Bomb Squad Goals
James had made a bee line for the restroom but wasn’t in nearly as much of a rush heading back to the others because there was so much to see! He almost didn’t notice when the lights changed and the holographic displays came together to form a giant version of the gangster known as the Spider. It was probably a special event or something, he reasoned.
“Greetings, y’all. I’m the Spider and I’ll be your host for the evening.”
“Wait, what?” James asked, looking up from the Nu-Metal Warriors display in the 90’s section.
“Is this part of the show?” someone asked.
“It’s never part of the show!” someone replied.
“Lots of people in here might be superpowered. If you are, you’re gonna wanna listen up, because the only way to save the people here that aren’t powered is to follow my instructions. Here’s the good news. All I want you to do right now is find and disable the bombs I planted all over the Cosmo. Oh, did I mention there are bombs?”
A wave of panic went through the convention center. People started running for the exits. Others started flying, hovering and climbing up and away from the stampede.
“Anyone with powers tries to leave through any exit in this building and the bombs explode,” the Spider continued. The stampede ground to a slow halt.
“Like I said,” the Spider went on, “it’s up to you super people and so called ‘heroes’ to save the day. Find the bombs and turn them off. Think y’all can handle that? And before you ask, yes, there’s more after the bombs. A lot more. And remember, any powered people leave and everything goes boom. Ciao.”
The hologram disappeared and the lights returned. There were screams and people making a mad dash for the exits, but a lot of people were stuck in place, frozen with fear. James needed to find the others. He didn’t have anyone’s number so he didn’t know how to contact them. He wasn’t being brave. The opposite in fact. There was safety in numbers and besides, he couldn’t leave Evan alone here.
Meanwhile; Evan and Mallory found an island of calm in the sea of panic over by an interior wall in between two display cases.
“Why aren’t we running?” Evan asked.
“It’s too crazy in here,” said Mallory.
“What’s the real reason?” Evan asked. Mallory hesitated. “Trying to be a hero again?”
“Not exactly. It’s just…” she grabbed her magic amulet. “I don’t know if I can leave.”
“Shit,” Evan hissed.
“It’s okay. Get Tina and your friend and get out of here. Maybe you can do something from the outside,” said Mallory.
“Like hell I’m leaving you in here,” said Evan.
“This is crazy. This is freaking crazy!” Tina said, barreling toward them.
“Tina!” Mallory said, hugging her friend tight as she fell into her arms.
“We gotta get out of here! Let’s go!” Tina said, pulling on Mallory’s arm.
“Don’t worry,” Mallory assured her. “There are tons of superheroes in the city right now. We’re going to be fine. Someone’s working on it.”
* * *
“What the fuck is going on down there?” Mayor Cho asked as he burst into the room.
The room was full of whatever cabinet members he’d been able to summon at the last minute. Cho hadn’t appreciated his predecessor’s decision to have a war room installed in City Hall until just then, but even with multiple screens situated everywhere, they were only playing news footage. He needed more and he needed it before the media had it.
“I’m trying to get Cosmo Chief of Security on the line but he’s not answering. The situation on the ground is still evolving,” the new police chief said. He was a Jet City veteran by the name of Wright. He also had less personality than his 70’s cop power mustache gave him credit for.
“We’re going to have reporters crawling up our asses in a minute, I need something!” Cho said.
“Social media is blowing up,” his new media director said. Her name was Linda or Leena or something. She didn’t have a name tag for him to cheat off of so he’d avoided using her name for the past week.
“Social media? Who cares? We got a situation happening right now!” Cho said, exasperated.
“We’re getting pictures and live feed from inside the Cosmo. The only pictures and live feed,” she said.
“Right now?” Cho asked.
She threw some images up on the screen of a blurry hologram as well as a LiveStreem by someone inside the main hall.
“Stay on those. Keep me updated,” Cho said.
“We’re going to need outside help,” said Chief Wright.
“Don’t we have cops around there?” Cho asked.
“Yes but we’re stretched to the very limits right now. I can barely get a perimeter set up,” Chief Wright replied.
“SWAT’s on the way? Bomb squad?” Cho asked.
“I’ve got every possible body working on this, sir. I still don’t have the numbers,” Chief Wright said.
“What about evacuating? Let’s just focus on that,” Cho said.
“I don’t have enough people,” Chief Wright reiterated.
“What do you want? The National Guard? Make it work!” Cho spat. The room got uncomfortably quiet.
“I wouldn’t say no to the National Guard right about now but what I mean, sir, is that we have other options. Civilian options,” Chief Wright said slowly, carefully.
“You mean superheroes?” Cho asked.
“You signed their papers. We have two licensed teams we can levee right now and another waiting in Seattle.”
“What about State and Local? Hell, what about Tribal police? Isn’t there anyone else we can call?” Cho asked.
“We’re doing what we can, but there are too many people in the area. It’s downtown at rush hour in the middle of the Centennial Celebrations for Chrissake,” Chief Wright said.
“This is why I left Seattle,” Cho said, sighing and massaging his face.
* * *
Less than a third of the people in the convention center had made it outside before Cosmo security started blocking the exits due to “security risks”.
“We don’t know who’s powered and who isn’t. We can’t risk setting off any bombs until we can work some kind of system out,” a security woman said to a chorus of boos, outrage and screams of panic.
“Crap! We should have gotten out while we had the chance. Oh god, what do we do?” Tina asked.
“We just have to wait. That’s all we can do right now,” Evan said.
“Wait?” Tina asked, freaking out.
Evan kept his breathing slow. He had to relax and stay focused. Hopefully James had made it outside. Hopefully his parents still thought he was doing that YMCA martial arts program and weren’t looking for him. No, he had to concentrate, which was hard to do with all the noise.
“What are we going to do?” someone dressed like an apocalyptic biker asked.
“We gotta find those bombs,” someone in a faux robot suit said.
“We can’t do that. Can we?” the apocalypse biker asked.
“Security won’t let us leave and who knows how long it’ll take for the bomb squad to get here. I say we do it,” a girl made of glass said.
“Okay. Can anyone here sense bombs?” the faux robot asked.
“I can sense the vibrations of the explosive materials,” glass girl said.
“And I know how to disable explosives. Army,” a woman in a flowing robe holding a wand said.
“Yeah. Yeah! Let’s do this!” the faux robot said.
Evan watched as more and more people fanned out, searching the area for bombs despite Cosmo security’s insistence that they all stay put. He got an idea.
“I have to go to the bathroom,” he suddenly said to Mallory and Tina.
“You too?” Mallory asked. Evan subtly nodded and she made a confused face back at him, unsure of his intentions.
“Is now really the time for that? Actually, where did your friend run off to?” Tina asked.
“I’m gonna try and find him. Yeah. Be right back,” Evan said before taking off.
“Why don’t you just call his… gah! What is with everyone today? There are freaking bombs in here!” Tina cried.
“It’s better than people going absolutely crazy,” Mallory offered.
Evan tailed one of the groups looking for bombs. Within two minutes, someone had found the first one. It was located deep beneath a maintenance hatch connected to the ventilation system.
“Here! Down here!” the girl made of glass said.
“Are you sure?” the faux robot asked.
“Yes. It’s right in this big case marked “Property of the Cosmo Hotel”.”
* * *
“Sir?” one of the mayor’s aides spoke up.
“What?” Cho asked.
“I have the head of Cosmo on the line,” the aide said.
“What does he want?” Cho said.
“He says it’s a matter of life and death,” the aide said.
“Keep at it, everyone,” Cho said before grabbing the phone. “This is Mayor Cho.”
“Hello, good sir,” a flowery voice greeted him. “This Donato Zello, President of Cosmo. I don’t believe we’ve had the pleasure of meeting.”
“What’s going on down there?” Cho asked.
“There appears to be a hostage situation being instigated by a terrorist,” Zello replied.
“I know that. What is this I’m hearing about your security teams blocking the exits?” Cho asked.
“Well, you see, it is for everyone’s safety. I don’t know how, but the man known as the Spider claims to have gained control of our bombs and will set them off should any super peoples try to escape.”
“It’s weird because he’s also wanting them to disable… wait. Did you just say ‘our’ bombs?” Mayor Cho asked.
“Oh. Um. Why yes.”
“The bombs in the Cosmo are yours?” Cho asked.
“They… they were meant to be a fail safe in case the unthinkable came to pass,” Zello despaired.
“What? What are you talking about?”
“I dare not think of it!” Zello cried.
“Listen to me. This is an extreme violation of… of something! A zoning code, I don’t know. But this is extremely gross negligence and I will have Cosmo fined and and…”
“Mayor, please! This was a necessary measure put in place by Captain Cosmo himself to ensure a worse fate would not befall Jet City.”
Exasperated, Cho punched the air several times. “Explain what that means!”
“Well, oh dear. Um, if some criminal or terrorist element were to, say, take control of the core powering the complex, then the bombs would necessarily remove that threat in a worst case scenario.”
“If they took control of the core? What happens if they take control of the core?”
“Well, that is, er, proprietary Cosmo, um, trademarked technology that…”
“Zello,” Cho growled.
“It’s… um… might I call you back?”
“Zello, I swear to God I’ll have you arrested. What happens if they take control of the core?” Cho asked.
“It’s… oh boy. It’s a micro-fusion reactor that has the potential to glass the Puget Sound region should it become compromised. At the very minimum.”
Cho fell back into a wall and slid down to the floor. “Jesus Goddamn Motherfucking Christ. I didn’t sign up for this shit.”
“Don’t worry, mayor,” Zello said reassuringly. “As long as no one tampers with the bombs all will be well.”
* * *
“That’s it! First bomb disarmed,” the woman with the wand said, wiping sweat off her brow.
“Woo! We’re doing it!” the glass girl said.
“On to the next one,” the apocalypse biker said.
Evan couldn’t help but notice the bomb case was labeled “Property of Cosmo Hotel”. He wondered what it meant and why the Spider was telling the super people to find and disarm them if in fact it had been him that set them up. None of it made sense. If he was going to get answers, then he had to get out of the convention center. That meant this was as far as Evan Singh could go.
“I don’t want to sit here anymore,” Tina said, sobbing. Mallory put an arm around her.
“What do you have in mind?” Mallory asked.
“I don’t know, but we can’t stay here. We have to find a way out,” Tina said.
“Okay. Let’s find Evan and James and then…”
“Ladies,” Nobody said, dropping down from above.
“Jesus! Who the hell are you?” Tina asked.
He wore a wide black scarf as a mask, sunglasses, and a black coat he’d found on the floor. He hoped Tina wouldn’t recognize the bag.
“Who am I? I’m…” A vigilante. A stalker in the night. A dark protector. He looked at Mallory. “I’m a superhero,” he said. Mallory grinned.
“What the fuck is happening right now?” Tina asked, suddenly feeling like she was dreaming.
“The Spider is up to something, but it ain’t holding Hero Fest hostage with bombs. Follow me and I can get you out of here,” said Nobody.
“You got it, mister,” Mallory said, playing along.
“What? Are you on drugs right now, girl?” Tina asked.
“Come on, we’re dressed the part, aren’t we?” Mallory asked.
“Yeah but. But. What?” Tina asked.
“You’re Star Joe, aren’t you?” Nobody asked.
“Oh, you recognize my costume?” Tina asked, forgetting everything else for a moment.
“Most underrated disco hero,” Nobody began.
“This side of funky town,” Tina finished. “Cool. Cool. I still don’t know you, though.”
“We can trust him,” Mallory said.
“You know this guy?” Tina asked.
“I know of him,” Mallory replied.
“Okay, fellow heroes. Follow me,” Nobody said.
“I can’t believe I’m saying this but… okay. What do we do?” Tina asked.
“We’re going to load up on cool gadgets, and then we’re going to get you to safety,” said Nobody.
“Nice! What do you mean load up?” Tina asked.
“What I mean is, we’re going shopping,” Nobody said.