"Greens are such a pain in the ass.”
I hadn’t intended my comment to come out loud enough for anyone to overhear, especially my boss and partner for the night, Teresa West, but she heard it anyway and gave me a quelling glare from her side of the pile of rubble we were crouching behind. I didn’t take the words back, though. My personal ass was in quite a bit of its own pain after a telekinetic blast from the aforementioned Green knocked me onto it about two minutes ago. “Green” was our chosen word for young, untrained Metas who thought it was cool to use their newly discovered powers to break the law.
Such as the telekinetic Green attempting to rob West Hollywood’s only branch of the Second National Bank of California. Most average bank robbers go in during the day, when a teller can hand over the cash. Our bank robber thought she was clever by going in at three in the morning to tear out a few walls.
Fortunately for us, she wasn’t clever enough to test her newfound powers before the robbery, or she’d have known they didn’t actually work on steel. She’d spent so much time fighting to open the vault, LAPD had showed up—then they decided to call us in to deal with the mess. As the leader of our band of mismatched former Rangers, Teresa accepted the job and then promptly assigned herself. Her Meta ability lets her shoot awesome purple balls of energy, capable of annihilating walls, out of her fingers, as well as create the occasional force field. She volunteered me because I can control the wind. Ethan “Tempest” Swift at your service. Among other handy things, I can stop the wind from moving, blast it out, spiral it like a drill, and use it to fly.
The bank robber—whom we hadn’t actually seen yet, but whose screams of frustration had a decidedly female pitch—was not happy when we appeared on the scene . My pained ass and the pile of rubble serving as our shield against her tantrum (rubble that used to be part of the building across the street from the bank) were proof.
“She’s terrified,” Teresa said.
“That tends to happen when you rob a bank and the cops show up,” I replied with a heaping dose of sarcasm.
Teresa has a thing about helping Metas. All Metas, but especially the Greens. I love her to pieces, but most days I just don’t get her ability to see the best in people—especially after all the shit we’ve been through at the hands of regular, non-Meta kinds of people.
I peeked over the top of our debris pile. The entire front of the bank was missing, giving us a clear view of a counter and several shattered teller windows. The vault was somewhere in the back. North La Cienega Boulevard was mostly clear, with a cop car parked at each end of the block to keep gawkers away. Crowd control was about the only thing cops were useful for in Meta-related situations, anyway.
My back twinged and I shifted my weight onto my left knee. “Look, I have an idea to get her out and keep her from smashing anything else with her temper,” I said.
“Ever heard of the Tasmanian Devil?”
“Old cartoon character.”
Her eyebrows furrowed and she opened her mouth to say something, then shut it. Understanding smoothed out the lines on her forehead. She held out her right hand, palm up. A hazy purple orb formed there, the kind of fuzzy powerball she used to knock people around without causing serious damage. “Just tell me when,” she said.
With the boss’s vote of confidence, I stood up. Yes, it made me a big freaking target, but oh well. I had a better view of the bank and the actual volume of air inside. I moved the air with ease, grabbing it hard and spinning it in a tight, formed cyclone that sent paper, glass, and other small debris inside the bank zinging away. The cyclone danced toward the back of the bank, and I closed my eyes, waiting for the change in pressure that signaled I’d caught something.
Adrenaline pulsed into my blood, as much from the thrill of using my powers as from being made a target, standing in the open like that. Any idiot with a gun and a strong belief in Governor Martin Winstead’s anti-Meta propaganda could get frisky and try to take us out. Hell, some of the cops had looked ready to take a pop at us the instant we showed up at the scene, like we were there to assist the bank robber instead of stop her.
A little extra wind fluttered around me, but the majority of it had created a person-sized tornado inside the bank—and a sharp snap against my control told me that the Green was fighting back. Awareness prickled the skin on the back of my neck. I zeroed in on the opposing force and shoved right back, tightening the cyclone, whipping the air around faster, harder.
Ever stuck your hand out the window of a speeding car just to feel the wind rushing around your fingers? Imagine that all over your body, slamming against your face, numbing your skin. The telekinetic pushback felt like that.
Easiest way to end this would be to send my cyclone into the nearest wall and use the shrapnel cloud to knock the bank robber silly. Two major problems with the easy way: one, I’d get my ass reamed (and not in the fun way) by Teresa if I intentionally injured the Green when avoiding it was still possible; and two, causing unnecessary property damage was near the top of our To Don’t list.
So no knocking out a wall to knock out the latest Meta-powered felon of America. Not tonight.
I pulled more air into the bank and into the volume of the cyclone. The buildings around the bank creaked under the pressure changes. If I didn’t end this soon, a wall somewhere was coming down in the next sixty seconds.
I ignored Teresa’s impatient use of my code name and shoved everything I had into getting that cyclone moving. The teller counter crumpled (not my fault) and pieces got sucked into the cyclone (by accident). Trying to expel them would take too much of my concentration, so I tempted Teresa’s wrath and broke through the telekinetic’s resistance with my cyclone—at the exact same moment, a piece of desk, aimed right at my head, zoomed out of the bank.
The desk exploded in a shower of shrapnel and purple sparks.
Note to self: Thank Teresa.
The pressure inside my air cyclone had changed now that the Green was stuck inside it, probably getting the snot smacked out of her by all the crap she’d made me suck up like the world’s strongest vacuum cleaner. I drew the cyclone out of the bank, which ripped up the tiled floor and sent pieces sailing into the street. The thick swirl of gray and brown whipped the air, and my intense hold on it sent a tremor down my spine.
“Anytime,” I said, nearly shouting to be heard over the roar of my own powers.
“Now!” Teresa said.
I dropped the wind completely and fell to my knees, my entire body shivering from the stress of holding the cyclone for so long. The debris collapsed to the ground just outside the bank, and the black-clad figure trapped inside teetered on her feet for a split second—then a purple orb knocked her backward, into the wall of the building next door, shattering it with amazing ease. The Green stayed down.
The rest of the Second National Bank of California collapsed with a long, thunderous groan.
As the dust settled, I looked up at Teresa and grimaced. “Oops?”
“Big fucking oops,” she replied. She shook her head, her expression as sad as it was frustrated. “The mayor’s going to have a field day with this.”
Of that I had no doubt. The mayor of Los Angeles, Christina Ainsworth, tolerated our presence in her city the way a homeowner tolerates a nearby hornet’s nest—by ignoring us until we made too much noise, and then attacking without mercy. And with her favorite presidential candidate, Governor Winstead, in town stumping for votes on his anti-Meta platform and due to give a public press conference tomorrow afternoon, we were screwed.
Sometimes trying to help people came back to bite you.
And not in the fun way.