18 - Party Crasher

Cataclysm cast her levitation spell and then climbed hand over hand up the side of the building to the steel ventilation louvers. She didn't try to peer through them since they pointed up and she'd just see the ceiling. She hovered to the side listening to the voices inside and hoping nobody would come around and wonder why she was floating next to the vent. She had come by earlier in the day and blasted any lights in the area so she was in deep shadow now that night had fallen. She'd probably be well hidden unless someone got close.

Tony Madness had called and told her to be here. "I'm still not sure how I feel about the shit you've done," he had admitted, "but something is going down. Something bad. I feel it in my gut. Zoe's even crazier than before and I just don't know what she's gotten us into. I can't do anything about it but maybe you can."

She heard Hi Pan calling everyone to order. It sounded like there were at least a hundred people in there and she'd seen people from all the Westside gangs going in. When everyone had quieted down, Hi Pan began.

"Tonight I and the other gang leaders stand here together to tell you of changes coming to Westside. We are entering a new age, an age where the gangs will run Westside and soon all of Millenium City. But we can't do that unless we all stand together. Too long have we been at each other's throats like a pack of feral dogs. The late Qularr attack has weakened the MCPD. Now is the time to unite and claim what should be ours!" An anemic cheer went up from the gangs, she suspected mostly from the Red Banners. "I rescued the other leaders from their imprisonment to seal our new alliance. In a week the full moon will rise and that will be our time. We will come together to bring forth a powerful ally that will make our army invincible. MCPD, MARS, PRIMUS, even the Champions won't be able to stand against us!" Another cheer, louder than the last, sounded.

The celebration was interrupted by an explosion and thumping footsteps. "Surrender, villains!" came a familiar voice.

"Oh, for fuck's sake," Cataclysm whispered to herself.

She heard a voice shout, "It's Defender! You set us up, you rats."

"No!" yelled Hi Pan frantically. He then said something in Chinese, probably obscene. "Now is not the time to fight. Run away and we will gather again on the night of the ritual!" She heard him start a spell and recognized the same transport spell he'd used before.

She heard Defender's weapons firing and some return fire from the gangs, but mostly she heard running feet. She lowered herself to the ground and peered around the corner. Gang members were pouring out of the building and scattering into the maze of shipping containers around the warehouse. The sound of fighting inside died down and Defender came running out to look for stragglers. When he saw none she heard him calling for MCPD backup.

Disgusted, she faded into the darkness hoping nobody had seen her. She found a spot about a hundred yards away where she could watch the warehouse. It didn't take long for the cops to arrive. Defender spoke with them for a minute and then they went inside to gather up the gang members who hadn't been lucky enough to escape. Defender ignited his jet boots and streaked into the sky.

Cataclysm rocketed after him. She was boiling with anger and was tempted to blast him to get his attention, but knew that would probably be a mistake. She settled for speeding up until she got past him and then waving him down onto a nearby roof.

After they landed Defender gave her a broad smile, "Good evening, Cata-" He broke off as Cataclysm stomped forward and shoved him.

"You idiot!" she roared at him. "What the fuck was that? Hi Pan was just about to reveal his whole plan and you have to show up like some goddamn cowboy and chase everyone off. For what? You grabbed a handful of nobodies and now we don't know what the gangs are up to."

Defender was taken aback. "I didn't realize you were here! You never reported to me you were looking into this!"

"Reported? I don't work for you, tin man. What the fuck are you even doing here? Don't you have some mad scientist or giant meteor or army of demons to stop? Why are you in Westside?"

"I was flying over the area on the way to meet with Crusader and spotted many gang members converging on this warehouse! I knew they would be up to no good so I decided to intervene!"

"Well don't! I'm taking care of it. You not only ruined this source of information, but you just burned me with one of my contacts. Stay the fuck out of Westside from now on. Next time you interfere, we are going to have a problem. Got it?"

Defender frowned. "Are you sure you can handle it? This gang meeting bodes ill for the future!" Cataclysm rolled her eyes. Who talked like that? Defender continued, "If the Westside gangs start working together, it could spell real trouble for the MCPD! They fled easily enough today, though! They can easily be defeated!"

Cataclysm shook her head. "God, you don't even understand why they bolted," she said in disgust. He shook his head. "Because Hi Pan is a circle mage." Defender cocked his head in puzzlement. Cataclysm explained, "People like me and Witchcraft, we can cast magic spontaneously. Hi Pan can to a degree, but the magic he has mastered is more ritualized. He needs time to set up magical circles, sigils of power and so on. Without those he is weak. But with them, he is one of the most powerful mages in the city, Witchcraft included." She had taken the time to research him after the jailbreak, wondering why he had run off then rather than crushing her.

Defender studied her. "It sounds like you've done your homework!" he said. "Very well! I shall leave this matter to you, though I am willing to fight by your side should you need me!"

"I won't," she said firmly.

Defender saluted her and took to the air. "What a prick," she sighed to herself. She pulled out her phone and dialed Tony. She'd say she had nothing to do with the raid and he wouldn't believe her. Defender might have just burned her last bridge with the Maniacs.