Decisions, Decisions

A final solitary snowflake graces my nose with a melting kiss and the sky grows still, free of falling frozen debris once more. The soles of my shoes crunch down on the snow-covered sidewalk that traces the outline of the old aquarium, a winter backbeat to the grumbling rhythm of distant traffic. I silence my thoughts for a few minutes to allow myself to drink in the crisp air, to savour the way it burns my throat and lungs, the way it tingles my exposed skin.

It’s good to be alive. I hope that our next move improves all of our chances of staying that way.

Well, I guess that’s not entirely true. If that’s what I really want the obvious choice would be to leave and never come back, to never even look back. Bury ourselves in new identities in exotic locations and forget that we were ever involved in this madness. So I suppose I’m hoping that our next move brings us one giant leap closer to finishing this, self-preservation be damned.

But I can’t do this alone. I know Q Ball wants nothing to do with any of this and I can’t blame him – it’s obvious that Wilkerson is responsible for whatever happened to him. I still don’t know the details, still don’t want to know. But maybe we need to hear it, maybe we owe him that much. Know thine enemy, right? I think I know too much about that man already though.

Why is Wilkerson suddenly so eager to serve up Grozny on a platter? All we have on him is a CD that we can’t crack and we have even less on Grozny. Is he afraid that Q can identify him as his captor? If he can he certainly hasn’t shared that with the rest of us.

I complete my circuit of the building and begin again, stepping into the footprints I’ve already laid down. I should go inside but I need room to work this through. We all need space to come to our own conclusions. Hopefully we all come to the same decision – if our group splinters now it would be suicide.

There is no way we can trust the mayor, that much we can all agree on. He’s making this offer to save his own hide; our lives mean nothing to him. There must have been a split between the two biggest monsters in the city and now one of them is reaching out to us to help him win their war. Well that’s not good enough – they both have to go down before we can stop looking over our shoulders. We have to find a way to use Wilkerson’s offer to get them both.

The only way to do that is access the information on that damn CD.

Q will be happy about that – we can leave him here with the Russian Bear to chip away at the encryption while the three of us stick our necks out again. Whatever the Bear’s relationship with Grozny is now, I’m sure the last thing he wants is to get more involved than he already is. So he can baby-sit our computer man and they’ll both be safely hidden away while Emma, Puppy, and I go play ball.

Puppy… God, she’s too young to be wrapped up in this. Can we even trust her to help us bring down her father’s empire? Maybe we should find her a background job, or something that will get us more dirt on the mayor. Something relatively safe.

So that leaves Emma and I. Mary Jane and Spider-man. No, a real superhero would take care of this on his own, he wouldn’t drag a woman along with him to share the danger. But I’m no superhero, I need all the help I can get.

My second circuit complete I stare out at the distant city lights. A snowflake flutters down to land at my feet, signalling the beginning of another onslaught from above. I turn to return indoors and see Emma looking down on me from the second floor window, our earlier roles reversed. I smile and wave, she returns them both. My breath fogs the air between us as I study her face, hoping to see a sign that she is sticking with this until the end. Sticking with me. But before I can determine anything she waves me inside and moves away from the window.

I move into the shadows of the building and push the door open on silent hinges and as it clangs shut behind me everything goes black.

The End

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