A woman sat in a sun-drenched room, nibbling the corner of some dry toast, reading the newspaper. The paper was propped up by the black marble chess pieces of the board that was placed at the center of the table. Her coiffure appeared immobilized by hairspray and product as the fan on the ceiling did nothing to displace a single strand. Her husband entered, smiling and preening at his grey suit. He straightened his tie, humming.
“Good morning, ” she said.
“Good morning, dear Eurydice," he replied.
“You’re quite chipper for a man who didn’t sleep a wink. Where were you?”
“In my study. I’m far too charged with anticipation to have done anything other than toss and turn and disturb your sleep.”
“Have you devised a plan of action?”
“The wheels start turning soon. I just need to wait for Ellers to show herself. Then I make my opening gambit.”
“You’re starting with her?”
“Based on what we’ve seen in the surveillance, she’s the logical choice. And a damn strong opener.”
“That’s true. If we get to her, we get to the heart. The team would collapse,” Eurydice said.
“They’re next to useless separated into pieces. We’d be free to pick up where Simon left off. Anything they could throw at us would be child's play at best.”
“Do you think you can get to her?”
“I’ll make her an offer she’s too arrogant and ambitious to refuse.”
“My talents. I am the Surgeon after all.”
“I see him,” Cheryl whispered into her communicator. “That’s the guy with the alien gun. He’s got a crowd around him.”
“You’re just a number to the globalists,” a scruffy man in a wheelchair yelled to the passersby on the street. “Simon Vyx was just the beginning. They’re gonna sell you off to aliens as livestock and slave labor.”
“He sounds like you,” Sophie’s voice buzzed through the comms.
“Radio silence, Priestess. Mechanic are you there?”
“Standing by,” Carl said.
“Where’s Psamurai and the Piper?”
The comms were quiet.
“You said radio silence,” Sophie said.
“Not if I ask a question.”
“They’re playing Grand Theft Auto.”
“What the hell?”
“They said they’d catch up at the briefing.”
“Did you see them at the briefing?"
"What did you expect me to do?"
"Fine. It’s a just guy with a seraphim weapon. We can do this without them, right? I’m going in.”
Cheryl wove her way around the milling pedestrians and approached the man in the wheelchair.
“Hey, there,” she said with a manufactured smile. “I heard what you were saying and I was wondering if you had a blog or a newsletter or a fanzine.”
“Well, citizen,” he said with a proud grin, “you’re in luck.” He produced a handful of dogeared, self-published pamphlets.
“Also curious as to where you got that seraphim pistol.”
The man’s grin fell into a scowl and he pulled the pistol and pointed it at Cheryl, “I thought I recognized you.”
“Sure. I’m super famous.”
“You’re responsible for the Demiurge Disaster.”
“Disaster? I thought it went pretty well considering. Now about that piece you’re pointing at me.”
The man’s finger trembled over the trigger.
“You better be quick with that, because I will shock you so hard you’ll walk again.”
“That's offensive,” Sophie said.
“What did I say about radio silence?”
“You’ve been pretty indecisive about it so far.”
“Who are you talking to?” the man said. “Is this a sting?”
Cheryl’s hand lit up, blue and crackling. The man stood from his chair and he bounded off into the sky.
“Oh great,” Cheryl sighed into her communicator. “Guys, he’s a freak.”
“Differently abled,” Sophie said.
“Whatever, he just jumped off to god knows where.”
“Yeah, he just jumped off over the buildings. At least seven or eight stories.”
“I got eyes on him,” Carl said. “I can keep up.”
“Good,” Cheryl said. “If you see Psamurai and Piper drag them with you.”
“I don’t know why,” Hunter said to Ian as he chewed on a hot dog, “I just hate shoes. Pants too. But, you know, society has these ‘rules’.” He threw up air quotes.
“Nice of you to at least meet us halfway. On society's behalf, I thank you,” Ian said and paused to think. “So finish that story you were telling me before the rat absconded with your flip-flop.”
“Right, yeah, so the guy said to me, ‘Don’t cut that, you never know what it might be attached to.’ So I’m thinking, here’s this guy with this thing caught way up his…”
The dull crack of breaking pavement and the sharp clang of metal interrupted Hunter’s train of thought for the fifth time in his trying to tell Ian his story. Carl stood behind them in his whirring mech suit.
“Jesus, Carl, I’ve been trying to tell this stor…” Hunter barked.
Carl grabbed Hunter and Ian, slung them over each shoulder and leaped off after the jumping man. Ian clung on in terror and Hunter adjusted to a crouch on Carl’s shoulder.
“What are we looking for?” Hunter asked.
“There’s a guy jumping around the city,” Carl replied.
“Cher wants us to go after him.”
“If you want to ask her questions when she’s in fearless leader mode, be my guest.”
Hunter fumbled in his robe pocket, juggled his communicator to his ear and stuffed it in.
“Alright, Ellers, start talking,” he said. “What’s with the jumping guy?”
“At first,” Cheryl replied, “he just seemed like a hippy burnout in a wheelchair covered in Alex Jones stickers ranting about globalists. There’s at least ten a day in Suburban Station so I didn’t think anything of it. Then he starts waving around a seraphim ray gun so I tell him I’ll shock him so hard he'll be able to walk again.”
“Not your best threat.”
“Pretty rude,” Sophie said.
“I have a lot on my mind,” Cheryl said. “Next thing I know he stands up and leaps off into the sky.”
“And what are we supposed to do?”
“Fail upward as usual.”
“Unhelpful,” Ian said. “Maybe we can try to contain him.”
“Try to chase him toward me,” Sophie said.
“How do I do that?” Carl asked.
“I don’t know. I thought you knew. You guys suggested containment.”
“That was the Piper’s idea.”
“Don’t pursue,” Ian said. “Circumlocate.”
“Make him jump towards Priestess, by heading him off into her direction.”
The jumper leaped from street to rooftop as Carl tried to cut off his path. Windows were shattered, cars were crushed and sidewalks were cratered as he leaped from side to side, bounding over buildings and repelling off walls high above the street in an effort to corral the leaping man.
“This guy is a flea,” Carl said.
“The highest jumper in the animal kingdom is the jumping spider,” Sophie said.
“How do you know that?” Cheryl asked with a sneer that was audible through the comms.
“It’s right in its name,” Hunter added. “You gotta earn that.”
“Okay, he’s like a thing that jumps really high,” Carl said, “And he’s coming your way, Priest.”
“Oh,” Sophie chirped, “I forgot we were doing that.”
“Are you ready for him?” Cheryl asked.
“What’s your plan?”
“I don’t know. I figured I’d think of something before he got here then we started talking about bugs.”
“Well, I say shoot him. Anybody want to second that?”
“I’m not going to shoot him.”
“Well, think fast,” Carl said, “he’s incoming.”
As the leaper approached Sophie, soaring in an arc over her head, she raised her bow and aimed directly above, at the apex of the leaper's path. She fired an arrow and it popped in a flash of dazzling light. The leaper shouted and dropped to Sophie’s rooftop. He laid on his back and rubbed his eyes.
“I can’t see,” he shouted.
“It will wear off,” Sophie said.
“What do you people want from me?” the jumping man asked, rubbing his eyes.
“I don’t know,” Sophie replied, “I got here late. My boyfriend couldn’t pull himself away from his Playstation.”
“I told you I’d meet you there,” Hunter said.
“We’ll talk about this later.”
“It’s not like I’m ever paying attention during the meetings anyway.”
“That’s another thing we need to discuss. I can’t be your only doorway into reality.”
“Do I have to be here for this?” the jumping guy asked.
“Sorry.” Sophie collected herself. “We’re just here to help you.”
“We are?” Cheryl said.
“Don’t shush me, little sis. You got…”
Sophie muted her comms, “Sorry, again.”
“How do you guys get anything done?” the jumping guy asked.
“There are some mysteries mankind isn’t meant to know. Now, where was I?”
“You were at the part of your rehearsed script where you claim you want to help me,” the jumping guy replied.
“It's not rehearsed. I'm winging this. Let’s start at the beginning. My name is Sophie.”
“You think I’m going to tell you my name?”
“That’s usually where that goes.”
“You blinded me and made me crash land. You’ll understand if I’m not buying the ‘we’re here to help’ routine.”
“Well, you were jumping all over the place.”
“Your friend threatened me.”
“She can be a little…brusque. We’re just concerned about where you got that gun. The jumping thing was a complete surprise.”
“I got it off the dark web. You can find all sorts of stuff from that mess you guys made.”
“It would have been a lot worse. We stopped the Demiurge. Would you have rather taken your chances with him?”
The jumper sat up, blinking.
“See? You’re vision’s coming back,” she said.
“My name is Dean. Dean Wain.”
“Hi, Dean. I’m Sophie.”
“Yeah, you said that.”
“Right. Here, let me help you up.”
“Are you just being stubborn?”
“No. You went through so much trouble to knock me down, you probably don’t want me getting back to my feet.”
“I trust you. You seem calmer now. I don’t think you’ll run...or jump.”
“That isn’t it. If I stand and put my weight on my legs I’ll just leap away. It’s not something I can control. That’s what the wheelchair is for.”
“That happened after the Disaster?”
Dean shook his head, “I got off lucky. My brother Gene just completely disappeared.”
“Gene and Dean Wain?” Cheryl said. “Why does that sound familiar?”
“I can’t put my finger on it,” Hunter replied.
"Alright, Buenos Tardes, amigos. I have less annoying stuff to get to."
“Miss Ellers,” a voice said from behind Cheryl.
“Who the hell are you?” she asked.
“You can call me the Surgeon. I've come to make you a proposition.”
“Not that kind of proposition.”