn't deserve that…" She was quiet for another span of minutes. "After that, Vladimir was supposed to be Experiment Ten. But I wandered into the lab, and I got hit too. So I gained my powers when he gained his. But I wasn't driven mad."
"And that's why he called you his sister, right?" Lance asked.
"Right. He viewed that day as him being reborn, and since we were reborn together…"
"And your father oversaw the project, so he was, in a sense, Vladimir's father."
Lance saw this was an uncomfortable topic. "So… what about the Daemons? How are they different from the Numbers?"
Molly was silent for a while, but finally she sighed. "Well, for starters, the process was ninety percent more effective, and ninety eight percent less lethal. Now if you have potential to be Unleashed, you are, more often than not.
"Zhao was the first to have the new Limitless Project used on him. He's the third son of the United States' ambassador to China, by the way. He went into the armed forces when he hit eighteen. Rose through the ranks pretty fast, purely on his own. No help from the higher-ups.
"But Zhao has this complex. He always has to be the best he can be. So when he heard about the Project… he had to try it for himself. He had to become a super-human. He spoke to my father, and he was basically the first since Vladimir and I to step into the chamber. His file calls him the Prototype. But he hates being called that." Molly sighed.
"Next was Sebastian. My father found him, on a trip to Moscow to visit with some foreign dignitaries. Sebastian tried to pick Dad's pocket, but Dad caught him. Instead of turning him in, though, Dad saw the potential in him. With his family's consent, Dad took Sebastian away from the Roma caravan where he was raised back to the base, and Unleashed him. The files call Sebastian the Acrobat, mostly because his physical prowess was boosted the most out of all of us, and he was a trapeze artist in his family's circus.
"Elisa… her story's a little foggy. I don't really know the whole of it. Just that she is the first of her family to be born in America. Her parents are from El Salvador. But somehow, one of the higher-ups saw her potential somehow, and brought her to the Limitless Project.
"She doesn't talk about her past too much. That's why she's the Enigma. Well, not really. It's because her powers didn't settle in until about a year ago. She could do almost anything we could do, but then she started specializing in telekinesis."
Lance gazed down at the refugees. He was still coming to terms with thinking of these people as refugees. This was America! How could there be refugees in America?
After careful debilitation, he spoke. "The Limitless Project seems like it was created to make super soldiers. Oh, don't look at me like that! I've seen those conspiracy theory shows on the History Channel. I know there's always been speculation.
"I just didn't know it was happening in my own back yard."
Molly placed a hand on his shoulders. "Yeah. I see where you're coming from. We're not super soldiers. But we're all humanity's got right now, the only things that are standing between them and Vladimir doing… whatever it is he's planning. Ruling the world? Destroying it? Maybe he just sees it all as a joke."
Lance groaned. "It's a sick joke."
They sat and watched the helicopters swarming the skies. Every so often, the other Daemons would check in with their mental link. The day stretched on, but the crowds didn't thin.
"Where are they bringing them all?"
Molly shrugged. "I don't know exactly. But I know that some are going on army transports, while others are going by train. They're moving them out of the city and into safe zones. And from what I've gathered, those start twenty miles away. Evacuating everything within a twenty mile radius of Boston… it's ridiculous."
Lance grimaced. "Sounds like what happened in World War Two. They just packed people up and shipped them off to who knows where. But I just have a feeling that this is just the beginning. Soon, they'll move them into Rhode Island and Connecticut. Because if we can't hold Vladimir here, what's to keep him from attacking the rest of the state, and it's neighbors? And if he gathers a following, like a cult? He could push straight to New York, and then Philadelphia, and then probably D.C. And no one could stop him."
"I don't know…"
Lance shook his head. "Molly, we all saw that news clip. He absorbed a miniature nuke! He destroyed an eighth of Boston, and he's probably getting stronger by the day.
Maybe it's because I'm new to this, but I just don't see how we can stop him. He destroyed the base when we fought him, with a hundred soldiers. He can kill with a glance." Lance flopped down. "It's noble and valiant and everything, but why? Why should we all die trying to stop him, if we don't even know why he's doing it?"
Molly closed her eyes and trembled. "Because even if we have to die, it means a lot more people can live. I've been inside Vladimir's mind, and it's a twisted place. I don't think I was ever the same after that."
It was almost midnight before the last of the refugees staggered onto the final transport. Attention Daemons, Zhao said briskly through the mental link.
We do not know what tomorrow will bring, but there is an excellent chance Vladimir will strike. We'll be staying at a camp in the park we met up in this morning. We'll need to be in the city to respond in time. We can't have a repeat of what happened yesterday.
Elisa's presence appeared in Lance's mind. But what if he doesn't attack again, or if he does, what if it's not Boston this time? What if he strikes… oh I don't know, Worchester, or worse, New York?
He won't, Lieutenant Aleksander replied. Molly had added him to the link at some point late in the afternoon, to connect them to the military chain of command. I've been informed by the Federal Bureau of Investigators that a man matching Vladimir's description was spied around the Boston area at several times. A couple of the reports even mention the pointed teeth.
The rest of the country has been put on alert, Zhao added, but no one has seen anything remotely like Vladimir. He's still in the area. We have to be ready.
Lance and Molly took the elevator down and walked back to the park. Lance accepted a sleeping bag from a soldier, and went to join the rest of the Daemons, who had positioned themselves around a tree at the center of the park.
As he sank into a dreamless sleep, he wondered what new horrors tomorrow would bring.
A/N: Pft, info-dumping. It had to happen at some point, and I'm not more enthused about it then all of you are. But if I can actually get some work done on the next Day, then things will pick up. Big stuff's going to happen next time, so stay with me.