"From here on out, we need total silence," Jumper murmurs. "You know the drill."
The others all nod, and Jumper leads them forward.
23 doesn't always have to go patrolling to find a fight. Sometimes they bring the fight to their enemies. Today they're raiding a side base of their rivals: Group 86. 86 is a larger group, with separate branches and multiple bases. They're some of the main baddies of the town, hated and feared by most of the Extra residents. 23 isn't the only group that has a bone to pick with them, but they're the ones who usually take the initiative to start a war with them.
Jumper likes to raid one of their bases every couple months, mixing it up every now and again to keep 86 on their toes. These raids are always the most heavily orchestrated of Jumper's plots; she fills in the most minor of details, creates schedules, works out sophisticated battle structures, and basically obsesses over the entire production.
This could be defined as dedication. Shift thinks it's more like an obsession.
Shift's not sure why Jumper has such a feud with them, and isn't sure he wants to find out. It seems like the complicated sort of thing, and he leaves the complicated stuff to Carson. They're definitely evil: they initiate all sorts of fights, think it's fun to threaten humans, and have nearly killed other Extras on many occasions. Shift understands why they should be on Jumper's shitlist, but why should they be at the very top? It probably isn't any of his business.
This raid is an easy one, practically routine for 23. This is a base they've torn up before, and it's still being rebuilt. They know the powers of the subgroup that calls this base... base, and have the area mapped out pretty well. Jumper drew a perfect map of the place last time, only working on memory. Their knowledge of this base isn't their only strength: they also know just how to defeat this subgroup, or at least how to slow them down.
Of the eight members that patronize this base, six of them have impressive powers: gravity manipulation, telekinesis, extreme super strength, venom, invulnerability, and magneopathy. The other two are a bit lesser: one superagile who has a creepy obsession with knives, and a woman with increased senses. They're all inexperienced though, and they haven't worked out how to function as a team yet, so even with all their powers they aren't exactly a force to be reckoned with.
This shouldn't take long at all.
The building doesn't look like a supervillain base, but they never do. It's an abandoned office building, much like 23's, with no real identifying markings. Its drab gray walls and overgrown landscaping give it such a normal facade, but inside, it's entirely different.
Shift remembers the last time they came here. He'd discovered cells in there, some of them holding other Extras. He doesn't even want to know what 86 was doing to them.
This place is a freakshow, even if it doesn't play the part.
The group pauses just outside the back entrance, falling perfectly still. Runner inches forward without a sound, and runs his hand along the old black door. Slowly, his fingers settle on the doorknob, then twist. The door falls open with a faint squeak, but nothing is on the other side, and Runner motions them forward.
As they file inside, the overhead fluorescents blink on, but the hall is empty. Shift stiffens and glances around, looking for the subtle wave that marks the presence of an invisible Extra, but there's nothing. Just a long, plain hall; scuffed tiles on the floor, beige walls, and sickly lights.
"Blue Jay," Jumper hisses into her comm as they exit the hall. "You got us on your nav?"
"Affirmative. I see you."
"Good." She turns to Shift. "You found the cells last time, think you remember where they are?"
Shift nods. "Sure. First floor, follow third corridor to-"
She cuts him off with a dismissive wave. "Go there. If they're keeping prisoners, release them and help them escape. If you meet any unfriendlies, call the rest of us in. Go now."
Shift takes off, careful to keep his footfalls quiet. The cells aren't far away, just down another hall. He's there in no time, and slows to a stop before peering around the corner. The cells on the far side of the corridor are empty, and there's only one guard: the woman with extra senses. He creeps forward while her back is turned, readying a shield.
She whirls around without warning as soon as he clears the corner, mouth open and ready to scream the alarm. Shift throws a shield over her mouth before she can make a sound, then hurls another one at her that knocks her to the ground, unconscious. He drags her into an empty cell and locks it before turning his attention to the rest of the prison. There's frightened murmuring coming from a couple cells, and Shift can only just see the outlines of the people inside.
He pries open the first occupied cell, then the next, but nobody comes out.
"Come on," he whispers into the first cell. "Run! Get out of here!"
"I'm blindfolded," a small voice replies. "Can't see a thing. Can't use my powers. Sure as hell can't run." A dark haired man peeks out of the cell, with a big black blindfold wrapped around his face. The Extra's costume is cut up and caked with dried blood. His cheeks are sunken, his hair a mess, and his ribs stick out far enough for Shift to count them.
"Here," he says, reaching for the man's face. The other Extra flinches as Shift's hands wrap around his head, but stays still long enough for the blindfold to come free. It feels weird unmasking another Extra, almost like a violation. He doesn't know this Extra, though, masked or unmasked, so does it really matter?
Dark blue eyes blink and squint at him for a brief second after the blindfold falls away, and then the man bolts without even a word of thanks.
Shift frowns, but moves to the next cell.
The Extra inside is huddled in the back corner, staring blankly at him.
"You okay?" Shift calls. "Can I help you at all?" He starts forward, stopping dead when the other Extra flattens himself to the wall, eyes widening. "I'm trying to get you out of here," he explains, holding his hands out so the other Extra can see they're empty. "Just let me help."
The other finally stands and moves closer, peering suspiciously at Shift, and as soon as they're an arms length apart, the Extra darts forward, shoves him aside, and flees.
Shift's head collides with the wall as he staggers backwards, and he groans. He drops to a crouch, rubbing tenderly at the back of his head. It takes him a moment to recover. When he finally rises, he discovers the rest of the cells are empty, and the guard is still out cold.
"Blue Jay," Shift says into the comm. "Do the others need help? Where are they?"
"Runner found a computer bank and he's stealing all the files he can fit on a thumb drive. Jumper is ransacking some office on the north side of the first floor. The Gymnast is looking for anyone from 86, without any luck. It seems like we caught them on their day off."
"No, I ran into that chick with increased senses. She's out cold now, locked in one of her cells. The prisoners have been released; there were only two of them, and they ran before I could get any information from them."
"Okay, hold on; I'll see what Jumper wants you to do. Just hang tight for now."
Shift sighs. "Affirmative." He shakes his head to clear the remaining dizziness, and waits.
He doesn't have to wait long. Only a few seconds later, Jumper materializes beside him. Shift flinches when she appears, but otherwise gives no sign of surprise.
"Jay said you ran into someone?" She prompts, raising an eyebrow.
"Yeah, here." He waves at the cell, where the woman is still asleep. "Wasn't any trouble. I caught her off guard."
"Good job. And the prisoners are clear?"
"I don't know. They both just took off."
Jumper purses her lips but doesn't comment.
"So, no one else has made an appearance?" Shift asks.
"No. Haven't seen anyone." Her eyes narrow. "I don't think I like that."
"Me neither. Way too convenient. What do you think-"
Someone behind them scuffs their feet, and Shift twists around instantly, shield at the ready.
He has the shield up just in time. As he turns, a knife slams into it and falls to the ground with a clatter. The knife's owner stands a couple yards away, arm still in the throwing position.
Shift groans. He's not fond of knives- Carson is rather accident prone, and learned the hard way that he doesn't get along with knives- so of course he has to fight the guy who loves them. He never gets it easy.
Shift hurls the shield at him, but the knife fetish guy darts out of the way. As the shield swings past him and dissolves, he flings another knife, and Shift only barely gets a force field up in time to block it. He drops it instantly and lunges for knife fetish with new shields braced on both forearms.
He barely registers Jumper behind him, speaking urgently into the comm, arguing about something. He slips into fight mode.
Knife fetish ducks around him easily, but Shift swings an arm out and manages to clip the guy's shoulder, knocking him off balance. This gives Shift enough time to merge his shields, turning them into a sort of battering ram. He shoves it at his opponent with all his might, and finally manages to throw him to the ground. Before Shift can bind him there, however, knife fetish rolls at him, knocking his feet out from under him.
Shift falls to his knees with a grunt, and tries to ignore the new pain shooting up his legs. He growls as he tries to get back on his feet, but this growl turns into a shout when a knife plunges into his bicep.
The knife twists, and Shift cries out. His stomach flips, and he barely keeps himself from vomiting. His entire arm feels like it's burning; the pain is paralyzing. His assailant grins as he pulls the knife out, wringing another yelp from Shift.
Knife fetish leans back, hands on his hips, knife in its sheath, and laughs. Shift's grimace turns to a scowl. He surges to his feet, pain momentarily forgotten, and kicks knife fetish in the gut with enough force to halt a car. Knife fetish screams as he's thrown into the wall, the sound cut short as his head cracks against the brick. He collapses in a heap on the floor, knocked out but still breathing.
Shift sinks back to his knees, head spinning. He's panting with exertion, and wincing with every tiny movement. Now that the danger has been eliminated, he can feel the extent of the damage to his arm. The wound is deep, but small. It isn't bleeding too much, but the muscle's probably torn up a little, and even with an Extra's advanced healing rate, it'll take a few weeks to heal back up. It hurts like hell, but that's usually a good sign, in his experience. He'll be absolutely useless in a fight for a couple days, though. Hopefully this mission is over.
It takes him longer than it should to realize that Jumper's nowhere to be seen.
"Where is everybody?" he asks Blue Jay, but gets no reply. He messes with his earpiece and tries again. "Jay? Blue Jay? You there?"
He curses and leans back against the wall gingerly. He's in no state to go looking for them. He'll just have to sit here and hope they're all right.